One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.
But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.
In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.
Booster Gold was introduced in 1986 as a glory-seeking time traveler eager to sign endorsement deals, and in his appearance on The CW’s Smallville wore a costume emblazoned with corporate logos, similar to a NASCAR racing suit. But what if other superheroes followed in Booster’s footsteps?
In his series “Sponsored Heroes,” Roberto Vergati Santos envisions costumed heroes from comics and films if they were getting some sweet, sweet sponsorship money from the likes of Nike, Apple and Coca-Cola (although why a cosmic entity like Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, would need corporate cash is beyond me).
Some of the results a much better than others. You can see a sampling below, or view the entire series at Behance.
I didn’t talk about the first issue of the new, more NOW! Secret Avengers last week for a few reasons: First off, I try to keep things positive as I can here at The Fifth Color; I can’t say I always succeed, but being fair is good goal to shoot for. Secondly, I would have wanted to talk about the ending of Rick Remender’s run on the title way more than Nick Spencer’s new gig. Seriously, how amazing was that last issue? Remender really pulled out all the stops on his fascinating robot revolution and really made me sit up and take notice toward the end despite what was more of a expositional start. I hope he has time to come back to his philosophical super-science take on man vs. machine, but I’m guessing it’ll be awhile before Deathlok is back under his employ. Then again, the Uncanny Avengers are specifically the “non-discriminatory: Avengers group, so maybe Deathlok will be sneaking into a few more pages- and see? I told you.
Lastly, it was the day after Valentine’s Day and I am a huge sap.
Thankfully, the esteemed Michael May was dashingly handsome enough to compare the new NOW! Nick Spencer spy story with the similarly cast new storyline in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Avengers Assemble. Comparing their sp-ytastic stories against one another, it was easy to see where one had suceeded at being a movie-like throwback to secret agent action and where one sadly failed.
Below, I’m going to talk about how Secret Avengers drew the short straw in comic storytelling and how that cool new ‘indy look’ for Marvel comics can fall flat on it’s face. Join me, won’t you?
WARNING: We’re talking about Secret Avengers #1 and Winter Soldier #14, so grab your copies and read along!
Last year was a good one for spy fans. We got new Bond and Bourne movies, Homeland continued to be a much-discussed television series, and films like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty proved that espionage films can also be art. Even The Avengers got in on the spy action by playing up S.H.IE.L.D. and the spy backgrounds of Black Widow and Hawkeye. Spies aren’t going away either, not with the recent debut of The Americans and a bunch of spy movies in the works, including a couple of John le Carré adaptations and a big-screen take on the video game Spy Hunter.
Borrowing from its 2012 cinematic blockbuster, Marvel is letting the spies infiltrate its comics, too. That was especially noticeable last week with the simultaneous release of Secret Avengers #1 and Avengers Assemble #12, each featuring Black Widow and Hawkeye in an espionage adventure with superpowers. But as alike as they were, each came at the idea from a wildly different angle and achieved results that were just as dissimilar. One was awesome. The other, not so much.
It’s all there in the headline. Artist Melissa Smith has taken a Pollock-like approach with these superhero paintings and the result is amazing. I’ve posted Black Widow, Spider-Man and Pikachu below, but visit Smith’s DeviantArt page to see other Avengers, Batman villains and video game characters.
Happy Father’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Today’s guests are two of the contributors to Skullkickers #18, which features several “Tavern Tales” short stories by different creative teams. Joining us today are Charles Soule of 27, Strange Attractors and Strongman fame, and Aubrey Sitterson, winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’s also the writer of Gear Monkey for Double Feature Comics and community manager for WWE Games.
To see what Charles, Aubrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Fans have been breaking down and building up everything big and small from The Avengers movie, and this recent set of art of Black Widow and Hawkeye really draws you in. Created by an artist named Lettie, these eight pieces bring into focus the nuanced relationship between Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton that was only hinted at in the Marvel film.
There’s been an immense amount of fan art surrounding The Avengers, showing everything from a love for shawarma to romantic relationships between Loki and the male cast to bloopers. Lettie’s artwork here really cuts to the bone, like a would-be set of deleted scenes that makes you want to see more of this pair’s relationship, either in a future Avengers movie or a spinoff all their own. Make it mine, Marvel!
Most papercraft dolls, as cool as they are, are stumpy little blocky deals, but My Paper Heroes has an Avengers set that smashes the old look. The link will lead you to downloadable PDFs with everything you need, including a variant hairstyle for Black Widow’s Iron Man 2 look, a helmet for Captain America and more. Unlike Widow’s feelings about giant, flying leviathans, I can totally see how that’s a party.
