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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Marvel Comics, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michael Golden


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Michael Golden is part of an elite class to emerge out of comics Bronze Age(1970-85), along with other legends like Mike Zeck, Frank Miller, and John Byrne. He worked briefly at DC in the late 70’s, before making a name for himself over at Marvel with his dynamic, detailed drawing style on the miniature superhero team, The Micronauts. Golden would go onto create one of the most popular Uncanny X-Men characters, Rogue, with writer Chris Claremont, and enjoyed critical success with his work on The ‘Nam(a war comic written & edited by Vietnam War veterans Doug Murray & Larry Hama).

Michael Golden is also an accomplished advertising, and commercial design artist, but he still finds time to create covers for some of the biggest titles in comics, including The Fantastic Four, and The Walking Dead.

You can listen to a recent podcast with Michael Golden talking about his early days in comics at Panel Borders here.

For the latest news, and art images from Mr. Golden, you can follow his facebook page here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

0 Comments on Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michael Golden as of 2/26/2015 7:56:00 PM
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2. Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

hawkeye 1 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye FanBy Kyle Pinion

I love Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye. It’s by far my favorite monthly (which I realize is a stretch to still call it that at this point) comic coming from the Big Two. Its mixture of high impact super-heroics, indie sensibilities, film influences, and raw emotion have paved its own niche in the crowded world of cape comics. With its rampant critical success and sales that aren’t anything to sneeze at, Hawkeye (along with Mark Waid’s wonderful Daredevil) sent Marvel into a more idiosyncratic direction that spawned a number of titles that could be noted as “auteur-driven”.

One of the more unique trends I’d seen regarding the series was how it had served as a form of gateway comic for a number of new readers. In my travels at various convention settings, I’ve learned that a lot of these (often-times younger) readers aren’t quite sure where to head next in their comics reading, or whence to dig further into the various references and influences of Fraction, Aja, and Wu that have informed or been worked into the title.

With that said, here’s my take on a “Hawkguy” shopping guide..

Where to go if you’re looking for more Clint and Kate

young and secret 1000x305 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Secret Avengers and Young Avengers – The obvious place to jump off point if you’re a fan of a series that dictates itself as “What Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger…” is to read about what he’s up to when he is. With Ales Kot’s and Michael Walsh’s work on Secret Avengers and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, you can do just that for both Clint and Kate respectively. While other Avengers books, including the previous Nick Spencer-written run on Secret Avengers, also feature Hawkeye at times, Kot and Walsh’s Secret Avengers comes the closest to Fraction’s work in overall tone and feels somewhat of a piece with the sort of “knowing” vibe found in the series. It’s also absolutely bonkers and worthy of attention on its own merits. Young Avengers is, conversely, like all Gillen-McKelvie collaborations, a tonal pop record of a comic. It gives you another look at Kate, with a great focus on her romantic entanglement with Marvel Boy, while also featuring an incredibly diverse cast. Also, both books are colored by the incredible Matt Wilson, Bonus!

Films and Television that inspired the series

Hawkeye is, as previously mentioned, inspired by visual media, with both subtle tonal similarities, and much more overt homages. Here are a few worth noting…

the long goodbye 300x180 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

The Long Goodbye – Remember Harold from Kate’s adventure in LA? The cat food buying freelance writer that Kate would encounter in the grocery store and would inspire her to become a “hero for hire”? While the character was created for Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, Matt Fraction and Annie Wu basically transformed him into a pastiche of the hero of Robert Altman’s hazy LA noir classic The Long Goodbye. Recently released on Blu-ray this week, treat yourself to one of the best films of a film-making master.

Rio Bravo John Wayne Dean Martin 300x169 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Rio Bravo – What this John Wayne Western classic, that also stars Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, actually has to do with the finale of Hawkeye is still to be determined. But, the solicit of Hawkeye #21, the first of the upcoming two-part finale, explicitly references it. While it still remains to be seen how much the tale of a small-town sherriff and his unlikely band of allies keeping a murderer behind bars from the attempts of a brother trying to set him free will actually play into the finale…we’ll play it safe and say its a big influence.

hot fuzz 300x187 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Hot Fuzz – In interviews, Annie Wu has specifically cited Edgar Wright as a major inspiration for her work, particularly in her tendency to have disembodied hands pop up into close-ups to deliver notes or a phone. A slighter inspiration for sure, but well worth viewing for those unfamiliar with his work. Given the subject matter at hand, Hot Fuzz, one of Wright’s more under-appreciated films and one based more on a (very!) heightened version of reality than the sci-fi or horror outings that surround it, is probably the way to go.

enter the dragon 1973 685x385 300x168 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Enter the Dragon – So much of Hawkeye, especially in its earlier issues, is indebted to 70’s action films. Really, you could find any suitable choice to fill in this slot, from the Steve McQueen starring Bullitt or the Gene Hackman fronted masterpiece The French Connection; but given that Fraction was recently interviewed by NPR about his love of Enter the Dragon, the titular Bruce Lee tour de force, we’ll go with that. You can’t go wrong with the Hackman vehicle either!

Rockford Files 300x170 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

The Rockford Files - Even in the promotion of the first issue, Fraction was drawing parallels between Clint Barton and Jim Rockford, the hero of the unusual for its day 70’s detective series The Rockford Files. When you break it down, the similarities are definitely there: a private detective taking on cases of the lost and the dispossessed while living in a trailer off the coast of Malibu, with his life in some state of financial disarray, resorting to humor over violence. While his original James Bond-esque take on the character appears in the two-part Javier Pulido drawn “The Tape” story-line, James Garner’s atypical gumshoe informed a great majority of Fraction’s scripts surrounding it.

Comics at the root of Hawkeye

The comic book inspirations that drive Matt Fraction and David Aja are wide-ranging and could fill up an entire post by itself, but for a wide overview its impossible to overstate the influence of Los Bros Hernandez, Warren Ellis and Howard Chaykin on Fraction, while David Aja is clearly indebted to the work of illustrative wizard David Mazzucchelli. I’ve cited three key works from the first three creators that Fraction himself has signaled out that are must reads, and for Mazzucchelli, while his superhero career was sadly all too short, his revolutionary take on Daredevil with Frank Miller is fitting given that we’re talking about another Marvel character.

MAGGIE 1 241x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Maggie the Mechanic – The first chapter in Jaime Hernandez’s decades-spanning LOCAS story in the legendary Love & Rockets. While both Hernandez brothers were/are equally influential in Fraction’s formative story-telling growth, its the punk rock aesthetic and energy of Jaime that rings closer to the tone of Hawkeye. This is a journey worth taking from the beginning.

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Daredevil: Born Again – For my money, maybe the best thing to ever host the Marvel logo. Buy it, if you haven’t already.

PLAN OMNI DJ copy 300x438 205x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Planetary – What The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is to Victorian Literature, Planetary is to Pulp and Comic Books. Everything critics were praising in Ellis’ short run on Moon Knight had its start here. Ellis has worked many comic book wonders, but Planetary is his best, at least for those with a predilection towards superheros and their archetypes.

American Flagg 193x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

American Flagg – When it comes to the 80’s works that revolutionized comics everyone talks about Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Maus. Yet had American Flagg ever stayed in print regularly, there’s no doubt that Howard Chaykin’s opus would be in that conversation as well. Sleek, sexy, whip-smart, and colored like an EGA computer game, American Flagg‘s first 12 issues are must reads for anyone wanting to get a masterclass in great comics.

If anyone has a great suggestion for influences on Annie Wu’s art, please toss them at me in the comments! My knowledge only goes so far.

Music to play in the background while you’re reading all those new comics

pet sounds 300x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Pet Sounds – Not only because its an unimpeachably great album, but a Brian Wilson-esque character plays a big role in another one of Annie Wu’s LA based issues. More than 50 years later and this is still the sound of Southern California to my ears.

Or you could check out the various songs and pieces that David Aja listed in the back of a number of the earliest issues of the series, of which someone was kind enough to post up a good deal of on Youtube. I’ll never turn down free Miles Davis.

If you can’t get enough Fraction in your life

Though, if you’re into Hawkeye, you may just want to chase down more Fraction books, and who can blame you? Chances are, you’ve probably already heard about or read Sex Criminals, his very popular Image Comic with artist Chip Zdarsky. It’s great of course, as is his team-up with Howard Chaykin, the 50’s television mystery Satellite Sam (which, like Hawkeye, is going to have its own peek into New York and LA) but I might also recommend the following specifically…

iron fist 195x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

The Immortal Iron Fist – Fraction and Aja’s other team-up on a blonde Marvel hero. This is where the Enter the Dragon inspiration really comes to the fore, especially in the masterful tournament storyline “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven”. Its also a series that was for a time, co-written by Ed Brubaker.

casanova 200x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Casanova – Though my pick for favorite Fraction book is the multi-dimensional spy saga Casanova. One part Pynchon, one part Morrison’s The Invisibles, and a whole lot of great Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba art. This is a writer completely unfiltered and is the kind of series I find myself reading at least once a year, where I discover something new every time. Image has just started to release brand new hardcovers as well, so there’s never been a better time to introduce yourself to Casanova Quinn.

Fun Hawkeye swag

hawkeye minimalist logo 300x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Hawkeye Messenger bag – From the fine folks at WeLoveFine, I got this at San Diego Comic Con this year and I love it.

pizza is my business 300x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Pizza Dog shirt – Also for you Pizza Dog lovers, there’s now a shirt!

Looking into the future

Hawkeye 1 Ramon Perez c5b04 195x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

And lastly, you may know that Jeff Lemire and Ramon K. Perez will be taking the reins from Fraction and Aja starting in March of next year. You might be curious about what they’re bringing to the table. Rest assured, the works below, including Lemire’s first take on an archer character in his New 52 Green Arrow run, his rural Canadian hockey saga Essex County and Perez’s essaying of Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand script should leave you feeling pretty excited about the future of your favorite purple clad hero.

green arrow kill machine 195x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

Green Arrow: The Kill Machine

essex county 200x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye FanEssex County

a tale of sand 202x300 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye FanJim Henson’s A Tale of Sand

Happy Shopping!

hawkeye 1000x402 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

0 Comments on Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan as of 12/1/2014 12:48:00 PM
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3. Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans on ‘Angela’ #1

Angela, the character created by Neil Gaiman in another lifetime as part of the Spawn universe, will be receiving her own ongoing series later this year from the creative team of Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans.


I don’t know how we reached this point either, but that’s a packed lineup of creators up there. Jimenez is superstar enough, and his presence bodes well for the project. Gillen and Bennett will co-write the series, with Hans working on a back-up strip which’ll appear in each issue. That looks like her work on the cover as well.

The book will follow the character – revealed to be Thor and Loki’s sister in an Original Sin miniseries which either has or hasn’t started yet – as she decides to head off and make a name for herself in the Marvel Universe, primarily through the method of slashing people up and presumably growling at them a whole lot.

An ongoing series, the book will be edited by Wil Moss, and start in November.

3 Comments on Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans on ‘Angela’ #1, last added: 7/25/2014
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4. SDCC ’14: Mighty Avengers Relaunches with Captain America in the Lead

Did you know that Falcon is Captain America now? Just thought it worth mentioning ahead of time, so this article doesn’t confuse you. He’ll be the lead in a relaunch for Mighty Avengers in November, you see, with Al Ewing and Luke Ross on as the creative team for the series.



