No, it has nothing to do with the whole Doctor Octopus is in Peter Parker’s body while Peter is apparently dead, even though some remnant of Peter’s morality is making Ock try to prove he can be a Spider-Man. A superior Spider-Man, even. No, that doesn’t bother me. I mean I never thought that status would remain quo for long.
Ever since the days of Stan Lee, Marvel Comics has operated on the principle of “the appearance of change,” but that’s not even the real reason. The real reason I expected Peter Parker back in control just about now is because in a few short weeks the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out. Anybody who thought the Disney suits would want a comic book where Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man out at the same time as the movie where Peter Parker is Spider-Man could use a lesson in marketing. And I don’t mean a refresher course at your local Kwik-E-Mart.
So why is The Superior Spider-Man not a good comic for me? Well, let’s look at the latest example of what bothers Bob about The Superior Spider-Man and then we’ll discuss.
Blackout wants to reestablish his rep as a hired killer and how he chose to do it is the subject of this week’s SPOILER ALERT. You know those really big spoilers on cars that resemble the blades of a ventilation fan? They look silly. Don’t use them. And don’t continue reading this column, unless you want the beginning, middle and end of The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 spoiled. (more…)
[[[Fifty shades of grey]]] isn’t just a runaway best-seller of debatable literary merit soon to be a major motion picture of, probably, even more debatable merit. It’s also the world we live in.
No, I don’t mean it’s a world of erotic fantasies, BDSM role-playing games, and dominance. Although if it were, can you imagine how that would change the popular Disney attraction “It’s a Small World?” (And I apologize for having put that now unwashable image into your minds.)
What I mean is that the world isn’t just “white hats” and “black hats,” good or evil. It’s a world of grey tones where everyone has some good and some evil, where everyone is grey. Some people are more good than evil, while others are more evil than good, which is why there are shades of grey; at least fifty of them if bad literature can be believed.
Otto Octavius, the former Doctor Octopus and now the controlling mentality in the body of Peter Parker, who is trying to prove he’s a “white hat” by being a superior Spider-Man is proving instead that, like Batman in [[[The Lego Movie]]], he “only work[s] in black. And sometimes, very, very dark grey.” And the world around him is trending darker too, like it’s got some sort of Goth hashtag.
This November, prepare for every Spider-Man…ever! Marvel is proud to announce Spider-Verse, the biggest Spider-Man story of the year from New York Times Best-Selling Spider-Scribe Dan Slott and blockbuster artist Olivier Coipel!
Kicking off this November in Amazing Spider-Man #9 (with a special lead-in story on Free Comic Book Day), Slott and Coipel assemble an legion of Spider-Men from every corner of every universe. Peter Parker, Miguel O’Hara, Miles Morales and many, many more must unite to stop a seemingly insurmountable super-powered foe. Morlun, an incredibly powerful villain has returned with a singular and terrifying goal – exterminate every Spider-Man in every universe! It will take thousands of spider-powered heroes to battle back the greatest threat to this universe or any other!
“The scope of this event is so big, the word ‘epic’ just doesn’t do it justice,” says editor Nick Lowe. “The story is just huge and heartbreaking and has necessitated spreadsheets to organize all the Spider-Men. Luckily we have a writer who has proven time and time again he can thread impossible story-needles [Slott] and the most versatile character artist in the business [Coipel].”
Fans can see the first hints of this event in April’s Amazing Spider-Man #1 but will get their first real taste of Spider-Verse in Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day Guardians of the Galaxy issue this with a special 5-page lead-in story available for free at all participating comic shops on May 3rd. This fall, Spider-Verse unites every Spider-Man in history to drive back the forces of darkness. But will an army of Spiders be enough?
Don’t miss the blockbuster Spider-Man event that will have the Marvel Universe on the edge of its seat when Spider-Verse hits comic shops this November! Plus, don’t miss the start of the next big chapter in Spider-Man history in Amazing Spider-Man #1 on-sale this April!
Okay, Marvel, let me see if I’ve got this straight? The bad guy wins. That’s how you celebrate the 700th issue of your flagship character, by killing him and letting the bad guy win?
Assuming you haven’t been in a cave and know about the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and the subsequent issues of [[[The Superior Spider-Man]]] – and in case you have and you don’t: SPOILER WARNING – you know that Dr. Octopus put Peter Parker’s mind into his own dying body and his mind into Peter Parker’s body. You also know that Doc Ock’s body died with Peter’s mind still in it and that Ock, whose mind is in Peter’s body, is now proving that with his “unparalleled genius” he can be a superior Spider-Man. Well, I like a good redemption story as well as the next guy – and for me that’s the only thing that makes this storyline interesting; can Doc Ock actually find redemption by being a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker was?
This March, a new legend is born on the streets of Los Angeles in ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1 – the high-octane new series from writer Felipe Smith and artist Tradd Moore! All-New Ghost Rider #1 will continue the exciting wave of All-New Marvel NOW! series with a brand new & sensational take on the Spirit of Vengeance!
A high speed street race in East LA leads a young man down the fast and furious road of destiny. Amid an East Los Angeles neighborhood full of gang violence and drug trafficking, 18-year old Robbie Reyes explodes onto the scene as the newest Ghost Rider!
“In Robbie Reyes, Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore have created one of the most complex and likable characters to be granted great power — and a great ride! — and learn the great responsibility that comes with both,” says Editor In Chief Axel Alonso. “Reyes comes from a very different zip code than Peter Parker, but his story is universal.”
“His vehicle of choice, the automobile, very clearly sets him apart visually,” says series writer Felipe Smith in an interview with Marvel.com “In comparison to his vengeance seeking predecessors, he’s very young and inexperienced in most aspects of life; but as a the product of a harsh inner city upbringing, Robbie’s street smarts, overall distrust for most people, and clear contempt for his violent surroundings make him the perfect host for a Spirit of Vengeance.”
But motorcycles and cars were just the beginning! Robbie has the ability to turn any vehicle into a flaming engine of retribution. And he’ll need it. War is brewing in the criminal underworld. But crime and corruption have a new enemy. With the pedal to the metal, Marvel’s newest Ghost Rider puts vengeance into overdrive!
Who is this new Ghost Rider? And how did he come to possessed with such awesome power? The answers will be revealed when the explosive ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1 sets comic shops ablaze this March!
ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1 (JAN140660)
Written by FELIPE SMITH
Art & Cover by TRADD MOORE
Variant Covers by FELIPE SMITH (JAN140663)
MIKE DEL MUNDO (JAN140663) SKOTTIE YOUNG (JAN140664)
I saw Thor: The Dark World last week with my usual bunch of hyper-critical Fairfield County buddies. Most of us (oddly) agreed the movie was great fun.
This is not a review of the Thor movie. A review should be more in-depth than four words, although in this Twitter-Totter world I realize this is akin to shouting “Hey, kids, get off of my lawn.”
The movie put on the big screen the type of energy and enthusiasm with which I associate the classic Marvel Comics in general – and with Jack Kirby in particular. Of all the superhero movies that have come down the pike over the past decade, Thor: The Dark World was less consumed with the Greek Angst Chorus than any other I can recall. Admittedly, I haven’t seen them all but, c’mon; did anybody actually pay money to see Catwoman?
I’m all for social commentary and significant subtext. I get the allegorical nature of The X-Men franchise. I appreciate Peter Parker’s sundry traumas. I totally understand that Bruce Wayne is in desperate need of some Xanax and a really good shrink. And I could have a swell time doing a Marxist analysis of Tony Stark. But every once in a while, it’s nice to pull the stick out of the nether-region and settle down for a good ol’ time.
It’s the same reason why I watch Robot Chicken and my favorite DC title is Tiny Titans. Well, that and the fact that Tiny Titans is one of the few DC Comics that actually makes any sense.
I realize that, as a comic book editor (let alone as a writer, broadcaster and professional fussbudget) my name has appeared in a lot more than a handful of Important Message Stories. And it will continue to be. Wait until we start telling you about the Hello Herman graphic novel. But an endless stream of Important Message Stories undermines their significance – concepts drown in the endless seas of moral dilemma.
Moreover, I advocate that we deserve Great Fun. The day-to-day slog through the shitstorm of life is tough enough. Let’s sit back for two hours and watch a bunch of talented actors chomp up the scenery without getting all hung up about reality.
There was some discussion when the creative team on DC’s Batwoman, J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman, resigned after editorial decided that the title character, Kate Kane, would not be allowed to marry her fiancée, Maggie Sawyer. DC has tried to clarify that they are not anti-gay marriage but anti any marriage. Dan DiDio, DC co-publisher, stated at the Baltimore Con that heroes (at least in the Batman family) shouldn’t have happy personal lives, no marriages. They sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good. That’s what makes them heroes. Or so we’re told. DiDio said, “That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”
That’s one viewpoint.
I can argue it both ways. Comics are fantasies and fairy tales tend to end with “And they lived happily ever after.” It is assumed that, after that point, the story gets mundane. It becomes about the ho-hum aspects of living day-to-day. The romance is gone. The tension of “will they/won’t they” no longer exists.
That has not been my experience. The living together, the commitment to one another, gets challenged all the time. The percentage of marriages that end in divorce or infidelity, according to some, is about 50%. Happily ever after is not a given.
I’ve discovered part of the challenge is seeing past who you thought the other person was and to see who they actually are. You discover much more about the person you love after you’ve become a committed couple. In addition, that love you share grows and changes (or changes and declines) as the people in that relationship grow, decline, and change. The love the two feel, for better or worse, may not be the same five years in. All of that can be very dramatic.
However, it’s not something pop culture tends to show. Most TV shows resist having their romantic leads become a couple, and certainly not married. Moonlighting famously teased about its two leads becoming a couple for way too long. Castle, of which I’m a big fan, is dealing with that now and we’ll see how that turns out. Every once in a while, you get a show or series that counteracts that – the movie series The Thin Man, based on the characters of Nick and Nora Charles created by Dashiell Hammett, were sexy and funny and had a wonderful marriage. They are, also, the exception in pop culture.
Marvel can be no less guilty of this than DC. The decision was made to have Peter (Spider-Man) Parker and Mary Jane Watson not just no longer married but to make it so they were never married. In order to do that, they had to employ the devil. That’s sort of convoluted.
I dislike DiDio’s edict because it is just that – an edict. It doesn’t allow for a story to follow through. It is dogma applied instead of thought, creativity and imagination. It’s the same rationale that the Roman Catholic Church applies to celibacy in its priesthood: that the priest/hero sacrifices their own personal happiness to better serve. It’s codswallop in both cases. The RC rule ignores the fact that other denominations have married clergy and it actually works out mostly fine.
Look, I can certainly see that Batman has no time or perhaps inclination to be married. That makes sense within the confines of who the character is. There were and are different circumstances for others like Batwoman. In storytelling, one size does not fit all.
I’ve been doing some work for DC and I hope to do more and when playing in their sandbox, I’ll respect their rules, even if I disagree with them. However, Williams and Blackman had the rules changed on them at the last moment and I respect their decision to walk. I’d like to think I would do the same.
There’s a saying that goes “The devil is in the detailsl, but so is character, whether writing, drawing, or acting. I had the opportunity of teaching at the Joe Kubert School a few times (and the inestimable pleasure of getting to know not only the legendary Joe Kubert but so many others working at the school) and I had the maybe unenviable task of teaching writing to a bunch of art students. Some didn’t take to that right away; after all, they were there to learn how to draw. From talking to some of the graduates over the years, however, I think most found it worthwhile and I enjoyed it.
For me, everything in comics is about character and storytelling. Design to me means nothing unless it is tied to those two points. I’m not interested in a mask or costume whose design is simply “cool” or its what the artist wants to draw. The character has chosen to make or wear a given mask, costume, or uniform. What does that tell us about him or her? Famously, Batman wants to invoke a bat because criminals are (supposedly) a cowardly and superstitious lot. He wants to invoke fear in them.
One exercise I gave the students was to create their own mask – not for a character but something that would express and freeze some aspect of themself. It would both reveal them and, because it was a mask, it would also conceal them. They were safe behind the mask. It was and was not them.
When the masks were completed, I asked them to wear them. Masks in many societies have power; often, they represent a god and the wearer (supposedly) channels the power of the god. I asked the students to let the mask act upon them; how did they act, how did they feel, how did they move? What – if anything – changed in them?
The purpose was to get them to understand the affects that the masks the characters they wore had upon the characters they were writing and/or drawing. Spider-Man, for example, certainly reacts differently than Peter Parker. Batman, on the other hand, becomes more of who he is when he wears the cowl; his true mask may be Bruce Wayne, as perceived by others.
We do the same thing with what we choose to wear. We say something about ourselves, about who we perceive ourselves to be, of how we want to be perceived by others. Even a careless choice – “whatever is clean” or “whatever I grab” says something. Even if the message being sent out, “I can’t be judged by my clothes; I’m deeper than that.” that is still making a statement. Maybe the message is – I don’t want to be noticed. That is also still a statement. That’s a choice being made and that tells us something about a person – or a character.
What kind of clothes does your character wear? Bruce Wayne may wear Armani; I asked my students if they knew what an Armani suit looked like. Peter Parker is going to shop off the rack. Which rack?
In movies and TV, they have a whole team of people deciding what the rooms look like. Bedrooms, offices, desks, kitchens – depending on the person and what room is most important to them, what are the telling details about them that personalize the space, that say something about the character?
As an actor, I needed to know what my character wore, how he walked, how he used his hands when talking (or did he?). What sort of shoes did he wear? I compared knowing this to an iceberg; the vast majority of the iceberg is under water and only the tip shows. However, for that tip to show, the bulk of the iceberg had to be there. (One of these days I’m probably going to have to explain what an iceberg was.) I have to know far, far more about a character than I’m actually going to use just to be able to pick the facts that I feel are salient to a given moment or story. When Tim Truman and I created GrimJack, we had a whole vast backstory figured out, some of which was revealed only much later; some of it may not have been revealed yet.
Generic backgrounds create generic characters. To be memorable, there have to be details. The more specific they are, the more memorable the character will be. That’s what we want to create; that’s what we want to read.
OK, I admit it: I’m a pro-wrestling fan. I’ll even do you one better. I’m a smart-mark. Yeah, I’m not only a fan, I’m a fan of the business behind the product. I know the difference between an Irish whip, a German suplex, and an inverted front face buster into a crossbar arm-breaker. I’ve tried hard to bury this part of my nerd-quilt for a very long time. Almost six years. But here on the precipice of Wrestlemania, I find myself DVR’ing episodes and instigating debates with fellow fans. There is no denying, kiddos. Pin my shoulders to the mat. I’m not kicking out of this one.
Like most fans of the sport (and yeah, I use the term loosely), I was introduced to it while I was but a wee one. My father, devoid of any other real hobby or vice, would every-so-often bring home a taped pay-per-view from a friend or co-worker. And I would be allowed, even on a school night, to stay up and watch it to the end. It led me to watch the Saturday morning recap shows (as we didn’t have cable back then). It led me when I got the Internet, to seek message boards, news groups, and the like. When I got to college (and got cable), it was a twice a week obsession. The real question of course being simple: after the ‘nostalgia was gone well into my teen years, what kept me a fan? The sport and the business.
Behind the scenes, wrestling is a fascinating machine. Bookers and top-brass give shots to up and coming talent, challenging them to connect with fans. The talent themselves, having spent years on the road honing their craft (both being able to perform the moves, and project a character), are tasked with becoming stars and elevating the company that gave them the chance in the first place. Merchandise is made, and product is eternally analyzed. The art itself isn’t just on a TV screen, or a bingo hall… it’s in a board room, and in the locker rooms; where creative minds meet all for the sake of entertaining the niche-market built specifically around itself. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Look down on it all you want, but for the money, pro-wrestling is a living breathing comic book presented for the masses every week. Hulking super men and woman battle one-another endlessly. They become heroes, turn villainous, unite to stop larger threats, and every couple years things reset. Some stories are played for high drama while others are strictly slapstick. Continuity is cited, forgotten, and brought back into the fold when it serves a higher purpose. Vintage characters come back for cheap applause and shock value. Most people hold the independent presentations to be “better, and closer to what the medium should be.” And my favorite similarity? Every smart fan thinks he knows what’s going to happen; and that he could write it better if someone would just listen.
That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
And how about I cite a little topical note to boot! This past week, we all saw DC implode just a little as the curtain drew back and spat out several creators running for the hills due to creative differences. Back in 2011, angered over his own creative differences with his contract and character, CM Punk walked out to the stage and took over the last few minutes of the weekly WWF show Raw. He proceeded to air his grievances about the business, and broke the 4th wall like it was made of paper.
Now, this could all have been a work (fake…) but it was treated just like Gail Simone’s exit off of Batgirl. Of course Gail bowed out gracefully, didn’t complain at all, and was genuinely amazing about the whole ordeal. Punk was a heel (a villain), so why not be a big baby about all of it, right? At the end of the day: Punk got the spotlight like he’d always wanted. Gail Simone is back on Batgirl. And as I type this, I’m betting dollars to maple-glazed bacon donuts… that DC editorial is saving the life of John Stewart.
Suffice to say I’m finding a way to let my freak flag fly again. Wrestling may very well be scripted, but so are my favorite comics. And just like a great moment in comics like Otto Octavious successfully taking over Peter Parker’s body, so too can I enjoy John Cena using a never-seen before hurricanrana in his repertoire in order to defeat his opponent and earn his title shot at the big pay-per-view. It’s serialized story telling, in either form. Replace super powers with inhuman tolerance for pain. Replace indulgent caption boxes and exposition dumps for long-winded promos littered with catch phrases. Don the t-shirts, and attend the conventions. Hell, if you think you can do better… maybe start doing it on your own, and sell your product in your backyard.
Wait, scratch that. Kids: don’t become backyard wrestlers. Or indie comic creators. You’ll end up on your back either way.
And for any of my smart-marks out there: I’m pulling for Punk to beat the streak. It won’t happen of course, but if he can destroy the Undertaker’s Urn after losing the match, he’ll keep all the heat, and it’ll give Taker and Punk one more match next month.
And for any of my comic-insiders out there: I’m personally hoping Otto dials back the megalomania just a skosh, and Slott keeps him under the mask for at least a year. And when it comes time to put Peter back in the drivers seat… Otto either gets a young new body or yields to death’s embrace for the greater good.