“Respect My Craft” – Fiona Staples

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Fiona Staples

Profession: Artist (penciler, inker and colorist)

Notable Work: SagaDV8: Gods and Monsters

“When I DO see kids, I don’t want to say I intently observe them because that’s very creepy, but I have noticed they have different mannerisms than adults. They exist in a world where nothing is really sized to their proportions, so they have funny ways of sitting and fitting themselves into spaces.” – Fiona Staples

Denver Comic-Con 2013 had a who’s who of comic-book elite.  Neal Adams, Chris Ware, Jim Steranko are literal magazine-stand juggernauts. They have stories about every character and book they ever illustrated. These men have created worlds the rest of us rely on for entertainment, and sanity. I stood in line to get into The Con for four hours, but not for them. I stood in line for Fiona Staples. If you haven’t heard of her, or read Saga, or read my review of Saga: Volume One, or have been kidnapped by Skrulls and off-world for the past 3 years, let me take this time to say, “You have no idea what you’ve been missing.”

“This is how an idea becomes real.” Fiona Staples was born in Alberta, Calgary. Like most comic artists, she began drawing at a very young age. Her work was goth and anime inspired. She created from satire and chaos. She found her calling at Sir Winston Churchill High School, and at 19, got her first work in comics shelving at her local comic book store in Calgary. She later attended Alberta College of Art and Design and majored in Digital Communication.

“But ideas are fragile things.” She self-described her earlier work as black comedy, and that attracted her to WildStorm Comics. She was soon approached by Superman Returns and X2 screenwriter, Michael Dougherty, to produce a comic adaptation of his cult classic, Trick ‘r Treat. She remained with WildStorm to illustrate for North 40.  Staples also worked with 30 Days of Night author, Steve Niles on Mystery Society published by IDW in 2010. He was so impressed with her work that he introduced her to his friend, Brian K Vaughn. Lucky us.

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“Two minds can sometimes improve the odds of an idea’s survival.” Brian Vaughn is arguably the best cross-media writer in the business.  He has written for ABC’s acclaimed series Lost, and worked with Steven Spielberg on Showtime’s Under the Dome. He also wrote Vertigo comic’s, Y: The Last Man. This pairing must have been conceived in Odin’s loins. The two began to work on a sci-fi book simply titled, Saga. The book was intentionally created so that it could not be easily adapted into a film. The duo just wanted to create a really good comic book with no gimmick or over-hyped pop culture fodder. Hopefully the rights will never be sold to a studio and we won’t be subjected to unnecessary seasons of bad TV. Both of these artists used a very non-conventional approach to story-telling, so a certain level of integrity had to be assumed. Vaughn and Staples didn’t even officially meet until their panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011. Regardless, their finished product was astounding.

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“But there are no guarantees.” Saga is that rare work in an art form that comes around once in a lifetime. Staples is deliciously satirical. Flipping through her pages must be a little like reading Chuck Palahniuk’s mind.  It’s a wonderful blend of taboo and the absurd. Her construction is almost as interesting as her end result. Click here to visit her official website. Staples draws her panels in thumbnail format, scans them into Manga Studio where she inks them, takes selfies for reference, then colors them in Photoshop. She also hand writes text in her panels. This technique enhances the story by giving the reader a narrator’s voice through penmanship. It’s absolutely brilliant. From an artist’s perspective her technique may seem like overkill, but without it, we may not have such a polished result. So what do you get? Besides one of the most popular comics on the shelves, an Eisner Award winner for best new series, and the praise of industry peers…you get fans for life. Fans like me, who only want to be inspired again. Fans who want to visit far off lands and meet interesting characters. Staples is also co-owner of Saga and a large chunk of its universe is from her imagination.

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“Sorry, getting ahead of myself.” Much of Fiona Staples personal life is a mystery. Her age is unknown, her Facebook page is filled with riddles and playful myth, but one thing is certain, her work is a breath of fresh air. She conveys emotion through the stroke of a pen, the reader is drawn into her world through color and shape first, and then writing. I won’t spoil Saga for you, if you are interested in a synopsis of the first trade, go back in the Hush Archives. Truly, I suggest picking up or downloading her entire catalog. She has some impressive cover art and variants including the Art of Archie, Ultimate Spider-Man, Superman/Batman and The Walking Dead. 

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 Art taken from http://fionastaples.tumblr.com

 After four hours in line I was able to give her a smile, thank her for renewing my love of comics and awkwardly asked for her autograph. I feel like she is one of those fanboy favorites we love to insult others lack of knowledge of. She is definitely the end to the exhausted gasp of disbelief, “You don’t know….!?” In all honesty, writing this article reminded me why I respect her craft so much. She is an artist’s artist, and the darkest corners of her mind brighten our existence.