The team, as you can see, seem largely to have remained intact. Monica Rambeau is up there, along with Blue Marvel, White Tiger, and I think Luke Cage with rocket feet.

You’ll also see Spider-Man trying to catch up with them in the image – having annoyed all of them back when he was inadvertently ‘superior’, one of the first storylines will see him attempt to rejoin the team, to the particular dismay of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Sam Wilson will be the lead role in the book now, as he assembles the team once more specifically for himself to lead. Starting in November, Captain America & The Mighty Avengers will be an ongoing series.

1 Comments on SDCC ’14: Mighty Avengers Relaunches with Captain America in the Lead, last added: 7/25/2014
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5. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michael Del Mundo















Michael Del Mundo is an artist who’s responsible for so many great comic book covers of late, but I didn’t realize, until recently, who he was. The new Marvel Now Elektra series features both cover art, and interiors by Del Mundo, and it’s received a ton of well deserved critical acclaim. In fact, he, and writer William H. Blackman have impressed Marvel so much with their work that they’ve been promised another project once Elektra ends.

Del Mundo has brought the same unconventional, and dynamic style to his interior artwork, that has made his covers so memorable. I’m looking forward to see what comes next for this exciting, young artist!

Michael Del Mundo is from the Philippines, and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can follow his blog here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

0 Comments on Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Michael Del Mundo as of 9/18/2014 6:06:00 PM
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6. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Jamie McKelvie






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If I was creating a new super-hero team, or relaunching an old super-hero comic book, the person I’d first think of to design/re-design my character’s costumes would be the great British artist Jamie McKelvie! He’s the one behind the excellent new costume designs of Captain Marvel, AKA Carol Danvers, and the wildly popular new version of Ms. Marvel, AKA Kamala Khan. You can see the design sheets posted above. McKelvie has been steadily producing some of the best conceived cover designs/art for many of Marvel Comics’ recent titles, including Ms. Marvel, Nightcrawler, and the recent(much too short-lived) Young Avengers re-launch.

Jamie McKelvie, and his frequent collaborator, Kieron Gillen, have recently launched a new, creator-owned series for Image Comics called The Wicked + The Devine. Their unique new-Mod take on super powered folks is a fresh addition to the usual, over-saturated fare.

You can see more art and follow Jamie McKelvie on his Twitter page here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

0 Comments on Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Jamie McKelvie as of 10/17/2014 4:26:00 PM
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7. Marvel’s Second Wave is ‘All-New Marvel Now’, Starting with All-New Invaders

In an interview with delightful hero Brian Truitt of USA Today, Marvel have unveiled the branding for their next wave of comics. Called All-New Marvel Now, the two launch books will be All-New Invaders by James Robinson and Steve Pugh; as well as Matt Fraction and Joe Madiurera’s Inhumans.


All-New Marvel Now will start in December, and certain current books will be renumbered to take that into account. As a result, Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers will feature an issue 24.NOW, for example. Which, yes, is ridiculous. Across the line, Marvel will be rebranding the design of their comics to match the covers you can see here, whilst Captain America seems set to be put in the spotlight (handy when there’s a new film coming out soon!)

All-New Invaders will see Cap reunited with Namor and the Original Human Torch – AS WELL AS The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes. Written by James Robinson and drawn by Steve Pugh, this new ongoing series will send the team off to another war – one with the Kree, an alien race returning in force.


Inhumans was already announced, and will also launch as part of All-New Marvel Now. Matt Fraction will write and Joe Mad will pencil the series, which looks to redevelop the concept of X-Men – a minority forced to band together in the face of overwhelming oppression – but for a franchise whose film rights aren’t owned by FOX.


Avengers 24.NOW, by Hickman and Esad Ribic, will begin the new phase for Marvel on December 24th. Hey, that’s Christmas! Once Marvel send out larger versions of the covers, I’ll update the article accordinglu.

One of the most notable parts of the announcement, however, is that certain ANMN issues will come with a digital code which gives you access to the original run of comics. So readers can not only get these new comics – they can also get a look at the classic stories as well, to catch them up.

15 Comments on Marvel’s Second Wave is ‘All-New Marvel Now’, Starting with All-New Invaders, last added: 9/9/2013
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8. Marvel in December: Welcome Back, Peter Parker, Bye Kaine

Marvel have released their solicitations for December, including a lot of odd decimal placements, an apparent return for Peter Parker, the finale of Scarlet Spider, and a whole load of other stuff. Here’s a few bulletpoints about what you can look out for over Christmas:

If you want the full set of solicitations rather than this cherry-picking of the bigger details, head to CBR.


It looks as though Peter Parker is returning, as is the Amazing Spider-Man brand as a whole. Five issues will be out this month, lavvelled 700.1, 700.2, and so on. A number of creators are involved on this book: David Morrell and Klaus Janson on the first two issues, followed by Joe Casey, Kevin Grevioux, Jen Van Meter, Tim Green, Tim Seeley, Emma Rios, Clay Chapman, Javier Rodriguez, Brian Reed, Lee Weeks and Sean Chen. Phew!


Kathryn Immonen is returning to comics once more, and reuniting with her Hellcat collaborator David LaFuente for a new one-off story. They’re in charge of Avengers Assemble Annual – one of three annuals out this month – which promises the debut of

Zamira! She’s Meryl Streep with a vengeance!

There is also a Hulk annual, as well as a Thunderbolts annual.


Brian Michael Bendis is bringing X-23 into the cast of All-New X-Men, which basically spoils one element of Avengers Arena. It looks like she has a new costume. Elsewhere in the Bendis World, Kevin Maguire’s issue of Guardians of the Galaxy comes out this month.


Wolverine Origins II starts, with Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert handling the five-issue miniseries. The first cover will have an acetate cover variant.


After 25 issues Scarlet Spider is ending in December, with Chris Yost and David Baldeon the team for this final issue. Ryan Stegman provides a cover for the issue.


Inhumanity starts, followed by a number of ridiculous tie-in issues like Mighty Avengers 4.INH and so on. This issue will be by Matt Fraction and Oliver Coipel, seemingly leading us towards Inhuman the ongoing series in 2014.


Avengers Assemble brings in co-writer Warren Ellis for a new story arc, working alongside Kelly Sue DeConnick. Art will be by Matteo Buffagni. And yes, it’ll be Avengers Assemble 22.INH.


No sign of an X-Factor relaunch this month, although it turns out that Brian Wood is the creator who’ll be trying to fix the almost conclusively broken Monet, following a dreadful last few months of X-Factor for the character. Monet will be joining the team in X-Men, with Terry Dodson on art.

If anyone CAN sort her out, it’s Brian Wood! Fingers crossed.

13 Comments on Marvel in December: Welcome Back, Peter Parker, Bye Kaine, last added: 9/13/2013
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9. Marvel Reaches Settlements with Gary Friedrich, Bob Layton

It appears that Marvel have offered Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich a settlement, thus ending the lengthy case which had previously bankrupted the veteran writer. The details of the settlement have not been offered to the public, but Friedrich’s attorney has informed a federal New York judge that the case can now be dismissed.


Hopefully this is good news for Friedrich, whose battle for rights over the Ghost Rider came to a head in 2007, when the first movie was released. There was sniping on both sides, with Friedrich suing Marvel and then  Marvel counter-suing Freidrich and, well, let Jeff Trexler explain it all in more detail.

Interestingly enough, however, writer Bob Layton – best known for his work on Iron Man, aspects of which were reflected in the subsequent film releases – has also taken to Twitter to announce that Marvel have also made a settlement with HIM over a character issue. Referencing David Michelinie in his tweet, this almost certainly refers to the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline he wrote.

I wonder if we’ll see other creators revealing settlements over the next few weeks. It looks like some new policy might have come in, and hopefully it’s one which will give all creators the best possible deal.

15 Comments on Marvel Reaches Settlements with Gary Friedrich, Bob Layton, last added: 9/13/2013
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10. C2E2: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm

Marvel are kicking off a weekend of announcements today with news about some Original Sin tie-ins. The main Original Sin series will see The Watcher get shot up something rotten, his eyeballs getting ripped out, and everybody finding out deep and dark secrets which previously only Uatu knew about. It’s like superhuman wikileaks, basically. And amongst the tie-ins has just been announced a five-issue miniseries from Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi, Al Ewing, and Lee Garbett: Loki and Thor: The Tenth Realm.


Those would be the creative teams for Loki: Agent of Asgard and The Mighty Thor, of course. The storyline also concerns another character, however – the noted Angela, fresh from her stint in the Guardians of the Galaxy. After a lot of wondering about why she was important to the Marvel Universe, and why it was such a big deal that she arrived, courtesy of Neil Gaiman, into Marvel Comics… it appears the answer has finally come.

She’s Odin’s daughter. Making her the sister of both Thor and Loki. Uh-oh! In this five-issue miniseries, Angela will be heading across for a family reunion, causing problems for Thor, Loki – and also for Odin. You have to imagine that Frigga won’t be particularly thrilled, either.

Marvel note that the series will be numbered as Original Sin #5.1 across to #5.5. It’ll start this July.

4 Comments on C2E2: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm, last added: 4/28/2014
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11. C2E2: Marvel Announce ‘The Legendary Star Lord’

Marvel continue to roll out announcements today, with the news that Sam Humphries and Paco Medina will be the creative team for an ongoing Star Lord series. Following the exploits of the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy (and star of the upcoming movie), the series will see him fighting the good fight off – and, it looks, on – Earth.


The series is pitched as being about Star Lord as a solo hero, rather than as a member of the GOTG – the announcement comes with a brief description of issue #1, in which he’ll be fighting various alien foes and attempting to save an orphanage from destruction. You know – heroic stuff.  More details are currently being announced at Wonder Con right now, although it’s made clear that Kitty Pryde will be a member of the supporting cast – having finally ditched Iceman, thank goodness, it looks like she’s set her sights a little higher…

The series is set to start in July. The above cover is by Steve McNiven.

2 Comments on C2E2: Marvel Announce ‘The Legendary Star Lord’, last added: 4/29/2014
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12. The Retailer’s View: On Rocket Raccoon Orders Topping 300,000

by Brandon Schatz

When Marvel first announced the Rocket Raccoon book, I was fairly excited. Pairing the character with Skottie Young just as interest would crest for the movie seemed like a no-brainer, one that I could use to sell a few copies to interested parties. I was expecting healthy sales, but nothing that would eclipse the character’s parent title – especially given how stylized Young’s art is. What I hadn’t counted on was for Marvel to play their hand almost perfectly, netting a fairly unprecedented 300,000 copy order before the book’s final cut-off. How in the world did they swing such a huge number – especially with a relatively small amount of incentives? Let’s break things down.

art by Skottie Young

art by Skottie Young

It starts at the core: with creator Skottie Young. Over the years, Young has built himself as a brand quite handily. Choosing projects that played to his strengths, and running with the swell of goodwill garnered by his spot-on series of hilarious “baby” covers, the man went from some punk kid drawing the Human Torch Tsunami book, to an overwhelming creative force through sheer force of will and talent. Witnessing this, Marvel offered him Rocket – a book that not only fit his art style, but his story telling sensibilities – and while almost any comic can sell given the right bit of zeitgeist and marketing, there’s no comic that blows up this big without the core being so strong from the get go. Take a look at the numbers for any of the big two’s recent events. Marvel and DC (and pretty much any company) would have killed to have numbers like this for one of their events – books that they push so hard and stack so high with talent that they can’t help but move tens of thousands of copies without breaking a sweat. Rocket seemed to accomplish a lot more, using relatively less.

