Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
The iTunes’ Terms and Conditions agreement has got to be the least-read-yet-most-signed contract in human history. For pages and pages (and a nearly limitless downward digital scroll), it enumerates Apple’s latest subtle shifts in policy regarding the ways we purchase, license and “own” music and media acquired through the most influential online marketplace to date. Who reads those things? Who could even pretend to? Can one even imagine a more arduous task than going through that document, line by line, and trying to parse what exactly it is we are all signing on for?
But ah, the magic of comics. Cartoonist R. Sikoryak, whose work has appeared in Drawn and Quarterly and The New Yorker, is publishing his painstakingly thorough, unabridged graphic adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement on Tumblr. This version of the contract is no mere dry rendering of legalese — instead, Sikoryak has transformed the document into a showcase of styles from talent all across the history of comics, making each page an experiment in the diverse visual language of the medium’s most beloved luminaries.
The New-York Historical Society will explore the history of superhero comics, and the city’s importance “as a creative force behind a uniquely American mythology,” in an exhibition called “Superheroes in Gotham.”
“Comics are a huge cultural force, but few remember their New York roots,” Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said in a statement. “’Superheroes in Gotham’ will immerse visitors in the early days of comics and their evolution, so they can learn more about the genesis of their favorite characters, encounter new voices that continue the creative tradition today, and perhaps see aspects of their own neighborhoods imaginatively captured on the page.”
Steve Ditko isn’t known for being a chatty fellow with the press, but one 8-year-old just nabbed the exclusive of a lifetime.
A young comic reader named Carl runs the blog Carl’s Comix! with help from his father. Although Carl is a big fan of Spider-Man and Batman, he more frequently talks about the old-school stuff, like ’60s Flash comics and early Amazing Spider-Man stories. That’s why he took it upon himself to write to the legendary Ditko.
Carl wanted to know whether any of Ditko’s teachers made him want to get into comics, and also what he had the most fun drawing. He capped it off by thanking the artist for inventing Spider-Man. It was a fan letter anyone might’ve have written at one point or another in their lives, but Carl’s actually received a response.
Could the timing be anything other than magical? Following word that Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks to play Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Mondo is offering prints from the We Buy Your Kids gallery exhibit that include two downright psychedelic renditions of the Sorcerer Supreme and his classic foe Dormammu.
The two takes on the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creations look as if they should be rendered on black velvet, which may not be such a bad idea. Each18-inch by 24-inch print is $40, with Dormammu limited to 110 copies and Strange to 125. Keep the Eye of Agamotto trained on the Mondo Twitter feed, where they on-sale time will be announced sometime today.
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Steve Ditko and longtime editor and collaborator Robin Snyder are celebrating 26 years of publishing with the planned release of #9 Teen, a new comic from the legendary creator. They just need a little more help on Kickstarter.
While details about the 32-page comic are sparse, Snyder reveals it includes another installment of Ditko’s Madman serial, “plus a unique variety of some of the most original characters in the comics and more.” This marks the duo’s third Kickstarter project, but the first to feature new material.
The Motley Fool marks the 50th anniversary of the Avengers with an article that’s part history lesson, part early celebration of Disney’s potential box-office haul from films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron (it is a financial website, after all). But the interesting part of the piece is a bit of trivia I’d never read before: that The Avengers #1 was thrown into production only because of a major delay on Daredevil #1.
While the article doesn’t provide a source, that tidbit may have come from Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, who explained in 2011 that the company planned to follow The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in 1963 with The X-Men and Daredevil. However, between his day job and his drinking problem, artist Bill Everett fell far, far behind on Daredevil #1, leaving Marvel with a printing deadline but no comic.
“In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time — and if your book wasn’t ready, you paid for the printing time anyway,” Brevoort wrote.
We’re living in an age where increasing aspects of our comics heritage is being protected, with all manner of work coming back into print in fittingly deluxe packages. However, we can all think of great comics that will probably never be reprinted, for various obscure reasons. For example, all manner of great work published by Marvel and DC in the 1970s and ’80s will never see the light of day again due to lapsed licensing deals. Other titles, other creators, simply fall from fashion, to await rediscovery by another generation. Others still end up in complicated rights battles and litigation.
One field of comics-related work that seems to be just lost to the unrelenting march of time and progress is that of the pre-Internet fanzine. Many significant figures in comics history contributed text and art to this near-dead medium, and it’s hard to see any organization having the will to invest in researching, reprinting or digitizing this lost legacy.