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Fiona Staples shows some love to John Soweto

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (NY Times, Spike TV, Broadway Books). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Zombie Survival expert, Max Brooks.

Written by John Soweto

“Respect My Craft” – Adam West

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Adam West

Profession: Actor

Notable Work: Batman television series (1966-1968), Family Guy (2000-2014)

“Pow! Bang! Crash!” – Adam West

 

Holy Onomatopoeia, Hushsters, the caped crusader will be at Denver Comic this year!” It’s only right that we pay homage to this iconic TV personality the Hush way, with spoilers! Enter at your own risk, we are going to drop some Easter Eggs on you for this episode of “RMC.”

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William West Anderson was born on September 19th, 1928. As a kid, he was a legitimate Batman fan, which isn’t surprising. Media was limited in the 40’s and comic books were one of the few forms of media that were acceptable for children. He fell in love with entertainment and worked in everything from radio to theater. He changed his name to Adam West to be more appealing in Hollywood. Westerns were very popular on television, so it made sense. He starred in several westerns including: The Restless Four, Maverick, Geronimo, Bonanza and The Virginian.

Adam got the attention of ABC executives in the sixties due to his work as Captain Q, a secret agent in a NesQuik commercial. His line was, “Some people will do anything to get rich quick, toodle-oo.” He had an extensive resume, including a feature with The Three Stooges in The Outlaws is Coming. ABC was desperate to produce a show that could compete with its rivals. Lost in Space, The Munsters, and Star Trek were ratings giants for NBC and CBS. ABC pitched the Batman series in a risky attempt to keep up. They had a simple formula – over-the-top action and unwavering morality equals over-night success. Zowie! Although Adam and co-star Burt Ward (Robin) had to audition for their roles, they easily landed their parts after the show’s executive, William Dozier, also voice of the narrator, decided to produce the series as a campy adventure.

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The first episode, “Hi Diddle Riddle,” aired January 12th, 1966. The series only lasted three seasons, but it aired twice a week. Imagine if Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones did the same! This show didn’t need sex or violence to be successful (not like they could have gotten away with it anyway); it had Batman and that’s all you need, and Batpoles, and an animated intro, and shark repellent, and villains, “Oh, the villains!” Thwapp!

Holy Bat phone!

Like most series of that era that targeted young viewers, each episode had a strong message of morality. Issues like pedestrian safety and doing homework were thrown into the action-packed show.

Sock! The villains the Dynamic Duo faced were splendid. Boom! They wore outrageous costumes and had henchman galore. Slap! Cesar Romero played a magnificent Joker. He was an instant hit. Eartha Kitt purred her way into the warm part of the couch as Catwoman. The fight sequences on the show felt like operatic dance numbers.

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The gadgets the duo had were every boy’s dream, secret passageways, utility belts with tools to save the day, and a custom Batmobile to rival any sports car. The Lincoln Futura concept car from Ford was never put into production so it was a perfect choice for billionaire Bruce Wayne. Mechanic to the stars George Barris was commissioned to put the sleek model into action for the Batman series.

Life after Batman

Adam West’s career continued to thrive after Batman. He voiced the caped crusader and others for several animated series in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. He made guest appearances on Laverne and Shirley, The Love Boat and Bewitched. His cartoon voice over work is second to none, shout out Mark Hamill.

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He has a Batman logo on one of his molars.

On April 5th, 2012 he earned his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

His resume is long, his work includes Johnny Bravo, Kim Possible, Futurama, and The Simpsons. Do you remember him as the voice of R. Kelly’s Lawyer on Season One of The Boondocks? “Maybe R. Kelly did urinate on this woman, but America urinated on R. Kelly!” Classic.

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And then there’s Family Guy.

West’s popularity as Mayor Adam West of Quahog on Seth McFarlane’s obnoxiously funny Family Guy is astounding. He is a fan favorite and deservedly so for 14 years! His deadpan humor transfers well on the show. He is never too prideful to poke fun at himself and that’s what makes him so special. His character is moronic and insane, but most importantly hilarious. Isn’t it ironic that his longest continual role is of himself, and as an animated character?

Mayor Adam West

West is the standard for actors who portray superheroes. Instead of being type cast, he created a persona that could translate well in any comedic medium. He built an empire for himself by remaining true to his art. He is a living legend and a guys like Tobey Maguire and Brandon Routh could take a page out of his book. After watching several episodes of the iconic series to prepare for this article I find myself in a state of nostalgia. Sure, the new Batman ’66 comic book can fill a bit of the gap, but it’s not the same. Where are the writers and actors of yesteryear? When did television become so bitter and boring, where are the Adam Wests of today? I guess we’ll find out next week, same Bat-time, same Bat channel.

