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Writing Rogues, Part One: A Study of Batman: The Animated Series

Writing Rogues, Part One: A Study of Batman: The Animated Series

Batman lurks in the dark

I love villains. They’re often at the center of what makes a great adventure story tick. They force our protagonists to take action, to face their worst fears and come out better, to outdo themselves again and again. They push character arcs, drive narratives, and illuminate the differences between regular people and heroes. In short, villains get the story up and out.

Ask an author what the most important storytelling element is and they’ll probably tell you it’s conflict. Conflict occurs when the main character meets a challenge to their goals. In sword and sorcery, that challenge is often a person. While there are the famed man vs. self, man vs. society,  and man vs. nature conflicts as well, antagonists are some of the most engaging sources of conflict because they’re human. Or human-like. We’re programmed to engage more with characters than we do with snowstorms or oppressive governing entities.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 27: Act II of the Dark Phoenix Saga

Uncanny X-Men, Part 27: Act II of the Dark Phoenix Saga

1979’s Uncanny X-Men #129-131 began the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga, which runs to issue #137. In those first three issues, we saw far more clearly the hooks that Jason Wyngarde got into Jean Grey, the Phoenix, and we saw more dramatically how Phoenix had been changing. She’d become more violent, sensual, tempted by emotions and desires she’d suppressed all her life. In the fictitious dream world that Wyngarde had been constructing in Jean’s mind, as a means to control her for the Hellfire Club, he’d been giving her unlimited power in a setting without moral restraint. Today I’m diving into the year 1980, with issues #132 – #134: the middle of the Dark Phoenix Saga and the progression of the corruption of Phoenix by the Hellfire Club.

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Call for Backers! Dragons by the Yard

Call for Backers! Dragons by the Yard

I’ll confess I have always loved the concept behind Dragons by the Yard. Written by Debbie Daughetee and adapted for comics by Kelly Swails, it’s the story of Anna, a girl who sews dragons to sell at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet. One day she meets a mysterious woman who sells her an unusual fabric, and Anna makes seven little dragons out of it. Then the magic happens.

Currently, four issues of this wonderful tale exist, but Swails has four more scripts ready to go. Kymera Press is currently running a Kickstarter to turn those scripts into finished comics. Most of the money from the Kickstarter will go to the international team of artists, women who’ve worked for Marvel, DC, IDW, Dynamite or other big houses. They are featured in the brief video below.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 26: Introducing Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost and Launching the Dark Phoenix Saga in 1979!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 26: Introducing Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost and Launching the Dark Phoenix Saga in 1979!

Well, if you’ve been waiting for my epic reread of the Uncanny X-Men to reach one of the most consequential and memorable stories in comic history, your waiting has paid off. It only took 26 blog posts, but we’ve arrived at the beginning of the Dark Phoenix Saga. This arc of the Dark Phoenix Saga, from issue #129 to #131 does some major things.

First, it introduces a mutant who will over the course of the coming decades become a very important X-Man and eventually one of the team leaders: Kitty Pryde. Second, it introduces a mutant who over than same time period will become an iconic X-Men rival and villain, and eventually an ally, teammate and leader herself: Emma Frost. Third, it deepens the corruption of Phoenix’ soul by Jason Wyngarde and Emma Frost.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 25: The Proteus Saga and My First Comics!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 25: The Proteus Saga and My First Comics!

Welcome to the 25th installment of my reread of The Uncanny X-Men from 1963’s issue #1. We’re now in 1979 and this post will cover issues #125-#128. This is a really memorable run for me for a few of reasons.

First of all, it’s an amazing 4-issue story with huge stakes and high drama, and an example of the Claremont-Byrne team entering their creative peak.

Second, in these 4 issues, some really messed up stuff starts to be revealed about the psychological manipulation of Phoenix that puts the whole series and Marvel history on a collision course with the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Third, issue #128 was one of the first four comics my mom gave me after she came back from a trip, and I remember reading it with a sense of wonder and confusion as I learned by myself how to read comics. I very shortly ended up trading parts of my fledgeling collection to a friend in return first for issue #125, and then finally issues #126 and #127 (and #137!). So my inexperience with the form as well as the non-linear way in which I absorbed the story are indelible parts of my view of what later became known as the Proteus saga.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 24: Arcade, Murderworld and their First King-Sized Annual

Uncanny X-Men, Part 24: Arcade, Murderworld and their First King-Sized Annual

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Oh hi! You’ve stumbled onto part 24 of my ongoing reread of The Uncanny X-Men. We’ve reached the year 1979, about halfway through the Bronze Age of comics and about a third of the way into the legendary Claremont-Byrne-Austin run. Looking back, we’ve come a long way from 1963; the Bronze Age was a time of growing sophistication and experimentation in comics, and the X-Men was one of the petri dishes.

