Golden Age #11: Golden Age Green Lantern

Today is part two of of our series on the Justice Society of America.

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Since we already talked about the man on the far right of this picture we’re going to move over one and talk about the man with the green mask and cape.  This is a special post because that hero is the Golden Age version of the Green Lantern, the blue print for one of the most famous and prominent heroes around today.

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Origin and career:

Thanks to the Green Lantern’s popularity we know quite a bit about the Green Lantern’s history.  However, what’s really interesting is that the original version of Green Lantern shared almost none of the traits and history of the Green Lantern we know today.

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The original Green Lantern’s name was Alan Scott.  He was a humble railroad engineer who was minding his own business when an alien entity named Starheart saved him from a terrible accident.  Starheart took the form of ring and pushed Alan towards adopting the persona of the Green Lantern.

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What makes this iteration of the Green Lantern interesting is just how similar he is to the Green Lantern we know and love and how different he is at the same time.  It turns out that this Green Lantern had more of a mystical tint to it since it was discovered that Starheart was actually a meteor that crash landed on Earth thousands of years ago and has had quite a history with humans prophesying that it would act three times: once to destroy, once to heal, and once to give power.  Alan Scott just happened to be the third one.

Like the current Green Lantern the original Green Lantern had a wide variety of powers.  The ring allowed Alan Scott to fly, project light that could blind opponents, and project solid light constructs that could knock someone out.

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The ring also made him invulnerable to every type of weapon except those made out of wood for some reason (the Golden Age was weird) and had to be recharged but touching a large Green device shaped like a lantern every 24 hours.

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In terms of stories and enemies the Green Lantern had a pretty lackluster career.  In his solo work he mostly fought human antagonists although he did introduce future DC heavyweight villains Vandal Savage

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and Solomon Grundy.

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He would later join his other superhero compatriots that weren’t selling well and become one of the founding members of the Justice Society.  During this time he became the head of a Broadcasting Company and spent the war making money and kicking Nazi butt.

So what happened?

After fulfilling his Nazi beating quota Green Lantern suffered the same post war decline in readership that almost every hero who wasn’t named Batman or Superman had.  His books were cancelled in 1949 but he would make a roaring comeback in 1959 with the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics.

A quick note about the Silver Age of Comics.  This period of comic book history took place between 1956-1970 and was known for two things.  First, it saw the rise of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics.

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and for drawing most of its influence from this

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and this.

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Yes, the Silver Age was a time when popular culture was dominated by science, the power and possibilities of atomic energy, and mankind’s first forays into space.  Comic books were quick to pick up on these new fascinations and nowhere was it more apparent that Green Lantern who introduced a new face of the franchise in 1959: Hal Jordan.

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Right away you can see several differences between Hal and Alan.  For starters there’s no cape and the comic has more of a science fiction feel to it rather than a gangster/fantasy spin.  The new comic also featured several other changes that would become standard Green Lantern lore.  Hal was a test pilot instead of a railroad engineer and while the ring could still use green light to project solid light constructs and provide powers of flight and protection it could also work against wooden weapons.  Instead it’s new weakness was the color yellow (just the color yellow, the Sinestro Corps didn’t exist yet).  As for its origin the new Green Lantern wasn’t just a hero who had been given magic powers.  Now he was actually a member of an intergalactic police force run by the immortal Guardians.

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So DC comics now had a new Green Lantern with a more detailed backstory and a focus on science fiction over fantasy which, looking back, made him quite a bit more interesting.

That being said Alan Scott didn’t just disappear.  In fact, he would go on to have a long and illustrious career as his own character.  One of DC Comic’s big Silver Age stunts was the creation of the Multiverse, the idea that the DC universe existed in multiple universes which gave the writers and creators the excuse to keep a lot of characters around without having to deal with a lot of pesky continuity flaws.  The idea was introduced in the Flash of Two World’s story and allowed DC to keep a lot of it’s old Golden Age heroes around.

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As one of the founding members of the JSA, Alan Scott continued to exist as his own man through the Silver Age, even working with Hal Jordan on several occasions.

