The modern superhero was born with Superman and the release of Action Comics #1 in June of 1938 began the Golden Age of Comic Books. None of the superhero comics, movies, TV shows, or video games we have today would exist as we know them if not for Superman. He was the foundation on which everything else was built. This new series nicks it’s title from Frank Miller’s seminal 1987 work Batman: Year One, in which Miller reimagines the origins of the Dark Knight in a darker, grittier fashion. Retelling and reimagining superhero origins is something both DC and Marvel love to do. But in this series I’m examining the actual first year of a superhero’s comic to get a sense for who they were when they first captured our cultural attention. What feels familiar? What feels different? In the case of Superman in particular, it’s often observed that he’s “too powerful,” “too unrelatable,” “too morally pure to be interesting.” That seems…unlikely to me. How can any character with 85 years of stories across all pop culture mediums not resonate? But let’s do our due diligence and see what Superman’s year one reveals about the character who birthed a genre.
Krakoa Cometh: Examining the Birth of the X-Men’s Mutant Utopia
I’m fascinated by utopias. Thomas More’s 1516 novel Utopia coined this term for a perfect society. In the book, More explores the politics, religion, and culture of an ideal island nation. I’ll never forget learning More created “utopia” from the Greek words eu-topos, which means “a good place,” and ou-topos, meaning “no place.” The text was satire and the name a pun. That blew my mind…and made me a little sad as it inherently implies such a good place may not be possible. Part of what fascinates me about utopias is how little (comparatively) we envision them in our art. Scores of dystopias fill our films, TV shows, comics, and novels. It feels like we’re always imagining our end. But what a perfect society looks like? How it functions? We don’t create those as often nor celebrate them when we do (remember George Clooney’s Tomorrowland? …that’s my point). When it comes to the Marvel Universe, Wakanda has always been the shining example of a perfect society. But when writer Jonathan Hickman was given the keys to the X-kingdom in 2019, Marvel’s mutants settled on the living island Krakoa (a mutant itself), creating an independent nation and new utopia in the MU. As Thomas More did 500 years before, Hickman’s Krakoa gives readers a good place which invites us to consider whether no place like this will ever exist…and it got me hooked on reading and thinking about the X-Men again for the first time in twenty-five years!
Lessons of Joy, Hope, and Love: The Gift of Wonder Woman 1984
This month marks the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman!!! I didn’t read her comics as a kid but Diana of Themyscria is a character who’s come to mean very much to me. As Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017) was my gateway to Diana and her world, it felt apropos to mark this occasion by (finally) posting the piece I wrote after seeing Wonder Woman 1984. I LOVE the movies. Since I got my driver’s license, rarely more than a week went by in between trips to the theatre. However, after a 10:05 pm showing of Brahms: The Boy 2 on 7 March 2020, lockdown hit. So when I saw Wonder Woman 1984, it’d been over TEN MONTHS since I’d went to the movies. I wanted my return to be special and WW84 was the logical choice. I wasn’t disappointed! Wonder Woman 1984 was a worthy successor to the masterpiece that was Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot did it again! They captured lightning in a bottle twice…at least as far as I was concerned. I was stunned when I began talking to friends – close friends who often share my opinion of films – and learned not everyone felt the same. Some did, but some didn’t. Granting all art is subjective, I still became curious, wondering what they saw in this film. Many conversations followed and this piece was born of my side of those conversations. This is an exploration of all I see in WW84.
