Fans of televised comedy, over the past few weeks, have found themselves in something of a golden age. There is a new troupe of clowns on TV that are goofier than the Marx Brothers, less logical than the Kids in the Hall, and more chaotic than Monty Python at their peak. You know them as the NFL Replacement Referees. But things are getting tense and something needs to be done. So this week, I suggest six comic characters who’d e better than the zebras we’ve got wandering around aimlessly right now.
Posts Tagged ‘Daredevil
Tags: Annie, Avengers, Barb Wire, Batman, Blade, Captain America, comics, Daredevil, Dick Tracy, ghost rider, Howard the Duck, Hulk, Iron Man, Judge Dredd, kick-ass, movies, Peanuts, Popeye, Punisher, Spider-Man, Steel, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, Tales From the Crypt, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, The Mask, Thor, Watchmen, X-Men
With a little time to kill this afternoon, I decided to make one of those “Movie List Challenges” over on Facebook. Being the sort of nerd I am, I whipped up a list of 100 movies based on comic books, graphic novels, and newspaper comic strips. Some of these are kind of indirect — the comic strip was made into a broadway musical, the musical was made into a movie. Some of them will be movies you’ve seen but maybe didn’t know were comic books first. Some of them will be foreign and some of them, especially the movie serials of the 40s and 50s, will be characters you’ve heard of in movies you didn’t know existed. And although I tried to stay with theatrical films, it’s possible a made-for-TV movie or two snuck in while I wasn’t looking. But let’s see how many of ‘em you’ve seen. For the sake of fairness, I’ve put an asterisk next to each movie that I’ve personally viewed…
1. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) *
2. Batman (1943)
3. Congo Bill (1948)
4. Batman and Robin (1949)
5. Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
6. Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom (1952)
7. Lil’ Abner (1959)
8. Batman: The Movie (1966)*
9. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)*
10. Tales From the Crypt (1972)
11. The Vault of Horror (1973)
12. Superman (1978)*
13. Flash Gordon (1980)*
14. I Go Pogo (aka Pogo For President, 1980)*
15. Popeye (1980)*
16. Superman II (1980)*
17. Annie (1982)*
18. Swamp Thing (1982)
19. Superman III (1983)*
20. Supergirl (1984)*
21. Howard the Duck (1986)*
22. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)*
23. Akira (1988)*
24. Batman (1989)*
25. The Punisher (1989)*
26. Return of Swamp Thing (1989)
27. Dick Tracy (1990)*
28. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)*
29. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)*
30. Batman Returns (1992)*
31. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)*
32. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (1993)
33. The Crow (1994)*
34. The Mask (1994)*
35. Batman Forever (1995)*
36. Judge Dredd (1995)*
37. Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)*
38. Barb Wire (1996)*
39. Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)*
40. Batman and Robin (1997)*
41. Men in Black (1997)*
42. Spawn (1997)*
43. Steel (1997)
44. Blade (1998)*
45. X-Men (2000)*
46. Ghost World (2001)*
47. Blade II (2002)*
48. Road to Perdition (2002)*
49. Spider-Man (2002)*
50. American Splendor (2003)*
51. Daredevil (2003)*
52. Hulk (2003)*
53. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)*
54. X2: X-Men United (2003)*
55. Blade: Trinity (2004)*
56. Catwoman (2004)*
57. Garfield (2004)*
58. Hellboy (2004)*
59. The Punisher (2004)*
60. Spider-Man 2 (2004)*
61. Batman Begins (2005)*
62. Constantine (2005)*
63. Elektra (2005)*
64. Fantastic Four (2005)*
65. A History of Violence (2005)*
66. Man-Thing (2005)*
67. Sin City (2005)*
68. Son of the Mask (2005)*
69. V For Vendetta (2005)*
70. 300 (2006)*
71. Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006)
72. Over the Hedge (2006)*
73. Superman Returns (2006)*
74. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)*
75. Ghost Rider (2007)*
76. Persepolis (2007)*
77. Spider-Man 3 (2007)*
78. TMNT (2007)*
79. The Dark Knight (2008)*
80. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)*
81. Iron Man (2008)*
82. Punisher: War Zone (2008)*
83. Surrogates (2009)*
84. Watchmen (2009)*
85. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)*
86. Iron Man 2 (2010)*
87. Jonah Hex (2010)*
88. Kick-Ass (2010)*
89. The Losers (2010)*
90. RED (2010)*
91. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010)*
92. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)*
93. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)*
94. Cowboys and Aliens (2011)*
95. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011)*
96. Green Lantern (2011)*
97. The Smurfs (2011)
98. Thor (2011)*
99. X-Men: First Class (2011)*
100. The Avengers (2012)
Tags: All-Star Squadron, Alter Ego, Batman, Bill Finger, Birds of Prey, Blackhawk, Bob Kane, Camille the Jungle Queen, Captain America, Captain Combat, Chris Claremont, classic ebi, Crimson Avenger, Crimson Claw, Daredevil, Doom Patrol, Double-Dare, Dr. Mid-Nite, EBI, Ethan Van Sciver, Fantastic Four, Flash, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Guardian, Holy Terror, Invaders, Jerry Siegel, jim lee, Joe Shuster, John Byrne, Justice League, Justice Society, Lady Blackhawk, Manhunter, Mark Silvestri, Mart Nodell, Michael Turner, Mr. Teriffic, Red Tornado, Ron Harris, Roy Thomas, Sand, Secret Origins, seven soldiers of victory, Skyboy, Superman, X-Men, Yankee Doodle, zero hour
Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?
