Jul 31, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: Simon and Kirby in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE LEGEND

Welcome to another installment of Easter Eggs in Comics! Click here for the archive!

I figured this would be a nice time to give you guys a treat, since the movie is out. There was a one-shot comic called CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE LEGEND in 1996, celebrating the publishing history of Captain America before the whole Heroes Reborn/Rob Liefeld mess happened.

It contained a three-page story called "Scenes We Never Saw," written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway. The story focuses on what happened when Steve Rogers was awakened from suspended animation and tried to get back into the legal system. Click the pictures to read the entire story.

So, does the guy who recognizes Cap look familiar to you?

Yep, that's Jack Kirby, who was born Jacob Kurtzberg, the artistic creator of Captain America, talking to his co-creator Joe Simon!

"Kurtzburg" says "Don't ask... just buy it," which is a tagline Kirby himself used when he was, of all things, working for DC, as in this cover of JIMMY OLSEN #141!

I also want to say that the running pose in page 3, panel 3, is a classic Kirby pose, but I can't actually find it in a Kirby comic! If anyone can, please send me an email.

For more on Simon and Kirby, read this article.

It's nice to see tributes paid to Simon and Kirby. And incidentally, don't Jurgens and Ordway draw a great Cap?

Jul 29, 2011

Kirbys Lose Copyright Case; Fans Rejoice and Will Still Complain About Wonder Woman's Pants

The reports are out everywhere that the estate of Jack Kirby has lost the summary judgment on the claim on the characters he co-created for Marvel. The court ruled that it was all work-for-hire, and so the Kirby heirs will not get their slice of the pie, unless the decision is overturned in the appeal that I believe is inevitable.

If you've followed The Comics Cube! for a while, you know where I stand on the matter. Although I have at times regretted the tone and words I chose to communicate my sentiments, such as here, I do still stand by all those sentiments.

Remove sentiment and emotion, though, and you'll know that this was always a bad case for the Kirbys to win. Daniel Best says it best here. His sentiments also echo mine for the most part, and like him, I'm sad (and very angry) that the courts would rule Kirby's role in the creations of  Thor, Ant-Man, and Iron Man as that of a mere artist, which is not only wrong (though I get it for Iron Man), but I think sets a dangerous legal precedent for artists and collaborators all over.

The Kirby heirs kind of shot themselves in the foot here, by making grand statements that implied that Kirby created everything and Stan contributed nothing, going so far as to say that Kirby even created characters that predated him and characters like Wolverine, to which he had no contribution. They should have prepared better. They should have known better.

But my issue with this is a simple one: it never should have gotten to this point. Ever. I firmly believe that Gene Colan, whose most notable contribution to comics is probably putting Daredevil on the map, should have been treated better with the appropriate royalties throughout his life, and that he should not have been selling his art by the end of it just to pay for his medical bills. So of course, it stands to reason that Jack Kirby, the greatest creator in the history of the business — and I dare anyone  to challenge that — should have had those benefits to an amplified degree. Even if Marvel won the case, that wasn't my issue. The issue was that the Kirby should have been getting royalties all this time.

It's actually apt that this ruling came out two days after I saw this interview The Guardian held with Alan Moore, where Alan has this to say about the industry:

It has abused and mistreated creative people for decades. It has never treated people fairly. And there is something a bit odd about people who spend their every working hour depicting the exploits of superheroes – of people who always stand up for the underdog and fight against the oppressor, the tyrant, the supervillain – and who have never once when the artists and writers that they professed to admire are taken out and put to the wall. This is an industry where if you mention the idea of, say, forming a union, you'll just get shrill nervous laughter in reply.

And that's what I don't get. Look around the Internet. Look around message boards. You'll see fans — not corporate shills, but fans — rejoicing about this, and because it's the Internet, some are tasteless, some are coarse, some are rude, and some seem to take really great pleasure in the ruling, saying that Kirby got what he deserved, that his family deserves nothing (and I suppose Robert Iger's does), essentially putting the letter of the law in front of social responsibility, which all  seems very odd to me, considering that this is an industry based on putting what's right before what's legal.

What I don't get about these fans is that these are the same ones that will contest you on this on moral grounds — I'm not talking about the people who just argue the legalities, because, really, I get it — but there are fans who have obviously not read anything about the case, who will generalize, who will bring it back to Jack Kirby "deserving it" since 1961, and who will justify cruel and unfair business practices, such as what has happened to Jack, Alan, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster...

...and these same fans will complain to no end about Wonder Woman having pants on her costume. Will still go on and on about Spider-Man not being married. Will still go on and on about how Stephanie Brown will not be Batgirl come this September.

My friend Pól sums it up thusly: "If you change the colour of a comic book CHARACTER's boots, comic fans go into a berserk rage. But screw over a comic book CREATOR, and they'll line up to sing your praises. I hate this fucking business sometimes."

I don't get it. I really, really don't. There are fans who would stage protests against a character's costume change, but screw over a creator and you have these fans cheering you on. Is it because these same fans are the ones so afraid of "losing" their beloved characters, that any change made to them, whether it be a cosmetic, superficial alteration or one of ownership, threatens their worldview? Do they cling to these characters so badly that we can't see what's actually right done in the real world? What happened to social responsibility, the type of which these superheroes advocate? Are these characters that much of an escape that they instantly take precedence over our little corporeal lives?

"How can they do this to Bucky?" "How can they have Squirrel Girl in the Avengers?" "Why are they breaking up Lois and Clark?" "Poor Stephanie!" "Get those pants of Diana!" You hear these cries all the time.

What about, "Let's make up for those decades we mistreated Jack?" How about "Let's get Marvel to pay Gene some royalties so he doesn't have to worry about money at the end of his life?" How about "DC should really just leave Alan alone, since it's obvious he doesn't want to deal with them"?

No, we get, "Jack deserved it," "Gene knew what he was getting into," and "Alan should be thankful he got to write Batman."

And then we'll get back to "Get Spider-Man and Mary Jane back together," "Oh ho ho, look at those V-neck collars," and "How can they make Superman revoke his American citizenship?"

Guys, these creators are real people, who have worked hard to bring you the stories you have enjoyed over generations and decades.

And please remember, as powerful as fiction is, it's just that: fiction. It will exist forever and ever, no matter what happens to them now, no matter where the copyright goes, no matter how much money is paid.

Please, accord these creators the respect they deserve. You may not take their side on the legal end of things, but you don't need to take so much glee in their pain, so much joy in their losses. You owe them that.

If you love Jack Kirby, I encourage you to get KIRBY: GENESIS by Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, and Jack Herbert. It features all the concepts every created by Jack that the Kirby estate owns. The second issue is out on the stands right now.

Jul 28, 2011

Comics Cube! Reviews: Princeless

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of the first issue (of four) of PRINCELESS, written by Jeremy Whitley, drawn by M. Goodwin and D.E. Belton, and put out by Action Lab Comics.

What a fun romp this story is! Whitley tells a story fit for all ages, about a princess locked in a tower, waiting for a prince to save her. Her parents have even put a dragon in front of the tower for the winning suitor to slay, thereby proving his worth.

However, Princess Adrienne, whose other sisters are already locked up in various towers, won't be having any of it. She's always thought the tradition to be stupid (and unbelievable — how is a prince supposed to climb up a tower using a tiny girl for stability?), ever since she was young and her mother would read the stories to her. To make matters worse, she's also got the cutest dragon named Sparky. So she won't stand for this tradition, and decides to take matters into her own hands.

As you might have guessed, the overall tone of the book is very postmodern, a lot like Shrek or the recent Disney movies (Princess and the Frog and Tangled especially — we have a black princess and a Rapunzel story here) or, in comparison with other comics, a lot like FRACTURED FABLES. But far from just poking fun at traditional fairy tale convention, PRINCELESS also simply sets the stage for a good and gripping story. The pacing is impeccable, and the art is very expressive. Even though Adrienne is a loudmouth, she's drawn in such a way that you sympathize with her, or at least laugh with her anger, because she has a point. (There's a scene where she chastises a prince for calling her "fair," because "fair" means "white," and she's black.) And Sparky, especially, is very cute.

I can think of no better way to end this review than to say that after I read it, I immediately read it to my six-year-old niece, doing voices for all the characters. I'm proud to say that she didn't require many explanations, and she was smiling and laughing the whole way through.

PRINCELESS #1 will be out in October. It is highly recommended for those of you with kids, and still pretty highly recommended for all those of you who want to read something charming.

Jul 26, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: Tintin in FANTASTIC FOUR

Welcome to another installment of Easter Eggs in Comics! Click here for the archive!

So recently, a friend of mine gave me a bunch of TINTIN comics, by Hergé.

