Last weekend, a friend who works on music for television and film took me to a concert commemorating the 35th anniversary of a publisher of film scores. She warned me that it would be kind of industry-heavy evening for her, lots of people for her to talk to who I wouldn’t know, basically something like a comic book launch party but with a different kind of nerd (though as it turns out, music nerds aren’t that different from comic nerds, they just wear cocktail dresses and button down shirts instead of pink hair dye and Adventure Time T-shirts). The concert comprised of a massive orchestra (she did tell me that they weren’t quite a “full orchestra” but they looked huge to me) who played a wide range of scores, as well as guest starring some of the composers to play or conduct their music.
It is miserable disappointment for me to have to admit that a person who hates sports but loves superhero movies thoroughly enjoyed the superhuman heroism of 42, and was disinterested in the sound and fury of Iron Man 3… But this is probably all my own fault; if I hadn’t seen 42 in the same week as Iron Man 3, maybe it wouldn’t have seemed like such a featherweight.
20 minutes ago I walked out of Iron Man 3, a film about some really great looking middle-aged people and some roboty suit things (and yes, I do know who and what Iron Man is. I read the comic books and I like the character, but that is what I took away from the film). A couple of my favorite actors where in the movie, as well as one of my favorite stunt-women. The explosions were terrific and there were effects. People were yawning a lot when they left, much like Bruce Banner at the end of the film, no one seemed particularly interested or excited. I guess they thought that was all they could expect from a comic book movie. As Aldrich Killian aptly said in the film; “Ever since the guy with the hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety kind of went out the window.”
In our current social climate, the one high impact event that it is acceptable to use as children’s entertainment, is violence. The most extreme outcome of violence is death, therefore when it came to creating some high-impact events in Ultimate Spider-Man; first his uncle was killed off, then his father was put in a coma, and now his mother has been killed off. In less than 22 issues poor Miles Morales is finding out that the price of being a young superhero published by a mainstream company is death all around him.
This week I picked up the trade paperback of Marvel Boy, (originally published in 6 issues between 2000 - 2001) by Grant Morrison and Jeff G. Jones. The main character of Kree diplomat, Noh-Varr, lone survivor of an accidental shipwreck, is a charming, irreverent, unpredictable one. His love interest / sparring partner, Oubliette, daughter of our hero’s one true enemy (in true star-crossed lovers fashion) is a fantastic series of contradictions. The issues and ideas which are the playground of this book are deceptively entertaining, giving us plenty to digest and think about once the book is finished. It gives credence to the concept put forth within the book, that ideas have a life of their own, not as a metaphor, but as a concrete reality.
It is no accident that Superman, the original boy scout, the mildest-mannered, the most humane of all superheroes, always has a dog. Obviously, the concept of a super-powered dog is probably the silliest one yet to come from comic books, but whether it was with Krypto or a more mundane dog, I always picture Clark Kent growing up with animals. Unlike the humans in his life, he would never have to explain himself to them, or fear rejection if they saw his true nature. Animals are important in any kid’s life, but I can imagine that they would be essential to a superhero growing up with a secret like he had. Any hero as solid and grounded as he is would need to have animal companionship to grow up with and in many ways they could be as important to him as his human relationships, since we’re all alien life forms to him.
Growing up with the X-Men made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I guess I was lucky because whatever kind of freak I was, I wasn’t any kind of outcast and there were always friends around, but I never felt like part of anything or understood by anyone. I had an unconventional upbringing and that engendered hiding a lot of things from people, nothing really big but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the culture I was growing up in. And the other kids could tell that I wasn’t “normal”; I was small, thin, dark, I dressed all wrong, I ate the wrong food, and I liked all the wrong TV and music. I didn’t choose to be different, I just was.
As a tiny kid I was obsessed with cartoon books of any kind, I always preferred visual story telling whether it was Peanuts, MAD magazine, or the indecipherable cartoons in the New Yorker (undecipherable for an 8 year old, I can handle them fine now… mostly). Still, the first time I read the Uncanny X-Men I knew it was something completely different. I didn’t have to struggle to understand the adult relationships and strange rituals because they were young, a small group of misfit kids, and the first young, outsider group I’d ever encountered in fiction. I was immediately fascinated.
In a move which disappoints everyone, (but surprises no one), the first promo pic from the upcoming Vivid Entertainment Wonder Woman porn parody reveals that her costume is significantly closer to her comic book counterpart than any the hero has worn in other screen adaptations.
Buying a book before it is has been created is a bit of a gamble. A collaborative art project by comic book artists, painters, writers, and musicians has to be even more of an unquantifiable project, so TOME has been a particularly pleasant surprise.
At this point, I expect that a lot of people reading this have contributed to some sort of crowd-funded project, whether it be a major motion picture, a comic book convention, or a comic book. Whether you have or haven’t got involved directly, you are probably familiar with the concept and aware of all of the potential pitfalls inherent in such an endeavor. Essentially, we pay for a product which doesn’t exist yet, either to purchase said project or some form of physical incentive (i.e. these aren’t charitable donations that we’re making, we’re buying something based on trust).
