Comics Blog

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Comic Heroes You Should Be Reading About

Although in today's world there are many different comic books and series to choose from, I find that it is best to read from a few series religiously and then pick up single issues that look interesting on the side. For those series you choose to read all the time, I suggest a subscription to ease the continuous blows to your wallet each week or month. For once in a while reads, keep picking them up at the stands but once you feel yourself looking forward to reading that specific comic a few times in a row, you may want to think subscription.

Okay then, that was the easy part, now here comes the hard part. Which comics should I subscribe to and which are best left on the stands? I'm so glad that you asked. In my opinion the best comics to read are the ones that revolve around your favorite comic heroes. Now that may seem pretty self explanatory but look at the key word favorite. Favorite doesn't mean top twelve, instead I would try and subscribe to your top four heroes. I'm not trying to dissuade you from reading more than four comic series. Quite the opposite, read as many as you'd like, but for your wallets sake, subscribing to the top four isn't a bad idea.

"But I like so many comics! I can't possibly just choose four!" you may say. Well, if it is too hard for you to decide on your own who to read let me show you my top four comic heroes and explain why you should also be reading them.

1. Deadpool

Deadpool is hands down my favorite comic book character ever. He has the most unique stories in comics right now chock full of action, women, and ridiculous humor. Deadpool is such a fun read because of the zaniness and open insanity of the title character. He breaks the fourth wall in every issue and is actually aware of his thought balloons (that's right he has two) and the interactions between them all lead to comedy gold. If you aren't reading one of his comics, start.

2. Batman

There's a new Batman in town folks and he certainly has his hands full. All of the Batman series are great and in my opinion are written by the best people in comics at the moment. Paul Dini, Grant Morrison, and even Kevin Smith have been involved in Batman. Although Bruce Wayne he is not, the series keeps its dark tone but with a lighter Batman...for now. Batman is definitely DC's power player and for good reason, check him out in any of five on going series.

3. Green Lantern

The Green Lantern is a book well worth reading, and not only because the current comic event: Blackest Night revolves around him. The Green Lantern is actually a recent reboot. Although Green Lanterns have been around since the Golden Age of comics, the titular hero has changed several times. But most everybody agrees that Hal Jordan is considered the Green Lantern. That's probably why Geoff John's creative team pulled him back from the dead and placed him as the lead in the current Green Lantern series. This Green Lantern complete with a haunted past and an ever changing love life is definitely one to read.

4. Spider-Man

Read Spider-man comics. Or comic, I should say. I especially harp on reading Spider-Man comics because it is so easy to do now. He only appears as the main hero in one comic book The Amazing Spider-Man. It ships three times a month so it is a little more expensive but the convenience of not having to read issues in other series just to stay on track with him is definitely a plus. Spidey's been around for ages, and he is still the same do-gooder with an infinite run of bad luck in all areas of his life. Trust me, Spider-man is arguable the biggest name in comics, and there is a reason why.

Well, there's the top four comic heroes. If you aren't reading these four heroes do your self a favor and start. The writing is superb, the illustrations are gorgeous, and the differing characters provide view points from across the spectrum. So whether your just getting into comics, or are a seasoned vet, make sure you check out these four comic heroes, you'll be sorry if you don't.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Wolverine the Most Successful X-Men Character?

Wolverine was introduced in 1974 in The Incredible Hulk #180, before his first major appearance in the Hulk #181. He is born as James Howlett, but he is affectionately known as Logan. In 1975 Wolverine became part of the X-Men, but he played a lesser role than the other team members. Dave Cockrum even considered dropping Wolverine from the team, but it was Cockrum's successor John Byrne that kept Wolverine in the team. Some suggest that it is because Byrne is a Canadian like Wolverine. Gradually more and more information about Wolverine's murky past was revealed. Wolverine is a mutant, possessing extremely keen senses, enhanced physical power, tremendous healing abilities and of course the trademark retractable claws on each hand. During a secret government project, Weapon X, a near indestructible metal alloy adamantium was fused to his skeletal. Wolverine, probably due to his incredible healing abilities, survived this deadly process. Interestingly enough, it was shown that Wolverine has bone claws after his adamantium was ripped out by Magneto in X-Men #25.

