DC keeps on making news with the latest being that novelist Joe Hill will be returning to his first love and comics. Hill will be overseeing a “pop-up line” of horror comics for the DC line DC Black Label dubbed Hill House Comics. He’ll also be writing a few himself. Hill’s had success in comics, most notably his series Locke & Key with artist Gabriel Rodriguez that’s currently in development for television.
Hill House Comics will initially consist of five limited series:
Basketful of Heads, written by Hill and illustrated by Leomacs – In a mansion filled with Viking artifacts exists an ax that has supernatural powers in this “grindhouse Rashomon.”
The Dollhouse Family, written by Mike Carey and illustrated by Peter Gross;
The Low, Low Woods, written by Carmen Maria Machado and illustrated by Dani;
Daphne Byrne, written by Laura Marks and illustrated by Kelley Jones – set in the gaslit 1800s New York the main character discovers a strange, insidious entity within her body.
Plunge, written by Hill with an artist to be revealed at a later date – Hill’s riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Each comic will also come with two-page installments of a back-up feature called Sea Dogs, written by Hill. Sea Dogs is set during the American Revolution where American werewolves are set upon an enemy ship to destroy it.
The line-up of creators brings old and new voices to comics. Marks comes from tv and has worked with Hill on the Locke & Key television adaptation.
To kick off the ALA Conference, DC announced it would be “closing” its Vertigo imprint as well as folding in their popular DC Zoom and DC Ink imprints into a new branding of three different lines. It left some wondering DC’s commitment to these types of comics. DC initially calmed those concerns with an announcement of more than 20 graphic novels that would have fallen under the Zoom and Ink imprint.
This latest announcement would have absolutely fallen under the Vertigo imprint. It also answers the question as to what will happen with “pop-up imprints.” DC has a few liked Wonder Comics curated by Brian Michael Bendis, Gerard Way’s line, and the announced line-up of Geoff Johns’ comics.
The first issue of Basketful of Heads will hit stores Oct. 30 and will be followed up in the following months by other books. A Hill House Comics panel will take place at San Diego Comic-Con on July 19.
Check out the covers for the first issues:
About the series:
BASKETFUL OF HEADS
Written by: Joe Hill Art by: Leomacs Covers by: Reiko Murakami
The rain lashes the grassy dunes of Brody Island, and seagulls scream above the bay. A slender figure in a raincoat carries a large wicker basket, which looks like it might be full of melons…covered by a bloodstained scrap of the American flag.
This is the story of June Branch, a young woman trapped with four cunning criminals who have snatched her boyfriend for deranged reasons of their own. Now she must fight for her life with the help of an impossible 8th-century Viking axe that can pass through a man’s neck in a single swipe—and leave the severed head still conscious and capable of supernatural speech.
Each disembodied head has a malevolent story of its own to tell, and it isn’t long before June finds herself in a desperate struggle to hack through their lies and manipulations…racing to save the man she loves before time runs out.
THE LOW, LOW WOODS
Written by: Carmen Maria Machado Art by: Dani Cover by: J.A.W. Cooper
A mysterious plague is afflicting the small mining town of Shudder to Think, Pennsylvania. It strikes seemingly at random, eating away at the memories of those suffering from it. From tales of rabbits with human eyes, to deer women who come to the windows of hungry girls at night, this town is one of those places where strange things are always happening. But no one ever seems to question why…
THE LOW, LOW WOODS is a gruesome coming-of-age body-horror mystery series about two teenage women trying to uncover the truth about the mysterious memory-devouring illness affecting them and the people of the small mining town they call home—and the more they discover, the more disturbing the truth becomes.
THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY
Written by: Mike Carey Art by: Peter Gross Covers by: Jessica Dalva
On Alice’s sixth birthday, her dying great-aunt sends her the birthday gift she didn’t know she always wanted: a big, beautiful 19th-century dollhouse, complete with a family of antique dolls. In hardly any time at all, the dollhouse isn’t just Alice’s favorite toy…it’s her whole world.
Soon young Alice learns she can enter the house, to visit a new group of friends, straight out of a heartwarming children’s novel: the Dollhouse family. As the years pass, Alice finds herself visiting their world more frequently, slowly losing track of where reality ends and make-believe begins. What starts as play concludes in an eruption of madness and violence.
Childhood ends—but that little house casts a long shadow over Alice’s adult life. When the world becomes too much for her to bear, Alice finds herself returning to the dollhouse and the little folk within. The house can offer her a shelter from all her sorrows…but only if she gives it what it wants, and god help her if she tries to walk away again…
Written by: Laura Marks Art by: Kelley Jones Covers by: Piotr Jabłoński
In the gaslit splendor of late 19th-century New York, rage builds inside 14-year-old Daphne. The sudden death of her father has left her alone with her irresponsible, grief-stricken mother—who becomes easy prey for a group of occultists promising to contact her dead husband.
While fighting to disentangle her mother from these charlatans, Daphne begins to sense a strange, insidious presence in her own body…an entity with unspeakable appetites. And as she learns to wield this brutal, terrifying power, she wages a revenge-fueled crusade against the secret underworld that destroyed her life.
Written by: Joe Hill Art by: TBD Covers by: Jeremy Wilson
In 1983 the Derleth disappeared, wiped out in a storm on the edge of the Arctic circle—the world’s most advanced research vessel in the hunt for oil, lost in the aftermath of a tsunami.
Almost 40 years later, the Derleth begins to transmit its distress signal once again, calling in to Alaska’s remote Attu Station from the most forlorn place on earth, a desolate ring island in the icy faraway. A US salvage team made up of experts, scientists, and mercenaries helicopter in just ahead of a storm—and the Russian competition—to find the abandoned wreck hung up on the island shores of the atoll. As a wintry blizzard clamps down, anomalies begin to surface: first the samples of an oil with unlikely properties, and then the sonar readings of a sunken prehistoric civilization just offshore. Still, nothing could prepare the salvage team for the reappearance of the Derleth’s crew from the island cave, no older than they were four decades ago, every one of them struck blind by an inexplicable infection…and yet capable of seeing in new ways, possessed of extraordinary powers and stripped of all but their last vestiges of humanity…
SEA DOGS (backup story)
Written by: Joe Hill
Art by: TBD
The Revolution is screwed.
