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Preview: Demi-God #2

Demi-God #2

Ron Marz (w) • Andy Smith (a)

Millennial slacker Jason McAndros has inherited the god-like power of Hercules. Unfortunately, Jason also inherited his god-like attitude and arrogance. Instead of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Jason’s heroic creed is Pleasure, Profits, and “My way or the highway.” But Jason’s outsized actions attract the interest of the police, as well as the dangerous Tirrus Corporation.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Preview: Demi-God #1

Demi-God #1

Story: Ron Marz
Art: Andy Smith
Color: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Steve Dutro
Cover A: Andy Smith, Michael Atiyeh
Cover B: Bart Sears, Nanjan Jamberi
Retailer Incentive Cover A: Jeff Johnson, Michael Atiyeh
Retailer Incentive Cover B: Bob Layton, Michael Atiyeh

The next Ominous Universe title is here! With great power comes great… wait, how does that go again? Demi-God is a contemporary superhero tale like no other. When irresponsible slacker Jason McAndros suddenly gains the power of a god, the fourth wall isn’t the only thing he breaks! As Jason revels in his newfound might, he begins calling himself Hercules and indulging in his every whim.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Review: Cable: The Nemesis Contract

It’s Tuesday which means it’s new comic book day at book stores! This week we’ve got Cable!

Cable: The Nemesis Contract collects Cable (1993) #59-70 and Annual ’99 and X-Man #45-47 by Joe Casey, Karl Bollers, Michael Higgins, Terry Kavanagh, Jose Ladronn, Stephen Platt, Andy Smith, German Garcia, Alitha E. Martinez, Mark Pajarillo, and J.H. Williams III.

Get your copy. To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
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IDW Partners with Ominous Press

IDW Publishing has announced a partnership with Ominous Press to bring a new line of epic adventure comics to the market. The brainchild of comic art master Bart Sears, Ominous Press will tell stories of larger-than-life heroes and villains in fantasy and science-fiction settings.

Ominous Press had a brief, initial life in the mid-’90s, before the crash of the comic market brought down so many fledgling publishers. Now Ominous Press returns, releasing all-new material through IDW beginning in July. Ominous Press is comprised of Chief Creative Officer Bart Sears, Publisher Sean HusVar, Editor-in-Chief Ron Marz, and Art Director Andy Smith.

The initial lineup of Ominous Press titles is: Dread Gods, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Tom Raney, in which gods in a fantasy world discover they’re actually monsters in a post-apocalyptic hell;  Giantkillers, written and drawn by Bart Sears, telling the story of a broken warrior who must protect a child destined to be the universe’s last hope against the ultimate villain; and Demi-God, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Andy Smith, about a fame-seeking hero gaining great power, but forgetting the great responsibility part.

Each title will initially launch as a four-issue mini-series. Each series stands alone, intended to be read independently, but with connecting plot threads that create a larger canvas.

Dread Gods will be the first title, with issue #1 debuting in July. Dread Gods #1 will have a standard cover by series artist Tom Raney, a wraparound cover by Bart Sears, and incentive covers by Kenneth Rocafort (1-in-10) and the legendary Neal Adams (1-in-25). Dread Gods #1 will be an oversize 48-page issue, including the lead feature by Marz and Raney, a backup story by Bart Sears, and a wealth of additional content, all for $3.99. Giantkillers and then Demi-God will follow.

The marriage of Ominous Press and IDW was spearheaded by IDW Editor-in-Chief David Hedgecock.

Ominous Press will have a presence with IDW at July’s Comic-Con International as the publishing line launches.

Ominous Press Returns with World Premiere #1

Ominous Press created a splash in the comics market two decades ago, telling epic tales of powerful heroes and vile villains. Now Ominous Press has returned, preparing to launch three new titles in 2017: Giantkillers, written and drawn by Bart Sears; Prometheus, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Tom Raney; and Demi-God, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Andy Smith.

All three titles are previewed in the first Ominous offering, Ominous Press World Premiere. Meant as an introduction to the characters and concepts of the Ominous Universe, the 24-page issue features short preview stories for each title, as well as a wealth of background information.

Giantkillers is a sword and sorcery epic set in a cyber-noir landscape. Prometheus tells the tale of heroes in a mythic fantasy who suddenly find themselves in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. And Demi-God is a contemporary superhero tale like no other, as an irresponsible slacker gets the power of a god.

The Ominous Press World Premiere is available with a standard cover, blank sketch covers, and three limited, wraparound variant covers by Bart Sears and colorist Nanjan Jamberi. Sears, the Chief Creative Officer at Ominous, is excited to finally be bringing his creations to life.

The Ominous Press World Premiere is available online via the Ominous Press website in both signed and unsigned versions.

Have Them Fight God: Can We Know if Deadpool Drowns Nuns?

I’m reading every Fantastic Four comic and posting four thoughts about each. They won’t all be interesting to everyone. The comics or the thoughts. Dip in as you like.  