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And he’s been hanging around the DC universe ever since. No matter what has happened within the DC universe and no matter what Earth shattering event has occurred, the original Green Lantern has always been there watching over Earth’s other heroes with his magic ring.

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Cambrian Comics Friday showcase: The art of Rebecca Currell

Today we are going to showcase the art and work of Rebecca Currell.  If that name sounds familiar on this site it’s probably because she’s the letterer for our webcomic “The Secret Lives of Villains”.  That being said, while lettering is an important job it’s not a very good opportunity to show off any other work you might be doing, which is a shame because while Rebecca is a great letterer she is also an amazing artist and animator.

As before we will present the art of this showcase without commentary or description so you can sit back and enjoy the art for what it is.

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If you like the art work that you see and would like to share your thoughts please feel free to check out and like Rebecca’s Facebook page for her art here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rebecca-Currells-Art-Work/112702798823466

And as always, if you are an artist, writer, or otherwise creative person and want your work showcase on this site free of charge, please let me know.

Golden Age showcase #10: Hourman and the Justice Society of America

Over the next couple of months we are going to be talking about the first superhero team to ever exist in comic books: The Justice Society of America.

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In the early days of the superhero boom the people in charge learned pretty quickly that if individual superheroes could make money than it would be only logical that teams of superheroes would make even more money, a lesson that still holds true today.

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The Justice Society of America was created in 1940 and mad their first appearance in All Star Comics #3.  In the comic they were appointed by President Roosevelt to defend America against the Nazis (because of course).  They were created by editor Sheldon Mayer and Gardner Fox.

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A couple things of note.  The first iteration of the group can be seen here.

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You’ll notice a couple of things.  First, there’s no Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman.  That’s because those three heroes were popular enough to hold their own titles and the editors of each of these heroes didn’t want to risk over saturating the market with their image so instead the big three were often brought in as “honorary members” of the JSA.  Second, a lot of the faces may seem a bit familiar.  The truth is that most of these characters are still around today but have either been drastically re invented (Flash and Green Lantern) or continue to exist but don’t have the same influence and popularity they once had (Dr. Fate, Sandman, the Spectere).  With that said, let’s look at the character on the far right of the picture (the one in the black suit with the yellow cape) Hourman.

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Origin and career

Rex Tyler was a humble biochemist working for a company called Bannermain Chemical who discovered an accidental miracle vitamin (because comics are a place where things like unhealthy amounts of radiation and untested drugs can give you superpowers instead of…you know…killing you) which he promptly named Miraclo.

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The drug had the strange effect of giving whoever took it superhuman strength, speed, and durability, so of course Rex decided to use it to become a superhero instead of patenting it and becoming a rich man.  However, there was a catch.  The pill would grant him incredible abilities,

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but only for an hour (spare me the Viagra jokes, Robot Chicken already did one).  He would place an ad in the local paper of the city he protected advertising his services for anyone who needed his help.

In 1940 he became one of the founding members of the Justice Society of America, although he would leave the group one year later to become part of another group called the Freedom Fighters, a collection of superheroes brought together by a hero called Uncle Sam who was the living embodiment of America, tasked with travelling to another dimension where the Axis forces were winning World War 2 (this was a time when DC was starting to fool around with the “alternate universe” theory that would define so much of their comic book lore).

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So what happened?

Everything I talked about in the above section describes Hourman’s career during the actual Golden Age of Comics.  Like many of the more obscure heroes of the age his popularity began waning during the post war years.  However, the story of Hourman has a happier ending than most and during the late 1950’s he experienced a revival.

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Hourman has a special place in Golden Age superhero history because he was popular enough for writers to keep working on him and making him more complex and interesting.  It turned out that the drug that was giving him his powers was also highly addictive.  Coupled with Rex Tyler’s persona and strong desire to fight crime the effects of the drug had a hugely detrimental effect on his body and mind making him one of the first cautionary tales in superhero stories.

Thankfully he was saved by several of his friends and it was eventually revealed that his powers could be accessed through his genetic makeup.  However, the strain of being a hero was too much for him and Rex eventually retired from the superhero life (although he still consults every now and then) and settled down with his wife and passed the mantle of Hourman to his son Rick Tyler.