In 1779 the pathetic American navy is a pile of smoldering wrecks choking the Penobscot River. Imperial Britain has amassed the mightiest fleet the world has ever known, led by the HMS Havoc, a 90-gun second rate that has sunk a forest of French, Spanish and American frigates, sketching a trail of devastation that stretches all the way from St. Kitts to Machias, Maine. The faltering Continental Congress can’t hope to match England’s sea power, and they’re just desperate enough to make a deal with the devil…or even three.
Spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge proposes allowing three lycanthropes to be pressed into British service aboard the Havoc. Three patriotic werewolves might be all it takes to butcher the ship from the inside out and paint the decks red. It’s true, their powers are infernal, their minds are mad and their loyalty can in no way be trusted. And yet what else can a desperate nation do…but let slip the dogs of war?
Even a bad movie can’t stop the return of the Phoenix! The Phoenix Saga is iconic but it shouldn’t be the only Jean story you know. Josh Wilson of The Fabulist interviews me (Elana) for a change, as we talk about Jean Grey in comics and cartoons.
After laying the groundwork for several issues, we’re finally ready to do a deep dive on Chris Claremont’s first unadulterated statement on the mutant metaphor, the legendaryDays of Future Past:
The story came at a key, interstitial moment for Chris Claremont and John Byrne: they’d just pulled off a three-year, reputation-making story with the Dark Phoenix Saga, and the big question was whether that epic had exhausted all dramatic potential in the series. They fired back with a two-part story so powerful that X-Men creators and fans alike have been obsessing about it ever since (which, as I’ll argue later, has become part of the problem with X-Men).
Days of Future Past is a good example of the peculiar (and volatile) alchemy that was the John Byrne /Chris Claremont partnership. According to Jason Powell, John Byrne was the driving force behind bringing the Sentinels back as the primary and existential antagonists and the central time-travel hook was his unwitting homage to the Doctor Who serial “Day of the Daleks.” However, as I’ll argue in this essay, a lot of the political and interpersonal story that the sci-fi stuff is wrapped around feels much more like Chris Claremont’s work, especially when it comes to the decision to center the story on Kitty Pryde.
This decision was key to making the broader transition from Dark Phoenix Saga to the rest of the Claremont run, because it comes only two issues after she’d joined the X-Men. Firstly, because her newcomer status perfectly positions her as the audience surrogate for the new, post-Jean Grey status quo, and secondly, because as the lone teenager on the All-New team, she makes for the better contrast with her no-nonsense veteran future self than anyone else. (This is somewhere where the 2014 film falls short, giving us a not-particularly-emphatic transition of Hugh Jackman going from one gradient of grizzled Wolverine to another.)
We can see the
crucial clarity that Kitty provides in three panels, as she suddenly shifts from
her initial fear of Nightcrawler’s appearance to her later warm and fuzzy
feelings; similarly, the change from the uncertain, halting (“uh-huh”) speech
patterns of Teenage Kitty to the matter-of-fact mission-briefing style of her
adult self is immediately obvious.
How Is This Day Different All From Other Days
Another reason why Days of Future Past needs to be a Kitty Pryde is that (similarly to what he did with Magneto) Claremont made it into an inherently Jewish story. From the letters attached to clothing indicating which castes are allowed to “breed” in the Sentinels’ America, to the rows of identical graves near the gates of the “South Bronx Internment Center,” the visual and rhetorical signifiers of this particular post-apocalyptic scenario are uniformly that of the Holocaust:
In addition to the
captions drawing meaning from Byrne’s discreet Hs and Ms on people’s jackets,
we see Claremont’s sensibilities in Kate’s carefully-hidden thoughts – our
first window into the Anti-Sentinel Resistance’s ideology. The similarity
between Kate’s “we can try to ensure this nightmare never happens, never even
begins” and the mantra of “never again” that became the definitive response to
the Shoah is unmistakable.
We can also see Claremont’s influence in what he did with the time travel plot, allowing him to show how the X-Men’s characters could be wildly different in the far future of 2013. As I’ve talked about elsewhere, one of Chris Claremont’s enduring frustrations with the comics industry was the eternal status quo of serial IP:
But because the conceit of the story is that 33 years have passed, Claremont can show Colossus as a retired farmer (who can be married to Kitty Pryde without it being creepy) who’s given up the superhero life, can show us generational change with a grown-up Franklin Richards in an adult relationship with Rachel Summers (making her debut appearance) , and most of all can show us Magneto as Charles Xavier. Several issues before he was to do his major retcon on Erik Lensherr’s backstory, and fifty issues before he was to put Magneto on trial, Claremont shows us a Magneto who – transformed by pain – now fights to ensure that both “humanity” and “mutankind” can survive to see the “day after tomorrow.” (Incidentally, we know this to be Claremont’s contribution because Byrne hated what he called “noble Magneto.”)
The ultimate example of thumbing one’s nose at the eternal status quo is the permanent death of characters, and one of the things that gave Days of Future Past its impact in 1981 is that the What If? nature of Byrne’s time-travel dystopia allowed for the shocking deaths of X-Men mainstays like Wolverine and Storm without damaging the X-book’s long-term brand:
At the same time, I think there’s more to these shocking deaths than the car-crash voyeuristic appeal of a “bad future” timeline, again due to Claremont’s spin on the story that we discussed above. The specificity of the apocalypse lends a specificity to the resistance fighting against it, and thus the Anti-Sentinel Resistance can’t help but take on some of the aspects of WWII resistance movements, which means also being influenced by the tropes of the cinema de résistance – films like Casablanca, Cross of Lorraine, This Land is Mine, Is Paris Burning?, andArmy of Shadows. In this genre (influenced as it was by escape and heist films), the plucky Resistance fighters are generally outnumbered and outgunned, their best-laid plans are often undone by bad luck, and their ultimate victory is often the existential triumph of refusing to give in and collaborate.
