Stan Lee, "Spider-Man!" Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (Sept. 1962)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Making of Books

Marvel Worldwide recently released The Art of Captain America: First Avenger by Matthew K. Manning, and it can be ordered from the usual online dealers. The book includes a very brief introduction to the character of Captain America and his history and the remainder of the book presents a detailed look at making of the film with commentary by cast and crew. The book is well illustrated by pictures of costumes, weapons, and various concept art, though, as with Manning's The Art of Thor (2011), these do get somewhat boring after a while. In addition. unlike similar tomes, one never gets the sense here that either the filmmakers or stars had any connection with the character or his legacy; there are also few comments by comics creators, aside from some quotes by Joe Simon, Cap's creator, to connect the film to its origins. Instead, the filmmakers have become the spokesmen for the character and his legacy.

In contrast, Paul Ruditis's The Walking Dead Chronicles: The Official Companion Book (Abrams, 2011) is a well-illustrated and loving tribute to the television series and its comic book source. Forewords by show-runner Frank Darabont and series creator Robert Kirkman detail their involvement in the franchise, while the book itself, which features copious commentary by the cast and crew--all proponents of the comic and its TV adaptation--covers the history of The Walking Dead phenomenon from its initial proposal to hints for season two of the TV series, set to premiere on 16 October.

Other sections include detailed discussions on the makeup, visual effects and filming of the series, and, in addition to his narrative history Ruditis provides synopses of the first six issues of the comic, which parallel, events of the first season of the show and, later, synopses of each of the six television episodes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Joe Simon Autobiography

Titan Books has recently published Joe Simon: My Life in Comics, an intimate look at the life and career of comics creator Joe Simon. It's a quick and interesting read that offers insight into the comic book industry and its history.

Joe Simon: My Life in Comics

ISBN: 9781845769307Joe Simon, Steve Saffel

Dimensions: 6 1/8” x 9 1/4“
Hardback: 256pp + 8pp colour
Publication date: June 21 2011
Illustration detail: 128 b&w, 8pp colourRRP $24.95


In his own words, this is the life of Joe Simon, one of the most important figures in comics history, and half of the famous creative team Simon and Kirby. Joe Simon co-created Captain America, and was the first editor in chief of Marvel Comics (where he hired Stan Lee for his first job in comics).

Simon began his prolific career in the Great Depression, and this book recounts his journey to New York City, his first comic book work, his meeting with Jack Kirby, and the role comics played in wartime America. He remembers the near-death of the comics, and the scramble to survive. And he reveals what it was like to bring comics out of their infancy, as they became an American art form.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Marvel News

I've been remiss of late in reporting on affairs in Marvel Comics. Important stories of late include the death of Ultimate Peter Parker/Spider-Man in a truly heart-wrenching tale (details at Comics Alliance, as reported by David Uzumeri) by creators Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley and published in Ultimate Spider-Man No. 160 that paves the way, ultimately, for the introduction of a new multiracial Spider-Man and, as also reported by Uzumeri at Comics Alliance, the end of the long-running Uncanny X-Men series in anticipation of the launching of a new Uncanny X-Men series and Wolverine and the X-Men featuring a splintering of the team as result of the Schism crossover event.

Still More on the New 52

In case you're as deeply confused as me, I came across some interesting posts at Comics Alliance detailing how the New 52 universe differs from the established DCU. Primarily, the new universe is created as a result of the conclusion of Flashpoint (out in colected editions later in the year), and heroes have only been active for about 5 years! Detailed comments by David Uzumeri on the indivual books are in four parts: one, two, three, and four.

Uzumeri seems to be the DC guy at Comics Alliance and has also written a guides to the birth of the New 52 in
"The New 52 FAQ: Answering Your Questions about the Relaunched DC Universe" (31 Aug.), while a post by Andy Khouri details DiDio's disturbing news regarding DC's various Crises, which have been wiped from continuity: "DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: No 'Crisis' Events In DCnU" (3 Oct.). Despite this, Earth-Two still exists, as reported in "DC Comics Announces Relaunched 'Justice Society Of America' And The Return Of Earth-Two" (28 Aug.) by Uzumeri, and its adventures will be chronicled by writer James Robinson, who returns to his Starman roots later this year in a 12-issue series on the Shade, which will perhaps bridge between the New 52 Earth and the new Earth-Two. 

