Leading Questions: The Real MVP

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 22, 2017.

Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.

So without any further ado…

They say don’t meet your heroes, but who has grown in your estimation after encountering them?

I’m going to keep this one short. That’s because it would be too easy to go on about all of the great people I’ve met in comics, and because I think this column will be a bit more meaningful if it just points to one person.

Before I get to that one person though, I do want to point out that comics is filled with great people. No matter how much we may complain, and lordy we do, the vast majority of folks I’ve met are genuinely enjoyable personalities who are kind and generous. More than four years ago I conducted my first interview with Greg Rucka and he treated me, a complete novice writing for a nothing site, to an hour of his day and far more knowledge and stories than I had any right to expect. He set a high bar that most creators I’ve encountered have continued to meet.

I do think it’s a bit easier to act with kindness and generosity when you’re in a position of power though. That isn’t meant to take Rucka or any of the other greats for granted. Their humility is a fantastic quality, but when people know who you are and you’re making enough money to actually have a saving account… well, that removes some stress. It’s easier to be good when you’re doing well and everybody wants your time and attention. That makes me appreciate some of the creators I’ve been able to watch from an earlier point in their career that much more.

One guy in particular I would point out in response to your question is writer Christopher Sebela.

I met Chris at my very first San Diego Comic Con at the Hilton bar. We were both maxed out on people, and I know I was maxed out on a few other things. The patio was jam packed and I was looking to hunker down. A mutual friend had introduced us, and he was kind enough to let me bum a cigarette. We bullshitted for a while and had a good time from what I recall.

That’s it. There’s no big reveal to the story or stunning act of kindness. Chris was a good guy to hang out with and talk with even when he was absolutely exhausted. What sets him apart that weekend was that it was a time that could have gone to a lot of people’s heads. He had just been nominated for an Eisner Award and we’ve both seen how that grows some egos three times overnight. That didn’t appear to be the case with Chris. He wasn’t too busy for someone looking to catch some fresh air besides him on the patio that night. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris be too busy for anyone.

We’ve continued to run into one another over the past few years. It’s a pretty even split between late night bars at conventions and less comics-related gatherings in various other cities. Across that time Chris has built a larger and larger library, worked with an increasing array of great artists, and done plenty of things worth more pride than an Eisner nomination (e.g. surviving a month in a clown motel). Across all of that what I’ve noticed is that Chris has not changed, and I mean that in the best way possible.

He’s still level-headed. He still has a wicked sharp sense of humor. He still cares a lot about his work and, more importantly, his people. And you’d never know he’s approaching the realm of a hotshot because he genuinely does not believe he’s better than you just because he’s writing for DC Comics.

So when I think about my heroes in comics, I’ll always have a big list of people who have already made their mark – folks like Stan Sakai or Brian K. Vaughan – and persist in being great people. However, the people I think I’ll recall most fondly are those I got to watch grow and remain true to themselves and the great people they are.

That’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s why I think comics is lucky to have someone like Chris Sebela.

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Dark Days: The Forge #1 is Nothing to Get Hard Over

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 21, 2017.

Occasionally DC Comics puts out over-sized comics to hype their upcoming sales and changes to the universe. They’re giant advertisements stuffed with characters and some of the more recognizable talent in the brand’s stable. You get comics like Countdown to Infinite Crisis and DC Universe Rebirth. They’re not coherent narratives, but they’re passable entertainment because of the price tag: $2.99 or less. It’s difficult to complain about 80 pages of comics with decent art of favorite superheroes for less than a buck, though god only knows I’ll try.

It’s a completely different deal when you sell that same level of dreck with less than half as many pages at $4.99.

Dark Days: The Forge is this sort of un-story. It is meant to show fans things they recognize in the hopes it will encourage them to buy some more comics down the road that actually reveal something resembling a narrative. This comic doesn’t possess anything like plot points or a sense of causality though. It jumps up and down shouting “Look at this! Now look at this!” Did you know that Batman knows everyone? Did you remember that Court of Owls thing? Did you want to see Green Lantern? If Dark Days: The Forge is a wall, then the characters and artifacts of the DC Universe are shit being flung to see what might stick.

That style of writing makes itself difficult to critique because of the very fact that it is not a story. You can’t discuss motives or characters or even dialogue within a broader context because there is none. Yes, it is ridiculous that Duke Thomas goes from fiercely defending the Batcave to traipsing about with Green Lantern in two panels, but that’s what happens when show n’ tell is the name of the game. If you aren’t already familiar with the people, places, and things that fill panels in this comic, then you won’t learn anything. If you are, you won’t learn anything new.

The real tragedy of this comic is that it’s deeply boring to look at. Even the most inane comics can be redeemed to a large extent by a killer art team, and Dark Days: The Forge goes all out. It rotates between pencil and inks teams of John Romita Jr. and Danny Miki, Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, and Jim Lee and Scott Williams. It’s DC Comics bringing out the biggest names they have on both halves of the equation for some of the dullest pages of 2017 thus far.

This is a comic composed largely of people explaining things to one another, which is a concept that doesn’t lend itself well to comics, much less superhero comics. In spite of interesting venues and arrays of canonical items decorating walls, artists are still primarily tasked with having Batman talk to Aquaman, or Batman talk to Mister Terrific, or Batman talk to Superman. Lots of panels with people talking. The occasional roundhouse kick or wide panel of the Fortress of Solitude isn’t enough to inject any awe to the explain-o-rama that is this comic.

Kubert’s work stands out as feeling the most rushed of the three. He receives arguably the best panel of the comic, a splash of a batsuit emerging from lava to save the day. Yet line weights are so monotonous and the pose so still that it reads more like a convention sketch than professional work for a prestige title.

Romita on the other hand continues to excel with Miki on inks. His Fortress of Solitude and the appearance of Mister Miracle offer the closest thing Dark Days: The Forge has to genuinely affecting moments. There is a scale and attitude in these things that make them feel larger than life, whereas so much of the comic is either poorly done pastiche or all too familiar in a less obvious way. Not even this pairing, DC Comics’ real pencil and inks dream team, can help the issue rise above itself though. A few better than bland moments cannot elevate a collage of moments that all cry out for unearned attention.

Those are the central sins of this advertisement passed off as the must-read superhero comic of June. It’s an intangible spatter of selling points for other comics lacking even the intent to appear interesting. You don’t need to go any further than that and you don’t need to read any further than here.

That having been said, if you really want, there are some real goddamn nits worth picking in this book. That’s especially the case if you spent five bucks like a certain idiot writing this review, so here are five more real problems with this comic:

1. Batman needs to go to prison. A fun reveal in this comic is that Batman has kept Plastic Man in solitary confinement for years because he is “too unstable” while extracting molecules from his body. That’s the kind of shit that would make most dictators fucking blanch. I get that morals are skewed in a superhero universe, but this is nothing short of a monstrous reveal played off as a joke. It’s the kind of thing that one person thought of, but nobody bothered to think about. Habeas fucking corpus.

2. There’s a page packed with a gallery of DC Comics memorabilia made from metal. You have Dr. Fate’s helmet, Aquaman’s trident, Wonder Woman’s bracelets. Because the upcoming series is titled Metal, and this is The Forge, and they’re all made out of metal. Do you get it? Do you get it?

3. That hallway of iconic objects just speaks to a broader issue too. The entire comic attempts to weave disparate elements of DC Comics into a secret history, tying The Outsiders, Nth Metal, the Court of Owls, The Joker, and more into a web of conspiracy. Everything in the DC Universe is apparently connected, and that actually makes the entire concept a lot more boring. The obsession with origins and everything being part of a single giant story needs to end.

4. Jim Lee can’t draw faces from below.

5. The enormous boner that everyone in this comic has for Batman is nothing short of obnoxious. Aquaman points out that Batman technically invaded his kingdom in secret for years, putting Atlantis at risk, without even bothering to tell his friend… and then he shrugs it off. Superman, Mister Terrific, and others all follow his every word and then repeat how they’d be foolish not to like a pack of cub scouts whose pack leader is the guy who drinks his own piss on Discovery Channel. Even when Mister Miracle realizes Batman is doing some insane shit, he just points out it’s crazy, but then flies off and does nothing. DC Comics is Batman’s world and everyone else is just lucky to show up, I guess.

That’s it. That’s all there is worth saying about Dark Days: The Forge #1, and then some. Boring is a boring word, but it’s the one this comic deserves. It’s an advertisement, and not of the mildly clever Super Bowl variety either. No, this comic just reminds you of things you know about DC Comics and hopes that vague sense of nostalgia or being in on the joke will compel you to keep dropping cash.

It’s too damn bad I appear to be the sort of sucker they were gambling on with this book.

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Local Comics Store Spotlight: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 21, 2017.

The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.

This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.

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For the past 6 months on ComicBook.Com I’ve been writing about comic book shops across the United States and beyond on a weekly basis. The process of finding shops worth highlighting to comics readers, creators, and other retailers has been more exciting that I ever would have anticipated. No matter what your opinion of the current comics market, the people selling comics are going out of their way to build new audiences and create exciting shops in their own communities. You can look back at any of the 24 stories so far and see people helping other people, whether it’s by providing a safe space for them to go or a story that might change their lives. The shared thesis of these columns is clear: Comic book stores are special and they matter to the people who find them.

So this week I want to talk about a very special comic book store, the very first comic book store I ever shopped at: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, NE.

Dragon’s Lair is the oldest store in the state of Nebraska and one of the oldest in all of America. It first opened its doors in 1975 and has been an integral part of the city’s geek community ever since. In its 42 years of existence it has opened a new location, moved more than once, and survived a fire (more on that later), but it has recognizably remained Dragon’s Lair every step of the way.

For comics readers who discovered the medium at an early age, walking into either of the current Dragon’s Lairs locations is likely to elicit a familiar shiver down the spine. They are packed with everything a young fan might want to devour. There are quarter boxes stuffed with hidden treasures (like the original Suicide Squad), bookshelves jammed with collections and the new releases of the past month, and miniatures galore. Every inch of the walls and much of the floor is packed with comics and associated fun. Walking in is like diving into a pool, minus the obnoxious exercise and chilly water.

While this may sound like an all too familiar comic book store, for thousands of people it has been a place of discovery and oftentimes a second home.

The key to realizing what makes Dragon’s Lair special can be found by simply spending time in the store. There are events almost every night of the week. They range from role playing group gatherings to organized tournament play of miniatures and card games. Both of the Omaha locations have areas dedicated to hosting groups and they’re regularly full. This is where awkward high schoolers come to gain acceptance and make friends. This is where kids come to discover a form of reading they actively love. This is where parents come to remember their own childhood and provide a great one for their own kids. All of these examples are true in Omaha, where many parents or grandparents have been visiting the shop since the 1970s. In a city filled with restaurants, baseball tournaments, and football fans, this is a place for everyone else. Everyone else makes great use of Dragon’s Lair too.

The original location was opened on the intersection of 83rd and Blondo, near the center of modern Omaha. It doubled its size in 1995 and provided enough income to open a second location in the Millard area of the city. It was a shop as familiar to the face of the city as anything besides the Henry Doorly Zoo or Rosenblatt Stadium. Unfortunately, it came to a sudden and unexpected end in 2014.

On a cold Sunday morning in February, Dragon’s Lair caught fire after neighboring Treasure Mart . Thankfully no one was hurt, the only loss was the hundreds of comics inside. The community of Omaha rallied around the store though with hundreds of fans sharing stories and support, while the many other comics stores in the area did the same. There was a recognition both of the importance of this location and the community it had helped to foster.

The store reopened only one month later about a half mile down the road from its original spot. While the outside may not appear the same, the inside offers the same great pool of geek culture for Omahans to dive into. Owners Bob and Sharon Gellner and store manager Craig Patterson remain fixtures behind the counter, and they brought the spirit of the original shop with them. No matter the weather outside or the current event in comics, Dragon’s Lair still offers a home for everyone in the city seeking to read comics.

That’s the lesson of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games. While many of the stores highlighted in this column provide a special twist, event, or innovation on the local comic book store, the idea of that store is great in and of itself. The LCS is a place where people can celebrate what they are passionate about and find like-minded friends who sometimes even become family. Dragon’s Lair has been providing that place to Omaha for 42 years and based on its quick recovery in 2014, there could be easily be another 42 years in the making.

As long as there are fans and comics, there will be great stores to support them. We should all be grateful for our own personal Dragon’s Lair and the people inside it, wherever we might have been lucky enough to find it and them.

Store Info

Name: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games

Address: 2227 N 91st Plaza

Omaha, NE 68134

Phone: (402) 399-9141

Website: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games

Twitter: @thedragonslair

Facebook: Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games

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Leading Questions: How About Some Hugs With Those Dick Punches?

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 15, 2017.

Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.

So without any further ado…

We often praise the visceral moments where a comic comes to life through action. It’s cool when Batman stomps someone’s hand through a half-rolled down car window. But it’s Clark Kent’s wink that fills your heart with hope. What are some of your favorite gentle moments in books otherwise known for their violence?

