Category: From the Mind of Tim Jousma

My journey as a podcaster actually started with a blog. Go down memory lane with me to get my thoughts on the world of comic books. Plus, I will take some time to drop some new content here for you along the way. Sound off on what you would like to see.

The Death of Superman

The Death of Superman

As promised, I said I would take a day a month or so to review a graphic novel. This month I’ve decided to talk about one of the greatest stories in comics history, The Death of Superman. What follows is not so much a review as it is just my thoughts about the character and my reaction to the story when it came out. While I could quibble and find something wrong with the story (you can find something objectively wrong with any story from any author), when something like this story is created that packs such a wallop in terms of pure emotion, you just have to sit back and enjoy it.

In 1992 I was a sophomore in high school. I was never a huge Superman fan growing up. Like most kids I’d watched Saturday morning cartoons and when Superman from Christopher Reeve played on television I would watch but Superman just never interested me. So when it was announced that Superman was going to be killed off I was shocked at how angry I was at the decision.

Why was I angry? I couldn’t really explain it at the time. What was it about the character that caused such a reaction?

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The world is a better place with Superman in it, even it it’s just in a comic book.

The comic is not so much a story but a study of what Superman would do if he had to face the most vicious beast he ever had to face. A beast who could take down a near invulnerable person in Superman is a fearsome creature to deal with indeed.

doomsday1

Having a simply image of a fist hitting a wall was a brilliant way to introduce the character. In the wrong hands they would have had Doomsday do something overly complicated to show how dangerous he was, with the end result being that you don’t believe in the character despite the best efforts of the writer and artist. The opening images of the comic is the work of genius.

The ending. What more can be said about the ending? The artwork is great.

Superman dead

That is a haunting image. A figure we’ve taken for granted since the late 1930’s met his match. You can’t but feel stunned at seeing someone who you held in high regard for so many years lying dead, battered and bruised almost beyond recognition.

After the comic came out I made more of an effort to follow the character. It wasn’t too long after this came out that Christopher Reeve, the man who embodied Superman for my generation, had his tragic accident which left him in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Being an ignorant douchebag at the time I made my fair share of jokes immediately after the accident. But his courage, strength, and just pure good nature changed my opinion over the years to the point that when he passed away I shed tears like he was a member of my family.

I also gained a new appreciation for the films. The soundtrack alone was John William’s best work.

The music. My god, the theme song alone makes you think YOU are Superman. You want to rip your shirt off and hope your costume is underneath so you can fly around your living room.

Having grown up a James Bond fan I am not one who feels that another actor cannot bring more to a character simply because I associate one actor with that character. But you’d be hard pressed to find many folks who don’t think that Christopher Reeve embodied everything that was good about the character.

“Easy Miss. I’ve got you.”

“You’ve got me…who’s got you?”

This scene has to be one of my favorite scenes in movie history, up there with the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Any other actor could have screwed this scene up by simply not taking it seriously. The genius of Christopher Reeve’s portrayal was that he truly believed in the character and everything it stood for. While the character could be a little innocent at times, a little corny, his intentions were pure and meant for the good of mankind.

I think it was that line of thought that brought about DC to consider killing off the character even temporarily. Sometimes you don’t realize what something means to you until it’s taken from you. The absolute beauty of this comic is that in his death, you appreciate everything that is good about the character of Superman. His place in our culture is well deserved. The world is a better place for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation. Superman’s death in this comic makes you appreciate everything that character represents. This is why comics are made. If you only read one comic in your life, make it The Death of Superman.

 

Superman: Last Son of Krypton

Last Son of Krypton

After an almost full week of Marvel reviews, thanks to coming across some comics at a local second hand store I will review my first comic from DC. The only reason I’ve been reviewing so much Marvel Comics is due to my subscription of Marvel Unlimited. (http://marvel.com/comics/unlimited) With so many comics at my disposal from one company, logic states that I will gravitate towards them so I can actually have something to do with this blog. But my love for other companies is certainly there. In fact one of my first exposures to comics was Saturday Morning cartoons.

And of course growing up how could I not miss these?

While I have a certain affinity for Marvel Comics, let’s be honest here. Competition makes everyone better. If DC were the only game in town they’d get lazy because they would know they wouldn’t have to compete with anybody. Where else would an audience go? A person would have to be a complete moron if they stuck with simply one company for their comic entertainment. So with that, let’s get to our story.

