Category Archives: Comics

“What’s more, we added a few new members [to the Justice League] to adhere more closely to the lineup of Greek gods: Superman was Zeus, Wonder Woman, Hera; Batman, Hades; the Flash, Hermes; Green Lantern, Apollo; Aquaman, Neptune; Plastic Man, Dionysus; and so on.” (Grant Morrison, Supergods: Loc. 4985)

Captain Marvel: To be a heroine

It’s a long way from standard damsel-in-distress to the heroine of a comic series and upcoming movie. Carol Danvers’ story begins with Captain Marvel1 rescuing her in standard super-hero fashion, but then she becomes the hero(ine) of her story, becoming Captain Marvel herself.

She wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet at the start, since she was an Air Force officer when she first met the man who would change her life.

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Dr. Fate

In the 1940s comics that first featured Dr. Fate, his parents were a Swedish archaeologist and his spiritualist wife. In a larger, pop culture sense, however, he was the child of Helena Blavatsky and Howard Carter.

Like all the early heroes, he distilled elements that were floating around in the culture already. Both archaeology and spiritualism had their roots in the mid-1800s. Archaeology grew out of the attempt to trace the history of Biblical events, and to establish just how much of the actual narratives could be confirmed by outside evidence. Continue reading

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Koreanish

About once a month, I get asked by a colleague or friend for the syllabus I used to teach my seminar on the Graphic Novel at Amherst. Included below is a list of the texts that I used to teach students. In that seminar I allowed optional creative exercises and finals, and that led to me teaching tutorials in the making of comics, which led to me advising two graphic novel theses to summa honors. I’m very proud of those students, who were both also awarded the English Department’s prize for best thesis. Amherst’s English department was very generous and supportive in the teaching I did there throughout, and I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work of all of my students.

I taught the class as an experiment, even an expedition of a kind, and so it was never the same every time. I began teaching it because more graphic novels…

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Shazam: Hear the Thunder, Ride the Lightning

My brother, who was something of a comics nut (still is, actually), had a bedspread made up of panels that were reproductions of the first issues of Action Comics, Detective, etc. We could recognize Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, but one guy had us puzzled.

Who was the guy in red with the white cape? He seemed kinda like Superman, in a fancier outfit. (Unfortunately, we were not the only ones to think this. But let’s keep things in order.) Both he and Superman were doing anti-social things to cars; the man on the cover of Whiz! comics had pitched it into a far-off wall, and seemed pleased about it. Continue reading

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I like this – after all, we were all new once.

Hannah Reads Books

On this day in 2008, I read my first comic book. It was Watchmen. 

I’d loved several superhero movies, specifically X-Men and Spiderman — and by “loved,” I mean “was obsessed with beyond all reason.” (My mother will gladly attest to this). My attempts to read real comics hadn’t gone well, though. They were too complicated, and too boring. (I now realize that X-Men comics are notoriously self-referential, and that the black-and-white Essential Spider-Man collections, while entertaining in retrospect, are not actually the best the genre has to offer, but I didn’t know that at the time!)

Watchmen DVD coverI saw the trailer for the Watchmen movie, and thought it looked like something I’d like, but oop! Based on a book! I couldn’t possibly watch it without reading the book first! I figured it was a standalone comic book, so why not give it a try? I had no idea what I was getting in for…

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Having powers isn’t all there is to being a super-hero. Black Canary proves that just as much as Batman.

Modern Mythologies

For the large number of non-powered heroes in superhero comics, a very common narrative theme is what they could or would do if given superhuman abilities. In a variety of examples, the transformation either proves incredibly effective or incredibly damaging – sometimes even both. Invariably, the change is a temporary anomaly and the hero is returned to their depowered state, appreciative of the burden of superpowers and emboldened to live up to those expectations to the best of their human abilities. But for Dinah Laurel Lance, aka the Black Canary, the drive and commitment to human perfection comes in spite of possessing superpowers, as opposed to in lieu of them.

Dinah Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary - DC Comics Dinah Laurel Lance, aka Black Canary – DC Comics

The Silver Age Black Canary’s biography and origin have changed and evolved through successive retcons; originally the daughter of the non-powered Golden Age Black Canary, Dinah Lance possessed the metahuman ability to…

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Wonder Woman: I Need a Hero(ine)

The Ages of Wonder Woman: Essays on the Amazon Princess in Changing Times – ed. Joseph J. Darowski
A Golden Thread: An Unofficial Critical History of Wonder Woman – Philip Sandifer
The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore
Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine – Tim Hanley

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Alex Ross’ classic Wonder Woman versus the new Jim Lee version.

All four of these books address one central issue: what is it to be a heroine and a woman? We’ve had the philosophical take on both Superman and Batman, as well as Batman on the couch. (Hell, the philosophers even had a bash at Green Lantern.) With Wonder Woman, it seems that books are like buses – you wait for ages and then there’s four at once.

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