The numbers on this series are indicative of Marvel’s creative direction as of late. While you won’t find a shortage of people decrying their tactics or stories, there’s little you can do in the face of numerical data – and while the industry isn’t pulling in the numbers it did in it’s heyday, any upswing that’s occurring within Marvel is down to some genius marketing on their part. If we’re talking Rocket and the Guardians of the Galaxy specifically, it begins with the relaunch of Guardians a year ago on the back of the movie development, and the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Combining a bit of meticulously planned timing with that specific creative team (and the regular round of marketing and variant thresholds), the series launched to an estimated tune of 211,312 copies for issue one – or, if you want to nitpick, 80,344 copies for the prologue issue #0.1. To put that in a kind of context, the previous ongoing Guardians book from 2008 debuted to a paltry 36,282 copies. Why? Well, there clearly wasn’t anything wrong with the creative team – after all, they formed the basis of what would become the current phenomena – it was a matter of marketing and timing. Quesada, for all the good he did for the company, never quite understood the cosmic side of the Marvel universe (a fact that he’s admitted in several interviews over the years) and as a direct or indirect result, when good books were coming out in this realm, the marketing never gelled. The same goes for any comic shop – if your proprietor doesn’t understand the appeal of a certain title, there’s a good chance that book won’t get a big push within the walls of that store as focus tends to remain elsewhere. As a business entity, it always pays to ignore taste (to an extent) and push through the blocks set up in your mind in order to gain the largest audience for the property in question. This is a lesson Marvel has clearly learned.

Everything about the release of Rocket Raccoon makes sense. A great creator matched with a great concept, dropped not a month before he stars in a big movie. An announcement made months in advance of regular solicitations to build up pressure alongside the movie, allowing retailers to hear whispers from their customers long before orders are even available to place, culminating in a fever pitch when orders are due. And then, there’s the fact that Marvel let the numbers slip the week before retailers had to set their Final Order Cut-Off numbers, allowing lazier retailers to shake their head and wonder if they’ve ordered enough themselves. Everything about this launch was perfectly timed, and should result in solid sales – at least for Marvel. As for possible sell through, that remains to be seen. Some of this hypothetical 300,000+ print run involves incentive covers running off of qualifiers that have goosed the numbers – but considering the fact that Marvel put heavier incentives on the first issue of Guardians and still came up with a smaller number speak volumes for what they’ve put together here.

art by Paco Medina

art by Paco Medina

Now before I call it a day, there remains another facet of this marketing tale left unexplored: that of the Legendary Star Lord book from Sam Humphries and Paco Medina. In all of the hubbub for this, I you’d be hard pressed to find people talking about this book, which I think is a shame. For all the good Marvel did in marketing Rocket, they really dropped the ball on Star Lord – which is to say, the numbers are probably very healthy, but could they be as healthy as they could have been? This should have been announced the week after the Rocket Raccoon announcement. The company should have been out there pounding the pavement with preview art and concepts. I’m a big fan of the works of both Humphries and Medina, and think they are a great match for this character – one that might not be as zeitgeist grabbing as the dude responsible for years of amazing variant covers and the gorgeous art that graced the Marvel Oz books, but still, there should have been more happening. As a result of some personal hustle, I have pre-order numbers that are quite comparable to that of my Rocket Raccoon numbers. That’s down to marketing – and while I understand there will never be a time where companies like Marvel or DC will treat all properties equally, it always pains me to see a marketing opportunity lost. I want books in the hands of people who are going to enjoy them, and I can’t always do that by myself. The comic book industry needs everyone to pull their own weight the keep it running, and while a 300,000+ run of Rocket Raccoon is nice to see, it would have been great to see even a 200,000+ run of Legendary Star Lord announced as well.

That said, it isn’t over until it’s over, and who knows? Maybe in a few months time, retailers will be swimming in Rocket Raccoon #1’s while scrambling to get second prints of Legendary Star Lord. The market is a strange and wonderful place, and in the end, despite, it’s always the readers who have the final say. Hopefully, we get two very healthy ongoings out of this, as I feel both books will deserve a healthy readership. Time will tell.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

15 Comments on The Retailer’s View: On Rocket Raccoon Orders Topping 300,000, last added: 6/12/2014
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13. Rocket Raccoon #1′s Initial Orders Inflated By Single Source

art by Skottie Young

art by Skottie Young

by Brandon Schatz

A few days before the book’s final order cut-off with retailers, Marvel let it slip that their upcoming Rocket Raccoon series had garnered over 300,000 initial orders, well above expected estimates for the series. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped as reports came in regarding mass quantities of the book having been ordered by Loot Crate, a company that sends boxes filled with assorted genre and video game paraphernalia to homes via subscription.

With numbers ranging from roughly 100,000 upwards to 180,000, depending on who’s been dong the digging, many feel as though this places an asterisk on the numbers Marvel so proudly announced. To put this into context, people who are subscribing to a service are receiving product, much like a shop’s regular subscription service. What’s more, many of these copies will be read and experienced by those who don’t normally make the regular trip to the comic shop, exposing the series and comics in general to a new audience – and while Marvel’s initial announcement wasn’t all that forthcoming, the information stands: Rocket Raccoon #1 has received over 300,000 in initial orders, a number that has no doubt grown as retailers made their final order adjustments with that information in mind.

11 Comments on Rocket Raccoon #1′s Initial Orders Inflated By Single Source, last added: 6/13/2014
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14. SDCC ’14: ‘All-New Captain America: Fear Him’ Digital Comic

The first Marvel announcement from SDCC came today at their ‘House of Ideas’ panel, as the creative team of Dennis Hopeless and Szymon Kudranski will put together a six-issue digital series featuring Sam Wilson, the new Captain America.


These six issues will all be released at the same time, telling the first adventure of the character as he moves out of the red feathers and puts on the red white and blue suit. This’ll be set during between, to be exact, Captain America #25 and All-New Captain America #1.




Marvel have also announced, possibly before in fact, that Marvel Unlimited will now also feature the Infinite Comics that the publisher have put out over the last few years. SDCC!

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15. Paolo Rivera Ends his Exclusive Contract with Marvel

rivera daredevil Paolo Rivera Ends his Exclusive Contract with Marvel
It may be horrifying news for fans of Daredevil, but now both of the original artists attached to the series have decided to amicably part ways with Marvel, in order to pursue their own creator-owned work. In a post made to his blog today, Paolo Rivera states that he is going to step down from his 10-year exclusive contract with the company. In this, he joins fellow artist Marcos Martin as creators look outwards to the greater world of comics, interested to create their own legacies and stories in order to keep their futures secure.

What I create in the next decade needs to pay dividends when my vision gets blurry and my hands start to shake (and who knows what else). Now is the time to make that choice, while I’m still young, possess “great power,” but have few responsibilities.

Noting that he isn’t leaving the company entirely, and may well still contribute covers to Mark Waid’s acclaimed relaunch of Matt Murdock’s life, Rivera has nothing but compliments for his employers, and wishes them the best.

The reason you’re reading this now — the reason I have a career — is that I have played a privileged part in stories and characters that predated my birth and will long outlast my life. As an artist, my reputation — my fame, in blunt terms — is what makes this a profession, and not a hobby.

His attention now rolls over to some personal work – not forgetting the other exclusive contract he’s attached to (congratulations!) – as well as his commissions list, which is understandably rather large. It’s a fond farewell from Rivera, and well worth reading in entirety.

11 Comments on Paolo Rivera Ends his Exclusive Contract with Marvel, last added: 6/19/2012
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16. Advance Review: Hawkeye #1

By Steve Morris

Hawkeye’s appeal is, as Matt Fraction nails immediately in issue #1 of his new series starring the character, that he is the ‘normal’ Avenger. He doesn’t have any powers, only his skill with a bow and willingness to commit to a full gym schedule. However, for the past ten years his main characterisation has been ‘bit of a dick’, and that’s also something Fraction nails, for better or worse.

2295948 hawkeye2012001 dc11 Advance Review: Hawkeye #1

Hawkeye #1 is a strong issue both in terms of writing and (this will be a shock to no-one) David Aja’s art. Aja has long been one of the smartest and most creative artists in the industry, whose storytelling is without comparison. He excels here once more, with a series of scenes which could’ve looked utterly boring, but are instead visually intricate and fascinating. There are a lot of conversational scenes here, with Hawkeye barely in costume, and yet Aja manages to create diverse panels, laid out in a manner which enhances every scene.

The fight scenes are chaos when they need to be, and yet still filled with details – check the line he draws for Hawkeye’s deft flick of a playing card, which flies straight to the throat of a mafia goon from the fingers. It’s a tiny detail which builds on the rest of the panel, and yet draws all the attention. While Aja’s Clint Barton does look a little like Danny Rand with lighter-hair, his body-language and fighting style are noticeably different.

HAWKEYE2012001013 col Advance Review: Hawkeye #1

Also, he draws a lot of puppy-dogs. I know this will be a draw for many of you.

Fraction’s script reads like a Tarantino film, as it features a non-linear timeline and a small-scale look at crime in the Marvel Universe. This works for the most part, although some of the verbal tics – like a gangster who keeps punctuating his speech with ‘bro’ – are a little irritating. There’s also a lot of blanked-out swearing, which has always served to take me out of a story in the past. It just looks silly, and takes a lot of threat out of the villains who use it.

The rest of the dialogue is pretty decent, but the narration is the main driving force of the story, here. Cutting between scenes rapidly and with some great twists, Hawkeye’s narration punctuates the shifting time-line and strengthens the issue. We see Hawkeye act like a complete dick for almost the entire issue (in classic Hawkeye fashion) but his narration is blind to just how annoying he is. There’s a very interesting disconnect at play here – whether it will be explored in future issues is, however, up for debate.

Much like the previous Captain Marvel #1, this issue is very much a one-shot story which doesn’t give us much of an idea about the overall narrative Fraction wants to put in place, here. Marvel do seem to be concerned with establishing their characters by having them take part in a single, wrapped up story, which gives them some definition but doesn’t establish the ongoing threat. Here again we have Hawkeye dealing with some small-scale threats, but we see him more as Clint Barton than as an Avenger. Once the story wraps up, there’s no idea what we might have coming next, and readers looking for big superhero feats are going to be disappointed.

I don’t know if this structuri

15 Comments on Advance Review: Hawkeye #1, last added: 8/1/2012
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17. Nightcrawler Sketch

A sketch I did for a finished commission last week. The final ended up not really looking like this at all but I thought this was an interesting sketch, kind of a cross between Nightcrawler and Sandman. I'll post the finished version tomorrow. 

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18. DOOPDATE: Doop Returns for an All-Doop issue of Wolverine & The X-Men in September

By Steve Morris

Neverendingly working Newsarama blogger Graeme McMillan has spotted a change in Marvel’s solicitations. Now, this may have come about as a result of a delay in art, or it may have come about because we exist in a cosmic tapestry, stitched and unstitched by the tapestrier, as may be their will or wont. But basically, issue #17 of Wolverine & The X-Men is going to kick aside the worthless cud like this ‘Wolverine’ feller out the way, in favour of an ALL-DOOP issue. Yes!