 

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (ABC, Cartoon Network, FOX Television). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Star Trek: The Next Generation alumna, Marina Sirtis.

Game of Thrones Review “The Laws of Gods and Men” S4E6

Well, it’s been two weeks now, and it’s official, I miss Joffrey. I even went as far as to watch Batman Begins and skipped chapters to his scene with Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes) as he clutched her side while Gotham was being ransacked.

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This also prompted me to return to season one of GoT. Hungry for spoilers I found Littlefinger’s diatribe about revenge in You Win or You Die to be especially juicy. He said, “I learned that I’ll never win, not that way. That’s their game, their rules. I’m not going to fight them. I’m going to fuck them. That’s what I know, that’s what I am, and only by admitting what we are do we get what we want.”

We open with Stannis Baratheon on a ship entering the shores of Bravvos underneath a huge stone statue of a soldier. The scene was pretty LOTR looking if you ask me. He seeks council with The Iron Bank. Stannis pleads his case to the bank for the throne of Westeros. He only has 4,000 men and 32 ships, not nearly enough to defeat the Lannisters. The Iron Bank declines.

Iron Bank

Ser Davos intercedes and makes the argument that after Tywin is gone, who will take the throne? How will the bank recover its losses to the Lannisters? He convinces the bank and recruits his long time pirate friend Salladhor Sam, aka the Lando Calrissian of this Game of Thrones shit.

Next, the Greyjoys attack. Yara leads a small army on Ramsay Snow at Dreadfort. She gives a Braveheart-like speech. They must return Theon home and punish those that have hurt him. But Theon is no longer Theon, he is Reek. Ramsay has made sure of that. Yara plans to storm the dungeons only to find out that Reek lives in the kennel with the dogs. The Greyjoys give a valiant effort to free Reek and escape, but Reek refuses and his resistance nearly costs them their lives. He has been broken and now belongs to Ramsay. I wanted to feel sorry for him until I remembered how much of a dick he was…literally. Yara and her army leave him with Ramsay and declare him a lost cause.

Reek is rewarded with a bath. His obedience is frightening. He has been broken. Snow can now use Theon to do whatever he wants. Ramsay now plots a take over of Dreadfort.

Green hills. Clear skies. A picture perfect day in Meereen for a boy, his father and their flock of sheep, until a dragon the size of a school bus rises over a cliff and burns everything in sight! Remember that shitty Christian Bale movie, Reign of Fire? Even though the movie sucked, the dragons were awesome. They had a great way of moving stealth until a fatal strike. That’s how Dany’s dragon got the drop on the flock. I have to admit, the scene was pretty epic.

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Queen Daenerys is on her throne. Her first act is to pay the shepherd three times what his flock was worth after her dragon’s afternoon snack. One of Meereen’s citizens comes to Dany for funeral rights for his father, a former master of Meereen. He pleads her to take the crucified masters down as a son who loved his father. She grants his wish as her first act of mercy. Don’t get too excited, she still has 212 supplicants to go. Ser Jorah rolls his eyes.

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Lord Oberyn of Dorne is now on the council at Kings Landing. The council discusses rumors of, “The Mountain’ and “The Hound.” But the more pressing issue is Daenery’s and her Unsullied, three dragons, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan at her side. Tywin believes Dany should be dealt with and a plan is hatched.

Lord Varys and Oberyn speak about the Unsullied. Oberyn determines where Varys is from originally. When asked about his sexual tastes, Varys replies, “Absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.”

Jamie greets Tyrion in his cell. It is time for his trial. After being cuffed, Tyrion spouts, “Well, we mustn’t disappoint father.” The two King-slayers walk into the great chamber. Tommen is shown respect as king of The Iron Throne. He recuses himself from the trial. As he walks away Tyrion seems disappointed, he was once quite fond of the child.

Tyrion on Trial

Tywin takes control of the trial and seats himself in the Iron Throne. In response to his father’s accusation of murder he proclaims, “Blame the pigeons, just leave me out of it.” In reference to the Pigeon Pie Joffrey ate as he died. Without question Joffrey was poisoned by The Strangler, a concoction made from plants of the Jade Sea. The poison kills its victims by making it appear as if they choked to death. Witness after witness are called to the stand and all accuse Tyrion of the deed. They use his own words against him. Cersei has her day in court as well. Tyrion is being railroaded. Lord Varys all but accuses him of treason when he implies that Tyrion was sympathetic to the Stark’s cause. Tyrion asked him whether or not he forgot the victory at Blackwater. It wasn’t enough to bring Lord Varys to his aid.

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Jamie fights for his brother, this is the most honorable we have seen him. He begs Tywin to spare Tyrion’s life. He recalls that he killed the Mad King to save Tywin. Without Tyrion he will have no one to carry the Lannister banner into future battles. He offers to take Tywin’s place as heir if he saves Tyrion’s life. An offer is made. If Tyrion admits to murdering the king he will spend the rest of his days on The Wall with The Knight’s Watch. Jamie plans this strategy with his brother. Jamie tells him to beg for mercy. Tyrion has a moment of hope before the bottom falls. They call Shae as a witness. Tyrion is shocked. Sidenote; The acting in this scene is brilliant, shout out to Peter Dinklage! He is by far the most entertaining actor on this show.
Shae is heart-broken and bitter. She lies and says that Tyrion and Sansa plotted against Joffrey. She claims that she heard the whole thing and knew that he stole the poison. Her true motives are revealed when she proclaims that she was his property, his whore. Now he is broken. All of the things that he has said and done have now come back to haunt him. Shae says that he promised to kill King Joffrey for Sansa. Tyrion has had enough. He confesses and blurts to the onlookers that he, “Should have let Stannis kill you all!” Referring back to the battle of Blackwater.

One of the most powerful moments in the entire series comes next. Tyrion is tired and defeated. He has nowhere else to hide. There is no place behind the Lannister name, neither behind his wit or his drunkenness. All he has is pride, and he uses it to his advantage. He proclaims;

“Yes father I’m guilty. I’m guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I’m on trial for being a dwarf. I’ve been on trial my entire life. I wish I was the monster you think I am.”

“I demand a trial by combat.”

Next week’s episode is Mockingbird
This episode was written by Byran Cogman

Pictures courtesy of HBO.com, Huffingtonpost.com and MTV.com

Game of a Thrones Review “First of His Name” S4E5

I took the Game of Thrones personality quiz and I ended up in the house of Stark. The unlucky Starks have been pushed out of buildings and publicly beheaded, so at first glance they don’t seem like a clan you’d want to roll with. Unless you happen to be Arya Stark. Then it’s ok.

SPOILER ALERT! READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK. (Too bad Catelyn Stark didn’t get the same warning.)

For some reason one quote from last week’s episode, Oath Keeper, kept running through my mind in anticipation of this week’s First of His Name. Littlefinger hissed, “Keep your foes confused.” This one liner was a subtle hint to prepare us for this week’s bombshell.

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We open with the crowning of King Tommen. He is clearly not torturing neighborhood cats or taping “kick me” signs on the backs of the socially inept like his deceased brother. Long live Joffery! Tommen is now Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, (for whatever that is worth.) With dragon-led slave rebellions and White Walkers adopting kids like Brad and Angelina, we’ll see how long his rule lasts. He seems unsure about his station, but excited about his new crush. Margaery still has her heart set on being queen. They share a tender moment from afar until Cersei interrupts. That moment offered Cersei a perfect opportunity to confront Margaery. Both women are now widowed queens. Both of their husbands had been murdered and they seem to understand that. Cersei, for the first time, shows vulnerability when speaking on how much of a monster her son was. She finally admits her discontent with Joffery and we see a side to her we thought never existed. But both women are still playing the game. The throne can be manipulated by whomever the king takes as council. Yet another hint from last week, this time from Tywin.

Danearys is reveling over her victory in Meereen. We find her in war council. News of Joffery’s death has reached her and she seeks to take King’s Landing. But every action has an opposite reaction. The slaves she had previously liberated have fallen victim to even worse circumstances. She proclaims, “I will do what queens do, I will rule.”

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Somehow this choice seems far more dangerous for the Lannisters. If Dany decides to create a new kingdom in the Westeros, everything around it may come crumbling down.

Littlefinger takes Sansa to the Bloody Gate and he is welcomed as Lord Bealish. Sansa is greeted by her bat-shit crazy aunt, Lysa Arryn, and somehow she feels safe. It is quickly revealed that Lysa poisoned Jon Arryn, former Hand of The King to Robert Baratheon, by the command of her lover Petyr Bealish! He also instructed her to write the letter to her sister Catelyn accusing the Lannisters of the deed. So Littlefinger is behind all of the fucked up things that have happened in the Westeros! And if that’s not crazy enough, he and Lysa have what must be the least sexy sex scene in the whole series without even being on screen. “Uuuuuughhgh!”