This post will only cover issues #123 and #124 because we’ve also got our first King-Sized Annual in the mix as well. Taken together, there’s less character development and angst than normal, in part because these three issues are wall-to-wall mutant superheroics.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 23: 1979 – Chaos in Canada with Alpha Flight!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 23: 1979 – Chaos in Canada with Alpha Flight!

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Welcome to my 23rd blog post detailing my epic reread of The Uncanny X-Men. I started in 1963 and had reached the classic Claremont-Byrne-Austin period that ran from 1977-1980. From Giant-Size X-Men #1 with thirteen team members, the creative team pared them down to seven by issue #111, peeled off Jean Grey and Professor X by issue #117 and in issue #119 injured Banshee so gravely that essentially these new X-Men are down to five effectives: Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine.

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A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

Marvel the First 80 Years magazine-small

Marvel: The First 80 Years, magazine edition from Titan Comics. On sale November 2020

I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday, picking up some new releases, including a new Stellaris anthology and the latest Year’s Best anthology from John Joseph Adams (here’s the complete stack of titles I walked out with), and literally on my way out of the store my eye fell on a colorful cover in the magazine section. I reversed course to get a closer look, and three minutes later I was back in the checkout line, buying one more item.

The magazine was Marvel: The First 80 Years, a 160-page full color special release from Titan. It’s a little pricey, even with my B&N discount ($19.99 cover price), but according to the scant facts I can find on the internet, it’s a limited release magazine version of the upcoming book Marvel: The First 80 Years, scheduled for hardcover release in two weeks with a $29.99 price tag.

I didn’t know any of that yesterday, tho. I shelled out nearly 20 bucks for an oversize magazine because it looked more than worth the money. Have a look at the gorgeous interior photo spreads below and see if you agree.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 22: 1978 – The Savage Land, Japan and Psionic Throwback Thursday!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 22: 1978 – The Savage Land, Japan and Psionic Throwback Thursday!

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Welcome to my increasingly Quixotic reread of the Uncanny X-Men. I started in 1963 and am now in 1978, and in my favorite period, the legendary Claremont/Byrne/Austin run. In this installment, I’m covering Uncanny X-Men #115 – 119. It’s a special run for me. As a kid, issues #116 and #118 were among the earliest great trades I’d made, but as with all filling of back issues, I didn’t get the in-between stories until years later. But in those days, I suppose we just lived with the chapters we had and filled in the gaps with our imaginations.

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In 500 Words or Less: Icarus by Gregory A. Wilson et al

In 500 Words or Less: Icarus by Gregory A. Wilson et al

Icarus Gregory Wilson-smallIcarus (The Longest Fall #1)
By Gregory A. Wilson (author), Keith R.A. DeCandido (script), Athila Fabbio (illustration), Kris Siuda (lettering)
Atthis Arts (130 pages, $24.99 paperback, $11.99 eBook, Nov 10, 2020)

A lot of speculative fiction these days is focusing on class conflict and subjugation, especially out of the United States – and rightfully so. With Icarus, Gregory A. Wilson and his co-creators present Vol, a world where magisters with arcane powers are the tyrants, fire demons and lava floes are the daily hazards, and digging for flamepetals is the factory or labor work offering basic subsistence.

Jellinek the flamepetal digger is our window into this struggle, and it’s through him that we meet angel-winged savior Icarus, who arrives with no memory but an impulsive drive to learn about Vol and stand up to its bullies. It’s a familiar concept but one that strikes a chord with a lot of us, I think, as we look for people and symbols to get us through difficult times.

There are nuances to the way Wilson and scriptwriter Keith R.A. DeCandido explore these familiar concepts through these characters. Icarus has some innocence to him as he approaches truth and justice, but he’s far from a wet blanket, especially as he learns more about his role in Vol’s history.

Jellinek’s wisdom and pragmatism get them through some tricky situations, but he’s willing to go down fighting after “living half-afraid” and stands up for things the way a lot of people probably wish they could. Throw in some intense action and adventure, and I’m hooked.

The artwork in both books is particularly striking. I love the balance between reds and blues that Fabbio and Pizzatto use to separate different aspects of this world, especially the way they show that even the antagonists are still grounders (Vol natives) and separate from Icarus.

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