Great Moments in Black History #03: A Man Is Just A Man

March 30th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

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from dc comics’s new frontier, art and words by darwyn cooke

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Black History Month 30: Call Me Nat Turner With a Burner

March 3rd, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Warfare’s inevitable, Rebel I hold several government official
Issue thirty-eight specials, that step through
Like Nat Turner create a spectacle
I may die in the scuffle, but I’m takin’ forty devils

–Inspectah Deck, “The City”

I watch my small home burn to the ground. My wife and daughter’s screams stopped over half an hour ago. I should get up, but I can’t find the reason or the strength. My world has been destroyed, and the cruelty is that I have survived it.

After a long time, I find a reason to move. I can’t say it’s a good reason, or a Christian reason… but it’s reason enough.

I head into the direction of the white triangles.

I head into the dark.
–John Henry, New Frontier

Steel Drivin’ Man

I was really big into American folk tales for a while, real or fictional. Paul Bunyan, John Henry, George Washington Carver, and so on. They were infinitely interesting, but one that kept catching my eye sounded like fiction, despite the fact that it actually happened.

Nat, commonly called Nat Turner, (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831) was an American slave whose slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, was the most remarkable instance of black resistance to enslavement in the antebellum southern United States. His methodical slaughter of white civilians during the uprising makes his legacy controversial, but he is still considered by many to be a heroic figure of black resistance to oppression. At birth he was not given a surname, but was recorded solely by his given name, Nat. In accordance with a common practice, he was often called by the surname of his owner, Samuel Turner.

Nat Turner is an icon, and kind of a hard one to explain my interest in. I mean, his mission was to straight up kill white people and free slaves. “Hey guys, I heard this awesome story about this dude named Nat. He helped kill like fifty white people and–”

Yeah, that’s about as far as you get before the funny looks start, huh?

I guess if I had to nail it down, it’d be the fact that Nat was up against a wall in an untenable position and didn’t just sit there– he reacted. He made a choice. One thing that pretty much every black kid I knew would do was brag about how if they were alive back in slave days, they’d fight back, kill the master, and take over the plantation. You’d think you were looking at an entire generation made up of Huey Newtons and Malcolm X’s the way we used to talk.

I’m older now, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I would react. Would I stand tall? Would I bend? Heaven forbid, would I buckle and break? I know which one I’d hope to do, but I can’t say for sure.

John Henry in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier is a character I love dearly, and it was very cool to hear Cooke say that it was some of his favorite writing and best scenes in the book. Including him in New Frontier greatly increased my enjoyment of the book and, in a way, summarized a lot of the time going up to the civil rights struggle. There have always been people trying to do good– however, they were ahead of their time. So far ahead of their time that they ended up dead.

One connection that I happened upon, that may or may not have been intentional, is the one between Nat Turner, the legendary John Henry, and the New Frontier John Henry. New Frontier John Henry’s real name was John Wilson. He seemed to have been a well-established dude, with a wife and daughter, before he “died.” When he came back from the dead, he became a mix of two black folk heroes: Nat Turner and John Henry.

The iconography is John Henry with a twist. The hammers are John Henry, but the hood and noose are new. The hood and noose are bold statements. “You can’t kill me,” the noose says. “You tried, you failed, and here I am again.” The hood has a similar message. “I am no one. I am everyone.” It turns John Henry into an idea.

The actions, though? Those are a more focused Nat Turner. Instead of indiscriminate murder, he’s going after the people who do wrong. He’s going after the problem. He’s taking a stand. He’s standing tall. He’s striking back. It’s all he has left to live for.

It’s a mix that really speaks to me, I guess. Two of my favorite heroes in one person and beautifully illustrated. I feel like the John Henry sequence is a vital portion of the book, if not the best portion, and was pretty brave to include in the final product. I’m curious as to whether or not DC editorial had any qualms, but at the same time? It went through. That’s the important part.

Wondercon was a trip and a half for me. I had GDC on Monday through Friday, and then Wondercon on Friday through Sunday. I did a lot, saw a lot, found a lot. I’m still recovering and my sleep schedule is awful. However, it was also worth it because I bought the best page of art from New Frontier.

I win.

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New Frontier DVD

February 20th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I was contacted by M80/Warner Home Video the other day, and they asked me to talk a little bit about the movie New Frontier movie. For this kind of thing, a bit of pimpery is a-okay. It’s a worthy cause. Let’s get it.

You know what New Frontier is. Don’t pretend like you don’t. Darwyn Cooke? Best-selling graphic novel? Absolute New Frontier, one of the best looking Absolute volumes? It is, basically, a story of the DC Universe if it aged in real time. It’s set post-Korean War and it’s a rocking good time. It’s probably one of my favorite DC Universe stories, in fact. It’s self-contained, easy to get into, and beautiful to look at.

Look, here’s three links so you can catch the flavor:
Absolute Cool
John Henry I
John Henry II

See that visual style? Sharp writing? Okay, now check these out.

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(yes, i did raid the press site.)

Looking good, right? There’s some video, too.

Cool, right? Here’s the DVD cover.


