Category Archives: Snap *censored* Pop Culture

DC Comics in the 2000s

Introduction

In my previous article, I wrote about how I was still a Marvel zombie in the aughts. I wrote about Civil War and Planet Hulk. New (maybe just to me) writers and artists were mentioned. Oh heck, you know what? If you want to know, just read the article. I have a tradition on the page to transition from Marvel to DC to Independent. Most times, that independent is just Image.

In any case, the last article was Marvel. This one has to be DC. Without tradition, what are we? To be perfectly honest, the 2000s are when I discovered that DC had more than just Batman and Superman as heroes. Many of the heroes still didn’t speak to me on more than a superficial level, but at least I learned their names.

It’s always awkward when you can’t remember a name.

Other All-Star DC Comics?

The 2000s might have been the decade that introduced me to the DC heroes other than Batman and Supeman. However, y choice of these titles did not reflect that. Honestly, I don’t know if there were other All-Star DC titles. I could Google it, but I’m trying to be intellectually honest here.

In that spirit, I saw Grant Morrison on the Superman title and Frank Miller (Maybe? Again, verifiable, but I’m almost positive it was him on Batman and got tunnel vision. If there were other All-Star titles, I missed. them. Well, I didn’t miss them, so to speak. I might not have read them and I can’t say what I missed. But, I can say confidently that I didn’t miss them. Got it?

What did I just read?

Probably not. Even reading that back now, it is quite confusing. So, I will try to clarify. If there were other All-Star titles, I neither read nor bought them. In that context, I missed them. However, I enjoyed both All-Star Batman and Superman so much that I didn’t feel left out of the loop in any way. Unlike other books where I feel bad not collecting them regularly, I don’t have any desire to own other All-Star books. If they even exist. Okay, now maybe I over explained it. The struggle of an educator. Moving on.

All-Star DC Comics: Batman and Superman

Why am I talking about comics I never collected? Comics that maybe never existed? Two comics that definitely existed and I willing collected and read were All-Star Batman and Superman. I already mentioned what initially attracted me to the books. Let me explain what kept me reading.

I hate Superman. This is not some newly found hipster hate in reaction to the new movie Superman. I have always hated Superman. He’s too…for lack of a better term, vanilla. I like my heroes to have a bit of an edge. Grant Morrison didn’t necessarily give him that edge. But, he made the vanilla into a slightly more exotic vanilla. Not quite French Vanilla. Closer to vanilla bean. Plus, the art is gorgeous.

Like everyone else, though, I had a visceral negative reaction to this mustache.

Batman was a no brainer. Whenever you can read Frank Miller writing Batman, you do. I’m convinced now that Frank Miller wrote the title.  No Googling necessary! Take that, millenials! Jim Lee, did the art. Okay, DC Comics, fine, just shut up and take my money! Naturally, the book was amazing. As an added bonus, Robin joined Batman. Many writers want to kill Robin off as quickly as possible. Seeing Miller embrace Robin and DC including him in the title was encouraging.

DC Comics Infinite Crisis

While I perused the shelves looking for the latest Civil War tie-in titles, I noticed that DC planned their own event. I knew nothing about the previous crisis event. However, I found their idea of a weekly title intriguing. I lasted through the entire countdown and ten or so of the “Week” titles before bailing.

This is the periodic reminder that my separation from comic books this time was due to my bass-ackwards town charging so much for rent that they put my local comic store out of business. Also, I didn’t have the inspiration to drive for comics or the knowledge of mail order places. I’m regretting that now that I’ve gotten the idea to collect back from Rebirth to the Crisis. Chris tole me that some of the New 52 titles might be tough to collect. I might have to fill in with some trades. That hurts my collector soul.

But, it might be worth it. I’ve heard some things about New 52 that make me hesitate. But, I will talk about that in the next section. I am quite interested in seeing how the Crisis happened and led to Rebirth.

Spoiler Alert: Whenever DC Comics want to reboot the universe, they have Flash go back in time and it breaks the timeline.

The Verdict on DC Comics in the 2000s

I know that the Crisis led to New 52. Several times during New 52, Chris tried to convince me to pick up a couple of the books. He especially enjoyed Batman and Swamp Thing. I got neither of those titles, nor any of the other New 52. Since then, the latter decision has been validated because I’ve heard that the New 52 tried to fundamentally change DC titles.

Look, those who have read my articles know that I’m not a strict traditionalist. I do have traditionalist tendencies. At first, I wasn’t sure about  female Thor. What sold me on it was that it pissed off the rest of the comic book community in a big way. Therefore my counter culture identity might allow me to enjoy New 52 if I gave it a chance.

Because I most definitely enjoyed what I read from DC in the 2000s. While intrigued by the concept of a weekly series, I did wonder if they could keep it engaging and entertaining. I’d like to see where the series ended up and also how they arrived at the craziness of New 52. Besides, what else am I going to do with my newly found windfall by using DCBS instead of Midtown for my pull list titles?

Marvel Comics in the 2000s

Introduction

Promised for a week or so and finally recorded, Chris and I talked about 1990s comics. I already did three articles on Marvel, DC, and Image comics in the 1990s. But, I like to make sure that the articles match what is on the podcast for that week. Therefore, I have to keep writing about comic books this week. In keeping with my previous theme of reminiscing about my time in Magic the Gathering, I figured I can keep talking about my recent history with comic books.

The 1990s are when I discovered comics. The 2000s are when I rediscovered comics. I found a local comic store in the neighboring town of Athol. Due to rent concerns and low profit margins on comics, he moved the store to Orange. It was right down the street from my house. Instead of having to drive 5 minutes, I only had to walk 5 minutes. It didn’t hurt that the guy was friendly and would talk to me every time I was in the store. Also, it was just a great time to get back into comic books.

It was wonderful. Then, of course, my backwards town somehow screwed it up and the guy closed shop permanently.

