Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
View Profile
30 Jan, 12 > 5 Feb, 12
17 Oct, 11 > 23 Oct, 11
3 Jan, 11 > 9 Jan, 11
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
20 Sep, 10 > 26 Sep, 10
19 Jul, 10 > 25 Jul, 10
28 Dec, 09 > 3 Jan, 10
14 Dec, 09 > 20 Dec, 09
28 Sep, 09 > 4 Oct, 09
24 Aug, 09 > 30 Aug, 09
3 Aug, 09 > 9 Aug, 09
15 Jun, 09 > 21 Jun, 09
8 Jun, 09 > 14 Jun, 09
23 Mar, 09 > 29 Mar, 09
23 Feb, 09 > 1 Mar, 09
12 Jan, 09 > 18 Jan, 09
15 Dec, 08 > 21 Dec, 08
24 Nov, 08 > 30 Nov, 08
27 Oct, 08 > 2 Nov, 08
13 Oct, 08 > 19 Oct, 08
15 Sep, 08 > 21 Sep, 08
8 Sep, 08 > 14 Sep, 08
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
14 Apr, 08 > 20 Apr, 08
24 Mar, 08 > 30 Mar, 08
17 Mar, 08 > 23 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
28 Jan, 08 > 3 Feb, 08
21 Jan, 08 > 27 Jan, 08
31 Dec, 07 > 6 Jan, 08
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
15 Oct, 07 > 21 Oct, 07
8 Oct, 07 > 14 Oct, 07
1 Oct, 07 > 7 Oct, 07
10 Sep, 07 > 16 Sep, 07
2 Jul, 07 > 8 Jul, 07
25 Jun, 07 > 1 Jul, 07
21 May, 07 > 27 May, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
5 Feb, 07 > 11 Feb, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
18 Dec, 06 > 24 Dec, 06
4 Dec, 06 > 10 Dec, 06
20 Nov, 06 > 26 Nov, 06
13 Nov, 06 > 19 Nov, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
18 Sep, 06 > 24 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
31 Jul, 06 > 6 Aug, 06
24 Jul, 06 > 30 Jul, 06
10 Jul, 06 > 16 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
29 May, 06 > 4 Jun, 06
15 May, 06 > 21 May, 06
1 May, 06 > 7 May, 06
24 Apr, 06 > 30 Apr, 06
17 Apr, 06 > 23 Apr, 06
20 Mar, 06 > 26 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
30 Jan, 06 > 5 Feb, 06
16 Jan, 06 > 22 Jan, 06
2 Jan, 06 > 8 Jan, 06
26 Dec, 05 > 1 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
5 Dec, 05 > 11 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
14 Nov, 05 > 20 Nov, 05
7 Nov, 05 > 13 Nov, 05
24 Oct, 05 > 30 Oct, 05
17 Oct, 05 > 23 Oct, 05
10 Oct, 05 > 16 Oct, 05
19 Sep, 05 > 25 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
8 Aug, 05 > 14 Aug, 05
25 Jul, 05 > 31 Jul, 05
18 Jul, 05 > 24 Jul, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
13 Jun, 05 > 19 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
23 May, 05 > 29 May, 05
16 May, 05 > 22 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
11 Apr, 05 > 17 Apr, 05
4 Apr, 05 > 10 Apr, 05
21 Feb, 05 > 27 Feb, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
27 Dec, 04 > 2 Jan, 05
29 Nov, 04 > 5 Dec, 04
15 Nov, 04 > 21 Nov, 04
25 Oct, 04 > 31 Oct, 04
27 Sep, 04 > 3 Oct, 04
6 Sep, 04 > 12 Sep, 04
16 Aug, 04 > 22 Aug, 04
9 Aug, 04 > 15 Aug, 04
2 Aug, 04 > 8 Aug, 04
26 Jul, 04 > 1 Aug, 04
19 Jul, 04 > 25 Jul, 04
12 Jul, 04 > 18 Jul, 04
5 Jul, 04 > 11 Jul, 04
28 Jun, 04 > 4 Jul, 04
14 Jun, 04 > 20 Jun, 04
7 Jun, 04 > 13 Jun, 04
31 May, 04 > 6 Jun, 04
24 May, 04 > 30 May, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
10 May, 04 > 16 May, 04
3 May, 04 > 9 May, 04
26 Apr, 04 > 2 May, 04
19 Apr, 04 > 25 Apr, 04
12 Apr, 04 > 18 Apr, 04
5 Apr, 04 > 11 Apr, 04
29 Mar, 04 > 4 Apr, 04
15 Mar, 04 > 21 Mar, 04
8 Mar, 04 > 14 Mar, 04
1 Mar, 04 > 7 Mar, 04
16 Feb, 04 > 22 Feb, 04
9 Feb, 04 > 15 Feb, 04
2 Feb, 04 > 8 Feb, 04
26 Jan, 04 > 1 Feb, 04
19 Jan, 04 > 25 Jan, 04
12 Jan, 04 > 18 Jan, 04
5 Jan, 04 > 11 Jan, 04
29 Dec, 03 > 4 Jan, 04
22 Dec, 03 > 28 Dec, 03
15 Dec, 03 > 21 Dec, 03
8 Dec, 03 > 14 Dec, 03
1 Dec, 03 > 7 Dec, 03
24 Nov, 03 > 30 Nov, 03
17 Nov, 03 > 23 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
27 Oct, 03 > 2 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
13 Oct, 03 > 19 Oct, 03
6 Oct, 03 > 12 Oct, 03
29 Sep, 03 > 5 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
8 Sep, 03 > 14 Sep, 03
25 Aug, 03 > 31 Aug, 03
18 Aug, 03 > 24 Aug, 03
11 Aug, 03 > 17 Aug, 03
4 Aug, 03 > 10 Aug, 03
28 Jul, 03 > 3 Aug, 03
21 Jul, 03 > 27 Jul, 03
14 Jul, 03 > 20 Jul, 03
7 Jul, 03 > 13 Jul, 03
23 Jun, 03 > 29 Jun, 03
16 Jun, 03 > 22 Jun, 03
9 Jun, 03 > 15 Jun, 03
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Thursday, 26 January 2006
Medicine man
Perhaps the western will always enjoy resurgences. Western comics usually depict a protagonist who bears the character traits of all good protagonists in every genre: fearlessness, selflessness, resourcefulness.

