Tag Archives: Comics

DC Comics in 2018

Introduction

I’ve done articles for Spawn (the only Image title I currently collect and read) and Marvel in 2018. The natural progression is to do DC Comics in 2018. Well, forget it! Ha! The old bait and switch! I’m actually going to write my thesis on non Newtonian fluids and now you all are going to have to read it. There is literally no other way. Nope. Once you click on a web page, you are bound by ancient internet laws to have to read it the entire way through.

Okay, I think we got rid of the nerds with the word Newtonian and the squares who don’t like comics with talk of ancient internet laws. We are free to talk to our hearts’ content about Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Harley Quinn, Booster Gold, and I guess even Superman. Please don’t take offense at that comment. It’s just that traditionally Superman has been my least favorite hero. More on that later. Enough silliness. Let’s dive in to DC’s 2018.

Bendis, as he tends to do, has breathed life into an old and beloved character. More on that later!

DC is killing the competition. I don’t mean that literally. There are more comics and comic companies than at any time in history. Therefore, I might not even mean that universally. I don’t have a lot of time to read comics, so I probably missed 99% of what was released last year. However, they were able to convert a lifelong Marvel zombie such as myself to collect more than just Batman comics. In fact, for the first time, I’m collecting all of their major characters (think movies) and related titles.

The Good (DC Comics in 2018 killed the competition)

Speaking of Batman, Tom King’s Batman is probably my favorite version of the character. His writing has inspired me to reach out to him on Twitter more than once. He’s even liked and retweeted me once or twice! Okay, okay, nobody wants to hear about my Twitter nerdgasms. I’ll get back to the comics. I know that many didn’t enjoy the Batman “wedding” issue, but the whole construction of that book blew me away. Seriously, go back and read it with an open mind. I got chills more than once. It is incredibly moving.

I’m getting chills now just writing about it…

Bendis jumped ship from Marvel Comics to DC. It appears that one stipulation in his contract is that he got to steer the Superman ship. It started with the aforementioned Man of Steel comic. That single book got me interested in Superman in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been, not even during the All-Star book in the 90s (2000s?) and I absolutely adored that book. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for BMB and Supes.

DC comics released their Giants series in partnership with Wal*Mart. I want to say that I was skeptical of the “partnership with Wal*Mart” tag, but who are we kidding. Let the millenials have their war on box stores. I love the fact that I can walk into one store and buy a car battery, some peanut butter cups, and rash cream all in one trip. Plus, the books are great and great value. There is one new story and three reprints for only 4.99. The Batman book is reprinting Hush. For a cheap ass nerd like me, these books are gold.

The Bad (DC Comics in 2018 is actually pretty great)

Ha! Gotcha! More good!

Honestly there’s not much bad that I can say about DC Comics. And, yes, that is said even with my perpetual warning that I find it difficult to completely condemn almost any creative project. Honestly, though, there’s not a single DC comic book that I’ve read recently that I have not completely enjoyed. They are all just solidly good.

I don’t enjoy the character as much as I do when Greg Rucka writes her, but Wonder Woman is decent. The Flash has been fun enough to keep me interested. That is Aiden’s favorite character and he voraciously reads every new issue that I get each month. Justice League is awesome, even if I like the companion JL Dark title better, but that’s just personal writer preference. Scott Snyder is fine, but I like Tynion better. Speaking of Tynion, I wish he was still writing Detective Comics. I enjoyed that book almost as much as the main Batman title and that’s saying something.

There’s simply not anything bad that I can say about DC Comics right now. What can I say? I’m just a positive person. Maybe that makes me a terrible critic. Seriously, though, what can you say about them? Unlike their main rival, Marvel, they’ve ironed out many of the wrinkles and they are just doing quality work.

The Ugly (DC Comics in 2018 struggles to make a good film)

Huge asterisk on this one and it remains to be seen for Aquaman.

Years ago, this would not have even been a consideration. Comic book movies were, by and large, crimes against humanity. Then, along came Sam Raimi to make a decent Spider-Man movie. Marvel went on to perfect the craft of comic book movies, got sold out to the undisputed leaders of entertainment and Disney took comic book movies to a whole other level.

DC Comics is struggling to keep up in this particular arms race. While I’m not as down on them for some of the movies (I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman, sort of), the only one that I can say I really liked so far is Wonder Woman. The rest I tolerate and make rationalizations for why they maybe weren’t as bad as they seemed. I still haven’t seen Aquaman yet, but I’ve heard the expected mixed reviews from people.