Marvel Comics Pop Culture in the 2000s

I went into great detail in my Marvel Comics in the 1990s article about how pop culture was instrumental in shaping my comic book interests. While my interests were mostly cemented by the time I rediscovered comics in the 2000s, it was the time that comic book movies started to grow up. We were still a couple of years away from the birth of the current golden age of the MCU, but something big happened in the early 2000s.

Marvel Comics took a bit of a risk. They released a new Spider-Man movie. Even though it doesn’t seem like it now, I say that they took a risk. Historically comic book movies were terrible. Even as they figured things out in those early days, there was still a clunker every now and then.

While I didn’t mind it, the first Hulk got mostly negative reception and it took them a while to find a Hulk that worked on the big screen.

Spider-Man was the first comic movie experience that was positive. Somehow, I convinced my wife (who is not a comic book fan at all) to come see the movie with me. I also convinced her to see the re-released Star Wars movie. While it took her until Episode 7 and Rey to truly embrace Star Wars, she was on board with Spider-Man from the beginning. Granted, things got weird at the end when they tried to do Spider-Man No More and Venom in the same movie, but I think we can all agree that they’ve figured things out.

Marvel Comics (Not Civil War or Hulk) in the 2000s

You are probably wondering why I’m not including Civil War in my discussion. It is the defining event of the decade and it might be (since the movie) one of the most recognizable crossover events in comics. Sure, Infinity War has recently surpassed it. When Captain America Civil War released into the theaters, though, it got my formerly comics deficient friend to start talking about comics and he is willing to discuss the movies with me if not the books.

He’s a history guy, though, so this might have been his idea of comic book civil war.

Because it was so influential, I’m going to give it a separate section for discussion. Why Planet Hulk? Even though it isn’t as influential outside of the comic book world, I prefer Planet Hulk to Civil War. Therefore, it gets its own section.

Other than those two events, Marvel had a pretty good run during the decade. Books that I continued to collect after the events were over include Cable and Deadpool and Thunderbolts. Warren Ellis wrote Thunderbolts. He gained a fan for life with his depiction of the dysfunctional super villain team. In fact, I started my Warren Ellis collection with his series New Universal.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Marvel comics did during the decade was the Ultimate line. It reinvented the Marvel comics universe to possibly new fans. Familiar faces acted in unfamiliar ways. It didn’t always work. Weirdly, Hulk was a cannibal. Often, it did. Ultimate Fantastic Four introduced the Marvel zombies. Sometimes it reminded me of the “good old days”. I experienced one of the most frustrating release delays since the days of Image.

I’m looking at you Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. You don’t rip a man in half and then delay the next issue indefinitely.

Planet Hulk

I don’t know what the reaction to Planet Hulk was from most comic book fans. I do know that it hasn’t been turned into a movie. Oh, sure, there was the animated movie. Also, it was given a minor treatment in Thor: Ragnarok. We have yet to see Planet Hulk staring Mark Ruffalo. It’s too bad, too, because the Hulk in Ragnarok was so much fun and I’d love to see a movie starring him.

My only request is that Greg Pak is consulted if the movie is green lit. Initially, I didn’t pay attention to writers and artists. I knew names from my previous experience with comic books. But, the fallout from the creation of Image comics brought an influx of new talent. One of the new writers that I would come to enjoy (and ultimately admire due to his Twitter feed) is Greg Pak.

Planet Hulk is pretty much the whole reason I’m a Greg Pak fan.

I’ve always been a fan of the Hulk. I enjoy the Jeckyll and Hyde nature of the character. It intrigues me that Marvel made their heroes more human with potential human issues. Hulk explores the psychological terror of multiple personalities with respect. Sure, as with all comics, they lose their way and go off the rails sometimes. Mostly, though, the Hulk struggle is one worth following.

This story dealt less with that because Hulk was the dominant personality. But, seeing Hulk finally get his wish of “wanting to be alone” initially. Then, he became the leader of the rag tag group of gladiators. Finally, he fulfilled his destiny as the Worldbreaker. It is probably one of the most fun Hulk stories ever.

Marvel Civil War

When I was in the comic book store looking for books, I noticed a banner in the corner of the Marvel comics. It said, “Whose side are you on?” There might have even been the Civil War logo. But, there was definitely a date when the event was scheduled to start. Instead of guessing, I just went searching through my books for an example, but I can’t find one.

I hope this isn’t one of those Mandela effect things.

In any case, I went home to research Marvel Civil War. I learned that it was going to be a huge crossover event that was going to sucker me into buying 25-30 books a month for the duration. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Some of them even became a part of my regular collection. Most of the titles, though, I just bought for the event. Even so, it was all worth it.

I wasn’t around for Inifinity War. I do understand that it was probably the most ambitious crossover event of the time and maybe in history at that time. So, I can understand the nostalgia that people have for the event and why all others are compared to it. I might go back and read it sometime to see if it lives up to the hype.

As Civil War was my first mega crossover event, I will compare all future events to that one. If you look back on my Secret Empire review articles, I mention Civil War more than once. It was a well crafted story that dealt with current events. Some people have recently decried the inclusion of politics into their comics, but that’s usually just a deflection because they don’t agree with the politics. While Secret Empire felt a bit too real for me and I had to take a break, I never had that problem with Civil War. Probably just too young and dumb.

The Verdict

I discovered comics during the 1990s. I fell in love with them during the 2000s. Marvel went a long way to making sure that love stayed true. I will talk about my experiences with DC and Image, of course, but what kept me going back to the comic book store (that was only a 5 minute walk away, I stress) were Civil War and Planet Hulk.

Marvel Zombies were cool for a while, too. I’m not sure why I wasn’t on board with them beyond the first title. Zombie fatigue, probably.

So, when I say that I’m a lifelong Marvel zombie, that’s not entirely true. Traditionally, I do like the Marvel characters better than the DC characters. Also, the last two times that I’ve gotten back into comics have been because of Marvel events. My sentiment is changing some recently because I prefer DC to Marvel right now. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, you could make mine Marvel.

