It’s been a busy week for Marvel Comics! This past weekend new Marvel editor-in-chief CB Cebulski apologized for using the pseudonym Akira Yoshida in a piece for The Atlantic. Since then, many revelations about the future of the Marvel line have come to light.
A wave of cancellation announcements have been made since CB has taken over the reigns as well. Titles including Guardians of the Galaxy, U.S. Avengers, Royals, Uncanny Avengers,Iceman, Jean Grey, Hawkeye, Unbelievable Gwenpool, Like Cage, Secret Warriors and Generation X are all confirmed as canceled. All but confirmed as canceled include America, and Defenders, though Defenders could be on hiatus because of Bendis’ recent health issue. His leaving the company could end up putting the book to bed either way.Another book, Captain Marvel, appears to be going on hiatus for an unconfirmed amount of time as they appear to be changing editorial direction while keeping the creative team in tact.
These are the sort of big changes one may expect from a comics publisher bringing in a new editor-in-chief. It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen major shake ups like this and it will not be the last. While it’s disappointing to see a number of comics cancelled that prominently feature underrepresented communities with creative teams also representing those communities, it is important to note that all of those characters still exist in the Marvel Universe and will hopefully be heavily featured in other titles soon as well as giving other more diverse characters the chance to have the spotlight.
We wish Marvel the best during this transitional phase and most importantly we look forward to reading the new Marvel Comics that will be announced in the New Year.
So it’s a ball boiler inside the Manhattan office building because although I’m pretty sure air conditioning existed it did not become ubiquitous until after the war that the good ol’ US of A was sliding into. What we’re looking at is an open window on an upper floor and somehow (are we pigeons?) we get inside and behold! Three middle-aged men, suit jackets draped over chairs, ties loosened, discussing the comic books they edit. They have had solid successes with characters a couple of young guys named Bill Everett and Carl Burgos brought in. The topic under discussion: more! More of Burgos’s Human Torch, of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: and yes, of course, more profits, and maybe this year’s Christmas bonus will be worth more than a subway token. Then one of the three (wise men?) has The Idea: Combine ‘em! Put them in the same issue…no, put ‘em in the same story.
And so they did, and a few months later your grandpa (great grandpa?) was sitting on a porch swing with his best gal reading about the meeting of Subby and The Torch, and being scolded by Best Gal for wasting time and money on those stupid funny books! (Okay, skeptics, can you prove that this stuff didn’t happen? Go ahead, Mr. Philosophy Dude, let’s see you prove a negative.)
Whatever the particulars, regardless of what did or did not actually occur, the Torch-Sub-Mariner stories went on sale and the few readable copies left are very early examples of what would later be a comic book staple, the team-up.
And then, the passing of years and The Justice Society of America, the Marvel Family, and a plethora of other costumed teams, until the arrival of the X-Men just abut the time when comics as a whole were getting a mighty, second wind and emerging from a decade-long obscurity, victims of the Eisenhower era witch hunts.
Comics were back!
And movies were following the trail they blazed. After a few single-hero flicks, the movies found the X-Men and a billion dollar franchise was born. Hold it! – not exactly born: rather, evolved from earlier existence as comic book characters. Fortunes were, and are, being made. More of them to come.
And the fossil who goes by my name can kick back and realize that the Netflix video enterprise, a first cousin to the movies mentioned above, is a super-group comprised entirely of character I’ve worked on. Yep, The Defenders, starring Iron Fist and Power Man, who were partners in their comic book home, and Daredevil and Patsy Walker.
Patsy made the giant leap from comics about post-teens to grim superheroic private eye Jessica Jones. Patsy’s light and bright escapades were closely related to other Marvel stuff like Millie the Model and if you didn’t know that, well, now you do.
As of this writing, I’ve only seen two of the Defenders programs and so have not earned the right to have an opinion about the whole series.
Catch me next week. Maybe by then I’ll have earned the aforementioned figured out the subject of the preceding 517 words.
Last Friday, my pal Larry Hama invited me to a “friends and family” screening of the first two episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders. I mean the new series debuting on Netflix today, not the classic television show, The Defenders, the source of many many jokes made during the screening.
Before the screening began, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about seeing so many of my old friends and meeting people whose work I admired. Hence, I was psyched to enjoy two hours in a comfy chair in a screening room.
Mostly, I had a great time. I have a huge crush on Charlie Cox, the beautiful man who plays Matt Murdock. And I love Rosario Dawson, Mike Colter, and Kristin Ritter. The production design for the series suggests the color schemes associated with each of the four main characters so that Daredevil’s scenes are dark and red, Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue, and Luke Cage’s seem to have been shot in the 1970s.
I don’t blame Finn Jones. He’s working as hard as he can. Unfortunately, the way Danny Rand has been written for these series, he’s a narcissist. A benevolent narcissist, but still a man who only sees the world as it relates to him. Daredevil is trying to keep crime out of his neighborhood. Luke Cage is the Hero of Harlem. Even Jessica Jones goes out of her way to help a stranger.
Danny Rand only thinks about Danny Rand. Even in his guilt, he can’t see past himself.
I guess this makes a certain amount of sense, given that he was raised by Buddhist monks and taught to look within himself for strength. Buddhists can be rather solipsistic. They aren’t the only ones, certainly, and that’s not all there is to Buddhism, but that’s what I infer from the Netflix series. In any case, his self-absorption has the effect of making the character and his struggles seem less important.
(For another perspective on Buddhism and action heroes, you might want to check out this series, co-written by my high school friend, Tinker Lindsay.)
A few supporting characters from each series are here, so our heroes have someone to provide exposition. I like to see Colleen Wing and Misty Knight and Foggy Nelson and Trish Walker. Sigourney Weaver and Waitlist Ching Ho make excellent villains. And there are many many, many other characters, enough so that it feels like it’s actually shot in New York City, where many millions of people live.
I can’t give a real critical overview of a series from just the first two episodes. It felt like they were taking their time getting to the real story because when the screening ended, the four main characters had not yet all met each other. That seems to me to be a bit too slow.
Still, it’s the tail end of August. What else do you have to do this weekend? I certainly have nothing better.
• • • • •
An important reminder: If you haven’t already, get thee to this Kickstarter page and pledge some money for Mine! the anthology book ComicMix is producing to benefit Planned Parenthood. You might not know it from the Fake News Media, but Planned Parenthood provides necessary health care to millions of people of all ages and genders. In some communities, it is the only place where women can receive pre-natal and post-natal care. In some communities, it is the only place where poor women can get vital cancer screenings. In some communities, it is the only health clinic available, for women and men.
You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Jill Thompson, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and me me me!
In peril, poor Polly Pearlwhite plunges from the pinnacle… And I, a superhero, really should fly up and save her and so I shall as soon as I change into my hero garb and… But what is this? I don’t seem to have worn the cape and tights under my Brooks Brothers suit and how could I forget such a thing? Well, come to think of it, I didn’t have my morning coffee and I’ve been Mr. Cottonbrain all day and… Never mind. Sorry, Polly.
So there I was – this is me taking now and not the fictitious person in the previous paragraph – and I’m about to reveal that early this morning, at about one, I finished watching the Iron Fist television serial and can report general satisfaction with it. But during the final minutes of superhero action I wondered if the film makers were going to give Mr. Fist a costume. He had one in the comic books where he first came to life and back when I was editing his monthly biography I regarded him as another one of Marvel Comics’s costumed dogooders, in the same area code as Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Hulk, et cetera: not as popular as some of Marvel’s output, but clearly of the same ilk.
The show I was watching earlier today ended – mild spoiler-alert, one you needn’t pay much attention to – with Mr. Fist and a companion climbing to the top of a mountain and finding… not what they expected but rather things that must certainly have ruined their day and, not incidentally, provided a hook into another story. That, we will probably be seeing soon. Mr. Fist was wearing clothing appropriate to climbing snow-covered peaks, but it was just clothing, not a costume.
Marvel’s last adaptation of one of the company’s characters to television went costumeless too. This was Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man, who, in the comics I worked on, was Iron Fist’s partner. Coincidence? Probably. But might it not also be the harbinger of a trend?
The costume trope has been a part of the superhero narratives ever since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced it with Superman in 1938. But they didn’t give us the first costumed hero. That honor goes to Lee Falk who began syndicating a newspaper strip titled The Phantom a couple of years before Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics #1. The Phantom wore a skin-tight costume and a pair of holstered automatics. He lived and operated in the deep jungle, which makes the costume a bit puzzling: it doesn’t seem appropriate. But we won’t be foolish enough to quarrel with success.
Back to Mr. Fist. There’s no reason why action folk have to wear odd suits and a reason or two for them not to. The reasons usually provided are, well… as much excuses as reasons and I don’t completely buy them. It might be that they’ve outlived their time.
