Max emerges from obscurity to put some gas in the blog’s tank to wish everyone a Happy New Year and talk about how exciting 2014 is shaping up to be for the comics medium and how great it is to be a comic book fan right now.
Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of comics! Join Max every chance he gets as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at email@example.com. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to comment in the comments section below. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope all of you had the happiest of holiday seasons and wish you all the best for the New Year. I know the blog entries are becoming something of the past, as I’ve been struggling with writer’s block. I’ve written notes and done half-finished entries and not really gotten anywhere, and it’s been frustrating. However, I’m making it a resolution to try to do more writing despite the difficulties and do the best I can. The New Year is also inspiring to write about simply because there are so many great comics happening right now or will be appearing in 2014, and now more than ever, it’s great to be a comic book fan!
First of all, 2014 will see the return of two long dormant, long out of print series, Alan Moore, author of Watchmen (and so much more!) and Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman (and also so much more!)’s Miracleman and David Lapham’s Stray Bullets. Miracleman is significant in that it is a story that was began by Alan Moore who wrote it and Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch and John Totleben who drew it beginning in 1982 and now, thanks to Marvel Comics, will only begin to be finished by Neil Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham in 2016.
Miracleman tells the story of a Captain Marvel/Shazam like character who is in fact based on the British character Marvelman, who is actually a British derivative of the original Captain Marvel character. Fawcett Publications’ original Captain Marvel comics from the Golden Age of comics were reprinted in England by a company known as L. Miller & Son, and reprints of the Big Red Cheese’s adventures were as popular in the UK as they were in the US. When DC Comics successfully won a lawsuit against Fawcett claiming Captain Marvel was an imitation of Superman in 1953 by default, when Fawcett decided not to fight the lawsuit in court and discontinued their Captain Marvel comics, it left L. Miller & Son without any new Captain Marvel material to reprint. Not eager to give up the popularity of the franchise, Len Miller (the “L. Miller” in “L. Miller & Son”) turned to artist/writer Mick Anglo to create a similar, albeit distinctly different, character and Marvelman was born. Instead the civilian boy identity being that of brunette Billy Batson, it was young blonde Micky Moran. Instead of transforming by a magic word “SHAZAM!” it was a scientific formula “KIMOTA!” (“Atomic” backwards). Instead of turning into Captain Marvel in a red costume, Micky turned into Marvelman in a blue costume. While derivative and aside from color covers, comics that were completely black & white, Marvelman ran from 1954 to the 1963, inspiring many young British children, including one Alan Moore.
Miracleman was Moore’s answer to “what happens when Moran grows up and forgets his word?” It’s publication history started in the British magazine Warrior as Marvelman (along with installments of Moore’s “V for Vendetta”) and was changed to Miracleman when it was brought to the US by Eclipse Comics so as not to tick off Marvel Comics. Moore got to tell his complete story, then passed the series to writer Neil Gaiman to continue the Miracleman mythology. Gaiman had planned a series of three story arcs: The Golden Age, The Silver Age, and The Dark Age but was only able to complete The Golden Age and a half of The Silver Age before Elclipse ran out of money and folded. Since then, the rights to Miracleman have been muddied in a legal quagmire after Todd McFarlane bought the rights to Eclipse Comics and held up the rights from Gaiman, who also owned a portion of the rights. It’s been out of print for ages. Although the precise legal proceedings are unknown, things got even crazier when Marvel bought up the rights to the original Marvelman character from Mick Anglo in 2009 just before he died in 2011. No one knew if this meant Marvel had the rights to Miracleman, until at New York City Con 2013 Marvel announced they would be reprinting the original series from the beginning with a new recoloring job, (although Moore’s contributions would be credited to “the original writer”) and that Gaiman would finally be finishing the story. Decades from when it began, Miracleman will finally see Gaiman’s conclusion. And who says that will be the end? Speculation runs rampant that Miracleman comics will continue from Marvel, and/or Miracleman will be brought into the Marvel Universe.
I read Miracleman in its entirety when I was 18-19 thanks to a friend across the hall in my dorm, Paul. He loaned me all the greats: Watchmen, Sandman, Hellblazer, Mage: The Hero Discovered and Miracleman. It restored my faith in comics after I had been turned off by them in high school by things that seemed like gimmicks such as Superman being “killed” and Batman’s back being broken. Miracleman in particular was amazing, but simultaneously frustrating because it was unfinished and the point where it stops is…well, the worst place to stop as so much was about to happen. Years later, Tony Barry at Super-Fly would offer me trades of Miracleman…at over $100 a pop! I decided to wait for when the legal troubles were sorted and I could actually buy trades for a reasonable price…but wondered if it would happen in my lifetime. (Crazily enough, Tony would end up selling at least one of his Miracleman TPBs over the internet to someone at Marvel Comics!)
Thanks to another friend, I was able to read the series again just this past summer, at age 36, twice my age as I read it the first time. It was again breathtaking to read but also incredibly frustrating to get to the unfinished “end,” but at that time, there was at least some indication Marvel was working on it…So this news is exciting to me, but it should be exciting to you too. This is some diamond in the rough that most people didn’t get to read the first time, and it’s going to be awesome! Don’t miss Miracleman this time around!
Another ambitious return for 2014 is David Lapham’s Stray Bullets. Not quite nearly as old as Miracleman, Stray Bullets began in 1995. Written, drawn and inked by Lapham, Bullets was hard hitting and intense and easily one of the most compelling crime comics to come along before or since. Another thing that made the series great is that although there were reoccurring characters and connecting plot lines, each issue could be a “done in one” story as well as part of a larger whole. And no comic would make you feel as messed up as after you read a Stray Bullets. Well, maybe not till some issues of The Walking Dead at least. While the series was great, it was almost impossible to find trades of it over the years and it has been long out of print. Even when it was coming out, Lapham had a couple breaks, including a really long one that will only be coming to an end in March 2014, when Lapham will return, bringing his Stray Bullets franchise to Image Comics to finish the first series with issue #41. He will also be starting a new series, Stray Bullets Killers featuring a story starring series mainstay Spanish Scott, (and seemingly from the latest Previews, possibly a grown up Joey from the first issue of the first series? We’ll have to wait and see). On top of all that, Image will publish a complete omnibus of the first series, called the über Alles edition.
Stray Bullets is a series that is not to be missed if you like crime stories, or just human nature at its worst. This is not to say it’s Crossed effed up (though Lapham has had a turn writing that series), or even levels of The Walking Dead brutal, but it can get pretty violent and explicit. For that matter, so can Miracleman. These are definitely books for adults! Of course, there are lots of other comics happening right now that are also cool and worth noting, not all of them quite so risqué. Super-Fly is a big fan of BOOM Comics kids division kaboom and their Adventure Time comics and IDW’s My Little Pony Comics, so both the industry and this store have got something for the young adventurers and bronies of any age aside from some of the more mature stuff.
While Marvel and DC both seem a little bogged down with events lately, there’s still some stuff to enjoy or look forward to, such as Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained and Snyder’s excellent Batman run. Harley Quinn has a new series written by the coolest couple in comics, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, with Conner doing the covers. Then there’s Jeff Lemire drawing the end of Animal Man and then doing a Justice League team with Justice League Canada with Animal Man and Adam Strange in the lineup. Maybe this is exciting to me because my wife is Canadian and I’ve covered Animal Man and Adam Strange extensively in this blog, but Jeff Lemire writing a Justice League team is a pretty thrilling prospect—he is one excellent writer! Plus Geoff Johns is writing a new series, with rumors running it could be a Shazam or Cyborg series. At the Vertigo side of DC, Neil Gaiman is revisiting his beloved Sandman franchise in Sandman Overture before returning to Miracleman at Marvel. Similarly, Mark Buckingham is also busy, working at Vertigo with Bill Willingham bringing the Fables franchise to a close along with its companion series Fairest. Vertigo has also brought back Kurt Busiek’s Astro City with a long delayed trade and a brand new series. Over at Marvel, there’s books like Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy with excellent artist Kevin Maguire coming aboard and doing a nice job on his first issue. Then there are other standout books like Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers, Nick Spencer’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man or Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye or (perhaps my favorite,) Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil. Not to mention, Peter Parker will likely be returning to take over the web slinging role from Doc Ock as Superior Spider-Man will be coming to a close and a new run of Amazing Spider-Man will be beginning.
How about classic, lesser known heroes? Archie Comics is having a good amount of success revitalizing their Red Circle comics line with the New Crusaders and The Fox, including publishing classic material in their volume New Crusaders Legacy (which I may cover if I can keep writing) and other volumes featuring the Fly, the Shield and the classic Mighty Crusaders. IDW has relaunched the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the heroes whose powers are killing them. Then at Dynamite, there are classic heroes like Green Hornet, the Shadow, Doc Samson, Miss Fury, just to name a few. Not to mention Dynamite has acquired even more classic lesser known heroes and are bringing back the Gold Key characters with four series coming from hot writers: Turok the Dinosaur Hunter by Greg Pak, Magnus Robot Fighter by Fred Van Lente, Solar: Man of the Atom by Frank Barbiere and Doctor Spektor by Mark Waid.
There are exciting comics projects, like IDW bringing Judge Dredd to a North American audience, then teaming him up with Mars Attacks! IDW’s planned Jack Kirby New Gods Artist’s Edition. Dynamite teaming up Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Green Hornet for a steam punk adventure (which Super-Fly owner Tony Barry says is on the shelves now!). Gerard Way is bringing back Umbrella Academy in the new year. Archie’s Afterlife with Archie. Image’s Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, or the The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Then there are relatively recent developments that we’re still reaping the benefits from, such as the recent resurrection of excellent publishing groups First and Valiant! Not to mention all the exciting projects announced at the Image Expo, which were late breaking developments as this was going up!
Reprints of classic comic strips and series have never been better or more plentiful. There are great works like Fantagraphics reprints of Walt Kelly’s Pogo while there are new, larger reprints of Prince Valiant being prepared in Europe (it is unclear who will publish the English language versions, but they’re coming) for next year. Dark Horse also offers an impressive line ups of archives of reprints, including the Gold Key characters, Conan the Barbarian, Nexus, Shmoo, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and even lesser known heroes like Green Lama, Mighty Samson, Nemesis and Magicman.
Also, there are lots of opportunities to catch up to classic Marvel & DC works with Marvel Masterworks and Omni and DC Archives Editions—all three formats well worth their asking price. Whether you want old adventures of the X-Men, Avengers, Hulk, Batman, Superman, the Justice League or even the Legion of Super Heroes, there are books out there. Things aren’t perfect though and there’s room for improvement where more obscure characters are concerned; I am sad to report that one of the books I was looking forward to most from DC in 2013, The Captain Comet Archives Edition, was quietly cancelled, maybe we’ll get something like this someday…
Back on the upside, it’s beyond stuff at the comic shop that is getting exciting. After all, more and more comic related movies and TV shows are in development or production now than ever before. While 2014 will see Amazing Spider-Man2,X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel characters, DC has exciting film plans in the works for 2015 with its Superman/Batman movie with Wonder Woman confirmed to appear. Then there’s Guillermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark movie and on the TV side Gotham, Flash, Hourman and Constantine shows in development, with Arrow to tide us over till those appear. Marvel has its current show too with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and plenty set for the future with its Netflix plans for Daredevil, Alias, Luke Cage and Iron Fist Defenders series. Then there’s news that there’s FINALLY movement in bringing Preacher to the small screen in a pilot for AMC. Meanwhile, The Walking Dead continues to rake in the ratings with the series set to resume soon. Yes indeedy, it’s an exciting time to be a comics fan!
So why not visit your local comic shop today? Specifically, come to Super-Fly! (Unless you’re like a bazillion miles away and can’t make the trip, in which case, we can overlook you going to your local comic shop!) And find out what kind of greatness 2014 has to offer you! As for me, I’ll try to be back with you sooner than later. Sorry for all the delays, but at least I was able to write this successfully, and you know what they say about getting back on the horse… Again, Happy New Year to you all! I’ll see you at Super-Fly!