17 May 2013
When the previews for Young Avengers #4 came out, there was quite a lot of hand-wringing from the Tumblr zone about Noh-Varr’s line in this panel.
I guess there was probably a lot of hand-wringing about his butt. But I probably glazed over during anything that followed the phrase ‘Noh-Varr’s butt.’ Just to get this out of the way: Jamie McKelvie is doing an extremely fine job of supplying some slightly-older-than-young-and-thus-ok-for-your-correspondent-to-goggle-at totty, here. Who knew the whole part-cockroach thing was attractive?
The question that appears to be being raised by the young people is: is Young Avengers cool enough? And indeed, if it is cool enough, is it also geeky enough? Are Billy and Teddy’s hairstyles preventing them being colossal dorks?
I don’t even want to get into the last question of that (although no, no of course they are not; they’re just vaguely dealing with being super greasy teenage boys for goodness’ sakes) but whether Young Avengers is too cool is a good question.
Y’see, Noh-Varr looks pretty cool. He’s a silver-haired alien boy for ladies in their twenties to mentally high-five Kate Bishop over. He’s got a spaceship and nega-bands and he’s been in the grown up Avengers and he’s totally done it, probably several times. more »
Hazel in The Brown Wedge • 7 Comments
13 May 2013
And add another one to the “why on Earth didn’t I read this stuff before?” pile – Mike Mignola’s excellent and well-praised Hellboy. I skimmed the first ever miniseries half-heartedly on release, thought “Nazis, monsters, pfft” and that seemed to be that. But the steady drip of praise, and the sheer tenacity of the enterprise, kept nagging at me, and in the end I succumbed.
Glad I did, of course. I’ve not yet got to the parts where Mignola hands over the illustrative jobs, so the stories I’ve been reading are purely him, and while I knew he was a marvellous artist I didn’t appreciate the ways in which he’s marvellous. Among them this: he gives good Cthulhu. more »
Tom in FT • 1 Comment
9 May 2013
This week Avengers Assemble #15AU came out, by Al Ewing (yes relation) and Butch Guice. The comic is, as Hazel has pointed out, the most British thing ever published (at least by Marvel) and it is absolutely rammed with references – some obvious, some rather more obscure. Because Al is a pro, I reckon the comic is comprehensible without understanding all this stuff, but it’s safe to say there are parts of it many US readers won’t really get. There’s also parts of it which tap a knowledge of recent Marvel continuity, and we’ll explain that too.
So here’s an annotations post, which in the way of annotations posts will be updated with new information as you uncover it in the comments boxes. (And will also be updated with links and images!)
Contains, obviously, HEAVY SPOILERS for Avengers Assemble #15AU more »
Tom in FT /The Brown Wedge • 18 Comments
1 March 2013
Young Avengers 2, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen (post will contain SPOILERS)
Let’s think about pop and parents for a moment.
Pop from the 50s on may have been about the generation gap, but it was rarely about the generation gap. Parents showed up occasionally as a force of denial, a brick wall, an elemental “no”, but from the start – “Yakety Yak”, say – they’re a figure of fun, too. Gradually they fade from the picture entirely – the dramas and crises, the lusts and dreams of pop are played out in a world emptied of parents. Parents become ever less threatening, more petty, more ludicrous. As the generations turn, they also become the people who failed – and were failed by – pop, fans themselves in some laughable old time, long gone. But now? Aw Mom you’re just jealous it’s the BEAS-TIE-BOYS.
And yet some trace element remains of real struggles, a genuine gap in which the Midwich Cuckoo boomers – hip to pop – faced a parental force whose own shaping experiences (wartime, the depression) were utterly alien. The unbending parental authority of the American 50s and 60s quickly passed into pop culture myth, so much so that it’s impossible for someone like me, born to post-hippie parents, to truly comprehend how real it might have been. But as a myth it lingers, pop’s chthonic enemy from pre-Beatles deep time, remembered in certain phrases or ritual gestures. more »
Tom in FT • 7 Comments
31 January 2013
Another in our series of posts on Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers comic.
