Tag Archives | Spider-Man

Bay Area Bugle: Bay Area Comic News Round-Up – October 26, 2016

Comics in the Bay

goldengatespidermanDid you know Spider-Man is currently in San Francisco? Apparently, he’s been operating in our backyard with a whole host of Spider-Folk for at the least a year. I haven’t been spending much time in the Marvel Universe so this fact managed to fly under my radar. Anyway, he’s here and over the last couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man has been investigating a San Francisco-based medical lab called “New U.” This investigation leads to a run-in with the Jackal in the well-received first issue of The Clone Conspiracy.

Dynamite Comics has signed a deal with CBS to start publishing a comic based on the TV show Charmed. Its likely Dynamite will continue to use the show’s hometown, San Francisco, in the comic.

Speaking of witches, Marv Wolfman is currently writing a mini-series for DC based on his creation and long-time Teen Titans member, Raven. She’s currently residing with her Aunt in San Francisco and attending the fictional Madison High School.

Comics by the Bay

Oakland artist Carlos Ramirez rarely gets the recognition he deserves for creating the iconic Trollface. The image made its way to television last week via the third season of the series Black Mirror. This weekend, Bleeding Cool ran a profile on the history of Ramirez’s Trollface.

trollface

San Francisco-based writer Dani Colman has launched a Kickstarter for her Couture graphic novel project. Colman has enlisted the help of 15 artists, including Bay Area artists Kevin Wada and Justin Greenwood, to bring her stories influenced by moments in haute couture history to the page. Per the Kickstarter, “influenced by designers from Christian Dior to Hussein Chalayan, Couture’s short stories span romance, science fiction, historical drama, fantasy and horror, drawing from fashion that shook the runway and changed the face of haute couture.” The additional artists are Alexander McQueen, Marguerite Sauvage, John Galliano, Thom Browne, Jen Bartel, Thierry Mugler, Robbi Rodriguez, Howard Chaykin, Tony Parker, Taki Soma, Comfort Love, Adam Withers, Jed Dougherty, and Valentine De Landro.

Bay Area Comic Industry and Shop News

Flying Colors Comics (Concord, Calif.) owner Joe Field is stepping down from the ComicsPRO Board of Directors. Field was the founding President of ComicsPRO which is a trade association of comic book retailers. Under Field’s stewardship, ComicsPRO started the popular annual Free Comic Book Day event.

Berkeley-based Madefire has partnered with Oculus to bring a whole new dimension to comics. The company is known for developing motion comics for both independent publishers and some of the industry’s top publishers. According to The Daily Californian, MadeFire previewed the new technology at New York Comic Con, “The free preview app for Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality device, features digital comics that are specifically optimized for virtual reality reading. The comics include motion, sound and the ability to see the story in 3D.”

The Skyline View has released a list of “the five must visit comic stores in San Francisco.” For the record, there are seven comic shops in San Francisco proper. The comprehensive list is here.

The SF Bay Guardian is back (sort of) and they’ve released their annual Best of the Bay issue! Hayes Valley’s Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge has once again snagged best comic shop in San Francisco.

Cape and Cowl Comics has started preparations for a one-year anniversary celebration on November 19. The Oakland comic shop is posting event updates on both Facebook and Twitter.

For a list of upcoming Bay Area comic events visit this link.

For a list of Bay Area Comic Shops visit this link.

Sorry, Cracked, but superhero movies haven’t ruined comic books

crackedThis post is in response to Jason Iannone’s Cracked article “6 Specific Reasons Why Superhero Movies Ruined Comics.” In his post, Iannone builds a starting point for the greater discussion of how the mainstreaming of popular superheroes through film is impacting the medium where they were first created. He makes some interesting observations but ties too many of the systematic problems with the superhero genre in comics to the current success of superhero films.

#6 The Moviemakers Regularly Shit on the Comics

“Regularly” is an odd word choice. Iannone cites Bryan Singer, Josh Trank, David Goyer, and Zack Snyder. I don’t completely disagree on Trank, Snyder, and Goyer but I do need to defend Singer.

