Jan 30, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #4

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!

by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Spider-Man versus the Sandman!


BEN: This is the first appearance of the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant, and the Sandman. They count Amazing Fantasy #15 as Liz Allen’s first appearance, but she gets a name in this issue.

DUY: It's the first appearance of the Steve Ditko haircut.

DUY:  This has the first sighting of the half-Peter/half-Spidey visual. This isn't the iconic shot though, since this is half-Spidey in full body, while the iconic shot only has a half-mask.


BEN: I’m amused by the idea of anyone selling used shoelaces

DUY: That can't have possibly be based on reality, right?

BEN: I sure hope not.

DUY:  Mine is this. This is Ditko.

BEN: I always remembered Ditko having the look nailed down from the beginning, but it was still a little crude in places. It’s not like it’s ever bad in these early issues, it’s just not as good compared to later comics.


DUY: Jokes like this never get old.

BEN: Like I mentioned last week, the teenagers being fully on Spider-Man’s side while everyone older is, at best, unsure of his intentions, and in the case of someone like Jameson, convinced he’s a menace and a bad influence. Adults frightened by what their kids are into is a timeless theme.

DUY: Peter Parker rationalizing the most unethical thing he's done so far — faking photos of fighting the Sandman — is very human, I think.

BEN: Sandman’s power set is pretty inventive and provides for an unlimited amount of cool visuals. You can tell by the cover that it’s almost like they couldn’t decide which visual to pick.


BEN: Sandman’s powers. Yes, I put this in both categories. What makes them cool also makes him impossible to defeat, so it’s always a really contrived scenario.

DUY: Sandman's hair. Also, there's really no way in the modern day that Peter would have to wait for a TV news report to find out anything on Flint Marko as long as it was available. We have the internet now. And also, this panel, for reasons that are obvious:

BEN:  I’ve tried not to reference outdated technology here, but there’s a lot of relying on television or radio broadcasts. Hadn’t discovered the patrolling aspect yet.


BEN: Peter leaves webbing in JJJ’s chair and it lasts overnight. The 1 hour lifespan of his webbing hadn’t been established yet, but still.

DUY: Why did Sandman have to form a fake key when he could just slide under the floor?

BEN: The whole sewing his own costume angle is cute, but seems unlikely. Or not, maybe he’s a much more talented sewer than me.

DUY: I know nothing about sewing, but I'm pretty sure you can't just sew together the mask the way Peter tore it.


DUY: Allan comes off here as someone who wants to be Peter's friend and doesn't want to lose her social status. It's actually seeds for the future storylines. I'll give it to Liz.

BEN: She does stand out in only a few short scenes. Even a little thing like telling Flash to ease up on Peter added some layers to her.


BEN: The comic begins with Spider-Man stopping three guys from robbing a place, before they start robbing the place. So they call the cops on him for harassing them. Again, it’s hard for us to put into context how different it must have been to read about a teenage hero constantly messing up, but it must have seemed so new and revolutionary.

DUY: There's still no mention of Peter having been able to prevent Uncle Ben's death.

BEN: Have we seen any mid-fight quips from him yet? Let’s keep an eye out for that.

DUY: This doesn't count?

BEN: I guess, but it’s about as good as “did your husband get it for you?”

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!

Jan 28, 2019

The 5 Best Calvin and Hobbes Characters

Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever created, and one of the more impressive things about it is how small of a supporting cast it has. The primary focus is on Calvin and his pet tiger Hobbes, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some great secondary characters.

To that end, excluding Calvin and Hobbes, here are..

The 5 Best Calvin and Hobbes Characters
Ben Smith

Honorable mention: MOE

Look, the strip basically only has six significant characters, so I might as well include him. He’s your standard bully character.  He made his first appearance two and a half months into the series.


Calvin’s mom is a stay-at-home parent, and is subject to the majority of his antics. As a result, she is the primary caretaker and authority figure in the strip, and is given the least “fun” things to do. However, she is the one that provides emotional comfort when he needs it. She’s the heart of the strip.

She first appears in the second week of the series.

Making Calvin take baths and ignoring his ridiculous requests are some of her more memorable recurring strips.


Rosalyn is the only person that will agree to babysit Calvin, and she almost always immediately regrets it and demands more money than was agreed upon afterwards. An interesting thing about Calvin’s babysitting situation is that the first time his parents talk about going out for the night, they laugh at the prospect of leaving Calvin home alone.

But then they do it anyway!

Rosalyn first appears nearly six months after the series began.

Surprisingly, she has no trouble babysitting Calvin in that first sequence of strips.


Susie is the neighborhood girl, and Calvin’s only human friend. It’s clear they like each other, even though Susie has to endure a lot of insults and ‘gross boy stuff’ from Calvin. She likes him, but she’s not going to take crap from him.

She first appeared during the first month of the strip, even getting a two day buildup before finally appearing.

Gross lunchroom antics, snowball fights, and treehouse exclusion were some of the most common Susie strips.


I cannot even imagine the amount of frustration and exasperation Calvin’s teacher Miss Wormwood must feel in dealing with his antics, but she always seems to maintain a level of calm, as if her spirit was broken long ago.

She first appeared in the fourth strip of the series, before Calvin’s mom had even appeared yet.

Calvin’s imaginary adventures as Spaceman Spiff often occurred during school, with Miss Wormwood usually taking on the role of some hideous alien monster.


I have to admit, Calvin’s dad probably ranks first for me because I happen to be a father myself. My wife has told me multiple times not to make up silly explanations for why things exist or work the way they do, much like Calvin’s dad does in multiple strips. His sardonic approach to parenting is right up my alley.

Calvin’s dad appears in the very first strip, and makes regular appearances in that first week before Calvin’s mom appears the following week.

Another recurring joke that features Calvin’s dad are when Calvin updates him on his poll numbers, as if his position as dad is an elected office. He also liked to force his family to go on vacations they didn’t want to go on, which always went terribly.

Every significant character was introduced in the first six months of Calvin and Hobbes, with the four (arguably) most important appearing within the first month. The strip arrived into the hands of readers almost fully formed, which is pretty impressive. You can contrast this with another newspaper classic, Peanuts. One of the most shocking things about reading early Peanuts strips is how the cast was almost entirely different, except for Charlie Brown.

The premise, the jokes, the characters, the wit, the heart; it was all there. Calvin and Hobbes was great from the very beginning, and continued until the very end. It’s timeless.

Jan 23, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #3

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!

by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Spider-Man faces his first major defeat at the many-armed hands of Doctor Octopus, but a pep talk from an unlikely source convinces him to never give up.

BEN: Now, this is the first issue where the Spider-Man we all know and love begins to take form. Not coincidentally, it’s the first full-length story. Spider-Man fights crime, though he still mostly comes off as motivated by money. He loses his first fight with Doctor Octopus, which may have been a first for a costumed hero, to get outright defeated.

DUY: The opening sequence is a trope now. This is how you open an issue for a new reader.


BEN: First appearance of Doctor Octopus.

DUY: First appearance also of the Spider-signal. And also, once again, Spider-Man uses his scientific knowledge to beat an opponent. How was this not a regular thing as Spider-Man evolved?

DUY: The Human Torch has now shown up twice in Spider-Man's first four appearances. He shows up in issue 1 and then again in issue 3, and he's going to show up a lot in the Ditko run. He is indisputably far and away the most common guest star. What makes it interesting for me is that Torch is a Kirby character through and through — the perfect, famous young man who's built to be a superhero. What is it about the Human Torch that makes him the perfect complement and counterpoint to Spider-Man?

BEN: Because he is the complete opposite of Peter. He’s popular and handsome, and unlike Flash Thompson, he’s not a bully. Even his powers are bright and shiny, extroverted. Compared to Peter’s creepy spider powers. Johnny has extreme confidence because he’s on the premiere team of the Marvel universe, so he conducts himself with that ultimate swagger. Peter masks his anxiety through quips. And Peter literally wears a mask while Johnny does not.


DUY: This is impactful.

DUY: But this is my favorite.

BEN: Those four metal arms do make for a great visual. Pop art certainly was the best way to describe this. It’s so quirky and odd, but with bright primary colors.


DUY: Honestly, stuff like this.

DUY: This is kind of cinematic in its framing and pacing. There was a huge stretch in the comics we love where they wouldn't waste time showing aspects of his power like this. I feel like with decompressed storytelling we can see more tiny details. Ditko was very decompressed.

BEN: He gets beaten so badly that he decides he’s probably not cut out for being a hero. Can you imagine, at that time, Superman losing a fight and being like “well, I suck” and giving up. It must have been so damn new, reading about this kid always messing up as a hero.

DUY: He flat-out loses to Ock. Not, the villain gets away.

BEN: No, I got distracted by this, or Hot Rod tried to help. Just a straight up embarrassing asswhupping.

DUY: It's led to this, which is now basically known to everyone as "Act 2 of every superhero origin movie."


