Sept. 19, 2013 | 1:23 p.m.
PERSPECTIVE In 1961, Stan Lee was overseeing a middling line of titles for Timely Comics while across town, longtime industry titan DC was experiencing a huge bump in sales. DC’s success had a lot to do with “Justice League of America,” a book that combined all of the company’s biggest heroes — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash, among others — into one super-crime-fighting team. Lee wanted to compete with DC, but Timely had no superheroes to speak of, and no characters as well-loved and recognizable as Superman. So Lee and his top artist, Jack Kirby, created their own super-team: the Fantastic Four. What they came up with wasn’t anything like the JLA. Lee and Kirby took an aloof genius, the genius’ timid girlfriend, the girlfriend’s cocky teenage brother and a gruff, street-smart test pilot and bound […]
Sept. 10, 2013 | 4:19 p.m.
When “The X-Men” debuted 50 years ago, it was part of a wave of Marvel Comics spearheaded by writer/editor Stan Lee, working alongside a stable of artists who were inventing exciting new superheroes at an extraordinary pace. After the phenomenal success of “The Fantastic Four,” Marvel developed a reputation as a publisher with innovative, sophisticated ideas about what heroes could be, eschewing the bland Boy Scout-ery of Superman and Batman in favor of characters who were cranky, vain, pigheaded and sometimes literally monstrous. The X-Men were the apotheosis of the Marvel way: a team of teenaged mutants shunned by society because they’d developed their powers through a freak of evolution and not as a byproduct of any noble scientific endeavor (as was the case with most of the other Marvel front-loners). But it took a while for the concept to […]
June 06, 2013 | 5:01 p.m.
A little over a year ago, cartoonists Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon separately finished their latest graphic novels, “Crater XV” and “Heck,” knowing that their publisher Top Shelf wouldn’t be able to release either until mid-2013. So the two Cannons — who aren’t related, though they’ve shared a studio and a graphic design business in Minnesota since 2004 — decided to partner with Top Shelf on something new. Taking advantage of Top Shelf’s then-new digital publishing initiative and mobile apps, the Cannons created Double Barrel, a downloadable monthly magazine, through which they could serialize their books and add bonus material, re-imagining the form and spirit of the adventure comics they grew up with, in a new era. Now those graphic novels are finally coming out in their originally intended forms, as standalone books from Top Shelf, releasing this month. Kevin […]
May 26, 2013 | 8:02 a.m.
A little more than 10 years into his comics career, writer-artist Matt Kindt has developed into one of the most exciting and original talents in the business, and has suddenly become in-demand to boot, releasing his work through multiple publishers. Kindt’s Dark Horse series “Mind MGMT” is a fan-favorite that’s also won the praise of Kindt’s peers, who’ve raved about the book’s fast-paced, twisty story of covert government psychics. For DC, Kindt has worked on the offbeat superhero titles “My Greatest Adventure” and “Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.”; and he’s collaborated with his friend Jeff Lemire on Lemire’s recently completed Vertigo series “Sweet Tooth.” Now Kindt has a standalone graphic novel for First Second called “Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes,” about an obsessive, Dick Tracy-like detective who tries to find the pattern in a series of thefts of […]
April 27, 2013 | 11:00 a.m.
REVIEW Golden-age publisher EC Comics’ rise and fall was tied to its horror titles “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror,” which were so sharply written and beautifully drawn that they quickly became fan-favorites in the early ’50s — while also freaking out some authority figures, who were bothered that these stories were so gory, so irreverent, so effective. When comics fans sum up the EC saga, the focus is usually on how the company excelled at twisty tales of murder, then had to tone that down in the wake of congressional investigations into the link between comics and juvenile delinquency. Eventually, EC survived the furor by turning to humor, becoming a success again thanks to Mad magazine. Yet EC in its heyday was about more than just violent criminals and the shambling undead. The company was also […]
April 10, 2013 | 11:18 a.m.
Dark Horse’s “The Adventures of Superhero Girl” — available now — collects a comic strip that Faith Erin Hicks wrote and drew for the Halifax alt-weekly The Coast for several years beginning in the late ’00s, about a well-meaning, super-powered Canadian gal who doesn’t get enough attention for all the good work she does. The same could’ve been said about Hicks a few years ago, though not so much anymore. One of the most in-demand cartoonists in the business, Hicks has three other books coming out this year besides “Superhero Girl,” and says that she’s in a place in her career right now where she’s turning down illustration assignments. That’s a long way from where Hicks was when she began “Superhero Girl,” at a time when she says she was “poor and desperate enough to spend an entire day working […]
April 09, 2013 | 11:55 a.m.
PERSPECTIVE When the CW’s breakout hit series “Arrow” returns with new episodes on April 24, viewers can expect more soapy drama mixed with dark action thrills involving Stephen Amell as the handsome playboy-turned-vigilante Oliver Queen. Though the series makes plenty of concessions for non-comic book readers (an emphasis on Queen’s dating life, for instance), there’s still plenty of comic book history on display. Characters and concepts from Green Arrow’s 70 years of history pop up, but grounded in a gritty, realistic style (a la Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman universe). The success of “Arrow” and its accessible take on comic canon is a reminder of how far we’ve come with superheroes on television from the days when TV producers seemed to try as hard as they could to make superheroes non-super. Consider, if you will, “Shazam!” In 1939, Bill Parker […]
March 20, 2013 | 4:41 p.m.
PERSPECTIVE It’s probably no coincidence that television reached a new level of critical respectability after its most serious shows embraced serialized storytelling, both as a way to hook audiences and a way to develop more novelistic depth. It’s an approach Marvel Comics already had figured out in the 1960s. When writer-editor Stan Lee and his bullpen of artists started introducing cliffhangers, romantic melodrama and long-simmering subplots into superhero comics, Marvel suddenly became hip and popular, and was even written about in mainstream publications, long before the “comics aren’t for kids anymore” headlines of the 1980s. Yet even more than Lee, the Marvel writer who best played to the strengths of serialization was Chris Claremont. In 1975, when Claremont was still in his mid-20s, he took the assignment to write for Marvel’s revival of “The X-Men”: a team of superpowered, socially […]