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Preview: EC Covers Artist’s Edition

EC Covers Artist’s Edition

Wally Wood (Artist, Cover Artist) Harvey Kurtzman (Artist, Cover Artist) Graham Ingels (Artist, Cover Artist) Johnny Craig (Artist, Cover Artist) Al Williamson (Artist, Cover Artist) Frank Frazetta (Artist, Cover Artist) Jack Davis (Artist, Cover Artist) Al Feldstein (Artist, Cover Artist)

EC Comics, under the guidance of publisher Bill Gaines, was—according to the editor of this collection—the greatest line of comics ever done.

This once-in-a-lifetime Artist’s Edition collects more than 120 EC covers by their best and brightest talents. The luminaries included in this gigantic (15 x 22 inches!) tome include:

Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman. Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Jack Davis, Al Feldstein, and more.

To make a baseball analogy, this is a Murderers Row every bit as noteworthy as the ’27 Yankees!

To date, IDW Publishing’s Artist’s Edition series has won SIX Eisner Awards!

Each cover has been shot from the original art. While appearing to be in black and white, these images were actually scanned in color, enabling the reader to see all the subtle little nuances that make original art unique. Blue pencil notations, zip-a-tone, whiteout, all of these and more are clearly visible. Honestly, the only better way to see these covers is to be holding the original art in your hands!

EC Covers Artist’s Edition

ComiXology Delivers 7 New Releases Including the Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man

There’s seven new releases on comiXology today! Get new comics from Marvel, Yen Press, and Harlequin. Get shopping now or check out the new releases below.

Daredevil Legends: Typhoid Mary

Written by Ann Nocenti
Art by Al Williamson
Cover by John Romita Jr.
Purchase

Collects Daredevil (1964) #254-257,259-263.

One of the industry’s best artists in a collection of one of his best creative runs! John Romita Jr. draws Daredevil in a story arc that introduced one of his most lethal and insane foes, Typhoid Mary!

Daredevil Legends: Typhoid Mary

Goblin Slayer #57

Written by Kumo Kagyu
Art by Kousuke Kurose
Purchase

This series is rated Adults Only
DISCLAIMER: graphic sexuality gore

Goblin Slayer’s new “apprentice” has more than a few complaints about his methods, and butts heads with the other party members to boot… Read the next chapter of Goblin Slayer the same day as Japan!

Goblin Slayer #57

Hinowa ga CRUSH! #39

Written by Takahiro
Art by Strelka
Purchase

This series is rated Adults Only
DISCLAIMER: graphic sexuality

Following the guidance left to them by the Elder, Hinowa and her friends venture east, seeking the help of a talented strategist known as Rugyou. Can she persuade him to lend his wisdom to her quest to bring an end to the age of war? Read the next chapter of Hinowa ga CRUSH! at the same time as Japan!

Hinowa ga CRUSH! #39

Punisher: River Of Blood

Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Joe Kubert
Cover by Joe Kubert
Purchase

Collects Punisher War Zone (1992) #31-36.

The Punisher faces the Russian mob on its home turf, and the legendary Joe Kubert is there to lend his distinctive style to every explosive detail! Out of his element and outgunned, can the scourge of the American underworld hold his own in Mother Russia?

Punisher: River Of Blood

So I’m a Spider, So What? #50

Written by Okina Baba
Art by Asahiro Kakashi
Purchase

I…am a god. At least, that’s what the folks around here seem to believe. But is it really okay for them to trust a random, strange monster so easily? Read the next chapter of So I’m a Spider, So What? the same day as Japan!

So I'm a Spider, So What? #50

Spider-Man: The Complete Frank Miller

Written by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller
Cover by Frank Miller
Purchase

Collects Spectacular Spider-Man #27 and #28, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14 and #15, Marvel Team-Up Annual #4, and Marvel Team-Up #100.

Think Frank Miller just drew Daredevil? Think again, True Believer! Feast your eyes on his take on the wall-crawler (and Punisher… and Dr. Octopus… and Dr. Doom, and the Fantastic Four).