Today it’s…

Deadpool #35

Deadpool_Vol_1_35

… from December 1999. A comic in which Deadpool tells the story of his first encounter with superheroes.

Storytelling by Christopher Priest, Paco Diaz and Andy Smith. Inks by Smith, Holdredge and Pepoy. Colours by Shannon Blanchard. Letters by RS & Comicraft’s Troy Peteri. Edited by Ruben Diaz.

ONE

A mysterious scientist holds Deadpool prisoner in a big tube! The same mysterious scientist also holds Death herself prisoner! In a separate big tube! Deadpool is slowly turning into snot!

What is going on? Who is this mysterious scientist? Who is he working for? What is he trying to achieve? How did he capture Death herself? How funny was snot to this book’s intended audience?

It would be easy for me to learn the answers to nearly all those questions.

All I would have to do is read the next couple of issues in this arc. They would almost certainly clear things up nicely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I was trying to write some sort of helpful guide to continuity or aspiring to speak with any sort of authority then I should probably read those issues. Not going to. I’m not aspiring to authority and I’m not interested in being helpful.  I’m just reading every Fantastic Four comic and posting four thoughts about each, and since one of this week’s thoughts is literally just “I’m not very keen on Deadpool” then I won’t be reading any more issues of Deadpool than I have to.  

Here’s the thing though. We’re not considering this comic today out of interest in Deadpool’s tube/Death/snot situation. We’re considering it because, from within that tube, Deadpool tells a story. It’s the story of the first time he ever met a superhero. He tells us that he’d never even seen one before the events he here narrates. This is first contact between Deadpool and the superfolk. This is the day he met Ben Grimm.

That story is both smaller and bigger than the story about the big tubes and the snot. It is smaller because it is all wrapped up in this issue, while the story about the big tubes looks like it maybe goes on for another two. It is bigger because it’s part of the ongoing narrative of how Deadpool fits into the world in which he lives.

If I were to read issues #36 and #37 of this volume of Deadpool then I feel confident that I would arrive at what I might reasonably take as secure knowledge regarding the questions asked above. What’s going on? Who is this mysterious scientist working for and what is he trying to achieve? How did he capture Death herself? I reckon I’d find out. I reckon those comics would be happy to tell me.

But if my question was “Who was the first superhero that Deadpool ever met?” then what would it take for me to arrive at what might reasonably be considered secure knowledge regarding that?

Just this issue, perhaps? After all, this issue presents Deadpool’s narration as broadly reliable (by explicitly correcting it in the places where it is not) and clearly has Deadpool tell us the story of the first time he met a superhero. Maybe just this issue is all we need to feel confident saying that Ben Grimm was the first superhero Deadpool ever met.

Come on, though. This comic came out in Nineteen Ninety-Nine. Would you take the bet that, seventeen years on, it remains an Astonishing True Fact of the Marvel Universe that the first hero Deadpool met was Ben Grimm? I wouldn’t.

The mysterious forces that 1602’s Reed Richards identified as working to endlessly prolong superheroes’ stories prevent us from ever reaching a point where we can stand back, cross our arms and regard their stories in totality. Maybe you’re a bit of a Deadpool expert and can tell me who, in Two Thousand and Sixteen, is currently understood to be the first superhero that Deadpool ever met. Maybe you can even tell me that my suspicions are unfounded and that it remains Ben Grimm. What you can’t tell me is that the matter is settled and that we’ve arrived at concrete and final knowledge. A new revelation, wrinkle or retcon could always be around the corner.

Deadpool_Killustrated_Vol_1_4_Textless copy

Deadpool has met both Moby Dick and Sherlock Holmes, and much fannish and/or theoretical discussion is possible about where the boundaries of those characters’ stories lie. What is a novel? What is a canon? That sort of thing. A sort of thing that’s functionally meaningless when discussing characters involved in massively multi-authored, multi-decade superhero narratives. We know that these characters’ texts have no boundaries, just an endless space into which they’re constantly expanding. These narratives are not reaching for any stable point where what has been asserted as true can be trusted to remain so.  

You’ve probably seen Chris Tolworthy’s fascinating and enviable project ‘The Fantastic Four 1961-1989 Was The Great American Novel.’ If you haven’t, you can probably guess what it’s up to from the title. It’s the Fantastic Four considered as a novel, and that’s a trick it’s able to pull off thanks to the ‘1961-1989’ part. Setting that limit and slamming the door on the Fantastic Four’s endless expansion is what allows that project to treat the work as something novel-shaped. Without that “1961-1989”, or a similar limitation, then the Fantastic Four can only be considered as a big pile of comics.

I’ve had a go at setting a limit for this project, Have Them Fight God. The first issue of Secret Wars IV ends with the destruction of the Marvel Universe. So that seemed like a good place.

obit

That sets limits.

