Archive for the 'comic books' Category


Inkstuds Spotlight in the Rear View

February 27th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Inkstuds Spotlight is done! Thank you for listening, or sharing the links around, or telling me or the creators I spoke to how much you dug what they had to say. It was a lark, it worked, and now I’m going to type too much about why and how I did it. But first, an index:

Darryl Ayo: CA | Inkstuds | Website
Jay Potts: CA | Inkstuds | Website
Jimmie Robinson: CA | Inkstuds | Website
Whit Taylor: CA | Inkstuds | Website
LeSean Thomas: CA | Inkstuds | Website
Spike Trotman: CA | Inkstuds | Website
Qiana Whitted: CA | Inkstuds | Website

I love writing about comics. More specifically, I love talking about them with other people, and writing gives me a chance to trick people into having conversations with me about comics. Writing is just a way of organizing my thoughts or interrogating what I think about a book. Now that I work in the industry, though, I understand that my words have an aspect they didn’t before: even when I’m not representing my company, people will look at it like I’m representing my company. Before, I appeared courtesy of myself. Now, I still do, but the perception may be different depending on who and where you are.

I’m still figuring out that balance. I don’t want to not-talk, but I don’t want to have people looking at me like “Well, you had no business saying this since you’re working professional #teamcomics.” I’m very careful about recommending Image books or dissing other books, because I feel like my word has some value, and I don’t ever want to trade on that for garbage reasons.

A weird part of paring down how often I’m writing about comics is that I spend a lot more time thinking about comics and why they work the way they do. Absence makes the heart grow even more curious, until finally the heart is like “chill out dude, just get over your dumb self and do something you want to obviously do.”

Robin McConnell founded and runs the Inkstuds comics podcast. At last year’s Emerald City Comicon, Robin asked me about doing some programming for Inkstuds. I thought about it, but couldn’t come up with any ideas worth doing, and then I quit my job, ComicsAlliance died, and I got another job, so doing podcasting wasn’t even really on my radar.

On January 15, after realizing that Robin’s show was about to hit 500 episodes, an idea popped into my head. I know comics, and I know some people in comics, but I don’t know about what people actually do in comics. Where they came from, how they came to comics, why they do comics, how they do comics, what influenced the way they make comics…stuff like that. This stuff is usually beyond the purview of the hype-oriented interviews in comics, and that’s no good for me, because I really want to know this stuff.

Basically, I figured out how to satisfy my own curiosity in a way that might be entertaining to others, which is probably the whole reason I started a blog, and it was constructed in such a way that I couldn’t over-think it the way I do everything else. I couldn’t worry about crossing some invisible line of professionalism. I only had time to do it, and once it was done, I couldn’t take it back.

I made a list of people I thought were in interesting positions in the industry, and focused on people I haven’t interviewed or discussed before, with one exception. I emailed Robin with the idea and the list, and he was into it. I googled around for email addresses, DMed a few people on Twitter, did some research, came up with a few possible avenues of conversation, and then got started. Before the first show went up, I had the vast majority of them recorded. By the end of the first week of February, I had all of them done.

I think about the divisions in comics a lot, the way we’re bunched up into various factions. It’s shorthand, of course, but there’s TCJ comics, cape comics, mainstream comics, manga, and more. There are all these little islands of interests, and for the most part, they keep to their own. Inkstuds has its own remit, but I realized that I didn’t just want to limit myself to that audience. I was tempted to just post them here on 4thletter!, but I know the size of me and Gavin’s platform here, and I wanted something bigger. I reached out to Joe Hughes at ComicsAlliance with the idea. He was into it, and provided some feedback that I think made it a lot better.

Inkstuds and ComicsAlliance don’t have a lot of overlap in terms of audience, or at least it doesn’t feel that way going by what they each have covered, and I liked the idea of using both outlets to expose people to stuff they might not have known. Joe and Robin were both fine with me doing it on my own terms, too. I was thinking about the value of ownership and control even before CA closed last year, and the money in writing about comics simply isn’t good enough to do it any way but the way I (and you, if we’re being really real with each other) want to do it. So I laid out my terms and goals like a prima donna, they were fine with it, and we were off to the races with a project I maybe made more complicated than it had to be, but one I liked.