Wolverine is highly intelligent, but his personality is a bit rough. He is usually shown to be a loner and his teamwork within the X-Men is often sporadic. Some other team members are Cyclops, Jean Grey, Gambit, Jubilee and Beast. Wolverine, being almost dropped from the X-Men team, became one of the most successful members of the team. His tough anti-authority mentality made him a favorite of many after the fallout of the Vietnam War. Wolverine became the breakout character and in terms of comic sales and appearances overshadowed his other team members.

On the Fandomania's website Wolverine is rated as number 21 of the 100 greatest Fictional Characters, before characters like Merlin, Robin Hood and King Arthur. Without a doubt Wolverine can be seen as the most successful X-Men character of all times. Perhaps it is due to his famous catch phrase: "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn't very nice"

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Batman Costume For Dress Up Parties

If you go to a fancy dress party and look for someone who has dressed up as a superhero for the evening then you can be pretty sure that it will be a Batman costume that you see. Out of all of the comic strip heroes from over the years few have had quite the same appeal as Batman. Of course, you are bound to come across the odd Superman but the Caped Crusader just seems to have a greater overall appeal. Perhaps it is because with a Batman costume you don't have to wear your underpants on the outside of your trousers to attain authenticity... Unless, that is, you are styling your outfit on the camp Batman series of the sixties of course. Since the days of Adam West the Batman costume has changed considerably. When the original outfit is compared with the Gothic inspired one worn by Christian Bale in 2008's 'The Dark Knight' the difference is immediately obvious.

Some things about the style of the Caped Crusader's dress sense have remained relatively unchanged over the years. He still has the scallop edged cape and the eye mask with the pointed ears on top but in other ways the Batman costume of yesteryear has undergone some major changes. If anything, it is now far more Goth orientated in its overall appearance. The alterations quickly became apparent with the release of 'Batman' in 1989.

Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson brought a far more sombre version of the hero to the big screen. The movie was essentially very dark and even its lighter moments were more cynical than anything that had been seen previously. The new Batman costume was more like body armour in its appearance than the skin-tight grey spandex of the nineteen sixties television series. This was to be the new direction that the look of the Dark Knight was to take. With the release of each subsequent movie the Batman costume took on a more Gothic feel. The body armour slant continued, exaggerating contours and muscles on the hero.

The only dubious part of this evolution of the outfit was in 1997's 'Batman and Robin'. The movie sparked outrage with many fans by the addition of 'Bat-nipples' and a cod-piece to the Batman costume. A great deal of movie-goers and critics found this to be totally ridiculous. George Clooney, who took the lead role for the movie, just doesn't seem to come across as being quite so menacing when confronting super-villains when dressed in this style of outfit. Fortunately, since 'Batman and Robin', the nipples have quietly disappeared from the Batman costume and the films have reverted back to a more serious and darker feel.

If there is a fancy dress party that you have been invited to and you like the idea of getting dressed up as everyone's favourite superhero then there are a variety of styles to choose from. Each of the movies has slightly different takes on the Gothic Batman's appearance. Whichever costume you settle on you are sure to be a popular guest.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Is Batman A Superhero Or Not?

What exactly defines a superhero? Is it truly necessary for a superhero to have super powers like flying, inhuman strength, x-ray vision or invulnerability?

Most people would quickly state that to be a super hero you must have these abilities. If this is true, the question should be expanded to include others like Iron-Man and Green Arrow. Are they also superheroes or not? In the same sense as Batman, they cannot be seen as super heroes. Some see Batman as a vigilante with a lot of high-tech gadgets but no innate super powers. In their opinion, he can't be a superhero.

