Greetings from the Odinson,
Marvel does it again! Captain America: The First Avenger was an absolute joy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Marvel getting control of their characters in Hollywood was the best thing to happen for fanboys and girls everywhere. A few days ago, probably due in no small part to the release of Cap’s movie, Lone Star customer John wrote in to inquire about the Sentinel of Liberty. He said he wanted to read more about Captain America, but given that there are dozens and dozens of Captain America Trade Paperbacks and Hardcovers featuring the First Avenger, he did not know where to begin.
The Odinson just so happens to be a huge Cap fan so John’s enthusiasm about my all time favorite super hero really got me jazzed. So I put together a must read list of Captain America collections for him and now I’ll share that list with you. These are the must read Cap tales for any longtime fan or, like John, someone who is a new Cap fan in the making.
Captain America comics have been coming out since March of 1941, nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States headlong into World War II. There is seventy years of history to cover for Captain America but fans, old and new, are in luck - most of his amazing adventures have been collected. This list of collections is in the order they should be read to get the full scope of this hero’s journey.
For his earliest Golden Age (Pre-1960s) adventures check out Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Captain America HC Vol. 1-5. This will cover his wartime adventures orchestrated by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee. Then there were his World War II adventures with the Invaders collected in Invaders Classic TPB Vol. 1-4. Here the Sentinel of Liberty teams up with the original Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and their sidekicks Bucky and Toro to take on Adolf Hitler’s super human enforcers the vile Red Skull, U-Man, Master Man and Warrior Woman, and the Nazi vampire Baron Blood. After the end of World War II, with the Allies victorious and the dawn of the 1950s where a different kind of war would be fought, a Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a need for a Captain America. So, due in no small part to dwindling sales, Cap’s comics were canceled. That is until the Marvel Age!
With Fantastic Four #1 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby launched the Marvel Age. Heroes like Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, X-Men and the Avengers would soon become icons and the time was right for the triumphant return of the Sentinel of Liberty. In Avengers #4, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes discover a slumbering Captain America, frozen in ice sometime in the waning days of WWII. And now he is awakened in the present day to once again take up the fight for justice. This is how the House of Ideas explained the gap in time from Cap’s hay days of the 1940s to his return in the 1960s.
For Captain America’s Silver and Bronze Age adventures (1960-1980) be sure to check out: Marvel Masterworks Captain America HC Vol. 1-5 or Essential Captain America TPB Vol. 1-6 and Essential Avengers TPB Vol. 1-7. For a time in the 70s Cap had a partner, the high flying Falcon. Their adventures can be found in: Captain America and the Falcon: Secret Empire TPB, where Cap faces a conspiracy that causes him to quit the Avengers and question his role as Captain America. Captain America and the Falcon: Nomad TPB, here Steve Rogers, disillusioned by government corruption, stops being Captain America and becomes the first Nomad. In Captain America and the Falcon: Madbomb TPB Jack “The King” Kirby returns to the series and takes Cap and Falcon on a whirlwind adventure to save the United States of America on the even of its two-hundredth birthday. Speaking of which, in Bicentennial Battles, Kirby takes Cap on a tour of history. And finally, in Captain America and the Falcon: Swine TPB, Captain America and the Falcon must deal with the return of Cap’s greatest foe, the Red Skull!
Above I’ve listed and provided links to his earliest adventures pretty much in the order one would want to read them if someone wanted to start from the beginning. But don’t feel overwhelmed with too much because between Cap’s own titles and Avengers titles there are dozens and dozens of Cap collections to choose from. So here is a list of the Odinson’s personal favorites listed in the order they should be read:
Captain America: Operation Rebirth TPB (Deluxe Edition)
Captain America: To Serve and Protect HC
Avengers Assemble TPB Vol. 1
Captain America: The New Deal HC
Captain America Winter Soldier TPB (Ultimate Collection)
Captain America: Red Menace TPB (Ultimate Collection)
There are so many Captain America Trade Paperbacks and Hardcovers to choose from but these six books should get new Cap readers off to a good start. After reading these stories the reader can decide where he’d like to go from there. A few other suggestions would be War and Remembrance, Scourge of the Underworld, The Bloodstone Hunt, Streets of Poison, Red Glare, Civil War, Death of Captain America, and Reborn. Basically any Captain America story written by Mark Gruenwald, Mark Waid or Ed Brubaker is guaranteed to be gold.