In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.
Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks
This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.
But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).
One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.
I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.
One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.
At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.
These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.
There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.
Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.
I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.
Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.
He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.
If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?
You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.
Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005
Damn you, Geoff Johns.
I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this book.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.
Tags: Archangel, Batman, Beast, Blue Beetle, Captain America, classic ebi, costumes, Cyclops, Daredevil, EBI, Flash, Gambit, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Iceman, Justice, Monolith, Nightcrawler, Punisher, Red Tornado, Spawn, Spider-Man, superheroes, Superman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, X-Men
To my surprise, part of our Maine trip last weekend included a quick trip to a small-town comic shop, prompting me to write today’s EBI about one of the greatest things in the world of a geek: the comic book Bargain Bin.
Heading back to 2005, though, in the days after New Orleans’ annual Bacchanalia known as Mardi Gras, I wrote about something that I liked about Mardi Gras as a child — costumes… and about what makes a great superhero costume.
Everything But Imaginary #101: Costume Party
Yesterday, friends, was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, in the city of New Orleans, a day made up of revelry, frivolity, debauchery and lots and lots of alcohol. Not really my kind of day to be honest. Any interest I ever had in Mardi Gras died off when I was in my high school marching band, playing the trombone in parades, listening to people on the parade route shout outrageously clever things like “Only 50 more miles!”
I hated those people.
One thing I did like about Mardi Gras, once upon a time, were the costumes. People don’t dress up as much as they used to, but when I was a kid Mardi Gras was a mini-Halloween, an excuse to put on masks, wigs, capes or makeup. The best costume I ever had, in fact, was a Captain America costume my mother made, complete with a cardboard shield that I painted myself.
Thinking about this made me realize that Captain America really does, in fact, have one of the most effective superhero costumes there is. A superhero costume shouldn’t be about giant shoulder pads, whips, chains or trenchcoats. It should, instead, convey who the character is and what he does. The test of a superhero costume would be taking someone who has never seen him before and asking them to pick him out of a lineup based just on the name.
This is what makes Cap’s costume so great – it’s simple. It’s red, white and blue. It’s got your stars and your stripes, eagle’s wings, a distinct soldierly look to the design and, just in case you still haven’t picked up on it, a great big letter “A.” Anyone could be given a pin-up of the Avengers and a list of their names and immediately be able to match which one is Captain America.
Let’s compare this to one of my favorite whipping boys, Gambit. What does he wear? A purple and blue jumpsuit under a trenchcoat. It says nothing about his name, which in turn, says nothing about his powers (the ability to make stuff blow up, in case you forgot). Nobody looking at the X-Men could figure out which one was Gambit without a nametag.
Not many of the X-Men have very distinctive costumes, by that account. Iceman is covered in ice, so that’s a plus, and Archangel’s wings are a giveaway. Cyclops’ visor gives him that one-eye look. Hank McCoy definitely looks like the Beast he is, but then again, that name could also be suggested for Nightcrawler or even the Juggernaut. And what about Storm, Shadowcat, Marvel Girl, Havok or Rogue?
