Posted in Comics, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes

Spider-Man! – The Horrors of Puberty

You’ve awoken one morning to find that things don’t feel quite right. You’re experiencing unusual feelings inside, something you can’t find the words to describe quiet yet. This sticky, white substance seems to be coming out of you. You just can’t explain it. You feel isolated and trapped, and yet you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it. You feel like if you were to admit that something just isn’t right with you, then you’re putting yourself at risk. Exposing yourself somehow. Well, let me ask you this. Were you bitten by a radioactive spider recently? Because you might just be Spider-Man!

What? You though I was describing something else?

Spider-Man is a monumental figure in comic book history, and a pop culture icon the world over. First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. The figure of Spider-Man was first introduced to us in the guise of Peter Parker. An outcast, described as “midtown high’s only professional wallflower” [Lee & Ditko.1962:01] by his classmates and peers. Living with his elderly Aunt and Uncle Ben. Peter’s life is forever altered when he is bitten by a radioactive spider. He suddenly develops unearthly abilities, his body is changing, and when his uncle is gunned down by a criminal Pete let get away. He adopts a red and blue costume, and the moniker of Spider-Man!

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962) asfafasfd

His creation in the 1960s is unique for the fact that the story starred a teenager in the role of hero, rather than just that of a side-kick. The resistance to such an idea can be seen, even in the fact that he was introduced in the final issue of a dying title. “The grand melodrama was offset by Lee’s snappy patter, Ditko’s stunning costume design, and, once again, the primary-colour palette choices of Stan Goldberg, who selected for Spider-Man’s costume a combination of cherry red and dark cobalt. None of these details mattered to Goodman, who cancelled Amazing Fantasy immediately” [Howe.2012:042]. Spider-Man’s status as a teenage superhero allowed him to connect incredibly easily with comic’s primary audience. Children and Teenagers. While other heroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Mr. Fantastic were heroes they could grow into, or look up to. Spider-Man was one of them. Perhaps for this reason, the origin of Spider-Man doubles as a very vivid, and descriptive metaphor for puberty. If an ordinary kid like Parker can get through it, so can they.

As described by Darren Hudson Hick in his essay, Horror in Long Underwear, “Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did the ‘50s horror movies one better, combining the horrors of radioactivity with the horrors of adolescence. In the event that you’ve sugar coated your memory of puberty, or simply forgotten what it’s like, for most teenagers every morning promises new horrors” [Hick.2006:09]. Prior to the inciting incident of the spider bite, Peter is considered the lowest of the low to his classmates. An ordinary, unremarkable, dorky kid, with a slight flair for science, but no real appeal to those around him. Particularly that of the opposite sex. He is essentially babied by his doting Aunt and Uncle at home, even dressed as though his clothes are picked out for him. A plain vest, shirt and tie, which is especially distinct compared to the more casual and colourful clothing of his classmates. Isolated from his peers even in appearance. The fateful event that lead to the spider bite, is even proceeded by a failed attempt to ask out, and being turned down by, his classmate Sally. Losing out to the clearly more mature and confident Flash Thompson. Basically, his transformation is triggered by an interest in the opposite sex.

The bite causes within him strange unearthly feelings. In the comics case, his Spider Sense. To others, he begins to appear in a somewhat more mature light. His clothing begins to slowly evolve. Showing more personality than parental constriction. Eventually, he develops a method of producing fluid through his own means. In the comics, this is mostly due to his own intellect, while in real life, this would be seen as the discovery of masturbation and self-pleasure. Both actions primarily involving the use of hand gestures. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy [Raimi.2002 – 2007] makes the metaphor far more explicit when the webbing becomes organically produced. The organic webbing was also briefly adopted by the comic books in the mid-2000s. It’s undeniably clear however that this was no accident on the part of Lee and Ditko.

