Stephen J. Ditko, one of the most iconoclastic comic creators of all time and creator or co-creator of Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, the Question, the Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, Hawk and Dove, Starman, Stalker, the Odd Man, Squirrel Girl, and his most personal creation Mr. A, has died at his home at the age of 90.
Famously reclusive (there are less than five known photographs of him) and fiercely independent, Ditko was found unresponsive in his apartment in New York City on June 29. Police said he had died within the previous two days. He was pronounced dead at age 90, with the cause of death initially deemed as a result of a myocardial infarction, brought on by arteriosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
There may be no better way to get a flavor of his impact on the field than the 2007 BBC documentary In Search Of Steve Ditko, hosted by Jonathan Ross:
In said story, Spider-Man went to a nighttime comedy improv workshop being taught by the aforementioned regulars on Whose Line Is It, Anyway? because Spidey thought he needed a refresher to hone his one-liner skills. He was Hulked out by his puny banter and wanted to be more quip on the draw. Spidey’s lesson didn’t last long. A page or so into the improving, he heard a burglar alarm and knew it was time to put his newly honed skills to practical use.
Okay, I’ll need a place that has money and a number between one and five. Ah, I heard “bank” and “three.”
Spidey went to the bank next door and found three men planning to loot the safety deposit boxes from the small safe, because the big safe would take too long. Spider-Man then crashed their party. Literally. He jumped through the bank’s front window. Spidey suggested the crooks work together, listen to each other, and act as a team. They agreed and decided two of them would crack the safe while the third emptied the teller drawers
A little later, the crooks all had sacks full of money and were walking out the door thanking Spider-Man for making it the easiest job they’ve ever done. Meanwhile, even though the alarm had been going off for some time now, the police still hadn’t arrived. Apparently this bank wasn’t close to any donut shops.
Undaunted, Spidey webbed the door so the crooks couldn’t get out. The three crooks rushed him. In a straight line. So that when Spidey punched the first crook, he fell back and hit the second crook who, in turn, fell back and hit the third crook. Spidey subdued the three crooks with one blow, not as good as a brave little tailor, but necessary when you’re appearing in a short story. Then Spidey told the crooks that he had waited until after they actually took some money, so they could be arrested for more than attempted robbery.
Hey, Spidey, maybe you should have paid better attention to that improv class. The purpose of, “Yes and,” is that you’re supposed to agree with what the person before you said then build on that to make things go smoothly. You don’t say, “Yes and how can I make things worse?” Because worse is what your little escapade made things.
And I don’t mean worse for the crooks. You’re supposed to make things worse for them. It used to be right there in the Comics Code. No, I meant worse for the poor victims.
Look at what Spidey did. Or, in case you don’t happen to have the comic in front of you so you can’t look, let me tell you what he did. First, he crashed through the bank’s window instead of coming through whatever entrance the crooks used, because that’s what all banks need; a gaping hole right in the front of their secure building. Then he let the crooks take money out of the safety deposit boxes and teller drawers, meaning that the tellers will have to balance all their cash drawers again. Then all those safety deposit boxes. And that’s after they pick up all the stolen money and sort it out. He put them through all this just so that the crooks would actually take some money and could be charged with more than just attempted robbery? Good plan! Considering that when the crooks took the money they couldn’t be charged with robbery – actual or attempted – at all.
According to the section 160.00 of the New York state penal code (I write in my best Jack Webb monotone) robbery in the third degree happens when, “in the course of committing a larceny, [the perpetrator] uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force upon another person for the purpose of… Preventing or overcoming resistance to the taking of the property or to the retention thereof immediately after the taking.” When the crooks took the money they hadn’t used, or threatened the use of, any physical force on anyone. So they weren’t robbers.
What they were was burglars. Because what they did violated section 140.20 of that same penal code by trespassing in a building in order to commit a crime there in. And that’s burglary of the third degree. Moreover, both robbery and burglary of the third degree are Class D felonies in New York. So Spidey could have gotten them convicted of the exact same class of felony without having to wait until they actually touched the money. Which would have made everybody – Spidey and the bank employees – happy. Okay, it wouldn’t have made the crooks happy. But, I repeat, Comics Code.
