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The Fifth Color | Justice is like lightning

Thunderbolts #170It was right about the time that Merlin stepped up to speak in the most recent issue of Thunderbolts that I had to check the cover and make sure I had picked up the right book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Thunderbolts and have really seen them bloom into something rather special in the Marvel Universe, but there was this strange feeling in the back of my mind this issue. Something about how all the Thunderbolts had new Ren Faire costumes to fit into the Camelot scheme that were similar to their usual togs. Something about the casual guest star factor with the court of King Arthur (especially the Black Knight, I miss that guy!). Something about how all the characters worked together or didn’t, depending on the situation and the greater needs at hand.

But really, while listening to Merlin I suddenly realized that I had seen a story like this before. Not the exact same story, but going to Camelot, overcoming adversity, the comparisons between the heroes and the knights of old, even the stylish dress up factor made me want to go find old issues of “The Morgan Conquest,” the post-Heroes Reborn issues of the Avengers from Kurt Busiek and George Perez. It’s not too surprising that the T-Bolts would remind me of a by-gone era of Avengers lore. In fact, taking a closer look, there’s a lot to be said for this rag-tag team of super villains being taught redemption and their exploits in battling evil.

Could it possibly be that the oldest trick in the Thunderbolts book was becoming a reality?

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Online Petition asks Marvel to give Kirby credit

Jack Kirby

If Twitter had existed back in the mid-1980s, things might have turned out differently for Jack Kirby and, ultimately, his heirs. Perhaps Marvel’s demand that he permanently sign away the copyright to all his work for them in return for very limited rights to his original art would have triggered the sort of online firestorm that scotched the Bank of America debit card fees, SOPA/PIPA, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s brief moment of collusion with the hard right. Then again, maybe not—the internet can be fickle.

A number of creators criticized Marvel’s actions at the time, and in the end they did soften a bit and come up with a deal Kirby could sign. More recently, Kirby’s heirs tried to claim ownership of a number of copyrights for characters he created, but the judge in that case ruled in Marvel’s favor without even going to trial. Now is giving it a second try, with an internet petition asking Marvel to make things right with Kirby and his heirs:

We strongly urge Marvel Entertainment and its owner Disney to acknowledge Jack Kirby’s authorship and primary role in the creation of these characters. As well, we urge Marvel to pay Kirby’s family royalties or other just compensation for the use of these characters and stories.

The petition calls on the signatories to boycott Marvel until that happens. So far, despite appearing on The Beat, the petition only has 229 signatures, which isn’t likely to move the sales needle enough for Marvel to notice.

The Fifth Color | Pre-game thoughts on ‘The Omega Effect’

Omega Effect teaser

Not at all ominous...

Over what was most likely a perfect cup of Moroccan Mint green tea, Greg Rucka sat down for a discussion with Mark Waid and Steve Wacker about “The Omega Effect,” an upcoming crossover between The Avenging Spider-Man, The Punisher and Daredevil debuting in April.

In the story, the Man Without Fear will find himself in possession the Omega Drive, a file connecting five powerful criminal organizations — dangerous information that everyone’s going to want to get there hands on, right? That’s a well-used motive in our genre with the added twist of science; you see, Spider-Man is operating at the behest of Reed Richards, who invented the Omega Drive to begin with. So either Richards has been collecting dirty sheets on crime bosses in his spare time, or there’s something more delicate to what’s holding all this information in the first place. Remember all the math he used to keep in the basement telling him how to nudge society around? Yeah, this could get ugly.

That’s why we have the Punisher, who’ll go head to head with Spider-Man and Daredevil to put this information to good use — which, as we can guess, probably means shooting some fools. Waid and Rucka are more than willing to throw their supporting casts into the mix, as well as relevant story arcs that coincide with the trouble at hand. Spider-Man vowed that no one else would die on his watch, and that’s a hard vow to keep next to Frank Castle. Daredevil has had a long history with the Punisher, both falling on different sides of the very concept of justice. With his most recent fall from grace and return with a fresh attitude, how will the new Daredevil handle a man acting as judge, jury and executioner?

