Tagged: Dark Reign

Emily S. Whitten: Heroism and Bravery

Some people think that comics are a kid thing – the bright colors; the often cartoony style of art; the people parading around with their underwear on the outside – and they are for kids. But they’re also for teens, and adults, and all of us. They are a medium of storytelling that can be just as beautiful and terrible and effective as any other. If done right, the stories within a comic can bring joy, and can hurt, and inspire, and educate, and much more.

It’s funny when I try to talk about comics to someone who doesn’t read them, like my dad. His first response is “We didn’t have those in my house growing up. Some of the other kids did, I guess.” You know – because it’s a kid thing. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not criticizing my love of comics; he just hasn’t read many, and might not be aware that they can contain nuanced and complex storytelling, both for kids and adults. But I’m a well-read adult, and comics engage me, they bring me joy, they make me laugh, and yes, sometimes, they even make me cry. I know I’m not the only one.

In today’s hyper-connected society full of Internet news and forums and blogs, we know, more than we might have in the “old days, that there are tons of us adult comics fans out there, and that, indeed, at least in media like movies, comics have gone mainstream – people who’ve never read a paper comic have watched movies about Superman and Spider-Man and the X-Men and The Avengers and Batman and all the rest. Parents of children who are themselves adults have gone to see these movies. These days, as pointed out in John Cheese’s article, if you don’t get excited about the newest comics movie, or aren’t planning to see it, people might even think you’re out of the loop. Everyone now has exposure to comics, and all of us adult fans know we are not alone.

We also know that even though comics are a pretty big thing these days, there are still going to be people that think they’re only for kids, and/or don’t see the value within. There are also going to be people who look at art of Spider-Man in mid-fight and only see people beating up on each other. And they’re going to be concerned (maybe for the kids, or maybe because of the violence in general) and think that comics don’t hold much value, or that they are a bad influence. But Spider-Man landing a punch is only part of the story.

In the wake of the horrible and senseless Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy, I know people are already questioning whether comics (and their affiliate media, such as movies) were responsible for the violence, and how violence in comics is affecting people, including children. I also know that comics creators and fans are trying to understand how a man who was presumably at least some sort of a fan could have done such a terrible thing. I certainly don’t know, except that quite probably, he is mentally ill.

Having studied media in culture way back in the dark ages of college (was it really so long ago??) I know that we don’t know, and probably won’t ever know, exactly how much influence violence in media has on people, although we do know that there can definitely be a correlation. But by the same token, we also know that two people being exposed to the same violent media can have completely different reactions, and for some people, there may be no correlation at all. For the majority of society, seeing a violent movie, or reading a violent comic, doesn’t directly cause violence; otherwise we’d have a lot more tragedies like this recent one.

I don’t believe we will ever be able to definitively answer the “effects of violence in media” question. Does that mean we should just shrug our shoulders and give up on our studies of this issue? Of course not. But at least at this point in our cultural learning, we don’t know what exact factors may have caused a man to methodically plan to shoot into a crowded theater. And although the news is reporting that the man said he was the Joker and had dyed red hair (presumably to emulate the Joker in the hospital nurse scene of The Dark Knight), I don’t think that necessarily means that Batman comics or movies caused him to do what he did. They may have narrowed his focus of where to attack people, and that is awful; but if The Dark Knight Rises hadn’t been there for this man to focus on, I’m guessing he would have found some other place to focus his violent acts.

I also think that as long as any kind of popular media, including comics, exists (which it always will) there are going to be some stories that may need to include violence in order to make their point, and there are going to be people out there who will miss the point of all of the complex and nuanced storytelling we can possibly include, and only see the violence; whether it be a concerned parent, or a politician, or a news reporter, or tragically, a man who thinks violence against random people in a theater is okay. But that isn’t a reason to censor necessary elements of storytelling.

Yes, Batman as a character can be violent; but as my friend Cleolinda Jones said about The Dark Knight Rises, “The sad thing about this theater tragedy is, the major theme of the movie is about inspiring others to stay strong and do good, even in the face of tragedy.”

As comics creators, I think the best we can do regarding the “violence in media” issue is continue to create nuanced stories which frequently show the good in our characters, and hopefully inspire readers with messages like staying strong and doing good, or helping others; and in which any violence is included because it is necessary to the point of the story, and does not champion violence for the sake of violence or as something without consequences. As fans, I think it’s important to tell people about the parts of the stories that move us or inspire us to be better people.