Now, when the crooks rushed at Spidey, they were threatening the use of physical harm so were guilty of robbery in the third degree. In fact, they were guilty of the Class C felony robbery in the second degree, because each crook was aided another person who was present during the robbery. But Spidey could still have achieved this result without letting them actually touch the money.
These crooks were stupid enough to rush Spidey unarmed. Okay they had arms, how else could they have carried those bags of money he let them get their hands on? But they didn’t have weapons. And they still rushed Spider-Man. In a straight line, no less, so he could punch one and turn them into human dominoes. I’m betting they were also dumb enough to have rushed Spidey if he told them he was going to stop them before they touched the money.
Spidey could have gotten the crooks to commit robbery of the second, robbery of the third degree, and burglary of the third degree without making the poor, underpaid tellers lives more difficult. But he didn’t. I guess Spidey was still in his improv class. And the game he was playing was “World’s Worst.”
Before we move on to my regularly scheduled column, I have to plug the Kickstarter going for a ComicMix comics collection running through September 15th. It’s got a lot of great talent like Neil Gaiman, Gabby Rivera and Gerard Way. Check it out!
Now that that’s out of the way, let me get back to my hot takes on the comics biz.
Last month I wrote about Spider-Man: Homecomingand how I wish they had more comics the reflected that interpretation of the character. There isn’t really a comic they put out recently that does, but I heard Spideyis kind of close so I picked up the first trade.
Spidey originally hit the stands back December of 2015 at #25 on the sales charts equating to 65,503 copies sold. The idea was to do an out of continuity Spider-Man that went back to basics; Peter Parker is back in high school, he’s back to crushing on Gwen Stacy, he’s back to taking pictures of Spider-Man for JJ, Aunt May is back to struggling to pay her bills, the bad guys aren’t quite as deadly serious, the book is more light-hearted and the stakes are lowered.
The series is written by Robbie Thompson and the first three issues are illustrated by Nick Bradshaw with Jim Campbell and Rachelle Rosenberg coloring. In the first three issues we have run ins with Doc Ock, Sandman, and Lizard. All three of them are doing what you normally expect them to do; Doc Ock is trying to steal technology, Sandman is trying to rob banks, and Lizard is trying to make more lizard people. While it’s all pretty goofy and at least somewhat self aware, Nick’s art is very sleek and his heavy inks with Jim and Rachelle’s colors really make the pages pop. It feels like Saturday morning cartoon quality work. Some of the characters could look a little more different from each other as I felt his Peter Parker and Harry Osborn look too similar, but I also acknowledge that’s a bit overly critical.
After issue three, the series takes a bit of a turn.
Nick Bradshaw has a very distinct style. Once he leaves after issue three, the rest of this trade is illustrated by Andre Lima Araujo. Andre’s style is drastically different from Nick’s. Gone are the heavy inks and Saturday morning cartoon look. In its place are very thin line inks, and the kind of art you may expect in a Top Shelf or Pantheon type graphic novel. Facial expressions and other little details like sweat are more prominent. The teenage angst and awkwardness spills out of the pages more, but the tone is so different from this art style that it’s jarring. On top of all that, in issue six Iron Man teams up with Spider-Man to stop Vulture from stealing things and it felt like such a push to do something that might tie in somewhat to Spider-Man: Homecoming that it immediately sucked me out of the story.
The most disappointing thing about reading Spidey after seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming is seeing how few liberties they take with a comic that isn’t in continuity. They don’t really change up the characters too much, everyone is still white who was white, all the characters are back doing exactly what you already know they do. What’s the point in taking another shot at retelling the early years of Spider-Man if you’re just going to give me everything we already knew and how we already knew it? This is likely at least part of why the series ends at issue twelve, making it only two volumes on trade paperback.