Sure, a (disputed) number of the Fantastic Four survived the end of the Marvel Universe and helped create its replacement, but nevertheless it’s been stated that “The Marvel Universe 1961-2015” was a thing. A thing that ended. A sufficient object of enquiry. We can make confident statements about what was ‘true’ within “The Marvel Universe 1961-2015” without having to worry that a forthcoming development will reveal that Steve Rogers was secretly running Hydra’s MySpace page all along. It becomes a stable truth that whoever the first superhero Deadpool met was whoever he was said to have first met when the music stopped in Secret Wars IV.

The only way for that to be challenged would be for a proposition made on the same narrative level as “The Marvel Universe 1961-2015 was a discrete entity” to come along and assert that it wasn’t. We’re able to treat the fictional construct that existed between those years as something like a novel for as long as we can consider 1961 and 2015 to be something like endpapers.   

This might already be being challenged. During Secret Wars IV it was in Marvel’s interest to put it about that events of unprecedented import were afoot; that the universe created in 1961 was no more and that a new world had replaced it. After Secret Wars IV it was naturally in Marvel’s interest to put it about that it was business as usual, that we should maintain our prior level of investment and continue with our habitual buying of their product. Al Ewing’s post-Secret Wars IV comics have talked about how the universe has been destroyed on seven occasions and is now in its eighth iteration. That’s a proposition made on the same narrative level as “the Marvel Universe 1961-2015 was a discrete entity” that seems to suggest it wasn’t. This death and rebirth of universes malarky happens all the time and it’s no big deal and we shouldn’t worry too much about it and should all carry on as we were.     

It seems even moves to give these fictions stable limits can be briskly destabilized. Have Them Fight God will still just be considering the Fantastic Four 1961-2016 but has no aspirations to consider it as a novel. The Fantastic Four 1961-2016 Was A Big Pile Of Comics.

TWO

Deadpool tells a story. It starts with him about to drown a nun and ends with him refusing to allow a child to die. It is very much about him working out his values.

“It suddenly mattered to me […],” he recollects from inside his big tube. “Y’know… where the line was.”

He could probably get a head start on finding that line by thinking about what differentiates the two atrocities. Throwing a tied-up nun into the East River is extravagantly appalling. Being complicit in the death of a child is banal. It reads right for Deadpool to be capable of the first evil but not the second because there is a transgressive pleasure to be had in breaking taboos around religion and respect. The statement “Deadpool drowned a nun” might typically be expected to elicit a gasp and a nervous giggle. The statement “Deadpool killed a child” might typically be expected to provoke revulsion. It’s not how the two actions work morally that set them apart, but how they work textually. He is capable of one because it’s the right sort of horrific and incapable of the other because it’s the wrong sort of horrific.

So there he is on the Brooklyn Bridge, puzzling this all out. Murdering the nun is a “routine snatch and croak” for him, and he’s treating his bound and gagged victim to a monologue on how he longs for something more. He still intends to kill her, and it appears he eventually does so after it’s revealed that she has a moustache, but he is frightfully bored by the whole carry-on.

Whatever it is he’s looking for, whatever line suddenly matters to him, it will have to be found with reference to the genre in which he operates as a character. What is and isn’t okay for him to do is determined by how it reads rather than by a consistent and externally applicable moral philosophy. And how his actions are read is inextricable from the sort of fictional universe in which he performs them. It is a superhero universe.   

So what Deadpool needs to do, before he can achieve any sense of what sort of person he is, is work out what he is in relation to superheroes. Specifically, what he is in relation to the Fantastic Four. This issue is about Deadpool being confronted with his being a superhero-shaped non-superhero in a world that exists to tell superhero stories. This issue is him having a think about how he fits.

The obvious answer, given his nun-drowning starting point, is that he fits as a villain. As soon as he’s engaged with the world of the superfolk, then it’s the Manichean quality of the genre that strikes him..

“I was really impressed by the whole idea. Y’know…’Heroes’ and ‘Villains.’ As though life actually was that simple. I’d never really thought of myself as a villain — […] But, suddenly, something was different. Like all of a sudden it mattered how I defined myself.”

In both Two Thousand and Ten and in Nineteen Ninety Eight, the Top Trumps card game had a ‘Marvel Super Villains’ deck available alongside their pack of Marvel Super Heroes cards.

trumps

You know who is in which deck.

You know that Magneto is depicted right there next to the Red Skull, their ideological and moral differences erased by the fact that they’re both officially Villains.  No matter how much characterization and nuance might be applied to these imaginary people in the worlds where they exist as stories, the gravity of the world in which they are sold as spaghetti shapes will eventually drag them back to their determined category.

damn

Loki’s final action at the end of Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery is to damn the inhabitants of world outside his story. Loki knows that whatever he does within the fiction, however he might change and grow, Loki will still always end up in the Top Trumps Villains pack. The god of stories can’t trump the god of spaghetti. While there are characters who’ve been able to definitively switch category, they’re those on whom the gravity of SpagettiWorld only ever pulled lightly. Emma Frost gets to stay a hero, but Doctor Octopus will not. It matters too much outside the fiction that he’s a Marvel Super Villain. Similarly, Steve Rogers won’t get to stay a Nazi. He’s a Marvel Super Hero.  