I've never read TINTIN, so I was very excited to read them. But I thought it fitting that he gave me these books the exact same week I bought FANTASTIC FOUR, volume 3 #1, by Scott Lobdell, Alan Davis, and Mark Farmer.

In this story, the Fantastic Four is taken to France, where they meet a bunch of protesters who want to keep old structures intact instead of rebuilding them. One of them looks familiar.

Yep, that's Tintin, folks. "Actually, I'm Belgian," is because Tintin IS Belgian, but his comics were published primarily in France!

Later on, Tintin has to run away, and what does he say?

"Billions of blistering blue barnacles!" is the catchphrase of Tintin's supporting character, Captain Haddock!

Pretty cool, huh?

Jul 25, 2011

Can You Spot a Pattern Here?

It takes a lot to get me to buy a comic book, because comic books can really be expensive. Typically, I must trust the creative team or have heard good reviews to get me to try it. It's very rare that I buy anything based on the cover.

But when I HAVE bought based on covers, I've noticed that there's a certain something most of them have in common. I'm going to show some of them to you. See if you can figure it out.

Art by Mark Bagley

Art by Steven Butler

Art b Michael Golden

Art by Kevin Nowlan

Art by Ron Lim

Art by Jerry Ordway
Art by Ron Lim

Art by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding

So what does this mean for me? Do I have an inherent fascination with duality? Do I believe that superheroes represent the very split dichotomy between our evil and good selves? If it's about duality, where does Carnage fit in? Or do I just really want to see fair fights where anyone can win?


Jul 24, 2011

The New Superman Comics Have One Issue to Grab Me...

....and if they don't, I'm out.

Now I know I'm not the target audience for this relaunch, so this means very little to DC. But it's important that I say this, because I love Superman. He is one of my favorite superheroes of all time. I love what he represents. Some of my favorite comics are Superman comics. I really want to like every Superman comic ever, and I can't help but feel that missing out on the DCnU Superman may possibly be missing out on history.

But I'm giving it one issue to convince me it's worth continuing, because I don't think I'm going to feel good reading it. Here's why.

Comics' Biggest Boners: Which Way Is the Scarlet Witch Looking?

Welcome to another edition of Comics' Biggest Boners, in which we showcase some of the biggest goofs and gaffes in comics! Click here for the archive!

And now, your host, 1950s Joker!

Regular readers of this website know that I love George Perez. But the man is not without his flaws. In AVENGERS vol. 3 #24, he has the Vision and Wonder Man get into an argument. Which way is Wanda looking?

The Vision and Wonder Man don't have irises either. For all you know, they're not looking at each other either!

This story can be found in:

Jul 21, 2011

Grant Morrison Is Wrong about Alan Moore

I'll tell you guys who I'm sick of. I'm sick of this guy.

He even looks obnoxious.

Jul 18, 2011

Back Issue Ben: Gateway Comics: TRANSFORMERS

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.


Gateway Comics: TRANSFORMERS
by Ben Smith

This is all my dad's fault. To be more specific, this lifelong love I have for comic books is his fault, as he was the one that gave me my very first comic book, TRANSFORMERS #13.

Jul 15, 2011

Comics Cube! Reviews: KINDS OF BLUE

About a month ago, the incomparable Scott McCloud pointed me to KINDS OF BLUE, an anthology of short comics about depression. The comic was on Pozible, which I guess is Australia's version of Kickstarter, as it needed funds to be published. It has since received full financial support, so I won't be telling you to donate to it (although you may get the rewards associated with each level of monetary donation). I'm going to tell you why you should read it.

Depression is a very real, physical disease. It can, untreated, be crippling and paralyzing. The best description I've ever had of it is that you can take the worst moment of your life, and then take away the reason for it, and that's what clinical depression feels like. And yet, I hear a lot of people dismiss this — and mental illness, in general — citing that "It's all in your head," and that all you need is willpower to beat it. No, it's not, and willpower only helps it as much as it can help your flu. Meaning you can work through it, but it won't go away.

I think this is all important to know, and it's important to build awareness, not only for the people who may not know just what depression feels like, but also for the people who have it to know they're not alone. And KINDS OF BLUE, edited by Karen Beilharz, speaks to both groups. The anthology is full of heartfelt testimonies from sufferers of depression and their supporters, and are told in various styles and tones. Beilharz and Paul Wong-Pan's "The Real You," for example, is painted and has an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Meanwhile, Guangyao Un and Fiona Darwin's "The Suit" is cartoony and full of whimsy. One thing they have in common is the use of imagery (stage masks for "The Real You," a beekeeper suit for "The Suit") to represent the barriers that depression puts between the sufferer and the people they care about.

The use of symbolic imagery is prevalent throughout the book, never more notable than in "The Black Dog Must Die," by Beilharz and Tim Bywater, which depicts depression as an unkillable black dog. The story ends on a hopeful note, as does "Labyrinthine," by Un and Rebecca Jee, which depicts the illness as a maze. The use of these metaphors outlines just how difficult the disease is to deal with, and it's effective because it gives you hope without underemphasizing the seriousness of the illness.

The hope balances out some of the other stories, which, in contrast, simply tell you what depression feels like, such as "Nihilo," by Beilharz and Kathleen Jennings. This is probably the most depressing (no pun intended) story in the entire anthology, as it talks about the sufferer desiring nonexistence (as opposed to death). The story is paced in such a way that really draws you in. And if you don't understand why they would feel that way, that's part of the effectiveness — people dealing with depression don't understand it at first either. But what is important is that you know that that's how they feel, even if you don't understand the why.

Beilharz also writes two more stories specifically for the friends and loved ones of the sufferers of depression. "Five Tips for Caring for Someone with Depression," drawn by Belinda Stead, provides a useful five-step guide for those who are helping someone through the problem. The closing story, "A Friend in Need," tells more of a story, and ends the book on a hopeful note.

KINDS OF BLUE is a beautiful anthology with gorgeous artwork and properly paced storytelling to really make you feel something about this oft-misrepresented illness. It is commendable of Karen Beilharz to put this together, and I can't recommend it enough.

You can read KINDS OF BLUE here. If you would like to donate some money to KINDS OF BLUE, you may do so here.

Jul 12, 2011

Back Issue Ben: Secret Wars

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Secret Wars
by Ben Smith

There are several undeniable truths in life and in comic books. In life, it's never a good idea to pet a burning dog. In comics, Jack Kirby is underappreciated. Another truth I happen to believe is that comic books were never as good as they were when you were 8 years old.

The 1984 comic book series MARVEL SUPERHEROES SECRET WARS taught my 8-year-old brain many things. One of them was to always talk in exclamations, no matter how unnecessary. (Every sentence in the comics ends in an exclamation point. It's true, go look. I'll wait here.) It also taught me about all the wondrous characters of the Marvel universe.

As a newer reader only familiar with Spider-Man and his world, a dramatic battle between good and evil on a faraway planet was just the thing to blow my tiny mind. It would go on to influence my opinion on each and every character to this day. Read on ... if you dare. There's candy at the end.

Jul 9, 2011

An ABC Retrospective, Day 6: A Final Word on America's Best Comics (In Which We Thank Alex and Todd)

Welcome to Day 6 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read the intro to this series here. This is its conclusion.

Today, we give the final word on America's Best Comics, thanking two people in particular: Alex Ross and Todd Klein!

Jul 8, 2011

An ABC Retrospective, Day 5: PROMETHEA

Welcome to Day 5 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read about this series here.

Today, we focus on PROMETHEA, by Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray, and Jose Villarubia!

Jul 7, 2011

An ABC Retrospective, Day 4: TOMORROW STORIES

Welcome to Day 4 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read about this series here.

Today, we focus on TOMORROW STORIES, by Alan Moore, Kevin Nowlan, Melinda Gebbie, Jim Baikie, Hilary Barta, and Rick Veitch!

Jul 6, 2011


Welcome to Day 3 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read about this series here.

Today, we focus on THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill!

Jul 5, 2011

An ABC Retrospective, Day 2: TOP 10

Welcome to Day 2 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read about this series here.

Today, we focus on TOP 10, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon!

Jul 4, 2011

An ABC Retrospective, Day 1: TOM STRONG

Welcome to Day 1 of The Comics Cube!'s retrospective series on America's Best Comics. You can read about this series here.

Today, we focus on TOM STRONG, by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse!

Jul 1, 2011

Gateway Comics: The Index

Greetings, loyal Cubers, and welcome to the index for Gateway Comics, the feature in which I spotlight comics that are good to give to new readers!

1. TOP 10 by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon

2. TRANSFORMERS (the 1980s Marvel series) — this was submitted by Back Issue Ben

3. TINTIN by Herge

4. BONE by Jeff Smith


6. CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips