Tag Archives: Stan Lee
The newest comic book store in Toronto offers an experience that is totally unique. Have you ever bought one of those surprise bags at a convenience store? I used to love those as a kid. They’d have candy and maybe a little toy, but you never knew what you were going to get. Kensington Comics is like that in store form.
As the name might imply, it’s in the middle of Kensington Market in downtown Toronto. It’s on the second floor of a building, and it’s a little hard to find but there’s signage if you’re looking for it. George the owner is always there and is extremely friendly and helpful. The store is essentially two smallish rooms and one hallway. But, the walls are covered floor to ceiling in comics. The downside (and half the fun) is that they’re in no particular order. Every day, George brings in 1 to 10 long boxes of comics, then grabs handfuls and puts them wherever there’s room.
The signs say they’re a buck each, but every time I’ve been in they’ve been 50 cents apiece. With prices like that you can afford to indulge in whatever grabs your fancy. For instance, as you may or may not know, I’m a huge Captain Marvel fan. So far, I haven’t found any of the classic issues from the Golden Age that I’m truly interested in and, while it’s possible, I’m not really expecting to. But, I have found a bunch of issues from a mid-90s series called The Power Of Shazam! It’s not great, but I’m willing to try anything with the big red cheese in it.
I also stumbled across a Superboy Elseworld’s story that got my nostalgia senses tingling. It’s got all the hallmarks of classic 90s attempts at coolness. Superboy has a long ponytail, a bandana, ripped jeans, an earring and fingerless gloves. He and the rest of the Justice League have leather jackets, and Wonder Woman is wearing spandex bicycle shorts for some reason. It’s so lame it circles back around to being cool. Something that I’d forgotten about the copy I used to have is that it’s the second part of a two-part story. So, now I have to go back and see if I can find part one!
In that same vein of 90s nostalgia, I also picked up the first issues of Ravage 2099 and Fantastic Four 2099. Marvel once asked, what will our superheroes be doing in the year 2099? By and large, the answer to that question is, “Sucking hard.” And these issues are no exception. The thing that sets Ravage apart is that it was Stan Lee’s last attempt at writing a serious ongoing series for Marvel. So that at least makes it a fun little curiosity.
For many years, I got every issue of Wizard magazine that came out. This store has allowed me to find some of the comics they featured that I always wanted to check out. I picked up some Gen 13 issues, and The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas special. I also grabbed what might be Marvel’s most absurd comic book – Brute Force. It’s about a team of animals in robo suits who are trying to save the environment. The cover has a Dolphin running on land with an uzi. What’s not to like!?
I think my best find to date there has been the first 14 issues of the Kyle Baker written and drawn Plastic Man series. It was something I’d never really been looking for, but when you find 14 issues of a series in a row it’s hard to say no. I’ve only read the first issue so far, but I can’t wait to read more. I defy you to look at one of these covers and not want to read more.
So, if you’re in Toronto and have a few hours to kill I highly suggest you check this place out.
Graham Becksted is a small business whore. 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 73rd 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.
This week, I would like to present a retort to Mr. Jones’ column from a couple of weeks ago. In it, he asserted that Superman is devoid of character and is not deserving of starring in serialized fiction. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of Superman in general. I find him too overpowered, and a little too boyscouty. But, there are some indisputable facts that can be used to defend Supes from Mr. Jones’ onslaught.
Firstly, and most notably, Superman comics have been in print uninterrupted since 1938 when Action Comics #1 was released. At various times, he has also been featured in Superman, Man Of Steel, Man Of Tomorrow, Justice Society, World’s Finest, Justice League, Legion Of Superheroes, Superboy, Superman/Batman, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. Amongst others. For a while, Action Comics was even published on a weekly basis. There were other times when there were four in continuity Superman solo-titles released a month. On top of that, he had various team commitments, cameos, and out of continuity appearances. I would like to think that after almost 75 years and well over a thousand issues that he would have developed a character of some sort.
Now, let’s take a look at the roster of people who have written Superman at one time or another. It’s almost impossible to name an important figure in comics who hasn’t done a Superman story. Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Neal Adams, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, and Greg Rucka have all written a Superman story or two in their day. Some of the most respected names in comics and out have taken the Man of Tomorrow for a spin – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Strazcynski, Brad Meltzer, and Richard Donner. On top of all that, even Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two creators who couldn’t be more associated with Marvel, have done Superman stories. I can’t imagine all of these people working on the character if there was nothing there but a blank slate. He must offer something to intrigue them.
Matt is right when he says that he is the prototypical superhero. Every other superhero owes a debt to him as they are all reflections of him from Captain Marvel to Lobo. But, that does not necessarily mean that he’s got a personality. The fact is every creator brings their own spice to the Superman mix. There are a few constants, though. He represents the idealized middle-American, white-bread, country boy. He believes in equality, and freedom, and saving as many people as possible. He tends to not use his powers for personal gain, as evidenced by the fact that he doesn’t rob banks or constantly win the lottery. On the other hand, he has won Pulitzer prizes for his interviews with himself. He’s also a good leader, and an inspiration to other heroes. He’s the whole reason the Legion Of Super Heroes exists!
As evidence for all of this, I shall present some storylines that I’ve read that I think exemplify his personality. First off, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman For All Seasons. This is a retelling of his coming of age, kind of like Smallville. It’s about him coming to grips with his powers, and the responsibility that comes with them. Next, the other extreme, The Death Of Superman by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson and a crap load of others. This is Superman fighting a guy to the death to protect his adopted home simply because it’s the right thing to do. There’s a great moment where he is getting interviewed, and certain members of the studio audience are criticizing him. During a commercial break he leaves because he’s needed in the fight against Doomsday. Even when he’s not very popular, he still goes out to fight the good fight. And lastly, the awesome Alan Moore story “For The Man Who Has Everything”. One of Superman’s enemies, Mongul, hooks Superman into this alien plant thing that makes him imagine he’s living the life he wishes he had in his heart of hearts. That life turns out to be as just a regular joe back on Krypton. It’s a pretty cool story, especially when Superman breaks loose of the plant’s control.
So, I rest my case. Superman, while not being the most intriguing character ever created, is definitely worthy of our respect and is a pretty prime example of a good character.
Now that his work here is done, Graham Becksted is going to put his glasses on and slip into the background. 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 59th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.