Digital Comics Wars

Recently, Barnes and Noble has announced that it will pull some of its stock of collected editions and graphic novels published by DC Comics from its physical stores after DC announced an exclusive deal with Amazon.com to distribute digital editions of those books solely on its Kindle platform. Further details and links at Comics Alliance.

The New 52 Info

It occurred to me that readers may not be familiar with the New 52 being published this fall by DC Comics, and I've come across a handy introduction to the series and its various components (with details on all 52 new books) at io9.com. Another article on the site includes an interview with some of creators, including Dan DiDio, the current co-publisher of DC, who states part of the logic for the re-envisioning of the brand is to "bring a more youthful feel across the entire line." This is a rather disturbing comment because, as noted on the various posts from PopMatters, the overwhelming majority of comics readers are older males in their 20s, 30s and beyond, a demographic equivalent to the majority of DC's creators. In moving out of its niche, DC runs the risk of alienating its established fan base for short-term profit and the curiosity of new readers.

Wonder Woman's Dad

As further evidence of the companies attempts to alienate old readers with the New 52, DC Comics has recently revealed that the new Wonder Woman has been retconned a father in the figure of the Greek god Zeus. Details at the Source, DC's blog, and a reaction at the New York Post.

More on the New 52

Reaction to the new 52 has been dramatic, and Jill Pantozzi of Newsarama offers a particular strong reaction as a female fan in "Is THE NEW 52 The Wrong Relaunch?" (28 Sept.).

DC's The New 52

DC Comics recently rebooted the entire DC Universe in an effort to attract new readers. The initial details can most easily be accessed by an article on Newsarama. Now that the books are coming out, some of the fallout has been detailed on the PopMatters website. The following pieces were most insightful:

"DC Reboot Gives Comics a 'Logan's Run' For Their Money" (10 June 2011) by Lana Cooper

"Detective Comics 881: The Death of a 74-Year-Old Legend" (15 August 2011) by Michael D. Stewart

"A Pointless, Truncated History Winds Up the "Batman" " (22 August) by Michael D. Stewart

"Is It Just Us?" [review of new Justice League series] (2 Sept.) by shathley Q
"Reanimated: Snyder Reasserts the Moody Genius of Swamp Thing" (9 September 2011) by Shawn O'Rourke

"Choice in DC Comics' New 52" (19 Sept.) by shathley Q

"Revisiting the Rabbit Hole in 'Batman #1' " (23 September) by Michael D. Stewart

"Thus Far: DC's New 52 at the Halfway Mark" (26 September 2011) by shathley Q and Michael D. Stewart 

"The Flash's Long Road Back to Existence" (30 September) by Andrew Ly

"Prodigal Sons and Daughters Return in Teen Titans #1" (30 September) by Shawn O'Rourke

"An Awfully Big Adventure: Wrapping Up DC’s Extreme Makeover" (5 Oct.) by Michael D. Stewart

Additional content can be found on the site's recent news page for comics.

Heroes and Superheroes

I've added a new section to the blog on "Heroes and Superheroes" to keep track of the interesting and/or insightful pieces I have come across in using heroes as a writing topic these past three years as an adjunct at the Community College of Rhode Island. I hope you find them useful and welcome further suggestions.

Michael Torregrossa

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Early American Comics at Dartmouth

The Dartmouth College Library's digital collection now features downloadable PDFs of the following examples of nineteenth-century American comics alongside a variety of books, manuscripts, maps, and other material:

 Töpffer, Rodolphe. The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck. New York: Wilson & Co., [184-?]. 

The first comic book printed in the U.S.

The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper. New York: Published at the Brother Jonathan Office, 185-?. 

The first comic book written in the U.S.