May 22, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #19

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #19
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

With Aunt May fully recovered, Spider-Man finally strikes back. The issue ends with a mystery figure that one might infer to be the Green Goblin, but is billed as a "new and different menace."


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • The Vulture: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Doctor Octopus: 4
  • Electro: 2
  • Kraven the Hunter: 2
  • Mysterio: 2
  • Sandman: 4
  • Green Goblin: 2
  • The Enforcers: 3
BEN:  This is the seventh Human Torch appearance, the first full appearance of Ned Leeds.

DUY: It's possibly the end of Peter and Betty's relationship, too.


WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

DUY: I hate to say it, but Jameson going back and forth on Spider-Man being a fraud and over, and then publishing pictures of Spider-Man feels a lot like some news outlets, even the legit ones.

BEN: There was always an element of marketing that was going to be involved.

DUY: The Peter/Flash rivalry is really starting to get nuanced, I think. Peter for the second straight issue has tried talking to Flash like a regular person, but Flash is too angry to listen. They're going to be good friends eventually, and Flash is even going to be best man at the wedding for some inexplicable reason, so it's interesting to see the journey.

BEN: It was really smart of them to sprinkle in some humanity from Flash from time to time.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: The Enforcers.

DUY: It really is easy as hell to take out Johnny Storm, isn't it?

BEN: Sand is his natural enemy.

DUY: And speaking of which, anything with the word "asbestos."


NITPICKS

BEN:  Sandman is too tired to run from the cops? He doesn’t even have muscles anymore.

DUY: When exactly did Peter and Betty officially break up? Or is that just not how dating worked back then?

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN: This pose, which is on the cover as well, was used in the ‘60s Spider-Man cartoon approximately 400 times:


DUY: That's mine too.


WHO WON THE COMIC?

BEN: The Spider-Man and Human Torch team-up. They were working very well together before ruining it by getting in each other’s way. Torch appears so much in this comic he might as well be part of the supporting cast.

DUY: I'll go a bit higher than you and say the entire Marvel Universe at large. I think the argument can be made that the entire shared universe is founded in this friendship. You have two characters who are polar opposites, and you have two characters who were created by different people, unlike, say, the Avengers, who were all Kirbys. And not only do they have chemistry, they also interact regularly.

BEN: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

DUY: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

BEN: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

May 20, 2019

The 5 Best Toylines of the 1980s

Toys and comics have always seemed to go hand-in-hand, and neither of them have been as good as they were in the 1980s. The removal of broadcasting restrictions resulted in an explosion of new action-based animated series, with matching comic books and toylines, enrapturing an entire generation of kids. Today, we will determine the best of the best.

The 5 Best Toylines of the 1980s
Ben Smith

Like I said above, restrictions on violence in animation were removed in the early ‘80s, leading to beloved cartoon series based on toys like G.I. Joe and Transformers. This level of imagination and adventure is something no generation of kids had experienced before, and in my opinion is what created the geek culture we see today. The Flintstones or Jetsons never would have inspired the level of dedication and imagination that cartoons of the 80s did, and each major cartoon had an entire army of toys to accompany it, reinforcing that dedication. That’s not the kind of devotion that tends to go away over time.

One thing we never would have known at the time was all the comic book writers helping to give life to these franchises, by writing the comics or the cartoons, or even helping to mold and shape the characters themselves. Bob Budiansky and Jim Shooter were largely instrumental in creating the story of the Transformers, and naming the characters. Larry Hama wrote detailed file cards on every G.I. Joe character, along with almost every comic of the initial 155 issue run.

There’s never been a better decade for toy franchises, which is evident because most of them still exist today. (The ‘90s might be the only realistic argument against.)  Never has there been so many popular franchises based on movies or cartoons, combined with corresponding massive toylines.

Taken from here


To mitigate my own personal bias, I asked the extended Comics Cube family to vote on their favorite ‘80s toys.  They’ll be providing some individual testimonials as well.  Here’s what we came up with.

Other toylines receiving votes: Thundercats, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, Lite Brite, Jem, Dino-Riders, COPS, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, LJN WWF, Lego, Super Powers, MUSCLES, Sky Commanders, Micro Machines, Go Bots, Matchbox Cars, Hot Wheels, Captain Power, Voltron, and Visionaries.