Wolverine does have something of a feral, animalistic look to him. His best costume ever, by this definition, was probably the brown-and-orange he wore for some time in the 80s and 90s. The other uniforms, although similar in cut, are blue and yellow, which only suggests a wolverine to a Michigan State fan.
You have these problems whenever your character has names and powers that don’t quite mesh. What does Justice do? He’s a telekinetic. Which has nothing to do with justice. So he wears a fairly generic blue and white outfit. Spawn? He has some sort of ill-defined magical powers, and a look that has absolutely nothing to do with his name. He’s a poster child for a character with a costume that the creator would just think looked cool, without any thought to functionality, practicality or recognizability.
Some characters are halfway there. The Atom has a tiny little atom symbol on his forehead, but you can’t see that from a distance, and his costume is a standard red and blue. Unless the picture of him has him standing next to something else gigantic by contrast, letting you know he’s someone who can shrink to a tiny size, you may not be able to pick it out. The Punisher wears black with a big white skull on his chest. Yeah, that could potentially signify punishment. Or it would make someone think of Deathstroke, Deathlok or Deadman. Cyborg is covered with cybernetic parts – half-man, half machine. A cyborg. Or maybe Machine Man. Or Robotman.
You see the problem here?
Most of the really iconic superheroes have really iconic costume designs. Look at the Flash – although several characters have used that name, they’ve all worn red and sported a good old-fashioned lightning bolt motif. Lightning, of course, denotes speed, and red is a very fast color. Green Lantern works too – any Green Lantern costume. They all feature the only two things you need for that costume design to work: green is a main color and there’s an image of a lantern. Bam. That simple. Even the golden age Green Lantern, whose costume has a lot of red and purple in it, has a drawing of a green lantern on his chest – a much more lifelife drawing, by the way, than the later GLs had.
Color is a bonus for a lot of characters. Green Arrow? Well, if the Robin Hood motif wasn’t enough to tip you off, the color green would do it. Blue Beetle wears a blue costume with patterns and big golden eyes that suggest an insect. Simple. Red Tornado wears all red, plus he’s got a great big “T” on his chest.
Initials, of course, are another time-honored method of identification, particularly for characters with less distinctive powers. Superman and Wonder Woman are two of the most recognized comic book characters in the world, but their powers don’t really have anything to do with their names – strength, speed, flight, durability, etc. Basically, they can both do it all, which is what makes them super and wonderful, respectively. But since it’s hard to design a costume that says “this dude can do anything,” they wear costumes that look bold, proud and majestic. Bright colors, inspiring, classic designs… and on their chests, an “S” and a “W.” So if you’re looking at the lineup of the Justice League, you’ll guess Superman is the guy wearing the “S” and Wonder Woman is the one with the “W” – although she should be easier to pick out since she’s frequently the only active female member of the team.
The initials also help out Daredevil, but he doesn’t need them as badly as Clark and Diana. Aside from the “DD” symbol, he wears all red, just like a devil, and even has two little horns. He’s had other costumes – a yellow one and one that was mostly black – but neither of them worked nearly as well as the classic red.
Then of course, you’ve got the best costumes of all, the ones for heroes with a definite gimmick and a definite look to go along with it. Batman, for instance. He doesn’t have any powers, but he dresses up like a giant bat to scare crooks. So he has a dark costume with pointed ears and a giant, sweeping cape that comes to points like the wings of a bat – plus a picture of a bat on his chest. He looks like a bat-man. It’s an incredibly simple design, and it works perfectly.
And this finally brings us to what many people say is the best costume in comics, and I wouldn’t be inclined to argue – Spider-Man. How did he get his powers? Bitten by a radioactive spider. What does he do? Well, according to the song, “whatever a spider can.” So he wears a big spider on his chest, a bigger one on his back and covers the rest of the ensemble in spiderwebs. Magnifico.
All of the major characters – at least the ones known to the general public – have those kinds of simple designs, the ones that grab you, the ones that let you know at a glance what the character does. So comic creators and fans take note – if you want your superheroes to hit the big time some day, keep these rules in mind. Play it smart.