Image Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

I already wrote articles for Marvel and DC in the 1990s. Well then you might think, that’s it. You’re all done. Oh, you silly person. You have clearly forgotten the indy comic book scene. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You need to establish your mainstream cred first before you branch off into the lesser known aspects of a culture. To be honest, you probably didn’t say any of that. But, as long as we are being honest, I didn’t even know of any comic companies other than Marvel and DC until I got introduced to Image Comics.

I got introduced to Image when Image introduced themselves to the world. Yep, I was there from the beginning. I knew nothing about the story of disgruntled Marvel and DC talent leaving the companies to start their own company. I just walked into the comic book store and saw these shiny new books. Sure, they were more expensive than the Marvel and DC books, but, shiny.

And we all know how I feel about shiny.

Which of these shiny new books did I buy? Initially, all of them. Every single one. That’s not an exaggeration. Understanding that the number 1 is a very special number in comic books, I got every first issue of the Image comics that came out. For some books, those were the only issues that I bought. Others, I kept buying in hopes that they’d grow on me. Not many did. There were only a few that I collected on a regular basis.

Image Comics in the 1990s

First was Pitt. I like Dale Keown’s art and I collected the book mostly for that. Chris and I have talked a few times about the book and I mentioned how it was one of the Image titles that I kept collecting and even replaced in my collection a few years ago. More recently, I had to admit to him that I’ve only ever read the first issue. Shame! Shame the nerd!

But, that art,. Like I’m the first nerd to be bamboozled by a pretty face.

The second book that I collected regularly (and continue to collect to this day) is Spawn. There seems to be a lot of hatred for Todd McFarlane in the community, but Chris and I both agree that he is one of the artists who helped to usher in the modern era of comic book art. Like many of the early Image books, his writing isn’t as strong as the art, but the Spawn story is fun enough for me to keep reading. Also, as he has grown, he’s been more willing to give up writing duties to more established writers and that has helped.

Finally, we come to probably my favorite comic book ever created. I had never heard of Sam Kieth before his work at Image, but I have become a life long fan. In fact, I recently also became a fan of John Layman as a result of Sam Kieth doing the art for his mini series Eleanor and the Egret. This all started with a comic book about a homeless man’s delusions of being a hero. The Maxx was unlike anything that I’d ever read in a comic book before. Considering the current comic book environment, it was just ahead of its time.

Image Comics in TV and Movies

We’ve already established that unlike Marvel and DC, I discovered Image through the comic books. However, it did not take long for popular culture to catch up and put the independent guys on televisions and movie screens. In some ways, these movies and TV shows helped to usher in a more modern era in much the same way that Image Comics pushed the comic book industry. Chief among the ones that I remember are the Spawn and Maxx animated series and the Spawn movie.

I just found out that a DVD exists of The Maxx. Time for a search.

HBO commissioned the Spawn cartoon, allowing for all of the dirty bits to be included. While it has been too long for me to remember specifics, I do remember that I enjoyed the cartoon very much at the time. A quick search confirms that assessment. The show won an Emmy at the time. Not to be outdone, Hollywood hitched their wagon to the Spawn money train and released a movie.  Again, I don’t remember specifics, but I don’t remember it being very good. It wasn’t bad, either, just one of those forgettable movies from my childhood. One thing that it did was show that comic book movies could be successful. We are a bit spoiled today, but there was a time when all comic book movies were as bad as current DC movies. (*cheap shot*)

Finally, I want to talk about The Maxx animated series. This one was on MTV during the first wave of people complaining, “Remember when MTV showed music videos?” The cartoon was just as weird and wonderful as the comic book. Additionally, it was part of an animation revolution that reverberates today.

The Verdict

I haven’t gone back to revisit these comic books as I have with some of the other entertainment that I enjoyed in my teenage years to see if they hold up. When I read The Stand again (well, I listened to the audiobook) a few months ago, I made the comment to Kevin that the story is so multilayered that I’ve been able to find a new way to enjoy the book; once as a teenager, once as a twenty something, and finally as a 42 year old father. The exact same can’t be said for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the Dragonlance novels that I’ve reread, but I do still enjoy them both just as much as then.

I even picked up my old 2099 books in anticipation of recording the podcast with Chris tomorrow. While not as entertaining as some of the others, it’s still been a fun trip down memory lane. Reading them has made me think about reading Spawn and maybe even The Maxx with new eyes. Part of me is afraid that it will ruin the memory as Chris and I will discuss happened with him and the 2099 series when he read it recently.

Besides, if this is to be believed, I’ll have all new The Maxx to enjoy soon ™ enough.

DC in the 1990s

Introduction

In my previous article, I mentioned that Chris and I are going to talk about our affection for a forgotten decade in comics, the 1990s. Some of you out there might argue that they were forgotten for good reasons. Both Marvel and DC lost a lot of their most promising talent to independent books due to their archaic rules and sometimes draconian treatment of talent. Comics, like sports cards, were overproduced. This reduced potential future value and upset speculators. Personally, I don’t care much about that. If I can get my hands on a book, I don’t care about your future value.

I also mentioned in that article that we would not be able to travel to That’s Entertainment, but we would be able to record. Plans changed yet again. Chris’s schedule opened up so that we could go to the store, but mine was more restrictive, so we haven’t recorded yet. Fear not! We will be sure to get together over the weekend and scratch that comics discussion itch for you next week.

I promise you. It will feel this good.

DC on Television

Like Marvel, I was introduced to DC comic book heroes through television. Of course there was the live action Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter. Like The Incredible Hulk, if you were alive in that time period, you watched those shows. It wasn’t like today where almost everything is on demand and you can consume entertainment at your leisure. There was this thing called appointment viewing where everyone watched the show at the same time and then talked about it the next day around the water cooler. At least I imagine that there was a water cooler as I often hear that as a saying, too.

