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Tag Archives: Spider-Man
Deaths in superhero comics has always been a bit of a misnomer. It’s more like an extended nap. Or, a mild inconvenience. As far as superheroes are concerned, death is just part of the job. Everyone dies, but just about everyone gets to come back. That being said, a superhero dying is usually an event and if it’s done well it can still have quite an impact. I now present to you, the five superhero deaths that have had the biggest death on me.
And, I’m cheating right out of the gate. Colossus’ death didn’t actually have that much of an impact on me. In fact, I remember hearing about it well after the fact and thinking, “Colossus is dead? When did that happen?” It just wasn’t that big a deal. He had been kind of marginalized at the time and wasn’t serving much of a purpose. So, he sacrificed himself to cure the legacy virus. That’s the long and the short of it.
But, his resurrection was fantastic! All right, the plot was a little suspect. Aliens took his body and revived him and blah blah blah.) But, the emotional impact was great. He’s freed by his longtime girlfriend Kitty Pryde, and they kick some alien ass. It certainly helps that the story was by the legendary Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.
4.) Ultimate Peter Parker
As discussed last week, the Ultimate Universe was getting a little stale. The regular Marvel U had taken the lessons learned from the Ultimate U and applied them, thus making the Ultimate U a little irrelevant. In an effort to shake things up, and to prove that dead means dead in this universe, they killed Peter Parker. Unfortunately, they stretched the death out over quite a few issues. Shot, electrocuted, beaten, and finally blown up, it took a lot to take him out. What made it impactful was that he died in front of his parent and closest friends. Their reactions make it a worthy read, and the fact that it allowed for the Miles Morales’ Spider-Man to be created.
3.) Regular Peter Parker
Once again, the regular Marvel U learned from the Ultimate U and followed their lead. Peter Parker, a character who, as Spider-Man, has appeared in more comics than a reasonable person would bother to count, was killed in a dramatic fashion and has managed to stay dead for a year and a half. (It was recently announced that he will be resurrected just in time for the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2 to hit theatres.) What stands out about this death, though, is how uniquely it was done.
Plenty of superheroes have been killed. Some of them have been replaced by someone else picking up where they left off. Not many have had a supervillain swap bodies with them and then die, leaving a bad guy in control of their whole life. That is exactly what happened in Spider-Man #700 as Doctor Octopus transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body. He made it his goal to prove that he could be a better Spider-Man than Peter ever was. I haven’t read this whole storyline, but I have read bits and pieces and it’s been a lot of fun. I definitely recommend checking it out if you get a chance.
2.) Captain America
I think Civil War is probably my favorite comic book storyline. Heroes fighting heroes over a genuinely interesting idea. Instead of there being some sort of wacky misunderstanding, or some silly disagreement, this was about freedom and privacy. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic think that superheroes should have to register their identities with the government, and Captain America and Luke Cage think that they should be able to keep their secrets. Everyone takes sides, and eventually Captain America turns himself in.
Unfortunately, as he’s being lead to court, he is killed by his brainwashed girlfriend (comics, everybody). It’s a great epilogue to a great story, and lead to another instance of a great replacement hero. Cap’s old sidekick and recent enemy, Bucky Barnes is takes up the shield and does a pretty good job as the temporary captain. A lot of people, myself included, were disappointed when Steve Rogers came back. It just seemed like there were so many Bucky stories left to tell.
This was a huge deal. Everyone knew about this storyline, and when the final issue came out, sealed in a black polybag, people lined up for hours to get a copy. My parents just waited for the collected edition and bought that for me, but I read the crap out of it. Thinking about it objectively, it’s not a very good story. Some big monster that’s been locked up under the Earth for some reason climbs out and proceeds to beat the shit out of anyone that gets in his way up to and including Superman. But, this storyline was basically the bellows that turned the embers of my interest in comic books into a bonfire. It’s got so much great stuff going for it – beautiful art by Dan Jurgens, a superhero team up, and tons of action. Well worth the read, if only to get a taste of classic 90s comics.
Graham Becksted hopes to be on a top 5 deaths list some day. He is also 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 95th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
It seems that the older I get the further I fall behind the cool pop culture stories of the day. Maybe I’ve just reached my capacity as far as interests go. Or maybe I’m just running out of free time and I’ve got a backlog. Whatever the reason is, I have only just got around to reading Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. Unfortunately, because of Marvel’s tendency to rebrand the Ultimate line every other week, that statement doesn’t really clarify what I’m reading. Allow me to explain.