Taking a look at the definition of a super hero in the Merriam-Webster, you find a superhero defined as "a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers" as well as "an exceptionally skillful or successful person." So, even if Batman does not have any superhuman powers, he does have some really extraordinary powers.

He is a very skilled fighter, being a master at various martial arts. He is extremely intelligent and is seen as the Dark Detective for his abilities to solve complex puzzles. He is a master of various forensic sciences, and he has a great understanding of the human psychological processes. Batman is, quite certainly, a powerful individual. He is physically strong and agile. Except for these qualities, Batman also shares quite a lot of commonalities with other fictional superheroes. He wears a costume to hide his true identity. He uses various special equipment, ranging from small utilities on his belt, to his famous bat mobile. He usually fights those who are classified as super villains, like the Joker, Two Face, Killer Croc and the Penquin.

His extraordinary abilities are shown by his ability overcome the lower level thugs, mostly used by the super villains. Even when vastly outnumbered by these thugs, Batman can handle and disable them all with relative ease. These alone moves him into the arena of exceptionally skillful. So even though he has no real super powers, he does fit the definition given by Merriam-Webster. Of course, technology does help him in his shortcomings. He doesn't have x-ray vision, like Superman, but he does have his bat-goggles. He cannot fly, but with his trusted grappling hook, he can move quite effectively between the buildings of Gotham. He uses smoke and stun grenades to overcome a huge number of enemies, and he can pick locks and disable alarms with great ease. What he needs in superpowers, he makes up in gadgets.

The biggest argument for Batman as a superhero comes from the Justice League of America. Distinquished superheroes like Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter work side by side with Batman. Would these superheroes accept a mere human being if he is not up to their standards? The answer is no. The Justice Leaguers reckon Batman as one of them.

Batman does not have any real superpowers, but according to the definition of Merriam-Webster Batman does fit the definition of a superhero, and with real superheroes accepting him as an equal, no doubt Batman can truly and utterly be called a superhero.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The First Fathers And Sons of Comics

It may have not been planned but many of this week's comics happen to deal with fathers and sons. That might not sound strange but when you think about classic comics there aren't many prominent father figures. Some of the most prominent super heroes don't have dads. Superman's father is dead, ditto for Batman, Uncle Ben is the closest thing to a dad Peter Parker ever had and we all know what happened to him. I'm not even going to go near Silk Spectre's daddy issues. Is there an underlying reason why most superheroes are also orphans?

These week's Detective Comics, Walking Dead and Gotham City Sirens all deal with fathers and their sons. In Detective, Commissioner James Gordon is increasingly concerned with the return of his son James Jr. who has been troubled to say the least and for reasons that are only hinted at, has been separated from his family for years.

In Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes has always sworn to protect his son Carl by any means necessary in their dangerous zombie filled world. In this month's issue Rick makes good on his vow, even sacrificing his fellow survivors in order to protect his son. In this exciting installment, Rick who has lost everything else may be unable to save Carl this time.

The Walking Dead may have reached a critical turning point in its plot that may shift the relationship between Rick and Carl.

Finally in Sirens, Arkham Asylum guard Aaron Cash discovers that the death of his infant son was not accidental but an underhanded scheme played out by the Joker. Realizing this, Cash goes against his duty as a guard and condones the proposed murder of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Noticing that this father son theme was in most of my pull list this week, it got me thinking about the sort of shadow role that many fathers of golden age superheroes have played throughout comic history.

In almost every hero's origin, their parents are murdered, pass away or are somehow tossed aside so that their offspring can meet their destiny of fighting crime. And what other tragedy is as universally relatable as well as strong a motivator. No matter who we are we all have parents, and losing them has fueled Bruce Wayne's war on crime as well as inspires Peter Parker to take responsibility for his spider powers by using them for good, while Tony Stark and Britt Reid, (The Green Hornet,) live in the shadows of their fathers legacies and attempt to better the world by using their vast inheritances to fund their causes.