Honorable Mentions:

LIZZY: Outside of Cabbage Patch Kids, there’s no other toy that defined the 80’s for me than Care Bears. The two Care Bear movies playing on VHS was a constant background in many 80’s households. Best of all there were Care Bears for every personality. Grumpy Bear captured my heart as the outsider with a heart of gold. These little suckers graced everything from cards to erasers to fruit snacks to stuffed animals. Personally, my prized Care Bear possessions were my stuffed Grumpy Bear and my Care Bear shoelaces!

MATT: Imagine if you would the epitome of marketing. Let’s create a toyline and then back fill it with a Saturday morning style cartoon. Forget about actually getting syndication first. Then get Optimus Prime to voice the hero and Megatron to voice the villain. The toys are dinosaurs so accurate that the Smithsonian sells them for a decade, sans the armor that sells the fake cartoon. That’s basically Dino-Riders. If I hadn’t watched the tape a million times as a kid and still have one of the figures, I would think the toyline was the fever dream of a dinosaur obsessed child, ie me. The toys combined the coolest animals ever, dinosaurs, with a galactic fight between good and evil. What more does any 5-year-old want?

LaMAR: DC Super Powers figures really captured my imagination as a child, and honestly still do. They were small enough to fit in my pockets even then, and the build quality was good enough to take what I put them through. Newer figures have those hard plastic capes, but the DCSPs cloth capes were perfect for simulating flight in front of an industrial-grade fan.

Sure, the molds were used over and over again for some figures, but even that frugality gave them the same charm as the comics they came from considering it was no different than comic artists that used similar models for their panels.  I didn't care that The Riddler was a Green Lantern figure with a different paint job, especially when you can imagine them as being twins who could pose as some another with nobody suspecting otherwise (see that kind of ingenuity comes from not having the toys do all the work...and having a lot of time on my hands growing up in a version of Mayberry where you can actually see the black people).

Newer figures have more articulation, but honestly too many joints = figures looking like figures and it took the fun out of it for me unless it was a robot.

And listen, if you never threw a Superman figure in a church lady's hat during benediction, you haven't done much living and you should rectify this. IMEEJEETLY.

5. STAR WARS

Star Wars changed the toy industry forever. Produced by Kenner starting in 1978 (after famously selling an Early Bird Certificate Package for Christmas in ‘77) it was the first movie to successfully market a toyline, lasting in its initial run until 1985.

One of the greatest parts of the Star Wars toyline was how comprehensive it was. Nearly every character and vehicle that appeared on-screen in one of the movies, if even only for a second, got its own toy. It established a smaller figure size than was common at the time, just over three inches tall, enabling for a more cost-effective selection of vehicles and playsets. The amount of playsets and vehicles that were created back then would never exist today, with the rising costs of production.

Early favorites included, of course, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Kenner found a clever way to recreate the light saber action, with a telescoping blade that expanded from the arms of the figure. However, the clear highlight of the toys was the Millennium Falcon, arguably the must-have vehicle of any 1980s toy franchise.

Star Wars dominated the toy landscape for 8 years, creating the multimedia template for every franchise that followed. Its initial strength eventually became its weakness, as the lack of new movies decreased interest in the toys and sales subsequently dropped. Obviously, Star Wars toys would return in various incarnations until the present day, and will probably exist for as long as humans do.

4. M.A.S.K.

M.A.S.K. was produced by Kenner starting in 1985. The hook of the toys was a mask-wearing action figure paired with a transforming vehicle. I’ve always considered it Kenner’s direct response to the success of G.I. Joe and the Transformers.

M.A.S.K. was easily the least successful franchise on our list, mostly due to its extremely subpar cartoon and the much smaller size of the figures compared to other toys at the time.

Early toy standouts included Matt Trakker’s flying Chevrolet Camaro, the Thunderhawk, and Miles Mayhem’s Switchblade, a helicopter that transformed into a jet.