When you sent me this question I did what I often do to start these columns: I looked through my library for titles to kickstart my interest. What I found interesting was how many answers began to jump to mind as I worked my way through the shelves. There wasn’t one right answer, but a veritable bounty of items that could work. I want to start by touching on some of my current favorites, as you did ask for moments, plural, but what was even more interesting was the theme they created. While Clark Kent’s wink is a nice moment, in and of itself, I think it and these others show off a more important lesson about storytelling.

SPOILER WARNING: I’m going to be discussing some big reveals and moments from comics that range from being one month to twenty years old. I’m going to clearly label the comic and creators before discussing anything specific though. So feel free to skip any paragraphs that include a moment you don’t want spoiled; I promise the thesis at the bottom will hold together even if you skip a few specific examples.

I want to start with a very recent example because it’s the first one that leapt to mind. COPRA #30 created by Michel Fiffe concludes a long arc in the ongoing series with a variety of team members reuniting in the United States after almost a year (in publication time) spent apart. It’s a reunion that doesn’t go perfectly and results in the absolutely hideous execution of Wolfgang Ice by Lloyd. It’s a page turn that does not shy away from what happens when an unhinged marksman empties both barrels into a heroin addict at point blank range. Ice is almost unrecognizable, looking like a kindergartner was given a pack of only red crayons for their coloring book.

That and a few other fights deal out some really top-notch violence that give way to some much needed reunions. I don’t think there are any more anticipated than the slowdown between Guthie and Wir. After being separated and run through a ringer of non-stop battles, they’re finally able to spend some time alone in a motel catching up. There has always been something innocent about their relationship containing both a pure element of romance as they appreciate one another on an emotional level and an interesting mentor-student component. As they kid one another just like they did in COPRA #1, it’s a release from the series’ cycle of violence and revenge. That is until the cycle continues in the most horrifying way possible with a single gunshot.

There’s a similar moment of connection and cathartic release in Jason Shiga’s Demon that spans the end of Chapter 7 and start of Chapter 8. If you’ve read a single chapter of Demon, then you’re aware of the ultra creative ultraviolence it contains. This is a story packed with so much death that it eventually constitutes multiversal genocide. Jimmy Yee’s quest to die leads him on a horrible path of carnage packed with exploding jets and cum knives. It’s consistently horrifying in the funniest manner imaginable. And then Jimmy comes to learn the daughter he thought was dead is still alive.

The page in which you see the young lady for the first time and the expression on Jimmy’s face is a tonal shift almost without compare. Jimmy’s driving force has been to die because his family is dead, and yet here he finds the person he cares about most still alive. The story is instantly changed and after spending hundreds of pages rooting for Jimmy to die, you suddenly want him to live. The joy and shock contained in a couple of splash panels is hard to summarize because of how much work is put into making you believe and want the opposite of what you do in that moment. It doesn’t take long for Demon to dive back into darkness, but there’s suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel and it makes the entire experience much more enjoyable.

An older example that still gets me, like so many long-running comics written by Garth Ennis, is the conclusion of Hitman in #60. Before going out to meet their ends, Natt the Hat and Tommy Monaghan have one last drink at Noonan’s. The 59 issues preceding this one are jam-packed with ludicrous levels of violence. There’s a story that primarily consists of murdering baby seals and penguins. They’re evil baby seals and penguins, bus still…

Anyway, these two friends have a beer and discuss what their legacy, friendship, and lives have meant. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability from two characters wrapped in macho bullshit. They acknowledge what comes next and speak truth to one another in a really meaningful way. Just about any man raised in the myth of American manhood can recognize this sort of bonding, and it comes across as being honest in a way that can’t help but summon a few tears. What comes next is every bit as bloody as all the issues to come before, but this moment and all of the history between Tommy and Natt provides some meaning to that additional bloodshed.

The last example I want to tackle comes at the end of the second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, spanning issues 5 and 6. I am of course talking about Mr. Hyde raping the Invisible Man to death before marching off to meet his own demise as he is scorched to a cinder while terrorizing Martians by destroying their war machines and eating them. If you haven’t read League of Extraordinary Gentlemen before that all probably sounds pretty awful; I’m actually underselling it.

Hyde is id unleashed, the worst aspects of toxic masculinity with no constraints remaining as Jekyll fades into nothingness. His destruction of his fellow man and invading Martian both reveal a level of brutality that’s difficult to rival. And yet between these moments, a small aspect of heroism is unveiled as his motives are seen in a single moment of tenderness. After killing the Invisible Man, he makes it clear that it was due to his assaulting Mina Harker. As he marches out to meet the Martians, he stops to greet Mina and asks two favors: that he may kiss her and feel her breast. Mina grants them and Hyde, just as he prepares to die, whispers, “Always I knew that heaven would be the cruelest of places.”

None of this redeems Hyde’s characters or his actions. He is still a monster who commits monstrous acts, but he is not beyond understanding. In these terrible moments of violence readers see Hyde embracing his nature, recognizing both that he is unable to change, but also that his nature cannot be reconciled with a good and loving world. That shift from the more selfish version of the character in the series first volume is related to his relationship with Mina and is crystallized in this moment. His perspective on himself has been changed by the respect and understanding provided by his friend, and so he utilizes his own beastly nature in an attempt to help her. First he commits an act of revenge he knows no civilized person would allow and then goes on to save the world, even if there was only one person he wanted to save.

It’s a tightrope between violence and sentimentality that is incredibly well walked in the pages of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The comic never attempts to justify the violence within its pages or transform ugliness into something laudable, yet it also recognizes that beneath even the most terrible acts of violence lies humanity. Hyde is shown to be a complex individual who still possesses meritorious traits, even if he may not be truly redeemable. The complexity of these tones and juxtaposition of a singular moment of compassion between scenes of horror reveal the complexity of the human condition.

That’s what all of these moments, including the one you mentioned, share. They come in comics that acknowledge and occasionally fetishize the darkest components of the human experience. We watch individuals inflict violence upon one another and themselves in ways that may be fantastic, but all reveal some element of truth. These stories remind us of how we hurt one another and ourselves, sometimes intentionally and sometimes incidentally. They’re ugly, cruel, and heartless, but not entirely.

Just like with our lived experiences, there are more to these narratives. There’s love, brotherhood, and a need for redemption, even if these are only hopes that can never quite be attained. By revealing moments of kindness or compassion, the stories acknowledge the broadness of the human experience and create fuller characters and narratives. They’re better for it and remind us, even in the midst of so much evil, that we can strive to be better too.

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5 Most Underrated Spider-Man Villains Ever

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 14, 2017.