Many of those heroes have been subconsciously making up for the lack of perennial figures in their lives over the course of their lives. Bruce Wayne for one, initially the ultimate loner, has fostered an entire family of Robins and Batgirls who all share a similar trauma. Raising three boy wonders is no easy task, and Bruce doesn't do such a great job interacting with his sole biological son Damian, who is the youngest, most arrogant and anti social Robin to date. It's curious to see Bruce mentor his previous sidekicks, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake so closely, (to the point of adopting Tim,) and neglect his own flesh and blood. Time will tell how this relationship evolves; Damian is a fairly new character in comic terms. In the meantime, Dick, (The original Robin,) has taken his mentors son under his wing to form a new Batman & Robin team that flips the dynamic of the duo by featuring a lighthearted Batman and a hot tempered Robin.

Thanks to the relationships we witness from page to page, it's easy to see that comic books are capable of telling much deeper stories than what appears on the surface. Comics are a yet another medium being used to explore humanity and it's many aspects. It may be colorful, campy and cryptic but this ink doesn't run, it bleeds.

Daniel Scheid is a Social Networking and Technology Journalist.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Gotham Central

In 2003, Ed Brubacker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark got together to start a comic book series about the Gotham City Police Department or GCPD. The series was called Gotham Central and is part of the Batman family of books. The series was also a commercial failure. The first issue came out February 2003 and the last issue was dated April 2006.

Forty issues. That's it. And you know what? That's beautiful. I mean, if a series ran into the hundreds of issues it come under the responsibility of any number of creative teams; it's inevitable that some issues in the run would be crap. Can't be helped, if your series in currently numbers 500+ or 300+ there will be some dogs in that pile. And that's where the forty issues of Gotham Central become magic. I have read everyone and everyone is a gem. Well, there is one, issue no. 37 is a tie in to a DC-wide event called Infinite Crisis, and it doesn't have the magic of the others. It was a bit bleh, but still okay. If that's the worst that Gotham Central can do then it's safe to say that this series is magic and highly recommended.

Over the course of the run the writing is consistently Brubacker and Rucka and it shows in the quality of the stories. This two are among the top writers in the field at the time, still are actually (circa 2010), Michael Lark shares art chores with others over the run, artists like Stefano Guadiano and Greg Scott. They all do a good job. There are some panels in this run that are just spot on. Not just any writer can do this series because it's a street level series with hardly any costumed heroes; so the artists have to do 'street' very well. Things like facial expressions, gestures. From panel to panel the action can get very subtle - no expansive super-hero action here - which could explain the low sales.

So why should you even bother?

First of all: the writing. The pacing, characterization and the character dynamics add up to engrossing single-issue stories and story arcs. These are great page-turners that can be re-read with relish. My favorite single issue tale is called 'Nature' and is presented in issue no. 32. This is a tale that involves the Batman villain Poison Ivy - as the hero. How cool is that? The best of the arcs is called 'Soft Targets' and stars the most nefarious Batman baddie of them all - the Joker. Close to it in quality is another arc called 'Unresolved' this time with the Mad Hatter.

Another reason to pick this up is the art. Oh, the art. I've found myself stopping to stare at some panels. Just looking at them. The approach is not exactly noir but very close - the mood created is just perfect for street level Gotham.

Did I say Gotham. Yes, Batman's town. He's here too, along the edges of the stories. Never the centerpiece, but always present. In fact, a bit conspicuous by his absence. But not only him, he's history, the lore surrounding the bat. The stories are accessible to any reader not familiar with Batman but the more you know about the Batman's world the richer that tales become. Subtle touches abound for readers in the know. The series also adds to the DC Universe. Two protagonists in particular: Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen go on to bigger roles in the DCU.