SPIDER-MAN 3

The first in Raimi’s trilogy perhaps compounds this the most, by distilling the origin down to its most basic ingredients. With the addition of the organic webbing of course. Peter’s sense of self-gratification and satisfaction is undeniable. Gaye Birch of the Den of Geek draws particular attention to the first films primary romance. Particularly drawing attention to the first kiss shared by a semi-masked Peter, and a now safe from harm Mary Jane. “Whose first mid-puberty romances (if we can even call them that) were much more than flimsy, faltering attempts at something most of us had little skill at, and even less courage? That a first kiss was experienced upside down may not be the exciting atypical take some would take it for, but have a plainer explanation: that even that kiss was half-assed and backward. Intentional or not, the way Spider-Man the movie tackled romance captured that aspect of the half-assed crap of puberty pretty remarkably, when viewed through that particular peephole. At the very least, all this gives added meaning to tingly sensations and great responsibility being a necessary companion of great power, (or risk creating little companions of one’s own)” [Birch.2010].

Hick compares Parker’s origin with that of Franz Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis [Kafka.1915]. In short, the story follows Gregor Samsa, as he finds himself transformed into a giant insect. His body changing, an inability to communicate, and falling into a deeper and deeper depression, until he eventually dies. His family feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at his passing. With Peter, his body does indeed change, though not as drastically or dramatically as Gregor. His inability to communicate stems from a lack of understanding as to what is happening to him, and a fear for what would happen if people were to find out. His resulting depression is that despite gaining these abilities and sensations, his overall life is going from bad to worse. A feeling that many teenagers going through puberty can heavily relate to.

When gaining these abilities, Peter takes on a whole new identity. That of Spider-Man. During this tumultuous change in his life, he reinvents himself as a quick witted, fast moving, colourful figure, who is above all, a MAN. He presents to the world an ideal version of himself, and his naming is a heavily conscious choice. As Danny Fingeroth states in Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society, “DC’s Legion of Super Heroes chose an adult name for themselves but most of its members has a ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’, ‘Lad’ or ‘Lass’ suffix to their hero names. They were independently functioning, but always gave the sense of being an after-school club, officially sanctioned by some off-panel principal or the PTA. They were an adult’s fantasy of what well-behaved super teenagers would be like” [Fingeroth.2004:145]. This new, carefree face Peter puts on for the world, is undeniably that of a man. While he goes through his puberty, he puts on the face of someone who has already completed it. To those around him, or those he’s saving, he’s not just getting used to his abilities, he’s not untrained. He’s confident in them. Fully grown. Though if they could hear his inner monologue, they’d realise he was just as scared and confused as any other teenager. “A teenager who nonetheless still feels he has to disguise his youth completely with a full-face mask and to add the suffix ‘Man’ to his chosen public persona – his advent was truly a status quo shattering event” [Fingeroth.2004:140].

Semiotics, the practice of studying signs [Chandler.2017], tells us that by simply hearing the name ‘Spider-MAN’ we expect a fully-grown man to be in the position. Had Peter named himself ‘Spider-BOY’ or ‘Spider-LAD’, he would be forever tied with the idea of a child. One that still needs to grow, and still needs guidance. The very image of his classic red and blue costume would forever embody the idea of a child, even if his name changed in time. For example, the first Robin, Dick Grayson, decided to leave his old moniker behind, feeling that he had grown out of it. In Tales of the Teen Titans #44 [Wolfman & Perez.1984] during the Judas Contract storyline, Grayson reappears as Nightwing, a name inspired by a story told to him by Superman, of a Kryptonian legend known as Nightwing and Flamebird. With this new name, Dick also needed a new costume. To simply change one’s name was not enough. The red and green costume still carried the association of the name and child that is Robin. A role that has now been taken up by several other people, all sporting a similar costume. These new Robins have no need to hold a press conference, or send out a pamphlet declaring themselves the new Robin, the costume gives it away. If Spider-Man had established himself under a younger sounding name, he would find himself haunted by childhood. A reminder to himself at every turn that he’s still not an adult. The last thing you want to hear when your going through puberty. Or even as a full-grown adult, reminded of struggles you’ve already overcome.