Colin Smith is a blogger and the author of Sequart’s “Shameless? The Superhero Comics of Mark Millar,” and as a critic has written about comics for some of the United Kingdom’s top magazines. He has a secondary blog where he has been recently sharing some great art from old U.K. fanzines and convention booklets.
Comics | A CGC-certified 9.6 copy of 1963’s The X-Men #1, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, fetched a private-sale record of $250,000 in a deal brokered by Pedigree Comics. That same comic, said to be one of just two certified near-mint copies in existence, went for a then-record $200,000 in March 2011; a 9.8 copy sold at auction in July 2012 for $492,938. The all-time record remains the $2.6 million paid in a 2011 auction for a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1. [CGC Comics]
Comics | Joe McCulloch puts together a nice guide to the self-published comics of Steve Ditko. [Comics Alliance]
Comics | If you want to read Franco-Belgian comics but don’t know where to start, Jared Gardner has you covered, with a brief introduction and some recommended works that have been translated into English. [Public Books]
One of the big stories that has followed Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko over the course of his career is how reticent he to do interviews or appear at conventions. As one fan puts it, Ditko prefers to talk through his comics.
And now Robin Snyder, longtime publisher of Ditko’s work, is using Kickstarter to fund a updated second edition of the reclusive artist’s long out-of-print graphic novel The Ditko Public Service Package. Originally published back in 1991, The Ditko Public Service Package is a 110-page book working as an argument against the business practices of comic publishers. Characters include anonymous publishers, creators, journalists, fans and corporate types whom Ditko uses to tell his story. It’s not dry. however, as Ditko uses gag cartooning and some surprisingly funny methods to tell his story in an engaging and persistent way.
One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.
But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.
In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.
Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]
Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]
If one were writing a history of film, 1961’s Gorgo would barely merit a footnote, if that. Even if one were writing a history of monster movies, Gorgo likely wouldn’t get much attention, perhaps only being mentioned in relation to King Kong, Godzilla or the original Lost World, all of which obviously influenced parts of the film.
So if it’s such a relatively minor work in its own medium, what makes it important to comics art scholars and connoisseurs? Well, it earned its own comic book series from Charlton between 1961 and 1965, much of which was drawn by Steve Ditko … at the same time he was co-creating Marvel’s flagship character Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, during what was one of the most fruitful periods of American mainstream comics-making.
That’s the subject of Steve Ditko’s Monsters Vol. 1: Gorgo, an IDW Publishing/Yoe Books effort that collects about 200 pages of the Joe Gill-written, Ditko-drawn Gorgo comics, after a fairly thorough introduction by Craig Yoe contextualizing them. (Those Gorgo comics by other artists like Joe Sinnott and Vince Colletta are likely also worthy of revisiting, but outside the scope of this book, which is devoted to Gorgo as part of Ditko’s career, not the other way around.)
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Chris Wisnia, creator of the Doris Danger books.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
During the 1960s creation of Marvel Comics, when Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko conceived the core stable of characters and the emerging shared-setting of the Marvel Universe, the line’s writer/editor/spokesman Lee created a fictional Marvel Bullpen.
Based on the crowded, raucous studio environment of the Golden Age, which Kirby actually worked in and Lee essentially interned in, Lee’s Bullpen presented he and his collaborators and employees as a big happy family, joyfully creating comics for their young readers an environment that could seem as fun as working in Santa’s workshop.
At the time of its creation, Lee’s fantasy might have been a pure invention (although later, after Kirby and Ditko left the publisher and Lee was promoted out of his hands-on control of the line, such an environment would occasionally come into existence, depending on the year, the employees and the owner at the time), but it did hint at an aspect of reality.
The characters who were making Marvel comics were in many ways just as colorful and talented as the characters starring in them; the story of Marvel Comics is at least as exciting as any story in Marvel comics. And, in a very real way, Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is probably the Marvel story of the year—bigger, more epic and with greater conflict and drama than Fear Itself or Avengers Vs. X-Men or even that billion-dollar feature Marvel Studios released over the summer … the movie’s monstrous success being what gives Howe’s book a sort of validating end-point, a raison d’etre; to both Lee’s decades-long ambition to see Marvel characters on the big screen, and owner after owner’s ambition to become very, very rich off the heroes Kirby and company created.