And the Punisher? Follow me on this one, guys, but what is Frank Castle going to get out of all of this?

(WARNING: Spoilers ahead for PunisherMAX #21 and Punisher #7, out this week.  Grab your copies and follow along!)

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The Fifth Color | Comics resolutions for 2012

Calvin and Hobbes - Resolutions

and that's when they asked Bendis to step back from the Avengers....

Did you know that there is a U.S. government website to help you complete common New Year’s resolutions? Seriously, take a look; it’s the “U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal” and there’s a lot of benign but helpful info about getting a passport or a story about a wedding dress made out of a parachute, but yeah, in the middle of that is a helpful list of the most common New Year’s resolutions with links to a website or brochure that could offer helpful information and suggestions.

Last year, when I carved my own New Year’s resolutions into internet stone, I was incredibly thankful for the comments left with the list. Helpful and commiserating readers shared ideas on how to succeed, suggestions on what to read and joined in fist-shaking at the lure of Apple products. So while I may not know how much your savings bond has gained interest, I can help out with some simple comic book reading resolutions and hopefully can inspire others to make their own. I also have a kick ass cosplay pic in lieu of a touching WWII wedding tale. So there’s that.

Want to know which resolution I miserably failed at last year? Keep reading, true believers!
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The Grumpy Color: Tom & Carla dismantle 2011, Part 2

Hulk Vs. Superman

[Previously on The Grumpy Color’s 2011 roundup: Tom and Carla sat down to discuss DC and Marvel’s corporate movements, how much cat-burglars love underwear, and how DC events progressed throughout the year to tumble right on into the New 52. Join us, won’t you, as Tom has asked if, in light of the success of DC’s reboot, Marvel will follow that lead with “Season One” and the Point-One projects, or perhaps something more… drastic?]

Carla: Oh Tom, you are adorable.

You see, Marvel did this thing, you might have heard of it: the Ultimate universe? It’s our having our reboot cake and eating our rich continuity other cake too. Two-fisted cake, sir! We can renovate and innovate to our heart’s content, rework the Avengers into the Ultimates, recostume everyone on the X-Men into a slicker, movie finish and draw readers in with a fresh setting and start. Meanwhile, business as usual can continue in our regularly scheduled books, and everyone should be fat and happy on delicious comics cake.

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The Grumpy Color: Tom & Carla dismantle 2011, Part 1

Batman & Spider-Man

[Continuing their yearly tradition, Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman have joined forces to compare notes on the the relative fortunes of DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  Here is Part 1 of 2.]

Tom: Okay, old chum, if it’s late December it must be time to wrap up 2011 and usher in 2012. It’s the New 52 versus dozens of Avengers and Spider-Man titles! Christopher Nolan, David Goyer, and Christian Bale versus Joss Whedon, Andrew Garfield, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! High collars versus Point Ones! Judd Winick and Guillem March’s Catwoman versus … who, exactly?

Carla: I read Catwoman #1 and stopped there so this analogy is lost on me. Don’t go where I can’t follow, Frodo.

Tom: That was a dig at Marvel’s lack of female-lead titles….

Carla: Oh! I thought it was about our underwear-clad heroines. She-Hulk and Emma Frost have been flashing their bras at people since the 80’s! And don’t get me started on the Black Cat, how many female creative people we have, etc. etc. =D
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The Fifth Color | The Impenetrable Wall of Comics


See? Even they're confused...

You’d be surprised by how many people don’t know how comics “work.” Really. Moms and aunts mostly, but a few granddads slide in or brothers or other assorted family simply don’t know or choose not to know. Mind you, it’s a little tragic to say that how comics work is unfathomable to anyone who, I don’ know, has functioning sight and understands how to read. You would think that the average Christmas shopper would be able to figure this out, but I stand before you as a retail clerk from a local comic shop and can announce with some shame that “how comics work” is apparently one of the mysteries of the universe.

