Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

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Thad
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:03 am

Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, is the kind of throwback we need right now. A loose adaptation of the seminal 1946 radio serial Superman and the Clan of the Fiery Cross, it tells the story of the Lees, a Chinese-American family who move to Metropolis and are targeted by the Klan.

It's a gorgeous book, with an art style clearly modeled after the Fleischer cartoons but with a manga flair. And it's a whole lot of fun in places (Superman punches a nazi in a mech suit!) -- but dark and disturbing in others, as you'd expect from a book where the antagonists are the KKK. Yang softens things a bit; there's no graphic violence and he foregoes the use of any serious racial slurs, but this is still a book where white supremacist terrorism is front-and-center. And a Lex Luthor monologue never chilled me like a Klansman monologue.

Yang takes some time to examine the complexities of racism, too, and the way that victims of racism can still be racist themselves; in one particularly notable scene, after the Klan leaves a burning cross in the Lees' front yard and some black passersby scramble to help put it out, Mr. Lee gives them the cold shoulder and says he didn't ask for their help and would like them to leave.

As for Superman himself, this is a young version; he's brash, he's self-assured, but he's not the confident grownup he'll someday be. And he can't fly yet. He's also never encountered Kryptonite before -- and Yang uses that encounter to tell Superman's own story as an immigrant who doesn't always feel like he belongs.

The book's also, very consciously, written for a young audience. Not too young -- my nephew is 8 and I'd like to spare him learning about the Klan for a little while longer -- but it'd be appropriate for a typical 12-year-old.

The backmatter is interesting too; Yang briefly summarizes the history of the Klan, Chinese-Americans, and his own experiences growing up in the 1980s and facing racism in a more modern context.

The story isn't finished yet; last week's release was Book 1 of 3. But I'm totally onboard for the next two.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Upthorn » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:11 am

Thad wrote:Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, is the kind of throwback we need right now. A loose adaptation of the seminal 1946 radio serial Superman and the Clan of the Fiery Cross, it tells the story of the Lees, a Chinese-American family who move to Metropolis and are targeted by the Klan.


If I'm not getting confused, the most important part of the 1946 radio serial was the naming of actual real life names of people associated with the actual real life Klan. Does this continue that tradition?
How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:13 am

I don't believe the serial named actual Klan members, but it exposed their codewords and rituals. Among other things, it's a lot harder to take a terrorist organization seriously once you know they're grown men who go around calling themselves "wizard" and "dragon".

The leader of the Klan in the comic is called the Grand Scorpion; I don't know if that's a real thing or not.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:18 pm

I picked up Mad #14, the Jaffee tribute issue. I do believe it's the first Mad I've bought in 20 years -- almost exactly; the last one I remember buying was a high school graduation issue when I graduated myself.

The first thing to notice is that all that talk last year about Mad going all-reprint was somewhat exaggerated. It's gone mostly-reprint, but there's still some new stuff in there -- in this issue, the new stuff is mostly other cartoonists riffing on Jaffee's signature bits (inventions, Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, and, of course, the fold-in). Aragones has his signature pantomime cartoons, in the margins as usual plus a couple pages dedicated to Jaffee. And most of the reprint material is, as you'd expect, by Jaffee himself, plus one final Jaffee fold-in (though they don't seem to be retiring fold-ins; apparently there have been a couple new ones by Johnny Sampson over the past few months).

The words "legend" and "iconic" get thrown around so much as to lose all meaning, but when I say Jaffee is a legend and the Fold-In is iconic, I mean it.

I'm not sure what "I hope he enjoys his retirement" means for a 99-year-old man in an era where everything's shut down and people aren't supposed to leave their houses, but I hope he enjoys his retirement as much as he can under the circumstances.

And I'd love to see Evanier interview him.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Sat Jul 18, 2020 12:44 pm

In honor of Congressman John Lewis, I'm gonna mention March again. Here's what I said about it in 2015:

Thad wrote:March is fantastic too. John Lewis knows a thing or two about telling stories, and here he strikes the right balance between past and present (he uses Obama's inauguration day as a framing device), between humility and the acknowledgement that yeah, what he and his peers did was pretty important stuff. Andrew Aydin helped with the script and Nate Powell drew it. I think it all comes out really nicely. It's a familiar story but it's well-told, particularly for its target audience of young people learning the history of the civil rights movement. I finished volume 1 over the course of one day and decided to up my contribution to the top tier so I could get volume 2.


March is important; it's a comic everyone should read. Support your local comic shop if possible, but if you can't, that's understandable under the circumstances.

They were working on a followup, Run. I expect we'll still see it in some form, eventually.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:12 am

Thad wrote:The first thing to notice is that all that talk last year about Mad going all-reprint was somewhat exaggerated. It's gone mostly-reprint, but there's still some new stuff in there

In last Thursday's Chat with the Groo Crew, Aragones said that the plan is still for Mad to go all-reprint eventually but that it hasn't happened yet. (He said that as of right now he's still producing new work for the magazine.)

Someone also asked about his autobiographical comics in Sergio Aragones Funnies and he said that the reason he hasn't done any since that series ended is that it's just too much work on top of his other projects. He said he would like to do a book recounting some of his memories, but if I understood him correctly he said it would probably be prose, not comics.

I'd prefer to see it in comics, of course, but I'd still love to read it in prose. Aragones has great stories and he's great at telling them, even without pictures.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby zaratustra » Mon Jul 20, 2020 3:51 pm

That's... pretty sad. I mean I personally know an entire new generation of people that could easily fill MAD magazine with quality content

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jul 20, 2020 6:23 pm

Yeah, the issue is certainly not a lack of talented cartoonists.

I talked about it a fair bit when it was first announced (see previous page) but generally I figure it's the usual incompetence at Warner. They really do not know what to do with their comics properties, and seem to think that shaking up the org chart every year or so is the answer.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Sep 07, 2020 4:16 pm

Okay, so, I just noted over in the Free and Cheap Comics thread that Comixology is giving away a shitload of free Black Panther comics. You may as well go and get all of them, but once you've done that, what should you actually read? Here are some thoughts:

First off: there's a pretty big omission here, in that there's no Don McGregor. (Or, if we're being precise, there's one collection with a couple of issues of Panther's Rage in it.) That's unfortunate, because McGregor's run is really the basis for Black Panther as we know it; it introduces Killmonger, W'Kabi, and a number of other important members of the supporting cast.

That said? I started with the Priest run in the '90s and I managed to pick up everything I needed to know. It's unfortunate that McGregor's run isn't included here, but while it's probably the best to start, you can figure out what's going on well enough without it.

Anyway, first off I'll go through this link-by-link and share some thoughts, if any.

Thad wrote:First Appearance
Fantastic Four #52 (1966)


Panther's first appearance, plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, script by Stan Lee.

The weird thing here is that this story is a two-parter, but only the first part is included. That's unfortunate because really #53 is the more important issue; it tells the Panther's origin story and introduces Klaw.

(ETA Actually, I just remembered that both issues are reprinted in Black Panther (1998) #36. So if you want to read BP's first appearance, that's probably the way to do it; get that issue and skip past the main story until you get to the Fantastic Four reprints.)

I haven't read it in ages; my recollection is that it's a fun introduction but, again, leaving the second part off is a misstep. Also, there's some product-of-its-time racial baggage here; it's one of those comics that was progressive for its time in its depiction of PoC, but, for example, describes Wyatt Wingfoot using the phrase "proud red-skinned ancestors".

Main series
Black Panther (1977-1979)


Okay, so, '70s Kirby is what you might call an acquired taste. This leans hard into pulp adventure/science fiction and has the Panther and a group of colorful allies and enemies searching for a pair of mystic time-traveling artifacts called King Solomon's Frogs.

I like it but I can't really recommend it as a starting point.



By Peter B Gillis and Denys Cowan. I haven't read this one but Cowan does good work.

Black Panther (1998-2003)


By Christopher Priest and various artists (initially Mark Texeira, with Sal Velluto going on to do the bulk of the series)

This was my first exposure to the Black Panther and it's still my favorite. Its main contribution to the lore is Everett K Ross and the Dora Milaje, but there's a hell of a lot going on here all around. Priest has a few trademarks in his writing -- it's dense and complicated, it's told out-of-sequence, and it's funny as hell. This is where I started and it made me a lifelong fan; you could do a lot worse.

Black Panther (2005-2008)


By Reginald Hudlin and various artists (initially John Romita Jr., with Francis Portela drawing the bulk of the series), with 3 issues at the end by Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo

This was the first Black Panther series that was a real financial hit for Marvel. It's a relaunch that, at first, disregards previous continuity, though continuity starts creeping back in later. Romita's art really helped establish the look of the characters going forward; the Dora Milaje, in particular, have used his design ever since. This is also the series that introduced Shuri.

I remember really enjoying the first dozen or so issues at the time, though Hudlin made a pretty conscious decision to make it timely and "timely" for 2005 means "dated" in 2020. (The first arc is chock-a-block with references to the Bush Administration, with the Panther going up against characters like Secretary of State Dondi Reese; a later arc has him teaming up with Blade to fight vampires in post-Katrina New Orleans.) While it initially eschewed continuity for the sake of being friendly to new readers, eventually it switched from the "Marvel Knights" label to just plain "Marvel", and if you don't pay attention to that logo in the corner it's fucking jarring when Black Panther refers to the years he spent on the Avengers in issue #14 given that he had never met them back in issue #1.

It builds to the Black Panther marrying Storm, which never really worked for me and didn't work for Marvel either since they later had the marriage annulled, and then there's a bunch of crossover stuff, and anyway it all kinda becomes a mess by the end. I did really enjoy those first couple arcs, and the first 12-13 issues may be worth a read, but I can't say I recommend the whole series.

Black Panther (2008-2010)


By Reggie Hudlin and various artists, mainly Ken Lashley.

I haven't read this one. Shuri becomes the Black Panther.



By David Liss and various artists (mainly Francesco Francavilla, Jefte Palo, and Shawn Martinbrough).

I haven't read this one. As you might guess from the title, it was a response to flagging sales of both Daredevil and Black Panther. Daredevil becomes evil, Black Panther takes over as protector of Hell's Kitchen.

Black Panther (2016-2018)


By Ta-Nehisi Coates and various artists, chiefly Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse.

This is the beginning of the current run on Black Panther. I like it but a lot of folks have criticized it as slow, and they ain't wrong. Coates is an essayist, not a comics writer, and his approach is methodical and primarily concerned with sociopolitical maneuvering.

But again, I like it. I think Coates asks compelling questions and makes reasonable critiques of Wakandan society as we've seen it up to this point. As far as character relationships, he's one of only two writers who's ever made the Black Panther/Storm relationship work for me. (The other was the late Dwayne McDuffie.)



Coates's run continues (with artists including Daniel Acuna and Kev Walker), by throwing out everything he's built up to this point and starting with an amnesiac T'Challa fighting in a rebellion against an evil Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda in outer space.

Ultimately it's a moving story about slavery, about having your identity and your culture stolen away from you. And eventually of course everyone gets home and gets their memory back. But don't expect a complete story here; remember what I said about Coates's writing as a slow burn? He got 22 issues in, building toward a confrontation between T'Challa and Killmonger (who, himself, is fighting control by a symbiote, yes like the Venom symbiote), and...that's where we left off back in March. Between COVID-19 and the big annual Marvel crossover, whatever resolution we're going to see to this arc has been delayed.

Spinoffs
Black Panther 2099 (2004)


By Robert Kirkman and Kyle Hotz. I haven't read it.



By Reggie Hudlin and Denys Cowan. I haven't read it, but it's got a Black Panther (T'Challa's father? grandfather? where are we in Marvel's sliding time-scale anyway?) fighting nazis alongside Captain America and Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, so that sounds fun.

...holy hell, how many more of these are there?

guys I gotta go eat something. Be back later. And yeah I plan on doing a "tl;dr read these" later on.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Sep 07, 2020 4:58 pm

Continuing on:



After the success of Coates's series and with the movie coming, Marvel kind of bit off more than it could chew, greenlit multiple simultaneous spinoffs, and promptly canceled them.

This one was meant to be a series with a rotating team, focusing on various supporting characters in the Black Panther's orbit. Instead we got one story arc, by Roxane Gay and Alitha E Martinez, telling the backstory of Ayo and Aneka, the Midnight Angels, and a single issue by Rembert Browne and Joe Bennett, catching up with Kasper Cole, a character from the Priest run.

I think this series was an inspired idea but a victim of a marketing push that was too much too soon. Putting Gay on a Marvel superhero book was a real coup. I would have loved to see what they could have come up with if it had made it past #6.



Okay, so, the original Crew was Priest's followup to Black Panther after it was canceled in 2003. The Crew, in turn, was canceled after only seven issues (IIRC the cancellation decision occurred before the first issue even shipped).

Improbably, that was the longer-lived of the two Crew titles.

Coates, with co-writer Yona Harvey and artist Butch Guice, brought back the Crew name, and its premise of a team of black superheroes, and somehow it didn't even last as long as the original series. Much like the original, it feels like there's an awful lot of potential there, but it never really gets past setting up the pieces.



By Will Corona Pilgrim and Annapaola Martello. Movie tie-in. Haven't read it.



By Nnedi Okorafor and Andre Araujo. Haven't read it. Not sure how I missed it.



By Ralph Macchio (no, not the actor) and Andrea Di Vito. Takes place in Dubai and features Klaw as the villain. I vaguely remember that I read this but that's about all I remember about it.



By Evan Narcisse Paul Renaud, Javier Pina, and Edgar Salazar.

A retelling of T'Challa's origin story to coincide with the release of the movie. It's pretty good!

...okay, more still to go but I'm gonna leave it there for now.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:32 am

Thad wrote:Black Panther vs. Deadpool (2018-2019)


By Daniel Kibblesmith and Ricardo Lopez-Ortiz. I haven't read it.

Killmonger (2018-2019)


By Bryan Edward Hill and Juan Ferreyra. Something of a companion piece to the Rise of the Black Panther; where that miniseries retold T'Challa's origin story as the movie was coming out, this one fills in Killmonger's. It's good stuff.

Shuri (2018-2019)


By Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, and Rachael Stott, plus two issues by Vita Ayala and Paul Davidson.

This one certainly came about as a result of the movie, too, but I got the impression it was intended as an ongoing series. Marvel's website still lists it as "2018-present", even though the last issue was cover dated July 2019, so who knows, maybe it's just been delayed, a lot.

Anyhow, this one takes place during T'Challa's absence, after he goes off to have his adventure in space. With the king absent yet again, Shuri faces pressure to step up and lead her people.



By Jim Zub, Lan Medina, and Scot Eaton.

The latest recently-canceled Black Panther spinoff; this one's fun as hell. The title aside, while T'Challa and Okoye are in it it's not really a Black Panther book so much as one of those books where Marvel puts one of their major characters on a team with a bunch of C-listers. We're talking characters like Ka-Zar, Fat Cobra, Gorilla-Man, Man-Wolf, Doctor Nemesis, Broo, and American Eagle. It explores weirder, sillier corners of the Marvel Universe and has stories with titles like "God Loves, Moon Kills." I love it and I just now found out it's cancelled and that bums me out.



By Kyle Baker and Juan Samu. I haven't read it, but Marvel Action is the all-ages line, so expect it to be kid-friendly and not steeped in Marvel continuity.

Collections
Marvel Tales: Black Panther (2019; collects comics from 1963 to 2009)


Marvel's summary:

The origin of T’Challa, the warrior king of Wakanda, is explored by Roy Thomas and Frank Giacoia in AVENGERS (1963) #87! Then, Don McGregor and Rich Buckler kick off their seminal Black Panther tale “Panther’s Rage” by introducing the deadly Erik Killmonger in JUNGLE ACTION (1972) #6-7! Plus, meet a new Black Panther for a new era as the brilliant Shuri claims her brother’s cowl in Reginald Hudlin and Ken Lashley’s BLACK PANTHER (2009) #1!


Okay, of those I've only read Panther's Rage, and again, Panther's rage is probably the seminal Black Panther storyline (it certainly establishes some key elements used in the movie) and it's a shame you can't get the entire thing in the current giveaway. But it's great stuff anyway, even if this is just a taste.

Black Panther: Start Here (2018; collects comics from 2005 to 2017)


This appears to include excerpts of various comics I've already covered up above: the Coates series and its spinoffs World of Wakanda and Black Panther and the Crew, plus some of the Hudlin/Romita Jr. run.

And...I think that's all of them? I'll plan on coming back later and giving a quicker rundown of what the good stuff is, but the short version is, if you only read one Black Panther series you should read the Priest run.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Sep 08, 2020 1:05 pm

In summary: you may as well get all of them because they're free, but as far as what to actually read:

Thad, I'm a people who don't read comics. If I read only one Black Panther series, which one should it be?

The Priest series. That's where I started, and it made me a lifelong Black Panther fan. It's funny, it's smart, and it made me look at the Marvel Universe in a way no comic had before and few have since.

You can read it with no prior knowledge of Black Panther; I did. There'll be some gaps in your knowledge, but it gives you enough information to go on.

For further reading

If you do want some of the background, it's not a bad idea to start with Panther's first appearance in Fantastic Four #52-#53. The easiest way to do that with books in this giveaway is actually right there in the Priest run -- get Black Panther #36 and page past the main story until you get to the reprints.

The Don McGregor run is also really important but, as I said, mostly not included in this giveaway. The first two issues, which introduce Killmonger, are in Marvel Tales: Black Panther. There are some Roy Thomas/Sal Buscema Avengers reprints in there too; I'm not familiar with that run but I guess they retell T'Challa's origin.

Also, if you are all-in on Priest's run, by the time you get around to the stuff with Happy-Pants Panther, Abner Little, Princess Zanda, and King Solomon's Frogs, it's probably a good idea to check out the Kirby run to explain just what the fuck that's all about. Like I said, you can make it through the Priest series without reading any of the background material, but if there's ever a part where the series gets hard to follow if you don't know the backstory, it's the Kirby stuff.

If you want the modern portrayal

You can start with the origin story in Rise of the Black Panther or you can start with the first Coates series. The Coates series relies on some backstory but it'll fill you in.

If you like the Coates series, I'd recommend World of Wakanda and the second Coates series.

Whether or not you like the Coates series, the Shuri spinoff is solid and does a pretty good job standing on its own. I liked Killmonger too, though it doesn't wind up having much of a connection to the current storyline.

If you're not really here for Black Panther and you want to read more about characters like John Jameson, J Jonah's son who is an astronaut and also a werewolf

You're looking for Agents of Wakanda.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Sep 25, 2020 6:04 pm

Per the Beat, I've added a few more freebies I missed (and BTW the giveaway is still on):

X-Men (2004-2007) #175 and #176


Crossover with the (first) Hudlin series, by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca. I remember reading this and...can't say as I remember much else about it. If you read the Hudlin series, read this at the appropriate time.

Doomwar (2010)


By Jonathan Maberry and Scot Eaton; this follows the second Hudlin series and features Shuri as the Black Panther. Haven't read it.



By Jonathan Maberry and Gianluca Gugliotta. Another Shuri-era miniseries I haven't read.

Wakanda Forever (2018): Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers


This is a fun little team-up book by Nnedi Okorafor, Alberto Jimenez, Ray-Anthony Height, and Andre Lima Araujo, mainly featuring the Dora Milaje (though Panther shows up in the last issue). The villain is a character from Priest's run so read that first.

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