So, now that it’s all done, I wanted to publicly explain why I did it, and to say thank you to Joe and Robin for letting me borrow their platforms for selfish reasons. Darryl Ayo, Jay Potts, Jimmie Robinson, Whit Taylor, LeSean Thomas, Spike Trotman, and Qiana Whitted were incredibly generous with their time and thoughts, and each of them leapt at the chance to talk to me about my vague ideas, which I’m exceedingly grateful for. I learned a lot, and I’m very appreciative that they were down to chat. I left every conversation energized about comics and making stuff, which is a sometimes-rare feeling and almost the whole entire point of the entire project.

Thanks for listening.

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My 15 Favorite Comic Issues of 2013

January 8th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Usually, I don’t tend to do end-of-year lists. Not out of disinterest, but because my memory is one big fog. My sense of time is completely out of whack and I can’t tell what was six months ago and what was two years. How long has 4thletter even been around? It could be the ten year anniversary right now and I wouldn’t be able to tell.

Luckily, when it comes to comics, I have an ace up my sleeve. As it goes, it turns out I have a weekly feature that archives every single comic book issue I’ve read. New ones, at least. I searched through the This Week in Panels backlogs and figured out my top 15 favorite comic issues of 2013.

15) Infinity: Infinite Comics #1
Jason Latour and Agustin Alessio

This digital side story to Infinity is absolutely breathtaking, especially on the art side. The story deals with the Silver Surfer’s role in the Builders’ rampage through the cosmos as he makes an attempt to protect a Skrull world against overwhelming robot forces. I think it says a lot that even the Surfer is out of his league here, even if the main story already showed off that even a planet of Space Knights aren’t enough to save the day. There’s also the neat dynamic that the Skrulls see their savior as the symbol of a world that’s about to die, which doesn’t exactly help their morale.

14) Wonder Woman #23
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman is still one of the best comics of the New 52, but I’ll admit that it seems to survive on its character work. It feels that not much truly ever happens. #23 is a truly climactic issue, as not only does the First Born get to play the role of big bad, but we finally get to see War/Ares show his potential. Unlike the pre-reboot version of Ares and even the Marvel one, War doesn’t look all that impressive. Just an old man with no eyes. He gets to shine, First Born gets to shine, Orion gets punched in the face and they even throw in an Izuna Drop. That’s that thing in fighting games when somebody grabs someone, jumps up in the air, flips and drives them headfirst into the ground. The First Born does that to Wonder Woman. It’s rad as fuck.

All that and the ending pushes an interesting new status quo for our main heroine.

13) Batman Incorporated #13
Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

I was let down at first when I read Grant Morrison’s final issue of his epic Batman run, but I soon came to realize that that was the idea. I was let down because DC let Morrison down. He was given Batman during a time when it was unanimously agreed that the character was too dark and untrusting and needed a more uplifting world. He sculpted a strong take on the mythos and then DC threw a lot of it out the window. Through the reboot, certain characters were suddenly off limits and Batman’s lengthy history had been cut down. Plus the new guy in charge of the character was writing a depressing horror story with the main Batman book. Morrison’s attempts at change did nothing and the once boastful, “Batman and Robin will never die!” became a cynical quote about the Hell that the character is cursed to experience by never being able to move forward in any meaningful way.

12) Burn the Orphanage: Born to Lose #1
Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman

The moment I heard about this comic, I had to read it. It’s Final Fight/Streets of Rage as a comic book. Rock is an angry, young man who was the only survivor when his orphanage burned down as a child. For years, he’s been looking for answers and getting into fights. Now he’s closer to figuring out who’s behind it. While Rock is your usual Axel/Cody balanced main hero in this situation, he’s flanked by big, slow bruiser Bear and the quick-footed girl Lex. They follow through on the usual side-scrolling fighter tropes. Then the second issue becomes a blatant Mortal Kombat and who knows what the third and final issue will be. It’ll be fun, that’s for certain.

11) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series: Alopex
Brian Lynch and Ross Campbell

I’ve been loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series to death, but I thought this was the best standalone issue of the past year. Alopex is an original character created for this incarnation of the franchise and she started off as a pretty run-of-the-mill villain. A mutant arctic fox with no real personality other than loyalty to Shredder and the Foot Clan. Her spotlight issue starts by showing that she’s more honorable and that there’s more to her character than taking orders and barking at Raphael. We get the idea that she fights for Shredder not due to being evil, but out of pure loyalty. Unfortunately, as she discovers as the issue develops, blind loyalty to a dishonorable leader will only lead to disaster and we’re given a strong genesis for Alopex’s eventual face turn. As it is now, she’s primed to be something of a romantic interest for Leonardo.

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Avengers #23 and the Joys of an Intergalactic Posse

November 21st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

This week gave us Avengers #23 by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. It acts as chapter 14 in the 16 chapter event that is Infinity. Normally, I abhor comic book events (Fear Itself broke me), but Hickman’s been killing it here. It’s a wonderful space epic that mixes two unrelated threats and intertwines their stories. On one hand, you have the Builders, a cosmic threat based on killing to preserve life. On the other hand, you have Thanos, the cosmic threat based on his love for Death.

The whole thing has been filled with a ton of great moments. Speeches and actions come off as incredibly badass and satisfying while seemingly everyone gets their own moment to shine. In this week’s installment, there’s a wonderful moment based on Captain America leading his forces to Earth, which is being conquered by Thanos and his soldiers. Cap is assisted by various alien forces, who intend to help Earth as gratitude for the Avengers being so important in the war against the Builders. Before leaving, he tells Super-Skrull and the other alien warlords in the room, “You didn’t have to… What I mean is… I want to thank all of you for this.”

Super-Skrull responds, “Thank us when we’ve earned it, human. What good is effort if we fail? Do best intentions soak up the blood and bury the fallen? And if beaten, who remembers the conquered? Not I… So save your thanks until we stand over the broken bodies of our enemies. Save it until we’ve won.”

The problem is that Thanos’ forces have taken the Peak, a SWORD space station built to prevent invaders. The team of Manifold, Black Widow and Shang-Chi go off to shut it down and protect the Avengers on their journey to Earth, but it isn’t so easy. Black Dwarf, one of Thanos’ top henchmen, is running things and he’s able to dispose of Widow and Shang-Chi easily. Manifold teleports back to the base and sees that Cap’s already left, leaving only Super-Skrull and the others. The Avengers are doomed. Earth is doomed. What can they do?

Then this happens.

Super-Skrull, Ronan the Accuser, Gladiator and Annihilus vs. Black Dwarf. Black Dwarf talks a tough game, but he stands no chance. He already took a loss when he tried to invade Wakanda, so he isn’t going to do much better here. Lot of sweet smacktalk is said and in the end, he finds himself judged guilty by the Accuser and his hammer. It’s an enjoyable moment in a massive story of enjoyable moments.

What truly makes this great isn’t the galactic curbstomping itself, but why it’s happening. This isn’t like your average superhero team taking down a threat. This a foursome of enemies. Since the 60’s, these guys have been antagonizing everyone from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men on a regular basis. Super-Skrull and Ronan represent two races that have acted like the Hatfields and McCoys of outer space. Annihilus is borderline pure evil and went to war with everyone, including his brothers-in-arms here.

And yet here they are. Fighting. Together. For us. A lot of times these superhero stories, especially in the big events, talk up how pointless and bittersweet these victories are. What good is Batman stopping the Joker when he’s just going to kill another dozen people the week after? Wonder Man even made a big stink about how the Avengers were causing more damage than they were worth with none of the writers ever really finding a good argument against it other than, “He crazy.” This, on the other hand, is kind of a beautiful thing. Former enemies to ourselves and each other are able to put their differences aside to make sure Earth can be protected all because of the ripples of Captain America’s actions.

I seem to recall Peter David’s Hulk: The End saying that the death of the human race would have led to the Kree and Skrulls burying the hatchet for the sake of celebration. Hickman’s storytelling impresses me far more.

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Who’lldoit: Dead Shredder Walking?

November 12th, 2013 Posted by guest article

Gavok note: This guest article comes from longtime ThWiP contributor MK Stangeland Jr., otherwise known as Space Jawa.

I could open with a bit about how great IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has been, but I’ll let you read Gavok’s summary on the series if you need a real introduction.

Ready to move on? Good.

