Category Archive 'Comic Books'
13 Nov 2018

Stan Lee: Dead at 95

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Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber; December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018) was an American comic book writer, editor, and publisher. He was the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, and later its publisher and chairman, leading its expansion from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

In collaboration with several artists—particularly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko—he co-created fictional characters including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, and—with his brother, co-writer Larry Lieber—the characters Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor. In doing so, he pioneered a more complex approach to writing superheroes in the 1960s, and in the 1970s challenged the standards of the Comics Code Authority, indirectly leading to it updating its policies.

24 Aug 2018

Millennials Are So Weird

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For blogging purposes, and due to a surplus of idle curiosity, I subscribe to daily email notifications from a boxcar-load of web-sites and publications.

Thrilllist is one of these, churning out features mainly on food and travel. “Best Hamburger (or Pizza) in Each of Fifty States” would be a typical article.

This morning, however, I came upon Joshua Kahn’s Best Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2018 (So Far).

I’d forgotten that the Atlantic’s professional Aggrieved Black Man Ta-Nehisi Coates varied his production of complaints that White America ruined his life and demands for reparations for Antebellum Slavery with dabbling in writing comic books.

I’d even forgotten that it was none other than TNC who is responsible for Marvel’s current Black Panther comics and the recent movie offering Afrocentric ego-flattering on a scale that makes the claims in Black Athena (Black Africans built the pyramids and created Western Civilization) sound like moderation. Well, TNC is marching on. In the Black Panther number reviewed here, Wakanda’s got an Intergalactic Empire.

In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ improved version of the world, a Sub-Saharan African society, uncolonized and uninfluenced by European contact, is not living in the Stone Age, but has surpassed Europe and America in technology and moved on to the stars. Traditional American racial animosity indulged in unflattering stereotypes of African-Americans often focusing on a supposed penchant for hubris and overwheening arrogance. I find it impossible to look at Black Panther in the TNC redaction without being reminded of that stereotype.

It is not enough, however, for young minds to be filled with visions of Sub-Saharan African superiority and super achievement. There is also what seems to be a parable of some kind titled: “My Boyfriend is a Bear”.

Dating is hard. It just sort of happens in college, and as you traverse your 20s, you evolve into a deflated husk barely coping with the trappings of adulthood. It’s a tiresome montage and Pamela Ribon’s debut novel dissects how those routines tend to push us to find love in unlikely places. As much as MBIAB is about 28-year-old Nora dating a literal 500-pound American black bear, it goes to lengths to discuss the ups and downs of relationships and the honesty and intimacy that accompanies each side. With Cat Farris’ expressive art style, it taps into various tinier moments — involving Farmer’s Markets, mating season, and how “it’s so much fun” that bears are open to watching anything on TV — and it never weirds itself out. Instead, it uses each unpredictable frame to help connect you to one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Obviously civilization as we know it is doomed.

10 Jul 2016

Marvel & DC Taken Over by SJWs

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Female Thor

Charles Nash notes that comic book sales are dropping after Marvel and DC sold out to the Social Justice Warrior crowd.

“Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor?” Marvel villain The Absorbing Man yells at the new “female Thor” during a vicious street brawl in an issue published last year. “Damn feminists ruining everything!”

The dialogue mirrored most sane reader’s thoughts during the issue, but we’re not all monsters. We are just loyal, long-time readers who are sick of our favorite characters being butchered by nose-ringed lesbians for the sake of diversity, and at the apparent expense not just of dialogue, story and creativity but also, it now appears, the commercial success of Marvel’s comic books line. …

Increasing customer frustration at obscure third-wave feminism preoccupations shoehorning their way into Marvel’s comic books is starting to have an effect on sales. It turns out you can’t bully people into caring about “microaggressions.” …

Marvel isn’t getting the message. Its latest comic book character is — wait for it — a fifteen year-old black female Iron Man. That’s right. Tony Stark, the badass, billionaire playboy businessman who has represented the quintessential white American male since the 1960s is to be replaced by a fifteen year-old black girl with an Afro and hooped earrings.

Other comic book publishers are hardly saints, of course. In an issue of DC’s Wonder Woman last year, the popular female superhero complained about a villain “mansplaining” to her before an ally punched him in the face for the crime. “The lasso compels truth, but it can’t stop mansplaining,” declared Wonder Woman as the “bad guy” had his teeth knocked out of his mouth.

The new social political styles seem a weird choice for publishers who have a predominately apolitical — and disproportionately male — audience. …

“We’re seeing the worst falloff of Marvel and DC sales in the store’s 38-year history,” complained one comic book store owner in an industry forum. “Both companies are losing established readers who no longer feel that the company’s output reflects the sort of comics they enjoy.”

Read the whole thing.

07 May 2014

The Origins of Batman

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Richard A. Warshak, in the Atlantic, associates the origin of the dark crimefighter with a boyhood beating experienced by his creator.

Years ago I became aware that a particular superhero, who has entertained millions of people, had special appeal to the traumatized children who visited my office. I had a hunch that a trauma had inspired the creation of this superhero. See if you think my hunch was correct.

His pals nicknamed him “Doodler” because he was constantly drawing pictures. His pals had nicknames, too—they were fellow members of a neighborhood club know as “The Zorros,” an appellation that a young Robert Kahn had chosen, inspired by the cinematic crusader for justice played by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The Zorros’ clubhouse was built with wood stolen from the neighborhood lumber yard—a place whose many nooks and crannies made it the location of choice for their games of hide-and-seek.

One night, when he was 15 years old, Kahn—who went by “Robbie” at the time—had a terrifying encounter. Walking home through rough neighborhoods of the Bronx after a music lesson, carrying a violin case, he was followed by “a group of seedy-looking roughnecks from the tough Hunts Point district,” as he wrote in his autobiography 57 years later:

    They wore the sweatshirts of the Vultures, and they were known to be a treacherous gang. They were whistling at me and making snide remarks that only “goils” played with violins. I stepped up my pace and so did they. Finally, I started running and they did likewise, until I reached my neighborhood. Unfortunately, my buddies were not hanging around the block at the time.

Kahn’s memoir goes on to give a very lengthy, melodramatic blow-by-blow account of his dash to the familiar lumberyard, the Vultures’s pursuit (“with terrifying menace in their eyes”), and his attempts at self-defense, complete with “Zorro” leaps, grappling hook, and mid-air kicks while swinging on a rope. He fought bravely, he writes, but for naught:

    My worst fears came true. Two Vultures pinned both my arms behind my back and held me firm while another beat a staccato rhythm on my belly, knocking the wind out of me. Another bully stepped in and used my face for a punching bag—while he cracked a couple of my front teeth.

    I was in a fog, when I felt my right arm crack at the elbow after a gang member deliberately twisted it behind me in order to break it. The pain was excruciating and I screamed in agony.

    Before I blacked out and fell to the ground like a limp rag doll, I heard him laugh sardonically, “Just to make sure dat da Fiddler ain’t gonna play his fiddle no more!” Little did he know that it wasn’t playing the violin again that concerned me, but the fact that he had broken my drawing arm.

    Then he stepped on the hand of my broken arm! I don’t remember how long I remained in a blanket of darkness before I regained consciousness, but when I came to, I was a beaten, bloody wreck. Somehow I managed to pull myself up and it was then that I noticed my violin on the ground, smashed to pieces. This was the coup de grace!

    This whole episode, to this day, remains in my subconscious like a nightmare. I had played Zorro and lost! Had it really been a dream or a movie, I would have emerged victorious. But this real-life drama had almost cost the life of a reckless fifteen-year-old.

Here we have a boy who was attacked by a gang of Vultures in the night. He defended himself by playing Zorro, using a grappling hook to fend off his attackers. He was unsuccessful and was hospitalized, severely injured, with the possibility that he would be unable to pursue his chosen career. In spite of permanent injuries—scars, chipped teeth, and limited mobility in one arm—he went on to become a cartoonist.

Seven years after being brutalized, he created a comic-book superhero that would become a pop-culture legend—and whose appeal may be deeply, subtly connected to what happened that night in the lumber yard.

30 Mar 2014

Popular Delusions

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Next time you see a poll published in some newspaper indicating that a majority of the public believes in Global Warming, supports Gay Marriage, or thinks there ought to be a law against something or other, take a look at this one.