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Hourman is still kicking around in the comic book world.  Rick Tyler still makes appearances in the Justice League comics and there’s a time travelling android that adopted the same identity that is still kicking around.  That being said, the original Hourman deserves all the credit in the world for being part of the world’s first super human team and for being one of the most interesting characters in comics.

Cambrian Comics Friday showcase: The Art of James Beihl

Today is the day Cambrian Comics tries something new.  This is the first (of hopefully many) posts were we get to showcase the art and work of other great artists who deserve more attention.  Today we’re going to showcase the work of a friend of mine: Jame Beihl.  James has been working as a comic book artist on a graphic novel called Abandon All Hope and is  an artist for Wayward Raven Media. Below is a collection of James’ work presented without context or unnecessary words.  Enjoy!

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If you like what you see and want to show James your appreciation feel free to drop him a line on Twitter @jbcomics and make sure to follow Abandon All Hope on Facebook and Twitter.

Also, if you are an artist or an author who wants a little free publicity make sure to let us know by dropping us a message on Facebook, leave a comment below, or hit us up on Twitter @cambriancomics.

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Strange Wit

Today I’d like to talk about a graphic novel project currently on Kickstarter called Strange Wit.  

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The project is a combination biography and anthology of the works of author Jane Sydney Auer Bowles presented in graphic novel format.

Kickstarter campaign page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/katyrex/strange-wit-an-original-graphic-novel-about-jane-b?ref=category

Why I like it:

I’m going to take a moment here and say that I had no idea who Jane Bowles was until I stumbled on this Kickstarter page.  She only produced one novel, one play, and a handful of short stories and while she wasn’t very well known in the mainstream sense, she was adored by a small and dedicated core readership.

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Among her fans was Truman Capote (who wrote In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s), who remarked “My only complaint against Mrs. Bowles is that she publishes so infrequently.  One would prefer larger quantities of her strange wit, thorny insight.  Certainly she is one of the really original pure stylists”

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Jane Bowles was part of the post WW2 American literature scene, some call them “beat” authors.  Aside from holding a magnifying glass to popular culture after one of the most destructive events in human history this era of writing was also known for the character and lifestyles of these authors, usually the kind of lifestyle that involved a lot of booze, drugs, and counter cultural ideas. Jane Bowles was no exception and her life was filled with travel, drinking, and several relationships with other women even though she was married at the time.

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Mrs. Bowles was a character, someone who led an interesting life that I would like to know more about.

Why you should donate:

If the above section seems a bit sparse it’s because this is a time period and genre of literature that I know nothing about.  While I did enjoy reading In Cold Blood I was never really interested in these types of books.  With that being said, I do believe this story deserves to be told as a graphic novel because of what it can do for comic books as a medium.

Strange Wit is a massive undertaking with art from around the world and the incredibly difficult challenge of working with established and publicized work.  If you want to hear more about the project and the work and dedication that’s going into it you can check out the campaign video below.

What makes this work important is that all this time, effort, money, and passion is going into a comic that’s not about superheroes, science fiction, or fantasy, but about the life and times of a real life author and character.

The sad thing about comic books as a medium is that we as a culture tend to view it in a somewhat narrow sense.  It’s not bad, it’s just that when many of us say the word “comics” we tend to think of this.

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or this,

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or this.

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I believe that stories like Strange Wit can help expand the medium of comics and open it up to new and different stories that can be just as exciting and interesting as anything on the market today.

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Kicstarter campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/katyrex/strange-wit-an-original-graphic-novel-about-jane-b?ref=category

Golden Age showcase: Suicide Squad

Today we’re going to take a break from the actual Golden Age of Comics and talk about one of the greatest comic book teams in history, one so famous that their getting their own movie which is coming out this week!

I have very high hopes for this movie.  I like the cast, I like the director, I even like the comic book company that created them and I can’t think of a better way of sharing my excitement than by talking about the comic book series that inspired the movie.

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The Suicide Squad works like this.  Any DC villain in government custody can be recruited into the squad, led by a highly capable government official named Amanda Waller.