I don’t understand why DC movies are such a mixed bag. As I said, Marvel has given them the blueprint. Their television series are supposed to be good. I’ve only seen parts of Flash episodes, but it seems to capture the comics pretty well. Maybe because they’ve put so much into their comic talent, they don’t have the resources to dedicate to big budget action movies. Maybe they’re just cursed. For whatever reason, Marvel and Disney rule this space and look to do so for at least the next year.

The Verdict (DC Comics in 2018 makes me excited)

I am an unashamed, avowed, and lifelong Marvel zombie. Marvel got me into comics, kept me in comics, and brought me back to comics several times. With that being said, DC Comics are without a doubt my favorite books to read, by and large, every month when my pull list order comes. There are a couple of Marvel titles on the immediate read list, but the rest are all DC books.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s me actually caring about Superman for once in my life.

Heck, they’ve even got me excited about Superman. Not simply tolerating the character, but actively liking and looking forward to the book every month. I never thought I’d say that. Sure, their movies leave much to be desired, but they’re not in the movie making business. They’re in the comics business and their business right now is very good. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.

Marvel Comics in 2018

Introduction

Marvel Comics in 2018 have been a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps that is being too kind to them. I have made no secret of my status as a Marvel zombie for life. Marvel properties, namely the animated Spider-Man and Friends cartoon and the live action Incredible Hulk television show, introduced me to those heroes. When I then started to collect comics, Marvel books were the first ones that I bought. In fact, until Image started as a company, Marvel were the only books that I bought.

I have since branched out from that narrow focus. As my wife can attest, I collect a variety of comic books from all three of the bigger publishers. Perhaps it is this branching out. Maybe I am just getting older. Hey, it could even just be that DC has focused more on comics. For whatever reason, this is the first time in my life that my top 5 comics are not Marvel books.

Though, they have been killing it with the movies.

DC Comics famously rebooted their universe from the mess that was New 52 a few years ago. Marvel has tried the same a few times over the years, including their own version of the New 52. As a collector, this has caused some confusion with the sequence and numbering of their titles. They responded with their Legacy “not quite a reboot” reboot which also offered consistent and official numbering for their more recognizable books. Even this was met with some internet side eye as their numbering schemes were brought into question.

The Good (Marvel Comics in 2018 is back to basics)

We are on to the good section of the article, so let’s keep it positive. There has been some good to come out of this mess. I mentioned in the previous section that Marvel books might not have cracked my Top 5 last year. That’s a bit harsh. There are at least two books from Marvel that are near the top of my read list every month. Before I talk about them, I’ll mention the other books that I’ve been enjoying.

Dr. Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters and the latest story of him losing his magic has been a fun story. The Extermination story grabbed and kept my interest. X-23 is written by one of my favorite writers. Captain America post Secret Empire is a cool exploration of the soul of the character and, to an extent, our country. Iron Man and Avengers are both decent. On to my two favorite Marvel books.

Another name and theme change for Hulk?

I was skeptical when I heard the announcement about The Immortal Hulk. A horror book? Starring Hulk? Okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m glad that it did. The tone of the book is completely different, but it is back to the Jekyll and Hyde roots of the character. Highly recommended.

Speaking of horror vibes…

I am not as much of a Venom fan as Hulk, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this title. I had enjoyed the pre-Legacy story line of the symbiote being sick and Eddie needing to cure it. They have continued with that thread while also adding some of the same horror as in the Hulk title. I also recommend this book if you are just getting into comics.

The Bad (Marvel Comics in 2018 is inconsistent)

Intergalactic Empire? Again, okay…

Perhaps the epitome of this inconsistency is Black Panther. While many have only discovered the character because of the mega blockbuster movie that came out last year, I have been a fan of Black Panther since the beginning of my comic collecting. After starting with the big boys, I moved on to some of the secondary characters and enjoyed their stories more. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not enjoying this book more, but it just has not felt as fun or interesting as some of the others. Admittedly, I haven’t read it in a few months, so maybe it has fleshed out the concept better in the meantime.

Hot off the presses. That actually makes sense, but I meant to invoke the movie, so hot off the reels? That sounds dumb. Speaking of dumb, let’s move on.

If you know me at all, you know that I will give any creative outlet a chance. I’m a frustrated writer myself (imagine that, a failed novelist as blogger), so I understand all too well the crushing defeat of something you spent 10 years of your life on failing completely. Sorry, fell into therapy mode there.

