Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Marvel, X-Men

In Memory of Len Wein

On September 10th, 2017. We lost a beloved and respected member of the comic book community. Writer, and editor, Len Wein.

Co-creator of Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson for DC, and Wolverine with John Romita Sr. for Marvel. As well as serving as an editor for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with Watchmen. It’s hard to deny his impact on the industry. Having left his mark on characters such as Batman, Spider-man, Superman and the Hulk, Len leaves behind a legacy that should never be forgotten. The man who began the restructure of the X-Men in 1970s, along with Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, many children of the 80s and 90s have him to thank for those days of running around the playground, putting themselves in the shoes of Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and of course, Wolverine.

Len Wein on Wolverine:

In 2009, X-Men alumni and comic book legend, Chris Claremont, had this to say of Len’s work on X-Men:

“The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took Len Wein’s contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn’t get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are – certainly on the X-Men – to Len and to Dave Cockrum”.

Many comic book legends have taken to Social Media in the past 24 hours, sharing stories and words of kindness for the legend. Showing support to his family, and keeping his legacy alive. Len was known for his stories. His characters, and his ability to work seamlessly with both DC and Marvel. But above all, especially looking at all the comments from the people who knew him well. His kindness.

Rest in Peace, good sir. May your legacy live on.

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Posted in Comics, History, Marvel, Review

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe (2012)

History can often be written in a fairly boring, and straight forward manner. This happened, followed by this, leading up to what you already know. Often, it can feel like a text book, forcing you to focus like your studying for a test. Even when the subject is something of interest to us, you can find ourselves feeling bogged down by information that feels flavourless. Almost redundant.

With Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, this is never an issue.

When diving into Marvel Comics, we find a delightfully well written book, that comes off as inviting and invigorating as a genuine Marvel comic. Presenting what could be mundane facts and events, as earth shattering moments in history. Culminating in what we know as modern-day Marvel. While it’s tempting to simply focus on the larger figures, such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Howe uses interviews, statistics, reports, articles, and a wonderful writing style, to breathe life into the mythical Marvel Bullpen, while shedding light on the cut-throat industry as a whole.

Covering a pre-World War II industry, right up to modern day Marvel, as part of Disney. It’s hard to find an aspect of Marvel’s history that Sean Howe does not cover.

While set out mostly in chronological order, the use of time skips or jumps in places, work to emphasise the importance of figures or events. Through it, you can gain a greater appreciation for Marvel, as well as feel a slightly different perspective on some of the figures or events. Stories from different time frames, or events within the comics, become stronger, when you begin to understand the reasons behind choices.

While the book may seem intimidating, given its massive size, with almost 500 pages. It’s manner and style make it easy to read, not only with how it’s written, but with the way it sucks you in. Engrossing you within the history of such an important company within the industry.

For those with little time to read, the book is accompanied by a wonderful 18-hour Audio Book that truly immerses you while on the go.

For those curious of Marvel’s fascinating history, or simply want something engaging to read. Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a wonderful read. Truly worthy of your time, and attention.

Posted in Anime, British Comics, Comics, DC Comics, Discussion, Evangelion, History, Superheroes, TV

Deconstruction without reference – Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion

In any medium or genre, there are titans. Stories and creators that are looked upon as the very best examples of what that medium or genre can be. When a genre or medium has been around for a while, it’s natural to find works and creators that start to question why it exists. Why do we read and follow superhero comics? Why do we watch and enjoy giant mech anime?

To deconstruct something, is to tear it apart to reveal and expose the subject’s weaknesses. To understand and explore its flaws, inconsistencies, and tropes. To literally take it to pieces. However, what happens when the deconstruction becomes the celebrated work? What impact does the work have, when it’s the first thing recommended to new readers or viewers?

Both Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion are held up as master works of their medium and genre. Watchmen appears on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Best Novels in the English Language. The BBC Culture section, even refers to the series as ‘The Moment Comic Books Grew Up’. Taking apart and examining the superhero genre. Exploring the characters, motives and world, through the lens of a murder mystery. Many regard it as one of the greatest comics ever written. While others, including the books writer, Alan Moore, see it as more than a little overrated. Regardless of the opinion you have on the series, it’s hard to deny its impact, both in and outside the medium. DC Comics have even found themselves leaning back on to the books popularity and world for their storylines “The Button”, and “Doomsday Clock”. Neon Genesis Evangelion holds a similar reputation. Praised as one of the best and most influential anime to come out of the 90’s, let alone of all time. Evangelion is a cult classic, that takes apart the Mecha genre of anime. Exploring what drives the characters, the creation of the giant mechs, the EVA’s in this case, and what it’s like to face the end of the world.

Many ‘must-watch’, and ‘must-read’ articles suggest both of these are top contenders in their fields. Giving multiple reasons for why every fan of both mediums should see them. Many also suggest them as entry level material. This raises the question, what’s the point of a deconstruction, if the audience has no idea what is being deconstructed?