Spider-Man: The Complete Frank Miller

Un bal pour la saint valentin

Written by Penny Jordan
Art by Yutta Narukami
Purchase

Christy continue secrètement d’avoir des sentiments pour Dominic, lui qui l’a toujours protégée depuis leur plus tendre enfance. À ses dix-sept ans, elle souhaitait lui offrir sa première fois le jour de la Saint Valentin. Mais étonnement, Dominic l’a froidement rejetée et a détruit ses rêves d’adolescente par la même occasion. Chirsty a alors pris la fuite et quitté sa ville natale. Mais, huit ans plus tard, voilà que Christy doit y retourner pour prendre soin de sa mère. Par hasard, elle revoit Dominic, qui est devenu médecin et qui est plus charmant que jamais ! Son beau visage, ses bras musclés… Il réussit à conquérir son cœur… encore une fois !

Un bal pour la saint valentin

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Star Wars #50 Gets a Fascimile Edition to Celebrate 80 Years of Marvel

In celebration of Marvel’s 80th Anniversary, Marvel is releasing a special Facsimile edition of the 1977 Star Wars #50! Coinciding directly with May’s upcoming Star Wars #108 one-shot from Matthew Rosenberg and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli, Luke Ross, Kerry Gammill, Andrea Broccardo, this Facsimile features a full reprint of the issues’ classic story – ads and all! – from writer Archie Williams and artists Al Williamson, Tom Palmer, and Walter Simonson!

With new stories of original series characters such as Jaxxon, Amaiza, Domina Tagge, Valance the Hunter, and more, Star Wars #108 acts as a direct sequel to Star Wars #50 – making this a truly epic 80thAnniversary celebration!

Relive the dazzling legends of long ago and a galaxy far, far away in Marvel’s original Star Wars series with Star Wars #50, and this May, get ready to dive into all new adventures of your favorite characters when Star Wars #108 hits comic shops!

Preview: Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 3

Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 3

Archie Goodwin (w) • Al Williamson (a & c)

The concluding volume that reprints for the first time the classic Star Wars newspaper
strip in its complete format. The only edition to includes each Sunday page title header and “bonus” panels in meticulously restored original color.

Featuring nine key stories from Star Wars Legends written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Al Williamson. Included are “A New Beginning,” “Revenge of the Jedi,””Doom Mission,” and “The Final Trap,” among others in the complete newspaper strips from July 26, 1982 to March 11, 1984.

HC • PC • $49.99 • 264 pages • 11” x 8-1/2” • ISBN: 978-1-68405-329-2

Preview: Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 2

Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 2

Archie Goodwin (w) • Al Williamson, Alfredo Alcala (a) • Al Williamson (c)

Reprints for the first time the classic Star Wars newspaper strip in its complete format. No other edition includes each Sunday page title header and “bonus” panels in their meticulously restored original color. The epic seven-days-a-week sagas begin with “Han Solo at Stars’ End,” based on the novel by Brian Daley, adapted by Archie Goodwin and Alfredo Alcala, followed by seven complete adventures by the storied team of Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson. The pair had previously worked together on Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat comics magazines, the Flash Gordon comic book, and 13 years on the Secret Agent Corrigan newspaper strip. They seamlessly shifted gears to take over, at George Lucas’s request, the Star Wars newspaper strip. Included are all strips from October 6, 1980 to February 8, 1981.

HC • B&W • $49.99 • 296 pages • 11” x 8.5” • ISBN: 978-1-68405-053-6

Preview: Star Wars, Vol. 1

Star Wars, Vol. 1

Russ Manning, Steve Gerber, Don Christensen, Russ Helm (w) • Russ Manning, Alfredo Alcala (a) • Al Williamson (c)

The first of three volumes that present, for the first time ever, the classic Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979-1984 in its complete format — including each Sunday title header and “bonus” panels in their meticulously restored original color. Initially the color Sundays and black and white dailies told separate stories, but within six months the incomparable Russ Manning merged the adventures to tell brand new epic seven-days-a-week sagas that rivaled the best science fiction comics of all time. Volume One contains 575 sequential comic strips from the strip’s premiere on March 11, 1979 to October 5, 1980.

HC • PC • $49.99 • 260 pages • 11” x 8.5” • ISBN: 978-1-63140-872-4

Flashback Friday Review: The New Warriors Vol. 1 #1

Nova, Namorita, Marvel Boy, Speedball, Firestar and the mysterious Night Thrasher are the New Warriors! New Warriors Vol. 1 #1 features the origin of the New Warriors and an incredible battle against the Fantastic Four’s enemy, Terrax and is a self-contained issue that’s pretty fun and holds up after 27 years!

