The Evolution and Devolution of Comic Book Characters

Where is the line for what can and can’t be changed in regard to certain characters?  Or rather, where is the line for what changes can be permanent as opposed to those inevitably reverted by future writers?  This question has been on my mind a lot last month (well, in addition to being terribly sick and having to do my end of term grading – but all my extra mental energy has been focused on this).  As a genre, comics demand new stories for their most popular characters every month (sometimes multiple times a month) unceasingly for decades without allowing characters to age more than five or ten years.  It’s easy to see why reboots, alternate realities, Legacy Characters assuming a mantle, time travel, alien doppelgangers, mind-wipes, and so on always pop-up.  How do you keep an unending story fresh?  One trope employed to this end is the redemption of a villain and this, specifically, has been on my mind. Continue reading

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Spider-Gwen: Portrait of an Isolated Vigilante

Like everyone else in the world, I fell in love with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse when I saw it.  Miles Morales’ story began when I wasn’t reading comic books and, when I returned, it was one of the things I couldn’t wait to explore.  In fact, for the first year of my return to comic reading, it was his Spider-Man exploits alone I followed, wary of jumping back into Peter Parker’s world after having missed out on so much.  To see Miles take center stage in this movie was exciting!  But it wasn’t just Miles in the film.  My excitement to see his story unfold on the big screen was matched by my intrigue at seeing Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Woman.  I wasn’t halfway through my first viewing of the film before I knew I had to start reading Spider-Gwen for myself. Continue reading

My Comic Advice: Where to Begin Reading Spider-Man

So you’re new to comics…or you’re new to the Marvel Universe…or you’re new to Spider-Man and you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, I’d like to immerse myself in the amazing world of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man BUT there’s over sixty years of comic books out there.  That’s intimidating!  How do I just jump in with decades of characters and continuity??  Where do I even begin?!?”  Well you’re in luck.  I’m here to help in my new series, “My Comic Advice,” where I’ll outline the best place for any newbie to begin reading a popular comic series.  What makes me the person for this job?  Well, I’ve loved comics for over thirty years but, more importantly, you are here reading this so it seems like we already have a bond :).  That being said…where do you begin reading Spider-Man?  Let’s find out! Continue reading

Squirrel Girl’s Earliest Era

I began reading The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl because I love Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics.  When I heard he was writing for Marvel, I had to check it out.  I instantly fell in love with the comic and I’ve been so impressed with what I continually find in its pages that I’ve chosen Doreen Green as the subject of the paper I’m writing for this year’s PCA/ACA National Conference on Popular Culture.  As I began my research, I figured I’d read the comics featuring Doreen before she began to kick butts and eat nuts in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  I wanted to get a handle on how her character has evolved in the authorial hands of Ryan North and artistic hands of Erica Henderson and now Derek Charm.  I was expecting a one note joke character but I was happily surprised by what I found! Continue reading

Spider-Man and Mary Jane: Soul Mates? (Y/N/Maybe)

Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker got married on 9 June 1987, in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21.  For someone who began reading comic books in March 1986, their marriage was a central tenant of my experience of Spider-Man.  You don’t have Spider-Man without Peter Parker and you don’t have Peter Parker without Mary Jane!  Despite Marvel’s editorial staff having “instant regrets” about their wedding, fans have passionately embraced the marriage for over twenty years.  As their relationship evolved, especially as it approached it’s end in 2007’s “One More Day” storyline, Mary Jane and Peter were increasingly painted in the light of Soul Mates.  Their relationship then allows us to ponder one of romantic love’s most intoxicating questions – are Soul Mates real?  It’s end allows us to reflect on the potential of finding and losing the one.  Now let’s see if I can write about them without getting overly emotional and/or angsty… Continue reading

“The Death of the Mighty Thor” – My Eulogy for the Best Comic I’ve Ever Read

This is a milestone for me :).  This piece is my 300th post on My Comic Relief!!  I’ve been trying to figure out which comic was worthy of such a tribute since about my 256th post.  Then, like a blinding flash of lightening it hit me.  I adored Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson’s work with Jane Foster in The Mighty Thor.  She’s become my definitive Thor.  I’ve written several pieces exploring the brilliance of this run but I’ve never written about the end of Jane’s time wielding Mjölnir.  To do so, I wanted it to be special.  Instead of another analysis, I aim to simply pay tribute, to eulogize in the wake of “The Death of the Mighty Thor,” to talk about why I fell in love with this character and this comic.  In short I want to explain why Jane’s time as Thor became MY FAVORITE COMIC BOOK STORYLINE OF ALL TIME.  In my heart, she’ll always be who I mean when I invoke the name “Thor.” Continue reading

Celebrating Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

It’s been a busy few years for Spider-Man cinematically.  Peter Parker swung into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War with Tom Holland wearing the webs.  In 2017 he had his solo MCU debut, Spider-Man: Homecoming.  This April he suited up next to the Avengers and Guardians to battle the Mad Titan and his Black Order in Avengers: Infinity War.  And Friday Sony releases their animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with Jake Johnson as Peter Parker – and far more excitingly – Shameik Moore as Miles Morales and Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy!!!  So it’s easy to forget where Spider-Man’s modern movie career began.  We, as a culture, tend to proclaim each new incarnation as “the best [fill-in-the-blank] ever!”  While I enjoy Tom Holland as Spider-Man and I can’t wait to see Into the Spider-Verse, as far as I’m concerned NO ONE’s come close to capturing who Spider-Man really is more than Sam Raimi with Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004).  Even after all this time, his Spider-Man Trilogy can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the MCU. Continue reading