5 Super Sons Team Ups We Need to See

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 18, 2017.

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Super Sons #1 landed this week and it is already one of our favorite series of the DC Comics Rebirth. Of course, this concept isn’t brand new. Throughout the current run of Superman the idea of a young Jonathan Kent learning about his responsibilities and role has been building. When Damian Wayne was introduced to his ongoing story, it was clear that lightning had struck. The two personalities play off one another beautifully. That they combine two of the greatest legacies in the superhero genre is simply a bonus. It’s a dynamic duo filled with personality, fun, and a long road of lessons to learn.

Part of that learning process comes from the people Jonathan and Damian encounter, not just the villains or obstacles, but the heroes who will help and guide them. They’re already off to a great start with two of the most super dads imaginable, but as they say “it takes a village”. While Superman and Batman are busy defending their own cities or saving the world alongside the Justice League, they’ll need others to tutor them and show off other aspects of the sprawling DC universe. To put it simply, Super Sons is a comic primed with team up potential.

Here are the five team ups we most hope to see in the issues to come as Jonathan and Damian learn what it means to be heroes in the world of DC Comics.

Wonder Woman

This is the most obvious team up and it’s nothing short of a requirement. Jonathan already has a superb maternal figure in Lois Lane, but Damian is lacking one… to say the very least. Both boys may have great superpowered dads, but they need the third member of the trinity to show them a different perspective on how the world works. Diana would no doubt be excited to meet both of her friend’s children and help teach them about her areas of expertise.

Obviously this includes martial arts and strategy. Wonder Woman is a warrior in a way that neither of the other two men are, trained her entire life in the ways of war. Yet that’s hardly the only thing she has to offer. As an ambassador of Paradise Island, Diana is skilled in diplomacy and what it means to pursue the path of peace. She can reinforce the ideas of social justice and feminism in two young men bound to be leaders one day.

The Doom Patrol

Wonder Woman and the dads represent the flashiest side of DC Comics, the straightforward superheroics. The Doom Patrol represent the flipside of that equation; they tackle the stuff that goes beyond strange. It’s important for Jonathan and Damian to know there’s more to the world than punching bad guys. The DC universe is a very diverse place filled with lot of oddities and challenges that aren’t so obvious.

The Doom Patrol can help them learn about the weirder stuff they might have to confront one day, but they can also help these two learn about empathy. All of the heroes of the Doom Patrol have gifts that also threaten to hold them back. Seeing the men and women of this team confront their challenges and help others ought to inspire the boys. It can serve to teach them the important lessons that our obstacles don’t define us and to never underestimate someone based upon their appearance.

Green Lantern (John Stewart)

The super sons need to team up with a Green Lantern and it needs to be John Stewart. That’s because Stewart is really the only Green Lantern prepared to handle this pair and whip them into shape. His experience in the military and as a regular leader in the Green Lantern Corps. makes him a perfect drill sergeant and mentor. He appreciates the importance of teamwork and can stress that no matter how powerful an individual is, they’re even more capable when collaborating.

Stewart is also someone well versed in rebellious attitude. He knows what it’s like to be put in the second spot when you’re ready to shine, and can teach patience and the value of refining your skills as well. He’s a Green Lantern with an incredible reservoir of wisdom to aid these young men in becoming heroes. John Stewart is one of the best teachers in the DC universe and Jonathan and Damian would be lucky to meet him.

The New Gods

If the Doom Patrol can teach this pair about the strange and John Stewart can teach them about the cosmic, then the New Gods can teach them about the truly epic. Never in the history of the DC universe has anyone reached the explosive heights of Jack Kirby in his Fourth World stories. Of course, there are a lot of New Gods to choose from and none of them would be better suited for this team up than Mister Miracle and Big Barda.

Miracle and Barda can not only teach the pair about the biggest conflicts to ever exist, but how to work together with very different personalities and strengths. Despite being polar opposites, this couple are the absolute best romance in all of DC Comics history. It’s their differences that make them strong and keep them together. That’s a lesson Damian and Jonathan could afford to learn, even as a platonic pairing.

Ambush Bug

All of the team ups so far have been about teaching Jonathan and Damian something about themselves and the world they live in. Ambush Bug isn’t here to educate them though, he’s here to keep them on their toes. While superhero comics explore big ideas and grand virtues, they’re also simply a lot of fun. This green suited weirdo is all about having fun.

Whether he (literally) pops up as a returning gag or confounds the two as a playful antagonist, Ambush Bug is bound to both frustrate and delight. His antics are harmless, but his persistence makes him impossible to ignore. As the sons of Superman and Batman, these two boys might possess big egos and it will take someone as silly as Ambush Bug to remind them to never be too confident and to just have fun every once in awhile.

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Are Movies For Kids Better With Kids?

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 17, 2017.

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Here’s where I’m coming from: I’m a movie snob. I like to dress it up in terms like cinephile or film theorist, but what it all boils down to is that I take movies seriously, all day, every day. Part of that identity is being obsessed with how movies are presented. Getting a chance to see movies like Seven Samurai or The Wages of Fear in an actual movie theater makes a huge difference. Seeing movies in the right theater with carefully adjusted projection and audio equipment also has a big impact. But perhaps more important than anything else is seeing movies in a theater with a respectful audience. Knowing your neighbors won’t talk or check their cell phones allows you to become fully enthralled in a film, and it’s perhaps my biggest pet peeve.

So you can imagine that I’m not a big fan of small children at the movies.

