Harry Shearer To Return To "The Simpsons"
Wouldn’t it be nice to reinvent yourself every year? Just toss out all your old clothes, get a new job, take a new direction in life? It’s fun to think about, but really difficult to put into practice; there’s a lot of security in knowing who you are and working a job (you hopefully love) for year after year. We crave consistency but yearn for change. It’s why fiction is so important as an escape, from what comforts us. Heroes can risk it all in these huge, life-changing decisions, and we can watch from the bleachers, cheering them on or judging them harshly.
Let’s get to doing that with the latest all-new, all-different titles at Marvel, arriving in October.
Oh, man. The toughest part of these announcements is the sheer weight of information we get at once. Marvel could reveal these one at a time, but I think that would take away some of the spotlight, as one new title would be forgotten as the next new was announced. Instead, we get this 45-title avalanche showcasing a variety of new books and looks for our favorite heroes and villains, leaving people like Yours Truly to sort it all into manageable chunks. How do we parse all of this?
Congratulations, everyone! It’s a boy! Like, an actual boy: The newest actor to step into Peter Parker’s shoes is 19-year-old Tom Holland, the youngest Spider-Man yet (when cast at least, as he’ll probably be 20 or so by the time he shows up on screen).
The news has been met at my store with mixed “mehs.” Some are disappointed because Miles Morales won’t be appearing in his place, others are worried that we might have to sit through yet another origin story. Some are just put off by how young Holland looks. While there’s nothing fans can do to change the minds of studio executives, there’s still a chance that we might not have to watch Peter be bitten by a spider for any longer than an opening-credit sequence. It’s the teen years we’re really focusing on, and it can be such a sticking point with the discerning fan.
Why does Peter Parker always have to be a kid?
Frank Castle is a simple yet evocative character who would be as much at home in a pulp novel or in a ’70s action movies as in a comic book. He’s a man out for revenge, which is an age-old trope. However, the fact that there are three Taken movies proves we don’t care; we just want to see it. What was initially a throwaway Spider-Man villain has become a fan-favorite character, making The Punisher ripe for adaptation in other media.
Being so popular means you can survive a lot of bad ideas, like Dolph Lundgren or being an Angelic host. But what’s the best use of the Punisher?
Sometimes big marketing announcements can take the wind out of the sails of the comic event you’re reading.
Let me explain: Late Wednesday, Marvel began rolling out promo images for the “All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe,” and yes, I can almost see your eyes rolling. As of this afternoon, there are two teasers of Iron Man coming at you with a motley assortment of characters, refreshed or re-costumed, or just different, all under this “All-New” banner. So, even as I’m trying to enjoy the complicated chaos of Secret Wars, I’m already thinking ahead to what fictional life will be like once the event is over and speculating who will be all-new or all-different. I know this is just how comics are solicited — months ahead of time — but, man, it can really bum me out sometimes.
The way this is pitched, it doesn’t really seem like a reboot at all. Some characters will be relatively new, and others will be different than they were before, but … it’s still the Marvel Universe. Time still seems to be a constant, moving forward rather than backward to retell origins. Some past elements may be negated, but does that really constitute a reboot? And why is that word so bothersome? Why do comics resort to them as this cure-all, but the very mention of one makes longtime fans grind their teeth?
WARNING: I spoil who the current new Thor is at the very end of this post. Otherwise, I am free of insider knowledge and full of outsider musings. Read on!
Dear Mr. Andrews,
Forgive the Victorian formality of this letter as, while we have never met in person, I have been a great admirer of your work for a few years now. Your wonderful covers for the Incredible Hulk saved me from a rough time when Bruce Jones was writing the series.
It’s funny how we tend to blame the creative team when the book is “bad,” but can often seem like we’re praising the characters when the book is “good.” I don’t assume that’s always the case, but it goes a long way in explaining the fear readers have when there’s a creative change to a title, whether that’s the artist and writer of a comic, or an actor or director on a movie. In the hands of someone we don’t trust, don’t like or who simply doesn’t fit our “vision,” we can fear for the character’s safety more than we do the story the change might lead to.
Sorry for the absence, but I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, in and out of the country this month, which has taught me a valuable lesson: the English language makes no sense.
English is complicated, difficult to learn for non-native speakers (and heck, even some native speakers!); it’s a mishmash of other languages just kind of thrown in a blender with a hope for the best. It’s amazing it’s gotten us so far, but it’s also easy to see why communication gets so tangled up between people when the words we use can be so imperfect.
Take, for example, that English doesn’t have a standard plural for “you.” In the United States, we have regional forms of a plural “you,” but there’s not a standard one taught that I know of. That makes direct speech all sound personal, when the speaker might be generalizing more to a group rather than than the person sitting down to read this right now (hi, Mom). I can say something like “You read comics” and, for the most part, be correct; if you’re visiting this site, you probably read comics in one form or another. But if I say “You also watch Game of Thrones,” that’s a lot more hit-and-miss.
Well, here we go. Three years in the making, two of Marvel’s most prestigious titles dedicated entirely to its development, a complex mythology created practically out of whole cloth by Jonathan Hickman involving a cast of thousands, all pursuing the end of everything.
I’m tired just typing about it; I can’t imagine the dedication and passion it took to actually produce it month after month. But here we are, at the result of all that hard work and creativity: Secret Wars. “Everything dies” has to be one of the most depressing taglines ever for a comic book story, but this is it. Everything is dying, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop it.
That’s not true. We all know that there’s going to be a Battleworld after this, and then Free Comic Book Day gave us a teaser for the All-New Avengers debuting in the wake of the immense summer event, so we know that not “everything’ dies,” just the world as we know it. Will we feel fine?
I’ll admit it: I fell asleep at midnight last night. I got really close to the debut of Netflix’s Daredevil series, and stayed up as late as my poor brain could take, but then the next thing you know it was 7 a.m. and I had a kid who wanted breakfast.
Early reviews have been extremely positive; sure, everyone’s going to make the same Ben Affleck jokes, but I think a TV series is better venue for the Man Without Fear than a two-hour movie (good gracious, that was a long movie!). Due to his court dealings and his continual fights against similar foes (or just the Kingpin over and over), Daredevil better suited to the episodic format. His roots are in a quantifiable location, and his threat level remains the same. There’s a reason you don’t see Daredevil on the moon fighting Galactus; he’s just not that kind of guy.
His origins are very humble and, radioactive goo aside, very practical. In fact, if you break apart his backstory, you could get a variety of shows and movies out of Matt Murdock, yet none of them would inform all that much on the man he is today. Despite his early years, Matt Murdock is so closely associated with the Frank Miller era that the most important book for new fans to read is still Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. We’re lucky the new TV show seems to be skipping the steps it took to get to be Daredevil and going right for why he’s so cool now. It would be really easy to slow everything down to a step-by-step guide to being the Man Without Fear, but then when would we get to the kicky-punchy parts?
I think I finally realized why we’re here. The penultimate issue of Nathan Edmondson’s run on The Punisher, Issue 17, arrived this week and contained more of a solid understanding of the Frank Castle than I felt the previous installments had. Don’t get me wrong, Frank’s adventures in Los Angeles fighting a South American drug cartel have been spectacular in design and action, but the purpose of the run hasn’t come into focus until the Punisher was staring down Captain America in our nation’s capital.
You see, the Punisher is kind of like a very fancy hat: It looks great with the right outfit and on the right occasion, but you simply can’t wear it with everything you own.
Sports entertainment and comic books are like cookies and milk these days, what with pro wrestlers stepping into the writers’ chair from time to time to the Marvel offices being huge marks for the WWE. We’ve hosted quite a few Wrestlemania previews on ROBOT 6, and as the Super Bowl of wrasslin’ ramps up to the inevitable Mania on Sunday, my mind’s been particularly preoccupied with the most entertaining of sports.
Which is why I saw the above panel from Magneto #1, viscerally drawn by the incredibly talented Gabriel Hernandez, and thought to myself, Huh, that reminds me of John Cena.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, because if you look too long into the solicitations, they start to stare back.
With all the access we have to spoilers, reviews, previews and other online chatter, it can be difficult to enjoy what’s in front of you when you’re already thinking about what’s to come three months from now, let alone when the next event is going to hit. But that next event is coming, along with a enormous overhaul of the Marvel line, so let’s hop in the time machine of this year’s June solicitations and try to find a road map for the end of the world.
