The Iron Teacher

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

The Iron Teacher

I try to stay away from expounding on the popular cultural artifacts from other countries. Going back in time and explaining why American pop culture looks the way it does often ranges from difficult to impossible. Even the English, a culture separated from ours by a common language, has a past that is a semiotic mystery most of the time.

Take comic books. Americans invented them (depending on what you consider Italy’s Il Giornalino to be) and the English followed closely behind. The Dandy started in December 1937 and The Beano on July 30, 1938, meaning it will reach its 4000th issue this summer. (It’s been issued weekly except during WWII.) Both were part of the gigantic D. C. Thomson & Co. empire. By then Thompson already had a lock on the boys’ story paper market, those being the British equivalent of the boy’s story weeklies that proliferated in the U.S. during the late 19th century. (Those are now famed for introducing early robots like the Steam Man and the Electric Man, along with many other science-fictional inventions.) The story weeklies usually carried a complete short novel or a serialization of a longer one. The story papers also carried serializations, but those were short segments that appeared alongside complete short stories.

Thompson started Adventure in 1921 and added The Rover, The Wizard, The Skipper, and, in 1933, The Hotspur. (The internet tells me that the name comes from the noble warrior Sir Henry Percy, known as Sir Harry Hotspur, who is immortalized by an appearance in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Exactly the sort of everybody-gets-it reference that trips me up when encountering other cultures.) These “Big Five” dominated the market and lasted for generations, eventually mostly being merged into one another as the market for story papers faded at the end of the 20th century.

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Lore Olympus: One of the 2019 Eisner Nominees

Saturday, May 4th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I’ve been following webtoons.com on my phone’s app for a while and had Lore Olympus suggested to me many times because it is one of the most highly recommended. The thumbnail didn’t do much for me, but I recently decided to try it. The first episode is here. Oh my God…. It is so good!

In Lore Olympus writer/artist Rachel Smythe retells the Persephone-Hades story in the trappings of a modern urban fantasy. It is a full-on romance story, but also fully placed in the world of the gods and the nymphs and legends of ancient Greece, with cell phones, Fatesbook, cars and glitzy parties.

Nineteen-year old, over-protected Persephone is staying with Artemis while she starts university. They go to a party at Hera’s house, and only intend to stay for one drink, because Demeter, to protect her daughter, raised her in the mortal realm and Persephone is not used to any of the gods’ vast wealth. In her family, they make things.

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Will the Real Captain Marvel Please Stand Up, or Why Can’t the World’s Mightiest Mortal Use His Own Name?

Sunday, April 28th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Is this Captain Marvel-small (2) Or is this Captain Marvel-small

A few weeks ago my wife and I saw the new Captain Marvel movie. I thought it was a smashingly successful film, above all in its demonstration of how shockingly superhero storytelling has degenerated over the past fifteen years. But whether I liked it or not is neither here nor there; after all, the movie made a billion dollars, and as Doctor Doom himself would be the first to acknowledge, that’s the important part.

On the way to the theater, my wife wanted to know just who this Captain Marvel was – Brie Larson sure didn’t look like the hero that she thought bore that name, the grinning hunk in the bright red suit with the yellow lightning bolt on his chest. Did Captain Marvel have some sort of life crisis that required an extreme change in direction – and wardrobe? (That happens these days, even in comic books.) She was especially confused because there’s another movie out right now that features the crimson-clad character that she’s familiar with, except in this other movie, he’s called Shazam, not Captain Marvel.

The explanation is simple… well, not really simple, but I’ll try to at least make it comprehensible. This Captain Marvel is not that Captain Marvel. The guy in the red suit is the first, the real Captain Marvel, with a pedigree going all the way back to the fabled Golden Age of the 1940’s, while this current version is, for all of her many virtues, a claim jumper. And yes, something indeed happened to the original hero. He was the victim of a plot more nefarious than anything the Joker or the Red Skull ever cooked up, and he suffered something more starkly evil, more life shattering, and more humiliatingly debilitating than any wound inflicted by magic talisman or sinister superweapon.

So what was it that laid Captain Marvel low?