Superhero comic books have saved me. I don’t mean that some real-life lunatic vigilante in a costume stopped a mugger or something, I’m talking about the actual comic books. There was a turning point in my life, when I had to stop waiting to be rescued by some larger-than-life hero, and figure out that I was (and am) my own superhero. It changed everything and I am so grateful that it did. Books like Elektra Assassin, The Uncanny X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga, Promethea, Arkham Asylum, Concrete, and Kingdom Come all told tales of people who got to their lowest ebb and then figured out how to rescue themselves. In this way the stories I loved became parables to guide me and I found strength, even when it was simply the strength to know how to ask for help.
As always, this year Seattle’s incredible Emerald City Comic Con presented an amazing line up of comic book creators and associated ephemera. The staff, guests, and attendees were consistently friendly, helpful, and entertaining. There was so much to see and enjoy that I only managed to fit a tenth of what I wanted into the three days I had there and by extension, I only managed to fit a tenth of that into this column, but I hope this rough countdown of incredible things gives you a taste of the best titbits of one of the best comic book conventions I’ve ever been to.
Like a lot of adult comic book readers do at some point, I’ve been taking stock of my reading choices and the type of mainstream, ongoing, monthly comic books which I read. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I found that I was making a couple of assumptions which, upon closer examination, were wrong.
1. I’ve been assuming that I read predominantly two types of comic books; fantasy and superhero (apart from the odd foray into horror, bios, and science fiction.)
2. Without thought and with quite some negative judgement about it, I’ve been thinking of the fantasy genre comic books as “girl” comics, and the superhero ones as “boy” comics (e.g. some weeks are “girl heavy”).
These are depressingly reductive ways to look at the comic books I enjoy, and the more I thought about it, the more I saw how wrong I was.
Comic book artists make strange shoe designers. Some of them don’t really draw feet, others perch their heroes on tiny 6” stilettos and assume they’ll be able to fight. Decades ago when I first began reading American superhero comics, the footwear fascinated me. Too young to be wearing anything but the most basic, functional kid-shoes, I loved the thigh-highs, the swashbuckling boots, the slouchy ankle boots, and all manner of footwear that was still out of my reach. As I’ve aged it has become less of an item of desire and more of curiosity as I witness cosplayers at conventions trying to duplicate their favorite heroes, footwear and all. Here is a list of ten of of my favorite boots in comic books, with no films included (I wanted to look more at the work of the artists and their specific shoe designs). Click on any of the images to see a larger version of each.
Reset is the story of out-of-work, B-movie comedy actor Guy Krause, whose life has become a series of tabloid story jokes. He’s penniless and out of work when he’s approached to be a guinea pig for a mysterious, virtual reality project which allows the subject to relive and change events from their past. The only control that the subject has over his virtual experience is a “reset” button, which allows him to return to the beginning of his story (his high school graduation) and start all over again. Initially it seems like some kind of dumb game or potential psychotherapy tool, but as the weeks progress the behind-the-scenes workings become increasingly disturbing and we begin to wonder if our heroes sanity is safe…
Committed: The “Batman On Robin” Exhibition (Warning: Explicit Imagery, for mature readers only, NSFW, etc)
This Friday sees the opening of an exhibition of original art inspired by the relationship between Batman and Robin at Mission Comics and Art from February 6th - March 3rd. The exhibition includes original works from 30 artists, including Ed Luce, Sina Grace, Beth Dean, as well as the curators; Justin Hall and Rick Worley. I spoke with Worley and Hall about the exhibition, and they gave us a preview of art which will be included in the show (which I’ve included below the interview.)
Please note that some of the imagery is of a graphic nature and will not be appropriate for all ages.
Sonia Harris: Can you tell me how you came up with the idea for the exhibition?
Rick Worley: I was doing a reading for a release party for the Fantagraphics collection No Straight Lines about the history of queer comics, which Justin [Hall] had edited and very kindly included some of my work in. Justin read a piece he had done about two real life male prostitutes who had been paid by a client to dress up as Batman and Robin, which was a fetish of his, and I had just recently, coincidentally, done a commissioned story that had been written about another true life story about somebody who had gone to a Halloween party dressed as Robin and found a guy dressed as Batman, and they ended up having sex together. Justin and I were talking about how funny it was that we had both happened to illustrate things on that theme, and one of us said that there must easily be enough of that stuff in the world to make a whole show of it, and that’s how it started.
Last week Jeff Lemire let me know that he and Ray Fawkes are committed to keeping John Constantine’s life filled with self-sabotage, demons, sex, and all kinds of insanity. After a sneak peak at the script for Constantine #1 (on shelves in March) I found some points of interest, certainly enough to make me look forward to the release of Constantine in March), and Lemire kindly agreed to answer a few questions. Talking about his intentions and the future for our favorite misanthropic anti-hero gives me hope that the core issues Hellblazer was able to wrestle with may not be entirely lost in this forthcoming take on the character.