The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” came out in August 1963, started building radio play, then hit the Billboard Top 10 by the end of September. A kid hearing it on the radio that month, walking around Ronnie Spector’s New York City with the drums in their head, passing a newsstand, might have pushed aside the Uncle Scrooge and Superman and found something different – one of those new mags Marvel Comics were putting out, and good value too. Three of their blocky, dynamic, aggressively weird heroes – plus two ant-size ones – against some guy in a horned helmet. “The Avengers”.
It’s a coincidence, maybe, that the song Noh-Varr dances to in space is a voice from the very time and place the idea of “Avengers” was born. But coincidences are there to have fun with. 1963 is the year Marvel Comics really started to motor. Going into that summer they were still just about bet-hedging, running romance and Western comics and squeezing new heroes into two-for-one books still called stuff like Tales To Astonish. By the end of the year they had Spider-Man, they had the Avengers, they had a universe taking some kind of shape, and maybe – maybe – they had the first inkling that their comics weren’t being bought by kids. They’d broken through into teens, and college-age readers. Their comics were part of something far vaster, something pop.
Tom in FT • 13 Comments
15 November 2012
I remember Hellblazer being announced, way back whenever it was, and feeling underwhelmed and disappointed: a silly name, and not even written by Alan Moore. And the truth is I never warmed to the comic – now axed by DC after a 300-long run. Sometimes because I was too callow for it, sometimes because I felt I could see through it, and occasionally just because it bored me.
But also always with the sense that John Constantine simply shouldn’t have his own comic in the first place. I was firmly in the camp who had loved the character and wanted to see him slip quietly away from DC Comics as unpretentiously and oddly as he’d arrived. False hope: that kind of thing didn’t happen then and certainly doesn’t now – if you have a breakout hit, you milk it. more »
Tom in FT • 1 Comment
28 October 2012
This is just a coda to Tom’s brilliant (but spoiler-y! Very spoiler-y!) piece on Journey into Mystery. This is less spoiler-y and much more ramble-y and nothing like as in-depth but Tom asked me to write it, so you have him to blame.
I am not a Western comics reader. I have read some and indeed, enjoyed them a lot but in a hobbyist way that didn’t make me feel like a fan, per se. Even for someone much enthused by enormous run of things, the unassailably enormous back history of Marvel or DC characters always felt like too much work in comparison to the apparent safety of manga, where I had done the groundwork to know where my incestuous reincarnated celestial beings were at. Or more accurately to the present day, CSI, in front of which I had found my adult self lounging and wondering if anything in the geek culture that raised me would ever interest me again.
‘So far so nylons and lipsticks,’ you might think; however, this doesn’t explain why I ended up in the pub last Friday, cursing at the Marvel app for its dysfunctional purchase downloading and burbling ‘Kid Loki is THE BEST why did no one TELL me that comics were GREAT?’ Tom enthused about how heartening it was that young people were reading Marvel again- ‘I’m twenty five!’ I protested, ‘that’s REALLY OLD’ and then proceeded to have some kind of showdown altercation with a table. Or maybe a door. Or a fellow patron. A grown up showdown, no doubt.
I was and still am absolutely livid that no one told me how great Journey into Mystery is before- my emotional core has been utterly destroyed by it but I want to curl around it and clutch it to myself as though it were my child. Finally, I totally get why people care so much about Marvel and superheroes- I’m reading the whole of Thor, as though this can somehow provide attrition for my years of ignorance but honestly, it’s the gateway drug that’s the masterwork. more »
Hazel in FT /The Brown Wedge • No Comments
26 October 2012
This essay contains enormous spoilers for the 2010s run of the Marvel comic Journey Into Mystery. If you haven’t read it – the Kieron Gillen run, at least – and you have any interest in doing so, don’t read this first. Seriously.