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Girls of the Wild’s: Fantastical MMA from Korea

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I try to read a bit of everything. I’ve blogged about Webtoons.com before — it’s a massive (like thousands) webcomic hosting site in South Korea. I’ve mentioned Newman, Cyko-KOmaybe Elf and Warrior, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve burned through 190 episodes (each one is equivalent to 4-6 comic book pages) of a 260 episode series called Girls of the Wild’s

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It’s basically Harry Potter goes to a Korean Hogwarts, except instead of magic, it’s mixed martial arts, and instead of wizards, it’s a girls school. And now it’s co-ed for the first time, and a poor guy called Jaegu, who gets beat up and bullied a lot, and who has to raise his two kindergarten siblings because his mother abandoned them, is the first and only male student.

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Goth Chick News: Plunging into Twisted Dark

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Traveller comic The Theory comic

In the name of full disclosure, I must admit I’m a sucker for a Brit. And if that Brit happens to write dark, twisted, steam-punky comics, then put your thumbs in your ears while I do a full on, fan-girl squee…

Okay, maybe scratch that mental image and let’s move on.

We first met British writer Neil Gibson back in early 2014 at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. Then he was promoting volume one of Twisted Dark; the illustrated story he had written which had just been published by indie comic house TPub in the UK.

In May 2015, Twisted Dark reached number one on the UK Kindle chart. And when I was in London’s famous Foyles bookstore last year, another of Gibson’s offerings, Tortured Life was highlighted as a “staff pick” in the graphic novel section.

Six volumes of Twisted Dark and several other series later, it’s clear I’m far from being the only fan of Gibson’s unique style of storytelling. So a couple weeks ago when he emailed to let me know his newest project with TPub, The Traveler, was complete and a Kickstarter campaign had been launched to bring it to life in print, I was as happy as a cosplayer at a 2-for-1 spandex sale to get a look and tell you all about it.

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Future Treasures: Decades: Marvel in the 70s – Legion of Monsters

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Marvel Decades Legion of Monsters-smallIf there’s a company out there that knows how to use nostalgia to shake dollars out of me, it’s Marvel. I’ve already shelled out for their deluxe hardcover Omnibus volumes, the black & white Essentials line, and more recently I’ve spent a fortune on their Epic Collections, which assemble 18 issues apiece of early core titles like Thor, Spider-Man, Avengers and Fantastic Four. Recently they’ve launched a Decades series that looks at some of the more offbeat comics from Marvel’s long history and, heaven help me, I’m reaching for my wallet again. In this case it’s for a nearly forgotten team book from the 70s which has never let go of my imagination.

Celebrate 80 years of Marvel Comics, decade by decade — together with the groovy ghoulies of the Supernatural Seventies! It was an era of black-and-white magazines filled with macabre monsters, and unsettling new titles starring horror-themed “heroes”! Now, thrill to Marvel’s greatest horror icons: The melancholy muck-monster known as the Man-Thing — whosoever knows fear burns at his touch! Morbius, the Living Vampire! Jack Russell, cursed to be a Werewolf-by-Night! And the flame-skulled spirit of vengeance, the Ghost Rider! But what happens when they are forced together to become… the Legion of Monsters? Plus stories starring Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Manphibian, the vampire-hunter Blade… and never-before-reprinted tales of terror!

COLLECTING: LEGION OF MONSTERS (1975) 1; MARVEL PREVIEW 8; MARVEL PREMIERE 28; MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (1971) 2, 5; FRANKENSTEIN (1973) 1; TOMB OF DRACULA (1972) 10; MATERIAL FROM SAVAGE TALES (1971) 1

Previous titles in the Decades series include Marvel in the 60s – Spider-Man Meets the Marvel Universe, collecting 60s Spider-Man stories from Amazing, Avengers, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and other places; Marvel in the 50s – Captain America Strikes! which gathers material from Young Men, Captain America (1954), Men’s Adventures, and other mags; Marvel in the 80s – Awesome Evolutions, which collects some of the bizarre makeovers of the 80s, including Spider-Man’s black costume, Storm’s mohawk, Thor’s battle armor and the Hulk’s return to gray.

Decades: Marvel in the 70s – Legion of Monsters will be published by Marvel on April 23, 2019. It is 248 pages, priced at $24.99 in print and $16.99 in digital formats.


Tillie the Toiler and Rosie the Robot

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Tilie the Toiler, Large Feature Comics #30 1942

The history of comic strips sometimes seems like a roll call of male names. The Katzenjammer Kids, Little Nemo, Tarzan, Moon Mullins, Li’l Abner, Barnaby, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Joe Palooka, Barney Google, Mutt and Jeff, Dick Tracy, Harold Teen, and the name of names, Rube Goldberg’s Boob McNutt. Even Blondie heads a strip that’s 99.9% about Dagwood.

