Tagged: Animal Man

MIKE GOLD: DC’s New 52 Drops A Good One

Well, here’s something strange. Within a 72-hour period last week a half dozen people asked me if I had read the new, new Animal Man. During that same period, my daughter was asked the same question by one of her friends. Then I had lunch with comics writer Paul Kupperberg, so I asked him if he read the book. He said no, not yet, but a number of people told him he should.

Hmmmm. Word of mouth is either the best or the worst type of publicity. I noticed not a one of these folks said it was great; just that it was worth reading.

I enjoyed the original Animal Man – the one that was created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino in Strange Adventures 180, some 46 years ago. It was unusual in that it was only occasionally published, and the lead didn’t get his costume (one of Carmine’s best) until the third appearance nearly a year later. His run – more like a bunch of skips and hops – was brief, but it clearly had an impact on us Baby Boomer fanboys. Animal Man was more of a cool concept than a fan fave.

Because I’m not quite paranoid to believe that all those people who recommended the book to us were part of a vast conspiracy, I approached Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman’s Animal Man volume 2, number 1 without preconceptions.

Gone is the cool Infantino-designed costume, replaced by something that was clearly influenced by the original: no more contemporary in design, but with a more striking color scheme. We start with Buddy Baker’s home life, and here we indulge a bit in the married life superhero chiché. He’s not henpecked the way The Web was back in the 1960s (one of the first, if not the first, costumed hero with a “realistic” married life); Lemire cleverly uses the rough parts of family life as exposition.

It is that very family that is the root of this first story arc. In the 22-page format there’s very little room to establish the characters in this new reality and really get you deeply involved in an actual story, and Animal Man 2.1 does a better job of it than most of The New 52 stories I’ve read so far. Not as good as Mister Terrific #1 in terms of the quantity and depth of story, but more compelling from the perspective of character.

That seems to be what Animal Man is all about: character development within the framework of a family where the father has superpowers. I say “seems to be” because, well, hell, we don’t know. It’s just the first issue. But this beginning gives me hope.

I always get hinky when I think about how a DC series will get coopted as it is thrust into the DCU – sorry, make that DCnU – but I’ve learned to leave such speculation to time and historical inevitability. And hope that Animal Man beats the odds.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

MINDY NEWELL: Comics Are For Kids?

There’s a great interview with Grant Morrison on the website of Rolling Stone magazine.  The reason I bring it up is that I’ve been thinking about last week’s column.  The more I thought about Action Comics #1, written by Morrison, the more I really liked it.

But I’m an adult.

I’ve been a fan of Grant’s since his debut on this side of the pond as the writer of Animal Man back in the 80s. It was a book that I adored. But Animal Man was under the Vertigo imprint, whose aim was to bring a sophisticated, i.e. adult, audience and slant into the comics industry – at which it incredibly succeeded, of course. In fact, if I remember right, the “hook” for the entire line of Vertigo books was sophisticated horror.

But I’m an adult.

And the Vertigo books aren’t for kids.

I grew up during the Silver Age of comics. When Lois was constantly getting into jams thanks to her penchant of trying to discover Superman’s secret identity. When Jimmy was constantly being exposed to some weird amulet that turned him into Elasti-Lad or a giant turtle or a bearded man. When Perry smoked cigars and yelled “Great Caesar’s Ghost” all the time. When Supergirl was alive and acted as her cousin’s secret weapon. When Superboy was a teenage Clark Kent living in Smallville and had a secret passageway and robots to cover his “tuchas” when he was away on a mission and his parents were alive and Lana Lang was his sweetheart. When Kandor was in a bottle.  When the Legion of Super-Heroes travelled through time in a bubble. When the “editor’s note” would inform me that the sun was 93,000,000 miles away from Earth.

Okay, it was a more innocent age. Well, not really. There was the Cold War and the U-2 incident and the Korean War and the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis and Barry Goldwater and the John Birch Society and “advisory troops” in a country named Vietnam. The Suez Canal crisis.

It was the Mad Men age.

And then we all grew up to be Mad Men.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luthor King. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Women’s rights. The Black Panthers. Newark, New Jersey in flames. The Weatherman. The Vietnam War. Tricky Dick. The Chicago Democratic Convention. Dan Rather being manhandled and dragged off the floor of the convention center. Cops in riot gear beating up college students. The Pentagon Papers. Pot. Hash. Timothy Leary. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.

The thing is, I think all those people marching and rioting and fighting and reacting to what was wrong in the world, what they did, what we did, was because we were raised on the ideals of what America was supposed to be about, what we really did believe, growing up, America was about.

I look around now, and I wonder, why aren’t people out on the street marching in the hundreds of thousands protesting? Angry people march. Angry people riot. Angry people force change.

Six out of 10 children are living in poverty in this country. In fucking America, man! Why aren’t their parents out there marching? We were lied into Iraq more blatantly than we were ever lied to about Vietnam. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? We’re building infrastructures and schools in Afghanistan while our own bridges and roads are collapsing and our school buildings are rotting. Why the fuck are we not out there marching? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Koch brothers and about 10 other Wall Street operators are speculating in oil prices. Why the fuck aren’t we out there marching? The President lets the Republicans walk all over him and the Republicans can’t stand that the black guy in the White House isn’t the valet. Why the fuck are we not out there marching?

