As you can imagine, we bought a lot of stuff at WonderCon.And if you know anything about tween/teen YouTube viewing habits, you know hauls (shopping show & tells) are key.So, this week we bring you Part 1 of our WCA Haul! We’ll show you which geeky chic items we’ve added to our collection and which “vintage” comics caught our eye. We also review Joie Brown’s Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi issues 1 & 2 and Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole and Katie O’Neill.
Stay tuned for Part 2 (maybe even part 3 — we took home a lot of comics) for more reviews.
Sometimes I think I’m living in a comic book world.
Comics have often reflected the events going on in the real world. During World War II, American comics vilified the Axis Triumvirate, i.e., Germany, Italy, and Japan – Superman was fighting a German paratrooper on the cover of Action Comics #43, and Marvel (then known as Timely Comics) presented the All-American hero, Captain America, who, in a story written by and drawn by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, punched out Adolf Hitler on the cover of his eponymous first issue, cover-dated March 1941. In Gleason’s Daredevil #1 (July 1941), the red-and-blue hero also took on the Führer, as did the Human Torch and The Sub-Mariner in the autumn of that same year.
The Boy Commandos, again from the team of Kirby and Simon working for DC, were four orphaned kids from the United States, England, France, and the Netherlands. They form an elite fighting unit under the command of Captain Rip Carter to fight the Nazis and appeared on the newsstands in the winter of1942. In Green Lantern #5 (May, 1945), the Emerald Crusader brings a bigoted Army private to Nazi Germany to show the private the rotten fruit of racism. Quality Comics’ Blackhawk first appeared in Military Comics #1, August 1941.
The Japanese didn’t get off easy. In The Nightmares Of Lieutenant Ichi or Juan Posong Gives Ichi The Midnight Jitters was published by U.S. Office of War Information for the Pacific Theater, and secretly circulated in the Philippines to boost morale during the Japanese occupation of country.
During the Korean War, the United States Department of State authorized the Johnstone and Cushing Company to create and publish the comic book Korea My Home, which was a true propaganda masterpiece worthy of Joseph Goebbels. In direct contrast, EC Comics debuted Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales; these comics did not propagandize war as a “field of honor,” but showed the killing fields for what they were – im-not-so-ho, the real reason why EC Comics was attacked and shut down by Congress… although William Gaines, Al Feldstein, and Harvey Kurtzman, most notably, kept up the good fight by continuing to publish Mad Magazine, the “original” subversive comic magazine for us baby boomers.
But it’s all propaganda, whether you’re on the right or the left of the political 50-yard line.
During the Reagan administration (I have a picture in my mind of Ronnie in the Oval Office ignoring the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and dreaming up “trickle-down economics” and pulling the Marines out of Lebanon while giggling over the gang’s antics in Riverdale and munching on some jelly beans), the CIA got into the business of publishing comics – though it was credited to the fictional “Victims of International Communist Emissaries,” whoever the fuck they were supposed to be – in 1984 with Grenada: Rescued from Rape and Slavery.
Get this – the storyboards were delivered in a Washington, D.C. taxi, where the head of the company received a suitcase full of cash for them. Ooooh, James Bondian skullduggery! The comics were airdropped over Grenada prior to the American invasion of the island, and, according to Wikipedia, “were intended to justify the American intervention in the country by describing the rise of communist forces there and how their presence demands military intervention” and “outlines President Ronald Reagan’s justifications for the invasion: alleged oppression and torture of the local inhabitants, threats to American medical students on the island, and a potential domino effect leading to more Communist governments in the Caribbean.”
Also under Ronald Reagan – he who got away with the Iran-Contra scandal – and the CIA was the 1985 The Freedom Fighter’s Manual, distributed to the Nicaraguan Contras during the fight against the Sandinista government in that country.
This one if fucking unbelievable!
It states that its purpose is that of a “practical guide to liberating Nicaragua from oppression and misery by paralyzing the military-industrial complex of the traitorous Marxist state without having to use special tools and with minimal risk for the combatant,” and instructs the readers on all the “various techniques” the “guerilla fighter” can use to fight the oppressor, up to and including terrorism. Okay, it talked about non-violent protest (work slowdowns, wasting resources), but it also instructed the reader on “minor sabotage, how to set fires with makeshift time fuses, demonstrated the making of Molotov cocktails and using them to firebomb government buildings.”
It also is a political manifesto on the necessity and ultimate goal of guerilla warfare:
“…guerrilla warfare is essentially a political war. Therefore, its area of operations exceeds the territorial limits of conventional warfare, to penetrate the political entity itself: the political animal that Aristotle defined.”
This comic was repackaged and retitled “Afghanistan: The Mujahedeen’s Handbook for Overthrowing the Evil Empire” and redistributed to Osama Bin Laden’s team of freedom fighters in Kabul.