What might be surprising is that I originally discovered Batman through television, too. Well, you might think, that’s not so bad. I loved (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, *insert your favorite Batman series here*) too. DC might not be able to make a decent movie, but their TV series are pretty good. Ah, youth, so innocent and sometimes naive.

You never forget your first.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As a child of the 70s, who came of age in the 90s, my first and defining Batman was Adam West. But, I have an excuse. My father loved the show. He wanted to share that love with his sons. I took that love very much to heart. When the Tim Burton Batman movies came out, my father warned me, “This isn’t anything like the TV show. Historically, Batman can be a bit dark.” I responded by not seeing the movie until it was on cable. Boy, did I show them! They responded by killing the series by making a decent sequel and then two terrible follow ups that seemed to try to split the difference. It did not work.

DC Comics in the 90s

Eventually, I loved the Tim Burton films and heaped the proper scorn on the other two movies in the franchise. My Batman was no longer the blue and grey suited “dad bod” of Adam West. Joker wasn’t a benign practical joker with hand buzzers and squirty flowers. It was a black suited solitary Dark Knight fighting against a sociopathic murderer in spotty clown makeup who still wears a squirty flower, but with acid.

Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This shift in attitude and my status as a casual collector meant I only collected Batman and one other DC book. Luckily, it was during the Knightfall story and I collected them all. Unluckily, during one of my moves I didn’t want to move the comic book collection. I also erroneously assumed that I’d never collect comics again. Well, you win some and you lose some.

The second DC hero that I paid attention to at the time was Superman. DC decided to radically alter both of their most popular heroes. Killing Superman (spoiler alert) was such a big deal that they talked about it on the nightly news. That doesn’t seem like much in this era of the 24/7/365 news. Then it meant more. Stations only had three hours dedicated to news. Time was precious. Everyone wanted to see how they would kill the Superman.

I remember the story being good up to the actual death. DC followed it up with “Rise of the Supermen”. I collected those books, too, but the only one I enjoyed was Steel. If you didn’t get a chance to read the story, I recommend picking up the trade. Sure, they redid the story in Batman vs. Superman, but it was a shadow of itself in that movie.

The Verdict

I think that I was more into DC comics back then. The Death of Superman was enough to get me and Kevin to convince his dad to drive us to the local comic book store so that we could get the books on the day that they released. This is while we were both on vacation visiting him in Maryland. The Batman story was less interesting to me, but I did prefer that over almost everything that Marvel was doing at the time other than their 2099 books.

Sure, both stories that got me into collecting DC books in the 1990s were gimmicks meant to sell comics. Well, I never said that I was above falling for gimmicks. Next week, when I talk about my history with comics in the 2000s, you’ll see that both companies got me again with gimmicks. But, heck, the stories were good and I’m glad to have been able to experience them as they unfolded.

 

Marvel Comics in the 1990s

Introduction

Chris and I are going to record the second episode of Comic Hunters this week. We might even be in the same room for the first time since the relaunch of the podcasts. We are going to the local comics superstore, That’s Entertainment, a trip that has now been a month in planning. After, we will most likely record the show.

Update: As often happens, our plans have changed. We are not going to That’s Entertainment. We are still recording. However, we won’t be in the same room.

Our topic for this show is going to be our affinity for 90s comics. We touched upon this topic in the first show. I was so excited and inspired by the unexpected revelation that we may have met before we met (listen to the show and it will make sense) that I wanted to travel back in time to revisit that era of comics that means so much to the both of us.

And we don’t even have to negotiate with Libyan terrorists to make the trip.

Marvel Comics in the 1990s and Me

It’s been a while since I’ve had to take the nerd walk of shame. I believe in being open and honest, though, so it has to be said. First, some background. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unabashed Marvel zombie. My favorite heroes are often from Marvel, I’ve been enjoying Marvel movies since the original Spider-Man franchise (yes, even number 3), and it is most often a Marvel event that gets me back into collecting comics.

You can probably guess where I’m going.  In case you don’t, let me explain. Everything I said in the previous paragraph is true. I’m not lying about being a huge fan of Marvel properties. What isn’t 100% accurate is that comics sparked my interest. In fact, the reason that I liked Spider-Man was because of the Saturday morning cartoon and my original Hulk was Lou Ferrigno. That doesn’t make me unique, but it isn’t quite the lifelong fandom that I’ve portrayed in the past.

I had no idea darkness awaited me in those funny pages once Kevin finally got me into a comic book store.

Once I got a taste of comics, I was hooked. That all happened when I was in high school and a store opened up a quick bike ride from my house. Kevin and I rode up there weekly to buy new books. In just a short period of time, I amassed quite the collection of comics. I’d be lying again if I said they were mostly Marvel books. You will see in the other two articles that I have planned for this week that I was much more into the DC and Image titles at the time. Still, there were some Marvel books that made it into my rotation.

Obscure Marvel Heroes and Me

Sure, I knew about Spider-Man and Hulk. I also quickly learned about Captain America, Iron Man and The Punisher. I collected none of those books. That’s not to say that I was a total comics hipster. After playing the X-Men arcade game, I started collecting most of the mutant books. I’m not sure how obscure it was at the time, but I was also a fan of Ghost Rider due to Mark Texeira’s art. That led to me collecting the Rise of the Midnight Sons mini series and the books that followed. I suppose that this isn’t doing much to bolster my non-hipster cred.

Especially since most people probably think of the Capcom fighter Darkstalkers when you mention Nightstalkers.

My true loyalty was to the unsung heroes of the Marvel Universe. The ones who show up every now and then to provide background color in epic two page spreads. They are the the heroes that are sometimes called the “B” or “C” or sometimes even the “Z” team. If you thought that Nightstalkers was a deep cut (and honestly, that might be the deepest cut of the ones I’m about to mention) then we aren’t going to get much shallower. Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange were my must collect books after the X-Men titles. Sure, those guys are all superstars now, but that’s mostly due to changing demographics and a conscious attempt by Marvel to play to those changes. Back then, they were fringe characters at best but certainly not the headliners that they are today.