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Each squad is sent on missions that are deemed too dangerous or nearly impossible for ordinary people to complete, which makes a team of super villains perfect because in the even that they fail the government can deny any involvement.  In order to ensure compliance each team member is given an explosive collar (in some versions it’s a batch of explosive nanites in the bloodstream) that can be detonated if they step out of line, killing them in the process.

Here’s the thing, the original Suicide Squad wasn’t made up of hardened criminals with superpowers, it was actually a 1959 comic book about ordinary soldiers taking on seemingly impossible tasks, which meant that for the longest time The Suicide Squad looked less like this

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and more like this.

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Origin and Career

The first use of the name Suicide Squad appeared in 1959’s The Brave and the Bold #25.  However, this was not the first team to use that name in the DC timeline.  That honor belongs to the Suicide Squadron that first appeared in 1963’s Star Spangled War Stories.

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This Suicide Squadron was made up of a ragtag group of soldiers who the government considered to be expendable enough to be sent to a mysterious island to fight dinosaurs.  This iteration of the team is important because they were led by a man named Rick Flagg,

a highly capable military officer who would lead the squad to victory and would help by becoming and established part of the Suicide Squad mythos.  After WW2 ended the Suicide Squad was reformed into Task Force X under President Truman to be the government’s response to an increasingly large number of supervillains and spies.  They were eventually disbanded when Rick Flagg sacrificed himself to stop a device called the War Wheel.

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The next group to adopt the name Suicide Squad (although this was the first team to use that name) was a group of four individuals who appeared in 1959’s The Brave and the Bold #25.

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Once again the group was led by a man named Rick Flagg, although in this case it was Rick Flagg Jr. the son of the original Rick Flagg.

The group was assembled under the operational name “Task Force X” and adopted the name “Suicide Squad” because each of the members of the team had experienced a horrible tragedy that had affected them so badly they had lost their will to live and didn’t care if they died on a mission or not.  They were the commander and leader Rick Flagg, medic Karin Grace, physicist Hugh Evans, and nuclear scientist Jess Bright.

Their adventures were pretty strange.  Just like the original Squadron, this team did a lot of fighting against dinosaurs.

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and they were often placed in very perilous situations with little to no back up or support.

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However, the title wasn’t selling very well and every member of the team was either killed or wounded during their final mission fighting a Yeti in Cambodia.

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Hugh Evans died after falling down a ditch, Jess Bright was captured by the Soviets and turned traitor, Karin and Rick survived but went their separate ways.  The Squad was disbanded and the title was shut down.

So what happened?

Well, the 1980’s happened.  In 1985 DC Comics launched the Crisis on Infinite Earths story line that essentially erased all the previously existing history and continuity of the DC universe and started from ground zero.

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This universe wide reboot led to comic book creator John Ostrander,

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to take the Suicide Squad title and revamp it considerably.  The end result was Suicide Squad that we know and love today.

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The differences between the new and old versions were quite remarkable.  Instead of volunteering for these dangerous missions by choice many members of the Suicide Squad were forced into service under the rule of Amanda Waller, although the team was still led in the field by Rick Flagg Jr.

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Instead of dealing with fantastic threats like dinosaurs this version dealt with classified government black ops missions that had a high mortality rate (this played into the political culture of the 1980’s but we’ll get into that later) and most importantly: there was a revolving cast where any member could be killed at any time.

The current version of the Suicide Squad is one of the most interesting and exciting ideas in comic books today.  However, it is important to remember that if it wasn’t for a heroic band of misfit soldiers and four random people ready to die for the mission, we wouldn’t have this title today.

Cambrian Comics Friday Showcase: My favorite comics #1

WARNING: THE POST BELOW CONTAINS SOME HARSH LANGUAGE AND NAUGHTY PHOTOS OF SCANTILY CLAD WOMEN.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

So here we are at the countdown of my top 5 favorite comics.  Here’s a quick recap.

