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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All King of Trio’d Out

March 4th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

You may have noticed that for the past week or so, I haven’t said a damn word on this site. That’s because last Friday I went off to Philadelphia for the three day CHIKARA wrestling show known as King of Trios ’08. What a blast.

Me hanging out with Stupefied, El Generico and Player Uno. This should be the new Mount Rushmore.

King of Trios was the biggest tournament in wrestling history, featuring 28 sets of three-man tag teams. The first two days would feature 14 teams each, whittled down to four teams after ten matches and two byes. By the third night, they’re down to eight teams, with several non-tournament matches added on. Follow that? It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that there were 31 matches over the course of three days and it was rocktastical.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any disappointments in the roster. CHIKARA top guys Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli are in Japan, so they missed out. Plus some of the more memorable guest stars from last year like Yago, Dino and American Balloon weren’t returning. Despite that, we had some of the reliable mainstays, surprisingly entertaining new guys and some bizarre surprises.

Read the rest of this entry �

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Black History Month 28: We Fly High

February 28th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Black Panther
you ain’t ready
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Blade and Brother Voodoo
“There are worse things out tonight than vampires.”
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amandla, man. (sorry)
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The Crew
don’t start none, won’t be none
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Flippa Dippa
look man, i got nothing.
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John Henry Irons, Steel
steel drivin’ man

John Stewart, Green Lantern
taking him for granted would be a mistake

(one more day!)

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Black History Month 16: Pay Homage to the Man of Steel

February 16th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

—Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”

Yeah, that’s right. I’m allowed to do these articles too. hermanos said I could. So there.

When I think about black history and comics, I have to talk about the history of one of my favorite black comic characters, Steel. My first memory of the character is seeing a poster for Reign of Supermen near my local arcade back in the early 90’s. It asked the question of which one of those four S-shield-wearing superguys was the real Superman. It seemed obvious to me that it was either the cyborg guy or the dude with the visor. The George Michael one looked too young and that guy with the hammer looked nothing like Superman.

I didn’t read the whole Death and Return story for well over a decade after it came out. For a while, the only experience I had with it was that SNES game, which I still declare as good. As fun as it was, the story aspect of the game was ridiculously lacking. No Green Lantern, no Supergirl, no Lex Luthor Jr. and strangely no Mongul. All I could figure from what the game showed me was that Cyborg Superman was evil for some reason and by merging Eradicator with Black Costume Superman with his arm cannon, he returned Superman back to his normal red and blue self.

I didn’t expect much when I read the actual comic, and yet I found it to be one of my favorite Superman stories. As long as it was, everything (except a lot of Funeral for a Friend) clicked. It was a good mystery with good character moments and good action sequences. What really sold it for me was that I really like all four of the false Supermen. Each one has his own appeal. I still think it’s absolutely criminal how little DC uses Eradicator, especially after how rad that one Dan Abnett Majestic story was.

I could go into detail on a lot of fantastic Steel moments, but the thing I remember him most for is taming the Eradicator and teaching him heroism through pounding the crap out of him. It takes place during Reign of Supermen in issues Action Comics #689 (Who is the Hero True?) and Superman: The Man of Steel #24 (Impact).

Steel is the one Superman who didn’t claim to be the real deal, both out of nobility and because, let’s face it, he’s just a huge, black human in a suit of armor. It would’ve been a hard sell anyway. What he didn’t have in appearance, he had in spirit. Almost literally, but I’ll get to that in a second. Steel was the only natural hero among the four pretenders to the point that he coached Superboy into being more than Booster Gold Version 2.0.

Eradicator was the opposite. Physically he looked the part and although his power set and weaknesses were different, he was easy to accept as being Superman after something odd and comic booky happened to him. I mean… that’s how we got Superman Blue, right? It’s just that emotionally, he was a cold bastard and had no qualms over murder or maiming. Guy Gardner loved him for it. At the time of this issue, his mission is to find anyone who pretends to be Superman and eradicate them.

Steel is in the middle of dealing with a gang of armed hoods, who find that his armor deflects every one of their bullets. One of them sneaks behind Steel and aims a shotgun. A second later, he’s vaporized by the Eradicator. He fries the others’ guns and decides to let them run off as he’d rather confront Steel.

Lois storms over and shows them what their little brawl has done to Metropolis. Steel immediately comes to realize he was in the wrong and owns up to it. Eradicator, more driven by his unease from being near Lois, also apologizes.

“You know, I never laid claim to the name of Superman. I wear this shield and this cape to honor a man who gave me back my life. Can you honestly look me in the eyes and say that you find anything wrong in that?”