One of the classic debates amongst superhero fans is who has the best rogues gallery, and the question always boils down to two heroes: Batman and Spider-Man. While Batman has the most obvious A-list talent, Spider-Man’s villains often go underappreciated. Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus always rank at the top, but there are lots of Spidey foes who are every bit as great. That’s why we’re putting together a list of the 5 most underrated Spider-Man villains.

With The Vulture featuring so prominently in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Kraven receiving a beautiful new collection of his greatest story ever, “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, it’s time to pay some respect to the Spider-Man villains that get none. These are the villains that continue to pop up, but are rarely deemed essential. Click ahead to see which 5 underrated greats made the list and why we think they are every bit as cool as Gobby or Ock.

The Vulture

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #2

Notable Appearance: The Spectacular Spider-Man #188

The Vulture is a character that only seems like a B-list villain on the surface. Having wings may seem like a pretty lame power (why else would they keep modifying Angel?), but Adrian Toomes makes them work. He’s shown himself to be a consistent threat to Spider-Man, killing loved ones and outsmarting the webslinger for over 50 years. What really makes The Vulture great though is his thematic connection to Spider-Man.

One of The Vulture’s defining characteristics is his age. He is an old man who wants to take back what he believes the world owes him. In this way he is an inversion of both Spider-Man’s place in life and his mentality. Where Spider-Man seeks to live up to his power, The Vulture aims to swoop down with his. This works for the character, but it’s an especially poignant conflict today. We can only hope Spider-Man: Homecoming and future comics explore this contrast in more detail.

Boomerang

Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #81

Notable Appearance: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1

Boomerang may have started as a villain for The Hulk, but he’s firmly within Spider-Man’s rogues gallery now. For all intents and purposes, he’s just another guy with a schtick in New York City, but decades of slow advancement have turned him into a real A-lister. Series like The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Superior Foes of Spider-Man have dug into Fred Myers’ earnest ambitions and terrible luck making him another great reflection of Peter Parker.

Unlike Spider-Man, Boomerang took whatever power he could find and attempted to make himself a better criminal with it. If you remove morality from the equation these to have a lot in common though. Lots of puns, colorful costumes, and big dreams foiled by the worst coincidences. Unfortunately, Boomerang lacks Spider-Man’s conscience and so we get a bizarre mirror image of the ol’ Parker luck where it’s for the best that things don’t ever work out.

Crime Master

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #26

Notable Appearance: Marvel Team-Up #39

Crime Master has two great elements going for him: a killer costume design and an important element of anonymity. The costume, especially that mask, still look great many decades after they were first designed by Steve Ditko. It’s a perfect combination of old school gangster aesthetics with a fearsome, antagonistic face. The lack of a mouth makes it especially menacing.

What’s even more important though is that the Crime can be and has been just about anyone. Nicholas Lewis, the original Crime Master, is every bit as forgettable as his alter-ego would suggest. In fact, so was his son and fellow Crime Master Nicholas Lewis, Jr. Yet the Crime Master never truly goes away. Every time one version is killed or locked up another appears. So that creepy mask becomes a metaphor for the nature of crime that Spider-Man must confront. It will never truly end and each new generation will offer a new iteration. Even if the burglar who killed Uncle Ben is dead, Spider-Man must remain vigilant because there will always be another Crime Master.

The Jackal

Created by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #129

Notable Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #149

The Jackal has been featured notably in Spider-Man comics and is behind two of the most memorable stories in Webhead’s entire saga. However, he has never been particularly loved as a villain (probably because of “The Clone Saga”). That’s unfortunate because The Jackal’s single-minded devotion to a loved one and scientific genius expose Spider-Man’s greatest strengths and weaknesses very well.

It’s notable that The Jackal was originally motivated by his love for Gwen Stacy, much like Peter Parker. However, there is a key difference between the two in that Miles Warren never actually knew Gwen. His conception of love and his response to loss are a terribly twisted form of Parker’s own grieving. The monstrous turn of The Jackal’s life exposes the heroism of Peter Parker and Spider-Man alike, as they both move forward continuing to protect and love others, instead of becoming consumed by a singular obsession.

Kraven the Hunter

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #15

Notable Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #294

Yes, he was a founding member of the Sinister Six. Yes, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is widely respected by Spider-Man fans. Yes, he’s a household name amongst comics fans. But no, Kraven is not rated nearly as well as he deserves. Kraven the Hunter is one of the greatest Spider-Man villains ever and deserves to be compared to Doc Ock and the Green Goblin, which he almost never is.

What makes Kraven a spectacular villain is that he represents the exact moral opposite of Spider-Man; he is selfishness embodied. Kraven’s entire life and his pursuit of Spider-Man is dedicated to self-aggrandizement and wealth. He does not care about helping anyone besides himself and is singularly obsessed with his own power and how it makes him special. He is a Randian nightmare set on destroying the New Yorker most dedicated to helping the working man. There’s no villain in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery better suited to showing off why Spider-Man matters than Kraven the Hunter.

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Local Comics Store Spotlight: Another Dimension

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 14, 2017.

The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.

This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.

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We often hear the phrase “dip your toe in” and think of the shallow end of the pool. It’s just a little bit of contact with water that allows you to adjust to the temperature and learn how to handle more of it. The vision of just dipping your toe in only alludes to a fraction of the overall pool though, and anyone who has learned to swim can tell you that the goal is to make it to the deep end, even when you only have one toe in. Another Dimension, a comic book store in Alberta, Canada, can be compared to a pool in this way. While it excels at helping customers dip their toes into comics, it has always been sure to show off the entire pool so they have an incentive to keep swimming.

Another Dimension is one of the oldest comic book stores in Canada or North America having opened 34 years ago. Throughout that time owner John Tinkess has seen a lot of changes, but his goals and mentality towards running the shop have remained consistent. He’s a lover of comics and believes the strength of the medium can carry a store a long way when properly shared.

That faith in comics is apparent in the appearance of Another Dimension. “We were stocking every graphic novel and trade paperback we could get our hands on in the 1980’s, long before the format was widely accepted” says Tinkess. Looking at photos of the shop (just two slides ahead) you can see that their stock has remained daunting. Entire bookshelves are dedicated to a single creator, providing an aesthetic that is as much like a library as anything else. The variety of comics on display cover a wide array of regions, creators, and genres, meaning the comics in Another Dimension really are for everyone.

This diversity of selection and massive stock of comics, popular and unpopular, is a feature, not a bug. While the audience has shifted over the decades, the goal of luring in anyone interested in trying comics has remained consistent. For a long time this meant tempting adults and non-traditional buyers to check out a medium with an undeservedly bad reputation, but that challenge has diminished, especially over the past ten years. “The growing acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form and the diversity of new comics being published now has only made our job easier” says Tinkess.

Tinkess is proud to announce that he still has some customers from Another Dimension’s very first year. Readers seem to stick with the store, even after 34 years. However, the current crowd of customers is a diverse set that covers all generations. Tinkess has noticed a surge in the number of women reading comics at his store and attributes this to the increase in both the quality and diversity of comics being sold. Despite many dreary predictions about the future of comics in North America, Tinkess has a different take. “It’s funny, people have been talking about the “end of the comics industry” for as long as I’ve been in this business and yet we keep getting new readers all the time” he says. It seems that in spite of any current bumps in the road, the longview for comics is still pretty cheery.

That shouldn’t suggest the comics sell themselves at Another Dimension. Tinkess and his employees have put in a lot of work throughout all 34 years of the store’s existence. Much of what makes it work can be said of any small retail store: “professionally run, well kept, inviting, and welcoming to people of all stripes.” The concept of the returning customer is even more important in comics though. Unlike with cars or computers, a comic book store needs readers to return on a weekly basis to stay in business. That’s where Tinkess and his crew really make the extra effort.

Tinkess stresses that his staff is energetic and positive. They don’t pass judgment on customers for what they read and try to help everyone find a comic they’ll love. The need to create a safe, welcoming space for anyone interested in comics dates back to when Another Dimension opened and comics were frowned upon. “When I was a kid, if you read comics beyond a certain age you were viewed as a freak or possibly mentally challenged in some way but the comic store was a safe haven to be able to enjoy your interests openly” says Tinkess. Another Dimension isn’t just a place to read comics, it’s a place to feel great about reading comics.

When asked about what comes next for Another Dimension, Tinkess can’t help but respond with a laugh and a joke. “Another 34 years, if I live that long?” he says. The real future of the shop isn’t too far from that kidding though. Tinkess and his staff are excited about all of the comics being made today and the many new voices rising in the industry. The adventure of the past 34 years has provided them with the fuel to keep going for at least that much longer, selling comics and having fun.

Store Info

Name: Another Dimension

Address: 424 B – 10 ST NW

Calgary, AB T2N 1V9

Phone: 403-203-7078

Website: Another Dimension

Twitter: @ADComics

Facebook: Another Dimension

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10 of the Best New(ish) Comics of 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 13, 2017.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through the year of 2017, but it’s true. In such a hectic year, it’s easy to miss out on great new series and exciting comics releases, but that’s why we’re here. Just like we did with our Best New(ish) Comics of 2016 list, ComicBook.Com is back to catch you up on what new comics you should pick up in 2017.

There are a lot of truly great series and original graphic novels available right now, and we at ComicBook.Com want to highlight some of the absolute best. In order to narrow our scope, we’re focusing on relatively new things that either debuted this year or started at the end of last year (too late to be considered for our Best Comics of 2016 lists). If you’re looking for some recommendations to expand your comics reading or simply get away, we guarantee this list has some excellent starting points.

And don’t forget to share your own favorite new series of 2017 in the comments below!

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

Created by Emil Ferris

Published by Fantagraphics

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters had to start this list. There has been no greater discovery in the world of comics this year than cartoonist Emil Ferris. The first volume of her two-part story is a revelation in mood, structure, style, and history. It tells the story of a young woman in 1960s Chicago whose upstairs neighbor is murdered. The story is crafted through her notebook where she discusses the investigation, her fascination with monster movies, and her adolescent awakenings. It’s a stunning collection that pushes the comics medium forward while telling a very entertaining and engaging story.

Bug!: The Adventures of Forager

Written by Lee Allred

Art by Mike Allred

Colors by Laura Allred

Published by DC Comics / Young Animal

All of the Young Animal series to date have been successes and Bug! doesn’t break that record. In a year that DC Comics has packed with Jack Kirby tributes, none is better than Bug!. It tackles a wide variety of Kirby’s favored cult characters and stories, but tells them in a fashion that is entirely Allred. By also pulling from other beloved DC tales like Cosmic Odyssey, the Allreds are touching on the importance of legacy and how artists build on what comes before. So Bug! manages to be both a delightful superhero romp and a compelling meta-story about why we love the genre and its best artists.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Created by Sina Grace

Published by Image Comics

Sina Grace’s autobiographical comics have long been revered for their directness and simple impact. They detail life in a matter-of-fact manner that allows readers to discover romance and sympathy within mundane struggles. Nothing Lasts Forever is his best work to date as it details a single year and how success and failure often come in odd combinations. It’s a thoughtful work that encourages readers to pick up their own pencils to explore life.

Black Bolt

Written by Saladin Ahmed

Art by Christian Ward

Published by Marvel Comics

Artist Christian Ward is one of the best artists working in comics today and everything he touches at Marvel Comics turns to gold. First it was The Ultimates, and now it’s Black Bolt. Ward is teamed with novelist Saladin Ahmed to tell the story of the once (and future?) king of the Inhumans as he faces an unjust imprisonment. It’s a story rife with cosmic settings and characters, plenty of action, and even more unexpected humor. This is what we want from superhero comics and it’s a gorgeous read.

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero

Created by Michael DeForge

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Every new comic from Michael DeForge is noteworthy, but Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero feels particularly notable. The fictional biography of a multitalented woman (who is interviewed by DeForge in the comic) grows the artist’s interest in maturation and his unique aesthetic. The woods and its many creatures that surround Angelic make for a poignant backdrop to this fascinating tale.

Aliens: Dead Orbit

Created by James Stokoe

Published by Dark Horse Comics

James Stokoe has managed to transform a licensed property that seemed best suited for film and transform it into one of the best horror comics of the past decade. Rather than simply imitate what works best in Alien or Aliens, Stokoe has utilized his immense cartoonist’s toolbox to tell an enthralling story. Aliens: Dead Orbit playfully twists timelines and images into an experience readers will not soon forget.

Slasher

Created by Charles Forsman

Published by Floating World Comics

Forsman’s Revenger is a twisted take on revenge comics like none other, but Slasher is taking his work to a new level altogether. It blends familiar elements of violence with new tones of comedy and drama that defy any easy genre description. The comic is twisted beyond belief in ways that will horrify some readers and leave others in stitches. Slasher pushes boundaries in ways that ought to be read and discussed.

