Check out the First Trailer for Captain America: Civil War

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Civil War was one of the biggest events in Marvel Comics roughly a decade ago, pitting Spider-Man, Iron Man and a host of other heroes against a tiny contingent led by Captain America. Marvel Studios has made a major effort to replicate the crossover impact of that event in the upcoming movie, which features a bevy of guest stars… see how many you can spot in the trailer above (hint: it’s a LOT.) Captain America: Civil War will be released on May 6, 2016.

Dr. Strange, Part II: Becoming Sorcerer Supreme and Dying in the Englehart Era

Saturday, November 21st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Marvel_Premiere_Vol_1_9In a blog post of some weeks ago, looked at the one of my favorite Dr. Strange periods, when they’d established his overall mythos. The early 1970s was another kick-ass period for Dr. Strange, when the Master of the Mystic Arts became the Sorcerer Supreme.

In 1971, after the end of the series Strange Tales, Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts found a home in Marvel Premiere with issue #3. Marvel was just beginning an eerie period that mirrored the monster movie craze of the 1970s.

This period brought into prominence Marvel’s werewolves, zombies, Morbius the Living Vampire, Ghost Rider, Son-of-Satan, Dracula, Satana, Blade, and even ended up turning one of the X-Men into a furry monster. This tone seeped into Dr. Strange too.

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Monstress: An Interview with Marjorie Liu

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Marj-Monstress-Issue-1-Cover-smallOn November 4th, Image launched a new comic series called Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. Liu is already well known as a New York Times Bestselling novelist, and from her work on Marvel titles such as Wolverine, X-23, Dark Wolverine, and Astonishing X-Men. I had a chance to interview Marjorie about Monstress.

Derek Kunsken: I read Monstress, and I have to say I was absolutely floored by how beautiful it is. I’ve seen Sana Takeda’s work with you on X-23, but it seems like all the stops were pulled out here. Not only that, the setting is original and the theme of inhumanity reminds me of Scott Snyder’s Wytches.

Marjorie Liu: You’re so kind. I’ve also been floored by Sana’s work on this book. I had a vision, I knew what I wanted Monstress to look like — but Sana took those ideas and just made them explode on the page. Her character designs, too, totally altered the story. I had one idea of what the book was going to be about — and then I saw what the monster looked like — and everything changed in that moment. For the better.

The revelations in the world of Monstress feel both fast and slow, drinking from the firehose, but piling up the questions on the side. Maika seems to be neither fully human nor Arcanic. Can you talk about Maika as an outcast character?

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The Great Savage Sword Re-Read: Vol. 1

Saturday, November 14th, 2015 | Posted by John R. Fultz


The Savage Sword of Conan Vol. 1. Cover art by Boris Vallejo.

The Savage Sword of Conan is arguably the single greatest publication the Sword and Sorcery genre has ever seen. Spawned by the massive popularity of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian color comic which launched in 1970, Savage Sword was a black-and-white Marvel Magazine whose first issue appeared in 1974.

The new format freed creators from the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority, which constrained Conan’s full-color adventures to all-ages entertainment. The violence, gore, and lurid themes of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan tales would no longer be censored by enforced comic-book morality. Now readers of the Cimmerian’s adventures would get to know the real Conan and the real Hyborian Age — in all their blood-spattered, head-lopping, breast-heaving glory.

I was 8 years old when I bought my first issue.

It was early 1978 and my family had just moved from Fort Knox to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Moving to that neighborhood changed my life for many reasons, but one of the most significant was the presence of the Blue Bird Foodmart at the bottom of the hill. For the first 7 years of my life I was a small-town kid who only got exposed to comics when my parents/grandparents took me to a store somewhere. Now I could walk down the hill to a store that sold comics, magazines, and novels. The problem was that as an 8-year-old comics fan I had barely any money to spend on all those great books.

On that day in ’78, I could have chosen the latest issue of Creepy, Eerie, Heavy Metal, or any number of Marvel or DC comics. But it was Savage Sword of Conan #28 that caught my eye. Comics went for 35 cents apiece in those days, but here was an extra-thick “comic” with an amazing Earl Norem painted cover. For one whole dollar, it offered four times as many pages and featured the most realistic sword-fights and battles I had ever seen, complete with beheadings, guttings, and stabs in the back. The interior art was by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala, a legendary penciller-inker team, and I had never seen anything like it.

