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Last updateWed, 15 Nov 2017 2pm

Comics

The Warlord of Mars Continues to Rule Comics

Although John Carter (3-D) didn’t really hit it big at the box office, his adventures on Mars or Barsoom are thriving in comics. Dynamite Entertainment has published titles such as “Warlord of Mars,” “Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris,” “Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom,” “Warriors of Mars,” and the upcoming, “Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars.”

Created by writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of “Tarzan”), “Warlord of Mars” follows former Confederate soldier, John Carter, as he searches the Arizona desert for gold. One night, he enters a cave with strange markings and is transported to Barsoom where he has super strength and can jump incredibly far because of the low gravity.

There, John meets the green, four-limbed Tharks and befriends Tars while finding himself in the middle of a civil war. This leads him to find a new purpose in life as well as fall in love with Martian princess Dejah Thoris.

Although Barsoom and its inhabitants might be thriving at Dynamite, it’s not the first time this pulp sci-fi hero was adapted to the comics. First, there were comic strips featuring John Carter, which evolved to comic books in the 1950’s from Dell Comics. In the 1970’s, John Carter’s adventures were presented as back-up stories in DC titles “Tarzan” and “Weird Worlds” before Marvel started to publish its adaptation of “Warlord of Mars.” John Carter even united with Burroughs’s fellow literary creation in “Tarzan/Warlord of Mars” by Dark Horse Comics in 1996.

Today John Carter and a line of “Warlord of Mars” titles reside at Dynamite Entertainment where this 100-year-old tale is being reenivsioned once more by some incredible comic book talent.

Writer Arvid Nelson has been scripting “Warlord of Mars” since the series began and wrote the spin-off title “Dejha Thoris” until issue 10. While talking to tfaw.com, Nelson explained how writers continue to tell this one story despite having been presented already by others. “The stories are so visual! I sort of reject the idea anyone can do a ‘definitive’ take on a story. I love seeing how different writers and artists handle the same material,” Nelson said.

Although Nelson is working on the two main series, other writers have also visited Barsoom. First, there’s the miniseries, “Fall of Barsoom,” by writer Robert Place Napton and artist Roberto Castro, which features Barsoom crumbling as two Martian races are fighting and a third is preparing to die. The story follows two individuals of the Ororvarian race trying to save Mars. This miniseries is a strong addition to the John Carter mythology by further developing the adopted world John Carter will later rule and protect.

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RoboCop Has Always Kept Comic Book Streets Safe

While most superheroes were born in comic books, some iconic characters originated elsewhere. This has happened with Marvel characters such as X-23 (a female clone of Wolverine) in “X-Men: Evolution” and Harley Quinn (the Joker’s love and right-hand girl) in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

RoboCop, one of the coolest heroes, didn’t start in comics but rather a live-action movie. Soon, the adventures of RoboCop couldn’t be contained solely on the silver screen and over the years has found homes at different publishers.

For those unfamiliar with the cyborg policeman, RoboCop was Alex Murphy (played by Peter Weller in the first two movies), a Detroit cop who was killed while on duty and then resurrected as RoboCop by the Omni Consumer Products (OCP) Corporation. Most of the films tend to deal with Murphy/RoboCop as he comes to grasp with his robotic self while keeping citizens safe.

The first RoboCop comic began at Marvel in 1990 (ending in 1992 after 23 issues) and was written by Alan Grant and illustrated by Lee Sullivan. In addition to new, original stories, Marvel also offered an adaption of RoboCop 2 for comic book readers (the comic book series was meant to take place between RoboCop 2 and 3).

In an interview with robocoparchive.com, Sullivan talked about his experience as artist for the RoboCop comics. Sullivan said one of the best things about working on the series was “working for Marvel US for the first time; I felt that I was a real artist at last!” However, he mentioned some of the less thrilling aspects including “the direction of the book; unfortunately Greg Wright was also working on a title called Deathlok at the time, and as this was also a part man/part machine character, I think the gritty cyborg story direction was firmly kept for the Marvel version, and poor Alan Grant…was left with very compromised property to work on.”

