This week for our Top 10 list we thought we’d do something a little different and present an anthology of some of our favorite writing. What I did was approach the 10 writers who’ve been with the site for the longest and ask them to pick their favorite single piece of writing for the site, along with an intro that explains why they love it.
I think you’ll find these choices to be interesting in their diversity and impressive in their quality. We’ve always been very proud of the caliber of writers that we have on Comics Bulletin, and I think this list proves that we have some of the finest writers on the web.
editor in chief
The Ultimate Interview
Oh, boy, this must’ve been a whole heap of work to complete; the entire creative team of Ultimate X-Men just as they were rounding out their first story arc. Millar, Kubert, Isanove, and their editor Mark Powers. But strangely, I can’t remember breaking a sweat on this one. As I mention in the wrap up, Millar was pivotal in putting the piece together, which makes complete sense – he’s become the arch-self promoter, perhaps only rivalled by Warren Ellis and Comics Bulletin’s Beau Smith. This is no slur… editorial types love creators that you can wind up and let loose! Anyhow, take a look, and let me know what you think.
July 16-22: The Deeley-Tate Debate
This is one of a series of columns I wrote called “53 Wednesdays”. I pledged to read at least one comic book every day for the entirety of 2003. Not only did I review every new comic I read, I also varied my reading experiences. I’d focus on different publishers, visit conventions, and generally blogged about every aspect of comic book reading I could experience.
I often found myself disagreeing with Ray Tate’s reviews of new comics. I was a firm supporter of the modern-day Marvel, while he still waved the flag of Silver and Bronze Age DC. I thought a debate between such different fans would make for interesting reading. We each suggested three comics for the other to read; each feeling these comics represented the best material being published at the time.
It’s interesting to go back and see how my opinions have (and haven’t) changed since 2003. We don’t just debate the comics we read, or even comics in general. We discuss larger issues involving art, moral standards, politics, and sex. I think it’s one of the best pieces I ever wrote and remains a compelling read.
Green Day: Reed Richards is a C**T! (or, Karmic Imbalance in the Fantastic Four)
“Reed Richards is a C**T!” isn’t my favourite of the pieces I’ve written over the years for the site — there are a couple of Avengers reviews I’d choose over it — but it is the one which is perhaps most well-liked by readers. I still get emails to this day from comics fans who have come across the article and have found some truth in it, and it’s a favourite of former Comics Bulletin editor Keith Dallas, who liked it so much he prompted me to write a series of pieces in a similar vein. Try as I might though, I was never really able to recapture the feel of that first piece. There are plenty of flawed characters in comics, and I wrote about some of them, but none inspired such Bile as Reed Richards did.
My feelings about this review stand, but the wound has healed somewhat. The dark depression I describe into which the issue in question threw me was unusual, and exists as the opposite of that feeling I search for when reading comics. I’m always looking for a feeling of transportation to some other world where things make sense, and good triumphs over evil, and magical powers help things come out all right, and even horrible, horrible things can be undone by a wish.
I’ve had that feeling a few times that really stand out, and it only lasts an issue. Bryan K. Vaughan’s Swamp Thing, John Byrne’s Next Men, Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol are some of the places I’ve found it. But what Bendis did to Scarlet Witch hit me harder than Jean Grey’s death did way back when, as the end of that incredible run from Claremont/Byrne. At least Jean died a noble sacrifice; so venal am I that I accepted her retconned revival in the cocoon she borrowed from Warlock under the waters of the Hudson (or was it the East?) River, just to get her back, without question.
Of course since then Morrison has definitively killed her again. In an act of vile betrayal from Magneto, but did I whine? No, it was another noble demise, and Morrison had shown the lengths to which she would go to protect her charges, in the battle against Sublime and numerous other ways in his fascinating run.
But Bendis, in Avengers, stepped on the scene solely in order to take Wanda down. His grim first arc, breaking all those tasty sales records and returning the book to “Marvel’s greatest comic” status for the first time in years, was built across the body of her completely demeaning, sexist destruction. The inherent tension of her entire character arc (that she wore red and had horns but was one of the good guys who only wanted a husband and kids) was undone; she was (and had always been) a lunatic, capable of granting and taking life like a mad goddess, and she had to be ended.