For any longtime comics fan or new readers wanting to know what collections to buy and what order to read them in simply pick up a copy of Marvel Backlist Reading Chronology. This booklet lists all the Cap collections (as well as all the other Marvel heroes) and in what chronological order they fall into. And it’s 96 pages for only a buck!
It always brings great joy to the Odinson when I hear about fans like John who is very enthusiastic about learning about heroes like Cap. I saw the movie and absolutely loved it. One of the things I really enjoy about Marvel’s movies now is how they don’t hold back and just go for it. They don’t try to do some artsy realistic take on their characters for mainstream audience. Who cares that the villain has a big red skull, that’s the character in the comics and they translate that to the Big Screen marvelously. There’s a reason why these characters have been around now for generations. They work, in any medium.
There were many standout scenes in the movie but I’ll let most of those speak for themselves. I will however point out a couple of my favorites (without giving anything away). The flagpole scene, the grenade scene and the fiery catwalk scene are absolutely amazing. These three scenes from the movie completely capture why Steve Rogers is one of the greatest super heroes in history. As a Captain America fan, a Thor fan, an Avengers fan and a Joss Whedon fan, I can not be any happier to be a comic book and movie fan than I am living right here, right now.
This brings me to my next point.
I'm a little concerned by some of the phrases trying to be coined by some movie critics in their movie reviews. Can we please delete the phrases "spandex saga" or "spandex epic" from our vocabulary. Ignoring the fact that these are very condescending at worse and backhanded at best, haven't we moved beyond this sort of description? It's a little annoying that every time a new superhero movie comes out (and these days that's quite often) that in reviews, no matter how good the film may be, it is reduced with descriptions like "spandex saga."
A lot of people that normally wouldn't are finally taking a medium that so many hold close and dear to their hearts seriously (as seen by box office numbers). There is absolutely nothing "spandex" about Iron Man, Thor, The Dark Knight or Captain America. Comments like these are just left over prejudice from an era before Hollywood, and the audiences, started to actually take these films serious. Can we expect no less from the critics?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
Entries for month: July 2011
July 29, 2011 · No Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
July 25, 2011 · 1 Comment
Greetings from the Odinson,
Man’s Best Friend has a place in comics. Throughout human history, the dog has performed many roles. Mankind has used the canine for hunting, herding, and protection, but most importantly, as a companion…a buddy…a pal. Police dogs, also known as K-9s, help law officers track down illegal drugs and take down criminals. Yes, in life, dogs serve many different purposes. And the same can be said for dogs in comic books.
Odie provides the perfect foil for everyone’s favorite fat-cat and all around troublemaker Garfield. Top Dog is a super intelligent canine that can speak to humans. No matter what manner of trouble Groo the Wanderer seems to get them into or what dangers they seem to always stumble upon, Rufferto is completely loyal, oft times to his detriment, to his master. At the opposite end of the spectrum, dogs like Astro and Marmaduke, though not maliciously, always seem to get their masters into trouble. The Tramp is a happy-go-lucky bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks that catches the eye of Lady. But no dog seems to have more success with the ladies than Droopy, despite his “droopy” appearance. Dogs like Huckleberry Hound just seem to never catch a break, and poor Pluto never seems to win.