In the case of Singer, he references a statement from Hugh Jackman regarding a rule on the set of the very first X-Men film. You know, way back in 2000 when bringing a superhero film to the big screen was still a massive gamble. Since that first film the superhero movies Singer has directed or produced have moved closer-and-closer to the comics to the point of lifting storylines straight from the source material. Clearly Singer learned his lesson, but we should still hold a grudge against him for creating a filmset rule nearly two decades ago.  

By saying “moviemakers regularly shit on comics” Iannone is broad brushing. He ignores many people who are part of the moviemaking process and have expressed at the least respectful regard for the source material: Avi Arad, Geoff Johns, the Russo Brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Feige, James Gunn, Josh Whedon, Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Sam Raimi, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Tim Miller, and many more (although, that is a lot of dudes. I’m looking forward to adding some diversity to this list).

#5 Marvel is Sabotaging Marvel Characters (When They Don’t own the Film Rights)

I don’t have a problem with this one. We’re pretty much on the same page when it comes to how the rights issues with Marvel films have hindered some titles. Marvel has significantly reduced the role of the X-Men and Fantastic Four over the last five years. Dorkly has a better breakdown of what’s going on.

#4 The Original Writers and Creators Don’t Get Shit from the Films

I also don’t have a problem with this being used as a point. Any day we can remind readers about the issue of creator rights is a good day. However, creator rights are significantly more complicated than simply not getting “shit from the films.”

#3 The Films are Starting to Change the Comics

Iannone appears to be mostly upset that popular concepts from the films are creeping into long established canon. This isn’t a bad thing. The mainstreaming of superheroes is changing the medium of comics for the better. There’s long been a movement for more diversification in superhero comics but it hadn’t caught fire until that lack of diversity was put up on a big screen. If a film’s going to be successful it needs to cross multiple demographics. The success of superheroes in film and on television has helped force Marvel and DC to start looking at how they publish comics, which characters they promote, how those characters ar portrayed, and who they hire to play in the sandbox. Marvel’s currently doing a better job at making these adjustments but DC is showing some signs of hope in the Rebirth solicits. 

Iannone makes his case on the back of Marvel introducing a black Nick Fury due to the popularity of Samuel L. Jackson in the film role. In the comic this character is Nick Fury’s son. Iannone claims Marvel retired “Old White Dude Fury” in 2012. Although his statement is puzzling because OWD Fury played a fairly substantial role in 2014’s crossover event “Original Sin.”

If comics are going to bring in more readers it makes sense to cater to what works in the films. If a Samuel L. Jackson version of Nick Fury into Earth-616 encourages people to pick up a comic book that strikes me as the opposite of ruining comics.

nickfury

Iannone goes on to hold up Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men as proof that Marvel “de-colorized” the X-Men costumes to fall in line with the film. When the hardcover trade of Morrison’s run on New X-Men was published Marvel kindly included the “manifesto” Morrison wrote to guide his direction of these characters. Point seven of the manifesto is “get rid of the costumes.” Morrison writes “Let’s ditch the spandex for the new century and get our heroes into something that wouldn’t make you look like a prick if you wore it on the street.” He mentions the film costumes moving in the right direction but not being quite right: “I’d like to see some yellow in panelling or detailing on the costumes – if only to avoid the dull black leather of every film superhero – but it should be pop art dayglo yellow, the kind cyclists and bikers wear to be seen.”

Editor Mark Powers wrote in the margins, “back to basics, but with modern trappings. Yep.”

Morrison is known for understanding modern fashion trends and trying to be one step ahead of the next hot thing. No doubt he took some influence from the film but it was clear, both in the story and Frank Quitely’s designs, that he wished to take the X-Men in a new direction.

As for Hawkeye, I don’t see how the purple Robin Hood costume would have fit with the Matt Fraction and David Aja vision of a powerless hero surrounded by supers. This wasn’t the story of Hawkeye. It was the story of Hawkguy. It was the story of a grounded character who spends most of the series within a few blocks of his apartment complex. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up with West Coast Avengers and love Hawkeye’s long term costume, but having Clint Barton chasing Russian mobsters while wearing a winged mask with an “H” on it just wouldn’t fit Aja’s minimalist style.