Amazing Fantasy 015 (1962)

Speaking of costumes, the fact that he does indeed wear a mask helps to compound his own feelings towards his age and status. As mentioned in The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction by Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon. “As Peter, his concerns are emotional and intellectual (family, friends, relationships), but as Spider-Man he is devoted to his physicality” [Brownie & Graydon.2016:034]. The literal and figurative face he presents to the world, hides his fears and insecurities, while bold and heroic. Battling through this time in his life as though it was just another day, when in reality, he could very well be losing his mind, without anyone seeing it. Further explored by Hick, “an adolescent’s body is an out-of-control thing – changing shapes, sprouting hair, and forever breaking out in pimples. The mirror is rarely the teenager’s friend: just when he’s most concerned about looking his best, the teenager is cursed to look his absolute worst” [Hick.2006:09]. The mask not only allows him to hide his pain and struggle, but even the natural imperfections of simply going through puberty. A secondary benefit it seems. To Peter, his mask is also a way for him to channel his anger and frustration during this confusing time, as a hero in the eyes of others. A much-needed ego boost at a fragile point in time. “Through time and across civilizations, the mask has had much power and magic associated with it. African and South American shamans and priests wore ceremonial garb to perform their rituals, often with a mask as part of their costume. Clearly, the mask in such cases is not intended to fool anyone as to the identity of the wearer. It is simultaneously intended to make the wearer special and nondescript, the Everyman raised to the level of interlocutor with the holy. The mask is recognized as bestower of power as well as disguiser of identity” [Fingeroth.2004:051]. This is perhaps most evident in the film The Amazing Spider-Man by Marc Webb [Webb.2012]. In which during a scene where Spider-Man is attempting to rescue people on a bridge, he uses the majority of his strength to pull a falling car back up to safety. The only person left inside, is a young, frightened child. However, Spider-Man can’t reach him without letting the car fall. He tells the kid to climb up, but he’s too afraid to move. In the moment, Peter removes his mask, revealing to the boy that he himself is just a scared kid underneath. A little older, but still very much afraid. He throws down his mask to the boy, and tells him to put it on. Telling him, “it will make you strong” [Webb.2012].

Peter’s struggle to cope with the hardships of growing up, and his tales of navigating everyday life, resonates deeply with his audience. Through reading Spider-Man and following his struggles across multiple titles, the reader essentially experiences a form of catharsis. “Catharsis is a form of emotional cleansing, brought about by an indirect exposure to one’s fears and anxieties. Catharsis is not a matter of soothing fears, but of engaging them so that we can look them in the eye and walk away unscathed. Readers experienced through Spider-Man what they feared experiencing themselves” [Hick.2006:14]. This catharsis is particularly strong with teenagers going through these struggles, or children preparing themselves for it. As well as bringing back memories for the adults retroactively reliving their own experiences through the stories. In Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man series [Bendis.2000-2011], he takes full advantage of this by focusing primarily on Peter in his high school days through almost the entirety of the series run. Making clear allusions to the parallels of puberty, particularly when it comes to Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane, Gwen, and the other women in his life. Including his female clone. During the second issue of the book, aptly named ‘Growing Pains’. In the middle of class, Peter finds himself overcome by strange urges and feelings. Not helped by the fact that the art clearly shows his fixation on the lovely red head, Mary Jane. In a moment, his strength freaks out as his body unconsciously reacts, breaking his desk. Despite the knowledge that he has super strength, and could inevitably take down all of his class bullies, the moment still leads him to be the butt of their jokes, and an overall sense of embarrassment. In Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’ [Carter.2007], J. Carter explains conversations with his own students about the book in question. “Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 1: Power and Responsibility (Bendis) is a variable metaphor for puberty and teenage angst as Peter Parker undergoes rapid changes in attitude, appearance, and social status. […] The older students often experience a time warp back to their middle school and high school days, which they say the book accurately portrays, and my sixth graders have been more than willing to enter into long discussions about how they empathize with Peter now that they have left the comfort of elementary school and have entered the “big time” middle school universe” [Carter.2007:50].

Miles Gwen

Spider-Man as a character has endured due to his ability to connect with his readers. His origin resonates with us on a compelling level, and while he’s moved on from his high school day. Now the head of Parker Industries. We still read through Peter’s everyday struggles with life. For a teenage perspective, we now have Miles Morales, the half Black, half Latino, Ultimate Spider-Man [Bendis & Marquez.2014 – Present]. As well as the alternate reality Spider-Gwen [Latour & Rodriguez.2015 – Present]. Even through 50 plus years of adventures, at the end of it all, Spider-Man is still an ordinary kid, trying to navigate the confusing feelings, and unusual biology of life.


  • Bendis, B. & Bagley, M. (2000) Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 Power and Responsibility. Marvel Entertainment: New York.
  • Bendis, B. & Marquez, D. (2014 – Present) Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. Marvel Comics: New York.
  • Birch, G. (2010) The sexuality of Spider-Man and how opinions grate. [Online] Den of Geek. March 3rd. Available from: http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/spider-man/15464/the-sexuality-of-spider-man-and-how-opinions-grate [Last Accessed: 07/12/2017]
  • Brownie, B. & Graydon, D. (2016) The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Carter, J. (2007) Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our ‘Optimus Prime’. English Journal, pp. 49 – 53.
  • Chandler, D. (2017) Semiotics for Beginning: Introduction. [Online] Visual Memory. April 7th. Available from: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/sem01.html [Last Accessed: 10/12/2017]
  • Conway, G. (ed.) (2006) Webslinger: Unauthorized Essays on your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Bendella Books, Inc.: Dallas.
  • Fingeroth, D. (2004) Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society. Bloomsbury Academic: London
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Harper Collins: New York
  • IGN (2016) Spider-Man – The Lessons of Heroism (A Kaptainkristian Video Essay) [Video] YouTube. June 1st. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fO1sY_Dg-M [Last Accessed: 03/12/2017]
  • Kafka, F. (1999) The Complete Short Stories. CPI Cox & Wyman: Reading.
  • Latour, J. & Rodriguez, R. (2015 – Present) Spider-Gwen. Marvel Comics: New York
  • Lee, S. & Ditko, S. (2006) Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man 1962 – 63. Panini UK: Kent.
  • Peaslee, R. (2005) With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Central psychoanalytic motifs in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. PSYART: An Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts.
  • Spider-Man (2002) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007) Film. Directed by Sam Raimi. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Suciu, A., Pedersen, M., Falk, N., Blomsterberg, S., Lucas, V. & Pecic, Z. (2013) Understanding Spider-Man: Your Everyday Superhero. Roskilde University. Fall 2013.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Film. Directed by Marc Webb. [Blu-Ray] Columbia Pictures: USA.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) New Teen Titans #39. DC Comics: New York.
  • Wolfman, M. & Perez, G. (1984) Tales of the Teen Titans #44. DC Comics: New York.
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Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

Forever Evil (2013 – 2014)

(This article discusses the main event found in the Forever Evil trade, and not the tie-in issues. Below is the opinion of the writer solely.)

Writer: Geoff Johns, Penciller: David Finch, Inker: Richard Friend, Colourist: Sonia Oback.

Seven issues that nicely sum up everything wrong with the New 52.

While the writing and art are all around solid works. Not to mention the interesting premise of centring on villains trying to figure out what to do when the Justice League disappears, and something worse tries to take over. It’s execution throughout, and even it’s resolution, are undeniably bleak. Leading to a story that leaves the audience feeling disheartened, and with a sense that the future will only get darker.