In that vein, here are just a few snippets of stories that I think show the goodness, heroic sacrifice, and bravery that is almost always present in comics. (Caution: Potential random STORY SPOILERS BELOW.)

Spider-Man: During the Marvel Civil War storyline, after years of actively and carefully protecting his identity, Spider-man bravely unmasks on national television as a gesture of support for the Superhuman Registration Act, despite his discomfort with the idea and his fear for his loved ones (who he takes steps to protect first). He makes this choice because he thinks, like Iron Man, that the Registration Act is the best way to protect American citizens and the superhero community.

That in itself would be pretty brave, but later, after Spider-Man discovers the extreme and unjust measures that are being taken to capture and imprison “rogue” superheroes whose only wrongdoing, in many cases, was helping people without registering, he switches sides to fight against the Registration Act, even though he nearly dies because of it. That’s an admirable devotion to doing what’s right.

Richard Mayhew: In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (adapted for comics, which is where I first became familiar with it), Richard Mayhew, a young businessman with a steady job, a flat, and a fiancee, stops to help what looks like a homeless woman who is lying injured in the street. Despite his fiancee’s protests, he takes the woman home (she insists he not take her to a hospital) and cleans her wounds. Unfortunately, helping this scruffy woman causes him to become invisible to regular Londoners, and visible only to the “London Below” of which the woman, Door, is a part. Naturally he panics at first, but then he stays with Door to help her escape the assassins who have killed her family and are hunting her down. There is a fair amount of violence and death in this story; but ultimately, it is about a hero’s journey, and helping others in need, and that is the part that stays with you.

Deadpool: Come on, you knew I’d include Deadpool. The ultimate screw-up most of the time, in Joe Kelly’s run, Deadpool is sought out as a predicted savior of the world. After a lot of scoffing, Deadpool finally believes that maybe, just maybe, he can be the hero he keeps trying to be, and throws himself into getting ready for his new role, where he is to destroy a monster who will arrive to stop the Mithras, a being who will supposedly bring good to all mankind.

As it turns out, what the Mithras brings is bliss in the form of a loss of free will; and after agonizing over the choice of giving mankind blissful but blank happiness, or protecting free will, Deadpool defeats the Mithras and saves the world. He is utterly broken by his choice – the fact that he had wanted so badly to be a hero, and yet had still, through his (heroic) choice, brought the continued pain and suffering that goes with free will to the whole world. But he did it anyway, because it was the right thing.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle): In her earlier years, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter trained herself as Batgirl so that she could fight crime like Batman, and she did so for awhile. However, by the time of Batman: The Killing Joke, she is semi-retired, and at home when the Joker comes to the door and shoots her, which causes her to be paralyzed. After spending some time in deep depression (as you would), Gordon rallies and decides to use her mental gifts (such as her intelligence and photographic memory) to help fight crime instead. She develops a complex computer system, uses her photographic memory to read dozens of news sources every day, and turns herself into an invaluable resource for Batman, the Birds of Prey, and other superheroes. She pushes past her own trauma to continue helping others.

Iron Man: During Marvel’s Dark Reign storyline, Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) tricks the government into thinking he’s a reformed villain, and they replace Iron Man with Osborn as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. To keep the mentally unstable and untrustworthy Osborn from acquiring superheroes’ identities from the Registration Act database, Iron Man destroys all copies, but still has one remaining copy in his computer-like brain. To protect the information from Osborn, Stark, as a fugitive, goes tirelessly from one location to another, deleting the knowledge from his brain bit by bit. He knows this will also lead to the loss of his highly valued intelligence, and will eventually cause brain damage, but chooses to sacrifice himself to protect others. That’s heroic.

Batman: Since I’m not as big a reader of DC Comics, the live-action more immediately comes to mind, and naturally, right now, specifically the Christopher Nolan version – but there is so much to Batman generally, and in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, about sacrifice, and bravery, and doing what’s right, that if I threw a dart at the script (or the comic) I’d hit an example. Essentially, Batman’s whole story is about sacrifice – he’s not a superhero with superpowers, but rather just a rich dude who had a tragic thing happen to him. Yet he chooses to turn that experience, and his resources, into something that can constantly help others and his home city, by training his body and mind and developing and perfecting his gadgetry so that he can use both to fight crime. And in the movies, every time he chooses to protect his identity by turning his public self into something neither he nor others would respect; or takes a beating to foil a villain; or what-have-you; he’s showing that it doesn’t take superpowers to be a hero, or to protect and help people.