For years Lassie set the standard by which all other canines should follow. Lassie was brave, loyal, and smart as a whip. Every time Timmy got stuck in that well, Lassie knew exactly what to do. All kidding aside, Lassie was a hero many times over, whether it was leading the police to the bank robbers’ hideout or pulling a child from the bone-chilling clutches of a frozen pond. You could say that Lassie is the Superman (or Wonder Woman rather) of the dog genre. All other dogs before and after Lassie will be measured against the standard of excellence this dog has set.
Many dogs have taken Lassie’s example to heart and become stalwart defenders of truth and justice. Hong Kong Phooey, the number one super guy, is a masked crime fighter with sweet kung fu moves and reflexes that make him faster than the human eye. Yankee Poodle, along side Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, defend Earth-C from the evil machinations of the Time Keeper, Wuz-Wolf, and the monstrous Frogzilla. Wonder Dog, alongside his faithful companions Wendy and Marvin, help the Super Friends defend justice around the world. And Krypto is a canine from planet Krypton who is empowered by Earth’s yellow sun and has super abilities on par with the Man of Steel.
Then, of course, you’ve got your bad boys of the genre. The Beagle Boys are a gang of professional criminals that are always trying to break into Uncle Scrooge’s vault and steal his number one dime. Brian is the talking dog on the animated show The Family Guy who just so happens to be an alcoholic. Terror is an unscrupulous bulldog, trained by The Boys to do all sorts of heinous things to the hated super heroes of his world. And Bigby Wolf, or as most people know him, the Big Bad Wolf, for hundreds of years bedeviled everyone from Little Red Riding Hood to the Three Little Pigs. As gruff as his namesake, Bigby serves as sheriff for Fabletown, a secret place where all the magical characters and creatures of myth and legend reside.
Here is a list of the Odinson’s Top 5 Dogs in Comic Books:
5) Lockjaw – This monstrous 1,200 lb. bulldog is the loyal companion of the Royal Family of the Inhumans, a race of super humans that reside in the Blue Area on the moon. Using the cosmic tuning fork lodged on his forehead, Lockjaw can teleport himself and those around him great distances through space and time, even between worlds. A born leader, Lockjaw, when the human heroes just seem to not be able to get the job done, assembles the Pet Avengers, a team of animal heroes including Zabu (Ka-Zar’s saber-toothed tiger), Red Wing (the Falcon’s bird companion), Lockheed (Kitty Pryde’s dragon), Ms. Lion (the loyal dog of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), and Thor Frog (a miniature powerhouse with the might of a thunder god).
4) Dynomutt – This bionic pooch is the loyal companion of the world renowned super hero the Blue Falcon. Much like Inspector Gadget, Dynomutt’s entire body has been altered by science to be able to adapt to any situation. His limbs can extend and stretch to great lengths. And from screwdrivers to helicopter blades to flamethrowers, his insides seem to be able to produce any gadget to meet the challenge of any situation. Though Dynomutt’s whimsical attitude and absentmindedness often trips up Blue Falcon, he seems to always come through for the hero in the end.
3) Snoopy – Look up the word cool in the dictionary and you will find a picture of Snoopy. Nobody rocks a pair of sunglasses like Joe Cool. Nothing seems to bother this guy. Not the self-involved droning of Charlie Brown, not even a rainy day can get him down. Sometimes this funny little canine becomes the World War I fighter pilot Flying Ace and takes on the most feared enemy plane in the skies – the infamous Red Baron. Most of the time, Snoopy would be content to just simply nap on top of his little dog house. Snoopy’s best friend is the lovable little yellow bird Woodstock. Together Snoopy and Woodstock can accomplish anything and no matter what the world may through their way, in the end, they always seem to come out on top.
2) Underdog – Whenever the villainous scientist Simon Bar Sinister or the criminal Riff Raff threaten the city, mild-mannered Shoeshine turns into the mighty Underdog. With the speed of lightning and the power of thunder, Underdog always triumphs over evil. This super dog has powers and abilities on par with Superman. Underdog is more powerful than a locomotive, he can fly at super speed, and he has Atomic Vision. So whenever Sweet Polly Purebred finds herself in trouble just remember… “There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!”