It’s been 27 years since this issue was released and I don’t think I’ve ever read this issue. I vaguely remember it being released by a new team featuring characters I didn’t know didn’t really interest me at the time. Ironically I became a fan of the New Warriors decades later in some of their more recent incarnations that have been released.

This comic really is the origin of the group, not the characters. Written by Fabian Nicieza very little is explained as to who these characters are and why we should care about them. Instead, it mostly revolves around Night Trasher being a dick to recruit folks he thinks he needs to be a part of his attempt to “wage his war” against crime. It’s pretty basic in all of that and each character’s motivations to join him seems to consist of “I’ve got nothing to do” and “you’re an ass but…,” though none of that really makes sense. Night Trasher recruits Nova by throwing him off the roof (his powers were suppressed and that unlocked them). Marvel Boy is recruited when the Avengers say they don’t want them. Firestar is threatened over the phone. Speedball and Namorita join after the battle with Terrax and never really formally asked. It’s weird.

The comic is entertaining though. There’s surprising little that feels weird today or has aged horribly (maybe some stilted dialogue). There’s some sexist comments, but from “kids” it doesn’t feel quite as bad. Speedball for example is interested in getting into the fight to meet “babes.” A male teenager saying that? Feels right. The battle with Terrax too is fun with good action and how he’s defeated feels original as two characters’ powers play off of each other well. The comic as a whole has good pacing, a good mix of action and humor and sets things up well for the future. By the time the comic is over you get a good sense of the team, though not of its individuals. Personalities are clear in how they’ll work together. Motivations have generally been set for the team as a whole as to their rivalry with older superhero teams and being “kids.” And their general dynamic is laid out well.

The most impressive thing to me is that this is all one issue. No one character an issue. No spreading it out over a trade. They all come together and do battle in one comic that you can pick up, enjoy, and not have to read anything else. It feels special in a weird way because of that. And that fact it’s a one and day may be the most dated thing about it.

The art by Mark Bagley with ink by Al Williamson and color by Michael Rockwitz is good and though looks of the time you can see Bagley’s style that I’ve come to love with his more recent work (I really got to know his art when he returned to Marvel in 2011). There’s some of the flow and character design that he still uses today, but styles have changed since this was published so while it’s familiar, Bagley’s work today is very different from this. Still, it’s great to look at and both the action sequences and more chill scenes all work well and flow.

27 years later, the comic is still entertaining and a solid read. It’s not too expensive to pick up either and it feels like the timing is right for these characters to be seeing a revival some time soon, so check it out before they become a “thing” again.

Story: Fabian Nicieza Art: Mark Bagley Ink: Al Williamson
Letter: Michael Hegler Color: Michael Rockwitz
Story: 8.35 Art: 8.35 Overall: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy

Preview: Al Williamson’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Artist’s Edition HC

Al Williamson’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Artist’s Edition HC

Archie Goodwin (w) • Al Williamson (a & c)

Al Williamson’s career is crammed full of amazing accomplishments: star artist for the EC Comics line while barely in his twenties, drawing the definitive comic-book version of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, producing the X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan comic Strip for 10 years, plus many more!

Williamson’s classic run on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is legendary among fans of classic comic art. His heroic adventure style was perfectly suited for the Star Wars franchise—so much so that Williamson was George Lucas’ first choice for the Star Wars newspaper comic strip (which he would later go on to draw). This incredible Artist’s Edition collects all of Williamson’s Empire work, as well as selected pages from Return of the Jedi and other Star Wars pages by this renowned artist. The Force is strong in this book, don’t you dare miss it!

HC • BW • $95.00 net discount item • 160 Pages • 15” x 22” • ISBN: 978-1-63140-587-7

Williamsons_SW-Cover

Have Them Fight God: Spyral versus Spider-Girl

I’m reading every Fantastic Four comic and posting four thoughts about each. My interest in Marvel characters is inversely proportional to Fox’s ability to market films about them.

Today it’s…

Spider-Girl #3

…from December, 1998. The comic in which Spider-Girl properly introduces us to the MC2 Universe’s Fantastic Five.

‘Spider-Girl’ being May Parker, Peter’s teenage daughter.

‘The MC2 Universe’ being an alternate continuity in which Peter Parker has a teenage daughter.

‘Five’ being a number that’s one bigger than four but which happily still alliterates.