The Justice League has disappeared, and in their place, appears The Crime Syndicate. Evil double-gangers from another dimension. Consisting of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Atomica, and Deathstorm. They declare to the villains of the world that the Justice League is dead, and that if they value their lives, they will join them. Nightwing is unmasked, and the only ones left to save the world are Lex Luthor, Black Adam, Black Manta, Catwoman, an injured Batman, Captain Cold, and a clone of Superman Lex has been constructing, known as Subject B-Zero.

With the New 52 acting as a reboot to the DC universe, this event does provide us with a useful outlet for fleshing out the villains of the world, as well as how this Earth has grown to view superheroes. However, in execution, the book screams for attention. Proclaiming, “look at how grim and gritty we can get! Our evil Superman snorts Kryptonite like a well-paid hooker snorting cocaine! Look at us damn it!” Actions and scenes are extremely depressing and horrific. Including the death of Atomica by way of a boot. The disturbing image of Cyborg’s cybernetic components ripping itself from his body, and the utterly unconvincing job of attempting to reform Lex Luther, despite spending the majority of the book giving us his inner monologue. In which he describes the depths of his cruelty.

For those looking for superhero fun, this book is not one for you. Very much a product of the company’s erroneous direction at the time, rather than a passion project of the creators. While dark superhero stories certainly have their place. This stands as more of a cry for attention, than an exploration.

The trade collection is available here: Forever Evil TP

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Superman: Secret Identity

81jYK1le2XLA wonderful, and uplifting tale, with a unique and imaginative look at the reality of superhero sized secrets.

Written by Kurt Busiek with art by Stuart Immonen, Superman: Secret Identity is set in the real world, an Elseworld story in all but name. Dealing with four main stages of a character’s life. While this fact alone could suggest a book similar to Superman: For All Seasons, Secret Identity expands itself over a much larger period of time. Creating a more personal, and intimate story. The book largely deals with growing up, and feelings of isolation, and loneliness even in a crowd. Having secrets that feel too big to keep to yourself, but no way to find the answers you so desperately want, without considering going public. Through chapter two, it shifts to learning what to do with your life, now your out on your own, as well as finally letting someone in. Chapter three discussing responsibility and parenthood, and finally chapter four, morality.

So, why do we celebrate a book that seems to be nothing more than your standard morality tale, or slice of life work? Because of our lead. A young boy, born in real world Kansas, named Clark Kent.

Growing up, Clark has a particular hatred for Superman. Putting up with the constant jokes and teasing from classmates and neighbourhood kids. Clark comments about how he’s heard every joke a million times before.

“Still, it’s a lot fresher to them than to me.”

Complaining about his parents warped sense of humour with having named him this in the first place, and how, even if he did sometimes wish he had Superman’s powers, it’s his ability to just have a normal life as Clark Kent, that he envies the most. Unlike Superman, Clark can’t just put on a pair of glasses and change his posture to escape talk of Superman. In the real world, we know Clark Kent is Superman.

Clark goes out as often as he can, and just camps out under the stars. One night, during an anxiety dream, Clark wakes up suddenly flying. Convinced he’s dreaming, Clark experiments a little, before realising that he has all of Superman’s powers. Unable to figure out how, it adds a whole new level of complication to his life. When people start noticing the occasional presence of what looks like a flying boy around town, the jokes don’t let up.

Secret Identity takes nothing for granted when it comes to Superman’s abilities, and the effect it would have on a person’s life. How much it complicates his life, and adds an extra layer of confusion. The book follows Clark heavily through his life, meeting the woman he loves, trying to find answers for his powers, worries of the government and FBI, everything that could happen to his future children, let alone weather or not they will even be ok. His own mortality, and finally legacy. Small note, during his first date with Lois, his monologue describes all the things she likes, her hopes for the future, the way her nose wrinkles when she laughs, and her smile. The line that makes me smile every time is simple:

“If I sound smitten, don’t read too much into it – it’s because I am”.

Busiek’s dialogue leaps of the page with a mind of it’s own. Seeming at once very personal to the character, but highly relatable to the reader. This is highlighted beautifully by Immonen’s breathtaking, and unique art style throughout.

