Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Jason Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Josh Reed
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Editor: Michael Cotton
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair
Comics creator Steve Ditko passed this weekend at the age of 90. As you may know, Ditko co-created Spider-Man and was responsible for the art chores and certainly deserves co-writing credits with Lee on the early years of the wall-crawler's adventures. He was behind some of my favorite Spidey villains like Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Doctor Octopus, and - of course - Green Goblin. Not bad.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Pencils: (mostly) Ivan Reis and 2 pages by Jason Fabok Inks: Joe Prado Colors: Alex Sinclair Lettering: Cory Petit Editor: Michael Cotton Associate Editor: Jessica Chen Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
I mean - just that tidbit alone is probably worth a full blog post about comics vaulting their way into mainstream culture and something something what is happening at Forbes.com which is supposed to be a business and economics interest site?
It's also weird that Bendis is taking over *both* Superman and Action Comics, right? I mean... he's just getting to DC. You'd think he'd want to putter on a couple of diverse titles or something, get his feet wet... but, nope. Both bi-weekly Superman titles. (One expects we'll continue to get Supergirl, Super Sons, New Superman, and Superwoman... or something.)
And while I am more than game for Bendis on one or both titles, or some Super-title, I am also a bit crushed to be losing Dan Jurgens on Action Comics and Tomasi & Gleason on Superman. They've put so much love and effort and imagination into those comics the past 18 months or so, I genuinely wish they'd spin up Man of Steel and Adventures of Superman again and just keep giving us more Superman.
If you're a Monster Kid of any stripe, you know the work of Basil Gogos. Whether from his work painting covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland to album covers, Gogos spent the back half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century as king of a niche others are just now entering - illustrative portraiture of cinematic marvels and monsters.
Yesterday I became aware of the news that Basil Gogos has passed beyond this veil of tears. But of this I am certain - his work is now as much a part of Monster Movie fandom as the films, actors and creators. His uncanny visuals have been wonderful additions to pop-culture and modern culture itself.
Gerry has informed me, and social media - from Paul Kupperberg to Paul Levitz and Elliot S! Maggin - confirms, that Len Wein has passed.
A report at CBR, Newsarama, and we are certain the reports will be in the hundreds.
My ear is not to the comics social media ground the way it once was, and I confess I didn't know he was ill. When his fellow Swamp Thing creator, Bernie Wrightson, passed in recent days, I'd known of Wrightson's illness in part because of announcements and some of his work stopped that I was reading. Wein had recently returned to the DC stable and I hadn't heard.
69 seems far off when you're in your twenties. When you're in your forties, it seems very, very young and very unfair.
But Wein left an incredible legacy, and was a huge part in the shift in content and tone that led to modern comics. From his contribution in creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing to his work on establishing X-Men in much the way we think of them today, to great work on Batman and practically every other character in comics.
I can't say anything that Wein's peers and friends won't say with more grace and with far more meaning than myself. I encourage you to read the tributes which are already appearing. But I will say he will always be remembered, his work loved, his contributions honored and the folks he inspired who came after him owe him a great debt of gratitude for paving the way to a new kind of comic - which, in turn, changed our culture.
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.
It has been a long, long time since I've talked much about Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby, but when I came across a black and white collection back in late 90's, one of that series one of New Gods, the comics hit my psyche like a runaway freight train.
Dillon was one of the finest comics artists of the past few decades, mixing an illustrative quality with cartooning and pitch perfect sense of tone and a moment. Not only did he have one of the deftest pencils when it came to capturing the exact, perfect expression for every character in a panel - something I assume he did effortlessly as he did it in every panel - but his ability to change pacing, to whip between romance to horror to comedy within a single page remains unparalleled and may never be matched.
His pairing with Garth Ennis was a boon to the medium, from Hellblazer to Preacher to The Punisher. I don't just consider Preacher a seminal comics work of its era - I consider it a seminal work of its era - full stop. That said - not recommended for all audiences, Mom.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first issue of Kingdom Come, the prestige 4-issue, oft re-issued, comic by creators Alex Ross (artist) and Mark Waid (writer).
It's extremely difficult for me to state how much of an impact this comic had on me as a reader at the time of it's release. In fact, I'd argue it was one of the comics that came out at a particular time in my life that tilted me from an interest in comics and enthusiastic readership to... whatever it became. Further, I'd say that Kingdom Come stands as one of the key books that pushed me from thinking Superman was pretty neat to... whatever my deal is with The Man of Steel today.
By 1996, I just wasn't that interested in superhero comics. It seemed like a lot of books were trying to pull things off that weren't working, and, honestly, at age 21, glancing over the covers - a sense of creeping embarrassment hit me for the first time in my life in regards to comics. Not for the hobby or comics themselves, but it seemed that, in the mainline superhero books, writers and artists and the companies themselves had a vision they were trying to execute, and that vision felt like a 13-year-old trying on their dad's suit thinking they could con the bank into giving them a loan.