It’s not that I dislike children (even if I prefer dogs). Young kids just don’t understand the etiquette of going to the movies yet. When you’re seeing spectacular adventures on a screen ten times your own height with booming sound, it’s easy to forget that there’s an entire room full of people trying to watch it too. I get it; movies are exciting. But that doesn’t make chatter and three bathroom breaks any less distracting for the rest of us. That’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of the Alamo chain of theaters with their strict rules on speaking and age restrictions. It guarantees a movie going experience without the risk of someone else ruining it for you.

Until recently I’d become so adjusted to theaters without any kids or, even worse, talking adults. That was until I went to see a special screening of The Lego Batman Movie. This was a show at 9:30am designed specifically for kids, families, and the young at heart. It’s that last part that caught me. Well, that and the promise of an unlimited cereal bar. If you haven’t had cereal in a while, here’s a free reminder that the stuff is absolutely delicious. Crunch berries were a sure thing, but the new Batman cereal was a solid chocolate-y delight. In any case, back to the subject at hand…

After three bowls of cereal the lights dimmed and it was time for previews. The theater was filled with a buzz of excitement. Kids throughout the auditorium chattered about how upcoming animated features looked, squealed at the appearance of familiar heroes, and asked for more cereal. It was at this moment another Will Arnett role came to mind and I found myself thinking I had made a huge mistake. There weren’t just one or two kids in this theater, there was a veritable army. And if I shushed anyone, then I was definitely going to be the bad guy in that equation.

Would I have to buy another ticket to The Lego Batman Movie just to catch half of the jokes or give it my full attention? Would that mean skipping a later showing of Paterson? Was the cereal really worth the incoming assault on my senses?

I suspect that most sane human beings look at those questions and scoff, but don’t worry, I get it now. Because in this scenario I wasn’t a movie fan being put upon, I was a jerk getting ready to be enlightened.

When the screen went black and Will Arnett began to explain how all the best movies open with a black screen a hush fell over the theater. It wasn’t because Arnett’s Batman voice is demanding, although it is. It was because I clearly don’t give children enough credit. This was clearly the start of the movie and everyone in that theater knew that’s what they were really here for, cereal be damned. Eyes were on the screen and the audience was listening.

Of course, there was some chatter after too long. It included on topic questions like “Who is Barbara Gordon?”, which also make the point that we should have Batgirl or Batwoman in many more films. There were also queries that seemed less pertinent like “Is that an iPhone? I think that’s an iPhone.” If The Lego Batman Movie is anything, it’s packed. There are more characters than you can hope to count and a whole lot of movie pieces, pun intended. Through all of that action there was bound to be some confusion and plenty of excitement.

What was surprising though was that this chatter didn’t stand out. What really made an impact wasn’t the occasional question or exclamation, but the rest of the sounds in the theater. The laughter, screams, and gasps were as loud as any movie I can recall seeing. There was a very real energy to experiencing the entire film as each moment landed audibly in the audience.

Rather than serving as a distraction, this audience served as a reminder of just how thrilling movies can be. The experience of watching this animated Lego movie wasn’t singular, but communal. Everyone in the theater, kids, parents, and those of us who just really love Batman were laughing together, and coming close to tears on a few occasions.

On its own The Lego Batman Movie isn’t likely to surprise too many folks familiar with how movies or stories work. It hits lots of similar notes, although it does hit them very well. It wasn’t reinventing anything, but it was deploying its jokes and message very effectively. That skillful use of cinema was what kept all of the young people in the theater interested, and it also served to remind the rest of us of why we first fell in love with movies. These gags really were funny and the themes about family really were affecting. It was the shared experience that served as a reminder on why movie matter.

That’s why I walked out of The Lego Batman Movie ready to reassess my feelings on seeing movies with kids. In addition to the size of the space and capacity of the equipment, we attend movie theaters to share in the experience of movies. We want to laugh at comedies and scream at horror flicks. There was no restraint in this theater and it helped all of us remember that we watch movies together. And while I won’t be attending any screenings of Paterson that allow for young people, I will be attending the next cereal screening of a big animated feature. Frankly, I can’t wait.

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Leading Questions: Finding Hope (Not the X-Men Character)

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on February 16, 2017.

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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…

What gives you hope for the industry?

I know we tend to engage in a lot of innuendo and talking over the issues at the start of these columns, or I do that. But I read this question and there’s no part of me that wants to respond to it in a pithy or caustic manner. When you ask me about hope, it hits a nerve and all I’m left with is sincerity.

I guess I’ll give that a try.

Here’s the thing about hope. It’s easy when you don’t need it and most difficult when you do. Hope is the single matchstick in a dark cave. If we want to keep it comics related, it’s the candle held out by Alfred Pennyworth when his young ward has fallen down a deep dark hole. It flickers and threatens to go out extinguishing any glimpse of retrieval, but it keeps burning.

That’s romantic, probably too romantic for a column that’s just about the comics industry, but we can’t talk about hope right now and contain it to a single niche artform or anything else. Like all of the most important things we feel, things like love and faith, it has a tendency to sprawl across our lives. The hope we feel about our families or friends will begin to influence how we see our careers or passions. Or vice versa. Hope isn’t a singular thing, it’s an outlook, and one that can help us in all aspects of our lives, or fail us across the board.

So when you ask me about what gives me hope for the comics industry, I hear “What gives you hope for any industry?”

It’s people. People give me hope.

Let’s stick to comics because there are a lot of people much better qualified than me talking about bigger things right now. But we all know what those bigger things are, and the answer is the same there as it is here. It’s the people that keep you involved, that keep you inspired, and that allow you to have hope.

We look to the institutions of the comics industry: the direct market, the Big Two, and all of the other powers that are problems. We look to these sections and it’s easy to despair because they are broken. If we look at these publishers and this system as the only way for artists to succeed or for comics to be discovered, it looks like a big ol’ pit of nothing. It’s an endless spiral towards oblivion.

But that’s a lie because comics aren’t defined by a couple of publishers or a single distribution system. That’s not just true outside of the United States either, it’s true right here at home. Because while we watch Marvel flood the market with books that anyone in their right mind knows won’t succeed, we’re discovering books and artists that matter to us. For every chump pumping out hackneyed superhero books, there’s guys self-publishing incredible love letters on Etsy or Comixology Submit that rise above everything else in the genre.

If you care about comics, then you already know the artists and people you’re passionate about. You have friends who inspire you to seek out new work or to push your own work further than ever before. Simply caring about the subject leads you to meet people who care about it too, and who are doing the very work that will give you hope. To care and to love is to discover hope.

So when I’m feeling down on comics or other parts of life that matter to me, I look to the people in my life. I look to you and your work right now. I look to Joe and the work we do together on Reboot Comic Book Club. I look to Megan Purdy, Christian Hoffer, and Steve Morris’ collaborating on The MNT. I look to all of these people and so many others and see a world creating and celebrating comics in so many ways. I see all of this and cannot help but feel endless reservoirs of hope within myself.

It’s people that give me hope and I will always direct others to look towards the people in their lives when they need to rediscover hope for themselves. My fondest hope is that there is something I do that gives people hope, whether it’s in comics or somewhere else in my life. I’m indebted to so many people, yourself included, for my own hope that I must pray I am capable of passing it forward.

I want to cap this one with a quote from someone much smarter than me. It’s something I’ve been doing recently where I focus on the wisdom from those who blazed this path before and found hope and resolve in even darker times. This is a quote from City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. You can listen to a section of it here, and it’s worthwhile. But if you only have a second more, just read this one snippet.

The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right.”

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REVIEW: The Wildstorm #1

This article was originally published on February 15, 2017 at ComicBook.Com.

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Written by Warren Ellis

Drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt

Colored by Ivan Plascencia

Published by DC Comics

There’s nothing about the idea of a Wildstorm relaunch that guarantees success. The original series rode on the popularity of Jim Lee and other headlining creators of the 90s. The characters themselves aren’t found on t-shirts and can’t be named by many current comics readers. The last attempt to relaunch the Wildstorm properties with comics like Stormwatch and Grifter in the New52 was a massive flop. Yet when you read The Wildstorm #1, it’s easy to understand why this new popup imprint from DC Comics is a great idea.

One of the reasons this debut issue works is that it eschews the past. If you’re a fan of old Wildstorm properties, you will certainly recognize names and concepts, but none of it as being sold as something you should understand. Instead, the issue treats itself like a true #1 and assumes readers know nothing. Each character is shown off with a mix of their attitude, profession, and drives. Woven into all of these character segments are a blend of organizations and conspiracies that arise naturally through conversation and action. The Wildstorm #1 is packed with information, a stunning amount for just over 20 pages.

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That amount of information functions well as a read because of how it is presented. At no point do narrative boxes explain acronyms or backstory. Everything you need is on the page, emerging from the story itself. That is not to say there is no mystery. Plenty is left unexplained, but none of it is absolutely necessary. The driving force behind each moment is clear, even if the stakes rarely are. It’s a careful balance, but the instinct here lies with explaining too little rather than explaining too much; a smart choice as mystery is more tantalizing than jargon.

It’s possible for The Wildstorm to seem overwhelming still. An incredible amount of detail is found in this issue, and what allows it to overcome many accessibility obstacles within its density is the presentation. The issue relies heavily on variations of a 9-panel grid, blowing them up to the wide vistas of 3-panels or breaking them down to an incredibly tight-knit 36-panel. It evokes fond memories of formalism defined by writer Warren Ellis and his peers, but its use is why it is actually effective.

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Panels are spaced to create a clear sense of time and detail. Nowhere is this more clear than in the introduction of The Engineer. Her high-flying exploits fill the page in horizontal panels, but her transformation is intensely detailed. The juxtaposition of mid-air action and small details of fractal-like armor and blood make clear the cost and effect of her technology. It’s a fantastic way to visually explain who the character is and why her accomplishments are impressive.

The Wildstorm #1 is packed with ideas and they are exceptionally pursued. Like with any first issue it’s difficult to discern whether the promise will pay off, but the promise is there. While it has roots in the superhero genre, this is a story focused on the rapid progress of technology and the obfuscation of systems within society. It’s a comic that wants to be smart and does more than enough here to convince you it is. Rather than being overwhelmed by its own ambition, The Wildstorm appears to be springboarding off of it into the atmosphere. Only time will tell just how high it may soar.

Grade: B+

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Local Comics Store Spotlight: All Star Comics

This article was originally published on February 15, 2017 at ComicBook.Com.

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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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Comics is not an industry filled with overnight success stories. Almost every big name in the business, from creators to stores, is built on a long history that finally led to a break. That doesn’t mean there are no exceptions though. Sometimes a talent or idea is to great to go unrecognized for long. That’s the case with All Star Comics in Melbourne, Australia. After only 6 years in business the store has already been recognized with an Eisner Award and international attention for their great work. While All Star Comics could be seen as a quick success, that shouldn’t undermine the loads of hard work they’ve done and continue to do.