Let’s talk about Shredder, shall we? Because for all the things he may be – leader of the Foot Clan, the turtles arch-nemesis, ruthless as can be – he also happens to have some significant flaws.

One of these is a talent for making enemies who want him dead, especially in IDW’s current series. Which is kind of a bad deal since so many of theses people arguably have the ability to pull it off, too. At least, if you ignore his potential immortality. Which is why I can’t help but get the feeling that in spite of how hard it is to kill him, it’s not a question of if someone will snuff him out soon, but who?

So why don’t we take a moment to look at the likely suspects (and a few unlikely ones as well) and see just who might have what it takes to actually pull it off?

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Curse of the Bride of the Ghost of the Revenge of the Son of the Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

October 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

And another New York Comic Con is in the can. Once again, I went all four days. The problem was, I had no real direction for this run. There was nothing I was especially looking forward to and a lot of stuff I used to be excited about have lost their luster. Panels went from something I’d schedule for to something I can take or leave. Hitting Artist Alley is always cool, but I’m doing the same thing with it I’ve always done. Plus I’m trying to spend less than previous years.

As someone who’s never exhibited or been part of a panel, I’ve run out of stuff to experience at NYCC. I mean, there’s that speed dating thing, but I keep forgetting to sign up for that and part of me is thankful for it. Maybe next year. This time I wanted to try something I’ve never done before on a day that wasn’t October 31st. I was going to try cosplay. Each day a different costume.

Well, not every day. About a week before the show, I was talking to Internet Superstar Chris Sims and I joked about getting a couple t-shirts made saying “I’M A DAVID BROTHERS GUY.” Chris said that I shouldn’t be joking. I should be doing. And so, I had them made just in time for the show.

Some context for the uninitiated: Paul Heyman is a staple in professional wrestling who used to run his own promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling before that went under and he became part of the WWE. He’s recognized by many as one of the top minds in the wrestling world, unless you bring finances into it. He understands talent and has a knack for good writing that shows off the strengths of performers while hiding their weaknesses. For a while, he existed on WWE TV as a manager and mouthpiece for various top-ranking bad guys (most notable being Brock Lesnar, who went on to have a successful UFC career after the fact) while behind the scenes, he was one of the head writers. He ended up being let go because he wasn’t the most agreeable with upper management.

Years later, on an episode of Raw, CM Punk was doing a storyline where he was preparing to win the WWE Championship on the same night his contract was ending with threats that he’d leave the company with the belt. During a scripted speech with ties into real life, he said, “I’ve been the best since day one when I walked into this company. And I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar. And he split just like I’m splitting. But the biggest difference between me and Brock is I’m going to leave with the WWE Championship.”

About a year later, Brock Lesnar came back. Soon Heyman followed. Then they had Heyman become Punk’s manager. Anyone Heyman represented was referred to as, “a Paul Heyman guy.” Soon guys like Curtis Axel and Ryback joined the Paul Heyman Guy umbrella. T-shirts were made and while he’s a bad guy on TV, many wrestling fans wear them out of support for the man they consider to be a genius of the genre.

And that’s why Chris and I had to wear those shirts and mess with David’s head. Let me tell you, the reaction was completely and utterly worth it. The perfect mix of, “Fuck my life…” and, “Oh, you guys.”

Real talk, though. It was really great getting to see David and Chris. It’s been years since I’ve seen David in person and he’s seriously the coolest, chilliest, nicest guy. Chris is also an upstanding gentleman and was really cool by introducing me to various people, including Kieron Gillen.
Also on Thursday, I came across a vendor booth at the far end of the showroom floor. They had a bunch of stuff on sale, including the X-Statix Omnibus. That series is already something I’ve been meaning to read, but the deal made it a must-have. Normally priced at $150, they sold it for only $39. I had to lug it around with me all day because I wasn’t going to let them sell out of it without me.

On Friday, it was time for costume #1: Fred Flintstone.

Here’s me with DW Cycloptopus from Kaiju Big Battel. He’s a lot bigger on TV.

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4 Elements: Scarlet Spider

October 4th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Recently, it’s been announced that Christopher Yost’s Scarlet Spider is on its way out, ending in December at issue #25. Even with the news that Venom is ending at the end of this month, Scarlet Spider‘s cancellation hits harder. It was really a better book, starring a character who will probably fade into obscurity, while Venom will continue to be a staple in the Marvel Universe.