Written by Tom DeFalco. Pencilled by Pat Olliffe. Inked by Al Wiliamson. Lettered by Dave Sharpe. Coloured by Christie Scheele.

thefive

ONE

Things have changed for May since What If #105/Spider-Girl #0. Many of them linguistic.  For example, there have been efforts to give her an official adjective. It’s ‘stunning’ as in  “The Stunning Spider-Girl.” I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The zero issue’s key phrase (“feeling loose and slamming heat”) now seems well on the way to becoming the series’ catchphrase, but in the process is undergoing some variation. Issue one kept with the classic “feeling loose and slamming heat,” but then issue two had “cracking wise and slamming heat.” Issue two also saw May, under relentless attack from a baddie, complain, “I can barely stand — a-and he’s slamming heat!”

Also in flux is the narratorial voice. In issue zero the narrator was explicitly omniscient and external to May’s point of view, given to informing her in the second person of information of which she was unaware (“unknown to you, your parents whisper and huddle in the bleachers”). That started to change over the past two issues as the narrator became more and more aligned with May’s inner monologue. The voice haranguing May became her own as she questioned, congratulated and castigated herself. For a while in the second issue we had two narrators, one of whom was May and one of whom was not, both of whom offered their commentary in visually identical text boxes and both of whom addressed ‘May’ as “you.”  We also had two streams of May’s inner monologue; the narrator when she held that role and her thought balloons when she did not.

Things seem to have settled down by issue three’s denouement.

“Franklin Richards thinks you’re good people! Could he be any more scrumptious?” Says the narrator to May.

“I’m sure we’ll meet again, Spider-Girl!” Says Franklin to May.

“Believe it, cutie!” Says the narrator.

cutie

There’s no coming back from “Believe it, cutie!”

That’s not even one of May’s self-reflective thoughts. That’s just one of her thoughts. Franklin rather than May is the unhearing addressee. The narration boxes are May’s now, to fill with whatever she likes. It feels like she’s just won her first battle for control of her story.

In other theatres, those battles are still ongoing. After the events of issue zero, her parents ruled that her being Spider-Girl was to have been a one-time escapade and that’s that. Peter’s old Spider-gear has been ceremonially burned and they’ve drawn a line under the whole thing. Remarkably, there doesn’t even seem to be much of an ongoing conversation about all this in the Parker household. Over the course of two nights, May acquired superpowers, learned that her father used to be Spider-Man, and apprehended a would-be murderer. The parental line on this seems to be, “Well, that was a thing that happened. Back to normal now. Let’s say no more about it.” I know Peter has a somewhat avoidant personality, but I really feel he should be checking in with his daughter a little more about the whole business. Mary Jane sort of is, but all she’s really throwing May’s way are vague insinuations and recriminations. I’m not sure how she expects these to be helpful.

You can imagine how May’s handling this. She’s dressing up as a Spider-Person and sneaking out at night to fight crime. Of course she is. The reasons she’s giving herself for this behaviour are all painfully spurious but, to be fair, she’s had no guidance on how she’s supposed to process acquiring superpowers, learning that her father used to be Spider-Man, and apprehending a would-be murderer over the course of two nights. Dressing up as a Spider-Person and sneaking out at night to fight crime is a perfectly reasonable way to try and puzzle out who you are when you’ve just been left with those experiences and told to sweep them under the carpet.

Unfortunately, the practical subterfuge necessary to sneak about being a secret spider, and the emotional distance that comes from practicing subterfuge, has driven a rift between May and her parents. Her parents to whom it has not occurred that this rift, along with her changed mood and behavior, might have something to do with that time a couple of days ago when she  acquired superpowers, learned that her father used to be Spider-Man, and apprehended a would-be murderer. They seem to think she’s just randomly being a bit of a dick, and are kind of passive-aggressive about it.

The press and the general public are also as yet unaware that there’s new spider in town, but other superheroes are starting to catch on. Issue two saw her subject to the sceptical scrutiny of the mysterious ‘Darkdevil’, but this issue is where she officially, if accidentally, joins the superhero community and starts making connections. This is where she gets in with “the greatest heroes of her world.”

TWO

The Fantastic Five have never really been absent from this comic. Since DeFalco’s “Sixteen Years later…” world doesn’t want to speculate about what the Space Year Two Thousand and Twelve might be like, or to make explicit its shrewd choice that Nineteen Ninety-Eight is sixteen years on from Nineteen Ninety-Six, that creates a kind of cultural vacuum around its teenage characters. May’s ‘Girl Power’ t-shirt represents the limit of how directly they can allude to contemporary pop culture, but DeFalco’s reticent to fabricate a fictional pop culture for them to engage with instead. This comic wants its teenage cast to have posters of their favourite celebrities on their walls, but where is it to look for viable celebrities?