Now that we’ve fully
explored the inspirations and implications of Byrne and Claremont’s dystopian
future, we need to dig into the “present day” events that are supposed to set
the apocalypse in motion and how Claremont wraps all of these events in an analysis
of 1980s politics.
Breaking with the conventions of Marvel’s sliding timeline, X-Men #141 starts with a very specific date: Kitty Pryde walks into the Danger Room on “Friday, October 31st 1980…the final Friday in one of the closest, hardest-fought presidential elections in recent memory.” For once, Claremont’s purple prose is not exaggerating: in the real-world presidential election of 1980, October opinion polls stood on a knife-edge with Reagan and Carter trading leads, often divided by as few as three or four points, with third-party candidate still holding onto a potentially decisive 8-9% of the vote. This choice of date isn’t a coincidence, because as Kate Pryde will outline to the stunned X-Men, presidential politics will play a central role in creating this apocalypse:
First, the revelation that the dystopia will be caused by a presidential assassination immediately placed in the world of 1970s “paranoid” conspiracy thrillers like The Parallax View andThree Days of the Condor, themselves a reaction to the world-shaking political assassinations of the mid-to-late 60s as well as the more general increase in distrust in government that accompanied the Watergate scandal. And given how often these thrillers combined fears of assassination and conspiracy with fears of nuclear devastation – think Day of the Dolphin, The Odessa File, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and The China Syndrome – here the link between the mutant metaphor and nuclear threat is particularly appropriate.
Second, for the first time we have a partisan political edge for the often-amorphous “anti-mutant hysteria.” Here, Claremont directly criticizes the (often hard-left) political terrorism of the 1970s, arguing that it backfires, creating a groundswell of fear and hatred that sweeps reactionaries into office. By trying to eliminate the threat posed by Senator Kelly in 1980, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants only ensures that “a rabid anti-mutant candidate” is swept into office. This demagogue’s campaign slogan – “it’s 1984! Do you know what your children are?” – is a clever riff on the 1970s/1980s public service announcement campaign that sought to scare parents about the threat of juvenile delinquency with the question “It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your children are,” suggesting a parallel between moral panics.
Third, we see from these panels why the X-Men are such a crucial part of the Marvel Universe, and why arguments that they should be kept separate always fall flat for me. I’ve discussed elsewhere why the disparate treatment of mutants and other super-powered beings is actually a rich vein of storytelling ideas about model minorities vs. threatening Others, and why origin stories that emphasize random chance or super-tech produce very different social-psychological responses than those that emphasize powers acquired at birth. But here we see a new angle: Days of Future Past reminds us that as waves of hatred against one minority are allowed to grow ever higher, eventually the surge will swamp over conceptual boundaries to include all who are not in the in-group. Here, we see anti-mutant hatred expanding to encompass first outcasts and marginal types like Spider-Man, the Hulk (although how much more the Federal government could pursue the Hulk is unclear), and Ghost Rider (I’m genuinely quite puzzled how the government would even go about eliminating such a blatantly supernatural entity), but then to include “model minorities” like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers who are initially loved by the public and treated as auxiliaries of the state, and then finally national sovereigns like Doctor Doom of Latveria and Black Panther of Wakanda. (The cynical part of my mind suggests that it was only after the Sentinels went after these last two that the nuclear powers of Earth-811 stopped and took notice.)
Fourth and finally,
given when these comics were written and published, we really can’t separate
out the fear of a demagogue president who could start a crisis that ends with
nuclear war from the fear of Ronald Reagan as someone whose aggressive policies
towards the USSR might end in the missiles flying that existed in liberal circles
that lasted up until the Reykjavik Summit in 1986. Hence why Days of Future
Past is so concerned with the character of presidential candidates whether
we’re talking about the or the unnamed firebrand from 1984 or Senator Robert
Is Senator Kelly a Good Man?
Speaking of which, let’s
talk about the character of Senator Robert Kelly. In what might be something
of a surprise for those of you who are primarily familiar with Senator Kelly
from Bruce Davidson’s oleaginous performance in the 2000 film, much of the plot
of Days of Future Past turns on the question as to whether or not Senator Kelly
– clearly taking on the role of Ser Reginald Styles from “Day of the Daleks” –
is a good person.
two-issues, we get testimony to the affirmative: despite having every reason to
hate the registration system that he inspired, Kate Pryde describes him as “a decent man” with “legitimate concerns about
the increasing numbers of super-powered mutants;” Charles Xavier describes him
as “scared” rather than bigoted; even the Blob, who’s literally there to
assassinate him, calls Kelly “either the bravest man I ever seen or the
However, the broader context makes me question this informed attribute. After all, this isn’t the first time that X-Men readers have met the honorable gentlemen from the Acela Corridor – the first time we meet Senator Kelly is at the Hellfire Club, where he was a special guest of Sebastian Shaw. Given that Kelly was running for president at the time, it strikes me as very familiarly reckless to spend all of his time hanging out at an upscale sex club:
Kelly’s association with the Hellfire isn’t a one-off, but part of a longer pattern of behavior: not only does he return to the club in X-Men #246-7, but it turns out that Kelly’s wife Sharon is an ex-Hellfire Club waitress, which fact somehow completely escaped the national press corps during a presidential election and suggests a truly baffling campaign of Shaw’s to influence every aspect of his life. (And no, Kelly isn’t any more liberated about his wife being a former sex-worker than the IRL news media was about a certain Coloradan Senator’s open marriage.)
professional ethics are similarly questionable. Despite the fact that the
ending of #142 establishes that Kelly serves on a committee with a national
security portfolio, Kelly is the frequent guest of Sebastian Shaw, noted arms
manufacturer with extensive contracts with the Pentagon. And while Kelly might
not consider Shaw’s invites to be either an undeclared in-kind donation or some
unauthorized lobbying, it’s pretty clear from the text that Sebastian Shaw
Ethics aside, Kelly’s political ideology is way more troubling:
Kelly’s opening statement starts out as standard boilerplate establishment language – “we are gathered here to address an issue of critical national and international importance” – but then in the second panel veers straight into the insecurity-laden rhetoric of Bolivar Trask, which raises some questions about his objectivity. On a political side note, I’m utterly astonished that any campaign manager worth his salt would allow a presidential candidate to spend the last Friday before an election holding Congressional hearings, no matter how well-televised they may be. No wonder Kelly doesn’t win the election.