Scarlet Spider stars Kaine, clone of Peter Parker and co-star of the infamous Clone Saga from the 90’s. After that editorial horror ended, Kaine vanished in the public eye, only appearing in the alternate future series Spider-Girl as the grizzled mentor character. A few years ago, Kaine reappeared during Spider-Man’s Grim Hunt storyline for the sake of being killed off immediately. Then he was resurrected as some kind of spider creature during Spider-Island and when everyone was cured of their spider powers, it reduced him to a less scarred and super-jacked version of Peter Parker for the first time since his birth, curing him of his madness.

Now, when you go through all that backstory, it’s not hard to understand why the series didn’t last. Fresh take or not, he’s a toxic character with a longwinded origin. Still, Christopher Yost was able to make it into one of my favorite Marvel titles.

A lot of the fun is explained in the tagline of “All the Power and None of the Responsibility!” Superhero comics are about escapism, but sometimes it can be frustrated when you see your favorite character held back morally. It’s necessary, but when people call out Peter Parker for being a flake or a coward, there’s part of me that just wants him to go, “You know what?! I’m Spider-Man! That’s why I was late! Suck my balls!” Instead, he has to shut his mouth for the greater good. He lets people talk down to him, he refuses to ever kill and he’s overly selfless out of guilt. It’s what defines him and I would never want to change any of that, but there is that desire to see the catharsis of Spider-Man completely cutting loose.

That’s really what Scarlet Spider is. Kaine doesn’t really care about the Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy situations because that wasn’t really him. He’s his own person and he’s selfish and doesn’t think of himself as a very good person. When he sees an old woman about to be hit by a car, he stomps down on the car’s hood (sending the driver flying out the windshield) and proceeds to scream in the old woman’s face and curse her out for being so stupid that she almost just died. All while he’s in his street clothes because he doesn’t care that he looks exactly like Peter Parker with a crew cut. After all, who’s going to care in Houston, Texas?

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ONE & Murata’s One-Punch Man: Pure Cape Comics

September 26th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

One-Punch Man is an ONE & Yusuke Murata joint. It runs in Weekly Shonen Jump (preview pack here), an anthology of boys’ comics that’s currently serializing Tite Kubo’s Bleach, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, a colorized version of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z, and several other series. The gist is simple and enjoyable: Saitama wanted to be a hero, so he trained. He trained so hard that he actually became capable of ending any fight in a single punch. He dreams of having a glorious, devastating battle, but it doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. He’s too good. He’s Slacker Superman, and he’s in a gag comic.

A big part of my enjoyment of OPM is that ONE & Murata clearly love the same things I do about superheroes and shonen comics, but have no patience for the nonsense that infests both types. So OPM feels very lean and easy-going, but explodes into incredibly enjoyable high action.

Chapter twenty-six came out this week and is the finest cape comic I’ve read in ages. I try to avoid hyperbole, and that sounds hyperbolic, but dig:

Mumen Rider is a Class C hero. His power is that he has a bicycle and moves like JUSTICE CRASH!, where he throws a bicycle at someone, or JUSTICE TACKLE!, when he tackles someone. He’s a normal dude with a heart of gold, but hearts of gold and bicycles only take you so far against a nigh-invincible Deep-Sea King. A wise man knows his limitations and acts accordingly.

The Deep-Sea King, he of the heart nipples and massive strength, has spent the past few chapters tearing through every hero in sight, including ones with names. He hammers Genos, Saitama’s cyborg sorta sidekick, and is ready to finish the job when a JUSTICE CRASH! grabs his attention. He manhandles Mumen Rider, Looney Tunes-style, by simply intercepting an attack and beating Mumen Rider against the ground repeatedly.

one-punch-man - 01

But Mumen Rider stands up again.

What makes a hero? Is it the powers? The tortured past? The borderline-authoritarian insistence that you know right from wrong better than anyone else? Or is it something else? For me, growing up, it was scenes like this, when someone looks at injustice, holds up a hand, and says “No,” no matter the risk that entails. It echoes through Frank Miller’s Sin City, the Michelinie/McFarlane Spider-Man, and even a little bit in Jim Lee-era X-Men. It’s all over Hiromu Arakawa’s Full Metal Alchemist. You can see it in real life heroes. A hero is someone who is willing to throw their life away to protect someone else, regardless of their level of skill or destiny. You get up out of your seat and on your feet and you tell them people “No.”