Overall, Spidey Vol. 1 was fun, had a few exceptional moments, but overall fell a bit flat. If you absolutely need more simple Spider-Man stories, you absolutely should pick this up. Or if you have a child in your life around ages 8-12 this is probably the most appropriate Spider-Man title for them to read. Spidey also gets bonus points for not having parallel universes, time travelling, and clones. Especially for not having clones.
It feels good to write about comics I’m reading again. So good even, I may just do it again next week!
To date, Marvel Studios has 16 released films in their shared universe. And while I have an affinity for all of them (truly, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch) it’s fair now to see the cream rise to the top. Having just finished Spider-Man: Homecoming this past weekend – yes I’m a suburban dad who no longer prioritizes movies as a need-to-see-on-release-day – I think I’m within bounds to pluck out my top five… until I mentioned this idea to EIC Mike Gold who denoted “We have a logo” for picking six. Natch. So, without any further preamble, here are (ranked from bottom to top) my most favoritest Marvel(ous) movies.
Definition time: I’m specifying movies only within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” This excludes the X-Men movies, the Fantastic Four movies, the Blade trilogy (which was awesome, honestly) any previous Spider-Man flicks, and sadly Deadpool who would have been #3 on my ranking.
It’s funny enough to me that this film – the quintessential tent pole of the MCU – arrives in this bonus spot on my list. When the dust settled for me on The Avengers I remain in love with the concept, less the execution. Because Joss Whedon is so adept at creating great team dynamics there’s rarely any downtime in the flick, which is its saving grace. Ultimately, the plot is barely logical, with Loki aligning with Thanos because reasons and it’s all an excuse for a huge CGI fist fight. That the film never abandons the damage New York takes because of the epic Midtown massacre again harkens why The Avengers made my list in the first place. Amidst the cacophony, humanity still remains at the heart of the film. Even if Agent Coulson’s death was retconned almost immediately.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
All of Cap’s movies are infinitely watchable to me. Somehow the cock-sure asshat that was one of the only saving graces of the terrible Fantastic Four films (you know which ones) truly adopted and adapted his talents to fully realize Marvel’s big blue boy scout. And in his performance, Chris Evans balances the fish-out-of-water aspects of the character perfectly with a soldier’s grit and heroism in the modern age. While The First Avenger did all the expository heavy lifting to sell us on Steve Rogers the man, The Winter Soldier proved that “superhero” films could be far more than large set pieces and quips. The Directing Russos took their love of 70s political / conspiracy fiction and married it to the modern day in a way that felt bombastic but real. I still remain in awe watching Rogers chase down his former best friend amidst the chaos of the biggest Holy Watcher! moment of the MCU – the reveal of Hydra’s long-simmering subterfuge. Pair that with the late-in-the-movie tête-à-tête with Nick Fury over proactive protection over reactive super heroics and you get a heavy flick that leaves you wondering why it took this long to see something this good.
The only thing I could honestly nitpick about the flick was the avidity for late-night fight scenes, is a boon to the first Spider-Man film to truly nail the character as I’d always imagined him to be. Our believably-baby-faced Peter Parker steals the show (fitting given it’s his film) in what amounts to an homage to 80s teen rom-coms with a running thread of super-heroics. And, amongst literally all the movies I’ll be listing today, none had me more on the edge of my seat than the car ride discussion between Peter and his date’s daddy. That a superhero movie had me captivated without thwipping a single web is a testament to its depth and brevity. Oh, and somehow, the movie made a mort like Vulture into a believable badass. Case. Closed.