BEN: The scenes of Ock’s arms working while he stands behind a tiny pane of glass look pretty ridiculous.

DUY: Yes, I'm pretty sure nuclear radiation doesn't care if you're behind a tiny cube. Also, Ock thinking those mechanical arms and his mind makes him the supreme human being on Earth is kind of ridiculous in a world where Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom and Thor and the Hulk exist.


BEN: I don’t know how pudgy Ock became a thing, because he’s pretty ripped in those panels in the hospital.

DUY: Maybe it's old comic interpretation. Anyone with a square-ish frame is "fat."


BEN: Doctor Octopus is established as a major threat right from the start, and would easily become his arch-nemesis for the Ditko years. You could make an argument for Johnny Storm, as the coolest teenager in history.

DUY: You could make an argument for Johnny, yes, but it's Doctor Octopus, one of the greatest first appearances in comics history.


DUY: We were talking two issues ago about how the narration says that there are people who will believe JJJ, but the panels never actually show anyone who doesn't, and maybe there's a story to be told about the people who don't believe him. Similarly, we're always told Peter was bullied in high school and had no friends... but here's Sally right now, saying hi to him and wondering what's up with him ignoring them

BEN: There was that story they did much later where Flash claims that Peter was the one that was mean to them. Ignoring them and acting superior. They definitely started playing more with Peter being so self-absorbed that it ruined his chances to be more socially accepted.

DUY: It takes me back to his first appearance, and how very "origin of a supervillain" it feels until Uncle Ben dies. That's really the main driver of why he's a hero, which is why it's so weird that it's once again not mentioned here, and won't be mentioned for a while.

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!

Back Issue Ben's Favorite George Perez Comics

George Perez has retired, and while the internet shares image after image of his masterful artwork and unique ability to layout massive gatherings of superhero characters with expert spacing, I’m going to focus on the comics and stories he created that have special meaning for me.

My Favorite  George  Perez Comics
Ben Smith

Perez certainly worked on some of the most important comic books ever made, but these are my favorite.


I’ve written this a hundred times, but my two favorite single comics ever are Amazing Spider-Man #121 and Crisis on Infinite Earths #8.  Both involve deaths (which means I’m morbid) but while one involves a hero’s ultimate failure, the death of the Flash represents the ultimate triumph; the ultimate heroic sacrifice.  I had only recently begun reading Flash comics, so the idea of a hero dying and getting replaced, it wasn’t something I was used to as a Marvel fan.  It blew my little mind, and I think a bit of innocence was lost that day.  That’s fine though, because what replaced it was the infinite possibilities of storytelling, and the idea that you can miss someone that isn’t even real.


The New Teen Titans definitely had its ups and downs and it doesn’t seem to be aging that well, but what I like about it is more conceptual anyway.  I love the way Dick Grayson matured, and not just from Robin into Nightwing, but his growth into a leader and a central figure in the DC universe.  His relationship with Starfire still remains my preference for him, as he and Batgirl never made a lot of sense to me from her end.

I love Raven.  I know there’s a lot that’s problematic about her origin, but I do like the idea of her being created by evil and suppressing the evil inside of her.  There’s probably a conversation to be had about a women needing to suppress her emotions to prevent unleashing hell upon the world, but her deadpan delivery is really funny on Teen Titans Go, so there’s good things and bad things about the character.  She’s got a great costume too, they need to stop messing with it.


I love Morgan le Fay, so there’s no better way to start a great run of comics than by making her the villain.  I love most of the witches in comics.  They’re strong, insanely powerful, and they might kill you, so what’s not to love?


My love for the Legion of Super-Heroes is documented, and there’s no bigger celebration of the vast and complicated history of the franchise than this mini-series.  Not only was it another low-key brilliant retcon by Geoff Johns, making the different historical versions of the Legion from the future of different alternate Earths, but it made the “primary” version of Brainiac 5 as big of a jerk as Mark Waid’s “threeboot” version.  It’s a pure fan service story, beautifully rendered by one of the all-time great comic book artists.

George Perez, you will be missed.

Jan 20, 2019

George Perez Has Retired. And Here Are His Avengers.

On January 19, 2019, over on the George Perez Website Facebook page, the following was posted:
DATE : JANUARY 19, 2019
FROM : George Pérez 
To all my loyal and kind fans who have supported me throughout the decades,
In recent months, there has been a great deal of speculation as to the future of my career, my health, my ability to draw and my future convention appearances. As a result, I would like to clear up everything first hand so that, hopefully, any rumors, speculation and misinformation can be laid to rest. 
With respect to future published work in comics and such ... while I know it’s been no secret that I’ve been dealing with a myriad number of health issues (diabetes, heart ailments, vision issues, etc.), they have indeed have forced me to, for all intents and purposes, formally retire from the business of creating new comic stories. 
As for home commission requests, I’m afraid that my retirement must now extend to privately commissioned drawings as well. While I am gratified that all of the customers who have received their pieces were more than pleased with the results, some even consequently commissioning more of them, it’s just becoming too much of a strain on my eyes to produce the fully rendered ink and pencil-tone pieces on a quality level that justifies the price I’m being paid for them. 
In regards to convention sketches, I will need to cut back on those as well. While I will no longer sketch at the conventions themselves, I will, through my art agent Spencer Beck of The Artists Choice, be taking orders for 5 ( FIVE ) con-style head sketches, per convention day that I am in attendance which will be done at home to be collected at the conventions. Fans placing orders must be personally present to pick up the piece , NO PROXIES. The price for these will be a good deal pricier than in the past, going for $100 each, but please take some solace that all the monies I earn for these sketches, as well as my appearance fees, will be donated to various charities. To place an order, or for initial details, please contact Spencer / The Artist's Choice directly at Spencerbck@aol.com. Any changes or further announcements will be made by Spencer and myself on his website theartistschoice.com/perez.htm and on my fan website george-perez.net.
Furthermore, for those that are interested … although I will only be attending about six conventions this year and one make up convention in 2020 ( *** see below for complete schedule ) 2019 will more than likely be my last year touring this great land meeting so many great fans. As the next decade begins, I have two shows, Dragon Con and Fetish Con that have personal meaning to me which I intend to attend yearly unless circumstances prevent it … but, for all intents, 2019 will wind down that part of my career as well. The good news is, even though I will not be sketching at the shows, I will still be autographing and be available for photo ops, and, as has been my policy throughout my career, I will not be charging for either. 
In closing, please don’t feel sorry for me about all these life and career changes. Thankfully I earn more than enough income through royalties to have a comfortable life wherein I may never need to work again. Unless, of course, something really tempting comes along and I’m given sufficient lead time. Hey, you never know. 
Long story short, I will be just fine. I’ve had a wonderfully good run doing exactly what I have wanted to do since I was a child. Now I can sit back and watch the stuff I helped create entertain whole new generations. That’s a pretty nice legacy to look back on. 
And so much of that is thanks to all of you, the GREATEST fans in the world. I am humbled and forever grateful. 
Wishing you all a safe, happy and healthy 2019 and beyond, 
UPDATE: Mr. Perez will not be accepting requests until approximately 30 days before each specific show. Sketches will be approved at one per person, family or address. First come, First serve. So , please check back 30 days before the show. He will only be doing 9 x 12 head shots and they must be paid for in full at the time the order is accepted. 
AMAZING COMIC CON ALOHA - FEBRUARY 22 to 24, 2019 - www.amazingcomicconaloha.com
C2E2 - MARCH 22 to 24, 2019 - www.c2e2.com
EAST COAST COMIC CON - MAY 17 to 19, 2019 - www.eastcoastcomicon.com
NIAGARA FALLS COMICS CON - JUNE 7 to 9, 2019 - niagarafallscomiccon.com
TERRIFICON - AUGUST 9 to 11, 2019 - www.terrificon.com ( FRIDAY ONLY )
FETISH CON - AUGUST 9 to 11, 2019 - http://fetishcon.com ( SATURDAY & SUNDAY ONLY )
DRAGON CON - AUGUST 29 to SEPTEMBER 2, 2019 - www.dragoncon.org

George Perez is my favorite artist of all time. He's the main reason I love comics in the first place, and is responsible for two books that have made me closer to my family. And I think a big part of his impact can be felt in the fact that he had multiple runs on The Avengers, the world's biggest superhero franchise.

And y'know what, I've gushed about George too many times before. George Perez has retired. Here are 10 images of his Avengers. Enjoy.

Okay, yeah, I cheated and brought the Justice League in. And yeah, I cheated on those last two. They look cool.

 This photo was taken 13 years ago. I told him he'd been my favorite comic book artist for 20 years. I guess that's 33 years now. (Incidentally, 33 is the jersey number of my all-time favorite NBA player, Scottie Pippen. (Also incidentally, humorous digressions are my defense mechanism when something makes me sad.))

Thanks for everything, George. It's safe to say The Comics Cube wouldn't even exist without you.