Ghost Rider – A Vision of the Spirit of Vengeance in 2020

As a character, the Ghost Rider fascinates me.  But, with the exception of the ‘90s Spirits of Vengeance title that teamed the Dan Ketch-possessed-Ghost Rider with his (then) demon-free first host Johnny Blaze, I’ve read very few of his comics.  Looking back, outside of movies like Ghostbusters 2 (which scared the $#!T out of me), Spirits of Vengeance was really my first foray into horror.  Well, horror-lite.  Well, horror-lite for a comic book.  Well, after I’ve come to enjoy things like Penny Dreadful, It Follows, and The Shining and have had to endure horrors like Hereditary (WORST THING EVER), I wouldn’t really call Spirits of Vengeance “horror” anymore.  It’s more a supernatural thriller.  But for young me, it was the first time I willingly and intentionally entered the (Ghostbusters-free) world of demons, possessions, and fiery hellscapes.  Lately, I’ve found myself thinking of the Ghost Rider.  A lot.  I can’t stop imagining what shape this Spirit of Vengeance would take if it flamed into being in 2020. Continue reading

Black Widow: A Comic Book Retrospective – the ‘60s and ‘70s

Before Avengers: Infinity War came out I was having a conversation with Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous).  We were discussing several aspects of the trailer, including Black Widow being blonde.  Was it because Cap and his band of Avengers were undercover and off the grid?  Was it because, as their time in the MCU was coming to a close, Scarlett Johansson got to be a blonde Black Widow as Chris Evans got to be a bearded Captain America, more closely resembling their real life looks?  Kiri said she didn’t remember ever reading a blonde Black Widow in the comics when she was a kid.  Nor did I.  During the conversation I realized the number of comics starring Natasha Romanoff – the Black Widow – I had read was shamefully small.  One thing led to another and, as usual, I overcommitted.  What follows is the first part of a little journey through Natasha’s comic book history, from her first appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964) to her most recent miniseries, The Web of Black Widow (2019-20). Continue reading

Goodbye Squirrel Girl, Thank You for Everything

Once upon a time, Mom bought li’l three-year-old me a copy of Web Of Spider-Man #12 at the grocery store.  So began a lifelong love affair with the character Spider-Man, the medium of comic books, and the world of superheroes.  When I turned sixteen my comic budget turned towards gas money.  But then, four years ago, I decided to return to my local comic shop and something magical happened.  I rediscovered an old love and found something I never expected in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  This month Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letter), and Wil Moss (editor) – with a surprise dash of Erica Henderson (artist) – have brought this remarkable title to an end.  That leaves me with a lot on my mind.  How do I say goodbye to something that’s come to mean so much to me?

There will be no significant spoilers for the final issue/arc here, just lots of feelings :). Continue reading

Too Much Like Movie Stars: Gerry Duggan’s All-New Guardians Of The Galaxy

I started this li’l series a while ago, when I finally read Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians Of The Galaxy run, the comics that inspired James Gunn’s films.  I had so much fun writing about my experience of meeting the Guardians in that way, as I continued my journey through their comics, I did another post about Brian Michael Bendis’s time writing the title.  Naturally, next up is Gerry Duggan.  I feel enough time has passed (now that we’re seven months into the Donny Cates run) that I can thoughtfully reflect on Duggan’s vision of the team.  For me, this ended up being a shocking-yet-classic example of the truth of being careful what you wish for… Continue reading

Spider-Man and The Spider Family: A Look At What Might Have Been…

This is the latest installment in my series exploring romantic archetypes in literature and in life through Spider-Man comics.  So far I’ve used Peter’s relationship with the Black Cat as a lens to examine our relationships with the people we can’t stop flirting with even though we know it’ll be trouble yet we passionately jump in anyway.  Then I used Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane to consider the idea of a Soul Mate as well as the experience of finding and losing “the one.”  This time I’m looking at the alternate reality comic series The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows as a way to contemplate the romantic idea of the “What if…?” person (or people) we all have in our lives. Continue reading

Spider-Man: Life Story – An Evocative Argument for Letting Superheroes Age

I’m not trying to be hyperbolic when I say, Spider-Man: Life Story is the future of the comic book industry.  Now I don’t mean to imply the comics industry as a whole is going to follow Chip Zdarsky’s elegant lead with every comic.  I’m just saying I think they should.  In Spider-Man: Life Story, Zdarsky (accompanied by my all-time favorite Spidey artist Mark Bagley (yay!)) explores what Peter Parker’s life could have been like had he aged naturally, with each issue of this six issue miniseries touching on one decade in Peter’s life.  For example issue #1 is set in 1966, four years after Peter was bitten by the radioactive spider (as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spidey in 1962 (see how that works?)).  Issue #2 looks at the ‘70s and so on as Peter ages in real time.  He isn’t perpetually stuck in his late 20’s or early 30’s.  Four issues in, I’ll confidently say this will stand as one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.  It’s the most interested I’ve been in Peter Parker’s adventures as Spider-Man in almost twenty years too.  In allowing Peter to age, Zdarsky has illustrated the hidden potential of the comic book genre. Continue reading

The Four Comics I Can’t Live Without

A few years ago, when I was counting down to my hundredth post on this site, I profiled the four comic books I’d found since my return to reading comics which had become indispensable to my reading life.  These were the comics that, even if I stopped collecting comics again, I couldn’t imagine putting down.  They showcased, for me, the best of what a comic could offer while doing things I never imagined a comic book could.  They were (in the order I wrote about them in my countdown), Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, IDW’s Ghostbusters, and Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  Thinking of those titles now, I can still feel the burgeoning excitement and awe that accompanied my return to comic reading.  They also make me think of impermanence. Continue reading