JEFF: M.A.S.K. was like an awesome cross between Transformers and G.I. Joe. Mobile Armored Strike Kommand vs V.E.N.O.M., the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem. Normal-looking vehicles with hidden weapons ready to spring out for attack mode. The characters’ masks each had unique abilities or weapons and the vehicles had spring loaded weapons that worked. The only drawback for me with them was Kenner used figures smaller than the 3 3/4 inch figures like the Joes or Star Wars, so you couldn't have fun mixing them with other lines.

3. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

Developed by Mattel for release in 1982, the Masters of the Universe line was one of the highest-selling toy franchises of the decade. Mattel was looking to exploit a different aspect of the market untouched by Star Wars, and landed upon barbarian characters with a science fiction twist.

Much like Star Wars, the line released hundreds of figures, vehicles, and playsets. Unlike Star Wars, the figures were 5.5” in height, and each came packaged with a mini-comic book. The action figures notoriously used the same body mold for each character, except with a different head, paint job, armor, and weapons.

Early highlights included He-Man and Skeletor, the respective leaders of the good and evil factions of Eternia. Each came with their own half of the power sword, which when combined gave that character access to the best playset in the entire line, Castle Grayskull, arguably the most beloved playset of the entire 1980s. Battlecat was another must-have “vehicle” of the line (and was a repainted tiger Mattel had in abundance from a previous jungle-themed toyline).

The franchise expanded in 1985 with She-Ra, a spin-off marketed toward young girls. Subsequent releases saw increasingly gimmick-driven figures like "Laser Power He-Man" in an effort to maintain relevance.

2. G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

G.I. Joe was a toy created by Hasbro in 1964, even creating the term “action figure” so that boys wouldn’t have to believe they were playing with a doll. The original Joes were 12” in height, and had no specific characterization or identity — customization was key. This version of the toy existed in various forms until 1977.

Following the success of Star Wars, Hasbro relaunched the franchise in 1982, shrinking the figures down to 3 3/4” to match the Star Wars toys. With an assist from Marvel Comics (shoutout to Larry Hama) the Joes became a whole army of heroic characters with individual code names. Additionally, this time the Joes had an enemy in the form of a terrorist organization named Cobra.

Over the next 12 years, Hasbro released over 500 action figures and over 250 vehicles and playsets. Early highlights included the ninja commando Snake Eyes and his Cobra counterpart Storm Shadow. (It’s funny that the only reason Snake Eyes is in all-black gear, was to keep production costs down on that first wave of action figures. Happy accidents.) Cobra Commander and Destro were other early standouts. In my peer group as a kid, it was an absolute must to own Snake Eyes, even if G.I. Joe wasn’t your favorite cartoon.

Much like Star Wars, the Joe franchise had an impressive array of vehicles and playsets, like the Cobra Hiss tank and Joe Skystriker jet. However, the most impressive vehicle that has ever existed in any toyline has always been the USS Flagg, a massive in-scale aircraft carrier that measured 7 feet in length. We never have and never will see another toy like it again.

JD: I think the best qualities of the 80’s line of G.I. Joe was its variety and its pose-ability. There were hundreds of different characters and vehicles to choose from. From ninjas to pro-wrestlers, trouble-bubbles to air-craft carriers. There was something there for every kind of kid. The pose-ability of the line outdid everything else of the time. My best friend and I would cover the room in massive battlefields together, each one completely different. And as a bonus, if you pushed your Joe to the breaking point, you could take out the small screw in the Joe’s back and make repairs or replace parts or create some horrible hybrid like you were Sid from Toy Story.

1. TRANSFORMERS

MICHAEL: When it came to action figures in the '80s, your clumsy little sausage fingers were positively spoiled for choice. But at the end of the day, there was only one true 3-course turducken of toys. You want some hot wheels, like your Matchbox cars? We got that. You want hundreds of badass warriors with wild designs evocative of their unique, eclectic personalities? We got that too. You want the same galaxy brain, piercing the veil of reality sense of accomplishment you get from solving a Rubik's Cube? Well, uh, we can't do that exactly, but we might stump you for a couple of seconds for the first few times or so.

Oh, did I mention you can watch adventures of all of this ouroboros-esque revelry every Saturday morning?

I'm talking about a puzzle in a robot in a car in a cartoon. I'm talking about Transformers. And that was the selling point for children everywhere, right there. Not just a car, not just a figurine, so much more than a toy. They were both a kid's and a marketer's wet dream, and no one had to get arrested.

BEN: Hasbro partnered with a Japanese toy company named Takara to bring two of their toylines to the United States. Diaclone and Microman featured robots that changed into vehicles, weapons, or other household items. With an assist from Marvel Comics, these toys were rebranded into Autobots and Decepticons, an alien race of robots locked in a civil war. The initial run of the Transformers lasted from 1984 until 1993, and is referred to as Generation One.

Early highlights included Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader that transformed into a semi-truck, and Soundwave, a cassette tape player that came with an assortment of tapes that transformed into birds or smaller robots.

Later releases got even more experimental with the creation of combiner teams like the Aerialbots, a set of jets that each transformed into a robot, but could also combine into one larger robot named Superion.

The massively successful franchise took a bad turn in 1986 with the release of the Transformers animated movie, which literally killed off the beloved first wave of characters, including Optimus Prime. Those fictional deaths probably led to the actual death of the toyline. The early waves of the toys were based on actual real cars and weapons, while post movie toys were based on futuristic vehicles that didn’t exist in the real world.

Subsequent attempts to revive interest, like the Headmasters or Targetmasters (humans that transformed into the head or weapon of their robot partner) weren’t enough to restore the franchise to its former glory.

However, much like all the other toys on this list, the Transformers would return in other forms and designs until the present day. Proving conclusively the power of design and imagination many of these ‘80s toys had created. Modern toys may be more complex or aesthetically impressive, but those original ‘80s toys still have appeal in their simplicity.

In closing, the must-have vehicle of the ‘80s was the Millenium Falcon, the must-have playset was Castle Grayskull, and the action figure every kid needed was Snake Eyes. Or was it Optimus Prime? Why not both? It wasn't the ‘80s without both.

May 15, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #18

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #18
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

The entire city believes Spider-Man is a coward, and he can’t prove them wrong without risking leaving Aunt May all alone.


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: I know all the villains made cameos in this issue, but I'm not counting those in our villain appearance count, which is now:
  • The Vulture: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Doctor Octopus: 4
  • Electro: 2
  • Kraven the Hunter: 2
  • Mysterio: 2
  • Sandman: 3
  • Green Goblin: 2
DUY: The writing is on the wall for Dr. Octopus' time at the top of the food chain. In an early panel, he says, reacting to the news of the Goblin beating Spider-Man, "The victory should have belonged to Dr. Octopus!" Yeah, it should have, but it didn't. It belonged to the Green Goblin. And that's a microcosm of their spots on the Spider-Man rogues gallery, or what will be their spots.

BEN:  This is the sixth Human Torch appearance, and the first full appearance of Anna Watson, though she's referred to as Watkins.

DUY: Sticking with "Watson" over "Watkins" is a smart move.

BEN: First time Peter quits being Spider-Man.

DUY: First time Aunt May isn't useless, convincing him not to give up and that Parkers are made of grit.

BEN: First unnamed appearance of Ned Leeds.

DUY: Second time Flash Thompson has impersonated Spider-Man. First time in a Spider-Man comic that the Statue of Liberty is explicitly named as Johnny and Peter's meeting place. That's just going to be a tradition. And it's the second appearance of anyone resembling this kind of hairstyle, Sandman being the first. Norman and Harry Osborn will have it too.





WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: Stan and Ditko were getting more confident in continuing a storyline from one issue into the next. A far cry from the early issues having two separate stories.

DUY: I really like the quick shots of characters reacting to news items. Really highlights the feeling of that shared universe.



WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

BEN: This entire comic was a bit of a chore to read.

DUY: Were newspapers ever really to the point that their publisher's face would be used to advertise on outdoor ads?

BEN: Even if they weren’t, Jameson is the type that would.


NITPICKS

DUY: So Kraven and the Vulture are just out of prison now, in costume, not really doing anything, right? Also, wasps and spiders may be natural enemies, Janet Van Dyne, but it's not like Warren Worthington and Matt Murdock hate each other.

BEN: Janet was trying to impress Hank with a science tidbit.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN: He calls the one on the right "upside-down Flashdance":



DUY: The way Steve drew Jameson smiling is forever going to amuse me.


BEN: Jameson probably freaked people out more when he smiled then when he was screaming at them.

DUY: Apparently Ditko drew him this way because they were getting fan complaints that Jameson (and Aunt May) were too exaggerated. Stan wanted him to rein it in, and then he.... did this instead. He's quoted in the Blake Bell book (Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko), that there were a lot of reader comments that Stan wanted to implement, but he ended up doing the exact opposite thing, because if fans thought Aunt May was too frail and that Jonah was too harsh on Spidey, it meant that what he was doing was working. There's something to be said in there about not giving the fans what they think they want. And why do we want those things as fans, anyway? Do we want less conflict?

BEN: There’s that story of Stan telling them to reverse the Gwen Stacy death (spoilers) because of fan backlash, so I can see that being true.

WHO WON THE COMIC?

BEN: Oddly enough, I’m going to say Spider-Man. There’s no way any other superhero could pull off a story like this. Reading these comics again has reignited my love for Spider-Man, to the point that even a subpar comic is still worth reading because of him. That says to me that the story almost doesn’t matter, as long as the writer and artist get the Spider-Man formula right. Spider-Man may be the perfect superhero character.

DUY: Honestly, for me, Jameson. This is a quintessential Spider-Man arc, and it showed what he meant to the people around him. But no one owns it the way Jameson owns it. I'll put it this way — if this were a film, everyone would be talking about how the Jameson actor stole all the scenes. And since we're talking about reigniting love for a character, I want to take this moment to plug the Spider-Man PS4 game, which I will now call the greatest superhero game of all time.

BEN: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

DUY: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

BEN: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

May 13, 2019

The Wrong Earth: An Interview with Tom Peyer and Jamal Igle

The Wrong Earth is a series by Tom Peyer and Jamal Igle that is published by Ahoy Comics. Dragonflyman, from bright, sunny Earth-Alpha, somehow switches Earths with Dragonfly, from grim and gritty Earth-Omega. This traps them in each other's separate worlds, which are just all wrong for both of them, even right down to how the police treat them! Inspired by the evolution of superhero comics, the comparison of the Silver Age to the Modern Age, and almost specifically Batman, The Wrong Earth is a fun ride and a promising start to an epic saga.

With the first TPB collection coming this week, we spoke to the creators to see how The Wrong Earth came about, the ideas behind it, and where it's going.



DUY: How did the idea for The Wrong Earth come about? Whose idea was it? Who pitched it to whom?

TOM PEYER: I had an idea forming, but it wasn't quite there until Jamal came aboard. He brought a tremendous amount of energy to this, as you can see from the art.

JAMAL IGLE: I actually bumped into Stuart Moore outside of a pie place in my neighborhood that we both frequent. He said that Tom had a project he wanted to talk to me about. So, Tom gave me a call and he told me the basic pitch and I was immediately onboard because it sounded like fun.

It's pretty clear that Dragonflyman/Dragonfly are modern analogues of different versions of Batman. But while Dragonflyman seems to be a direct riff on a very specific version of Batman (Adam West), is there a specific version of Batman that Dragonfly is based off of, or is he a composite of modern versions of Batman from the mid-80s and onwards?

JAMAL: For me he’s an amalgam of a few different takes. I think more than any other version is the Zack Snyder take from Batman v. Superman, in terms of tone. Dragonfly, to me is a guy who’s just tired. He’s been fighting for so long that the line between good and evil is very blurry.

TOM: Part Affleck-Batman, part Punisher and Wolverine and many other characters that have been in comics since the '80s. There have been a lot of heroes since the '80s who would just as soon kill you as look at you. They're all in there. Same with Dragonflyman. From the '30s through the '70s, most super-heroes were Boy Scouts. This is in many ways a Batman satire, and in other ways a look at the ways all super-heroes changed through the ages.

