Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Ahead of the release later this month of DC Comics’ Convergence: Shazam! #2, artist Evan “Doc” Shaner has gathered his model sheets for the major characters that appeared in the debut issue, including Captain Marvel/Billy Batson, Dr. Sivana, Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel.
They’re interesting in and of themselves, of course, but also for the head shots in which Shaner mimics the styles of such greats as C.C Beck, Mac Raboy, Marc Swayze and Kurt Schaffenberger, showing from whom he drew inspiration.
Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
… all female characters have a tendency, over time, to graduate to the field of, “tough girl with an air of innocence and also you’d like to get her pants off.” It would be an interesting experiment to establish five female characters between the ages of twelve and sixty, with a broad range of body types and personalities, and see how long it takes mainstream comics to transform them all into the 22-25 year old age group, with short skirts and colorful panties.
Time, you see, moves differently in comics. It takes a fourteen year old girl two years to reach twenty years of age, while a twenty year old girl takes fifty years to reach twenty-one.
— Paul Tobin, explaining the frustration that many readers feel about Mary Marvel and — really — most female superheroes. There’s not a lot extra that needs to be said other than I’d love to see that experiment play out.
Let me start by saying that I am supremely unqualified to speak about what women or girls want from superhero comics. In this respect I am probably pretty similar to former DC publisher Paul Levitz, who (as you might have heard) told the Comics Journal:
I think the whole myth of superheroes is that they simply aren’t appealing to women as they are to men. I’d like to think I had a pretty good track record on that myself as a writer, as the Legion historically had a pretty good number of female readers, Chris Claremont on his years on the X-Men had a tremendous number of female readers, and there may be any number of other superhero titles that had a fair balance. But overall it would surprise me at any point if you started to have a title that was both a traditional superhero and a majority female audience.
What strikes me about Mr. Levitz’s comments (not just those but others in the article) is the apparent indifference they betray to the prospect of a big female readership. He seems to suggest that while he wouldn’t turn one down, it’s not something DC has particularly pursued. Many more men than women read superhero comics, so DC has focused more on the guys. Even when Sandman appeals to women, that ends up proving his point, because Sandman and Vertigo aren’t superheroes.
Again, at this point I am neither well-equipped nor especially interested in evaluating Mr. Levitz’s arguments. Nevertheless, the attitude that “we don’t need to go this way because it’s never panned out before” sounds rather short-sighted. In the current publishing climate, DC simply can’t afford to ignore women and girls. It needs all the readers it can get.
With all that in mind, I’d now like to talk about Mary Marvel.