A: Comic book lettering is up there with inking and coloring in the holy trinity of underrated comic book skills, but it's also one of those things that, once you start paying attention to it, you'll never be able to not notice it again. I'm not exaggerating even a little bit when I say that it's one of those things that can absolutely ruin a comic if it's done wrong, even if everything else is perfect. But to be honest, of those three elements, lettering is still probably the most underrated.
The thing is, when it's good, it can be absolutely gorgeous in its own right. And fortunately for us, there are a lot of people who do it very, very well.
Last week, two of the very small handful of writers still working on DC Comics' New 52 titles they launched announced they were finally ending their runs. In the case of Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell, the catalyst was the complete cancellation of the title with issue #30. Nightwing, meanwhile, will continue, but Kyle Higgins won't be writing it.
A distinctly different animal than the independent cartoonist, creators-owned collaboration or even work-for-hire artist, writing gigs in ongoing cape comics have always been fluid, but the turnover seems to be faster and more common now than it's ever been. Whether a result of cancellations, writers moving on to other things (often finite, creator-owned work), or creative differences with editorial, Marvel and DC writer runs are getting shorter and shorter.
Over the past few years, Deathstroke the Terminator has become something of a go-to villain for DC comics. It's no exaggeration to say that he's one of the most prominent DC characters in media outside of comics. Since appearing as Slade in Teen Titans, we've seen that guy on TV shows with Smallville and Arrow, in video games with Arkham Origins and Injustice, and just recently, it was announced that he's been thrown into the animated adaptation of Batman & Son, a story that already had Ra's al-Ghul, Talia and ninja man-bats -- and that's even if you cut out the part where Darkseid uses time-rays that he shoots out of his eyes to send Batman back to caveman days, which is understandable if you're trying to fit something into an 80-minute Cartoon Network time slot.
Point being, we're living in a time when Deathstroke has risen to become one of DC's most prominent villains, and arguably one of their most popular characters, but every time I see him, I just can't get my mind around how exactly that happened -- and more importantly, why it keeps on happening.
Pending any announcements this convention season, that means a lot of fan favorite characters now go back into mothballs, including Marvel's premier gay teen couple, Wiccan and Hulkling, and breakout fashion icon Miss America. But the one I'll miss the most? Marvel's first male pin-up; Marvel Boy.
Marvel Studios unveiled surely its strangest casting decision to date this week when it announced that Michael Douglas will play the role of Hank Pym in 2015's Ant-Man movie. Marvel also confirmed that the already announced Paul Rudd will take the role of Scott Lang, the second man to don the Ant-Man helmet.
The announcement was a surprise that elicited a Batfleck-esque response from some of the intended audience - myself included. Something about Douglas-as-Pym didn't sit right with me. Was this an irrational reflex, or is there a reason this casting set alarm bells ringing?
The twelfth episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD officially takes us past the halfway point of the season; there are now more episodes behind us than ahead. You'd think I'd be relieved given how disappointing the show has been, but I'm actually worried that time is running out to make the show work.
This week; Agents of SHIELD goes back to school. But what do they learn?
On the list of things I'm a complete and total sucker for, outer-space westerns are up at the top of the list, right under comics about Batman punching a gorilla or crocodile. I love those things, and the more obvious the connection to westerns, the more I tend to love it. Cowboy Bebop? Great. Firefly, with its train robberies and galactic civil war veterans? Yes. Heck, I've even got a passing interest in BraveStarr, and that thing is so on the nose that it takes place on "Planet Texas." Seriously, you put cosmic six-shooters and I'm basically in, no questions asked.
Of course, it helps if the end product is actually good, too, and while it was the premise and a quick look at the art that got my interest piqued in the first place, Matthew Ritter and Adam Elbatimy's Nova Phase is every bit as good as I wanted it to be.
Directed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a theatrical extension of their award-winning work on Batman: The Animated Series which finds Batman on the trail of a lethal new villain for whose crimes he has been wrongly given the blame, and whose identity and motives strike hard into the heart of Gotham City’s protector. The film is equal parts mystery, action and romance, and enhanced by riveting music, truly emotional vocal performances and exquisite animation and art direction like no other American animated feature. Indeed, legendary film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert actually apologized to their television audience for not reviewing Mask of the Phantasm when it was released in theaters (lousy promotion caused them to mistake it for a compilation of episodes from the animated series) and heaped effusive praise on the film and its principals. The 1993 film remains the only animated Batman feature released cinematically.
This past Christmas marked the 20th anniversary Mask of the Phantasm, a film that’s arguably its creators’ most perfect expression of their enduringly influential vision of DC Comics’ dark knight — a vision that many believe is the most perfect expression of Batman in any medium. While Warner Bros. has yet to announce any plans for a high definition reissue or any other offerings connected with the special occasion, the film fanatics at Mondo — purveyors of extremely fine illustrated film posters and other cinematic celebrations — decided to honor Mask of the Phantasm with an anniversary event in connection with the famous Alamo Drafthouse of Austin, Texas, where they screened the film in its original 35mm format for a sold-out house last Tuesday, January 7. As always, Mondo came prepared with an extremely limited quantities of new screen-printed poster, and which serves as an update of the film’s original theatrical one-sheet and an homage to the aesthetic legacy of Timm and Radomski’s work.
Hawkeye has led the way for a solo title renaissance at Marvel. The publisher had of late placed an emphasis on team books -- mostly iterations of the Avengers and the X-Men -- and scaled back on solo titles, even reducing Spider-Man to just two books (one double shipping).
Then Hawkeye came along, and things changed. Thanks to the unique voice and style of the creative team, Matt Fraction and David Aja, a character who seemed unlikely to sustain a solo title became both a critical and commercial hit. Marvel has been trying to recapture that magic ever since, and the first of a new wave of solo titles hit stores this week; Black Widow #1by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto.
Q: What is Stan Lee's actual legacy? -- @TheMikeLawrence
A: I don't think there could be a more complicated subject to tackle in a single column than this one, because as an industry and as an art form, I think we all have a lot of complicated feelings about Stan Lee. Depending on who you ask, when you ask them and what he's been up to lately, he's a conniving credit-stealer, a shameless self-promotion machine, a "driven little man who dreams of having it all!!!" and got it by coasting on the hard work of others, or he's a charismatic innovator who got put into that spotlight because he's a natural showman, a smiling ambassador of the medium and everybody's friendly comics grandpa. And it's further complicated because you can't really talk about him without talking about collaborators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, either.
That's what makes him hard to talk about, even if you've spent nearly your entire life being aware of him. There's just so much to get through that's filtered through so many angles, and as a result, I genuinely think that he's simultaneously the most overrated and underrated creator of all time.
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