Knowing that the FF are celebrity superheroes, it has so far looked to them. And specifically to Franklin Richards, to whom the characters then look with starry eyes. Again there a whiff of vindicatory fantasy to what DeFalco’s doing here. Psi-Lord, the young adult Franklin he introduced in his Fantastic Four run, didn’t really work. But here’s a universe where Psi-Lord, another young adult Franklin, is considered to work so well that everyone’s utterly smitten with him. At one point May warns a villain that he’s risking the wrath of all women everywhere by attacking Franklin. So far the evidence on the page suggests that this is an objectively true fact about the MC2 universe. This world appears to have a universally desired heart-throb called Psi-Lord.

The status of the Fantastic Five as “the world’s most famous super-team” does not rest entirely on Franklin’s dishiness. They’ve a major public profile, with the first ten floors of the Fantastic Five Building given over to a museum of their exploits and the entire skyscraper thought of as a shrine. They’re a brand, and understood as such by the teenagers who identify with them and compare them against others. “I know that new Avengers team has been capturing the big headlines lately,” says May’s crush Brad, “But I’m strictly an FF man.”

May’s social group gives us an insight into how the FF brand works, because May’s social group is all over the place. Her personal high school drama, which the book has been contrasting with Peter’s from the start, arises from May being too popular. Her personality, prowess and interests make her appealing to a wide cross-section of broadly characterised nerds and jocks who all cluster around her with demands on her time and emotional labour. So when the Fantastic Five are mentioned in this group, we can get a good look at how the brand is read.

Nerdy Jimmy brings them up first in the context of something he’s read in the science section of the Bugle concerning their recent findings and May’s main girl Davida mocks him for this as a ‘geek’. Are the FF then a geek brand? Seems not, as the jocks then show up to enthuse about them as superheroes. So far we’ve got three vectors towards engagement with the Fantastic Five; Interest in Franklin Richards as a dreamboat, interest in them as scientists and interest in them as superheroes. The important thing about all of these is that none of them are based on the past. The attraction is towards who Franklin Richards is now, the scientific interest is in what they’ve recently discovered and the superhero fanboy discourse is about contrasting them with “that new Avengers team.” In the first of these articles we contrasted the marketing of the Two Thousand and Eight Iron Man film with that of the Marvel Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Clearly the way the Fantastic Five are marketed within the MC2 universe is closer to how the Iron Man film was in ours. They are not a heritage brand.

Which makes the museum a curious place. Here’s what it has on display; Puppet Master stuff, Inhuman stuff, Wizard stuff, Namor stuff, Doctor Doom stuff, Willie Lumpkin stuff, Watcher stuff, Impossible Man stuff, Yancy Street stuff, Galactus stuff, Silver Surfer stuff, Red Ghost stuff and Agatha Harkness stuff. Not only is everything we see from the team’s past as the Fantastic Four but it’s all specifically from the Stan n’ Jack era. In fact, everything except for the huge display about Agatha Harkness represents something from the first half of the the Stan n’ Jack era. Do punters have a nice time at this museum, do you suppose? Are their expectations met by exhibits of which Agatha Harkness is the most contemporary? Are Franklin’s constituency satisfied by a wall-sized headshot of his old nanny?

I’m not sure. But on another level it all makes sense once the fighting starts. Once violence breaks out in the museum then what we have is May Parker struggling to make sense of her situation and keep herself safe whilst surrounded by re-purposed detritus of Marvel Silver Age. That’s a visual symbol of everything she’s been through so far. Finding out the truth about her father and her powers. Being evaluated by ‘Darkdevil’. So far May’s story has all been about her being confronted with the detritus of Marvel Silver Age and being challenged to work out what it all has to do with her. She knows it’s something. She’s learned that she’s not the person she thought she was and she learned that the reason for that has to do with an association between her and the detritus of Marvel’s Silver Age. Now she has to work out the details. She must ask how this iconography fits as a part of her and, thanks to the narratorial strategy, you are being asked how it fits as part of YOU.

May’s provisional solution to the problem has been to become Spider-Girl, but she’s really not sure about that. She has a lot of doubts about the identity on every level. Again and again she questions the name, coming back on multiple occasions to both ‘Spider-Woman’ and ‘Spider-Person’ as perhaps preferable.