Within the fiction of the Marvel Universe, then ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ are social constructs. People identify as superheroes because ‘superhero’ is a idea that exists in that world because the Fantastic Four had it. But ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ are also ontological categories because this is a fiction that is secondary to the business of selling duvet covers and socks and will contort itself to fit the process by which that is happening.

Deadpool is absolutely right in his intuition that something has suddenly changed for him. Interacting with the Marvel Universe, rather than just living an off-panel backstory, exposes him to the physics that will drag him to one Top Trumps deck or another. So we should probably be absolutely clear on the different ways in which a Marvel character can be considered a ‘hero’ or a ‘villain.’ There are three.  

  • Someone might be the hero of the story. Heroic fiction traditionally works by asserting values and presenting a character who exemplifies them. The things that the cartoon Steven Universe thinks are good are the things that the character Steven Universe represents. Steven Universe is the hero of his story.
  • Someone might be a hero in the story. ‘Hero’ exists as a job description in superhero universes and someone can quite easily hold down that job without being anything like a hero of their story. Extreme examples might be characters like the superheroes from The Boys who, as complete monsters, fail to align with the values presented as good by their text. They are the villains of their story but identifiably occupy the role of superhero within it. Less dramatic, but more important, examples, would be characters conscientiously doing superhero-ing but with little narrative weight. Look! There’s the Bulleteer and Plastic Man buzzing around towards the back of crowd scenes in Infinite Crisis! Are they heroes in Infinite Crisis? ‘Course they are. They’re heroes and they’re in Infinite Crisis. Are they the heroes of Infinite Crisis? Don’t be twp. They just buzz around at the back of crowd scenes.
  • Someone might be a hero regardless of story. The Punisher is not understood as a hero within the Marvel universe and none of this century’s notable runs on the character have treated him as exemplary of values they were purporting to be good. Ennis, Aaron and Remender were all quite agreed that what their damned and exhausted character exemplified and what their stories were working to exemplify were two different things. The Punisher is neither a hero within his stories or the hero of his recent stories. He’s still going in the Marvel Super Heroes Top Trumps deck though. Because he’s categorically a Marvel Super Hero in a sense that’s divorced from narrative. We’re all spaghetti in the end.   

All those go for “villain” too. So what looks simple to Deadpool, a clear hero/villain binary, are actually three different axes defining a space in which there’s a lot going on.

It’s easy to be misled though, when you’ve been invited to join the Frightful Four. Deadpool tries on two supervillainous roles in this story, experiencing a pure expression of the ‘villain as job description’ concept by getting a gig as a Hobgoblin stand-in and then teaming up with the Frightfuls.   Everything about the Frightful Four suggests a world of clear divisions. There exist heroes called the Fantastic Four, so there exist villains called the Frightful Four in response.  

The Wizard, their leader, almost seems perfectly designed to unify the ideas of ‘villain of the story’ and ‘villain in the story.’ Keep an eye on this guy. Originally a Human Torch baddie from Nineteen Sixty-Two, the Wizard endured to oppose the Fantastic Four in each of their book’s three final runs before its cancellation. There he is in the Hickman run. There he is in the Fraction run. There he is in the Robinson run. Being a Bad Man in each.

But what’s Bad about him exactly, what sort of wrongness he represents, is different every time. In the Hickman run the Wizard is wicked because he values ideas over people. In the Fraction run he is wicked because he subscribes to oppressive and exclusionary notions of family, and in the Robinson run he’s a generic bogeyman there to restore all the cliches that the previous runs had been subverting. There’s no need for the Wizard to ever have any consistent desires or ideology. He just exists to be a Bad Man. What ever kind of Bad Man the story needs.

We might have a bit of fun trying to assemble a consistent narrative of What Wittman Wants, but really he’s a villain because he’s a villain because he’s a villain. What he wants is the opposite of what the story thinks is good. If Jonathan Hickman is telling a story that contends that people are more important than ideas, then the Wizard’s all about Not That. If Matt Fraction is telling a story that contends that families don’t have to conform to oppressive norms then the Wizard thinks Oh Yes They Do. He is always at hand to help hide the gaps between being a villain in the story, of the story and regardless of the story by being exactly whatever kind of dick we are being asked to understand a dick to be.

Bentley ‘the Wizard’ Wittman is a remarkable (non)character though. Most people operating within the Fantastic/Frightful dichotomy are more freely mobile. The Frightfuls have barely had a member who wasn’t an amnesiac goodie, a mole, an alternate version of a hero, someone acting against their will, or someone who was later redeemed in some way. To be a member of the Frightful Four is to be a villain in the story, but there’s nothing about it that guarantees you the status of a villain of the story. Unless you’re the Wizard.

Trying to save Franklin’s life, Deadpool expresses what he’s come to understand about how heroism and villainy work. “This is just a gag, kid,” he says.  

