Tag: spiderman

Comics: A Legacy for the Next Generation

Contributed by Steve Beaulieu

I started collecting comics at a super young age. I remember the first comic book I ever owned was a Spider-man comic book from the early 90s. The cover had him fighting against the green goblin. I had to be about five years old.
We were going “garage-saling” as we called it, and we happened upon a box of comics. My brother and I begged my parents to purchase some and they bought the whole box. I used to sit for hours trying to replicate the images I saw on the pages, often times tracing them exactly.
Years later, long after I’d given up collecting, I found out my wife and I were having our first child. I decided I wanted to have something to share with him. I’m not into sports or anything else anyone would consider very manly. I needed something. Comics became that thing.
Oliver—my son, named after the great Oliver Queen—has a multi-thousand book collection awaiting his grubby hands once he is old enough to know how to care for them.
I recently emailed my brother to see if he still had that little box of comics. Turned out, he hoarded it all these years. He sent it to me, costing me a couple dozen bucks in shipping. Part of me was horribly disappointed to find that most of them were no name or beat up oldies like Richie Rich or Savage Dragon–but there they were—Spectacular Spider-Man numbers 197 (The Vulture) and 200 (Green Goblin).
It was like I dug up treasure on a long forgotten beach. Let’s set a record straight—I don’t like Spider-Man. I’m an Inhumans kind of guy. I collect the mess out of Inhumans—but somewhere in my heart, Spider-Man will always remain because of these comics I had at such an early age. Much to my chagrin, Spidey is Oliver’s favorite, despite my best efforts.
The moral of this story is never discount the impact something as small as a worthless box of comic books can have on a young child. Although they were beat up and without monetary value, they led me to a love for comic books, which led me to coloring comic books, which led me to writing comic books, which led me to writing novels, which led me to unlocking a passion inside of me that is only paralleled or surpassed by my love of God and my family.
I hope every one of you readers can remember the first time you cracked open a comic and felt that joy and magic. That smell of new or old yellowing, brittle paper.
Check out some of those early 90s Spidey books. My favorite run was 1-16 of Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane. It ended with Juggernaut getting his eye gauged out, which Marvel couldn’t deal with. Because of Todd’s rebellion, it opened a door wide-open to Image Comics which gave birth to my all-time favorite comic book Invincible.
Go buy a comic and have an awesome day.

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From Comic Reader to Comic Creator

Contributed by Kevin “Grivante” Penelerick

I started reading comics around ten years old and had access to a lot of different ones. I started with things like Richie Rich and Archie. From there I graduated into silver age Superman, Spiderman, Captain America and other super-hero titles, but mostly Marvel, oh and the original Star Wars comics series.

My access to so many comics came from the fact that at a young age I helped my grandparents out running their stall at a flea market in Everett, WA. Being the kid, I ran the kids section which included everything from barbie dolls to baseball cards, comics and toys. When it was slow I would sit there and read and I would read everything!

First and foremost I had a huge love for Spiderman. The way he bantered with his villains while fighting and also how he was quiet and kind and just trying to do good in the world. I loved the world of superheroes in general. How they struggled against impossible odds but always overcame them and saved the day. The young boy in me really identified with them.

At some point in my flea market business days I met an older kid by the name of Scott. Scott was the one who introduced me to alternative comics and zombies. It’s there that my particular tastes started to shift. He introduced me to one of the coolest and first zombie comics, Deadworld. Deadworld had incredibly gruesome artwork by Vince Locke and blew my mind that comics weren’t just superheroes in tights or silly kids things.

The story of Deadworld revolved around the outbreak of zombies who were let into our world by a spell book which opened some sort of rift between our world and that of the dead. Amongst them was this badass motorcycle riding zombie named King Zombie, who spent most of the series chasing and trying to destroy our small band of dysfunctional survivors.

From there I fell in love with a whole host of independent comics including the early dark and gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Elfquest, which was where my love of deep fantasy narratives began and later, the comic Poison Elves by the late Drew Hayes.

By the time I discovered Poison Elves I was in my late teens and had graduated from selling comics at the flea market with my grandparents to having my own business online during the early days of the internet. I had a huge love for all things alternative, especially the indy comics market where I learned that you didn’t have to be attached to a big company to create and put your work out there.