At least the witness list hasn’t been stacked with partisans of Kelly’s position, because the ludicrously well-educated duo of Charles Xavier and Moira McTaggart are the main experts due to give testimony – which makes me curious as to which senators invited them. I particularly like this scene because it lets us see real political differences between members of the X-family: showing that he’s learned absolutely nothing from the last time he was kidnapped on live tv, Charles puts an inordinate faith in the power of reason and persuasion. By contrast, Moira channels both Claremont’s Holocaust-inspired opposition to state-sponsored classification and monitoring of minority groups and one of the most famous of (first openly gay elected official) Harvey Milk’s speeches.
Kelly gives the game away when he busts out his favorite Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal analogy, complete with an elaboration that situates his fear that there is no “place for ordinary men and women” in a world of superheroes – otherwise not that different from J. Jonah Jameson’s more targeted ressentiment – with a Madison Grant-esque fear of racial replacement, similarly founded on bad anthropology. Even his consistency that non-mutants like “Doctor Doom…the Fantastic Four [and] the Avengers” are also threats to the hegemony of baseline humans seems far less admirable, because we see the same list of names on the headstones at the South Bronx Mutant Internment Camp and in Kate’s description of the Sentinels’ future genocide.
Given the implications of Kelly’s beliefs, it becomes a little hard to buy his whole “just asking questions,” “this totally isn’t a witch hunt” schtick. I would argue eagle-eyed X-Men readers have good reason to question Kelly’s good faith, because this hearing is not the first time that Kelly has thought about “the mutant question.” As I mentioned above, Kelly just so happened to be hanging out at the Hellfire Club when the X-Men raided the place, and thus bought the party line:
Thus, well before
any mutant hearings or attacks by radical mutant terrorists (more on this in a
second), Kelly had already decided on the Sentinels as a solution to what he
saw as the rampant criminality of “super-powered mutants” that conventional and
Constitution-bound police forces “aren’t equipped to fight.” Note that the
nameless NYPD captain’s mention of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers in this
context suggests that Kelly’s inclusion of them in his testimony is perhaps due
to the fact that these groups are neither “completely” nor “unquestionably
under Federal government control.”
In the context of
the dystopian scenario posited by Byrne and Claremont, it turns out that the supposed
moderate option was the same agenda as that of the demagogue, just dressed up
in fancier language. (This is not the first or last time that no-win scenarios
will show up in Days of Future Past.)
So why don’t we see
“Moira Was Right” T-shirts in the X-fandom?
The Revolutionary Mystique
But enough like the victim, let’s talk about the assassin, Mystique. Her inclusion in this story – indeed, Days of Future Past is Raven Darkholme’s first appearance as an X-villain – is clearly Claremont’s influence. Despite being a mutant from the jump, Mystique was originally a Ms. Marvel villain co-created by Claremont and Dave Cockrum. Mystique is a perfect fit for the paranoid thriller style, both because her mutant abilities mean that she could be anyone and anywhere, and because she’s already infiltrated the highest reaches of the military-industrial complex:
One of the confusing elements of Days of Future Past is that Mystique recreates the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, complete with its initial peculiar name, despite not having any connection to Magneto or any discussion of what her inspiration for the group’s name was. It feels as if Claremont missed a trick here by not having Mystique’s group be the first Mutant Liberation Front, which would be more evocative of similar groups from the 1970s, create some distinction between this and the first Brotherhood (which it has no overlap with). On the other hand, the fact that she kept the original name, and the self-marginalizing perspective it implies, does suggest that Mystique may be more of a fan of Magneto’s early work than his more sophisticated later years.
This becomes especially clear when Mystique and the Brotherhood arrive at the Capitol: in a scene that demonstrates that, often, hardliners on opposite sides are de facto allies because their mutual provocations lead to complementary radicalization, Mystique and the Brotherhood are in total agreement with Kelly’s eugenic philosophy, just with a different emphasis. Because they see themselves as the “first Cro-Magnon” to his “last Neanderthal,” they see it as less an existential threat as a prophecy of historical dialectic:
Costumes and super-powers aside, Mystique’s approach here isn’t that different from the Red Brigades of the 1970s, whose kidnappings (and occasional assassinations) of political figures were carried out with a keen eye towards mass media through the granting of interviews with journalists and the issuing of manifestos and other communiques to be published in the world press. Here, Mystique’s plan is quite simple:
Unusually for the Claremont era, the climax of Days of Future Past is a straight-up superhero fight between a team of “good mutants” and a team of “bad mutants,” with the X-Men in the position of having to once again fight for “a world that hates and fears them,” which is much more of a Silver Age paradigm. Where we see more of a Claremontian influence is around the margins of the wrasslin:
To begin with, we
see Claremont’s fascination with fully-lived-in minor characters and the power
of the news-media in the fact that he drops in a reporter to react to the
In addition, the broader themes of post-Watergate political paranoia continues
in the fact that the first reaction of bystanders to the bombing of the U.S
Capitol – which was bombed by the Weather Underground in 1971 – is a false-flag
operation by the White House.
But the biggest influence of all is that while Wolverine and Colossus team up to see-saw the Blob into Avalanche, Nightcrawler has a doppleganger fight with his mother, and Storm rains on Pyro’s parade, it’s Kitty Pryde who actually saves the day:
It wouldn’t be a Claremont issue if the climactic showdown of Days of Future
Past wasn’t 90% political debate about whether political terrorism is
ultimately self-defeating and only 10% action. (Another sign that this part of
the story was Claremont’s rather than Byrne’s is that the latter hated what he
called the “semi-incestuous lesbian kiss.”)