2786033-hawkeye06_01

In a greater sense, Iannone isn’t completely wrong. The companies do need to be careful with how these characters or elements are introduced into the Universe. I think he would have been better served to revisit his fifth point and discuss how Marvel is trying to shove the Inhumans down our throats while downplaying mutants. That’s ruining comics more than a costume change.

#2 Comic Sales are Going Down, Not Up

comicsales2015This is the point I find most flawed and the one that inspired me to write this post. Iannone misuses data to make his point and that sub-headline is misleading. He isn’t actually saying comic sales overall are down (they are, sort of). He clarifies “comic book sales are way down, but only if the comic competes with a movie.” The hypothesis, I guess, is comics featuring a character in a recently released film doesn’t see a sales bump from the film?

He randomly pulls out the Hulk’s June 2014 title, Savage Hulk, and holds it up as an example of a book doing poorly. Yes, the Hulk was part of the ensemble cast in 2012’s Avengers, but other than that the last time the Hulk appeared in a film was 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. If we want to use Hulk as the example why not look at the other factors for the character in 2014?

Iannone fails to mention Marvel was publishing more than one Hulk series in 2014. As the year started Mark Waid’s The Indestructible Hulk was already on issue 17. In April, a second Hulk series was published and was simply titled Hulk. When it dropped it landed at number seven on the sales chart. Perhaps, just perhaps, when Savage Hulk hit the shelves two months later readers were experiencing Hulk fatigue? Maybe it had less to do with films than character saturation?

The interesting thing about The Indestructible Hulk is it was released seven months after the Avengers reintroduced the characters to filmgoers. The first issue landed at number five on the November 2012 sales chart moving more than 118,000 floppies.

Iannone also highlights April 2016’s sales data as proof that superhero movies have ruined comics. It is true that 2016 has seen a softening in overall comic book sales but April’s numbers come with a number of caveats. For one, major publishers have released 12 percent fewer comics in the first quarter of 2016 versus 2015. Marvel is the only publisher to increase offerings while DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom, and Dynamite have all cutback. ComicChron writes “this month’s 300th place title sold 4,309 copies, which is the highest figure seen so far this year in that slot; that seems to suggest that the volumes on that smaller number of titles are hanging in there.”

April 2016 is notable for another reason that Iannone completely ignores: Black Panther. Black Panther is the breakout character of Captain America: Civil War. Marvel released a new Black Panther title in April which immediately sold out and is currently the top selling comic of 2016. This is the first number one solo outing for Black Panther in the character’s history.

Moving away from superheroes Iannone attempts to use Star Wars sales as an example of how movies aren’t helping comics. He writes, “In 2015, the wacky adventures of Luke and his Papa owned 19 of the top 50 sales spots, including #1. By January 2016, shortly after The Force Awakens came out, they only owned four spots.”

Firstly, he’s comparing yearly data to monthly data. He’s counting single issues. Technically, Marvel only had six Star Wars titles in the top 50 at the end of 2015. The flagship Star Wars title took 11 of the top 50 spots, the Darth Vader series took 4, and Vader Down, Leia, Lando, and Shattered Empire took the remaining slots.

Secondly, he’s wrong as to how many Star Wars books Marvel had in top 50 in January 2016. There were five: Star Wars 14 and 15, Obi-Wan and Anakin 1, Darth Vader 15, and Kanan 10. It would have been quite a feat for Marvel to have more Star Wars Universe titles in the top 50 considering they were only published four that month. Overall, Marvel has taken a mini-series approach to the Star Wars’ characters. Leia, Lando, and Shattered Empire were all mini-series that ended before 2015 came to a close.

Thirdly, Iannone calls out the fact that Darth Vader is coming to an end with issue 25. Okay…what’s the point? Does he understand the creative team publishing strategy Marvel has embraced over the last decade? In most cases, Marvel doesn’t publish a series ad infinitum anymore. Darth Vader, in storyline terms, is currently owned by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. The title has consistently landed in or near the monthly top 10 since issue one hit the shelves. Ending volume one in Darth Vader’s story likely has less to do with sales than it has to do with Gillen finishing this story he wanted to tell.

vaderproof

While shouting about the end of Darth Vader the article fails to mention the number two title in April was a Force Awakens established character, Poe Dameron. It overlooks the number four title in April was C-3PO. Iannone omits the fact that June will see the release of the first Han Solo solo series. The Star Wars vertical is strong with Marvel.