1) Scooby-Doo – Scooby Doo is a lovable Great Dane with an insatiable appetite for food, an infectious laugh, and a knack for solving mysteries. Together with his best friend Shaggy, the handsome Fred, brainy Velma, and the beautiful Daphne, Scooby Doo drives across America in the Mystery Machine and solves mysteries. Though most definitely not fearless, give him a Scooby Snack and Scooby Doo will face any obstacle. Whether facing down The Creeper, the Wax Phantom, the Ghost of Captain Cutler or Red Beard the Pirate, Scooby and his gang of ghost hunters always seem to be able to solve the mystery. Though from time to time Scooby and his gang come face-to-face with real creatures of the night, luckily for Scooby, most of the ghosts and goblins he crosses paths with turn out to be just disgruntled ex-employees or crooked businessmen in rubber mask. Criminals always out to make a quick buck or put a competitor out of business. And they would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t of been for those meddling kids – the Scooby Gang.
Whether as a lovable romantic (Huckleberry Hound), a troublemaker (Marmaduke), a stalwart super hero (Underdog), a master sleuth (Scooby Doo), or a loyal friend (Rufferto), Man’s Best Friend will most definitely always have a place in comics.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
July 15, 2011 · No Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
A super hero’s secret identity has been a part of the genre since the very beginning. To some Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet Newspaper, but most of the world only knows him as Superman, the Man of Steel. By day Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy and highly successful businessman, by night he is the caped crusader and rooftop vigilante known as the Batman. For years one of the major plot points for the Amazing Spider-Man was that he didn’t want the world to know that he was in fact teenager Peter Parker. One, it would make his loved ones targets for his enemies. Two, his boss J. Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, hated Spider-Man and would fire Parker if he ever found out the truth. And three, Parker was always afraid that the shock of learning his secret would cause his aging beloved Aunt May to have a stroke.
I believe in the importance of a secret identity, but to my surprise, after a quick discussion here in the Lone Star Comics Office, I learned that some did not agree. More on that in a moment.
What got me thinking about secret identities is the fact that Batman in the last few decades seems to have gotten really sloppy about protecting his. I for one can think of few other things that would be worse for a super hero than a super villain learning his secret identity. Just think of the danger Lois Lane, Ma and Pa Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lana Lang, and others would be in if Lex Luthor or Metallo knew Clark Kent was actually the Man of Steel. Not even Superman can be everywhere at once. Just check out the trouble Spider-Man found himself in when his arch foe the Green Goblin discovered his secret identity in Amazing Spider-Man #39. This led to a tragic event in Amazing Spider-Man #122.
So back to Batman, he’s gotten really complacent it seems when it comes to protecting his secret identity. At first, only a very few knew that Batman was in fact Bruce Wayne. His butler Alfred, Dick Grayson (the first Robin and current Nightwing), and Barbara Gordon (Oracle and once and future Batgirl) were the only ones that knew the truth. Then, his closest allies, members of the Justice League of America, learned his secret identity. Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, the Flash (both Barry Allen and Wally West), Green Arrow, and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) all refer to Batman as “Bruce” quite often. Even sometimes in the heat of battle, which seems rather irresponsible. What about the sidekicks? The Teen Titans all know each other’s secret identities. And as friends do, they talk and share, so it is no great leap to suspect that Donna Troy, Starfire, Speedy (sorry Arsenal, you will always be Speedy to me), Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven all know that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Wildcat and Richard Dragon, both of whom Bruce Wayne trained with before becoming Batman, know his secret identity.
The second Robin, Jason Todd, who is now the gun-slinging vigilante known as the Red Hood, knows. The third Robin, Tim Drake, now going by Red Robin, of course, knows. Former Batgirl Cassandra Cain and current Batgirl Stephanie Brown both know that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Azrael, for a while replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman so obviously he knows. I’m not completely sure if the current Teen Titans all know each other’s secret identities but Superboy, Red Robin, and Wonder Girl do, so that’s two more names for the list.