Marvel 2099

Aside from that, the best part of Marvel in the 90s actually happened one hundred years in the future. Not to be outdone by the launch of Image comics, Marvel experimented with their 2099 lineup. By this time, I was very much a collector and understood the potential value of the number “1” on a cover of a comic book. Honestly, that’s the only reason that I started collecting the 2099 books.

Okay, the covers were another incentive, but that has more to do with me being easily distracted by shiny objects.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the books. Very much. It went from getting the first issues (which you’ll learn later in the week I also did with the Image books) to buying them on a weekly basis to really enjoying the writing and the art. I’m finding that, unlike many nerds, I’m not as married to tradition as they might be. I liked that the 2099 heroes all had their own world in which to play. It was enough like our own to lend it plausibility, but different enough to give it a different feel and history.

When I got back into collecting, one of the first things I did was attempt to replace as much of my 2099 collection as possible. I thought I did a good job, which I have since filled in more. That’s it. I’m done. I’ve got all of the 2099 books. Spider-Man, Ravage, Doom, X-Men, limited Hulk series, and the 2099 Unlimited. Nope, I quickly learned. There were at least Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider books, too. When I learned about Ghost Rider, I remembered it from the original collection. Oh well, a collection is never complete.

The Verdict

For my money, if only the 2099 books came from the 1990s, I’d be a happy person. The world was so well realized and spoke directly to my teenage self. Of course, there are other stories, characters, writer, and artists that have come from the period, too. As I wasn’t as much of a fan of Marvel comic books then, I have been a little late to the party and it always surprises me how much great talent came from that time.

Chris and I will talk more about the actual artists and writers that came from this often overlooked period in the history of comics. We will touch on the issues that may lend to its status as one of the more underrated eras in comic books. People laugh and sometimes cringe when you bring up the 90s as the period that killed the industry. That might be true. But, from those ashes, we stand on the cusp of a potentially new golden age.

Comic Haul! (Midtown Comics) 6/14/18

Hey gang! I’m back to tell you all about my latest haul from Midtown Comics. As always, the comics are rated between 1-10 and more importantly, there are spoilers below. You have been warned. Seriously, don’t whine to us if something gets spoiled. Spoilerific reviews ahead.

Still there?

Let’s do this.

Justice League #1 (Cover B? C? I dunno..it’s the Jim Lee variant)
Here we go! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this issue ever since it was announced that Scott Snyder was taking over JL. Fresh off of Dark Knights Metal and JL: No Justice, you would think that this issue would slow down just a bit so new readers would get acclimated to the characters, but no! Action right from the first page! I can’t stress how good this issue is. Scott Snyder’s script is on point as usual and the artwork is absolutely gorgeous with every panel being as detailed as possible. The Justice League faces a universe altering threat tied to the hole in the “Source Wall” from Metal as Martian Manhunter reflects on his role on the team as well as his past. There are a few funny moments in the book like when the Justice League is telepathically connected trying to figure out who does the best “Batman” voice. Really solid start to the Snyder era. (10/10)

Batman #48 (Cover A and B)
This issue fell a little flat for me. Joker takes over a church and kills everyone in it just to get Batman’s attention. Why? So he can ask Bats if he can be his best man. This is basically a Batman comic where Batman says two words and the Joker has 99% of the dialogue. I think my issue here is that in a couple of key moments, Batman acts way out of character. What are the odds that Batman is going to be caught off-guard and allow Joker to put a gun to his head, have a short monologue, and then allow him to pull the trigger? I was fairly certain that the main power that Batman possesses besides his brain, is his martial arts knowledge. And as if that’s not confusing enough, at the end of the book, Joker asks Batman to pray with him. And Batman kneels down next to him instead of knocking him out, or even restraining him, no, he kneels down to pray with the Joker. Is Joker suddenly Catholic?? He didn’t think for a second that its probably a trap?!? And lo and behold a bomb then detonates to the surprise of no one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Tom King has a much better grasp of his version of Batman than I do, but all in all, it just seemed too out of character for me. The next issue is advertised as Catwoman and Joker one on one so let’s hope this story gets a little better going into #50. (5/10)

Immortal Hulk #1 (Cover A)
Admittedly, I’m not a huge Hulk fan and for the most part have fallen out of touch with the character. After brushing up on my Hulk history, I ordered the new 1st (not so much) issue of Hulk. I had been looking forward to this issue because it was announced that it would have more of a horror vibe to it. I’m a huge bronze age horror junkie so I was really hoping this would have the same feel to it. First of all, thank you Marvel, for including the legacy issue number underneath the new one. For collectors like Shawn and myself, this is really helpful for cataloging purposes since collecting an entire run can get confusing with all the reboots that tend to happen. This book definitely has a darker vibe to it, with Bruce Banner being the Hulk once again, and apparently turns into the Hulk, even if he is “dead”, when the sun goes down. The artwork is really decent, and the story in this issue was tragic but fairly simplistic. Overall an interesting take on the Hulk and I’m adding the title to my pull list. (8/10)

Amazing Spider-Man 800 (Reg. Cover and H.Ramos Connecting Variant)
Here it is, the 800th(!) issue of Spidey, and holy hell it’s a doozy! 80 pages of intense action and plot twists as the Red Goblin storyline wraps up! This issue was simply incredible. Tons of references to classic stories, several jaw-dropping moments like Venom agreeing to help Spidey, to the point of lending him the Venom symbiote to even things out with Red Goblin, even friggin’ Doc Oc lends a hand, and the death of a longtime character. This issue hit it out of the park, and is absolutely worth the price tag. I liked it so much that I bought 2 copies, the regular and the Humberto Ramos connecting variant. (11/10)

Tales from Marvel Civil War: I am Spider-Man

Disclaimer

The following is a work of fan fiction. As eluded to in the title, it happens during the events of Marvel Civil War. All properties are the trademarks or copyrights of their respective companies.