Certainly, Iron Fist did just fine in something he could have gotten at a mall.
Spring already? Well, okay, but I look out the window and see ten inches of snow. (And you may now imagine me sniffing and grumbling.) But, alas, just because I may not happen to like it, this spring bushwa, doesn’t mean anything surprising is about to happen. I can’t help noticing that the universe seldom alters its plan to accommodate my preferences. Rotten, but there you are,
So I guess we make the best of it, which is what we grumbling homo saps have always done, more or less, when we’ve gotten our grumbling out of the way. (First things first.) Okay, anything interesting on the immediate agenda? Ummmm – nope. But before I offer a tepid correction to that last sentence (if sentence is what it was) let me call your attention to an entertainment that lurks in the shadows of Thursday night. You might as well call it Iron Fist since that’s what its presenters are calling it and before them, what the creators who produced the Iron Fist comic book called it.
There haven’t been many martial arts comics, which is maybe mildly surprising since action/adventure are the very stuff of martial arts melodrama and, for a brief, shining moment in the sixties and seventies, pop culture as a whole seemed to be paying attention to it. You’ve heard of Bruce Lee? The TV show Kung-Fu?
Then the moment passed. Oh, martial arts excitement is still available, as something a good guy does or a bad guy does, and occasionally as a full-out big screen motion picture, usually with an Asian origin. (They don’t seem to be booked in theaters since the Chinatown screens have gone away. But Amazon will still sell you some and maybe they’re available elsewhere, too.) The best of them was Master of Kung Fu for which Roy Thomas had the bright idea of making his hero the son of Fu Manchu, a master villain created for the pulp magazines much popular in the 1930s.
There may have been a couple-three other comic book kung-fuers – someone is whispering the name “Richard Dragon,” but not very loudly. The next member of the club was today’s subject, the aforementioned Iron Fist, who made his Marvel Comics debut in 1977, looking maybe a bit more like your garden variety superhero than Bruce Lee. Soon, he joined another Marvel Luke Cage: Hero For Hire in issue #48.
Could the mighty television be far behind? Luke Cage had his time before the camera last year in a maxiseries that ran on Netflix and that I thought was pretty good. This Luke Cage was a street guy. To hell with mad scientists and wannabe world conquerors – our man wanted only to protect the citizens of Harlem. Will he re-partner with Fist? Will they be a good pair? Or will the universe gobsmack me with a surprise?
This coming week, Marvel is issuing the second part of my work on Heroes For Hire and, as I did when the first volume came out, I thought I’d talk a little bit about it and why I made some choices that I did and what I was thinking when I created the stories.
Background info: my run on H4H began in 1997 and ran for 19 issues. The team was a corporate entity, hiring out groups of superheroes for various missions. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were the core, with the Original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, running the business. Lots of characters cycled in and out, the most constant being White Tiger, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Black Knight and Thena of the Eternals. We also had lots of guest stars such as Hercules, Wolverine, Shang-Chi, She-Hulk and Deadpool who, not surprisingly, was featured on the cover.
Deadpool is probably one of the main reasons Marvel is gathering this collection right now, along with the fact that Luke Cage and Iron Fist both either have had or will have a series on Netflix that will lead into the Defenders miniseries. And, maybe, the fact that I wrote Suicide Squad and that movie is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and so on. Ah, name recognition!
Often the guest stars would appear depending on availability and also on with whom I wanted to play. That accounts a lot for Deadpool’s appearance. ‘Pool is a lot of fun to write; he has a deep streak of whacky and I like whacky.
In fact, the entire series has a deep streak of whacky as best exhibited by the narrator. The voice of the narrator started normally but rapidly developed into sort of a character of its own. I was influenced by Stan Lee’s way of talking to the reader, calling them “effendi” and promising to get them caught up when the story started in the middle of a fight scene (which is one of the best ways ever to start a comic). My narrator would complain about not being told what’s going on and once panicked when there was a crash and it appeared all the heroes were dead. She-Hulk, who was also a lawyer, later broke the fourth wall and fired the narrator. We had a new, normal narrator after that; even the font changed to establish this was not the “same” narrator.
I have no idea what readers thought but, hey, I was amusing myself.
Smack dab in the middle of this we had a five-part crossover with the Quicksilver book that I was writing along with Joe Edkin. That year, Marvel was doing “paired” Annuals and, since I was involved with both H4H and Quicksilver, they got paired. Joe and I had inherited a storyline involving the High Evolutionary, the Knights of Wundagore, Exodus and the Acolytes, and ultimately Man-Wolf. In retrospect, Joe and I probably should have wound up that storyline sooner than we did and gone on to our own ideas. We hoped that linking the Quicksilver book with H4H would create an event and would help increase the readership of Quicksilver.
It didn’t work out that way. Quicksilver actually got canceled and I think we hurt H4H in the process. There were just too many characters and plenty of switching sides. Maybe we should have had a scorecard.
The pencilers on the series were generally top notch. Pachalis (Pascual) Ferry was our regular penciler and he’s terrific. Very flowing artwork but with a sense of energy and excitement akin to Jack Kirby. Excellent storyteller, too.
My other favorite penciler remains Mary Mitchell for a lot of good reasons. I first encountered Mary at a Chicago Con; incredible storytelling skills, a great sense of architecture and place, and even minor characters seemed to have a real life. They all had their own stories and we could have followed those but we were following these other characters instead. I helped her get some of her first jobs and she eventually came to live with Kim Yale and me. She stayed during Kim’s fight with breast cancer and stayed after her death. Much later, she and I became a couple and still are but at the time of her doing the story in this volume, we were just good friends.
The story was a solo adventure of the Black Knight who was a favorite character of mine and who I had brought into the group.
Another favorite character that I brought into the comic was Mrs. Arbogast, the older and sometimes acerbic secretary who had worked for Tony Stark. She has a dry disdain similar to Alfred in the Batman movies.
We had lost some readership but it was growing again but this was the Ron Pearlman era when the company was owned and operated by bunch of people who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. One underling decided he would curry favor by saving money by canceling a bunch of books – including H4H. We didn’t really warrant it. Said underling then left the company a short time later. Such is life.
I’m proud of my work on H4H. My approach was consciously different from my work at DC; a bit looser, a bit more in what I considered to be “the Marvel manner.” A plot might not complete in one issue but end at the start of the next issue and we would then plunge into the next story. Sometimes the pace was a bit breathless and that was all by design. I wanted H4H to be fun and the best way to make that happen was to have fun myself. I did and I think it shows. If you take a look, I think you’ll have fun, too.
Boy, do I have Christmas gift ideas for you! Volume 5 of the Suicide Squad reprints, Apokolips Now, goes on sale December 27 (okay, it just misses Christmas). The extended blu-ray for the movie goes on sale December 13. And Marvel is releasing the first of two volumes gathering my Heroes For Hire work on December 20. You’re right, we want all your monies.
Today I want to talk about H4H. It was a team book whose members included Iron Fist, Luke Cage, White Tiger, Black Knight, Ant-Man, Jim Hammond (a.k.a. the Original Human Torch) plus assorted guest stars rotating in and out such as Hulk, She-Hulk, Hercules and, eventually, Deadpool – who shows up in Volume 2 out in late January.
It’s not hard to understand why Marvel is re-issuing the stories in a TPB. Luke Cage is on Netflix and Iron Fist soon will be, they’ll both then appear in The Defenders, and there’s some serious buzz about a Heroes For Hire series as well. There’s a little luster on my name as well right now because of the hoopla about Suicide Squad.
The series was originally set in the Onslaught Era where some of Marvel’s heroes, specifically The Avengers and the Fantastic Four, were thought to have died in battle with a being called Onslaught. In reality, they wound up in a pocket universe from which they would eventually return. Their absence left a power vacuum in the Marvel Universe where other teams, such as Heroes For Hire, were formed to fill the void.
The book was originally going to be written by Roger Stern, a fine writer and Marvel mainstay, but after putting the team together and plotting the first issue, Roger felt that his workload was overcommitted; something had to give and, at that point, H4H was easiest to jettison. However, Roger recommended me to his editor, Mark Bernardo, as his replacement. Mark and I had worked together on other Marvel projects such as Blaze of Glory and an incarnation of The Punisher so Mark was more than willing for me to take over H4H.
I had previously done Suicide Squad over at DC so I was interested in seeing what I could do with a team book at Marvel. I had long been a Marvel fan; at one point, I was an even greater Marvel fan than a DC one and was reading almost everything Marvel put out in those days.
I’m really glad to see H4H reprinted; it became a very different series for me. I plotted it more loosely in a very freewheeling style. Sometimes a story wouldn’t end in one issue but overlap into the next and then plunge right into the next plot.
One of the stranger conceits that I developed was the narrator, the person who speaks in the caption boxes. He got very strange. As early as the third issue, he was addressing the reader directly. It started as him being a Stan Lee type, calling the readers “effendi” and promising to get them caught up as he went. I especially remembered Stan doing that in Spider-Man and it always stuck with me.
This narrator got out of control, however, throwing in pop quizzes and sometimes panicking at what was happening to the characters. He eventually was “fired” by She-Hulk. How’s that for odd?
I always like playing with continuity when I can and there was one element in Luke Cage that I had fun with. Cage is very street tough but, when he swore, he’d say, “Sweet Christmas!” Understandable at the time given language restrictions in comics when Cage was created as a Marvel blackploitation character.
Lot of people thought “Sweet Christmas!” was ridiculous but I gave Cage a reason for using it. When he’s mocked by an opponent during a fight about it, Cage informs him that his grandma objected to swearing and that “my grandma is tougher than you!”
There are some quiet moments as well that I loved. Namor comes over to the building housing H4H and visits Jim Hammond. In their younger days they had been occasional foes and then allies during WW2,along with Captain America in The Invaders. The scene is just the two of them talking as old friends and Hammond gets out a joke that makes Namor laugh hard. “Firebug,” he tells him, “you kill me.” It’s just one page but I really love it.
My penciller on the series was Pascual Ferry, a Spanish artist, and his stuff was and is amazing. The storytelling is wonderful, there’s a Jack Kirby like sense of energy in his work, he has lots of enthusiasm and energy as well as talent and skill and I simply loved working with him. He’s very professional and a great guy to boot.
The tone of what I did in H4H is very different, I think, than anything else I’ve done. There’s just a lot of fun in it; I was consciously trying for a very Marvel feel and I think this, along with my Marvel westerns, are some of the best work I’ve done for the House of Ideas.
As I said, the second and concluding volume of H4H will be published at the end of January and I’ll come back and talk some more about that when we get there. I got to work with one of my favorite artistic partners before the series ended. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of my work I can recommend this to you. Not everyone has seen it and I think it’s worth seeing.
As Stan the Man used to say, Face front, true believers. Because that’s where the future is coming from.
Of the many shows I’ve consumed as of late, two spring to the front of my mind when I want to spice up dinner conversation: Marvel’s Luke Cage, and FX’s Atlanta. They are a yin and yang both birthed from the peanut-butter-chocolate combination that is nerd and black Americans. One show is about a noble black man granted the superhuman ability to rise above white hate. The other is about a loser just trying to get a win in a world built to see him fail. What unites both shows is the through-line of Black America.
Each show is intrepid in its fascination, celebration, exploitation, and segregation of the African-American experience in today’s Trumped-Up United States. Each show on its own is solid, thought-provoking at times, and flawed in their details. Taken as a pair,they become something astounding. At their core, neither could exist without black being right at the forefront.
I’ll spare you my snarky synopsis of each show. Suffice to say you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you choose to ignore either. Cage is on Netflix. Borrow your cousin’s login. Atlanta is on FX. So, in a month or two it’ll be on Hulu. Borrow your other cousin’s login for that one too, I suppose.
With Luke Cage, I freely admit my desire to enjoy it came solely on the knowledge that it was birthed from pulpy roots. I knew little to nothing of the character. Luke works with Iron Fist. He’s got impenetrable skin. He used to dress like a pirate princess. Now he’s a yellow shirted black Stone Cold Steve Austin. Jessica Jones had (has?) his baby. Yup. That’s literally everything I knew of the character. Based on the pedigree of Daredevil and Jessica Jones (vis a vis Netflix) though, I knew Cage would be a quality watch. What I didn’t count on was (as many on my feeds commented on as well) the show actually being about Harlem and the black experience… not just a strong black dude fighting super villains.
With Atlanta, I ensured my series record on the ole’ DVR based solely on my appreciation for all things Donald Glover. And for those following along? This is yet another time I’m eating my own words. Where I once lambasted Glover for being angtsy, it was shortly after writing that article I found myself accidently in love with Because the Internet. The former ensemble cast member of the cult-favorite Community became a near-daily listened-to recording artist on my Spotify playlists for his work as Childish Gambino. Glover on the mic is pensive and egotistical in the same breath. His beats – which some truer rap fans than I lambast him for cribbing from more popular nerdcore artists – are slick interplays of techno-screeches, dub-step-warble, and delightful shoegaze. To think that guy would choose to pen “Twin Peaks, with rappers” as an episodic dramedy sounded like a match made in heaven for my mind. Never mind that I considered whatever that output was going to be, was ever going to be… purposefully black.
While the shows contrast in their nature – one acting as a literal homage and elevation to Blaxsploitation, the other acting an arthouse flick spiraling out somewhere between a serial and anthology – they both share a love of microscopic explorations of black culture as means to build their narratives around.
In Cage, we got a well-read, black-culture-versed hero who is enthralled about authors like Walter Mosley and Ralph Ellison. And while he could jaw a bit with Method Man about his favorite Wu Tang Clan album, the series was sure to celebrate the breadth of black music – from Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans, straight to legends like The Delfonics and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. With Pop’s Barbershop as the “neighborhood Switzerland,” we got a central part of modern black culture woven straight into the fabric of the series. And while not every character on the show was given depth… even background players like Bobby Fish and Turk were allowed to show how they worked to provide for their own through the seedy underbelly of Harlem Luke Cage would be coerced to protect by season’s end.
Atlanta’s black America is far less united in history and shared gravitas. The Big Peach of Glover’s pen is dissected across multiple social strata. Glover’s character, Earn, is a burnout trying to burn less; lending managerial services to his mix-tape slinging cousin. Through the lens of the local rap-scene, we see how Earn and Paper Boi are celebrated by some, loathed by others, obsessed on by posers, and ignored by the players. Throughout the season Earn and those in his orbit wind up in a litany of stereotypical black locales – a BET inspired Charlie Rose interview show, a high-society Southern Gothic ball, the city lock-up, and the backwoods of Georgia for some illicit drug deals. In Atlanta, there are no super heroes to save the day, just the stub of a blunt or a bong made from an apple.
A visit to a dance club in the show is antithetical to Luke Cage’s Harlem’s Paradise. Where Paradise is all class, the club in Atlanta is hot ass. A barely-seen more-famous-rapper keeps a bevvy of hangers’ on in his private VIP section while Paper Boi remains in his self-proclaimed Oktoberfest (a joke so deft, I paused to relish it). When gun shots eventually erupt at both clubs, Cage is at the center of the action to protect and defend. Earn and his cousin duck, run, and get late-night-breakfast. That Paper Boi would then be announced as a potential suspect (when he was far away from the action) serves as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the modern victimization of innocent black men and women. Earn and Paper Boi see the story, snicker, and go back to their waffles.
In both cases I found a window to a world I’m often purposefully excluded from. That both shows do so well to feel lived in without feeling like purged-pandering is a testament to the niche media worlds we’re enjoying on modern TV. I’ve never been more excited for the future.
The New York Comic Con is upon us once again, and I can’t wait. This year, as usual, I have a massive list of things I want to see, people I want to talk to, and, of course, merchandise I want to take a gander at (not to buy it, of course. Oh no no no! Certainly not, considering I have way too many collectibles already. I’m just going to look. Really. Just…you know, a little bit. No buying here, nosiree…um). There are also a few cool parties floating around…and you know how I love a good party.
Everyone who goes to NYCC has their own unique wish list of what they want to experience while there. But in case you aren’t sure what you want to see first, here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to. Maybe they’ll appeal to you, too!
I’ve finally managed to catch myself up on a lot of the great shows out there. The first of these is The Walking Dead. I had to take a break on that show after the first season, despite the awesome character arcs, because there was just a leetle too much zombie head-squishing for me to handle non-stop (from which information we all know how I’d fare in the zombie apocalypse. I’d be the one hiding behind Daryl). But once I started in again I just couldn’t stop – the show is such a great adrenaline-plus-compelling-character mix, with just the right balance of cliff-hangers.
So this NYCC, I am super-psyched to finally experience a Walking Dead panel without my usual concern about spoilers. So many cast members are going to be there (Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, and Alanna Masterson) and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about the new season.
Now that I’m back into Gotham (and also have had the pleasure of meeting several of the fantastic cast members and even interviewing one) I can’t miss a Gotham panel. NYCC is offering “Inside Gotham,” with David Mazouz, Erin Richards, and Robin Lord Taylor, and it’s definitely on my list. I’ve already seen a couple of Gotham panels thanks to Dragon Con, and from that I know these folks are definitely worth the price of standing in line. Gotham panel? I’m so there.
Netflix and Marvel are killing it with their partnership on shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Now that Luke Cage has dropped, next up is Iron Fist. I’m particularly curious to see how the mystical martial artist will fit into the street-smart collection of characters that Marvel has developed to date – so there’s no way I’m going to miss the Iron Fist panel, which will give us a sneak peek into what’s coming to Marvel’s Netflix line-up March 17, 2017.
Speaking of The Walking Dead and Daredevil… I am kind of notorious among some friends for loudly declaring that I can’t stand The Punisher (which stems in part from his actual character, and perhaps in part from the fact that every Marvel blind box toy I’ve ever opened magically morphs into The Punisher right before I open it. Seriously. At one point I had six little Punishers, and none of them by choice. Argh.)
But I will admit that The Punisher as portrayed by Jon Bernthal in the Netflix Daredevil series was really well done; and also I will say that while Shane on The Walking Dead was an infuriating character, he was also really psychologically interesting, given the intersection of his love for his best friend, his obsession with his best friend’s wife, and the misogynistic tilt of that obsession that clearly took it out of the category of real love and into a dark, scary place, despite his firm belief that he really loved her.
NYCC is doing two spotlights on Jon Bernthal, with most of the focus being on his role as The Punisher; and given my interest in the way he portrayed both of those characters, I’m going to do my best to get to at least one.
And finally, it wouldn’t be a New York Comic Con for me without going to see the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel. I’ve been covering the show for four years, since NYCC 2013, and I haven’t lost my love for it (or the excellent cast and crew) at all. It’s such a great show, full of humor, and heart, and fun characters, and cool animation; and I’m stoked to see what else the cast and crew have to share with us since the last time I chatted with them at San Diego Comic Con. Whatever they bring us, it’s a guaranteed good time.
There are tons of other panels out there, and my FOMO will undoubtedly be in full swing, but I can’t do it all! So after attempting to see all of the panels above, I’ll probably move on to my other goals, such as visiting the:
There are a lot of really cool entertainment celebrities at NYCC, and I might get the opportunity to chat with a few; but when it comes to catching up with guests, my favorite people to talk to are always sitting in Artist Alley. I can’t even begin to list all the cool and talented people I want to see on this year’s comics guest-list; but I do know for sure that I’m already looking forward to walking the vast aisles of NYCC’s Artist Alley and seeing what everyone has brought to the tables this year.
One thing I really love about NYCC is that, despite the focus on entertainment guests, their Artist Alley is full of top-quality folks (and while I won’t list them all, I will say I’d be sad to miss Amanda Connor, Amy Chu, Art Baltazar, Clayton Henry, Cully Hamner, Dan Govar, David Gallaher, Dennis Calero, Dustin Nguyen, Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Janet Lee, Jeremy Haun, Jim Calafiore, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Harris, Katie Cook, Louise Simonson, Mark Brooks, Mark Morales, Matteo Scalera, Reilly Brown, Sanford Greene, Sara Richard, Thom Zahler, Tony Moy, and Walter Simonson, among others). And maybe along with seeing some old friends and new I will finally, finally meet Fabian Nicieza, after several conventions wherein we are both there and I don’t get to his table in time. Here’s hoping!
Of course after a hard day’s work seeing panels, wandering Artist Alley, and also, of course, exploring the con floor and merchandise and admiring some awesome cosplay, everyone needs to unwind. And although NYCC doesn’t compete with SDCC when it comes to the after-hours hangouts, I have managed to locate a few cool-sounding…
Sonicboombox is organizing a couple of parties this year, and I fully intend to hit at least the Friday one. This party will be at the Bowlmor Times Square, and is combined with the Image Comics After-Party. I attended that one last year, and had a really fun time; so that’s at the top of my list for this year. Sonicboombox is also doing a Cosplay dance party at Slake NYC on Saturday – and both the Friday and Saturday events feature giveaways, cosplay guests and photo booths, and fun stuff to do there (dancing, bowling, arcade games, or whatever takes your fancy). All the details for those events and ticketing can be found here.
If bowling alleys aren’t your thing, another Friday option is the Super Smashed Bros. V party, hosted by NYCRavers. This party is definitely for gamers, with a video game-themed EDM line-up of music, and a Super Smash Bros. tournament with cash prizes (for those who would rather play than dance!). It’s easy to get to via train, and goes late into the night.
Friday offers plenty of gamer-friendly options, with the GBX 2016 Electric Underground Party at Space Ibiza going on as well. With “the best anime/gaming/nerdcore music remixed into EDM” to dance to, this sounds like another one that gamers who also like to hit the dance floor would love. And, of course, as with most NYCC parties, cosplay is welcome.
The only reason I might not make it to Sonicboombox’s Saturday party is that it’s the same night as the Adult Swim Tyrannic’s Third Maiden Voyage. This is “a three-hour cruise along the Hudson, featuring a night of NY views & city sights, an up-close look at Lady Liberty, a live performance from a secret musical guest, and the company of your Adult Swim Friends & Family.” The last couple of years they’ve done this, I thought it looked really fun (being a huge fan of boats and being on the water, as is clear from my mega-excitement over my upcoming voyage on January’s comic-con cruise, Fan2Sea); but schedules never quite aligned before. This year, they have, and I RSVP’d early to make sure I didn’t miss out.
Well! That’s probably enough to keep me busy; but as with every NYCC, I’m also looking forward to having unexpected adventures. And in-between all of that, I’ll be keeping tabs on my plans via the NYCC app, which you really should have if you’re going adventuring at NYCC.
So snag that, make your plans, and if you see me at the con, don’t forget to say hey!
Marvel recently announced a set of variant covers for its newly launching U.S. Avengersseries. As with most listicle-ized ideas in modern comic bookery, it wasn’t much of a shock to me as a stunt. It will provide local comic shops something cool to order to entice collectors with, and for the super serious collectors, there will be a future market to Pokemon Go! and just go ahead and collect ‘em all. It’s a novelty, sure, but there’s been worse ones.
What it really does, though, is cause fans to curiously align themselves to a particular hero — as jocks will take to their geographically-proximate sports-ball-teams. With that, comes that nearly indescribable urge to gain a soft-spot for a particular character… and of course then talk smack at other hero/state pairings in an effort to show one’s newfound super civic pride.
For my home-sweet-home in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, comes Dr. Hank McCoy. Beast, if you’re naughty. The choice, for those in the know, isn’t too surprising. McCoy hails from the suburbs of Chicago himself (or so sayeth Wikipedia, Chicago’s Time Out edition, and countless other sources). Hence, the blue beast was chosen as the surrogate super son of Illinois.
I’ll be honest. Prior to seeing the cover and assignment, I wasn’t a fan of Beast. I don’t hate the fur ball, mind you… but even amongst various X teams and Avengers teams, he’d be nowhere close to a personal favorite. Funny enough though, seeing the cover with Hank leaping stoically off the Illinois map made me reconsider my personal feelings. Whereas California got the glitz and glamour choice of Iron Man and New York nabbed native son Luke Cage, Illinois got what I’d certainly say was a deep cut. We are home to the third largest city in the nation, and the best we muster is a guy who proclaims “Oh my stars and garters!”? In true Chicagoan spirit, my answer to that very question was a resounding “F*ck right he is!”
Beast is strong, fast, flexible, ambidextrous with four limbs, and a genius. He cured the legacy virus. He’s fluent in nine languages. He can hold up his end of the conversation with Reed Richards, Steven Strange, and Tony Stark… all while hanging upside down and teaching a class of X-babies. You see? And he’s my home state hero. It’s like we got Spider-Man and Mr. Fantastic all in one guy! And he’s the same color as our beloved Chicago Bears. Hell, he could play quarterback if he wanted!
See how quickly my opinion changed? The second they aligned my home to Hank, an affinity arose. Because he was offered as ours, suddenly there became an emotional edge to my opinion. Now when I open up my Marvel Contest of Champions mobile app, I’m more apt to hope I open up a crystal with the periwinkle protector to add to my cadre of combatants. And should people hold up their state-assigned hero as a better (“Indiana has the friggen’ Winter Solder, brah!”)? Well, I’ll be happy to scoff as I rattle off 17 ways my Dundee-native doctor can whup their candy ass twelve ways from Sunday. Curse you Marvel. What did you do to me?
It’s a cherry idea, I give them that. To turn a cash-grab novelty to in a buzzfeedesque game of proclivity is an instant hit in my book. Same way I felt when the Initiative post Civil War gave us the “Illinois Space Knights.” Same way I felt when I found out my broader home soil was home to such characters as Maria Hill, the Question (well, sort of… ask Mike Gold or Denny O’Neil), Ghost Rider, and Savage Dragon. To know that a fictional character shares the same air as you… may love a good Italian Beef — dipped, of course — and occasionally knock back an Old Style in a tallboy? Well, nothing makes me quicker to warm my icy Illinois heart.
So, it begs the question of you: What lilly-licking punk hero did your silly state get?