Did you see it? Did ya did ya did ya? The latest trailer to the future billion-dollar-blockbuster-to-be Avengers 2: Age of Ultron didn’t dance around the revisionist history of the cinematic 616. Ultron, once the product of Dr. Hank Pym – of Ant Man fame, don’t you know – has been shifted to the fatherly arms of one Tony Stark.
Now, the movie isn’t out yet, and I’ve abstained for seeking any real spoilers (that the trailer didn’t spoil itself). For all I know, Tony “invented” it the same way Microsoft invented the Zune. But, let’s just assume that in the world of Joss Whedon’s Marvelverse, Tony Stark did as he said: he attempted to create a solution to the ails of the world… and in doing so, created a would-be destructor instead. Simply put, this is a brilliant move by the boardroom of Mickey Mouse. Old school fans be damned.
An old adage I was taught in screenwriting class was that “you don’t put a gun on the table if you don’t plan on firing it.” The idea being that storytelling in a restricted amount of time (like a 150 minute movie) means sometimes having to consolidate resources. And while I’m sure I could have my ear talked off by someone older than me on the rich history of Pym’s creation of the aforementioned villain, it’d fall on deaf ears. The biggest reason: the story thus far in the Marvel movies has wonderfully built to this outcome.
Take a trip through Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Avengers, and Iron Man 3. The genesis to the Marvel Studios empire was built on the back of Anthony Stark: war-monger, philanthropist, martyr. It makes complete sense coming out of Avengers and Iron Man 3 that Tony would feel compelled to create a machine to solve the world’s problems. And it’d make even more sense he’d imbue it with a bit of his own panache. Any decent scientist will tell you the man who could invent Jarvis as presented is more than capable of creating the AI that wants to end humanity in order to save it. No one builds a monologuing AI better than Tony “Poke the Hulk in the Tuccus” Stark.
What I love even more than the choice to saddle Tony with the idea for Ultron is the potential stories that spin out of it. Akin to Grant Morrison’s astounding Tower of Babel arc in JLA, here the biggest threat to the Avengers (and the world at large) isn’t the rampaging id, alien demi-god, or right-wing cyclops… it’s the narcissist futurist. And given the name drop of Captain America: Civil War and the leaked stories of Tony’s appearance in it, it doesn’t take much brain power to see that Captain America may end up opposite his teammate over something as trivial as potentially almost ending the world. Plus, Tony also sorta created Whiplash and a fire-breathing Guy Pearce. If that’s not enough to go to war, then I don’t know my politics.
Beyond Cap there’s potential steam to be blown off by countless others. And what of Tony’s Science Bro, Dr. Banner? Maybe he’ll be more sympathetic to a man trying to quell the beasts of the world and messing up. And what of Black Widow or Hawkeye? One would imagine they aren’t ones to choose sides quickly. And then there is S.H.I.E.L.D. and all of that potential mess.
Whedon’s recent interviews have all beleaguered the point that with this sequel the story is decidedly more insular than the previous iteration. Avengers pretty much charged out of the gate swinging, and there was hardly time for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to fraternize. Those critics devoid of our fanboy hearts saw the coming together of the menagerie of complex costume choices as being inherently explosive.
In simpler terms, put that many type-A personalities on one giant flying fortress and you were bound to have an alien invasion and the near destruction of New York City. Of course we’d all beg to differ, but the outsiders have a point. And it all comes back to Tony.
At the end of Iron Man we were introduced to the concept of the superteam – and the tin man was clearly at the core of it. When Tony stepped on the Triskelion, he treated it as if he owned it. And after he illegally downloaded all the secret files within, in a way he did. And he was quick to reveal to his fellow Avengers how secretive and potentially damning their would-be employers were. Forever the smartest man in the world… doomed to see his biggest ideas twisted into death and destruction. Tony Stark is karma’s bitch.
With only one episode left (as of this writing), Marvel’s Agent Carter is sadly coming to a close. This exciting, entertaining and funny show is Marvel’s first serious foray into spotlighting a leading female hero.
Yes, that’s right. I called Peggy Carter, brought to life by Hayley Atwell, a hero. Her deductive skills and intuition border on superhuman and her desire to search for the truth. If that doesn’t sell you, her willingness to help another human being should.
So if you haven’t been watching Agent Carter, then you have been doing yourself a serious disservice. Carter brings a whole new look to the SSR and SHIELD while delicately laying ground work and clues for the future. Marvel shows how well they excel at long-term planning in these episodes. They have episodes tying into TV and movie properties and adding backstory to popular characters.
Peggy Carter’s story played second fiddle to Captain America in the movies but Atwell’s portrayal always resonates with me. She is a character who I could see as a strong female role model, as well as a hero. The conviction of this character translates beautifully to an expanded story, adding more depth to the character. We get to see Peggy deal with an unhappy workplace while wanting more from her life and missing her lost love. She spends her days with friends and enemies, and still manages to support those around her. Even though this show takes place over 50 years ago, this is still a character almost everyone could relate to.