Lysa’s love for Bealish is real. Creepy, but real. In a fit of jealousy she confronts Sansa. The deranged lover reveals the plan to force Sansa to wed her child son Robin and become Lady of the Vale. Ew. Sansa is mortified and may finally realize that no one in the Westeros is to be trusted.

Tywin and Cersei have a heart-to-wallet talk. The Tyrells have the resources they need to run the Seven Kingdoms, with out them the Iron Bank of Braavos will foreclose on their property, regardless if they pass GO.

Arya is the baddest character on the show…say something! She recites the names on her kill list by camp fire. She can’t sleep until she says the names of those she means to slaughter.

Arya

The Hound tells her to be quiet, until she insists on completing the names. He is shocked to find out that his own name is the last on that list.

Cersei greets Oberyn. She wants revenge for her son and she hopes that she can manipulate him into a guilty verdict for Tyrion. She asks him, “What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?”

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In another heartfelt moment she asks that he look after her daughter Myrcella. He says that she is safe in Dorne, Cersei replies coldly, “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” Can we say foreshadowing?

Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen are still Karl’s captives at Craster’s Keep. Locke found them as The Knight’s Watch prepared their attack on the deserters, but he has plans to kidnap Bran before Jon realizes his brother was ever there. Karl plans on raping Bran’s companion Meera when the siege begins. As Locke tries to escape with Bran, he uses his Warg ability and possess Hodor’s mind! In epic fashion he snaps Locke’s neck and the band is back on their way north to find the Three-eyed raven. But the GoT kill of the week goes to Jon Snow. In Mortal Kombat fatality mode he impales Karl through the mouth with his blade. It is one of the most gruesome scenes in the entire series.

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Finally, Ghost (Jon’s Dire Wolf) has his revenge on the final mutineer and is reunited with his bonded companion.

Next Week! The Laws of Gods and Men. We will see the liberation of Theon Greyjoy and the trial of Tyrion Lannister!

Pictures courtesy of nerdist.com and mtv.com

Sent from my iPad

Graphic Novel Review-Spider-Man: Torment

Spider-Man: Torment

Collecting: Spider-Man #1-5

Original Release Date: 1990 (collected edition released 2011)

Publisher: Marvel

Pages: 144

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Characters: Spider-Man, Mary Jane Watson, Calypso, The Lizard, Kraven The Hunter

Writer/Artist: Todd McFarlane

StoryLine – 6
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 7
Use of Medium – 10
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 6
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 8
Overall awesomeness – 9
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On the eve of the early premier to Columbia Pictures sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, I ventured out to my garage to uncover my collection of Spider-Man arcs from over the years. Sidebar; It is important to recognize for the sake of this review that Spider-Man was my first nerdy obsession. I came to comics in purist tradition. There was no multi-billion dollar studio backing a franchise of movies or chain of retail stores carpet bagging 80’s cartoon T-shirts for the neo-nerds to wear as ironic or trendy. There were no celebrities gushing over their love of all things Marvel in hopes of landing the next big role. Web-heads like me had NBC’s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings, and that’s about it.

Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man saved my life. 1988 was a hard year for my family. My mother decided to move from New York City half way around the country to Denver to be closer to my grandparents. Nothing could have been more crushing to me at the time. All I knew was New York; other cities didn’t even exist to me. There are only two truths that keep me half-way sane: the Yankees are the greatest sports team ever assembled and Spider-Man is the best super hero in all of comics.

Parker is a New Yorker without both of his parents. He is nerdy and unsure of himself. Spider-Man reminded me of home. Without Spider-Man, I may not have fallen in love with comic books.

When McFarlane announced that he was leaving The Amazing Spider-Man, my heart sunk. The man who gave us spaghetti-webbing was leaving; who could possibly replace him? It was soon released that McFarlane would launch a new Spidey book simply titled Spider-Man. Not only would Todd pencil the book, but he would write its stories too. This was a dream come true! The man who gave us Venom would be responsible for creating new villains and plots in the Marvel universe! His first attempt launched in 1990 was the five part mini-series, Torment.

The first issue gave us an iconic cover. The Wall-Crawler, hunched over, over-exaggerated eyes, twisted arm, nestled safely in his web was here! Spider-Man sold 2.5 million copies initially. It’s variant covers helped push the title into uncharted territory in sales.

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And to top it off, in the top right hand corner of the issue, McFarlane dubbed the series, The Legend of The ArachKnight. This was an obvious dig at DC Comics and the tidal-wave success of Tim Burton’s blockbuster film, Batman. There were more subtle jabs towards the Bat in the first few pages and web-heads went nuts! The success of Batman was overwhelming, there seemed to be no stopping the media blitz and little if no space was left for any other heroes. Quite frankly, it was hard to identify with a billionaire playboy who played cops and robbers in some fictitious town, but Peter Parker was from Queens, and he could never quite get over the hump. His character was much more relatable to me.

Despite Torment‘s initial popularity, McFarlane faced wide-spread criticism from fan-boys, peers and even his last Marvel editor Danny Fingeroth. His initial editor, Jim Salicrup, offered Todd the shot to author and pencil his own title. The book was a huge cash cow for Marvel but Todd seemed to face opposition at every turn. He had already weathered the storm of critics who claimed that he couldn’t draw anatomically correct figures. Instead of changing his style and falling victim to self doubt, he drew even crazier. He twisted bodies in ways they shouldn’t have been able to, he gave us MORE spaghetti-webbing and made Spider-Man his way. He would, “Rise above it all.” With that being said, Torment isn’t Shakespeare, and it didn’t have to be. McFarlane used the Torment series to push HIS brand of art. And even though the company tried to tame his style, they encouraged their next generation of artists, including Amazing Spider-Man successor, Erik Larsen, to draw Spidey the same way because that’s what sold comics.

“The City. New York. Littered with towering concrete giants that seem to swallow up the sky.” Torment is simple – the Lizard is out of control in New York. He is under the control of the dark voodoo priestess Calypso, and on a vicious killing spree. The sensually drawn Calypso has revenge in her dark soul. Her wish? To kill Spider-Man and resurrect Kraven The Hunter. Spidey nearly loses his life in this bloody battle. Any true McFarlane fan will tell you that you don’t need much more than that.

Critics argued that McFarlane never learned how to establish tone in his writing, but if the artwork does it for you, imagination should take care of the rest. The panels are elegantly illustrated. The backdrop of New York is gritty and terrifying. The flow of the first five books may seem a bit sloppy, but the Spider-Man he depicted was a stretch from our friendly neighborhood hero. He is placed in a mysterious plot for no reason – other than torment – and we, the reader, get to enjoy a fresh perspective from one of the most successful comic book artists of all time.

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Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A synopsis from the pages of Ms. Marvel

Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A Synopsis From the Pages of Ms. Marvel

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The Women’s Rights Movement in Islam is a fight for more than equality and freedom. It, in some ways, is a fight for humanity. The Western world has been put on notice that the women of Islam will no longer suffer the indifference of cruel and stubborn men. We see it everyday in our high schools and malls. Young Muslim women wear colorful hijab and dazzling outfits equipped with Gucci bags and Air Jordans. We hear it in their poetry through the voices of those like Suheir Hammad and Amal Kassir. We see it on the streets of Tehran and Bahrain. Social media has made it impossible to ignore. Sites like Wikileaks and Instagram have given a face to this head covered revolution.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf gives us a haunting description of growing up Syrian-American. When I picked the book up in 2006, I needed it to reaffirm my faith as a practicing converted Muslim. In its pages you can find similarities in almost every civil rights movement in modern history. Couple that with the struggles of assimilation in a society that perceives diversity as a weakness, and you have the basis for a constitution.

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This is why Ms. Marvel is more than a comic book. When it was first announced that Marvel would give the secondary title a much needed make-over, most of us were skeptical. In the film age of Avengers and The Dark Knight, there seems to be very little space for the lesser-known heroes. Most of the big companies are keeping their cash grabs going by reissuing past story arcs for future films and keeping the public interested in what the studios are putting out on the silver screen. But Marvel gave writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona a chance to do something out of the ordinary. The result is the tale of Kamala Khan, a teenage girl from Jersey City. She lives in world that doesn’t truly see her for who she is. At school, she and her friend Nakia are the subject of ridicule from the female Flash Thompson, Zoe Zimmer. She is not allowed to spend time with boys. Her parents, although not restricting her to strict Sharia law, do not give her the independence she believes she deserves. Her brother Aamir loves her, but is focused on prayer and devotion to Allah. Did I mention that she is nerd? This twist allows us, the reader to fall in love with this character on a very base level. Readers can connect with her through the awkwardness of being a teenager or by being a social outcast in school. She is everyone. Her accessibility gives her a human feel that most comics lack, for obvious reasons. She is empowering. Her character sees the hypocrisy in gender bias and questions it outright. This alone makes her a hero.

But Kamala is obsessed with the Avengers. She daydreams of battles with intergalactic invaders and wants nothing more than to change into her hero, Captain Marvel.

Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!
Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!

One night, her wish comes true. She transforms into Ms. Marvel, a super human with the ability to change her shape. How fitting. Whether as a nerd, woman, or culturally disenfranchised youth she dreamed of acceptance. Her newly found powers allow her to be anything she wants physically, but she remains the same inside.