As for my parenthetical way up in the third sentence of this section, comic sales do appear to be softening in 2016. There are so many factors that could be contributing to a slowdown it would be reckless to place blame at the feet of superhero films. One simple factor, the average cover price of a top 300 comic has risen from $2.91 in 2005 to $3.96 in 2015. The average cost of a top 300 comic in April 2016? $4.12. Comic prices have increased faster than the rate of inflation and readers have significantly less buying power than they did a decade ago. However, while other websites are quick to blame the publishers I personally believe readers should shoulder most of the blame. As long as comic readers are willing to push $6 comic books into the top 25 the publishers will keep testing how high they can go. And Marvel editor Tom Brevoort will, justifiably, continue to perform his Scrooge McDuck impersonation.

One more complicated example, a failure of marketing comics to the mainstream. DC is about to embark on Rebirth but all of the promotion seems to be within the comic book news echo chamber. I don’t see any effort to communicate what comics are and why someone, as a non-reader but fan of the films, should pick one up. Where’s the out-of-home advertising? Why don’t I see Rebirth digital advertising while I’m making my daily laps around the Internet?

Marvel does a little bit better with marketing but there’s significant room for growth. I only learned last month (thanks, Free Comic Book Day) Peter Parker has spent the last 10 months in San Francisco. That’s interesting! We have more than a dozen comic shops in the Bay Area. Why isn’t Marvel using the image of Spider-Man swinging in front of the iconic Transamerica building to get people into those stores?

tl;dr: superhero films aren’t the factor impacting sales of comics.

#1 Anything that Isn’t DC or Marvel Gets Thrown Under the Bus

Iannone argues that Marvel and DC are sucking all of the air out of the room and their parent companies have no interest in adopting any other comic book properties from other publishers. Again, Iannone mixes the superhero genre with the comic book medium to make his point citing a number of non-superhero projects.

Here’s a quick selection of other comic-based properties (seeing as Iannone so easily flip-flops back and forth between the superhero genre and other genres in the comic book medium to make his point) in the production pipeline:

Except:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Coldest City
Kingsman
100 Bullets
Battling Boy
Descender
Jupiter’s Legacy
Men In Black
Rom
Micronauts
Prophet

That list doesn’t even scratch the surface of comic properties transitioning to television or Netflix. Iannone writes “third-party asides like Dark Horse Comics might as well not exist” without acknowledging Dark Horse signed a deal with Universal Cable Productions last year to bring a number of properties to television. Universal also snatched up Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick last year for Sex Criminals and other IPs. Based on Universal’s commitment to the deliciously bizarre Mr. Robot it’s likely we’ll start seeing the results of these relationships in the next two years. 

The case against a shared Spider-Man/X-Men/MCU Universe, part two

Oh right. Spider-Man once had six arms. That happened.

Oh right. Spider-Man once had six arms. That happened.

Contrary to the possible misrepresentation of Sony Co-Chair Amy Pascal’s comments, an expanding Universe based solely around Spider-Man has a great deal of potential. Yes, there is a risk of Spidey exhaustion (although the reboot being so successful in spite of it being less than five years after the Raimi trilogy suggests otherwise), but I believe Pascal was suggesting Spideyverse-based films that don’t necessarily include Spider-Man. Unfortunately, with superhero films, we’re locked into the blockbuster mentality. That’s why I think Sony may be the best bet when it comes to breaking open a larger Spider-Man Universe. Sony has shown by continuing franchises like Resident Evil and Underworld that they’re  comfortable with their subsidiaries occasionally turning a profit of less than $100 million. This is where I see many of the Spideyverse spin-off films falling. Again, this all comes down to who has the rights to the below characters.

First, I’d like to suggest Spider-Man Dark. Rumors suggest Guillermo del Toro is trying to bring a version of Justice League Dark to the big screen for DC. Thanks to the Spider-Man roster Sony has at least two opportunities to beat DC in that arena: Morbius and Cloak and Dagger.

Morbius, the Living Vampire

As a scientist who becomes a vampire due to failed research into a cure for his blood disease the origina of Morbius fits neatly into the “OsCorp experiments are responsible for creating super powers” narrative. Morbius shouldn’t be the primary villain in a Spider-Man film. Instead, I’d love to see the Spidey films start like an Indiana Jones or James Bond flick featuring a short introductory adventure at the start of the film introducing a new character and wrapping up before the title credits start. A solo Morbius could be Sony’s new Underworld franchise.

Cloak & Dagger

Cloak and Dagger first appearance

Cloak and Dagger first appearance

Cloak and Dagger have such a compelling back story they don’t need to appear on the screen with Spider-Man before spinning off on their own. Their story deals with drug abuse, the Mafia (or the Maggia in this case), social stratification, vengeance, and devotion. When it comes to their powers Cloak and Dagger are both blessed and cursed at the same time. Dagger’s light beams can cure drug addicts, but they also wipe out a person’s strength. She needs to discharge her energy with regular frequency. Cloak has an insatiable hunger that he can only feed through Dagger’s light or by absorbing people into his darkness and spitting them back out. As for visuals, they have those in surplus. Think about that first scene where we barely notice Cloak unfolding from the shadows and Dagger exploding from inside him with her light daggers firing at the screen.

After Spider-Man Dark we have Spider-Man: Top Secret.

Silver Sable and the Wild Pack

Sure, the MCU has S.H.I.E.L.D., but the Spideyverse has the Wild Pack. The Pack is an organization led by Silver Sable and includes a rotating roster of mercenaries, b-list heroes, and the occasional villain. Silver Sable International could be hinted at in a Spider-Man film, but the Wild Pack never actually need to appear in a film that includes Spider-Man. The majority of the members of Wild Pack made their debut in Spider Man titles. Some of the members that could look great on screen, but might not be able to carry a film on their own include Prowler, Puma, Rocket Racer, and Sandman. The roster could be further fleshed out by adding…

Solo

While Solo lives, terror dies! Or something. The rights to Punisher, a gun wielding anti-hero who made his debut in a Spider-Man title, have reverted back to Marvel. That’s okay, because Spidey still has the gun wielding anti-hero Solo. The self described counter-terrorist already has a path being paved thanks to Sony’s desire to make a Sinister Six film. In one of Solo’s most memorable appearances he thinks he’s fighting the villainous six pack, but due to a trick by Mysterio he’s in reality battling Spider-Man.  Solo has teamed up with Silver Sable in the comics, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for the film character to be enlisted into Wild Pack the on screen universe

Agent Venom

New Venom origin story. Flash Thompson goes to war and comes back without his legs. OsCorp offers the former football star a once in a lifetime opportunity if he takes part in an experiment using a lab developed organic substance. The substance is the symbiote and the experiment goes horribly wrong turning Flash into Venom (I know, I know, I’m completely writing out Eddie Brock, but that’s Hollywood). After spending a film fighting Spider-Man, Flash is enlisted into Wild Pack with Silver Sable promising to use the resources of Silver Sable International to help control the symbiote.

Finally, we have the SpiderMultiverse.

Miles Morales

Brian Michael Bendis has announced a sequel to the popular  Spider-Men where Ultimates universe Spider-Man Miles Morales meets Earth-616 Spider-Man Peter Parker. Having Peter Parker step through a tear in the space time continuum would be a neat cinematic trick, but there’s no reason Miles couldn’t hold his own in a film called The Ultimate Spider-Man. It could open with the death of the Ultimate Peter Parker and follow Miles has he tries to fill the void left behind. Disney and Fox have shown a commitment to at the least making an effort to bring more minority superheroes to the big screen, so this is one way  Sony could do the same.

Spider-Man 2099

This film, like a Miles Morales film, requires the studio trusting that the film going public will be more interested in a fun film filled with lots of futuristic eye candy more than caring whether or not Peter Parker is the man behind the mask. Personally, I think the film going public, unlike a loud minority of fan boys, has the ability to understand there can be multiple realities with multiple Spider-Men. Of my six Spideyverse spin-off picks this is the least likely to ever see the light of day. There are very few directors who could deftly pull off Spider-Man infused with a mixture of Matrix action and the cybernoir atmosphere of Blade Runner.

