All posts by MMDG

Misty Morning Disco Goblin and Idler-in-Chief. (BB Karo is my secret identity. Shh.)

LaGuardia

Stories of extraterrestrial emigration to our beautiful blue planet are nothing new, particularly in recent years when the question of alien identity has become such a hot-button issue. Comics like Port of Earth and Border Town address the varying degrees of xenophobia that continue to simmer forth, putting our preservation and admiration of diversity ever more on the defensive.

The first issue of LaGuardia, by Nnedi Okorafor with art by Tana Ford and James Devlinimmediately sets itself apart from any sci-fi allegories of immigration. In this near-future world, Nigeria was the site of extraterrestrial first contact, and Lagos now operates the most important interstellar airport on the planet. The country, furthermore, has benefited greatly from its early communion with otherworldly species, and advancements in science and technology are ever-present.

But controversy is inescapable, and secessionists recalling the Nigerian Civil War amass, violently opposed to the influx of alien races and influence. Nigerian-American physician Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka arrives in New York City via LaGuardia, now the only interplanetary port in North America, pregnant and intent on smuggling in a mysterious little plant-based alien lifeform who adopts the rather loaded appellation of Letme Live.

Continue reading LaGuardia

Stan Lee Tribute Night

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we hope you’ll be able to join us on Tuesday, December 18th for a special Stan Lee Tribute and Trivia Night. Idle Time will be hosting another evening of funnybook quiz questions (many of which are barely comic book-adjacent; don’t be intimidated) at Mission: Comics and Art in the City.

Entry is free, and there will be lots of prizes, including store gift certificates, Stan Lee memorial comics, and surprises from our friends at Super7!

Grab some pals, a mustache & aviator shades, a six-pack of whatever we’re drinking, and let’s hang out.

Continue reading Stan Lee Tribute Night

Four Color Primer: Sersi & The Eternals Part 1

Chloé Zhao will be directing Marvel’s forthcoming Eternals movie

With the recent news that Marvel Studios is developing The Eternals as the next major entry into the MCU, as well as the focus on The Celestials in Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’s new Avengers series, the selection of this year’s longbox excavation and research project was pretty easy. I’d long been fascinated by Jack Kirby’s concept of the three branches of humanity (adding Deviants and Eternals to our own lineage) ever since I pored through Mark Gruenwald’s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe in the 80’s.

I’d had a working knowledge of the group, and of course followed Sersi during her tenure with the Avengers, as my inner teenage fanboy followed me off to college, but until now I’d never pieced together the formation of The Eternals, and hadn’t appreciated the extent to which Kirby’s vision had evolved in the decades since their inception.

from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe – Deluxe, #4 and #11 (1986)

The latest in our series of Four Color Primers unravels the origins and development of The Eternals, with a special emphasis on Sersi, historically the most interesting and active of this band of demigods. The aim with these posts has always been to function as a character survey (hopefully less convoluted than your average Wikipedia article, albeit almost always more verbose) that puts a primary consideration on the historical progression of concepts and stories passing from one creative team to the next, rather than a strict fictional biography. This is especially pertinent for The Eternals, whose original conception places their origin a million years in the past, a timeline that has seen refinement and elaboration from numerous writers and artists since Kirby first introduced us to the group in 1976.

Eternals vol. 1, #1 (1976)

Along the way, expect reading recommendations (in collected print format, as often as possible) so that you, too, can gain a firsthand appreciation for the source material that has been inspiring the recent pop culture explosion of four-color superheroic fantasy.

In that eponymous inaugural series, we learn that the Eternals came to life when titanic space-faring beings called the Celestials visited our planet eons ago and, as god-like cosmic entities are wont to do, experimented on our evolutionary ancestors. Using pre-human hominids, this “first host” of Celestials manipulated the genetic stock of our forebears in order to create three distinct branches of life: we humans, the beautiful and seemingly immortal Eternals, and the hideously unstable race of Deviants.

To fully appreciate the inspiration for Jack Kirby’s Eternals, however, we need to first go back several decades, before The King’s groundbreaking work at Marvel and the launch of their 1960’s superhero revolution. Jack and ancient aliens have had an impressively long (and, as conspiracy theorists have suggested, eerily involved) history together.