Introduction: Spider-Man is Not as Cool as Batman

He loved this city. Correction: He loved this city from up here. Perched on the edge of a gargoyle hundreds of stories above the ground, eh felt almost like that man who liked to dress as a bat. What was his name? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. That guy is way cooler.

He can drive and takes advantage of that by driving the coolest vehicles ever invented. J. Jonah barely pays me enough–for pictures that he then uses to demonize me–to keep a roof over my head. Not that Bat-Guy (Bat-Dude)? He has way better PR. I always see him in the papers shaking the hands of the commissioner even after letting that clown blow up a few city blocks. Sometimes life is so unfair.

Heck, he’s even cooler up here. He stands on the edge of these things, cape blowing in the wind, his scowl somehow penetrating that mask of his to remind all the bad guys who is in charge. Maybe I need a cape. I already have the mask, but it covers my whole face. How do you show off a scowl with a full mask?

He tried a few scowls underneath the mask and just felt ridiculous. Taking off the mask, he tried a few more scowls. He felt no less ridiculous. Holding the mask in front of his face, he imagined it as Doc Ock or maybe Gobby. After one or two more practiced scowls, he felt even more ridiculous.

It’s just hard to scowl as your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

He looked closer at the mask. He did need it, right? Set aside the face that J. Jonah had this weird vendetta against it. He had to protect his family. From what, though?

He put the mask back on.

Act 1: Who is Spider-Man Really Protecting?

At first, I needed the mask to keep those around me safe. I might be imbued with the awesome powers of the spider, but not many others have been. If anyone found out my secret, those around me would have been put in danger and I couldn’t live with myself if any of them got hurt. Not even J. Jonah.

He thought back over the years that he had been Spider-Man. Several times over, the mask had proven to be necessary for just that purpose. He grimaced under the mask. Too many times. He hadn’t exactly been careful about protecting that trade secret. Sometimes it felt like J. Jonah was the only one in the world who didn’t know.

Maybe Tony Stark is right.

That voice that had taken up permanent residence in the back of his mind spoke up. He could always hear it muttering back there. It only became audible at times like these when everything else in his brain went completely silent. Once it took over, there was no stopping it. It picked up on his thought train from earlier.

We are super powered beings. Granted (or born with) powers that far beyond the comprehension of the average person, ee are dangerous. There is collateral damage. What happened in Connecticut must never happen again. Something had to be done.

Do I really have to be one of the faces of it, though?

Well, why not, Peter? Honestly, why not? You already had to admit that the mask doesn’t always serve the purpose of saving those around you. You bemoaned that sometimes you feel like the only one who doesn’t know that you are Spider-Man is J. Jonah. Who is the mask protecting?

Act Two: The Death of Spider-Man

He stood up–and jumped, executing a perfect swan dive. Windows flashed by and he dropped through the air. Most were dark, but a few had lights on and he saw men and women still working at their desks at this hour and one overly excited custodian waved gleefully as he passed. Tomorrow morning, he was going to have one hell of a story to tell his family. I was there when Spider-Man killed himself.

I’m only kidding, of course. Or, am I? It would be so easy to just let it happen. Make it look like my web slingers malfunctioned. Thinking about it now, it’s actually quite easy. Plus, it solves my problem of having to make the decision to reveal my identity.

His Spider-Sense tingled, interrupting his train of thought. That was strange. Granted, it often went off during times of pending harm and he was hurtling towards the ground to certain death. What he had learned during his occasional non-suicidal leaps from buildings is that it only generally worked when that pending harm wasn’t self-inflicted. Someone needed help and they were close. A faint burglar alarm confirmed this. He shot a web in the direction of the sound.

Act Three: Spider-Man Saves the Day

He quickly discovered the source of the alarm. It was one of those mom and pop deli shops that somehow survived in this city and made it unique. He smiled under the mask. He may not always love this city up close, but it had its moments. Busting petty crooks holding up a neighborhood deli was always a highlight of an evening. Landing amidst the chaos of the scene, he opened the door and entered the deli.

Compared with the street, the deli was quiet. The only sound was a burglar alarm blaring its tones, that he found that surprisingly easy to ignore. Quickly surveying the store, he saw that the register was in the back, so the crook stood with his back to the entrance. He’s a real amateur. He hadn’t even looked back to see if the police had arrived. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Grabbing a bag of Doritos and a Dr. Pepper, he stood behind the robber in an odd mockery of normalcy. The thief was so engrossed in his potential pay day that he didn’t even notice. Spider-Man tried to act as nonchalantly as possible. One wrong move and things could go very wrong very quickly. As he often did in these situations, he thought back to that first fateful encounter.

“Sir, could you please finish your business? Some of us have to get to work.” Spider-Man said.

The thug started and turned to face him, a look of pure surprise on his face. Spider-Man took advantage of the distraction, disarming the man and webbing him to the ceiling in his customary fashion. Walking to the register, he placed the items on the counter to pay. Looking no less shocked than the thief, the deli owner stammered before finally speaking.

“Please, take them. On the house. As thanks.”

Epilogue: I Am Spider-Man

Spider-Man shook his head. Grabbing a pen and a scrap of paper, he started jotting down an IOU.

“What’s your name?”

“My friends call me Bob. You can call me Bob.”

Spider-Man put his hands over his heart and tilted his head in a pantomime of the “Awwww” gesture. Expressions were tough in this mask.  After he finished the note and handed it to Bob, he turned to leave the deli. Pausing briefly at the door he turned his head.

“Keep that note, Bob. I will be back to pay it. This probably isn’t your first rodeo, but make sure that gun gets to the police. By the way, there’s no camera in here, right?

Bob pointed to the corner.

“Besides that fake one?”

Bob shook his head Spider-Man removed his mask. The look of surprise on Bob’s face became exaggerated. It mirrored the one he imagined J. Jonah would have before the old goat keeled over.

“My name is Peter Parker,” Peter said, “and I am Spider-Man.”

He put the mask back on and swung off into the night.

END.

Comics Hunter

Introduction (My Brief History in Comics)

Over the weekend, I realized that I never edited nor posted the comics themed podcast that Chris and I recorded a couple of weeks ago. The realization came as my computer was out of commission during our scheduled recording time for the main title podcast. It works out for this week. I can just release it this week and we can record for next week. The only issue is that I did both of my “state of” articles last week. I might be able to do them monthly, but it will more likely be every other month. I certainly wouldn’t do them weekly. As a result, I had to come up with two different comic themed articles for this week to stay current with the podcast.

I’m not sure, other than the articles last week, if I’ve mentioned Chris and my newly discovered love of comic books. Mine is more newly discovered than his as he generally has a smaller reading list than me and thus doesn’t have to spend as much. I did find a cheaper way to read the comics digitally, but I found myself missing the hunt, so to speak. I’m a collector at heart, so it just didn’t feel right not having those issues.

To set the scene for new readers, I have been collecting comic books since I was in high school. I’ve been collecting Magic the Gathering cards for almost as long. Sounds impressive, no? Imagine all of the profits from those books and cards that I sold. I should be retired on some tropical island surrounded by beautiful people and sipping on a never ending line of drinks with umbrellas in them, right?

Alas the closest I have come is I drank way too many free mai tais on a sunset cruise during our honeymoon in Hawai’i.

Granite State Comics Fest (April 22, 2018)

Why am I not? The short version of the story is that I haven’t been collecting comic books the whole time. I do take breaks every now and then, one time for almost a decade. Another tiny problem is that I threw away all of my comics from when I was a teenager. My wife (then my fiancee) and I moved a bunch before we found our house. During one of those moves, I decided I didn’t want to move the comics anymore. If I had anything worth anything it was either poached by a dumpster diver or recycled into printer paper.

During this most recent break, Chris has been in constant contact. He’s told me about all of the cool stuff in DC’s Metal event. He’s tried to convince me, more than once, that Midtown’s discount is worth it. As a quick aside, he finally got me on board with that one. I’m quite stubborn sometimes, but eventually make the right choice.  I wasn’t ever completely out this time.

The true turning point came during our visit to the Granite State Comic Fest. Both he and I went to the larger convention several years ago. I saw that they were doing a smaller show and suggested that we go. He agreed and both Liam and Aiden expressed interest in joining us. It is one of the most fun days I’ve had in the last few months. More than that, it gave me additional reasons to want to collect comics books.

What’s Next? (Comics on my List)

Our trip to the comic fest and a costly trip to a local store inspired to update my inventory.  I’m a bit jealous of the set up that Chris has for comics now and I want one, too. With renewed purpose and focus, I can do that.

My first idea was to fill out my Spawn run as much as I could. That’s not entirely true. I said to Chris, “I want a full run of Spawn. Shouldn’t be too hard.” Spawn is the first comic not named Spider-Man that made a strong connection. Unfortunately, it has been much harder than I anticipated to pick up the missing books. I guess I still have a 1990s over production mindset and one of the times that I took off collecting must have been lean for Spawn. As Chris tells me, we’ll find them eventually.

After I fill in all of my interested titles from the Rebirth relaunch, I want to start working backwards to the “Final Crisis”. I have some New 52 titles and I have most of the Countdown books. Filling in the New 52 will be an impressive accomplishment. Chris told me this one might be difficult, too. I can fill in with trades. Not as interesting, collector wise, but I’m not going to be an issue snob in the face of overwhelming prices.

I have a few ideas for my Marvel collection. I’m only a couple of issues short of completing Totally Awesome Hulk. I also have most of the (She-)Hulk series that was just cancelled. Other than that, I went crazy on eBay and bought a whole bunch of Marvel Team Up issues and am going to work on finishing that whole run as I’m less than a dozen missing.

Conclusion

I enjoy reading comics. Especially now, the stories and art are great in almost every book that you get. I should know, I had a 50 dollar a week habit for a while. Like Magic the Gathering, which I enjoy playing, I am more of a collector. I love opening packs and seeing what cards I have and need to finish a set. With comics, I enjoy the books. There’s also something to be said for scratching that itch that you get when you realize there’s a book missing from your collection. I’ve been scratching that itch quite a bit recently. Stay tuned to see if I can keep the momentum.

State of DC Comics

As mentioned in my previous article on the state of Marvel comics, Chris and I have recorded a pilot for a new podcast. I am close to finishing the edit on that, so it should be available soon. I had hoped to take the occasion of the new show and my new interest in comics to write down a few words about the state of the two larger comics publishers. If you’ve read that article already, you know the deal. If not, here’s the short, short version. This isn’t an in depth analysis of the financial and social impact of DC Comics. It is simply the thoughts of one fan and the likelihood of that fan remaining for the foreseeable future. If that sounds like something you’d like to read, let’s get started!

The State of DC Comics (as I see it)

First, a little history. This is partly inspired by comments made in my Marvel comics article. It is also a result of my attempts to organize my comics. During those efforts, I ran across my issues of the 52 and Countdown weekly series. That led to a Google search for DC “continuity” surrounding those series and, more importantly, the series following. Apparently I stopped collecting comics after Week 41 of the Countdown series. In a conversation with Chris, I think that is because the local comic book store in town closed.

I was for years under the impression that these guys were just falling. Maybe their impact is what caused the final crisis and New 52? I may never know.

Chris got back into Batman during New 52. He also enjoyed Swamp Thing. I knew nothing about the actual plots of any of the books during this time. In the Marvel article, I touched on New 52 and Rebirth because Marvel seems to be in the same rudderless ship that DC was back then. I ignorantly made the assumption that DC used New 52 as a way to clean up their timeline and further ignorantly assumed that maybe Marvel was doing the same by rebooting so soon after their Legacy announcement.