Leave the chains at home.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 2, 2005
This isn’t the first time I’ve given a “Favorite of the Week” nod to DC Comics’ The Monolith, but I’m sad to say it looks like it’ll be the last. Issue #12, which came out last week, was the final issue of this fantastic comic book about a young girl who inherits a house with a secret in the basement – a giant stone golem. This last issue doesn’t end the story of Alice, her best friend Tilt and the mystical protector they found, but it does bring it to a great resting point. The last line of the issue is one of the most profoundly heartfelt of the series. If you never read this title, go out and find the back issues, then write to DC and make your voice heard. Runaways got a new lease on life due to fan response – there’s no reason it couldn’t happen for this incredibly worthy series as well.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.
It’s a busy July 4th Weekend, so Blake fires off this quickie, answering some listener e-mail regarding the works of Kevin Smith and DC’s all-ages content, then moving on to a new segment on the show: RAMPANT SPECULATION! Each week, Blake and the crew will select a solicit for an upcoming book and try to figure out what it’ll be about, beginning with September’s Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1. And in the picks, Blake digs FF #5. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!
Tags: Action Comics, Astro City, Bill Willingham, Black Adam, Brent Anderson, brian michael bendis, Bruce Jones, Captain America, Christina Weir, classic ebi, comics, Daredevil, EBI, Fables, Fantastic Four, Flash, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Geoff Johns, George Perez, Giant-Man, Grant Morrison, Green Arrow, Hourman, Iron Man, Jack Kirby, Joss Whedon, Justice Society, Kurt Busiek, Mark Millar, Mark Waid, Marv Wolfman, Mr. Teriffic, neal adams, New Mutans, Nunzio DeFillips, Punisher, Spider-Man, Stargirl, Starman, Superman, Teen Titans, The Ultimates, Thing, X-Men, zero hour
With tax season upon us, we’re all going to look for less expensive entertainment. In the interests of helping us all with that dilemma, I’ve taken it upon myself to sift through Amazon for a few graphic novels that — at least as I write this — can be had for under ten bucks a pop.
In the classic EBI from this week, we go back to Oct. 20, 2004, when I look at the two extremes of the superhero genre…
Everything But Imaginary #85: Deconstruction and Glory
There are many types of comic book fans — the geeks, the fanboys, the gaming crossovers, the alts, but there are only two types of fans that really get on my nerves. First are their ones who only read superhero comics. The ones who refuse to come out of the narrow little shell and experience all of the wild, diverse realms of storytelling that comic books have to offer. Second, the ones that refuse to read superhero comics, the ones who think they’re too cool for that and anyone who enjoys a superhero comic is intellectually beneath them and that by picking up this week’s Amazing Spider-Man you are contributing to the downfall of western civilization. (You are actually doing this by picking up Action Comics.) [2011 Note: I wrote this during Chuck Austen's run on Action Comics. I stand by this statement.]
Smart comic fans, I think, should fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Nobody should ever read any comic they don’t like (save your money and buy something good), but it’s even more important not to close yourself off to a great story just because of the genre it is written in.
Just as comic book fans have divided themselves into these camps, however, superhero comics to a very large degree have divided themselves as well, and although there are some exceptions, almost all mainstream superhero titles these days play more to one side of the spectrum or the other — they deconstruct the heroes, or they glorify them.
“Deconstruction,” of course, is nothing new — one could argue that it goes back as far as Green Arrow’s discovery of his sidekick Speedy’s heroin addiction. There are lots of kinds of deconstructive stories — those that show the heroes has having all-too-human flaws or feet of clay, or those that simply show them failing, or achieving victory but at too high a price. The darker threats, the mass murders, the terrorist actions. These are the “deconstructive” comics.
Pretty much every title under the Marvel Knights banner fits this description — Daredevil is a great example. He was, in his early days, a brighter character, akin to Spider-Man, but as time went on he got darker and darker. Now his comic is the epitome of gritty, showing hard crime and real consequences. Matt Murdock’s world is not a nice place to live. Brian Michael Bendis, of course, is one of the tops in this realm of comics — along with guys like Grant Morrison and Bruce Jones, and perennial favorites like Frank Miller and Neal Adams. These are often the only comics the “too cool for school” crowd will touch, mainly because it’s so “grim” and “edgy” and helps to shatter the ideals of the spandex-clad warriors they sneer at the rest of the time.