First off, 33 series will reach their “616 finales” as a result of Secret Wars, with some returning in one form or another. The list is extensive, with some titles cleared away for redundancy after two Marvel NOW launches, probably a few canceled for poor sales (I’m looking at you, Avengers World), and then you see this: The Amazing Spider-Man. But let’s think of this another way, as in the long, long ago of the 1990s, Marvel canceled every one of its bestselling X-Men titles. The whole line was scrapped … and retitled under “Age of Apocalypse.” Yeah, there was no Uncanny X-Men or Adjectiveless X-Men anywhere, but we did have Amazing X-Men and Astonishing X-Men, so it was a name and a theme change for the larger event. So while the announcement might sound the air-raid sirens that something super-drastic has happened, it probably hasn’t. Post-Secret Wars, we’ll probably have a new Spider-Man book with a new #1 on the cover (ugh) and a new creative direction.
Wolverines is such a cheesy book.
The idea that fans would clamor for a book chock-full of weird Wolverine lore and characters who are effectively talking to each other about Wolverine and going through his motions almost seems like Mary Sue fan fiction, that “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” kind of egotism. It’s a very ’90s kind of book where Wolverine could head off on globe-trotting adventures and run into cyborgs and beat up Yakuza while lamenting his melodramatic past. Only it doesn’t actually have Wolverine in it. All the same stuff is happening, but just without the lead character. It’s kind of like having your “sales-boosting death” cake and eating your weekly series, too.
So why can’t I stop reading it?
I was willing to give the first issue a try, and Wolverines has remained on my pull list — despite my side-eye every Wednesday. I don’t even experience that weird “Wait, didn’t I already get this?’ feeling that most weekly series give me. The book is making me want to know what happens next.
Now that we’ve all giddily watched the latest trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, we can all agree it needed more Spider-Man. Now that Marvel Studios is free to use the web-head in its ever-expanding cinematic universe, it’s kind of all you want to see, right?
Spider-Man is unique in that, despite not having the best box-office track record recently, he’s the most profitable superhero in the world. Slap his face on a lunchbox orT-shirt and it will move more cash than Batman, and that’s saying a lot. There’s something universal about the Spider-Man story (if you ignore the Spider-Totem arc — and I do); he’s not a billionaire, gifted with an Übermensch’s physique, or born into greatness. He’s just a guy who took the circumstances life gave him and set out to make a better world. He’s one of the few heroes with a full face mask that hides every element of his identity. His world is our world, in that he lives in New York City and swings by places we recognize.
And there’s nothing inherently race-specific about his story.
Taking a large step back from what we know as fandom today, it’s amazing to imagine what things were like in the beginning — before we had the Internet to produce original material, before we had hundreds of pay channels. Long, long ago in the far away time of the 1960s, when a show reached a generation of people in a surprising new way.
The best stories sneak in moral lessons or truths about ourselves and our society, not in a preachy direct way, but couched in the comfort of fantasy and fable. “Persevere” sounds like a direct command, but “slow and steady wins the race” can be taken however we wish. Star Trek could be about racism, religion, greed or power balance, but because it was set in space and spoken in the language of science fiction, we chose how to interpret its meanings and the messages given to us by Mr. Spock.
A lot of obituaries for Leonard Nimoy, who sadly passed away today at age 83 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, will mention that Gene Roddenberry called him “the conscience of Star Trek,” something I’d never heard before but that I can believe wholeheartedly.
OK, first let’s get this out of the way: A-Force? Really?
That’s a terrible name! That’s just going to lead to schlocky journalists serving up headlines like “These Marvel ladies are A-FORCE to be reckoned with!” It seems lazy and uninspired, although you could say that they were inspired by X-Force, but that’s a tacky name I’ve had decades to get used to. Also, it was the ’90s, everyone had tacky names. I suppose I could count myself lucky they aren’t “Force Works,” but when the Defenders are right there and Valkyrie was already tasked to create a team of heroines … ugh. A-Force.
More important than the name or the roster is the writing team of G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett, who are bringing incredible work to the pages of Ms. Marvel and Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, respectively. Both authors have taken the idea of diversity in stride, making representation in their books relatable and honest. Ms. Marvel isn’t just a Muslim superheroine; she’s a teenager with the same hopes and likes as a variety of readers, young and old. There’s a new element added into Angela: Asgard’s Assassin that I won’t spoil, but it’s an accomplishment to be sure, done with heart and little fanfare.