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Race and superheroes: touching fanboy politics’ third rail

from Spider-Man: Fever #1 by Brendan McCarthy

from Spider-Man: Fever #1 by Brendan McCarthy

Warning: People who use the phrase “playing the race card” need not apply to the following post. I guess that rules out, y’know, our entire political class, but oh well. Anyway, a trio of recent pieces have taken on the issue of race in contemporary superhero comics and movies.

Perhaps the most high-profile of the three pieces is Chris Sims’s essay on “the racial politics of regressive storytelling” for Comics Alliance. Sims argues that DC Comics’ current penchant for restoring the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, the Legion of Super-Heroes and so on has the unintentional but regrettable effect of pushing their successors — in many cases, non-white characters created to replace their slain or off-stage white predecessors — to the sidelines. While he’s quite clear that he doesn’t believe Geoff Johns or any of the other writers or editors involved are motivated by racial animus, he laments the way in which several decades’ worth of minority characters are now becoming “footnotes” in the race to create comics that evoke the creators’ and readers’ memories of their childhood favorites. I’m sympathetic to the obvious truth in Sims’s argument — replacing Ryan Choi with Ray Palmer, for example, does indeed “whiten” the Atom concept once again. But as I wrote in an essay on my own blog, I think the blame lies not with Johns and his Rebirths and Brightest Day and so on, but with the creators who, instead of creating strong non-white characters out of whole cloth like Luke Cage or Storm or Black Panther, simply put new guys in the old guys’ outfits, thus all but inviting readers to think of them as substitutes and pine for their original favorites.

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Collect This Now! | Skin

Skin-cover-Peter-Milligan-Brendan-McCarthy-Carol-Swain

Even though we live in a golden age of reprints, there are still deserving comics that, for one reason or another, fail to get collected, translated, or reprinted in nice, shiny, new books. This monthly column is dedicated to those books that, we feel, need another round in the spotlight.

The welcome return of artist Brendan McCarthy to the world of comical books with Spider-Man: Fever got me thinking about how most of the comics he’s done (mostly with Collect This Now’s patron saint Peter Milligan) are sadly out of print. That’s a shame, as his bibliography contains a lot of great work that deserves re-examination, including Rogan Gosh, Paradax and the topic of today’s column, Skin.

One of the more interesting things about Skin actually is that it had a bit of trouble getting published initially. Originally Skin was supposed to be published in 1990 in Crisis, a spin-off of the classic British anthology series 2000 AD. The printers refused to handle it, and the publisher got cold feet, and it didn’t end up seeing the light of day until 1992, when Kevin Eastman’s Tundra press released it with little fanfare.

What made so many of these fine folks reluctant to print the comic? Well, for one thing, it could have been the subject matter. You see, Skin is about a Thalidomide baby. More specifically, it’s about a Thalidomide kid who’s a skinhead, has sex with hippies and eventually ends up getting revenge on the people who made the drug by going after them with an ax. (oops, spoilers!)

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Forbush Man, Doctor America and Golden Age Deadpool star in Who Won’t Wield the Shield? one-shot

Doctor America

Doctor America

When I first saw the solicitation for Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Who Won’t Wield the Shield? one-shot, I thought it was just another Deadpool parody comic. But while Deadpool does make an appearance — or the Golden Age version, anyway — he’s not the only character making fun of Captain America. The book will feature a new Forbush Man story written by Jason Aaron, a Doctor Strange/Captain America mash-up by Matt Fraction and the previously mentioned Golden Age Deadpool tale by Stuart Moore. Marvel.com talked to all three writers about their stories.

“Dr. Stephen Rogers, transformed by the Super-Satan formula into the pentagram-bespangled sentinel of the arcane, Doctor America,” Fraction said. “On behalf of the Undergovernment he goes mano eeeee mano with Richard Milhous Manson, aka the sinister Red Dick, and his genocidal assistant Bebe Rebeyonder to save the soul of the swinging, sinister, ’60s.”

Fraction’s tale, appropriately, will be drawn by Brendan McCarthy, as you can see to the right. OK, now I wish I’d pre-ordered this …

High Fever: An interview with Brendan McCarthy

Spider-Man: Fever #1

Spider-Man: Fever #1

One of the biggest problems with comics these days is that Brendan McCarthy simply isn’t making enough of them.