Eternals summoned to Olympia by Zuras to form the Uni-MInd (Eternals #11, 1977)

Continue reading Four Color Primer: Sersi & The Eternals Part 1

Stan Lee and the Silver Surfer

Last week I wrote about the affect that one of Stan Lee’s most iconic co-creations had on me as a young comic book fan.

This week I wanted to focus instead on a character that impacted me greatly in my teenage years and into adulthood. Although not technically a Stan Lee creation (and in fact the character’s provenance was the source of some controversy), the story of the Silver Surfer is undeniably associated with Stan and is an important part of the writer’s legacy. In tribute, here’s a look at the comic book that brought me closer to Stan Lee’s worldview as seen through the eyes of the lonely sentinel of the spaceways, and gave me a better appreciation of the man who helped make Marvel Comics what it is today.

Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer #1 (1988)
By eighth grade, I was well and truly entrenched in the Marvel universe, but apart from random issues of 70’s Defenders and summarized tales in Marvel Saga, I didn’t know much about the Silver Surfer until the debut of Steve Englehart’s series  and the release of Joe Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien. Both of those artifacts were gateway drugs into the immersive world of Marvel’s galactic space opera, and I spent many of my high school years moving backwards and forwards into the Jim Starlin and Ron Lim eras, digging on Warlock, Eternity, and all the trippy Infinity Watching and cosmic handholding.

But in 1988, another Silver Surfer hit the stands under Marvel’s Epic imprint, and it felt important enough that, despite its incongruities and lack of adherence to all-important continuity, I was compelled to add it to my weekly pull. It was the first of the two-part “Parable” story by Stan Lee and French artist Moebius.

Continue reading Stan Lee and the Silver Surfer

In Memoriam: Stan Lee 1922-2018

We all know how much Stan Lee meant to the world. There are few figures in the twentieth century that have had as significant an impact on popular culture as had the Forever Face of Marvel Comics. While he modestly downplayed his contributions to society, Stan’s indelible mark on history has given, without question, joy and inspiration to several generations of fans and followers. And will continue to do so for generations to come.

I can’t properly enumerate all the ways in which his enthusiasm, his vision, and his words have influenced me. Without his contributions to the industry, I may never have become the avid devotee of the medium that I am today, and my lifelong Marvel fandom owes everything to his prolific output and creative genius. Stan’s larger-than-life personality is matched by a portfolio of characters that transcend comics, themselves becoming a vital part of our social fabric, and many of whom have meant a great deal to me personally.

So as a small means of tribute, here is the first in a series of reflections on some  of my favorite Stan Lee co-creations, and the related comic book issues that recollect childhood excitement and have earned lasting admiration.

Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man #50
It really began for me with Peter Parker. I can’t remember how old I was when I thumbed through my first Spider-Man comic — no more than five for sure — but I do have vivid memories of watching that old syndicated cartoon on a tiny tube television from the floor of my family living room. I had committed the “does whatever a spider can” theme song to memory, and convinced two kindergarten classmates to perform it with me at a school-wide talent show. The only things I remember from that performance is that my two friends didn’t sing a word (boy did they look stupid standing next me, closed-lipped) and my folks didn’t try to talk me out of wearing my Spider-Man Underoos over my corduroys (damn, I must’ve looked cool). Continue reading In Memoriam: Stan Lee 1922-2018

The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #5 – Captain America

As much as I enjoyed Mark Waid’s post-Secret Empire run on Captain America, the entire arc felt like it was doing its best to avoid dealing with the fallout from Nick Spencer’s subversive epic. Initially, Waid’s book, launched under the Legacy trade dress, took the form of a Steve Rogers road trip, an effort to reconnect with a country that had been torn apart after Red Skull successfully re-wired Captain America’s reality to create a bastion of fascism and a conquering leader of Hydra. Then, before that reflective journey could really get going, Cap was frozen (again) and awakened in a future U.S. similarly gripped by an oppressive authoritarian regime. It’s almost as if the editors asked Waid to reinvent Empire, but with Steve now as the savior, rather than the enslaver. And when that little escapade had concluded, we got a few more fill-in issues featuring yet another far-flung future America, this time under the control of the Kree, and with Rogers’s descendants cast as the heroic protagonists.

