Tag Archives: Brian Michael Bendis
Guess what? It is the anniversary of one of the single most important comic book characters in the world. More than that, he is now one of the most important icons in the world. Spider-Man turns fifty this year, and I would like to discuss the ways Stan Lee and Steve Ditko used him to change what comic books could be.
Before Spider-Man, the most popular comic book characters had secret identities that were completely unattainable for their readers. Clark Kent is an alien. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire. Martian Manhunter is also an alien. Hal Jordan is a test pilot. Steve Rogers is a perfect leader and soldier. Diana Prince is a middle-aged fetish enthusiast. Even the more relatable ones had jobs that required years of dedication and practice, or terrible tragedy. Barry Allen is a CSI guy. Billy Batson is an orphaned, homeless little boy who works as a DJ at a radio station. Most of the rest are super genius scientists or doctors.
Peter Parker is, or at least was when he first appeared, a socially awkward nerd just like most of the young boys buying and reading comics. This was the first super-hero that I know of that was truly relatable to the stereotypical fanbase. He couldn’t talk to girls, he was bullied or ignored at school, and he was good at school work.
(Please don’t read too much into that. By the time I was reading Spider-Man he was married and had a steady job.)
The way the character was crafted by Lee and Ditko, he is probably one of the best characters for a writer. Every super-hero has some obstacles in front of them. Sometimes it’s something the character is weak against. Sometimes they’ve had someone in their life die. Sometimes they don’t have all the resources they need. Spider-Man has everything going against him. He’s a broke loser, who always needs to run home to protect his last living relative. Anyone who can’t find a way to make that interesting shouldn’t be allowed to write comics anymore.
As I mentioned above, Peter has aged and become a bit less relatable over the decades. But, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley fixed that when they rebooted the character a decade ago. He was back in high school, back to being a nerd, and, you know, not married. This was a Spider-Man for a new generation. It was a nice, neat way to bring the character back to his roots.
One of the things that Stan Lee and others have credited Spidey’s popularity with is the full-body suit that covered all identifying features. That way, anyone can picture themselves under the mask. I don’t know how much I buy that since he spends a good portion of every issue out of costume as pale, string-bean Peter Parker. But, it’s definitely an interesting theory. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that when he changes from Peter to Spider-Man he goes from a completely average guy, to a wise-cracking, athletic, good guy who is always beating up bullies. I think that is his true charm.
On the other hand, maybe me, Stan Lee, and critics are missing the forest for the trees. At its most basic, Spider-Man is about a guy with spider powers fighting evil assholes. On top of that, he’s also got to keep his elderly aunt alive, make sure his lunatic boss doesn’t fire him and not miss his date with whatever hot woman he is courting at any given moment.
Graham Becksted just realized that he never mentioned Peter Porker. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 66th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
What draws people to comic book/sci-fi/anime/horror/whatever conventions? Is it the deals? The cosplay? The meeting people who are just like you? The body odour? Or, is it the celebrities?
Personally, I go mainly for deals on comic books, and the selection. I mean, when one place has all the comic book stores in the city it’s a lot easier to check them out there than subwaying around looking for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #42 at six different locations. But, I know other people who go to cons for camaraderie and seeing friends they don’t otherwise get to see. I have to admit, I sort of envy them and the sense of community they get from it. I mean, they have paid for the privilege of that feeling, but on the other hand I paid for the opportunity to dig through hundreds of dusty, dirty, smelly long boxes which is a significantly more solitary endeavour. For instance, while they discuss what’s new in the world of Anime the most I say to anyone is an annoyed grunt as a bypass a box that’s already occupied.
What really makes me curious, though, are the people who go for the chance to meet their favorite stars. I consider that a nice bonus, but there are very few people who I would go to a con for. Sure, I’ve shaken hands with Darth Vader and The Incredible Hulk. I’ve had comic books signed by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, and Tim Sale. I’ve said hello to Adam West, brushed past Michael Dorn, and cast chaste but meaningful glances at Morena Baccarin. But, those were never things that drove me to the con. On the other hand, I’ve given up on a line to meet an artist when I realize that the guy in front of me has a stack of 75 individual comics that he wants signed.