She doesn’t yet know who she’s trying to be and doesn’t know why she’s trying to be it. The reason this issue gives for her secret life as Spider-Girl is that it’s to “continue the family tradition” but this issue is also very clear that this secret life is against her family’s wishes, unknown to her family, and driving a wedge between her and them. There is no conceivable way that May can possibly believe this is something she’s doing for her family. This is something she’s doing for herself as she figures herself out.

One exchange with Franklin makes her ambivalence very clear.

“I’ve got a hunch that there’s going to be a publicity maelstrom when the world hears about you!”

“Really?!” she says. “I’d rather keep a low profile.”

“Then why wear such a conspicuous costume?” he asks.

May’s stumped. She genuinely has been trying to conceal that there’s a new Spider-Person active in New York whilst dressed as a Spider-Person.  All this is a process of her trying to work out who she is and what face she wants to show the world, and she’s really not there yet.

Sadly for her, the most preferable option is not on the table. May Parker can’t be Bat-Person.

It’s easy to think that Batman is a darker story than Spider-Man if you mistake tone for content and colour scheme for narrative. It really isn’t. Bruce Wayne witnessed a tragedy for which he was not responsible and became Batman, a healing. Peter Parker witnessed a tragedy for which he was responsible and became Spider-Man, an open wound.

Being Batman is either good for Bruce or as good as it gets for Bruce. Being Spider-Man is not good for Peter, a man who is emotionally unsuited to being a superhero in just about every way but who has got it into his head that people will die if he isn’t one. Spider-Man is not okay. Spider-Man is a character who’s quipping constantly to push the panic down, whose tagline was once “New York’s Neurotic Super-Hero!” and whose signature power is literally weaponised anxiety. Being Batman is Bruce’s gift to himself. Being Spider-Man is Peter’s gift to the world. Being Spider-Man is not good for Peter. One of the things DeFalco has said the MC2 is there to do is to provide a happy ending for Peter. In the MC2, and in any plausible happy ending for Peter, Peter is not Spider-Man. While Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? has Bruce’s happy ending right; He gets to be Batman.

Bruce Wayne’s symbolic strategies for becoming his finest self have proved effective enough to replicate on an industrial scale. Scores of characters have interacted with the sign of the bat and the stories of almost all those characters, from Barbara Gordon to Steph Brown, from Brane Taylor to Bat Cow, from Tim Drake to Kate Kane, has been the story of them drawing on the potency of that brand, and the structure of the ‘Bat Family’ to work out who they are, to own that, and to excel at it. Not to become Batman or to please Batman, Kathy Kane made it clear from the start that neither of those things would be required, but to become themselves for themselves.

The sign of the bat is a tool for self-actualisation. The sign of the spider is a tool for self-sacrifice or self-negation.  

Dick Grayson, the first Robin, understands the contrast. His 2014 series Grayson saw him negate himself to infiltrate an intelligence agency called ‘Spyral.’ In the sixth issue he explained what this meant.

“The Flying Grayson. Nightwing. Robin. […] They were about inspiration, comfort, trust, family. I gave that up to become a spy. A spider man.”

i shall become a spider

Grayson #6

The bat is a place to grow. The spider is a place to hide. May Parker’s in trouble. She’s trying to build a bat out of spider parts.

THREE

This story is titled Fun ‘n’ Games with The Fantastic Five. Let’s meet these funsters.

Spider-Girl_Vol_1_3

Franklin Richards does not seem to have gone Bieber under the strain of adulation. His main character traits seem to be curiosity, politeness, and clarity of thought. He seems a perfectly pleasant and well-adjusted young man and I’ve no idea how he squares that with going around calling himself ‘Psi-Lord.’ He is in the middle of growing out a mullet.

Lyja, the Skrull who was Alica in that retcon, is now going by ‘Ms Fantastic.’ That is not an obvious name to have taken. In DeFalco’s Fantastic Four run there was much agonising over whether or not she still counted as Johnny’s wife given that they only married because she was Alica in that retcon. Here though, they remain wed. We don’t get much insight into the relationship, which is a shame because I really want to know about the family dynamics that lead to her adopting and adapting her brother-in-law’s Action Name. However it came about, it is a very strong statement for Lyja the Skrull who was Alica in that retcon to now be the one who carries the team’s name within her own.