When co-owners Troy and Mitch set out to open their store in 2011 they recognized that simply having comics to sell would not be enough. There is a massive cost to obtaining comics in Australia since most have to be shipped from the United States. That means bigger prices for customers and more incentives to go digital. “You need to be able to offer your customers an experience they can’t get online” says Mitch. In Australia there’s nothing you can provide customers that they can’t get cheaper from a website with the click of a button after all.

Mitch says, “We had to make All Star a place people wanted to visit.” The co-owners shared experience in comics retail made it clear there was a thriving scene of comics readers and collectors in the city of Melbourne, but there were also several other shops already. All Star Comics would have to be exceptional in order to succeed. The key to success was something much bigger than comics. “Our hope was to become hub for that activity, helping to build and grow the reach of that community of both new and old fans alike” says Mitch.

The difference at All Star Comics is clear when you walk in the door. It is a store designed to welcome and provide customers a space to explore and spread out. Rather than filling it with as much merchandise as possible, All Star Comics is selective with how it fills areas of the store and prioritizes customer experience. Mitch says “Our customers comfort while shopping with us has always been paramount and giving them the space to feel like they won’t knock something over is very important.” Rather than rushing in to find a book and feeling the urge to leave, All Star customers are invited to hang out and enjoy their surroundings.

That invitation doesn’t begin at the door either. All Star Comics also makes sure to stay involved with its community, both the people of Melbourne who already read comics and those who still need to discover them. Part of that can be found in an active social media presence. Customers can easily stay in the know even when they’re not in the store. There’s also a regular schedule of events to provide unique experiences and opportunities that the Melbourne comics community can’t find elsewhere. It’s not a competition, All Star Comics is purely interested in offering new opportunities and experiences to their customers.

Perhaps the best example of All Star Comics’ community building comes not from the owners, but one of their staff, Cazz, and two customers, Soph and Naja. Together they created and organized the All Star Women’s Comic Book Club (ASWCBC). It quickly became one of the biggest comic book clubs for women in the world and has inspired an array of similar clubs throughout Australia. Mitch says the ASWCBC was formed with the goal of “inviting women readers to spaces  they would feel comfortable in sharing their love for comics with other female fans.” It was so successful that it led to a 2-day event called the Women in Comics Festival, meant to showcase creators, teach aspiring artists about the craft, and highlight a rare international creator visit with Hope Larson. The staff at All Star Comics were incredibly proud to host the event and continue hosting the ASWCBC.

That club along with the open, friendly environment of All Star Comics has already led to a shift in the customer base over only 6 years. Mitch says that the number of women reading comics from the store has grown considerably, and the pattern shows no signs of changing. He has noticed other changes as well, like an increase in trade readers as opposed to those who like monthly pamphlets. “The market seems to be in a state of flux” Mitch says. All Star Comics is paying close attention to their customers to ensure that all of their needs are met.

All of that hard work and attention to customers paid off for All Star Comics in a big way when just after 4 years they won the Eisner Spirit of Retail Award. It’s the highest commendation for comic book stores and celebrates shops who do an outstanding job of supporting comics at large and in their communities. Looking at the accomplishments of All Star, it’s no surprise they won it.

Troy, Mitch, and their staff aren’t resting on their laurels though. Each day offers new challenges and the changes in the comics market mean they have new customers and new ideas to share. The heart of their idea remains the same though. Mitch and Troy believe that comics stores are built on the communities in which they exist and with readers who love comics or still waiting to discover their love. “They already exist and are looking for places to foster them, just reach out and make yourself known to these groups and invite them to your space” Mitch says.

Store Info

Name: All Star Comics

Address: 53 Queen Street

Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia

Phone: 61 3 8614 3700

Website: All Star Comics

Twitter: @ascmelbourne

Facebook: All Star Comics

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Advance Review of Scooter Girl

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

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Writer & Illustrator: Chynna Clugston Flores

Colorist: George Kambadais

Letterers: Bryan Lee O’Malley with Christopher Butcher

In the midst of new series being launched every month it’s easy to forget about the variety of stories that are being reprinted at Image Comics. Their mission as a publisher is not purely to support new work, but revive comics that might not have received enough attention or credit on their initial outings. Nowhere is that mission more clear than in the newly issued collections of cartoonist Chynna Clugston Flores. In addition to the newly colored volumes of her Blue Monday stories, Image Comics is re-releasing Scooter Girl, originally published by Oni Press in 2003.

The new edition of Scooter Girl is perfectly timed to land on the week of Valentine’s Day. New readers will be delighted to discover a screwball romantic comedy that could compete with the absolute best of them. It is the story of Ashton Archer, a seemingly irredeemable snob who has his life made, until he encounters Margaret Sheldon in high school. Archer is instantly taken by Sheldon who has absolutely no interest in him. Even worse he becomes a klutz and loses everything he cherishes almost overnight. Archer is forced to move to San Diego where things are seemingly going well until he sees Sheldon again after 5 years.

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The cartooning in Scooter Girl is some of the best you’re likely to encounter in American comics. Some might compare the work to Scott Pilgrim or a grown version of Archie Comics, but comparisons do a disservice to the work. Like all great cartooning it is entirely itself at all times, crafting a world that is consistent and unique. Faces and fashion receive a great deal of emphasis. Lines are carefully chosen to make each character stand out with clear emotions, but maintain the seeming simplicity of design. Outfits, clubs, and scooters are all detailed enough to take on a life of their own. The mod scene of 90s San Diego feels like a real place in these pages and it’s easy to imagine emulating some character’s sense of fashion.

