Mage: The Hero Denied 11

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage The Hero Denied 11-smallSo a lot of The Hero Denied seems to concern the dual identities that parents need to maintain, but which far too many don’t. And yeah, like so much of the series that’s gone before, we’re going to start by talking about fairies and magic, but we’ll soon find that we’re talking about our actual lives. If I seemed down on this third part of the Mage series early on, it’s because Kevin Matchstick seemed to be setting up a false choice between fatherhood or adventure. He didn’t have a job, didn’t seem to do a hell of a lot with his kids beyond picking them up from school, and basically spent a lot of his time wandering around aimlessly. His wife would nag about his going off on adventures when he should be attending parent-teacher conferences. His kids were little more than vulnerable targets for monsters whom he would eventually resent.

But with the kidnapping of Magda and Hugo, the dual identities of father and hero have finally come together. Kevin’s finally seeing that he’s raised a couple of amazing kids. We even get a glimmer this issue of the wonderful, horrible truth that most parents eventually realize: his children will one day be able to look out for themselves and won’t need him any longer. And rather than treating his wife like a damsel in distress, Kevin is confident that Magda will be able to take care of herself and their son. Basically, Kevin’s gone from seeing his family as targets to seeing them as allies. Powerful allies. His roles of hero and father aren’t meant to be a choice, but rather complement one another.

So this issue opens with Magda sending her purple flying cat familiar, Cleo, off into the vertigo chamber that lies outside their penthouse prison. The familiar is charged with finding an exit. While that’s going on, Magda shows Hugo all of the magic items that she’s managed to cobble together. The scene is very reminiscent of Q showing off gadgets to 007. There are exploding light bulbs, a hairdryer gun, invisibility hats, and spider-walking sneakers. I’m sure it’s significant that Magda paints lightning bolts on the sneakers, signaling that Hugo is taking on an aspect of his father.

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Mage: The Hero Denied 10

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 10So I might have sold Isis short last issue.

For those of you who are new to the Mage series … honestly, this is a terrible place to jump on. We’re two thirds of the way through the final volume of the trilogy. Stop reading and go pick up Mage: The Hero Discovered. You’ll be a better person for it.

Anyway, during my critique of last issue, I was a bit harsh towards Isis, Magda’s sister. Basically, Kevin informed her that Magda had been kidnapped and that he needed someone to watch his daughter, Miranda, while he went to rescue her. At the time, not only doesn’t Isis offer to help Kevin rescue her sister, but she can’t even be bothered to watch Miranda, meaning that she’d rather have her niece face off against a pack of demons than take time from her spell transcription work to babysit.

However, in issue #10, we see that Kevin has stopped leaving Miranda in the car while he goes adventuring. Instead, he’s bringing her along to help him suss out magical threats. Sure, he’s still the one doing the fighting, but Miranda is definitely helping out. So I’m wondering if Isis deliberately turned Miranda away, knowing that she would be able to help Kevin. As we’ve seen in past volumes, Kevin isn’t always that good at teamwork. I guess when you’re nigh-invulnerable, you might see other people as little more than targets that need protecting. And we’ve already seen how much Kevin is surprised by his daughter’s resourcefulness, so there’s probably an issue of him not believing that she could help him. So Kevin would never choose to take his daughter with him on an adventure, but if he had no choice …

This issue opens with Magda trying and failing to contact help from outside her penthouse prison. Meanwhile, Hugo is staring into a bottomless pit that lies beyond the door to that prison. We’ve actually seen this same setup in the Styx Casino way back in Hero Discovered. But unlike Kevin, Hugo has no fear of heights, so he spends a lot more time staring into the abyss, eventually noticing that there are vague creatures flittering around in it.

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Derek Reads Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing for the First Time

Saturday, August 4th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Saga of the Swamp Thing-small

In my continuing effort to cover many of the classic comic runs, this spring, after much reluctance, I went to my public library and took out the first few trades of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, published by DC comics in the early 1980s and marking the beginning of the British Invasion of comics (which I discussed in a previous post here).

I’ve talked about Alan Moore’s work a few times, like when I recently read Halo Jones for the first time, and when I mused about what a Watchmen-like look at the planetary romance genre might look like, in four parts I, II, III, IV.

I’ve also talked a bit about horror comics of the 1970s, when I looked at Marvel’s Son-of-Satan, and also this spring, I was reading Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula for the first time. I’m not going to blog about Tomb of Dracula, but Black Gate‘s William Patrick Maynard did a 13 part (!) series on it, starting here.

Part of my reluctance in starting Swamp Thing was partly because I was a superhero guy, and second of all, I wasn’t really sure what kind of story might be in the offering with a swamp monster. And once in a hotel in Cuba, with nothing else to do, and with nothing else on, I watched about 15 minutes of the Swamp Thing movie, which (a) didn’t impress me and (b) was based on pre-Moore material anyway.

