Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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Catching up on various episodes of “Batman: The Brave And The Bold,” I was pleasantly surprised that one teaser (YouTube — careful!) focused on the Challengers of the Unknown.
Not having read their Silver Age adventures, I wouldn’t consider myself a Challengers expert, but I do like the basic idea. They’re straight-up adventurers brought together largely by a shared experience of cheating death, and because they live “on borrowed time,” they have decided to spend that time saving the world. First appearing in 1957’s Showcase #6 (just two issues after the Silver Age Flash’s debut in #4), and springing at least in part from Jack Kirby’s fertile imagination, the Challs are often tied to a pre-superhero Silver Age either explicitly (as in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier and the recent Legacies miniseries) or as spiritual representatives of that time (as in Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett’s Superboy or Mark Waid, George Pérez, and Jerry Ordway’s run on The Brave and the Bold). Attempts to “update” the team, whether by aging the originals or creating new Challengers, haven’t gotten much traction, despite the best efforts of folks like Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Steven Grant, Len Kaminski, John Paul Leon, and Howard Chaykin.
So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
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.
It is, thankfully, the last week of September which means that, if I had $15, I only have one more week of new launches from DC to pick out potential favorites, Sophie’s Choice-style. This week: Aquaman #1, Flash #1, Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men #1, Justice League Dark #1 and Superman #1 make the cut (All DC, all $2.99 each).
If I had the chance to add some more money to take that total to $30, I’d go for some Marvel books: Brian Michael Bendis gets well-represented with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2 ($3.99); New Avengers #16.1 ($2.99), his “new readers jump on” issue with art by Neal Adams; and Brilliant #1 ($3.99), his new creator-owned book with Mark Bagley. Here’s hoping I’m in a suitably Bendis-y mood when I read all of these ones.
Splurgewise, it has to be Habibi (Pantheon, $35), Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel. I know a few people who’ve had a chance to read it already, and everyone has made it sound like a large leap ahead from Blankets, and something almost worth the many-year wait it’s been since his breakthrough last book. I’m really looking forward to this one.
Last week I talked about rediscovering the ‘70s series Secret Society of Super-Villains. As you might have guessed, this was made possible largely by the Internet. Without it, I would have had to scour back-issue boxes at regional comics shops and/or at the occasional convention. After all, that’s what I grew up doing.
Regardless of where or how I bought those back issues, the fact remains that I bought them pretty much sight-unseen. Oh sure, I remembered random scenes from isolated issues, but basically my yen for SSoSV grew out of two things: its concept and its reputation. I knew what it aimed to be, and I figured if Gerry Conway wrote most of it, it couldn’t be all bad.*
What’s more (at the risk of being obvious) I had to track down these back issues because a collected version of Secret Society of Super-Villains is apparently still trapped in royalty-payment limbo. Not that I am especially bitter about that, mind you; because clearly I don’t mind reading the individual issues and they weren’t that hard to find.
The September solicitations are here, bringing with them another month’s worth of teases and puffery. There are ongoing series for the Red Circle characters, a new edition of Red Son, and a paperback featuring a Communist Lady Blackhawk. As if that weren’t enough, this batch includes the start of a long-awaited Superman miniseries, the highly-anticipated conclusion of Flash: Rebirth, and a couple of minor characters in desperate need of some salesmanship. I’m also fairly sure that DC has made some kind of history in its writing corps.
Before we get to that, though, a non-solicitation item. I’m pretty happy that DC will be putting at least part of Wednesday Comics in a newspaper, even if it’s just the first installment of the Superman strip in one issue of USA Today. You may remember a couple of months ago that I went off on a little tirade about DC not supporting Wednesday Comics sufficiently, and while this isn’t quite what I had in mind, it may be pretty effective.
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