Scooter Girl never draws too much attention to its own style in order to avoid distracting from the story itself. Even separated into five chapters, it’s difficult to set down the volume once it is begun. Each page packs in information and jokes, all while moving the story ahead. Even a detour into the long line of successful Archer men doesn’t feel like a distraction. It builds out the world and establishes a lot of humor to come later in the story. Each tangent is so engaging that a guide on how scooters are constructed would likely be considered “whiz-bang” in the hands of this team.

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The addition of color to the story is well deployed, creating not just an extra coat of paint, but a purposeful new depth to the story. In particular the clothing and places of this very fashion oriented San Diego subculture come out better with colors to define how men and women dress. It also works to accentuate the wide array of emotions and offer a better sense of place in each scene.

Scooter Girl makes the case for romance comics on the week of Valentine’s Day. Like the best romantic comedies, it doesn’t go for the easy jokes or set ups. There’s a meanness to many of the interactions and the punchlines sting. But it’s hard to stop loving even the worst characters or set down the story. With such an immersive world and with a story told with such style, it doesn’t matter what you normally like to read, Scooter Girl is worth checking out.

Grade: A-

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What to Expect From The Wildstorm Relaunch

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

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DC Comics has spent the last year shaking up the direct market and superhero comics in America; they don’t appear to be slowing down either. As the second wave of Rebirth Comics including Super Sons, Batwoman, and Justice League begin to hit shops, so will their second pop-up imprint. Following the success of Young Animal under the leadership of Gerard Way, DC Comics is launching the first of at least four planned series this week under the revived Wildstorm banner.

Wildstorm was originally a comics imprint founded by Jim Lee in 1992 after he left Marvel Comics to co-found Image Comics. It was a combination of two of Lee’s superhero series: WildC.A.T.S. and Stormwatch, but would continue to publish a wide variety of stories including The Maxx and Ex Machina. It was purchased by DC Comics in 1999 and continued until it was officially shut down in 2010. That wasn’t the end for the many characters associated with Wildstorm though as they began to appear in New 52 series and were officially incorporated into the modern DC Universe in Multiversity.

Now the characters created by Lee, his collaborators, and many other comics creators are being given another shot in a world of their own. Under the leadership of Warren Ellis, new teams of editors, artists, and writers (many of whom are still unannounced) will launch 4 series that reflect different aspects of these 25 year old concepts. The Wildstorm, the first of the four series, written by Ellis himself and drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt launches this week. It is the centerpiece of the imprint introducing the world and many of the characters who will soon be given their own titles. We’ve already had a chance to look at #1 and it’s everything Wildstorm fans could have hoped for, packed with new ideas and designs. After checking out The Wildstorm #1 we expect this new imprint to be just as successful as Young Animal, if not more so. So for those of you considering checking it out, we’ve come up with a brief primer on why we’re so excited for what comes next.

Here’s what you can expect from the future of Wildstorm.

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The Wildstorm

Creative Team: Warren Ellis (writer), Jon Davis-Hunt (artist), and Ivan Plascencia (colorist)

Launch Date: February 15, 2017

The Wildstorm is the only series with a complete creative team and official launch date so far. That’s not a surprise though as it is the series establishing what Wildstorm is for a brand new generation of readers. Those already familiar with the brand will recognize a lot of names and ideas, but Ellis and his collaborators are treating this launch as a true #1 where no pre-existing knowledge will be required. That doesn’t mean The Wildstorm is holding any hands though. In the first issue alone it introduces around a dozen characters, multiple organizations, and a handful of deserving sub-plots. This series shows Ellis at his most intricate designing a universe from the ground up with all of the possible considerations taken into account.

That is what makes The Wildstorm so thrilling too. There’s a lot happening on every page and it’s a delight to engage with whether the scene features a techno-organic suit punching through the sky or two spies discussing craft in a backroom. Everything serves a purpose and readers are required to remain engaged throughout the entire comic. Unlike Young Animal where the series are connected tonally, The Wildstorm forms the centerpiece for everything that will follow. In addition to telling its story, it’s also laying down the rules for a new Earth in the DC Universe. Learning about the world is every bit as fascinating as the battles occurring on the page, and that’s what will make The Wildstorm required reading for the rest of the imprint’s launch.

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Michael Cray

Creative Team: Warren Ellis (writer) and unannounced others

Launch Date: Unknown

Many comics readers will recognize Michael Cray by his alter-ego Deathblow. This second series is also being written by Ellis and is already in production. Cray is still an elite assassin working with IO (International Operations), but he’s not wearing a mask and is designed to look and act much more like a real world killer.

Cray is already appearing in the pages of The Wildstorm and it’s easy to see why his story is one that will require more space to tell. He’s one of the best at what he does and has a past filled with secrets already being hinted at. Even with a boss in the frame, it’s unclear who Michael Cray is really working for and what his role in Wildstorm will be by the time his series debuts.

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WildC.A.T.S.

Creative Team: Unknown

Launch Date: Unknown

The WildC.A.T.S. may be the most recognizable set of characters in the 4 series announced so far, but they’re also the biggest wildcard. In the first issue of The Wildstorm there presence is not yet made known to readers although famous figures like Grifter have been shown in teasers. It’s difficult to guess how they might feature given Wildstorm’s restrained design and lean towards realism.