With this in mind, it’s a little easier to understand how pop culture has accepted our sequential art and storytelling style. Comic book movies and TV shows (as we’ve gotten them in the new millennium) traditionally start at the beginning. People want to be there as our hero dons a mask for the first time or witness the tragedy of Uncle Ben’s death with them, any moment in which mortal man becomes …well, super. The idea that the new Amazing Spider-Man movie could bear the words “The Untold Origin” seems ludicrous since I’m pretty sure this is an origin well explored. But here we are anticipating a new story that’s the same story promising new information on what we already know.

Why? Because comic books are an impenetrable wall that no mere mortal can scale. Despite the fact that the tools are simple, despite the fact that basic characters and story concepts are now known around the world by the mass market, comics remain confusing. To the general public, the common knowledge may be there, but understanding lives underground with the Morlocks and Mole Men.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Save The Shade

The Shade invites you to Starman #6 (April 1995)

Writer James Robinson tweets that low sales might cut short his twelve-issue Shade miniseries. That would be a shame, because the first two issues of The Shade are tremendously entertaining, great-looking superhero comics. Robinson has returned to the character he revitalized, bringing with him the artistic talents of Cully Hamner and a bevy of high-profile guests like Darwyn Cooke, Frazer Irving, Javier Pulido, and Jill Thompson. The Beat’s Todd Allen has written a supportive post, noting along the way that certain New-52 titles which are selling below The Shade #1’s level (30,648 issues estimated sold to retailers) might also face the axe.

I’m somewhat skeptical of this rumor, despite Robinson’s insider knowledge, for reasons having to do with the 2009-10 miniseries The Great Ten.

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The Fifth Color | What to do if your favorite series is canceled

FF # Evolutions Variant Cover

In the future, all comics will look like this!

Holy hand grenade, it’s been a week of nasty cancellations over at the House of Ideas! Yesterday it seemed like it wouldn’t stop as smaller titles were stripped away seemingly far too soon. Ghost Rider feels like it only just got here, but that’s now ending with issue #8. X-23, a successful breakout character in her own right (and currently on my TV screen in Ultimate X-Men vs. Capcom 3) is gone with Kssue 20. We’ll also be saying goodbye to a personal favorite: Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive is ending as of #529. 2012 does not seem to be a good year for new ideas as, while I can’t say that a Kirby-created character and two male-derivative heroines are all that new, we’re losing some of the more fringe books while our core titles seem to be bringing up old fan favorites.

Then, while PunisherMAX is coming to a conclusion rather than a short and final stop, there’s a quote from a Marvel representative saying that “A big change is coming to the MAX universe and nobody can miss what we’ve got coming.” Couldn’t tell you why, perhaps it’s the littered canceled titles scattered before them, maybe it’s the fact that the MAX titles are a struggle to publish and promote, but this statement doesn’t rest any fears.

The marketplace is vast; I mean, have you seen a Diamond catalog? While I think it’s a little thinner that usual these days, that doesn’t mean it’s not a PHONE BOOK OF COMICS AND COMICS ACCESSORIES produced monthly. Sure, maybe a little more white pages than yellow, but that’s still a lot of published titles you may honestly never see. Or perhaps want to see, as the range and scope of subject matter extends far beyond super-heroes. Marvel itself publishes Halo and Sense and Sensibility comics, and then everything in between. And while I might think Jane Austen is a bore, someone reading right now might be willing to club me with a shoe for maligning the great Jane’s name (please don’t hit me with a shoe). One reader’s Gravity is another reader’s Sammi the Fish Boy. While every comic may have a fan, they might not always have an audience.

Marvel has canceled books before they hit the shelves, before retailers have had a change to order them, and I’m sure there’s even books pitched right now that might never see the light of day. What do we do? What can we do as readers to change such a system, and how do we keep the hope alive? Here are a few thoughts.

