Tag Archives: Comic Books
My original idea for this week’s column was to write about the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Spider-Man. But, I guess I’ll save any talk of that for the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man movie column that I’ll write around its July 3rd release date. But, in thinking about that I thought about a friend of mine. For the purposes of this public record, let’s call him, oh I don’t know, “Eric”. This gentleman loves comic books, but he loves Spider-Man in particular.
For his birthday one year, I tried to get him something I thought he would enjoy but was certain he didn’t have. I figured a collection of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up would be a safe bet since it features Spider-Man getting paired with various other superheroes. When I gave him the gift, while he was thankful, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. Eric, you see, didn’t actually like team books. He wants his superheroes solo or sidekicked, but not ensconced with a bunch of other solo heroes. I found this odd, as I pretty much exclusively get team books.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my fair share of solo books. Some Hulks, some Superman, some Batmans, some Wolverine, but the titles I get most consistently are team books. In fact, right now the only solo Superhero book that I get on a monthly basis is Greg Rucka’s Punisher. Other than that, I get almost all of the Avengers titles, Fantastic Four and FF, and Ultimate X-Men. I also get X-Factor in trade paperback. It’s actually kind of sad how predictable I am in this regard.
My longboxes are populated with team books. I’ve got an extensive run of Justice League International, pretty much all of Exiles, and I’m building a good run of Ninja Turtles back issues. Many of the solo books I have are actually more like team books in disguise. I collect Avenging Spider-Man which features Spidey teaming up with different Avengers every issue. My favorite Ultimate Spider-Man issues are the ones where he’s living with Iceman and The Human Torch.
I’ve started to wonder at the psychology of this, and I’m not quite sure what it says about me. I get the love for Spider-Man. He’s a wise cracking, middle class guy who tries to do the right thing, but life routinely shits on him. On top of that, he’s kind of a geek. That’s something most comic book fans can relate too. So, this guy who we can all see ourselves as also manages to kick ass and attract quite a few beautiful women. I can totally see the appeal, and the wish fulfillment involved. It doesn’t really click with me, though. No matter what happens, his stories always end up the same way. He manages to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. He beats Doctor Octopus, but he’s late for dinner and Aunt May is mad at him. He gets rid of the alien costume that was taken over his life, but then it attaches itself to a guy who hates him. And the biggest one, he gets awesome powers but doesn’t use them to stop a thief who ends up killing his uncle. It’s kind of depressing and repetitive.
With team books, there’s a constant clash of personalities. And, with the ever changing rosters of most teams, you get to see new mixes every few issues. If you’re tired of seeing Captain America and Iron Man argue, you can see Luke Cage and Jessica Jones fret about their baby. Just when you think you’ve seen all the Cyclops you can handle, he leaves the team. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I have a short attention span and team books offer enough change to get me to stick around. I don’t know if that’s the exact right answer, but I guess it’ll have to do for now.
Graham Becksted’s adventures can be read in Ultimate Graham, Spectacular Graham, Dark Graham, Red Graham, Graham International, and The Graham Of Steel. 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 68th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
When it comes to comic books, my first love was the Uncanny X-Men. The 90s X-Men cartoon was in fact my introduction to superheroes. I think my parents got me some comics after that and this obsession was born. That cartoon, though, was pretty great. It translated some of the great X-Men stories fairly faithfully into an all ages show. The cast of characters was a pretty diverse mix and they each had distinct personalities. But, while this was the first successful X-Men cartoon, it wasn’t the first attempt.
In 1989 a pilot was made called Pryde Of The X-Men and it can be seen here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiEVYvrCxuk). It aired a couple of times on TV, but I guess it wasn’t the resounding success they were hoping for. There are some interesting similarities and differences between it and the X-Men series that eventually followed it. (For the sake of clarity, I’ll call the pilot Pryde and the series X-Men.)