“Put in those terms… No. I cannot. I am sorry…”

Right when the two have an understanding, a process server runs over and hands over some cease and desist papers for using the Superman trademarks, owned by Superboy’s employer. Eradicator fries the papers and prepares to fry the server for his insolence. This time, it’s Steel who runs into the fight by grabbing Eradicator and flying off in order to protect that poor weasel’s life.

The thing to remember here is that within the story, they went and made it pretty clear who was stronger than who. Cyborg Superman is stronger than Eradicator, who is stronger than Superboy, who is stronger than Steel. Steel is heading into battle against an enemy out of his league.

Without thinking about casualties, Eradicator drives Steel back towards the Earth and spikes him into the ground. They end up in Coast City and the fight begins anew.

He got through to a piece of intergalactic hardware through passion and a helping of metal fists. How great is that?

Even though we know the facts of the story in hindsight, at the time of this fight, there was another dimension to it. Earlier issues of Reign of Supermen suggested the concept that both Steel and Eradicator were the real deal in different ways. Eradicator was physically Superman, but Steel was a host for Superman’s ghost. Obviously, this wasn’t true in the end, but I’m sure at the time it made this incident a bit more interesting.

What did this fight lead to with our two super friends here? Eradicator got toasted by Cyborg Superman and came back a few issues later, finally discovering his true identity and successfully helping Superman win the final battle. But before that all happened, there was this.

Not only is his dialogue snappier, but… it almost looks like he’s smiling.

As for Steel? He ran into another guy claiming to be Superman, despite a different power set and a different appearance. At first, Steel remained cynical. As time went on, by seeing the true hero behind the black tights and 90’s mullet, Steel came to realize that unlike the immature teen, the callous killer and the metal megalomaniac, this Superman was indeed legit.

Last I checked, Eradicator is in a coma, under Steel’s care. You’d think they would have done something with that by now.

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Black History Month 14: The Sambo Samba

February 14th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

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art from dc comics’s firestorm
This is besides the issue that some white comic creators create bland African-American characters.

Where is the African-American Guy Gardner? Where is the African-American Batman? Where is the African-American Joker? Booster Gold/Ted Kord Blue Beetle? Oracle? Wolverine? Spider-Man?

DC’s African American characters are either created to be the only person of color on a team (JSA, JLA, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps), or by editorial fiat to fill a diversity need (Firestorm).
–Valerie D’orazio, Three From WWII: The Twelve #2, JSA #12, Project Superpowers #0

When I was born, I was black. When I grow up, I’m black. When I’m ill, When I die, I’m black. But you – When you’re born, you’re pink. When you grow up, you’re white. When you’re ill, you’re green. When you go out in the sun, you go red. When you’re cold, you go blue. When you die, you’re purple. And you have the nerve to call me Colored?
–Malcolm X

I’ve got a habit of getting into arguments on the internet regarding race. I can’t help it, man, someone says something dumb and I feel compelled to respond. Next thing I know, it’s a week later and I’m waking up in a ditch.

Anyway, this post is about something that bugs me to death. I’m sick of hearing the word “token.” I don’t mean that I’m sick of “token” black characters.

I’m sick of people using it to describe black characters.

Token, quota hire, affirmative action case, all these words have the same root and work to the same point– the black person did not work for his position, he is less qualified, and he should not be where he is because he doesn’t deserve it. He’s only there because it’s politically correct, or editorially mandated, or because the team has to have a black character, doesn’t it?

Protip: Shut up. All you’re doing is reinforcing those ideas. Having one black guy on a team does not a token make. An editorial creation is just as valid as one from talent. It’s in the execution.

I’m gonna be honest and say that Val’s post up top there is what prompted this one. I had one all lined up about Deb Tiegel from Hitman (the best half german/half black character in comics), but I’m pushing it off for a day so that I can get this done.

In her post, she reviewed JSA #12 and said this:

The sequence with John Irons was also in need of some editing/quality control; John’s opening dialog with his wife sounded like pure exposition devoid of any human quality.

John Henry Irons is not in JSA #12. That is Jefferson Pierce, a black man with no facial hair and a wife and a grip of kids apparently (welcome to NEW EARTH). Irons is single, has a goatee, no wife, and no kids. He’s got a niece, though she’s already an established heroine in her own right.

When called on it, she said this:

I think the problem is that Johns wants to make the JSA the catch-all group that every other DC team is rolled into/connected with. Actually having Irons & the Infinity Inc cast make an appearance would make sense to me, as the two titles were historically linked to each other. But to bring not only JLA but Batman and the Outsiders…you need to have a realllly skilled hand to work within such a scope. I’m thinking a little past Johns and more like Busiek.