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The Fifth Color | Defining Ultimate Comics

The Ultimate Warrior

How Ultimate is Ultimate!?

Have you ever seen a word so often that it starts to lose its meaning? Louis CK has a great bit on the word ‘hilarious’, go check the link (right about the 1:38 mark, NSFW language) and you’ll see what I mean. Because it feels like the word “Ultimate” means nothing to me anymore. I don’t know what Marvel means by it, I don’t know why it’s there now instead of a new label, but it’s been on a lot of comics. Just as a word, the adjective has five definitions, all of them relating to a finite point. They’re all various shades of getting to an endpoint.

So what shade do we call this particular line of comics? At NYCC editor Sana Amanat said that it wouldn’t be right to put one label on them all, but one general theme of the Ultimate comics was of identity exploration, with characters like Miles Morales and Nick Fury coming into their own. I don’t think that’s enough. Identity exploration happens in all comics, and labels help you sell those comics. The word “Ultimate” needs to have meaning. Seeing that name should let the reader know what they’re getting, after all, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke and Coke Classic are all different types of soda, but looking at the label, I know exactly what I’m going to enjoy (heaven forbid it say Pepsi!). I believe the Ultimate line started out with such a label, that they were a way to market a particular type of story to a particular type of reader at their inception, but just through time and ever-changing story, the Ultimate name has lost its luster and clarity. As an adjective it can mean five different things, and I’m not even talking about nouns (grammar humor!).

Right now, we have four titles united by one word, all different facets of their totality. Sit down and take note–I’m looking at you, Marvel Marketing–because I’m going to explain this and tie it all together.
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The Fifth Color | A new approach from the New Mutants

New Mutants #33 - Doug and WarlockAs the wordwide protests continue, Occupy Wall Street becomes more and more a part of our popular culture. Whether you’re holding a sign, reading about people holding signs or complaining about those signs, protests of this intensity are weighing in our thoughts. There’s a lot to ponder by questioning the establishment, finding a personal connection with hot-button social issues, and the division and unity in all of us.

See, now you just know I’m going to talk about the X-Men!

How can you not, when they are the go-to comic book metaphor to play and experiment with all sorts of social issues. Fear of the future, minority oppression, youth activism, why there’s even this MAJOR SCHISM that divides their public on how to achieve their goals. In the blue states- I mean, Wolverine’s camp, we have a return to the foundation of education and the protection of the next generation. In the red visor camp, we have a more aggressive approach, the idea that war is inevitable and the way to meet a world that hates and fears you is with heavy hitters, young and old. They even have a handy chart to know whose side you’re on (ooh, deja vu).

If you take a look at Cyclops and his Extinction Team (Really? What a terrible name), Dani Moonstar and her friends are listed as “Clean-up,” which one would think means some kind of X-Force-like hit squad (X-Force being mysteriously absent from these breakdowns). It’s a strange sort of listing, and once you read New Mutants #33 and understand what exactly these characters want to do, you’ll see how this might just be the answer for an entire out-of-place generation.

WARNING: We’ll be talking about New Mutants #33, so spoilers and nostalgia to follow. Grab a copy and read along!

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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past with Marvel solicitations for January 2012

Marvel Teaser - It's Coming

Oh Phoenix Force, we know you...

As most of you CBRians know, Marvel’s solicitations for January 2012 came out last Friday, so our look forward into the past is a little delayed. On the bright side, the first of 2012’s books seem like something that deserve a few more days reflection. After all, 2012 is the year it all comes together! You guys, there’s going to be an Avengers movie. A real, live action, big budget, A-list star Avengers movie! All Marvel’s rather crazy Hollywood ideas are paying off next summer and, with a little hard work, the House of Ideas could come to a beautiful fruition.

