Flashback: The Priest-hood of the Panther

I haven’t had a chance to go see the Black Panther movie yet due to circumstances beyond my control — such as weekend company and my continued recuperation from a serious arm injury — but I’m hopeful I’ll get a chance to visit Wakanda in the next day or two.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the leadup to the movie is the mainstream media exposure of the many creators will help to shape the character over the decades. Writer Don McGregor, for example, has received a fair bit of attention for his contributions to Black Panther lore and how they’ve made their way onto the silver screen and into the minds of a much wider audience.

Personally, I’m most thrilled that writer Christopher Priest has also enjoyed a bolstered profile, both in the comics industry and beyond, for his contributions to the Panther mythos, many of which are also reflected in director Ryan Coogler’s screen adaptation. That got me thinking about how I came to be familiar with Priest’s unconventional and challenging writing, thanks to encounters with him on Usenet (look it up, younger readers) in the 1990s and recommendations from online friends.

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Love Notion Undermined

Death of Love #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Donal DeLay
Colors: Omar Estévez & Felipe Sobreiro
Letters: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

It may seem fitting that this comic book about the challenges of looking for love is being launched on Valentine’s Day. But this is no romance comic. If you’re looking for a touching love story this week, might I suggest checking out Bingo Love, an original graphic novel also being released by Image Comics this week. Nevertheless, Death of Love #1 is timely in its release, but not because it’s Valentine’s Day. Instead, its relevance flows from how it touches on relationships, misnomers about the “Battle of the Sexes,” and the #MeToo movement. Writer Justin Jordan offers a spot-on portrayal of a pitiful and cowardly guy who feels the universe owes him love. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was so drawn in by the script was because of how much I saw myself in it — or at least a past version of myself. This inaugural issue of Death of Love isn’t about love but rather about fear. The more fantastic premise that reveals Itself by the end of the issue isn’t entirely clear, and on the surface, it would seem to sidestep the point of responsibility. But given the clear indications that the main character is His Own Worst Enemy in this story, I suspect the overall theme will return to a grounded and more evolved perspective.

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Bear Necessity

My Boyfriend Is a Bear original graphic novel
Writer: Pamela Ribon
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Cat Farris
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Editors: Ari Yarwood & Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $19.99 US/$24.99 CAN

Some of the best comics I’ve been reading lately– be it Tom King’s Batman or Tee Franklin’s Bingo Love — have been romance comics. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me how compelling, thought-provoking and amusing My Boyfriend Is a Bear proved to be to me. It’s one of those rare projects that poses a challenge for critics such as myself in that it defies description. The publisher has labeled it as a romantic comedy, and while it certainly is funny at times, I think that label falls well short of conveying the unusual and intelligent qualities of this book. It’s really more of a romantic fable. Writer Pamela Ribon eschews cliched notions of couplehood and explores things from an extraordinary and truly different angle. She delves into comfort and kindness, into oddities and acceptance. I’ll be honest — I can’t say I fully understand the central message of this graphic novel. Maybe it’s not meant to be that clearly defined or understood. It’s undeniably entertaining and prompts its audience consider relationships, happiness and the potential that we settle to achieve social structures of the norm.

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Killing Time

Action Comics #996
“Booster Shot, Part IV”
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Will Conrad
Colors: Ivan Nunes
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Dan Jurgens & Trevor Scott (regular)/Dustin Nguyen (variant)
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I started reading this series again for the “Oz Effect” story arc, which piqued my interest and impressed with its artwork. I continued to read because this followup arc, “Booster Shot,” offered the promise of a classic team-up tale, and new Booster Gold artwork from the character’s creator, Dan Jurgens. And at first, this title delivered. But four issues into this story, we’re on our third artist, and plot hasn’t really advanced in any appreciable way. It feels as though the approaching milestone for the series is dictating the pacing of the plot, rather than any focus on storytelling.

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Here We Go Again…

Strangers in Paradise XXV #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studio
Price: $3.99 US

Everything Terry Moore writes and draws is something I want to see, and in recent years, I’ve enjoyed seeing him branch out into other genres. With Echo, it was a novel and grounded take on a super-hero. Rachel Rising saw him delve into horror. And with Motor Girl, he examined… well, I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly under what genre that book fell (which is one of the things that was so captivating about it). Strangers in Paradise is the drama that served to bring Moore to the industry’s attention, the foundation on which he built his career in comics and his success in self-publishing. At first glance, the past incarnations of the property were part of a relationship drama, even an unconventional romance. But like Motor Girl, it defied easy definition. It was a slapstick comedy. An international thriller. A coming-of-age story. The depth of his characters — especially when it came to Katchoo and Francine — no doubt made revisiting this familiar corner of the world he’s built after so long a relatively simple task for a storyteller with the vision, nuance and sensitivity of Moore, but I was surprised he chose to return to this corner of the world he’s built over the years. However, yet another strong and riveting script from this masterful writer/artist now has me eager to learn what’s happened with these characters and what’s in store for them.

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Alt Fight

Days of Hate #1
“Chapter One: America First”
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist/Cover artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Ales Kot must have been nerve-wracked as he waited for this comic book to be released, wondering if the possible prophecies of his prose might come true, and I expect the experience will be a perpetual one throughout the 12-issue run. This story flows entirely from the socio-political upheaval in the United States right now and the emboldening of white supremacy in that country. Every day, there’s a new development in politics that would have been thought to be impossible in previous decades. But more than anything, I can’t help but wonder if the near-future Kot imagines in this story isn’t so much near but immediately impending. Days of Hate isn’t so much a piece of fiction, but a prediction if racism and the wealth gap are allowed to continue to grow, threatening to swallow what was once viewed as perhaps the most progressive and idealistic nation on the planet, rather than the shithole country many worry it’s in danger of becoming.