Influential Books In My Own Ongoing Education About Systemic Racism
I have read a lot of articles and social media posts by black authors and activists over the last week who have said the same thing. In this moment in time, the role of white allies is to listen to and learn from black voices, to stand with the movement and march in solidarity, and, if needed, put our white privilege to a just use by placing our white bodies between the police and black bodies during peaceful demonstrations. What was stressed again and again is that this is not the time for white voices to lead, to speak out, and/or to make it “about us” – something, sadly, all too rare in American history. What is most important is for white Americans to listen and learn, to hear what our black sisters and brothers are saying and to follow their lead in the struggle against the sin of systemic racism. Continue reading
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
The Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Problem of Fat Shaming
In a recent post about the first teaser trailer for Black Widow, I discussed my excitement for the film while pointing out the criticism Marvel received almost as soon as the trailer premiered for fat shaming again. In addition to all the (fair and deserving) praise Avengers: Endgame received, it also received some (fair and deserving) criticism for fat shaming in their presentation of Thor. The trailer for Black Widow does the same with the character of Red Guardian. A comment left on that post led to the idea for this one. While putting together my reply, I decided it warranted its own post. I write often of the intersection of comic books and social justice issues on this site so it’s not just natural but important I address this because fat shaming, or weightism, is a justice issue. It’s also one, sadly, many people in our culture don’t understand or, worse, don’t even acknowledge as an issue at all. Thankfully that’s starting to change and now seems like an opportune time to add my voice to that chorus. Continue reading
Captain Marvel and the Skrulls – The Borders of a Hero’s Courage
When Captain Marvel opened on 8 March 2019 it was kind of a big deal. After a decade of dragging their feet, Marvel Studios was finally putting the solo spotlight on one of their female superheroes. Brie Larson was bringing Earth’s mightiest hero – Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel – to life! This film would also mark the entrance of the Skrulls into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Skrulls, a shapeshifting alien race, have plagued the (comic) Marvel Universe since the ‘60s. As happened with Black Panther/Avengers: Infinity War the year before, it was a shame Avengers: Endgame came out so soon after Captain Marvel. Attention from this brilliant film was quickly redirected first to speculation about, then reaction to, and finally analysis of Avengers: Endgame. But there is so much in Captain Marvel that warrants a closer look, one point in particular being the Skrulls themselves. Continue reading
Chelsea Cain’s Man-Eaters: Vol. 1
I loved Chelsea Cain’ Mockingbird. It was a comic as fun as it was intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny, easily one of the best Marvel was publishing…until they prematurely cancelled it. So you can imagine my elation when I realized Chelsea Cain was back together with her entire Mockingbird team to do another comic! This time she’s writing for Image Comics and the result is the darkly satirical horror/comedy comic Man-Eaters. It’s narrative is richly symbolic and deeply mythological all while delivering a unflinching assault on patriarchal oppression. It’s funny and creepy and has this fascinating slow building mystery. If you’d like to know more (and who wouldn’t?!?) then you can click here to read the piece I wrote exploring it for Reads & Reels! I would be super happy if you clicked and read because I dig the piece, love the comic, and am happy to be featured on Reads & Reels :). So, um, what are you waiting for? Click away! Continue reading
Ten Surprises I Found When I FINALLY Read Marvel’s Civil War
That’s right world, I finally did it! I FINALLY read Marvel’s “Civil War.” It only took me twelve years to do it :). This was, arguably, the biggest thing to happen to comic books during my seventeen year break in reading them. It was a company-wide crossover unlike anything Marvel had attempted before. It was a story working perfectly in-universe while also serving as one of the defining allegories of the times. Parts of it worked as comic books do when they are operating at their highest level. It was a shining example of a modern myth. Naturally, I’ve always been intrigued by it and it was certainly impossible (well impossible if you’re interested in comic books) to not have heard all about it. So it’s been a treat, as I’ve spent the last few months reading this modern epic, to find a few things which legitimately surprised me. Continue reading
What is #Comicsgate? Small Minds with Big Mouths
I’ve intentionally avoided writing about “#Comicsgate” until now. Honestly, I felt it didn’t deserve any more attention than it already had. It’s a movement of intolerance fueled by a small (compared to comic fandom as a whole) group of angry, close-minded individuals. They are very loud about their displeasure with the modern comic industry in an attempt to a) appear larger and more influential than they really are and b) garner more attention for their rantings. As such, I haven’t written about it. Why give this little, prattling monster what it wants? However, as someone who writes about his love of comic books while often showcasing my appreciation for the social justice lessons the better ones teach us, I figured it was time to finally talk about it. As it’s sadly not going anywhere (yet) I’d also like to offer my two cents on how we can counter things like this in the comic fan community. Continue reading