While Matt Hawk is the chronological inspiration for one superhero at least, the supervillain prototypes are over in Kid Colt: The Raven, The Fat Man (and his bewitched boomerang!), Iron Mask. I would contend there's something of the superhero in Lady Rawhide as well.

Horror may not be a naturalistic fit for tales of the western plains but there were certainly western horror tales.

You have to wonder though with curiosities like the space western, whether they can be combined. They've sent Hex into space and yes pitted him against the supernatural. Stories in his natural setting are the best and, really, the best you can get in a memorable western. Little period details are recalled and cults and cultures that were dominant then make an appearance. Genuine villains can be envisioned from the conditions of the time, just as their victims can.
I am not the greatest western fan but I'd prefer to read these exploits before the more fantastic tales any day.

Is the furthest you can ride into the sunset as far as the original Ghost Rider, with all the appearance of a spectral horseman but not really a spook, or part of a milieu where such things existed? While farfetched that someone would wear such a get-up, does that really make it fantasy?

If you look at some sites, the definition of 'western' is broader than just your 'cowboys and indians' and can include the Revolutionary War or War of Independance.

It is another genre where action and adventure are part of it. Romance in the West might be about something else but, again, drama is natural and ever present.

What divides the comic book depiction of past exploits into Western and other (such as sword & sorcery, historical fantasy)? Is it the use of guns vs bow and arrow and guns vs other guns? Is it American History (X) - events leading up to the close of the nineteenth century and divorce from the dusty plain; feted to continue only in Buffalo Bill's revue and racy paperbacks?

We rarely see the work of the detectives of the day so Pinkerton agent, Caleb Hammer's one appearance was particularly welcome; especially since it was a good story and good artwork.

And besides making good heroes, cowboys are also funny.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:52 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006 10:52 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 16 January 2006
Rations
Putting aside the fact that the superhero has clear precedence in myth and legend and the pulp fiction of the early twentieth century, the genesis of the modern superhero begins in the nineteen thirties, between wars, so it is natural to expect a correlation between the two.

Comics, though, with the exception of the Commando war books, rarely deal with the ordinary soldier caught up in a combat situation. Two Fisted Tales did a very good job of this and War Is Hell! with its blend of horror also dealt well with the faceless dread. But when a superhero dons a costume, it is bright and spangly - he wears the flag rather than just representing it. Though note the case of Captain America, who is given both his powers and costume by the government and, when he apparently perishes, is replaced by other patriotic heroes Spirit of '76 and The Patriot. This tradition has continued into modern times when Steve Rogers falls out with the government and is replaced, taking on a new identity as Nomad. This idea of the faceless government operative deployed in the war zone is also shown in the personification of the Unknown Soldier.

Naturally romance is rare in a combat zone and only appeared after the war but other things like fantasy and drama combine successfully with battlefield heroics.

Science fiction can always trot out that evergreen War of the Worlds and the macabre aspect of global conflict is represented by Weird War Tales.