The Dystopian Trap
Unfortunately for Kate Pryde, it turns out that however personally brave (and/or bloodthirsty) he might be, it turns out Senator Kelly is both a committed ideologue (as we discussed above) and wildly ungrateful for her saving his life:
While I’ll get to
the broader implications in a second, I did want to note some important
elements of the content of this epilogue:
Firstly, Senator Kelly’s politics remain as baffling as ever: one month after an election he presumably lost despite the rallying effect you’d think would come from surviving an assassination attempt related to your number one issue four days before the election, Senator Kelly is working hand-in-glove with someone who would have been his presumable rival.
Secondly, President Silhouette’s politics aren’t much better: despite arguing that Kelly’s proposal is “dangerous…unconstitutional, even criminal,” the President nevertheless decides to continue the same approach as a “covert” initiative outside of Congressional and judicial oversight, which seems substantially more unconstitutional and criminal than Kelly’s proposal, which presumably called for some form of authorizing legislation. (This is a topic I’ll get into in more detail when the People’s History of the Marvel Universe covers the various Registration Acts…)
Thirdly, we are introduced to Henry Peter Gyrich, future antagonist to both the X-Men and the Avengers. I find Gyrich endlessly fascinating, because I can’t think of that many real-life figures who spawned not one, but two, stand-ins. It’s almost like H.R Haldeman did something to really inspire antipathy in people of a certain generation.
Finally, it’s important to note that the main reason why Kate’s intervention “didn’t work” (more on this in a second) is because the Anti-Sentinel Resistance was so focused on the role of the Brotherhood and Senator Kelly that they didn’t see the more insidious threat of the quisling Hellfire Club.
So let’s talk about the Twilight Zone-style stinger ending – that, contrary to the previous page’s narration that Kate’s actions collapsed the Earth-811 timeline, and thus “reality twists inside out,” Kate’s intervention and the 2013 X-Men’s sacrifices have not halted the threat of the Sentinels. It is unarguable that the impact of this ending was a major reason why Days of Future Past was such an enduring success.
And that’s the
problem: over the last almost-forty years, X-creators and fans alike have been
so profoundly influenced by this story that we’ve become incapable of imagining
a future for the X-Men that isn’t a dystopia. Part of this has to do with
comics’ unfortunate tendency to repetition: since the original, we’ve had Days
of Future Present, Days of Future Yet to Come, Wolverine: Days of
Future Past, and Secret Wars: Years of Future Past, all of which
explicitly continue, elaborate on, or reboot the Earth-811 continuity. (I would
also argue that Age of Apocalypse and its successors are profoundly
influenced by DOFP as well, since they also involve time travel,
assassinations, dystopian futures, Sentinels, and nuclear threat.)
I would argue that this kind of enforced nihilism is creatively deadening in any case, but it becomes especially problematic for a comic book which doubles as a metaphor about oppressed minorities. The implicit argument is that there is no hope for the future, no possibility of either eliminating dismantling either cultural bigotry or systematic discrimination, no potential for progress either in reformist or revolutionary fashion, and given how often these dystopias involve worlds in which mutant hegemony is the oppressive force, that trying to change things only makes them worse.
If D.C can give us the Legion of Super-Heroes or the New Gods, it is not beyond the capacity of Marvel to imagine a future that doesn’t fall into the dystopic trap. While I understand that as action-oriented dramas, the superhero genre requires conflict, but there is a middle ground between utopia and dystopia. Here, the protean nature of the metaphor can be our guide: when in the history of the world has the success of a social movement or the liberation of a people from oppression not seen backlash, the rise of new issues, or the formation of new group identities?
 Yes, I know I said during
an earlier PHOMU that the Hellfire Club was his first statement on the
mutant metaphor, but to be fair the Hellfire Club was introduced as part of a
story that’s really more about space opera and cosmic weirdness, so I feel Days
of Future Past qualifies as the first story that is about the
metaphor above all else.
 Jason Powell, Best There Is At
What He Does, loc. 1242.
 While I didn’t want to let it overshadow the overall argument of the essay, I can’t let it pass without note that Days of Future Past eerily predicts many of the core plot elements of Terminator – genocidal robots, time-travel, apocalyptic scenarios, nuclear war, and so on – although unlike the celebrated legal case between Harlan Ellison and James Cameron, this is likely a case of parallel evolution.
 It’s really unclear in the main X-Men
continuity what Senator Kelly’s party affiliation and state are. Only in X-Men:
Noir is he described as a Republican, but the political context of
2009-2010 was very different from that of 1980-1981 and there’s really no signs
of that in the original text. As for what state he represents, all I can say is
that he seems to spend an awful lot of time in New York City (which is fairly
standard for the Marvel Universe), which suggests he’s a Senator from somewhere
on the Eastern Seaboard.
 As a public service to my readers,
I reached out to my friend and colleague Dante Atkins to ask him whether Kelly’s
relationship with Shaw would violate Senate
ethics rules. On the face of it, having Shaw guest Kelly at his incredibly
exclusive club would generally be considered a gift worth more than $50, which
could trigger all kinds of problems (not just with Senate Ethics, but
potentially the FEC and the Public Integrity Section of the Department of
Justice) if Kelly didn’t declare it on his forms, especially since Shaw
definitely lobbies him on Project Wideawake. (More on that later.)
Unfortunately, the fact that Shaw and Kelly are longstanding friends probably
means that this would fall under the “personal friendship exemption,” unless
someone could “prove that Shaw is offering this to Kelly not out of personal
friendship, but because he is a sitting Senator, and would not do so if he
weren’t.” Just goes to show that whether in Earth-616 or our world, Congressional
ethics rules are in dire need of reform.
 By contrast, John McCain
suspending his campaign in late September 2008 was way more reasonable, both in
terms of distance from the election and the importance of the issue.