That near-suicidal courage is inspiring. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone, that we’re all in this together, and that one man can make a difference if he tries. It’s hope. Something works as it should in our fallen world. And so:

one-punch man - 02

When Mumen Rider showed up, these people were excited, but confused. They’re locked in a shelter to hide from Deep-Sea King’s attack, and they’ve seen him utterly dominate another, higher-ranked hero. They know that Mumen Rider has no chance. But a little bit of courage, a little bit of confidence, goes a long way. They believe because he believes.

Mumen Rider has no chance. Deep-Sea King clobbers him effortlessly. But in taking a stand, Mumen Rider did exactly what a hero should do. He held the line.

one-punch-man - 04

Saitama catches Mumen Rider before he falls. Saitama tells him “Good job. Nice fight,” and carefully lays him on the ground. Saitama understands and respect sacrifice. In a way, Mumen Rider is the hero Saitama wishes he could be. He wants that glory. So he treats Mumen Rider with the respect and tenderness that he has not just earned, but deserves.

There’s a few pages left after this sequence, but that panel of Saitama catching Mumen Rider? That’s the real cliffhanger. That’s what’s going to get you hype, because it’s a moment for you to reflect. You know that Saitama is invincible. You know that he only gets beaten in his dreams. You know that he’s a little dumb, but genuinely kind. You know that he’s a hero. You know that heroes win, especially in cape comics, and you know exactly how Saitama wins his fights.

Deep-Sea King has caused a massive amount of destruction, shown a callous disregard for life, and generally acted a fool because he can’t be stopped. He’s a bully.

Here comes Justice.

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DC Comics: All the Single Ladies

September 12th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Recently, DC Comics’s problems have reached sitcom levels in terms of errors and misunderstanding. The most interesting of these recent incidents is easily the Batwoman situation. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman had announced their leave of Batwoman at #26 due to the same 11th hour editorial changes that have annoyed countless other creators into skipping town on DC, but claimed the straw that broke the camel’s back was that they could allow Batwoman to get engaged to her girlfriend, but they couldn’t get married. That created a backlash at DC for what appeared to be an anti-gay marriage stance.

While it made for some good schadenfreude, it didn’t really seem to make sense. DC heavily hyped up Batwoman’s debut for being a crime-fighting lesbian. There’s supporting character in the pages of Vibe who’s both gay and married. Hell, Marvel and Archie Comics have both made a killing off doing a gay marriage issue. Then what’s the problem?

The truth, as it turns out, is much stranger. In a twist on the old line, “I’m not racist! I just hate everyone equally,” DC Comics appears to simply hate marriage, whether it be straight or gay.

At first it just seemed like a stealth coincidence. With the New 52 reboot, it made sense that Clark Kent would no longer be married to Lois Lane and that Barry Allen would no longer be married to Iris West. They’ve been given the chance to rebuild towards those stories and retell them with a modern touch. Meanwhile, Wally West is no longer married to Linda because he simply doesn’t exist. But there are other married couples in the New 52, right? Aquaman and Mera are together and Animal Man has two kids. No, DC can’t be against marriage to the point of scorched earth, right?

As it turns out, this is what Dan Didio had to say at Baltimore Comic-Con the other day. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace – oops shouldn’t have said that – Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”

Which is kind of a weird thing to say, since Tim Drake was able to make “having a family” work for fifteen years. Then they fixed that and made him just as insufferable as Batman around the time when even DC realized that Batman was too insufferable and needed to be fixed.

It also seems to ignore police officers and firemen and other real life heroes, but… yeah.

So DC is only against the Batman-related characters being married, right? Except word’s been going around that Aquaman and Mera aren’t officially married. Sure, she’s his “queen” and they live together, but Johns has made sure not to mention that they’re husband and wife. It’s said that this will be explained in a future issue.