1153500 doop DOOPDATE: Doop Returns for an All Doop issue of Wolverine & The X Men in September

Doop, if you’ll recall, was created by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred during their run on X-Force/X-Statix, and is an all-knowing doopish green blob of infinity. He’s most recently been seen as part of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine-as-a-teacher series, in his new role as religious studies tutor:

tumblr lz7gujAQGX1qhf7gjo1 500 DOOPDATE: Doop Returns for an All Doop issue of Wolverine & The X Men in September

All very well and good, I suppose. But what makes this news a bolt of blob-based brilliance is the surprise reveal that this issue will be drawn by co-creator Mike Allred. Grab your pom-poms, people. MIKE! ALLRED! Returns to Doop!

The issue will be released towards the end of September. Let’s celebrate by remembering the time Doop destroyed that jerk Thor.

doop8 DOOPDATE: Doop Returns for an All Doop issue of Wolverine & The X Men in Septemberdoop8 DOOPDATE: Doop Returns for an All Doop issue of Wolverine & The X Men in September

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Everyone’s a little puzzled by the strange choice of number on this issue, somewhere between a #0 traditional origin story and a #1 launch of what’s rumored to be a major contributor to the Marvel Universe this year and beyond in the lead up to the 2014 film release of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. If this issue is more than just an origin story for Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, then we can assume some of the elements of a wider arc of action for the series are already being drawn up in the narrative, however much of a prequel it may be to the galactic sweep ahead.

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The long, sporadic, but often well-received publication history of GUARDIANS makes it ripe for a return, and whatever readers were expecting, they are bound to be struck by the energy of #0.1 and the disorienting sense that they are, in fact, looking at something refreshingly new. Writer Brian Michael Bendis is so well-versed in crafting origin stories that the surprise is not how well he knows how to introduce a character’s early days, but that he manages to do it so succinctly, given his history of expanding origin stories well into established story-lines (take, for example, his ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN which stretched Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man to span 7 issues).

His experience handling origins has clearly given Bendis an edge in handling a short-form version while maintaining the humanizing qualities in his characters that he’s also known for. Steve McNiven’s pencils are easily a match, though, for Bendis’ writing skills in the sense that his pauses to convey motion, his almost minimalist panels, and nearly constant emphasis on facial expressions to express emotion give the reader instant recognition of the importance of key moments without creating drag. John Dell’s inks give the comic an even more fluid feeling with hardly a static line and Justin Ponsor’s choice of color sets a kind of tonal theme a reader might expect not only from Marvel Comics but from Marvel meets sci-fi: intense earthly sunlight and shadow blended with slick, luminous technology. Bendis has said that he read lots of sci-fi leading up to his work on GUARDIANS, looking for things that inspired him the most, but it’s a fair guess that the entire team have drawn from their own impressions of the best elements of an alluring sci-fi tale.

[Spoilers for issue #0.1 ahead!]

detail 1 197x300 REVIEW: A Hero Reborn in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1

Trust Bendis to bring in quirky dialogue to contrast with ethereal galactic realities, one of those humanizing elements that renders his characters appealing. Peter’s mother bitching into a cell-phone opens the story, and the deluge of questions and commentary she launches at the space-ship crash victim from Spartax helps establish the conflicting world views that will no doubt impact Peter’s life. The rapidly-developing romance between the two, the predictable departure of a man on a mission in wartime still has a grounded feel due in part to Meredith’s satirical but emotional responses. When she’s told she can keep J’Son’s gun, she comments to herself (and the reader) “How romantic”. One of the simplest panels, and one that makes you forget that this is a story that’s been told before, is one in which Meredith, despondent at J’Son’s departure, says simply “Take me with you”. McNiven’s use of expression strikes home easily; she already has the look of someone abandoned, a victim, in her own way, of war.

detail 197x300 REVIEW: A Hero Reborn in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1

Peter’s life with his mother “22 miles from anything and anyone” at age 10, reading comic books and ditching math homework, contains plenty of the formulaic elements (partly due to Bendis’ influence on comic tradition already) of the misunderstood kid soon-to-be-hero mythos, but again, Bendis and McNiven always manage to catch the reader’s attention and distract from easy identification of familiar elements. Racism, sexism, bullying all come to the fore within a few panels of introducing Peter’s school life. The eruption of violence is part of a wider pattern, of course, as the little wars that Peter fights, significant in human terms, mirror the bigger wars to come. The second half of issue #0.1, however, makes the first half seem like a pleasant diversion as the plot moves rapidly into unexpected violence and the trauma usually associated with hero origins. McNiven proves that he’s up to the challenge of presenting shocking violence in a painfully memorable way depicting the murder of Meredith by Badoon hitmen, forcing Peter into the role of a rifle-toting avenger.

Guardians 0.1 preview 197x300 REVIEW: A Hero Reborn in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1

Cue another hero motif, the discovery of a super-powered weapon, but rather than gloss over what comes next, Bendis settles in for a moment on Peter’s experiences waking up in a hospital, his bizarre narrative reconstructed by doctors and child psychologists into something banal: a gas-leak that destroyed his home and the alien gun a favorite “space-toy”. Readers are included in the brash hospital lights and the jarring conflict between realities yet again, all increasing a sense of Peter’s reality and giving readers an opportunity to understand his future actions by experiencing where he’s been before. But the psychologists do get one thing right: he’s an unfortunate and fortunate soul. He’s been left with nothing unless he chooses, as his older self reflects to Tony Stark, to “find a way off Planet Earth”.

The jump between the hospital scene with Peter, age 10, to Star-Lord, age 30 is visually transferred by McNiven repeating a nearly identical angled view of the mysterious space-gun, and rather ingeniously tied into a scene of immediate action by Bendis’ revelation that Quill is telling his own life-story to Tony Stark onboard a space-ship. It’s a light-speed jump into the thick of GUARDIANS territory, and a pay-off for devoted fans to “see” for the first time in this new incarnation, some of Star-Lord’s Guardians team, albeit in silent roles, as well as McNiven’s new design for their costumes. It’s interesting to note that Stark, apparently, has been questioning Quill’s motives for fighting the Badoon, and that readers, in turn have been included in this explanation of motivation. It’s “exactly” what Stark “wanted to know”, mirroring a reader’s need to understand, even in short form, what makes Quill tick. Stark is not only satisfied by this explanation, but he’s “all in”. It’s tempting to read this as a prod to fans, hinting that they, too, should be on board with the up and coming revelations of the comic now that they feel they know Quill pretty well.

2633 ful 198x300 REVIEW: A Hero Reborn in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1

Does it work? If there’s any swagger or attitude in the comic, it’s reserved for Stark (appropriately). The seriousness of Quill’s origin story, the moments that readers have not only been told, but experienced along with Meredith and Peter, are fairly difficult to dismiss as “just another sci-fi hero story”. Bendis’ writing makes such a dismissal not only difficult but uncomfortable to imagine, but in combination with McNiven’s artwork, the story is almost daring you not to care about an orphan on a cosmic vendetta.

Whatever liberties the creative team may take in bringing a new version of GUARDIANS to the page, the earnestness they convey reminds readers of one more feature of sci-fi hero stories: anything can happen next. That’s why it’s so important to get origin stories right, to get even a small amount of personal history pinned down for the hero to form the jumping off point into such vast potential. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1, which makes it a little surprising that retailers may have ordered fewer than needed of this introductory issue. If the current GUARDIANS creative team brings as much craftsmanship to the rest of the series, you’ll be glad to have jumped in at #0.1 to get to know THIS version of Peter Quill and his world (and not to have to scramble for back issues later).

 Title: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1/Publisher: Marvel Comics/Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Writer, Steve McNiven, Penciler, John Dell, Inker, Justin Ponsor, Colors, VC’s Cory Petit, Letterer.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.



4 Comments on REVIEW: A Hero Reborn in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1, last added: 3/1/2013
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20. The Resolution of Dreams, by David Thorpe

I am lost in a forest of the night in a lucid nation. I awake, feeling uprooted. I find myself in a country deluded by surfaces.

Dawn offers its mechanical chorus. If I peel off the bark of the night it reveals a stark, blank-eyed whiteness.

Nothing is apparent of the frenzy within.

There was a crucial dream. It came when my life was at a junction, at University. I had nurtured a childhood fantasy: to be a writer; more specifically, of comics.

Yet, since then, the world's sicknesses had been displayed to me. Dismayed, I thought I ought to lend my life to healing them.

Torn by the thorns of this dilemma I took myself away, to Paris. I sought answers in its galleries.

In one, I witnessed, as if in another universe, a film of Max Ernst's surrealist collage novel, Une Semaine de Bonté.

  I am not sure whether this is the version I saw, but the Schoenberg soundtrack is entirely appropriate (thanks, Helen). Originally published as a book, it can be argued that this is an early example of a graphic novel, and has influenced later comics writers, for example Grant Morrison, in particular his Doom Patrol, as best exemplified by the story The Painting That Ate Paris.

Nothing could have seemed more shocking and disturbing. I was an intruder in another reality, feeling as one transported to ours from a foreign culture might feel.

I fell under its spell. Its alien logic, after a while, became as normal.

That night, under canvas on the hard ground of the Bois de Boulogne, I returned to my origin nation.

There, in a dust bowl, I met a famine-shrunken African boy:

A starving child in an Ethiopian famine

...wrapped in torn pages from Strange Tales 118.

Strange Tales 118 cover
Stan Lee wrote both stories; Jack Kirby's dramatic pencils illustrated the first, where the Human Torch fought the Wizard with his anti-gravity discs. Steve Ditko's surreal line work on Dr Strange showed how, beneath surface reality, something sinister lurks.

This was the first Marvel comic I ever read, as potent as a first cigarette.

I woke, convinced that the message conveyed was that: if I were to write comics, then, should one child's life be changed for the better from reading one of my stories, it would be worth my while.

Eight years later I found myself writing for Marvel comics.

Captain Britain by David Thorpe and Alan Davies
Taken from a recent issue of SFX magazine, containing an article on Captain Britain, including my stint on the title.

Nowadays I find myself writing prosaic tips for combating climate change.

Solar Technology by David Thorpe

Yet nightly, I still bathe in the radiation from hidden worlds.

Europe After The Rain by Max Ernst
Max Ernst's Europe After The Rain

I plan to lose myself in those forests soon.

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21. INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider-Man in WEB-SPINNING HEROICS

Spider-Man is hands down one of the most popular characters ever to leap from the pages of Marvel Comics, and is even a strong contender for one of the most popular comic characters produced by any comics publisher. He’s also displayed a particular trademark flexibility in successfully taking to the silver screen and flourishing through merchandizing. It may come as a surprise that it’s taken this long for a collection of scholarly essays on Spider-Man to make it onto the shelves, but it’s here at last with WEB-SPINNING HEROICS: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man, edited by Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner, both pillars of the scholarly community when it comes to getting books and essays about comics into print, and colleagues at Texas Tech University. The field of comics scholarship is taking off at colleges and universities world-wide, introducing courses and even degrees in comics studies, prompting a need for texts about comics and models for approaching comics scholarship with attention to detailed analysis, historical context, and solid research methods.