The case against a shared Spider-Man/X-Men/MCU Universe, part one

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer

My life’s been better since I learned to stop worrying and accept the Marvel films rights status quo. If all of the heroes were under the Disney/Marvel roof it’d be unlikely we’d see as many Marvel heroes on the big screen in a single year as we do now. Theoretically, if Disney/Marvel had X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man they’d be less likely to start gambling on films like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel Studios is currently averaging two films a year and Kevin Fiege has said it’s unlikely the studio will up that number. There’s no reason to think that would be different in a Marvel Cinematic Universe that includes Wolverine and Spider-Man as potential Avengers members. Instead, thanks to the rights debacle, 2014 will see the release of films featuring Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

What we’re now hearing is the rights holders of these various properties want to dig deeper and do more with what they own. I believe this actually happening is contingent on two things happening for the House of Mouse/Ideas: Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man need to be successful.

Guardians of the Galaxy being successful opens numerous pathways for Fox when it comes to playing with the Marvel Cosmic. Ant-Man being successful could act as encouragement for Sony to follow through with spinning off the Spideyverse. What could that mean for the expansion of Universes?

I’m going to do some speculation, but before I do it should be made clear that I have no clue where the rights of these characters fall. For example, Cloak and Dagger is a bit of a muddle. They made their debut in Spider-Man and were typically associated with his titles. They were classified as mutants, so they could fall under the X-Cinematic Universe. However, they have carried their own titles on occasion, so it could be argued they’re part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They could fall into the Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch zone where it basically comes down to whoever gets to them first and even then multiple Universes can use them as long as they respect certain noun and adjective usage.

Today I’ll toss out two possibilities regarding Fox and Marvel Cosmic. The Spideyverse requires a bit more fleshing out, so I’ll touch on that tomorrow.

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer was arguably the single best part of the previous Fantastic Four movies. Silver Surfer could (and likely will) be introduced in a sequel to the Fantastic Four reboot. That reintroduction should be followed by a Silver Surfer solo origin film that also acts as a prequel by ending with Silver Surfer leading Galactus to Earth.

Starjammers

Starjammers 1st Appearance

Starjammers 1st Appearance

Disney/Marvel might have the Guardians of the Galaxy, but Fox has the Starjammers. In the comic the leader of the Starjammers, Corsair, is the father of Cyclops and Havok. I need to rewatch X-Men: First Class, because I don’t recall how deep that film went with Havok’s origin story (I’m not even sure Havok and Cyclops were brothers in that film). It isn’t necessarily relevant as the X-Cinematic Universe origin is nothing like the X-Men Comic Universe origin, so there’s a limitless number of ways to introduce the space faring team. The Starjammers would also bring the Shi’ar into the XCU fold. The Shi’ar, unlike the Skrull and Kree who are important to Fantastic Four and the Avengers, have almost exclusively been featured in X-Men and Fantastic Four titles.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the endless opportunities for Spideyverse.

Cartoon Art Museum presents Raw Fury: the Art of Mike Zeck

zeckgijoeOne of the next exhibits at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission Street in San Francisco, will be a career retrospective of illustrator Mike Zeck. Visitors to the museum will be treated to walls covered in Zeck’s aggressively action packed work starting April 5 and ending April 10. Zeck had a heavy influence in the Spider-Man mythos thanks to his contributions to Kraven’s Last Hunt and giving Spider-Man his black costume in Secret Wars. Children of the 80s buying comics at the corner story likely know Zeck’s work best from scanning the racks and seeing his striking covers for Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe series. He’s additionally worked with Punisher, Aquaman, Deathstroke, Captain America, and others.

Zeck will be appearing at San Jose’s Big WOW! Comic Con  from May 17-18.

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Superior Spider-Man: Do we need Peter Parker?

Why wonder if there's a you when that you could be you?

Why wonder if there’s a you when that you could be you?