Well, at least we have Animal Man and Ellen Baker, right? Except they’re in the middle of a messy separation based on the death of their son Cliff. This whole part becomes really suspect based on the background. Lemire’s Animal Man started off feeling like a strong successor to Grant Morrison’s defining run and even made direct references to it early on. The latter part of Morrison’s run had a point that killing loved ones and generally crapping on the heroes for the point of drama is kind of a stupid thing to do.

How strange that years later, Morrison and Animal Man would both play the “kill the hero’s son” card at the same time. You have to wonder, though. Animal Man plays up the idea that heroes shouldn’t be married because their family will pay for it (even though unbeknownst to the main cast, it’s not Buddy’s fault, but because of his daughter’s fate as champion of the Red. Long story) and it’s being pulled towards Buddy being on his own. You have to wonder how much of that decision is based on editorial interference.

The comparison to Marvel is obvious. After all, they made huge waves with their Spider-Man marriage controversy. The One More Day incident is something I still don’t agree with, but I understand. Here’s the thing, though. That’s just one character. Yes, there are plenty of marriages that don’t work in Marvel, but right now, there’s still such pairings as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, Black Bolt and Medusa, Northstar and Kyle and Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Hell, I’m pretty sure Absorbing Man and Titania are still together.

While the editorial fuckery is a major problem with DC, I think one of the other major problems is the company-wide edicts (such as my new favorite, “Batman never sits. EVER.”). Despite Marvel’s problems, they’re pretty good about giving you variety. For every gritty Avengers Arena there’s something fun like Superior Foes of Spider-Man. You have options.

DC isn’t giving much in terms of options these days and this Villains Month bullshit epitomizes it. Everything is dark and everyone is horribly dying. They had something going with Blue Beetle, but then they canceled it, brought it back and retold it as something needlessly darker and it got canceled twice as fast. They’re trying to push Harley Quinn as a madcap romp, yet they just released a comic of her murdering legions of innocent children for the hell of it. Because THAT’S somebody I want to cheer for and laugh with.

In the end, I think about a scene from 52. Tim Drake, trying to get over how insufferable DC made him, was training with some monks and one asked him a riddle. Something like, “A duck is sitting inside a glass bottle. How did it get there?” After thinking about it, Tim realized it was because the monk telling the riddle put it there. The duck was fictional, just like everyone in the DC universe. You know why marriages don’t work for superheroes, DC? Because YOU say they don’t. The actual creative team thought it was a good idea and could work, but what do they know?

They know to look for work elsewhere, I suppose.

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Infinity Speculation: The Lost Son of Thanos

September 5th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Infinity #2 came out yesterday and proceeds to be one of the very few big comic events that I’ve been able to enjoy. So far, at least. What was curious was the Black Bolt subplot, which is used as the issue’s cliffhanger. Thanos has shown to be incredibly interested in something Black Bolt has to offer and it isn’t the Infinity Gems, since they’re all out of the Illuminati’s hands. Thanos has been sending his galactic flunkies to different worlds with the demand for a tribute. They must give Thanos the heads of all of their subjects who are between the ages of 16 and 22.

This coincides with the recent Thanos Rising miniseries, where it’s established that Thanos became the Screaming Jay Hawkins of the universe by having bastard children all over the cosmos. Not a single one of them takes after Thanos, even in appearance, and he’s become interested in wiping them all out. Obviously, that tribute would catch the needles in the planetary haystacks.

In the end of the issue, Black Bolt holds a meeting with the Illuminati in a realm where Bolt is able to speak freely without risk of kickass explosions. He hands Richards some kind of trinket and we have this exchange:

Black Bolt: And as I will be delivering my response to his request in person… I brought you here to give you this.

Reed Richards: What is it?

Black Bolt: Records. The hidden archives of Inhuman kings and queens. In there you will find what Thanos is looking for.

Black Panther: But what you said about the tribute—

Black Bolt: The tribute is a lie. A convenient one that Thanos is telling to cover up the truth… He doesn’t desire the death of every child of a certain age. He wants to ensure the death of a very specific person.

Black Panther: Who?

Black Bolt: The one Thanos has come to Earth to kill… His son.

Right there we know that Thanos has a child on Earth and that child is an Inhuman. Again, it’s an offspring that won’t resemble him, meaning you’re not going to see a purple dude with a craggy chin and a mullet. It’s strongly possible that this will be a new character. After all, this is an event story and it can’t be an event story without introducing a new superhero who will barely, if ever, be touched by any other writer afterwards. They can’t all be Blue Beetle and Layla Miller.