By '93, a brave new world of tough, militaristic, snarling characters had flooded the shelves. New publishers had arrived with fully formed concepts and universes, clearly either inspired as "extreme" versions of existing characters, or taking their cues from the artwork on heavy metal album covers (which, you know, how could you fault them?). And at DC and Marvel, familiar characters were getting changed and rebooted (see: Azrael Batman) to reflect the times. To me, the stories themselves lacked anything resembling narrative sophistication or substance, taking a Canon Films approach to violence and vitriol and mistaking it for maturity. The plots were sophomoric at best, and adding spiked shoulder pads to pre-existing characters did nothing to sell me on their new grittiness. I'll never forget cackling my way through the 1994 Dr. Fate reboot,Fate, wherein the hero turns the all-powerful helmet of Dr. Fate into a knife. So he can cut things! To the extreme!*
Meanwhile, Karen Berger had set up Vertigo at DC and was putting out Hellblazer, Shade: The Changing Man, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, The Invisibles, and, of course, Sandman and Sandman Mystery Theatre. I didn't think I had to look too far to see characters who were telling me they were for older readers - they simply were the sophistication (or what passed for it) that felt like the proper heirs to the Moore legacy.
Just yesterday we heard that Darwyn Cooke had entered palliative care in the last stages of cancer, and by the time I went to bed, the internet was telling me we that we have lost Darwyn Cooke, comics artist and writer.
2016 seems intent on taking my favorite artists from the world before their time.
It seemed to me Cooke was properly appreciated by comics enthusiasts, and a favorite in the creator community as a solid guy.
His art is making its way around the internet, and you won't have to look far for the next 72 hours to see all of us posting our favorite pieces. I'll focus here on his DC work and his work with Richard Stark's Parker novels.
Perhaps the best known of his works is DC's New Frontier, the Jet Age re-imagining of the origin of the Justice League of America, featuring all the mainstay players and some more-forgotten characters of the JFK/ pop explosion era of DC. If you've never read it, it's available out there in print and digital. And, it was adapted into a feature length cartoon film a few years back.
Cooke's art tilted toward iconographic cartooning, and fit no house style at DC, even as it clearly fit the aesthetic and mood of the DCU on the sunniest of days. Both retro and modern, his style borrowing heavily from the pop-art style of late-50/ early-60's illustration, with the nuance of line to manage expression and convey more in a face than 95% of comics artists.
During an era when DC Comics and comics in general are on a swing back toward projecting a world view of fire, chaos, and gnashing teeth for all of their characters, Cooke still found a place in the comics world to show a DC Universe infused with hope.
I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics. She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics. She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.
"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show. After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best. It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS. The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff. New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go. "The crazy turtle uses sai, right? Elektra! That's Miller. What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap. "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh. And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"Right. Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.
In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*
Of all the books I read in K-12 as assigned reading, To Kill a Mockingbird one of only two I picked up again and again after the assignments were over and done (the other being Fahrenheit 451).
The book is so profoundly and stunningly... American. But, I assume, also universal. And as important as it is, in general, its also so, so important to share with young people as they move from childhood onto the path to adulthood.
But I don't need to tell you about the book, or its impact. Heck, it's written above the title in the image of the cover I've posted above. And, it's assigned reading in every school district in the US, I assume.
For all the work so many authors put out there, it's fascinating to know Harper Lee released her one novel and then retreated, only releasing new material in the last year, and under shady circumstances. And, yes, I have chosen not to read the other book, which i do not believe she would have intended to release while alive.
Jack's granddaughter runs to Kirby4Heroes Campaign, which is an annual event focused on raising money for The Hero Initiative. The Hero Initiative raises money for freelancer comic artists and creators who may need some financial assistance.
And what better way to celebrate the man and artist than with a glimpse of his amazing work. We're doing more than one post on Kirby, so look for two more today. But we're starting with DC as I first went from "that's Jack Kirby" to appreciating Jack Kirby, specifically via his Fourth World work and that era of DC output.
Let's start with one of my favorite DC characters, and an original Kirby creation...
What do you even say when you see DC has signed up Frank Miller to create a third installment in the vein of Dark Knight Returns/ Dark Knight Strikes Again? I think you say "DC needs a hit for the 3rd Quarter or Dan Didio will need a new jobby job."
And that's okay. I'm a little past the point of hoping that DC Entertainment, a division of Time Warner, Inc., is really all that invested in the artistry of comics in 2015, but it's not like comics haven't recycled ideas before. These sorts of short term stunts have generally paid off for Didio, and he's certainly running out of his usual bag of tricks now that he's exploited all of his predecessor's successes so many times over that he had to throw bags of gold at Frank Miller (or really pray Sin City 2 would do exactly what it did at the box office) in order to get him back at DC writing comics.