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t confuse the two. It’s just that the book would have been better with John Irons, right? ’cause he is in a book with a cast of all new characters who don’t actually have a connection to the JSA. Also Geoff Johns is a bad writer and Kurt Busiek would write this story better.


The conversation continues and we get the gem above about bland black characters created by white dudes, and how we need the black Spider-Man, Wolverine, Joker, and so on.

The bland thing stuck in my craw. What is that about? White people can’t create interesting black people? This means that DC’s blacks all suck? Editorially created characters are bad? Yeah, sorry– no. Not the business. She closed the thread when Pedro from FBB asked her questions, which meant she didn’t get to answer any of mine.

However, I have a blog of my own and I just did my taxes tonight so I’m in a raw mood so I decided to do this post. Pedro responded to her earlier, but that kid is just trying to get some e-cred so don’t read his blog at all. He definitely doesn’t make any good points about re-appropriating characters, writers of a different race writing characters, and comics quality.

Let’s go down the list.

John Henry Irons (TV’s Not Jefferson Pierce): He’s about as editorially mandated as it gets, isn’t he? He started out as the only one of the four replacement Superman to not claim to be Superman. He was carrying on in his name because it was the right thing to do. He graduated to being one of Superman’s best friends, an integral member of the JLA, buddies with Plastic Man, and one of the foremost thinkers in the DCU. Here’s his blandest moment:

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Did I say blandest? I lied. Dude has not only fooled an enemy who has taken over a decent portion of a city, but he has picked up on a plan from a teammate with little prompting, and come up with a way to take out that enemy.

DC’s African American characters are either created to be the only person of color on a team (JSA, JLA, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps), or by editorial fiat to fill a diversity need (Firestorm).

Blow by blow:
JSA: Jakeem Thunder is a member, and I guess Amazing Man is now, too. Jakeem is a kid with a magical wishing genie who didn’t have the benefit of a Bruce Wayne or Hal Jordan upbringing. He’s got an attitude, a rough edge or three, but he’s also trying to do right. That’s bland?

Mr. Terrific is a guy so smart that Batman copied some of his designs and regularly treats as an equal. He’s apparently the third smartest man on earth, too. Having trouble seeing the bland here.

Teen Titans: Ain’t no black people on this team.

JLA: I already went over Steel. John Stewart and Vixen are I guess who she was referring to? John Stewart is an equal GL with Hal, Guy, and Kyle. He’s portrayed as the most level-headed and may even have more willpower than his buddies according to a scene in GL where his willpower is too much for his ring in GL last month (month before last?). A guy with a wishing ring and that kind of skill? That’s pretty interesting, innit?

Vixen? She’s a question mark right now. Meltzer’s slipshod plotting left the story of what’s going on with her powers to Dwayne McDuffie, but suddenly she can duplicate the powers and skills of any superhuman she’s nearby. She can fake a Green Lantern ring. That’s a big deal, isn’t it?

Finally, Firestorm.

Poor, beleaguered Jason Rusch. First he’s seen as a ghetto-bound drug-dealing quota case and now he’s bland. Except… he’s a college-age kid who may be the most powerful metahuman on the planet. He’s got father issues, he’s inexperienced, he lost his best friend because of his powers, and now he’s searching for the mentor to the old Firestorm so that he can better learn how to take care of himself. He’s Spider-Man meets Phoenix.

Yeah. I’m not seeing the bland, boring, editorially-mandated black characters here. All of these people have been blessed with quality writers lately. Even before the past year or so, these characters never sunk to “token” status beyond what mouthbreathers on message boards had to say.

I’m not even a DC encyclopedia. I barely even like most DC books. I’ve read enough to know a little bit, though. I’m not talking out the side of my neck here. You can look all this up with a minimum of time on Google or in a comic shop.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue with somebody. Around a year ago, I got into an argument with a different blogger. I’d link it, but she’s since updated her layout and that hosed the 140 comments across two posts where the relevant part of the conversation was. Long story short, she came out with the line that “all black characters are mandingos and cannot be rescued from their horrible origins.”

I wish that comments thread was still there so, so bad. You don’t even know.

Her reasoning is terrible and horrible in a few ways. First, it supports the idea that you can’t reclaim or improve something. Going by her logic, I got some family members who’re gonna be hoodlums their whole life and are going to be worthless because of that fact. You go to jail and come out a different man? Who cares, dog, you’re still a criminal.