Following Marvel, this cyborg went to Dark Horse Comics where he would remain from 1992-94. His first story here was a crossover with another sci-fi icon, the Terminator in “RoboCop vs. the Terminator” by Frank Miller (writer) and Walter Simonson (artist). Most of his stories were presented as parts in “Dark Horse Presents” in addition to an adaptation of RoboCop 3. RoboCop would remain offline until 2003 when he would confront grittier storytelling from the mind of Miller by moving to Avatar Press.

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Comics and Characters That Don’t Need to Speak

Usually when readers open up a comic book, they will notice word bubbles or captions that contain character dialogue or thoughts. Yet, there are points when writers and artists decided to take risks and tell stories that rely on visual storytelling more than words.

Known as silent issues, these particular tales are somewhat uncommon, but nevertheless, interesting to read when they are published. So, with the silent movie The Artist being a big winner at the Academy Awards, why not take a look back at comics whose pictures spoke louder than words?

To begin, one of the more memorable silent issues was “G.I. Joe” #21 from Marvel Comics, written by Larry Hama, who also did the breakdown art, and finishings art by Steve Leialoha.

The story titled, “Silent Interlude,” was about the silent ninja and soldier, Snake Eyes, going on a mission to rescue fellow G.I. Joe member, Scarlett. Telling the story silently with Snake Eyes as the lead seemed appropiate since the character never spoke to anyone and let his actions talk for him.

The issue was also notable for introducing Snake Eyes’ rival, Storm Shadow, into the G.I. Joe cast.

According to joeguide.com (via Comics Interview #37-38), Hama explained what his real intention behind writing and illustrating “Silent Interlude” was. He said, “I wanted to see if I could do a story that was a real, complete story - beginning, middle, end, conflict, characterization, action, solid resolution - without balloons or captions or sound effects. I tried to do it again, as a matter of fact, with the Joe Yearbook #3 story.”

Hama went on to create one more silent issue for Marvel with “G.I. Joe” #85 (it featured Storm Shadow) and one for IDW after they took over the G.I. Joe property with “G.I. Joe Origins” #19 (another tale that focused on the elusive Snake Eyes). While talking to ifanboy.com at the 2010 San Diego Comic-con, IDW Senior Editor Andy Schmidt described the excitement of telling another silent Joe story. “One of the first things I wanted to do as a G.I. Joe editor was revisit the silent issue. It’s just too fun not to do again…This time we brought on the incredibly talented and dynamic artist Joe Benitez to punch it up and hit it out of the park!” Schmidt said.

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The Comic Book Adventures of Professor Claude Taylor

Communication professor Claude Taylor’s secret identity as a comic book fan has been revealed! Hearing Taylor talk about superheroes and comic books, it was easy to see he is not just a fan of the medium but a super fan.

In an interview with The Outlook about all things comic book related from his introduction to superheroes to the current status of comics.

Taylor’s affinity for superhero adventures began upon finding his brothers comics at an early age. “My first contact with comic books was the ‘Giant Size’ large format books that were popular in the 1970’s,” Taylor said. “My older brother had some Marvel titles, and I used to look at the pictures when I was five-years-old.”

He also said that early on, he saw some comic book media on TV like “Wonder Woman” and “Batman,” but the one that stood out the most was “Super Friends.” “I was an avid viewer of Saturday morning cartoons and the best one was the ‘Super Friends,’” Taylor said. “That was the best…with the team you had multiple characters all the time.”

As his comics fascination grew, Taylor talked about how he would eagerly await the arrival of new comics. “I’d wait for the delivery truck at my local convenience store. I used to get it first out of the truck.” While an avid reader, Taylor said he was becoming a collector, too. “…I used to buy a ‘read-copy’ and a ‘collect-copy’ of my favorite titles,” saving them in plastic casings with back boards to keep them mint.

As time passed, Taylor gravitated more to Marvel comics than DC, saying he’s 80 percent Marvel and 20 percent DC. He mentioned how he was “fascinated with the Fantastic Four origin story. I remember going back and reading about them.” He also listed Spider-Man and the Hulk as other stand out characters. “As a kid, they are the kind of big superheroes that caught your eye,” he added.