We expected Marvel to put some distance between “Captain Hydra” and the relaunch, but avoiding a storyline that was so clearly part of Marvel continuity began to feel somewhat cowardly.

Secret Empire #1 (2017)

Everything about Secret Empirefrom its fomenting lead-in story in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America, released during the summer of 2016, and the eventual event series, which premiered in 2017, feels like a dark fairy tale of the Trump Era. And, as such, maybe it would have been better received, and, indeed, more impactful, had it been a self-contained “Elseworlds” type story.

Don’t get me wrong — I applaud Spencer and Marvel for boldly following through with such a politically charged story. The problem arises when the comics introduce themes of external forces manipulating our democracy, denials of freedoms, and paralyzing social divisions directly into the mainstream Marvel universe, but then seemingly ignore the repercussions.

Enter Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu. Uniting the acclaimed political writer and author of the inspired new Black Panther series with the artist responsible for Secret Invasion seems to be, on the surface, a pretty clear indication that the series was finally ready to address the ominous overtures of last summer’s crossover event. And their first storyline, “Winter in America” does not disappoint.

Continue reading The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #5 – Captain America

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 10 – 6

10
Sentry

Jeff Lemire & Kim Jacinto

Ask the prolific Eisner-winning Lemire, whose recent successes include a love letter to Golden Age superheroes, Black Hammer, and various journeys into the fractured psyches of humanity, both powered and otherwise, as seen in Royal City and Bloodshot, who is the one Marvel character you’d most like to revive? Moon Knight. Okay, you’ve done that. Who is the next Marvel hero on your list?

Gotta be The Sentry. This first issue is rife with classic capes n’ tights bombast, juxtaposed brilliantly with real human struggles — a Robert Reynolds that looks like he was pulled fresh from the towns of Essex County. In fact, Kim Jacinto’s art, when it isn’t aflame with dynamic action sequences, even resembles Lemire’s illustration style, sketchy and expressionistic with every shade of human emotion wonderfully styled. – MMDG

When I saw that a new Sentry book was out, I was skeptical. The Sentry is a lot like Superman in that it’s hard to come up with scenarios that can seriously threaten them and make for suspenseful and dramatic stories. I think Superman writers overcome this with solid character writing and an exploration of his personal psychology. Seeing Lemire’s name on this book inspired confidence and it wasn’t misplaced. Lemire is the perfect guide to further explore a character that I feel is hard to write for, and has ultimately made him underutilized in the books. The situation Bob finds himself in, literally living two lives, is a great take on the super hero/alter ego concept, and I gotta say, I’m happily growing sympathy for the character. Part of that is the writing, but I immediately noticed Jacinto’s strong facial expressions. They’re intense! His illustration strengthens the juxtaposition of the golden guardian to the dark void and underlines this particular book as a psychological horror story. This could be the defining story for this character, and I’m excited to see where Lemire, Jacinto and co. take it. – tyrannofloresrex

Man can this guy rip bodies! Great art — despair with a hint of imbalance — match the tone of the story. And I’m a sucker for a cliffhanger so I’ll probably pick up #2 to see who the villian is. – lebronald

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9
Venom

Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Stegman has really managed to turn his art into some next level stuff. I will keep reading as long as he is on the book. The opening Norse segment looks so good. I like Cates’s direction of making the symbiotes more of an ever-present part of the MU. Reminds of the Brubaker/Fraction Iron Fist run. Still not the biggest fan of the symbiote in general but this is well written and has a good mystery. I am intrigued enough to want to continue with this one. – MeanOldPig

I love these red faced aliens. I hope it stays dark and gets creepier. – lebronald

Still not a fan of the character, but Donny Cates has done marvelous things with Dr. Strange and Thanos in recent months, and Stegman’s art is unbelievable. I’ll be reading this. – MMDG