Superman: Secret Identity is just a wonderful out of tale, sure to leave a smile on your face. With Kurt Busiek releasing his latest stand-alone series, The Creature of the Night, basically his take on Superman: Secret Identity for Batman. It’s the perfect time to get around to this wonderful story.

The Deluxe edition is available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Jack Kirby, Superman and the changing faces…!

Kirby is one of the most celebrated, and legendary figures in the comics industry. Co-creator of Captain America with Joe Simon, and countless others alongside Stan Lee. Including the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the original X-Men, and Black Panther. Kirby’s reach and influence spans far and wide. Getting his start in animation, before diving into the comics industry in 1936. Working in various genres, before exploding, alongside the popularity of superheroes.

Comic artists of the time, especially at Marvel, were encouraged and instructed to mimic Kirby’s style as much as possible. Given copied pages of his pencil work to ink-in, just to get a feel for how Kirby drew characters. Placed scenery. Structured a page. Kirby is easily one of the most important figures in comics, who’s style defined the look of many stories his pen didn’t even touch.

Primarily associated with Marvel, thanks to all the amazing creations his name and talents are linked to. In late 1970, however, Kirby signed a contract with DC. Moving to the competing company, and created a whole new mythology. The Fourth World, and the New Gods. Mythology DC is still drawing from nearly five decades later. With characters such as Mister Miracle, and Darkseid.  According to Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Pages of Kirby’s work on these new books, would be smuggled into the Marvel offices, where the artists and writers would marvel at Kirby’s work, and see just how he was improving. How they could compete with the legend.

Despite Kirby’s legendary status, his influence on the industry, and his immense talent. DC took every drawing Kirby did of Superman, and switched out the artwork of his face, with the work of Al Plastino!

According to Brian Cronin, author of Was Superman a Spy? And other Comic Book Legends Revealed!:

“Kirby had Superman guest star in his Jimmy Olsen stories, to establish these New Gods in the DC Universe, but when he did, strangely enough, DC had a different artist redraw Superman’s face! Al Plastino, who was a popular Superman artist during the 1950s (and drew the first appearances of Brainiac and Supergirl), was brought in by DC to redraw Kirby’s Superman faces to make them appear consistent with the way the hero looked in his own comic book (which was drawn mostly by artist Curt Swan)”

What’s strange about this, is the fanfare DC made, over having the talent of Jack Kirby working in the DC Universe. The simple idea of having Jack Kirby, the legendary artist, drawing one of DC’s flagship characters, and the originator of superheroes as a whole, should have been enough of a draw. But even with his talent on bored, it seems that even in the 70s, DC is more concerned with keeping their continuity intact, than letting a legendary artist express their own views and style for a legendary character.

All Books used for this article, are available here:
Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
Fourth World by Jack Kirby’s Omnibus
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes

Teen Titans Vol 1: Damian Knows Best [Review]

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artists: Khoi Pham, Jonboy Meyers & Diogenes Neves
Issues: Teen Titans Rebirth #1, Teen Titans #1 – 5 (2016 – 2017)

If the New 52 cemented anything about Damian Wayne, it’s that he doesn’t play well with others. Even when briefly partnering with the Teen Titan’s in the past, it’s clear that Damian wants things his own way, and rarely compromises. Enter DC Rebirth, and Damian’s 13th birthday. Has he grown, or still the same old egotistical pain in the ass?

Bitter at his father absence, Damian celebrates his 13th birthday largely alone. Until a letter arrives from his grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. He is summoned to take his place in the League of Shadows. Carry out his destiny, or die at the hands of those he one trained beside. Damian learns of not only the hit out on his life, but those of other young heroes. He brings them together to become the new Teen Titans! Only Damian’s methods, are not what you would call friendly.