Taylor said, “Marvel captured your attention in different ways. At the time in the late 70’s, Marvel heroes were easier to identify with and easier to just like the story while DC was dodgy and old…”

However, to this day, Taylor’s favorite hero is still Daredevil, attorney Matt Murdock who, despite being blind by an accident, had his other senses reach super levels. One of Taylor’s prized possessions is the entire Frank Miller run from the series, where Daredevil experienced both extreme physical and emotional challenges with the sharp-shooter Bullseye and his ex-girlfriend, Elektra.

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Abraham Lincoln Has a History With Comics

Abraham Lincoln was many things during his life: a lawyer, a politician, and President of the United States. However, one thing people might not be aware of is that Honest Abe has also been featured as a comic book character. So, to honor the President Lincoln’s 203rd birthday, let’s take a look at how comic book creators have brought a bit of the past to the present.

Seeing presidents in comic books isn’t something new as I discussed last year with my column on President Obama’s appearance in “Spider-Man” and as Barack the Barbarian. Other U.S. presidents that have graced the comic pages include John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George W. Bush. Yet, what is interesting here is to see a U.S. president entering strange adventures and fighting with heroes at a point when superhero comics had yet to emerge.

According to comicvine.com, there are “132 appearances” of Lincoln in comics with his first appearance being, “Real Life Comics” #2.

Now, when comic book readers look to his more recent appearances, one unique title that stands out is “Time Lincoln” from Antarctic Press and written and drawn by Fred Perry. A synopsis on comicvine.com reads as such: “What happens when the Great Emancipator is suddenly freed from the bonds of time to right wrongs throughout history? Taken out of time on the night of his assassination with the help of H.G. Wells’s time machine, Abraham Lincoln finds himself waging war upon the forces of evil in the past, present and future! In his last hour, he lived a lifetime!”

While a time-traveling Lincoln might appear strange, looking at the cover for “Time Lincoln,” with the 16th President wearing time goggles and staring into the distance, it’s hard not to be intrigued by the title’s premise. Additionally, a review on geek-life.com, it explains that Lincoln isn’t alone on this journey. They report “Lincoln assembles a back-up team that includes Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver, and Benjamin Franklin, all equipped with a bunch of fun steampunky devices.”

Although this might seem like the first time Lincoln is time traveling, the truth is he’s done so before in Marvel’s “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.” [Insert air guitar riffs].

As for superhero comic books, Lincoln has been featured in titles like “The Flash” Vol. 1 #270 and “Weird Western Tales” #33. However, iconic heroes Lincoln has stood next to include Superman and Spider-Man.

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DC Turns Back the Clock ‘Before Watchmen’

The Watchmen are coming back! DC Comics will release six prequel miniseries under the banner, “Before Watchmen,” to showcase new adventures featuring Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, and Silk Spectre as they fight crime. A back up feature, the Crimson Corsair, will also be included in each issue.

For those unfamiliar with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s ground-breaking miniseries, “Watchmen” took place during 1985 in an alternate world where America won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is in his third term as President.

The story begins with the death of the Comedian and the proceeding investigation by the deadly yet insightful Rorschach. While he searches for clues and talks with other heroes to solve the death of the Comedian, the reader gets a look into the lives of these characters and a sense of how vigilantes changed the course of history starting in the 1920’s. Along the way, the world is holding its breath as the U.S. and Russia head for nuclear war.

“Watchmen” was a breakthrough not only for its rich complex storytelling but by presenting a realistic, gritty story with fallible characters.

To tell these new adventures, DC Comics has collected some stellar creative teams to further develop the world of “Watchmen.”

According to DC Comics’ blog, “The Source,” writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Berjemo are working on “Rorschach” and Azzarello is also collaborating with artist J.G. Jones on “The Comedian.”

J. Michael Straczynski is writing two miniseries: first is “Dr. Manhattan” with Adam Hughes supplying art, and second is “Nite Owl,” featuring art by Andy and Adam Kubert.

Former “Watchmen” editor, Len Wein will write “Ozymandias” with Jae Lee illustrating. Wein will also be witing the back-up story, “Curse of the Crimson Corsair,” with original “Watchmen” colorist John Higgins.

Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke is pulling double-duties on “Minutemen” as well as writing “Silk Spectre” with Amanda Conner handling the art.

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Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn Never Left This Galaxy

With the re-release of Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace in 3D arriving next week, it’s hard not to start thinking about characters from the film such as the tattoo-faced Sith warrior Darth Maul, the skillful and intelligent Jedi master Qui- Gon Jinn and even the annoying amphibious creature Jar Jar Binks.

