Comic books and graphic novels


Jimmy Gownley: To the Saddest Little Girl in the World

If you haven't yet heard of Amelia Rules!, you're missing out on one of the standouts of the comics medium. Written and drawn by Jimmy Gownley, this series about a middle-schooler in crisis is a clever mix of fun, philosophy, humor and poignancy that will, at times, have you laughing out loud and reaching for a tissue.

We sat down with Mr. Gownley to have a lengthy, in-depth discussion about Amelia, her world, and how her story takes more advantage of the comic book medium than nearly any other graphic novel on the shelves.

(And if you're out this Black Friday looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a young reader, any of the Amelia Rules! books should be something you consider, which is why we've provided helpful links along the way.)

The Simon & Schuster paperbacks are my first exposure to the Amelia Rules! work, so I don't know if it's reprints of prior works or if it's new ongoing material.


Flash Farts: Paradoxes in the Fast Lane

Flash Logo Critical Blast

Doused in chemicals and struck by lightning, police scientist Barry Allen became the Fastest Man Alive: The Flash. He wasn't the first to use the name, and he wasn't the last. When he was exonerated in the killing of Professor Zoom, he relocated to the future to live with his (surprise, she wasn't dead!) wife, Iris. Shortly after, however, he came back during the Crisis and gave his life to save the multiverse.

But he was only merely dead -- he wasn't most sincerely dead. He'd gone into the "speed force" and has now been returned to physicality. As Barry Allen, he's resuming his job as a forensic scientist, having been away only a relative few years and using the story that he and his wife had been in witness protection.

Which, as cover stories go in the comic book world, would work great. But there are other potholes in the Flash's pavement that need some work in this new paradigm.


Where Were You Before the Brightest Day? (or The Need for a Consistent Afterlife)

It's been established many times over that the DC Universe has an afterlife. It's been represented in many different forms, but we know that there is (at least) a Heaven and a Hell. Zauriel, a Justice Leaguer, was a wandering angel who gave the team a Grant Morrison inspired tour of Heaven that was too big and too loud for them to take in. Neron upgraded many of our bad guys during Underworld Unleashed in exchange for their souls. Etrigan the Demon has shown us the nether regions on many occasions.

So in the DC Universe, when you die, there are places to go -- even if that place is nowhere in particular, a la Deadman's limbo.


The Fall of the Green Arrow (And Why Barry Allen is a Jerk)

The Fall of Green Arrow

I initially thought I'd write this up as a review of DC Comics' Green Arrow #31. But the more I thought about it, I found I had too many other things to say, about the story, the events surrounding it, and the contradictions that abound within the DC unified universe.

Way back when, when DC Comics unified their titles and demonstrated that, yes, Batman and Superman (and thus all their other heroes) actually lived in the same shared setting and were not isolated from each other in storytelling islands, it opened up a new vista of potential adventures for writers to explore. These days, however, it also provides a panoply of rules and precedents that work against each other, with the whim of the current writer being the only deciding factor as to how a character may react, prior experiences notwithstanding.


Lora Innes: Bringing History and Comics Together

Lora Innes is one of many new friends I made on my annual trip to Pittsburgh this year. She is the creator of one of the finest webcomics I've ever seen, The Dreamer. She's a die-hard history buff, a fantastic artist, and a wonderful person. She even took time off from her comic recently to help the people who were devastated by the floods in Iowa. Lora was kind enough to share with me her thoughts on The Dreamer, her creative process and her views on gender in the industry.

How were you first introduced to the world of comics?


The Michael George Murder Case

Michael George, founder of the Pittsburgh Comicon and only suspect of the 17 year old murder case of Barbara George, his first wife, was found guilty of the crime in Michigan. I'm not here to suggest otherwise, because that isn't my job. Guilt or innocence is the providence of the court system. However, I do feel sad for nearly all parties involved. The victim's family has suffered the grief of their lost loved one for almost two decades. That's sad. Michael George's children, pending some legal maneuvering, are going to lose their father to life in prison. That's sad too. This cold case might have been solved swiftly and without national commentary were it not for the Barney Fife ineptitude of the investigating police. I have several friends and family who are police, and they undoubtedly suffer by association whenever their brothers bungle a case this badly. That's sad.


Not Just Once Upon A Time!