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[Dr. Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner. Photo taken by Isaac Villalobos, used courtesy of The Daily Toreador]

Peaslee and Weiner have quite an impressive track record in laying out that foundation for the future appreciation and celebration of comics while engaging with comics in an approachable way that can speak to the savvy fan and the graduate student alike. Their most recent project gives the Web-Slinger the attention he deserves while pondering some of the questions that have made him so fascinating for over 50 years. The essay collection WEB-SPINNING HEROICS contains contributions from over 20 scholars, ranging from both established writers to newer enthusiasts and explores topics such as Spidey’s cultural and historical context, issues of gender in Spider-Man comics, and in-depth studies of particular Spidey texts from comics to films, many of them “under-examined” by readers and scholars alike. The collection contains an impressive array of perspectives and suggests the diversity of interest out there today about Spider-Man’s ever-evolving role in the history of comics. Editors Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner took the time to answer some questions for The Beat about their experiences putting the book together, and also on their own fascination with Spider-Man’s legacy.

Hannah Means-Shannon: What made you want to put together a Spider-Man based collection of comics scholarship? What’s your own personal history with Spider-Man comics and Spidey in pop culture?

Robert Moses Peaslee: It was really just a great opportunity for us to work together for the first time. We’d been looking for an excuse to collaborate on an edited volume, and a character like Spidey presented a perfect focus for our respective foci in comics and films. Rob’s background in comic scholarship is well known, and I’d done some analysis over superhero film characters – and Spidey in particular – previously.

Robert G. Weiner: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. It was a terrific excuse to work on something together. I’d previously done an edited volume on Captain America and with the new Spider-Man movie reboot, doing a scholarly book on the character seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I’d read a bunch of Spider-Man graphic novels while working on my Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide so I was very familiar with the character and the surrounding mythos. I realized how compelling Spider-Man is as a character.

Spider Man 208x300 INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider Man in WEB SPINNING HEROICS

HM-S: Obviously, there was plenty of interest in participating in the collection, with over 20 essays in the book. Did the level of interest surprise you?

RP: Personally, no…I think the academy being what it is, you can do put out a call for an edited volume on the Performativity of Pancake Eating and get a fair amount of interest. And Spidey is of much greater interest in than pancakes…or almost any other pop culture icon for that matter.  I’d say he’s top-10 globally in terms of most recognizable fictional characters.

RW: No, the level of interest was not surprising!  I consider Spider-Man to be one of the big three of the most recognizable sequential art characters in the world (those being Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man). The one thing I was disappointed with was that we didn’t get much in the way of extended Spidey family Universe analysis (Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Cosmic Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Scarlett Spider etc.).  By the way, I consider Tom DeFalco’s writing on Spider-Girl to be some of the best comics writing period. That series was great.

We do have some well-known contributors working in the field of sequential art scholarship, media studies, film, education, journalism, business, and history among others.

AmazingFantasy15 197x300 INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider Man in WEB SPINNING HEROICS

HM-S: Does Spider-Man, or other mainstream, long-running superheroes get enough attention in comics scholarship? What do you see as still needed when addressing super-heroes in comics scholarship?

RP: From my perspective, the big black hole in sequential art study is engagement with the audience…what meaning is derived from these forms, characters, and narratives? How do readers/viewers/gamers incorporate them into their sense of self, worldview, etc.? Spider-Man, as a character ostensibly “more like us” than his superhero colleagues, would seem especially pertinent in this regard.

RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. One of the important questions to answer is how have the comic companies producing superhero “products” engaged with their audience historically? While there are good works out there on comic culture, there is still so much related to fandom that could be studied and understood from all kinds of angles.  Comic conventions are a goldmine for scholars wanting to see how superheroes have impacted our ethos. What causes someone to dress up like Spidey, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash or villains like, Poison Ivy, Bane, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom? Is it more than just fun? There is something that fans identify with in the character that it becomes personal.

comics amazing spider man 700 variant 300x230 INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider Man in WEB SPINNING HEROICS

HM-S: The book has a foreword by Tom DeFalco. What was his reaction when you initially approached him about putting together the collection?

RW: Actually, one of our contributors was corresponding with J.M. DeMatteis, and somehow Tom De Falco found out through J.M. about the project. He contacted me initially. We are so grateful he contributed and gave his blessing to the project. I consider him one of the best (along with J.M. of course) in the long line of Spidey scribes. He was a delight to work with. It is always nice to have someone who has actually written or drawn the character get involved with an academic tome like ours.

HM-S: I have seen WEB-SPINNING HEROICS on the shelf in comic book shops. Do you think casual comic fans are likely to pick it up? Would it be accessible for all levels of readership?

RP: Most of it, yeah. There are a few essays that deal with some pretty formidable theory, but that’s as it should be. Spider-Man and his universe tap into some areas that we believe require some substantially sophisticated thinking to truly unpack. But we built the book to have something for the fans, the creators, the historians, and the scholars. Hopefully, that comes through.

RW: Yes I think there is enough there that all types of readers could get something from the volume. As Rob Peaslee says, there are a few weighty pieces in the volume, but there is also material anyone into Spidey could enjoy.

1960s1 1024x310 INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider Man in WEB SPINNING HEROICS

HM-S: Why do you think Spider-Man comics have endured so long in the popular imagination and in print?

RP: I think it’s the radical reliability of Peter Parker. Spider-Man is the disguise that enables him to be the Peter he feels he needs to be in order to live authentically.

RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. Peter Parker really was a different kind of superhero and the character resonated with the comic reading public in 1962-63. Peter/Spider-Man has never really waned since then. Despite having this “wonderful” power, Peter has lots personal problems and angst (and continues to do so). The supporting characters are all interesting and the villains are fascinating. Whether in red/blue, black, or even white, the Spidey costume is just plain cool.

220px Spider Man2002Poster 203x300 INTERVIEW: R.M. Peaslee and R.G. Weiner Deconstruct Spider Man in WEB SPINNING HEROICS

HM-S:  Why do you think Spider-Man has translated so well to the silver screen? What do you think film versions bring to Spider-Man mythology?

RP: Clearly, superhero texts are tailor-made for film. There’s the hero’s journey story-structure that fits so well in the dominant American cinematic mode of three-acts and climax. There’s the potential for fantastical or sci-fi-driven storylines that both maximize Hollywood’s potential for creating CGI and satisfy the audience’s desire for escape and spectacle. But what’s made Spider-Man and Batman successful on screen to a much greater degree than their peers, I think, is their flaws, which lead to much more compelling character arcs. People think they’re going for the explosions and the web-slinging, but what ultimately brings them value is a compelling inner story.

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RW: I think the technology has gotten up to speed to make a believable Spider-Man movie. One only has to compare the 1970s live action Spider-Man television series with the films to see the difference. One of the things that the Spider-Man films have done right is the seamless way they combine CGI with live action. When Spidey is bouncing around New York it looks good and not “cheesy.” (Grant Morrison said it was “dreamlike”). One of the big problems with the Hulk films is that the audience is always aware it is watching a big green CGI creature and it looks that way. The Avengers did the best version of the character so far As Rob Peaslee mentions above, the “inner story” is what is compelling about Spider-Man. The relationships he has with the supporting characters combined with the villains.


HM-S: Rob Weiner, what motivated you to write about the romance between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane for the collection? Why did this relationship catch your attention particularly?

RW: Well I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of romance in superhero comics. For example, a lot of readers don’t realize that even Professor X once considered Jean Grey a “love” interest when she first joined the X-Men (along with the other X-guys). In particular, those early Marvel stories usually written by Stan Lee always had this anxiety concerning romance. Matt Murdock and Foggy always pining for Karen, Peter Parker getting turned down on dates, Sub-Mariner always chasing Sue Storm, Captain America always keeping his distance, Wasp/Janet always flirting with all the other heroes in her attempts to get Hank/Ant-Man’s attention.

Spider-Man presents an interesting case. I had original thought of the concept for the 2010 Film & History conference which had romance as its theme. One of the reasons the Spider-Man movies are so successful is that at their core the films are romances rather than action films. The opening narration in the first film sets this up as Parker discusses his love for Mary Jane. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the three films with three important events in their relationship from the comics from different eras. I found it amusing that Parker was always trying to avoid meeting Mary Jane in those early comics (which was a great plot device). In both the comics and films Mary Jane is a strong woman who demands respect, equality, and Peter’s loyalty. Even though in all of the films she gets taken by the villain and Spidey has to rescue her, she knows the risks of being Spider-Man’s partner and accepts it. She makes the choice despite the danger.  I also thought it would be interesting to explore from the comics the marriage and subsequent erasing of their relationship. Peter Parker/Spider-Man doesn’t often get a “break” when it comes to romance, but there have been a few moments of happiness and joy.

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HM-S: Rob Peaslee, what do you think that psychoanalysis can bring to an understanding of Spider-Man comics or Peter Parker/Spider-Man particularly? Why did you choose this topic to explore in the collection?

RP: This article was actually a reprint of a piece I published in a journal several years ago, and Rob Weiner convinced me that it had a place here. I think psychoanalysis is a rich theoretical framework not only for approaching Spidey, but for understanding the structure, content, and reception of the superhero text more generally. It’s not the only way to look at the superhero, obviously, but when we consider Freud’s ideas about the id, wish-fulfillment, degradation, etc., it’s hard not to see these notions on display in nearly every superhero story.

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[A psychologically transforming moment in AMAZING FANTASY #15]

HM-S:  What other heroes or topics could benefit from further study and discussion these days?

RP: Funny you should ask, Hannah! We’re working on another collection about a prominent character from the comics universe, but as that is under review right now and we don’t want to steal our own thunder just yet, we’ll have to leave you to speculate.

RW: Oh I think the field is STILL wide open. There is so much history and many heroes and villains that deserve the academic treatment.  As I’ve argued before, I see comics as a form a social history. They are documents of the time in the same way movies and novels are. I’d love to see more analysis of the darker heroes like Spawn, Punisher, The Demon, Ghost Rider, Blazing Skull, Creeper, Deadman, Man Thing, Sub-Mariner, Moon Knight, Deathlok, and the Phantom Stranger not to mention those wacky superhero stories from the 1950s. I know there has been scholarship on these characters but there is always room for more.  So much comics scholarship focuses on the last 30 years, but as someone trained as a historian, I like to know what do the earlier  (Golden Age) comics say about our world past and present?


HM-S: What got you into comics scholarship and writing about comics?

RP: I came in the back door, as it were, from the movie theater. I’ve only recently begun reading comics…in fact, I’ve probably read more scholarship about comics than I’ve read actual comics. Rob Weiner has been a significant mentor in this regard.

RW: Comics have always been a part of my life off and on since I was a little. I started to write and study comics while I was working as a public librarian over 15 years ago. I started obtaining graphic novels for the library collection and began reading them. I wrote an article about collecting graphic novels for the Texas Library Journal and then it just took off from there. However, I always thought there was something “deeper” in sequential art storytelling. When I first read WATCHMEN in 1990, I remember thinking this could be used in a philosophy or political science class. I spent six years reading and writing for the Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide, which was my trial by fire.