Transformers vs G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation

Created by Tom Scioli

Published by IDW Publishing

In a one-shot follow up to Scioli’s work on Transformers vs G.I. Joe, the cartoonist adapts his original series twice over. The hook of Transformers vs G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation is that it is the comic book adaptation of Scioli’s series. By itself it is an enjoyable, ADD-riddled ride, but taken within the context of the original comics it becomes a commentary on Hollywood and the nature of compromise. Never has a comic so deeply immature had so much to say about its own and other mediums of mass entertainment.

Soupy Leaves Home

Written by Cecil Castellucci

Art by Jose Pimienta

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Soupy Leaves Home is a comic that is all about mood. It tells the story of a young woman who flees her home in order to ride the rails as a hobo. From there she goes on a sentimental journey filled with art and lighthearted adventure. Soupy Leaves Home is a beautiful comic that evokes emotion without restraint. Whether you’re reading it alone or with young ones, this comic is highly recommended.

Roughneck

Created by Jeff Lemire

Published by Simon & Schuster

Despite a large catalog at both Marvel Comics and Image Comics, Jeff Lemire’s best work in comics has always arisen from smaller tales told in rural Canada. Roughneck is a return to form that juxtaposes the small and mundane with the epic and universal. It takes readers on a journey through Ontario they won’t soon forget, and that will remind longtime fans why Lemire is renowned.

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Generation Gone Interview with Andre Araujo and Ales Kot

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 12, 2017.

Generation Gone is the next high-concept, socially aware, sci-fi series from Image Comics. It tells the story of three young people trying to escape the rat race of day jobs and a scientist who shatters the boundaries of what humans can do. Their stories quickly merge to explore themes of technology, unintended consequences and the superhuman in a comic that is equally explosive and thoughtful.

What sets Generation Gone apart from similar series is the maddeningly talented creators behind the book. Writer Ales Kot and artist André Araújo have united to tell this ongoing narrative of exploring the future and how human nature will change it. After reading the first issue it is abundantly apparent that this pair is speaking to ideas that transcend the moment. It is a comic that is both aware of now and interested in what comes next.

ComicBook.Com was able to interview both Araújo and Kot about their work on the upcoming series and what they hope to achieve.

ComicBook.Com: You’ve done a lot of work at Marvel on the Spider-Man and Inhumans properties as well as a The Wicked + The Divine one-shot recently. What was the biggest change for you when you began to design the world and story of Generation Gone?

André Araújo: The biggest change is that it’s all up to me, basically. All the designs, all the details, I’m completely free to create it as I see fit. On Marvel comics (or other pre-existing IP) most of it is already defined, from character designs to the places. But when you create your own stories, you are free to design the world and story as you see fit. I already had that pleasure with my previous creator owned book, Man Plus, and it really is a joy from a creative point of view.

ComicBook.Com: As an artist you’ve shown a knack for detailed world building and big, surprising visuals. What element of your work do you expect to surprise readers with in the new series?

Araújo: In this story there is a demand for subtle acting that I’ve never had to deal with before. So I had to employ a lot of care and detail into choreographing those scenes, which depend much more on small gestures and facial expression and demand a lot of precision. There’s a lot of spectacular, big scale action as well, but I’m particularly proud of the quiet moments.

ComicBook.Com: The first issue focuses a great deal on character building. While there are fantastic elements, most of the impactful moments come in quiet moments of conversation. How do you make quiet moments like those feel big?

Araújo: The hardest part in a comic book is always the quiet, subtle moments. It’s relatively easy to draw the big action scenes, the explosions, the fights, the crowds, the city-scapes. But three people having a conversation while having dinner? Dam, that’s tough. As I said above, it’s all about details, about the small things, being precise with gesturing and faces as much as possible, make it suit the dialogue well, and create a good flow with interesting camera angles all the time. Also it helps that Ales wrote very good scenes. With his dialogue there was already a rhythm that made things easier for me.

ComicBook.Com: Along those same lines, there are a couple of sequences that silently detail the lives of the core trio of characters in this first issue. How do you go about deciding on what are the right moments to show them in their “ordinary” lives?

Araújo: I think one of the strong points of Generation Gone is that you get to know deeply know these characters, from a personal level. For me, as an artist, at times it got so close that I felt I was peeking into a stranger’s private life when reading the dialogue and looking at what I had drawn. And I think that’s because we made the right choices about what to show. It always comes down to: what matters to the story. That’s how I decide what is included or not. It’s not math, so how my decision process works is mostly up to my personal preferences and style. But overall, I believe every detail you add to a panel is a chance to give more depth to the story, to show something about the characters and the world. In the same way, every scene is a chance to show character development, and combining both we had the silent scenes which help to show the lives of our characters. They come in a point where you’ve seen enough about them that you don’t need dialogue to follow it, as well as contextualize much of what will be seen throughout the future issues.

ComicBook.Com: Generation Gone is also set in a world not too dissimilar from our own with a few heightened details. How do you go about deciding what to keep and what to alter in order to create that facsimile?

Araújo: Again, it’s all about what fits the story. We serve the story with dialogue, art, color, lettering, design. And that’s always the factor I weigh in when creating it. We let it flow naturally within a world that’s pretty much like ours, but when needed we heighten certain aspects. To give a specific example, the labs/military facilities look a bit more sci-fi-fi, to convey the sense that despite this world looks like ours, there is certain technological development that’s already beyond the one we have in the real world.

ComicBook.Com: When you think about the thematic core of Generation Gone what is it that you find most compelling about the comic as a storyteller and how has that influenced your work?

Araújo: At the core of Generation Gone is the emotional link between characters. That’s what guides their decisions and moves the story forward. So I think that the personal motivations of the characters have influenced me more on this story than on my previous work, and that has been very interesting for me because it forced me to improve my work in relation to acting and emotional range that I’m able to convey to each scene. I believe that, due to it, we ended up with a book that doesn’t disappoint with action and big scale scenes, but also brings some very compelling dramatic scenes.

ComicBook.Com: What about Generation Gone are you most anticipating seeing an audience respond to for the first time in July?

Araújo: The fist impressions will be very interesting to hear. I think that the first issue sets the entire story in different ways than what we’re used to see, so I’m looking forward to see what the reader’s response will be to it.

ComicBook.Com: The last question I’d like to ask is in regards to your collaborator Ales Kot. How did you two first connect on the series and what makes Ales a good storytelling partner for you?

Araújo: The first time I heard directly from Ales was through Tumblr. He wrote me a note saying he loved my work and wanted to do something creator owned together for Image. I was immediately interested, so we started emailing and talking, figuring out what we wanted to do. My suggestions were more abstract, since I wanted the opportunity to work with the sense of scale, by drawing stuff that was intimate as well as large, sprawling scenes. So he suggested an idea about teenagers who find something that gives them superpowers and we quickly agreed with. I think the way he builds characters through dialogue makes his writing special and gives a lot of substance for the script, which is what you want as a storyteller. We also connect well in the sense that we allow each other space to do our own thing, and that is a major point in any writer-artist relationship.

ComicBook.Com: Over the past few years you’ve created a pretty diverse catalog of work. What sets Generation Gone apart in tone and theme?

Ales Kot: Generation Gone is a story of three hacker kids who get superpowers and their lives fall apart just as the military goes after them. It’s SKINS meets UNBREAKABLE and bits of AKIRA and who knows what else, set in the United States of America, pretty much NOW. It’s raw and it’s real and it’s elevated and it goes places that, I believe, will surprise most readers.

ComicBook.Com: You’ve never hidden your politics in public or in your work. Have the events of the past year living in America impacted your conception of what this story will be?

Kot: Completely! One of the characters, for example, deals with the pressures of having two jobs while supporting her mother, who has cancer, both in regards to her treatment and the mortgage on their house. And with a relationship that starts showing signs of something…well, do I really need to say more? If I’m making a story set in the US right now, it’s impossible to not be political. As a matter of fact, it’s always impossible to not be political. Even a refusal to be political is a political statement. And not one that ages well. That, of course, doesn’t mean I have to be didactical or simplistic. I’m not interested in that. What I’m interested in exploring and showing is real people going through extraordinary changes and circumstances. What I’m interested in is exorcism as alchemy.

ComicBook.Com: One significant theme raised in the first issue is the unpredictable impact of technology and the amorality of it. When looking at the current jumps in technology and how they impact us, do you find yourself feeling more optimistic or pessimistic?

Kot: I find myself realistic. What the word means to me is utilizing both logic and emotion to see clearly. Technology is not moral nor immoral; it just is. How we work with it — that’s another question entirely. Is it true we’re losing jobs to automatization and that the technology sector doesn’t seem to have much respect for human rights and life? Sure. Does that mean it’s bad? The second, yes, definitely, but the first, not necessarily — what we need is to find a way for automatization to improve everyone’s lives, and that’s a part of fixing the second bit. The way we are conducting our society, the way the technological growth process is conducted on a large scale, is currently pretty vile, because there’s so much parasitical behavior attached to it. It’s rooted in human greed and human lack of empathy. So we need to change that because we have such potential to do good things, and we’re doing many of them already, there’s just so much ballast to still unlearn and undo in how we live our lives and treat our communities! We need more empathy. We need more listening. We need more open communication. We need less judgment. But the technology and the machines themselves? They are fine.

Though, of course…as we program the machines, they become infected with our own problems. So we could go on.

ComicBook.Com: Generation Gone appears to be brushing up against the superhero genre in some ways. What is it about that genre that continues to draw your attention?

Kot: I mean, I haven’t really done much in the genre, have I? Besides my work at Marvel and the four issues of Suicide Squad, and even that’s a…superhero book by very strange standards? So my sense is this is the first time I’m actually doing something that could be classified as a superhero book where I have full control. Or rather, a superpower book…we’ll see about the hero part.

What drew my attention here was exactly that: I realized I’ve never done a book with superpowers that was truly my own, where I and my collaborators always had the last word. I wanted to see what happens when you find these kids just as they are diving off the edge — and they go through a transformation that makes all of their issues pop times hundred. Can’t do that in a corporate superhero/superpower fiction without risking being held back.

And…I love Ballard, but also, I come from a place with a history of the Second World War, and the commonality between Ballard and the atrocities of that era is seeing who people are when pushed far. The natural consequences of high pressure and fast change. Chaos and order messing with each other. It’s where we find out what we’re really made of, often.

ComicBook.Com: One thing I appreciated about another Image Comics series of yours Material was the inclusion of footnotes recommending additional reading. What books, films, or comics would you recommend to someone after they picked up Generation Gone #1?

Kot: First of all, thank you! Material remains one of my most beloved creations. As for recommendations, let’s say I’d pick one per each medium you mentioned…Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels cycle for books, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank for films, and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira for comics.

ComicBook.Com: What about Generation Gone are you most anticipating seeing an audience respond to for the first time in July?

Kot: Honestly, I’m not anticipating anything. I just hope it connects, you know? But I don’t want to give people a map of how it should connect. That wouldn’t be art. That would be economics.

ComicBook.Com: The last question I’d like to ask is in regards to your collaborator André Lima Araújo. How did you two first connect on the series and what makes André a good storytelling partner for you?

Kot: I reached out to André through Tumblr. I connected with his art a long time ago — ever since I first saw it, I suspect? What caught my eye were the depth, subtlety, directness and playfulness of his lines, and gradually also the quality of his character work, the way he lets characters act. André’s ability to help me connect with characters and convey wide variety of emotions reminds of the great late Steve Dillon, one of my all-time favorite comics artists.

Then it was just a matter of talking and figuring out what project felt right — and we pretty quickly agreed on Generation Gone. It was because of all I described above, plus the sense of influences I could gather from André’s work (Otomo comes to mind), plus my sense that he could pull off any sort of scale — from the most intimate to the largest, most space-y scenes imaginable. And the thing is, he’s even better than I believed he would be.

 

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Leading Questions: The Shadow of The Batman

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 8, 2017.

Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.

So without any further ado…

Why is The Shadow less popular than Batman?

So there are a couple of obvious paths to take with this one.

First, I know you’ve been digging the new Batman/Shadow mini-series and would probably love to hear someone vamp for it. That’s fair. Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando teaming up with artist Riley Rossmo to tell some vigilante tales is set up that actually deserves the moniker “dream team”. I’ve only read the first of two issues available, but it’s pretty good. However, I don’t know if it gets to the heart of the question you’re asking, at least not from my perspective.

Second, there’s the obvious and most historically truthful answer. It’s all a matter of time and place. The Shadow came a few years too early in the wrong medium. He was a pulp hero at a company that doesn’t exist anymore telling essentially the same tale that Batman would tell at DC Comics as it was preparing to explode. Like so many other things in art, the success of one particular project as opposed to another can honestly be chalked up to a matter of happenstance. That’s not a particularly exciting answer though and I’m not much in the mood for research.

So what else sets The Shadow and Batman apart that would make the latter more popular than the original from which he took so much?

The Shadow and Batman have a lot in common. Their both urban vigilantes who utilize fear and weaponry to investigate crime and beat up bad guys. They both have a great deal of wealth and spoopy costumes that only work in a heightened setting. They both come from a tradition of highly accessible entertainment during one of America’s darkest modern periods. They are both created by men who don’t get nearly enough credit: Bill Finger for Batman and Walter B. Gibson for The Shadow. And even then, when it’s so commonly accepted that Batman’s roots are so intertwined with those of The Shadow, they still feel incredibly different.