Then we have the flip side of superhero comics — those that take the traditions and standards of the genre and raise them up, glorify them, and make them seem fresh and new again. Take a look at Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four for a primary example of this. While the “Unthinkable” and “Authoritative Action” storylines he told last year did get pretty dark, he stayed with what made the characters the heroes they were rather than pull them down, and he closed off that chapter of their lives in the “Afterlife” story by bringing back the Thing (killed in “Authoritative Action,”) with a little help from a certain Man Upstairs who looked an awful lot like Jack Kirby. Some readers balked at the unabashed sentimentality. I thought it was brilliant.
Geoff Johns has also proven himself quite adept at the glorification of superheroes, and he does it in a way that Waid often does too — he mines their pasts, digging into classic stories from the golden, silver and bronze ages, and uses them to craft something totally new. A lot of his Teen Titans series up to this point has been about bringing together threads left by the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the property, but updating it to fit in the new members of the team. In Flash, he keeps taking old villains and remaking them into more serious threats (as he did with the likes of Mirror Master and Captain Cold) or introducing new threats that tie into the past of the character (like Murmur and the new Zoom).
Johns may just save his best storyweaving skills for JSA, however, and it’s no wonder. This is the first superhero team in the history of comic books, and several of the oldest characters in industry are still members. What’s more, they have progeny and proteges that are carring on in their names. Johns has brought together the legacies of the Star-Spangled Kid and Starman stogether in Stargirl, restored Hawkman to a characterization that actually makes sense and even made a character with the goofy Golden Age moniker Mr. Teriffic a deep, interesting character.
But man, the stuff he’s done with Hourman is even better. The original Hourman, Rex Tyler, died fighting Extant during DC’s Zero Hour miniseries. There are two other Hourmen walking around, though, Rex’s son Rick, and an android from the future with time-travel powers. In JSA we learn that the android plucked Rex from the timestream just before his death and gave him one hour to spend with his son, who could break up that hour into increments anytime he needed to talk to his father. When Rick was almost killed fighting Black Adam, though, he and Rex switched places, with Rex back in the “regular” timestream and Rick trapped in time. Johns wrapped up that storyline in last week’s JSA #66 with an ending that showed off everything that made these characters heroes.
If we’re talking about glorifying superheroes, though, one need look no further than Astro City. Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross have created a real lush, wonderful world that pays a brilliant tribute to everything that superhero comics have to offer, and they look at it from every angle. If you haven’t read this comic, you haven’t read superheroes right.
Here’s the thing — while excellent stories have been told in both the deconstruction and glorification subgenres of superheroes, not all characters are suited for both. Superman and Captain America, for instance, never really work in deconstructed stories. When you start making Superman grim or edgy, you lose what it is that makes him Superman.
This was the big problem I had with Mark Millar’s Ultimates series, and the reason I’m not getting Ultimates 2. Millar recreated regular Marvel characters and made it a point that they were not the same as the ones we were used to. However, the new characters he whipped up seemed to me to be nothing more than the original character’s worst traits magnified to the extreme. Giant-Man was nothing more than a wife-beater. Iron Man was nothing more than a drunken philanderer. Captain America was nothing more than an arrogant nationalist.
On the other hand, characters like the Punisher just don’t hold up if you try to glorify them. Even when you go lighthearted, as Garth Ennis did in the Marvel Knights incarnation of the character, it has to be dark humor, with an undertone of madness that belies the character’s situation in life.
Then there are those rare characters that work if you’re deconstructing or glorifying superheroes. I think the X-Men are probably the best example of this. During New X-Men, writer Grant Morrison dissected these characters, brought their faults to the forefront and made them face down threats — both from without and within — that tore the team apart. Much of his story was a satire of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the characters (Magneto’s tendency to get resurrected no matter what the circumstances of his death were, for instance, or the egocentric notion that the “X” in Weapon X was a letter and not a Roman numeral). He took the X-Men apart and pieced them into something new, then he put the chairs on the tables, wiped down the counter and left.
Then he leaves and what happens? Joss Whedon comes in with Astonishing X-Men and, using many of the same characters, puts them back into costumes and sends ‘em out to be superheroes. And it works, just as well. Meanwhile, Nunzio DeFillips and Christina Weir remake their New Mutants series into New X-Men: Academy X, a book about — what else? — teen superheroes. These are kids learning to one day become X-Men, and as such, the book has several elements that both glorify superheroes (the code names, the “squads”) and break them down (how Wither accidentally killed his father with his powers, for instance).
