At the end of 2012, Berger stepped down as Executive Editor & Senior Vice President of DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint. In February 2017, she announced her return to the comic world. She is teaming up with Dark Horse Comics to create a new imprint, Berger Books. The new imprint will feature creator-owned work hand-picked and edited by Berger herself.
In addition, she has won many prestigious awards including the the Inkpot Award in 1990, three Eisner Awards (1992,1994 and 1995), and the Comics Buyer’s Guide Award for Favorite Editor every year from 1997 through 2005.
Comics aren’t just for kids, is a refrain you’ll often hear from fans and it’s true. Marvel took things to a new level though with their mature content imprint MAX. Created in 2001, Marvel MAX focuses on darker heroes from the Marvel universe or creating new more morally complex characters. MAX’s R-rated comic content gives adult readers a more grown up reading experience.
Here are some of MAX’s best titles:
He’s a half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter. And he uses an arsenal of extreme weaponry to slay the undead. The MAX line gave creators the opportunity to tell the scary and violent stories Blade fans had been waiting years for.
Deadpoolhas long been a fan of four letter words and extreme violence. So, his MAX book allows him to really cut loose and be the best mercenary he could. This version retains the humor that made the character so popular. But it also frees the creative team of the limitations of a mainstream book. The result is one of Deadpool’s craziest adventures.
Wolverine’s berserker rage is on full display in this series. He’s been freed of the X-Men continuity and content restrictions. Now Wolverine is turned loose in a more gritty and noirish story. The violent and brooding world of Wolverine fit perfectly with the darker, more grown up tone of the MAX books.
If any character was made for a MAX book, it’s Frank Castle. And he’s finally able to deliver the bloody retribution he had been talking about for decades. Writer Garth Ennis was able to dig deeper into the psyche of The Punisher than ever before. Yet the book still delivers some of the finest action sequences in the character’s history.
If we can thank the MAX line for anything it’s the creation of Jessica Jones. She’s now a mainstay of the Marvel universe. Jessica was introduced in the Alias gritty detective series. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives is a beautifully flawed and compelling protagonist. But he also shines a light on the more human side of superheroes.
Marguerite Bennett is a comic writer that has demonstrated the ability to touch on many themes, tones and styles. Born in Virginia, she is a self-described Nerdy Southern Belle. In DC Comics Bombshells, she re-imagines prominent female characters in the context of ‘40s WWII culture. Her work Insexts subverts historical expectations and Victorian literature for an twist. She is currently a writer for DC Comics, Marvel, Aftershock, BOOM! Studios, Rosy Press, and more. In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book for Angela: Queen of Hel. This year she’s nominated for her work on DC’s Bombshells.
Superheroes get all the credit. And while they deserve most of it, we can’t forget their all-important sidekicks. DC Comics has featured many beloved crime-fighting partners over the years.
Here are a few of the best:
While not a traditional costumed sidekick, Superman’s pal is always there to give a lending hand to the Man of Steel. Jimmy is the everyday person who gives Superman the scoop on what’s going down in Metropolis. Plus, if Jimmy gets in some trouble (as he’s prone to do) he’s got a supersonic watch only Superman can hear.
Wally West definitely has a case of hero worship and super speed when he takes up the identity of Kid Flash. Under The Flash’s tutelage Wally goes from impatient teen to a hero in his own right. Wally even takes up the mantle of The Flash when Barry disappears during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Even bad guys need sidekicks and The Joker’s Girl Friday has certainly made an impression on comics fans. Originally created for Batman:The Animated Series, she became so popular that she was added to the comics as well. Now, with a life in films, video games, and her own ongoing series there’s no stopping Ms. Quinn.
It’s not easy being a sidekick, something we saw with the character of Roy Harper. While being the ever-faithful companion to Green Arrow, Speedy has been forced to deal with a lot of personal issues throughout the years. This included a famous story detailing Speedy’s drug addiction.
Comics be all end all kid sidekick, Robin is a mantle that has passed from character to character. It started with plucky and acrobatic Dick Grayson, who was replaced by rebellious Jason Todd. He gave way to the supremely intelligent Tim Drake before Tim’s girlfriend Stephanie Brown donned the costume. Currently, Bruce Wayne’s son Damian inhabits the role. Through all the changes, Robin has remained a constant in the Bat books. Robin gives kids everywhere the fantasy of fighting alongside the Dark Knight.
LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE DC SIDEKICK
Writer and artist Kate Leth is widely-recognized as one of the top talents helping to shape a new generation of comics. Canadian-born Leth, who now lives in Los Angeles, gained notoriety for her work focusing on teen and all-age stories – for comics and graphic novels, as well at the screen.
Leth attended Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University) studying photography before dropping out. Afterwards she started working at the Strange Adventures comic shop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, That’s where her interest in comics grew.
She caught the attention of BOOM! Studios with her Adventure Time fan art on her Tumblr page. And that subsequently turned into graphic novel, Adventure Time: Seeing Red, which hit The New York Times Best Seller list.
Comic book movies are big business. Marvel’s The Avengers made $623 million at the box office. DC’s The Dark Knight made $534 million worldwide. It should come as no surprise that Hollywood execs look to the pages of popular comics for inspiration.
More films than you might think began life as comic books/graphic novels. Some are obvious comic book adaptations, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s Extended Universe. Others, you wouldn’t know without having first been exposed to the printed source material.
In 1994, New Line Cinema turned Dark Horse’s The Mask into a film starring Jim Carrey. The premise of the film is simple. A lovable loser name Stanley Ipkiss finds a green mask. When he dons the jade mask, he gains extraordinary powers including shape-shifting, superhuman strength, and near invulnerability.
It’s Party Time! P! A! R! T! Y? Because I Gotta!
Along with the physical changes, Stanley undergoes a shift in personality. The mask takes away his inhibitions and pumps his Id into overdrive. He becomes a benevolent, mischievous sort of superhero. In the film, Ipkiss’ alter ego is referred to as The Mask. The backstory given is that the mask is a depiction of Loki, Norse god and trickster.
In the end of the film, Stanley gets the girl and ditches the mask in the river. The story ends up being a classic happily ever after, because Hollywood.
The comic book source material is much darker. “Big Head,” as The Mask’s main character is known in the early books, is based off black comedy characters like The Joker, The Creeper, and Mr. Hyde of Jekyl and Hyde. The movie is rated PG-13 for “stylized violence.” The comic is rated 14+ for comedic ultra-violence.
Don’t Put It On! Don’t Ever Put It On!!
“It doesn’t matter who you are. Once you put on the mask, you’re a homicidal lunatic with a bad taste for bad jokes and seriously deranged violence. And nothing–but nothing–can kill you!”
The comic book Ipkiss is a weak and neurotic character. He purchases the jade mask as an apology gift for his girlfriend. After the mask begins speaking to him, Ipkiss tries it on and transforms into Big Head. Stanley goes on a brutal killing spree, targeting people he believes have wronged him.
His nocturnal expeditions begin to take a toll on Ipkiss. He becomes verbally abusive to his girlfriend Kathy and she throws him out. Stanley breaks into her apartment and steals the mask, which she has kept. Technically, it belongs to her.
Later in the story, Kathy will shoot Stanley and take the mask, becoming the second Big Head. Later still, Lieutenant Kellaway will don the mask and become the third Big Head. After Kellaway, there are a string of other Big Heads. The mask itself is the character, regardless who is wearing it.
Which is Better?
Jim Carrey was an excellent choice to portray Ipkiss/Big Head/The Mask in the film adaptation. Many of the practical effects were created solely with prosthetics and Carrey’s ability to effortlessly twist his face inside out. The more spectacular effects were done with CGI that was cutting edge at the time the film was released. The CGI effects have aged, but not as badly as some of the other films from the same era.
With that being said, there are no restrictions on comic book effects. There are no budgetary constraints. There are no limits on how many explosions a sequence can have or how gory a sequence can be. There’s no struggle between using hokey practical effects or digital effects that look cool today, but may look awful in ten years. Technological advances in home entertainment are rarely kind to older effects.
The toned down horror elements in the movie allowed a larger audience to be exposed to the story. The movie evolved into a sort of violent comedy rather than a funny horror story. There are several scenes in the comic where Big Head appears to be wearing the skin of his victims as disguises. It’s hard to imagine Jim Carrey pulling off an Otis B. Driftwood (From The Devil’s Reject) on the silver screen.
Mediums are not Equal
Comparing mediums is difficult when talking about a movie adaptation of a comic. Fans who have read the book prior to seeing the film may be disappointed that their favorite scenes were condensed, changed, or simply omitted entirely. People who buy the book after seeing the film may be surprised by the darker tone and the hyped up violence.
It simply boils down to this: Movies aren’t books. It just isn’t possible to translate some material from graphic novel to live action. Conversely some of the material works better on screen than on the page.
So, the book is better. The book is always better. Except when it isn’t. But in the case of The Mask, the book is the winner.
The history of black characters in comic books has often been controversial and exploitative, However, the legacy of some has helped to define the public consciousness of race and culture. Black representation is still an uphill fight. But comic books are at the forefront of this fight, bringing characters of color to the forefront of the media.
There is still a great deal of work to be done. But creators and fans alike can unite through the fantastic characters that have come onto the scene in recent decades. These characters of color celebrate black lives in all forms. In honor of Black History month, here’s a countdown of some of our favorite black heroes.