First off, they share memorable theme songs. But, where the X-Men had a rocking instrumental piece that instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever watched the show, Pryde had a campy piece of pop with lyrics like, “Magneto’s hoards are on their way to pillage, burn and plunder/But there’s one team that will not yield/ the team that strikes like thunder!” And while based on those lyrics you might think they mean the Thunderbolts, I believe their talking about the X-Men…
One that strikes me as truly odd about the show is the roster that they chose. Well, one addition in particular – Dazzler. She had a decent run in the 80s, but by this time interest in her was starting to wane. In the context of the show, she doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Her powers, shooting “hard” light, are pretty much covered by Cyclops. And personality wise, she’s just like the rest of the team – generically nice (except for Wolverine.) If she’s just there to add another woman to the team, why not go with someone who’s even a little interesting like Jean Grey, or Rachel Summers, or Psylocke, or Rogue, or Polaris. They also have powers that would bring a bit more diversity to the table.
Speaking of weird character choices, let’s talk about accents. For some reason, the voice actors decided to go nuts with these. Wolverine, who had long since been established as Canadian, has a thick Australian accent. Toad is from Britain, and yet he spends the whole thing doing a Peter Lorre impression. And the Blob just sounds like he took a few too many blows to the head (when asked what he wants he says, “Nothing! Just take over Earth.”)
Now let’s move on to some of the stranger plot elements. The show begins with Magneto being broken out of confinement by his team of bad guys. That team is not the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but the much more subtle Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists. Their sinister plan is to redirect a comet so that it hits the Earth and plunges it into an ice age. For some reason, Magneto believes that this will kill all the humans and let the mutants take over. He never really explains how his magnetic powers are going to help him survive perpetual winter but he does have a pretty sweet asteroid. An asteroid that, for some reason, has a tiny purple dragon flying around it. (Yes, yes, it’s Lockheed, but in the comics Kitty discovers him on a distant alien planet, not on Asteroid M. Harumph.) And, of course the X-men get aboard the asteroid to stop the villains. They do this by flying into space on a ship, and then floating over in space suits. Then, Cyclops uses his power to blow a hole through the airlock without blowing a similar hole in his helmet.
I could keep going, but I think I’m descending into overly nerdy nitpicking territory so I’ll stop there. As flawed as the show is, it does have a certain charm to it and it might have been interesting to see how it turned out in a weekly format. Of course, if that had happened they probably wouldn’t have made the excellent X-Men and that would have been a real shame. Although, there is one area where Pryde is superior: It has Stan Lee narration! ‘Nuff said, true believers.
Superhero origins are funny things. They define how a character will be portrayed for the rest of their run. When done well, they can set up a character for hundreds of great stories, but if they’re done poorly they can be an anchor that drags the whole series down. The best origin story is probably that of Batman. A boy watches his parents get gunned down and vows to never let that happen to anyone else again. He uses his vast wealth to train his body and mind to become the perfect crime fighting machine. Everything you need to know about the character is right there in the origin. He’s got a dark past, he’s a perfectionist, and he’ll do whatever it takes to stop criminals. Over the years some details have changed, like who killed his parents and how he trained, but the basic details stay the same. Even when he got all campy in the 60s, they stayed true to the basics.
Wonder Woman is a different story. Her origins have always been a bit more vague. Initially, she was just the best of the amazons and she won the right to take Steve Trevor back to America and help fight the Nazis. So, from that we know that she’s tough and likes adventure. It doesn’t give us much to go on. Eventually, they changed it so that she was imbued with the powers of some of the Greek gods. Then, she was the daughter of the original Wonder Woman who fought with America in World War 2. Then she was an ambassador from the Amazons to bring peace to the outside world. The problem is that when you get right down to it, she’s a hard character to pin down. Every writer who takes over the book seems to have a different idea of who the character is and what her motivations are. With the launch of DC’s “New 52” they’ve altered her origin yet again. Now she is the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta (the leader of the Amazons).
After the origin, there comes a period of setting the basic framework for what the character’s life is like. Batman runs Wayne Enterprises, but mainly spends his time fighting crime. He’s rich, has a butler, and a propensity for picking up young boys. Superman was raised on a farm, is modest, works as a reporter, and feels it’s his duty to help out. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, has had a million different jobs, and lifestyles. She’s worked for the army, she’s been an ambassador, she lost her powers and learned kung-fu, and she’s been a secret agent. Currently, her stories are taking on more of a horror twist, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
What the character needs is for a writer and artist team to take over the character and define her. Set her origin in stone. Take the most iconic aspects of her (lasso, tiara, invisible jet) and make them integral to who she is. Properly set out exactly what her powers are and what their limits are. I mean, if she can fly on her own why does she need a jet? Once details like that get hammered out she can finally have a chance at becoming as famous as the other big two at DC.