5. DMZ

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4. Sandman

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3. Chew

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2. Saga

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You’ll notice a distinct lack of superheroes in this list, which is surprising considering that when a lot of people hear the word “comic” they tend to think of superheroes.  Well have no fear, because my number one all time favorite comic every created is…

1. Empowered (Dark Horse Comics)

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Author: Adam Warren

Artist: Adam Warren

Number of issues: 8 volumes as of this article

Written and drawn by Adam Warren, Empowered tells the story of a struggling super heroine trying to build a career and reputation in city filled with super heroes.  While she means well there’s a small problem.  See she’s a normal everyday mortal who became a superhero when a mysterious suit literally dropped out of the sky.

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When she’s wearing the suit she has the strength of ten men, the ability to shoot energy blasts out of her hands,

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and a whole host of other abilities such as x ray vision, the ability to stick to walls, and even the ability to survive in the vacuum of space.  However, there are two small problems.  Despite the suit’s amazing powers it is incredibly…clingy and form fitting (she can’t wear underwear under her suit) and it also has the annoying habit of tearing really easily despite being bullet proof which means this happens a lot.

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Yeah.

Also, while the suit grants her incredible power when it’s intact, she looses her powers when she looses too much of the suit becoming a mere mortal in the process.  And what do comic book bad guys do when they find a helpless damsel in distress?

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Wait, don’t go just yet!

Empowered is a very difficult comic book to defend at face value.  Yes, there are a lot of skimpy outfits.  Yes the lead character plays up the “I’m blonde and pretty but I suck at everything” routine very well and yes she does get tied up a lot and winds up in very…compromising situations.  And YES, the author does like to draw “sexy” shots of his lead character like this.

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and this

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and, sweet Jesus God, this:

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But bear with me here because, much like the main character of this story, there is much more to it if you look beyond skin deep.

For starters, if you got past the T&A you’ll notice two things about the artwork.  First off, it’s all in black and white and second of all, it’s amazing!  Adam Warren has a very distinct manga style of drawing and when he’s not doing pinups he can draw really detailed and AMAZING scenery and action with nothing but pencils and ink.

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And then there’s the supporting cast of this comic.  The secondary and supporting characters in this story are some of the best I’ve ever read.  Empowered’s best friend is an ass kicking, high flying, perpetually drunk, ninja assassin named Ninjette, so called because she decided to stamp that name on her tiny…tiny shorts.

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She’s also part of the city’s resident superhero team the “Super Homeys”

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(yeah, it’s that kind of comic) with some rather…colorful characters like Major Havoc

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and Empowered’s perpetual rival, nemesis, and lady determined to make her life miserable: Sistah Spooky.

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Empowered also has two other roommates: a demonic overlord trapped in a power bondage belt (long story) that lives on her coffee table and has a very colorful vocabulary.

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and her boyfriend, a former minion (and may or may not have been the inspiration for a certain webcomic about a family of supervillains on this site) to a whole host of super villains named Thugboy.

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This may seem like a lot of information to fit into a comic book but Adam Warren gives each of these characters a chance to shine and gives most of them a fully fleshed out backstory and motivation.  Ninjette is running away from her abusive father, Thugboy is haunted by a job gone wrong and his own prejudices against caped heroes, and if I go any further I will spoil something and I do NOT want to do that.

Which brings us to Empowered herself.

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Yes there is the bondage and the skimpy outfits and the ditsy blonde routine but I think she is one of the most complete female characters in literature, and I’m not just talking about comics.  For starters, when she’s not bemoaning her insecurities and crying into a glass of wine she can kick quite a bit of ass.  She knows her limitations and when her suit’s gone and she’s bound and gagged she doesn’t just give up.  She gets really creative and is often able to win the day with her wits and mind.

Second, she isn’t just some shrinking violet when in comes to sex.  Despite the fact that she’s incredibly insecure about her appearance she and Thugboy fuck like rabbits without a hint of shame.

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Also, Empowered is one of the kindest and trustworthy heroes out there.  There’s a short story in one of the volumes where she’s being held prisoner and uses her x-ray vision to see that one of her captors has a blood clot in his brain that will kill him.  She manages to convince him to go to the hospital and winds up saving his life.  I don’t think there are too many mainstream hero who would do that for a lowly thug.

