Tag Archives: comic book journalism

Image Comics’ Ordinary Gods Questions Heroism and Mythmaking

Comics are often synonymous with superheroes; they dominate the industry whether you like it or not. Their myths and their tropes and their cycles of stagnation, reinvention, and their inevitable return to the way things Always Are. Heroes win, and more important than that: they are heroes. There is comfort in them; I am a fan of them. I don’t begrudge the status quo in and of itself. But often these demands and these cycles hide the hard truths of the industry that creates these stories, the way the corporate sponsors of these lucrative properties exploit and stifle the creators they rely on for their tentpole films and licensing initiatives. The heroes and gods are the myth, but the reality is as ordinary and petty and deflating as any other industry, with its dark secrets and interpersonal frustrations. While Ordinary Gods is not a superhero story, their dominance of the medium and the expectations readers bring to the comics reading experience are inescapable.

Ordinary Gods is a new creator owned series by the red-hot writer Kyle Higgins and artist Felipe Watanabe. Higgins looks to explore and unmask these ideals of heroism and take a harder look at the truth. It serves as a commentary not only on our human tendency for myth-making and hero-worship more broadly but also a metatextual commentary about the comics industry itself that channels his professional frustration of the work for hire system into a cosmic, eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

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The Final Night and the Forgotten Legacy of the DC Universe

One thing my recent Nightwing project accomplished was reigniting my love for DC Comics–particularly the stories and universe of the 90s, which, ironically, I have ready very little of. While I initially planned to cancel my DCU Infinite subscription once I finished that Nightwing read, I instead decided to dive into the stories I was always intrigued by but never had the opportunity to read.

As a kid I spent countless hours online following the stories of DC characters I had never heard of before, written by fans who chronicled the various adventures in compelling narratives. The DC Universe was boundless; there were always new characters and new stories to discover. In particular the fall of Hal Jordan seemed especially captivating. Reading about his sacrifice in The Final Night was such a moving memory even in the form of synopsis that when I found the story on DC Infinite those heady days of research came flooding back. Imagine my surprise to find that an event series from the mid 90s, an era that has a reputation for excess and convoluted plots, was in fact one of the most compelling, reserved, and moving superhero stories I’ve ever read.

The Final Night was a 4-issue, weekly event series written by Karl Kesel with art by Stuart Immonen, inks by Jose Marzan Jr. and colors by Patricia Mulvihill. It begins with the death of a world, as a mysterious power extinguishes the planet Tamaran’s sun. The alien Dusk, a messenger from another world, races from the dying Tamaran to warn the next planet of the coming of the Sun Eater, as she has done countless times before. The Sun Eater is coming to Earth, and there is no hope. Her goal is not that the next planet will defeat the Sun Eater but that they somehow save a few from certain death.

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Nightwing Recommended Reading

After reading through every major Dick Grayson story for my recent piece, it seemed a waste to not to do more with my Nightwing knowledge. And lo, came more content: my recommended reading list of Nightwing comics. Here I tried to capture what I think are the best stories from each major run on the character.

If you recently read Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s fun first issue of their new run and looking to dive into more Nightwing, here are my recommended stories highlighting Dick at his best. I wouldn’t call all of these essential (I don’t think any of Dixon really is) but most are enjoyable or indicative of the creators they represent. Further context and comments below for each one. Most of these stories are available in various collected editions, and I’ve noted the names of those collections. All of them are also included in your DC Universe Infinite subscription.

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Young Offenders Captures the Joy of Discovering Superheroes

My gateway into superheroes were Saturday morning cartoons: the Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and X-Men animated series from the 90s. These sparked an interest in the characters at a young age, and while I watched them religiously it was not until my late teens that I started picking up comics regularly. Until then I would occasionally pick up a random issue here and there, but these books were always somewhat impenetrable, either old back issues or random recent releases out of context from surrounding issues. They hinted at stories that preceded a given issue, or ended on a cliffhanger to which I never got to see the resolution.

This being a pre-blog and pre-Wiki internet, to learn more I spent hours on character and team-devoted web pages like Titans Tower and a now-defunct Encyclopedia of the DC Universe, which meticulously documented the publishing history and important plot points for big event books, individual characters and teams. I knew the differences between the Pre and Post Crisis Superman before ever picking up a single Superman comic.

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Exploring Steve Ditko’s Nine-Panel Mastery in Amazing Spider-Man #32

Recently, I was inspired to dive into Amazing Spider-Man from the start.

In doing so, it becomes hard to make much of a case against the original Steve Ditko run with Stan Lee as a practically perfect execution of superhero comics. In many ways, Ditko’s contribution to the medium are less heralded as others in the field, including his contemporaries like Lee and Jack Kirby. But far beyond simply creating interesting characters and being an “ideas man,” Ditko was a master of visual storytelling.

Over the decades, the Nine Panel Grid has become something of a tool of nostalgia, or a throwback to a different era in storytelling. But even those who rail against the boundaries of the nine panel owe a debt to the formulators of the medium, who cemented this layout as the building blocks of coherent narrative.

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