When I think about these two characters there is a key difference in spite of all their similarities though. It doesn’t have to do with their historical origins or how willing one is to kill as opposed to the other; it’s about how they are defined. Thinking about them as cultural icons with very similar origins and motifs, the stories told with these characters ask two very different questions. The Shadow’s stories ask “Why?”, while Batman’s stories ask “Why not?”

That distinction isn’t about any broader themes; it’s about the characters themselves. The Shadow is a very clearly defined character. Whether you’re looking at a reprint of a pulp from the 1930s, one of the various comics iterations from the past few decades, or even Batman/Shadow, The Shadow doesn’t seem to change much. His costume, modus operandi, and attitude are constant. He’s inextricably woven into a Great Depression setting and mentality that always seems to present in a very familiar manner. For some reason there have been no major changes to The Shadow over almost a century of existence. The Shadow is a constant and resists alteration by asking why any would be necessary.

Batman is quite the opposite. While his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 is not much different than The Shadow with funny ears, he quickly begins to alter his appearance and stories. Finger and other collaborators experimented a great deal within the first few years of Batman and Detective Comics, providing a sidekick, a memorable rogues gallery, and plenty of themed gear. Batman quickly grew beyond what he was initially and it was a result of looking at each new change or choice as a matter of why not.

There’s a temptation to look at these two questions and paths of existence as being in competition. The Shadow has remained a consistent vision easily traced to his creator. The Batman has become many things to many people connected almost entirely by details of plot or appearance, but with very little substance shared. While we can take a pulp book of The Shadow from 1938 and compare it with his most recent incarnations, comparing the Batman of 1939, 1966, and 2012 reveals dramatically different characters.

One isn’t better than the other though. These are just different approaches and neither of them are intrinsic to the characters themselves. The question of why not with Batman is most likely a result of that boring historical question I chose to ignore at the start of this week’s column. Batman is a very popular character whose continued popularity has benefitted a lot of people. The need to reinvent him and lack of creative ownership have ensured his consistent reimaginings. The Shadow’s popularity waned before it became necessary for him to receive a campy 60s television show or grim and gritty 90s successor.

No matter how you cut it, serialized characters like Batman and The Shadow are tied to their history. Even when you leave out the dry facts of who published what and what company owns whom, the popularity and trends of any given decade have a big impact on what happens to these characters as they continue existing. There’s only a few years between this pair of very similar characters, and just that has made all the difference.

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Local Comics Store Spotlight: Visionary Comics

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 7, 2017.

The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.

This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.

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Some places are defined by where they have been and others are defined by where they are going. Visionary Comics in Riverside, California belongs to the latter of those two categories. The store opened just over one year ago in May of 2016 and in that brief span of time has seen so much support that it is already prepared to move. It is a local comics store defined by big dreams and big hearts with plans to become the heart of the comics and geek community in this California community.

Visionary Comics is owned and operated by Jazmine and Nestor, two comics lovers younger than the staff at many other stores. They opened the shop intending to create a space where anyone could gather to relax, hang out, and enjoy their favorite hobbies. “[We also wanted] a space where we can hold classes and events” says Jazmine. That plan has come together quickly over the course of 12 months. The shop holds weekly movie and gaming nights that attract a big crowd, especially within the current location’s small space.

Events hosted at the store have ensured lots of good word of mouth spreading around Riverside and beyond. People who come to Visionary Comics tend to fall in love with both the store and its owners. “We try to make sure every event is special and that everyone is having fun” says Jazmine. One of the key goals of the store when it opened was to be more than a retail space and these events have shown people they’re welcome to spend time at the store just like a second home.

Between Tuesday and Saturday, it’s a guarantee that either Jazmine or Nestor will be in the shop. They take their role as curators of both comics and community seriously. “Nestor and I are accessible to every customer. So if there is any feedback, they come straight to us, and we will listen” says Jazmine. Whether it’s a request to carry a new comic or an idea for a new event, Riverside residents can be sure Visionary Comics will do what it can to help.

Click ahead to see what the future holds for Visionary Comics and how they are receiving support from their community to do more.

In spite of how much has been accomplished at Visionary Comics in the course of just one year, the store has already encountered obstacles and limitations. “It’s still a place people come and talk about art, books, and movies, but we can’t do the classes in such a small shop” says Jazmine. People are comfortable squeezing into the store for events, but it’s still a squeeze. That’s why Jazmine and Nestor have decided to go to Kickstarter for the funds to move to a larger location.

Kickstarter wasn’t the duos first choice. They originally sank their own capital into opening the store: renting space, buying comics, decorating the walls, and much more. More money is required for a move and additional square footage. Unfortunately, banks don’t look at comics stores as safe bets. Even after a year of successful sales and with a dedicated customer base, loans are not easy to come by at a reasonable rate. So now Visionary Comics is looking to their community to give them the extra boost necessary to grow the dream.

They also like the idea of using Kickstarter because it creates a relationship between Visionary Comics and its backers. “It had a way for us to say thank you to all the people who donate through our pledge rewards” says Jazmine. Those rewards range from a spot on the new store’s thank you wall to a variety of Visionary Comics swag. Ultimately, the rewards from the Kickstarter will make the store’s patrons a part of the store and help carry its name further into Riverside, CA.

What’s most exciting about the store’s expansion are the plans for what to do with all of the new space. “I expect us to be holding classes every week on stuff like zine making, screen printing, button making, etc.” says Jazmine. She and Nestor also want to make the store a more important part of their city, able to hold more people and collaborate with organizations looking for educational and arts space. The opportunities for the business and its fans will grow along with the floor plans.

Visionary Comics is a young store, but in its short history and the Kickstarter that represents its future you can see the ambition and creativity of the comics community. Two young fans have created a successful business that both supports their passions and the Riverside community of comics readers. They filled a space where no comics store existed and made something that is special to many people. The weekly events, wide array of comics, and personal touch all contribute to making Visionary Comics something unique. Just like with the comics medium today, it appears the best is still yet to come for this little, but growing, comic book shop.

Click ahead to see full details and photos of Visionary Comics, and consider supporting their Kickstarter event if you live in the Riverside area.

Store Info

Name: Visionary Comics

Address: 3257 Market Street #10

Riverside, CA 92501

Phone: (951) 999-8268

Website: Visionary Comics

Twitter: @visionarycomic

Facebook: Visionary Comics

Kickstarter: Visionary Comics

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