There are a lot of great characters within this group though and the reinventions of Michael Cray and Zealot in The Wildstorm #1 lend excitement to see how someone like Maul or Warblade. For now we can only speculate on who the WildC.A.T.S. will be and what they will do, and hope to learn more very soon.

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Zealot

Creative Team: Unknown

Launch Date: Unknown

Zealot may be the last of the series to launch, but its her face that first appears in The Wildstorm #1. Davis-Hunt makes a clever allusion to her previous appearance, but the Zealot of this new imprint is unlike any previous incarnation. She’s still super competent and a ruthless killer, but her style and methods are much more in line with the realities of assassins and spies.

That first scene in The Wildstorm provides all the reasons you might want for a Zealot series. Her ability to act and interact in this technologically-advanced world filled with secrets makes her one of the most powerful players in the game. She’s cunning and has a wicked sense of humor that arises through understatements aplenty. Zealot may not have been the biggest character of the old Wildstorm, but she’s bound to be the breakout star of this new imprint.

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Can Sports Comics Thrive in America?

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

fantasy-sports-nobrow

Talking about mainstream American comics can sometimes sound like an echo chamber. There’s a consistent refrain concerning the need for comics that are about more than superheroes, but besides recent surges in the science-fiction and horror genres, it seems unclear what else readers are interested in checking out at their local shops. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a bevy of genres and interests just waiting to be explored though.

Just consider the wide world of sports!

If you’ve never read a sports comic before, this is no joke. Sports are just as viable of a genre in comics as they are in film or television and just think about how often we celebrate movies about boxing or baseball. There’s an innate drama to these competitions whether it’s found in underdog stories, team dynamics, or great rivalries. Sports form a perfect pretext on which to build great narratives and provide an existing fan base and easily discovered systems to boot. You don’t need to build as much of a world when everyone already knows how basketball is played. So that leads us to the question: Are sports comics viable in the American market?

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Sports Comics in Japan

Before we consider what can be accomplished in America, it’s important to look abroad. We may not think of sports comics as a popular thing, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world shares that perspective. Considering what has been accomplished in other markets could make for a great measuring stick as to what could be done here. Just take the manga market in Japan, for example.

Among the thriving comics scene in Japan is a dedicated section of books and fans dedicated to the sports genre. Covering a wide variety of activities, including baseball, basketball, and even figure skating, sports mangas generate big readers and big sales. It’s important to keep in mind that manga is a much more mainstream fare that is still featured prominently at newsstands and in bookstores throughout Japan. However, if that is the goal in America, then considering the diversity of stories available in a very successful comics market like Japan’s makes a lot of sense.

There are a few key success stories to consider. Cross Game is a baseball comic about children growing up in love with the game. It connects baseball to its roots in a community and establishes how the love for this game can build individuals with strong character as well as arms. Haikyuu!! and Slam Dunk are two other very popular series covering volleyball and basketball, respectively. Their emphasis on teamwork and competition make for incredibly exciting plots and interpersonal drama. Those who have read them will know that what happens in a single match can be just as thrilling as any superhero battle.

It is also worth noting the many times in which sports is used as a sub-genre within a series. The very popular Assassination Classroom featured a subplot in which the students of Class E were forced to compete in a schoolwide baseball tournament. Their strategization and hard work reinforced themes of the series while offering readers a new sort of adventure (one with far less guns). No matter where you look in Japan, it’s clear that sports are a popular aspect to manga. Whether they feature as the main event or a fun distraction, they attract readers and maintain interest. That in turn indicates that sports comics can be executed successfully, if nothing else.

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Sports Comics in America Today

The use of baseball in Assassination Classroom might remind some superhero fans of how Chris Claremont would regularly use sports in his X-Men comics. The team would play baseball or, later, basketball together in downtime between missions. Claremont and his collaborators would utilize these sequences to show off both the team’s working dynamics and their superpowers. It was a fantastic display of how sports could be utilized to enhance another genre altogether.

Looking at how sports play into mainstream comics today though, it’s clear there’s an obvious lack of selection. Of course, you can always find Gil Thorp in your local newspaper, but that’s not likely to get anyone too excited or attract new readers. That isn’t to say that some creators haven’t been trying new ideas. The Image Comics series Mara was all about an elite athlete and utilized sports as a way to discuss politics. However, it didn’t do incredibly well and doesn’t make for a great argument on a growing American audience for sports comics.

That argument could be made with great sports comics coming from smaller publishers though. There is no better example of that than Fantasy Sports published by Nobrow Press. Each volume of the series combine beloved sports with rollicking adventures in order to create all-ages adventures. In the first volume the heroes of the tale are forced to square off against a mummy in a game of basketball. While elements of fantasy and adventure pervade the story, it’s a great story about basketball at its heart.

fantasy-sports-comics

Sports Comics of Tomorrow

Fantasy Sports is a multi-volume effort and the critical acclaim behind its earliest entries help show how it could provide an entrypoint for future sports comics. While Nobrow may not have the reach of a publisher like Image Comics or Dark Horse, you only need to show a comics fan or young reader Fantasy Sports in order to see their eyes light up. It’s a beautifully drawn series with action that moves as fast as squeaking sneakers down the court. For publishers or creators looking to try something new, it shows how to do sports comics well in the American market.

That will likely be the biggest hurdle that sports comics face, as well. It’s not simply about making them, but making them so that they deserve an audience. Many artists can draw a homerun, but very few can sell the thrill in the stadium when a ball exits the park. Doing it right is the key and it’s in comics like Fantasy Sports and many, many sports manga that those lessons can be learned. It’s possible to imagine a series focused purely on X-Men baseball games or the Marvel heroes poker nights doing well given the right talent.