The Ultimate line of comics was a reboot of the Marvel universe. Its premise was simple – What if the Marvel stories you know and love happened in the 2000s instead of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or whatever? They started off small and were incredibly successful at adapting previous material, but streamlining it and modernizing it. This proved very popular as the stories were good, and you didn’t need to understand 50 years of continuity to appreciate it. The regular Marvel Universe caught on to this and started to distance itself from slavishly following continuity in favor of just telling good stories. So, the Ultimate universe needed to do something to stand out again. What they decided to do was make changes that could never happen in the regular books.
The most successful change (arguably, the only successful change) was to kill off Peter Parker and introduce a new Spider-Man. The premise might seem familiar – a smart, shy teenager is bitten by an altered spider and given super powers. But, this boy is named Miles Morales, he’s 13, and he’s half-black and half-latino. This was a pretty groundbreaking change as there aren’t many mainstream superheroes you aren’t incredibly white. Certainly not many who have pajamas with their likeness on them.
This storyline started in 2011 (hence my little “behind the times” rant at the beginning) but I’ve now read the first three trades and I can honestly say it’s great. There are a bunch of very deep characters who are established quickly. Miles, his best friend Ganke, and Miles’ uncle Aaron are particularly well done. The uncle is actually a high tech burglar named The Prowler. The name and costume come from a Spider-Man ally in the original Marvel universe, but Uncle Aaron is a lot less sympathetic. They have a great relationship and it makes for an exciting and surprising read.
The other thing that struck me about these stories was the introduction of Scorpion to the Ultimate universe. There had been one previously, but it was a weird Peter Parker clone and was only around for a few issues. This one is a huge gangster with a chain that has a large hook on the end. Look, he’s not the most exciting super villain, but it’s a great twist on the Scorpion character.
My one complaint with the series thus far, though, is the United We Stand crossover. Just as the series is hitting its pace, it gets dragged into this boring storyline about Hydra trying to take over the United States. Captain America rallies the troops, and Spider-Man joins up, but it just feels like a speed bump in an otherwise great story.
All right, so that’s my take on this new twist on a classic character. If you liked Ultimate Spider-Man before but sort of got lost in the myriad relaunches, give it another shot with young Miles Morales behind the mask.
Graham Becksted is slowly getting through is “to read” pile. He is also 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 95th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
I can think of no better way to begin my next 100 columns than by making an announcement. Firstly, I am married. That is not the announcement. My birthday is about a month away. That is also not the announcement. My wife purchased an early birthday present for me. This is the announcement. That birthday present is going to a meet and greet with Stan Lee during FanExpo in Toronto next week.
No, not Stan Lee the dentist from San Jose (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/stanley-lee-dds-san-jose). Stanley Martin Lieber. Stan “The Man” Lee. The creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Daredevil, Stripperella, The Hulk, The Avengers, and hundreds of others. The creative force behind some of the biggest superhero comics ever made.
He may be the closest thing to a personal hero that I have, and I have always wanted to meet him. Last year, I finally saw him in person when he did a panel at FanExpo and I thought that was as good as it would get for me. Now, not only do I get to exchange pleasantries with him, I’ll get to take a picture with him and get something autographed by him. I’m so giddy I could puke!
Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to wear. I’ve got a few Marvel t-shirts, but I’m not sure any of them would be entirely appropriate. Should I wear the one with Captain America yelling that the letter on his head doesn’t stand for France? Or an old cracked and faded Punisher one? I think I’m going to have to splurge and get something new. A simple Fantastic Four logo, maybe. Perhaps something with art by Jack Kirby, his most famous collaborator. This is the sort of quandary that could keep a man up all night.
The other thing is the autograph. At first I thought about getting one of my more recent books signed by him. The first issue of Ravage 2099, one of the last ongoing titles that Stan actually wrote. Or, Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Shazam, where Stan collaborated with Gary Frank to make a new version of Captain Marvel. Or, Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man, where Stan wrote what it would be like if he actually met his creation.
But, then I figured that wouldn’t be good enough. None of those issues really MEAN anything to me. They were fun reads, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has to be something special. I could shell out for an old Silver Age Marvel comic, but that could be pricey and hard to track down. Better yet, I know a guy who has some classic Stan Lee comics – My Dad.