“Damian: I’ve lived in the shadows of great men. No longer. I burn too brightly for that. Unlucky thirteen. The moment when life tips toward adulthood. For most, it’s a time of questioning uncertainty, awkward role-playing. But I’ve never doubted who I am… I know the legacy I’m meant to claim.”

Teen Titans (2016-) 005-013

Despite being a Teen Titans book, this first arc acts more as a story of personal growth for Damian Wayne. Making his choice of what he wants his life to be, learning to ask for help, and that it’s ok to rely on others. The book does show growth on the part of Damian, perhaps more so than the Supersons title. However, it’s the other Titans that bring the real entertainment to the story. A mix of personalities and attitudes, playing of the young Robin. Beast Boy is loud and obnoxious, but knows full well when to dial it back, often clashing with the more serious Damian. Raven holds the most sympathy for Damian’s situation, given her own family ties, acting heavily as an older sister figure. Starfire and the new Kid Flash round off the team to create a well-balanced set of characters overall.

The driving danger of the story does feel inconsequential. We know the outcome before even the middle issue. But it works well as a catalyst to bring the young heroes together. When read together with the Teen Titans Rebirth issue, it does work well as an origin. However, it feels as though the character dynamics could have benefited from just one more issue of build-up. While easily justified, the team’s acceptance of Damian as leader, feel slightly rushed. Particularly with Beast Boy, due to his early claims of Damian not measuring up to Tim Drake. Still, the ground work is set for what could be an amazing and fun team moving forward.

“Beast Boy: So Damian… Do you prefer the title of ‘Fearless Leader’ or ‘Ruthless Overlord’?

Damian: How about ‘Work-In-Progress’? That goes for us all. I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s for certain… We’re in this together.”

Overall, the story is a fun pass time read, with bright and vibrant art. A visually striking battle, with decent character development, that is sure to build to a great team book in the future.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

The trade is available here: Teen Titans (2016-) Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

9 Batman stories to read NOT by Moore, Morrison, or Miller

Despite not being the first, it’s safe to say that Batman is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. The star of campy 60s tv shows, multiple big budget films, critically acclaimed video games, generation defining cartoons, and almost 80 years of comics. It’s easy to become engrained with the world surrounding the Batman without ever picking up a book, but those who choose to, know the great depth and wealth of stories available. While the works of Alan Moore (The Killing Joke), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns), and Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylam: A Serious House on Serious Earth) are often among the first recommended to new comers. They are far from the only must-read material.

With 78 years of history, here are 9 stories NOT by Moore, Morrison or Miller, that are more than worth your time…

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996 – 97) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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Set early in Batman’s career, The Long Halloween follows a yearlong investigation into a mysterious killer known as Holiday. A vicious killer who strikes ever holiday, once a month. With the assistance of Captain Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman races against the clock to figure out who it is that’s committing the murders, and try to save the next victim. Along the way we encounter many members of Batman’s famous rogue gallery, including Scarecrow, The Joker, and Poison Ivy, as well as the slow transformation and creation of Two Face.

Available here: Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb, Jeph (2011) Paperback

Batman: The Cult (1988) by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson

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Possibly one of the most brutal Batman stories written, The Cult focusses on the kidnapping and attempted brainwashing of Batman by Deacon Blackfire, and his army of homeless followers. During Batman’s absence, Gotham city has been driven into turmoil, as politicians are assassinated by Blackfire’s followers. Attempts are made on Commissioner Gordon’s life, leaving him hospital bound, and martial law is declared in Gotham, as the city decays. The books tone is helped phenomenally by the art of the late Bernie Wrightson, and is a story that is remarkably hard to shake after reading.

Available here: Batman The Cult TP

Batman Hush (2002 – 2003) by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

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Batman is being stalked. The culprit’s identity, unknown. His intent seems to sabotage Batman’s every move, and something about him seems to know Bruce Wayne intimately. Complete with a large number of guest appearances by Batman’s rogue gallery, and the inclusion of Superman, Hush contains an all-star cast, for a truly interesting mystery. Including the incredible detail of Jim Lee’s art, the story is rather hit and miss among fans, but still an interesting read just to uncover the mystery.