So there’s no reason why sports comics can’t thrive in America. Great comics with quirky premises or uncommon genres find audiences all of the time. The resurgence of the Archie brand and Chynna Clugston Flores’ work shows how goofy teen comics will find an audience when executed well. It’s up to creators to tell stories about football and baseball and synchronized swimming that inspire the imagination and drive the spirit.

To steal a line from a famous sports movie: If you build it, they will come.

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5 Best Kingpin Stories Ever

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 10, 2017.

in-the-clutches-of-the-kingpin

February is Daredevil month as Marvel Comics roles out a brand new line encompassing the character’s world in three new ongoing series. Last week we highlighted one of them with a list of the greatest Bullseye stories ever. Now we’re back for more as Kingpin #1 hits stands. For as much damage as Bullseye has done, Kingpin is the definitive Daredevil villain. In every adaptation to television or film, Kingpin features most prominently and he has been the mastermind behind all of the Man Without Fear’s greatest losses.

Now he’s back with a series of his own, following the Civil War II mini-series, written by Matthew Rosenberg and art by Ben Torres. It’ll be interesting to see where the villain goes now after so many highs and lows over the past couple of decades. However, fans looking to learn more about Kingpin or discover what makes the character truly great don’t need to wait for any new issues to land. We’ve collected the five best Kingpin stories ever told so far right here. So click ahead to see what you should be reading to find out why Wilson Fisk is Daredevil’s archenemy and one of Marvel’s absolute best villains.

“Born Again”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #227-233

Written by Frank Miller

Drawn by David Mazzuchelli

Colored by Christie Scheele

This isn’t just the best Kingpin story ever created, it’s also the best Daredevil story ever created. “Born Again” features this pair at their absolute best and their very worst. It’s the closest anyone has ever come to breaking the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. After countless battles and the loss of his wife and empire, Kingpin has decided to finally crush Daredevil. He goes about it in the most methodical of manners with each decision made to inflict the most pain. It highlights both why Kingpin is a brilliant strategist and an entirely irredeemable villain. While he never allows himself to smile too much, the joy he takes in this plan is palpable on the page.

“Born Again” is Frank Miller at his absolute best and no one better has ever tackled these characters. He blends a complete understanding of character with some of the most memorable concepts and decisions in superhero comics. Mazzuchelli’s execution of these comics is every bit as good, if not better, than when he teamed with Miller for “Year One”. In his inks Kingpin’s massive brawn can be felt moving between panels and he is a truly fearsome figure to behold. Nowhere else has Kingpin been as intimidating or well-realized as in “Born Again”, a true comics classic.

“Kingpin”

Issues: Punisher MAX #1-5

Written by Jason Aaron

Drawn by Steve Dillon

Colored by Matt Hollingsworth

The downside of writing The Punisher is that it’s very difficult to feature him in stories with classic Marvel villains. If The Punisher doesn’t murder his target then he has failed, so having him face off against the Kingpin seems like a recipe for failure. That is unless he actually can kill Wilson Fisk or failure is the point of the story. Throughout Punisher MAX, Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon had it both ways, but it was best realized in their first story “Kingpin”.

Wilson Fisk may survive this battle, but it sets up a much longer war with Frank Castle and establishes just how vile he is as an antagonist. In order to survive Kingpin is willing to do anything and that really means anything. By the final issue he has crossed a line that leaves him without anything but the name he has built. Rather than having his family taken, he chooses to lose them in an absolutely chilling scene. Aaron and Dillon built their Kingpin to be the inverse of The Punisher and it really defines the character in this series.

“The Autobiography of Matt Murdock”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 4) #15-18

Written by Mark Waid

Drawn by Chris Samnee

Colored by Matt Wilson

Samnee and Waid saved the best for last in their much lauded run on Daredevil and that means they saved The Kingpin. Revealed only at the end of their second volume, it is shown in an incredibly compelling splash just how obsessed Wilson Fisk has become with the hero who always stops him. His obsession, patience, and brilliant mind come together to form a plot that is one of the most compelling in recent Marvel Comics history.

It is never enough for Kingpin to simply win, he is an artist of organized crime and that’s the emphasis of this story. Every action he takes shows an understanding of his opponent and is designed with a specific purpose. He doesn’t display flare like many colorful villains, but details his actions like a mathematician. That exacting detail is shown in the artwork of this story as well as the choices of the character, and it’s a nice reminder of just how dangerous Wilson Fisk truly is.

“Gang War”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #170-172

Written by Frank Miller

Art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s run on Daredevil is the stuff of legend, and for good reason. They may not have invented all of the characters involved, but they certainly defined them and their legacies. “Gang War” is the story in which they establish Kingpin as the greatest threat to Hell’s Kitchen and everything Matt Murdock strives to protect. His overwhelming machinations and immense cruelty stand in stark contrast to everything Daredevil serves.

While some might point to the later story “Spiked” in #179-181 as the highlight of the Miller and Janson run, “Gang War” is where they really decide who Kingpin is. Taking the pieces that Stan Lee and John Romita laid out in Amazing Spider-Man, they transformed the villain into a human being. The added layers of humanity served to only make Kingpin all the more frightening as he came to reflect the worst aspects of human nature.