Kamala sneaks out to a party that her parents forbid her to go to. Once there a strange mist envelopes her and she is greeted by the Avengers, speaking Urdu! They tell her that they are of faith, and speak all languages of beauty and hardship. This type of writing gives this book the type of authenticity it needs to be impactful. If Wilson decided to attack Islam for its treatment of woman alone, the book would take a preachy and holier-than-thou stance that would immediately offend. But this book doesn’t do that, it shows both sides, from the inside of an Islamic Masjid where women are separated in prayer, to the dinner table of a family with first generation westerners. Her first act of heroism saved the life of her mean-girl tormentor, Zoe Zimmer. This selfless act will shape the type of hero she will become. Wilson could have easily made her first heroic act saving the life of a Muslim kid in the midst of being victimized by a hate crime. But that would be the easy way out. In saving her perceived enemy this book takes a traditional Islamic pretense, to offer enemies love, from Al-Mumtahana, and that saving one life is like saving an entire people, from Al-Maida.

Sometimes, the bullies that affect us the worst are those that think they are being good people.
Sometimes, the worst bullies are those that think they are being good people.

The reality of our world is harsh. Women in most countries on this planet are subjugated to cruelty and treated as subservient. And before our glorious Stars and Stripes have their say, let’s not forget the shadow it still casts on our history. The Slavocracy of the South and Jim Crow laws that proceeded allowed for the ownership, rape and torture of African American women. Hell, the ruling class didn’t even allow their women to vote until 1920 and sexual health issues are still being fought today on a Congressional level. But Ms. Marvel is a glimmer of hope in a small pocket of our society. It’s pages are meant to inspire the oppressed, and objectified. Bravo for Marvel Comics, and Al-ḥamdu lillāh.

Ms. Marvel #1

Below is my review of issue #3 that I wrote for the weekly reviews (see all the week’s reviews here). The five part introduction to the new Ms. Marvel is entitled Meta-Morphosis. I suggest you purchase from comiXology or support your local comic book shop and strike a conversation with the guy behind the counter!

Ms. Marvel #3 – A
I can already envision the “What if” issue where Zoe Zimmer drowns. Tell me you saw the somewhere on the west side ave JC electronics sign or you noticed the sarcastic look on the New Jersey pigeons? This book screams of nuance. More than the cultural tension of growing up Muslim so close to Manhattan, I find the awkwardness of being a teenager compelling. Kamala frantically searches the web for answers…”Super-powers, Shape-shifting powers, Woke up as a polymorph, Embiggening. Come on interwebs, don’t fail me now–I can’t be the first person this has happened to–” The book feels real because we would ALL do the same thing. Still subservient in a world where woman are not allowed to worship with their male counter parts, Kamala struggles to find her purpose. It’s been a while since we have seen a hero’s genesis story. Watching Kamala awkwardly try to control her powers is like watching an eager tadpole.

After responding to his text, she heads to the Circle Q to meet Bruno. When she looks in the window she notices a masked man flashing a gun. Assuming that he’s being held up, she springs into action and makes a magnificent declaration.
“I am 911!”
“Strange things are afoot at the Circle Q.”

Shout out to the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure quote from Bruno.
Kamala learns a valuable lesson about being a hero this issue, if she makes it out alive she won’t make the same mistake again.

Post originally from John Soweto’s blog

Game of Thrones Review “The Lion and the Rose” S4E2

The Lion and the Rose
SPOILER ALERT! Warning, this recap has major spoilers to “The Lion and the Rose,” if you haven’t watched the episode yet, please go to HBO GO immediately!

HBO GO shut down because of traffic last week, (this is after fixing the glitch that caused the True Detective season finale crash) 6.6 million viewers watched “Two Swords”, the season premier, and our favorite gamers got the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Game of Thrones is making its argument for best television series of all time, or at least the bloodiest. According to Vanity Fair, (Yes, I read VF) the show has been illegally downloaded more than any other in history. Not only that, but President Barack Obama gets early screenings in the White House, not a bad perk for Commander-in-chief.

I’d like to start by saying that rarely does a T.V. series cause its watchers to be so impassioned. Just last week I had a Facebook war with fellow Hush writer, Jené Conrad about whether or not Khaleesi is a name or title for Daenerys Targaryen.

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Hurrah! George R.R. Martin actually wrote the script for this week’s episode. We open with a hunt. A young woman is being chased through the woods by Theon Greyjoy’s captor, Ramsay Snow, a female archer, Greyjoy, and a pack of wild dogs. Greyjoy, now called Reek by Ramsay, watches as Ramsay sadistically let’s the dogs tear her apart.