This week, in honour of Movember, I present to you three of the most famous moustaches from the MOrvel universe!
As popularized by Mr. Robert Downey Jr., Tony is best known for wearing a goatee. But, in his first appearances he rocked a snappy little moustache.
Sure, he is a genius with or without the ‘stache, but I don’t think you can call yourself a billionaire playboy if you don’t have that charming bit of lip hair. What woman could resist? And, I can’t help but notice that some of his most difficult times have come since abandoning the Mo. Fighting Captain America, being hunted by the American government, and fighting his own armour. Maybe if he shaved that useless chin business his luck would finally turn.
For many years Dr. Stranger was the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel universe. In the last couple of years he lost that title, and is now just a master of the mystic arts. But, he’s also a master of the MOstic arts.
His moustache has been with him longer than the Eye of Agamotto, and is a trustier companion than Wong. Sure, the good doctor has dabbled in other facial hair, but he always returns to the source of his power. Yeah, that’s right, his crumb catcher is probably his most mystical weapon. His entire wardrobe offers some sort of magical ability, from his cloak of levitation to his shiny gloves of orange, and he’s changed all of those at some point or other. But, that soup strainer is always there. I don’t think it’s ever been revealed before, but I’m pretty sure it’s the All-Powerful Handlebar Of Hoggoth!
J. Jonah Jameson
The angriest man in the Marvel universe isn’t Magneto, Dr. Doom, or The Red Skull. For pure straight up rage, the top of the leaderboard is occupied by the onetime publisher of the Daily Bugle and current mayor of New York, J. Jonah Jameson.
That moustache is kind of familiar isn’t it? Who does that remind you of? Charlie Chaplin? Well, yes, but there was someone else… All right, hear me out. Jameson was a reporter in Europe during World War 2. That much is well established. What I am proposing is that he was captured by the Nazis towards the end of the war and was experimented on. When Hitler died they transplanted the Fuhrer’s moustache onto the intrepid American reporter, wiped his mind of his time in captivity, and then sent him back home. Whenever he gets worked up, the sinister little ‘stache takes control! That’s why Jameson is always questing for more power. He worked his way up the ranks of the newspaper world, and now he is the mayor of one of the world’s biggest cities. Is there any stopping him!?
Tune in next week for the DC instalment!
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This week is going to be somewhat similar to last week in that it combines two of my favourite things: Comic books and movies. There have been some fantastic comic book movies made in the last few years. In fact, I think the Dark Knight is probably the best movie of the last decade. Even some excellent non-superhero fare has been turned into some pretty highly acclaimed stuff, like A History of Violence and Ghost World. But, what most people think of when they hear the words “comic book” is superhero.
The superhero was born in the medium of comic books, and that’s where they thrive. For whatever reason, sequential art seems to be the main way stories of costumed vigilantes are told. Not the only way, though. I’m going to present three examples of superheroes that were created for movies.
Probably the most obvious example. They’re a family who all have super powers and have to learn to love each other or something. This was made by the studio-that-can-do-no-wrong Pixar, and like all the rest of their movies it’s pretty amazing. As an animated film, it can really take advantage of the limitless imagination that spurs the best superhero stories. It also manages to capture a real sense of family, just like it’s most obvious source of comic book inspiration – The Fantastic Four. In both instances, they are a family first and a team second. They squabble and complain about each other, but they always find a way to work together. Like the best action movies, it has amazing spectacle that’s anchored by real emotion. Even though they’re cartoon characters, you really worry when they fight giant, cyclopean, robot destroyers!
It’s a story that might sound familiar – a man decides to become a superhero in the real world even though he has no powers, abilities, or money. This is the essentially the premise of Defendor, Special, and, most notably, Kick Ass. Kick Ass doesn’t count on this list because it’s based on a comic book, and I haven’t seen the other two… But Super is great! It pushes the envelope to the breaking point. I’m the first to admit it’s not for everyone. It’s violent and a touch disturbing, but it adds up to a fascinating look into a vigilante with a bit of a messed up moral compass. To him, every crime is worthy of the same punishment whether it’s dealing drugs or budding in line – a brutal wrench beating. It’s a comedic take on a character like Rorschach or The Question, except without any talent.
This is the most serious movie on this list. First and foremost, it should be noted that this is by M. Night Shyamalan, and I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea these days. But, Unbreakable stands up there with Sixth Sense as a truly great movie. It’s not as flashy as some of his other movies. In fact, it’s fairly subdued. The performances are all pretty quiet which is especially impressive since it stars Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson. But beyond all that, it’s a superhero origin story. It’s kind of atypical of most superhero origin stories, in that he doesn’t really realize that he has powers for a good chunk of the movie. He’s become so beaten down in his day to day life that he refuses to believe that there’s anything exceptional about him. Gah! Just writing about it makes me want to see it again. It’s very underrated and could be such a great entry point for people who are interested in superheroes but don’t care for the costumes and bombast.
So, I think by now it’s well established that I’m something of a Marvel zombie. Knowing that, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I’m pretty stoked for The Avengers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_3uKtfELfE). This is a movie that couldn’t have existed ten years ago. And not just because it’s Marvel and they’ve had some troubles getting movies made. One big budget movie featuring multiple pre-established superheroes is something that hasn’t been done before. Sure, in the past there’s been the occasional TV movie that threw Daredevil and The Hulk together (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098512/) or an aborted Justice League show (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118365/). X-Men and Fantastic Four don’t count, ‘cause those characters were all created to be a team. But even something as seemingly simple as a Batman and Superman movie hasn’t been done. I mean, they tried to make that thing for years!
The problem doesn’t seem to be that studios aren’t willing to try it. The problem is that the logistics are nightmarish! First you have to think up a threat that needs Superman AND Batman. Then you have to find actors to play the heroes. Since this is bound to be a big budget spectacle, you need two big name guys. They’ll likely want to have an equal amount of importance and screen time, and since they’re such big names they’ll probably want some say over who plays the other guy. Warner Bros invested a lot of time and money into making a Superman Vs. Batman movie, but these problems kept derailing it. They had a director and two writers, but they just couldn’t get two actors to commit at the same time. If you watch I Am Legend you can even see a teaser poster for it!
When this was all going on, I did a radio show on my high school radio station (106.3 RAVFM – I don’t think it’s on the air anymore…) where I did entertainment news updates. So, I followed all of this stuff pretty closely and became pretty jaded about the whole thing. Well, as jaded as any high school radio dork can be. After the Supes and Bats stuff blew over, there started to be rumours of a Justice League movie. That got some brief casting buzz, but never really stood a chance. With the exception of Batman, it seems really hard to make a DC movie with just one of their heroes. Anything more, at least for the time being, seems impossible.
DC had always had one advantage over Marvel in the movie making business. They are owned by Warner Brothers. If they want to make a movie, they just have to go next door and say, “Hey, let’s make Batman a movie,” and then they start making it. For a long time Marvel was a lone wolf company – not really part of any major media conglomerate. They would sell the movie rights for their characters to studios and pray that they didn’t mess them up. Finally in the late 2000s, they scrabbled a bunch of money together and decided to make a movie of their own.
That movie was Iron Man. I’ve never been a huge fan of the character in comics. In fact, I don’t know anyone who really was. But, from the first picture of the cast in costume I knew it was going to be good. I was not disappointed. It blew my socks off and that was long before the end credits. I had heard that there was some special little easter egg after the credits, so I waited patiently. When Sam Jackson as Nick Fury appeared I smiled. When he said the words “Avengers Initiative,” the top of my head flew off and steam shot out of my ears. I lost the ability to speak English for three days. My jaw dropped so far that I needed a surgical procedure to correct it. All in all, I was a little excited.
Now that it’s finally becoming a reality, I’m just trying to contain myself. Keep my expectations reasonable. But, this is something truly unprecedented. No expense has been spared. There’s a first rate (at least in the geek world) writer-director, Mr. Joss Whedon. The actors are the same ones from the heroes’ solo movies. (Except for the Hulk, where they can’t seem to find an actor who is willing to stick around for more than one movie – Eric Bana, Ed Norton, and now Mark Ruffalo.) And the continuity all ties in with the other movies.
My point with this column was simple. The Avengers movie has been getting a lot of buzz, but for non-comic fans it’s easy to lose sight of why. Whether the movie turns out to be good or bad, I think it should still be applauded for how ambitious it is. And even if you’re not a Marvel fan, if this is successful it just might pave the way for a JLA movie. We might finally get to see Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman fighting a giant starfish in 3D!
Comic news isn’t exactly hard to come by these days. I mean, the internet has a disproportionate amount of information on four things: porn, Star Trek, porn, and comic books. There are three sites I check almost daily for just for comic book news, features and blogs. Those three link to dozens of others. It’s great, but it hasn’t always been this way.
When I was a beardless youth just finding my footing in this crazy medium, the web wasn’t as organized as it is now. There were comic book sites, but they were mostly fan made geocities sites. They had a lot of images, and basic information about characters, but not much on the industry as a whole. They weren’t great for finding news. For that I turned to a special little magazine: Wizard.
I think my first encounter with an issue of Wizard was when some guy in grade school brought a copy in, and we all ogled the cast of Gen 13 or something. Soon after, I started buying it every month. In fact, I bought Wizard monthly long before I did the same for a comic book. It was a way for me to keep on top of what was going on in the world of comics without having to buy every issue of everything. The great thing about it was that it knew how to talk to its audience. It treated superheroes with equal amounts of reverence and humour.
Long before every blog made ridiculous lists to attract readers Wizard had cornered the market! They had lists for everything: Best villains, funniest comics, best cartoons, and most important moments in comic book history. It was lists like that last one that got me to expand my horizons. Instead of just sticking with the X-Men and all of their various spinoffs, I read Watchmen and Sandman. I checked out Top Ten and Preacher because of it. I was introduced to the work of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar. It shared secret easter eggs about character creations, like the fact that Nightcrawler had originally been designed by Dave Cockrum for the Legion of Superheroes (a DC comic).
I can’t undersell how important that magazine was in my development as a comics reader and enthusiast. Unfortunately, the magazine lost its way. After about two-hundred issues, it started to lose steam, and drop in sales. It lost its sense of humour, and tried to market itself as more of a general geek magazine. It stopped doing interesting articles, and instead just became a big advertisement for all things nerd. It felt like I was paying to be advertised too. And, I guess in a way that’s what most entertainment industry magazines do, but most hide it a little better. Or at least include reviews of some sort. Where it finally lost me was when they started to have pages devoted to how great their own conventions were. It all seemed just so desperate.
Now they’ve relaunched entirely on the web. I checked it out for the first time in honour of this article. Instead of adapting to the times, Wizard has decided to continue publishing a magazine except now it’s digital. So, instead of being easily searchable and linkable, you have to know the specific issue an article you want is in. That’s all well and good for a paper and ink thing that you can dispose of without a second thought. But, in a digital medium where you’re competing with all the other excellent comic book websites that already exist, wouldn’t it make sense to keep everything easily accessible as possible? On top of that, the main site is still one big desperate ad for the Wizard World comic book conventions. It’s a sad end for a magazine that was once a cornerstone of the industry.
If you’ve been following my column from the beginning (6 long, long weeks ago), you may have noticed that I like comic books. You may have also noticed a predilection for Marvel comics. That is not a coincidence. I’ve always preferred Marvel and I don’t have a terribly good reason why. I mean, I could use the old excuse that Marvel characters are more relatable. But, while Marvel did really start that trend, DC quickly followed suit and one set of characters really isn’t any more relatable than the other. Can I really relate to a WWII American super-soldier who was frozen in ice and then revived to fight crime decades later more than a millionaire whose parents are killed in front of him prompting a lifelong desire to stop that from happening to anyone else? Probably not.
I will say though, like a flirty girl at the club in my imagination, something from across the room catches my eye. One of my first forays to the Dark Cide (get it?) was the Death Of Superman trade paperback. I took that thing with me everywhere. I read it from beginning to end more times than Daredevil’s been outted as Matt Murdock. It’s exciting, dramatic, and kind of heartbreaking. Most importantly though, it’s self-contained. At least that’s how it seemed to my 8 year old mind. There was nothing in it that I didn’t understand. Sure, there are some characters from the Justice League who show up without much introduction, but all you really need to know is that they are superheroes. They tease you with some details to make you want to read more. Like what’s Bloodwynd’s secret? And, what’s the deal with Maxima?
More recently, I’ve been picking up the big Green Lantern storylines in tradepaperback. They’ve been pretty cool, and I think if I were a little younger I would like them even more. I mean, they’ve slowly introduced the concept that the Green Lanterns aren’t the only lantern colour. There’s an entire spectrum of rival corps, each tapping into a different emotion. And that whole gotta collect them all feeling really meant something to me when I was younger. These days, it just seems like a lot of time and energy that I don’t have anymore. Never the less, I soldiered on and bought the storyline that all the Green Lantern storylines from the past few years were building towards: Blackest Night!
Now, to reiterate, all seven relevant issues of the Death Of Superman storyline are collected in it. It’s a complete story with a few teases to make you come back for more. Blackest Night, on the other hand comes in 5 volumes if you want every part of it from prologue to side stories. The thing is, I assumed that I could just get the eight issue Blackest Night trade and that would have a complete story, the rest of the trades being bonus. That is not the case. In fact, Green Lantern goes zooming off in one issue of Blackest Night and his story picks up in the ten issue Green Lantern: Blackest Night trade. Together, they make for a decent story. Individually, they’re pretty unsatisfying.
This is an industry that’s having a tough time getting new readers. When there’s an event big enough that it actually draws some sort of mainstream media attention – that it might actually bring people into a comic store to check it out – the storyline should be made available in the simplest and most satisfying way. And it should be made available quickly. Death of Superman came out promptly after the final issue was released, whereas Blackest Night had finished more than a year before the softcover trades were available.
Like a good comic book, a good trade should keep you buying. You can throw in some teases to future storylines, and references to past ones to entice readers to check out the rest of your stock. Or, you can make it so that a reader needs to buy multiple trades just to get a satisfying story. If a long time collector like me as a hard time figuring out what order to read this stuff in, what chance does a new reader have?
On the other hand, I bought three of those trades and only one Death of Superman one, so what do I know?
This week’s column is thanks entirely to my friend Karo Silverwick. She asked on Facebook if anyone was a fan of Marvel comics. Obviously I threw my hat in the ring since I can’t seem to resist the chance to talk about comic books. Karo then sent me a list of questions each one worthy of an essay style response. So, I figured it would be best to just answer them all here.
When did you become a fan?
I think that actually started with my dad. He collected comics as a kid. Actually, I’m pretty sure he was pretty exclusively into Marvel comics, too. He’s got some pretty cool issues stashed away. Well, he says he has them anyway. He’s never let me see his really good ones, so they may not exist at all…
Anyway, he got me my first few issues, but what really did it was the X-Men Animated Series. I watched it pretty obsessively and then read up on all of the characters on wood burning websites on my smoke-signal internet. What really solidified it for me was when double-bubble started packaging X-Men stickers in with the gum. At lunch kids would ask me about the characters on their stickers and for a brief time I was like a god! Some sort of X-Man identifying god!
It didn’t last.
Do you collect any of the comics?
Yes. Currently – Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Academy, Punisher, Ultimates, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Hawkeye, Shield, FF, and Alpha Flight.
(Those are just the Marvel ones.)
Who is your fav hero and why?
That’s a tough call. I mean, these days I’m really more invested in the creators behind the comics than the characters in the comics. The easy answer is probably Wolverine. He’s such a badass it’s hard not to like him, especially for kids. But, there are a lot of cool Marvel heroes. Some characters who are making a play for a special place in my heart are The Thing, Reptil, James Hudson, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
But, I gotta say that ever since Ultimate vol. 1 Captain America has been the character I’ve most liked. He’s always been depicted as a man out of time, but as an idealized, squeaky clean version of the 40s. In the Ultimate version, he’s got rougher edges. He’s kind of sexist, and doesn’t take any guff. My favourite moment of his is this one:
He’s getting the crap beaten out of him by an alien Nazi (it’s a long story.) The Nazi is demanding that he say that he surrenders. Cap has heard enough, and beats him to a pulp before saying those immortal words above.
Who is your favorite villain and why?
That is a harder question. There’s so many to choose from and they cycle through them so often. But, I guess I’ll settle for a classic: Magneto. When he first appeared, he was sort of two-dimensional villain. I mean, he was the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He was pretty purely a bad man. Through years and years of character development, he’s actually become one of the deeper super-villains in comics. He believes that mutants are superior to humans, and he won’t idly stand by when his people are threatened. He is principled and has his own moral code. In fact, at least once a decade he switches sides and joins the X-Men. He’s even led them at various times, and was the headmaster for the New Mutants. He’s one of the very few villains who could probably support his own ongoing series.