 One of the ironies of Mystique’s
radical positioning in Days of Future Past is that she’s going to spend
far, far more of her career as an agent both willing and unwilling of the human
state than she ever did as a mutant revolutionary.
 Granted in this case, the reporter
is a fictional
one from Doonesbury, but you get the sense that this scene was
something of an inspiration for his inclusion of the very real journalists Neal
Conan and Manoli Wetherell of NPR in Fall of the Mutants.
 It is possible that President Silhouette is termed out and thus a political ally of Kelly’s, but that seems somewhat unlikely since Project Wideawake is clearly a personal initiative of his, and the clandestine scheme continues into the next administration (i.e, for at least 40 more issues).
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The comic book industry is at a point where publishers and retailers are experimenting. They’re developing new models for a classic product. A Wave Blue World has announced some changes. Their hope is to disrupt to standard release schedule we’ve come to expect. The publisher has announced it will be releasing “premier” first issues. Premier issues will be followed by digital releases and a collected edition of a series. All of this in a compacted 2-month time frame.
The indie publisher recently expanded their brand by hiring industry veterans Joseph Illidge, Editorial Director, and Lisa Y. Wu, VP of Sales and Marketing, to help launch their “Premier #1 Program.”
The Premier #1 Program came from A Wave Blue World’s recognition that the comic book market is evolving. Many readers are choosing to “Sample, Collect, and/or Binge” on comics. Readers don’t want to wait 6 to 9 months for the full story. The program offers readers choice and the ability to get the entire story within a 2-month period.
Each new title will launch with a Premier Edition #1. This will be the only single issue in print and will contain the full first issue as well as a “behind the scenes” look at concept art not found anywhere else. The first issue will be wrapped inside an exclusive cover with high-end art on premium stock.
Then, the reader has two options: 1. Read the subsequent issues digitally released every two weeks, or 2. Buy the collected volume within two months after the release of the Premier #1.
This new business model gives the readers the freedom to choose and sample with a guarantee of delay-free enjoyment and reflects A Wave Blue World’s values of integrating sustainability practices into its business decisions.
In the announcement, President/Co-Publisher Tyler Chin-Tanner explained:
Two of the challenge that prevents fans from reading indie comics are the difficulty in finding all the issues and waiting long periods of time for them to come out. We’ve addressed both of those problems by having the full series completed in advance and ready to deliver in whatever format the reader prefers.
Executive Director/Co-Publisher Wendy Chin-Tanner said in the announcement:
Our goal in conceiving AWBW’s Premier Program is to solve a sales problem by creating a win-win solution for readers and retailers alike.
To kick off the Premier #1 Program this October, A Wave Blue World is revealing Mezo and Dead Legends.
Editorial Director Joseph Illidge said in the release:
The Premier line of books is a celebration of A Wave Blue World’s promise: To bring daring authors and innovative artists together for compelling stories about amazing characters and personal journeys. We can’t wait for you to see these books, created with the true collaborative nature of our comics community in mind!
Lisa Y. Wu, VP Sales and Marketing concluded:
Influential, innovative and progressive, A Wave Blue World is reinventing a modern approach to enjoying comics. We are redefining comics for our retailer sand readers for the 21st century in that we are placing their values into the designs of how we publish the stories of today and tomorrow.
Tyler Chin-Tanner, Josh Zingerman, Val Rodrigues, Doug Garbark, Thomas Mauer Cover Artist: Claudia Ianniciello $3.99 / 32 pages / Full Color On Sale October
“The rise of the Tzalekuhl Empire threatens to disrupt the peace that has lasted for generations across the land of Mezo. When the conquest begins, a young girl named Kyma witnesses the death of her father, Hegol, a tribal leader who refused to yield.
As the solar eclipse nears, Kyma must unite the various tribes against an emperor determined to make them all kneel before his god or be sacrificed in his name.
MEZO is a daring Mesoamerican-inspired Game of Thrones-type epic that can only be found at A Wave Blue World.”
James Maddox, Gavin Smith, Ryan Ferrier Cover Artist: Leo Colapietro $3.99 / 32 pages / Full Color On Sale October 9
“A widow seeking revenge. A champion hellbent on losing. A world-class assassin second-guessing her contract. The Dead Legends tournament contains a long history of pitting the best fighters in the world against one another, but this year, these combatants bend the rules and place the future of the tournament in jeopardy. This is the martial arts throwback series that hits harder than a kick to the skull, where alliances are made, bonds are broken, and fighters lose their lives.
DEAD LEGENDS is Kill Bill meets Enter the Dragon.”
Endings seem to be a recurring theme for this week’s “War of the Realms” books with Giant-Manbeing the first tie-in miniseries to reach the finish line thanks to some incredible weirdness and a wonderful father/daughter team-up from Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg. There’s also the bittersweet end to Cullen Bunn’s work on the Asgardians of the Galaxy series even after it was name-dropped in the second highest grossing movie of all time. Thankfully, Tini Howard and German Peralta’s recently announced Strikeforcewill continue Angela’s journey.
In addition to these titles, Bunn and Iban Coello’s short Venom arc wraps up just in time for “Absolute Carnage”, Superior Spider-Man is way too funny and meta, Champions seems determined to feature every teen Marvel hero, and Ryan North and Derek Charm’sUnbeatable Squirrel Girl is still a wonderful gift with Ariana Grande karaoke and Frost Giants talking shop about, well, frost.
My feelings on the conclusion of Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Giant-Man are definitely mixed. What has been a fairly straightforward adventure yarn set in Florida and featuring Marvel’s size changing heroes gets pretty freaking weird. Apparently, former Thunderbolt/Master of Evil Moonstone has been enslaving the women of Florida to forcibly harvest ice from Ymir to make Ice Giants. It’s definitely a twist and throws a wrench into the whole Ymir assassination mission. The scene where Cassie Lang rescues the slaves and teams up with her dad are heartwarming as well as Raz’s empathy for Ymir, who is in pain and being held against his will. Ymir being a victim and more of a primal force of nature than a baddie is more nuanced and memorable than the team punching him to death.