Probably the most famous female comic strip heroine is Little Orphan Annie. Digging into archives brings up a roster of mostly forgotten others: Ella Cinders, Etta Kett, Winnie Winkler, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, Little Annie Rooney, Dixie Dugan, Betty, Nancy, and Dimples, a roster that will bring few images to mind.

Only a handful of comic strips ever ran a major series starring robots, and those were mostly in the male-oriented science fiction strips. Two rare exceptions occurred in Invisible Scarlet O’Neil and Ella Cinders, but both robots were drawn and referred to as males. (How do you sex a robot? The top set of swimmerets on a female’s tail are soft, translucent, and crossed at the tips. A male’s swimmerets are bony, opaque, and point up toward his body. Sorry. That’s how you sex a lobster. You sex robots by the length of their hair and the size of their breasts, just like humans. Check below if you don’t believe me.) Finding a strip with a female star going up against a female robot is the rarity of rarities.

Today’s unique find is Rosie the Robot in Tillie the Toiler. (Not the far more famous Jetson’s Rosie. Rosie is to girl robots what Robbie is to boy robots: hideously overused.)

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The Assured Place of Superheroes in American Popular Culture

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Nick Ozment

avengers assemble!Some people, 24 (or 25?) movies in, are expressing MCU superhero movie fatigue. (Certainly not me or most of my friends — the films continue to be some of the more fun, thrilling entertainments to be had at the cineplex two or three times a year. Is the quality dropping off? Hell no — try to rank ‘em; I’ll bet several of the ones at the top of the list came out just in the last couple years.) I’m talking about a few critics (some of whom were saying the genre was getting “tired” and “played out” 15 films ago), and a few newcomers who didn’t grow up on four-color comics but jumped on the bandwagon when the culture went crazy for costumed crime-fighters.

I can imagine how it must look to them: Now they turn on their TV and it seems like a dozen streaming and broadcast tv shows are about caped crusaders; they check the movie listings and half the films filling up theater screens are about super-powered beings.

They suggest it will eventually play out. They think audiences will finally be sated, the fad will pass. Everyone will grow tired of beautiful people in spandex.

I’ve got news for them.

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Higher, Further, Faster: Captain Marvel

Sunday, March 10th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)

I just came back from watching Captain Marvel with my 14-year old son. He was super excited to see it. He hasn’t yet maxed out on superhero movies like his dad. That being said, I was also pretty hyped to see it, in part because Captain Marvel was one of the comics I first started collecting when I was eleven and twelve years old. Back then, I was reading the Mar-Vell version, but I also picked up some Claremont/Cockrum Ms. Marvel because of Captain Marvel and because Carol Danvers was a regular in the Uncanny X-Men at the time.

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Hither Came Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon, the Bible, and Dark Horse

Monday, March 4th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_Shadows_PirateFightEDITED2 Timothy Truman turned sixty-three recently. Truman is one of the leading graphic book writers and artists in the industry. He was a cornerstone of Dark Horse’s Conan line, both writing and drawing.

Truman scripted “Iron Shadows in the Moon,” which Morgan Holmes recently expounded on. So, today we’ve got a bonus Hither Came Conan post, looking at Dark Horse’s version. Along with some discussion of the ‘before and after’ in that storyline.

The Free Companions covered issues 16 -18 of Dark Horse’s Conan The Cimmerian run. They picked up the storyline after the end of “Black Colossus,” with Conan at Yasmela’s side, to the disapproval of the Khorajans. He rescues her brother, king Khossus, but by story’s end, is displaced by Prince Julion of Muric (Al-Muric), an exiled stepson of King Strabonus.

Issues 19 – 21, Kozaki, cover Conan leading the Free Companions. After being dismissed from Khorajan service by Al-Muric, they raided willy nilly, building up some enmity.

But all of this is muddled together, as Dark Horse has Conan, near dead, in the swamps of the Ilbars River, the lone survivor of the Free Companions. And until Shah Amaruth shows up, pursuing Olivia, the story is a mélange of flashbacks involving Conan, Olivia’s story, and activity in the swamps. It will take more effort than it’s worth to sort through all that, so I’ll just work in a relatively linear fashion, time-wise.

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