With all of that being said, I didn’t like Infinity Wars. I really wanted to. I liked the first comic series and I loved the movie. I collected all of this title and even got the connecting covers. Then, I started to read it and it is a confusing mess. I don’t understand any of the motivation of the characters or reason for the plot. It was so bad, that I reconsidered my collection of the Infinity Warps offshoot books. I still have yet to buy any of them. Maybe Marvel needs to take a break from events.

The Ugly (Marvel Comics in 2018 is frustrating)

Worst year ever…

While I don’t want to sound like one of those internet guys who hates on everything, I’m going to do exactly that. This also probably is not entirely the fault of 2018. Marvel Comics has felt like a rudderless ship for several years now. They introduce new heroes, build them up for years, and then cave to the whims of those internet grumps and kill off those heroes. I get it. Sales drive industry. Perhaps I’m more frustrated with the grumps who won’t give something new a chance than with Marvel.

Comic books need to grow and change from their lonely nerd boy roots if they are going to continue. Perhaps the New 52 was the worst thing to happen to DC. Maybe Totally Awesome Hulk and Miles Morales Spider-Man were an anathema in the Marvel Universe. Spoiler Alert: I read both titles. They weren’t. Even so, comic sales have not kept up with the reality. Comic books are very popular except for the comics themselves. Maybe that is the reality. People that don’t buy comics never will. But, I commend the companies for continuing to try to find a new audience.

The Verdict (Marvel Comics in 2018 is in transition)

It’s been no secret that Marvel’s focus is more on its cinematic and television properties over the last decade. They have been building an integrated storyline over that time that they used to invest in their comics. Chris and I have had the conversation numerous times and I was under the impression that comics had become more or less a loss leader for the company under their Disney overlords. While that might be true to some extent, Marvel Comics still considers itself an integral part of the family.

It remains to be seen if that is actually true. When I go to comic shows, I do see people younger than me there. My kids are all into comics and read at least one title a month that I buy. Aiden likes Flash. Liam reads Batman. Quinn’s favorite is Teen Titans. I don’t know if they are going to continue to read comics past childhood. Maybe they’ll be like me and go into comics hibernation for a time until nostalgia brings them back.

Overall, I’m happy with what Marvel is doing with their comic books. If they can sustain this for a few years like DC has done with their Rebirth line, which has become the new DC universe, then I think they’ll be able to build their audience a little bit more. So far, so good. Quite an unsatisfying conclusion perhaps, but that’s the state of comics in 2018.

Spawn in 2018

Introduction

Seeing as how we are entering the 3rd week of the new year, I’m a bit behind on my 2018 retrospectives. Better late than never, right? Perhaps not, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. So, without much further ado, let’s start our look back at comics in 2018 with Spawn.

In the past, I might have titled this article as independent books, but probably not. I know that I’ve talked about independent books as a concept in the past. The truth is that I’ve only read Image besides Marvel and DC. Further, I gave up on The Walking Dead. Spawn is the only other Image book in my pull list. Perhaps that says something about the state of Image comics. More likely, it says something about me. Okay, on with the show.

The Good (Spawn in 2018 is surprisingly consistent)

I can’t speak on the past as comic book plots are notoriously inconsistent and require numerous reboots. I will say that, not having read Spawn for the better part of 5 (maybe 10), years, I still understood and followed the plot without a problem. That’s not always the case with some of the more recent attempts to redefine the various Marvel and DC properties.

I never read The New 52, but I’ve read that it was a disaster. Also, Marvel Legacy was pretty much DOA after trying to undo the new heroes they spent several years constructing.

Also, creative teams change quite often. Sure, you have the occasional team that stays together for a few years and writers tend to stick to a title for a long run. However, the recent trend seems to be to shuffle guys from title to title and even from company to company. I’m not sure if this is their attempt to keep things fresh and interesting.

Granted, Spawn isn’t all that different. Though, I will say that in the time I’ve been reading it, the title has had the same writer and artist for most of the issues. Also, Todd McFarlane isn’t as involved as he once was. Still, he writes occasionally and does a variant cover every now and then.

Speaking of variants, in this day and age of overpriced (in my opinion) variants, that hasn’t been the case with Spawn. Seeing as how I’m not quite the variant hawk that Chris is, I might be wrong. However, I am aware of many of the covers available and will buy the ones that I find interesting or attractive. The only variants that I’ve seen for Spawn were for cover price, which is great for a collector on a limited budget like me.

