Archive for October, 2008



October 30th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

When I was a kid, I was on a long flight with my parents. The airline, obviously worried about kids running around on a long flight, gave me a comic book. It was a horror comic in which a blonde dude with a Prince Valiant hairstyle and a cross on his shirt ran around a castle trying to outwit a vampire-ghost thing. I can’t remember the spelling, but phonetically the ghoul’s name was pronounced ‘Freak-o-luckus’ and he would wander around killing people horribly.

I distinctly remember one panel, when a man, who I knew was dead meat because he didn’t have a name and he was a brunet, held his sword out in front of him as he backed against a wall. Sadly, that didn’t help him out, because the ghosts sharp-nailed, blood-stained hands came through the wall behind him.

And that was the last time, during childhood, that I had the simple comfort of keeping my back to a wall to make me feel safe. I still think that the stewardess who gave that to me should be slapped around.

What was the first/last/most memorable thing in comics that geunuinely scared you?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Join Batman’s Book Club

October 29th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell
Because to read makes his speaking English good.

Because to read makes his speaking English good.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


We Care a Lot Part 1: Brand New Leaf

October 29th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

In the prologue, I discussed Venom: Deathtrap: The Vault, which reader Mark Cook was quick to point out was just an Avengers graphic novel that Marvel re-released with Venom’s name stamped on it. I forgot to bring up one panel that always stuck out at me featuring Iron Man. He seemed to resemble a certain cartoon talkshow host.

“Look, listen everybody… please? Listen to me. I have a hit song about a knife and, yes, I am the head of an international peacekeeping organization.”

Venom had spent several years terrorizing Spider-Man whenever he could, but Marvel deemed him popular enough to get his own series. That would be all well and good, but he’s driven by his insatiable hunger for Spider-Man’s brains. How do you cut away from that?

The answer is to get character creator David Michelinie together with Mark Bagley and write two issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, Michelinie is the creator in theory. There’s a lot of debate over who truly created the concept, but at the very least, Michelinie came up with who he was as a character. Between this story and the one following, he’d lay down the groundwork for the other writers intent on writing Venom.

It takes place in Amazing Spider-Man #374 and #375. Look at that cover. People talk about how great MacFarlane’s Venom is, but I personally consider Bagley’s take to be the definitive version.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Amazing Spider-Man: I Wanna Be Like Pete

October 29th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I was raised in a black, church-going, military family. My grandfather did 30 years in the Air Force, my mom did a few, my dad was in Gulf War I, I’ve had various relative enlist, and it seems like everybody I knew from high school is either married or joined some branch of the military. I guess all of this is just to say that I’m not coming at Amazing Spider-Man #574 from the position of a total neophyte or someone who doesn’t know nothing about nothing. I tend to pay attention to those things, if only because all three things are so close to my heart.

The crux of ASM #574 is that Flash Thompson was sent to Iraq, with the surprise revelation that he lost his legs rescuing a fellow soldier. The issue tells the story of Flash’s motivations during the story, even while massaging continuity (Vietnam quietly replaced with an unnamed jungle) and bringing the character up to date.

Overall, I really enjoyed the issue. Other than one hollow note (the origin of the name Flash comes from a high school date), this is probably Guggenheim’s strongest piece of writing to date. Careful attention is paid to the reality and treatment of the military in the book, including a desk-driving general and slang. These aren’t your cardboard cut-out soldiers. We don’t get the guy with the kid at home, or the crazy war-thirsty jerkoff. The little attention given to them paints them as just regular people.

It’s Flash’s story, though, and the issue is mostly told in the first person, as Flash tells his story to the general who is reviewing him for a Medal of Honor. It’s in an issue of Spider-Man because Flash is Spidey’s number one fan, and the text shows how Spider-Man has influenced Flash’s life over the years. When Flash needed a hero, his abusive father was found lacking. Instead, he looked to Spider-Man, resulting in iconic shots of Spider-Man versus the Sinister Six, or lifting a heavy thing, or fighting the Kingpin head-on, and so on, when Flash needed that extra motivation.

It isn’t clear in the text whether Spidey was on his mind during the action itself, or simply making parallels in the retelling, but both work thematically. Guggenheim is walking a fine line here, and could easily tip over into equating the exploits of Spider-Man, a fictional character, with the very real soldiers over in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Instead, I found that it was just a story about where heroism comes from.