“In The Clutches of The Kingpin”

Issues: Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #50-52

Written by Stan Lee

Drawn by John Romita

The impact that Lee and Romita had in creating the Kingpin should not be understated though. Like many classic villains, all of the key elements were there from the very start. Romita’s design for Wilson Fisk is striking in his very first appearance. He is built like a brick wall, turning his sumo-style build into something truly intimidating. Much of his power lies in the weight and size of his hands though, capable of scooping up Spider-Man and crushing him.

Even Wilson Fisk’s suit is something to be feared, clearly crafted to represent extravagant wealth and respect. He’s the boogeyman who can mingle with high society before committing murder and ruining lives. Lee and Romita lay the groundwork for everything that is to come, and it’s clear from the start that The Kingpin was bound to be one of Marvel Comics’ greatest villains ever.

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Why March is the Biggest Month for TV in 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 9, 2017.

the-americans-season-5

The phrases “peak TV” and “golden age of television” have been thrown around for a long time now. It seems like each year the variety and quality of shows available to us, both on networks and through streaming services, couldn’t improve upon their current standards. That seems true right up until they do, at least. 2017 is already off to a great start and it would be foolish to suggest that 2018 and beyond don’t hold even better gems for the small screen.

So while it may be impossible to define when we will actually hit “peak TV” if we ever really do, it is possible to pick a peak month of the year. That’s coming sooner than you think in 2017. While we might all be forced to wait until summer for the return of Game of Thrones, the collection of shows continuing or debuting in March are simply unbeatable. Whether you’re a fan of genre TV or someone who keeps their eyes tuned for the next Emmy winning performances and scripts, March is bound to be the best overall month for TV in 2017.

Return of the Best TV of Today

You lead with your strongest argument and March sees the return of what may be the holy trinity of modern TV dramas: The Americans, Better Call Saul, and Fargo. The Americans has gone from an exaggerated Cold War spy thriller to something that feels a bit too close to reality sometimes. That shift hasn’t hurt the show though. It has always been driven more by its characters than its plotting, and that’s to its benefit. The story of this Russian family in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. is fast-approaching its conclusion and drawing comparisons to the tragedy of Breaking Bad. Whether it can pull off that finish has yet to be seen, but all signs from the past 4 seasons point to the answer being yes.

Speaking of Breaking Bad, its spinoff Better Call Saul has done a remarkable job of differentiating itself over its own first 2 seasons. With added humor and an entirely different personality in control, this is still a story of good intentions crumbling from dark desires, but one that stands on its own. Showrunner Vince Gilligan has always set himself apart by crafting some of the best cliffhangers on television and last year was no exception. Jimmy McGill is on the verge of success and complete destruction, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what might happen next. Even knowing the ultimate outcome, Better Call Saul still manages to be edge of your seat entertainment.

Fargo presents the biggest wildcard. As an anthology the two seasons so far have only brushed past one another in the slightest of mentions and a few overlapping characters. They all take place within the same cohesive universe, but what happens one year doesn’t indicate what will come next. Showrunner Noah Hawley draws strength from the tone, style, and themes of the Coen Brothers many movies instead. It’s possible to see their influence in every aspect of the show and it has made the past two seasons feel like a single piece. Whatever the plot, if Hawley can attain the same heights he did in season two, then Fargo is bound to be the most critically-acclaimed show on television once more.

fargo-season-3

The Most Exciting New Shows on TV

What’s TV without something new though? March will see the continuation of two the springs hottest debuts and give all of us a clearer view of how they’ll settle into our personal DVR rankings. HBO will be continuing its new series Big Little Lies. This one is most notable for its cast, one that could only have been attained with an HBO-sized budget. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern are all headliners who could hold down series of their own, and they’re bound to shine as an ensemble. If the scripts are half as stuffed with black humor and tension as previews suggest, then we may be in for some real tour de force performances from them as well.

The more fascinating continuation comes in the form of Legion on FX. This is a series that is already receiving rave reviews and that some have suggested might even exceed its showrunners other ongoing concern: Fargo. While it is based in X-Men lore, Legion is focused primarily on being a character-driven piece that toys with the nature of reality and how its cast struggles with mental illness. It’s a challenging conceit that takes advantage of every tool TV provides, including an incredible sound mix. Even competing against the likes of other shows we’ve mentioned, Legion is bound to continued standing out in March.

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The Biggest and Best Comics Adaptations

Let’s get real though, we’re called ComicBook.Com for a reason and how could we not be psyched about the huge variety of comic book adaptations on television throughout all of March. In addition to Legion, we’re looking at shows from Marvel, DC, and Image properties. You can start with the biggest of them all and think about The Walking Dead. Season 7 will build to its conclusion throughout March, promising another massive cliffhanger and more awfulness of all sorts from Negan. It’s hard to guess what the showrunners have in store to top the end of season 6, but it has to be something big.

In less depressing territory, both the Marvel and DC universes will continue to grow. The great array of shows on CW, including The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl, will also be working on finishing their current seasons with plenty of new adventures and guest stars. Marvel will be introducing a brand new live-action hero on Netflix in the form of Flynn Jones’ Iron Fist. That ought to be exciting as it will complete the quartet of the promised Defenders mini-series. Both universes are still expanding with no obstacles on the horizon.

And there you have it. No matter what you watch TV for, March is bound to be a month of unique treats. Between FX and AMC’s many returning shows there is more prestige television than you can hope to watch on any given night. A variety of new shows are bound to please viewers seeking new styles and ideas, especially with Legion. And the continued adaptation of comics properties are bound to please fans of genre TV. Whatever angle you approach March from, it’s clearly a great month to be stuck to the couch.

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