Captain America: Civil War
Take everything that was said above, copy, and paste it. But magnify it by two or three. Civil War took big swings at the politics of being a super hero, weaved in a deeply personal conflict, and then set it all against a global backdrop. The movie owned the space Avengers: Age of Ultron should have, all while taking those initial beats of young Steve Rogers and bringing them home to roost. That they could tell all of this, drop our jaws with the airport sequence and make both sides of the equation nuanced in their actions and opinions only drove the point home harder how Marvel could make mature fiction against the flashy colors and CGI bombast.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel’s way of raising two gigantic middle fingers at DC while simultaneously mooning them. For a bit of perspective: Batman v. Superman earned (essentially) the same amount of money as the first GotG movie, but came out two years later. So, a movie where a loose Indiana Jones / Han Solo rip-off pilots Firefly alongside a talking raccoon and animated tree earned the same amount of money. But that’s truly beside the point. Guardians 2 took everything amazing from its first iteration – the comedy, the space-action, the brilliant visuals, and an astoundingly wide scope of the universe at large – and somehow improved upon it. Kurt Russel’s Ego is a massive villain whose plot (for once) feels earned. All the performances were beyond exemplary… but nothing truly hit this father harder than a blue dude with a red Mohawk literally defining fatherhood amidst an intergalactic chase and war sequence.
Iron Man was a no-brainer for the top of my list. While other actors across the MCU have grown into their roles… none of them hold a candle to Robert Downey Jr. – who doesn’t so much as perform Tony Stark as he simply exists as a surrogate so close to the source material he bleeds ink. While other Marvel films have woven more intricate plots, delivered better (a few, if we’re being picky) villains, or provided us with better battles… none compare to the total package quite so well as the original kick-off to Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, our introduction to what the general pop-culture lexicon would consider a “B” lister, Jon Favreau drags right to the top of the A list in the cold open. Tony Stark – as massively, untouchably talented and wealthy as he is – becomes our surrogate POV character for nearly every Marvel film he’s subsequently been in. And while his personal politics and actions have led him to morally gray areas ever since… it’s all the work done here in his origin that allows us to believe every action that has occurred. All that and the movie made this millennial truly believe a man could fly. In a suit. Of space-age material, designed by a genius living with an electromagnetic reactor in his chest that powers it.
There needs to be a clear change in thesis statement when you reboot a film franchise. Something like “We need Batman to be more serious and less goofy” being the reason to bring Christopher Nolan in to restart the Caped Crusader, or “Star Trek doesn’t feel relatable to young people because we’ve been serving TNG fans and older exclusively for 20 years” for the Abrams Trek reboot. I think that’s why the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man series never caught on because there wasn’t a change in thesis, it was the same attempt at superhero melodrama with big CGI villains. The only thing that changed was people didn’t seem to like Tobey Maguire anymore and Sam Raimi wanted desperately to do anything else with his time.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clear change in tone. Sony/Marvel (I don’t know who gets credit here) have decided that they want Spider-Man to be upbeat and not dragged down by being an overwrought angst-fest. This is a movie about the wonder of being a superhero and the problems are kid problems. The problems that don’t involve a man with giant wings at least.
It’s so refreshing to see a reboot without an origin story. There’s a throwaway reference to being bitten by a spider and that’s it. There’s no working as a wrestler, there’s no Uncle Ben, and the movie doesn’t suffer one iota for the absence. We’ve been told this origin story so many times including twice in the last 15 years on the big screen. It’s nice to be given credit for cultural literacy for once. I do wish someone had said “With great power comes great responsibility” just one time because that’s an important thematic shorthand that just gets run over here, but if I have to trade that for 40 minutes of not killing Uncle Ben I’ll take it. Hopefully whoever at Warner Brothers responsible for planning the next on-screen version of killing the Waynes saw Homecoming this weekend and is thinking twice.
There’s a prominent subplot about Peter’s suit. It’s a suit Tony Stark gave him and it has a very Iron-Man-y HUD. Midway through the film the “training wheels” get taken off and we get an awful lot of material on the crazy new features and Peter’s inability to manage them. It’s funny enough but I profoundly do not care about watching Spider-Man fiddle with technology. History probably proves I’m in the minority here, as both the Ben Reilly costume change and the Iron Spider era both saw bumps in sales, but it’s not the relatable content to me. I think it’s fun when Peter engages in relatable drama; not does a scene out of Despicable Me with a plethora of gadgets. This should be a small thing, but it’s so much of the second act it gets exhausting.