Summary:

http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Superman:_Last_Son_of_Krypton_-_FCBD_Special_Edition_Vol_1_1

The Good:

From the start I was happy to see Richard Donner was involved in the creation of this comic. I don’t see why anyone reading a review of a comic book but if you happen to not know, let me tell you. Richard Donner directed the first Superman with Christopher Reeve. He also directed a large portion of Superman 2 but due to differences with producers did not finish that product (despite the fact that some of the footage he shot where he made a cameo stayed in the movie.) Richard has filmed some of the greatest stories in Hollywood going all the way back to the original Twilight Zone and the classic episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner. His wife helped produce the X-Men films. Her assistant at the time, Kevin Feige, ended up running Marvel Studios. So to say Richard Donner has had a tremendous impact on comics is putting it quite mildly.

The story was well written. While it left off with a To Be Continued, it was written so well you wanted to read more. Because of Donner’s involvement I think it’s no coincidence that the story feels like it is a part of the Superman movie world. Little things like Clark pushing up his glasses with one finger and Perry White screaming for Jimmy Olsen to get him some coffee were a great nod to the movie.

I also liked the element of the new arrival from outer space that scientists determine if from Krypton. Superman’s motivation throughout is that of someone who’s lonely who would do absolutely anything to be with someone of his own kind. You could easily imagine someone who was adopted for example traveling the globe at the chance of finally meeting a member of their actual birth family.

I also liked when Superman got pissed. When the government got involved and took the new arrival away to do god knows what, he finds them in Washington and damn near threatens a man with his heat vision to tell him where the kid in question is. That clearly set up that while Superman is accepted for the most part by the government, deep down there is a mistrust between the both of them. Superman knows that the only reason he’s not being experimented on or being used as a weapon of mass destruction is because he can burn their damn faces off where they stand. Who would stop him?

The art in the piece seemed a little rushed. Having said that I dug how it evoked the feel of the movie. This could have easily been Superman 7 if Richard Donner had stayed director of the series.

The Bad:

This is just quibbling but the art could have been better. While it had it’s good points like I mentioned above it just felt too sloppy at the end. Too many comics today have that rushed look when it comes to their art that just distracts me from the overall experience.

Bottom Line:

There really isn’t much to dislike with this issue. While the cover above was the issue I picked up, keep in mind this story actually appeared in Action Comics #844. It is part of a bigger story that I wanted to finish up so after I am done writing this, I will head to Amazon and buy the other issues. The story I give a 10. The art I give a 7. If you come across this story it will be well worth your time.

The Amazing Spider-man #86 Beware the Black Widow

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_86

I love Black Widow. To me she’s one of the most fascinating characters in Marvel. NOT FOR THAT REASON!!!

AoU_Black_Widow_0003

Ok, it helps. Anyway, Black Widow has a shadowy past that she’s making atonement. She started as a villain for the Soviet Union facing off against Iron Man with her henchman The Crimson Dynamo. A man named Clint Barton helped bring her to the side of the angels.

There are many characters in comics that people know a lot about however they haven’t had a chance to actually read some of the origin stories for said characters. The issue I read today is not so much an origin story but a sort of re-origin story. While Black Widow had been in the Marvel Universe for a while at that point, apparently at some point they took her out of the stories for a while. This story brings her back.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_86

The Good:

Getting more acquainted with Black Widow was great. While this is a Spider-man comic, Ol’ Peter Parker kind of takes a backseat to Natasha Romanov. We see her in her original outfit spying on Ol’ Spidey. From there she heads home contemplating what she needs to do in order to get back into the hero business all the while trying on a new outfit, the outfit that we associate with Black Widow today.

I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Seeing what brought Black Widow into the woman she became was great. You got an understanding that when she was bad, her motives were based on helping someone, her husband at the time, a fact that I was not aware of. Her logic to want to fight Spider-man, in order to learn from him so she can be a superior fighter, was sound, something you could actually see someone doing.

I also enjoyed the plot with Peter and Gwen Stacy. At this point Peter was just coming back from a fight with Kingpin. Gwen notices he’s hurt and gets upset, telling him she no longer wants him to associate with Spider-man. (At this point she knows that he takes photos of Spider-man for The Daily Bugle, not that he’s Spider-man.) One great feat Marvel has always been good at was showing that the job of being a hero can take its toll on you, even if your goals are to help mankind.

