Comics Today

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about how I was a part of the problem when it came to potential problems in the comic industry. I listed a myriad of ways that I consume my comics, but what it boiled down to was that the act of buying single issues of 30 comics a month has long gone the way of the dodo for me. -(see this blog post for more on that I’m the Problem).

In light of the recent layoffs at DC Comics (and across the greater businesses that own them), so many people want to point out the problems with the industry right now. They are ready to pin the problem on one or two reasons… which is really simplistic when you think about it. In almost any other company, when there are layoffs, it typically is due to many things. In fact, many times it might even have less to do with what is happening in the here and now and go back to something that was set into motion months (or years) previous.

The thing is, I don’t have any great insight either… not really. I’ve done a handful of independent comics. I know a couple of people who have done work for Marvel and DC. At the end of the day, I’m a reader and consumer of the product. And just like last year when the realization hit me that I might be (a part of) the problem, someone else posted something that made me start thinking about the current titles I get month in and month out.

The question was simple – if Marvel and DC had to reboot everything and you had very little information on what was going on with the relaunch aside from the titles, what comics are you almost certainly still going to read.

It made me think for a minute as there are comics over the years that I have loved in the moment, or maybe I collected for 200 issues, or maybe the title just keeps getting canceled on me every so often, but I still like to support it. There are those comics I like a lot, but maybe don’t read anymore because the creative team changed at some point and my interest waned. There are certain spots where a comic got relaunched and I used that as my jumping-off point.

What comics would I stick by no matter what in this weird/strange dystopian world?

Avengers

This is the comic for me. It was my first favorite comic beating out Spider-Man and Transformers. I’ve always collected it save for about six months right after I started college when I trimmed my comic buying down to one singular comic during that time (more on that in a minute). Avengers is the comic that I currently have a full run from issue 190 until today (500+ issues there) and I have my oldest comic of my collection – Avengers #9

Good storylines or bad ones, I’m all-in with Avengers.

The Flash

This is my DC title. While my collection doesn’t go back as far as my Avengers one, I also have a complete run of the Wally West Flash. If you watched Justice League Animated Series, he was your Flash. The idea that he is a guy who “just” runs fast always has cracked me up. He is so much more than that. He is the heartbeat of the DC Universe in my mind. He has the second-best rogues gallery of anyone in that universe (Batman gets the automatic nod for first place). The stories told about him are about Hope and love and family which sometimes is hard to get from comic books. Even now with Barry Allen having returned to the prime Flash role, I love the book.

It also doesn’t hurt that two of my favorite writers, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns have epic runs on the book.

The New Warriors

This would be with the caveat that it would have to be some version of the original team. This was a 90s comic through and through and yet I loved these mismatched characters. You might even argue that the one character with the most name recognition outside of comics, Firestar, was someone, who up till that point, had been underused and underdeveloped. The whole teenagers banding together to prove something to the world and to themselves was excellent.

This was the one comic that I never stopped buying. It’s also the one comic that after that initial 75 issue run has been brought back multiple times to little fanfare. I’m not sure if it just doesn’t have that same magic or if it was a product of its time and that doesn’t work anymore or what.

 

Those three are my absolutes, but there are also that next level of comics that I would think long and hard about – The Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Legion of the Super-Heroes, Aquaman, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

So maybe there is hope for me and the industry at large. It’s got problems, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond repair. We just have to remember why we fell in love with it in the first place.

 

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

We’re In the End Game Now

At some point, there was an idea. An idea to take those comic book characters who only lived in a 2D world and bring them to life on the Big Screen. Marvel Comics licenced out a handful of their characters and we got our first taste of what comic books in a live action format was going to look like.

It was clearly a hit or miss situation.

At the same time, there were cartoons to be watched where your favourite characters could actually swing through the air on a spider’s web or fly around completely on fire. It was bringing the characters to life in a way that was both faithful to the comics and… well… wasn’t cheesy looking.

Nothing wrong with this!

I remember thinking that Marvel wasn’t ever going to get it right on the movie front, maybe they should just concentrate on making good cartoons. Heck, there had been a couple of cartoon movies here or there that did alright (I was thinking Transformers and later on the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movies that both were released to the theaters). Maybe that was the way to go for them?

But you’d hear rumors of them working behind the scenes to get this movie made or that character a try-out. And we still got this:

Although, in light of the movies we ended up getting, maybe this wasn’t soooo bad.

As I continued to read the funny books into my college years, I’d given up much hope for anything great to show up. For whatever reason, the Marvel characters just didn’t seem like they were ever going to work. Even if DC had managed to somewhat crack the code with Superman and Batman, Marvel always seemed to just lag behind.

And then it happened…

Ok, maybe not that one…

This guy. Here was where they got it right.

And you know how sometimes all you need is a little bit of success and that will generate more successes for you. Like a snowball rolling down the hill, you pick up speed and suddenly you’ve got it going in the right direction. Suddenly we get an X-Men movie. And a Daredevil movie. And a Spiderman movie.

Even if you didn’t think they hit every beat or story or special effect just right, the fact that those movies existed at all was mind-blowing.

When the first Spiderman came out after the credits rolled it was like you could have had to use a jackhammer to get the smile off my face. This character I’d read for so many years looked like I wanted him to look, he sounded right… he could swing through the air!

A few years later, Marvel decided that since all their big name properties were with other studios, due to those 90s deals, they needed to reach out and get another one of those characters from the toy box. Being a big Avengers guy, I knew who Iron Man was, but most people would have had no clue. In fact, the Avengers weren’t the A-Listers at Marvel at the time. They might have had one comic series for the Avengers and then one for Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor… and that was it.

Yet, the Iron Man movie worked.

And now, here we are after 21 some-odd movies the culmination of 10+ years for the studios will be on the Big Screen. But more than that, those characters who I thought only would ever work in a 2D environment are living, breathing people. Everyone in the world seems to know who they are. It’s crazy that these movies not only exist but are actually pretty good.

I always wonder if I could talk to my younger self and let him know these things were coming, what he’d think. All those days spent with my nose in the colorful pages, watching the Avengers defeat Doctor Doom or Baron Zemo or even Thanos… those toys are out of the sandbox for everyone to get a chance at.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Top 5 – The Avengers

I was reading Avengers before it was cool to read Avengers.

When everyone else was buying X-Men and hoping to get multiple copies of what was sure to be the next comic worth $100 plus, I was a devoted fanboy of not only Avengers but also West Coast Avengers (ok, I have some copies of X-Men #1 from that time as well). While everyone else was busy watching the X-Men cartoon, I was sticking it out with the lesser heroes; you know the guys and gals I’m talking about: Captain America and Iron Man and Black Widow and Hawkeye and…

I was holding the flag for a group of characters that the company itself didn’t know what to do with. It got so bad that when the opportunity arose to have some of the Image Comic guys come back and work on the characters, they wouldn’t dare give them Spiderman or the X-Men, so instead they got the characters not as many people cared about (apparently) – so the Avengers and Fantastic Four were shunted off into another universe where their stories could be told.

Given that the biggest movie in the world (or at least for the year) is opening at the end of the month, it is hard to rationalize those early and not so early days of reading the Avengers. Once Iron Man became a hit and the ball got rolling into the first Avengers movie, Marvel seized on the idea and suddenly where there might have been TWO Avengers titles, there were like 50 titles (and I’m only exaggerating a little bit on that number). For someone who has a copy of issue 9 and a complete run from around issue 140, it became a bit much to try to keep up with.

But two of the first comics I ever bought with my own money were Avengers and West Coast Avengers. Along with Spiderman, these were my windows into the world of comic books. They were the ones whose stories I looked forward to the most every month.

Firestar

Yes, because of the Spiderman and his Amazing Friends cartoon.

But also because when I saw another book on the stands: New Warriors, she was one of the original members. I’d never read her before, but I was struck by how she was someone trying to find her place in the world. Then later, during Busiek’s run on Avengers she got called up to the big leagues. Something about that idea really caught me. Another mutant that the Avengers somehow got a hold of, she (and Justice) sorta acted as the reader’s eyes while they fought alongside the Big Three (Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man).

Scarlet Witch

I think it is partially because when I started reading they (Scarlet Witch and Vision) weren’t a part of any Avengers team, so it felt like a big deal when they did join back up. Wanda has always been a cool character because she has feet in both the X-Men world (what with her father being Magneto) and in the Avengers world. Back in the 90s when it seemed like if the X-Men sunk their claws into you, then your character might never show up in any other book, the fact that she always remained on the Avengers side meant something to this reader.

Even before Bendis had her destroy the Avengers team in Disassembled, even before she wiped out the mutants at the end of House of M, she was this woman who was trying to balance having a family and saving the world and having powers that were probably too much for anyone to handle. She seemed to offer opportunities for storytelling in a way that so many other characters cannot.

Wonder Man

The oldest comic I own is Avengers 9 which features Wonder Man’s origin. He joins the team in that issue, but it turns out that he’s an infiltrator for Baron Zemo to take down the Avengers from the inside. Of course, at the last minute, he has second thoughts and turns on the villains only to perish…

And that might have been the end of it. But in comics, death is not something that lasts. And sure enough, nearly 140 issues later, he “wakes up”.

He’s one of those characters who is tied to so many cool plots and storylines. His brother is the Grim Reaper, an Avengers baddie. His brain patterns were used to bring the Vision to life, making them defacto brothers… which gives him a tie to Ultron. He was “created” by Baron Zemo.

Moon Knight

Yes, Marvel’s “Batman”. He’s one of those guys who is flat out insane.

No, really, he’s legit crazy pants. He has voices in his head talking to him. He develops alternate personalities under the guise of trying to infiltrate the criminal underground and ends up with a fractured psyche. He talks to an ancient Egyptian god: Khonshu, for whom he acts as his hand of vengeance.

I had hopes that he might be the next Marvel character used by Netflix for a new show, but with them pulling their properties back in house (I’m guessing), I’m wondering if that is now more or less likely to actually happen.

Hawkeye

Yes, the Bow and Arrow guy from the movies. When I started reading, Hawkeye was the leader of the West Coast Avengers, and in stark comparison to someone like Captain America or Mr. Fantastic, he led in a very off the cuff sort of way. He was definitely the type of person who leaps, doesn’t worry about where he might land, and somehow makes the best of the fall. And unlike the East Coast squad, he both understood that they might be the “B Team” but he wasn’t going to treat them as such.

Plus, I loved that he had been a villain to start out (one of Iron Man’s villains in fact) that realized he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, then launched an attack on the Avengers in their mansion, all to prove to them that he deserved a chance on the team.

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While I obviously dig the Captain Americas and Thors and Iron Mans of the Avengers, the above are the types of characters that, as a reader, you can “claim” as your character. There is something special about that.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com