It feels like every few months we get another thing from Marvel that is supposed to finally show us the MCU from a human perspective and none of them ever succeed. Daredevil was supposed to be this, as were Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and seemingly everything else. None of those particularly worked for me on that level because while they would mention the bigger things happening in the movie they either felt too far removed (like they were only coincidentally in the same world) or too close (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is massive in scope). Spider-Man: Homecoming is, finally, a success at feeling small. The stakes feel important, but at no point is someone threatening me with the end of the world or the destruction of New York. This is a movie about personal triumph and the effect, and lack of effect, that has on the later world. Spider-Man fails if the Vulture succeeds, but the worst outcome of the events in this movie wouldn’t even be worth an aside in the next Avengers film. There’s growth here and as the rest of the MCU spins in to grander, more cosmic, conflict it’s nice to have a little story that feels big instead of a giant story that rings hollow.
Tomorrow I’m supposed to have what is called a nuclear stress test – checking on the old ticker – during which they introduce a nuclear particle into my blood stream and then will track it. According to comic book physics, this should result in my gaining a super-power or two. So I’ve been considering what power(s) I might get or want.
There’s a spectrum of possibilities. Spider-Man got his powers through radioactivity, as did the Hulk. The Fantastic Four got their powers through a form of radiation. In the back of my mind, I wonder if the radioactive particle might activate some recessive mutant gene or possibly Terrigen mists like the Inhumans to which I may have been unwittingly exposed.
Daredevil got hit by a truck and some radioactive isotope/bar clonked him on the head which obviously gave him his radar sense. The Atom got his powers from White Dwarf Star radiation. Superman’s powers come from the rays (radiation) of a yellow sun, but he loses them under a red sun.
So – what powers would I want? Flight is always a great one but there are problems. For example, why doesn’t Superman have bugs in his teeth? You drive a car down a highway and you’re going to wind up with bugs in the grill and bugs on the windshield. And big airplanes are often having collisions with birds; does Supes do that or does he dodge them? So flying is not as simple or cool as one might imagine.
Enhanced strength? I’d be the perennial bull in the china shop. How much would I destroy by accident? I’d have to get used to it and learn how to modulate it; shaking someone’s hand could cause them major bodily harm.
I’ve always had the theory that super-powers in some way should have a psychological component; the power somebody manifests should be tied in to who they are. So what powers would work for me?
I tend to be more cerebral than physical, so I think I would tilt more to the Professor X end of the scale. Mind powers. Or like Deadman, I’d have the ability to inhabit other people and take over their bodies and live their lives for a while. It’s sort of what I do as a writer; I go into other lives.
Eh, then you also have Dr. Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. I thought he was kind of creepy. He’d “jump” into other people’s lives and be them for a while and then, when he leapt out, the real person would come back, aware that they had been possessed and dispossessed at the same time and they’d be stuck living with the changes Sam Beckett had made in their lives.
Green Lantern would be up my alley; manifesting whatever I can imagine through sheer force of will. That, too, is what I do as a writer. But that falls outside the parameters of the concept – it’s not radioactivity that gives GL his powers but the ring. Same thing with Batman; no radioactivity involved in his creation. Unless we want to suggest Bruce was bitten by a radioactive bat when he first fell into the bat cave as a boy. Hmmmmm.
Of course, I could also wind up with less useful powers such as being able to sniff out chocolate within a mile. Or with a gesture make meatballs and sauce fly out of my fingers. With my luck, that would be more likely.
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. If I get something, I’ll let you know next week. Unless, of course, I need to preserve my secret identity. If you hear nothing further from me on the subject, you’ll know why.
As the creator of so many great super-heroes would say – Excelsior!
This column is the last one I’ll be writing under an Obama Presidency. This is also the last Tuesday of the Obama Presidency. Though I have some disagreements with his policies, I’ll miss him as our President. So I figure this would be a good time to talk about some of his impact on the comics industry.
Barack Obama himself is no stranger to comics. He’s talked about his comic collecting and his fondness of Conan The Barbarian and the Spider-Man comics in the past, even if he forgets the hyphen in Spider-Man sometimes.
Obama has appeared in many comics as well. You can find him in comics for nearly a decade since 2007 when he was a Senator. He’s appeared in comics published by Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite and more. Everything from Savage Dragon and Youngblood to Army of Darkness and The Other Dead, Obama has been there.
The most popular and celebrated appearance of his in comics is likely The Amazing Spider-Man #583. The issue came out on January 14th, 2009 less than a week before Obama’s inauguration. While the main story was written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Barry Kitson, Obama appeared in the backup story written by Zeb Wells and illustrated by Todd Nauck. This five-page backup story Spider-Man has to step in when a second Obama appears who turns out to be The Chameleon. It’s a fun, cheesy little story where Obama gets to talk to one his favorite superheroes right before he gets sworn in. This particular comic went on to five printings and became a collector’s item before it even came out. My one complaint is that Peter Parker complains about taking the bus from New York to Washington D.C. and used to take the bus down to D.C. from Chinatown and I never had a problem with that. Perhaps I’m made of stronger stuff.
Spider-Man, as well as all over major superheroes, will not be making an appearance at Trump’s inauguration, either on or off the page.
What might be Obama’s greatest contribution to comics was his help in making John Lewis’ March become a reality. No, Obama didn’t collaborate, edit, or make a few phone calls to make it happen. For all of those who have had the pleasure of reading March it’s framed around John Lewis talking with Obama at Obama’s inauguration and goes back and forth between January 20th 2009 and different points in John Lewis’ life through the Civil Rights Movement. If you haven’t picked up March yet you could find copies at your LCS, some bookstores, directly from Top Shelf, or Amazon although the three volume slipcase is still temporarily out of stock after Trump’s attacks on John Lewis over the weekend.
Speaking of Trump, he’s had far less love in comics. Criticism of him in comics has spiked recently for obvious reasons in everything from mainstream comics to indie comics like GWAR:Orgasmageddon and Black, both of which I’ve written about before here. Even his closest foreign ally, Putin, has been portrayed as a villain over at Valiant Entertainment which fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson wrote about here. Whether you feel it’s fair or not, it’s certainly a reflection of what the creators feel and what people will buy.
Very little of these portrayals of Presidents comes close to the depth and scope of how Nixon has been portrayed in comics, unflattering as it has often been, like in Watchmen, but the comparison is hardly fair.
We still have a lot of time, for better or worse, to see how Trump will be portrayed in comics, but what we know about Obama is that he was often portrayed with dignity and grace, and sometimes even as a kick-ass hero himself. Between that and his impact on the lives of many of us in comics including John Lewis, all I really have to say is thanks, Obama.
When I stop to think about it – and, obviously, I just did – it’s a miracle I’ve learned how to write and speak American English… at least to the extent that I have.
Like a great many comic book fans, I was a precocious reader. This was long before The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy was revealed to be in Mensa – an organization that could double as ground zero for Geek Culture. I learned how to read because my sister is almost seven years older than me and she got stuck with the chore of babysitting. Marcia would read me her comic books and I quickly discovered the comics page in the old (and deeply missed) Chicago Daily News. Between the newspaper and my sister’s comic books, I became an incessant reader.
The problem was, that newspaper carried such brilliant strips as Pogo, Li’l Abner, and Abbie an’ Slats. Many of the characters in those strips didn’t speak American English or British English or any other recognizable form of our mother tongue. Pogo and Albert and friends spoke Okefenokee Swamp English, a dialect so thick it would baffle Tennessee Williams. Abner, Daisy Mae, “Bathless” Groggins, and Slats Scrapple spoke a particularly cloistered version of hillbilly. Both Li’l Abner and Abbie an’ Slats were created and written by Al Capp, although Capp gave the A&S writing chores over to his brother Eliot Chaplin after World War II.
As you can see from the art scattered around these words, they simply did not have United Nations translators for these features.
The Daily News carried other strips, of course, but those three were among the truly brilliant. I also enjoyed Louie – a pantomime strip that, by definition, was bereft of dialogue.
I suspect my love of Golden Books was the counter-influence that put me on the straight-and-narrow. I graduated to biographies, which I love, and then to science-fiction and heroic fantasy and history. All of this happened because my sister read me her copies of Superman,Katy Keene and Mutt and Jeff.