In my searches, I found that New 52 was actually, other than maybe a few issues, an absolutely disaster. I don’t know if any of this is true, but I learned that Batman was actually his dad because it was Bruce who was killed and Wonder Woman declared war on Aquaman (maybe?) that destroyed all of Western Europe. It all reached a head when (as it often does when DC wants to reset continuity), Flash royally screwed up the timeline by going back in time to save his mother.

Seriously, there are a few things we can rely on in comics. Flash will mess up the timeline and any time Marvel wants to be taken seriously, they “end” the Fantastic Four.

That has led to Rebirth, which almost everyone agrees is the most successful relaunch of a comics line, maybe ever. It has been successful in one way that is personal to me. It’s kept me collecting comics. I might have gotten back into comics because of Secret Empire, but DC is the reason I’m still here. I’m enjoying nearly every story that I read from them. They have some of my favorite writers and artist working for them. Things right now are just really good.

My Future with DC Comics

I think I’ve made the point that I think that Rebirth has be overwhelmingly successful. It’s given me reason to keep buying comics and unlike previous times that I’ve gotten back into collecting, I have reasons to stay. First, DC Comics are really good right now. Secondly, the Rebirth reboot has given me a focus to the collecting. I might never be able to collect all 1000 Action comics, but there’s nothing preventing me from collecting the ones from the start of Rebirth. Finally, my kids are showing an interest in comics. Similar to my other hobbies, they are much more enjoyable when I can share with them.

In case you haven’t read my previous article, I’m much more optimistic about the future of DC Comics than Marvel right now. Chris and I have talked and I realize that the market is cyclical. Any time you have competitors, they generally take turns at the top. Right now is DC’s turn to be at the top. Thing is, I don’t see Marvel making the moves necessary to even compete, let alone make a run for that number 1 spot.

Speaking of #1, I just realized that they’re killing the Incredible Hulk line to make room for this one. Hulk has been so mistreated recently.

The one thing that worries me is that DC has given into market pressure and they’re raising some cover prices. While that might have been inevitable and that’s just what they believe the market can bear, it’s not an encouraging sign. I know I’m an old man who refuses to come into the present when it comes to game and book prices, but this is one thing that I truly can’t understand. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. In addition to just getting with the times, I need to realize that this isn’t just a “32 page” book as I’ve said in the past. This is, often, a great story with accompanying art that should be appreciated. Besides, thanks to Chris, I now realize that only chumps pay full cover price.

State of Marvel Comics

Chris and I recorded a pilot for a new show this weekend about comics. In the episode, we mostly talked about our history with comics. For future episodes, we hope to discuss titles, possibly eras of comics (we both stubbornly still like the 1990s in spite of all the flaws), and of course the big two, DC and Marvel. I hope to take the lead in that last topic this week by writing a couple of article about the states, as I understand them,  of our favorite (or maybe just favorite to hate since this is is the age of internet trolling) comic book companies.

As a consequence of that parenthetical, I will lay some ground rules. Do arguments about politics in comic books excite you? You’ve come to the wrong place. If you want analysis of current trends and what they might mean for future decisions, look elsewhere. What about deep financial insight into the industry? I can’t provide that. What I can do is give you one fan’s opinion of Marvel Comics and how likely it is that I’ll continue to collect them beyond the ones that I consider necessary. For those keeping score, that’s Spider-Man and Hulk.

And, if Marvel ever wants to take all of my money, Spider-Hulk!

The State of Marvel Comics (as I see it)

Chris and I touched on this a bit during the podcast episode, but we didn’t dig too deeply this time. I don’t want to step too much over that conversation here. However, I know that in text conversation, we’ve both discussed our concern about Marvel Comics and that one of the episodes of the comics podcast will revolve around our thoughts concerning the company. My main problem with comics generally, and Marvel comics specifically, is cover price. As that is something that I can’t do anything about and Marvel has repeatedly said they won’t do anything about, I will leave that point for the next section.

Another topic of conversation between Chris and I has been the “reboots”. I was on board with Secret Empire story line. In fact, it was that story that got me to start collecting again. I was even with the for their “Legacy” reboot. Heck, I though, it worked for DC Comics with “Rebirth”, so why not try it. I just saw earlier this year (and it is reflected by the books being posted on my pull list) that they have another reboot planned.

Again, this is not entirely without precedent. After their Infinite Crisis event, DC launched the New 52. I have no idea if this was the plan the entire time or not, but those titles only had 52 issues and then led right into Rebirth. Also, this article isn’t about DC. That article is coming either tomorrow or Friday.

New 52 also introduced me to the dream team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, so I’m willing to give it a pass.

Back to Marvel, the rebooting titles soon after a reboot has happened before. Furthermore, it has been successful. However, and this is what bothers me slightly about it, now that I think about it, the new 52 into Rebirth makes sense as a planned event. This move by Marvel feels more like the panicky decision of people who have run out of ideas.

My future with Marvel Comics

First, let’s address the topic of cover prices. I already said that nothing is most likely going to be done about it. So, why bring it up? Well, they are the main reason that I took my most recent break from comics. I was fully ready to just let them be a part of my past with maybe the occasional visit to a flea market, convention, or dollar bin. Then, Chris convinced me to try Midtown because they offer cheap cover prices. He then found out about DCBS and their prices are even lower. Cover prices shall no more be a gate beyond which I can’t pass.

Because, DC might be drawing some cool things, but this line is no longer one of them.

It’s still too early in the process for me to know if the rebooting a reboot will work out for Marvel as it seems to have for DC. I will say that I’m keeping an open mind about it. If, in fact, it is a plan to remove some of the messiness of recent story lines and streamline their line up, then I’ll happily eat my words. I did say to Chris a few weeks ago that I was combing through archives of the page and found an article bashing DC for what Marvel is doing right now, so things can definitely change. I will finish with this. For the first time ever, as one of the most unabashed Marvel zombies out there, I have more DC titles on my pull list than Marvel.