Humor may seem easy to write, but it is really the opposite. It is not simply a matter of coming up with cute punchlines. There is the extra tricky aspect of pinpointing the right tone. Few things are more painful than forced whimsy. Sometimes the writer comes off as too proud of their cleverness or, at the other end of the spectrum, striving too hard for levity. What is the correct mixture of lowbrow and highbrow? How many puns are too many? Do the jokes aid in expressing character or hinder the development of coherent ones? Plus, there is still the matter of making the reader laugh in the first place. When done right, all these elements blend together, and the humor feels effortless. One example of this type of success can be found in the series Public Relations from Devils Due/1First Comics.
“Who can be anything forever?”
Angela: Queen of Hel #7
When Angela first appeared 23 years ago in the pages of Spawn #9, it was a rather unassuming debut. Guest written by Neil Gaiman with art by Todd McFarlane, it was pretty representative of Image in its early days. My younger Sandman obsessed self snatched it up only to shrug my shoulders at the whole thing. My older (still Sandman obsessed self) had a similar reaction when revisiting it. In spite of all this, the character has of late gone through a rather fascinating evolution. Later creators have been able to mold what was originally an embarrassing example of 90s excess into an endearing character.
“I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild . . .”
-David Bowie , “Changes”
In 1982 a young British writer by the name of Alan Moore was tasked with revitalizing the dormant Marvelman property (now known as Miracleman). Over the course of the next several years, Moore would revamp Miracleman for contemporary times, explore the drive for survival and elevate the hero to the status of divinity. Coinciding with his iconic DC work of Swamp Thing, Watchmen and The Killing Joke, Miracleman remains one of Moore’s signature achievements. Moore departed the series on a breathtaking high note, in which Miracleman has become, for all intents and purpose, a god lording over humanity. And unlike Dr. Manhattan’s Enlightenment clockmaker deity, Miracleman had no qualms about employing a heavy hand to guide civilization. Truly, a new age had dawned.
If the Miracleman saga had ended there, it would have been deeply satisfying. Yet, publisher Eclipse preferred to continue the title. Once again, the series was given to an up-and-coming British scribe: Neil Gaiman. Teaming with artist Mark Buckingham, Gaiman began a six issue arc entitled The Golden Age. Despite the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Alan Moore at the height of his powers, Gaiman and Buckingham more than justify the continuation of the series. The Golden Age is a rich, deeply human take on the world. Most importantly it honors what Moore built, while still allowing Gaiman’s own voice to shine.
The Vision has had a long rich history since his 1968 debut in Avengers #57. Originally created as a weapon for the Avengers’ destruction, he quickly earned their trust and the devotion of their fans. Indeed, he ranked #2 in our own list of greatest Avengers ever. This Wednesday Marvel premieres a new Vision series written by Omega Men writer Tom King. Earlier in the year, I discussed the character’s earliest appearances. Today I shall focus my attention on Vision’s first mini-series co-staring his wife Scarlet Witch.
Vision and the Scarlet Witch had long been romantically linked when Steve Englehart wrote their marriage ceremony for Giant-Size Avengers #4. The wedding happened in 1975, but it was not until 1982 that the couple received a spin-off series. Written by Bill Mantlo and penciled by Rick Leonardi it depicted a couple trying to carve out a life for themselves apart from their former teammates in the big city. They purchase a modest home in suburban New Jersey (Leonia to be precise), hoping for a more quiet existence. And so, the first issue opens with the couple walking through the neighborhood on Halloween as trick-or-treaters parade past. When Vision is caught without any treats for a trio of kids, he provides them with a trick courtesy of his denisity altering powers. It is a charming sequences which ends with an affectionate exchange between the spouses. Despite some of the more outlandish aspects of their appearance, they truly feel like any other couple taking a nightly stroll.
Continue reading The Vision’s Empathetic History
On Sunday I spoke with writer Amy Chu about her plans for the upcoming Poison Ivy: Cycles of Life and Death limited series. I had been intrigued by her comments regarding the series at the previous day’s Bat-Universe panel. Chu explained that she wanted to free Pamela from the rut of psychopathy into which so many of the Bat-Villains fall. Chu prefers to highlight other aspects of Pamela’s personality. For her, Poison Ivy is not a deranged killer. She cares about others in her life. She is also a skillful scientist, a facet which often gets lost in the shuffle. Indeed, Chu feels that she has a large amount of freedom to re-frame Pamela’s story, as this is the character’s first ever solo series. Despite nearly five decades of existence, there is much about Poison Ivy which remains unexplored. As Chu herself put it “you both know her and you don’t.”