What has changed?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t.

But I’m sad, and I’m scared. Really scared.

Superman used to be written for kids. As was Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Grant is a great writer. Grant is a brilliant writer.

Grant is not a writer for kids.

And Action Comics #1 isn’t for kids.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis


Hello all. Welcome back to my angry little corner of the interwebosphere. Last week I bitched and moaned about variant covers… and well, you all agreed with me. Thank you. Not that we’ll see that stop mind you, but at least I know I’m not alone when I scoff. I know everyone this week has the DCnU on the brain. But honestly? I’m tired of it. Some books are amazing (Action Comics, Animal Man), some are profoundly underwhelming (Justice League, JLI), and some defy all logic for being printed (Voodoo. I know it’s not out yet, but come on.). Six months from now, when 1/3 of these comics are poop-canned, will anyone be surprised? Nope. DC has never shied away from gimmicks. So enjoy the ride. But I digress. Instead of adding to the tidal wave of blather about DC this week, I want to talk about something far more important. I want to talk about my son.

This past Tuesday, September 13th, my wife and I got our 20-week ultrasound. Breaking tradition (we’re totally into SPOILER ALERTS) we decided to find out the sex of our baby. I can’t tell a lie (ok, I can, but for the sake of argument… I won’t.) – I wanted a boy. And right there, in blue and black, my little guy waved hi to me. It was an experience I’ll never forget. The fear, the joy, all of it combined in that little hospital room. My best friends (Matt of Unshaven Comics and his lovely wife, Amy) are two weeks ahead of Kathy and me. They found out last week they are having a boy too. Thus the scions of Unshaven Comics will be here in January/February of 2012. When they enter this world, there’s no way to escape it: comic books will be an integral part of their lives. The question is… what comics will be?

Growing up, my parents didn’t read to me. I don’t have a single memory of my parents sitting by my bedside reading Goodnight Moon. My folks aren’t readers, honestly. It’s never bothered me. I myself don’t consider reading all that much of a hobby. Every moment I’m awake I’m generally working. For my employer. For Unshaven Comics. For ComicMix. For my wife. For your wife. Confession time kids. The only time I read (and 99% of the time we’re talking comic books here) I’m on the can. Only an idiot like me would try to be double productive when I’m pooping. Why just defecate when I can be entertained at the same time?!

All this being said though, I’ve made it a point to myself to share the joy of the written word (and the drawn picture) with my son. The escapism, imagination, and craft of a good book, or good comic for that matter is something I want my son to enjoy as early in his life as possible. Not just cause his daddy loves it mind you… Because in this day and age where 140 characters has come to represent a complete thought, stopping to read even 20 pages of muscly guys punching other muscly guys is better than the ADD-riddled alternative. The TV, the computer, the cellphone? All have a place in my son’s life, but it’s not going to be the end-all-be-all for his entertainment needs.

So what’s my evil master plan? First and foremost, Daddy is gonna read Fishy 2.0 all of Unshaven Comics. I yearn for the day my son is on the playground and an exchange goes something like this:

Random snot-nosed other kid: Superman would beat the Hulk!

Lil’ Fishman: And Liberty’s Torch would beat Superman!!

Random snot-nosed other kid: Who’s that?

Lil’ Fishman: Just the coolest super-est hero that ever lived! Duh! (Little Fishy then proceeds to detail all he knows about his Dad’s super-hero creations. Soon, the entire elementary school is ready for The Samurnauts… and I’m a millionaire.)

All ego-stroking aside, when introducing my future son to comic books, the plan is simple: What Dad reads, the son shall read as well. As soon as possible, I want to introduce my son to great “all-ages” books like Tiny Titans (or essentially anything by Art and Franco) and a little Archie. As he grows up, I’ll open up my collection to him. If he’s receptive to it, I’ll proudly read just about any book I own with him.

Obviously I’ll turn on my parental V-chip to ensure the content is kid-appropriate. But one thing that I’m a huge proponent of is not shielding my eventual child from the world. I’ve never smoked a cigarette. Simply put, child rearing scares the hell out of me. Last night I read for an hour about baby poop, how to help a child say his first word, and how to look for warning signs if baby is gonna spray you when changing a diaper. But when it comes to entertaining my son, there’s no question. The entire world of comic books is open to him. I’ll start small, and simple, and slowly introduce him to all the great genres – be it superhero, western, sci-fi, horror, love, fantasy, pulp, noir, and maybe even a little of all of it (i.e. GrimJack). Ultimately, my son will gain his own identity, and I know it’s my job then to nurture it, and let him find his own way. Even if he ends up liking the X-Men. God help me.

I’ve never been drunk. I’ve never taken an illegal drug. And my parents never once had to sit me down to explain any of it. I watched what I wanted to watch. I read what I wanted to read. And they were always quick to explain to me anything that was confusing or “adult.” I intend to do the same. Does that mean my son will read the Watchmen at 8? Probably not alone, but his dad will gladly read it with him. He’ll learn about history through the lens of fiction. It will create a curiosity about the world… and I can’t think of a better way to help my son learn, grow, and come into his own.