As far as I can tell Jonah Hex is the only character who recalls the fact that the Wild West was the battleground for the American Civil War. By the time we read his adventures he is a bounty hunter but he still wears the Confederate uniform.
Now, hot off the presses, is a graphic depiction of the Civil War itself.

Humour and war would seem to be strange bedfellows but the Bluey and Curly strip proved that it was possible.

And you want reality? Lest we forget, the
War artist. Grunts can grunt all they want but you try facing mortar fire with a stick of charcoal and a HB.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:53 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006 2:59 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Thursday, 12 January 2006
Spill
Although funny animal does not have to be funny, it usually is, and caped critters often have a feature that both plays on their power potential and their name to humorous effect. Underdog springs to mind.

Apart from Joe Casey quips in the Stan Lee tradition, superheroes regularly receive comedic treatment. From normalman, powerless in a world of supertypes to Megaton Man whose exaggerated bulk is reminiscent of those Image titles where everything is drawn large.

Of the other genres that the superhero crosses over with, Ka-Zar may be the token 'Aryan in the jungle' for today's mighty world of Marvel but the one true crossover character is Black Panther.
Having not given sword and sorcery its own entry yet I feel sheepish mentioning Sword of the Atom and that may not be the only reason.

Posted by berko_wills at 1:50 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006 1:41 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 1 January 2006
From the well
There are five possibilities when you find yourself able to turn your body paper thin or you just start wearing a costume and calling out thugs:

  1. become a superhero
  2. be labelled an 'anti-hero' because your cause only intersects with humans at times and your priorities are with your own people
  3. become an anti-hero in truth because your methods of apprehending criminals is brutal if not fatal
  4. remain your slacker self
  5. become a supervillain

    What each of these options, slackers aside, suggest is that there will be elements of drama, crime, and action. Now it is possible that a superhero could use their power to get a kite down from a tree but such fey adventures would not enthrall the average reader, so baddy bopping it is.

    So is there any genre crossover worth talking about? Well, allowing for the fact that many superheroes have fought on the battlefront, making this just a variation on what they do, that leaves the western and spy thriller.
    Masked heroes like the Durango Kid are often written as precursors to the superhero, with the uncanny ability to shoot the gun from outlaws' hands.

    No matter how many mystery men there are who only come out at night, and no matter how dark the costume, however, they are different to Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Spies work for the government in a covert capacity. They dress down more than they dress up (James Bond excepted) though they do share larger than life villains and plots to overthrow the world. The key difference is that many of the superheroes operate as vigilantes and are tolerated by the authorities only to a degree: from the close cooperation of a Commissioner Gordon to the outright hostility you or I would be treated to should we try the same thing in the real world.

    There has been a licensing and corraling of metahumans from time to time, and several plotlines deal with the hero attempting to trap his quarry while at the same time avoiding police or government operatives. But the true synthesis of the two is best exemplified by the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, government agents given their powers and identities by the United Nations and restricted to the task at hand and the need to work as a team.

    Posted by berko_wills at 1:19 PM EADT
    Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006 11:59 PM EADT
Sunday, 25 December 2005
Drawing
This is a serviceable reading of the superhero genre: that it is an amalgam of crimefighting and science fiction/fantasy. I don't know how much it matters that there are nonpowered costumed characters stopping bank robbers their entire career with not so much as a mad scientist to give them their SF badge.

The crimefighting career of a superhero is prescribed largely; all that indestructibility and movement tells the writer that Steel Sterling battling a drink driver is not the most rivetting use for the character. It isn't just the use of his power (derivative even in nineteen forty)that makes the reader want to follow his adventures either, there has to be something more to Sterling's character for us to care how he's become a costumed spokesman for responsible motoring.

The drama of Ibis the Invincible and the action in Spy Smasher may be as important components as any intrinsic element in the superhero genre itself (say, enhanced powers or the wearing of a defining costume and persona)and Rip Hunter is as much about adventure as it is any thwarting of evil.

The trope of the dead avenger with a singleminded mission to bring a supernatural sense of justice to their killers and all like them, ironically moors your
Grim Ghost in a conventional pursuit of bad guys. He may be a bit harsher in how he treats them than the Hangman. Or perhaps not.

Romance is present in varying degrees, from the stoic and sexless supertypes through to the sensuous and sapphic. It remained secondary perhaps until the advent of Young Heroes in Love, a book that could be called a combination of genres, given how many superhero stories do not feature any love interest at all.

I believe we can get a better sense of which genres the superhero set mesh with if we look at what happens to a person who is many times more powerful than normal. What does this do to their life? What effect is it bound to have?