The above are just a few examples I happened to be thinking of. But comics are so full of examples that if you read almost any storyline you’ll find them in spades. And although as with many stories, sometimes reflections of real-world violence have a prominent place in the storylines, the violence is not the point of the story – the heroism and bravery of the protagonists is. Those things are the things that stay with most of us, and the things that make me and so many others love these stories.

I don’t know why a few of us miss the point, but I am saddened by it, and I am more saddened by this recent tragedy, and whatever connection it may have had to what is, for the most part, the wonderful world of comics. My heart goes out to all of the victims, and to everyone affected by it – which is all of us.

Until next time, Servo Lectio.



Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Modern Comic, Part 1

Once again, my Facebook friend Jim Engel tipped me off to another jumping-on point for a rant. I think I owe him a Coke. Seems someone at the Wall Street Journal perked up at the news that the Avengers crossed the bajillion bucks meter, and it stemmed a very obvious question: If the movie is that popular, shouldn’t there be some kind of carry-over to the parent media? And the simple answer is one we comic fans hate to admit: Ain’t no carry-over cash coming through the doors of the local comic shop over this (or any other) movie. So the WSJ writer, one Tim Marchman, decided to take his book review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” and turn it into a tirade on the industry  I want so badly to call home. Now don’t get me wrong, Marchman makes a few solid points. OK, he makes a lot of them. But I know you guys like me when I’m pissy… And one point in particular boils my blood faster than Wally West got eliminated from the New 52:

“If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new Avengers comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.”

First off? On behalf of the industry as a whole? Fuck you. And normally I refrain from the potty mouth, but here is one occasion I feel damned correct in using it. Second, let me clarify where my anger lies. I agree with him about location. The local comic shop is indeed a specialty store. One that carries a stigma of exclusivity that can’t be broken, except on very rare occasion. Most comic shops try hard to throw open their doors to the general public in hopes of enticing them in with their fictiony wares, but the general public doesn’t look to consume their books off the shelf anymore. Ask Borders. But I digress.

I won’t even argue his point about continuity. I could easily argue that, mind you, and if people respond violently enough to this article I may talk about it in a few weeks. Suffice to say, yes, it’s a big barrier to entry. Anyone walking in, fresh out of the theater, would be hard pressed to know where exactly to start reading an Avengers comic. The movie-roster tie-in isn’t well-liked by any reviewer, and the modern Bendis epic-arcs (Disassembled, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc.) are amazingly dense with history. Enough at least to perhaps scare off someone from really taking a leap of literary faith. Again, I digress.

The jab Marchman takes specifically toward the “Clumsily Drawn” aspect of modern comics. Frankly, I don’t get where he’s coming from.

Let’s talk about those clumsy drawings he’s obviously so urped by. Take a look across the racks of your local comic store. Do you see what I see? I see a breadth of styles more diverse than any other period of comic book publishing. Do you think, even for a nano-second, that years ago you’d see Travel Foreman’s sketchy macabre style sharing shelf space with Mobius-inspired types like Frank Quitely and Chris Burnham? Or the crisp and clean lines of the Dodsons bunked-up nice and cosy next to the loose and energetic John Romita, Jr.? No. You’d get 17 Rob Liefeld clones boasting whips, chains, impossible guns, and thigh pouches. Go back to the 80’s? You’d get a sea of house-styled Neal Adams / Dave Gibbons / George Pérez wanna-bees and an occasional Bill Sienkiewicz or Frank Miller thrown in.

I truly believe we are in an amazing time for comic book art. Artists and editors are finding a real balance between new styles, and composition to tell a story. Not every book is perfect mind you (and yes, there is still a house style to both Marvel and DC… but assuredly not as rigid as it once was). On the whole, a comic off the rack today has more chance of being an original artistic statement than a commanded tracing of “something that sells.” While comic sales have plummeted from the false peaks of the 90’s… I truly doubt it is the fault of the art on hand. Well, except for Scott McDaniels’ stuff. Yeesh.

