We found ourselves with far more to say on our recent article. The answer was either, redo the article, or make something new. So, we started a little podcast. Talking about subjects that might not fit into articles, or to expound on thoughts.
While the properties are everywhere in the 21st century, comics are still one of the hardest mediums to get started with. Especially if you want to dive into the mainstream stuff, such as Marvel and DC. With the use of the internet, you can make the job a little easier for yourself. You can look up character history, cool stories, and maybe get an idea of what you want to read. But it can still be over whelming, with nearly 100 years of comic book history. Enter, YouTube! Through YouTube, it’s never been easier for you to stumble across great comic book content. There are countless Comic Book channels, giving you brief histories of key characters. Run downs of major or recent storylines. Tips on collecting and preserving. Even channels doing fun comic related games, and dares. All you have to do is quickly type ‘comic book’ in the YouTube search engine, and there you go! However, these channels can start to blur together after a time. The same brief histories, of the same characters, feeding back the same information till you can recite it from memory.
Since launching their first Comic Misconceptions video on March 26th, 2013. Scott and the Nerdsync crew have worked hard to deliver quality, fun and informative videos for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a well-read veteran, who can recite ever single Lantern oath from memory. Or a movie going fan, who wants to break into the source material. Nerdsync breaks down their material to be completely accessible to even the newest of readers. Beyond that, their choice of subject is far and wide. Giving nice little twists on the now stable Comic Book/YouTube formula. You want a history of Superman? Not only will they give it to you, they will go through the real-life reason for his creation, and the story behind that. When a film comes out, and every channel is scrambling to bring you a funny story or origin relating to the characters involved. Nerdsync proves their nerdy worth by talking about science, history, mythology and psychology. There is a reason why the Nerdsync slogan is ‘helping you grow smarter through comics’!
The show’s host, one Scott Niswander, brings a fun, passionate and energetic feel to the show. Encouraging his audience to get involved, create their own content, and start discussions. The show prides itself on its community of ‘loveable nerds’, banning together to help pool together resources, create on going jokes, and sometimes, just taking to the internet to spread their love of comics. Over the 4 years since Nerdsync burst on to the scene. Other shows and creators have taken to the channel, and added their own little segments, connecting to their own work. Giving us an even greater variation, to an already wonderful channel. We have Hass with Comicana, bringing us insightful looks at how comic pages work. Exploring the flow of panels, pacing and tone, using recent books, and well-known classics. We are given a dose of legal history with Joel in Super Suits, breaking down the insane history of comic book lawsuits. Not to mention the fantastic cameo and cross over appearances from the like of Auram, Ricky of Stewdippin, and Mike of PBS Idea Channel.
What makes Nerdsync stand apart, is its dedication to education through comics. In the world of academic, comics have a surprising and glorious history. They have been the subject matter when talking about so many real-world events. Including politics, genetics, physics, mythology, and pseudoscience. While these concepts, books and papers, may seem dry and none accessible to outside readers. Nerdsync delivers compelling, interesting, and outright fun material, that inspires and entertains the audience. It’s hard to deny the number of comics, characters, theories, and principles you will be exposed to, without realising it. And, you will enjoy every second of it.
“Holy here we go again Batman!”
When introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker’s described as “Midtown High’s only professional wallflower!” We see a lonely kid, stood apart from the rest, dressed in noticeably uncool clothes. With the only stand out being the foreboding shadow dwarfing poor Peter. Something only we are treated to. A page later, we see him attempt to ask out the beautiful, raven haired, Sally. Only to be turned down for what is apparently the “umpteenth” time. Even after gaining phenomenal Spidey powers, his life is still a mess. He’s still a troubled neurotic teen, who can’t catch a break. Before the end of his high school career, he starts dating Betty Brant, the first girl who was kind to him. Only to break off the relationship because he doesn’t want someone he cares for to be hurt from his super heroics. Harkening back to Uncle Ben, and foreshadowing the rest of his life. We see him continue with his life, growing as Spider-Man, going off to college. And then Gwen Stacy walks into his life.
