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Ask Chris #188: Lex Luthor And The Joker

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Who do you find more psychologically interesting, the Joker or Lex Luthor? -- Jordan, via email

A: You know, it's weird. As much as you see Superman and Batman together in stories where they're continually contrasted against each other, full of endlessly terrible first-person narration about how "Clark likes pancakes because he can't understand what it means to be vulnerable" but "Bruce always told me Alfred makes the best French toast, he has so much trouble trusting others" or whatever, their arch-nemeses don't often get compared with each other in the same way. They team up from time to time, sure, but usually the focus is just on their common goal of murdering the good guys, so you don't get too much there. That said, I like both of those characters a lot, and after thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that as the World's Foremost Batmanologist, as someone who has written extensively about the Joker and his relationship with Batman, it's definitely Lex Luthor.

Boom. Y'all just got swerved.

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Filed Under: , Category: Ask Chris, DC, Longform

10 Essential Eras of Captain America Comic Books

Captain America 10 Essential Comic Book Runs

You might have heard that there's a new Captain America movie coming out on April 4. If Marvel's marketing department has gotten its way, this news may very well be tattooed on the inside of your eyelids in phosphorescent ink. Let's say, however, you've never read any Captain America comics before, but now that he's been legitimized as a multi-million dollar film franchise, you're suddenly very interested in that dude with little wings on his head carrying around one of Uncle Sam's rims.

Since being created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon all the way back in 1941, the hero also known as the Sentinel of Liberty has passed through the hands of some eminently talented writers, artists and editors. Some of these creative teams depicted Cap's adventures for a few months -- some of them for a few years -- before passing the torch to the next creators to keep the flame (or trademark) alive. In comic books, these tenures are called "runs," "series"  or "eras," and they're the readers' way of distinguishing one era of a character's saga from the next. Chances are you're not sure where to dive into a a publishing legacy that's spanned more than 70 years, so here is a list, in chronological order, of the Sentinel of Liberty's 10 most interesting and influential comic book runs.

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The Genre-Hopping Movie Magic Of Snyder And Murphy’s ‘The Wake’

The Wake Movie Genres

When I spoke to Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy about their Vertigo series The Wake last April, about a month before the first issue’s release, we talked quite a bit about what types of movies influenced it. Several titles of horror movies and movies based around ocean settings came up: The Thing, Jaws, The Abyss. But we barely scratched the surface.

One of the things The Wake does so, so well is it constantly upends audience expectations. One way it does that, issue by issue, the genre seems to change. It isn’t just horror. That’s the easiest way to categorize it, but Snyder and Murphy work within the established tropes of multiple genres to, for lack of a better word, toy with the audience. What they’re doing goes beyond homage to film. It sets an expectation in the reader’s mind so that, when the big surprise comes, it’s all the more jarring. As the series digs into its second half, here’s a quick -- and slightly spoilery -- rundown of all the touchstones the series has hit so far.

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Ask Chris #186: The Strange Rise Of The X-Men

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Why do you think the X-Men didn't find their audience until two decades after they were created? -- @godofthunder851

A: I've got a minor quibble with your timing in this question -- it was more like 12 or 15 years, really -- but you've got an interesting point there. I think most comics readers are well aware of that piece of trivia about how the X-Men were about to get the axe before Giant Size X-Men #1 breathed new life into the franchise and set them on the path of becoming what was probably the single most popular and influential franchise of the '80s and '90s, and that's not really how things usually work. In comics, you tend to either come out of the gate to massive, enduring popularity (like Batman or Spider-Man), come out strong and then fade away for whatever reason (like, sadly, Shazam!), or just sort of flounder in the midcard. It's rare that something sticks around on the edge of being canceled for a solid decade before it finds its footing, and nobody bounced back harder than Marvel's Merry Mutants.

But really, what you're asking here is two separate questions: Why didn't the X-Men take off in 1963, and why did they in 1975? So let's look at the history and see if we can't figure it out.

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Assessor Evil, Part 6: For a Change of Pace, Someone Loses a Leg

Screen-Shot-2014-03-06-at-1.45.50-PM

DC Comics' event series pitting its bad guys again some even worse guys from another universe reaches its penultimate installment this week, as the home team of villains finally takes the fight to the evil invaders from Earth-3, the evil universe! Which of course means our super-close reading of this superhero epic also reaches its penultimate installments.

