This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown.
I don’t remember the first time I read this story, but it was likely in the UK reprint magazine Wolverine Unleashed in the mid to late 90’s. That was also the last time I read it, so when I saw the collected edition at my LCS for $15 I couldn’t pass it up – now because Wolverine is a little bit more marketable than Havok, the trade was just called Wolverine: Meltdown.
Originally published in the late 80’s, Meltdown was written by Walter and Louise Simonson, with illustrations by John J. Muth and Kent Williams. The story is set around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of the mid 80’s, and finds Havok and Wolverine caught up in the midst of a plot to end the world in nuclear war from the shadows. The art has a wonderful painted look to it at times, but the artists aren’t afraid to experiment with multiple forms of media throughout the book. It’s a choice that is divisive to some – I’ll freely admit when I was younger the art did nothing for me, but I enjoyed the story a fair bit, whereas now I find myself absorbed in the art more than the writing which is a strange twist on how I usually find myself feeling when coming back to stories I haven’t read in 20 some years.
It’s easy to imagine the way this story would have felt when initially released as it presents another possibility behind the Chernobyl disaster as an intentional act to snare the X-Men. Looking back now, it’s a great premise to a story, and one that still holds up despite the very specific time setting. Admittedly, I’ve no idea or memory as to how in continuity/canon this story is within the X-Universe but the story is entertaining enough to allow you to just enjoy it as is, and seeing Wolverine and Havok team up together is still a relatively rare event even today – and while I’m probably in the minority here, I’d love to see more chances for these two mutants to come together on the page.
The main reason I wanted to talk about this book today is solely because it’s a story that I’d completely forgotten about. This isn’t one of the classic Wolverine or X-Men stories that people will talk about, and honestly nor should it be, but it’s still an enjoyable tale that still stands the test of time; admittedly it’s the artwork that will pull you in more than the story, because this is a book that just looks utterly fantastic. The art is at times risky and pushes the envelope of what comics would typically feature 30 years ago (and yet is far more common today). Do yourself a favour and check this story out if you can – it’s a four issue mini series that shouldn’t break the bank if you hunt the individual issues.
Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.
The acclaimed comics adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouserreturns to print in an omnibus format from Dark Horse Books! Fritz Leiber ranks among the giants of fantasy and science fiction visionaries, capturing multiple Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and influencing a generation of writers. And his most renowned creations are the swashbuckling Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.
This new omnibus edition collects Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: the Cloud of Hate and Other Stories by comics legends Howard Chaykin, Mike Mignola, Dennis O’Neil, Walter Simonson, and Jim Starlin, and includes the Hugo and Nebula Award winning “Ill Met in Lankhmar” by Chaykin, Mignola, and Sherrilyn Van Valkenburgh. Join the hulking barbarian and the diminutive rogue as they battle swordsmen, necromancers, and flagons of strong drink!
Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Omnibus TPB will be available in comic shops June 28, 2023 and will be in bookstores June 27, 2023. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local comic shop and bookstore. The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Omnibus TPB will retail for $29.99.
The Hero Initiative, the charity that helps comic book creators in medical or financial need, will be the beneficiary of an incredible original art auction at the Baltimore Comic-Con, which will be held over the weekend of October 28-30, 2022 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The auction will be administered by well-known art expert Scott Dunbier. Tickets to the Baltimore Comic-Con can be purchased online now.
Artists whose work will be in the auction include John Byrne, Frank Cho, Michael Cho, Tomm Coker, Kevin Eastman, Gene Ha, Kelley Jones, Shawn McManus, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Kevin Nowlan, Dave Sim, Walter Simonson, Herb Trimpe, JK Woodward, and more.
Art will be available for viewing both at the Baltimore Comic-Con, and at Hero Initiative’s website . Bidders are encouraged to bid in person, though proxy bidding in advance will also be available via Hero’s website.
The live auction will take place Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 5pm at the Baltimore Comic-Con (specific location to be announced).
Confirmed guests for this year’s show include: Andrew Aydin (Run), Chris Barcomb (The Amazing Adventure of Superior Sam), Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl), Marty Baumann (Pixar artist), John Beatty (Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars), Carolyn Belefski (Curls), Brian Michael Bendis (Action Comics), Brett Breeding (Superman), Dan Brereton (Nocturnals), Russ Braun (The Boys), Reilly Brown (Deadpool), Harold Buchholz (Sweetest Beasts), Mark Buckingham (Fables), Jeffrey Burandt (Killer Bad), Greg Burnham (Tuskegee Heirs), Jim Calafiore (NED, Lord of the Pit), Joe Carabeo (Black Magic Tales), Richard Case (Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror), John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men), Howard Chaykin (Time Squared), Jim Cheung (Miracleman), Frank Cho (Harley Quinn), Matthew Clark (Adventures of Superman, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Steve Conley (The Middle Age), Katie Cook (Nothing Special), Kevin Cuffe (Metalshark Bro), Shawn Daley (Better Place), Alan Davis (Thanos), Nick Davis (The Night Guardians – Awakenings), Kristina Deak-Linsner (Roses for the Dead), J. Robert Deans (Crass Fed), Vito Delsante (Stray), Todd Dezago (The Perhapanauts), Terry Dodson (Harley Quinn), Scott Dunbier (Jim Lee’s X-Men Artist’s Edition, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Garth Ennis (The Boys, Friday and Saturday only), Tony Fleecs (Stray Dogs), Chris Flick (Capes and Babes), Scott Fogg (Phileas Reid Knows We’re Not Alone), Trish Forstner (Stray Dogs), LJ and Kayla Fowlkes (The Adventures of CHIBIWONGTONG), Franco (The Ghost, The Owl), Bob Frantz (Metalshark Bro), John Gallagher (Max Meow: Cat Crusader), Kami Garcia (Teen Titans: Raven), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (DC Nation), Mitch Gerads (Mister Miracle), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!), Steven Grant (X), Mike Grell (Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters), Dawn Griffin (Zorphbert & Fred), Brian Haberlin (Spawn), Bob Hall (West Coast Avengers), Cully Hamner (Blue Beetle), Dean Haspiel (The Fox), Mike Hawthorne (Happiness Will Follow), Jamal Igle (Molly Danger), Klaus Janson (Daredevil), Chris Kemple (Artist Alley Comics), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Alien), Kata Kane (Altar Girl), Tom King (Batman), Barry Kitson (Amazing Spider-Man), Greg LaRocque (The Three Stooges), Jim Lee (Action Comics, Friday only), Joseph Michael Linsner (Red Sonja), Howard Mackie (Ghost Rider), Kevin Maguire (Justice League), Francis Manapul (The Flash), Mariano Brothers (Claire Lost Her Bear at the World’s Fair), Laura Martin (Nubia: Queen of the Amazons), Ron Marz (Silver Surfer), Whitney Matheson (Pandemix: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona), Jason