She obviously carries the name well. The Fantastic Five brand is thriving with her as Ms Fantastic. May even says that she had a poster of her on her wall when she was a kid. Which is interesting, because it’s said as if it’s the sort of thing one naturally grows out of. As if having a poster of one of the Fantastic Five on your wall is a thing of childhood. Yet we know that the MC2’s teenagers are super-into the FF and that May would be as happy to have a picture of Franklin up in her room as Jessica Jones was to have one of Johnny. Why is Lyja something that you grow out of? My theory is that she’s thought of as the kids’ favourite. She’s the green lady who turns into terrifying giant alien insects. I think children love her. I think children love her because they think she’s creepy, gross and cool and, since old people don’t recognise her as a classic member of the team, they get to claim her as theirs. 

Big Brain is Reed Richards’ brain inside a little flying robot.

John Storm is the leader of the team. Not Johnny. John. He’s the leader now. John Storm. We see John Storm  give one order. It is met with “I’m way ahead of you, Johnny!” from Reed. All other orders are given by Reed. They include “Back off, Johnny!” to a hot-headed Human Torch who is impetuously rushing into combat.   

Ben’s here too. There feels something vaguely sour about him. I hope he’s okay. We only get one of his catchphrases, and that’s from the narrator, and his violence against May seems to go beyond the established bounds of the misunderstanding-fuelled superhero punch-up and to continue past the point where everyone else is sorting things out. He has metal bits. On the cover these include one of his thighs, but inside the comic they’re all on his upper body, so perhaps they’re clearing up.

Much about the balance of the team is implied in a conversation between Franklin and May regarding an astonishing claim made by the antagonist regarding the nature of reality.

“I suppose it’s possible,” says Franklin, “My dad gives him the benefit of the doubt. Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lyja don’t care. And Uncle Ben…well…let’s just say he thinks the guy’s full of it!”

Ascertaining the truth of the claim is of no interest to two of the five, and one remains openly hostile to inquiry. Three of the Fantastic Five, including the leader, can’t be bothered with doing science. But the Fantastic Five remain scientific adventures and continue to make headlines as such. The surface level agenda of the team remains Reed’s.

FOUR

I’ve never read an issue of Spider-Gwen that lived up to her first appearance in Edge of Spider-Verse. My suspicion is that there isn’t one. My further suspicion is that that’s because that first appearance was the only time she was ever on the edge of the Spider-Verse.

The distinction between ‘street level’ and ‘cosmic’ superheroes is kind of a dodgy one most tightly cleaved to by people up to something really tedious like trying to objectively prove who could beat up who or trying to insist that the Punisher can’t be a Frankenstein. It’s a nonsense. You can say more about the soul in a Daredevil comic than you can in Doctor Strange. Darkseid is a Jimmy Olsen villain. All superheroes are cosmic. Have them fight God.

But there are some ways in which ‘the cosmic’ can hobble the telling of a ‘street-level’ superhero story, and that is to do with how they frame the space where the story is told.

Back when you had a Lyja poster on your wall, you were probably told at least two versions of ‘The Three Little Pigs.’ The version where the wolf meets its end immediately after the assault on house three, and the version where they go to the fair afterwards. Your response was probably to process them as two different tellings of the story, rather than to hypothesise the existence of a multiverse in which both were true. They share a space in that they both go in the box labelled ‘versions of The Three Little Pigs’, but they don’t demand that you imagine a fictional space called ‘The Three Little Pigs Multiverse’ which houses both narratives as stable and persistent accounts of events.

Wikipedia’s pages on Disney comics are often an incredible mess of wrongness. The influence of how superhero comics are discussed on how all comics are discussed, and the weight accorded to Don Rosa’s wonderfully cranky and completely atypical work, means that the doings of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are talked about in terms of ‘continuities’ and ‘universes.’ Universes! What a word! What a concept to apply! As if there’s a fictional cosmology needed to explain why different sorts of things happen in Italian Duck comics and Scandinavian ones rather than it just being a matter of different traditions.

It is incredible how much the language of science-fiction has been absorbed into how we account for differences in stories. Duckberg contains no ostriches according to Carl Barks’ The Tuckered Tiger. Donald has a pet ostrich in the Al Taliaferro newspaper strips. This discrepancy does not constitute proof that the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics holds true in either fiction. It does not make those stories into universes.