The artwork was what you would expect from this era, excellent. John Romita Sr. was one of the figures that helped shape the images we take for granted today. While you could probably nitpick of the artwork (there was too much yellow. Apparently John Romita Sr. liked yellow.) when your work creates the standard that people still use to this day, you’re doing something right.

The Bad:

I find myself again reacting negatively to a story that is simply not written for today’s audiences. It was a great story but there were little things I found quite annoying. Stan Lee apparently LOVED having people speak their thoughts out loud repeatedly. I’ve read many comics from this era and this is a common device used to express thoughts but it really took me out of the story.

I also hated Stan’s use of dots during this dialogue. It was annoying…reading a sentence…that was constantly interrupted by those damn dots. I had to go back to make sure William Shatner didn’t write the comic.

I hated how the women were portrayed in this story. The most offensive part was when Gwen had Peter promise to not associate with Spider-man anymore and leaves. Her father tells Peter that he should excuse her because she’s a woman and women think with their hearts. Yeah, this was the early 1970’s. What should I expect? I could not accept the dismissive attitude both Gwen Stacy and Black Widows were treated with.

Bottom Line:

While the story is not perfect, debuting the modern take on a character that people know and love was a great read. As I stated, my objections have more to do with modern tastes than anything else. The story I give an 8. The artwork brought me back to early Saturday morning cartoons which was great. As I stated, while you can certainly nitpick, you could probably nitpick a Van Gogh as well. While the story is not perfect, it is a perfect introduction to the modern Black Widow.

Eminem/The Punisher

Eminem_punisher

We go from the Mona Lisa of comics to the Kim Kardashian of comics. Today I had the misfortune of reading Eminem/The Punisher. I hope to prevent anyone on the planet that is the least bit curious about the contents of this stain on the comics industry from having to endure 18 pages of pure agony.

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Eminem/The_Punisher_Vol_1_1

The Good:

You have to look hard but there is some good in this comic. That good is the art work. Pretty solid work from Salvador Larroca. It evoked images of classic Punisher comics and he did one heck of a job in his image of Eminem. The locations are wonderfully drawn.

The Bad:

Where to start? The story is the most implausible piece of trash I have had the misfortune of reading. Eminem comes across as a caricature of himself. I mean, what music artist during regular conversation would repeat lyrics to his own songs? Also, why would a multi-Platinum music artist pull a gun on anyone and attempt to kill them? Yeah some music artists have guns. Eminem himself had troubles with the law early in his career after he had an argument with someone that was talking with his ex or something like that. (I am not his biographer and don’t feel like taking the time to find out what happened cause who the hell cares?)

Also, the bit where Eminem was thrown off a boat in the Arctic and just walks across the frozen water happening to run across the one fisherman who happens to be a big fan of his and also happens to have a chainsaw was just too damn convenient. A deus ex machina of I ever saw one.

Eminem’s “friend” in the story is about as realistic as a porn star’s physique. Why would trailer trash like Eminem know someone who suddenly became a mercenary for hire? A gang banger I could understand. An international mercenary, not so much, especially when the character is presented as having the intelligence of a slug.

Bottom Line:

AVOID THIS COMIC! This is the type of vanity project that makes the comic industry look bad. Similar to professional wrestling clowns, issues like this do nothing but make the average person shake their head in shame and move on to something else to read. I give the story a 0. The artwork is probably the only redeeming quality of the work. But it is far from being enough to redeem this steaming turd of a comic. I give the artwork a 7.

Spider-Man #121 The Night Gwen Stacy Died

121-Cover-The-Night-Gwen-Stacy-Died

After reading the debut of Galactus I was in the mood for some more classic comic book action. One story I’ve certainly been aware of but haven’t had the chance to read cover to cover yet was the issue of The Amazing Spider-Man where Gwen Stacy was killed.

Here is a summary of the story. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Gwen_Stacy_Died)

There is a lot to love about this issue. In many ways this issue brought us the comic industry the way we know and love it today. It had previously been unimaginable for such a beloved character to meet an untimely fate until this issue. To call the decision to kill her brave is quite the understatement. The drama it brings to the story, the drama it brings to the character of Spider-Man would give creators much more to deal with in terms of story creation for future work.