However, while these characters have survived and been seen on DVD for years and once more on the big screen, the comic book universe never really forgot about them.

Beyond the four-issue comic book adaptation of Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace, Dark Horse Comics has published a variety of series featuring characters from this film.

One of the more memorable titles featuring The Phantom Menace characters was the four issue limited series, “Star Wars: Darth Maul” by writer Ron Marz (“Artifacts”) and artist Drew Struzan in 2001.

The story, set prior to Episode 1, has Darth Maul set on a mission to destroy the head of Black Sun, a criminal organization.

In addition to telling a story featuringone of the best and most underused characters in the Star Wars universe, “Star Wars: Darth Maul” had the honor of bringing this Sith warrior to the comics for the first time.

According to the amazon.com description for the “Darth Maul” trade paperback, “‘Star Wars: Darth Maul’ is the first-ever graphic-novel adventure of the ultimate Sith enforcer, an explosive tale of intrigue, mystery, and blistering action.”

This one particular tale has been reprinted in other comic collections such as “Rise of the Sith Omnibus.”

Beyond the early appearance of the Sith, another element of The Phantom Menace was being introduced to the cool, calm, and strong Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Jedi padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

This master-apprentice storyline alwaysseemed ripe with further adventures and Dark Horse saw that with miniseries such as “Star War: Jedi Quest” by writer Ryder Windham and artist Pop Mhan and “Star Wars: Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan: The Auroient Express.”

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University Employee Has Comic ‘Awaken’ing

AwakenIssue1 bannerBy day, Janine Frederick works for the University as an Assistant Website Developer, but by night she’s traveling into the furthest reaches of her imagination for the next great comic book story. Recently, Frederick wrote a five-page story titled “Awaken,” drawn by Ian Dorian, in the comic book anthology, “Out of Our Minds: Tales from the Comics Experience.”

“Awaken” is about a teenage girl who discovers she is the Anti-Christ. The comic opens with the main character contemplating a dream where she kills an angel. Soon, she delves into magic and enters a vast library where she confronts an angel who informs her of her destiny.

The basis for “Awaken,” Frederick said, came out of her life. “When I was younger, I’d have reoccurring dreams that involved a lot of angels. There was also a malevolent and evil presence in the dreams.” She continued to say that when it came to this story, “Let me do something cool with that and apply it to this 16-year-old girl. Are their problems less important than ours?”

Writing “Awaken” took about a month for Frederick “in dribs and drabs.” She said each page took around three hours to write. “You are communicating with an artist and an editor and telling them what’s in your head. You have to picture things as writer, producer, and director all in one. Writing comics is the most challenging thing there,” Frederick added.

As for Dorian’s art, Frederick said, “I wanted [the story] to feel ether real. You can look at the pictures and study the pictures. He lays out the pages so it isn’t messy, it’s interesting.” Their collaboration consisted of going over the story and the layout of the pages to make sure the art matched the script’s tone.

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Comic Books Celebrate the Holiday Season

batmanBelieve it or not, even comic books like to get into the holiday spirit. From short stories to reinventions of familiar tales, comic book creators work hard to bring season greetings to fans.

One of the first holiday specials to look at is “Marvel Holiday Special 2011.” Now this isn’t the first time Marvel has produced a special one-shot of stories set around Christmas time. Characters from Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the X-Men have been featured in these tales, fighting trouble while preparing for the holidays.

According to spider-fan.org, “In the early 90’s, Marvel started running a ‘Marvel Holiday Special,’ featuring a few Christmassy…type stories. That ran out of steam after a half-dozen issues, but they started up again in 2004 and have carried on ever since.”

In addition to print publication, “Marvel Holiday Special 2011” was also offered to fans online as a four-part series through Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.

In “Marvel Holiday Special 2011,” one of the stories involves Wolverine playing hockey (issue #1). Another has Spider-Man in pursuit of a criminal on Christmas (issue #2) while the Thing has his holiday meal interrupted by super powered trouble (issue #4). These stories are a nice break from the heavy melodrama present throughout the year.