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The ‘Spider-Man’ Newspaper Strip Is the Craziest Superhero Story Happening Today

Amazing Spider-Man comic strip

I think it's safe to say that Spider-Man has been through some pretty weird stuff in his time, right? I mean, that's a fifty-year saga that started with a radioactive spider-bite that gave him limited psychic powers and super-strength that he immediately used to try to find fame as a professional wrestler, and the fine folks over at Marvel Comics have somehow managed to top that for weirdness time and time again. Heck, right now, Spider-Man comics are in the midst of a supervillainous Freaky Friday story that has been running for over a year. That should tell you something.

But for my money, the absolute craziest and most hilarious Spider-Man story in years isn't the one you'll find in the comic shops on Wednesday. It's the one that's happening right now in The Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Alex Saviuk and Joe Sinnott.

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The ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special’: Eastman And Curnow On IDW’s Celebration And The New ‘Eastman And Laird’ Collaboration [Interview + Art]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Interview
IDW

Turning 30 isn't everyone's favorite, but when it comes to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's nothing but a cause for celebration. To commemorate this mutant milestone, in May IDW will release its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special, an anthology bursting with all-new content from a selection of the comic series' most influential creative teams. If that's not enough, the anthology will come wrapped in the first official TMNT collaboration between Eastman and Laird in years. To get the full scoop, ComicsAlliance got in touch with Eastman and TMNT editor Bobby Curnow. Click through to read the full interview and see the brand new Eastman and Laird art, along with a piece by Eastman, Simon Bisley and Ryan Brown.

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Store-Bought Valentine Rankings: Batman, Spider-Man, Power Rangers, The Avengers And The Surprisingly Depressing Hello Kitty

ComicsAlliance Valentine Throwdown 2014

Valentine's Day is upon us once again, which means that tomorrow, we are all legally required to give the people we love little pieces of paper that sum up exactly how we feel about them, in tribute to a Catholic saint who was clubbed to death and beheaded. Truly, it is the most romantic of all times.

But for superhero fans, it does present a problem. Obviously, we all want to express our devotion to romantic partners while also expressing our devotion to our favorite characters, but are any of the superhero valentines that you can find in stores across the country actually good? If you pick up the Batman valentines at your local Target, will your love life be soaring to new heights above Gotham City, or will it be gunned down in an alley leaving you alone to wage war on crime? It's a daunting task, which is why every year, I take the hit for you to find out if there are any good store-bought superhero valentines.

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‘Ms. Marvel’ #1: Embracing The Paradox [Review]

Ms Marvel 2014 review

James Baldwin once described America as a "country devoted to the death of the paradox." He was right, of course. We're more comfortable seeing things in extremes, in black and white. A person from one culture or background can be instantly labeled as an upstanding citizen, exemplifying everything good about "real America." Superman is from Kansas, not San Francisco.

But if you're from another background, you can be instantly labeled as something else entirely: lazy, entitled, a thug, "Un-American." To many, there are those who fit into a certain label based on where they grew up, what school they went to, what church they attend. To think otherwise, to consider that there is more to us than blanket, largely basely assumptions, isn't as easy. And for many, it's too uncomfortable. It's too much work.

Ms. Marvel #1 stands in stark contrast to that sentiment. Written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, each major character introduced in this first issue is a celebration and exploration of the paradox. It is a book full of characters who remind you of people you know, or people you knew. It's a book that's unique, but nonetheless familiar. It is also, by almost any measure, one of the best first issues of a superhero comic in years. And, if we're being honest, it probably needed to be.

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Kurt Busiek Talks Graham Nolan, Astro City’s First Guest Artist In 19-Years [Interview]

Astro City, DC Comics

After almost 20 years of great stories from the same team of creators, you could probably be forgiven for thinking that a comic book might run out of steam just a little, but the return of Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross's Astro City last year proved that wrong by a long shot. It is, with no exaggeration, as good as or better than it's ever been before, taking the idea of focusing on "ordinary people" in a world of superheroes into new directions with amazing, heartfelt stories. With May's Astro City #12, they're adding another wrinkle: For the first time in the history of the series, another artist will take on a regular issue of the series: Graham Nolan, best known for his work on Batman.

To find out why the decision was made to open up their book to another artist after so long and why Nolan was the best fit for the story, I spoke to Kurt Busiek about art, scheduling, and the return of Astro City.

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