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Newman: Monster-Killing Gnome Webcomic with 50% More BDSM

Saturday, July 21st, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Newman Josh Ulrich-small

I hadn’t been reading webcomics for a bit, so I went back to and skimmed through their fantasy section. I had previously enjoyed (and blogged about them here) Elf and Warrior and Cyko-KO. This time, I ran across Newman and immediately loved it.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 3, Part 2: Boiled Angels: The Trial Of Mike Diana

Friday, July 20th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Boiled AngelsAfter my first two films last Saturday, I left the large Hall Theatre to see a documentary in the 150-plus-seat De Sève Theatre across the street. The documentary was called Boiled Angels, and it presented the case of zinester and comics creator Mike Diana, whose transgressive work led to him being arrested and put on trial in Florida in the 1990s. I’d followed Diana’s plight at the time through reports in The Comics Journal, and was intrigued to learn more about it now. But if I personally was interested in the film as a look at comics history, I was surprised to find that much of the rest of the crowd was drawn by the chance to see new work by horror director Frank Henenlotter, creator of works like Bad Biology, Frankenhooker, Brain Damage, and Basket Case.

Boiled Angels is his third documentary, and boasts interviews with comics luminaries like Neil Gaiman, Steve Bissette (Taboo, Tyrant, art on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run), Peter Kuper (The System, World War 3 Illustrated), and Peter Bagge (Hate). It’s narrated by Jello Biafra, and does a strong job in tracking down and interviewing people who were involved with Diana’s case nearly twenty-five years ago. We see and hear from Diana’s parents, from the prosecutors, from journalists, even from one of the women who protested Diana at the courtroom. They speak to an off-camera interviewer we don’t hear; we also see Diana himself, describing his background and life. Diana’s comics are dramatised by a live reading by the creator, the camera focussing on the panels as Diana reads out the dialogue. Other segments of the film, particularly early on, give background on things like the history of horror comics, underground comics, and early-90s zine culture. And there are clips of talk shows and news shows dealing with Diana’s case.

There’s not much debate over what actually happened to Diana. In the early 1990s, when he was in his early and mid 20s, he sold a few hundred copies of his obscure comics zine Boiled Angel through the mail. The content of the zine was brought to the attention of the Florida authorities (although there’s a minor dispute about how). Diana had written and drawn comics filled with horror, rape, mutilation, and various kinds of unpleasantness; seemingly as many kinds of unpleasantness as he could think of. For doing so, he was arrested, tried, and found guilty of obscenity. He was fined and put on probation. Drawing comics would potentially violate his probation and cause him to be thrown in jail. And he was subject to warrantless searches to ensure he was not in fact drawing. In other words: the legal authorities forbade an American artist from making art.

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Goth Chick News: Welcome to the World of Comic Book Gross-Outs…

Thursday, July 12th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Die! Die! Die!-smallThis week Image/Skybound Entertainment broke with new release tradition and dropped the first issue of an all-new series without preamble, by comics titans Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta, Oblivion Song), Scott M. Gimple (Punisher: Nightmare, writer and producer for The Walking Dead TV adaptation on AMC), and Chris Burnham (Batman Incorporated, Nameless, Nixon’s Pals), with colors by Nathan Fairbairn who gets to use whichever one he wants as long as it’s red. The first issue of the series entitled DIE!DIE!DIE! went on sale Wednesday.

Kirkman himself made the rather gleeful announcement circulated Tuesday, which is rather last minute as these go, and entirely on purpose:

That’s right, in stores TOMORROW! We want to make going to a comic shop exciting again — a place for discovery! The internet has drained all surprise and anticipation from comics. Everyone hears about exciting new projects and then has to wait months or years for it to be in their hands… and half the time at the end of that buildup, the stories get spoiled in some lame attempt at getting wider media attention. So, surprise! Here’s a new monthly series. How cool is that?! This is literally the only way I can be like Beyoncé.

Gimple added:

I spend most of my time working in TV, the big Walking Dead programs keep me plenty busy, but I’ve had a burning passion for comics since I was nine. I used to go to panels to see Robert Kirkman talk. And now he’s writing quotes in a press release as me that I can read over and tweak!

Yes gentlemen – the euphoria is real and we feel it too.

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RIP Steve Ditko, Co-Creator of Dr. Strange and Spider-Man

Saturday, July 7th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


News broke last night that Steve Ditko had passed away at 90 years old. Ditko co-created Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, the Question, Mr. A (and by those last two characters was the direct inspiration for Alan Moore’s Rorschach), all of Spider-Man’s classic villains and several DC properties. He was also ironically famously reclusive.

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Mage: The Hero Denied #9

Thursday, June 28th, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage-9-smallSo there’s a weird thing that happens in superhero comics after they’ve been running for a while. No matter what sort of superhero we’re dealing with, how weak or powerful, eventually we start to see stories that begin with someone attacking them out of the blue, followed by the hero trying to figure out what’s happening. This happens even more often with superhero teams, since they tend to have publicly known headquarters. While these are sometimes set up as stories of revenge for some past defeat, more often it’s something along the lines of, “The hero is going to stop my evil plan, so before I even start the evil plan, I’m going to take out the hero.” Strangely, after the villain fails to take out the hero, they’ll just go ahead with the plan anyway. But in almost all of those stories, the hero wouldn’t even have KNOWN there was an evil plan if they hadn’t been attacked.

Kevin Matchstick is semi-retired at the start of Hero Denied. He has no idea that the Umbra Sprite has set up a new operation. He’s raising his kids and doing nothing that will cross his path with the Umbra Sprite. He’s not even looking for the Fisher King. Really, he doesn’t start moving until he’s attacked. And even then, he’s basically flailing about with no real focus until his wife and son are kidnapped.

So if the Umbra Sprite had just left Kevin Matchstick alone, he wouldn’t be coming after her. He wouldn’t even have known that anything was going on. Which I suppose is a lesson in how we often make bigger problems for ourselves by overthinking situations.

The issue opens with Kevin and Miranda driving through Fairy Land. Kevin’s got a dozen baseball bats in the backseat, ready to get charged up. I’m not sure how we’re meant to take that fact. On the one hand, it could mean that Kevin’s just getting ready for a lot of fighting. But since he can basically charge any object with magic energy, there is the question of why he’s chosen only to pack baseball bats instead of an assortment of weapons. Or why he doesn’t continue the habit he’s developed in the first half of this series of using improvisation to charge up whatever’s around. It might just be that he’s grasping for something familiar and comfortable as his world is torn apart.

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Derek Runs the Slowest of All Possible Give-aways: Announcing the Winner of Les Klinger’s Annotated Watchmen!

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

The Annotated Watchmen cover-small

I think I earned a new crown, folks! It took a lot of effort and waiting, but I think my patience has finally paid off: I am now officially the slowest book-give-away-runner at Black Gate!  *And the crowd cheers!* I would love to say that a trip to Egypt and two to China were the cause, but honestly, I was one hundred percent channelling Tree-Beard. Let’s not be hasty! Ho-hummmmm.

All that being said, when ents decide to act, they can also be downright precipitous, so I’d better do something!  More than a few weeks ago, I reviewed Les Klinger’s excellent new Annotated Watchmen edition, a giant coffee-table book. We had a slew of great entries, but alas, only one could win!

The entries consisted of one-line explanations of what the entrant thought the most influential element of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen. We present here the seven runners-up and the winner!

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Mage: The Hero Denied #8

Friday, June 22nd, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage The Hero Denied 8-smallSo I’m starting work on my review for Mage: The Hero Denied #9, when I realize that, while I wrote a rather lengthy review of issue #8, I never got around to posting it. Expect the next review in the next week or so.

See the previous reviews in this series here.

Being a fifteen-issue series, issue #8 is obviously the halfway point for the story and as such we expect it to be something of a turning point. And while some parts of the story are very predictable for a mid-point chapter, this issue did manage to surprise me a few times. The two starting points are Magda waking up in the villains’ lair and Kevin facing the ogre that trashed his house. Magda gets the stereotypical James Bond treatment, where her enemy sets her up in a luxury suite and promises to provide her with every comfort before killing her. And Kevin gets pummeled by a monster. But then both story threads go in unexpected directions.

It starts with the way that Kevin handles the ogre. His focus here is on finding his family and since killing the ogre won’t help him in that goal, he refuses to fight back. The result is that the ogre starts tossing him around while Kevin just keeps asking where his family’s been taken. This isn’t the strike-first and ask-questions-later approach that we expect from Kevin. It’s the tactic of a more responsible hero who is controlling his rage so that he can achieve a more important goal than just defeating the monster.

The scene switches to Magda demanding to see her children. And here we see another parallel between Magda and the Umbra Sprite. She’s told that the Umbra Sprite values her daughters as much as Magda values her children. She’s then reunited with Hugo. And we’re left to wonder what’s happened to Miranda.

Back to Kevin, who continues to get pummeled by the monster, refusing to fight back until his questions are answered. But then he discovers that only Hugo and Magda were captured. Miranda is hiding in the rubble. Once he realizes that his daughter is there and could be harmed, he makes very quick work of the ogre, revealing that he could have easily killed the monster at any time.

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