I thought I'd take some time to talk about "time," in comic book terms. Many moons ago as a young reader, it never really occurred to me that Peter Parker was in high school longer than I'd been in school, period. It barely registered on my subconscious when young and plucky sidekick Dick Grayson doffed his youth-sized green scale-mail underwear for the dark, full-length and decidedly more mature pants of his Nightwing uniform. I didn't think much about aging. I mostly just thought about Scooby-Doo, Super-Friends and where in the world my G. I. Joe with the fuzzy beard and the Kung-Fu Grip was hiding (my mother would find him in the laundry--the old clothes chute was hours and hours of fun).


DC Geography 101 - Where in the World is Clark Kent?

Where in the world is...Clark Kent?

No, no. He's not missing. He's in the Justice League, his own titles, guest appearances and so forth. No, I mean where is he geographically? Get out your atlases, school is now in session.

Let's start out with an easy one, multiple choice.

If you live in the Marvel Universe, you most likely reside in __________.

a. Menomonie, Wisconsin
b.Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
c. Fullerton, California
d. New York, New York


It's Time for Comic Books to Show Us What They're Made Of

The Texas jury was tired, eager to render a verdict and go home. The Prosecuting Attorney was making her passionate closing remarks.
"This medium," she intoned, "the medium that this obscenity is placed in, is done so in an appealing manner to children."
Obscenity? Appealing to children? What new horror was upon us?
"Comic books," she continued, " -- and I don't care what type of evidence or what type of testimony is out there -- use your rationality, use your common sense! Comic books, traditionally what we think of, are for kids!"
It was bloviating, and it was grandstanding. And it was working. Jesus Castillo was on trial for selling an adult comic book to an adult. But all the jury saw was drawings in boxes with word balloons, depicting things they'd never seen Captain Marvel Junior do back in the day when they plopped down a dime for their funnybook fix.


Geoff Johns, Engineer of Destruction: On Crisis, Continuity, and Consistency of Character

If you're not familiar with the impending Crisis occurring within the continuity of DC Comics... well, you probably aren't reading this article. For those of you who are, you're very likely aware of the role one of the main architects, Geoff Johns, plays in the current restructuring.

Plans for the future of DC have been kept Top Secret. And while we tried to worm as much out of Geoff as we could without resorting to violating the Geneva Convention, we were only able to glean a few nuggets of information -- not enough to inspire a Sutter's Mill rush, but enough to keep us panning away until Infinite Crisis debuts in just a few short weeks.

You've recently been appointed the official "Keeper of the Continuity" for DC. Can you elaborate on what this entails?

I'm a Consultant Editor along with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid. It's not just about continuity -- it's about "One Year Later" and all the stuff going on during Crisis.


Geoff Johns: Man out of Time

Geoff Johns is, by many accounts, one of the more prolific writers in comics today. Following a fan-favorite run on Marvel's AVENGERS, he currently writes TEEN TITANS, JSA, FLASH and, recently, HAWKMAN. He also has another hot project up his sleeve planned for later this year. One assumes Mr. Johns must have perfected a time machine--or at least a method of making it stand still long enough for him to keep apace with his current rate of output.

We were able to coax Geoff away from his scripting for a precious few minutes to get some of his insights into the characters he's currently working with.


Stan Lee: On Green Brutes and Blonde Strippers

Stan Lee 2003 Critical Blast

Stan Lee. If you want to talk about comic book creators with your non-comic friends, his name is one of a select few you can bring up with a good chance he'll be someone they've heard of. He's not the father of the modern comic book--that title goes to men who came before him. He's more the favorite uncle, the one your mother isn't crazy about, but who never forgets to bring you a surprise whenever he comes to visit and who always has a treasure trove of amazing, incredible, and uncanny stories to tell, some of which might even be fantastic enough to be true.

We spoke with Stan "The Man" Lee a little over a week after HULK--another one of his marvelous brainchildren--debuted on the big screen, and even snuck in a question or two about PUNISHER and STRIPPERELLA.


All I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned From Comic Books

I sat down the other day and began the process of sorting and rummaging through the comics I've amassed over my many years. It's a task I always take great pleasure in, as I invariably have to open one up every five minutes or so and once again read a favorite story. But this time, as I looked around at the boxes of four-color funny books, I began to reflect on myself as a person.

I'm not an idiot. I know what people think of someone over twelve years old who still reads comic books. I've endured many of those labels over the years:

Slow. I've a Masters Degree in Computer Science, and at last testing my IQ was measured at around 150.

Different. The definition of "normal" is still up for debate.

Geek. I treat this one is my personal badge of honor.



"...And Death Be All That We Can Rightly Depend On."

“It can’t be! Not you! You’re… you’re dead!”