When we talk about Gwen Stacy, the defining moment is her death. Discussion of Gwen starts at her end. The reason for this is simple. She’s incredibly bland. She is wish fulfilment. As former Spider-Man writer, Gerry Conway puts it:
“She brought nothing to the mix. It made no sense to me that Peter Parker would end up with a babe like that who had no problems. Only a damaged person would end up with a damaged guy like Peter Parker. And Gwen Stacy was perfect!”
So if she was so bland, and the only interesting point is her death, than why do we still talk about her?
Writers and Artists, such as Gerry Conway, and John Romita, have frequently pointed out Gwen’s true role in the Spider-Man comics. Wish fulfilment for the readers. Peter Parker was created by Stan Lee to stand in for the readers. A nerdy teen, riddled with anxiety and problems. Even when gaining incredible strength and abilities, he’s still burdened by the same everyday problems as the reader. The introduction of Gwen, and later Mary Jane, was Stan’s way of adding a little light to Peters life. And there for, us. Conway describes the look and creation of Gwen as:
“It was basically Stan fulfilling Stan’s own fantasy. Stan married a woman who was pretty much a babe – Joan Lee was a very attractive blond who was obviously Stan’s ideal female.”
When John Romita took over on the art for Amazing Spider-Man, his experience with romance comics, brought a stunning beauty to Gwen. As well as finally revealing the outright bombshell that is Mary Jane Watson. With Steve Ditko’s moody style pushed aside, we could fall in love with the truly stunning Gwen. We fell for her alongside Peter Parker. Meaning that when she was taken from us in that moment of tragedy, it meant something.
When Gwen died in 1973, comic deaths for heroes were rare. The most significant deaths in comics at this point, were Uncle Ben, and Bruce Wayne’s parents. Deaths that have not been undone. In a post Death of Superman, Blackest Night world. A comic book death is almost an everyday occurrence. Something that is almost certain to be undone in a few months to a couple of years. We would have walked away from the event with only the mildest of annoyance or empathy, taking to the internet to predict how and when the death would be undone.
However, it wasn’t originally Gwen Stacy who was up for the chopping block. Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, originally planned for Aunt May to die in this arc. Something that, to be honest, could happen at any moment simply by the look of her. It was artist John Romita who suggested to the pair, that they kill Gwen Stacy instead. As Romita put it in an interview:
“Yes, I’m the murderer.”
The tragic circumstances of Gwen’s death, adds to her legacy. Being kidnapped by Spider-Man’s arch enemy, The Green Goblin. As the Goblin throws Gwen from the George Washington Bridge, Spidey grabs her with his web. Only for the smallest sound effect of a ‘Snap!’ by her neck to appear, as he catches her. As he pulls her pack up, he cradles her in his arms. Forever feeling responsible for the death of another person he loves. Gwen died never knowing of Peter and Spider-Man’s connection, providing an extra layer of tragedy to her end.
Our attachment to Gwen Stacy, comes in hindsight. Stories such as the beautiful Spider-Man: Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, have retroactively given us more detailed, and touching reasons to love the blonde beauty. In Spider-Man: Blue, the entire story retells Peter and Gwen’s meeting, and their short time together, in the form of an audible letter from Peter, as he spends his valentine’s day felling blue and thinking of her. At the end of it all, her death brought us two things. An overly referenced but iconic death. And the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Both Romita and Conway have spoken about their feelings on Mary Jane vs. Gwen Stacy. Romita, the man who suggested the death, states:
“The reason I said we should kill Gwen Stacy was Mary Jane was an airheaded comedy character at the time. She was there to jazz the place up. She was not his girlfriend. His girlfriend was Gwen Stacy.”
Conway mirrors this by saying:
“I think Gwen was simply Stan replicating his wife, just like Sue Storm was a replication of his wife. And that’s where his blind spot was. The amazing thing was that he created a character like Mary Jane Watson, who was probably the most interesting female character in comics, and he never used her to the extent that he could have. Instead of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, he made her Peter Parker’s best friend’s girlfriend. Which is so wrong, and so stupid, and such a waste. So killing Gwen was a totally logical if not inevitable choice.”
