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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This time around Carla lovingly tackles the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, with a shout-out to Rocket Raccoon co-creator Bill Mantlo, while Tim remembers Dwayne McDuffie, who would have celebrated a birthday last week. Plus there’s frozen bromance, rockin’ gods, Daredevil #36 and more. So let’s get to it …
Ooogachaka! The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer came out, and people can’t get enough of this ragtag bunch of space outlaws. For fans of the Marvel movie-verse, this is going to be a treat and a fresh new take from Marvel Studios. Each movie so far has had a different feel from one another that can be stirred up into a great big Avengers stew. The sword and sci-fi elements of Thor, the classic adventure of Captain America and the hip action of Iron Man are one thing, but this trailer feels like nothing we’ve seen yet. There’s a certain kind of joy in being able to call your leading heroes “a bunch of a-holes,” filing them up in a criminal line-up and throwing in a cheesy ’60s pop song. And that’s the kind of joy a lot of people are going to get behind this August.
It’s weird that the only characters who look really comic-accurate are the walking tree and the gun-toting mammal, but I expect Groot and Rocket Raccoon to steal the show. And with Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ sales soaring with the trailer’s release, it’s even more heartening to see that Rocket Raccoon co-creator and comic writing legend Bill Mantlo getting a well-deserved and needed spotlight. From Grek Pak’s website:
That ridiculously awesome raccoon with the machine gun who blew your mind in that “Guardians of the Galaxy” footage was created in 1976 by writer Bill Mantlo and artist Keith Giffen. Tragically, as LifeHealthPro’s Bill Coffin documented in a tremendously moving article a few years ago, Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 1992 and suffered traumatic brain injury.
If you love Rocket Raccoon — or Rom or the Hulk or the Micronauts or Cloak and Dagger or any of the incredible characters Bill Mantlo wrote during his prolific career — please consider clicking the button below to send your donation to Bill’s brother Mike for Bill’s ongoing care.
This past week marked what would have been writer Dwayne McDuffie’s 52nd birthday as well as three years since his death in 2011. McDuffie’s absence has been on lingering in the back of my mind since my recent interview with Jimmie Robinson. In part he said the following: “What we have is a diverse base in the comic industry, but the top 10 percent doesn’t reflect the width of the industry. Even if say you get a creator of color who can garner around 100K in monthly sales that would only be one person. We had Dwayne McDuffie, and he left us too soon. And now he left a hole. But patching a hole at the top isn’t the solution to the general problem.”
McDuffie was a storyteller who reminded me in a sense of Archie Goodwin in that he left an impact and legacy on comics in at least two ways—as a writer, of course, though also as an editor. But he also struck me as a comic book fan who never forgot the impact that comics had on him as a kid. And those impressions seemed to fuel his approach to comics. Thanks to McDuffie’s family and friends, who have been kind enough to maintain his website—as well as periodically update it with archival material, I recently discovered an excerpt from 2000 of McDuffie’s recollection of why Don McGregor’s 1970s Black Panther resonated with him.
“The Black Panther was nobody’s sidekick and if there was any rescuing to do, he’d take care of it himself, thank you. Moreover, the Black Panther was king of a mythical African country where black people were visible in every position in society, soldier, doctor, philosopher, street sweeper, ambassador -suddenly everything was possible. In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.
“I’ve spoken ad nauseam about the importance of multiculturalism in fiction, as in life. I’ve preached about the sense of validation a kid feels when they see their image reflected heroically in the mass media. This particular summer afternoon, reading about the dastardly (but nuanced) Eric Killmonger’s villainous plot to usurp the Black Panther’s rightful throne, is precisely when it happened to me. I realized that these stories could be about me, that I could be the hero. Years later writing in my own comic I’d describe that wonderful feeling as ‘the sudden possibility of flight.’ Milestone Comics was, among many other things, an attempt to pass that feeling along. It’s all about gaining the high ground. From up there, you gain the perspective to allow you to see the many possibilities open to you. This issue of JUNGLE ACTION single-handedly revealed to me that there were new heights to reach, new vistas to view. It also, not incidentally, entertained the Hell out of me.”
I think it may be a decade or more before we understand and respect the full impact that Milestone Comics had on the comics industry (admittedly it is obvious of as to its impact to a great extent already, but as with many things culturally, that impact may grow with perspective). McDuffie, of course, was a co-founder and creator of Milestone Media.
There are myriad reasons to lament the passing of McDuffie far too soon. On a most basic (and selfish) level, we all were denied the stories he had left to tell. Much is made of McDuffie’s Justice League of America #13–33 (circa 2007–2009) run (and the editorial directives he encountered on that run which impaired his ability to tell the story he wanted to share.
Yet for me, I was dismayed that his run on the Fantastic Four #542–553 happened to occur on the heels of Marvel’s Civil War followed by the Initiative. It is likely I am one of the few people that was disappointed to see Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch arrive on the scene to take over the FF. Whether McDuffie would have ever returned to write the FF again, no one can say. But I would have loved to see it happen. Hell, I would have been happy to read or watch any comics or TV shows he wrote. As would many of us. (Tim O’Shea)
Although Daredevil #36 is the last issue of the current series, it’s far from the end of the line for Matt Murdock, Daredevil or even Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s take on the character. What it is, though, is a game-changing turning point for The Man Without Fear that puts to rest a long-standing plot point the book has danced around for years now and sets up the new Daredevil series as something completely different from what’s come before. Which is kind of where we started when Waid came onto the book — with something different that gave Matt Murdock room to breath and be alive and have fun again, even if he’s still surrounded by tragedy and evil and insurmountable odds that he will literally do whatever it takes to overcome, no matter the personal sacrifice.
Waid’s run has already had some pretty great moments that gave us fresh takes on Daredevil’s super senses and radar, but in the first three pages of this issue Foggy sums up what really makes Daredevil stand apart from the rest of his costumed peers — basically defining Daredevil’s secret super power. It’s an emotional scene that tells us as much about the cancer-ridden Foggy as it does his buddy and law partner. The rest of the issue is pretty cool, too — Samnee must have had a lot of fun bringing the courtroom battle to life, while page 10’s first panel manages to beautifully capture the life of Matt Murdock in half a page — but those first three pages were worth the price of admission for me. (JK Parkin)
There’s no legal reason why you can’t take characters like Loki and Thor and Odin and all those Asgardians and make your own comics starring them — they have been around for centuries, after all, so I’m pretty sure they’ve fallen into the public domain by now. But the challenge you face is coming up with a take on them that is different enough from what Marvel’s doing that it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy, while at the same time still keeps those basic things we all know and love about these characters intact. You don’t want to come across like the companies that make all those direct-to-DVD “mockbusters” like Snakes on a Train or Ratatoing, y’know?
BOOM!, Eric Esquivel and Jerry Gaylord have managed to pull it off in Loki: Ragnarok and Roll, their take on that brotherly bond we’ve all come to know and love between Thor and Loki. They twist it a bit; Thor’s the dick here, while Loki tries to reign in his brother’s destructive ways and eventually “takes one for the team,” getting banished to Earth after taking the blame for his brother’s misdeeds. It turns out to be a positive step, as he goes from being the god of mischief to a rock’n’roll god in the Hollywood club scene. The story never takes itself too seriously, while at the same time fleshing out the characters enough that they feel two-dimensional and, in the case of Loki, worth rooting for. While this issue is mostly set-up, it’s a strong start to what looks to be a fun series. (JK Parkin)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore’s new take on Marvel mainstay Ghost Rider sees the Spirit of Vengeance lose his traditional motorcycle in favor of a lowrider, so what better way to market this new take than to form a partnership with Lowrider Magazine?
The magazine’s April issue will see the new Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, on the cover with an illustration by series writer Felipe Smith. In addition, ads for Lowrider Magazine will run in Marvel’s April comics. While unconventional, it’s a marketing move that makes a lot of sense and will get word out about the new title to an audience that might not have otherwise known about it. (JK Parkin)
And finally … there’s a lot to like about the first four issues of Amazing X-Men by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness, but this page in particular from last Wednesday’s issue #4 is one of those “a picture’s worth a thousand words” moments.