Dad was definitely a guiding force in my burgeoning interest in comic books. He and my Mom bought me trades, and he would let me read some of the less cherished issues from his collection. He would take me to the store and would patiently wait as I examined everything on the rack. What better way to repay him than to get an issue that meant something to him growing up and have it signed by the writer?
So, True Believers, in a couple of weeks I’ll have a shiny new picture of me and Stan Lee to share with you. You may need to prepare yourselves. I know I will!
Graham Becksted is rarely this sentimental. He is also 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 82nd follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
I have finally reached a point in this column where I genuinely can’t recall if I’ve addressed some topics before or not. Case in point, I was reading some articles on another site that referenced the major change in Spider-Man’s status quo and I was sure I must have discussed it at some point. After a cursory glance through my records, it doesn’t look like I have! So, without further ado – Superior Spider-Man!
Spider-Man has never been one of my favorite characters, but I can’t tell you why. He is a wise cracking average joe who just can’t catch a break but he also has super powers and fights crime. He’s designed from the inside out to appeal to someone like me! But, I think I have the same problem with him that Black Cat does. She is super into him when he’s in costume – he’s confident, funny, and kicks ass. As soon as he takes his mask off, though, he turns out to be kind of a whiny loser. “Boo hoo, my aunt is sick.” “Wah! My boss yelled at me!” “Oh no, my supermodel wife is on the Victoria’s Secret runway.” Get over it!
In direct response to my complaints (or, a long planned plot point of writer Dan Slott), Spidey got a total personality makeover! In fact, it was more of a personality swap. With Doctor Octopus. Let me back up a bit. Doc Ock has been dying of some sort of disease for the last couple of years. His body’s gotten all decrepit and busted up. In a last act of desperation, he forced his mind into Spider-Man’s body, and Spider-Man’s mind into his body. Then, his old body died taking Spider-Man with it! Dun dun DUN! So, now, instead of being a nice-guys-always-finish-last sort of hero, Spidey’s kind of a dick. Doc Ock has decided to remain heroic, to kind of prove to himself that he can be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was.
This, as you can imagine, ‘caused a bit of an uproar when it first happened. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first too. But, as far as interesting changes you can make to a character, this beats just flat out killing him by a mile! I don’t buy any Spider-Man centric books regularly, so whenever he does pop up in something I’m reading it’s always a pleasant surprise to be reminded that this is not my father’s Spider-Man. Every time he’s placed in a situation that Peter Parker has been in a million times before, you legitimately don’t know what’s going to happen. Will he flat out kill a villain? Does he care about civilian lives? How long will it be until his other superhero friends start to catch on that something’s up with him?
The other thing about all of this is that I know it’s not going to last forever. I’ve been reading superhero comic books long enough to know that no one stays dead forever. Not even Bucky or Gwen Stacy. Superman was only dead for a year. Captain America lasted two. Doc Ock has been Spider-Man for about 9 months, so I give it maybe another year until Pete’s back in the driver’s seat. Maybe it’s time travel, or SHIELD having his brain patterns on file, or a clone, but somehow, someway, Spider-Man will be back to his status quo. Until then, though, I think we should all just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Graham Becksted has to acknowledge that the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoffs, so it’s hard for him to stay mad at anything for long. He is also 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 79th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
Marvel NOW! is the latest flashpoint for Marvel fans. Everything’s changing and it’s the perfect time to jump on (or off) of various books. Almost all of the main titles are getting new creative teams. And, as has been the time honoured tradition of new creative blood, the super hero teams are getting new rosters. This is always a very exciting time for fan boys and girls alike. Who will the new members be? Will my favorite be one of them? How many teams can Wolverine BE on?
The Avengers books have always been particularly good at exploiting these moments. The covers usually announce that THIS is the issue where the new team is picked. There’s usually a smattering of cards, or faces, and a big question like, “WHO WILL BE THE AVENGERS?”
The team usually stays fairly consistent for a few years. Sure, some people may come and go, but there’s usually a fairly stable core. For example, I only really started reading Avengers during Brian Michael Bendis’ run so, for me, the core team is Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and eventually Thor. But, for more old school readers, it’s not the Avengers if it doesn’t have The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, Hawkeye and Beast.