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HM-S: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you all would like to spread the word about?

RP: The piece we’re working on fills a void in the scholarship so large and obvious, that until we’re under contract, we don’t want to say too much. Somebody else might slap their forehead and beat us to it. Stay tuned…

RW: Ditto above! I do have a volume that I co-edited with my librarian colleague Carrye Syma on the educational power of sequential art (Comics and Education) forthcoming from McFarland.

HM-S: Flipping through WEB-SPINNING HEROICS, I have to confess, opened my eyes to how many great topics are worth discussing in-depth when it comes to Spider-Man, and also made me think of new directions for exploring Spider-Man as a cultural phenomenon. That’s certainly the role of good scholarship, providing springboards for the imagination of readers, so thanks for the tireless work, Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner, in putting the collection together. Looking forward to all your mysterious projects yet to come documenting the role and significance of comics!

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.



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22. On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event

As the first of several “Comic Book Roundtable” events to be held at the Soho Gallery of Digital Art under the auspices of gallery owner John Ordover and former Marvel editor, author, and educator Danny Fingeroth, this event exploring the life and legacy of Dr. Frederic Wertham was planned for the occasion of Wertham’s 118th birthday, but in the lead up to the event, recent developments in scholarship about the controversial comic reformer shed new light on the evening’s subject matter. In February 2013 Librarian, professor, and scholar Carol Tilley discovered, after examining Wertham’s papers held by the Library of Congress, that some of Wertham’s methods and reports were questionable, sparking debate in comics scholarship and among comics fans.

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“Surely You’re Joking Dr. Wertham” hit the controversy head-on by bringing together a distinguished panel for discussion, including Tilley, comics writer, editor, and educator Denny O’Neil, author and educator David Hajdu, practising physician, psychiatrist, and author Sharon Packer, and author, editor, art director, and cartoonist Craig Yoe. The Soho Gallery provided excellent accompaniment to the event in the form of Wertham-related images and quotes displayed as a digital exhibit, and hosting a reception afterward.

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The evening opened to a thoroughly packed-in audience, among whom were many scholars and authors who have shown a public interest in Wertham’s career and legacy, including James Reibman, the official Frederick Wertham biographer designated by Wertham’s estate. Host and moderator Danny Fingeroth provided an introduction to Wertham in the form of slides including pictures of Wertham in and out of official capacity as a clinical psychiatrist working with children, and also reminded the audience of the other books Wertham authored aside from his now legendary Seduction of the Innocent, a critique on the “influence of comic books on today’s youth”, published in 1954. This placed Wertham within the context of other cultural reactions of the time that questioned the sex and violence being depicted in comics as appropriate for young readers.

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Tilley started off the panel discussion by explaining exactly what her recent research has uncovered about Wertham’s work. While her original intention was to locate materials relevant children’s education, she found “other things” that she didn’t expect to find among Wertham’s documents which she found “well-organized” in a “couple of dozen plus boxes” at the Library of Congress. The documents included copies of Wertham’s other research papers and speeches spanning his career, among which she found “discrepancies” and “some indication that he did things like combine the testimony of kids” or “broke apart” the testimony of one child “into four or five” in order to use quotes. This practice also resulted in evidence of “deleted or added” phrases from the children’s testimony that Wertham presented in Seduction of the Innocent and other works. This resulted, Tilley said, in a general “perception” of evidence in Wertham’s book that was “not the same as the actual case” of his research materials. When questioned about whether these changes were negligible or whether they altered the meaning of the children’s testimony, she confirmed that these “additions and word changes did change the meaning of testimony”. While Wertham’s book has often been criticized for its “lack of attribution” in footnotes or bibliography, Tilley feels that she has “seen personally” that his use of sources was not exacting enough. For those interested in Wertham’s legacy, this was something of a bombshell, though Tilley has been public about some of these findings previous to the evening’s discussion.

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Hajdu then commented on Wertham as a figure, reminding the audience that Wertham is  often a “handy symbol” of a wider movement against comic book excesses, and even a “personification” of the “cynicism toward comics in the late 40’s and 50’s”, even though he didn’t start this trend personally. Hajdu explained that even “newspaper comics incited criticism” prior to Wertham’s career and were often perceived as “crude, anti-literate” and examples of “defiant behavior” that raised public concern. The Catholic Church, particular, he noted, were active in inspiring state legislation against comics, due to their belief in the “power of aesthetics and the power of art” for both positive and negative influences on human behavior.

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[Packer, Yoe, and Fingeroth]

O’Neil, himself raised Catholic, confirmed that his “first encounter with the (comic) witch hunters was in the pages of The Catholic Digest” and that he, as a young person “read and believed” that superhero comics, particularly, were potentially harmful. He related, to the audience’s amusement, that former Marvel editor Roy Thomas “as a kid” had participated in a book burning in Missouri where he “burned comics he was not interested in”, but rescued others he liked. Tilley briefly added that she had discovered evidence that librarians, too, had participated in comic burning and attempted to keep them out of libraries during this period because they were seen as “disruptive”.

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Packer suggested that Wertham’s book title, Seduction of the Innocent, might have spoken particularly to a Christian demographic because of its suggestion of the massacre of the innocents by King Herod related in the New Testament of the Bible. This led to a reassessment among the panellists of Wertham’s title, since its original version was “All Our Innocents”. Fingeroth pointed out that this change made the title “very pulp sounding” and therefore more sensational.

Yoe’s background on the subject of juvenile delinquency as an author, and also his discovery of the “fetish art” of Joe Shuster confirmed that there were real-life implications for the more violent aspects of comic art, such as the case of the Brooklyn Thrill Killers who killed indigent people and molested women and when interviewed by Wertham as an expert witness, confessed to being inspired in their deeds by Shuster’s artwork. Yoe, however, prompted a wide-ranging and at times heated discussion on the subject of exactly how and when Wertham’s papers at the Library of Congress had been made available for research purposes. Both Yoe and Hajdu, upon requesting access in the past, had been denied use of the papers since they were “sealed” until the children who participated in the studies had passed away. “In many ways, I respect Dr. Wertham”, Yoe said, but “the Library of Congress is our library” and its contents “should be seen” regardless of the circumstances behind their compilation. Outspoken attendee and Wertham biographer Reibman, who was granted access to the papers at a much earlier date in order to work on his book, disagreed with Yoe’s statement in favor of “freedom of information”, arguing that sealing Wertham’s papers at the library was part of the “terms of the gift” to the library. Reibman’s frequent interjections on behalf of Wertham during the event contributed to a rather heated atmosphere.

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Yoe questioned further why some individuals, and not others, were then granted access despite the terms of the gift. Hajdu chimed in that he had requested access “dozens of times” but had been denied despite his academic credentials. Yoe asked Tilley if, based on her experience as a librarian, this discrepancy was “unusual” or not. Tilley confirmed that in her experience, the sealing of the papers while at the Library of Congress and then granting access to only those individuals sanctioned by the estate of the deceased, was indeed “unusual”.  Attendee Karen Green, Graphic Novels Librarian at Columbia University, also commented that while “archives can be restricted”, for public documents this practice is “not usual”. Tilley provided further information about the situation by explaining that she was obliged to sign an agreement with the Library of Congress about the materials she accessed, even though a large portion of the Wertham papers consisted of “newspaper clippings” which “shouldn’t be restricted” anyway. Yoe brought some levity to the rapid fire questioning and often terse dialogue between he and Reibman by pointing out that Hajdu closely resembled a young Frederic Wertham and ought to have just turned up at the library, saying “I am here to see my papers”. Though Hajdu found the comparison amusing, he said “That’s the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard”.

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[O'Neil and Hajdu]

Fingeroth then gathered the reigns of the discussion as moderator to direct attention back to the panelists and away from the discursive arguments breaking out among audience members. Fingeroth asked O’Neil, specifically, if he had felt any “lingering hesitation” about comics after his experience with The Catholic Revue in childhood. O’Neil related that Wertham’s legacy, but particularly the Comics Code had impacted his career in comics.  He was involved in “several public arguments” with administrators at comics publishing companies, wherein comics supporters felt the need to argue “comics are good, not evil anymore”. O’Neil’s personal feeling has always been, and still is, he said, that “If it’s censorship, it’s bad”, and often felt frustrated by the “vagueness of the language” in the Code itself, often leading comics creators to create elaborate avenues to get around the letter of the Code. He related a particularly frustrating incident where an IRONMAN story involving a “six story tall monster” crushing a police car was censored because it “showed disrespect to the police car” even though it also showed policemen being very brave in their fight against the monster. This kind of “idiocy” in the Code he particularly objected to, and added his motto that “blind worship of authority figures whether or not authority figures had any authority” should never be supported.

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At this point, it was relevant to clarify that Wertham was not the founder of the Comics Code, though his work certainly paved the way for its development. Yoe reminded the audience that Wertham was, in fact, a progressive who was in support of the freedom of the press. It was more that Wertham “created the climate”, O’Neil supplied, which led to the Senate hearings, which led to the drafting of the Code. Both Yoe and O’Neil agreed that comics publishing was, in fact, in a very low economic position at the time of the Senate hearings anyway, due to the rise of paperback novel sales and TV watching. Yoe and O’Neil continued to discuss whether a “rating system” couldn’t have been created, rather than the unilateral Comics Code, in order to steer children away from more disturbing comics. Hajdu pointed out that the rating system was not in effect in Hollywood, by comparison, until the 1960’s, so there was not a particularly clear model to instate for comics at the time.

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Fingeroth asked the panelists, and in particular, Packer, whether Wertham’s research was purely “anecdotal” or whether he furnished “hard statistics” when working with children. Packer provided some context as a clinical psychiatrists about the methods of the time during Wertham’s career. She compared Wertham to Sigmund Freud and pointed out that though “Freud was celebrated at that time”, “much of his original psychological literature” was “just as baseless” as Wertham’s methods. Tilley added that her survey of Wertham’s papers revealed that his “data was rich”, but it was just “how he used it rhetorically” that was “questionable”. Yoe commented that even though his rhetorical use of his data might lead us to view Wertham with increased suspicion, in the big picture, Wertham made a “pretty good case. Many comic books were not good for young children” in term of their content.

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[Tilley and Packer]

Fingeroth took the question to a finer point. Did Wertham, he asked, in the opinion of the panelists, “take too many liberties” or not? Tilley stood her ground by asserting that “scientific investigation” requires accuracy, and a failure of accuracy is troubling from a scientist. Tilley added that her “personal sense” from working with the papers is that Wertham “cared more about getting rid of the comic book industry” than about his public cause of helping children develop in a psychologically  healthy atmosphere. Though he certainly “cared for kids”, she reminded, she still felt that Wertham used children as “leverage” to achieve this greater goal of attacking the comics industry. One of the things that gave her a less than sterling impression of Wertham’s personality was discovering detailed transcripts that he “noted meticulously” of phone conversations that contained potentially harmful gossip about people who he saw as enemies in his career. He “collected information”, she said, “looking for weak spots” in the lives of people he wanted to undermine, particularly people who acted as “consultants for the comic book industry”.

