Thanks to Tom Spurgeon, I read a fascinating article about “using Graph Theory to create a digital model of the whole of Marvel continuity,” from comics to TV and the current crop of movies. It maps out connections among characters — unsurprisingly, the three big groups relate to the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man — but it also discusses exceptions to characters’ defining traits. For example, Hawkeye is Clint Barton (or not), who is an archer (most of the time) and an Avenger (except when he’s a Thunderbolt). Marvel appears to be using this model to answer basic questions like “who is that?” and “how does s/he relate to this over here?” — with an ultimate goal of getting fans of its movies and TV shows to try the comics.
As you might imagine, this sort of analysis would have been ideal for the pre-New-52 status quo, whose five generations of characters (going from the original Justice Society to Damian Wayne) included many with multiple code names. Chief among these were the original Teen Titans who, following the examples of Dick Grayson and Wally West, graduated from sidekicks to “grownup” superheroes. Initially, logistical concerns facilitated these changeovers (we need a new Robin; we need a new Flash) — but in terms of the intersection of continuity and character development, none of the Titans had quite as much on her résumé as Donna Troy.
Artist Peter Nguyen takes on DC Comics superheroines in a terrific print for New York Comic Con that includes everyone from Batwoman and Big Barda to Wonder Woman and Miss Martian. “There are some women who I left out I am sure but for the sake of sanity let’s just say they are the little dots in the back,” Nguyen writes on his blog. “Or off world fighting a greater threat. I had a ton of fun with this one and i hope you guys like it. I added a cosmic treadmill for fun so we can get at least one Flash rep in there amongst all the fliers, glider, and rock floating riders.”
See the full image below, and check out Nguyen’s work process on his blog.
Comics really can bring people together. Take, for instance, the above art by Francis Manapul, who created it as a favor for a friend who was proposing to his girlfriend. That friend is none other than Arune Singh, Marvel’s director of communications.
“It’s really a sweet story,” Manapul explains on his DeviantArt blog, “as [Arune] put a picture book together of them and this was revealed on the last page of the book as he got down on one knee to propose. ”
At Singh’s direction, Manapul depicted him as Superboy and Arune’s fiancée Michelle as Wonder Girl. Although it might seem odd for a Marvel staffer to ask a DC-exclusive artist for help on popping the big question, at the end of the day there are many friendships across the stretches of the Big Two. And this isn’t the first time a comics fan — or comics professional — has used the powerful language of comic to pop the big question: Cartoonist Dave Roman famously did an elaborate comic strip to spring the surprise question to his now-wife Raina Telgemeier, and I recall Rob Liefeld doing the same in the mid-’90s as a back-up to one of his comics.
… and before you ask, she said yes. Congratulations, Arune — and congrats, Michelle!