Needless to say, it blew my little mind and left me hungry for more tales of Conan…

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Forbes on the Tragic Failure of Jem And The Holograms

Monday, October 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Jem And The Holograms-smallLast week Box Office Mojo reported that Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror film Crimson Peak “crashed and burned into 2,984 theaters to the tune of an estimated $12.8 million.” So what did it make of Jem And The Holograms‘ historically bad take of one-tenth of that total this weekend, $1.3 million from 2,413 theaters? It calls it one of “the year’s biggest flops… the fourth worst opening for a film in more than 2,000 theaters.”

Jem And The Holograms was a much-loved 80s cartoon produced by Hasbro, Marvel, and Sunbow (the same team behind G.I. Joe and Transformers). Featuring the plucky Jerrica Benton, whose father left her virtually flawless hologram technology that allowed her to disguise herself as a beautiful pop singer, Jem was the brainchild of comics writer Christy Marx (Sisterhood of Steel, Conan, Red Sonja). Forbes writer Scott Mendelson sees the massive failure of the live-action version as a genuine tragedy.

The film took a source material that is over-the-top colorful and over-the-top exciting, filled with larger-than-life characters and musically-charged action sequences where Jem and her friends had to both be kick-ass rock stars and kick-ass crime fighters at the same time, and made a toned-down, muted, and overly patronizing “young girl gets in over her head due to fame and artistic success and forgets what matters” fable that basically penalized its young heroes for wanting and achieving success and power…

It was the kind of film that Josie and the Pussycats spoofed a decade ago, and basically operated as a dark-n-gritty origin story that spent the entire film building up to the possibility of maybe seeing a Jem movie that Jem fans wanted to see the first time out in a would-be sequel. Okay, so a cheap film that spit on the source material bombed, who cares right? Well, here’s the rub: The overriding message of Jem and the Holograms is that a girl-centric action cartoon from the 1980′s doesn’t deserve or justify even 5% of the resources given without a second thought to boy-centric properties cashing in on 80′s nostalgia.

Read the complete article here.

Making Comics and Animated Shorts: Ian McGinty and Welcome to Showside

Saturday, October 24th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

welcome-to-showsideComic artist Ian McGinty has worked on Adventure Time, Hello Kitty, Fraggle Rock and many other titles, for publishers such as Archaia, BOOM!, Dynamite and now Z2. Ian is making his creator-owned debut with Welcome to Showside at Z2 Comics 28 October, 2015.

Not only that, but Welcome to Showside has also been developed into an animated series, with McGinty serving as showrunner and one of the voice actors. I wanted to e-interview Ian to chat about his successes.

Thanks for the chance to chat, Ian! You must be crazy busy in these last days of October!

Haha, yeah it’s definitely been pretty insane on this end, but it’s also been super rad and exciting to see everything coming together. A lot of hard work on many people’s parts have gone into Welcome to Showside, both the comic and the animated show, and to finally be seeing the end result, it’s like, damn, you know? I never expected such a great response from people, and it’s still sort of sinking in.

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Dr. Strange, Part I: Establishing the Mythos: Master of the Mystic Arts in The Lee-Ditko Era

Saturday, October 10th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

dr strange 1

The brilliant, eerie worlds of Dr. Strange.

I’ve always liked Dr. Strange. Issue #43 was one of the first four comics my mother gave me in 1980. Stephen Strange is a lonely, stoic hero whose scope of danger and action is nearly always cosmic, and whose inner demons are as powerful as anything he faces with magic.

By the time I was finishing high school, my collection had grown to the point that I had a pretty good grip on his adventures from his first appearance in 1963 to his loss of everything in the late 80s.

Our fearless leader John O’Neill blogged recently about the news of the Dr. Strange movie. I don’t know how I feel about the movie — I have a lot of trouble with disappointing adaptations, but like I did with the Adam Warlock books, I’d like to take a retrospective look on my favorite comic sorcerer.

In my head, the classic Dr. Strange can be broken into three periods. In this post, I’ll look at the establishment of the Dr. Strange mythos in the Lee-Ditko era (roughly Strange Tales #130-#141).

In the early 1960s, there were essentially two creative engines at Marvel. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had created Thor, the Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had created Spider-Man.

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Time Flies: Reflections on Reading Fantasy

Friday, October 9th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Reading Strange MattersTime flies when you’re having fun. My first post on Black Gate went up a bit more than five years ago, a piece about storytelling, role-playing games, and what happened when I ran a group of friends through the original Temple of Elemental Evil D&D module. A couple weeks later I began a run of weekly posts with a discussion of Arthur Howden Smith’s too-often-overlooked historical pulp adventure collection Grey Maiden. A couple weeks after that I finally got around to introducing myself properly.

And in that post I asked a question I’m still trying to answer. Why am I drawn to fantasy? As I put it then: “Why am I so passionate about these stories?” And, as I wondered in the comments, what is fantasy, anyway? About a year later I took a stab at answering at least the first question. I noted that ‘escapism’ didn’t seem like a good answer, that ‘fantasy’ to me is an extremely broad field, and that when I’m disappointed in a fantasy story it’s often because the story’s not fantastic enough — not strange enough, not deeply enough invested in the world it creates. Fantasy’s draw for me, I thought, has to do with its ability to create its own reality, and to organise facts and experience in a distinct way. And with its relation to language and myth: from a certain perspective, a metaphor is a fantasy. Fantasy is, to me, a way of constructing symbols and meaning.

A few years on, I think I can take that answer a little further. I’ve been going over my essays for Black Gate to prepare a series of ebook collections — the first of which, looking at fantasy novels in the twenty-first century, is now available at Amazon and Kobo (and if anybody is gracious enough to buy it, I’d love to hear any reactions in comments to this post). I’m hoping to get a second collection out by Christmas, with more to follow. Preparing them I find myself thinking about those original questions. Why is fantasy more powerful to me than mimetic fiction? What is there in fantasy’s relation to meaning that appeals to me? What follows is an attempt to expand on my earlier answers; it’s entirely personal, and perhaps self-indulgent. This is me trying to work out for myself how I react to stories. It might be useful food for thought for others. It might not.

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Knights of the Dinner Table 224 Now on Sale

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Knights of the Dinner Table 224-smallKnights of the Dinner Table follows the misadventures of a group of misfit gamers from Muncie, Indiana. It is written and drawn by my friend Jolly R. Blackburn, with editorial assistance by his talented wife Barbara. Black Gate readers may remember the KoDT spin-off The Java Joint, which appeared in the back of every issue of BG (and was eventually collected in a single volume in 2012).

KoDT magazine is published monthly. The core of the publication is the comic strip, but the issues are huge — 64 pages — and rounded out with news, reviews, features, and a variety of entertaining gaming columns. It is, hands down, the best way to stay informed on the adventure gaming hobby each month.

I bought the first issue back in 1994, and contributed a book review column for several years in the late 90s. It amazes me to see that, with 224 issues under his belt, Jolly is now closing in on Dave Sim’s legendary 300-issue run with Cerebus. That’s a monumental accomplishment.

KoDT 224 contains no less than nine full-length strips, plus some short “One-Two Punches.” The cover is by Steven Cummings, a smart parody of Seven Samurai.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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SeptOberFright 4: Gene Luen Yang on His First Night Terror: The Headless Bride

Monday, October 5th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Illustration is from the vintage book of horror stories Short and Shivery. This one accompanies a retelling of Irving's "Adventure of the German Student."

Illustration of a retelling of Irving’s “The Adventure of the German Student” in the vintage book of horror stories Short and Shivery

An ongoing theme that arises when I write about horror entertainment is that of tackling the perennial question: Why do we like it so much? And then there is the related question of what possible benefits horror stories might impart.

For this week’s SeptOberFright installment, I’d like to share another voice addressing that idea of horror as healthy. Gene Luen Yang writes Avatar: The Last Airbender — Smoke and Shadow for Dark Horse comics, and he contributed the June 2015 installment of “Horsepower,” the editorial that runs in Dark Horse comic books each month. I came across it in the back of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 issue 16.

Like many others who have given the question “Why horror?” any thought, Yang suggests that horror stories help prepare us for the truly scary things in life. What makes his take particularly fun is his anecdote about his own first encounter with a horror story. To read Yang’s anecdote, which comprises the first five paragraphs of the editorial, click on “Read More” below. For the complete column (in which he goes on to discuss his work with artist Gurihiru on Avatar), hunt down any June 2015 Dark Horse comic book (I’m not sure if these are archived online somewhere, but a quick Google hunt yielded no results).




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