So it is no surprise that I am a huge supporter of early reading programs. I’ve done a great deal of youth social service work in my life, and I’ve taken every opportunity to help such programs as Head Start, Reading is Fundamental, and Literacy Volunteers.
These programs work.
I remember when, back before Coggia’s Comet was discovered, the legendary Maggie Thompson wrote about how she and her husband Don used comic books as reading tools in raising their family. Damn, that worked out fine. It was difficult for me to convince some that comics would be useful in this endeavor back in my earliest days, but with great movie box office comes great acceptance. Drop a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man Magazine or Scooby-Doo Magazine in a kid’s lap and help the child read it. Discuss the stories afterwards. Watch their sense of wonder grow right before your very eyes.
Not only will you be forging the next generation of readers, but you will be keeping the sundry literary markets alive. That includes comic books, which easily could be replaced by superhero movies and television if we don’t get circulations boosted up.
This, in turn, will inspire the next generation of comics creators. It will be wonderful to see where the post-Millennials can take us.
We all know that Geek Culture has taken over our American civilization. Young’uns may not realize there was a time when the Geek was looked down on and sneered at and frequently beaten up for their lunch money… which is embarrassing when you’re 24. Now, superheroes have taken over the movie box office and can be found in one version or another all over television.
Further proof: the current issue of Entertainment Weekly not only has Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover as Doctor Strange, the majority of the double-sized issue is taken up with a listing of the Fifty Most Powerful Superheroes. How much more geeky can you get? The very quintessence of geekdom is arguing about which superhero icon is better.
EW set up a rating system and asked staffers to rank the superheroes accordingly. The nine categories were Cultural Impact, Bankability, Design, Modern relevance, Mythology, Nemesis, Originality, Personality, and Powers. They could get up to ten points in each category except for Cultural Impact which was worth up to 20. Total: 100 Pts. The emphasis, I think, was weighted towards superheroes who have appeared in movies; witness bankability. Given it’s EW, that makes sense; they, like the movies, are trying to appeal to the broadest audience.
Their #1 is Wonder Woman. This might surprise more hard-core comic geeks. Given the rise of the awareness of women and Gal Gadot’s appearance as Diana in Batman V Superman, perhaps not so surprising and not unwarranted.
#2 for EW was Spider-Man, followed by Batman and Superman with Wolverine rounding out their top 5.
For myself, I would have made Superman at the top of the list by virtue of the fact that none of the others exist without him. Superman was the first and set the standard – the colorful costume, the secret identity, the larger than life exploits – every hero or heroine that followed used that template is some fashion. Bankability? It was the huge financial success of the Last Survivor of Krypton that spurred the other publishers (not to mention Superman’s publisher) to get more of the same out there on the newsstands.
Look, I know that there were other superhero types before Supes or around the same time such as the Phantom and the Spirit or, over in the pulps, the Shadow. In comics, however, it was Superman who set the standard. In feature-length movies as well; the first Superman movie debuted in 1978. The first Batman film followed more than a decade later. As good as they are, none of the other superheroes has had the same cultural impact as the Man of Steel.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d also place Wonder Woman high up on the list. I think Batman is my #2 but WW would never be lower than #3. Spider-Man? Yeah, he’s important enough to be #4 but I think I would make Iron Man my #5 given the fact that the film launched the Marvel Cinema Universe, sometimes known as the Might Marvel Money Making Juggernaut. Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr are its cornerstone; if it had flopped (and some thought it would), it would have been tough to make the others… fly.
But that’s what makes this issue of EW so geeky. Listing the heroes according to some criteria is at the very heart of geek culture. Since every list is subjective, there is no one list that is right and final and definitive, no matter how much some geeks might insist that their own list is all that. I know my list isn’t the final word on the subject; it’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
The very fact that EW’s list exists, that they devoted so much time and space and attention to what is essentially a very geeky enterprise, shows that Geekdom has conquered the world.
