Black Widow: A Comic Book Retrospective – ‘10 through ‘20

I DID IT.  I DID IT.  It took me three years but I read over 300 comics and have successfully walked through all fifty-seven years of Black Widow’s comic history!  Natasha Romanoff has gone from a character I was familiar with from Avengers comics and team-up stories to one of the comic characters I know best of all.  I AM SO HAPPY I DID THIS!  Now, with a month left until Black Widow finally hits theatres, I’m examining the stories marking Natasha’s journeys from 2010-2020.  As usual, kudos goes to Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous) for casually asking if Black Widow was ever blonde in the comics (she was! see ’00-’10) waaay back when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer came out and kudos to my over-committing parts for deciding to read everything from Natasha’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) up through Web of Black Widow (2019-20) instead of just googling it.

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BIG EXCITING NEWS – I’M WRITING A BOOK!!!

That’s right, dear reader, you’ve read that correctly.  I’m writing a book!  I’ve officially signed a contract with Claremont Press to write a book for their Religion & Comics series!  The volume will explore the prophetic dimension of modern superhero comic books.  Ahhhhhh, I’m SO EXCITED about this project and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

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What I Learned Watching 26 Episodes of Harley Quinn in 8 Days

On a whim, I decided to try watching Harley Quinn on HBO Max.  My only real experience with Harley Quinn up to this point had been Batman: The Animated Series, obviously, and DC’s recent Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn.  As I watched, I thought it’d be fun to write about the experience as I did last year, when I tried to binge-watch ninety-six episodes of Supergirl in the nineteen days I had left before the new season premiered.  Instead of doing any sort of analysis or deconstruction or anything like that, I just wrote my stream-of-consciousness thoughts as I watched.  Now I’ve discovered the DC Universe’s Harley Quinn show!  And, while I watched at a more leisurely pace (relatively speaking), I decided to write the same sort of piece.  Let’s see where this goes…

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Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart

In the seventh installment of my li’l series exploring the variety of romantic archetypes found in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’m examining Peter Parker’s relationship with Betty Brant.  This relationship represents a lot for Peter.  She was his first date.  She was his first girlfriend.  She was his first crush-he-saw-as-love.  But as they grew up their relationship became complicated.  We love to invoke that relationship descriptor – It’s complicated – and Peter and Betty perfectly embody it.  We’ve all been there ourselves though, in one way or another, so in their relationship we find something that resonates and – maybe! – something that makes us feel a little bit better about our own complicated loves, too.

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A Very Doctor Who Christmas! – The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special

Weeks ago, listening to “What Christmas Means To Me” while decorating got me thinking about what Christmas means to me.  I decided to spend the month of December reflecting on it with a series of posts and I decided to use Doctor Who Christmas specials as the lens through which to do my reflecting…and now we’re here!  I feel like I blinked and I’m writing the fourth piece and Christmas is this week!  Ahhh!  Showrunner Chris Chibnall has shifted the Doctor Who special to New Year’s Day as opposed to Christmas but – as Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has become my favorite Doctor – I didn’t want to leave the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham out of the fun here.  Enter Titan Comics to the rescue!  Jody Houser (writer), Roberta Ingranata (artist), and Enrica Eren Angiolini (colorist) took the fam on an amazing Christmas adventure last year in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special.  Yay!  So, What Does Christmas Mean To Me (Vol. 4)?  Well, let’s crack open a couple comics and figure it out.

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Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love a Physical Attraction

It’s time for the fifth installment in my li’l series using only Spider-Man comics and characters to examine the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life).  Cindy Moon attended the same scientific demonstration Peter Parker did when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers.  Before it died, the spider would bite Cindy, too.  She gained the same basic powers as Peter – albeit with a more attuned spider-sense, faster speed, and the ability to spin organic webbing from her fingertips – and would eventually take on the name “Silk” and become a superhero in her own right.  She and Peter also have an overwhelming physical/sexual attraction to each other.  Their relationship, such as it was, represents those “purely physical” attractions we have in our lives.  It’s fun and it’s so hot but it was never really going to last nor was there any way they could’ve ever been “the one” as it was only ever just a physical thing. Continue reading

Jane Foster: Valkyrie – Glimpsing Transcendence in Death

The centerpiece of Jason Aaron’s epic seven year run writing Thor: God of Thunder/The Mighty Thor/Thor was Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir when the Odinson found himself unworthy to do so.  She became Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, and the stories that followed were the best Thor comics I’ve ever read.  It may be the best executed single story arc I’ve ever ready in any comic ever.  When the Odinson eventually reclaimed his title as the God of Thunder, Jane returned her focus to her civilian life, medical career, and – most importantly – fighting the cancer raging inside her.  However, her superhero career was far from over and the stories Jane Foster now finds herself in (written first by Jason Aaron and Al Ewing and now by Jason Aaron and Torunn Grønbekk) dance along the mysterious, wonderous, frightening, sacred threshold that is the dividing line between life and death. Continue reading

The Strength of Silk – Cindy Moon May Be Marvel’s Most Inspiring Hero

When he was fifteen-years-old, Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration, gaining the proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider.  It also granted him a precognitive sense that warns him of danger – his spider-sense.  The death of his uncle at the hands of a burglar he could’ve stopped taught Peter that with great power there must also come great responsibility.  Every day since he’s tried to live up to that creed, as the amazing Spider-Man.  BUT Peter wasn’t the only one bitten by the irradiated spider on that fateful day.  Before it died, it also bit Cindy Moon.  On a whim I decided to begin rereading her adventures as the superhero Silk last week.

Reading these comics just as, “New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in record numbers swept through more U.S. states…as most push ahead with reopening,”[1] cast these stories in an entirely new light.  I marveled at Silk’s strength and realized she may well be the most important superhero we have in this pandemic age. Continue reading

Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy: All the Beautiful Angst of First Love

For the fourth installment of my series exploring the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics, I’m considering the first great love of Peter Parker’s life – Gwen Stacy.  To write this, I went back and read the entirety of Gwen’s time with Peter, beginning with her first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #31 (from December 1965) through issue #120 (from May 1973).  Over the years, Gwen has taken on a hallowed significance in Peter’s life as his great, irreplaceable lost love.  But in reading these comics I realized she – and her relationship with Peter – illustrated something far more universal and far more interesting.  Gwen and Peter perfectly present our first love with all the awkward, emotional, angsty, and idealized moments that come with it. Continue reading

Ten Surprised I Found When I Finally Read “The Winter Soldier”

Quarantine brings lots of time to read so I guess there’s a little silver lining to be found in our lives of social distancing and self-isolation.  While I’ve been at home, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading.  Since I’ve had Bucky Barnes on my mind lately, I thought the time was right to finally read Ed Burbank’s “Winter Solider,” the 2005 storyline that served as the inspiration for one of the MCU’s most well-received films.  I figured I’d use the format I chose when I wrote about Marvel’s epic “Civil War” storyline a little over a year ago, too.  With a story so widely known and discussed in popular (comic) culture circles, where there any surprises left to be found reading it fifteen years after the fact? Continue reading