To use Watchmen for a moment. Readers walking into Watchmen for the first time, who have no grasp on the superhero genre of comics, or very little. Will find themselves confronted with the story of a group of apparently former heroes who grew old. When one is killed, the rest take it upon their selves to learn why, as well as dealing with their own everyday lives. However, as Walter Hudsick puts it in ‘Reassembling the Components in the Correct Sequence: Why You Shouldn’t Read Watchmen First’, using Watchmen as an introduction to Superhero comics, is a grave mistake. Watchmen is built on the very history of comics. Its characters are stand ins for specific characters. Dr Manhattan, Nite Owl II, The Comedian, and Ozymandias acting as replacements for The Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, and Thunderbolt respectively. The world’s history mirroring real world comic book history. Superheroes coming to prominence before a war, thriving through, only to begin to fade in the years after. The in-universe comic of The Black Freighter acting as a stand-in for EC Comics horror line. Even the comics very core as a deconstruction of Superhero literature predates Watchmen’s creation. The likes of Larry Niven’s Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s Superduperman!, and Roger Mayer’s Super-Folks, are all sighted as highly influential works in the industry. The influence of Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex showing itself in the relationship of Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre II for example. The further you dig into comic history, and the more ingrained you are within it, the more you get from Watchmen.

With Neon Genesis Evangelion, we see a slightly different, but equally valid problem. When it comes to Mecha Anime, that is the focus. The Giant Robot battles. The pilots are children or early teen. One or two of them have family who worked on the project that created the robots. There is massive destruction to cities, and the heroes are praised regardless, because they defeated the big bad that episode. That happens when we take this apart and play it as real? We get broken people. Children told that the world rest on their shoulders, that if they don’t do their job, then everyone they know or love will die. Children struggling with depression, anxiety, and inferiority complexes. Haunted by the deaths caused just to write wrongs. A father who is so focused on his work, that the very child he calls upon to save the world, he has driven away and alienated to the point of cruelty. A world population suffering due to the destruction even the battles cause. Adding to that, Evangelion takes apart even anime wide tropes of the ‘submissive but attractive girl’, and the ‘hot headed and tempremental bomb shell’ with Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu respectively. If someone approaches Evangelion, without an understanding of Mecha anime, or even anime tropes, then how are they expected to make sense of it, on top of Evangelion’s already confusing nature?

When approaching a deconstruction, with no understanding of the base. Part of the meaning is loss. The comments the creator is making on the subject, fall on ignorant or deaf ears. While that is never meant as an insult on the audience, it’s worth wondering why we recommend such material before a proper introduction? A new reader approaching the material, can certainly enjoy it, and in many cases, it leads to them discovering the very source material they need. But why is it the first point of call?

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Discussion, Superheroes, Superman

9 Superman Stories Everyone Should Read

While not as popular as the caped crusader, Batman. Superman is *THE* quintessential superhero. The first, and greatest. Since his creation in 1938, Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, have become the cornerstone of pop culture, recognised the world over, and has become the hero of many. But when it comes to comics, I find that people are incredibly reluctant to explore the man of steel’s many, many wonderful stories. Some refer to him as the big blue boy scout, others say that he is completely un-relatable, or even boring, but I assure you, that’s not the case. While it is incredibly tempting to scream at you all to dive straight into the DC Rebirth books for Superman, it seems worth gathering an understanding of the character and his universe, before his days as a father, husband, and protector of the world from the town of Hamilton County.

With his 79 years in comics, here are 9 to get you started, whether you are a diehard comic reader, curious of Superman, or starting from scratch…

Action Comics #1 by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster

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Superman’s very first appearance, and a true landmark in history, sometimes it’s best to go back to the beginning. While not highly engaging, and provides only a bare bones story, it is always worth taking a step back and looking at how it all started. While getting your hands on a copy of Action Comics #1 is almost impossible, the story has been collected in multiple books, including Superman: The War Years 1938–1945, and the Superman The Golden Age Omnibus.

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis

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Released last year (2016 if you’re reading this in the future, hi future!), and made up of 7 issues, Max Landis’s American Alien explores Clark’s life from a young boy, all the way up to his adult life. The book makes Clark highly relatable, especially in his younger years, and delivers hard on important milestones, such as discovering his powers and the isolation he feels, Clark’s first assignment for the Daily Planet, his first meetings with Lois Lane, Batman, and Lex Luther, establishing himself as a hero, and learning from his mistakes. Strongly written, with a rotation of all-star artists from issue to issue, including Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jae Lee (The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born), Jock (The Losers), and more. A fantastic, self-contained read.