Get outta here with that. You’re gonna look at Bendis’s Luke Cage and tell me he isn’t an improvement, in terms of realistic representation and suchlike, than the one from the ’70s? Falcon is always gonna be a sambo? Bishop is just there to make white women scared? *smh*

When you get down to calling black characters bland, mandingos, tokens, or whatever, and you aren’t naming names? You’re doing wrong. You’re painting a whole bunch of characters with an ugly, ugly brush.

I’m having trouble coming up with some tokens who still appear in comics. Triathlon, I guess? I’ve read like half a comic with him in it, so I don’t even know there. Honestly, who are some “token” characters?

You think that there are “some bland/token/boring/racist black characters?” Call out names. Otherwise, some of us get to play “Guess who” while the rest of us are just going “I knew that Luke Cage was a token! What’s he doing on the Avengers anyway?”

Leave the subliminals at home and call out names. Be specific and know what you’re talking about because someone (probably me, at this rate) will call you on it. At worst, you might learn how he isn’t a token. At best, you might gain a new appreciation for a character you never paid attention to.

Stop looking at them as “black characters.” Treat them like characters instead of pieces in your “This Is How Superteams Should Look” puzzle set. Superman isn’t a white character, why is Steel a black character? Why is Priest painted as a “black writer” instead of a “writer?”

But just know that when you’re calling someone a token, you’re denigrating their skills, their past, and their accomplishments. You’re treating that character as inherently lesser than his teammates, due solely to preconceived notions and the make-up of his team.

Be specific or don’t speak up at all.

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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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Harley Quinn

August 22nd, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes DC gets it right:

Written by Karl Kesel
Art and cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
The Joker’s lovable partner in crime takes the spotlight in this new hardcover volume collecting HARLEY QUINN #1-7, written by Karl Kesel (SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL) with art by the fan-favorite team of Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (WONDER WOMAN)! Don’t miss these beautifully illustrated tales of lunacy!
Advance-solicited; on sale January 16 • 192 pg, FC, $24.99 US

I wanted to toss in a “sometimes DC gets it wrong,” but I’m up against the wall of like three heinous deadlines.

More from Rock of Ages– Batman slipping a roofie to a (new) god.

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I’m listed on Amazon.ca, which I’m kind of inordinately proud of
My unofficial namesake died June 25, 2007
-I’m never going to find time to play Bioshock and Madden NFL 08 at this rate
-I’m spending way too much money lately and need to cut way back
-I’m rereading Y the Last Man (better a second time through, though some of Vaughan’s quirks are mad obvious) and starting Narcoleptic Sunday, a pretty cool OGN out of Oni. More on that later.
-I need to do reviews for Calavera Comics and another comics company that sent me PDFs. Cripes.
-There are not enough hours in the day.
-I went out and got a Twitter, because I just don’t write enough during the day.

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Hello all

August 2nd, 2007 Posted by Hoatzin

First impressions are important. I’ve spent several hours pondering about how to start my introductory post on 4thletter, and in the end I decided to just take the easy route. Hi, I’m Hoatzin, 4thletter’s newest staff member, but call me Paul if you like. I am Dutch. I like comic books. But only when they are good comics. I also draw, badly, but I’ll leave that for another article. For now, just to get an idea of what type of comics I like, I’ll leave you with some random thoughts on this week’s comics. And yes, I do basically read every single Big Two book that’s being published. Thank you for noticing.

Action Comics 853 – Despite my usual enjoyment of Kurt Busiek’s comics, the fact that this is a Countdown tie-in really hurts the book. Although Busiek does a better job at making me care about Jimmy Olsen’s plight to become a superhero than Countdown, the general storyline is still pretty lame and predictable.

All New Atom 14 – Pointless fan-pandering is rampant in part three of the Hunt for Ray Palmer, with the (temporary) return of Ted Kord in a book that does not feature any characters that should care about him. But Donna Troy is soooo amaaaazing.

Black Canary 3 – Oliver Queen is a moron.

Countdown 39 – A Sean McKeever issue, so at least the dialogue is decent, but the pacing remains glacial, none of the plotlines and characters are compelling and the artwork is once again fairly atrocious. The character introduced as last issue’s cliffhanger panel does not actually show up until the last two panels of the second to last page of the main storyline and the cliffhanger page after that is hilariously pointless. The only reason I’m still reading this book is because it will lead into the Grant Morrison-penned Final Crisis.

Detective Comics 835 – Dini is apparently busy with Countdown, so it’s a filler issue, but a surprisingly solid one at that. John Rozum (creator of Milestone Comics’ cult-hit Xombi) re-invents the Scarecrow as a genuinely terrifying enemy in part one of what promises to be a very interesting two-part story arc. The dark tone of the book is perfectly complimented by Tom Mandrake’s excellent atmospheric artwork.