There are many, many different things that can be done with superhero comics, and a great many of them are being done right now, done very well. There’s an old saying in some parts of the country that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. With comic books, if you don’t like one, just take a step or two further down the rack. Even if you’re looking at a rack of superheroes, you won’t have far to go to find something totally different.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 6, 2004
Welcome back, Bill Willingham, you have been too long absent from this list, but last week’s Fables #30 bolted you right back to the front of the pack. I’ve been a fan of this title since the first issue, friends, and issue #30 is possibly the best yet. This is the answer to “decompressed” storytelling here, everything happens at once. The Fables are reconstructing their home after a battle, the election for the mayor of Fabletown is going off, Snow White is in labor (and Bigby Wolf is the father) — there are three major storylines in this issue, a half-dozen (if not more) minor storylines, and there’s still room in there for a few surprises. If you haven’t tried out Fables, this may just be a great place to start.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.
Tags: 2 in 1 Showcase, Adventure Comics, Alex Maleev, Avengers, Batgirl, Batman, brian michael bendis, brightest day, Brilliant, C2E2, Captain America, Cars, CrossGen, Daredevil, Disney, Flash, flashpoint, ghost rider, Greg Rucka, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judd Winick, Justice League, Legion Academy, Legion of Super-Heroes, Mark Bagley, Mark Waid, Moon Knight, Nick Spencer, Pixar, podcast, Punisher, Ruse, secret avengers, Sigil, Stephen King, The Dark Knight Rises, The Walking Dead, Wonder Woman
It’s all Blake again this week as we delve into the news from the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2 for short! The new Wonder Woman costume, the newest cast member for The Dark Knight Rises, the new creative teams for Punisher, Daredevil, Moon Knight and Ghost Rider… and are Captain America and The Flash both re-launching again? Good grief. It’s a double pick this week, Justice League: Generation Lost #21 and Ruse #1! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!
Tags: 2 in 1 Showcase, American Vampire, archie comics, Ardden Publishing, Atlas Comics, Atom, Avengers, Back to the Future, Batman, batman beyond, Black Panther, Boom! Studios, brightest day, Carl Barks, CrossGen, Daredevil, Dark Horse, DC Comics, DC Universe Online, Disney, doctor solar, Doctor Who, Don Rosa, Fable, Fantastic Four, Fear Itself, Green Lantern, Hack/Slash, heroic age, IDW Publishing, image united, Iron Man, J. Michael Straczynski, Jonah Hex, kick-ass, Legion of Super-Heroes, Magnus, Marvel Comics, Megaman, Morning Glories, Nick Simmons, podcast, Robert Kirkman, Rod Blagojevich, scott pilgrim, Shadowland, Skullkickers, skybound, Smallville, Spider-Man, Stan Lee, Steel, Stephen King, Superman, Thanos Imperative, The Flash, the guild, the losers, The Walking Dead, Wildstorm, Wonder Woman, X-Men, Young Justice, Zuda
A little later than they would have liked, but Blake and Kenny are coming at you this week with their look back at 2010 in comics and geek culture. In this mammoth episode, the guys dish on big events for the publishers, the characters, the multimedia properties, and take a look ahead into 2011. It’s the biggest Showcase of the year! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!
Tags: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Captain America, Daredevil, Friday the 13th, ghost rider, Giant-Man, Green Lantern, Hulk, Luke Cage, Marvel Zombies, Mini-Mates, Peanuts, Sinestro Corps, Spider-Man, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, toys, ultimate spider-man, Wasp, Wolverine
It’s a new Time Travel Tuesdays, friends, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the end of October to show this one off. We’re traveling back to Oct. 20, 2007, when I decided to do my first-ever toy review column over at the then-Comixtreme.com. As I started to present the Mini-Mates figures based on the Marvel Zombies, though… well… things got a little out of hand. Even now, three years later, this is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written. I do, however, think my photography skills have gotten at least a tad better since then. I hope you all enjoy it!
The Marvel Zombie Mini-Mates Present… Themeslves!