Available here:Batman Hush Complete TP

Batman Black and White (1996) by Various

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A wonderful example of what happens when you give creative minds just a few pages, and complete free rein of the Batman world and characters. With an incredible array of talent from Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), Neal Adams (Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore), Simon Bisley (Judge Dredd), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), and more! It’s hard to find a more intriguing, varied, and fascinating creative pool of tales.

Available here: Batman Black And White TP Vol 01 New Edition (Batman Black & White)

Batman: New 52 Run (2011 – 2016) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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It’s hard to pick just one story from this incredible run. The opening arc Court of Owls was an unbelievable debut. Death of the family was chilling to the bone. Zero Year gave us a truly interesting interpretation of Batman’s first year active. Even Jim Gordon’s turn in the suit was notably interesting, even if a little strange. The 52 issues of Batman from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are a must read, particularly for those looking to inject just a little bit of horror to their Batman. The pair are currently re-teaming for the Dark Metal event, but it’s this run that made them both synonymous with the Bat.

Available Here: Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls TP (The New 52) (Batman (DC Comics Paperback))

Batman and Robin: New 52 Run (2011 – 2015) by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

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Despite his role as a surrogate father figure to all the Robins. When it comes to the 5th Robin, Damian Wayne, there’s no surrogate about it. The 40-issue run by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason explores Bruce and Damian’s relationship with one another while working as partners. The battle-hardened Batman having to work with, and train his own bloodthirsty son. One who sees himself as greater than his father. Ready to kill those in his way, boast of his assassination skills. Tomasi and Gleason are masters at the father/son dynamic. Something they are currently exploring over in the Superman title. But their work with Bruce and Damian stands just as strong.

Available here: Batman and Robin Volume1: Born to Kill TP (The New 52) (Batman & Robin (Paperback))

Detective Comics #27 (1939)/Batman #1 (1940)

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On the list more for history buffs than anything, but still two incredibly important issues in Batman’s life time. His first appearance in 1939, and the first appearance of both The Joker, and Catwoman in 1940. Certainly not the best that Batman has to offer, but hugely important. Learning the history behind these two issues, does add an extra layer of enjoyment. Did you know, The Joker was supposed to die in his first appearance? Or the story of Bill Finger, the long ignored co-creator and writer of these historic stories.

Available here: Batman The Golden Age TP Vol 1

Batman: Dark Victory (1999 – 2000) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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A sequel to The Long Halloween, though heavily enjoyable on its own. The same creative team takes the next step in Batman’s early years, and tackles the origin of the young Dick Grayson. The first Robin. The story deals heavily with the themes of isolation and loneliness, especially after the events of The Long Halloween. Affecting not only Batman, but the now traumatised and orphaned Dick Grayson, and the struggling Commissioner Gordon.

Available here: Batman: Dark Victory (New Edition)

Batman: Death in the Family (1988 – 89) by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo

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Heavily controversial at the time it was released, and still a major talking point when discussing fan outcry and involvement. Death in the Family is a defining point in Batman’s career. The death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Another death that Bruce couldn’t prevent. A death he feels heavily responsible for. Death in the Family also holds a significant point in pop culture history as the moment where fans killed Robin. DC held a call-in poll to help decide whether or not Jason would make it out of the story alive, dying with just a hand full of votes separating the options. The death of Jason is an important moment in not only Batman’s history, but in comics and pop culture. Much like Detective Comics #27 and Batman #1, not a great story, but hugely important.

Available here: Batman: A Death in the Family (Batman (1940-2011))
 

These are just a handful of amazing stories of the Caped Crusader to try, aside from The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, or Batman and Robin. Batman’s history now spans almost 80 years, and it’s incredibly unlikely that his popularity will fade. There are still plenty of stories to be told in Gotham.

 

 

Avoid All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder….

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine. I have not read every Batman story in existence.)