What is your favorite romance and why?
Another tough one, as superhero romances aren’t usually worth talking about and almost all of them end in heartbreak of one sort or another. Cyclops and Jean were a good couple, but they were together for so long that they’ve had a lot of weird stuff happen to them. For instance – Jean died, then Cyclops married a woman who looked just like her, had a kid with her, then left her when Jean turned out not to be dead, then the other woman was revealed to be a clone of Jean and became evil, the kid was sent to the future, Jean and Cyclops got married, then Cyclops psychically cheated on her with the White Queen, and then Jean died again. (And those are just the twists I can think of off the top of my head.)
I guess the one that I like the most at the moment is Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) and the Invisible Woman (Sue Storm). They really feel like a couple who have been through a lot together. And, considering they have been together for 50 years, they have been through A LOT. But whatever happens they always end up with each other. They have two kids and a pretty strong marriage. When written well there’s always the sense that they enjoy each other’s company and that they each bring something to the table. As clichéd as it sounds, they really complete each other.
Tell me what you think of the movies.
Love ‘em. Well, for the most part I love ‘em. Since Marvel created their own film studio they’ve had a pretty strong track record, and a lot of the movies they put out before then were pretty solid too. The best have been X-Men, X-Men 2, Iron Man, and Captain America. The worst are definitely X-Men 3, Elektra, and all of the Punishers. The rest fall somewhere in between. The best all seem to capture the spirit of the comics without trying to replicate them exactly, and without deviating too much. It’s a tough balance to hit, but when they do it elicits a lot of fist pumping. Well, at least in me it does…
THAT IS ALL.
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Sadly, I have no further response to Mr. Matt. With exactly zero artistic talent, how can I possibly rebut his fantastic drawing from yesterday? Instead, I’m going to focus on something completely different:
Comic books! Namely, the many non-paper ways that they are being distributed currently.
I’m going to start with the method that is most similar to the traditional comic book format, the digital comic. This is a format that is growing more and more popular, and DC comics in particular is going all in by releasing all of their new issues online at the same time that they are released in stores. This format has improved a lot since it was introduced, especially since artists and writers are tailoring their styles to its particular needs. The way it generally works is that you get the story one panel at a time instead of one or two pages at a time. I’m still not convinced that it can replace the traditional comic book, but it’s an adequate, if not ideal, platform. One of the downsides with this format is that the creative teams tend to keep panel structure a bit more strict than they would on the printed page. On the printed page, action can bleed over from one panel into another. It’s difficult to translate that to the digital format. The storytelling style is forced into a more rigidly defined panel. Another problem is that panels are all basically the same size. With a floppy issue, you can have one page with 6 panels, and then the next be a two-page spread. This storytelling tool is lost when every panel is the same as the last. To be fair, I’ve only really examined this style on my phone and on my laptop. I have a feeling that it might be best suited to a tablet.
Next on my list are Motion Comics. This is an experiment that needs to stop because it’s just an embarrassment. At best, these turn comic books into really cheap looking cartoons. Traditional, static comic art is digitally cut up and made to move around in a way that makes early seasons of South Park look sophisticated. Then, they slap on some mediocre voice acting and some background music and call it the future of comic books. Sometimes, like with Spider-Woman: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s almost bearable. But when the best you can do is still several steps below a bad cartoon, why bother?
Finally, comic book movies! What really sets comic book movies apart as a comic book delivery system is the sheer number of people who will see them. A traditional comic rarely sells more than 100,000 issues. Movies are routinely seen by millions of people! Thanks to this, I’m living in a world where my comic book knowledge isn’t off putting and ostracizing*! I can bring up Tony Stark in casual conversation, or explain to my girlfriend the difference between the super soldier serum and the infinity formula. The fact that people are going to Halloween parties as sexy Rorschach (as much as I’m sure it pains Alan Moore), is actually one the best things that could have happened to comic books as a whole. Digital comics and motion comics are just window dressing, and are only of interest to people who are already fans. The movies mean that the entire medium and industry are still relevant to pop culture.
*Okay, okay, less off putting and ostracizing.