I had another piece all ready to go, but I’m just too anal to let stuff run if it bugs me. What I usually do when faced with a decision to let something I don’t feel like running just has a blown deadline.
I’m suffering from severe depression and not giving a hoot is easy when you actually don’t give a hoot. The truth is I don’t give a hoot if I meet a fucking deadline or finish an article, design a poster, fix a painting, edit a chapter, respond to Comic Con or meet with anybody.
I have no motivation to do anything for myself. Especially when faced with days like this.
Today is the 21st of June, but I’m writing this the night before.
Two years ago in the early hours before most people go to work I’d just returned from the hospital where I had spent the night at my mother’s bedside. I still have a residence in NYC maybe 10-15 minutes from New York Hospital but was staying at Martha Thomases home which was even closer.
Yes, I loved my mother so much I elected to stay with Martha to be five minutes closer to my mom. The bonus was Martha, who took care of me by staying up watching movies, drinking tequila and talking comics. Not an easy feat as I suffer from chronic insomnia.
Depression and insomnia is a hell of a burden to have to endure, and that’s no way to live I will admit. However, let’s get real. The hardship is sometimes worse on those who are around you. Now throw in migraines and imagine the songs you can come up with.
Depression, insomnia, and migraines, oh my!
Is it any wonder that after enduring six days of sleepless nights with each of those afflictions operating in concert I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger?
I did, but I missed the deadline.
After a shower that June 21st morning I listened to a message left for me by my mother. She told me she no longer wanted to live, and she didn’t blame me for anything. I must have gotten back to the hospital in less than five minutes.
My mother did not talk like this. Nope. My mom did not give up. This was Jean Harlow Davis, the inspiration for Static’s mom Jean Hawkins. When her mother was killed, she didn’t give up. When her daughter Sharon, the inspiration for Static’s sister, Sharon Hawkins, died she didn’t give up.
Hearing that message, it sounded like she had given up. I knew what I had to do.
This was a job for Superman.
When I was 10-years old, my mother threw out seven golden age comic books that meant everything to me. Sometime later while watching a news report about Superman #1 selling for six figures she asked me why didn’t I have a comic worth that kind of money.
I told her I did, in fact, I had that issue of Superman #1.
I didn’t. She did throw away Superman#2, but that didn’t carry the amount of weight seeing something on TV did.
I was saving the actual story for a moment when I needed her to laugh when I didn’t think anything else would do the trick.
I was saving it for the one and only gotcha I would ever have on my mother.
I returned to the hospital where my mom looked so peaceful in her sleep. I figured I’d go back to Martha’s grab some sleep myself and bring Superman with me upon my return. What great laugh this would be!
I found out later, the joke was on me. She wasn’t sleeping, she was dead.
Sunday was Father’s day.
I have no idea who my real father was or is. Never met him, never wanted to (unless he was Bill Gates) and couldn’t care what happened to him. My stepfather’s name was Robert Lawrence. I loved that man so much that I changed my name to Lawrence for the Shado series I did with Mike Grell.
Robert was the inspiration for (you guessed it) Robert Hawkins Static’s father.
I loved that man until one day I didn’t. I remembered something so horrible he had done to my mother I cut him out of my life. He died not knowing why I refused to see or talk to him for ten years.
My mother forgave him. I should have forgiven him. I do now, but that will ease none of the pain he must have endured wondering why I had cut him out of my life.
My thoughts of him are no longer dark. Instead, I think about the time he braved a rainstorm to get me a copy of Spider-Man #101. Man, I just had to have that book.
I forgave him the day I realized some people who betrayed me 20 plus years ago were forgiven and in that 20 years, I have done my best to be both a good friend and colleague.
That effort didn’t matter; they betrayed me again.
Earlier I said no motivation was within me to do anything, especially when faced with days like this. That’s very true, but that’s when it comes to me. When it comes to others who have been there for me, that’s another story entirely.
My thanks and love go out to those who pretend it’s easy to deal with the sort of mess I can be. I’m getting better I assure you. There are days that test you, this was one with any luck tomorrow won’t be.