So while our celebratory May month is still off in the distance, the recently hung Chrismas decorations let me know that January is just around the corner. Can we get an idea of what next year will look like, through the first books to roll out at the start of the year? Let’s just read along and find out, shall we?
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The Fifth Color | Nothing to Fear, everything to gain

Fear Itself #6“This store is so negative!,” a woman said in astonishment. She had a kid with her, a happy elementary schooler who was perusing our new comics wall. The young shopper’s mom, perhaps grandmother had ambled her way to the counter to make this proclamation. I asked her why she thought the store was negative and the woman went right to the heart of the matter: violence. There was just too much of it in the store for her to consider this a positive place for her child. Calmly going into “Oh man, what did she see?” mode, I calmly explained that not all comics were for kids and that Batman sometimes has to fight a bad guy or two to make sure they go to jail. She understood, but there was something displayed behind me that got to the heart of the matter: our Fear Itself promotional poster.

“Fear, that’s terrible for kids to see, and all the violence, it’s just too negative for them,” she explained. I looked at the poster, wondering if there actually was something terrible on it but no, no gore, sexual situations or excessive violence. She actually had a problem with the title. I told her the title came from the quote that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, an appeal for strength. How every kid faces a fear at one time or another and why not show them how super-heroes handle theirs? “After all,” I told her, “… you know the good guys win.”

She thought about it and we talked about fear and being strong. In the end, I hadn’t changed her mind entirely but she did admit that saying the whole store was negative was probably a bit rude. The young customer bought something he liked and everyone went home happy. If a robot had carried in a cupcake for me, it would have been the perfect day.

But then again, nothing in this world is perfect, not even my unflinching adoration for one of Marvel’s finest architects (FRACTION 3:16!). But if you boil Fear Itself down to its base elements, you will find jewels of the human spirit expressed in the Mighty Marvel Manner. It may not be the best event book, but I’m starting to think that the core of Fear Itself is one of the most important stories you can read for inspiration.

(WARNING: We will be talking about Fear Itself, including this week’s cataclysmic issue #7, grab your copies and read along)
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The Fifth Color | End of the line with Marvel’s December solicitations

Daredevil #7 (new)

That's a strange amount of whimsy from Matt Murdock...

Now, I will admit that the Distinguished Competition has given this month an air of finality.  So many No. 1 issues, what could possibly come next? Tonight there will be drinks raised high and hands shaken to a job well done as their Wrap Party ends this publishing month at Golden Apple Comics.  And it does seem a little final, doesn’t it?

It’s the perfect mood for looking ahead to December, where the last of the Marvel books published this year will leave 2011 not with a bang or a whimper, but with a dawn of things to come.  I’m not saying it’s a very big dawn or a brilliant one either; right now, I will full admit things look kind of so-so for December at Marvel …

… then again, I have been wrong before, so let’s take a look at December’s books, shall we?
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The next big wait project emerges: Man-Thing by Gerber and Nowlan

In last week’s Axel-In-Charge Q&A right here at CBR, Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso ended the weekly exchange with a loose-lipped hint that a long-delayed Man-Thing project is lumbering its way toward comics shelves. “All I can say,” said Alonso, “is we do have a Man-Thing project coming out soon that is older than some of Marvel’s assistant editors and well worth the wait.”

Well lucky for you, I know what he’s talking about.

A Man-Thing graphic novel by writer Steve Gerber and artist Kevin Nowlan. Initially started and announced in the 80s, it reportedly fell by the wayside while sitting on Nowlan’s drawing board. The original title was “Screenplay of the Living Dead Man”, intended to be a follow-up from the story “Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man” published in Man-Thing #12 way back when. It wasn’t until Gerber’s passing in 2008 that Nowlan refocused his energies and began working on the project again in his spare time. Back in March, Nowlan told me that it’ll end up being a 62-page painted story, and I even confirmed with Marvel that they’re going to publish it once Nowlan completes it.

With New Teen Titans: Games coming out this week and this other long-awaited release finally coming out, what other great stories might be lurking out there waiting to be finished?

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