And when he turns 16, I’ll lend him The Pro. That outta’ keep him… interested.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MARTHA THOMASES: Confessions of an iPad Comics Virgin

Is that all there is?

I finally downloaded a few comics onto my iPad using the updated Comixology app. I mean, I’m on record as being a lover of comics on paper, as well as the comic book shops that sell them. However, I’m also a big fan of prose on paper, as well as the bookstores that sell them, and I love my Kindle, so I thought I should give the new delivery system a try.

Previously, I’d noticed a flaw in the iPad design as far as visual entertainment goes. The screen is too shiny. Reading a book on the iBook app is more difficult for me than reading a book on the Kindle because of the glare (the Kindle has a matte finish). It’s even more distracting when watching a movie. However, I enjoy having a movie downloaded if I’m flying somewhere, and I might also enjoy having a virtual stack of comics.

I started by scouting out the free comics, because what if I didn’t like it? And I wanted something I hadn’t read already, so my previous opinion wouldn’t influence me. My son loves Robert Kirkman, and I was a fan of the TV show, so I downloaded the first issue of The Walking Dead.

It was a good choice. The app was easy to use, even for an old fart like myself, and I enjoyed my experience.

So last week, when there was a shipment glitch at New York comic shops, and I couldn’t get two of the books I wanted at any of my local stores by Saturday, I went online and paid for content. Reading Detective Comics and Stormwatch was, oddly, more difficult than reading the indie comic with lower production values. The lettering was hard to read, too small, and when I made the image bigger, I lost the flow of the page.

Did I lose some strength in my optic nerves? I went back to read Walking Dead again (and why can’t you go back to the beginning with one touch?), and that still worked well for me.

Still the color of the DC books was brilliant, and there were no ads. There were also no letters pages or other DC editorial material. For my $2.99, I got my story, and that’s it.

As it happens those two books have a reasonable amount of story. If I’d read Justice League #1 in that format, I would have been irked.

Will I buy more? Maybe back issues, because I’d rather have the stuff on my computer than in storage. Or if I’m away on a long trip, where I’m unfamiliar with the local comic book shops. Or if it’s the middle of the night and I don’t want to get dressed and go walking the streets, looking for Superman (or, I suppose, Mr. Goodbar).

But otherwise? I’m sticking with paper, at least for the near term. I like my comics with some social interaction. I like folding back the cover – and watching the true collectors freak out.

There aren’t that many occasions when I can feel eight years old again, and reading comics lets me do it once a week. So I’ll stay with the format from last century for as long as I can.

Martha Thomases, Dominoed Daredoll, really really really liked the new Animal Man.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

On the Road to a Crisis

On the Road to a Crisis

So right now, we’re halfway through Final Crisis, a crossover involving the weakening of space and time and all of reality being endangered. In the prelude one-shot DC Universe #0, readers were recapped about the fact that this is the third universal crisis to happen to the DCU (which isn’t entirely accurate and we’ll get into that soon).

But some of you folks may want a little more detail about what happened before this. Why is this the "Final" Crisis? And considering the fact that the previous two crises both involved history being altered, what do the heroes involved truly remember about them?

So here is not only a rundown of the previous crises, but the major events that have led into them and certain side stories that writer Grant Morrison may refer to again very soon.


Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality Review

Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality Review

Modernism and self-referentiality have been rampant in superhero comics for a good twenty years now; Alan Moore was the main instigator, with his great final Superman story and the Watchmen “pirate comics” motif. Some of the best and most entertaining stories since then have been knowingly "comics," from Grant Morrison’s "The Coyote Gospel" in Animal Man to John Byrne’s pleasant run on She-Hulk. But self-referentiality can also curdle like milk, or gnaw away its own belly like the fox under the Spartan boy’s cloak. There’s a huge streak of allegory in modern superhero comics – actually, "allegory" gives it too much credit; what we actually find are naked bids for audience identification and equally naked scornings of any connection to or interest in the supposedly puerile and retrograde wishes of that audience. (Pop quiz: who does Superman-Prime represent and why?)

Mainstream superhero comics have become a high-speed whirlwind of reader-response feedback done mad, with convoluted continuity one week and shredded history the next, and, no matter what, the anvil chorus of comics bloggers complaining that something or other is “raping their childhoods.” Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality is not the first series to dive into the middle of that debate – hell, most of the big crossovers now are thinly veiled attempts to seduce the audience into believing in one propaganda version of continuity or other. (“Marvel has always been at Civil War with Eastasia.”)

But Doctor 13 does have the advantage of trying to be fun – and, even better, at generally succeeding. It does feel a bit like special pleading in the end; Azzarello is yet another guy who grew up with comics and wants to celebrate the stuff he loved as a kid. (Exactly the kind of comics writer, I’m afraid, that we need less of today.) The art is also very nice: Cliff Chang has clean, confident black lines defining crisp space, and is particularly good at drawing people.