THREE

I’m not very keen on Deadpool.

THREE

(cont.)

I’m not very keen on Deadpool.

Some of that might just be bad timing.

Halfway through Nineteen Ninety-Two, my childhood enthusiasm for Marvel comics wound down and off I drifted to get my teenage kicks from Dark Horse and VERTIGO. I didn’t drift back until Two Thousand and One.

So when I left, Deadpool was an entirely undeveloped ‘Spider-Man but a mercenary’ figure who I took to be of equal value and interest to characters like Gideon and Kane that his creators were also throwing at the wall back then.

And when I came back, Deadpool was there… and yet he wasn’t. In the early Two Thousands, the character existed in his own spaces and his own books, impinging on the consciousnesses of none but those inclined to seek him out. I was not among that number. Nothing of what I recalled about the character drew me towards him and every single person on the internet with ‘Deadpool’ in their screen name seemed like a total wanker..

See what’s happened there! By that point I had sat out the entire decade in which Joe Kelly created the version of the character that people actually like and I had failed to notice that the Gail Simone run was happening. Everything I’d been oblivious to had been everything with the potential to endear him to me. Wade Wilson, you and I were never meant to be.  

Then the Great Deadpool Explosion of the late 00’s happened. Not in response to the character’s appearance in Wolverine Origins, but in response to the anticipation of the character’s appearance in Wolverine Origins. A wave of enthusiasm built up when it was announced that the kid was gonna be in pictures, and then rolled right on over the disappointment of the film. Nobody was even still talking about Wolverine Origins by May of Two Thousand and Ten, a month in which there were nine comics published with Deadpool’s name in the title and a generous handful of others in which he featured. He’d become a significant part of Marvel’s publishing program. He’d become unignorable.

Sure, it was possible to ignore whatever was actually happening in books like Deadpool, Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool Team Up, Prelude to Deadpool Corps, Wolverine and Deadpool and the others, but it was impossible to ignore their ubiquity. It was equally impossible to ignore the character’s congruence with the values of a community that had adopted him. 4Chan’s /b/ forum was sadly still relevant at the time and its basic moral mechanism (“nihilism ∴ libertarianism expressed as cruelty”) was identical to the basic mechanism of a Deadpool joke. That culture understood him as theirs, and the particular way that the comics embraced meme culture showed that they agreed. The Deadpool of Two Thousand and Ten was 4chan as a superhero and everyone involved knew it.

So yeah, bad timing. The point at which I first had to think about Deadpool was not a point at which it was possible to like him.

 THREE

(cont)

I’m not very keen on Deadpool.

If you go to many British provincial alternative comedy nights then you’ll start to notice the same thing happening at about two out of every three. A male performer will romantically or sexually proposition a male member of the audience. A ha ha a ha hah ha. Oh, such japes!

There’s a lot going on with that, and most of it relates to discomfort and threat. The first thing to note is that it’s often done to abrogate threat. The male comedian wants to do a thing that requires propositioning a member of the audience and knows that it looks a particular sort of creepy if he starts cracking onto a woman from the stage, so instead he goes for a bloke. Fair enough.

Having started down this path to avoid discomfort and threat, the comedian then proceeds to re-introduce and exploit it. His target will be ideally be drinking lager and will, at some point in his life, have been described as a ‘geezer.’ The audience member who reads closest to a working class, blokish, heterosexual man will be selected to receive the comedian’s affections.

THE TENSION!

We know that we’re in the fundamentally liberal, middle-class setting of a twenty-first century British provincial alternative comedy night. But look what’s happening! A man we feel we cannot count on not to be homophobic is being wooed by another man! How does he feel? What will he say? We are invited to enjoy the hilarity of this danger and to enjoy the assumed discomfort of the target. We are to imagine him dying for our sins.

Look at the mechanics of that. We (and I’m using that pronoun because this is a joke that only works through absolute complicity) are creating a situation in which the very idea of male/male attraction becomes a joke by using the acceptability of male/male attraction. That homosexual desire is Officially Tolerated in that space is used to make a performance of homosexual desire into something humorous and uncomfortable. That’s some Foucauldian shit.

There are other jokes that work like that.

Deadpool is one of them.

This is a character who frequently expresses same sex desire but only ever under circumstances where it constitutes a joke about the incongruity of his behaviour or the discomfort of the object of his affections. Deadpool is allowed to fancy blokes to let us laugh at the idea of blokes fancying blokes. He might very well be Officially, Canonically Pansexual but functionally he is of no value whatsoever as queer representation. He works like the straight male comedian cracking on to the guy in the audience. He is a joke at our expense.     

FOUR

Two, or maybe four, thoughts ago, I took it for granted that even independent of considerations of narrative function, morality and branding Deadpool is a superhero-shaped concept. That feels intuitively true, but how does it work? What makes a thing like Deadpool and a thing like the Fantastic Four the same sort of thing? There are a lot of boring and obvious ways we might answer that question, but this issue goes

THREE

(No. No. No. Wait. THERE’S ANOTHER THING)

I’m not very keen on Deadpool. Can’t stress that enough.