Continue reading NYCC: Amy Chu in Artists Alley
As reported yesterday Marvel confirmed what had long been suspected: Miles Morales will be getting a new solo series set within the main, possibly only, post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe. That Miles survives Secret Wars had been established already by his appearance in the recent Free Comic Book Day Avengers teaser. Given the immense popularity of both Miles and his co-creator Brian Michael Bendis, it was assumed that Bendis would continue writing Miles’ adventures post Secret Wars. That Bendis will be reuniting with Miles other co-creator, artist Sara Pichelli was less expected. The teaming suggests that Marvel wants to give a “Back to square one” vibe to the reluanch. After all, just because Miles is still around, does not say anything about the large supporting cast the quickly developed around him. How many of these characters will make the cut? Will any? Personally I cannot imagine a Miles book without Ganke in it.
For now though, the more intriguing question is what this all means for Peter Parker. Marvel is trumpeting the importance of this news by insisting that Miles will not be Spider-Man Jr. According to Bendis, “[Marvel’s] message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else.” This would imply that Miles Morales is the Spider-Man going forward. Yet, Marvel’s teaser images from earlier in the month depicted both heroes. It is hard to believe that Marvel thinks that there will be no asterisk next to Miles’ name if Peter Parker is still web-slinging on a regular basis. Yes, there was that period of time when there were two Batmans running around, but did anyone think for a moment that Dick was equal, let alone greater, in stature to Bruce?
Continue reading The Spider-Men’s Possible Futures
Last week, I discussed the debut and origin of Avengers’ nemesis Ultron. This week, I would like to explore how later writers have used the character, starting with:
Ultron Unlimited, Avengers #19-23
Kurt Busiek’s new model of Ultron is even more vicious than the preceding ones. He announces his return by unleashing a whole new level of terror: the slaughter of every single man, woman and child in the Baltic state of Slorenia. In a matter of hours, an entire nation’s population is decimated. Meanwhile, his robot minions are snatching up his extended family, gathering them about him. Captain America leads a desperate cavalry charge, but all they seem to be able to do is, at best, maintain a stalemate. Every turn, Ultron maintains the upper hand.
Continue reading Ages of Ultron, Growth
The first half of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series ends with Clint Barton in a rather low mood. So low a mood in fact that his partner/protégé/pep talker Kate Bishop (aka also Hawkeye) has had enough. Swearing herself done with all his self-destructive behavior, she packs in her gear, grabs his dog Lucky and drives out to the West Coast. Kate figures that the trip will be the restorative she so desperately needs. After all, she is equally fed up with her rich, lay-about father who recently married one of Kate’s classmates (OK, Heather was three years older, but still). All Kate wants is a clean bungalow, fresh air and bright sun. Once she clears her mind of all this self-involved negative energy, she can determine what the perfect step-forward is for Kate Bishop.
The problem with life is that we so rarely get to choose the perfect next move, having usually to settle for good enough. Even for those of us who aren’t Clint Barton, wallowing in our breakfast cereal, past events have a tendency to circle back around to bite us in rather sensitive spots. During one of her first team-ups with Clint, Kate ran afoul with the criminal Madame Masque. In addition to defeating her, Kate also embarrassed her in the process. Masque does not take such slights lightly. Thus as soon as Kate is in Masque’s home turf of Los Angeles, the wheels of conspiracy start turning. Credit cards are immediately denied, causing her car to be towed, while still containing all of her stuff. Initially a kind stranger offers lodging for Kate, only Kate pieces together that it is Masque herself. Kate is able to slip out from her nemesis’ clutches only to find herself and Lucky pretty much desolate. An agreement to cat-sit lands her a roof over her head in the form of a trailer on the beach. If she truly wants to survive the City of Angels, she is going to need a new source of livelihood ASAP. (And no, caving in and calling either her dad or Clint is not an option).