Let’s not forget that Bruce Wayne has a soft spot for the ladies, a fact that makes his judgement impaired when it comes to keeping his secret identity a secret. Vicki Vale, Silver St. Cloud, Sandra Bordeaux, Talia al Ghul, and Selina Kyle all know Bruce’s biggest secret. And whether in the movies or within comics continuity, Batman just can’t seem to keep his secret safe from the fairer sex. Not only is Talia the daughter of one of the Batman’s greatest enemies, but she and Bruce have a son together (see Son of the Demon and Batman and Son), Damian Wayne the current Robin who, of course, knows his daddy’s biggest secret. And Selina Kyle is the master thief known as Catwoman who depending on her mood can be a bitter enemy of the Batman’s or his loyal ally.
Now here’s where Batman really gets careless with his secret identity, and the following names are what got me thinking about this in the first place. Ra’s al Ghul, leader of the criminal empire known as the League of Assassins and arguably, next to Lex Luthor, the most dangerous criminal mastermind in the DCU, knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. He is Talia’s father and mockingly always refers to Batman as “Detective.” The monstrous Bane knows Batman’s secret and used this knowledge to sneak into Wayne Manor and catch the Dark Knight off guard and mercilessly break his back. In the aftermath of his defeat by Bane, Bruce Wayne sought out Lady Shiva for training, spilling the beans, as they say. Shiva is a world class assassin that has crossed swords with the Batman on several occasions. During the classic tale The Judas Contract, Deathstroke the Terminator discovers all the secret identities of his enemies, the Teen Titans. Deathstroke is a crafty villain and if he knows all of Dick Grayson’s secrets, you can bet your bottom dollar that he knows Bruce Wayne’s. Thomas Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s, grew up to become the criminal mastermind Hush, yet another foe that knows that Bruce Wayne is secretly Batman.
A colleague of mine suggests that it doesn’t matter that these villains know the Dark Knight’s secret identity, as he puts it “What does this knowledge get them? …a punch in the face?” Basically implying that it doesn’t matter because the Batman is the baddest dude around and he can defend himself no matter what. The fact that Bane used this knowledge to break Batman’s back aside, I don’t argue the fact that Batman can take care of himself, but what about those he cares for? What kind of danger would Alfred, Vicki Vale, Silver St. Cloud, Julie Madison, Lucius Fox, and other people Bruce Wayne cares about be in if the Joker or Two-Face found out his secret identity? If Superman can’t be everywhere at once, then Batman surly can’t. Aunt May getting shot (see Amazing Spider-Man #538) and the sacrifice of his love for Mary Jane (in One More Day) was certainly a harsh lesson for Peter Parker to learn when it comes to keeping his secret identity a secret.
Here are a few more chinks in the armor that is Batman protecting his secret identity. Cassandra Cain is the daughter of Lady Shiva and the world renowned assassin and erstwhile Batman foe David Cain. Ravager and Jericho are both members of the Teen Titans and the children of Deathstroke. And depending on what storyline is happening they could be either villain or hero. How about close confidants like Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne’s business partner, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a long time friend of the Wayne family, and Police Commissioner Gordon? These are very smart people and it is not a leap to suspect that they have deduced the truth.
One of the biggest ways a super hero can insure the safety of those close to him and protect his private life is by keeping his secret identity just that, a secret. Above are over thirty names of people who know that Bruce Wayne is in fact Batman. Now that’s a problem. Especially for a guy who is not bullet proof. And if all these people know, how many of their friends and family members are now privy to Wayne’s secret? And these are just the names that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are dozens of others that know Batman’s secret identity (I’m not 100% who on the Outsiders knows).
All I’m saying is that for his safety and for the safety of those close to him, in the future, Batman may want to be a little more careful and better at keeping his secret identity a secret. Hopefully, this will be one of the things that DC Comics addresses in the fall when they re-launch the new DC Universe.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
July 08, 2011 · No Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
I just saw the Green Lantern movie and due to the less than stellar commercials for it I went into it with really low expectations (probably the best state of mind to be in when going to the movies) and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It was fun, funny, action-packed, all the things a super hero movie should be. The translations of Hal Jordan, Sinestro, the Guardians, and Kilowog to the Big Screen were wonderful. And the chilling epilogue half way through the end credits was great. Over all it was an enjoyable experience and what more can a comic fan ask for in a comic movie? Now it wasn’t as good as Thor, Iron Man or the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, but it was as good as say Ghost Rider or Incredible Hulk. So, good job DC and Warner. The Odinson salutes you. Three out of five hammers.
Watching the Green Lantern movie and going back to re-read instant classics like Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps War got the Odinson thinking about the tough job that has been given to the Green Lantern Corps. Batman patrols the rooftops and back alleys of Gotham City. Superman protects the citizens of Metropolis and planet Earth. But a Green Lantern is responsible for the well being of an entire sector of space. The Milky Way Galaxy falls into Sector 2814 and is patrolled by Hal Jordan and his partner John Stewart. Outer space is vast and limitless. It takes a special kind of hero to become part of the universal police force that is the Green Lantern Corps.
But the Green Lanterns aren’t the only space cops patrolling the solar system. In the worlds of comics and sci-fi, there are other universal police forces making the galaxy a safe place.
The Jedi Knights – George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, once compared this ancient sect of warriors to the samurai. I like to think of the Jedi as the Texas Rangers of a galaxy far, far away. The Jedi Knights are peacekeepers with the authority and physical prowess to do just that, keep the peace. They are highly skilled hand-to-hand fighters, agile as cats, and can access the universal power known as the Force. This gives the Jedi a mystical advantage over most adversaries as the Force gives them empathic, mind-control and telekinetic abilities. Their weapon of choice is the all too cool lightsaber, a laser sword that can cut through almost anything. The Jedi Knights patrol the galaxy in pairs, a master and his padawan understudy. Whether it is rioting in the streets, a cadre of bounty hunters, or a small army of killer robots, there are very few situations that a Jedi cannot handle.
The Nova Corps – Originally, the Nova Corps was a race of super men that protected the planet Xandar. But when a Nova Prime was mortally injured by a space pirate, he crashed to Earth and transferred his powers to the teenager Richard Rider. Rider became the super hero Nova and for years fought the good fight against the forces of evil, first solo and then as a member of the New Warriors. In the blink of an eye, the entire Nova Corps was wiped out by the Annihilation Wave and Rider was the sole survivor. The Xandarian Worldmind, a sentient super computer, in order to preserve Xandar’s history and culture, transfers all the vast knowledge of Xandar and all the power of the Nova Corps into Richard Rider’s body. Rider used his new found power to lead a motley crew of rebels comprised of all the alien races in the Marvel Universe against the Annihilation Wave and save the universe. In the aftermath, Rider embarked on a universal quest to protect the universe, but outer space is a big place and one man cannot be everywhere at once. So he began to recruit and empower brave men and women from around the cosmos and the Nova Corps was reborn. Whenever universal threats arise, whether it be the Phalanx, a War of Kings, or Thanos, the Nova Corps is the first line of defense against that which threatens peace in the galaxy.
The Spaceknights of Galador – Eons ago, a monstrous race of aliens known as the Dire Wraiths, an off-shoot of the Skrull Empire, attempted to use their super science and witchcraft to conquer the galaxy. On the shinning planet of Galador, brave men and women gave up their humanity and had their bodies permanently grafted into nearly indestructible suits of armor and became the Spaceknights. After a costly yet decisive victory, the Dire Wraiths were defeated and scattered to the far reaches of the universe. Knowing that the Dire Wraiths still posed a threat to peace, the Spaceknights spread out all across the galaxy in search of their evil adversaries. This interstellar police action is what brought Rom, greatest of the Spaceknights, to planet Earth.
Other space cops include Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the Galaxy Rangers, SilverHawks, and Space Ghost.
So long as teams like the Justice League of America and Avengers are around, planet Earth is safe. But a universal police force’s jurisdiction doesn’t stop at the Stratosphere. And with organizations like the Green Lantern Corps, the Jedi Knights, Nova Corps, and Spaceknights of Galador on patrol, the cosmos is in good hands.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
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July 01, 2011 · 3 Comments
Greetings from the Odinson,
Since the very beginning, death has played a huge role in the world of comic books. In Action Comics #1, planet Krypton exploded, annihilating an entire race of superior beings. In Detective Comics #27, a young boy’s parents are murdered, sending him on a lifelong crusade for justice. When a teenager by the name of Peter Parker had just acquired his awesome spider-powers in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, he learned a harsh lesson about power and responsibility when his beloved uncle was gunned down by a burglar he could have stopped only hours before. For years, after his reawakening in modern times in Avengers #4, Captain America was haunted by the demise of his friend and wartime partner, Bucky Barnes.
When a hero or supporting cast member would meet an untimely end in the pages of your favorite book, it used to mean something. It used to have a real impact. However, death in comic books in recent years has lost all shock value. Every other month now it seems this character or that character is dying. And not for one minute does anyone think that that character is not going to return at some point. I suppose that is the way it has always been.
Some of the most shocking deaths are the ones that really resonate and stick with the reader for years after they happen. In Death of a Prince, Aquaman’s infant son dies because of the nefarious actions of his arch enemy Black Manta. That’s pretty heavy material to digest. Other than Batman’s parents and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, has any other death in the history of comics had such an impact on the pathos of the character’s story as the Death of Gwen Stacy? The hero actually fails to save the life of the woman he loves… Now that’s a tough pill to swallow.
The two most heroic deaths I’ve ever read were deaths of Jean Grey and Barry Allen. In The Dark Phoenix Saga, the cosmic power of the Phoenix threatens to consume the universe. So in order to save everyone and everything, Jean Grey is compelled to make the ultimate sacrifice. Then, in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, the Flash sacrifices everything to save planet Earth from certain destruction at the hands of the evil Anti-Monitor. That is what a hero does. He or she will make the ultimate sacrifice if it means a better and brighter tomorrow.
One of the most shocking and terrifying deaths in comics came from one of my most beloved comic book series - Rom. The “villain” named Torpedo (villain is in quotes because the guy’s back story is complicated, to say the least) burst onto the scene in the pages of Daredevil (1964-1998 1st Series) #126-127. But after his demise, former pro football star Brock Jones donned the Torpedo battlesuit and became a super hero. At first he clashed with the Spaceknight protector of Earth but Torpedo and Rom quickly became allies and friends (see Rom #21-22). Torpedo became a resident of Clairton, the small town that served as Rom’s home for most of his stay on Earth, and Brock Jones became one of my favorite supporting cast members of the series. So it should come as no surprise that I was utterly shocked when he met his end in Rom #50. Not only was the ambush that led to Torpedo’s death devastatingly sudden and violent, but it also served notice to the Marvel Universe and the reader that these new versions of the alien Dire Wraiths were going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Another shocking comic book death to my young Odinson senses came in the pages of Alpha Flight (1983-1994 1st Series) #23. The mighty Sasquatch had become possessed by a demonic force and turned on his teammates. In order to save the members of Alpha Flight, Snowbird rips the heart of her inflicted teammate from his chest. Whoa! My eleven-year-old eyes couldn’t believe what they just saw. I had always liked Sasquatch from reading about him in the pages of Uncanny X-Men (1963-2011 1st Series) #121, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 and Incredible Hulk (1962-1999 1st series) #272. So to see his untimely demise was startling, especially only one year after Guardian’s own untimely demise in Alpha Flight (1983-1994 1st Series) #12.