Everyone has someone or something that they look up to. It’s that person in the back of your mind who inspires you, or whose memory you want to live up to, whether it’s What Would Jesus Do or I Wanna Be Like Mike. It’s a very human thing to look outside yourself for strength, and I think that this book does a good job of doing that. Flash’s father was abusive, so he was right out as far as heroes go. Spider-Man, however, was young, capable, and an easy target for a young guy who needed help. Flash latched on and became a huge fanboy. When he needed to push, he could look to Spidey.

I can see how this could ruffle some feathers, but I thought it was done perfectly respectfully. Nowhere is anyone but Flash’s motivations attributed to Spider-Man, and it’s always in an inspirational manner. It isn’t about how awesome Spider-Man is, but rather about how important heroes are to people, albeit illustrated on a very small scale.

This issue prompted me to put some real thought as to whether or not it was appropriate for comics, and superhero comics in particular, to address real world issues. One man’s “respectfully handled” is another man’s “complete travesty.” Why can we do World War II comics by the boatload, but more modern issues are taboo? Is it the time and distance that separates us and makes it seem less real? Is the War on Terror, or Insert Cause/Injustice/Action of Your Choice Here, somehow more real and troubling than the Big One?

I don’t think so, and I think this issue is a good reason why. If you can do your best to treat an issue respectfully, do the research (we can call it “due diligence” so we can pretend to be adults), and generally just put your best foot forward, I don’t think that any subject is taboo.

I believe that fiction is important. As much as I hate to quote a Superman comic to support a point, I have to say that one of my favorite Superman moments is in Action Comics #775, where Superman defeats the hot cynical superteam of the moment and says, “Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us.”

The fictional nature of something does not decrease its importance any more than relating something fictional to something real insults the real thing. Sometimes you have to push toward that fictional ideal to get the job done. Sometimes it’s your father, sometimes it’s Spider-Man. There is little difference between the two, and both serve different purposes for different people. Sometimes, dreams are just what you need.

I’ve personally known people who were big on the Punisher, Sgt Rock, or (X character) who spent some time in Iraq. We didn’t spend a lot, or really any, time talking about how the adventures of Clint Barton helped them in the field, but people generally have pet heroes, or tattoos of heroes, for specific reasons. One guy in Iraq using Spider-Man as inspiration? I can buy that.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


What’s Your Type?

October 28th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I was thinking about a few things this weekend, and I realized that I have a superhero Type.

I’m partial to speedsters. I like all the Flashes, though Wally is the best, and I’m cool with Quicksilver. I even like Doc Rocket over in Youngblood and Velocity in Cyberforce.

There’s just something about someone whose power is to run fast that appeals to me. I like running, though I don’t do it often enough, but I don’t think it’s a “I wish I could do that!” sort of thing. I think it’s more that speedsters tend to have cool visual appearances. Of course, pretty much all of them have lightning bolts or red in their design somewheres, but the running always looks graet. Some get afterimages, some get blurs, and the best appear in single panel more than once and carry on conversations that way. The best of the best have smoking shoes.

I was going to say that my other Type was archery-based characters, but that isn’t true at all. I actively dislike Green Arrow, Red Arrow is the dumbest, and Speedy is annoying and terrible. Connor Hawke is interesting, though kind of a cipher. No, the Type I like are marksmen.

Hawkeye, Shaft (from Youngblood), Deadshot, Bullseye, and I’m sure there are others. They’re awesome. Anything in their hands is a deadly weapon, and trick shots are the order of the day. I like seeing the creativity you have to use when writing these guys. It isn’t enough to go “Oh, boxing glove arrow!” nowadays. Everyone’s seen that. What’s next?

I wasn’t a Hawkeye fan until recently. Fabian Nicieza wrote a pretty good (and short-lived) series a few years back, and Bendis started using him in his Avengers titles. Somewhere along the line, though, I must’ve become a fan, because this scene from SI #7 got a rise out of me:

What’s your superhero type? Acrobatic wisecrackers? Brooding vigilantes?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Sadly Un-Wonderful

October 28th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I have finally accepted that, although I can enjoy the Wonder Woman comic, I have no interest in Wonder Woman as a character. It feels like I should block myself from every feminist site on the internet, burn my copy of Backlash and turn in my ovaries. I’m also probably not allowed to sing anything by Helen Reddy.