At this point, it seems like the number of characters who have been Avengers is growing so large that every Marvel hero from Captain America to Squirrel Girl will have been an Avenger. I mean, I think the announced roster for Hickman’s run is a little big – 24 members! That’s more characters than pages in an average single issue. But, I trust in Mr. Hickman’s abilities. And, frankly, the Avengers should be a huge book where huge things happen.
Prior to my Avengers interest, the X-Men were my team of choice. When I was a kid, we would spend recesses arguing over which characters were cooler, and building our dream rosters. That’s the thing with the X-Men – I think if you took a group of 10 people and sat them down with a list of the all the mutants in the Marvel Universe to choose from and forced them to pick an X-Team with ten characters on it, you’d get ten completely different teams.
To give you an example, here are three teams put together in the last decade or so. Bendis will be taking over the main X-Men book shortly, and he’s taking the team back to the original five (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and Beast). When Joss Whedon did his run the team was made up of Wolverine, Beast, Cyclops, The White Queen, Armor, Colossus, and Shadowcat. Joe Casey’s Uncanny X-Men run consisted of Angel, Iceman, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Chamber.
(I think next week I’ll try to cobble together my ideal X-Men team.)
Anyway, Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on this by any stretch of the imagination. The first time I had read any JLA stuff had been during the Death Of Superman when the team consisted of Ice, Fire, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardiner, Bloodwynd, and Maxima. (Just to show how many times I’ve read that collection, I actually pulled that list straight from memory.) When Grant Morrison took over, the team reverted to the classic roster of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. And while that is an infinitely cooler team, I still look back kind of fondly on the days when the team was made up of second stringers.
As much as we’d like to think that the creative teams are the reason most people buy or stick with a book, I think the characters on the team play as big, if not a bigger, role. So, if any of you get the singular honor of writing one of these team books some day in the future, make sure you take great care in picking the roster. You could end up defining a generation’s idea of who that team is.
Graham Becksted is the only member of The Secret Graham Coast Avengers. He is also 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 69th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
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.
Welcome back faithful readers. This week, I’d like to make a return to my topic of choice: Comic Books. I’m actually writing this on the Monday of one of the rarest of treats, a long weekend. Not just any long weekend, though. It is the day after the birth of my home country – Canada. In honour of Canada day I will be presenting to you a list of 4 of my favorite Canadian comic book artists. The Great White North is the home to quite a few of the greatest mainstream artists in the comic book field.
1.) Chris Bachalo
To start with, I’m going to go with Mr. Chris Bachalo. I’m not sure if he counts, since according to his Wikipedia page he was raised in the U.S. But, he was born here, so he counts in my book. Also, he’s one of the most interesting artists to work consistently in the Marvel and DC universes. It’s sort of a graffiti style mixed with a Bruce Timm animation style. It’s very unique and is instantly recognizable. He made his name on a mini-series featuring the character of Death from the Sandman series. His profile was further raised when he co-created the X-Men spinoff Generation X. Recently he’s done some great work on Spider-Man and New Avengers. He’s actually one of the few artists that I would consider reading regardless of the writer.
2.) Kaare Andrews
I just realized that the rest of the list features artists who are also known for their writing. I don’t know if that means anything, but it probably does. All Canadians are multi-talented geniuses or something. Anyhoo, Kaare Andrews is unique in a lot of ways mostly in that his style is constantly changing. And all of his styles are cool. This is best exemplified by his series of Hulk covers. The one above is obviously inspired by Norman Rockwell, but he did others that look like cereal boxes and Where The Wild Things Are. I first noticed him on Ultimate X-Men, and he did a cool arc on Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis. His signature series, though, is Spider-Man Reign. He wrote and drew it, and it’s like a Marvel response to The Dark Knight Returns. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite thing in the world. But, the art is interesting and it’s a unique take on Spidey.
3.) Darwyn Cooke
The next gentleman on this list is Mr. Darwyn Cooke. Not only is he from my home country, he’s also from my home town – Toronto. He still lives here, and he’s one of the most sought after writers/artists in comics. When DC was looking for the best people in the business to work on Before Watchmen, he was asked to write and draw one series and write another. His style is very much an animated style. In fact, he was a storyboard artist on the Batman Animated Series. He’s best known for his mini-series, DC: New Frontier, which was turned into a direct to DVD animated movie. It’s very cool, and puts the changes of the DC universe into a real world perspective. For example, it explains why Batman went from a gun-toting, fear the night, badass into a kid-friendly, sidekick toting, hero. He’s also done extensive runs on Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and he has adapted some of Richard Stark’s Parker novels.