While Marvel is busy having fun with their special, things are a bit more serious at DC Comics. Their holiday book in the spotlight this year is “Batman: Noel” by superstar artist Lee Bermejo (who was also written about in last week’s column regarding “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel” and “Joker”). Unlike his previous works, in this original graphic novel Bermejo takes up duties as both writer and artist.

“Batman: Noel” places the Caped Crusader in Ebenezer Scrooge’s shoes from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” as Batman confronts his past, present, and future around Christmas time. Along the way, spirits in the form of characters like Superman and Catwoman visit Batman to discuss his life as Gotham’s crime fighter.

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A Villainous Look at Comic Books

What’s a good comic book without super villains? Sure, they are evil and maniacal but they can be just as fascinating. Writers and artists have recognized this with many series and miniseries spotlighting villains like “Nemesis,” “Carnage,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Books of Doom.” However, to keep this column short, when it comes to scum of the Earth, you can’t go wrong with DC and Marvel Comics.

DC Comics has had comics devoted to evildoers like Ra’s Al Ghul and Deadshot as well as a limited series called “Salvation Run” (Here all of Earth’s villains being exiled to a distant planet where character sided with the brilliantly mad Lex Luthor or the insane Joker).

Now, when it comes to two of the more interesting villain stories from DC, they come courtesy of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo. Together, they have showcased tales that offer a new perspective on Lex and the Joker than what fans are familiar with.

First there was the miniseries, “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel,” which presented an in depth analysis of this criminal mastermind. Yes, fans have understood that Lex’s hatred of Superman stems from the fact that he sees this extraterrestrial as a threat for mankind, preventing humanity’s own success. Though many have and still show this, hearing Lex’s made the tale creepy and present the feeling of being inside his head.

Azzarello and Bermejo’s next project was the dark and richly entertaining Clown Prince of Crime tale, “Joker.” The graphic novel featured a newcomer to the Joker’s gang who gets a firsthand experience of what it means to run with this insane criminal. Throughout the novel, Azzarello and Bermejo present new, realistic takes on classic Batman villain such as the Penguin and Killer Croc much like the Christopher Nolan films. Bermejo’s artwork also gave the characters and setting a rough, gritty feel. What sets this apart from “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel” is how the reader doesn’t hear the Joker’s thoughts or delve further into his mind. They only observe his actions and hearing his words as they transpire to keep the Joker even more mysterious, distant, and terrifying.

In fact, while talking to newsarama.com about “Joker,” Azzarello explained why he chose to keep the Joker’s thoughts silent. “I firmly believe that trying to write from the Joker’s perspective would be taking power away from that character; part of the power of that character is his unpredictability. Nobody knows what he is going to do next; so, if you’re in his head, you totally take away the unpredictable nature of the character,” the writer said.

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Comic Books That Enter the Third Dimension

Superman BeyondNowadays, 3-D has been and continues to make waves in movie theaters across the country as shown with last week’s new releases, Arthur Christmas, Hugo, and Immortals

Now, while 3-D is slowly coming to home theaters with the advent of 3-D TV’s and Blu-Rays, one might be surprised to learn that comics have also taken the venture into 3-D technology.

Although not as sophisticated as RealD 3-D or IMAX 3-D by using the old red and blue shaded glasses, comics have and continue to use this unique angle to have characters and dialogue bubbles pop out of the page.

The genesis of the 3-D comic book began in the 1950’s when 3-D was first being used in movie theaters to attract audiences. 

According to tvtropes.org, “The first 3-D comic book was Three Dimension Comics and starred Mighty Mouse. After that, many different comics came out, but they only lasted one or a few issues; the comics were expensive (25 cents when others were 10 cents) and sold mostly as novelties, which got old quickly. By the end of the year, the fad was dead.”

However, just because this trend ended early didn’t mean it left comic books altogether. Much like the death and return of heroes like Superman, Batman, Captain America, to name some, 3-D comics would find its way back to readers at different times.

In the 1980’s, 3-D returned to comic books via Eclipse Comics, now defunct, which experimented with 3-D by using it in certain series like “Miracleman” and “DNAgents.” 

Today, comic book publishers don’t print as many 3-D adventures as movies do, but they still like to play around with this unique aspect occasionally. Although the continuation of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier,” only featured selected pages that brought the 2-D artwork toward the reader, it showed how this technique is being utilized by the comic industry.

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