“Take the character of Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. Like the character of Katniss in The Hunger Games, she has skills you might not expect from her if you mistook her for what her unlucky Russian interrogator did—just another pretty face. Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff, is a more complicated character than Katniss, though. Possessed of numerous languages, secretive, a spy from childhood with a ‘very specific skillset,’ she’s not all good, though she’s working for good now—she has, as she says, “red on her ledger.” Flawed as she is, as they all are, that only serves to make her more empowering as a role model. You can imagine a young generation of girls watching this movie and thinking they want to be like her, now fighting for good, able to take down aliens and bad men and get bruised and bloody but never give up. As a woman, she’s outnumbered in her gender (the other badass woman in the group is S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, who gets fewer lines but still manages to escape and outsmart certain death over and over again while looking beautiful, as does Natasha). Maybe they’re pretty girls, but they absolutely get their time to shine alongside and on equal footing with the guys in a non-sexualized way. While they do wear tight-fitting black clothes that reveal their femininity (this is a big-budget movie based on a comic book, after all, and the dudes are wearing some skintight stuff as well), they are not considered “less” either by the men or by each other—or even, gender-equally so, by the villains.”
– Jen Doll, writing for The Atlantic Wire on the blockbuster success
of Marvel’s The Avengers, and the importance of superheroes
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
Well done, DC: For the second time, I’m suckered in by your wave of new launches. This week, if I had $15, I’d drop a chunk of that on Dial H #1, Earth-2 #1 and Worlds’ Finest #1 (All DC, Dial H and Worlds’ Finest both $2.99, Earth-2 $3.99). What can I say? I really love the DC Multiverse as a concept, and I’m curious to see what the new Dial H is like.
If I had $30, I’d add some more new launches in there: Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo’s Mind The Gap looks like a lot of fun (Image, $2.99), as does the first issue of New Mutants/Journey Into Mystery crossover Exiled #1 (Marvel, $2.99). On the recommendation of many, I’m also going to grab The Spider #1 (Dynamite, $3.99) to try out David Liss’ writing; I had a lot of people say good things about his Black Panther, so I’m looking forward to this new book.
Should I feel the urge to splurge, DC have again won the day: Spirit World HC (DC, $39.99)? Genre stories by Jack Kirby from my favorite period of his work that I’ve never seen before, including some that have never been reprinted before? Seriously, there’s no way I couldn’t want this book.
Mondo, Alamo Drafthouse’s collectible art boutique, has revealed the first two of the seven posters commissioned in honor of Marvel’s The Avengers. For his limited-edition Black Widow print, Olly Moss took a minimalist approach to the super-spy turned superhero, with a red gun in place of her lips and “From Russia With Gun,” a nod to James Bond, beneath. Meanwhile, Tom Whalen, who’s no stranger to comic books or costumed heroes, tackled Hawkeye with his trademark sense of graphic design.
The Black Widow and Hawkeye prints will gone on sale Thursday and Friday, respectively, for $45 each. Sale times will be announced via Mondo’s Twitter account.
One of the things a lot of pros like about C2E2 is the late start on Friday. It doesn’t open to the public until 1:00 pm, so creators can sleep in and recover from their trips if they want. Or, if they want to go early to set up or just walk around and visit with each other, they can do that too. It’s also helpful for press jerks taking lots of pictures. Lots. Of pictures.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
Congratulations, Dark Horse: You pretty much own my first $15 for the week, with Dark Horse Presents #8 ($7.99) and Star Wars: Dawn of The Jedi #0 ($3.50) both being my go-to new releases for the week. DHP has the new Brian Wood/Kristian Donaldson series The Massive launching, as well as more Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson and new Skeleton Key by Andi Watson, which is a pretty spectacular line-up, and the new Star Wars book coincides with the latest flare up of my irregular longing to check up on that whole universe’s goings-on. Apparently, I’m keeping it local this week, who knew?
If I had $30, I’d add Action Comics #6 (DC Comics, $3.99) and OMAC #6 (DC Comics, $2.99) to that pile — I’m particularly treasuring the latter before it goes away, although I have to admit that the time-jumping nature of these Action fill-ins has gotten me more excited than I should ‘fess up to — as well as a couple of Ed Brubaker books, Winter Soldier #1 (Marvel, $2.99) and Fatale #2 (Image Comics, $3.50). I wasn’t bowled over by Fatale‘s debut, but it intrigued me enough to want to give it another go, while the noir + super spy sales pitch for the new Marvel series pretty much guarantees my checking the first issue out at the very least.
When it comes to splurging, there is nothing I would buy – were I rich enough — more quickly than IDW’s John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man Artist Edition HC ($100), because … well, it’s classic Romita as the pages originally looked on his drawing board. How anyone can resist that (other than the price point), I don’t know.
Comics have always been fodder for live-action adaptations, from those early Captain America serials to Adam West’s Batman and on through the current crop of heroes gracing the big and small screens. But in that flow of ideas there are a couple that never made it to fruition but came close. Take this forgotten pitch for a Black Widow television series.
Marvel has provided Robot 6 with an exclusive first look at February’s Winter Soldier #1, by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice. Officially announced in early November, the ongoing series stars Bucky Barnes and Black Widow as what Brubaker describes as “a bit like the Mr. & Mrs. Smith team,” with Nick Fury as a member of the supporting cast.
An espionage thriller, the comic launches out of the revelation that the Russians created other Winter Soldier-like sleeper agents, and will feature new villains linked to Bucky’s Cold War history.
Check out the preview pages and solicitation text below. Winter Soldier #1 goes on sale Feb. 1.