War MachineAlias: James Rupert Rhodes
Rhodes is best known for his inclusion in Iron Man’sarsenal of suited support, However, War Machine is a hero in his own right. He’s taken on such evil-doers as Obediah Stane and Hydra. He’s not just a part of Iron Man’sshadow, but a leader and a hero. Not only does he kick badie-butt, but he’s also a brilliant aviation engineer and a Marine in the US military. Rhodes also served as Iron Man for a stint filling in for Tony Stark when he was too inebriated to fly. War Machine single-handedly saving Stark Tower from the villain Magma. That’s just the beginning of Jimmy Rhodes road to super herodom. He later became the director of Worldwatch and the CEO of Stark Industries. Check War Machine out in Marvel’s War Machine Classic trade paperback by Scott Benson for a taste of what he has to offer.
Blade Alias: Eric Brooks
Maybe you know him best as played by Wesley Snipes in his millennium-spanning movie series about vampire hunting. But this unlikely superhero got his start in Marvel comics as a side character in the lesser-known title Tomb of Dracula. While his story got its start there, he’s had a much longer and more popular run as a leading man. His origin story alone sets him apart from your average comic character.
Born in a brothel, Blade’s mother was killed by a vampire (Deacon Frost) who had disguised himself as a doctor brought in to help assist with his birth. Frost feasted on Blade’s mother, in so doing passing on vampiric enzymes to the newborn Brooks and effectively infecting him with a modified version of the vampirism. He gained super strength, a lengthened lifespan, the ability to sense other supernatural beings and an immunity to other vampiric effects. After training for several years with vampire hunter Jamal Afari, Blade put these powers into action by traveling around the world to kill evil beings wherever he can find them. You can find Blade in the eponymous series, as a member or the Avengers, and in Blade: Black and White.
IronheartAlias: Riri Williams
If you are unfamiliar with Ironheart, you need to get yourself acquainted with her comics as quickly possible. Williams is currently the protege to Tony Stark. She started out as a fifteen year-old super genius attending M.I.T. Haunted by the memory of a violent incident that left both her stepfather and best friend dead, Riri built her own version of the Iron Man Armor suit using materials she stole from her campus. After catching wind of Riri, Stark officially took her under his wing and helped her to become a full blown superhero–Ironheart. After the second superhero civil war, Riri even built an A.I. version of Stark to help guide her heroing when the real billionaire was put into a coma. Ironheart’s story is still unfolding in the Invincible Iron Man comic series.
Spider-ManAlias: Miles Morales
Miles Morales is probably the best known of a new generation of superheroes, having taken up the mantle of Spider-Man. Like Peter Parker, Morales was bitten by a mutated Oz Corporation spider. As a result, he has superpowers similar to the original Spider-Man’s, but with a few twists. Morales, like Parker, is also driven by a similar motivation to do good for his city. He is Black Hispanic and grew up in New York,. His experience is a perfect starting point for conversations about race in the realm of comic books. And writers of the series are not afraid to approach that subject. While his story isn’t as expansive as his mentor Peter Parker’s is yet, there are enough comics out there to be a little intimidating. So, a good place to start is the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.
Luke Cage (Power Man) Alias: Carl Lucas
Luke Cage was the very first black hero to have his own title. Debuting in 1972, Luke Cage, Hero for Hire came out at the height of Blaxploitation. Despite this, he’s become a particularly powerful representative for the black experience in the superhero genre. He’s imbued with super-strength, and unbreakable after being forced into involuntary medical experimentation. Cage has had a storied history. He’s gone from working as a mercenary “hero for hire” to partnering up with The Fantastic Four to fight off Doctor Doom. He’s used his powers to defend the people of his Harlem home. Find Luke Cage in his own title trade Luke Cage: Avenger or the ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist series.
Storm Alias: Ororo Monroe
Storm is best known for affiliation with the Marvel comics team X-Men. Before being part of the X-Men, she was tragically orphaned when her parents were killed by an airplane crashing into their Cairo home. Left alone, Orora sought out her mother’s ancestral home in the Serengeti desert. There she was trained to respect and hone her powers, which had been passed through several generations of her family. After meeting with the X-Men, she learned the true nature of her magic (a mutant gene just like the rest of the team) and set about using them to better the world around her. Orora has seen a great deal of action in other titles like Marvel Team-Up and Black Panther. The best Storm story has to go to X-Men: Worlds Apart. Otherwise, you can find her story continuing to unfold in the Uncanny X-Men series.
Green Lantern Alias: John Stewart
John Stewart became DC’s first African American superhero when he took up the mantle of the Green Lantern in 1971. Since then, his story has helped to define a generation of DC comics. Originally selected by the Green Lantern Corps as a backup for Hal Jordan, Stewart has served as a Lantern several times. He eventually became the first Guardian of the Universe- the Master Builder- during the Green Lantern Mosaic arc. Stewart’s incredibly keen intellect and preternatural will power makes him not only one of the most dynamic Green Lanterns, but one of the most remarkable characters in the DC universe. While you can find Stewart throughout most of the Green Lantern arcs after the early seventies, we recommend checking out Blackest Night or Green Lantern Corps: The Lost Army.