Probably it’s just nerdy fan partisanship. A lot of the business of being emotionally invested in superheroes involves feeling protective of your faves. How vulnerable our little friends are! How assailed on all sides by the cruel words of the ignorant and the vicious whims of their writers! There’s a level of investment, differently expressed in different fan cultures, that leads us to see these characters as under our protection from the many threats they face.

One of those threats is the possibility of some bastard coming along and stealing what makes them special.

On tumblr I once posted a panel from Paul Tobin’s Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. A panel of Spidey bamboozling a foe with amusingly inappropriate quips.  Loads of notes, it got. Quite right too.  Paul Tobin’s Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man is the best. But then one of the notes…ONE OF THE NOTES…was someone saying…AND I QUOTE… “Since when did Spider-Man become Deadpool?” That wasn’t easy to type. My hands shake even now. There’s Spider-Man, there he is, bamboozling a foe with amusingly inappropriate quips. Like a spider can. And there’s someone, there they are, looking at that, LOOKING AT THAT, and thinking “Since when did Spider-Man become Deadpool?” Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

Not that Spider-Man’s really someone I feel protective about. He’ll be fine.

She-Hulk, on the other hand. Actual Best Superhero She-Hulk. Actual Official Fourth Wall Breaker of the Marvel Universe She-Hulk. I feel very protective and partisan regarding She-Hulk. Deadpool can empty his pouches onto the table and give her back her schtick RIGHT NOW, thankyouverymuch.  

FOUR

Two, or maybe six, thoughts ago, I took it for granted that, even independent of considerations of narrative function, morality and branding, Deadpool is a superhero-shaped concept. That feels intuitively true, but how does it work? What makes a thing like Deadpool and a thing like the Fantastic Four the same sort of thing? There are a lot of boring and obvious ways we might answer that question, but this issue goes for something surprisingly revealing.

When Deadpool first catches sight of Ben, he immediately starts thinking about what unites and divides them. “I wanted to ask the guy for his autograph,” he says. “Seems silly now. I mean — Here was a guy who’d found himself . A man who’d been disfigured and shunned by the public — but he’d somehow come to terms with things. I wanted to ask him how he did it. Buy the guy a brewskie. Instead I shot him.”

What appears immediately important there are their shared origins and their differing levels of success in responding to them. Ben’s disfigurement set him on the path to becoming the idol o’ millions and Wade’s disfigurement set him on the path to routine snatch and croaks. What’s really important though is that Ben is wearing bunny ears.

Nobody ever talked about Deadpool for long without talking about Looney Tunes, the vicious twentieth century cartoon series about reality-bending sadists taking lingering delight in the torture of their victims. Road Runner, Tweety Pie, Speedy Gonzales and Bugs Bunny, the most malicious incarnation of the folkloric rabbit trickster, twisted physics and causality into amusing shapes to delight us with the inventive ways that they could hurt people. Grant Morrison’s Animal Man story ‘The Coyote Gospel’ famously made the association between their theatre of cruelty and the superhero genre’s, but it’s apparent to everyone acquainted with Deadpool. Obviously this guy is something like Bugs Bunny.

But it’s Ben wearing the ears.

ears

“I’m just treading water,” says Deadpool, reflecting on his life to the nun he’s about to drown, “Kinda like you’re about to do.” It’s a moment of comic cruelty. He’s inviting his distressed captive to reflect on the fact that not only is he about to kill her, but that she’ll die in a desperate and futile panic. It’s a moment of casual sadism. The issue ends with another joke promising violence; Having escaped from his big tube, Deadpool seizes the scientist by the throat and announces that he has another tale to tell – “The Egghead Who Got Himself Whacked!”

A lot of things happen between those two jokes. Deadpool joins the Frightful Four, accepting a role as villain. Deadpool encounters Ben, prompting him to consider his relationship to heroes. Deadpool attempts to save Franklin’s life from a lift shaft into which he’s fallen.

That last action is presented as a moment of understanding. By trying to save Franklin’s life then Deadpool has relegated adherence to villainy to just being a gag and gained a sense of where ‘the line’ is for him. Trying to save Franklin from the lift shaft is where Deadpool comes to understand what superheroes have to do with him.

Then it’s pulled back.

Deadpool has understood nothing.

Franklin is not in the lift shaft.

Ben it wearing the ears.

gun

Franlkin’s been watching Deadpool from the top of the shaft. Watching him flounder desperately in the rubble like a drowning nun. And when the moment is right, when the moment is most Looney Tunes, Franklin produces a huge gun and shoots him. Ben then appears and does his catchphrase. It’s a promise of violence. It’s an expression of delight. It’s a man taking pleasure in doing harm. It’s clobbering time.

I’ve seen some pretty creepy images of Franklin Richards in my time, but not many compare to the panel of him gleefully peering down the lift shaft, eyes wide in rapture, as Ben repeatedly pounds on his subdued foe.

sadism

Deadpool, this comic has it, belongs with the superheroes because the pleasures he offers are inextricable from sadism.  

Visionary Comics Announces Expansion for their 10th Anniversary

VisionaryXVisionary Comics is celebrating 10 years in the creative industry by announcing the hiring of two well-known industry execs and a retooled website as the first phase of a major expansion that will extend into 2016. Company leaders are calling the initiative “Visionary 2.0.” The announcement was made during a panel at the Tuscon Comic Con which took place this weekend.

The major additions to the company’s leadership include promotion of Jeff Mariotte as editor-in-chief, division chief for Visionary Books, and corporate partner, along with Andy Smith, who will serve as division chief of Visionary Arts.

Mariotte is an award-winning author of comics and prose, including his latest work entitled Empty Rooms. He will continue handling Visionary’s work with the popular Deadlands novels from Tor Books and will be launching new projects from the company in 2016. Smith is a top ranked professional artist, with a resume that includes extensive work on Marvel, DC, and Disney comic and book projects.

In addition, Visionary has virtually doubled its total staff handling day-to-day operations. Visionary’s growth will reflect a change in its overall mission and expansion of its goals. The company has moved beyond comics into prose fiction, children’s books, corporate branding, concept and design, etc.

Expect to see new titles under Visionary Comics, and the debut of Visionary Books with its upcoming Tor offerings, as well as others in the works. Next year will see new labels debut as well as Visionary moves more solidly into new markets.

The company has also relaunched their website with a new layout.

Other initiatives for the coming year include the relaunching of Visionary’s digital publishing efforts, which will include debuting new and revamped content on leading venues, such as Comixology, Amazon, iVerse, and Drive-Thru. Additionally the effort will expand into several newer and fast-growing venues, such as Madefire. The company will also launch its own studio owned properties under their own imprint, Visionary Creation. The new banner will feature properties uniquely created and targeted for transmedia development. These will debut with Visionary as comics and prose, and will become part of the growing library of intellectual properties Visionary represents for all forms of media.

The Inkwell Awards Showcases its 2015 Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge Art And Fundraiser

The Inkwell Awards, a non-profit organization devoted to the art of inking, will be revealing the unique results of its fifth annual Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge in a series of fund-raising online auctions beginning Saturday, April 11. This is the ‘main event’ to the recently announced Sinnott Spring Celebration of auctions running from March through May containing Joe Sinnott donations.

To best exhibit what inkers do, industry legend Joe Sinnott pencilled a drawing of Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man, as well as a “breakdown”, or rough sketch, of its most popular X-Man, Wolverine. His art was scanned and sent in blue-line form to various inkers around the globe. The ink artists were invited to embellish the Silver Age great, whether staying faithful to his original lines or reinterpreting them. All resulted in unique pieces of comic art.. Most also sport a classic, hand-lettered logo to resemble a cover.

The list of ink artists contributing their skills is the longest ever and includes: Andy Smith, Dan Parsons, Mark Pennington, Jack Purcell, John Dell, Keith Williams, Mark McKenna, Neil Vokes, Bob Wiacek and many other professionals as well as eager and skilled amateurs. (The list changes each year.)

All submitted art, from last year’s to the current pieces, can be viewed at The Inkwell’s ComicArtFans gallery. All pieces for this challenge are personally signed by the generous Mr. Sinnott and include a certificate of authenticity. The first wave of inked blue-line original art from this Challenge will be on the auction block beginning Saturday, April 11 at the Inkwells’ eBay store. Subsequent waves will begin each week thereafter. The art will later be collected into book form.

The Inkwell Awards also offers Sinnott Inking Challenge book collections of previous art with various editions available for donations to the organization. Prices and availability of these and other merchandise can be found at the Inkwells’ Web Store.

The Inkwell Awards is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize and award the best ink artists and their work. Now in its seventh year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.

Review: Earth-2 #29 and World’s End #9

earth 2 - covWhen DC Comics announced that it was launching the new 52, it did so under the auspices of trying something new, and made it known that it was time for a new wave of creativity, hoping to fabricate their own version of a new age of comics.  While this relaunch has been successful to varying degrees, the question about whether anything new came of the relaunch is a bigger question.  In most cases the only new change was a different roster for a team or a new costume for a character.  If fans truly wanted something different, one series rapidly became known for its unconventional approach to its story and that was Earth-2.  Here DC’s Trinity has died, and a succession of heroes have taken their spots, with such unconventional casting as with Lois Lane being the new Red Tornado, this is clearly the place to come to at DC for something different.