Now, I know that there’s some debate amongst my ComicMix brethren about this point-in-question. I openly beg for some of that debate to happen in the comments below. I’m hard-pressed to believe that on an industry level that the artwork is to blame for comics’ dwindling sales. As I look across the smattering of books I’ve been reading these days – Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, Batman, The Boys, The Manhattan Projects… and flip through the pages of artists truly giving their all to every panel – I get a little verklempt. I want all of you to go on with out me. I think about this Marchman, and all I can think is “Ver es kon kain pulver nit shmeken, der zol in der malchumeh nit gaien!”

Now go on… discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


#SDCC: Mondo Marvel

#SDCC: Mondo Marvel

If it’s a major convention, it must be Mondo Marvel. Panelists included Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, Jason Aaron (Wolverine: Weapon X), Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir), Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man), Paul Tobin (Models, Inc.), Frank Tieri (Dark Reign: Lethal Legion), Steve Wacker (Spider-Man editor), Jim McCann (New Avengers: The Reunion), and C.B. Cebulski (Marvel talent liaison) gathered to discuss Dark Reign, Marvel Adventures, and pretty much everything else the House of Ideas has on its plate. Newsarama’s got the liveblog, but here are some highlights:

  • Black Widow: Deadly Origin by Paul Cornell and Rom Raney is four issues, starting in October. “Some deep, dark secrets from her past,” said Quesada.
  • X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain is out in November, featuring the same team of Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero.
  • Captain America/Black Panther is a 4-issue series by Reggie Hudlin and Denys Cowan, involving Black Panther’s father.
  • Paul Tobin talked about the “bold new direction” for the Marvel Adventures line, with Quesada saying that they’re bringing “cohesion” to those books.
  • Andy Diggle and Roberto de la Torre on Daredevil, starting in September.
  • Matt Fraction got a compliment for “giving Colossus his balls back.” Yep.
  • Quesada said that Allan Heinberg is in the midst of writing a “massive” story involving the Young Avengers.

More One More Day discussion, the return of Fantomex, and true tales of cosplay gone wrong at the full Newsarama liveblog as well as Marvel’s own recap.

Sneak Peek: ‘Mighty Avengers’ #21

Sneak Peek: ‘Mighty Avengers’ #21

Marvel provided us with the cover and pages from Mighty Avengers #21, written by Dan Slott and drawn by Young Gun artist Khoi. The issue is described as beginning a bold new era for the Mighty Avengers. Spinning out of Dark Reign, the Mighty Avengers have an all-new line up and an all-new missionm, guest starring the New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Young Avengers and Classic Avengers.

 A new team assembles in Mighty Avengers #21!

Written by DAN SLOTT
Pencils & Cover by KHOI PHAM
Rated A …$3.99, On-Sale—01/14/09


Marvel Teases Female ‘Black Panther’

Marvel Teases Female ‘Black Panther’

After breaking the news via the Washington Post, Marvel has finally begun to reveal some of the details behind the Black Panther revamp coming in February.  T’Challa, the reining Panther, seems to be replaced by a mysterious female.  Now, Marvel says T’Challa’s fate is tied to events in the aftermath of Secret Invasion and connected to Dark Reign, 2009’s new crossover event.

The first issue will be extra-sized and will carry variant covers including one in their 70th anniversary series.

A sneak peek and interview with artist Ken Lashley has been posted at Marvel’s website.

Hudlin told the Post, "Over the course of 40 issues [over three years], we … really defined the character in a way that hadn’t been done before. … Having done that, you go: "How do we up the stakes?" Marvel is great about doing really shocking changes to their character — they don’t believe in just keeping everything as status quo."

Under Hudlin, the Panther married Storm from the X-Men and has defended his country of Wakanda from foreign and intergalactic invaders.



‘Secret Invasion’ Wraps up on Thursday

‘Secret Invasion’ Wraps up on Thursday

Now that Batman RIP has wrapped up, comic readers are turning their attention to the conclusion of Marvel’s Secret Invasion. The Skrull invasion of Earth will be resolved, setting the stage for a new status quo on Marvel’s Earth to be explored in 2009’s Dark Reign event.

The extra-sized Secret Invasion #8 is from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Lenil Francis Yu, along with special guest cover artist Gabriele Dell’Otto.