May (LEGO Club Magazine), Bob McLeod (New Mutants), Mike McKone (Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Jarrett Melendez (Chef’s Kiss), Adriana Melo (Action Comics), Pop Mhan (Gears of War 3), Frank Miller (Sin City, Saturday only), Chris Miskiewicz (Elvis: The Graphic Novel), Mark Morales (Thor), Bill Morrison (The Simpsons), Trevor Mueller (Albert the Alien), Jamar Nicholas (Leon: Protector of the Playground), Fabian Nicieza (Deadpool, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Ann Nocenti (The Seeds, Friday and Saturday only, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Sedat Oezgen (Judge Dredd), Jerry Ordway (Superman), Rachel Ordway (Chainmail Bikini), Richard Pace (Second Coming, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Dan Parent (Archie vs. Sharknado), Andrew Pepoy (Simone & Ajax), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Brandon Peterson (Uncanny X-Men), Khoi Pham (Teen Titans), Ed Piskor (Red Room: Trigger Warnings), Eric Powell (The Goon), Andy Price (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), Tom Raney (Green Lantern), Afua Richardson (Omni), Christopher Ring (Seamus (the Famous)), David A. Rodriguez (Skylanders), Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge), Craig Rousseau (The Perhapanauts), Arsia Rozegar (Shahnameh For Kids), Jim Rugg (Hulk Grand Design), Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man), Stuart Sayger (The Joker), Mark Schultz (Xenozoic Tales, courtesy of Flesk Publications), Pat Shand (Destiny, NY), Liam Sharp (Green Lantern), Louise Simonson (X-Men Legends), Walter Simonson (Ragnarok), Don Simpson (Megaton Man), Matt Slay (Equilibrium), Matt Smith (Hellboy), John K. Snyder III (Suicide Squad), Jim Starlin (Infinity Gauntlet), Joe Staton (Dick Tracy), Brian Stelfreeze (Black Panther), Paul Storrie (Storm Kids: Stanley’s Ghost), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother), Billy Tucci (Shi), Emilio Velez Jr. (The Dodgeball Teens), Dexter Vines (Civil War, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Sean Von Gorman (Return of Toe Tag Riot), Mark Waid (Superman: Red and Blue), Adam Wallenta (Punk Taco), Todd Webb (Mr. Toast Comics), Lee Weeks (Batman/Catwoman Special), Emily S. Whitten (The Underfoot), Matt Wieringo (Stargate Atlantis: Gateways), Keith Williams (Thor the Worthy), Charles P. Wilson III (Wraith), Rich Woodall (Electric Black), Gene Luen Yang (Superman Smashes the Klan), and Thom Zahler (Love and Capes).
In his sixteen-year tenure of the X-line, Chris Claremont put his own spin on the mutant metaphor any number of ways, but one of the longest-lasting and most influential has been the idea of a Mutant Registration Act. In the original Days of Future Past storyline, Claremont first mentions the Mutant Control Act passed by a “rabid anti-mutant candidate…elected president,” as a reaction to the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly.
In this issue, Claremont doesn’t mention what the provisions of the Mutant Control Act were, only that they were struck down by the relatively liberal Burger Court, presumably on 14th Amendment Equal Protection grounds. The Supreme Court’s thwarting of populist overreach unfortunately gives rise to the dark future of Earth-811, as the new president authorized Project Wideawake to send the Sentinels to hunt down mutant-kind, only to find that (once again) the Sentinels decide to accomplish this by conquering humanity and installing an apartheid state to root out carriers of the X-gene from the human population.
It’s worth taking a moment to parse the iconography of this populist anti-mutant movement, enshrined in the slogan “America! It’s 1984! Do you know what your children are?” Deliberately evoking the public service announcements that were introduced to back up youth curfews in Los Angeles in the 1960s that asked parents “it’s 10pm: do you know where your children are?,” this line turns the child-centric paranoia of the moral panics of the 1980s like the McMartin day care scandal or the Satanic Panic on their head; instead of children being the threatened object of outside threat, here the children are the subject of threat, the threatening outsider within. Moreover, this line clearly captured the imaginations of Claremont and Marvel editorial, because in X-Men #223 they took the unusual step of reproducing that line in an in-universe advertisement in the issue’s back matter:
This ad is worthy of some close analysis: by displaying an African-American child and an Asian boy alongside two fair-haired white children, the ad’s designers emphasize that mutant status exists on a parallel plane to race. While the mutant metaphor often is used to equate mutancy to real-world minority statuses, here it’s being demonstrated that that metaphor only goes so far. Next, by scrawling the racial slur of “mutie” across the face of an innocent child, the power of anti-mutant bigotry to stir up fear and hatred of even the most innocuous of targets is emphasized. Finally, and most importantly for the purposes of this essay, by having the in-universe commercial be “paid for by citizens in support of The Mutant Registration Act,” the ad’s creators tied together the Mutant Control Act from the dark future of Earth-811 and the Mutant Registration Act introduced by Senator Kelly in the present of the main 616 timeline in the wake of Days of Future Past.
Speaking of which, we see the “Mutant Control Affairs Act” introduced in the final pages of X-Men #181, which features a debate between Senator Kelly and an older, mustachioed Senator. This debate gives us one of the longest discussions of the Mutant Registration Act that Chris Claremont featured in the pages of X-Men.
As we can see from this dialogue, there’s not a lot of detail about concrete provisions of the Mutant Registration Act and, as we’ll see later, this vagueness is a deliberate choice by Claremont to suggest the broad strokes of discrimination while leaving the details up to the individual imagination. We know that Senator Kelly remains as concerned about human supremacy as he was back in Days of Future Past – although the national security angle is new (probably relating to his partnership with the new administration’s Project Wideawake) – and its atomic undertones are oddly reminiscent of Silver Age X-Men. The closest we get to specifics is Senator Phillip’s description of the MRA as not “far removed from legalized slavery.” As I’ll discuss in more detail later in the essay, this seems to be code for provisions relating to a special military draft– reminiscent of how the human supremacist state of Earth-811 used the Hounds to hunt down other mutants – which would have particular resonance only a decade after the end of the Vietnam War.
One piece of specific evidence about the bill that we do get is a half-page panel where John Romita Jr. gives us the title page of the actual legislation:
It’s a particularly ominous sign that the “Mutant Affairs Control Act” is titled as S.1; in both the House and Senate, early numbers in each legislative session are reserved for marquee bills that majority leadership want to highlight as a major priority for that session as a standard bit of legislative public relations. This is an early signal that the Mutant Registration Act will become law despite the best efforts of Senator Phillips and others like him. Another nice little touch is the effort to maintain verisimilitude: the second session of the 98th Congress really did begin on the 23rd of January, 1984, giving the impression that this is all happening in the present – X-Men #181 hit newsstands in early February 1984 – something that Claremont did quite a bit in the days in which Marvel Comics was a bit more “the world outside your window” than sliding timescales.
However, that’s really all we get on the specifics of the Mutant Registration Act. Rather than spend page space laying out the details of fictional legislation, Claremont instead used the Act as a recurring background element that could highlight aspects of characterization and plot development as needed. For example, Claremont used the MRA to emphasize Rachel Summers’ role as a time-traveler from a different future:
As we can see, Claremont is primarily interested in using the Mutant Registration Act as a synecdoche for the dystopian future of Earth-811: in the first panel, Claremont has the news broadcast end the moment as it’s about to describe the “draconian provisions” of the bill, partly because he wants to leave those details up to the reader’s imagination, but mostly because the important thing about this story beat is that the newly-arrived-in-616 Rachel recognizes the proper name of the legislation from her own past, raising the specter that the X-Men’s sacrifice in Days of Future Past failed to avert the Terminator scenario which is inevitably going to come to pass. In the second panel, the psychic impression of Scott Summers merely refers obliquely to “grim bills” without describing what those bills are, because what’s important in this scene is how Rachel associates those bills with a moment of fragile (and ultimately, futile) hope for her childhood, emphasizing the way she feels torn between the hope that the Sentinel takeover has been prevented and the somber realization that this may mean that her birth, and thus her identity as a “real” person, may have been forestalled by the rewriting of the timeline.
More commonly, Claremont used the Mutant Registration Act as a motivating force for plot, animating events across multiple issues, as part of his trademark style of gradually developing stories across years of continuity. In X-Men #158, the pending MRA prompts the X-Men to repent of their days providing information on mutants to the FBI by raiding the Pentagon to purge that data from government computers, thematically drawing a bright line between the more assimilationist politics of the Silver Age X-Men and the more radical direction that Claremont would be taking the book in the 1980s.
While the X-Men are successful in purging their data from Pentagon servers, impeding the efforts of the Federal government to surveil mutant citizens, the resulting melee between the team, Rogue and Mystique, and the U.S military begins the process that sees the X-Men labelled as outlaws by the U.S government – an important transition that Claremont will use to guide the book through the next several years. For example, in #182, Rogue attempts to rescue Colonel Mike Rossi from Hellfire Club double agents on a SHIELD Helicarrier, which gets misinterpreted as an unprovoked assault that prompts an APB from Nick Fury for Rogue’s detention or execution. This then leads to issue #185, where Valerie Cooper and Henry Peter Gyrich – the chief Federal enforcers of the Mutant Registration Act – use the opportunity afforded by the APB to go after Rogue with an experimental weapon designed by Forge that removes mutant powers (inadvertently depowering Storm in the process). In #193, the Hellions provoke an incident at Cheyenne Mountain that leads to a “nation-wide manhunt for the mutants known as the Uncanny X-Men.” In this fashion, the X-Men gradually slide from a standard superhero team (albeit one devoted to protecting a world that hates and fears them) to becoming a group of outlaws, on the run from Federal authorities that is both driven by and acts as further justification for official anti-mutant prejudice.
To the extent that Chris Claremont devoted an entire arc to the Mutant Registration Act, it would come in the 1988 crossover event “Fall of the Mutants.” While the climax of the event is focused on the supernatural – the scheming and intrigue of demons and goddesses, interdimensional portals opening in the skies above Dallas, death and resurrection – one of the major throughlines is the Mutant Registration Act and the Federal government’s efforts to enforce it against the X-Men. It begins with X-Men #206, where the X-Men find themselves the unlikely heroes of San Francisco after having defended the city from Omega Sentinels and the Beyonder. While recuperating from those fights, the X-Men find themselves coming under attack from Freedom Force, a super-powered Federal task force created by Special Assistant to the National Security Advisor Val Cooper to enforce the Mutant Registration Act.
In another sign of how mutant politics were shifting under Claremont’s pen as he moved towards the end of his first decade on the book, Freedom Force was formed out of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so that we have a group of former mutant radicals who once staged terrorist attacks on the U.S Capitol turning quisling to protect themselves from human authorities while the X-Men make the transition from former collaborators with the national security state to fugitives living underground. In the ensuing brawl, the X-Men find themselves firmly on the back foot, thanks in no small part to Freedom Force’s cavalier willingness to inflict collateral damage on residential neighborhoods of San Francisco. Ultimately, our heroes are rescued by the unlikely intervention of the San Francisco Police Department, who act to stop the fighting and the property destruction:
Especially in the contemporary context of the late Eighties, this confrontation between agents of the Federal government – visually if not textually identified as the Reagan Administration in X-Men #201 – and officers of the city of San Francisco had real-world political resonance. At this time, the public perception of pre-tech boom San Francisco was that of a center of left-wing politics and especially a center of the gay rights movement and very much diametrically opposed to Reagan’s conservative politics and his administration’s vocal hostility to the LGBT movement during the AIDS epidemic. Notably, here we see Lieutenant Morrel of the SFPD acting as the voice of civil libertarianism, emphasizing the need for warrants, documentation of presidential pardons, and other accoutrements of due process against Freedom Force’s paramilitary flaunting of constitutional rights.
The thread is picked up again in X-Men #223, where once again the X-Men find themselves in San Francisco, where “people here don’t seem to mind the X-Men’s presence – they consider us heroes.” In this issue, we see Freedom Force expanding by drafting the heroes-turned-murderous-vigilantes Super Sabre, Crimson Commando, and Stonewall. During the ceremony where these three receive their presidential pardon, Destiny receives a vision that Rogue and the “X-Men are going to die!” This prompts Mystique to choose further confrontation with the X-Men on the grounds that if Rogue is arrested under the Mutant Registration Act, she won’t go to her prophesied death in Dallas.
In the next issue, we see Val Cooper and Freedom Force return to San Francisco “hunting for X-Men’s scalps,” posing both a physical and political threat to the countercultural heroes of the City by the Golden Gate. We see this most clearly as Valerie Cooper mounts a press conference in front of a damaged San Francisco hospital to announce the formation of Freedom Force and the passage into law of the “Mutant Special Powers Registration Act.”
This sequence is particularly significant because it introduces the parallel between superpowers and handgun licensing – a real-world political analogy that will be alluring for Marvel creators for decades, as we’ll discuss later. Here, though, the handgun issue is treated as a relatively minor element compared to the broader question of civil liberties, and the extended discussion of whether the “good of society, the defense of the many” takes precedence over the rights of the minority. This is a good example of how the mutability of the mutant metaphor continued during the Claremont years; rather than making a more concrete analogy to a real-world minority as he does in other places (such as in “God Loves, Man Kills”), here the “few” whose rights are being curtailed by the Mutant Registration Act could be any minority facing official discrimination from the “many.”