Spawn Alias: Al Simmons
Al Simmons was a highly skilled Marine who learned too much about the nature of the CIA. In death, Simmons is Spawn, a demonic assassin with supernatural abilities and a huge agenda. Charged with battling both the forces of heaven and hell in order to hold a balance in the universe, Spawn is the anti-hero to end them all. Spawn’s long crusade has pitted him against street criminals, gods and everything in between. While originally conceived of by Todd MacFarlan, Spawn stories have been written by a number of other comics luminaries such as Alan Moore and Brian Michael Bendis. The best place to pick up the Spawn series is in its very beginning with Spawn Origins.
FalconAlias: Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson was originally a social worker and former soldier. He was kidnapped by Red Skull after his plane crashed. Villain Red Skull used a Cosmic Cube to give Wilson the power to communicate telepathically with birds. While Red Skull was attempting to craft Wilson into a minion of Hydra, he was rescued by Captain America. The two quickly became friends and Steve Rogers helped to hone Wilson into the superhero Falcon.
After rescuing Black Panther, the Wakandan king gifted Wilson with a suit that would enable him to fly. He uses his ability to communicate with birds, his suit, and his will to do right by the world. Sam Wilson is a shaping force behind the Avengers team and the entire Marvel Universe. While best known for his service as Falcon, Sam Wilson was also selected by Steve Rogers as his official replacement as Captain America when he had aged out of the role. Find Sam’s origins in Captain America Epic Collection: Coming of Falcon or follow his current series Captain America Sam Wilson.
Black Panther Alias: T’Challa
King T’Challa Wakanda is without doubt one of the most powerful superheroes both on the page and outside of it. Widely considered the first true black superhero, Black Panther is fan favorite. His power and influence makes him fight against injustice and racism throughout the world. Black Panther is powerful in all senses of the word. He’s got physical strength and political pull as the king of technologically advanced African country Wakanda. He uses his power to unite people across the world. Black Panther’s story has spanned decades. He’s teamed up with just about everyone imaginable in the Marvel Universe from the Avengers to the X-Men. If you’re new to Black Panther, check out the incredible new series by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze.
Who else would you include on the list? And, which black heroes do you wish would get more attention in the future? Leave your answers in the comments below.
What happens when writer David Pepose riffs off a beloved comic featuring a boy and stuffed tiger and a gritty crime drama? Well, you get Spencer & Locke, a unique, quirky comic that’s sort of a Calvin & Hobbes meets Sin City.
Pepose’s Spencer & Locke is a new limited four-book series from Action Lab – Danger Zone. In our interview Pepose discusses the genesis for his new comic, the comics that influenced him, and collaborating with the right people.
TFAW: Let’s get this out of the way to start with: Why Calvin & Hobbes?
David Pepose: Sometimes stories just strike you like a bolt of lightning. And when I thought of the question “what if Calvin & Hobbes grew up in Sin City,” I immediately knew Spencer & Locke was something I had to write. Because if I didn’t, somebody else definitely would have!
When I first sat down to write a comic, I wanted to write something that used comics’ unique bag of storytelling tricks, something that spoke to comics fans first and foremost. There was this real attraction for remixing known properties to give them a more contemporary and adult sensibility, and it didn’t take long for me to think of Bill Watterson’sCalvin & Hobbes, the gold standard for comics and cartooning everywhere.
I knew it would be subversive, maybe even blasphemous to do something like this with such a sacred comic book text. But as I started breaking down Spencer & Locke down as characters, I discovered not just some wonderful, three-dimensional voices behind all their bantering, but I realized there was a really powerful, human story underneath all the crazy action. We might not fill the massive shoes of our inspirations, but I like to think we add something to the mix.
“At its core, our story is about the traumas of childhood, how we get them and how we face them down.”
TFAW: How did you come up with the idea of putting these characters in such a disturbing world? Pepose: I feel like Spencer & Locke’s brand of pulpy noir was always a natural choice for me, just given the kinds of comics I loved growing up. Frank Miller’sDaredevil: The Man Without Fear was the first book that made me realize that actual writers and artists created comics, and it was Frank’s distinctive voice that made me devour everything else he had ever written.
Noir as a genre allows for these moody settings and poetic inner monologues. But when you wind up splicing in Calvin & Hobbes, you almost have to lean into how disturbing this world can be, right? But I think while we do have some genuinely shocking moments in our book, it’s all in the service of a greater point. At its core, our story is about the traumas of childhood, how we get them and how we face them down. Everybody has scars, but are we defined by them? Can we overcome them? Or are we always destined to succumb to them?
TFAW: Were you inspired by other Noir comics or films? Pepose: For sure–Memento is one of my favorite movies, and I see plenty of that in Spencer & Locke’s DNA. Chinatown is another favorite, as are L.A. Confidential and Brick. In terms of noir comics, as you can probably tell, I love Frank Miller’s work onSin City, Daredevil and Batman. I’m also a tremendous fan of Ed Brubaker’s work on Criminal, which really helped inspire our book just as much as Watterson and Miller. Books like Southern Bastards, Blacksad, and Darwyn Cooke’sParker books all served as this kind of creative compass to help us find our way.