Posted by berko_wills at 10:49 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006 10:48 AM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 16 December 2005
Mixture
Apologies to all the humanists and spiritualists but it's time we moved on.

Having flown through all the genres, it becomes apparent that not only are some problematic in adequately describing what a particular book may contain but also that there are many that are a combination of genres.

Let's start with the superhero who might be said to inhabit three genres: science fiction, fantasy, and crime.

Consider Captain Atom who combines the hard science of the atom bomb with the SF staple of UFO technology producing a combination that can only be fantasy. No one could survive that blast!

It is inevitable that, even if you're a Human Bomb you'll put aside your incendiary concerns and go after the bad guy; whether that guy is a saboteur or a thief. After all, we can think of advantages for diamond hard skin that the patriotic Blue Diamond would have no time for while there was a war on.

For a hero like the Darknight Detective, his focus on beating criminals was set by the tragedy that defined his life. Even in the year that war broke out. It was only later squeamish comics code curtailing of crime comics that sent he and Robin into space. But this was not true to his calling and, as soon as they could, the publishers were only too happy to have him back on the streets.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:02 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005 3:35 AM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, 30 November 2005
Font
In any discussion of religion and fiction (perhaps especially comic book fiction) there is naturally an attraction to mysticism and metaphysics over some rationalist perspective. Not that the free thinkers never get a look in, just that the fantasy world of comics thrives on the magical and mysterious.

This could lead into a discussion on Romanticism, only I want to hold that over till we get talking about literature and the way that literary movements and literary criticism impact on the graphic medium. So instead, let me remark that the mystic traditions of Christianity such as the Rosicrucians and the Knights Templar; and Judaism, in the form of the Kabbalah, run as a very interesting undercurrent to comics mythology. And the freemasons will always be good for a spot of intrigue.
If you want, you can pile in the Illuminati and Club of Rome.

Just as our legends bear the ring of truth in all the hyperbole, so too do comics serve a dramatic need by drawing directly on a real sense of the unknown and the yet to be discovered. Their exaggerated stance illuminating something buried within us.

Posted by berko_wills at 2:11 PM EADT
Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005 1:52 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 21 November 2005
Baptismal
Religion has come up a number of times in our discussion. While characters with cosmic powers would seem to be a challenge to the omnipotence of any big 'G' God, the moral standpoint works as a good reference point for all but the callous and ambivalent anti-heroes thus we see:
Friday, 11 November 2005
Choke
For a comics primer that has run through nearly all the genres and many of the aspects of the medium, surprising we have yet to investigate a dominant strain: humour. It has been touched on a number of times and there have been inadvertently humorous moments, but funny animal is the only area in this broader category that I have looked at thusfar.

Certainly it is appropriate to treat funny animals separately as they are as much a force in comics as the long underwear characters; especially when you add animated forays into the mix.
But humour is so broad that I may have been subconsiously putting it off.

The trouble with 'humour' though is that even picturing the act of fending off humour is funny (if you're in the right mood) and so you never quite manage it. The endless reductive circles you could find yourself in as a result of trying to ascertain the point at which the idea has lost all trace of humour is another matter.

But I digress like a standup comedian, humour at least pops up at times in:



The references get increasingly dodgy. I couldn't even find one for farce, which is farcical in itself. But you get the general idea. The fact is that you don't need this primer for a subject like humour (with or without a second u)or even to explain the difference between humour and comedy

Posted by berko_wills at 2:01 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005 2:03 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 4 November 2005
Double
The industry is so plastic that there has been much borrowing. This isn't unique to comics as any fan of the blues or Shakespearean theatre can tell you.

Apart from recycled plot lines and 'surprise' endings, even the names of characters and the powers they possess have been given regular reworkings.

Much of this is, as we have seen, as a result of the Silver Age retooling of Golden Age characters. This applies to both Marvel and DC and is handled differently according to the status of the character but also considered is their origin, their costume, their powers or traits. Changing the character from an alien to an android may reflect changes in times and technology as much as a desire to make the character 'better'.

The iconic characters had to be brought across whole while the characters further down the totem underwent more radical changes to their identity.

I suppose when Stan Lee was borrowing from the past, he was just as happy to snaffle up something from some other company to use as his own as he was to draw from Timely sources. But the appropriation of licensed companies by DC has seen them also offering different treatments to the Archie/Red Circle group of superheroes (who are undervalued in my opinion)and Charlton as well

Certain names recur quite separate from straight revamps. We have a couple of unrelated characters named Catman and there's obviously something irresistible about the name Captain Marvel:

(or if that's too disparate and confusing, there's a scholarly take that looks at all CM manifestations)

and the other name to remember is Power Man

Posted by berko_wills at 1:47 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005 9:02 PM EADT
Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older