When Steve Dillon passed away on October 22, 2016, comics lost one of its greatest masters of the invisible art. In a long and storied career, Dillon's work was characterized by concise layouts, subtle manipulations of time and space, and a remarkably expressive cartooning style that gave his comics an emotional resonance unlike any other. Let's take a moment to appreciate the gifts of a uniquely talented artist.
There are a lot of ways that a comic book can reinforce the iconography of the superhero. A snappy costume; signature powers; an artist that defined the look of the book for a generation. But part of the iconography of the superhero is a good logo, and part of establishing that iconography is that hoary old comics tradition: saying the logo out loud.
Greg Smallwood is one of the most fascinating artists to have emerged in the last five years. His breakout book Dream Thief showcased his innovative approach to page design, classic figure work, and the clever incorporation of sound effects and simple iconography into his layouts. He's not just a comic book artist; he's a sequential artist, designer, and storyteller, and in his fantastic second run on Moon Knight, he's been doing some very exciting things with negative space.
Chris Samnee is one of the best artists working in comics today. His stock has risen steadily since 2010 as he went from Thor: The Mighty Avenger to The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, to a long, esteemed run with Mark Waid on Daredevil, winning both a Harvey and an Eisner award along the way.
Now on Black Widow, again with Waid, he continues to develop his craft and turn heads, so much so that "one of the best artists working in comics today" doesn't seem to describe just how good he actually is. One of the reasons he's so good is that he's picked up tricks from some of the greatest artists to come before him, and one in particular stands above the rest: Alex Toth.
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday to commemorate the memory of the men and women who died serving in the Armed Forces.
It's also the end of an interesting month for fans of Captain America. In his 75th year of existence, the Sentinel of Liberty has starred in one of the most critically acclaimed superhero films of all time, and he's been the subject of a controversial new storyline in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. Yet whatever his status in the comics, he remains an icon to the public at large, standing for the platonic ideals of the American nation at its very best. One of the best examples of what he represents comes from a series of one-shot comics telling of Cap's exploits in World War II and Iraq, with a shared focus on the ordinary soldiers fighting beside him.
In a universe brimming with unique superheroes, and a franchise full of cool looks, Nightcrawler stands out. Kurt Wagner was born looking like a monster, but he takes pride in his appearance and makes great use of his teleportation power to focus on being a Big Damn Hero.
I've always liked Nightcrawler, and was happy when my friends gifted me a print of the cover to the first issue of the 1985-1986 Nightcrawler miniseries, written and drawn by his co-creator Dave Cockrum. I'd heard good things about the series so I bought it on Comixology and wound up having a fun, funny ride that was a joy to be on.
Our ongoing ranking of the definitive inarguable Top 100 X-Men of All Time brought up a lot of different arguments from our panel of judges. Some people liked Cyclops, some people liked Jean Grey, and nobody could agree on Gambit at all. But the one thing I still get messages about was my comment when ranking for Hank McCoy, aka Beast.
I said “HE BELONGS IN JAIL” and left it there. But why? What did Hank ever do to deserve such condemnation? He’s a bouncing blue ball of furry sarcasm, right, Steve, you Yorkshire Monster? How can you even make these sorts of ridiculous claims and keep a straight face?
Okay, fair enough, I should've explained myself properly Here’s the case for the prosecution.
The best superhero film ever made isn't The Dark Knight. It's not the 1978 Superman. It's not even Spider-Man 2. No, the best superhero movie is 2008's Justice League: The New Frontier.
Now, you might be asking, how does a 75-minute, direct-to-video animated film beat out those other films, which are widely adored and were helmed by some of the most acclaimed directors working today? The answer is, none of those films were built around the work of the great Darwyn Cooke, who passed away this past weekend from cancer.
For a film where he's maybe the dozenth biggest character, Captain America: Civil War does an incredible job of introducing the MCU version of Spider-Man. (Moderate spoilers follow if you haven't yet seen the movie.) Heartbroken as I still am that it's not Miles Morales and/or Donald Glover under the mask, Tom Holland's performance and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's screenplay manage to get a lot right about the character, in a way that other adaptations just haven't.
Nearly every single thing that comes out of Spidey's mouth is funny, in just the right awkward way. Next to the low-saturation burgundy costumes of the other Avengers, his stark (no pun intended) reds and blues really pop. Peter talks and moves like a kid, a geeky fan whose presence makes the film lighter and bouncier. But more than all that, the film manages to include the single most important thing about the entire Spider-Man mythos: a bit where his mask is rolled halfway up his face.
How do you do an Ultimates series post-Secret Wars, without the Ultimate Universe? The original series by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch was supposed to be a reimagining of the Avengers concept for the 21st century, and had significant influence on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both narratively and visually.
After the events of Secret Wars, we no longer have an Ultimate Universe, but we do have a new Ultimates comic by Al Ewing, Kenneth Rocafort and Dan Brown. Four issues in, they’re re-imagining and redefining what a superhero team can be in the twenty-first century, just like the original volume did fourteen years ago.