Despite this approach to the characters, readers have barely had a chance to catch their breath in the ongoing stories, most of which have to do with an attack on Earth, first by Steppenwolf and then by Apokolips itself.  With so many story lines running concurrently it became a necessity to spill the stories over into an ongoing weekly series labeled World’s End, which at times takes on a feel of the series 52, weaving parallel but separate stories together, until we get to a point of congruence for the characters to deal with a crisis, only to separate again.  This is where the combined series have stood since the launch of the World’s End weekly, and for the first time, these two issues coming out in a single week act as an ongoing story, each tying directly into the other in a non-stop narrative.  The cover and most of the story for the monthly Earth-2 title features Barbara Grayson and focuses on some of the commonalities of a post-apocalyptic world, notably the cults that begin to worship death and the coming apocalypse.  This story in itself was engaging, but it too carried over into the weekly earth 2 we - covseries for its resolution, making reading both a necessity. While the monthly focused on the Graysons, the weekly gives each of the ongoing story lines some attention, though still focused on Apokolips’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

On the whole, this is a series that has not really ever stopped for a break, at least not after a relatively slow build in to the ongoing war that consumes the majority of the focus of the series.  The creative team has done well across the run so far to keep the momentum going, and it doesn’t seem like there will be soon an issue where the characters are sitting on the beach relaxing.  Equally though, the entire series will appear to be convoluted and overly complicated to someone interested in any particular issue.  These two issues stand alongside the others, not as the best of the series, and to be honest, probably not even as good as a lot of the issues, but it keeps the story moving and pushes the characters closer to their next crisis point.

Story: Marguerite Bennet, Mike Johnson and Daniel H. Wilson Art: Andy Smith, Tyler Kirkham, John Livesay, Stephen Segovia, Jason Paz, Robson Rocha Guillermo Ortego, Eduardo Pansica and Walden Wong
Story: 8.1 Art: 8.1 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read

More Guests Return to Baltimore Comic-Con in 2014!

Block off the weekend of September 5-7, 2014 on your calendar — the Baltimore Comic-Con returns to the Baltimore Convention Center for its first 3-day event!

The convention has announced 5 returning guests, industry veterans all!  Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Tom Raney, Budd Root, Andy Smith, and Jim Starlin will once again be joining our annual celebration of comics, art, and popular culture!

Originally hailing from Spain, artist extraordinaire Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez has spent the vast majority of his illustrious career providing art at DC Comics. He has worked on characters large and small, ensemble casts and individual characters, and has received praise from his writers and editors alike.  Some of his noteworthy work includes Jonah Hex, DC Comics Presents, New Teen Titans, Road to Perdition, Twilight and Wednesday Comics.  He has lately been seen working on All-Star Western and the Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez hardcover.

Tom Raney has spent much of his career working for the mid- to large-size publishers in the comics industry.  He has contributed to Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Valiant’s relaunched titles, and Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars among many other titles and publishers.  In recent history, his artwork can be seen within the pages of DC Comics’ Threshold, Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, and Titan Comics’ Monster Massacre hardcover collection.

Budd Root initially broke into the mainstream comics industry with his first published work at London Night Studios. Ultimately, Root decided he would publish his own comics, forming Basement Comics in 1993 and issuing the now-synonymous Cavewoman. The title has since gone on to see publication with Caliber Press and Avatar Press.  It has also garnered an Ignatz Award nomination in 1999.
Andy Smith has worked in the comics industry since 1991, with art credits at Marvel, DC, Image, Acclaim, and CrossGen Entertainment. He is also responsible for bringing new readers and artists to the industry with his best-selling Drawing Dynamic Comics and Drawing American Manga Super-Heroes from Watson-Guptill and the DC Comics characters featured in the Harpers Collins Children’s line, featuring titles like Superman: Attack of the Toyman, Batman: Battle in Metropolis, and Justice League: I Am Aquaman.  He has recently provided inks over Jim Starlin’s pencils on Marvel’s Thanos: The Infinity Revelation.

The multi-talented Jim Starlin has worked on both writing and creating art for some of the most noteworthy creations since his entry into the field of comics in the 1970s.  The mind behind the Marvel character Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, he is also responsible for a number of noteworthy cosmic characters in the Marvel Universe, including Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and the villainous Thanos, all of whom are expected to be featured in this year’s major motion picture, Guardians of the Galaxy.  He developed noteworthy runs on Marvel’s Captain Marvel, Warlock, and Silver Surfer, Marvel mini-series Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, and Infinity Crusade, and DC Comics’ Batman, The Weird, and Cosmic Odyssey. His Death of Captain Marvel was the first Marvel graphic novel to be published.  More recently, he has provided writing and art for DC’s Stormwatch and writing on Green Lantern: Mongul #23.2, and he returns to his classic villain in April 2014 with Marvel’s Thanos: The Infinity Revelation.

This year’s previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men:  Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Tommy Lee Edwards (Star Wars); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); David Finch (Forever Evil); Dave Gibbons (Watchmen); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Fred Hembeck (Garfield); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); Aaron Kuder (Action Comics); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Alex Maleev (Moon Knight); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); John Totleben (Swamp Thing); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe:  A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); and Thom Zahler (My Little Pony).

Zeismic
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