Kyle Baker is one of the most accomplished cartoonists in comics today, and he's been producing hugely acclaimed comics ever since he first started working in the industry in the early 1980s, with work ranging from madcap comedy to breathtakingly sharp biography. With eight Eisner awards to his name, along with a bevy of Harvey and Glyph awards, he's also one of the industry's most decorated talents.
Steve Morris spoke to Baker about his career in comics through five milestones in his career, in a conversation that covers navigating a changing market, writing comedy versus writing drama, and why Baker chooses to self-publish.
It's no secret that women have long been underrepresented in superhero comics, both as characters and as creators. In the case of the latter, in the Silver Age of comics, your options were more or less limited to two: Marie Severin, who did her groundbreaking work largely at Marvel, and the brilliant Ramona Fradon over at DC.
Ramona Fradon was born on October 1, 1926, and studied art at the Parsons School of Design in New York, as well as the New York Students' Art League. She never read comic books as a child, but had a love for newspaper strips, including The Phantom, Li'l Abner, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, and The Spirit.
Take a look at the biggest names in superheroes and you probably realize that you're looking at a sea of red, blue, yellow. There are some greens, whites, blacks, etc, but the most iconic superheroes are the red and blue, with yellow accents. It's no accident that the easiest colors to render in the four-color printing process became the choice for bold heroes. But what does it mean for characterization of these heroes? What does it tell us about those characters?
May 14, 1941 saw the release of a new anthology called Police Comics, from a publisher known as Quality Comics. It starred a guy in a sheer pink blouse named Firebrand, but it was one of the backup features that would become Quality's biggest hit. You already read the headline, so you know I'm talking about Plastic Man. The book also introduced Phantom Lady, who would later be known for the way her costume was drawn, and the Human Bomb, who stuck around for a long time by hanging out with cooler heroes.
But Plastic Man was in a league of his own. From that first story, which tells his origin, the work of writer/artist Jack Cole elevated Plastic Man above almost everything that was happening in comics at the time. Even at Quality, which had uncommonly good art for the era, Cole's work stood out like it was from the future.
This week at Comixology, they're celebrating the 75th anniversary of Plastic Man's debut in Police Comics by offering up a sale on comics from throughout his history. It's an interesting bunch of comics, and unlike a lot of characters who get the spotlight in a sale like this, Plastic Man has had few enough appearances that, while it's certainly not complete, it's definitely pretty comprehensive, covering everything from his Golden Age appearances all the way up to last year's Convergence.
But with so much to choose from, you may find yourself in need of a guide, so as always, I'm here to tell you exactly what to buy --- and you can start by picking up every issue of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man ongoing series from 2003.
Q: Aside from laying groundwork, most Golden Age stuff I've read is not very good. Are there any must-reads from the era? -- @TheKize
A: Listen, if you're having trouble getting into Golden Age books, I do not blame you. I've read my fair share of them over the years, and while I definitely think it's worth tracking down some of those early superhero comics if you're looking to broaden your horizons a little bit, I'll be the first to tell you that they can be hard to get into for a variety of reasons --- and as you said, chief among them is the fact that a lot of those old comics are just not very good.
Of course, you could say that about pretty much any era of comics and you wouldn't be far off from the truth. More than that, though, I think there's a big barrier that keeps the average reader from getting into those comics, and it has a lot to do with when, how, and why those comics were being made.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our years on the Internet, it’s that there’s no aspect of comics that can’t be broken down and quantified in a single definitive list, preferably in amounts of five or ten. And since there’s no more definitive authority than ComicsAlliance, we’re taking it upon ourselves to compile Top Five lists of everything you could ever want to know about comics.
Even though comics as a form of entertainment are almost synonymous with jokes and making people laugh, modern comic books have stayed far away from comedy for the most part. And I mean, really far away. But there are still some characters and creators out there that remind us that it's okay for comics to make us smile every now and then.
For a modern reader, the comics of the Golden Age — those superhero comics that came out between the late '30s and early '50s — are not always the most accessible reads. The clunky exposition, crude art, and formulaic plots of many of these comics often fail to impress fans more familiar with comics that appear on the surface to be more sophisticated.
However, the comics of Jack Cole — born on this day in 1914 — do not fit this description. Cole's magnum opus, his nearly decade-long run as writer/artist on his creation, Plastic Man, was easily twenty years ahead of its time and feels just as fresh today as it did in the '40s.
Over the past few weeks, Comixology has done a pretty amazing job of staying on top of DC's Convergence event with a string of sales based on the different eras that were brought into Bottleworld to fight it out. This week marks the end of Convergence and, along with it, the end of this particular set of sales, but they've decided to go out with a bang. In addition to some classic Bronze Age Justice League and fun, continuity-bending Booster Gold, they're shining the spotlight onto one of the greatest --- and most underrated --- DC books of the 21st Century: Kyle Baker's Plastic Man.
Although cosplay has been present for decades within the comics, anime, and sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, social media has played an integral role in the thriving communities of costuming that exist, such as Cosplay.com and the Superhero Costuming Forum. Over the years, the cosplay community has evolved into a creative outlet for many fans to establish and showcase some impressive feats of homemade disguise, craftsmanship, and sartorial superheroics at conventions.
In honor of the caped crusaders of the convention scene, ComicsAlliance has created Best Cosplay Ever (This Week), an ongoing collection of some of the most impeccable, creative, and clever costumes that we’ve discovered and assembled into a super-showcase of pure fan-devoted talent.
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