Supergirl giving up the ghost in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 was pretty jarring as well, but nothing could have prepared the world for The Death of Superman. In the pages of Superman #75, the Man of Steel must sacrifice his life to save the world from an unstoppable force of nature known as Doomsday. This single issue captivated the world at large like no comic book death before it, or after (The Death of Captain America came close but more on that in a moment). The media and even people who don’t read comics were pulled in by this event. This monumental occasion yielded positive and negative results. The Positive: The fact that so many people cared, whether they were longtime comic fans or your average citizen, showed just how beloved Superman is and just how imbedded into the pop culture he has become. The Negative: This is the moment in comics history (up until that moment the most significant comic book death) that made death in comic books lose its shock value.
In the nearly twenty years since The Death of Superman, just about every major character has met with an untimely demise. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and even Captain America have all given up the ghost. I’m not even going to try and list them all, but this short list of icons doesn’t even include all the other heroes, villains, and supporting cast members that have met their maker since the Man of Tomorrow checked out back in 1993. They’ve all died, and guess what, they’ve all come back. And for those that haven’t, just wait.
Death has become so cheap in the realm of comic books it’s as if the afterlife has a revolving door. And it is this very revolving door concept that has made death in comic books not be as substantial as it used to be. Not for one second, no matter how shocking, (believe me, the death of Steve Rogers was shocking), does anyone believe that the dead character won’t return. Hawkman has died so many times over the years I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has a vacation home in the Elysium Fields. We saw the Return of Jean Grey only to once again witness her demise in the pages of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Jason Todd was killed by the Joker in Death in the Family, but recent events have seen him return to the DCU as the anti-hero Red Hood. The ultimate resurrection came in the form of Bucky Barnes coming back to first haunt Captain America as the Winter Soldier, but then succeed his friend as the New Captain America, only to…eh, maybe you should check out Fear Itself #3 if you haven’t already.
The whole point to this article was the recent release of Ultimate Spider-Man #160. This issue, like Superman #75, was released polybagged and across the top of this bag reads “The Death of Spider-Man.” Within the pages of this issue a character meets his end. I was reading an article on line about this issue and the article was preceded by a “Spoiler Alert.” I thought to myself, why is a “spoiler alert” needed when the title of the book is “The Death of Spider-Man.”
A colleague of mine here at Lone Star Comics remarked it isn’t surprising that someone dies in the issue, a real surprise would be if someone did not die. I found that rather funny, and that is what set me off on my rant about death in comic books, especially when it comes to the “Ultimate Universe.” It seems that this pocket dimension only exist so that creative teams can get your favorite characters to say and do shocking things and kill each other in the most grisly and shocking ways possible (the Blob chowing down on the Wasp in Ultimatum was a little much).
If a character is going to be killed off only to be brought back a few years later then what was the point? The destruction of Krypton, the tragedies that befell Bruce Wayne’s parents and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben are poignant deaths in the history of comics that have weight and are in no small part responsible for shaping three men into the greatest comic book super heroes of all time. These deaths mean something and there is nothing cheap or trivial about them. Death is a serious subject matter and it should never be just a punch line to a story or a sales grab. It should mean something and carry with it the weight of finality. The Death of Captain Marvel is a beautiful tribute to a hero dying of cancer. The Death of Gwen Stacy is a tragedy that haunts a good man to this very day.
Maybe I’m just being naive, maybe I’m just a jaded comic fan that has seen so many comic book “deaths” over the years that they don’t shock and surprise me anymore. Maybe that’s why I am so looking forward to the big DCU reboot this fall. The New DCU is about beginnings and not endings. There is a place for death in comics, but maybe I’m just not impressed with the way it’s been handled lately.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
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