The Bad (Spawn in 2018 is showing its age a bit)

I don’t mean in the Old Man Logan way, either.

Even with all of the good about the comic, Spawn is beginning to show its age a bit. Seeing as how the book is 25 years old, that isn’t a surprise. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t notice it while reading the title last year. It is still a fun title in the nostalgia sense, but I don’t know if it is something that would grab my attention if it wasn’t already something that I knew about. It is absolutely a title conceived in another time. This is only a minor gripe as they seem to be in the process of updating the title in terms of style and content. It remains to be seen if that continues.

The only other negative about the title is also nostalgic. Those of us who were there at the beginning of Image remember delay after delay. Some titles came out months after they were scheduled. It did little to dampen my excitement, but others were understandably upset. Most companies have been able to avoid significant delays. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the delays in Spawn if not for the notifications from my online pull list. But, I noticed, and it’s odd that there are shipping delays in the age of on demand printing

The Ugly (Spawn in 2018 is a bargain)

Speaking of bargains, why can’t I get this book for cover price?

How is the comic book being a bargain an ugly? Also, $2.99 for a comic book? Is that really that much of a bargain? Let me answer those questions in reverse order. While I decry the price of comics, they actually haven’t increased as much relative to other things over the last 2 or 3 decades. Would I like nickel or dime comics? Sure, but that’s simply not realistic. Plus, Spawn is on the lower end of the price spectrum.

As far as the ugly, it is alluded to in the picture above. Let’s take one more nostalgic trip back in time. When I started reading Spawn again a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was close to issue #300. That inspired me to try to go back to fill in the issues I was missing. For the most part, that was easy. What is not easy is there is a run of book around the time of the cover in the picture that run anywhere from 20 dollars to over 100. As someone who doesn’t want to pay 3.99 for a book, 20 bucks is way too much. As I said in the previous section, we live in an age of on demand everything. Why can’t they reprint these books so that people can get their hands on them for cheaper than what the secondary market charges?

The Verdict (Spawn in 2018 is still worth collecting)

Sure, it is 25 years old and showing its age. But, they seem to be trying to change that somewhat. As with most renovations in comics, we will see if it continues, but I like what they’re doing so far. Focusing on Spawn’s daughter has proven to be an interesting story. There have been delays recently, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I think that they’ve figured it out and it is just one month delay that has continued for the past few months. The older issues are very expensive, but that’s the same with any collectibles. Overall, the story is strong, the art is cool, and the book is cheap compared to other books on the market today. If you are looking for something new and potentially different from other comic books, definitely pick up the most recent issue.

Image Comics in the 2000s

A Note

We return, perhaps triumphantly, to the content that has made us famous? Well, famous in our circles, anyway. Okay, so it’s not strictly gaming content yet. That’s coming next week. But, it is more a more nerd oriented article. One other is coming later in the week and I’m going to edit a podcast to release this week. We will be back to gaming content with a podcast with the Gamer Bros. and some companion articles.

Introduction

I’ve already taken a trip back to Marvel in the 1990s and 2000s and also DC in the 1990s and 2000s. The one other constant in my comic collecting life has been Image. I’ve also talked about my history with them in the 1990s. All that’s left is a trip to visit Image in the 2000s. Consequently, and not surprisingly, this is that trip.

Marvel’s Civil War got me back into comics in the 2000s. DC’s Infinite Crisis expanded my knowledge of comics to previously unknown characters and stories. Images was more of a habit. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t enjoy the books. It’s just that they weren’t a driving force behind my collecting. As usual, let me explain better.

You’re saying our time meant nothing to you? Um, I, well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’d said I’d explain better.

The Walking Dead

Today, The Walking Dead is a big deal. Sure, it’s isn’t as big of a deal as it maybe was 3 or 4 years ago, but it is still on television and my youngest wants to be a zombie for Halloween. So, it’s wormed its way into the public conscience. Back then, it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal. I found the title in a similar manner as the Infinite Crisis. As I wandered through the store looking for Marvel Civil War titles, I saw “The Walking Dead”. Huh, I thought, a comic about zombies. That seems cool.

It seemed even cooler as I read more about it. The writer, Robert Kirkman, sold it as the zombie story that happens after the credits roll in a typical zombie movie. Always on the search for something unique, that intrigued me. Sure, we all love the old school stories like Night of the Living Dead.

Though, if I’m being plainly honest, I’m pretty sure that society would return to normal, a la Shaun of the Dead instead of the post apocalyptic horror that Kirkman presents in his stories.

