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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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’s Modern-Day Frankenstein Tale – “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy”

Alright, originally I intended this as a Halloween post.  I was going to finally read “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” and write about it, analyzing how Dan Slott expands the premise of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in a modern setting.  However, life and work got in the way and I just got around to finishing reading it the other day.  I contemplated saving it for next year but I’m impatient and it’s more fun to keep the spookiness alive anyway.  When I finally jumped into Dan Slott’s world of Spider-Man tales, I avoided this storyline.  I’d heard conflicting reports about it and wasn’t ready for something with that sort of “baggage” as I was meeting his Spidey for the first time.  What I found upon finally reading it was a haunting tale that left me more emotionally shaken than I could have expected. Continue reading

A Question of Redemption: Doctor Doom the Infamous Iron Man

I’ve been thinking a lot about evil and redemption lately.  The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching affirms every human being is deserving of life and dignity because they are made in the image and likeness of God.  Nothing can take that right away, not even their own destructive actions.  So there is always a line, theologically, between sinner and sin.  While the idea of redemption is theologically vital, we often struggle with it in the face of real world evil.  At least I know I do.  This cognitive dissonance begs the question is there a line, an evil act or actions we can’t return from?  Doctor Doom is a character uniquely suited to explore this question.  For decades he was the most evil villain in the Marvel Universe.  But over the last few years, in both Invincible Iron Man and Infamous Iron Man, Brian Michael Bendis put a newly reformed Victor Von Doom inside Tony Stark’s armor in an attempt to atone for all he’s done.  Now Fantastic Four has returned to the comic shelves and Doom’s future is a question mark once again.  Can someone like Doctor Doom ever truly be redeemed? Continue reading

First Impressions: The Fantastic Four

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for ages.  I originally envisioned it shortly following the “First Impressions: The X-Men” post I wrote last year.  But, for one reason or another, I always stopped short of finishing it.  Now, on the eve of the Fantastic Four’s return, shepherded by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli, the time is right.  So let’s take another trip down memory lane and revisit the very first Fantastic Four comic I ever read!  It was 1993 and the cover leapt out at me from the spinning rack in a local grocery store (the now long-gone Loblaws on W 12th St, if I remember correctly).  It was Fantastic Four #374 and, while I didn’t know it at the time, I was about to meet the characters who’d become my all-time favorite comic book team.  To this day, they still hold this place in my heart! Continue reading

Um, Amazing Spider-Man, I’m Sorry…I Love You and I Always Will

[Deep breathe…you can do this.]  Listen, baby, I’ve got something to say.  I’m sorry.  Four months ago I said I wasn’t really digging you.  I said you bored me.  I said you were turning into a bland retread.  I was thinking of…oh my gosh, it’s so hard to say.  But I started this li’l tiff in public so I need to reaffirm my love in public too, awkwardness be damned.  I said I was thinking of breaking up with you.  There!  I said it!  But I’m so sorry.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Every single issue since that post went live has been amazing.  It’s some of the best Spidey I’ve ever had in my entire life!  So Amazing Spider-Man, I’m sorry.  I love you.  Can you ever forgive me?? Continue reading