Pushing the Envelope
TFAW: Was there ever a part of you that, while writing, said to yourself, I must be crazy? Pepose: Ha, definitely! There’s an elasticity to the concept of Spencer & Locke that lets us really go wild with this book. Yes, we have the kind of awesome action tropes like fistfights and shootouts and car chases. But we also push the envelope even further later on, as we delve deeper into our heroes’ inner lives and psychology.
The thing is, the original Calvin & Hobbes has such a robust iconography that’s recognizable by even the most casual of comics readers. And the sorts of twists and turns we put on them can sometimes be surprising or even horrifying. There are a few moments writing this book where I definitely said to myself, “wow, that is pretty messed up.” But the important thing to note about Spencer & Locke is that while we do get pretty dark as we examine the traumas of Locke’s past, it’s all in the service of a greater story.
TFAW: Have you ever met Bill Watterson or Frank Miller? Pepose: No, and after this book comes out, I’ll probably be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life. Bill, Frank– before you call the hitmen on us, just remember, we did this out of love!
“My most inspirational artist is the one I’m working with.”
TFAW: How did you and Jorge come to team up on this project? Pepose: So much of Spencer & Locke’s development came incrementally. I wrote a script to see if I could do it, and when I liked that, I wrote the rest of the treatment, also to see if I could do it. When I liked that, I decided to try to find an artist to work with, just to see if I could do it.
Of course, everybody has their own story of how to find a collaborator in comics, but the one that stood out to me was Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore for The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. Learning that Tradd was a graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design, I wound up looking through several portfolios from SCAD alums.
But when I found Jorge, I saw his website said he made comics with “stupid amounts of passion.” And I knew it was that passion that made him the perfect partner to work with for this project. Jorge brings such an energy and excitement to his pages, and such a great versatility. Every issue of Spencer & Locke has something awesome and cool that Jorge just knocks out of the park. Honestly, this book is so varied it could really be a portfolio piece for the both of us!
TFAW: Do you think you’ll be teaming up together again soon? Pepose: There is nothing I want more than to do more projects with Jorge–particularly more Spencer & Locke! If readers pre-order our book and tell us they want more, I’ve got plenty more ideas of where these characters could go, and I’d love to see Jorge’s take on them!
“This is also about the story of how a boy and his imaginary panther became a pair of tough-as-nails hard-boiled cops.”
TFAW: Do you have anything down the pipeline we should be on the lookout for? Pepose: I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline at the moment. I’ve got a really fun crime/hostage story I’m developing, and I’ve got a sci-fi comic and a spy pitch that I’m also really excited about. I can’t talk too much detail at the moment, but readers and publishers alike, stay tuned!
TFAW: The first issue presents a lot of questions. How quickly do you feel to need to have them answered? Or are you okay with leaving some questions unanswered altogether? Pepose: The thing that I like most about Spencer & Locke is that it’s not just about the detective story in the present. This is also about the story of how a boy and his imaginary panther became a pair of tough-as-nails hard-boiled cops. So for every step forward in the main plot, we’ll peel back another layer of Locke’s past, and really get into this guy’s head.
But while we wanted to make sure readers feel satisfied with our plotting, we also tried to leave plenty of room for readers to have their own interpretation on things. After all, Spencer & Locke is a story about imagination, perspective, and the mind. I think its very easy to be a passive participant when reading a comic, but I feel like by trusting the reader and giving them the opportunity fill in the blanks, it lets fans feel even more invested in these characters.
TFAW: Who’s on your bucket list to work with? Pepose: You know, I’ve never really thought about that before! I don’t know if I necessarily have a “bucket list” of artists to work with, per se, because I really just the idea of teaming up with talent that is as young and hungry as I am. But I do admire plenty of talented artists around the industry–Chris Samnee, Declan Shalvey, David Lafuente, Doc Shaner, Becky Cloonan, Tradd Moore. Honestly, if Spencer & Locke has taught me anything, it’s the importance of finding the right people to work on the right project. For me, once you have the idea, the team will follow.
It’s Valentine’s Day and love in the air. So, it makes sense to look at some of comics most beloved and enduring couples. These pairs have had their share of ups and downs. In fact, many of the couples have survived and stayed together despite insurmountable odds. As a result, these relationships have provided us with decades of compelling (albeit, sometimes non-traditional) love stories.
5 Comic Couples That Have Managed to Make it Work (Mostly)
Kitty Pryde & Colossus – The X-Men have never had great luck with romantic relationships. However, the romance between the iron-skinned Colossus and the phasing Kitty Pryde has often been one of the sweeter, more affectionate stories in the occasionally dark and bleak X-Universe.
Aquaman & Mera – Talk about opposites attracting. Mera comes from a culture of Atlanteans who seek Aquaman’s destruction. In fact, they initially met when she was sent to kill him. Instead, she ended up falling in love with him. If a relationship can weather a few assassination attempts, you can bet they’re in it for the long haul.
Green Arrow & Black Canary – Ask any comics fan and they’ll tell you these two belong together. One of the biggest complaints of the DC New 52 relaunch was the elimination of this relationship. Fan demand lead to the two being reunited in the recent DC Rebirth event. The relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary is one of the most romantic stories in the modern DC universe.
Batman & Catwoman – This is one of the more on again/off again couples in comics. Catwoman is the one person who can make a loner vigilante like Batman think about actually letting love in his life. Their separate paths in life mean that hopes for anything long term are probably impossible. But there is a beauty in their tragic love affair.
Superman & Lois Lane – They are comics most enduring couple. It takes a spectacular woman to get Superman to settle down and start a family. And the feisty and intelligent Lois Lane is just that woman. These two are basically an institution at DC and have consistently found their way back to each other for almost 80 years.
Leave us a comment and let us know which comics couple is your favorite paring.
Over the month of January, we ask you to help us decide what the best comic was of 2016, voting from a list highlighting some of the best selling, most talked about series of the year.
Rough Riders Wins Best Comic of 2016
Congratulations to Adam Glass, Pat Oliffe, Gabe Eltaeb, Sal Cipriano and the rest of the Aftershock team who put in long hours to bring us this intriguing, entertaing series.
Thank you to everyone who voted. We couldn’t have crowned the winner without you!
With over 100 votes (30 votes over second place) Rough Riders vol 1 published by Aftershock Comics, Adam Glass (executive producer of Supernatural and writer of New 52 Suicide Squad) writes this contemporary story about a tortured Teddy Roosevelt recruiting a group of unlikely heroes including Annie Oakley, Jack Johnson, Harry Houdini and even Thomas Edison. This group is poised to stop a terrible power before it destroys the world.
On November 16, 2016 March: Book 3 won a National Book Award. It’s the first graphic novel ever to receive this prestigious honor. And it doesn’t take long to see why it was worthy of such accolades.
For those unfamiliar, the March trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’ first hand account of his experiences on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. But it’s far from a dry history lesson. Rather, March is a powerful and stirring boots-on-the-ground look at the heroic figures and hard fought battles of the movement.
Civil Rights in an Unconventional Medium
The choice to tell this story in a comic book format is an unconventional one. However, almost from page one it becomes clear it was the right one. The stunning black and white art from Nate Powell conveys the intensity and passion of the scenes. You can feel each sequence viscerally from the terror and the violence of mob attacks to the passion of the speeches during the March on Washington.
Powell’s command over the sequential art form makes the book compulsively readable. You’re swept up in this turbulent time in American history–even if you know the facts. Seeing history played out like this creates a breathless reading experience that pulses with emotion. It brings out a life and a beating heart that would be sorely missed in a history textbook.
A First-Person Look at the Movement
Another big impact is that the story is told from the perspective of John Lewis, a sitting member of the US Congress. He’s been a champion for equal rights since he was a teenager. This personal perspective creates great empathy with the reader. Often the importance of such historic events can be lost when they are shown in an objective and broad scope. But this is John Lewis’ story and through him it becomes the story of an entire movement.
The storytelling in March is another brilliant stroke by Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin. The three books are framed around Lewis preparing for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. While getting ready to leave his office, Lewis encounters a woman with her two sons. She is star struck by Lewis. He then recounts to them his days in the Civil Rights Movement. This creates the first person narration that will carry throughout all three books. Lewis’ warm and candid voice is a key to the success of this book. You feel his presence. It’s like you’re one of those children in that room being told this story.
With Lewis as our protagonist in this sweeping story, March becomes as much memoir as it is history. We start with Lewis as a child. We follow the experiences and events he witnessed from a young age that created his passion and drive for equal rights. Through this focus we get another of the book’s great achievements–a rich humanity.
A Human Portrayal of Historical Figures
It’s often easy to cast historical figures as two dimensional characters. Their achievements and failures come to represent them more than their individual personalities or beliefs. In March, luminaries of the time are painted as very human figures. Martin Luther King was a resolute leader in the movement, but he also had fears and doubts about what was being done. Robert F. Kennedy sympathized with the movement, but felt his hands were tied by the rigidness of the political system.
It’s in the moments of confusion or doubt that these real life characters come alive in this book. Although we know the outcome of the events, you can feel the fragile nature of what’s being built. There was no real roadmap for what these activists were doing. And while morally justified and committed to their cause, there’s no denying what they were doing was scary. And they could face terrible consequences.
One of the most powerful sequences occurs near the beginning of March Book 2. Following the violent outbursts during stand-ins at Tennessee movie theaters, the movement’s leadership comes together to discuss ending the protest. Lewis simply states, “We’re gonna march.” He repeats it again and again–despite the outcry from fellow organizers. This is the type of heroism portrayed throughout March. There were people fighting for what’s right despite the potential danger. This is really the type of heroics that comic books are built on. And it’s much more impactful to read a story of real people overcoming the societal pressures and their own fears to stand up for truth, justice, and the American way.
The Movement’s Lasting Impact
One of the most beautiful and moving parts of this story is the movement’s commitment to nonviolence. Such racially charged events like the ones recalled by Lewis obviously created an emotional boiling point.
It would be understandable to see people lose control in these situations. Leaders such as Lewis and Dr. King knew change would only happen if the protests were peaceful. Understanding this from an academic standpoint is one thing, but it’s another to see the horrific and hateful acts of violence perpetrated against the members of the movement. It further demonstrates the strength, conviction and beliefs of people like John Lewis. And it clearly emphasizes why this movement was so special and impactful on history.
Marchbelongs among the ranks of Maus and Watchmen as one of the most important works in the comics medium. Beyond being a great piece of comic art, March has so much value as a history text. And it provides a relevant message about tolerance and peaceful protest.
It’s a book that reminds us how bad things once were and how far we still have to come. It doesn’t shy away from the horrors that occurred. But it also shines a bright light on the hard won victories of a passionate group of people who struggled to create a better world. It’s a work with limitless impact that will continue to educate and inspire generations to come.
A lot of amazing books have come out in 2016. With Marvel revitalizing their line, DC’s Rebirth, to so many independent and creator-owned books dominating the stands, 2016 has certainly been a comic book year to remember.
With that in mind, the staff at TFAW took a look at sales numbers, fan buzz, and our personal favorites of the year to create a list of the 25 best comics of the year. Now we want you, our awesome customers, to vote on this list to decide definitively what the best books of 2016 are.
Voting will take place from Jan 1st through Jan 31st, so head on over to our Facebook page and cast your vote. Let your voices be heard and recognize all these amazing creators and publishers for all their hard work.
Superman Vol. 01 Son of Superman By: Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Patrick Gleason
The New 52 Superman is dead, but hiding among us for years was the original Big Blue. Now, a world without a Superman is in desperate need for Clark to leave the good life on the farm with Lois raising their son. This story simultaneously brings Superman back to formula, but also takes him in a direction he’s never really been before.
Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch By: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma
Powerful and gut-wrenching, Bitch Planet continues to explore themes of patriarchy and non-compliance. A must read for SJWs, feminists, and people who truly appreciate comics as an artistic medium.
Wonder Woman TPB Vol. 01 The Lies By: Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Matthew Clark Wonder Woman has been interpreted in many ways over her 75 year existence. Instead of trying to hide this, Greg Rucka’s approach is to embrace this to try and get to the real heart of who Wonder Woman is. Not just a great jumping on point for new readers, but a definitive take on the character that will hold true for years to come.
Black Hammer Vol 1: Secret Origins By: Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart Black Hammer is another in a long line of grand ideas by one of comics brightest stars, Jeff Lemire. This book has a unique take on superheroes and the art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart instantly ensnares the reader.
Rough Riders Vol. 1 By: Adam Glass, Pat Oliffe
History in the making! Teddy Roosevelt, Jack Johnson, Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison make up an American dream team engaged in an epic shadowy war! Monsters and Mayhem folks!
The Mighty Thor Vol 1: Thunder in Her Veins By: Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman
Marvel is changing things up by casting Dr. Jane Foster as the new Thor. The goddess of thunder shines in this series as she comes to grips with heroism and her own mortality. Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are the perfect pairing. Also: Loki.
Divinity II By: Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic
After Abram came crashing home in Divinity vol 1. Spending his entire life in the depths of space, Divinity II tells the tale of Myshka. Still beliving in the Communist ideal. She intends to play a very real role in the return of Soviet glory
Old Man Logan Vol 1: Berserker By: Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino
What happens when an older, more gruff version of Wolverine comes to the main Marvel Universe? A whole lot of fighting. He’s on a mission to to prevent a terrible future from happening. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is breathtaking.
Detective Comics Vol. 01 Rise of the Batmen By: James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Al Barrionuevo
Batman is notorious for being a lone wolf (bat?), but he’s always had his family behind him. Now it’s time to take the Bat-Family to the next level. Lead by Batwoman, Batman puts together a team of Red Robin, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and Clayface to be ready for whatever threat comes Gotham’s way.
Vision Vol 1: Little Worse Than Man By: Tom King, Kevin Walsh, Mike Del Mundo
Vision has the perfect family: a wife, two kids, and a dog. Look elsewhere for over-the-top nonstop heroics; this book proves it’s the little moments that matter. Truly impeccable dialogue and top-notch art await!
March Book 3 By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
The third and final installment in civil rights activist John Lewis’ story in the battle for civil rights in the United States. 1963 was an incredibly turbulent time in America’s history, and John Lewis was not only in the middle of it, but a leader in getting us out of it, long before becoming a congressman. March will remind you there are real heroes in this world.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron Vol 1: Black Squadron By: Charles Soule, Phil Noto
With crisp and clean art by Phil Noto, Poe Dameron is one of the most beautiful of Marvel’s new Star Wars comics. Charle Soule explores Dameron’s uncanny skills and matching bravado.
Paper Girls Vol. 2 By: Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang
Continuing where Vol. 1 left off, the misfit group of paper girls from 1988 find themselves transported to present day. Our main characters are forced to look at who they are, and who they may…or may not become. This superstar team continues to tell one of the craziest sci-fi stories currently on the shelves, while staying focused on the heart of any good story, the characters.
All New Wolverine Vol. 01 Four Sisters By: Tom Taylor, David Lopez, Bengal
With the death of Logan, clone daughter Laura Kinney (X-23) steps up to be Wolverine and the best she is at what she does. This book is bloody, emotional, hilarious, and beautiful. This is one of those unique books that can present adult subjects in a way that people of all ages can understand. Clone or not, All-New Wolverine definitely has soul.
Dept. H Vol. 1: Pressure By: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
Not your average murder mystery! An in depth(see what I did there) story taking place on a deep sea research station. Family, lies, secrets and creatures make for a spectacular, well-paced adventure.
Steven Universe & Crystal Gems Vol. 01 By: Josceline Fenton, Chrystin Garland, Kat Leyh
They are the Crystal Gems. They always save the day! If you think they can’t. Here is proof that they always find a way!
Monstress Vol. 1 By: Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
A fascinating look at an alternate 1900’s Asia where monsters of god-like power are normal. Witness the journey of one teenage girl struggling to survive while trying to tame her own MONSTER.
Black Panther Vol. 01 Nation Under Our Feet By: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze
Wakanda under the microscope. On the brink of civil war, treason and terrorist attacks ensue in T’Challa’s homeland. Witness Black Panther fight to save his country from all fronts.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Vol. 01 By: Kyle Higgins, Jorge Corona, Goni Montes
“It’s Morphin Time!” This fantastic new series starts after the Green with Evil Saga. Takes us through a different path from the show, one that keeps it at the top of my reading every month. Perfect for fans new and old.
Saga Vol. 6 By: Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Set three years after the end of Vol. 5, our story opens with Hazel in kindergarten. For a story that’s followed a family on the run through space since issue 1, Vol 6 shows them living a domestic and stationary life for the first time…and it doesn’t go too well for them. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to be a dominating power tag team.
Sheriff Of Babylon Vol. 01 Bang Bang Bang By: Tom King, Mitch Gerads, John Paul Leon
Currently known for his fantastic work on Batman, Tom King and Mitch Gerad’s The Sherriff of Babylon, is a suspenseful crime noir tale set in Bagdad circa 2003. King’s CIA experience in addition to Gerad’s life-like art style gives this series the accolades it deserves.
Beauty Vol. 01 By: Jason Hurley, Jeremy Haun
The first STD that people actually WANT! In this world, The “Beauty”, transforms your body into its most beautiful version. People are literally dying to get it but the public is unaware of the side effects. Detectives Vaughn and Foster are on the case.
Faith Vol. 01 Hollywood & Vine By: Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Jele Kevic-Djurdjevic
Starting off as a side character in Harbinger back in 2014, we were given a full ongoing series of Faith Herbert this year. Written by the wonderful Jody Houser. This is a series meant for Fan-boys/girls, as Faith herself is as much of a geek as we are.
Gotham Academy Vol. 03 Yearbook By: Brenden Fletcher, Moritat, Mingjue Helen Chen
Our favorite students go back after their adventures last year, telling tales before everything went to chaos. Gotham Academy is an all-ages series perfectly suited for those wanting to move to Gotham, but are not old enough to drive there.
Legend of Zelda Legendary Ed GN Vol. 01 Ocarina Time By: Akira Himekawa
Viz does it again. While this is a reprint, if you’ve never read the Manga adaptation of the celebrated N64 game Ocarina of Time, this is a perfect time. Collecting vol 1 and 2, You get the complete tale.
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE BY THE 31ST
2016 had so many amazing titles that it was nearly impossible for us to narrow it down to 25. With that in mind, here are some honorable mentions of books that you should definitely check out. Odds are they made your own personal top 25.
Batman Vol. 1 I Am Gotham By: Tom King, David Finch
Gotham City has two new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl. With these super powered saviors doing what Batman can’t, is he really what Gotham City needs anymore?
Dark Knight: A True Batman Story By: Paul Dini, Eduardo Risso
Legendary Batman writer, Paul Dini, was beaten within an inch of his life. This autobiographical tale shows just how these iconic characters like Batman can get us through the darkest of times.
Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse By: Chris Roberson, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Wes Dzioba, Dan Dos Santos
Set after the events of the previous series, Leaves on the Wind, No Power in the ‘Verse continues the tale of our favorite Browncoats
I Am a Hero Omnibus Volume 1 By: Kengo Hazawa
A slightly crazy artist, and one of the few people in Japan that actually owns a gun, is neck deep in the zombie apocalypse.