Luckily, I’m a comics fan, so I can decide that the problem is with a fictional character, not with me. So let me tell you the problem with Wonder Woman.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


4thletter! is deadly

October 27th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

4thletter! is: David, Gavin, and Esther. 4l was David, Gavin, and Hoatzin, and David, Gavin, and Thomas before that.

Gavin is a Marvel. He likes weird tie-in comics, Venom, and wrestling. Esther is a DC, and likes the various Batgirls, Batman, and sometimes books that do not have Batman in them, but that’s just because he’s in hiding before he picks the perfect time to make his appearance. David likes a mix of both, though he was raised a Marvel. He also talks about black people all the time.

We are 4l and we are awesome.

You can get us on RSS (with a separate feed for our comments) or via livejournal syndication. We have an archives page, which has no context whatsoever beyond dates, post titles, and comments. If that’s too much for you, Gavin stated doing a table of contents that he updates every few months with notable posts.

We take guest pieces, too. Drop an email to 4thletter@gmail to get it started.

The links table is horribly out of date. I will one day update it.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


We Care a Lot: Prologue

October 26th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

(WE CARE A LOT!) About the gamblers and the pushers and the geeks
(WE CARE A LOT!) About the smack and crack and whack that hits the streets
(WE CARE A LOT!) About the welfare of all you boys and girls
(WE CARE A LOT!) About you people ‘cause we’re out to save the world! Yeah!
Well, it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it

— Faith No More, “We Care a Lot”

I’m going to do a little history lesson here. While yes, it is about Venom, for this first part, it’s more about me, my interest in comics and this very site.

We all have our stories about how we got into comics. Whether it be because someone lent you a copy of Killing Joke or your father read you issues of Rom: Spaceknight when you just a kid, we all have something to say about it. For me, it was sometime in early 1994. In our neighborhood, we had this place called The Great American Party Store which had party supplies and was THE place to go every October for Halloween costumes and decorations.

They also sold comics and as I looked through the area out of boredom, I came across Venom: The Madness #3.

I may not have been into comics, but thanks to television and videogames, I knew who Venom and Juggernaut were. Juggernaut was that awesome domed dude from that X-Men cartoon that I watched all the time and Venom was that bastard who would randomly jump out and attack me in the Genesis Spider-Man game. I never was able to beat him on the Daily Bugle level. Still, I found his evil Spider-Man design magnetic. When I saw this cover, it blew my mind.

Venom’s a good guy now? And he’s fighting the Juggernaut?! This rules!

What, I was 13 at the time. What do you expect?

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Batman Novelizations

October 24th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Most of the novelizations of Batman that I’ve seen have been written by writers who primarily worked in comics. Although some of them are very good, I’ve wondered what it would be like if regular novelists wrote Batman books. I think the person I’d most like to see write one is Stephen King. He has a knack for making bizarre situations blend into the real world.

Of course, there are all kinds of genres. King would be good for horror, or dystopian sci-fi. Can anyone think of any other authors who could do a great spin on Batman, or the DCU?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“If you negative in energy then stay out the vicinity of…”

October 23rd, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I have this thing where I have to see why I do things. Why did I have that reaction, what does that mean about me, and so on. I got completely pissed off at blogging about race last week and decided to quit doing it. Of course, this week, a couple interesting books from a race perspective were released, but whatever.

I started thinking about why I had such an adverse reaction, what brought it on, and why I got so sick of it all of a sudden. I’m crazy busy at work and not sleeping at home, so I’m sure that that doesn’t help. I was thinking about it while I was walking to get lunch and actually had Lupe Fiasco’s “Gold Watch” off Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool [amazon link] snap it into focus for me. It’s the title of this post, and there really isn’t that much context to go with it. It’s just a hot line.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back (“Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret: the million other straws underneath it”) was this post by Angry Black Woman. It’s about a top 25 list of black superheroes that I saw and ignored back in June. It’s a crap list that, to be honest, is only worth talking about as something terrible.

Exactly ten of the characters deserve to be on the list, thogh in different positions, and doggone Meteor Man is on the list ahead of Black Panther. It’s a joke. It’s a sub-Maxim Top XX list, which is there pretty much for hits. The list sucks. The choices suck. The justifications for the choices suck.
Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon