Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
Y’know what this is? The first ever “Limited Series” from Marvel Comics, a sprawling tale of such cosmic proportions that it requires three entire issues of its own free-standing series to tell! I pity the reader who missed these books on the spinner rack, because none of the other books from Marvel‘s line referred to the series in their own storylines that summer. Unreal!
Simpler times. Hope everyone out there is enjoying reading their super-decompressed, eight issue, one-ply toilet paper called Secret Invasion and it’s eleven weekly crossovers. This baby I’m reading here may one day grow up to be Hitler, but he sure is a cute little fella.
The series features comic book plot #17: two superbeings are assembling teams of the mightiest heroes on Earth to fight on their behalf over a cosmic prize. The Earth is held hostage, and beneficial rewards are offered to motivate the separate teams to fight. The Grandmaster and a mysterious hooded being do the choosing, and…
Behold, the roll call of the mighty: Talisman! Shamrock! Blitzkrieg! Le Peregrine! Defensor! Er… you haven’t heard of any of those characters? Ah, well.
The editors apparently decided that it would be absurd if every superhero in the world was a white guy from New York; a wise notion, except they hadn’t bothered to create more than a handful of foreign characters in the preceding twenty years, so they had to invent a bunch just for this series. As a result, the benefit of an interesting multiethnic cast is tempered by the fact that you’re getting shortchanged by not seeing many of your old favorites appear in the series, which is presumably the point of a gathering like this. It would have been understandable if these characters had gone on to be used in other series’, but I don’t believe that happened. To be fair, I love one of these newbies: five brothers from communist China that merge into a single being known as The Collective Man, with the ability to draw on the power of his entire race. That’s right-- he’s as strong as every Chinese person on the planet. Okay, he’s definitely in, but he should have fought the Hulk instead of Sasquatch.
Cliched plot, mixed bag of characters… the true joy of this wonderful series is seeing John Romita Jr. drawing just about everybody at my own personal favorite point in his career (I believe he would have been helping to introduce the Hobgoblin over in Amazing Spider-Man right about now). Whether they get in on the big fights or not, everyone imaginable wanders through the panels. Triton, Namor, and Stingray rub elbows, and we see the earliest recorded meeting of the Illuminati. Just don’t think too hard about how all these heroes from every different time zone were all abducted while they were in costume and enjoy the parade of JR Jr. superhero dustups. A few examples:
Daredevil fights dirty against the Marvel Universe’s #1 badass, Iron Fist. Danny Rand was one of my favorite characters from this era, and he would have been able to clean Murdock’s clock if the fight hadn’t been interrupted. More conclusive is Iron Man, Arabian Knight and Sabra clobbering Captain Britain, (the Savage) She-Hulk and Defensor.
One of the coolest set pieces I’ve ever seen in a comic comes in issue 3 of the series, as the Black Panther battles Wolverine amidst the terracotta army statues which were discovered guarding the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor a few decades back. Too bad this takes place in such a crowded comic; the idea deserves to be explored a bit more. Sadly, Wolverine’s star was on the rise at this point, so he is the winner of the tussle.
Next up, a couple teams featuring Blitzkrieg, Storm, Captain America, and Shamrock (and the aforementioned Collective Man, putting the hurt on Sasquatch) mix it up in a jungle setting. Shamrock’s “luck o’the Irish” powers get the better of Cap, but Storm sensibly pastes her German opponent.
The Grandmaster and his pawns ultimately win the game, but his opponent is revealed to be Death, so the outcome is rigged against him. His goal was to bring his dead brother, The Collector, back to life, and Death grants his wish for that opportunity-- by exchanging his own life force. We readers were given a similar dubious outcome with this series; a great idea for a wonderful limited series, which would one day grow into many-headed monsters like Civil War.
...and Newsarama chimes in with a mini interview about my upcoming Terminator Salvation mini series...
"Newsarama: Dara, with the Igor Movie Prequel and now, the Terminator Salvation Prequel, you must’ve earned the reputation as the go-to writer for IDW's prequel comics based on film franchises, no?
Dara Naraghi: Yeah, I suppose I can see that. To borrow a joke from Flight of the Conchords, I'm the fourth most popular Iranian-American right-handed go-to writer for IDW's prequel comic book mini-series based on film franchises! "
Anybody seen the new X-Files movie? Did you like it? I'm desperately looking for a reason to get excited about it.
X-Files was my favorite show of the 1990s, but I was pretty well done with it by the end. Confused storylines and Duchovny's massive ego pretty much killed it for me. I have no idea how it ended. Skully became the believer? Mulder was a deadbeat dad? Mulder was Jesus? And then the Terminator showed up? Beats me.
I was looking at a wall of X-Files DVDs the other day, and they had a bunch of collections dealing with the mythology arcs. The black oil, the alien bounty hunters, super soldiers ... I don't recall what those were about, if I ever really understood. I feel like I'd need a refresher before I could even think about watching the movie.
I dunno. What do you guys think? Is it more of a standalone, or more of a myth-arc story? The standalones were usually better, imho.
MTV news just posted a short article about the Terminator Salvation movie prequel I'm writing for IDW:
"The people “around him” aren’t actually in his immediate physical presence — Connor’s started doing nightly radio broadcasts to communicate with surviving humans around the world. Those people include a resistance leader named Elena Maric, a former LAPD officer now waging a campaign to fight the machines’ takeover of an auto plant in Detroit, and Bem Aworuwa, the former lead engineer of an open-pit uranium mine in Niger, Africa. “The films are always set in and around Los Angeles, and I wanted to show what was going on in the rest of the world,” Naraghi said. “What are other people doing?”"
By the way, these images are just promo pieces. The series artist is going to be Alan Robinson, and I'll post some of his character designs as soon as I get the ok from IDW.
Busy, busy day today. And my stupid cold/strep throat/black plague or whatever it is I'm fighting didn't help any. So much so that I'm back at the hotel to crash early, instead of drinking down at the Hyatt bar with the other 200 comics creators.
So today was the signing, and I sat next to Chris McKenna, the screenwriter of the Igor movie.
MGM has apparently supplanted the Weinsten Brothers as the movie's distributor, so the promotion machine was in full swing. Here's a shot of me with Igor, and the con promotion team:
I also caught the Lost and Terminator Salvation panels. I'll try and write up a bit about them when I'm not dead tired, but here are a few pics I took of the panelists projected on the huge screens around the auditorium that sat about 6500 people...
(L to R) Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and Matthew Fox at the Lost panel:
And at the Terminator panel, (L to R) director McG, and cast members Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin (playing a young Kyle Reese), Bryce Dallas Howard (playing John Connor's wife, Kate), and rapper Common:
A week or so ago, Dara posted a review of Alan Moore's thwarted Twilight of the Superheroes pitch. One of the ickier aspects was the incestuous relationship between Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel.
It got me thinking ... Alan Moore often depicts weird sex, doesn't he? Aside from Lost Girls (which I haven't read) there's also:
1. The May-December relationship between Mina Harker and Alan Quatermain in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Mild considering, Kevin O'Neill draws a pretty disturbing old man butt.
2. One of the villains in Top Ten is the "Chicken Supers," a ring of superhero pedophiles. But it also reveals that Captain Jetman has been with his boyfriend since he was a young boy. In addition to being a pederast, the boyfriend was also a supervillain. So in this series, Moore presents both sides of the pedophilia argument.
3. Also in Top Ten, Sgt. Kemlo begins a relationship with Neural 'Nette, even though she's a human and he's a doberman.
4. At the end of the Smax miniseries, Smax realizes there's nothing wrong with marrying his sister.
After two years living in this house, I’ve finally got around to organizing the Jungle Room, my secret underground pleasure den (okay, the basement where I keep my comics and crap-- maybe I‘ll post some pics later). Part of that project included going through some boxes full of mementos that I received after my mother passed away.
One of the few gems I discovered was a ninth grade English project: a 26-page satirical comic adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey. I was fourteen years old in the year George Orwell named a book after; anyone familiar with my work on The Ineffables might spot a couple familiar elements…
This wasn’t my first self-published work; a few issues of “The G-Men” had been passed around the halls of school a few months before this. Those are sadly (?) lost forever.
...and his name is Matt Madden. He'll be running a graphic novel workshop on Saturday at the Wexner. It's currently full. If you're scratching your heads as to who Matt is, he penned a graphic novella a while back called Black Candy. Published by Alternative Comics. I got to meet Matt at SPX a while back. Nice guy. His latest book is 99 Ways to tell a Story. He also coedited with Jessica Abel (his wife) the next Best American Comics anthology. Which I'm hoping is better that the last few. Maybe this time all the comics will have actually come out in the timespan that they set.
I just listened to Barack Obama's speech live from Tiergarten Park in Berlin, Germany. I've also been listening to a lot of Michael Franti lately, especially yesterday during my flight out to San Diego. It just struck me that the lyrics to Franti's song "Hello Bonjour" from his 2006 album Yell Fire! fit in perfectly with the themes of Obama's speech...
There’s simply no excuse for missing this one. If we assume funny books are actually a valid art form, then this story is our Mona Lisa, our Citizen Kane, our Sgt. Pepper-- our Da Vinci Code. Everything comics are capable of communicating, their grand cosmic scope and subtle human experience, is distilled into the wonderment which is spread over the three issues which are commonly called “The Galactus Trilogy.”
It wasn’t until these issues came out in Masterworks form that I was able to read the story as originally presented. I first saw it in one of those oversized treasury editions that Marvel used to put out, and assumed I had a heavily edited version of the story; the page count of the Fantastic Four’s first encounter with Galactus and the Silver Surfer only came to about enough to fill two comics, not the three which must have comprised the “trilogy.” I was both right and wrong; the first half of issue 48 is actually the conclusion to a long-running Inhumans storyline, while the back half of issue 50, after Galactus has left, is all subplot and character development as Johnny Storm moves off to college and a new villain is introduced hatching his plans. So, yeah, I had about an issue’s worth of pages trimmed from that treasury, but all the Galactus material was fortunately intact.
Stan suggested to Jack for the plot, “the F.F. fight God,” and Jack sent back pages of omens and signs presaging the arrival of a prophet, all the trappings of a classic myth set in modern day New York City. Here’s what our heroes witness upon their return home from their adventure in the Hidden Land: the skies turned to fire as the people panic in the streets. Soon the fire turns to a sea of stone hiding the sky, and we later learn this is the work of the Watcher, who is trying to conceal the planet from the figure approaching from deepest space on the back of a silver surfboard.
The Watcher’s efforts fail, however, and the stranger from the stars (who looks strangely like a hood ornament and whose ridiculous form of transportation Jack actually manages to sell to us, he’s that good) sends a signal back to the stars he traveled from. Too late, the Thing clobbers him from his perch atop the Baxter Building, sending him flying over the rooftops of the city. The damage has been done, however, as a wonderful Kirby spaceship collage presages the arrival of the big G.
The cool thing about Galactus is, he’s not a villain. He needs to eat to survive, he’s just a being of such a higher order than we mere humans that he doesn’t view us as being worth consideration. Most humans don’t get worked up over the morality of a chicken sandwich (besides vegetarians, obviously), and we’re closer to chickens than Galactus is to human. Rather than a villain, I view Galactus as an analogy to our own strip-mining, oil-guzzling, toxic waste-dumping selves, stripping away all the resources of a planet without any consideration for the cost. Stan and Jack’s depiction in issue 49, as related by the Watcher, seems to back that up:
So, the FF are facing their most desperate battle with the fate of the entire world on the line… and losing. Galactus is just way out of their league, and all their powers add up to a goose egg for the chances of Earth’s survival. Salvation instead is going to come in the form of a blind sculptress named Alicia Masters who takes in the Silver Surfer, still dazed from the Thing’s attack. His encounter with her and the conversation they share awakens all the sentimental old humanoid feelings the Surfer harbors somewhere inside that shell, and he decides he can’t let a planet full of people like her get reduced to dust.
The Watcher, meanwhile, has sent the Human Torch on an errand. Flying through a Clarke/Kubrick-style space warp, Johnny Storm arrives at the home of Galactus, a Mobius-strip space station chock full of scientific wonders beyond human ken. Somewhere on this vessel is an artifact which might help the humans in their fight against Galactus. But the Torch isn’t going to find it and return in time…
…unless Galactus’ former loyal servant turns on his master and buys some time. He ultimately fares just as poorly as everyone else-- he’s fighting with power given to him by Galactus to begin with-- but manages to hold the line long enough for the Human Torch to materialize and hand over to Reed Richards a doomsday device called the Ultimate Nullifier.
The nullifier is a weapon capable of wiping out everything in existence, Big G included. Mister Fantastic threatens to eradicate the cosmos if Earth isn’t spared, and Galactus falls for the bluff, packing up his world crushing machines and leaving-- but not before dealing out some heavy handed punishment to his former herald, stripping him of much of his power and imprisoning him on Earth.
I really envy those readers who encountered these stories and their contemporaries when they were newly minted. Imagine picking these issues from the spinner rack in a mom and pop store and encountering these characters and concepts for the first time; those silver age books were buzzing with wonder and discovery. How long has it been since we were given a new Galactus, or Inhumans, or Savage Land, or Negative Zone? I find a lot of faults with modern comics, but really, I'd shut up if they weren't simply boring.
The time has finally come: Comic Book Tattoo comes out next week with a big rollout planned for San Diego.
This is a brief recap as more stuff keeps showing up in my inbox about this book: It was officially announced on Tori's site that she'll be on hand for the CBT signing in San Diego a while ago. Creators from the book will be at the Image booth throughout the show. There was a whopping 4 page interview with Rantz and Tori in last week's CSN. CBR has also put up an ongoing CBT blog that will run till October. Featuring production blogs from the various creators on the book.
There will also be a panel discussion as well. Hosted by comics and music critic Douglas Wolk, and featuring discussion between Tori, editor Rantz Hoseley and several of the contributing creators on Saturday, July 26 from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM. The book hits the DM next Wednesday. National rollout (book stores) is June 29th.
Rantz will also be on Dave Navarro's show pimping the book in August. I didn't even know Navarro had a show. I've gotten word that the limited slipcase edition's sold out save a few copies that will be snapped up at San Diego. There's also another book signing planned in August in California (Golden Apple, LA August 1st. 6pm).
The "Barbie Collector Doll" series of DC superheroines carry a manufacturer's age: recommendation of "12 years and up", and somehow I suspect most of the buyers are going to be 30-something guys...
"Introducing the Barbie Collector doll Black Canary, the Gotham City bombshell and crime-fighting superpower is depicted here by Barbie doll in signature black patent, gloves, boots and fishnet stockings. The DC Comics' heroine is world-renown for her skill in martial arts and leads the courageous Justice League team of superheroes."
That's one fancy Wonder Woman! As for Black Canary, apparently some British religious group called Christian Voice is all up in arms:
"A children’s doll in sexually suggestive clothing is irresponsible – it’s filth."
Transcript for an e-mail conversation I had earlier today with Wendy:
Me: So I got an email from a guy who writes for MTV.com. They want to do a short interview with me about my [unannounced IDW movie tie-in] comic book!
Wendy: OH MY GOD! Dude, ur gonna be on MTV! That's like, every American kids' dream come true! So cool!!!
Me: Well, not exactly on "MTV", more like on MTV's website's movie site's blog. I guess that's a little like saying you worked on the new Ford Mustang redesign team, but really your company made the "premium gas only" decals that they stuck on the inside of the gas cap ;-) But hey, it's one small step from the website to making it on a live broadcast of TRL. I'd totally ask for the latest Lil' Romeo video!
Wendy: Dude! You'd ask for a BEN HARPER video! ;-) (It's still super cool, even if you're not going to be on MTV)
Me: Hey, this is MTV. They have no clue who Ben Harper is.
(Wow, could I have made this self-indulgent post any more gratuitous? Hmmm, maybe.)
Remember the sequel Charles Dickens wrote to A Tale of Two Cities, wherein we discover that Sidney Carton had another look-alike whom he hypnotized into believing was the barrister, and it was this unknown stranger who went to his death in place of Charles Darnay at the end of the novel while Carton sought refuge for a few years in America? You don’t remember that? Maybe because Dickens didn’t write it because it’s a STUPID FRIGGIN’ IDEA.
Do I sound a little bitter about something? Maybe so. Everyone’s got their favorite run of a series ever; for some it’s the Lee/Kirby FF, for others the Miller Daredevil. For me it’s the Claremont/Byrne X-Men, which I discovered just before the Dark Phoenix storyline was starting to come together. Here’s the quick version: the X-Men are coming off from a desperate battle with the Hellfire Club when one of their own members becomes overwhelmed and driven mad by her own power. After a harrowing couple encounters and the death of an entire alien world, Professor X has managed to contain the Phoenix entity within Jean Grey’s mind-- only to have the entire team whisked away by aliens to answer for crimes committed by Jean while she was under the influence of the Phoenix. The X-Men must battle an outer space version of the Justice League to protect their friend from a death sentence-- and get their butts soundly kicked, until the Phoenix force busts loose again and crushes everyone. Jean asserts her humanity long enough to realize those around her will never be safe from her power, and chooses to kill herself to protect those she loves.
Hey, is that...? Yeah, it is. Moving on...
This story, culminating in a heartbreaking farewell between Jean and Scott Summers, made ten-year-old Craig cry (I was a sensitive lad). As with the previous post, death was still a rare occurrence in comics (by 1980, Gwen Stacy was still the only precedent and resurrections hadn‘t become commonplace; I don’t think Elektra had even bit the dust yet) and still had a huge impact on the readership, and this remains my favorite comic story ever-- except, oh yeah…
…someone later had the brilliant notion to tell us it was a look-alike that got killed so they could sell a book called X-Factor and suck all the resonance out of one of the most emotionally powerful comic stories I’ve ever read. Thanks.
I really, really, loved this series back in the day. The X-Men were a colorful crew with varied personalities, not a uniformly brooding and nihilistic bunch as they later became. My favorite was Nightcrawler, the guy who had every reason to be bitter about his ticket from the genetic lottery but was actually the lighthearted optimist of the group. This new band of mutants was as multicultural as the bridge of the Enterprise yet fit together like a family more than any other group I read about. Then, of course, there’s Wolverine…
Wolverine was the ticking time bomb Cyclops always struggled to keep in check, not the sage-like ronin badass Claremont later decided he should be. His persona was entertaining but not yet overbearing, being balanced by the rest of his teammates. And oh, yeah, he didn’t have a healing power making him a boring one-note caricature.
Logan first appeared in Hulk #180-182 before moving on to Giant Size X-Men #1, then Uncanny X-Men #94. The words “healing factor” are casually dropped into a conversation by Claremont in issue 142. Imagine, if you will, Stan Lee suddenly declaring in issue number 52 of Amazing Spider-Man that the title character had always been able to talk to spiders. This reference to Wolverine similarly came out of left field a couple years after I had become familiar with the character; previous issues had shown him in as much physical danger as the rest of the group. He sports stitches in one issue, refers to being “black and blue for a week” after a fight in another… It’s worth noting that the element that was blown way out of proportion and turned Wolverine into the most annoying character of the past several years was a late addition by Claremont, shortly before Byrne (who was frequently listed as “co-plotter” during the best parts of the series) made his exit.
How good was the Claremont/Byrne X-Men series? Well, it propelled the mutant books through years of lameness to follow. If we disregard every X-Men story that later ripped off the Dark Phoenix issues or the Days of Future Past two-parter, I think we’d be left with about two dozen comics and half a movie.
*yes, I know Claremont and Byrne had intended Jean Grey to live through this issue but were overridden by an editor who insisted she die. The story still packs a huge whallop and shouldn't have been revised.
Yes friends, we return quicker than it takes Bryan Hitch to crap out an issue. It Came From Jumbo is back!
This is the oldest comic I've found in my stinky collection of comics from Jumbo. A reprint from 1979 by Whitman. There are some unexplained pages cut out of it and I think I scrawled something in pencil on the beginning page. What it says I have no idea. I was four or five at the time I probably was handed this. Not only does Hal come off like a complete dick in this cover, it ends with Hal bedding some chick at the end. Don't believe me.. here's the last page.
That's fun for all ages. Gives a whole new meaning to power ring. Snap.
Please to enjoy trailer for new Punisher "requel":
Punisher: Third Time's the Charm? (er, "War Zone")
My favorite snarky quote from the comments section on The Beat: "Vengeance wears a turtleneck."
By the way, the movie is directed by former kick-boxer Lexi Alexander, who also directed Green Street Hooligans, which from what I've heard is a pretty good flick. But this...well, let's just say it looks like another Punisher movie, and we know how the previous two turned out.
Over on ComicBookResources.com, in their regular Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed feature, they talk about Alan Moore's proposed DC company-wide crossover series in 1987. While by all accounts DC liked the proposal and even paid Moore for the work, the project titles "Twilight of the Superheroes" never came to fruition, though whether it was due to DC pulling the plug or Moore's famous breakup with the publisher, I don't know. But Brian Cronin over at CBR provides this great summary of the proposed series:
"The basic gist of the story is thus:
It is around the year 2000, and superheroes more or less rule the world. There are eight “Houses” which are made up of related superheroes.
The two strongest ones are:
House of Steel - Superman and his brood (including Superman’s wife, Wonder Woman)
House of Thunder - Captain Marvel and his Marvel Family
These two houses are about to join with the marriage of Superboy (the son of Superman and Wonder Woman) and Mary Marvel, Jr. (the daughter of Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel - yes, I know, that is a creepy pairing - Moore does not shy from the creepiness of it).
The other six are:
House of Titans - Made up of, yep, you guessed it.
House of Mystery - Various magic characters.
House of Secrets - The remaining super-villains who have not been captured/killed.
House of Justice - The remaining unaffiliated superheroes
House of Tomorrow - Due to a flux in time, all time travelers have been stuck at this point in time, so they all gather here.
House of Lanterns - Abandoned, because awhile back, Earth has turned on aliens and driven them all out (Superman being the notable exception, of course). They currently have a base on the moon, waiting to get back to Earth, planning an invasion along with New Mars, Rann and Thanagar.
Okay, so the whole story takes place in a flashback at the beginning of a framing sequence with John Constantine at a bar in late 1987, reading a letter. A woman asks him for a lgiht, and he flashs back to earlier in 1987, and that begins the story.
It appears that the John Constantine from the future somehow helps Rip Hunter (one of the time travelers stuck at that point in time) escape to the present (1987), where Hunter teams up with 1987 John Constantine to warn all the heroes about the future. Future Constantine has told 87 Constantine (through Hunter) that the world of the future is awful, and he needs to help change it.
So anyhow, Constantine and Rip Hunter go to various heroes and warn them - presumably, these would take place in the various titles of the DC line of comics.
Meanwhile, in the Twilight of Superheroes series, proper, the Constantine of that time is the readers’ guide to the world of the future. Constantine is his normal self, just older, but actually in a happy relationship with a woman he’s been with for some time now - which is a nice change of pace for Constantine. So Constantine makes his way through the grimy world of the remaining human characters, the ones who don’t belong to the various Houses. He meets Green Arrow, etc. One notable absence, of course, is Batman. However, Constantine seems to be making various plans and contacts with people here and there. He is obviously planning SOMEthing. He keeps having mysterious meetings with people we don’t learn the importance of until later.
In the end, there would be a whole series of twists and turns.