Hey, friends. I’d promised you all a sort of photo-intensive examination of a new toy line to go along with my frequent and expansive Halloween celebration. The thing with these toys is… well… they sort of have brains of their own… and they want to eat yours, while we’re on the subject. So in the interest of keeping my own cerebellum intact, I agreed to step back behind the camera and let the guys speak for themselves. Oh – and you can click on every picture for a bigger one. Luke Cage made sure I told you that. So, without further ado, allow me to present…
THE MARVEL ZOMBIES MINI-MATES!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Greetings, meatbags! I am Colonel America, one-time leader of the Avengers, and now leader of this dandy little band of flesh-eaters. Y’see, when our Earth started to get overrun by a zombie plague—
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Thank you very much, Quicksilver!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: –Ahem. Yes. Well, when our world got overrun, at first we fought against infection, but when we got bit ourselves… well…
ZOMBIE POWER MAN: It was awesome.
ZOMBIE HULK: Zombie Hulk hungry! Zombie Hulk eat Fuzzy Man With Camera?
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Not yet, Hulk. So anyway, we decided to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves to you. To show you just what we’re capable of. And most importantly, to make you realize…
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: There is no escape!
ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Hi! I’m Zombie Giant-Man.
ZOMBIE DAREDEVIL: And I’m Zombie Daredevil. The first MARVEL ZOMBIES MINI-MATES set included five figures… and we weren’t among them. We came in this exclusive two-pack you could only get at the San Diego Comic Con… or, like Blake, from a guy who owns a comic shop and attended the San Diego Comic Con.
ZOMBIE DAREDEVIL: You will discover, however, that this does nothing to decrease our general level of Awesometude. If you look closely, you’ll see that the chunks that have been taken out of my flesh are represented by clear plastic. At least that’s what they tell me – even as a zombie, I’m blind. I also come with these two handy fighting staffs that I can hold thusly or stuck in the little pouch on my belt, where they will almost immediately fall out. Oh – and I got trained by a Ninja.
ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Hey, gang! I’m Zombie Giant-Man, and with me today is the zombified head of my ex-wife, the Wasp.
ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: Yes, dear.
ZOMBIE WASP: You’d think being reduced to a starving, undead, disembodied head would strain a relationship, but aside from not being able to change my costume as much as I used to, things are pretty much the same.
ZOMBIE POWER-MAN: Well, now that the bit players are out of the way, it’s time for the big boys to step up, and we’re starting with me! SWEET HALLOWEEN!
Get it? Because I used to say “Sweet Christmas” when I was alive and it was the 70s and… ah, never mind.
Anyway, I’m Luke Cage, sometimes called Power Man, and I’m still the baddest chunk of plastic in the toy chest. Daredevil thinks he’s tough ‘cause he has a couple of holes? Check me out! My whole left side is missin’, and I’ll still whip anyone tries to get between me… and lunch. Heh heh heh…
ZOMBIE WOLVERINE: Hey, bub – Wolverine here, the most popular mutant in all comicdom. When I was alive, I had ultra-heightened senses, nifty retractable claws, unbreakable bones, an awesome healing factor and the ability to appear in 74 comic books a week! Now that I’m dead, the healing factor seems to have gone on the fritz, but the rest of the stuff works just dandy. I may not know how me turning into a zombie jives with what Marc Guggenheim is writing about me fightin’ death over in my own comic, but I have learned one other thing these claws of mine are great for… shish-ke-bob!
ZOMBIE HULK: RAAAAWR!!! ZOMBIE HULK STILL HUNGRY!!!!
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Um… thanks, Hulk.
I know, I’m still kinda torn up about that.
But… but it’s still better than what Joe Quesada is doing to ‘em over in One More Day! Right?
GHOST RIDER: I am the Ghost Rider! Spirit of vengeance! Keeper of the eternal Hellfire and my blazing—
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: NO! NO, NO, NO!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: For the last time, you are not a zombie! Now get out of our pumpkin patch!
GHOST RIDER: Fine, fine… didn’t want to be in your stupid article anyway…
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: And you better not be Nicolas Cage under there, either!!!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: And that leaves me, folks, Colonel America. Once the Sentinel of Liberty, now I’m the leader of this motley bunch of brain-eaters. Even having my own brain exposed hasn’t gotten me down, though – I’m undead and lovin’ every minute of it! Some people have asked me why I’m a colonel while most of my counterparts throughout the multiverse have achieved the rank of Captain. Well, what can I say? I’d hate for it to be seen as unprofessional when I… have lunch with the enlisted men! Bwaa-haha!!
The zombie virus also gives us all terrible senses of humor.