My willingness to see flagship characters die and “remain dead” likely comes from growing up as a Green Lantern fan and being forced to accept the death of Hal Jordan. While 1993 saw headlines trumpeting the death of Superman it was insignificant when held up to the eventual fallout of Superman’s return. The original Superman returns, after only seven months “dead,” to find Jordan’s Coast City in ruins thanks to the combined forces of Cyborg Superman and Mogul. Jordan had been away from Earth during the destruction and finding the city destroyed begins a descent into madness. He seeks the power to restore Coast City by slaughtering the Green Lantern Corps. After taking their rings he becomes the villain Parallax for three years. His death finally comes in 1996 when, as Parallax, he sacrifices himself to reignite the Sun in “The Final Night.” Jordan remained dead until his soul returned as The Spectre in 1999 and eventually returning to his power ring in 2004.

Ten years is a longtime for such a well-known hero to not return to his namesake title (possibly topped only by Barry Allen).  Prior to Peter Parker being purged from his body by Doctor Octopus at the end of 2012 the most recent gamble by Marvel was the death of Steve Rogers as Captain America in April of 2007. Impressively, Rogers stayed “dead” (he was actually frozen in time) for more than two years and when he did come back it wasn’t certain how soon he’d return to the shield. It was the first time since the death of Jordan that a major character known for carrying a title had been sacrificed for more than a year. Batman doesn’t count, because when DC “killed” Bruce Wayne at the end of 2009’s Final Crisis issue six it was only one week of wondering if he’d eventually return to the cowl (Wayne, much like Rogers, was also sent hurtling through time).

This is why the death and eventual return of Peter Parker is significant. Much to the chagrin of those calling for Dan Slott’s head Superior Spider-Man continues to be one of Marvel’s best-selling titles (you can read my previous defense of SSM here). It begs the question, do we need Peter Parker? That’s a hard question for me to write. Spider-Man was the first hero I ever made a monthly commitment to when my mother let me subscribe by direct mail to Web of Spider-Man in the late 80s. It’s difficult to comprehend a generation growing up without Parker and all of his idiosyncrasies behind the mask.

If we decide Peter Parker doesn’t necessarily need to come back it can’t be Otto Octavius forever. While he’s been taking strides to become a better person, including very noble advocacy on behalf of little people, he did kill Peter Parker and deserves to get his comeuppance. Who should take his place?
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Daredevil will return to San Francisco! Let’s hope it goes better than last time.

In March, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee will move Daredevil from New York City to start a new life in San Francisco.

This will be Daredevil’s second attempt at adapting to life in the Bay Area. He last moved to San Francisco in 1972 while somewhat obsessively crushing on Black Widow. They lived together in a mansion Black Widow rented for a year using the last of her inheritance. (This is in 1972 dollars, so her inheritance would likely only secure her a month’s rent in San Francisco’s current rental market.)

Electro in ChinatownDaredevil’s arrival in San Francisco is well timed as it happens to be the same month Electro decided to move to the Bay Area “to get away from that creep Spider-Man.” Never one to be idle, Electro decides to use his opportunity in a city “uneducated in the matters of supervillainy” for “the total annihilation of San Francisco’s will to resist.” Much to his shock, Electro is defeated by Daredevil and San Francisco’s will is preserved. Imagine what would have happened if Daredevil hadn’t coincidentally moved to San Francisco at the same time as Electro! He might have broken the will of San Francisco, but he could have fulfilled the city’s dream of being powered 100 percent by clean energy (assuming being powered by Electro is considered “clean”).

Living in the Bay Area quickly becomes a frustrating experience. San Francisco’s media proves to be much less dense than New York City’s. In issue 92 a television reporter notes Daredevil and Black Widow showed up at the same time as “a certain trial lawyer known for his connection with that same infamous lady.” The reporter concludes that Murdock and Daredevil are one and the same.

daredevilrevealed

Sadly that reporter never has the opportunity to see a Pulitzer for being the first ever to put facts together and figure out a superhero alias. To save his identity, Murdock asks T’Challa to fly from New York City to San Francisco, put on the Daredevil costume, and appear with him at a news conference. He explains to the reporters that Daredevil used to be his brother Mike (who was really Matt), who died, but before his death asked a new Daredevil to watch over his blind sibling. Therefore, this new Daredevil followed Murdock all the way from New York City to San Francisco and teamed up with Black Widow. Everyone buys it.