However, Williams and Castiello do less of a good job introducing and telling the story of Moonstone, the miniseries’ Big Bad. Her powers and motivation fluctuate depending on this scene as she goes from slave master to force of nature and even a redemptive figure depending on the scene. It’s like Williams and Castiello reached the end of miniseries and realized they needed a final boss that wasn’t Ymir and used her past connection with Atlas as a shorthand reason to feature her. Throw in visuals that are hard to follow when the characters change size, and unfortunately, Giant-Man #3 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 is a bittersweet comic for many reasons. It features the quirky cast of this book kicking ass together one last time as well as Angela using the MacGuffin from the book’s first arc to get revenge on the Angels of Heven, who abused and tortured her. Writer Cullen Bunn and sharp artists Luca Maresca and Federico Blee give each character a couple of fantastic moments before signing off on a series that had an interesting cast of characters, a fun morally ambiguous space-faring tone, fantastic LGBTQ representation, and was mostly forced to be an event tie-in.
But the fact that it’s a tie-in doesn’t negate Skurge earning redemption as a hero in Valhalla, Angela saving Nairobi, Kenya and finding revenge by beheading her evil adoptive mother, and Ren and Annabelle Riggs being cute while getting cool weapons from the dwarf Urzuul. Maresca’s art has a cartoonish lyricism to him with slash shaped panels when Angela and an army of undead gods lay waste to Heven, or when Okoye gives Annabelle tips on using a Valkyrie spear. He and Bunn do an excellent job wrapping up Angela, Skurge, and Annabelle’s arc while letting this team kick ass in various and sundry ways. Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy, and hopefully, it’ll get a revival once Chris Hemsworth signs a deal to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Jim Zub, Juanan Ramirez, and Marco Menyz bust out the Disir, the cursed ghosts of Odin’s father Bor’s Valkyries, in their Champions “War of the Realms” tie-in. First appearing in Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, they’re a formidable foe for this team of teen heroes that almost seems to double in membership each issue. Zub and Ramirez are constantly cutting from character to character throughout this issue in different action scenes. However, a few beats land like Power Man realizing the full potential of his “chi”-based powers and basically hulking out and save the team’s asses when he is stabbed in the heart by a magical, undead Asgardian artifact. There is also Kamala Khan, who gets a vision of her dead in a parallel universe and starts to realize that leadership of the Champions may be too much for her.
These two strong character moments stand out in what is mostly a loud, action-driven issue where the Champions are driven up a wall, and it’s hard to get a read on any character personalities between the explosions. Zub does hit on a few cool concepts like Hummingbird joining the team because she saw a distress call on a message board and using her empathy-driven, telepathic abilities to calm the team down. With the exception of the loose cartooning and cool moment where Power Man gets to wreak havoc, Champions #6 pales in comparison to the previous issue’s Cyclops and Kamala-centric tale and reduces powerful enemies to “monster of the week” status. Therefore, it earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.
Superior Spider-Man #7
I haven’t read the previous issues of Superior Spider-Man, but Christos Gage, Lan Medina, Cam Smith, and Andy Troy’s work on this story definitely made me want to pick up the previous six issues. The series has a similar premise to Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, but without the weird mind swap plot devices and is more about a bad guy trying to do good and use the power of science and his intellect to be a better hero than Spider-Man. The first half of this issue is filled with precise storytelling and illustrations from Medina and Smith as Spider-Ock evacuates San Francisco and turns his brain to the cause of Frost Giants invading North America and not just the symptom. As Gwenpool later states, he’s a core miniseries hero stuck in a tie-in.
Oh yeah, and to pile awesomeness on more awesomeness, Gage, and Medina pair Spider-Ock with the West Coast Avengers because he wants to use America’s star portal abilities to shut down the one letting Frost Giants onto Earth. This plan doesn’t work out, but we get fun team-up fights, Gwenpool doing running commentary on event comic structure, and Spider-Ock and Quentin Quire bonding over their shared interest in arrogance. I love how the other characters think she’s raving mad, but the always curious Spider-Ock is out here asking questions about “legacy characters”. For its strong visuals, heavy dose of meta-humor, fun guest stars, and interesting characterization of Spider-Ock, Superior Spider-Man earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45
The search for the Frost Giants’ secret base continues in Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, but due to irreconcilable ethical differences, Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr break up as teammates fairly early in the story. The split-up and reunion leads to great comedy, pathos, and later, adventure using the power of Frost Giant-induced fast travel. Ratatoskr doesn’t want to save the world; she only wants to create chaos and use her mind control abilities to get whatever the heck she wants. This includes go-kart video games, on command Frost Giant-friendly performances of “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, and even psychological therapy.
However, the therapy part (Done by a mind-controlled Frost Giant.) named Daisy reveals that Squirrel Girl’s words about Ratatoskr never creating and only destroying have gotten under her skin. (Charm and Renzi draw moment of truth Ratatoskr quite adorable.) This leads to forgiveness and working together to stop the Frost Giant in an ethical, non-mind controlling way. But, there’s one last pit stop before the HQ as Charm and Renzi capture the beauty of snowfall and nature with the help of the (Newly in the public domain) poems of Robert Frost. (Also, North can’t help himself with puns.) It’s a singular moment in a very silly comic with a tongue in cheek ending. For showing that beauty and humor can co-exist with sneaking around a Frost Giant camp, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
In the conclusion to their Venom “War of the Realms” arc, Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, Alberto Albuquerque, Roberto Poggi, and Andres Mossa realize that Jack’o’Lantern is kind of a lame villain and pivot to Eddie Brock battling his own anger with a side of Dreamstone magic. The interplay between Bunn’s narration and the chaotic line art of Coello and Albuquerque creates heavy metal alchemy as Eddie wanders around New York and channels his anger again to remember that he is a “lethal” protector of the innocent, especially his son Dylan. He genuinely cares about the regular people who are caught in the crossfire of the War of the Realms and comes up with a new spin on “We are Venom” to protect them in a fist-bumping moment.