The fact that anyone could create something and put it out into the world had a strong impact on my world view and how one could achieve success or at least satisfaction from creating. As I’ve gone through life and headed down the path of being an indie author, seeing the successes of those indy comic creators in my younger days has really inspired me to know that anything is possible.

I’ve wanted to write since I was able to read and when I finally got serious about writing ten years ago, I knew comics would somehow be in my future. When I completed my first zombie story, I wanted to try and make it a comic book. I spent several months learning about scripting for comics and then took the story and broke it down panel by panel. I was excited. I spent several more months interviewing and trying out artists before finally choosing one. Unfortunately, after twelve pages the artist abruptly quit. I debated continuing on, but after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get to that point, I couldn’t imagine starting over. I went back and released the story as a novella and from there began The Zee Brothers series.

I released the twelve pages that were completed as a mini comic, which you can grab for free here. I’ve also recently completed a new mini comic that tells a story from within The Zee Brothers universe, called Zombie Buffet, it can be found on Amazon, Comixology and my own website www.grivantepress.com. It explores one of the characters in my series as well as answers the question, what would happen if a zombie was allowed to eat all it could eat.

I recognize I was supposed to be answering the question of what comic impacted me the most and why would I recommend it, however for me, it was really all of the comics I read as a kid. There are so many great stories contained in them and I read and was influenced by so many it was impossible to really name just one.


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Escapism in Comics

First of all let me share with you the definition of escapism as quoted by Wikipedia.

es·cap·ism
əˈskāpˌizəm/
noun: escapism

  1. The tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
synonyms: fantasy, fantasizing, daydreaming, daydreams, reverie;

imagination, flight(s) of fancy, pipe dreams, wishful thinking, woolgathering;

informal pie in the sky

“romance novels offer a form of escapism that many people thoroughly enjoy”

Like many kids who grew up in a small Maine town in the late 80’s and Early 90’s I didn’t have a lot to do outside of traditional small town entertainment. There were recreational sports, outdoor activities and doing whatever random thing I could find to do with my friends. When I was younger that often meant making up various scenarios and acting them out. Whether it was pretending we were characters from G.I Joe, He-Man, Star Wars or the Transformers or just making up our own things. We always found a way to amuse ourselves.

As I got older and middle-school rolled around those pursuits became in my eyes too childish. I began to find myself more interested in trying to woo my ever changing weekly love interest or being part of the in crowd (Both of which I failed miserably at.) It was an awkward stage of life that we all go through at some point. It is also a point in life that starts to shape our personalities and who we are as people.

It was during that time that I found myself getting seriously interested in comics. I had previously read a few titles like G.I Joe, Spiderman, Superman and The West Coast Avengers at random, but had never seriously gotten into them.

That changed for me in sixth-grade when I discovered two titles: NOW comics Terminator: The Burning Earth and The Punisher. Over the top and rather violent by many standards both of those titles sucked me in and I couldn’t get enough of them. When I read them it let me escape from whatever was bothering me at the time. Whether that was not making the sports team I had tried out for, no longer fitting into the clique with the kids who I had been friends with growing up, getting rejected by the girl I had asked out or a plethora of other things.

Comics became a healthy way for me to deal with that awkward adolescent angst and anger. We didn’t have a lot of options for purchasing comics. A few of the stores had a limited amount of titles so it was always an adventure trying to get the ones I wanted. So when I could get a hold of them I devoured them almost as fast as they were purchased. I’d find myself going over issues of The Punisher, X-Men, Spawn, Cyberforce, W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S and LOBO over and over.

I had a few classmates who were into comics and we’d often spend our time reading and swapping the latest issues in study hall. We’d point out what we thought was cool or didn’t like about a certain issue or new series. While never close with those guys, it gave me a glimmer of hope that I wasn’t the only one who used comics to escape.

While today it is more acceptable to be part of the Geek culture in my day it wasn’t. As I got further into high-school I got caught up in the whole you can’t do certain things and be cool stuff. I began to hide my love of comics and it became a bit of dirty secret. Still, they were a way for me to escape and I’d find myself in my room with music cranked escaping into whatever series I was into at the time.

When I graduated I left my love of comics behind. Life happened and I found myself becoming increasingly interested in music and other things. It wasn’t until I started playing in bands, traveling and establishing a larger circle of friends that I found out so many other people had been into comics like I had. These were the people I had always wanted to be like. It turns out many of them were just like me (Funny how that works) they had used comics as a form of escape just like I had, who knew? Hind sight is 20-20 and I wish I had not hid my love of comics from the world in fear of being ostracized. Maybe, just maybe that would have opened up doors to more friendships when I felt like an outcast and didn’t fit in.