On the following page, we see the impact of Cooper’s speech on the body politic, as a number of patrons of a San Francisco gym where Rogue is exercising debate the issue:
One of the lesser talked about aspects of Chris Claremont’s writing is the skill with which he can quickly sketch background characters to give a picture of the internal life of the “man on the street.” Here, we see a public divided on their attitudes toward the Mutant Registration Act: one man raises the historical parallel of the Holocaust (a frequent thematic angle in Claremont’s writing) to frame the MRA as a potential genocidal threat. His interlocutor denies the threat, distinguishing between racist threats to “normal folks” and the legitimate oppression of “muties,” again showing how Claremont can turn on a dime between leaning on the parallels to real-world bigotry that the mutant metaphor was based on and pointing out the ways in which in-universe minority politics might fail to intersect.
On the next page, we see a disguised Mystique arrive to clandestinely warn Rogue – a sign that Mystique’s participation in Freedom Force is very much an act of personal survival rather than a sign of an ideological shift, as Mystique is very much using the government to further her own interest – that the X-Men are going to die in Dallas, telling her to leave them so that “you won’t share their fate.” As in any proper tragedy, this warning falls on deaf ears as Rogue refuses to abandon her comrades in arms, choosing instead to go with them to Dallas to confront the threat posed by the Adversary. Before they can make it into Forge’s Eagle Plaza tower and their eventual confrontation with the embodiment of cosmic chaos, the X-Men once again find themselves by Freedom Force and the threat of imprisonment under the Mutant Registration Act:
In addition to providing an excuse for super-heroic fisticuffs, the confrontation gives a rare instance where Claremont provides some insight into what the Mutant Registration Act specifically does – clarifying that the MRA criminalizes using mutant powers rather than “simply being born a mutant.” At the same time, Claremont has Havok immediately question the “credibility” of this statement. After all, the Registration Act already criminalizes mutant citizens by forcing even children to register with the government when their human peers don’t have to. Moreover, many mutants have “always on” powers that they don’t have a choice whether to consciously activate or keep hidden, making Mystique’s distinction between the two as one without a difference.
Through their trademark collaborative use of mutant powers, the X-Men manage to fight their way past Freedom Force and into Eagle Plaza, activating the Adversary’s trap which opens an inter-dimensional portal in the skies above Dallas that begins summoning threats from the prehistoric time of dinosaurs all the way to the Wild West of Texas’ past. Witnessed by real-life NPR reporters Neal Conan and Manoli Weatherell, the X-Men answer the call to defend the world from the supernatural threat pouring through this rip in the night sky above Dallas:
This scene shows the continuation of the X-Men franchise’s fascination with the role played by mass media in the propagation of – or challenge to – popular prejudice and mob panics. Here, Conan and Weatherell act as ideal journalists, challenging the statements of Federal authorities and raising uncomfortable questions about Freedom Force’s role in enforcing the Mutant Registration Act against superheroes presently engaged in self-sacrificing defense of civilian communities. More importantly for the purposes of this essay, they amplify the voices of “outlaw mutants” who are otherwise excluded from the mainstream, allowing them to spread an anti-MRI message directly to a mass audience.
And that’s really where the Mutant Registration Act plot line ends in Claremont’s run, with the X-Men dying to save a world that hates and fears them, only to be reborn by the grace of a goddess figure who grants them invisibility from the technological eyes of the surveillance state and transports them to the Australian Outback where they can continue their lives as outlaw heroes free from the efforts of the U.S government to arrest them. It’s a momentous change of status quo for the X-Men themselves, but as regards the MRA itself, there’s not the kind of climax where the reader sees this vile legislation struck down by the Supreme Court (as happened in the Days of Future Past storyline) or repealed by Congress in light of the X-Men’s actions in Dallas (or X-Factor saving New York City from Apocalypse over in their book).
It’s possible that this is intended to be some kind of statement about the possibilities (or lack thereof) of achieving progress for visible minorities in American society. If that’s the case it’s very much a statement that exists in the absence of the text rather than in its presence, because Claremont will move on to new plots that will explore other angles of the mutant metaphor – as we’ll discuss in future installments of the People’s History of the Marvel Universe.
But just because Chris Claremont had tired of the Mutant Registration Act as a theme doesn’t mean that the Marvel Universe was done with the idea. A year after Claremont concluded the “Fall of the Mutants,” his close friend, colleague, and sometimes collaborator Walt Simonson would take up the concept in Fantastic Four #335-6, a two-issue arc devoted to exploring the political implications of Registration Acts in the Marvel Universe:
In these issues, the Fantastic Four travel to Washington D.C to testify in front of a House committee that is holding hearings on a proposal to enact a Superhuman Registration Act. The bulk of the first issue sees the First Family largely sitting in the audience as a series of witnesses testify in front of the committee for and against the legislation. The first to testify before the committee is a “General Neddington,” who’s there to provide the views of the Pentagon:
Here, Walter Simonson makes explicit what we’ve previously seen only alluded to in Claremont’s and Louise Simonson’s writing – the purpose of the Superhuman Registration Act is to draft superpowered people into the U.S military, not only to defend the country “in times of crisis” but also to ensure U.S dominance in “the balance of military power in the world.” In another example of how Simonson brings political subtext into text, Simonson also has an unnamed black Congressman bring up the real-world racial disparities in military service in the Vietnam War. This history was very much in living memory in 1989 – after all, the military draft had been ended in 1973 and then re-instated quite recently in 1980, when Jimmy Carter had re-instated the requirement to register with the Selective Service Act as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As we’ll see later, the politics of the draft were very much on Simonson’s mind here.
From Cold War politics and the legacy of the Vietnam War, Simonson takes up another of Claremont’s themes – namely, the parallel between Registration and the licensing of firearms:
Building off what was a passing reference in Claremont’s work, Simonson puts the analogy of gun control front-and-center by having an NRA spokesman testify before the committee. (Simonson shows his research by paraphrasing the National Rifle Association’s catchphrase that “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”) Here, the NRA are an interested party because they believe that the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms applies to superpowers as well as firearms. By extension, the NRA sees a Federal attempt to register superpowered Americans as the “first step on the road to an eventual ban on superpowers” – and logically fears that the same thing might happen to gun owners – just as the real-world NRA catastrophizes modest efforts at gun control as mass confiscation.
Having a notably partisan conservative organization like the NRA testify on behalf of the Fantastic Four must have produced a certain amount of tension for both Simonson himself and Marvel as a whole, given the historic tendency of its creative workforce towards somewhere between the center-left and the left (depending on which generation of creators one is talking about). A good deal of – as the People’s History of the Marvel Universe has demonstrated, inaccurate – ink has been spilled about the supposedly inherently fascistic politics of superhero comics, but the more accurate label is that vigilantism has been part of superhero comics’ DNA from the beginning. If a superhero is anything else, they are ultimately a costumed adventurer who steps outside of their everyday life that’s sanctioned by society in order to exercise powers that are normally monopolized by governments. To an extent, there remains something of an uncomfortable parallelism between the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” mythologizing around crime and the tradition of costumed crimefighters. Simonson vocalizes the tension he’s feeling through Ben Grimm, the Lower East Side-born Jewish superhero who more than any other character symbolizes the cultural and political wellspring from which Jack Kirby’s decidedly left-wing approach to superheroism always drew inspiration. For the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, having to be on the same side as the NRA is a “revoltin’ development” – which gives a certain amount of consolation to liberal readers.
After these two witnesses have set out the real-world political implications of the Superhuman Registration Act, Simonson dives into the in-universe politics, and in the process establishes a vital link between his SRA and Claremont’s Mutant Registration Act by using a character who just so happens to straddle the divide between the X-line and the broader Marvel Universe:
Contrary to what many writers in both fandom and academic circles have argued, Gyrich’s testimony demonstrates how the mutant metaphor works best in the broader context of the Marvel Universe. Henry Peter Gyrich opposing the registration of super-humans while supporting the registration of mutants (presumably a sign that he’s adopted the party line after the events of X-Men #176) is not only a perfect example of the hypocrisy and irrational double-standards inherent to bigotry, but also a straightforward statement of that prejudice. To Gyrich, it is unacceptable for the Federal government to register super-powered humans because they are “entitled to the equal protection of the law,” but acceptable for the Federal government to do the exact same thing to super-powered mutants, because they’re not human in his eyes and therefore aren’t entitled to constitutional rights under the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment.
In discussing the concept of a law “restricting a limited section of the nation’s population,” Simonson shows an impressive level of research for a superhero comic. When Gyrich responds to questioning the constitutionality of the Superhuman Registration Act by bringing up the example of women not having to register with the Selective Service System, he’s actually referring to what was then very recent developments in constitutional law. While the draft was ended in 1973 due to its deep unpopularity in the midst of the Vietnam War – which we’ve already seen very much on Simonson’s mind – this state of affairs would only continue for a few years. In a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter re-established the draft in 1980. During the Congressional debates over the re-authorization of the draft, the issue of whether women would be subject to registration was raised, in light of the ongoing national debate over the Equal Rights Amendment and the broader acceptance of the principle that gender discrimination was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. A year later, in Rostker v. Goldberg, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on this point when a group of draft resisters challenged the draft on the grounds of gender discrimination, ruling 6-3 that the Selective Service System’s male-only registration could stand because of the armed service’s bans on women serving in combat roles.
Finally, Henry Peter Gyrich’s testimony makes it very clear that both the Mutant and Superhuman Registration Acts’ purpose is to put superpowered beings under government control, so that they can be used as agents of oppression. While he speaks of “super-human individuals or groups of an altruistic nature” being merely “persuaded to aid the government in tracking down and registering any individuals or groups who refused to comply,” Simonson throws doubt on the voluntary nature of this assistance, implying that superheroes would be forced into service under the Superhuman Registration Act’s conscription clause. More troubling, Gyrich demonstrates a consistent inconsistency as a supposed conservative who’s concerned about the rights of the individual opposed to the interests of the state when he opposes the extension of “the same constitutional guarantees that the police must follow” to these new federal agents. In a display that again echoes the real-world stance of “law and order” conservatives on police brutality, Gyrich sees any limitations on both superpowered federal agents or human police officers as “tying the hands of law enforcement” and “aid[ing] the criminal element.” By implication then, the Superhuman Registration Act would lead to a lawless paramilitary force completely unanswerable to any authority other than a “human czar” of “a bureau of superhuman affairs” – much in the same way that Freedom Force demonstrated a complete disregard for civil liberties while enforcing the Mutant Registration Act.
In between fist-fighting supervillains who’ve showed up in trench coats and fedoras to infiltrate the Congressional hearing, the Fantastic Four get their chance to testify against the Superhuman Registration Act. Their arguments come from a number of different political angles – Sue Storm talks about wanting to ensure that her son grows up in a free country, Johnny Storm points to the practical impossibilities of registering “Dr. Doom or Annihilus,” and good liberal Ben Grimm decries the contrast between the ease with which “crooks can go out and buy assault rifles” and the proposed restrictions on the superheroes who try to stop them. As we might expect from the FF, though, the majority of page space is given to Reed Richards, who delivers a filibuster-worthy speech that spans issue #335 and #336. Mister Fantastic presents many arguments against the Superhuman Registration Act – one of the more troubling one being that non-superheroes lack the ability to second guess split-second decision making by experienced superheroes, which echoes uncomfortably with defenses of police shootings – but the one that ultimately convinces the Congressional committee to shelve the SRA is a perfect blend of politics and superhero science-fantasy:
Ultimately, what gets the Congressional committee to shelve the Superhuman Registration Act is an argument centered on the impossibility of defining who is a super-human and who isn’t – because people’s abilities and genetic heritage vary so much from individual to individual, an arbitrary cutoff like a “variation of greater than, say, 15% from the norm” would sweep up many false positives, such that the discriminatory impact of the SRA would be felt by Congressmen themselves. Taken together, Claremont and Simonson’s work is a classic case of a slippery slope argument applied to civil liberties – the denial of the rights of any minority becoming a precedent that creates a precedent for further authoritarian encroachment onto the rights of increasingly larger segments of the population, eventually ending in a general tyranny.
This all must sound eerily familiar to people who were reading Marvel comics circa 2006, when Mike Millar was handed the reins to a line-wide crossover in Marvel’s Civil War, which likewise centered on the Federal government passing a Superhuman Registration Act. Despite the several decades between the work of Claremont and Simonson and that of Millar, there’s more than a little bit of thematic and rhetorical overlap between them: we see similar analogies to gun control and the draft, similar debates about individual agency and vigilantism versus collective security and democratic legitimacy, and even similar mentions of the Mutant Registration Act as a model for official discrimination that’s still floating around out there in the Marvel Universe, still on the statute books ready to be picked up by forces in power.
When it comes to the political stance taken by the creators, however, we see a clear difference. Both Claremont and Simonson make it quite clear that registration is an unjust act of oppression that exists for the protagonists to struggle against. By contrast, putative leftist Mark Millar was so convinced of the correctness of the Pro-Registration side of the debate that, in the development process, he swapped the position of Captain America and Iron Man as leaders of the opposing camps. Millar’s logic was that Marvel couldn’t maintain the “choose a side” fan engagement that would be key to the crossover’s success, because it would be self-evidently obvious to everyone that the Pro-Registration side was right if it was led by a pillar of moral authority like Steve Rogers. (Full disclosure: I’m basing my claim for this on my memory of having read that the swap happened during development, but I can’t find the article that I originally read. Feel free to disregard this point.)