One great thing about this issue is the fact that this issue felt self contained. It had references to the previous issue with regards to Spider-Man being in Canada facing off against The Hulk which ended up giving Peter Parker a cold which ended up affecting his abilities. This was the perfect way to reference backstory and have that backstory affect the issue we were reading without the prerequisite of the reading having to have actually read that story to fully understand what was going on. (Which admittedly I haven’t.)

I also enjoyed that for the most part, the dialogue felt natural. While there were still instances of stilted dialogue that make older comics a little hard to read today the dialogue was pretty well done. You could realistically see Peter Parker saying what he does to The Green Goblin after he realizes Gwen Stacy is dead.

the-night-gwen-stacy-died

This is one time where I don’t have much in the way of complaint about the issue. As I mentioned before the dialogue is not always up to par but that is NOT the result of bad writing. This is simply how comics were written then. Today we’re used to more natural dialogue, the type of dialogue you’d expect to hear on the street or in movies today. So while it sometimes took me out of the moment judging said dialogue on today’s standards is not really fair. That would be like judging the origin comics of Captain America, Superman, or Batman based on today’s comic standards. The comics in question are hard to read and frankly garbage based on today’s standards but the important part is that without those comics, we would not have the heroes we have today. Seeds were planted with those early issues. They may not stand the test of time but they do have their value.

It’s not really fair to judge this issue due to its importance. While you can critique the story and come up with minor issues, without this issue the comics industry would look quite different today. The chance they took in killing off a character who was so important to the story could have resulted in some major backlash if it were not executed properly. Gerry Conway and John Romita Jr. (as well as the others involved in the creation of this issue) should be applauded for their work in creating a masterpiece. This issue is very much like the Mona Lisa of comics.

Fantastic Four #48 The Coming of Galactus

Fantastic_Four_48

Jack Kirby is a legend. Jack Kirby is responsible for the visual representations of pretty much any hero you can think of. The Fantastic Four. The Hulk. Thor. Iron Man. Darkseid. The New Gods. While Stan Lee may be responsible for the words that created the characters, without Jack Kirby’s illustrations we wouldn’t have such amazing images to place along with the words. Jack Kirby would have been 98 today so in honor of his amazing work, we’re going to discuss one of his most famous works.

Here is a summary of Fantastic Four #48. (http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_48) As always I’ll start off with what I think worked.

The comic in question was the standard 22 pages but if felt full. It felt like a real story unlike some comics today that feel like they’re highlights of a much bigger story you haven’t read yet. I really enjoyed the build up to the Galactus reveal. Building up to that reveal you really had the sense of the power the Fantastic Four was about to face.

It goes without saying that the dynamic between the Fantastic Four is great. I really loved that even with the writing of the time being a little melodramatic to say the least the relationship between the team felt natural. Compared to DC product at that time, Marvel had stories that felt like the characters were people you would actually encounter on the street. When Johnny Storm has to leave Crystal after Maximus fires off the Atmos gun, you not only felt his pain but you felt the compassion the team felt for him.

In regards to the negatives, I did not care for the story starting at the third act of a different story. I think that the goal of any comic should be a story that, while it may be a part of a bigger piece, should be enjoyed as a self contained story. You shouldn’t have to go back to the previous issues in order to get an understanding of what is going on. The story itself should be good enough to make you want to do that alone. At the very least I would have liked it better if the story at the beginning of the book tied into the main story they were trying to tell about the arrival of Galactus.

One other element I did not care for was the actual Galactus reveal. It’s been established that Galactus is this gigantic figure that has the ability to suck the resources of a world dry. The first image we get of Galactus however made him appear like a professional wrestler. (What’cha gonna do when Galactus runs wild on you?) Time has more than fixed this but seeing this was just kind of a buzz kill. The build up was so great that when the reveal came you’re thinking “Is that it?”

I also did not care for how Sue Storm was portrayed. Granted my reaction is based on 21st Century thinking and not how women were treated during the 1960’s. While it was great that a woman was included as a main character in comics especially during that era, the fact that they’re relegated to speaking stereotypical women talk is just annoying and takes you out of the story reading it close to 50 years later.

Bottom Line:

The story was pretty damn good. While it had its flaws the execution was top notch. I give the story an 8. The artwork I’m going to give a 9. Jack Kirby is the creator of what we see visually come every summer with each new Marvel movie and every week on the comic book shelves. The only reason I gave it a 9 was due to the Galactus reveal. If you get a chance read this story.

Now, it appears that Jack Kirby’s daughter has asked that folks, in honor of her grandfather, donate to a charity called The Hero Initiative. The charity in question has been set up to assist comic book writers, artists, and creators who have fallen on hard times. One major black mark on the comics industry is how they treat their talent. Take the creators of Superman, Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster. When Superman The Movie debuted in 1977, these two men were pretty much destitute despite the company that had paid them $130 for the rights to Superman making millions upon millions based on the character they created. Even today, the late Steve Moore, who wrote the comic Hercules: The Thracian Wars, did not have control over his work. He wanted no involvement with the movie that was later made starring The Rock and asked to not have his name associated with it. Turns out the producers and the comic company couldn’t give two fucks about his opinion and plastered his name as if he had supported the work.

Kirby’s granddaughter has started a special t-shirt sale to help support this charity. (http://kirbymuseum.org/) I encourage you to check the site out and if you can, purchase a t-shirt. The proceeds go to a good cause. Until next time…

Silk #1

Silk 1

The first inclination someone on my part would have been to start with either a classic story or to start with a character that everyone knows. One thing about comics as of late that I have thought of was the fact that there were not that many female leads in comics. The main character in the Marvel universe that people are aware of is Black Widow and that’s simply due to Scarlett Johansson giving that character an amazing interpretation. So I wanted to start with a female character I knew nothing about. I found Silk.

Silk is Cindy Moon. In the Marvel universe, she was bitten by the same spider that bit one Peter Parker. The difference was that someone kidnapped her and kept her locked up for over a decade until Spider-man found and freed her. This comic is the start of her solo adventures.

Here is a quick summary of the issue. (http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Silk_Vol_1_1) To start with the positives I enjoyed the story. I came into it with no knowledge at all of Cindy Moon and her role in Spider-man’s life. I liked how the story introduced me to the character in a way that encouraged me to keep the page turning. With so many characters out there to choose from a writer has to bring the goods from the start to get people interested in not only reading the issue the reader has in their hands but to continue to spend their money to read the further adventures of the character. I liked how previously established characters like Spider-man and Black Cat felt natural to the story and not shoe horned in just to have a name or two people recognized just to boost sales.

On the flip side, there felt like there was a lot going on that wasn’t really addressed. I get that comics tell stories over many issues. When you read a particular issue it’s one piece of a long story. But this issue did feel at times like you were supposed to already know most of what was going on such as who kidnapped Cindy, what the dynamic with her family was like, the relationship she had with her roommate and co-worker. Sometimes a storyteller can get away with throwing stuff at you without the audience having to fully know everything that is going on. Star Wars Episode Four did this perfectly. There was a lot going on but in the end the basic story was easy to follow. This story was not good in this regard. It needed some more time to flesh out the initial story which with only twenty some pages per issue to work with you only have so much time to get the reader to where you want them to in issue one.

The art work was all right. It wasn’t something that would ever be held in such regard as the comics of ages past but it was sufficient for the story. The cover for the issue was great, almost serving as a movie poster. It told you a lot about the character without a word of dialogue. The art for the story seemed a little rushed. It seems like a mish mash of Saturday morning cartoons from the 80’s and Japanese anime which is just not my style. Granted, my feeling when it comes to comics or animation is that as long as the story is gripping, the animation can be stick figures for all I care so while I didn’t care for the art apart from the cover, it wasn’t such a distraction that it kept me from enjoying the story.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I liked this issue, flaws and all. While I do feel it could have done MUCH better in presenting a much more fleshed out story, it planted enough seeds that I am interested in reading issue two (whenever Marvel decides to release issue two on the Marvel Unlimited App). In regards to the story I give it a 7. It was a solid introduction that keeps you intrigued enough to want to know more. It could have done better to have the story in this particular issue be more fleshed out. The art I would give a 5. I didn’t much care for it but it didn’t distract me from the story so it is what it is. If you see this in your comic store or are thinking of downloading it, I think you may enjoy it.