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We immediately cut to another phallic reference following that scene with Tyrion and Jamie eating a meal. This is an on going theme since Ramsay removed Theon’s…manhood.

Tyrion seeks to strengthen his bond with his brother by offering his bodyguard Bronn, to train him to use a sword with one hand. The scene made me laugh as I thought to myself of the classic, Princess Bride moment, “I am not left-handed!”

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Ramsay Snow, returns home. He greets his father, but the welcome is not friendly. It’s important to note that Ramsay is also a bastard. Ramsay’s father, Lord Roose Bolton seems domineering and cold. But they bask in their victories. Theon Greyjoy is presented as a trophy. Bolton is disappointed that Theon has been broken. But Ramsay earns his father’s graces by revealing that Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive. Theon admits that he did not murder the Stark boys and they are now part of the game. They quickly devise a plan and Jon Snow will soon be paid a visit by Locke, the guy who chopped off Jamie’s hand.

Tyrion has been warned by Lord Varys about his former lover, Shae being outed. Tywin Lannister promised to murder the next whore found with his son. Tyrion must now protect her.

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He confronts her, breaks her heart, for her own good, and demands that she leave. He arranged passage for her on a boat, she had no choice but to take his offer.

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We cut to Joffrey and Margaery’s pre-wedding ceremony. The book of The Four Kings is presented to Joffery as a gift from Tyrion. Joffery seems to have reconciled as he gives thanks to Tyrion. He then, in a spoiled fit, destroys the book Tyrion offered with a newly acquired Valyrian blade. He celebrates by antagonizing Sansa while gloating over the death of Ned Stark.

Stannis Baratheon is still sacrificing souls to strengthen his power. What a weirdo. Let’s hope Davis Seaworth gets out of there soon. He is still the only voice of reason in that cult of crazies.

Bran has been hunting as a Dire Wolf. His abilities to live as animals in the Westeros are growing stronger. He and his band are still traveling beyond the wall. He is having difficultly staying in human form. Hodor places him by a Heart Tree, these Weirwood trees with carved faces are found in the Godswood. Bran sees his father and the three eyed crow, and a dragon over King’s Landing. A voice commands him to go north.

Wedding of Joffery and Margaery Tyrell was magnificent. It was truly a wedding of royalty. Tyrion leaned into his wife Sansa and muttered, “Better her than you.” Preach!

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The celebration was grand and colorful. We have rarely seen King’s Landing that plush. In a tender moment, Margaery’s grandmother, Olenna Tyrell offers her condolences to Sansa by saying, “As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.” In reference to The Red Wedding. Jamie and Loras Tyrell get into a pissing match over Cersei. Jamie’s jealously is rampant. Loras is engaged to marry Cersei by order of Tywin. Immediately Cersei confronts Lady Brienne and the proud warrior woman inadvertently declares her love for Jamie. In a fit of anger, Cersei commands that the leftover food from the celebration go to the dogs of King’s Landing rather than the poor as the new Queen Margaery had declared.

Lord Oberyn finds the Lannisters in the middle of the celebration and intentionally insults Cersei and Tywin. He also subtly makes a threat on Cersei’s daughter, Myrcella. This revenge plot will be one to follow!

The party continues. The War of the five kings plays out in grand theatrical manner with fools in costume. Sansa watches in quite contemplation as everyone is disgusted except for Joffrey.

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Fools Rush In

He is cruel and pompous. Drunk on power Joffrey pours wine on Tyrion’s head, he continues to torment his uncle until the entire wedding party is uncomfortable. Joffrey drops his gauntlet and Sansa and Tyrion share a moment as she retrieves it for him.
Joffrey orders Tyrion to kneel. Tyrion refuses. The tension is high and is broken only when the pigeon pie is brought out. As Joffrey sips from his goblet. He begins to choke. It becomes clear that he has been poisoned! It’s about fucking time! In a glorious performance his face turns pale, then blue and purple. He points towards Tyrion with his final act as king and dies. This is the moment we have been waiting three seasons for! After countless good guys being murdered off, this was inevitable. I’m not ashamed to say that I will miss him. There are few characters on the show that we can hate so viscerally.

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Before you celebrate, keep in mind, he is barely a man. 

Joffrey is dead and Cersei believes Tyrion poisoned her son. She immediately orders him seized. Clearly Tyrion has been framed again. Remember the whole murder attempt on Bran’s life? This week’s episode was an A+! There was no frontal nudity and only one death, but it was the episode we were all hoping would happen!!!

Come back next week for our recap on “The Breaker of Chains.”

All media credited to HBO