JAMAL: My approach is much more rooted in the mid 2000’s aesthetic of comics like Marvel’s Ultimate Universe and The Authority, but also Jim Lee’s work on Batman: Hush and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween. The more absurd and outlandish elements of those things are what I use as a point of reference.

How do you guys work together? Full script? Marvel method? Does Tom just project a bunch of ideas into Jamal's brain, entrusting Jamal to magically project it onto the paper?

TOM: I write full script. Sometimes we talk things out a bit first.

JAMAL: It’s a full script, but the way Tom writes still gives me a lot of leeway to inject my ideas into the pages. We did talk over the broad strokes of the story but our thinking is very similar in many regards.

Does The Wrong Earth have a definitive end in sight? If so, how many issues or series of miniseries are we eyeing?

TOM: I know how it's going to end, but I like to leave room for improvisation, too. I don't want to say how many issues there might be, because I reserve the right to change my mind.

Around 30 years ago, we saw Crisis on Infinite Earths launched under the premise that multiverses confuse audiences. With the success of movies such as Into the Spider-Verse and TV events such as CW DC's Elseworlds, do you think this maxim is no longer true and that audiences today are more ready for multiple variations of a character than ever before?

JAMAL: I think most people of a certain age remember the "Mirror Mirror" episode of Star Trek or the TV series Sliders. Even if they didn’t have a name for it, the idea of doppelgangers and evil twins has always been a fertile playground in terms of storytelling. I think  it’s more that the whole multiverse thing has been concept has been explored in pop culture since the the 1950’s and it’s just that it’s now been given a name.

TOM: I have to say I never warmed up to the post-Crisis monoverse. I don't like to see comics walking away from imaginative ideas. Frankly, I never bought the "readers are confused" rationalization. It felt to me like they were trying to make DC into another Marvel, which made me sad. We already had a Marvel. Of course, that was a long time ago, and everything gets reused eventually, including the multiverse.

In The Wrong Earth, the two protagonists seem headed into different directions — emphasizing the naivete of Dragonflyman and the more jaded, Macchiavellian tendencies of Dragonfly — you seem to be making a statement about the overall quality of comics in comparison to yesterday. How do you guys view the overall state of comics today compared to yesterday? What could be improved and what has today done better?

TOM: The comics of any decade are usually better drawn and better written than the ones from the decade before, and that is of course great. But there have always been diamonds in there, and ways of approaching material I wouldn't like the world to forget. We're still benefiting from the Phantom Zones and Danger Rooms and Super-Gorillas of the Silver Age, and I think we will for a long time to come.

JAMAL: I think the overall quality of what’s being produced has never been higher. The struggle seems to be shelf space and a print industry in transition. All of publishing is struggling to find a place in a vastly changing media marketplace. We have more companies now than we’ve had in a very long time, since the collapse of the speculation boom, so the dollars to be made are being stretched thin. Couple that with a struggling economy and it can be challenging to gain a foothold in the industry. I think there’s room for growth, but it’s going to have to be outside of the direct market, and unfortunately we’re still trying to keep comic shops from closing while trying to change the business model.

Deuce seems to be a Harley Quinn analogue, except she's on Earth-Alpha, the analogue  of the more naive, Silver Age Earth, and Harley Quinn did not show up until the Modern Age. Additionally, she shows a cruel streak that seems more in place for Earth-Omega. So the question is, without spoiling anything, is it possible that any of the characters we've already met are not actually denizens of the particular Earth they're introduced in?

JAMAL: Well, I see Deuce as more Catwoman/Bonnie Parker than Harley, even though she shows up playing the dumb blonde in issue one. There is a secret to Deuce that will get played out in the second half of the story but I don’t want to spoil things too much. Her insights speak to it more than her being from any particular Earth.

TOM: I suppose anything's possible. With Deuce I was thinking more of the Batman '66 molls, and Diana Rigg on The Avengers, and I think Jamal added some Laugh-In-era Goldie Hawn.

The Wrong Earth, in individual issues, has a lot of backup content, including short comics, short stories, and interviews, some of which have to do with The Wrong Earth universe and some of which don't. Can we expect these to be republished in the TPB?

TOM: The TPB has the backup comics stories by Paul Constant, Frank Cammuso, Gary Erskine, and Tom Feister. Jamal contributed some process pages; a glimpse of my early proposal is in there, as are all of the covers; and Tom Scocca wrote a terrific introduction.

And for fun, what particular episodes of Batman 1966 are your favorites?

TOM: Just about any first-season episode is one of the best, because that was when they were spending money to make it look like a comic book. The first Catwoman episode is a standout, as is the first Riddler. Any Penguin episode. And it's second season, but I love the Liberace one. He really gave Aunt Harriet goosebumps.

JAMAL: I’m more partial to some of the season one episodes like "Hi Diddle Riddle," "Joker Trumps an Ace", and "True or False-Face".

You can get The Wrong Earth here:

May 8, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #17

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

The Green Goblin and the Human Torch crash the inaugural meeting of the Spider-Man Fan Club. Spider-Man runs from the fight after he learns that Aunt May has suffered a heart attack.


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • The Vulture: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Doctor Octopus: 4
  • Electro: 2
  • Kraven the Hunter: 2
  • Mysterio: 2
  • Sandman: 2
  • Green Goblin: 2
BEN:  This is the fifth Human Torch appearance, and the second Aunt May heart attack.

DUY: Johnny Storm has shown up more times than any villain!

BEN: I think this proves Johnny is his true love.

DUY: That's actually a ship. It's called Spideytorch.


WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: Reading these again, I hadn’t realized how prevalent Johnny Storm was in these early issues. It reminds me that it is one of my favorite friendships in comics.

DUY: The Betty/Liz rivalry is aging really well for me at least in terms of entertainment value. Peter not really being interested in Liz, except for the fact that Liz actually likes him, trying to actively avoid her when he's with Betty...

BEN: You know he has to like Liz having a crush on him. Here’s a girl he’s probably known most of his life and has ignored him the whole time, and she’s the most popular girl in school.

DUY: Another thing that just aged well, superheroes just running into each other. The Daredevil one so far is the only one that's really seemed forced.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?

DUY: Why in the hell does Green Goblin have a frog for a weapon?

NITPICKS

DUY: The random burglars that want to break in is... random. Not only that, but why wouldn't they just find another house to burgle? Like maybe the one that doesn't have the mass of people inside it.

FAVORITE PANEL

BEN:  I never noticed this, but it was pointed out in a fan letter in issue #21 that Peter never puts his shoes back on while he tries to quell Liz’s suspicions over Peter never being in the same place as Spider-Man.

DUY: That's a great touch. The issue's last panel is so emblematic of Spider-Man. Nice shadow work by Ditko too. It's gotta be this, for me.



WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: The Goblin officially won, so he officially wins this issue.

BEN: Goblin appears 3 times in the span of 10 issues. I haven’t seen that many printed fan letters even speculating on who he is, so I wonder if Ditko just liked him.

DUY: He hasn't really lost either. I think at this point he's probably got a good case for being the top villain. It's still Ock at this point, but he's working his way.

THE GREEN GOBLIN

DUY: So I've mentioned before that the Electro one was the first Ditko I ever read. This is actually the fourth — it went Electro, then I found the Classics version of Amazing Fantasy, and then I saw another reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #1. I read these things cover to cover, even though I as a kid hated Ditko's art and thought the writing was primitive. But that's a part of the appeal too, just the sheer energy and power of it.

BEN: Truthfully, the art is much more crude than I remembered, but it works toward the overall quirkiness of it. I remember when he did Speedball for Marvel many years later I thought the art was awful (not realizing who Ditko was yet) so I don’t really know why it works here and not later. I don’t think it can be underestimated how fun the stories still are. Even if the writing and art are dated, they’re not boring, which is why they keep getting remade and redone.

DUY: I want to point out that if this had happened today, we'd get tons and tons of message board complaints about how Spider-Man doesn't give up. I think that's kind of the nature of serial fiction. People act "out of character" all the time in real life, and it's those moments that contrast and define the moments when they do act in character.

BEN: Peter would never risk anything and everything for his Aunt! #sarcasm

DUY: In the "Was Goblin supposed to be someone we know" category, why would Ditko go through all the trouble of hiding his identity while showing him to us if he meant him to not be anyone we knew?

BEN: It would be a huge letdown to tease it out this much and have it be a stranger.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

May 6, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

This week, we're pulling double duty because we skipped Spider-Rama last week due to Avengers: Endgame taking over everything.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1
Spider-Rama
by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Spider-Man loses his powers, but must find a way to defeat six of his deadliest enemies, with Aunt May's and Betty Brant’s lives hanging in the balance.


POINTLESS TRIVIA

BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • The Vulture: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Doctor Octopus: 4
  • Electro: 2
  • Kraven the Hunter: 2
  • Mysterio: 2
  • Sandman: 2
BEN:  This is the fourth Human Torch appearance, and it’s established that Doctor Octopus has telepathic control of his arms even when they’re removed from him.  "Proportional strength of a spider" is used several times in the back-up material. It’s revealed his webbing dissolves after one hour. And finally he remembers Uncle Ben and recaps his origin!

DUY: It takes them 16 issues and an annual for them to remember that he's responsible for Ben's death!

BEN: That’s over a year of publishing time, probably two years considering Amazing didn’t start out monthly. It’s funny how integral and influential his origin is remembered, and the creators didn’t even play off it directly at the beginning.

DUY: He even uses the phrase "partially responsible" here. It's just going to get heavier and heavier over the decades. And people get mad at me when I say that this is guilt, but a definition of guilt is "a feeling of shame or regret as a result of bad conduct," and another is "feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy." That's Peter Parker to a T. He channels that into a sense of responsibility, but the core of it is a feeling of guilt.


WHAT'S AGED THE BEST?

BEN: The cameos by the rest of the Marvel superheroes added a little bit of extra specialness to the story. Made it seem like a real event.

DUY: The entire idea of just crossing paths really quickly with the other heroes is great. It's really a contributor to the shared universe thing and I wish the movies would just do it. Thus far it's only really happened with Ant-Man and the Falcon, and Dr. Strange in Thor: Ragnarok.


BEN: The full page splashes have the desired effect, especially considering they weren’t common back then.

WHAT'S AGED THE WORST?



BEN: The spark of sexual attraction between May and Otto taking place before our very eyes.

DUY: Every single goddamn thing about Aunt May. Good God, she's a terrible stereotype of the worrying parent.

BEN: You can’t even imagine putting Marisa Tomei in this scenario. Though that would make Ock’s boner more believable.

NITPICKS

BEN:  I used to think the villains fighting him one at a time was a stupid idea, but I can see how they each might want to be the one to defeat him alone. Still, it’s not as intimidating as all six at once.

DUY: Fighting him one by one is so dumb, because Kraven at the very start flat-out says they should all team up and he'd have no chance. Also, Kraven is part of the team, but the Chameleon isn't. That only makes sense in the sense that it doesn't.

BEN: Also, he used his spider-sense to read the damaged notecard?



FAVORITE PANEL

BEN: Mine is this:

DUY: I love how JJJ is becoming more and more of a comedy act. But this one is mine:


WHO WON THE COMIC?

DUY: Spider-Man for this one. This is clearly his highlight.

BEN: They did a great job of making it feel like a Spider-Man celebration. But what about Dr. Octopus? Ock was clearly the premiere villain at this point, getting the coveted final matchup, but I wonder if the rest of the bad guys were lined up in order of preference to Stan and/or Ditko.

DUY: He's also clearly the boss, but to be fair, who else would it be? Look at that lineup. No one screams "leader" to me.

BEST ANNUAL EVER?

BEN: Is this the best annual ever? It’s definitely the best Spider-Man annual. The only other one that comes to mind is Giant Size X-Men, and that’s technically not an annual. The Superman annual with Mongul and the Black Mercy?

DUY:  As good as that Superman annual was, it doesn't really feel like a "big" Superman story (or maybe it did at the time). This has the feeling of a big season finale.

BEN: That’s an apt analogy. All the villains of the first “season” teaming up. Each fight had a montage kind of feel.

DUY: I might give it to this one just for kicking off the silly bonuses, like "How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man!" Enjoy!





DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...