The UK artist, known mainly for his inspired and frequently surreal collaborations with writer Peter Milligan during the 1980s and 90s, (most notably Skin and Rogan Gosh) hasn’t produced any sequential art since his mind-bending issue of Solo (fittingly the last issue in that late, lamented series) six years ago, a comic which in itself marked a lengthy hiatus. In between those periods, McCarthy has opted instead to mostly work on various television and movie projects like Reboot, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies and most recently a potential fourth Mad Max sequel.

Thankfully Marvel is about to change all that. The company that Disney bought has enlisted McCarthy to write and draw Spider-Man: Fever, a three-issue limited series starring the wall-crawler and Dr. Strange that will arrive in stores this April (or at least the first issue will).

I talked to McCarthy over email about the new series and the challenges it offered.

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Straight for the awesome | Brendan McCarthy’s Spider-Man: Fever preview

from Brendan McCarthy's Spider-Man: Fever

from Brendan McCarthy's Spider-Man: Fever

Comics Alliance scored themselves an exclusive preview of writer-artist Brendan McCarthy’s upcoming Spider-Man/Doctor Strange miniseries/voyage into prime Ditko psychedelia, Spider-Man: Fever. I hear that if you press play on The Dark Side of the Moon when you open the cover, it syncs up perfectly.

You can breathe, breathe in the air from Doc’s Sanctum Sanctorum when the book hits this April.

(Via Douglas Wolk)

Brendan McCarthy’s Spider-Man: Fever mini starts in April

Spider-Man: Fever

Spider-Man: Fever

I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile … Marvel.com released an early look at the Spider-Man solicits for April, and I’m ecstatic to see that Brendan McCarthy’s Spider-Man mini-series is kicking off then. Here’s the solicitation text:

SPIDER-MAN: FEVER #1 (of 3)
Written by BRENDAN MCCARTHY
Pencils & Cover by BRENDAN MCCARTHY
One of comics’ most innovative and original voices, Brendan McCarthy, brings SPIDER-MAN: FEVER — a truly unique and surreal story evoking the classic Silver-Age psychedelia of Steve Ditko’s Dr Strange. In FEVER, Spider-Man is abducted by a depraved tribe of spider-demons to a bizarre dimension, where he is to be eaten alive. Dr. Strange goes on a perilous occult quest to rescue his friend — and tangles with some very peculiar characters along the way…
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

By the Hurrying Hordes of Holborn: McCarthy’s Dr. Strange/Spider-Man promo

Fever promo

Fever promo

Mark Kardwell shares with us an “idea sketch for a ‘Coming Soon” type of advert” for Fever, the upcoming Dr. Strange/Spider-Man miniseries written and drawn by Brendan McCarthy. This Marvel Knights series is due in April, McCarthy told Kaldwell.


Brendan McCarthy’s Delinquent Jimmy Olsen

Delinquent Jimmy Olsen

Delinquent Jimmy Olsen

Brendan McCarthy shares a “what might have been” moment — a comic he pitched to DC called Delinquent Jimmy Olsen. Click the link and go read about it; it sounds insanely cool.

From the Lineage of Ditko

Although you’ve probably already seen Brendan McCarthy’s ” script doodles” on an old Doom Patrol script from Grant Morrison, as Rich included them in his column last week, McCarthy shares them and some news on his Dr. Strange/Spider-Man project on his site:

“My Spider-Man/Dr Strange story is now at the half way point. It’s a three issue mini-series that will appear under the Marvel Knights banner, probably in the early summer. It’s been great fun drawing and writing the series, and Marvel seem to love what I’m creating so far. I’m coloring the book with Steve Cook, who designed the SWIMINI PURPOSE book for me a few years ago.

If Fantagraphics can’t have Dr. Strange, as Eric Reynolds suggested in August, this is equally as awesome.

McCarthy says he can’t show any art from the book yet, but he does share this piece, proclaiming he’s from the lineage of Ditko:

by Brendan McCarthy

by Brendan McCarthy


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