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: So that’s us, folks, the Marvel Zombie Mini-Mates! We hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into our lives, and if we show up for dinner some night, we hope you’ll have us!
…cause you know we’d be eager to have you! Hahahaha! Hahahaha! HAHAHA—
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: –HAHA—THE HELL???
POWER MAN: The real Marvel Mini-Mates are here to show you who’s boss!
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: Hey, how come you have to take off your hand when you wear your shield?
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Shut up…
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Avengers Assemble!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Zombie Avengers… um… Get ‘em!
POWER MAN: “Sweet Halloween?” “SWEET HALLOWEEN?” You know how long it took me to get them to stop writing “Sweet Christmas?”
ZOMBIE POWER MAN: Aw, c’mon, don’t treat a brother this way!
POWER MAN: “Brother?” Well look out, “Brother,” I’m gonna use your plastic guts to decorate my Haunted House!
DAREDEVIL: I may be “Battle-Damaged,” but I can still whip YOUR lousy—OW! OW! Can somebody get the Zombie Wasp off my ankle, please?
ZOMBIE WASP: Nom nom nom…
DAREDEVIL: Whammo! Double Boot To Da Head!
ZOMBIE GIANT-MAN: …
WOLVERINE: Hi-YAH! Uh… I mean, SNIKT!
ZOMBIE WOLVERINE: Ow! Hey! You cut me in half!
WOLVERINE: That’s right! Now you can make twice as many guest appearances a month! Heh… heh…
ZOMBIE HULK: Zombie Hulk SMASH!
KILOWOG: Bring it on, ya Poozer! I’ll rip ya limb from—
ZOMBIE HULK: Hey, wait. You not not-dead version of Zombie Hulk. You Pink Green Lantern!
KILOWOG: Yyyyeah, about that… Blake doesn’t have a Hulk Mini-Mate toy. I volunteered to fill in.
ZOMBIE HULK: Zombie Hulk been reading Sinestro Corps War! Zombie Hulk think you da MAN!
KILOWOG: Really? Aw, shucks, that’s sweet of you to say…
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: I mean, you ate Mary Jane and Aunt May? How sick are you?
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: I know, I know! :sob: Oh, kick me again! I deserve it! :sob:
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: And another thing – knock it off with all the variant covers! It was cute at first, but how many times are you gonna reprint the hardcover with different covers before you put out a paperback?
ZOMBIE SPIDER-MAN: Oh, God, it’s all my fault! I’m a terrible – hey, why don’t you have any webs on your costume?
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: Because I’m ULTIMATE!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Looks like it’s down to me and you, you pansy.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Ready when you are, you psychopath.
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Time to show you how we do things in my America.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: America? America isn’t your country, monster, it’s HELL!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Haven’t you given that speech before?
CAPTAIN AMERICA: That was an issue of What If? , it doesn’t count.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: You know why you’re going to lose, monster?
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: Oh – hey, wait—
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Because we’re fighting for truth! Because we’re fighting for JUSTICE!
ZOMBIE COLONEL AMERICA: :gurgle:
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Because real Americans don’t eat other Americans!*
*Editor’s Note-Captain America considers all known cannibals to be de facto Canadians, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Alferd Packer, and of course, Rosie O’Donnell.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Okay, let’s get these monsters back into their box.
ZOMBIE HULK: ‘BYE, PINK LANTERN!
KILOWOG: Bye, ya Poozer! Y’know, he wasn’t so bad…
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Close it, Logan!
CHARLIE BROWN: Mr… Um… Captain? Sir? Can we have our Pumpkin Patch back now?
SNOOPY: Ah, the Captain! So good to see him again. Why, I remember that time in occupied France when we met those saucy waitresses…
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Why, sure, kids! The zombies are all defeated, and back in the box. It’s perfectly safe here now. Why…
CAPTAIN AMERICA: What else could possibly happen?
It was a huge week for comic book news, and the guys sit down this week to discuss the DC restructuring and the end of Wildstorm Comics. Also this week — shakeups for the Legion of Super-Heroes, possible directors for the Superman reboot, changes to the Daredevil line and… Sesame Street for Baby Boomers? In the picks, Blake presents Darkwing Duck #4, Kenny digs Incredible Hercules: The Mighty Thorcules and Mike goes with Booster Gold #36. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp!
Music provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network.
Inside This Episode: