Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Adele Dazeem’s Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let It Go” from Frozen is inescapable (and downright catchy), I’d somehow missed widespread speculation that the big scene from Disney’s latest animated blockbuster is an elaborate homage to the Mars sequence from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
It’s already inspired some mashups, but now Slate’s Forrest Wickman draws our attention to one that may just erase any doubts, ending the debate once and for all (or, y’know, not): Alex Wolinetz‘s combination of the song’s lyrics with Gibbons’ panels depicting a self-exiled Doctor Manhattan. (You can see the rest of the mashup at Slate.com.)
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “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. So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]
“I announce From Hell and in short order he ‘has the idea’ for a comic strip account of a historical serial murderer. I announce Lost Girls, a lengthy erotic work involving characters from fiction, and within a few months he has somehow managed to conceptualise a Vertigo mini-series along exactly those lines. What I at first believed to be the actions of an ordinary comic-business career plagiarist came to take on worrying aspects of cargo cultism, as if this funny little man believed that by simply duplicating all of my actions, whether he understood them or not, he could somehow become me and duplicate my success. It would appear that at one stage, as an example, he had concluded that the secret to being a big-time acclaimed comic-writer was to be found in having a memorable hairstyle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the possession of talent, hard-earned craft or even his own ideas would seem never to have occurred to him.”
— Alan Moore, delving deep into his history with Grant Morrison (such that it is), whom he refers to as “some feverishly fixated non-entity” and “my own personal 18th century medicinal leech,” who “through the early years of this present century […] somehow managed to perpetuate his career seemingly without the accomplishment of any major or memorable works.”
The interview, conducted via email by Padraig O’Mealoid, is a fascinating and contentious read, with Moore also taking aim at journalist Laura Sneddon and The Independent. But he devotes a lot of space to Morrison.
Conventions | Complaints about comics conventions are apparently the same the world over, as a writer who attended the third annual Mumbai Film and Comic Convention (simply Mumbai Comic Con in its first year) this weekend notes, “Not to seem hypocritical, since we all tend to buy curios and the occasional t-shirt at Comicon every year, but when merchandising stalls (read: t-shirt shops) start outnumbering those which have an actual reason for being at a convention in the first place, we’ve got a problem.” According to DNA India, this year’s event saw the debut of the convention’s mascot, Wonder Bai (at right). [Think Digit]
Digital comics | Microsoft and the Indian publisher Amar Chitra Katha launched a comics app for Windows 8 at Mumbai Film and Comic Convention. “Children these days are drifting away from their Indian mythologies and stories, so this was our attempt to bring these value building stories on a platform familiar to them,” said Vineet Durani of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Business Group. [DNA India]
Marvel on Tuesday released the first preview of its remastered Miracleman #1, dividing fans with its modern coloring. Some of the comments come from newer comics readers still wondering what the big deal is about this series; surely, the “mehs” are already being prepared for the issue’s Jan. 15. debut.
Despite the updated coloring, it probably isn’t fair or even realistic to hold the series up against contemporary comics, despite Miracleman‘s significant influence on a good deal of them. Instead, it’s best to view these stories in the context of the times, which makes it easier to see why Miracleman (or Marvelman, if you prefer) is the natural stepping stone to Watchmen, and established many of the themes Alan Moore and many creators that followed him would explore in subsequent works up through the present day.
Among the relatively few fans who have read these stories, Miracleman is often held in the same regard as seminal works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Both of those revered miniseries debuted in 1986 and caused a seismic shift in how superhero comics, and mainstream comics in general, were created and received. It’s worth noting then that a good amount of what Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns later touched upon and accomplished had been done four years earlier with Marvelman. If it weren’t for the legendary rights quagmire that prevented those stories from being reprinted, Miracleman would almost surely be just as celebrated and commercially successful as its successors.
Following the release this morning of the preview of Marvel’s remastered Miracleman #1, CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley dug into his archives for the original 1982 color issue, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach, so we can compare and contrast (the story first appeared in black and white in 1982’s Warrior #1).
While some traditionalists may argue for the original, we can probably all agree that Miracleman’s recolored, non-purple face on the right is a great improvement. You can compare the other preview pages below.
The remastered Miracleman #1, featuring a new cover by Joe Quesada, goes on sale Jan. 15.
As if recent renewed debate about its ending weren’t enough to demonstrate that, after 25 years, Batman: The Killing Joke can still spur discussion, now new original artwork has surfaced indicating the scene depicting the torture of Barbara Gordon was initially far more graphic and sexualized.
A photo of the inked page (below, definitely NSFW) was tweeted Sunday by Bill Hynes, a former employee of Gosh! Comics in London, revealing a naked and bleeding Barbara among the montage of images shown to her father James Gordon. In the published comic, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, that shot is replaced by a close-up of Barbara’s face.
Bolland confirmed the artwork’s authenticity, writing on his blog, “Here’s a page I drew for Killing Joke. I drew what was in the script. That’s my job. I was asked to tone it down a bit. I don’t know how the person who posted it got this image.”
Sue of DC Women Kicking Ass notes, “This isn’t some thumbnail sketch. This is a final inked page. At least someone at DC had some sense to kill it. Because really, how can you claim a book doesn’t sexualize violence when you have stuff like that in print?”
Indeed, whether the Joker raped Barbara Gordon has been long debated, with some readers insisting the violence was physical and not necessarily sexual. This page now may cast the scene, and the already-controversial comic, in a slightly different light.
“I knew what a movie script looked like, I’d seen them. But I couldn’t get my head around what a comic script was. And eventually, a marvelous comics writer, probably the finest writer of comics there’s ever been, a man named Alan Moore just showed me how to write comics. He sat down and said, ‘Right, right now, you write Page One, Panel One. And then you say everything that is happening in that panel.’ In this case, you know, you’d say, ‘Page one, panel one, Neil Gaiman and Tom Ashbrook are sitting in a studio, there’s paper all over the desk, there are great big microphones. Neil is talking, waving his hands around, doing an impression of Alan Moore. Tom is nodding sagely.’
It’s stage directions, and it’s a letter to an artist. And then underneath, you’d write Tom: ‘It’s stage directions'; Neil: ‘It’s a letter to an artist’ and those would be what would go into the word balloons. And Neil, thought balloon: ‘I’m so glad they got me that cup of tea.’ You put everything. As far as I was concerned, and still to this day, as far as I’m concerned a comic script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist. I would always get puzzled when people would say to me, ‘So you write comics! So you write the words that go in the balloons.’ And you’re going, ‘That’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg.’ What I’m doing is building the cake, and in those words I will tell the artist everything I want to be in the panel — the size of the panel, the shape. What you’re also doing is working with some of the most creative people in the world.”
— The Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, turning his interview with Tom Ashbrook for the WBUR radio show On Point into a comic script on the spot
“Now, see, I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”
— Alan Moore, addressing modern superhero comics in an interview with The Guardian about Fashion Beast, his collaboration with Malcolm McLaren. Moore also touches upon the influence of his work on other writers, and gets in a jab another in the process: “Grant Morrison has actually self-confessedly made a tactic of not only basing some of his narratives on my style or my work but also trying to make himself more famous by slagging me off at every opportunity. I have nothing to do with him.”
We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.
One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.
Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.
Legendary comics writer Alan Moore will turn 60 on Monday, and the digital comics distributor Sequential is celebrating with a free download of Gary Millidge’s Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman, as well as a sale on all of its Moore comics.
Millidge originally put together the 20-page bio-comic in 2003 to celebrate Moore’s 50th birthday, and he has revised and updated it for this occasion. It’s text-heavy, with a two-page introduction followed by the story of Moore’s life told in panels from his comics, overlaid with lots and lots of text boxes. It’s certainly an interesting comic and worth checking out if you have an iPad. Millidge is the creator of the self-published comic Strangehaven and the editor of the anthology Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman.
Sequential is also offering discounts on a number of Moore’s comics: From Hell is $3.99, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century and Nemo: Heart of Ice are priced at $2.99 each.
If you’re wondering, “Is it worth it to download another app just for these cheap comics?” the answer is probably yes, if you have an iPad and you like indie and underground comics, particularly those from the United Kingdom. Sequential has a very nice presentation, and there’s quite a bit of free material, including the collection of Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales (which includes Moore’s Leviticus) and the digital comics magazine Infinity.
Back in April Alan Moore told Padraig O. Mealoid that he was almost finished with the follow-up to Nemo: Heart of Ice. Titled Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, the graphic novel follows the further adventures of Janni Nemo, daughter of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen member Captain Nemo, as she takes over the family business (and submarine).
Thanks to Forbidden Planet, we now have some additional details on Roses of Berlin, including a cover, a release date and solicitation text:
“From The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! Sixteen years ago, notorious science-brigand Janni Nemo journeyed into the frozen reaches of Antarctica to resolve her father’s weighty legacy in a storm of madness and loss, barely escaping with her Nautilus and her life. Now it is 1941, and with her daughter strategically married into the family of aerial warlord Jean Robur, Janni’s raiders have only limited contact with the military might of the clownish German-Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel. But when the pirate queen learns that her loved ones are held hostage in the nightmarish Berlin, she has no choice save to intervene directly, traveling with her aging lover Broad Arrow Jack into the belly of the beastly metropolis. Within that alienated city await monsters, criminals, and legends, including the remaining vestiges of Germany’s notorious ‘Twilight Heroes’, a dark Teutonic counterpart to Mina Murray’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And waiting at the far end of this gauntlet of alarming adversaries there is something much, much worse.”
Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]
Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]