Comics were my escape. They helped me deal with the negatives in my life by letting me get lost in others conquering theirs. They taught me lessons that I may not have understood right away, but became engrained in my subconscious. Treat people the way you wanted to be treated. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and sometimes doing the right thing might not be the popular choice.

In the escapism comics allowed me (I didn’t realize this until years later) the most important lesson I learned was this: Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. We’re all different; we all have something unique to offer in this life whether we realize it or not, it’s what makes the world a beautiful place.


Thomas Washburn Jr. Is an independent horror author from Maine who has published two novels The Returners and Mr. Witcher along with the short story collections Legend of North Lake & Other Short Stories and Into Darkness. He also keeps one foot firmly planted into his childhood love of comics with his short story series-Santa Claus: Monster Hunter. You can connect with him on FB www.facebook.com/thomaswashburnjrauthor or check out his work on Amazon www.amazon.com/author/thomaswashburnjr

Reality & Continuity, Or Why 9/11 Reveals Some Insights About Live-Action Superheroes

Superheroes aren’t real. (Gasp, I think one may have just died because I said that). They aren’t, but the rise of realism in comic storytelling that emerged in the second half of the 20th century, means that readers demand realistic elements to the storytelling. Even though our capes are walking deus-ex-machinas, we prefer the veneer that all things are genuine struggles for them. But surprisingly, superheroes do have limits. They are not perfect. Because for all that the superheores can do in their fictional realms, they cannot leap from the page and be a part of this world. However, they can appear increasingly life-like through good and sustained storytelling.

A good measure to think about superheroes is to consider how they operate in response to the world around us? How do they deal with real tragedies such as 9/11 and other tragic events wherein they are specifically designed to protect us from? Herein, I will explore how both DC and Marvel have grappled with that idea and the implications it has had for their cinematic and television universes.

I turn to Peter Coogan and his seminal book on the superhero as a genre (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/222322.Superhero) to highlight the power of the genre over others and how it may operate or deal with the real world.

“Real events from the past are worked in…Likely it will become more prominent as creators are freed from the burden of timeless continuity and are able to present stories that deal with the passage of time in more flexible ways….The superhero has a unique signifying function. It can be used to express ideas that other genres cannot portray as well. Superheroes embody a vision of the use of power unique to America.

Superheroes enforce their own visions of right and wrong on others, and they possess overwhelming power, especially in relation to ordinary crooks. They can project power without danger to themselves, and they can effortlessly solve problems that ordinary authorities cannot handle. This vision of power fits quite well with the position America finds itself in after the Cold War. America is the only superpower in the world, something like Superman in the days before other superheroes and supervillains.”

However, with cataclysmic or galvanizing events, trying to tell superhero stories becomes trickier. Cord Scott articulates this challenge in discussing writers dealing with World War II in “Written in Red, White, and Blue: A Comparison of Comic Book Propaganda from World War II and September 11” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00381.x/abstract):

“The writers and artists had to walk a fine line in how they portrayed these characters and how they showed them fighting the enemy. If a character was too successful at a time when the war was going against the United States, sales went down and people became demoralized. If the superhero did nothing but fight imaginary, nonthreatening foes (such as domestic criminals), then the heroes were not doing their part for the war effort.”

What does walking a fine line look like when dealing with more contemporary events, especially when the perceptions of comics and readers are much darker and adult-oriented, when censorship and violence is much more present within comics?

911—Continuity vs. Non-Continuity Responses

In 9-11: September 11, 2001 (Stories to Remember, Volume 2), published in January 2002, DC published a 2-page feature as part of a 2-volume series of publishers and artists delivering stories about 9/11 with the proceeds going to charities for the survivors. The short piece, “Unreal” features Superman saving a spaceship while breaking the fourth wall and telling the reader that despite his superpowers, he cannot “break free from the fictional pages.” The story reveals a child reading the comic that Superman is featured in and being rescued by a firefighter (likely, in one of the World Trade Center towers). The final panel bears the words, “A world, fortunately, protected by heroes of its own” while showing a silhouette of a firefighter holding an American flag.

By contrast, Marvel Comics addressed 9/11 in Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 2. Interupting the ongoing plotline, the largely internal dialogue of Spiderman is heard as he makes his way through New York City in the wake of the devastation. A bystander confronts him, “How could you let this happen?” He ponders this question and denies his ability to have stopped it with, “We couldn’t imagine. Only madmen could contain the thought, execute the act, fly the planes. The sane world will always be vulnerable to madmen because we cannot go where they go to conceive of such things.” Despite incapable of preventing it, much of the Marvel Universe is dedicated to the clean up in various not-so-sublte disguises. Included in the mix are characters such as Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Kingpin—characters who’s fictitious murders well surpass the death-toll of 9/11. According to Spider-Man, their presence is “Because even the worst of us, however scarred, are still human.”

Brian K. Vaughan’s series, Ex-Machina presented an interesting third option for superheroes regarding 9/11. The series presented the main character, Mitchell Hundred as a superhero who managed to prevent the second plane from striking the second town. Two years later, Garth Ennis would entirely reinvent 9/11, preventing it from happening as we know it and simply having his hedonistic and narcissistic superheroes fighting one another and causing one of the hijacked planes to crash into the Brooklyn Bridge. While both series started with Wildstorm (a subsidiary of DC), The Boys moved to Dynamite Entertainment after the first six issues. However, both were contained universes that had no need to address continuity issues. They also both adhere to Coogan’s point about the chronological distance allowing for them to play with the event.

But DC and Marvel’s approach to the real event is fascinating in its initial reaction to the event. Marvel folds the story into its universe—albeit a bit clumsy. It doesn’t give up its own fictitious realism but doubles down on it. By contrast, DC gives up the ghost and merely says, “Hey, we’re not real and can’t do anything.”

The Real World Approach To Movie-Making

For many years, Marvel was known for being a bit more realistic with its fictional world than DC. The classic, “superheroes with problems” shtick that derived from the 1960s Lee & Kirby team up has long permeated an assumed difference between Marvel and DC. But it goes deeper than that. It’s not just superheroes with problems, but it’s superheroes in a real world. Notice that Marvel Comics, by and large, exist in realm places New York City, Los Angeles, London, etc whereas DC has its fake cities: Metropolis, Gotham, Central City, etc.

This difference also accounts for some of the reason why Marvel has dominated at the box-office in the last decade whereas DC continues to stumble.   Until Man of Steel (although really, not until Dawn of Justice), DC Comics created contained fictions. When the movie ended, the credits rolled and the story was complete and contained (even when sequels would follow, they existed solely within that superhero’s limited world). It was even rare for the movie to reference anything beyond its own world (e.g. Batman might reference supervillains in Gotham, but never those of Superman). For most of the last forty years, every time DC sets to tell a new superhero story in film, they hit the reset button from anything else relating to DC.

For over a decade now, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has continually let viewers know that the fiction does not end. They did this through cameos, Easter eggs, and post-credit scenes—all of which told us, the universe was not contained; there was more story to enjoy. Though this is most clearly done through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (movies revolving around the Avengers character franchises), it was also present within the X-Men movies of the 2000s with numerous references to other characters and events within the Marvel Universe (and, of course, their branching out with the Wolverine movies).

At best, DC can said to be trying to do this now with its TV series and films, but it appears to be in a constant state of catch-up. While its Arrow, Flash, and other shows have found ways to be woven together and that with Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, the films are existing in the same world, Marvel still beat it to the punch in making the jump between the TV and the films with Agents of Shield.

I don’t have a superpower to tell the future, but my guess will be that it will be a long time before DC can meaningfully compete with Marvel on the cinematic level with engaging individual tales that interweave with a large tapestry of stories. Yet I can tell you that when it does, it will because it has stopped admitting its own fictional existence and started to own its vision of what a real world would look like with superheroes.

*This essay was adapted in part from a previously published essay by this author in this collection: September 11 in Popular Culture: A Guide. Sara E. Quay and Amy M. Damico, Eds. Greenwood Press (9/2010).


Lance Eaton is an instructional designer, adjunct instructor, part-time writer, and perpetual collector of degrees. He resides in Beverly, MA with his partner and two adorable cats and is currently working on a PhD. He writes about books, audiobooks, comics, popular culture, education, and anything else that crosses his mind on his blog: By Any Other Nerd (http://www.byanyothernerd.com)

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