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Talking Comics with Tim | Greg Pak on Bill Mantlo

Greg Pak's first Bill Mantlo comic

Greg Pak‘s Afterword tribute to Bill Mantlo in the final issue of his Hulk run (The Incredible Hulks 635) genuinely gave me pause (and as I said as much in that week’s WAYR). Then last week when Kevin Melrose made us aware of LifeHealthPro/Bill Coffin‘s devastating profile of Bill Mantlo’s life since 1992, which clearly struck a chord with many Robot 6 readers. Once I saw Pak’s comment in the thread, I realized I wanted to talk to Pak about Mantlo. While I have long respected Pak as a writer, his decision to set up a donations page for Bill Mantlo’s care is the reason why I admire him. My thanks to Pak for the interview and for scanning the cover to the actual copy of his first Bill Mantlo comic (Micronauts 3), which we get to discuss also.

Tim O’Shea: At what point in your run on the Hulk did you realize that you wanted to write the Afterword, partially about Bill Mantlo?

Greg Pak: I’d cited Bill Mantlo as a big influence many times over the years in press and publicity for my various Hulk storylines. So it was a natural for me to focus on him in the afterward to Incredible Hulks #635. And it was a huge pleasure to be able to formally dedicate the run to Mantlo on that final page.

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What Are You Reading? with Von Allan

Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Von Allan, creator of the self-published graphic novel series Stargazer. The first volume is still available, while the second one is due in shops in October.

To see what Von and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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What Are You Reading?

Mysterius the Unfathomable

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics and other stuff we’ve been enjoying lately. Our special guests this week are Aaron Alexovich (Invader Zim, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Serenity Rose, Fables) and Drew Rausch (Sullengrey, The Dark Goodbye, Cthulhu Tales), the creative team behind the horror/comedy comic Eldritch!

To see what Aaron, Drew and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …

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What Are You Reading?

Gingerbread Girl

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Emily Stackhouse, creator of the award-winning minicomic Brazilianoir and her latest, Miner’s Mutiny.

To see what Emily and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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What Are You Reading?

Batgirl #17

Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.

To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.

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The Fifth Color | Rest in peace, Betty Banner

Betty's Futher Away Than You Think

I made peace with Betty Banner’s death a while ago. Her death was in 1998 in one of Peter David’s final issues on his historic run on the title, and it not only fit with the personal tragedy in his life at the time, but it fit with Bruce Banner’s own themes of loss and solitude. The Hulk isn’t known for his jet-setting and warm family life after all. After her death, the book went on in a new “Rampaging” direction, and that was that.

Paul Jenkins came along later and, at least for me, squared away some of the lingering hurt and loss from losing such a central character of the book. We had not just the Hulk, but Bruce Banner himself defeating the man/monster who killed Betty in The Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #50; the battle between the two is barely kept on the physical page by the brutal force of John Romita Jr.’s artwork, and the final moments of Banner walking away from the emotional prison he’d created for Blonsky is just as powerful. Three years later someone pays for Betty’s death and a couple issues later, Bruce himself comes to understand that her death is permanent. In The Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #28, the darkest and most evil part of Banner’s personality tries to make a deal with Bruce: He would allow Bruce to live out a dream life with his beautiful wife and kids in exchange for full control over Banner’s body and, by extension, the Hulk’s. Bruce kisses the image of his wife goodbye, walks away from the deal to accept his fate and weeps for the loss.

That’s the issue I finally said goodbye to Betty Banner. The idea of ever getting her back would be a fantasy, some sort of trick because without her, Bruce moves on. With her comes the expectation that he could live happily ever after and, as Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada loves to remind us, no one would want to read a book about the Well-Adjusted Adventures of Married Man. Or at least a Hulk that’s settled down and worries about PTA meetings. If he doesn’t get the good life with Betty, then all he’s doing is dragging her through one tragedy after another, and if you truly love someone, you’ll let them go.

But heaven forbid we ever do that. Real death certainly doesn’t equal comic book death, no matter how much readers may tire of the revolving door. Editorial decides death due to character arcs and sales concerns, not for the soul-searching reasons we deal with as people. If done right, death is a setting stone both in the dead character’s life and the stories of those around them. Captain Marvel inspired a heck of a lot of people by dying from cancer, the Vision has been torn apart to give weight to “Avengers Disassembled” and returned to give even more weight to Young Avengers. Most importantly, if a death is good enough, they can always do it again.

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