A theme of Sean Howe’s Marvel: The Untold Story – unavoidably, since it’s a theme of most superhero comics storytelling over the last 30-40 years – is “the illusion of change”. This is Stan Lee’s formula for what readers want – dramatic developments which are always reversible, and it’s what Marvel has always been so very good at.
But it gets harder and harder to do. The readers are wise to it, after all. Certainly death doesn’t work any more – so how about defeat? Marvel’s most recent kink is to have its heroes turn on one another – if the outcome of a hero versus villain battle is predestined, then the only battles its heroes can really lose are against other characters with their own books and fans.
Even here the arc of Marvel comics storytelling bends towards the status quo. And their emotional arcs reflect that too. In the House Of Ideas, change first brings disruption, excitement, thrilling uncertainty. Then a second act of steepening peril, and then – crescendo! – the return of the familiar once again. But renewed, cleansed through ordeal: there’s something almost mythic about it, isn’t there? Or “iconic”, to use a word comics writers began to lay claim to in the 90s, when the transparency of this cycle started to become apparent. The iconic Captain America has returned. The iconic Thor. more »
Tom in FT • 3 Comments
17 October 2012
Seven thoughts on Marvel: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
1. It’s a miracle any good comics ever get published by big companies. The book paints a picture of an industry where at a certain power level or higher almost everyone involved despises the product. This is dysfunctional even by media standards: obviously dealmaking and money count for more than art at the top of the film and music industries but you can still basically imagine label and studio bosses getting some level of enjoyment from a film or album. Not so in comics (though the situation may have changed – understandably, we don’t get the optics on the current Disney ownership we do on anything else). A closer parallel – from fans to owners – might be English football. more »
Tom in FT • 9 Comments
19 August 2012
So farewell then The Dandy (Sort of). Publisher of generally not as good strips as the Beano. Home for many a waif and/or stray from Beezer, Topper, Whizzer and/or Chips. A rag which saw limitless comic potential in a man who eats cow pies and has difficulty shaving. It seems that there is no longer the desire for Korky The Cat’s sub-Krazy Kat antics, and one fears for character whose names are often coincidental with their sole character trait. My initial thought was that someone had caught up with the non-PC border conflict of The Jocks And The Geordies, or that someone had finally worked out the not well hidden gag in Winker Watson’s name. But both of these strips ended some time ago to be replaced by things which sound at least as good if not better. Who isn’t vaguely interested by Tiny’s Temper (about a boy and his anthropomorphised temper) or want to live in a world with a Pre-Skool Prime Minister*.
Selling 8000 copies a week at £1.99 probably isn’t enough to bankroll the publication. There is another way to get some money though. Back in the 80′s, there was a strip in The Dandy called Peter’s Pocket Grandpa. Perhaps I remember it well because I’m called Peter and kids remember that sort of thing (ask any kid called Dennis). It wasn’t a particularly good strip, as was the way with the Dandy. It involved a kid, Peter, whose grandfather had shrunk** and thereafter got into scrapes, usually involving the neighbour’s cat trying to eat him. Never a highlight of the Dandy, it did run for a long time. So much so that what I saw Grandpa In My Pocket I was surprised that nowhere in the credits was it mentioned that it was based on Peter’s Pocket Grandpa.
Grandpa In My Pocket is a CBeebies kids TV show, staring Likely Lad/Grandad James Bolam. It involves a kid, Jason Mason, whose grandfather had shrunk** and thereafter got into scrapes, usually involving the neighbour’s cat trying to eat him (possibly not the case). So its more Jason’s Pocket Grandpa, and the adventures seem more whimsical. But it is basically the same idea. So why haven’t DC Thompson, publishers of the Dandy, gone after the BBC? Well I don’t know how easy it is to copyright a premise for a show, and there are a couple of core differences. But another reason was pointed out by Tom when discussing this earlier.
Perhaps DC Thompson were less keen on going to court with regards to comics rights, when their own character, Peter, which with the Pocket Grandpa’s full name just happened to be Peter Parker.
*Yes. I know. Satire.
Pete Baran in FT • 2 Comments