Fantastic Four 548 – Dwayne McDuffie continues what has so far been an entertaining run on the book. I disagree with the numerous complaints that McDuffie has been overplaying Black Panther; T’Challa is essentially Marvel’s Batman, always ready with a plan and quick on his wits, so his portrayal in the book has been perfectly in-character.

Justice Society of America 8 – After the (terrible) Lightning Saga crossover, Johns has decided to take a breather with two more low-key issues focusing on two of the lesser known JSA members. Last month was a one-shot focusing on the new Commander Steel, this month is a story about Jesse Quick, the new Liberty Belle. It’s a welcome change in pace, but the issue itself is a mixed bag. Jesse’s characterisation is well done, but her relationship with Rick Tyler is obnoxiously written. Johns should also either give Zoom a rest or do something new with the character, because at this rate he’s growing stale really fast. I still fail to care about Damage and his clichéd damaged (ha ha!) past. This issue also has fill-in art by Fernando Pasarin, and although it’s decent, it’s nowhere near as good as Eaglesham’s. Despite all this, it’s not a bad read overall.

Metal Men 1 – The surprise book of the week for me. I was unfamiliar with Duncan Rouleau’s writing prior to this, so I don’t know how it stacks up to his previous work, but this was definitly an entertaining read. There’s a lot of content crammed into 22 pages and most of it is interesting. The banter between the Metal Men is amusing and they each have distinct, defined personalities, Will Magnus is a nice sketch of a character so far and the mysterious ongoings are intriguing, especially the last page cliffhanger. The artwork is another high point. It’s cartoonish and vibrant and the coloring is lovely, with inventive panel layouts and lots of energy. It’s not perfect; at points it gets overly busy and some of the computer effects are annoying, mainly the copy-pasting of specific elements, but it’s a nice break from the conventional look of most current DC books.

And now that I’m halfway through my books for the week, I’m going to take a little break. More thoughts (in particular the new Supergirl and World War Hulk issues) later!

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Cool Exec, Heart of Steel– Iron Man

July 12th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

So, guess who just got back from a special sneak preview of the Iron Man game coming from SEGA :quagmire:

It was a short preview, and not hands-on, but it looks pretty dope. We saw the 360 rev, which looked really good to be so early. We saw a Siberian stage, with IM versus Russian mercs… Russian mercs run by AIM. Rhodey and Jarvis assist him over a radio.

We saw a couple good scenes. Iron Man can catch missiles and redirect them, turning the enemy against itself. It was an unfinished build, but there was a pretty good sense of speed, and the stage was huge. It’s structured so that you can complete objectives in a mission in the order that feels most comfortable to you, which is kind of cool. Infantry and that kind of thing are really no threat, but heavy armor? Yes, that will rock you but good.

One last thing before I dip– I asked the dev specifically about armors. He said that they’re going to rep the movie first and foremost, but that they’re going to pull on 40 years of Marvel continuity and give us some hot unlockables. War Machine armor is a no-brainer. It’d be kinda cool to see some Hulkbuster armor (renamed, of course) or something from Adam Warren’s Hypervelocity.

One more one last thing– I know one of the dev guys, and he’s local to SF :whatup:

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Citizen Steel and Jock(s)

April 23rd, 2007 Posted by david brothers

There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo about Alex Ross’s cover for the new issue of JSA #7, featuring Citizen Steel. Let’s take a look at it.


Ooh, I see what the problem is! It’s really, really obvious and sticking out shamelessly!

It’s boring is what the problem is. It’s some dude checking himself out in the mirror after working out, with added Photoshop Blur filters. Yes, Citizen Steel, 8-Minute Abs are working out for you. Great. I flex in the mirror, too, everyone does. It’s a great esteem builder! It is also bland and uninteresting, just like every other cover Ross has done for JSA. It’s always someone standing bathed in light, looking thoughtful or profound.

Let’s talk about an awesome cover– Jock’s cover for Green Arrow Year One.


Here’s another, and another, and a sister and her brother:

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In a world where Jock, Brian Wood, Dave Johnson, JH Williams III, and Adam Hughes are delivering awesome covers, month-in month-out, can someone give me one rational reason why we should talk about Alex Ross and his boring and unexciting covers? Marvel got a lot of crap for their “Our Covers Have Nothing to Do With The Book” covers a year or two back, but at least those were done by Adi Granov, JRjr, Mark Bagley, Tim Bradstreet, and a host of other great talents. It wasn’t just a character on a black background because everyone knows that that is boring. “That’s not how we rock in Theodore,” as a wise man Ghostface Killah once said.

Sorry, just wanted to put that out there.

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