I’ve read a couple of reviews of Age of Ultron which criticize the character of the villain, the murderous AI named Ultron. One called him “generic.” Another suggested that he wasn’t as clever a treatise on the dangers of artificial intelligence as some other film which was released recently.
Ultron, as is pretty clear from my last entry’s discussion of his “son,” the Vision, is, after all, only half a treatise on artificial intelligence. And the Vision, is not a treatise on its dangers, but on its wonderful potential. Dangers? Let’s be honest, everything that’s wrong with Ultron as an intellect is also wrong with a lot of humans. And that gets me to my refutation of that other accusation: that Ultron is generic. Ultron is, indeed, a deeply personal menace to the Avengers. For not only are his failings also theirs, he is, in fact, born of the hubris of one of their own. Tony Start believes he can enforce the perfect peace by building an AI, and he seizes on the technology behind Loki’s alien scepter to do that.
So my favorite Marvel film has been taking a pounding this week, from the usual nay-sayers who wanted it to be Batman, or who wanted it to be just the first one again (suggestion – watch the first one again!) I’ve heard Ultron called a generic villain, and read that Evan Peters was a better Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.
I discovered Wonder Woman when I was about nine years old. The very first story I ever read was her first cover appearance in Sensation Comics #1. (Not the original issue, but a repro from the 1970s, when DC Comics cared about its history and took lots of opportunities to introduce new readers to old stories.) I quickly ordered a similar repro of Wonder Woman #1, and so I pretty much knew from the beginning that Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, who wrote under the name Charles Moulton, was a psychiatrist. I knew he was the inventor of the lie detector test (but, sadly, not the person who wound up with the patent for it), and that he had created his character intentionally to give comics readers an example of a strong female. (Not just, it turns out, as a role model for girls, either.)
So last week I took some well-deserved shots at Marvel’s self-serving list of their 75 greatest comics, comic storylines, and graphic novels, published in their 75th Anniversary Magazine. Supposedly, the list was voted on by fans. If that’s true, I’m very disappointed in what’s left of Marvel’s fans. Anyway, as promised, here’s my picks for 15 of Marvel’s greatest.
A few of these are just personal favorites. But largely, I feel they represent the building blocks of the Marvel Universe, the foundation of all that came later. The modern creators who dub themselves “architects” (when perhaps they should merely be called “remodelers”) stand on the shoulders of giants. Without these stories below, and many others like them, all the shocking character death, all the sudden moral reversals and changing of heroes to despicable villains, all the experimental water color art and all the boring nine-panel grids of the same two characters in the same positions with the same expressions, could never have seen the light of day. For their highly referential presence would refer back to nothing.
There is no order of importance here. They’re just chronological.
X-Men 12-13 (7/65,9/65) “Who Can Stop the Juggernaut?” Okay, actually its first part was titled simply, “The Origin of Professor X.” Either way, it’s the scariest comic I’ve ever read. Cain Marko is not seen in his mutated form until the last few panels. Instead, like the Alien in Alien, he slowly stalks the mutants throughout the issue while Professor X explains his history and tells the teen heroes just how truly f____d they are. I kid you not, I had nightmares in fourth grade. Continue reading
Recently I happened to come across the Marvel 75th Anniversary Magazine. Reminiscent of “house” fanzines like FOOM or The Amazing World of DC Comics (but slicker and lacking their folksy charm), this all-color celebration of the company’s 75th birthday includes an interview with Marvel founder Stan Lee, a history of how a little company called Timely Comics ultimately became Disney’s Marvel Entertainment, and–disappointingly–a feature titled “The 75 Greatest Marvel Comics of All Time.” This includes cover shots representing, as promised, 75 individual issues, graphic novels or storylines from Marvel’s history. There’s an emblem on it, “Chosen by YOU!” Apparently, Marvel.com allowed its readers to vote.
Apparently, nearly all of Marvel.com’s readers began their comics-reading careers after 1990. The breakdown of time comics selected, by decade, goes like this:
I happened upon this volume almost by accident. I’ve always been a huge fan of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1975 – 1977 science fiction series, Space: 1999. I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it, in fact, because the show seems to provoke resentment from most corners of Fandom. If you’re a fan over the age of about 35, you remember how it felt to like Star Trek or comic books, back before Fandom became just another cash cow for Hollywood? Before the Marvel Movies conquered the box office? Before The Big Bang Theory? (The show, not the actual theory. Note the italics. Punctuation is key.) Before geek was chic?
Yeah, it was a bad feeling to be a fan in those days. Everyone looked down on you, to include your peers, siblings, teachers, sometimes even your parents! Well, as bad as that felt for, say a Star Trek fan, it was worse for a Space: 1999 fan. Everyone looked down on us, including all other fans! To this day, I’m careful at cons and on panel discussions about mentioning my love of this series, because people actually groan in revulsion.
I somehow missed this when it came out in time for Christmas, 2012. In fact, I’m not 100% sure how I stumbled across it last week. Other than their Logan’s Run adaptations a while back, I don’t read too many Bluewater comics, so I doubt it was a house ad. Alas, that’s the nature of the Internet, especially when you’re as ADD as I am. Searching for one thing can lead to something you didn’t expect, which sets you on a mission. In this case, surfing around for something unrelated brought up a stray reference to a Capra tribute done in comic book form, and I had to find out what that was about. So whatever I’d been searching for was forgotten, and I had to jump on ComiXology and buy this.
Frank Capra is one of my heroes. I have a list of four big personal heroes, and a list of, I guess, “others.” Mostly right now the distinction between “big” and “other” is that the “others” are still living, or that their principal body of work falls within my lifetime.
Marvel Two-In-One. The title kinda says it all, doesn’t it? You buy this book, you’re getting two for the price of one. In this case, two super-heroes. On a smaller scale, it’s the logic that, in the 1940s, led National Comics and All-American Comics to create the Justice Society, or, later, DC Comics to create the Justice League. It’s like this: Some kid has only one dime, and doesn’t know if he wants to read The Flash or Green Lantern. Hey, kid, suppose you could get both for one thin dime? And a bunch of other characters besides? Wow! It’s like getting free super-heroes!
And of course, what you don’t say to the kid is that you hope he’ll get hooked on the “free” super-heroes, and, instead of one thin dime a week, start spending five or six dimes a week, so he can keep up with all those new characters he’s been introduced to. It’s the same principle by which drug dealers give away free crack. (I infer. Do drug-dealers give away free crack? I’ve never met a drug dealer. That I know of.)
(Total comic geekiness this week. No need to look within for any profound reflections on life. Sorry!)
I started reading Marvel’s premier team book, The Avengers (AKA, unofficially, The Mighty Avengers and sometimes The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) in 1974. I grew up with it as one of my top favorite comics. As I grew peripherally aware of who was writing the scripts, who was drawing the pictures, I came to see Jim Shooter’s first tour as author of the Mighty Assemblers’ adventures as something of a golden age for the team. But then, to be fair, I pretty much considered the entire run, from about ten issues after I started reading and figured out what was going on, to the time seven years later when I just felt I’d gotten too old for comic books, to be a golden age. (Too old for comic books at 15. I know, right? Y’see, there was this girl…)
But Jim Shooter, the still-very-young writer who, at age 13, had taken over DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes a few years earlier and made it a fan favorite, brought some very special moments to the team’s history, especially when he was working with George Perez, arguably the greatest artist ever to draw the Avengers. (And that’s saying something, when you consider they were also drawn by Neal Adams, Don Heck, John Buscema and Jack Kirby, to name a few.) Continue reading
I guess the only thing cooler than being interviewed in the pages of one of your favorite magazines is being interviewed in one of your favorite magazines and having the cover art turn out to be this amazing image of Dr. Strange and Clea by Arthur Adams. My friend and sometimes-editor Bob Greenberger did the article on the DC Comics Bonus Book program of the late 1980s, for which I wrote a Warlord story which turned out to be the first professional work of comic artist Rob Liefeld. The interview is fairly short, but includes some reflections of times long-past when I was just starting out. It ships this week! Buy a copy at your local comic shop, or order (paper or eBook) from TwoMorrows.