At least for me though, what kept the zombie genre interesting for so long were the second and third generation stories. Danny Boyle introduced the “not quite zombie” zombie apocalypse. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost gave us a love story–with zombies. Max Brooks wondered how a documentary style zombie apocalypse might look. And Robert Kirkman explored the slow destruction of all semblance of society and found that humans are actually the much bigger threat.

I stayed with The Walking Dead even after my LCS had to close up shop. While I had been buying both issues and trades, I started buying only trades online when the store closed. Eventually, I stopped buying even those. I stopped watching the show for the same reason. In an effort to constantly up the ante, they focused more on shock value than entertainment. They became what most horror becomes. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Aiden asked about AHS the other day because we’re introducing him to the genre. Christine said something and I more or less echoed her thoughts. The first season was good, the second season was okay, and the rest of them were not worth watching.

Spawn

The only other Image book that I collected at this time was Spawn. I often talk about my history of comics as beginning with Marvel Comics. While that isn’t strictly untrue, it wasn’t actually comics that served as my introduction. Instead, as I suspect it is with many people my age, I discovered comics through campy 70s and 80s television shows.

My true introduction to actual comics came in the 1990s. As a result, my first comic book love belongs to Spawn. It probably doesn’t seem like it now, but the book was groundbreaking. One, it almost single handedly kept Image viable during those lean early years. That’s not entirely what I mean.

Image seemed like such a good idea. It was sold so well that they got many industry giants to buy into it. While initially, it looked like the whole experiment might blow up in their faces, they eventually figured out who they are.

 

Many things that we take for granted in comics today originated in Spawn. Instead of newsprint, he opted for the glossy magazine type paper that allowed for sharper lines and more vibrant colors. This showcased his art in a way that made the book feel like, well, art. Gone were the days of the funny books. Instead, comics became eye catching and true collector’s items. Also, does anyone remember the CCA? G? The fact that I can’t even remember the letters even though I grew up under the tyranny of that all seeing logo shows that most younger fans probably don’t know what I’m talking about. We owe at least some of that to Uncle Todd and Image telling them to shove it.

The Verdict

The Walking Dead and Spawn. Two books that kept an entire publisher relevant for me for a few years. They’ve always been a smaller studio and creator driven. Other than those two, not much else from Image has crossed over into other pop culture like Marvel and DC. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As DC has shown, it’s not easy to make quality comic book movies. Then again, Marvel does have a decade head start on them. Not all of those early Marvel efforts are masterpieces, either.

However, this article isn’t about Marvel or DC. So, let’s get back on track. The only reason I mention movies is that there are plans for another Spawn movie. Alas, in a couple of weeks or months, I will talk about that. For now, I will praise Image as the little studio that could.

Just chug-chug-chugging along.

They were born out of the ashes of a colossal exodus of talent from the big two. They survived on the back of Spawn and later The Walking Dead. 20 years later, they seem to have found their niche as the place for writers and artists to go to test out new ideas and work on projects that didn’t quite fill the traditional mold. Sure there are others in this space, but Image is the undisputed king.

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 Hunters 001 – Our Comic Book CV

Introduction

We start the series by talking about what got us into comic book collecting. There is also a surprise reunion at one of our favorite comic book and gaming stores!

We love 90s Comic Books (15:50)

We continue to reminisce by taking about one of our favorite decades in comics, the 1990s. Spawn, 2099, and X-Cutioner’s song, oh my! Look for a deep dive on this topic in a future episode.

Comic Books as Therapy (22:50)

We talk about what comic books mean to us as a social hobby and an escape from reality.

Comic Books as Collectors (26:22)

A visit to a local comic book show inspires us to organize and inventory our collections, which then inspires us to go to Midtown and eBay to buy more comic books. We talk about which books we’re looking for and why.

Nerd Rage? (36:33)

A brief memorial to 2099 leads to both of us trying to figure out where all of the nerd rage and hate comes from. Why didn’t you like the new Marvel heroes? What is wrong with rebooting the numbering every few years? We have some theories.

More Comic Books as Collectors (46:45)

Another brief discussion of books that we’d like to collect. X-Men Volume 1 and Marvel Team Up are prominently featured.

Diversifying Nerddom (51:00)

A chance meeting during Free Comic Book Day leads us to consider why nerds aren’t as welcoming as they could be and a way to possibly remedy that situation. (Spoiler Alert: Just be nice!)

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.