This exclamation has been plastered across more comic book covers than you probably care to count. Superman’s death was announced on CNN, before his inevitable return a few months later. Reed Richards and Doctor Doom have been resurrected enough times to give Christ an inferiority complex. The Green Goblin’s death was a milestone in Marvel history, undone in recent years by his return to power. Even perennial nonagenarian Aunt May has surrendered to the icy grip of death, only to return.

Why does death in comics lack finality? Does the industry cheapen the characters they’ve developed by not allowing them to expire when the time is right? And do the publishers cheat the readers by largely using unpopular or easily replaced characters when writing a death that sticks? (“Someone on this cover DIES in this story!” I wonder: Will it be Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or the Stupendous Toad-Boy?)


The Superhero Fetish

Have you done it?

Entertained impure thoughts about your favorite super character? Had masturbatory fantasies about 'doing it' with a costumed partner? Composed a story -- even if you never wrote it down -- where the superheroine is captured and subjected to debauchery; or where the superhero rescues you and then stares longingly into your eyes?

Have you done it?

Well? Have you?

It all began innocently enough. (Honest!) In an earnest attempt to keep my ear to the ground of comicdom, I found myself wandering into the world of Yahoo Groups, wherein I entered a simple query: SUPERHEROES.

I expected the bulk, if not all, of what I would get back to be fan sites and wish lists, with perhaps a few hits worth exploring.

What I didn't expect was sixty-seven entries under the heading SEX & ROMANCE -> ADULT -> FETISHES -> SUPERHEROES.


David vs. Goliath, Round 2: WildStar vs. the Wild Stars

"You can’t fight city hall," we’re told. "The folks with all the bucks get all the breaks."

But sometimes -- just sometimes, mind you -- the little guy wins.


In 1984, Michael Tierney did something that many comic fans would like to do: he created and published his own comic book, Wild Stars. By doing so, he created more than just a book--he birthed a trademark.


Budd Root: Rooting Around the Basement with Cavewoman

He's the creative force behind Basement Comic's flagship title, Cavewoman. But who is Budd Root, really? While investigating another story (stay tuned, folks), I had the opportunity to speak with Budd about comics, Cavewoman, and... the Marine Corps?

What made a U.S. Marine want to become a comic book writer?


Dan DeCarlo: Archie, Josie and Dan

When discussing the Grand Old men that made the comics industry what it is today, you can't go too long without bringing up Dan DeCarlo, one of the originals of the Timely bullpen and a mainstay at Archie for decades. His creation of Josie for Archie Comics, and the Josie and the Pussycats movie, stirred up a controversy that once again brought creator's rights to the forefront of industry headlines.

Dan isn't with us any longer. Sadly, he passed on, too short a time after this phone conversation. But I learned more about the golden age of comics from Dan than I ever did from any book or magazine article.

Godspeed, Dan DeCarlo.

Your first work in the comics industry was with Timely Comics (which later became Marvel). What were you working on with them?

I started working with Timely in 1946. Stan Lee hired me.


Greg Rucka: A Good Enough Man For Any World

He's killed one person, crippled a second, and forced a third into retirement (after shooting him in the back three times!) With that kind of a track record, how do people feel about him?

They love him!

Of course, we're talking about Greg Rucka, the new creative talent in the Batman stables at DC. Having made his comic book writing debut during the controversial "No Man's Land" (in which he killed Jim Gordon's wife, Sarah), Rucka, an experienced mystery novelist with several books to his credit, has continued to rock Batman's world with unexpected events and some darn fine writing.

I had an opportunity to speak with Greg as he was coming off his latest shakeup of the Batman universe: the retirement of Police Commissioner, James Gordon.

You've written crime novels about cops and bodyguards. Is writing Batman a natural extension of what you've done before?


Scott Adams: A Phone Conversation From My Cubicle With Dilbert's Creator

Scott Adams and Dilbert

Nine hours a day, I stare at a computer monitor. I'm surrounded on three sides by cloth-covered panels that are nearly as tall as I am. My doorway cannot be closed. My neighbors' conversations (and, indeed, my neighbors themselves) drift in and out throughout the day.

Stuck to the walls with thumbtacks are the office worker's one sine qua non: Dilbert cartoons. Culled from newspapers, Internet printouts, and calendar pages, these business environment cartoons are sometimes the only anchors of sanity in an otherwise insane setting. They help us to laugh, lest we should cry.

It's the perfect place from which to call Scott Adams, creator of the funny pages phenomenon known as Dilbert, and wrest away a few precious minutes of his time. Hey, anything to break the monotony of creating yet another way to look at the same sales figures, right?


Subscribe to RSS - Comics