When Marvel launched its ‘Ultimate’ line it knew that it was important for that retelling of its material, that version of its Three Little Pigs, to be understood as a retelling and not as something sharing a fictional space with the existing material. That would eventually change, but early on the point was stressed that the Ultimate books did not share a ‘multiverse’ with the stories they retold and would not be interacting with the Marvel universe. They were a different version of the story, not part of the story of a shared cosmology.

Spider-Gwen was awesome because she was a version of the Spider story in which Gwen was the Spider-Person and Peter the beautiful corpse. She got to be that for most of one issue, and then she crossed the edge of the Spider-Verse. Thereafter she was the Spider-Woman of Earth-65. It couldn’t be helped, given the circumstances of her creation, but her interaction with the multiverse came disastrously early for the character. It robbed her of her right to establish herself as a version of the story and instead established her as something that only makes sense as a component of a structure that houses her alongside the original.

Officially, all the different DC ‘universes’ we saw in between Crisis on Infinite Earths’ destruction of the DC multiverse and its vague and creeping reintroduction in the early Two Thousands weren’t universes at all. They were simply versions, simply stories. There was no shared fictional cosmology for them to abide within. Conversely, all the Marvel ‘universes’ that we saw in What If?  were absolutely officially components of a Marvel multiverse. There were out there somewhere. The Watcher told us so. In practise however it was hard to read them like that. They didn’t often look like worlds. They looked like thought experiments.

Three issues on from spinning-off out of What If?  then Spider-Girl  has to decide what it is, or at least how it presents itself. It is officially a part of the Marvel multiverse, but how much does that matter to the story? To what extent is this book telling the story of Spider-Girl and to what extent is it telling the story of the Spider-Girl of Earth-982? What’s the stage on which this is set? Does it go with the strategy that the Ultimate universe will or the strategy that circumstance foisted on Spider-Gwen?

This is a world where Mary Jane kept her daughter. How much does the world where she didn’t matter to this story?

DeFalco has thought about this very carefully. Maybe not with reference to Spider-Gwen and the Ultimate universe, since they haven’t happened yet, and possibly even without reference to Donald Duck’s pet ostrich, but he’s identified all the dangers anyway.

One of the functions of this issue is to introduce the Multiverse but also to create a buffer between it and May’s story. The Fantastic Five form part of that buffer. Huge structures of multiple worlds are their turf, not May’s, and her involvement with it is a consequence of her interaction with them. This has long been one of the things that the FF are for for regard to ‘street level’ characters; Providing a bridge between them and big science-fiction. The FF are what you invoke when you want a reason for Daredevil to be on a space rocket.

Another way that May’s story is shielded from the multiverse is by scepticism. That other universes exist is only asserted here by the story’s villain. He says he’s from one. Franklin supposes it’s possible, Reed gives him the benefit of the doubt, Johnny and Lyja don’t care, and Ben thinks he’s a gobshite. Based purely on what’s presented in this issue, the existence of a multiverse is completely doubtable.

The third buffer, and I think this is the cleverest and most delicate, is that DeFalco never confirms which universe our antagonist is from. He wants the fun of being able to compare the Fantastic Five to the Fantastic Four, but does so in such a fuzzy way that there’s nothing to say that he’s talking about the main Marvel universe. The world where Mary Jane lost her daughter is not introduced into the the story of the world where she did not.

We know very little about the villain or the world he’s trying to get back to. His aged appearance imply that he’s been away for some time.  What families and comforts has he left behind? He’s got very little apparent personality, very little self. His name’s Spyral.   

Al Williamson’s Classic Star Wars Gets an Artist’s Edition Courtesy of IDW

Al Williamson Classic Star WarsThe legendary late artist Al Williamson’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back stories are collected in the award-winning Artist’s Edition format this April. Included will be the complete adaptation, first published in issues #39 through #44 of the monthly Marvel Star Wars comic. In addition, pages from Star Wars #50, #98 and the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi mini series will also be presented.

Williamson began his storied career as one of the star artists at EC Comics in the 1950s. In the 1960s Williamson drew the definitive comic-book version of Flash Gordon, Alex Raymond’s classic comic strip creation. Other highlights of Williamson’s work include the X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan newspaper strip, as well as the Star Wars newspaper strip. He is an Eisner Award-winning artist and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic-Book Hall of Fame in 2000.

This incredible Artist’s Edition will be a 160 page hardcover and measure a whopping 14”x21”. The Force is strong in this book, don’t you dare miss it!

Zeismic
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