How much does an autograph really affect something? To be honest, I don’t even know why I bothered getting the autographs that I did. I guess it was just an excuse to spend a bit more time chatting with them. That’s really the more meaningful interaction. Talking to a person and telling them how much you appreciate their work seems to me to be a more powerful gesture.
Okay, now my exceptions. A couple of paragraphs ago I mentioned that there are very few people I would go to a con for. One of them is Stan Lee. He is the founder of the Marvel Universe as we know it. He was involved in the creation of some of the most iconic comic books of all time. He is a living legend who had a powerful impact on a medium that I am quite fond of. I was willing to shell out big bucks for a meet and greet with him when he came to Toronto a few years ago but those tickets sold out faster than I could pull out my credit card. I did go to a Q n’ A that he did, and that alone had me as giddy as McLovin at the Playboy mansion.
Another exception that is taunting me is coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s an onstage reunion of the principal cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That show is almost single handedly responsible for my all consuming nerdiness. I’ve seen every episode multiple times and it propelled me into a vast world of sci-fi and fantasy. I would love to go and watch them banter onstage for an hour or two as they bask in the adulation of me and a few hundred others. The only thing holding me back is that it’s in Calgary. For the non-Canadians reading, that’s on the other side of the country. Canada being the second biggest country in the world, that’s not exactly a daytrip (although, I’m sure the more wealthy amongst us have done it). But, I am seriously thinking about going. It’s burning a hold in my brain.
If you happen to be a benevolent millionaire and would like to make Graham Becksted happy he will do many unseemly things for airfare and a decent hotel. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 51st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Welcome to an “It’s Been A Slow Week” edition of Graham’s Grumbles! Comic books, people. Unlike American politics, it just can’t be scandal after scandal all the time. So, this week I’m going to focus in on some recent purchases. The last couple of weeks have seen a lot of stores do March Break sales in honor of kids running wild with their parent’s money for a few days. Here are some of the books I snagged on the cheaps.
Alias Vol. 1
This series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos and lasted 28 issues. This trade paperback in particular collects the first 28 issues. It’s been a long time since I read any of it, but it introduced Jessica Jones to the Marvel universe. She’s a private detective with a bit of a mysterious past. She’s friends with Ant-Man and Luke Cage, and makes use of her connections to solve mysteries in the Marvel U. Another thing that sets it apart is that it was one of the first Marvel Max books, meaning it could play around with some “R” rated material. Like sex. ENJOY!
Gotham Central Vol. 1
A lot of the stuff I end up buying in collected editions are DC titles. I’m invested enough in Marvel that I get most of the major storylines in single issue format. DC, though, I feel like I can wait on. This is a series I’ve been meaning to get for awhile. I’ve read some of the issues years ago, but never got around to getting it. It was co-written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker who are now two of the biggest names in comics. Rucka is also the writer of an excellent series of novels about bodyguard Atticus Kodiak which I highly recommend. Anyhoo, the nitty gritty of it is about police officers trying to fight crime in Gotham City. Obviously this is not the easiest task when common criminals are Joker and Mr. Freeze and you’re constantly being upstaged by a certain super rich vigilante.
Another one of those DC storylines that I was willing to wait for a trade paperback collection before buying. This series has the same principle creative team as the very cool Green Lantern Rebirth – Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. Both series revolve around the reincarnation of a beloved silver-age superhero. In this case, it’s the second Flash, Barry Allen. I don’t know too much about it, but Johns is a serviceable writer and Van Sciver is an AMAZING artist. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done. It’s a date!
Unwritten vols. 4 and 5
This is a series I’ve been reading since the summer in trade format. It’s really good and I can’t wait to see where it goes. The creators are Mike Carey and Peter Gross with fantastic covers by Yuko Shimizu. I’m not really sure how to describe it without spoiling things. Suffice it to say, it’s about the life that fictional characters can take on outside of their creators. It’s about when fiction and reality collide. And it’s kind of about Harry Potter. I’m totally blown away by it, and this is from a guy who’s never really liked much of Mike Carey’s work before this. I never really got into his X-Men stuff, and despite loving Sandman I couldn’t really get into his Lucifer series. Every trade so far has had some sort of cool twist, and it never goes where you think it will. Highly, highly recommend it, and can’t wait to see where it goes.
So, there are just a few of the comics I got during the holy days of March Break. What else do you think I should get?
Graham Becksted’s got some reading to do. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 58th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Comics can be a daunting pop culture medium to get in to. Especially the super hero genre. Some of the titles, particularly the most popular ones, have been going on for 600 issues or more. Where do you start? How do I figure out what’s going on? Even I had some trouble with this when I started to contemplate buying a series on a monthly basis. I didn’t really want to jump in in the middle of a storyline. Then I found out that the Ultimate comic line was starting.
It was exactly what I needed at the time: A neat starting point for a superhero comic. The plan was to take familiar stories of the characters we all know and love and refresh them. Give them a modern spin, and avoid some of the clean up that needed to be done later. For instance, when the Spider-Man Clone Saga got popular the powers that be stretched it out into about 100 individual issues. When Ultimate Spider-Man did it, they told the story in 8 issues. What made it work was that it simplified a lot of the stuff that got kind of crazy in the regular continuity, but kept true to the spirit.
While reading them, I got a feel for the characters in a way that only a fresh start can offer. They introduced characters without all of the baggage that comes with them normally. Once I was familiar, it was easier to jump on board the ongoing titles in the regular Marvel books. I got into some of the X-Men titles and all of the Avengers stuff that Brian Michael Bendis did.
When the Ultimate line started, they took two top notch writers and put them in the drivers seat – Bendis and Mark Millar. They did a fantastic job rebooting Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Avengers (a.k.a. The Ultimates), and, to a lesser extent, The Fantastic Four (Victor Van Damme? Really?). When they finished up their runs, they were replaced by equally awesome writers like Brian K. Vaughan and Warren Ellis. These guys took the reigns but continued in the same vein. Then, the pools started to get a little diluted. They brought on writers who’s resumes were a little more suspect. The stories started to get as convoluted and confusing as some of the stuff in the regular continuity. It was no longer a safe place for readers to jump in.
The powers at be saw that the Ultimate line was losing steam, but they took a different lesson from it than I did. Instead of seeing an opportunity to get back to basics, they decided to make it more complicated than ever. The Ultimate books are now a place where anything can happen! Stuff that supposedly can’t be done in the regular Marvel Universe can and has been done – The Wasp was eaten by the Blob who was then eaten by Giant Man! Daredevil drowned! Wolverine was blasted to death when Magneto took control of Iron Man’s blaster arm and Cyclops’ visor…
And, all of that took place in a universe destroying event called Ultimatum. Now, the Ultimate Universe is so different that I find it difficult to read. Before, I could sort of hop back and forth between the two. You could read Ultimate Fantastic Four, get a fairly good idea of who the characters were, and then give the regular Fantastic Four a shot. Now, Ultimate Reed Richards is the big super villain of the universe. Ultimate Human Torch is a member of the Ultimate X-Men who are lead by Ultimate Kitty Pryde who goes around as Ultimate The Hood. Ultimate Peter Parker is dead and has been replaced by Ultimate Miles Morales. The Ultimates are investigating some new country divided into two groups, one called Eternals and the other called Celestials. But, these aren’t your daddies Eternals and Celestials, they’re just humans with powers.
Frankly, I think it’s time for the Ultimate Universe to start fresh again. Get back to what it started as – modernized versions of classic Marvel stories. A gateway to the regular Marvel U.
Graham Becksted wants to go play some Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 57th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.