That’s what happens in the long finale (I’d imagine the finale would be so big it would take up at least two issues, maybe three) - first, all the remaining Earth houses attack the wedding of Superboy and Mary Marvel, Jr., because they want to prevent that union. Massive bloodshed, but the House of Steel and Marvel manage to survive more or less intact (while mostly wiping out the other heroes).
When the dust settles from that fight, though, we get the big revelation that that Martian Manhunter has been impersonating Captain Marvel Sr. for the whole series, as part of an alien invasion. The Green Lanterns, the Rannians and the Thanagarians all invade at once.
Big fight with the remaining characters, and in the end, the aliens simply have too much manpower (including the Daxamite Green Lantern).
However, this is when Constantine’s plan comes into play - Batman and a small group of human heroes attack using armor created by the Metal Man Gold (who disappeared earlier in the series) and fight the aliens to a stand-still, but when it looks like a stalemate, Constantine reveals his final trump card. He has contacted the New God Metron (seen earlier in the series, although not made clear what he was doing), and used his chair to travel to Qward, where Constantine has sold the secret of Boom Tube technology to the Qwardians, so while the aliens are on Earth, their home worlds are currently being invaded by Qwardians. So the aliens all leave, and Earth is left with mostly humans and non-powered superheroes, so the world is ultimately (in Constantine’s view, at least) a happier place.
We cut back to the opening, and realize that the letter Constantine is reading in 1987 is from his future self. He is learning via a letter from his future self (that Hunter gives to Constantine after they warn all the heroes) that the whole thing has been a con, and he was meant to warn the heroes of 1987 specifically so that this future WOULD happen. Older Constantine apologizes, but says, on the bright side, A. I conned you for a good cause and B. at least you’ll end up with the woman of your dreams. In fact, I’ll even tell you when you meet her. She comes up to you and asks you for a light at a bar at the end of 1987.
So yeah, you guessed it. The young Constantine is so angry at his future self that he tries to think of a way to hurt him, and all he can think of is, when the woman asks for a light, he replies:
“No. I’m sorry. I don’t smoke.”
She leaves, and the books ends with Constantine drinking himself into a stupor as he weeps uncontrollably. "
I'd hate to speculate whether this would have, ultimately, been a good thing for DC or not, but as a reader I would have loved to have seen it. Especially as a youngish Dara back in '87. Supposedly DC have asked many websites to remove the text of Moore's original proposal due to copyright, but you can still find it all over the Internets...for instance here, or here.
(No, I haven't read it yet myself. In true Moore fashion, even the pitch is 17,500+ words long!)
I missed a couple Character Wednesdays, so I decided to swing back around and fill them in. Here are my takes on The Shadow and The Fantastic Four. I've always loved the cover of FF #1, so I went a little nuts and sketched it out rather than just the characters. I'm thinking a little Amazing Fantasy #15 and Tales of Suspense #15 are in order now.
Bizarre magazine interviews a guy from Montreal who is slowly turning his body into a "living zombies" by tattoing ever inch of it. A snippet of the interview:
"What would you have changed? I’d have a lot more blood in general, dripping and oozing everywhere. I’d have loved to have blood pouring out of my eyes and a few more bugs here and there. But it just didn’t happen like that.
So what other body modifications are you planning? I still want to get my brain shaded in. I want to get it all nice and grey like hamburger meat. And then I want to get Frankenstein bolts sticking out of my head around the rim of where my scalp’s ‘cut off’.
And I’ve thought about getting my eyes blacked in. I’m thinking that in five years from now, if no one’s gone blind from it by then I’ll go and get my eyes tattooed black, so there’d just be big holes in my face."
OK, so I took my submissions to DC and Marvel today.
I got totally denied at DC. The guy in the lobby wouldn't even let me go up in the elevator. He was pretty cool about it, though. He even called the editors I addressed the submissions to, to see if they'd accept them. No dice.
He wasn't even allowed to accept them and send them up, because I'm not an officially sanctioned messenger boy. Next time I go, I'm going in biker shorts and a little ball cap or helmet. Nothing gets you respect like biker shorts and a helmet.
"You probably have people doing this all the time," I said. He just shrugged. He was pretty cool about it, but his hands seemed to be tied.
Marvel went better. The guy in the lobby didn't even look at me, and I walked right up to the elevator and rode it up to the 11th floor. The receptionist buzzed me in like it was nothing. She started to call the editors, but I foolishly admitted I didn't have any appointments. I should have tried to bluff my way into the bullpen.
DC and Marvel are seriously within 15 blocks of each other. The cab ride cost $5.60 or some such.
So I'm going to have to come back to Columbus and mail the submissions to DC. Then, I can just hope that Animated Kirk is up there pulling for me.
I recently watched That’s The Way It Is, an Elvis Presley concert documentary filmed during his earliest days in Vegas. I expected it to be a painful experience, watching the sweaty, jumpsuit-wearing echo of past glories mugging for a theatre full of retirees. But something strange happened; as the show neared its end and Suspicious Minds rumbled towards a climax, and the King of Rock n’ Roll started cutting loose with the karate moves as he belted out the chorus of the song faster, ever faster… I saw the fire was still there, even at that point in his career, even if it was well hidden under sequins and folds of flesh. Had I been in that crowd, I would have been on my feet yelling with the rest of them.
So while I was disappointed a couple months back to see John Byrne drawing a comic about pro wrestlers in space for a WWE magazine and declared that he had entered the Vegas era of his own career, he’s still been my favorite artist since I discovered him in the fourth grade. There’s still no one on the shelves whose style I like better, and a look at his own website and the thread devoted to commissions he’s drawn shows he still has all his old skills when he puts his mind to it. Some of those commissions are pretty amazing, so I decided to get one myself.
I contacted the middle man he employs for selling his artwork and got the necessary details, and submitted my request, providing the characters and context I wished Byrne to draw. Here’s the beauty I’ll be getting back to hang on my wall:
More comics that should be required reading for anyone that likes comics:
Every now and then I mention a book that wasn’t actually mine back in the day, but I only got to experience vicariously from the neighbor kid’s collection. This one was the most painful to have so close yet always out of reach; only when I was very lucky was I allowed to flip through the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #122.
I’m about to commit heresy with this next sentence: While Miller and Moore wrote some incredible stories with Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, they didn’t actually bring anything new to the table. All the credit they get for deconstructing the superhero concept and bringing darker, more adult themes to comics-- well, Stan Lee got that ball rolling in 1961 at Marvel, and it peaked right here. I hadn’t yet entered kindergarten when this book blew me away with it’s very adult depictions of drug use, murder, grief and single-minded revenge. By the time the Punisher was introduced in this title seven months later the pendulum was swinging back to tamer, more family-friendly fare, but for a few years culminating with this very issue the Marvel universe had been a pretty dark place.
Starting with the most prominent point: a character who had been a major part of the series for many, many years has just died! The book opens with Spider-Man holding Gwen Stacy’s broken body atop the George Washington bridge while the Green Goblin circles, gloating. A modern reader wouldn’t bat an eye at this development; we’ve seen enough deaths and resurrections in these books over the years for us to be good and jaded. But this was the first time cold, hard, mortality had made a significant impact on a comic’s status quo, and it was as big a change as if Lois Lane had fallen from that bridge. Anyone care to name a major character in a comic series that had died before 1973? (I can think of one that had two different death scenes, but I’m not telling.)
Check out the background in that splash page. Gil Kane captures the dizzying height of the bridge, as well as the far-reaching depth of the city beyond. Both he and Ross Andru after him did a splendid job of creating an environment these characters moved through, rather than dispensing endless pinup shots like most modern artists; as a kid I had a sense of what Spider-Man’s New York looked like, from this infamous bridge to Times Square to Rockefeller Plaza. I was a kid living in the Midwest, but New York lived and breathed for me through the pages of these books. I can’t say that flavor is captured by any present-day book, not even the precious Gotham of a Batman comic.
Here’s my childhood hero, right after he’s handed over his girlfriend’s lifeless body to a waiting ambulance. Things go sour pretty quick with the police who want to take him in for questioning; after he swats them away, they actually empty their sidearms at him! Anyone who doubts this sort of storytelling was way ahead of the curve, let me remind you that Batman was still playing charity baseball games for Commissioner Gordon over in the DCU.
The somber tone of this issue darkens even more when Peter Parker goes to visit his best friend, Harry Osborn, in order to try to learn the whereabouts of Harry’s father, the Green Goblin. Problem is, the Goblin’s appearance was precipitated by Harry’s latest descent into drug abuse. When Peter arrives to see his pal, Harry is having a bad acid flashback and can’t offer much help. Given an opportunity to help his best friend or continue his search for revenge, Peter turns his back on Harry as he begs for help. This scene is more chilling than anything I’ve seen in any comic, ever.
(Let me add that I was hugely disappointed when the second Spider-Man movie showed Harry Osborn with a more socially acceptable drinking problem. A thirty year old comic had the stones to show a character dropping acid, but a recent movie found the issue untouchable.)
With Joe Robertson’s help, Peter tracks the Goblin to a disused warehouse owned by Osborn. The final battle ensues, which quickly evolves into the kind of one-sided fight I enjoy as Spidey gives the Goblin a thoroughly savage beating, nearly killing his foe before finding his inner hero and restraining himself. As Spider-Man promises to drag the villain to jail, however, the Goblin manages to do himself in with his own damaged glider (yeah, I bitched about this kind of “convenient accident” in superhero movies recently, but this was my first exposure to it). As Spider-Man stands over his foe’s corpse, he remarks that seeing his girlfriend’s murderer die only leaves him feeling empty, adding a layer of futility to the grief that pervades the book.