This show also acknowledges the misogyny of the times. In last week’s episode, Peggy points out to her colleagues they only see her as the helpless woman in their midst. They all see her as they want to see her rather than as a peer. I admit, sometimes the near constant criticisms of women make me cringe inside. Still, it brings a sense of reality to an otherwise unreal world. Superhero or not, every woman has had to deal with “gender discrepancies.”
Agent Carter took a major step for comic fans by showcasing a female lead. We need to show Marvel our thanks so they and other companies see this is what we want. Strong female characters, not women in refrigerators. Thank you Marvel. Keep Peggy Carter in mind when you write for fans, and you will keep bringing in all types of fans.
Last week, we went to The Marvel Experience during its stop in San Diego.Taking place in seven large domes, visitors become S.H.I.E.L.D recruits who undergo training in order to fight alongside the Avengers against Hydra in a final showdown. It reminded us of a Marvel themed amusement park, but is it worth the ticket price (ranging from $24.50 to $34.50) when it comes your city?Watch our review to find out.
According to the announcement, Sony and Marvel will cast a new Spider-Man after Andrew Garfield starred in the last two films, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Tobey Maguire played Peter Parker in the previous three installments for Sony.
Sony will continue to distribute, finance, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man pics. They’ll work with Marvel, owned by Disney, on how to weave Spider-Man’s character into Marvel’s upcoming superhero films, which includes the popular franchise “The Avengers.”
Starting April 1, DC Comics is launching its new meta-Crisis series, Convergence, in which characters from different planets and timelines will be thrust together on the Blood Moon to fight fight fight. In May, all of Marvel’s multiverse will go blooey with bits and pieces being recombined into a single place called Secret Wars: Battleworld and, no doubt, every one will fight fight fight. Worlds/characters will live, worlds/characters will die, and nothing will ever be the same yet again.
It’s the same concept as DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985 (and Convergence, at least in part, is a thirty year Anniversary celebration of that event). For you young’uns who weren’t around, COIE was a 12 issue maxi-series with a very real purpose – to modernize and re-boot the DC Universe and continuity.
To be honest, I think that’s a necessity every so often for every continuity. Over the years, narrative barnacles form on characters and concepts and its good every so often to scrape them off and get back more to the basic concepts that attracted us to the characters/books/universes in the first place. That’s what the movies and TV shows made from comics have been doing – they take what is essential, respecting the source material without being bound to every bit of it, and re-interpreting it and presenting it fresh for a large audience, as if those stories were being created today. Fanboys may protest, fanboys may cry, but nothing remains the same.
IM-not so-HO (to steal from Mindy Newell), that’s a very good thing. It makes the characters and stories accessible to a larger audience, usually a much larger audience. It has the potential to grow the audience for these characters – except that the versions they see on TV or in the movies bear no resemblance to the versions they find in the comics. For example, if you like Chris Hemworth’s Thor and go to the comics, you’ll find Thor is now female. Remember that cool character the Falcon in the last Captain America movie? He now is Captain America.
It’s hard to make the comic characters track with their movie/TV versions but not impossible. When Jan Duursema and I were doing Star Wars set on the time between Episodes II and III before III came out, we had access to an early version of the script for III. We had to sign stiff non-disclosure statements but we were able to make our stories work within that time frame.
Of course, DC has said that the cinema versions of their characters do not match up with the TV versions but Marvel has gone out of its way to make TV and movies all part of one version of the Marvel Universe.
Marvel Comics has always disdained the reboots that DC has done, claiming they don’t need them but, in fact, they do. One of the really interesting aspects of Captain America is that he was frozen at the end of WW2 and wakes up in a modern world. That became a trope that you couldn’t keep repeating as the comics aged; it was no longer the Sixties and having Cap whine about being out of time for 50 years would be very tiresome. But being able to say he was thawed out in our day revives that trope and that makes it interesting again.
Continually re-inventing the characters can make them fuzzy and blurred. I’ve heard artists talking about “noodling” a page to death or erasing your pencils so often that you only get muck on the page. Doctor Strange has suffered that as every new writer coming on wanted to give their version of his origin with the “Everything you thought you knew is wrong!” schtick.
Crisis on Infinite Earths suffered from not having a clear idea of who the characters should be once you finished deconstructing what you had. To my mind, reboots need to get back to core ideas – what is unique about a given character or concept. Write them for modern audiences while capturing their essence which is what many of the movies and TV shows have done.
What will be most important about the two events – Convergence and Secret Wars: Battleworld – is what comes next. How will the companies and their writers and artists re-interpret their classic characters so they seem fresh and new and relevant for the here and now. Capture our loyalty again not with stunts (which may fuel sales but not imaginations) but with new visions of who these classic characters are. Make them familiar and yet new.
Two decades after it hit theaters and became an SF classic, 12 MONKEYS is being retooled as a new TV series, but does it still have the DNA to survive? Stars Amanda Schull and Aaron Stanford talk about the transition and why it works. Plus it’s the first big industry move of 2015 as IDW acquires Top Shelf Comix.