Gotham Central wasn't popular, and isn't, except for a small group of loyalists like me. It's fated to be one of those 'lost gems' of comics. Quality awaits for those willing to give it a chance.

Pete Albano

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Comic Book Reviews - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight

One of my special guilty pleasures on TV was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was not your typical scary vampire sucking the lifeblood out of innocent virgins but a rousing and irreverent dedication to youth, culture and its relationship with eternal damnation.. The television show kept some of the connection with the horrible movie of the same name but had its creator Joss Whedon at the helm to ensure its appropriate poignancy and humor came through loud and clear. Its creators made sure that the material kept us amused, surprised and caring for the young heroine as well as her friends and even some of the bad guys. After seven seasons the young cheerleading vampire slayer saved the world one last time and exited network television.

For the uninitiated, Buffy Summers was the young girl chosen from a long line of mystical maidens to fight the demons of the dark. She fights vampires with mad martial arts skills with the help of her best friends Willow, a witch and Xander a nice enough ordinary guy. The comic series is well drawn and is surprisingly consistent in its look and feel from issue to issue. The comic book series contains several story arcs but basically it's Summers and her worldwide army of young slayers against vengeful demons with ulterior motives as well as the full force of the United States Army.

For five seasons Buffy the Vampire Slayer kept us entertained on a fledgling network called the WB then made the jump to UPN for two more seasons before going out with a bang. To the surprise and delight of many of its fans, the "Chosen One" returned in comic book form to continue slaying vampires and demons while taking on the establishment as well. The comic series was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 and picked up after the destruction of the Hellmouth and the city of Sunnydale.

Joss Whedon, the creator continued to guide the series in this new format; working feverishly to keep the flavor and style that made the series so unique. The comic series blasted off with Whedon scripting the story and artist Georges Jeanty on pencils and Andy Owens working inks; Dave Stewart created the exquisite colors with Comicraft and Richard Starkings filling out the team on lettering.

Series 7 ended with the group driving off into the great unknown apparently ready to assemble the hundreds of new slayers that have been awakened after the last great confrontation with evil. What we see in the opening segment is a much more emotionally mature Buffy Summers. Our pretty blonde cheerleader has now morphed into General Patton or more appropriately Nick Fury agent of Shield. Her new crew comprising of hundreds of new slayers are battle tested and dedicated to her cause. The TV show was unconventional in its delivery and dialogue and the comic series tries to deliver that same flavor.

You are probably in one it is you and ensure new a new day in the you delete it. If it is a good idea is to you and Vampire Slayer season eight continues many of the relationships that have blossomed throughout the television series while continuing to explore new themes. Even Buffy gets a new love interest that assists in the mending of her broken heart. The mythology that colors the world of Buffy Summers continues to evolve in the color comics. The material continues to feel fresh after all these years because Whedon and the original writers for the show treat the new material with care and pull the reader in with a mix of new characters and old favorites.

Buffy Season 8 started out as an exhilarating new opportunity for comics to continue the storyline and characters past their TV incarnations. Comics can be just as entertaining medium without the exorbitant expense of production. Continuing a TV series in this medium also allows for more merchandising opportunities in new markets. Although the concept of portraying television characters in comics is not new the idea of continuing a series while bridging the gap between television and comics in this way is novel and refreshing.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Buffy and her new charges known as Slayers live and train tirelessly in Scotland. The US Army and a roundtable of old and new villains take on Buffy and her friends. A new villain named Twilight figures heavily in the plots and subplots which pepper the series. The slayer army and Buffy are forced to fight for their lives and in defense of their loved ones; as usual, not everyone makes it out alive in a Joss Whedon production. If you are a fan of the show and you are into comics I'm fairly certain you will like this series. Since there are no limitations when it comes to special effects in comics Whedon and the gang have a great time constructing their fantasy world. Although the season 8 story arc is over, Whedon and company are already talking about continuing the project which means lots more work for the Slayer.

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