An editorial later explained the necessity of this story; after years of their on-again, off-again relationship, the characters of Peter and Gwen were in a rut, so they wisely decided to do something radical to shake up the status quo and let newer, more unpredictable storylines emerge. Up until this point, Mary Jane Watson had been painted in her infrequent appearances as a shallow, thoughtless party girl whose only function was to make (her boyfriend) Harry Osborn’s life hell. The story closes with a series of panels which offer new possibilities for this cast of characters.
If this is true, it's criminal that Marvel can pass these off as reprints of classic artists' work. I've preordered the Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, and now I'm not really sure what the hell I'll be getting-- Gene Colan's work, or some starving artist hack who does a good Colan impression.
My frustration that Marvel curtailed the DVD-Rom scans of full runs of classic series' is further compounded. I can't turn to other formats with much confidence that I'm getting the genuine article. Presumably the online comic library Marvel offers, in addition to garish coloring jobs and incomplete runs, also features a good percentage of "bootleg" art pages.
Okay, Matt throws out the Intelligence Supreme as next in line for Character Wednesday and some people don’t know who that is, which begs the question: haven’t you read the original Kree/Skrull war by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, and the Buscemas? Sure we’ve all got our varied tastes, but I’d expect any film fanatic to have seen Citizen Kane, and there are classic comic stories that predate Watchmen that all American schoolchildren should just know about. If I say “balcony scene”, you know what piece of literature I’m referring to, right? Likewise, anyone that spends a significant amount of time in a comic store better know what it means if I say “Ant-Man running around in the Vision’s innards with some mind-boggling Neal Adams art.”
In picking out books to write about here, I’ve deliberately avoided comics that I figured everyone should already be familiar with. But for Batman Movie People and DC people who don’t look past “pre-Crisis”, maybe a few weeks of Way Back Machine 101 are in order. There’ll be a test at the end of this, and anyone caught copying Matt’s paper will be expelled.
We’ll begin with the story that got this started: Please open your DVD-Roms to the beginnings of the Kree/Skrull war in Avengers #93.
Roy Thomas had a number of subplots bouncing around the series which were finally coming together when Neal Adams came on board with this issue. The Avengers (Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Goliath*) had just been discredited for harboring the fugitive Kree alien Mar-Vell when a trio of founding members showed up and invoked a clause in their charter to disband the group. Strangely enough, those same founders show up at the beginning of this issue with no idea why the Avengers are absent, and are surprised when a mortally wounded Vision collapses in their meeting room.
We’ll learn later that the Avengers who dissolved the group were actually Skrull imposters, and the disgraced Avengers were led into an ambush by three of the four Skrulls which menaced the Fantastic Four all the way back in FF #2. But first, our heroes have to find a way to revive their critically injured android member to learn what has been happening… which brings us to the segment that makes this issue such a classic.
Turns out the Avengers have a resident android expert on staff; Henry Pym, currently sporting his Ant-Man attire, creator of the evil robot Ultron which in turn created the Vision himself. What do you do when you’ve got a sick android and a scientist that can dance on the head of a pin? It’s fantastic voyage time! Neal Adams delivers a scintillating tour through the interior of the Vision as Ant-Man runs a gauntlet of robot antibodies in that surreal environment. This segment is a deviation from the overall story, but is so incredibly beautiful it nearly steals the show from the rest of the series.
The repaired Vision leads the group to an isolated farmhouse where the ambush took place; after meeting up with the missing Goliath, the group finds themselves in combat with the aforementioned group of Skrulls disguised as the Fantastic Four. Meanwhile, Mar-Vell and obscure supporting character Carol Danvers are loose inside the Skrull hideout, where the Kree soldier decides to assemble a (potentially deadly if it fell into the wrong hands) Omni-Wave Projector to warn his people of the looming Skrull threat.
Turns out the whole scenario was an attempt to trick Mar-Vell into making the device for the Skrulls to study; Carol Danvers reveals herself to be the Super-Skrull, who clobbers Captain Marvel-- but not before he can destroy the Omni-Wave. The chapter ends with Mar-Vell, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch taken captive by the Super-Skrull as his rocket ship blasts back to Skrull space.
The next few issues are filled with Inhumans, Mandroids, Nick Fury, Buscema brothers, and ginormous space battles until the concluding chapter brings us another milestone in comic literature: the moment the Intelligence Supreme of the Kree Empire taps the human genetic potential within Rick Jones, unleashing powers that enable him to summon a host of heroes from the Golden Age comics of his youth to clobber an army of bad guys and end the Kree/Skrull war.
*Anyone that asks how Goliath and Ant-Man can appear in two different places in the same 1972 Avengers story has to stay after class.