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Poster Parting Depression


During my junior year of university, the above image adorned one wall of my small dorm room. The massive piece of art, the noted Marvel Universe poster with art by penciller Ed Hannigan and inker Joe Rubenstein, was actually a collage of his cover artwork from the first 12 issues of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe limited series, over the course of 1982 to 1984 (the total run was 15 issues, with the last three focusing on dead characters and weapons)..

The poster, measuring 50 inches by 50 inches (more than 16 square feet), would’ve been released in 1988 — oddly enough, after the followup index series, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition had wrapped up. Of course, since different artists ultimately contributed cover artwork for that second series while Hannigan handled all of the covers for the original series, I suppose it made more sense to release his work as a poster (albeit updated to reflect some additions and costume changes).

Alas, sometime during my university days, or perhaps as they came to an end, I misplaced the poster, packed up safely in its original hard cardboard tube. I left it behind somewhere after one of my many moves.

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Flea Market Finds: Tomorrow’s Avengers Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 1 trade paperback
Writers: Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Scott Edelman & Stan Lee
Pencils: Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom & John Buscema
Inks: Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, Pablo Marcos, Al Milgrom, Howard Chaykin, Terry Austin, Bob Wiacek, Dave Hunt, John Tartaglione & Joe Sinnott
Colors: Stan Goldberg, Petra Goldberg, George Roussos, Irene Vartanoff, Al wenzel, Glynis Wein, Phil Rachelson, Janice Cohen & Don Warfield
Letters: Herb Cooper, Charlotte Jetter, Annette Kawecki, Dave Hunt, Karen Mantlo, Joe Rosen, John Costanza, Denise Wohl, Irving Watanabe, Jim Novak & Sam Rosen
Cover artist: Al Milgrom
Editors: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman & Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $39.99 US/$43.99 CAN

A few months ago, I got a chance to pick up this trade paperback and Tomorrow’s Avengers Volume 2 for a paltry $20 (total, not each). It was too good a deal to pass up, and I relished the chance to read this Silver and Bronze Age material. That sort of classic material is almost always entertaining, be it for its campiness, bombastic qualities and even as fine representations of the craft of comics. That’s what I hoped to find here, and there was some of that entertainment to be had. But unfortunately, what this book spotlighted more than anything was how the publisher and the creators tasked with these original Guardians comics really didn’t know what they wanted to do with these characters and concepts. The late Steve Gerber was known for his unconventional and avant-garde storytelling, but his scripts later in this book read like ham-fisted attempts at classic Star Trek episodes featuring few characters anyone’s going to like at all.

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Brought Together By Bingo

Bingo Love original graphic novel
Writer: Tee Franklin
Artist: Jenn St-Onge
Colors: Joy San
Letters: Cardinal Rae
Cover artist: Genevieve Eft
Editor: Erica Schultz
Publisher: Image Comics/Inclusive Press
Price: $9.99 US

Purely from a marketing perspective, this book has a lot going for it. The title is a striking one, evoking curiosity and bemusement, and the cute figures on the cover draws one in further as well. On top of that, the $10 price tag is an affordable and inviting one, so Bingo Love was poised to catch some eyes. But I suspect word of mouth would have been all these creators needed to attract an audience. This is a powerfully compelling and charming love story about being gay in America in the past and what it means to be gay today. It’s definitely a celebration of the progress in LGBTQ+ issues. But honestly, the story doesn’t draw its strength from that relevance and importance. Instead, it’s the touching and believable love story that grabs the reader and never lets go, along with the well-realized cast of characters. By the end of the book, this is a story about a family that adapts to the power and promise of love, putting happiness above prejudice and petty concerns.

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Post-Credits Digression

While Marvel Studios didn’t invent the post-credits scene in movies, it certainly embraced it to the point that it’s a signature of its brand now. Whenever I go to see a Marvel movie in theatres, I’m always shocked at the number of people who get up and leave as soon as the end credits begin. When the Marvel brand first started, most people left, with a handful of us remaining for the bonus. Now, I’d say almost half of the audience splits, and given how much fun those post-credits scenes can be and how well known the Marvel brand is for them, I find it incredibly puzzling.

You know what’s even more befuddling? Marvel Entertainment’s new attempt to adopt the post-credit scene in its comics. As of last week, the comics publisher has begun branding a handful of its titles with a “Where is Wolverine?” icon and promising the comic in question has such a bonus scene at the end of the book.

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Think Pink

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Pencils: Mike Feehan
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Ben Caldwell (regular)/Evan “Doc” Shaner (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

As many comics critics are still offering up their Best of 2017 lists, we’re faced with what may be the front runner for 2018’s finest right off the bat. I knew The Snagglepuss Chronicles would be great, given that it’s the brainchild of Mark Russell, the writer behind the surprising and relevant take on The Flintstones. Furthermore, we got a taste of his unconventional and innovative interpretation of Snagglepuss in last year’s Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special last year. But even that sneak peek in that short backup story didn’t prepare me for the strength of his social commentary in this new title. This comic book is a fascinating piece of historical fiction that has the potential to spark an interest in 1950s creative culture, and at the same time, the writer offers a powerful perspective on the realities of 21st century America.

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