Also out on Thursday will be Marvel Spotlight: Secret Invasion Aftermath #1 and Secret Invasion: Frontline #5.


Rated T+ …$3.99


Written by BRIAN REED
Cover by JUAN DOE
Rated T+ …$2.99


Cover by GREG LAND
Rated T+ …$2.99

‘Dark Reign’ Teaser Image Unveiled

‘Dark Reign’ Teaser Image Unveiled

Marvel today released this teaser image for the next big event, Dark Reign, just weeks before Secret Invasion #8 is released, ending the current big event.  New Avengers: The Reunion was mentioned as a new title at an Ireland convention but no details are known.

Who is the Iron Patriot?

Who is the Iron Patriot?

Marvle this morning released a teaser for a new event in the Marvel Universe.  No creators, timing or content was released with the teaser. We’re going to guess that it maybe a part of the 2009 Dark Reign event spinning out of the end of Secret Invasion.  It does not resemble the future Iron Men seen in last week’s New Warriors.  Any guesses?

‘Secret Invasion’ #8 to be a Week Late

‘Secret Invasion’ #8 to be a Week Late

Marvel has issued a release indicating the final issue of Secret Invasion will now be in store the first week of December, a week later than anticipated.

“The additional pages in #8 did both Leinil and the schedule in,” explained Executive Editor Tom Brevoort in a press release. “Anybody who pored over the artwork from #7 a week ago can easily see how he and Mark Morales have been putting their all (and then some) into every page and every panel, and that effort has finally caught up with us. Hopefully, retailers and fans will forgive us these extra two weeks as we make sure that everything is in the shape it should be in for the extra-sized climax—and from there, it’ll be smooth sailing straight into Dark Reign.”

David Gabriel, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Sales, said in the release, “In speaking with retailers, Marvel decided it was more important to preserve the creative integrity of the series, rather than rush out the final issue. This not only creates a stronger product for our loyal readers, but also for our retailer partners, whose support helped make Secret Invasion a huge success.”

A mammoth event like this shipping late is no surprise and keeps the creative team intact as opposed to DC’s Final Crisis that recently announced the final issue will be illustred by Doug Mahnke and not J.G. Jones.


Marvel’s Cup of B

Marvel’s Cup of B

Rather than the usual "Cup of Joe" panel, Marvel decided that Baltimore Comic-Con would feature "Cup of B." Marvel super-star Brian Michael Bendis appeared, alongside Dan Slott (Avengers: Initiative), Steve Savolski (X-Infernus) and executive editor Tom Brevoort. 

Bendis confirmed the previously announced departure from Mighty Avengers with #20, the post Secret Invasion issue which will show a dramatic shift in the title. He will then begin Dark Avengers with artist Mike Deodato and Slott will jump into Mighty Avengers, which means he’s leaving Initiative, which Christos Gage will pick up. More Taskmaster is promised. 

Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD will begin March 2008, full art by Alex Maleev, reuniting the duo since they produced Daredevil. The series promises to be “very different” from others at Marvel. But is it Jessica Drew? No answer was given.

While the Inferno crossover was spread across the DC Universe, it’s follow-up X-Infernus will be more X-Men focused, specifically on the New Mutants, with characters such as Magik showing up. 

On Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Guggenheim and Barry Kitson will present a single-issue story featuring what happened to Flash Thompson. Joe Kelly will be doing a two-part Hammerhead story and then Mark Waid will be introducing new charatecters and secrets to Spider-Man’s universe. Dan Slott promises a “completely logical, non-magical explanation of why Harry Osborn’s alive.” He added that villain Molten Man was returning with the intention of killing Harry Osborn.

Bendis was asked for his reactions to the Secret Invasion Jacket I made. Bendis was a good sport about it and simply laughed, saying "Listen, I love him. You can buy it, roll it up, shove it up your ass. I don’t care.That’s not even in the top 20 sh*t I’ve had to deal with online." I then identified myself to the Marvel panel. When Bendis asked me why I didn’t wear the jacket to the con, I was sad to explain that it was not functional in the rain.

I then asked my own question to Bendis, concerning whether or not the Skrulls now had the Space Gem since they had replaced Black Bolt, the gem’s current owner. Bendis then informed me that he had explained this already but that I must have turned the issue into a pair of shorts. He then admitted that the Space Gem would be a future plot point.