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 10 – 6

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 20 – 11

20
Quicksilver: No Surrender

Saladin Ahmed & Eric Nguyen

This could be an intriguing physics adventure and I’ve always wanted to move through time like Mork, but I bet this will be stupid. The art is unique – always a welcome sight – with some panels looking like pop art. Other entire pages are bland and skimmable. – lebronald

Not sure how to feel about this – like Ahmed’s work and I’m a fan of Nguyen’s art… just not sure why we needed a Quicksilver mini. And this first issue did nothing to answer that question. – MMDG

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19
Shatterstar

Tim Seeley & Gerardo Sandoval

Amusing concept for an unremarkable character. I have a general antipathy for all of the Liefeld creations, but at least in this book Seeley (who surprised us with his Nightwing series for Rebirth) is focusing more on the Mojoverse/multiverse promise of Claremont. I’ll read through. Also, thanks for writing a series starring a gay superhero that doesn’t feel the need to remind us that he’s gay every other panel (looking at you, Sina Grace). – MMDG

Never heard of this guy and had no plans on getting #2 but I like the premise. These old multi-parallel-reboot-universes definitely need some clean-up crew storylines. – lebronald

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 20 – 11

Green Lantern by Morrison and Sharp

The superstar Scottish scribe has worked his magic on solo books for each member of DC’s trinity of superheroes, and now Grant Morrison turns his attention to the Emerald Knight for the relaunch of an ongoing title. The Green Lantern #1, by Morrison and artist Liam Sharp, focuses on arguably the most famous member of that interstellar peacekeeping force, Hal Jordan.

Morrison’s deserved do-no-wrong status, particularly on capes n’ tights books, meant I was very much looking forward to this run, and was committed to picking up every issue even before DC started peppering the back of their monthlies with four-page previews. I will, however, admit that I was bracing myself for something slightly… well, obtuse. As accomplished as he is at straightforward superhero fare, Morrison can just as easily fold galaxies of plot threads and characters into a marvelously labyrinthine story, a la Final Crisis or Multiversity. And given the treatment of the Green Lantern mythos over the last decade or so, with a broadening spectrum of emotional avatars and an endless parade of cosmic enigmas, I fully expected the craziest kid in the sandbox to go absolutely nuts.

Continue reading Green Lantern by Morrison and Sharp

Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 30 – 21

30
Iceman

Sina Grace & Nate Stockman

Still bad. I’ve given this book three tries now, on three different reboots, and I just don’t see Sina Grace graduating from boring, puerile superhero fare. Seems like his style would be better suited to a CW adolescent dramedy. Someone should tell him that. He’d probably become rich. And then I wouldn’t have to read his shitty comics any longer. – MMDG

Iceman is a nice, simple, old-school superhero. A man made of ice who can shoot ice and rides an ice wave. He should be a regular part of the super-teams arsenal whenever they meet a fire demon or firestarter or any villains from the tropics. He should be the best at those confrontations. I like simple powers with clear strengths and weaknesses. This book is boring and I don’t care about Bishop (time travel sucks). – lebronald

Not sure why this book keeps surviving. The art is really an eyesore and the story doesn’t really have any narrative flow. It just shifts from one scene to the next without any real flow or consequences. Getting really tired of reviewing this book. – MeanOldPig

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29
Deadpool

Skottie Young, Scott Hepburn, & Nic Klein

I’d like to see Deadpool tone down his fourth wall-breaking shtick a little bit and emphasize his weapons skills in a meaningful way. Maybe tie him into a real overarching scheme that makes him matter in the universe. Doesn’t look like that’s happening with this run so I’ll probably avoid further issues. That back and forth with the kid on her phone was terrible. – lebronald

Art notwithstanding, there is only so much meta-humor and dick references that I can handle. I will say that the “Deadpoolization” of the Celestials bodes well for what I hope to be a full-on Eternals push in the coming months. But.. this gurgleballzer or whatever the hell it is seems like another slow-motion eyeroll. Doubt I’ll read another issue. – MMDG

Continue reading Ranking Marvel’s Fresh Start: 30 – 21