All of this should have fallen apart when Peter Parker, on assignment from the Daily Bugle, shows up to interview Daredevil and Black Widow. As Spider-Man he tails them to the Widow Mansion, changes into his civilian clothes, and knocks on the door. Conveniently, Matt Murdock apparently enjoys spending his leisure time in his Daredevil costume, because he’s still in hero gear when Parker is let in the mansion for his unannounced interview.  The interview is interrupted by the villain Ram Rod and, of course, Spider-Man appears to lend an assist. Black Widow and Daredevil are confused when Spider-Man “pops up out of nowhere to help us than just swings away into the sunset.” Parker appears moments after Spidey swings away and the heroes never connect the two.

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Superior Spider-Man is better than you

This post originally appeared on my personal blog on April 8, 2013.

Alternate cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700

Alternate cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700

If I were to rely solely on the comments sections of comic book industry news sites I’d be led to believe that Superior Spider-Man is the worst thing to happen to Marvel – ever. In truth, it’s one of the best titles the company currently has, which is saying quite a bit, because Marvel’s certainly been hitting it out of the park in terms of storytelling and character development.

I like Peter Parker. When I was a wee lad I’d consume anything that featured “Spider-Man” in the title. I wanted to be Spidey and I related to Peter. That said, one thing I like more than Peter Parker is when comic book publishers take risks with legacy characters in the name of telling an ambitious and well-written story. For all the complaining fanboys do about the state of the industry it’s always puzzling to me that they complain just as much when companies try to do exciting things. Sacred cows are boring if all they do is stand in a field all day.

What Superior Spider-Man does well is play with emotions. It’s sad to know that Peter’s not simply dead, but that his body has been inhabited by one of his greatest enemies, Doctor Octopus. It’s torture to see a flicker of the hero still frustrated and screaming in the background of his body’s consciousness.

It’s creepy to know it’s Otto Octavius flirting with Mary Jane. It’s even creepier on a whole other level to know he’s pining inside for the woman he once almost married, Peter’s Aunt May.

It’s frustrating to finally see J. Jonah Jameson approve of the actions of the wall crawler, but only because Otto is sullying Spidey’s name by crossing the hard ethical lines set by Peter.

It’s humiliating to watch Doc Ock mock Peter, one of the smarter people on Earth-616, for not completing his doctorate and actually pledge to do what Peter could not by finishing school. To add to that humiliation Doc builds dozens of spider cameras to monitor the city, so he can more effectively fight crime while also finishing his degree.

The storyline Dan Slott is writing for Spider-Man is providing the character of Peter Parker the opportunity to take a vacation. It is, essentially, a way to eventually relaunch a fresh Peter Parker as the spectacular Spider-Man without the need to relaunch the entire Marvel Universe. At this point it appears when Parker comes back Spider-Man’s reputation will have been reset to where the public is wary of the wall crawler. It’ll be like the good old days when J. Jonah Jameson was a one man propaganda machine vilifying Spidey no matter how much good he did. Assuming the world doesn’t learn that Spider-Man was occupied by Doc Ock there’s going to be a serious need for Parker to rebuild not only his brand, but relationships.

Of course, I was one of those in the minority who felt DC and Grant Morrison were too quick to bring back Bruce Wayne as Batman. Dick Grayson trying to live up to the legend, and cope with a scowling Damian Wayne, was far more interesting than yet another Bruce Wayne as Batman vs. “fill-in-the-blank” from his rogues gallery story. Due to the necessity to bring back Bruce Wayne we never had the opportunity to learn, for example, how would Dick Grayson as Batman handle the Riddler while carrying on the charade that it’s the same Batman?

I know how Peter Parker as Spider-Man will handle villains like Electro or Chameleon. I’ve read versions of those stories for years. I don’t know how Otto Octavius as Spider-Man will handle those villains, especially without letting on too much that he isn’t the same person inside the Peter Parker flesh suit.

Dan Slott has received a great deal of venom for his decision to “kill” Peter Parker, but the angry comments from the “don’t change the status quo” crowd are mere whispers when held up against the numbers. Superior is a success, because Slott, with the blessing of his editors, decided to have faith that readers wanted to read new stories and not just remixes of the old.

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