Venom #15, and Bunn and Coello’s overall work on this storyline has been a fantastic marriage of deep emotional turmoil and fun symbiote-meet-dark magic action. This issue is no exception as Eddie has his big moment and the returns to the bunker to protect Dylan and continue their journey to survive. What could have been filler while Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman were prepping “Absolute Carnage” end up telling a tale about Eddie and his son trying to survive in a world without his symbiote and featured memorable visual mash-ups of Asgardian and symbiote iconography. Because of this, Venom #15 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
This was truly “War of the Realms'” week of the underdog as characters, like Skurge the Executioner, Squirrel Girl, Gwenpool, Spider-Ock, Annabelle Riggs, and the West Coast Avengers, who get their books canceled or a relegated to second stringers lit up the comics pages thanks to the passion of creators like Cullen Bunn, Ryan North, Christos Gage, Luca Maresca, Derek Charm, and Lan Medina. In particular, Bunn’s letter at the end of Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 about how he wanted to do a story with these characters back in 2015 and then had to shoehorn them into two events shows the pitfalls of having an original spirit in corporate comics. But, hey, we’ll have those ten majestic issues than honestly work whether or not you read “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”.
Drug smuggling can get pretty creative and one endeavor decided to add some value to comics. Gold Coast police shut down the Australian end of a drug smuggling operation. The twist? The smuggling used hollowed-out comics.
The $1 million worth of drugs originated from the United States shipping through the mail and courier services. It’s believed the drugs came from Southern California. The supplier has been identified and US Homeland Security is working to take action here.
The comics were hollowed-out and packets of the drugs were inserted inside.
The police found 3 kilograms of the drug methylamphetamine, also known as ice, as well as cannabis and a range of other items. It took 30,000 hits off the streets.
Ten people were charged for the operation. 40 charges were laid out including trafficking and supplying dangerous drugs, money laundering, importing a border restricted drug, possession of dangerous drugs, stealing, possession of drug utensils and possession of proceeds of a drug offense.
In honor of Batman’s 80th anniversary celebration, DC has joined forces with The United Service Organizations (USO) to bring the World’s Greatest Detective to the nearly 12,000 U.S. military members stationed in Kuwait. Taking The Dark Knight’s 80-year cultural legacy to the Middle East, legendary artist Jim Lee and award-winning Batman writer Tom King embarked on a multi-day tour alongside Nafessa Williams, who plays Anissa Pierce/Thunder on WBTV’s Black Lighting on The CW; as well as Candice Patton (Iris West Allen) and Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost) who star on The Flash. In addition, DC brought the famed ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile – bringing an immersive Batman experience to active-duty service members currently stationed abroad.
To honor the service members in Kuwait, DC toured five military bases, including Camp Buehring, Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem, Camp Patriot and Al Jaber, giving dozens of military units the chance to meet and take pictures with the celebrity visitors as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit inside the ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile. Service members were also treated to an exclusive first look at the highly anticipated Pennyworth television series.
In true superhero style, DC and the USO orchestrated exclusive screenings, cosplay contests, and special group panels where acclaimed DC writer Tom King shared his experience as a former CIA counterterrorism operations officer and his transition into comic books and writing Batman. Artist Jim Lee also taught an art masterclass for service members interested in illustration, while actresses Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker and Nafessa Williams met with fans, signed autographs, participated in panel discussions and made special unit visits to service members on the job.
In addition, service members had the opportunity to take photos with the legendary ‘Tumbler’ Batmobile and the Camp Buehring Base Commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kate Conkey, rode in the famed vehicle while service members posed alongside for photographs.
Later this year, DC and the USO are bringing Batman to service members around the world with a special Batman-themed USO2GO kit featuring comics, movies, TV shows, games and more. The kit will offer a fun diversion for service members stationed in remote locations around the globe, connecting them to home and all things Dark Knight.
This fall, the worlds of Square Enix are coming to comics, books, and art books. The video game publisher has announced a deal with Penguin Random House Publisher Services. They’ll bring iconic game properties like Space Invaders, Final Fantasy, and Tomb Raider to the American market under their own banner for the first time. Currently, some of these properties have comics and manga released from other publishers.
In Japan, Square Enix is more than a video company. They also release books, magazines, and manga, so it’s not a stretch for them to bring their material to the U.S. themselves.
The new line will launch this fall with one prose book, Final Fantasy XV: The Dawn of the Future, and three manga: Hi Score Girl, A Man and His Cat, and the complete edition of Soul Eaters.
Geppi Family Enterprises (GFE), the parent entity of Diamond Comic Distributors, Alliance Games Distributors, and other Stephen A. Geppi-owned companies, has expanded its leadership team. In addition, it has announced changes to help expand into new product lines and markets to raise sales and profitability.
Formed in 2015, GFE was created to encompass all the companies owned by Diamond Comic Distributors’ Founder and President & CEO, Stephen A. Geppi. The holding entity is comprised of a dozen companies, among them Diamond Comic Distributors, Alliance Game Distributors, Diamond Select Toys, Baltimore Magazine, Hake’s Auctions, Diamond International Galleries, and Gemstone Publishing.
GFE has updated its current leadership structure to add an Office of The Chairman, comprised of Geppi as Chairman and CEO; current GFE Executive Representative, Joe Foss, who will serve as Vice Chairman; and Stan Heidmann, who will join the team as President.
Prior to joining GFE, Heidmann was Finance Division Executive – Revenue Management at PepsiCo, where he led their distribution, revenues and finance teams for the Mid-Atlantic region.
In addition to the hiring of Heidmann, Geppi also announced that he will be establishing an Advisory Board for the Geppi Family Enterprises level. The board will be comprised of accomplished executives from a variety of different industries, including the comic book industry.
Geppi also announced that both Diamond and Alliance Game Distributors are entering a new banking relationship with JP Morgan Chase. The new credit facility will support Diamond and Alliance’s efforts to expand, create new products, and raise profitability.