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Fingeroth asked about Wertham’s movement, in his later career, toward criticism of the film industry and whether Wertham might have seen “comics as a stepping stone to a higher agenda” as a “career path”, but the general consensus among panelists seemed to be that comics were more easily attacked as a less profitable industry early in Wertham’s career, and that the tide of criticism had generally turned toward film around the time of Wertham’s developing interest in film. Film itself had, by the mid to late 60’s, become more overtly violent with works like Bonnie and Clyde.

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The rather charged atmosphere during the panel discussion gave way to an extensive question and answer period involving the audience and spanned a number of subjects. Did the distaste the comic book industry came to feel for Dr. Wertham result in a generally negative portrayal of psychiatry within comics? Yoe agreed that there are certainly plenty of “sinister psychiatrists” portrayed in comics tradition, and Packer supplied examples from Batman mythology including the Arkham family. O’Neil added that the character Harley Quinn was originally assigned to “cure” the Joker of his madness and instead was “driven nuts” herself. A more pointed question was posed about whether the possibility that Wertham skewed his evidence really made the questions he was asking about the role of comics at the time irrelevant. Hajdu fielded this question by commenting that the “weakest criticism of Wertham is that comics can’t affect minds and hearts”. As an art form, Hajdu argued, comics certainly do have impact and can “transform people”. “Comics have that power”, he reminded.

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O’Neil weighed the issue by confessing that as a comics creator “You launch a given work and you have no way of knowing how it’ll bounce” and he often worried during his early career what impact particular comic stories might have on “kids already imbalanced”. O’Neil gave and example of his decision-making when he declined to include a “martial arts move” in one of his comics because it was “simple and damaging” and judged that kids might too easily learn to implement it. The audience, of course, immediately wanted O’Neil to demonstrate the deadly move, but he refrained in the interest of safety. For the same reason, O’Neil never allowed Molotov cocktails in his works, sure that it was too much of a “temptation” for kids to “see if it would work” building their own.

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The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald asked a rather burning question from the floor, one that continues to puzzle readers and comics historians alike: “Why do you think he attacked comics specifically? What did he hope to get out of it?”. The panelists answered in various ways. Yoe felt pretty strongly that Wertham was, in fact, motivated primarily by the fact that he “cared about kids” and was worried about the impact of comics. Packer analyzed Wertham a little by pointing out that Wertham himself, despite being married for many years, had no children of his own and this might have created a kind of “displacement” of concern for children that drove him to extremes. Hajdu simply stated that he felt Wertham to be “attracted to sensationalist cases” whether as an expert witness in extreme criminal cases or his research. He was, Hajdu said, a “publicity hound” at heart. Even Yoe added the admission that without a doubt Wertham had a “raging ego” driving his career.

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Questions continued to circle back to the central role of Tilley’s new research on Wertham’s inconsistencies. How do we reassess Wertham based on the incorrectly conveyed details of his research, which clearly skewed his information in order to more sensationally and fundamentally support his thesis, when the “big picture” of his message, that extreme violence and sex in comics can be inappropriate for child readers, does seem sensible? Fingeroth presented a list of Wertham’s more “progressive” tendencies, stating that it’s possible to “go through a checklist of Wertham’s beliefs and agree except for comics” and respect many of his social contributions.

The final assessment of the panelists revealed some consensus out of a wide-ranging interrogation of Wertham’s method and legacy. O’Neil reminded the audience that Wertham was certainly not the “black-hearted villain” that many comics fans feel him to be, but he did detrimentally present those working in comics, “demonizing” them and making them out to be the “seducers and corruptors” of society, a crusade that damaged comics for decades to come. Yoe felt that the fundamental problem with Wertham’s whole approach to his subject was not necessarily the assumption that comics could be damaging to young minds, but that he “didn’t see that comics could be an art form”, and never commented on their positive potential as an “educational” resource. Yoe left the audience with the question, a lingering one, “Why couldn’t he see that?”. If Wertham had seen the potential of comics as a positive force, no doubt our current view of his work would also be more balanced on the whole.

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[The panelists and their moderator]

A predictably lively, but amicable, discussion period followed during the reception for the event, but if attendees expected definitive answers about the implications of Tilley’s new research on Wertham, they were left to their own devices. The panel discussion did provide solid context for Wertham’s life, work, and even a little for his motivations, as well as some solid information on what exactly Wertham’s failings as a researcher might be. Whether audience members were “pro-Wertham” or “anti-Wertham” initially, the discussion opened up new facets of his personality and work for further thought. Frederick Wertham may be less of a mystery now in the light of new research, but if anything, he’s even more of an enigma, confirmed as a complex figure. Learning more about Wertham changes perception of comics history, and that’s bound to change even more as scholars pay closer and closer attention to the records left behind in collections, personal archives, and thankfully, libraries.

The Comic Round Table events will continue this Spring at the SOHO Gallery for Digital Art with another hot topic in comics right now, the openly anti-gay position of Orson Scott Card and his work on SUPERMAN entitled “The Man of Steel vs. Orson Scott Card” on April 10th.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.


15 Comments on On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event, last added: 3/24/2013
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23. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

A panel on Friday, March 29th, the first day of programming at WonderCon brought together a rather iconic cast to discuss “iconic characters” and what keeps a character “true” to their origins over long periods of time. Mark Waid opened as moderator by pointing out that the table full of seasoned pros had more than 125 years of comics experience between them and most had worked on longterm characters and newer creations alike. The essential question posed by Waid was how to “vault” characters “into the 21st century without losing what keeps them special”. The question seemed particularly pertinent to Waid, whose ongoing work on DAREDEVIL has evoked critical acclaim. Waid asked his panellists how they handle the “core elements of characters” to face this challenge.

mbrittany mwaid 1 255x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid J. M. De Matteis introduced an image that stayed with the panellists as a reference point for discussion. He felt that creators handling long-lived characters work “within a cage”, so they can’t “go wide” with the character in term of change, but they can “go deep” in terms of making new discoveries. For De Matteis, personally, it’s all about the “Big Why” of characters, figuring out what makes them tick. He prefers working with super-villains to pose questions about the formative impact of their past histories because there’s “always a little corner of the psyche to dig into”. Ann Nocenti, however, in her recent work with Catwoman found that “her archetype was pretty clear” as a troubled kid originally, “on the streets” originally, and moving through “foster homes”. Her intuitive approach is to “play with a character and see what feels right” and she doesn’t mind the fact that later creators will do the same with long-term characters. It’s “like treading water”, she said, “You give a sense of constant, dynamic action, but you’re really not moving far”, and she expects later creators to be under the same constraint.

mbrittany nocenti slott dematteis 300x117 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Doug Mahnke’s challenges, as an artist working on long-term heroes, is rather specific, handling costumes and their overtones. He observed that heroes, even today, often don’t look “contemporary” because their appearance has become iconic and we no longer question the anachronism, like Superman’s “underwear outside his pants”. Other features like capes and boots, Mahnke said, “made sense at the time” they were created based on a “swashbuckling” influence. In fact, he explained, an artist’s job is to “bring out the majesty in the character. It doesn’t matter so much what they’re wearing”, but you can use costume as a “tool” to use to your advantage.

mbrittany dematteis mahnke 300x145 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Several of the panellists then commented on the fact that objectively, some of the nomenclature and costumes of characters created decades ago would seem “stupid” now. Nocenti’s example was a resurrection of a minor character, Zebra Man who was “visually fantastic” but the name and concept bizarre. Slott felt that once an icon is an icon, “the fact that it’s an icon gives it weight”, preventing further critique from readers. Even Waid’s considered opinion was that “Green Lantern” is a “stupid name for a character, but after 75 years”, it has “gravitas”.

mbrittany nocenti slott 300x161 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panel then tackled the question of when and how exactly a character becomes officially iconic, and they set the bar high on awarding this status. De Matteis opined that “nothing about the character idea makes it iconic. It’s the execution”, and not every character reaches this status despite reasonably strong storytelling behind them. Dan Slott interjected that it only takes “one writer and one artist to do it”, like Frank Miller on DAREDEVIL. The discussion often drifted into slap-stick commentary on the more absurd aspects of superhero lore like the possession of a super vehicle as an icon accoutrement. Nocenti provided the little known detail that Cat Woman’s car is known as a “Catillac”. Slott confessed to proposing in a “meeting with real adults” that Superman’s car should be known as “Superman’s Ford Taurus of Solitude” with disasterous results.

Waid observed that some characters are iconic in pop culture without necessarily being long-lived, like Woody Woodpecker, who’s highly recognizable, but not a currently active character. Waid commented that the tendency toward merchandizing may encourage the slow-down or freeze of new developments in a character since “every character becomes a beach towel” in the end. The entire panel segued into a long and fairly serious discussion of Wonder Woman as a character and why she has, or has not, lived up to her iconic status in terms of actual comic storytelling.

mbrittany mwaid 2 251x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

Most felt, like De Matteis, that Wonder Woman comics have not always been “all that good”, nevertheless the character definitely qualifies as “iconic”. Waid had a fairly idiosyncratic theory behind why this is the case. He observed that there was a strong “sexual element” to the “first 10 years of the strip” that was later removed to render the character more “plain vanilla”, and that now, lacking that “x-factor of sexuality”, stories fail to live up to the early days (an issue, he said, he frequently discusses with Grant Morrison). Slott disagreed pointedly with Waid’s assessment. He instead blames the lack of verve in Wonder Woman comics to the fact that comics are essentially a “make dominated industry” that has not explored the “many angles of the character” sufficiently. Slott still feels that if the right team is put together, the stories can rise to iconic status again, without recourse to the “weird quirky bits”. His choice of phrase caused plenty of giggling among the panellists.

This led Waid to ask his panel how they decide what elements are most essential to a character, what continues to translate, and what can be left behind. De Matteis advised to “always approach the characters psychologically and emotionally” and not worry too much about the “other stuff”, and sometimes that psychological appeal can be found in lesser known characters. Nocenti commented that her current work on KATANA based on the strange but intriguing concept of a “girl with a sword” produced “good potential” for developing “obsessional love triangle” elements between herself, her murdered husband, and his murdering brother.“The less iconic a character, the more fun you can have!”, she enthused.

Slott agreed with Nocenti on  this idea, up to a point. When you’re handling an iconic character, readers lose the fear that their reckless lifestyles will do them in, whereas if a character is “unknown”, “Everyone is worried”, wondering if they will survive from issue to issue. Slott and Nocenti shared an interesting moment of commiseration, albeit brief, about their mutual killing off of Spider-based characters, and the emotional reaction of fans. “Screw letters from emotional fans”, Slott concluded, laughing, but Waid intervened by informing the audience that he’s sure Slott “weeps himself to sleep at night with 6 year olds’ fan mail” over the death of Spider-Man .

mbrittany comics 300x200 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists didn’t always find their subject matter easy to decipher, nor did they feel that there’s always an easy answer for why some characters “click” as icons and some don’t. Batman, particularly, has a mysteriously successful dynamic, they said. But some things do change. Waid observed that he “couldn’t have imagined a world where I walked down the street and everyone knew who Tony Stark was” until after the Iron Man films had been made. Waid suggested that iconic status for characters might be measured in the number of imitators who have sprung up. De Matteis returned to his general position that archetypal patterns determine iconic status, however. Slott provided examples, stating that Superman is like Hercules, Batman a being on a vengeance-quest, and Tony Stark is, too, iconic in formula, as a combination of “Man and Machine”, an icon that the world is ripe for right now.

mbrittany nocenti slott 2 300x190 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists’ parting thoughts during the Q and A period focused on an interesting point made from the audience about the superhero/villain ratio. With so many more supervillains than superheroes in comics, “recycling” them is the norm, but at what point do they become “stale” and need to be retired, at least for awhile? De Matteis was firm about the roles of the artist and writers, insisting that there are “no stale characters but stale interpretations of characters” and that good work will prevent this problem. “Every character is great if you did into them in the right way”, he said. Waid’s closing example to support De Matteis’ point was that “20-25 years ago, no one would have thought that GREEN ARROW would become 2 times the best selling DC book, and then get his own TV show”. His bottom line: “If you dig deep enough you can find something that resonates”, and that’s the key to creating an icon, something that may not happen overnight.

 Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.


Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.




15 Comments on On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid, last added: 3/31/2013
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24. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about Comics

On March 30th, WonderCon attendees got treated to a bonus feature in a Spotlight panel with Ann Nocenti, Jim Lee acting as her interviewer. The two had so much shared history that they reminisced about the “good old days” at Marvel as well as plunging into the current artwork that most impresses them on their work for DC. The panel opened with a tone-setting description from Nocenti of her time as a Marvel writer and editor, “back in the day when Marvel Comics was so much fun”, when you could “smoke and drink and have guns in the office”. Lee confirmed that the gun in the office was an observable phenomenon, and Nocenti added by way of explanation that guns were needed for “reference”.

mbrittany nocenti panel 1 300x151 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about ComicsLee started off by introducing Nocenti as the “self proclaimed female token writer at DC” and asked her how her current state came to be, considering that in her Marvel days there were several women on staff. Nocenti commented that though there were women at Marvel, she recalled that there were never any women at comic cons back then, unlike the demographic at WonderCon. “It must have been rough on you guys”, she teased Lee. Some of her workmates at Marvel, she explained, were Mark Gruenwald, “the soul of Marvel Comics”, Larry Hama, who was known for “pounding, crazy music” in his office, and Peter Sanderson, a “living archive” of all things Marvel.

Nocenti obviously had fond memories of the bullpen days at Marvel, stating, “The physical bullpen made the place creative”. She had a steep learning curve upon arriving at Marvel with a fine arts background, and had a lot to learn under her first editor Jim Shooter, someone who she described as “having a beautiful sense of story” and who ingrained in her the need for a “can’t/must” moment of conflict for a hero. The maxim still holds true for Nocenti, she confirmed. “He’s right”, Lee said, “Conflict is one of the key things in drama”. “Louise Simonson also had a huge influence on me”, Nocenti added, a woman who had the “power to cloud men’s minds” according to legend, by infusing even her most severe criticisms with a “cheerful attitude”.

mbrittany nocenti panel 3 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about ComicsNocenti shared some of the lessons she learned from editing at Marvel with the audience, including the need for the editor present a fan’s perspective to the writer or artist: “A good editor has to understand that a writer is working so hard, and is so over worked, that they need ideas thrown at them from a fan’s perspective”. But from the editor’s perspective, she observed, it often leads to bizarre conversations and often caused her to ask herself “Did I just say that?” when generating “wacky” ideas with writers. Nocenti particularly enjoyed crossover development in the bullpen, and feels that she wasn’t alone in that enthusiasm, sharing “really exciting creative meetings” where “everyone would want to play at the same party”. Her advice to editors is to “learn everything”, like a “captain knows how to run a ship”, and she feels that this approach was encouraged at Marvel, but is less common today. This enables an editor to “know what everyone’s going through”.

Lee presented Nocenti with a copy of a comic they had once collaborated on together, though she confessed she didn’t recall the book, X-Men #39. After flipping through it and chatting together, Nocenti declared, “This looks like a great story. I want to buy this and read this!”, to the audience’s amusement. Lee’s questions, however, led Nocenti into darker recollections, about the “mini implosion” period at Marvel that led to her departure. Ron Perlman, she narrated, came into her office one day, wanting to meet her, and was fairly charming, but the “next thing we knew, he had gutted Marvel” financially. It was a “very traumatic” experience for “old timers”, she commented, and brought to her attention a famous quote from Dorothy Parker: “Don’t put all your eggs in one bastard”. After leaving Marvel, Nocenti worked in journalism, teaching, and filmmaking, gaining a wealth of experience that she now finds useful for life back in comics.

mbrittany nocenti panel 5 300x159 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about Comics Writing a story about Catwoman in Arkham Asylum, for instance, she said, is drawn from a combination of her experiences working “at a place like Arkam” in her youth, and also from later editing Prison Life Magazine, which contained the work of prisoners. She observed a psychological feature that she’s incorporated into comics, the fact that it’s often “one small thing” that drives people crazy, not necessarily the bigger issues in life. Her experiences as a journalist and activist also led Nocenti to visit China, and some of her observations there led directly to her recent writing on GREEN ARROW, particularly noticing the pervasive “firewalls” on internet access in China and the sense of surveillance. Though she enjoyed working on GREEN ARROW, Nocenti explained that she “just couldn’t find her connection” to the character and was happy to move on to writing CATWOMAN, a character who she felt immediately in sync with. Her work on KATANA, too, keeps her imagination on its toes, drawing on the “idea of ancient clans, where the rich hire Samurais and ninjas are like spies”.

mbrittany nocenti catwoman 172x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about ComicsLee and Nocenti spent the remainder of the panel showing and discussing process artwork and completed panels from upcoming CATWOMAN and KATANA stories, and enthusing over their finer features. The images included the set up for what Nocenti described as a “big gang war” for Catwoman and scenes in Arkham with “old torture devices”. Nocenti’s work on KATANA is based on her own obsession with martial arts and Kurasawa and martial arts films. “All comic book writers are doing really is unloading their personal obsessions on the page”, she confessed. This leads the writer to worry that readers might not find it interesting, she said, but in the case of Katana, Nocenti’s obsessions have translated to plenty of interest from fans. Nocenti regularly practises karate and judo around the house to see how Katana would move and act, and makes things even more “realistic” through watching martial arts films. It’s clear that her adaptable nature, shown throughout her varied career paths, is still going strong, and that her personal enthusiasm for her projects is still one of Nocenti’s most defining features.



Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.


7 Comments on On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Ann Nocenti and Jim Lee Enthuse about Comics, last added: 4/1/2013
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25. Rilla Goes to Oz


Illustration by John R. Neill

I loved the Oz books as a kid. Loooooved them. Collected the whole series, the Baum-authored ones plus a couple of the Ruth Plumly Thompson sequels, and enlisted my father’s help to track down the best editions, the white-bordered oversized paperbacks with John R. Neill illustrations.


I reread the entire series regularly all through high school and even on college vacations. Dorothy, Ozma, Tik-Tok, Scraps, the Hungry Tiger, the Glass Cat, Betsy Bobbin, Billina, Polychrome, General Jinjur, the Shaggy Man, Button-Bright: this astonishing array of lively characters peopled my imagination and taught me a great deal about diversity, varying points of view, and fun. They were an outspoken bunch, these Oz folks. They had strong opinions; their perspectives clashed; they worked through conflicts and celebrated one another’s quirks. I adored them. Still do.

Strangely, the Oz books never seemed to take off for my kids as read-alouds. Baum’s prose is, I confess, a bit arch, sometimes saccharine. His genius was for character and plot, not lyricism. My older three girls went through waves of reading the series on their own, but they didn’t seem to catch Oz fever with the intensity I had.

Enter Rilla. Well, first enter Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, who are bringing the Oz books to a new generation of readers via truly gorgeous graphic novel adaptations published by Marvel. Oz, overflowing as it is with colorful, outlandish characters, was made for graphic depictions. Eric Shanower (who has become a friend of mine through Comic-Con and SCBWI) is a true Ozian—why, his own press is called Hungry Tiger, and his contributions to Oz literature and fandom are staggering. His adaptations are faithful, deft, and affectionate. And Skottie Young’s art, while a departure from the John R. Neill images burned into my brain as canon, is wholly delightful. It’s clear he is having tremendous fun bringing these creatures to life.

I’ve mentioned before that Rilla, as a reader, is drawn to books with a heavy illustration-to-text ratio. She prefers Brambly Hedge to Little House, for example; those gorgeous, intricately detailed drawing of tree-stump pantries and attics can occupy her for a full afternoon. She’ll spend an hour talking to me about Eric Carle’s techniques. For her, art is the magic; an accompanying plotline is simply a nice bonus.


We brought Eric and Skottie’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz home from SDCC last month, and Rilla—well, you’d have thought we gave her an actual trip to the Land of Oz, she was so excited. It’s the longest, hardest book she has read on her own. Oh yes, it’s a graphic novel, but the text is quite sophisticated: there’s some nice meaty vocabulary in the dialogue. Baum didn’t talk down to his young readers, and neither does Eric Shanower. (And of course I’ve written volumes before about the excellent reading skills imparted by comics: there’s a lot of complex decoding going on as a young reader navigates those panels.)

“Bad news,” she told me mournfully one day. “I finished the best book in the world.”

“Guess what,” I whispered. “There are more.”

Her gasp, her shining eyes: no Princess of Oz was more radiant.

The next week’s worth of bedtimes saw her poring over The Marvelous Land of Oz, one of my favorite books in the series (both the original and the graphic adaptation). Every morning, she narrated the previous night’s events to me, dancing with suspense as the story unfolded, and belly-laughing over the ending.


Then came Ozma of Oz, a book about which my deep affection renders me nearly incoherent. Even that sentence is on shaky grammatical territory. Imagine a lot of squealing noises and some Rilla-esque bouncing around. I mean, I mean, Tik-Tok and the Wheelers! The lunch-pail trees! The loathsome, fabulous Princess Langwidere and her collection of interchangeable heads. SHE WANTS DOROTHY’S HEAD FOR THE COLLECTION, YOU GUYS. Come on. And then the Nome King and his high-stakes guessing game (shades of Heckedy Peg), and Billina the Hen’s surprising trump card. Oh, oh, oh.

Don’t tell Rilla, but I’d already given a copy of Ozma to my goddaughter, Vivi, whose mother is, if anything, an even bigger Oz fanatic than I am. She even looks like Ozma. (Kristen, why why why didn’t we ever go as Ozma and Polychrome for Halloween?)

polychrome meets ozma

Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter, meets Princess Ozma. Illustration by John R. Neill.

Rilla hasn’t met Polychrome yet. She will swoon, mark my words. The Rainbow’s Daughter? Polly of the swirling robes and floaty hair? Rilla’s a goner. Like Ozma, she’ll make Polly’s acquaintance in The Road to Oz. I can’t wait to see what Skottie Young does with Polychrome and the Shaggy Man. Both characters are bubbling over with the whimsy he captures so well.


But first comes Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Even for Baum, this is a bizarre tale. Dorothy gets caught in a San Francisco earthquake and falls all the way to the center of the earth, where weird vegetable people (as in, they grow on vines) called the Mangaboos are on the verge of executing her when, whew!, who should float down in his balloon but Dorothy’s old acquaintance, the Wizard?


After that comes The Emerald City of Oz. Rilla and I may not be able to wait for the collected edition; we might have to start picking up the floppies from our local comic shop.


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