Which she has been, ever since. And even now, when she’s on the verge of coming back, when the Avengers are still selling from
her sacrifice, when the ensuing seven years have brought us Avengers stories both rousing and incoherent, adventures at times preachy or leaden, at times surprisingly subtle, the betrayals of this issue still hurt. And we’ve also had to see Wasp follow in her footsteps, Tigra brutally demeaned, and Spider-Woman rebuild herself numerous times. At least Jewel is ready for the costume again, right?
Paul Brian McCoy:
Mondo Marvel #3 – July-August 1962
Mondo Marvel is a bear of a column to write. From the reading of the comics, to the note-taking and researching of characters and creators, the editing of the images, and then the actual writing, each column takes between ten to twelve hours to produce, depending on if I have to do it in bits and pieces, or get a day where I can sit at the computer for a six-plus hour stretch. I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining why, over the course of the column’s first year, the amount of detailed examination of each comic has become more limited.
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I suggested starting this column, I just didn’t realize exactly how much work would be involved once Marvel’s output grew beyond those first few titles. But in the beginning, Mondo Marvel wasn’t so demanding. In those halcyon days, when Marvel only had a few titles being published each month (or every other month, as the case may be), I was able to devote more attention to the little things, and Mondo Marvel #3: July-August 1962 hits the sweet spot, with coverage of just four comics; each of which was important for one reason or another.
- Fantastic Four #5 introduced Dr. Doom and sent the team back in time, where we learn that Blackbeard the Pirate was, in fact, our own Ben Grimm having a nervous breakdown.
- The Incredible Hulk #2 featured the invasion of the Toad Men, but was notable for Steve Ditko’s inking over Kirby’s pencils. And for the Hulk considering using alien weapons to conquer the world, attempting to murder Rick Jones, and seriously considering raping and murdering Betty Ross.
- Journey into Mystery #83 introduced Thor to young readers, and expanded the realm of narrative possibilities and suggested interesting religious and moral dimensions in the Marvel Universe.
- And finally, Amazing Fantasy #15 gave us the centerpiece of Marvel’s superhero pantheon, The Amazing Spider-Man, in what remains one of the best stories Marvel’s ever produced.
The only thing missing from this month’s Marvel Comics were Communist Threats. But don’t worry, there were more of those on the way!
(Although if there’s room for an honorable mention, might I suggest the collaboration between myself, Dave, and Kelvin (with an appearance from Keith) reviewing Immortal Iron Fist #13.)
Green Lantern #23
Depending on your worldview, reviews can be so many things to so many people. When I first started with the site, I was filled with so many long diatribes that had previously been spewed only in the local shops I frequented they just spilled out of my fingers onto the site. It was only after a few months did I settle into a groove and start putting out decent content.
Then we introduced the idea of collaborative reviews.
At the time, EIC Keith Dallas came up with a twist on our Sunday Slugfests. Instead of just smashing all our reviews into one long document, why not have two or three writers write a back-and-forth dialogue discussing whatever issue we wished. I tried a couple just to get my feet wet, but always in the back of my mind I kept an eye on Kevin Powers.
He was new to the site at the time, and was cranking out a ridiculous amount of reviews, but I was interested in particular in his Green Lantern reviews. He was a Hal fan and I was devoted to Kyle, so I knew we had to meet in the octagon. What followed was a great exchange on Green Lantern #23 during the crossover Sinestro Corps War that only led to further tete-a-tetes. Of course, Kyle’s too busy being a muckity-muck writer/publisher at Timeless Journey Comics to tangle now. I really wanted to go at it again during Blackest Night, but our schedules don’t mesh up too well now understandably. We have had many a great conversation about comics over the years, and this review always reminds me of that.
Kevin, I miss you buddy. Come back to me!
This Bittersweet Life: Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus vol. 4
When I write my articles for Comics Bulletin and other places, I like to write for myself. You guys are important to me, of course. I love ya and wouldn’t have a reason to write without you all.
But I love to write about comics in order to think through my thoughts about a creator, a book or a work.
I also love to go against the accepted wisdom and find my own way with my comments. I once wrote an article claiming that Brother Power the Geek – often seen as the absolute worst comic of the 1960s, an absolute embarrassment to all involved – is actually a fascinating and often brilliant comic book.
So one of the articles that I’ve written which I’m most proud of, is this article that praises Jack Kirby’s last Fourth World stories. These stories are often panned as the work of a creator past his prime, of a man who’s not the transcendent creator he used to be. But I found a depth and complexity in these stories that was very different from the common wisdom. I found these stories to be a f
ascinating portrait of a brilliant man who’s found himself behind the times. I saw striking similarities between Kirby and his greatest villain, Darkseid. And I saw this book as presenting Kirby setting his own elegy, declaring with a bang that he would go out in his own terms and in his own way.