4.) John Byrne
Finally, we come to the only true legend on this list. He hasn’t had a great run of it lately, especially since his online persona is not the friendliest. He has had feuds with some of the greats in the business, but he is also one half of one of the greatest creative teams in mainstream comic book history. He and Chris Claremont redefined the X-Men, and Byrne was at the very least one half of that equation. Probably more since he is credited as a co-plotter on most of the storylines that they are best known for. His clean, crisp style is iconic and very influential. He also wrote and drew some of the most important issues of Fantastic Four and rebooted Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths. His impact in comics is undeniable, and it’s too bad that he hasn’t had much work at Marvel or DC in recent years. I hope he gets another chance to work on the characters he helped define before he has to retire.
Graham Becksted is Canadian. 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 67th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
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.
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.
As comic book readers age, they tend to get more interested in the creators of the book than the characters themselves. I’m sure there are exceptions, like people who only read Spider-Man comics, but even they prefer certain storylines and appreciate the people behind them. Everyone’s got their favorites, and some that they hate. Then there are people that you just don’t get. There are plenty of people for me that fit into these three categories. I love Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, and Steve McNiven. I can’t stand Dan Slott, Chuck Austen, and I’ve read more Robert Kirkman stories I haven’t liked than liked. In the middle are guys like Matt Fraction, Geoff Johns, and Grant Morrison – I’m not a huge fan, but I definitely don’t hate them.
And then there’s Joseph Michael Straczynski a.k.a JMS. I’ve got a real love hate thing going with this guy. The first work of his that I had any contact with was the excellent Rising Stars. It’s all available in three trade paperbacks and makes for a good read. It’s about a group of 113 people whose birth coincides with a meteorite crashing to Earth. They all have different powers, but they are all tied together. It’s a pretty cool read, even though the art sees a steady decline.
Having enjoyed that I figured I might as well give Babylon 5 a shot. But first, some background – I’m a huge trekkie. To the point where I had a cardboard Enterprise-D dangling over my bed. (And if you know which one the Enterprise-D is, congratulations. You too are a trekkie.) I’ve watched pretty much every episode of every Trek series other than Enterprise. When Deep Space Nine was starting there was an outcry that it was just a copy of Babylon 5. And there are definitely some similarities (http://www.firstones.com/wiki/Similarities_between_Babylon_5_and_Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine). But, after hearing from die hard B5 fans how superior it was to DS9, I finally got a chance to see for myself. I did four seasons of watching. Four seasons that I’ll never get back.
This is the series that gave JMS the cred in the geek community that he has. This. It is terribly acted, the sets are atrocious, and the highly touted computer graphics look dated and ugly. And JMS wrote almost every episode. He set a record for it! So, pretty much everything that ended up on the screen was his brainchild. Having said that, I’m pretty sure I slept through most of the first season. It was the only way I could get through it! It picked up in season 3 and 4, but that’s not saying much.
Having slogged through that, I kind of figured that would be it for me and JMS. But then, I guy I worked with started buying his Thor run. I was pretty skeptical, but he insisted that it was really good. He wore me down, and I started reading his back issues. I was blown away! Thor is resurrected and he recreates Asgard as a floating city in Oklahoma. Eventually, I picked up the Marvel Omnibus of his run and it stands as one of my favorite Marvel storylines. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Olivier Coipel does some of his best work on the series. The only problem with the run is that it was cut short because Marvel had other plans for the character. It’s a real shame because I really would have liked to see where JMS was going.
Before that, he did a really long run on Amazing Spider-Man. I haven’t read much of it, but he did something in it that alienated every Spidey fan on the internet. Peter Parker finds out that Gwen Stacy, his first real girlfriend, went to Paris and had twins with Norman Osborn. Then, she came back, was killed by Norman in his Green Goblin guise. The children aged much faster than normal because of the Green Goblin serum in their blood, and they go on the hunt for Spider-Man because Osborn says that he’s their father. It’s all very bizarre and tarnishes the character of Gwen in a way that doesn’t really make sense given what was established about her previously.
So, to sum up, I just don’t know what to think about JMS. He’s the one writer whose work I truly either love or hate.
Graham Becksted did get Mass Effect 3 Collector’s Edition after all (thanks Sonali and Jesse). 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.