But what if it’s someone established? Someone that we, the readers, would know? I’m not the most well-versed in Inhuman history, but I’ve seen those who are scratch their heads at who it could be. Then a theory popped up in my head.

Let’s let Charles Xavier from New Avengers: The Illuminati #3 explain it.

Illuminati #3 is a very strange issue in retrospect, whether you loved it or hated it. People have differing opinions on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing, but one thing everyone seems to agree with is that his writing really fell to pieces towards the end of his Avengers/New Avengers run. After Siege happened, Bendis started running out of stuff to write stories about and flailed about as he stuck around well past the expiration date.

Yet he never did follow-up on Illuminati #3.

For those who haven’t read it or need a refresher, Illuminati #3 is an issue where Bendis decided to retcon the hell out of the Beyonder. Instead of being this omnipotent cosmic force, Bendis labeled him as a man with a mutant gene who was exposed to the terrigen mists and became a super-powerful mutant-Inhuman. Black Bolt claimed he had no memory of him as being his subject and after crossing paths with him in space, the Illuminati shamed the Beyonder into seemingly leaving the universe. The last page was ambiguous as Beyonder walked the streets of Manhattan. Was he using reality as a sandbox again or was he in the actual New York City? We never found out.

So what if it’s the Beyonder that Thanos is out to kill? It’s a longshot, but it’s food for thought.

The stories Hickman are telling through Avengers, New Avengers and Infinity are massively dire in terms of our heroes’ chances of victory. The Infinity Gauntlet has been deemed ineffective. A space armada featuring two Superman stand-ins and Thor is sent on the run. It isn’t out of the question that someone on the Beyonder’s level would be needed to turn the tide in some way. That, and it would give closure to that Illuminati story.

Then again, I also predicted Magog was Booster Gold’s father once upon a time and that was totally wrong, so what do I know?

Edit: I’ve also seen some speculation that Thanos’ son is the new Nova, who is both hiding a secret of some kind (according to Phoenix-Cyclops in AvX) and is one of the characters to appear on the cover of Infinity #6. Interesting.

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Dark Knight Strikes Again: Politics as Usual

August 26th, 2013 Posted by david brothers


I always liked this page from Frank Miller & Lynn Varley’s Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book, alongside all of the stuff with Supergirl. I like it more for the dialogue than anything else, though Miller’s formless, chunky Batman is an obviously great take on the character’s design. But this bit is killer, from Hawkboy’s mouth to Batman’s heart: “Thanagarians do not believe in fate. We do not believe that anything is beyond the power of mind and bone and muscle and will. I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.”

I really dig that bit, despite the Ayn Randiness of it. I like how it perfectly sketches that character out, giving him a moral immovability that’s also present in characters like Rorshach. There is Justice and there is Crime, and one must be eliminated at all costs.

Hawkboy discusses his life as if it were a conflict, a constant series of battles between Us and Them, the Just and the Fallen. There is always something To Be Triumphed Over, which ain’t necessarily the best way to look at the world. The directness of the statement appeals to me a great deal. It posits a world where change is not only possible, but possible due to the direct intervention of human hands. If something’s gone wrong, you reach out a hand, you take hold, and you fix it, and that thing has no choice but to bow to your will.

“I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.” That mentality sits at the root of a lot, if not most, superheroes. With precious few exceptions, your average superhero is doing something that is wildly illegal, but they’re doing it for “good reasons.” When people talk about how cape comics have fascist or authoritarian elements, they’re talking about Superman bending a dictator to his will, Batman creating a surveillance state for the protection of the people inside it, the Punisher playing at executioner. They are the Good Guys, so what they do is by definition Right and Just, even when it is illegal and horrible, because we know their hearts are in the right place.

This sort of doctrine really only works in comics, where you can “avenge” someone’s death and have that be an actual ending or provide closure. Real life doesn’t work like that. There are a lot of things that will bow to the power of mind and bone and muscle and will, but then there are greater things that will never bow. You will have to accept death. You will have to accept crime. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you’re too poor to afford boots, right? But it’s nice to think about a world where we have total control, instead of none.

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