Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Field Guide to Super Heroes, Volume 3

It took a while for the third volume of this book to come out, but it is very exciting to see it on sale, and the fourth and final volume should take much less time. I hope to do a podcast with Dan, who provided all the art for this book as usual, sometime soon. You can find volume 3 of the Field Guide at RPGNow.

There's only one volume left; we have the last ten archetypes to cover and I am starting on that project tomorrow. With any luck, the entire Field Guide will be out by GenCon, and then I can start on the M&M 3rd edition version and the Field Guide to Super Villains.

Which should be very useful to everyone, since you can never have too many villains.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Frank Miller vs. William Blake

Today Comics Alliance posted this wonderful piece by Louie Joyce, a portrait of Frank Miller made up of quotes from his work. Perhaps because I was trained by Robert Essick, one of the world's leading Blake scholars, the moment I saw this portrait I immediately thought of Blake's Laocoon. This piece, perhaps his last artistic work before his death, depicts the famous statue surrounded by Blake's thoughts on art, God, science, and money. According to Essick, the story goes like this:
[Samuel] Palmer was showing [John Clarke] Strange an impression of the print [in 1859] and told Strange that, when Blake gave Palmer the print, Blake said "you will find my creed there." Thus the comment is second hand, but the authority is pretty good; I doubt that either Palmer or Strange made it up. This statement was first recorded in G. E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Records, 2nd ed. (2004), p. 726. 
The connection between Blake and comics has been examined before. Blake's work is not comics, but it is an amazing body of text + image in combination that has influenced comics scholars like Donald Ault and comics creators like Alan Moore. Blake appears in Moore's From Hell, but really stars as the subject of Moore's five part poetry sequence Angel Passage in which he, and I shit you not, attempted to conjure up the spirit of William Blake during a live performance in the Tate Gallery.

As to who would win in this ultimate psycho political throw down, all I can say is that Blake had a temper, worked with his arms every day of his adult life, and almost got thrown in jail when he roughed up a soldier of the King. Miller is kind of a wimpy kid. So I'm just sayin.

If you can't read Blake's lines, you can find a good transcription here.

You can see more of William Blake's amazing text/image combinations at the Blake Archive.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interview with Dan Abnett

Last month I had the very good fortune, along with Mike Lafferty, to interview Dan Abnett as part of the Vigilance Press podcast. In particular, I wanted to ask Dan about his portrayal of women in comics, since he had been assigned both the Wonder Woman and Lois Lane characters for Flashpoint. Also, Dan has some great insights on collaboration in comics, something I have always wanted to be better at.

But I made a classic interview error: I forgot to look up the subject's bibliography before the interview, or else I would have remembered that Dan also wrote Knights of Pendragon, which is one of the most interesting of the neo-Arthurian comics and the subject of several pages in my upcoming book, "Superheroes of the Round Table: Comics Connections to Medieval and Renaissance Literature". I can't believe I missed my chance to ask Dan about that book!

You can listen to the interview here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

ENG 140J Final Reading List

This is the final reading list for my just completed course on the Superhero Narrative. Like many such lists, it is the result of many compromises. But it serves as a useful point of departure.

Chapter One: The Superhero Origin
Action Comics #1 in Superman in the Forties
Superman #1 in Superman Archives
Film: Superman: The Movie
Umberto Eco, “The Myth of Superman” in Arguing Comics, p 146-164
Peter Coogan, “The Definition of the Superhero” in A Comics Studies Reader, p 77-93
Detective Comics #27 in Batman Archives, volume 1
Batman: Year One
Amazing Fantasy #15 in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, volume 1.
Ultimate Spider-Man 1-7
"The Secret Untold Relationship of Biblical Midrash and Comic Book Retcon", A. David Lewis

Chapter Two: Nemesis
Film: Unbreakable, M Knight Shyamalan
The Killing Joke, Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
Kathrin Bower, “Holocaust Avengers: From ‘The Master Race’ to Magneto”
X-Men 150, Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum
Craig Fischer, “Fantastic Fascism: Jack Kirby, Nazi Aesthetics, and Theweleit’s Male Fantasies”
"The Social Modes of Heroization and Vilification in Bram Stoker's Dracula", Ana Gal
Triumph & Torment, Roger Stern & Mike Mignola
Novel: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Icon #1 and Hardware #1
Ch.1 of Caped Crusaders 101: "Black Heroes for Hire" by Jeffrey Kahan and Stanley Stewart
Select pages from Spawn vol. 1 (adding up two about 3 issues worth)
Ultimates #2
Alias (excerpts)
"Comic Book Masculinity and the New Black Superhero" by Jeffery A. Brown
"What's Going On? Black Masculinity in the Marvel Age", Michael van Dyke

Chapter Three: Love
Robert Lendrum, “Queering Super-Manhood: Superhero Masculinity, Camp and Public Relations as a Textual Framework”
Frank Bamlett, "The Confluence of Heroism, Sissyhood, and Camp in The Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather,” ImageText 5.1
Fantastic Four Annual 3
Amazing Spider-Man 121
Astro City 6, “Dinner at Eight”
Astro City 1/2, “The Nearness of You”
Ultra: 7 Days
Television: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, “Ultra Woman,” Season 3, episode 7

Chapter Four: Friendship
Novel: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
Film: Thor
"The Legend of Master Legend", Joshuah Bearman, Rolling Stone
"Real Life Superheroes Fight City Crime ... In Costume", NPR interview with Phoenix Jones and DC Guardian
"Homemade Heroes Offer Local Law Enforcement", San Diego Tribune (Jan 17 2009)
Alan Moore on Glory
"No Capes! Uber Fashion and How Luck Favors the Prepared", Vicki Caraminas
Television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 6 episode 7), “Once More with Feeling”
Online: Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog
Television: 60 Minutes, “The Musical Spectacle of Spider-Man”

Chapter Five: Death
The Death of Captain Marvel
Jose Alaniz, “Death and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond”
Wilbur Farley, “’The Disease Resumes Its March to Darkness’: The Death of Captain Marvel and the Metastasis of Empire"
“The Dark Phoenix Saga”: X-Men 101-108 and Uncanny X-Men 129-138
Film: Spider-Man 2
Arnold T. Blumberg, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died: The End of Innocence and the ‘Last Gasp of the Silver Age’”
Abraham Kawa, “The Universe She Died In: The Death of Lives of Gwen Stacy”
“Kraven’s Last Hunt": Web of Spider Man 31-32, Amazing Spider-Man 293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man 131-132
Vigilante #50