In the immortal words of the King, “Don’t ask. Just read it!”
Ray C. Tate:
Brave and the Bold #33: very….blinding….rage
I have always tried to make my reviews entertaining. Dry reviews bore me. This is one of my most animated reviews. It’s at times comical, and the underlying rage is almost palpable. Best of all, it hangs the people responsible through their own words.
The article brings down a name. When somebody lacking fame and experience writes or draws a bad book, there’s always the possibility that he or she will learn more to become better. A name has already settled into a pattern, and it’s very unlikely that person will reach an epiphany about his or her work. Part of my philosophy is that nobody is too big to challenge. Essentially, it’s my job to say “The emperor has on no clothing.”
Another part of my job is to look at the entirety. The comic books I tend to review belong to shared universes. I have for years been saying that Babs Gordon needs to be healed, and that’s because the character exists in a shared universe. It doesn’t matter if the Powers at DC are trying to make a half-hearted point or to appeal to a particular audience. DC long ago created a set of rules, and as a reader, I expect the Powers to stick by those rules. They have broken every one of the rules. By keeping Barbara Gordon crippled, DC isn’t playing fair, and Barbara represents a flaw in their shared universe that damages nearly everybody in it.
The review I’ve included summarizes all the arguments I have made about this subject, adds more and frames them in an enjoyable way. The article details my philosophy of reviewing by example and expresses my frustration with DC Comics, a once dependable company. This is a review of the book that was the last straw. This is a review of the book that made me decide to boycott DC comics forever.
Sunday Slugfest: Final Crisis #1 (of 7)
Being asked to choose a favourite ComicsBulletin article is a little like being asked to name a favourite movie or song. There are so many different favourites for so many different reasons, and it’s difficult to select just one.
However, one fairly recent review springs to mind as an example of everything that I think makes ComicsBulletin a great site for comics lovers. It’s a slugfest review of Final Crisis #1 in which five different reviewers provide five very different judgements on the first issue of Grant Morrison’s DCU-spanning miniseries (a series that I ended up enjoying hugely, despite my lukewarm review of the debut issue).
It’s reviews like this one that show just how informative it can be to read several different opinions of a comic rather than just one, and I’ve been proud to be a part of countless diverse slugfest reviews like this one during my time as a writer for the site.
And in addition to the review itself, Final Crisis #1 ended up spawning a 16-page thread of intelligent discussion on the ComicsBulletin boards — another reason that I’ve always enjoyed the site, even if extensive discussion threads like that don’t come along as often as they used to.
Ditko Shrugged (Part 1): Ayn Rand’s Influence on Steve Ditko’s Craft, Commerce, and Creeper
Ditko Shrugged (Part 2): Apollonian and Dionysian Conflicts in The Hawk and the Doveand Beware the Creeper
Ditko Shrugged (Part Three): Did Neal Adams Work on Beware the Creeper #5?
Ditko Shrugged (Part Four): After Ditko, the Drought
A little over three years ago, I wrote a four-part series that focused on Steve Ditko’s eight issues for DC Comics in 1968 and 1969 (or nine issues if you believe that the published version of Beware the Creeper#6 contained any work by Ditko, which I do not). I consider that four-part series my best work for Comics Bulletin, but it’s not without its flaws, and it is in desperate need of revision.
For one thing, the fourth part is not something I’m particularly fond of–so I suppose I should say the first three parts are my best efforts. The fourth part wasn’t actually about Ditko’s work; it was about what had been done to The Creeper after Ditko. That fourth part isn’t bad, but it was tagged onto the end of my Ditko piece in order to squeeze in a review of DC’s horrible 2007 series starring The Creeper–and the first three parts were written as one piece, but it was published online as three parts due to length.
For the most part, I’m satisfied with those first three parts. However, since originally writing the series more than three years ago, I have been made aware of information concerning Ditko’s life that conflicts to some degree with two of my speculations:
- Why he left Marvel in 1966, and
- Problems with his physical health in 1968 that would have affected his work at DC
Still, despite those two pieces of new information that would slightly alter my speculations, I stand behind my analysis and view of Ditko’s 1968 t
enure at DC–though I do plan to make some minor revisions to the series . . . someday.