The relationship of Mary Jane and Peter Parker came into being because of Gwen. The issue after Gwen’s death, Peter is distraught. He goes home, and finds Mary Jane waiting for him, having just heard about Gwen. He lashes out at her, arguing that she wasn’t sad, she doesn’t know how to care about ‘straights like me and Gwen’. He tells her to leave, not wanting to spoil her fun. And with that, their relationship starts, with the clip of a door. She closes the door, and stays to comfort her friend.
On the second to last page of Spider-Man: Blue, it’s revealed that Mary Jane has heard the entire story. That she has just heard her husband pouring his heart out to the deceased Gwen. Instead of resorting to anger or despair, she turns to him and smiles, simply saying:
“Will you do me a favour, Peter? Say ‘Hello’ for me and – tell Gwen I miss her, too….”
The mantle of Superman is a heavy one to bear. With nearly 80 years of history, and a legacy that stands for truth, justice and hope. Those hoping to live up to the mantle have a lot to deal with. The members of the Super Family stretch far at different points of history, with the name Superboy passing from member to member. To those training to become the man of steel, those made from him, and ultimately the heir to Superman. With titles such as Superman and Supersons currently being released from DC, it seems fitting to look back at the history of the mainstream Superboy name.
Originally introduced in More Fun Comics # 101 in 1945. The first Superboy was simply a young Clark Kent. His first appearance chronicles an 8-year-old Clark discovering his powers, and leaning that he can’t use them out in the open. Ending the issue with Clark deciding on a public identity, and designing his Superboy costume. Superboy went on to have his own ongoing series, including Superboy (1949 – 1977), and The New Adventures of Superboy (1980 – 1984). The stories chronicle the childhood adventures of Superboy, growing up in Kansas, and learning to use his powers. As well as back up features including his time with the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenage superheroes from the 30th and 31st century. These stories were basically erased from continuity after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.
There was a second Superboy series from 1989 to 1991, however this is in continuity with the Superboy television series. Lasting 22 issues. This incarnation of Superboy makes appearances in various other titles, such as Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, as well as an alternate reality version in Superman Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.
Originally claiming to be the Man of Steel himself, Kon-El made his first appearance in Adventures of Superman #500, at a time where the real Superman was dead, due to his fight with Doomsday. A genetic clone of both Superman and Lex Luther, He showed up in Metropolis, sporting a blue and red Superman leotard, two belts, high black boots, and a black leather jacket. His very design screaming 90s era comics. Kon-El fought for the right to be named the one true Superman until the day Superman returned, returning to the Cadmus institute to learn more about his origin. Eventually, he moves out of Clark Kent’s apartment, and starts his journey to find his place.
Moving to Hawaii, he starts a relationship with reporter Tana Moon. He goes on a multitude of adventures in his own book, even crossing paths with Aquaman, and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. At times, he joins forces with the likes of Knockout, and The Ravers, before becoming a founding member of Young Justice. Alongside Robin (Tim Drake), and Impulse (Bart Allen II). Shortly after this, he is excepted by Superman as part of the family, and receives the name Conner Kent. His adventures, both solo and with the team, take him through the ‘Day of Judgement’ event, the death of Tana Moon, and Our World’s at War. With the disbanding of Young Justice, Superboy becomes a member of The New Teen Titans, and learns of his connection to Lex Luther, before dying during Infinite Crisis, at the hands of Superboy-Prime.
In the 30th Century, Conner is reborn by the Legion of Super-Heroes, and returned to the 21st Century alongside Bart Allen. Re-joining the Teen Titans, and dawning his more iconic costume of the black Superman T-shirt, and jeans combo. He takes part in The Blackest Night event, New Krypton, and eventually becomes a founding member of the Supermen of America.
This incarnation of Kon-El, became the inspiration for the fan favourite portrayal in the Young Justice animated series. As well as other animated counterparts.
New 52 Kon-El:
With the New 52, characters were re-imagined, almost from the ground up. This incarnation, while based on the previous Conner Kent, has some major differences. A clone of Jon Lane Kent, created by the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. organization, a nefarious institute, founded by Harvest. Raised in alternate reality simulations, and awoken by his caretaker and surrogate mother, Caitlin Fairchild. Superboy is cloned and raised as a weapon by N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to be used against rogue metahumans. On his first field mission, he loses control of his telekinetic powers, and separates from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. before being attacked by his targets. After running in to Supergirl, he learns of his Kryptonian history, and is given the name Kon-El by here, ‘an abomination in the House of El’. Superboy returns to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and learns that he was the second clone created, but fails to learn more in his fight against Rose Wilson.
He takes part in The Culling event, alongside the Teen Titans and The Ravagers, teaming up with the titans, and ending up stranded on an island full of animals thought to be extinct, alongside Wonder Girl. Upon returning to New York, he is attacked by H’el, due to his status as a clone, Supergirl saves him and is taken to Superman after being badly injured. At the Fortress of Solitude, they discover that he has three strands of DNA, one human, one kryptonian, and one unidentified. To stop Superboy’s genetics breaking down any further, Superman gives him his Kryptonian battle armour, which limits his telekinetic powers to only items he touches.
He joins Supergirl in the Crucible story line, stating that he has nothing to lose. However, he is captured in an attempt to use him to start an entire clone army of Kryptonians. He and Supergirl manage to destroy the cloning facility, but Superboy returns to Earth with none of his mounting questions answered.
Born during the Convergence event, Jonathan Samuel Kent is the son of the Pre-New 52 Clark Kent and Lois Lane-Kent, and the most recent incarnation of Superboy. Born in the Batcave of Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne), and delivered by Batman himself, Jon grew up in the New 52 Earth as Jon White, while his parents hide from a world that was not their own. When this Earth loses their Superman, Jon discovers the secret identity of his father, as Clark rises to take up the reigns, and protect the world he has raised his son and called home. Jon begins to discover his abilities, and starts to fight alongside his father, before falling ill. His parents rush him to this world’s Fortress of Solitude, where Jon beats his first supervillain, The Eradicator, alongside his mother, dawning Batman’s HellBat armour, and his father. Due to Jon’s mixed heritage, the nature and strength of his powers become a source of concern throughout various storylines and as he develops.
During a science experiment Jon creates for school, Jon, Superman and Krypto the dog, are transported to Dinosaur Island, where they encounter Captain William Storm of The Losers. They return home, and when Christmas roles round, Jon attempts to find the prefect Christmas tree, before needing to be rescued by Nobody and Goliath. Jon wakes up in the Batcave, discovering that Robin (Damien Wayne) has been keeping his eye on him. The two argue, before Batman and Superman show up and order the two of them to undertake a series of team work exercises, to learn to work together. Despite their fighting, they learn to work together, and form their own hap-hazard team, Super Sons.
Later, Jon is kidnapped by long time Superman villain, Mister Mxyzptlk, in the Superman Reborn event. Jon becomes the major saving point of the event, as Mxyptlk blurs realities and bring the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane in to this reality, in place of Jon’s parents. The people he knows as his parents don’t recognise him, and are simply colleagues rather than married. It’s Jon who eventually defeats Mxyzptlk, by bringing forth his real parents, and making him merge the two versions of his parents together, making a new history for all of them. One in which Jon was born in the Fortress of Solitude, in the presence of Batman and Wonder Woman. His godfather is Perry White, and they have never had to hide themselves, reclaiming the public identity of Kent.
During Black Dawn, Batman becomes concerned of the slow rate in which Jon’s powers are developing, and discovers that several members of the city they live in, are in fact alien, and aligned with Superman villain, Manchester Black. Manchester Black has been suppressing his powers for years, and upon taking out Batman, Robin, Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s Bride, Manchester takes control of Jon, unlocking his full potential, and pits him against Superman. Jon is finally able to overcome the mind control, and with the help of his lifelong friend Kathy, defeats Manchester with a blast of psychic feedback. Jon’s powers are drained, but they eventually return, along with the ability to fly.
Written for Geeks.Media. Discussing the strange cycle of adaptation and inspiration in Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, as well as an odd parallel to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim..