So the other day, I thought I'd dust off Legends and escape into the fantasy world of comics with a story where a demagogue uses his celebrity as a platform to turn average Americans against each other and even uses the office of the Presidency to nearly destroy the world by spreading hate. You know, fun-time silly superhero stuff.
But mixed in there with the main plot was something that I'd forgotten from the last time I've read it: A scene that is quite possibly the single most ridiculous supervillain crime I have ever seen in my life. And for me, that's saying something.
While it may be overstating the case to describe superhero comics as our modern myths in a post-religious age, there are certainly some stories that have taken on a near-mythic quality as "the stories you have to read": Watchmen; The Dark Knight Returns; All-Star Superman; The Death of Captain Marvel; "The Night Gwen Stacy Died." These stories are held in high esteem, often for a generation or more.
For Fantasy Week here at ComicsAlliance, I wanted I'd dive into a run that's not only held up as one of the defining Marvel stories of the 1980s, but also the high point of its particular character's history. I wanted to know: is Walter Simonson's legendary four-year run on Thor, and the stories related to it, really that good, or just fondly remembered by the people who read it as kids?
It's Star Trek's 50th anniversary and between the well-received Star Trek Beyond, the fact that all of Trek is available streaming basically everywhere, a new TV show coming next year, and the continued release of new novels and comics, it's a good time to be a fan of the USS Enterprise and its brethren.
Comics have been a part of Trek lore from almost the very start. Beginning in 1967, when the original Trek was wrapping up its first season on NBC, Gold Key published a series that only had two consistent features: an irregular publishing schedule, and an almost total disregard for how the characters actually looked.
One thing I really appreciate about a city is when it has a nice green space. Parks, public gardens, even those little flower beds that you sometimes see at intersections and roundabouts, I love 'em all. They add a lot of character to a place, and they're really nice to look at. The thing is, they're only nice when they're, you know, planned out and cultivated, and not when they erupt through famous landmarks at the behest of an unstoppable plant elemental who is holding the world hostage. Those tend to be a little less pleasant.
And that's exactly what the world's facing in Len Wein and Kelley Jones's Swamp Thing #5, in which Matt Cable --- who you may remember from his lengthy tenure as a bird --- has taken over the power of the Swamp Thing, and immediately set about giving landmarks all over the world a new leafy makeover. Check out a preview!
In the mid-eighties, DC Comics tried a bizarre experiment known as the DC Challenge, a story told by twelve different creative teams over twelve comics, with the catch being that each issue would end on a cliffhanger that the next team would have to get themselves out of. Announced at Emerald City Comic Con, DC is reviving the series in the form of Kamandi Challenge, thirteen creative teams over twelve issues telling one complete story with the classic Jack Kirby character, Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth.
The original DC Challenge featured the likes of Elliot S! Maggin, Mike W. Barr, Dave Gibbons, Gene Colan and so many more legendary creators. and featured the additional caveat that they could use any DC Comics characters, except ones they were currently working with elsewhere. The series culminated in a jam-packed final issue which was divided among six of the previous creative teams.
On this day in 1975, comics were changed forever. The book that changed everything? Giant-Size X-Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. The reason this book is so important? It's the first appearance of the X-Men.
"But wait," you're saying, "the X-Men debuted in 1963's X-Men #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!" That is also true, but here's the thing about those X-Men: Nobody liked them very much, and there was nothing particularly special about them. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and Beast were students a prep school for mutants who fought goofy supervillains in between training sessions. They were a second-string Lee/Kirby creation at best.
On this day in 1971, DC Comics published House of Secrets #92 which featured, among such stories as “After I Die and “Trick or Treat”, the debut of the soon-to-be iconic character Swamp Thing. Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing is one of DC’s most recognizable horror characters, and over the years he has been used as a vessel to tell some of comics most unique stories.
Promo comics are amazing. Since they're created for a wide audience that goes far beyond the normal readership, they always feature characters who have been boiled down to their most basic, accessible forms, but they're always at least two steps removed from what they should probably be doing. I mean, even if you boil them down to their most essential elements, the Justice League probably shouldn't be relying on a guy with a really nice drill to help them defeat a supervillain, and Batman doesn't usually fight crime by helping a small child overcome his allergies.
But that's part of what makes them great, and it only gets better when you're not exactly sure what's being promoted until you're about halfway through the comic. So today, I invite you to join me for 1992's Batman: A Word to the Wise, in which the Caped Crusader is called upon to extoll the virtues of literacy, a department store, and --- if I'm reading this correctly --- the entire nation of Canada.
Superman is notoriously difficult to kill. It's kind of his thing, and even though people have been trying to pull it off for 77 years now, they've never really managed to. Even the most famous example of someone coming close had to involve an unstoppable giant bone monster in bike shorts and a spurious understanding of evolution, and even that didn't really work --- the main result was less shuffling off this mortal coil and more hanging around for a couple of years in dire need of a haircut.
But there is one person who might have a pretty good shot. Someone who knows all of Superman's weaknesses, and who has the resources to provide a squad of hitmen with everything they'd need to put a Kryptonite nail into the Man of Steel's coffin. That man is Clark Kent, and in Len Wein, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella's "A Matter of Light and Death," which opens with Clark hiring a trio of crooks to off his own alter-ego, and just keeps getting weirder from there.
It wasn't that long ago that DC's Convergence event gave a few creators the chance to return to characters that they made their mark on in past eras, and in January, it seems like that's an idea that's bleeding back into the DC Universe --- or at least to the Louisiana swamps of the DC Universe. On January 6, Swamp Thing relaunches with a new six-issue miniseries, coming courtesy of writer Len Wein, who co-created Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson back in 1971, and artist Kelley Jones.
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