I hate to come over all hucksterish (though they do call me Honest David), but I’m honestly psyched. I’m gonna get my Absolute New Frontier signed this weekend at the world famous Isotope Comics. Check out this superhot flyer:


The long and short of it: movie drops 02/26, it’s based on one of DC’s hottest comics, and you should probably check it out!

For those of you who want just the facts, check the press release below the jump.
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Black History Month 04: This Is What Happens To Heroes

February 4th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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from dc comics’s new frontier, words and art by darwyn cooke

If only there was more material available, but it is a subject that is covered somewhat poorly, considering its importance.


edit: Cheryl Lynn is ten steps a head of me and shooting backwards just for practice!

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Black History Month 01: A Man Is Just A Man

February 1st, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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from dc comics’s new frontier, art and words by darwyn cooke

John Henry told the Captain
That a man is just a man,
And I swear by all that’s right and wrong
I’ll kill you where you stand

Can I do 29 of these a month? Who knows. I bring the food for thought, you do the dishes and think it over.

John Henry meets Nat Turner.

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Pete Woods and Pete Milligan

January 10th, 2008 Posted by david brothers


infinitygirls.jpg I love Pete Woods, and it’s nice to finally see him on a book that looks good in writing as well as in art. I’ve been fighting against buying the Amazons Attack hardcover, but Woods’s art makes it hard to miss.

Plus, there’s this:

While most of the locations have been established for the book, we haven’t seen much of them, so there’s plenty of wiggle room as far as design goes. Steelworks is the most exciting of those. Here we have John Henry Irons- the Tony Stark/Reed Richards of the DCU- who knows what sort of weird bleeding edge tech he’s got sitting around. The possibilities are endless…

John Henry really is, isn’t he? He’s Superman’s go-to gadget guy. Hopefully Milligan plays with that some. All we need next is for the redesigned Eradicator to make a comeback and I’ll be happy.

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Reign of the Supernovas: A Real Mystery in Real Time

December 15th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

That’s a damned good question, Michael. First appearing in the pages of 52 Week 8, Supernova’s since been a mystery. Where does he come from? What exactly are his powers? What is his role in the grand scheme of things? And just who is this guy?

First, let’s take a look at Supernova’s various appearances up to this point:

Week 8: Over the course of several days, we see the first appearances of this red, white and blue stranger. On Day 3, he appears before an old woman and her grandchild, glows real bright and brings them across the street before they can be crushed by a falling monorail. The next day, he appears among firemen who are about to get crushed by falling debris. Glowing brightly once more, the new hero makes the debris vanish. The next day we get reports of him cleanly shearing a gunman’s rifle in half, as well as saving one woman’s daughter from a riptide. Booster Gold, whose image has just been destroyed a week earlier, rants about this new character in front of one Clark Kent.

Week 10: Clark Kent, having just been fired at the Daily Planet, sees Supernova flying around the city. With sudden inspiration, he hops out the window and freefalls. Supernova swiftly catches him, assures him of his safety and asks if he’s okay. Clark pulls out a tape recorder and asks for an interview. As Clark later explains to Lois, they didn’t get too far before seeing Bahdnesian terrorists stealing a military all-terrain vehicle. Supernova puts down Clark and uses his glowing power (which Clark describes as “peculiar eyebeams”) to take away the pavement under the vehicle, locking it into the ground. Supernova poses and answers a couple questions from Clark, trying hard to conceal himself. He sees a child almost walk into the hole in the ground, teleports in a bright light and appears in front of the child. The way he responds to the boy shows that he has some semblance of a personality under the mask. Clark tells Lois that he believes that Supernova’s on the level and that he has an air of experience about him. Elsewhere, Booster is growing more and more frustrated, while Skeets admits that even he doesn’t know who Supernova is from his historical files.

Week 15: The big one. Booster takes on a giant sea monster in the middle of Metropolis. He fails pretty badly, including a bit where he causes a massive power outage. Supernova flies in, soars to the monster and with a bright blast, zaps him away. Supernova offers his hand to Booster and makes a comment about Booster not caring about the people he saves. Noticeable frown under the mask. Booster snaps and tackles Supernova. The two brawl, showing that Supernova is at least strong enough to trade fists with Booster. Supernova’s only use of powers are to momentarily blind Booster. Supernova highly disapproves of Booster, saying he’s too pathetic to be considered a joke. Skeets mentions a radiation leakage. Supernova wants to stop it, but Booster sucker-punches him and tries to stop it himself. Beaming at his return to greatness, Booster saves everyone, but is engulfed in an explosion. Supernova, shocked, flies upwards and catches Booster’s body. To the horror of Clark and the noticeable surprise of Skeets, Booster Gold is just a skeleton in futuristic tights.

It’s worth noting that there were two alternate endings to this issue. In one ending, Booster turns to dust upon landing in Supernova’s arms. In the other, there is no radiation leakage. Supernova tries to teleport Booster back a few feet. At the same time, Booster turns on his force field. The result causes Booster to be cut in half. A horrified Supernova swears he didn’t mean for it to happen and Clark Kent believes him. Supernova covers one half of Booster with his cape while Clark uses his jacket on the other half.

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