My parents believed back then that reading comic books was somehow bad for you.

21 Apr 2013

Superman’s 75th Anniversary

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Glen Weldon Superman’s biographer), in the New Republic, traces the Man of Steel’s history and the changes to his persona and characteristics over the decades which mirrored those of America’s changing culture.

Seventy-five years ago, every red-blooded American kid read comic books.

Churned out on cheap paper, these comics sold for ten cents a pop, a not inconsiderable amount of money considering that the Great Depression still hung in the nation’s doorway like a party guest who can’t take a hint. In exchange for their dimes, kids could spend an entire afternoon at the movies, gorge themselves at the soda fountain, or take home a comic ablaze with the four-color adventures of Tarzan, Buck Rogers, Popeye and other well-known strips hastily reprinted from the newspaper funny pages.

Then came Action Comics #1.

Like the other comics of its day, Action adopted an anthology format, offering eleven different features of varying length. These features, however, were different. They were, for the first time, original stories starring brand new characters. Despite their brawny, evocative names—Scoop Scanlon! Sticky-Mitt Stimson! Pep Morgan! Chuck Dawson, Fastest Gun in the West!—none of them would last.

Well. Except one.

The guy on the cover? That circus strongman hefting a green Studebaker over his head? That guy?

He’d hang around. In fact, he’d do much more than that. Scant months after Superman’s debut as the lead feature of Action #1, he would leap from the comics page into the funny pages and from there into the toy box, onto the radio, the movie screen, and the television. Over the course of a 75-year multimedia push, he would transcend the various media that convey him and infiltrate the collective consciousness of the country, and the world. He would construct his own archetype, powered by a uniquely American fuel mixture: our power and privilege, our violence and spectacle, our noblest ideals.

Read the whole thing.

I predict that Superman will go Gay, and have an affair with Archie in 2020.


Of course, the best take on Superman comes from Bill:

01 Mar 2011

The Significance of Pop Culture

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Scrooge McDuck and his nephew Donald were responsible for some pretty impressive cultural contributions.

Hat tip to Jose Guardia.


According to Jay Black, Nathan Fillion is television’s Martin Luther.


When the alien invaders arrive

22 Jan 2011

Sarah Palin, Superhero and Fetish

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Steampunk Sarah

Leftwinger Chris Murphy, at Comics Alliance, has suffered a near mortal blow to his political sensibilities in having to review a new comic book featuring a Steampunk version of Sarah Palin as the superhero star. The new comic contains “fifteen pages of story, followed by eight pages of pin-ups of Sarah Palin.” And Murphy does not like it one bit.

The story starts in the near future, in the immediate aftermath of a war that has destroyed all the Earth’s oil. A new power source is needed, and Sarah Palin steps forward to suggest steam power as a replacement. A conglomerate consisting of big oil and nuclear power interests makes a counterproposal by blowing her up with a bomb at the meeting where she suggests this. …

Six months later Sarah Palin wakes up to find that she now has body more than half made of robot parts. Powered by steam. … Obama blew up in the explosion too, and is now part machine and called “Robama.” … They (including John McCain. now equipped with a robot arm) network a bunch of robots that can be controlled by Palin’s robot body and they all go off to save the world from the evil oil/nuke organization. … [a]nd [from] the Russians, who, as Robama informs us, have assembled a force along their border with Alaska. … They then defeat the evil organization run by the the oil/nuke conglomerate. Whose soldiers kind of dress like Cobra. And which is led by Al Gore. That’s followed by the aforementioned pages upon pages of pin-ups, which continue the book’s cash-in on the fetishization of Sarah Palin.

The theoretical publication date was January 19th, but Steampunk Palin is not yet available at TFAW or at Mile High Comics.

17 Oct 2010

Batman is a Yale Graduate

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The Hon. Mark Dwyer, Judge of the Court of Claims (Supreme Court of the State of New York, Yale Law 1975) clearly still collects and reads comic books, since he discovered and informed the Yale Law Library that on page 16 of Detective Comics No. 439 (March 1974), there is a framed “Diploma of Law” from Yale University in Gotham City on the wall of Bruce Wayne’s study.

Judge Dwyer’s discovery was featured recently in an exhibition in the Yale Law Library‘s Rare Book Gallery.

Hat tip to Ann Tiffin Taylor.

25 Apr 2010

Archie Comics to Debut Gay Character

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Poor Veronica will be initially infatuated with Kevin Keller, but he’ll eventually become her walker.

John L. Goldwater (1916-1999), an orphan and distant relative of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, was a strong admirer of small town America and an arch champion of family values, who played a key role in establishing the Comics Code Authority in 1954.

Goldwater invented Archie, his teenage associates, and their paradigmatically American hometown Riverdale in 1941, modeling the new series on the popular “Andy Hardy” films. He deliberately created Archie as a rival to Superman.

Goldwater “thought of Superman as an abnormal individual and concluded that the antithesis, a normal person, could be just as popular.”

Superman performed extraordinary feats, averting cataclysmic perils to humanity and thwarting the plans of evil geniuses, while Archie just blundered along happily through high school, facing no problem larger than choosing between the romantic possibilities presented by the blond and wholesome Betty and the wealthy brunette Veronica. Goldwater believed that Archie was successful precisely because he was “basically a square, but in my opinion the squares are the backbone of America… [and] strong families.”

I expect a loud spinning sound can be heard in the vicinity of the late John L. Goldwater’s grave. His grandson made a announcement this week that the old man would probably not very much have liked.

Free Press:

Archie Comics announced Wednesday that it’s introducing the strip’s first openly gay character. His name is Kevin Keller, and rumor has it that he’s a strapping, blond hottie who draws the immediate attention of Veronica and who wrestles with how to gently rebuff her flirtations.

Co-CEO Jon Goldwater says the move is “just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive,” adding that the new character makes sense because “Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone.”

Kevin is slated to make his first appearance in September.

Fan reaction has been mixed.

At Animation Magazine, Ralph comments:

The majority of the Archie comic audience are kids and sexual orientation has no place in this comic. Archie has been a pillar of honest, genuine content for many successful years so why change that?

The San Francisco Examiner brings up the often-voiced suspicion that the Archie series already had a gay character, the rebellious and misogynistic Jughead.

Archie comics is debuting its first gay character, although that should be ‘out’ gay character, since obviously Jughead, that woman hating anti-social with the dry sass, has always been the main gay of Riverdale High.

The late John L. Goldwater ruled that Stan Lee Spiderman strips written in response Federal Department of HEW requests featuring anti-drug use advocacy were a comics code violation.

31 Oct 2008

Just Wait Until Massachusetts and California Hear About This

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Australia reports on a breakthrough in human rights underway in Japan.

But how do they find out if Wonder Woman says “I do?”

A Japanese man has enlisted hundreds of people in a campaign to allow marriages between humans and cartoon characters, saying he feels more at ease in the “two-dimensional world”.

Comic books are immensely popular in Japan, with some fictional characters becoming celebrities or even sex symbols.

Marriage is meanwhile on the decline as many young Japanese find it difficult to find life partners.

Taichi Takashita launched an online petition aiming for one million signatures to present to the government to establish a law on marriages with cartoon characters.

Within a week he has gathered more than 1000 signatures through.

“I am no longer interested in three dimensions. I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world,” he wrote.

“However, that seems impossible with present-day technology. Therefore, at the very least, would it be possible to legally authorise marriage with a two-dimensional character?”

Befitting his desire to be two-dimensional, he listed no contact details, making it impossible to reach him for comment to explain if his campaign is serious or tongue-in-cheek.

But some people signing the petition are true believers.

“For a long time I have only been able to fall in love with two-dimensional people and currently I have someone I really love,” one person wrote.

“Even if she is fictional, it is still loving someone. I would like to have legal approval for this system at any cost,” the person wrote.

Japan only permits marriage between human men and women and gives no legal recognition to same-sex relationships.

Gavin Newsome needs to start preparing San Francisco’s City Hall for the ceremonies.

24 Jul 2008

Bardo Comics

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The Bardol Thodol also known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the human consciousness’s experience after death leading to enlightenment and liberation or (uh oh!) rebirth.

Thomas Scoville explicates this challenging text for the Western reader by delivering it in comics form.


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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