All posts by MMDG

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

Champions by Zub & Cummings

The world still needs heroes! But… does it need so many of them? In the first issue of the new volume of Champions, writer Jim Zub and artist Steven Cummings double down on the expanded roster of teenage superheroes, immediately showcasing the breadth of characters in Marvel’s junior varsity ranks. The book opens with team leader Ms. Marvel coordinating the efforts of three different squads, each working to tackle a different crisis in a different part of the world. In addition to members of the original lineup, as envisioned by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos when the second volume of Champions debuted in 2016 (minus Kid Cyclops), Kamala’s charges include other next-gen heroes introduced to the team in recent months, like Ironheart and the new Wasp, as well as brand-new or nigh forgotten kid crime-fighters like Pinpoint and Bombshell.

That’s a lot of heroes.

I’m not complaining, although I can understand how an already marginally recognizable team might suffer further complication by including ever more unrecognizable faces. In fact, I’m glad Champions exists. The success of the X-Men in the 80’s and 90’s birthed a glut of mutants and as many team books as a spinner rack could hold. In the 00’s and 10’s the same was true for the Avengers brand; those guys even needed their own planet to base operations. But Champions, both in the fictional world and in the retail environment, exists because the world needs heroes. And good superhero teams. Sure, there might be a little bit of cashing in happening in the immediate future thanks to the presence of Miles Morales, but Marvel hadn’t been banking on Sony’s fantastic Into the Spider-Verse achievement when they first put this book out. This book was engendered because some very talented creators gave life to some very compelling characters, and a few other very talented creators decided they could pull these kids together for some very compelling stories. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for almost thirty issues now.

Continue reading Champions by Zub & Cummings

X-Force by Brisson & Burnett

My tipping point as a comic book fan happened in 1986, when I was in middle school. As Reed Tucker puts it in Slugfest, his history of the fifty-year Marvel-DC competition, I am part of a wonderfully unique era, a generation who “didn’t need to age out of superheroes.” Kids like me lived through the Frank Miller and Alan Moore earthquake; the epicenter of a cultural maturation dramatically coincided with our own emotional maturation, like separate universes phasing together in an ideal harmonic convergence. I like to think of myself as manifesting my mutant power of cataloging and chronicling four-color fantasy on that fateful day when Brian led me to the back room of Best of Two Worlds and pulled out longboxes of Silver Surfer, Daredevil, and Warlock. He told me to read Love & Rockets “when I got to high school.”

Where am I going with this? By the early 90’s, despite still reading the shit out of just about every superhero book to hit the stands (my mutant power compelled me), I had very little interest in this antihero era of big guns, no feet, and everyone being, somehow, part ninja (I came around to the Psylocke reboot; her I liked). To this day, I am lukewarm towards Deadpool, Venom, Cable, and all of those similarly steroidal creations that immediately preceded, and helped “spawn,” Image Comics.

But, then there’s my brother. Seven years my junior, he grew up during that 90’s comics glut of cover gimmicks, clones, and continuity conundrums. And he admittedly has a fondness for some of those characters in a way that, maybe, I look back lovingly on goofball books like West Coast Avengers and Power Pack. There are books and characters that benefit from boosts of nostalgia; reinterpretations that we welcome openly, no matter the absurdity of their pre-enlightenment origins. Which brings us to X-Force.

I would have guessed that writer Ed Brisson falls into my brother’s camp (but reading this article on Marvel.com actually makes me think he slots somewhere between the two of us), as his work in comics over the last few years has trended towards the darker, edgier, and more antihero side of the superhero spectrum. I’ve enjoyed much of his work for Marvel, and wholeheartedly appreciate what he, alongside Kelly Thompson and Matthew Rosenberg, is doing to revive Uncanny X-Men. But I wasn’t that jazzed for a new X-Force book, particularly one that reassembles the original team (minus Feral, plus Deathlok).

Continue reading X-Force by Brisson & Burnett

Comic Book Trivia: The Stan Lee Edition

It was standing room only last night at Mission: Comics as our humble little evening of trivia and frivolity paid tribute to Stan Lee. It was nice having license to embrace my Marvel bias; forcing in DC questions to create the appearance of an impartial quizmaster becomes wearisome.

Congratulations to Newer New New Mutants: The Holiday Edition for winning first place, reclaiming the title first earned back in February (and redeeming themselves after March’s infamous John Romita flop). The repeat champions narrowly edged rivals The Anagraminals and now those two powerhouse teams close the 2018 trivia season with two titles apiece.

super loot from Super7

But last last night everyone was a winner! Every team went home with prizes, from almost $150 in store merchandise, black-banded Stan Lee tribute comics (not distributed until midnight; we know the rules), and toys from our friends at Super7, including the new Planet of the Apes playset, figures, Mega Man M.U.S.C.L.E. blister packs, and a gift certificate to their 16th Street store.

Now for a chance to test your knowledge. Here’s the quiz in its entirety. Do it without Google, true believer! ‘Nuff said!

Question #1 – Easy Opener
Stan Lee served in the U.S. military as a member of the Army’s Signal Corps during which global conflict?

Question #2 – At the Movies
In which 1995 action movie does Denzel Washington dismiss an argument with the line, “Everyone who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer”?

Question #3 – On Stage
The music & lyrics for the broadway bomb Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were composed by members of which Hall of Fame rock band?

Question #4 – Matching
Match the comic book character to the artist who co-created the character with Stan.

Question #5 – First Appearances
In which comic series did Iron Man make his first appearance?

Question #6 – Geography
Name two of the three real nations bordering the fictional country of Latveria. Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: The Stan Lee Edition

Miles Morales: Spider-Man

That’s a pretty bold proclamation, Marvel. And those are some awful big shoes to fill. Days before the release of the highly anticipated Sony/Marvel animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a new era of Miles hits the stands. This first issue of Miles Morales: Spider-Man, by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón, serves as a pretty good landing spot for new fans won over by the movie. But following up the work of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, who first created the character for Marvel’s Ultimate universe and have seen him through several volumes of titles since 2011, is no easy task.

Ahmed first turned heads in the comic book industry with his Black Bolt series. Partnered with Christian Ward, it was one of the single best superhero books on the stands in 2017. His workload has ramped up, both in independent projects like Abbott and on other Marvel titles like the Exiles relaunch. Over the course of several different books, Ahmed has showcased an ability to humanize overtly inhuman characters, while weaving a sharp sense of humor into engaging plotlines. Garrón garnered attention with wonderfully vibrant character design and a fluid art style, most recently in Mark Waid’s Ant-Man & The Wasp mini-series.

Yeah, but is it Bendis & Pichelli?

Continue reading Miles Morales: Spider-Man

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