Here is where I think we can see the broader cultural impact of 9/11 on the politics of the Marvel Universe: on paper, a story in which a horrific tragedy is turned into a rhetorical bludgeon in order to justify the radical transformation of the status quo, and in which the Superhuman Registration Act, like the Patriot Act, becomes a mechanism for the destruction of civil liberties all the way up to indefinite detention without trial in black site prisons, would seem to be a powerful critique of the War on Terror. But while the creators who were brought in to write the tie-in issues did advance that kind of criticism, Millar’s main event book continued to present the actions of Tony Stark and Reed Richards as the wise decisions of enlightened futurists that was making the United States a safer, happier place – culminating in the thuddingly obvious visual symbolism of Captain America getting tackled by a group of NYC first responders at the height of his duel with Iron Man.
So after all of that, what is a Registration Act? Beyond the specific details of fictional legislation that obsess a public policy nerd like me, I think we can think of it as a kind of narrative mirror that comic book writers can hold up to see the world around them and the place that their genre has in it. At the same time, it’s not a device that should be used cavalierly as an excuse to bang action figures together; the way that it conjures allusions to real-world politics make it far too charged for that.
 Valerie Cooper is introduced in X-Men #176, where she leads a White House briefing on the national security threat posed by mutants like Magneto. While Cooper touches on the biological metaphor of the Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal, she pivots from there to discuss the mutant threat from the perspective of international relations. As Valerie sees it, the existence of mutants means that “the virtual monopoly of super-beings…once enjoyed by the United States no longer exists.” Because of the willingness of the Soviet Union to recruit mutants into the Soviet Super-Soldiers, she argues that “mutants pose a clear and present danger to our country.”
Surprisingly, Henry Peter Gyrich (last seen heading up Project Wideawake, the Federal initiative to recreate the Sentinel program) challenges Cooper’s proposal to “fight fire with fire, counter[ing] foreign mutants with some of their own” on the grounds that Federal recruitment of mutants into the armed services would convince Magneto that his fears that “out of greed, humanity will use mutants – enslave them – and then, out of fear, destroy them” are coming to pass, risking an escalating confrontation with the Master of Magnetism.
While this scene predates the Mutant Registration Act, it’s nonetheless an important bit of context for understanding the goals and mechanisms of the MRA. While the main X-Men book itself doesn’t make mention of the Mutant Registration Act involving the forced conscription of mutants outside of Senator Phillip’s vague analogy to slavery, we do get an important clue in X-Factor #33. In that issue, the group of mutant supervillains known as the Alliance of Evil go on a rampage in front of Trish Tilby’s television cameras in order to protest their arrest and imprisonment under the Mutant Registration Act. Specifically, the Alliance of Evil mentions that they refuse to join “Uncle Sam’s mutant army” – implying that one of the major aspects of the MRA is to use forced registration, surveillance, and the threat of imprisonment to draft mutants into becoming unwilling soldiers in the national security state.
 Similarly, in X-Men #223, Claremont breaks away from the main action of the book to show an interlude in a Queens bar where a white working-class character defends himself against charges of anti-mutant racism by pointing to his close friendship with a black working-class character, arguing that “we ain’t the same color, but we’re still people.” By contrast (he explains), mutants are inhuman freaks who should be euthanized at birth by their own parents to prevent an “abomination” from walking the streets. In this instance, Claremont is arguing that anti-mutant prejudice exists at right angles to anti-black racial prejudice – something of a departure from his stance in “God Loves, Man Kills.”
 Interestingly, this constitutional position has continued to this day, despite the U.S military having eliminated gender restrictions on combat duty in 2015. In 2019, a District Court judge ruled against the Selective Service System under the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, only to be overruled by the Fifth Circuit, which held that only the Supreme Court could overturn its own ruling in Rostker. Only last year, the Supreme Court declined to review the ruling, although three justices wrote that the draft likely was now unconstitutional.
Last week, more than three dozen comic-book writers, artists, colorists, letterers, designers, and editors announced a collection of all-new comic-book stories to raise money to aid refugees in Ukraine. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, the benefit anthology edited by Scott Dunbier, with all proceeds going to Operation USA, surpassed an initial $35,000 funding goal just twelve hours after the campaign launched, with over $113,000 from over 900 contributors raised to date. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8 x 12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions, with hundreds of supporters on day one. As the campaign enters a second week of funding, it is announced that Eisner Award-winner Colleen Doran, legendary illustrator Greg Hildebrandt, and celebrated cover artist Joe Jusko have joined the project.
These three creators join the incredible roster of comics talent assembled for Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds; united under the mission of providing relief to a war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. There will be multiple versions available: a hardcover with a painted cover by Alex Ross, and softcover versions by Arthur Adams, Dave Johnson, and Bill Sienkiewicz. At press time, stories will be created by a virtual who’s who of writers and artists, including Brent Anderson, Sergio Aragones, June Brigman, Kurt Busiek, Howard Chaykin, Joshua Dysart, Mark Evanier, Emil Ferris, Dave Gibbons, Rob Guillory, John Layman, Gabriel Rodriguez, Stan Sakai, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Chris Sprouse, Jill Thompson, Matt Wagner, Mark Waid, and more.
Apart from hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing, etc.) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA, so while the initial funding goal has been met, continued support will maximize the impact on the lives of those deeply affected by the ongoing war—improving conditions for Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries via the provision of emergency grants and in-kind material aid.
Operation USA supports health and education programs to help children and families at home and abroad recover and thrive in the wake of disasters, disease, violence and endemic poverty. Every day, they strive to meet the needs of under-served and overlooked populations so that future generations may have the tools they need to create meaningful change in their own communities and lives. Working with partners around the world, they empower communities to recover, build resiliency and thrive in the face of pervasive obstacles during a time of unprecedented global need. Since 1979, OpUSA has delivered $450 million in aid to 101 countries.
Disclosure: The site founder is a part of this project handling some of the marketing for Zoop
(W) Donny Cates, J. Michael Straczynski, Dan Jurgens, Walter Simonson, Al Ewing, Tom DeFalco, Jason Aaron (A) Oliver Coipel, Dan Jurgens, Walter Simonson, Lee Garbett, Ron Frenz, Das Pastoras (A/CA) Nic Klein Rated T+ In Shops: Apr 27, 2022 SRP: $8.99
STAR-STUDDED CELEBRATION OF 750 ISSUES! After a scorched-earth victory against the God of Hammers, Thor and all of Asgard reel from a brutal loss. But some people are never truly gone, and as Thor and his allies come together so will fan-favorite creators from throughout Thor’s history! In addition to the main story by Cates and Klein, join some of Thor’s most acclaimed writers and artists as they revisit their landmark runs with all-new adventures: • Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Oliver Coipel reunite for a story set during their redefining Thor saga • Legendary comics creator Dan Jurgens writes and draws an incredible Thor and Balder teamup • Comics icon Walter Simonson writes and draws an all-new adventure starring his beloved creation, Beta Ray Bill • Al Ewing and Lee Garbett collaborate for the first time since LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD to bring you an all-new chapter for the god of mischief • Superstar team Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz are back together to captivate you with an Enchantress story • And prepare for a revelatory tale about Odin that only writer Jason Aaron and artist Das Pastoras can deliver! Celebrate the long and storied history of the God of Thunder with the writers and artists who helped build his legacy!
During June, DC will celebrate the 68th birthday of George Pérez, one of the titans of the comic industry, with a two-page spread featuring some of his most beloved characters. Working from a layout designed by Dan Jurgens, some of the industry’s biggest names including Jim Lee, Walter Simonson, Alex Ross, Dave Gibbons, Todd McFarlane, Daniel Sampere, Jerry Ordway, Nicola Scott and many more, collaborated on the colorful spread.
In December, Pérez took to Facebook to announce that he has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer. His doctors estimated he has six months to a year left, and rather than undergoing time-consuming treatment, Pérez decided to spend the time with his friends and family.
The tribute features the following DC characters that Pérez is most known for, as well as the man himself, drawn by a number of the top artists in the industry and colored by Hi-Fi:
The Monitor & Anti-Monitor – Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Trigon – Todd McFarlane
The Spectre – Alex Ross
Darkseid – Walter Simonson
Firestorm & The Justice League Satellite – Scott Kolins
Ares & Hippolyta – Phil Jimenez
Cheetah & The Amazons – Colleen Doran
Lady H.I.V.E. & H.I.V.E. Agents – Scott Koblish
Vigilante – Dave Gibbons
Cheshire – Joëlle Jones
Brother Blood – Darryl Banks
Blackfire – Mike McKone
Gizmo & Mammoth – Klaus Janson
Shimmer – Bruno Redondo
Psimon – Mikel Janín
Neutron & Jinx – Dan Mora
The Legion of Super-Heroes – Francis Manapul
The Justice Society of America – Jerry Ordway
Power Girl & Huntress – Kevin Maguire
The Justice League of America (and the background) – Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
Superboy-Prime & Alexander Luthor – Ivan Reis
Supergirl – Gary Frank
Harbinger – Adam Hughes
Pariah – Daniel Sampere
Jericho & Kole – Nicola Scott
The New Teen Titans, Deathstroke & George Pérez – José Luis García-López
Accompanying the spread on a separate page will be a key highlighting the characters and artists that participated.
In addition to being included in all of DC’s June issues, the tribute will also be featured as a variant cover for Dark Crisis #7. Each issue of the event series will feature a cover highlighting a previous crisis event from DC’s history, starting with the genre defining Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez for issue #1. Artwork and additional details on each of the covers will be announced at a later date.
A special version of the Dark Crisis #7 variant cover will be available for sale by The Hero Initiative to raise funds for one of Pérez’s favorite charities. Pérez is a founding member of Hero Initiative’s board of directors and has served as chair of its Disbursement Committee.
More than three dozen comic-book writers, artists, colorists, letterers, designers, and editors have announced a collection of all-new comic-book stories to raise money to aid refugees in Ukraine. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds is a benefit anthology edited by Scott Dunbier, with all proceeds going to Operation USA. The 96 page graphic anthology will available in both hardcover and softcover editions with multiple cover choices.
The Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds anthology features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. There will be multiple versions available.
Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Wade Von Grawbadger, Alex Sinclair, Richard Starkings – New Astro City
John Layman, Rob Guillory – New Chew
Walter Simonson, Laura Martin, John Workman – New and Exclusive Star Slammers
Howard Chaykin, Nitro Yen, Ken Bruzenak – New and Exclusive American Flagg
Stan Sakai, Hi-Fi – New and Exclusive Usagi Yojimbo
Matt Wagner, Brennan Wagner – New and Exclusive Grendel
Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragones, Stan Sakai – New and Exclusive Groo
Jill Thompson – New and Exclusive Scary Godmother
Louise Simonson, June Brigman, Roy Richardson, Dave Stewart, John Workman – New and Exclusive short story “The Cost of War“
Dave Gibbons, Chris Sprouse, Kevin Nowlan, Laura Martin, Todd Klein – New and Exclusive short story “Hardrada“
Mark Waid, Gabriel Rodriguez, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein – A new and exclusive short story
Emil Ferris – New and Exclusive short story “Bombings“
Additional material by:
With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing, etc.) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA.
Operation USA supports health and education programs to help children and families at home and abroad recover and thrive in the wake of disasters, disease, violence and endemic poverty. Every day, we strive to meet the needs of under-served and overlooked populations so that future generations may have the tools they need to create meaningful change in their own communities and lives. Working with partners around the world, we empower communities to recover, build resiliency and thrive in the face of pervasive obstacles during a time of unprecedented global need. Since 1979, OpUSA has delivered $450 million in aid to 101 countries.
Check out the cover by Alex Ross below.
Disclosure: I am a part of this project and act as the marketing director for Zoop.
Next month, fans will get to celebrate the long and storied history of the God of Thunder with the writers and artists who helped build his legacy! Arriving just in time for Thor’s 60th anniversary, Thor #24 will be a 74-page epic honoring 750 thunderous issues. The milestone issue will see some of Thor’s greatest legends return home to tell thrilling new tales set during their landmark runs.
Thor #24 will take place in the aftermath of “God of Hammers,” the latest epic in writer Donny Cates and artist Nic Klein’s hit run on the title. After a scorched-earth victory that cost the God of Thunder both his hammer and his father, Thor and all of Asgard mourn Odin, unaware that the former All-Father lives on in Thor’s newly reforged hammer!
In addition to the main story by Cates and Klein, here are the all-new tales readers can look forward to:
Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Oliver Coipel reunite for a story set during their redefining Thor saga
Legendary comics creator Dan Jurgens writes and draws an incredible Thor and Balder teamup
Comics icon Walter Simonson makes his grand return to Thor, writing and drawing an all-new adventure that explores the origin of his beloved creation, Beta Ray Bill
Al Ewing and Lee Garbett collaborate for the first time since Loki: Agent of Asgard to bring you an all-new chapter for the god of mischief that leads directly into Ewing’s upcoming Defenders Beyond series
And prepare for a revelatory tale about Odin that only writer Jason Aaron and artist Das Pastoras can deliver!
Check out interior pages and Nic Klein’s design sheet for Mjolnir’s new look now and pick up Thor #24 when it arrives on April 27!
Come to Baltimore Comic-Con at the Inner Harbor’s Baltimore Convention Center this October 28-30, 2022. Baltimore Comic-Con has announced Howard Chaykin, Bob Hall, Greg Hildebrandt, Louise Simonson, and Walter Simonson as guests of our 2022 event. Get your tickets now!
Howard Victor Chaykin is a longtime veteran of the comic book business. As a cartoonist — both writing and drawing — he has been a major influence on the direction of comics, referred to frequently as one of the principal architects of the modern comic book. His signature creation, American Flagg!, introduced a new level of narrative complexity, depth of character, and point of view in its text, not to mention a previously unseen level of design and craft to the visual nature of an all-too-frequently staid and timid medium. Chaykin continues to produce work that pushes the envelope of concept, context, and content in comics…in The Divided States of Hysteria for example, a comic book which, thanks to social media, enraged an entire new generation of the willfully ignorant who might have had a better case if they’d actually read the damned book. Chaykin’s newest series, Hey Kids! Comics!, is a fictionalized history of the comic book business, a love letter written with just a frisson of acid in the ink, to the field he’s loved and called home for over four decades.
Bob Hall had a long association with Marvel Comics, where at one time or another he drew most of the major books and characters such as The Champions, Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Conan, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Submariner, Captain America, PSI Force, The Avengers, and The New Mutants. He was the artist for the West Coast Avengers mini-series and was the primary artist on the original Squadron Supreme. He drew movie adaptations of Willow, Dark Man, and the notorious first Captain America movie, as well as pencils and inks for the graphic novel, Emperor Doom. Bob was an editor at Marvel in 1979. For Valiant, he wrote and penciled the monthly series Shadowman, wrote Timewalker, and then created Armed and Dangerous, a black and white “comicbook-noir” series. For DC, he wrote and drew the Batman graphic novel projects Batman DOA, I Joker, and It’s Jokertime. Recently, he has been creating educational comics that have tackled measles, mosquitoes, COVID-19, and vaccine hesitancy. Bob is a member of the National Cartoonists Society, Actors Equity Association, and the Society for Directors and Choreographers. His work can be seen at www.bobhall.com. Commissions and original art are available through www.catskillcomics.com. He can be messaged on Facebook.
The sons of a Chevrolet division chief, Greg Hildebrandt and his identical twin brother, Tim, were born in Detroit, Michigan in 1939. Both boys were avid artists and creative thinkers from a young age and carried their artistic passion with them throughout their childhoods.
After attending the Meinzinger Art School at age 18, Greg and Tim worked for the Jam Handy Organization and Industrial Film Production Corporation. They worked on animated training films for the auto industry, the military and major US corporations. In 1963, they moved from Detroit to New York City to work for Arch Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. He hired them to create art for his weekly TV show, Life is Worth Living, and to produce films on world hunger.
Eventually their focus moved on to commercial illustration, and in 1975, Greg and Tim illustrated the first of a series of Lord of the Rings calendars for Ballantine Books. This series of paintings launched the two men into international fame, with over a million calendars sold, and the name The Brothers Hildebrandt(R) was born! In 1977, Lucas Films hired the Brothers Hildebrandt to create the movie poster for the first Star Wars film, Star Wars: A New Hope. They only had 36 hours to create and paint the art. The movie was about to break in the theaters. They completed it on time. Lucas was very happy and another worldwide fandom was created.
In 2015, Greg had the opportunity to return to Star Wars after 20 years for Marvel Comics. He painted three new pieces for them for Star Wars compendium covers. He also painted Deadpool, Old Man Logan, Secret Wars, Captain America vs. Hitler, Black Panther, Thor, Thanos, The Inhumans, Conan and Old Man Logan comic covers for them. In 2015, Greg started a new series titled “The Dark Side”. In this series, he painted his favorite villains in extremely large paintings, focusing mostly on giant head shots. The first three in the series are The Joker, Harley Quinn, and Batman.
In 2018, Greg began a new series titled “What If”. What if he wasn’t a kid in the 40’s and 50’s? What if he was an artist hired to paint the movie posters for the films he has loved since his first movie at age 5? So, he started with Creature from the Black Lagoon. The second painting he completed in this series is a painting for King Kong, 86 inches tall! This one is a killer piece of art. Then, Greg decided to repaint the 1977 Star Wars poster. In 1977, he painted it in 36 hours with his brother Tim. This time, he painted it in 36 hours alone.
Recently, Greg was honored by the Air Force at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. They requested a license to put one of Greg’s pinup paintings titled, “Keep em Flying”, on the nose of a transport plane. Greg, of course, said yes. This is a dream come true for him.
Louise Simonson has, like her husband Walter, contributed significantly to the comic book industry. “Weezie”, as she is known, began her comics career as an editor at Warren Publishing before leaving for Marvel to edit titles including X-Men, New Mutants, and Star Wars. Departing the editorial role in favor of writing, Weezie has contributed to storylines in Marvel’s Marvel Team-Up, Web of Spider-Man, and Red Sonja, and was responsible for the introduction of Apocalypse in X-Factor as well as the launch of Power Pack. At DC Comics, she worked on Superman: The Man of Steel and The Adventures of Superman.
Walter Simonson has made vast contributions to comics publishing, as a writer, an artist, and even in founding publishing imprints. He was recognized in 2012 at the Harvey Awards in Special Award for Excellence in Production/Presentation and Best Domestic Reprint Project for Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor, Artist’s Edition from IDW, and in 2013 for Alien: The Illustrated Story from Titan Books for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work. He also received the Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 at the Harvey Awards. Walt’s career began in the 1970s at DC Comics, where he worked on titles such as Weird War Tales, Manhunter, Metal Men, Orion, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Vigilante, and Hercules Unbound. Over at Marvel Comics, Simonson has had numerous noteworthy runs, including The Rampaging Hulk magazine, X-Factor, Fantastic Four, and Thor, on which he was responsible for the introduction of Beta Ray Bill and Thor as a frog. His most recent epic is the Ragnarok series at IDW Publishing.
Confirmed guests for this year’s show include: John Beatty (Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars), Brian Michael Bendis (Action Comics), Mark Buckingham (Fables), Jim Calafiore (NED, Lord of the Pit), Richard Case (Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror), Frank Cho (Harley Quinn), Katie Cook (Nothing Special), Kristina Deak-Linsner (Roses for the Dead), Gene Ha (Mae, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Bob Hall (West Coast Avengers), Mike Hawthorne (Happiness Will Follow), Greg Hildebrandt (Star Wars), Klaus Janson (Daredevil, Friday and Saturday only), Chris Kemple (Artist Alley Comics), Barry Kitson (Amazing Spider-Man), Joseph Michael Linsner (Red Sonja), Bob McLeod (New Mutants), Shawn McManus (Sandman, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Frank Miller (Sin City, Friday and Saturday only), Bill Morrison (The Simpsons), Trevor Mueller (Albert the Alien), Richard Pace (Second Coming, courtesy of Hero Initiative), Andrew Pepoy (Simone & Ajax), Khoi Pham (Teen Titans), Afua Richardson (Omni), Jon Romita, Jr. (Amazing Spider-Man), Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge), Louise Simonson (X-Men Legends), Walter Simonson (Ragnarok), Mark Waid (Superman: Red and Blue), Emily S. Whitten (The Underfoot), Keith Williams (Thor the Worthy), and Thom Zahler (Love and Capes).