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

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What would it be like if Superman showed up in modern times? Part of DC’s Earth One line up, Superman: Earth One is a wonderful retelling of part of Clark’s origin, set in the modern day, and exploring Clark’s early days in Metropolis, and his decision of what to do with his life. Exploring both the uncertainty of what to do with your life, post high school, as well as wrestling with his decision for what to do with his powers. Superman: Earth One is full of compelling and heartfelt moments written by Straczynski, paired with Davis’s beautiful renderings, it’s a truly fascinating read that sucks you right into the world. While there are three volumes to the story, the first book can be approached as a standalone story, though the decision to continue will gift you a hauntingly beautiful double page spread in the second volume. Truly worth picking up.

Superman: The Last Son of Krypton by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert

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Taking a page from Superman: The Movie, and The Richard Donner cut of Superman II, The Last Son of Krypton tells the story of a Kryptonian pod crash landing on earth, revealing a young boy inside. Adopted by Clark and Lois, and given the name Christopher Kent (a rather lovely nod to the late Christopher Reeve), they start their happy lives, with Clark safe in the knowledge that he is not alone, he is no longer the last of his kind. However, their happy lives are brought to a screeching halt when it is revealed that Christopher is, in fact, the son of one of Superman’s greatest enemies, General Zod. Brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner himself, with stunning art by Adam Kubert, The Last Son of Krypton is a must for fans of the Donner films, and a highly engaging read for everyone else.

Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen

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Imagine you lived in the American Mid-West, and in what feels like the ultimate act of cruelty to you, your parents name you Clark Kent and shower you with Superman merchandise. As a result, you’re heavily bullied and can’t stand the sight of Superman. Well, that’s life for the young Clark Kent in Kurt Busiek’s Secret Identity. In a fit of misery one night, and camping on his own, however, he awakes to find he has been given all the powers of Superman. Set in our world, Secret Identity explores what it would be like if Superman truly existed in our world, as well as chronicling his life from a young man, angry at the world for the hand he has been dealt, to a wiser old man, floating above us all as a fatherly figure. A wonderful out of continuity story, that is truly wonderful to behold.

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

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Another out of continuity tale, and not essentially a Superman story, but a purely stunning and cinematic experience. Set in a future where Superman and the rest of the Justice League have abandoned their roles as the Earth’s heroes, after the appearance of figures such as Magog, and other metahuman “heroes” who have no problems with killing, including offing The Joker early on in their career. A being known as The Spectre appears to a human minister, Norman McCay, shows him the oncoming apocalypse that is about to break out between the current heroes and the original Justice League, and invites him to help pass judgment on the events to come. Including the threat of nuclear war, and the intense brainwashing of former Justice League member, Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel (Now known as Shazam!), Kingdom Come is an incredible experience. You do not read Kingdom Come, you live in it. With magnificent painted art by the great Alex Ross, and a story by the wonderful Mark Waid, Kingdom Come is an absolute must.

Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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From the wonderful team behind Batman: The Long Halloween, and Daredevil: Yellow, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale turn their sights to the man of steel. Set across four seasons, and narrated by those involved in Clark’s life, namely Johnathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang, For All Seasons may be set in Clark’s early days, but it is not about his origin. The book chronicles how Clark, and Superman, affect the world around him. From his parents, worrying about his life as he leaves home, his co-workers at the Daily Planet, his enemies as he starts to make himself known, and the people he grew up with and left behind. For All Seasons is truly beautiful, and wondrous. As with any Loeb and Sale paring, well worth the read.

Superman: Red Son by Mark Miller and Dave Johnson

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We play the “what if” game again for a moment with Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Son. Superman has always been paired with the phrase, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Emphasis on the “American.” But what if Superman’s rocket never landed in Kansas? What if he landed just outside of Moscow? Red Son flips the Superman mythos on its head and gives us a chilling tale of the communist party right in the hands of the most powerful being on Earth. The book also gives us alternative takes on the rest of the Justice League, with a Wonder Woman who sided with the Russians, as well as a Russian Batman, who seeks to take down the all-mighty dictator. Red Son works as a perfect definition for what Superman stands for, by showing us his complete opposite. Always worth a read, with a final page twist that will make you want to read it all over again.

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

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The book a lot of you probably saw coming, but with good reason. Superman has one year left to live, having effectively developed a form of cancer that is slowly killing him. This twelve-issue series focuses on how Clark chooses to spend his final year. Including a touching birthday gift to Lois, seeking an end to his rivalry with Lex and Bizzaro, and everything he feels is needed before he leaves. All-Star Superman is a truly touching read, dealing with the likes of depression and death, but never dwelling on it. A quintessential Superman and a comic book read.

After that massive stack, I highly recommend What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? By Alan Moore and Curt Swan, Superman Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, The Death and Return of Superman Saga by Various, Superman: Lois and Clark by Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, and the incredible Rebirth run currently being published by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Happy reading Super-fans..!