And finally there’s her motivation.  As I said before, Empowered is a struggling super heroine who is trying to make her mark in the world and despite all the compromising situations she gets put in

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despite the continuous abuse and ridicule she endures from her teammates and enemies and despite the incredible danger she faces on a nearly daily basis, she continues to work her ass off to be the best superhero she can be.  Not for fame, glory, or to help pay off her student loans…but because she is a superhero and damn anyone who tries to convince her otherwise.

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Next week, something completely different.

Golden Age Showcase #8: Fantomah

Today we are going to give the ladies of superhero comics a chance to shine.  While we have previously talked about Miss Victory, one of the earliest super heroines who beat Wonder Woman to the punch,

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she was not the first super heroine.  That honor belongs to the queen protector of the jungle: Fantomah.

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Origin and career

Fantomah first appeared in Jungle Comics #2 which was published in February of 1940.  She was written as a side story to the introduction of another superhero called the Red Panther.

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Before we go on it’s worth mentioning a couple of things.  First the company behind Jungle Comics was a pulp magazine publisher called Fiction House and one of the most popular pulp heroes at the time was the famous Tarzan.

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It seems that copying much more successful characters and flooding the market with cheap copycats is nothing new.  Anyway, Fiction House had a bit of success with their own pulp character Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (a character so popular that she would get her own television series)

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and in 1940 they decided to expand their comic book line up by commissioning an artist named Henry Fletcher to create a knockoff of their own established success and help establish the new genre of the “white jungle goddess”: Fantomah.

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When Fantomah was created it was eventually revealed that she was a former Egyptian relic who was endowed with the power of the gods i.e anything the creator could think of or whatever was needed for Fantomah to save the day.  What makes her separate from most of her other jungle goddess counterparts is that her body would change whenever she needed to use her powers transforming form a gorgeous blonde to…

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a living nightmare.  Basically she was an all powerful avatar of justice and vengeance and boy did she have a lot to do.   Her job was to protect her jungle and all its native inhabitants and over the course of her career she faced down evil miners, explorers, and mad scientists.  She wasn’t afraid to deal out some harsh justice as well.  There was one instance where an evil scientist attempts to create an army of super soldier gorillas and Fantomah decides the best course of action is to take the scientist and feed him to his own creation.

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She was the first female in comic books to have a dual identity, supernatural powers, and she was created to expressly fight against evil.  These are all the hallmarks of a modern superhero and Fantomah was the first.

So what happened?

Before we go any further, let’s address the pale elephant in the room.  Fantomah: the great protector of the jungle and friend to all the animals and natives is white which can be viewed by many, including myself, to be racist as hell.  The sad reality is that this was the standard operating procedure at the time and this sort of casual racism was the order of the day for pop culture heroes, especially exotic ones like Tarzan or Fantomah.  Personally, I don’t like it and I’m sure a lot of others don’t like it, but it was the way things were back then and we can use examples like this to appreciate just how far we’ve come and as a lesson on what NOT to do with our characters.

You’ll also notice that Fantomah and her stories are…not very well drawn or written.

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Fantomah was designed from the start to be a cheap and disposable character designed to fill out the pages of other comic book hero books and sadly she faded into obscurity.  She was eventually re purposed in later appearances to share more similarities with her more popular unpowered counterpart Sheena

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But sadly she would eventually fade into pop culture obscurity.

Still, Fantomah was the first lady in comic books to fight evil while having a dual identity and superpowers which makes her the very first female super heroine.

The Primordial Soup: Let’s talk about the Fantastic Four

So this movie came out not too long ago.

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The reviews have been…not stellar.  Granted I haven’t seen the film yet but looking at this,

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I think it’s safe to say that it’s a pretty crappy movie.  But I want to do something different with the Fantastic Four.  They’ve had a massive streak of horrible luck when it comes to movies

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So instead of reverting back to the same angry outbursts and the same tired old jokes let’s talk about how we can make the Fantastic Four better.  Here are three ways we could put one of the greatest superhero teams into a movie that could actually be half way decent.

1. Embrace the insanity

The Fantastic Four was created by legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby.

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Jack Kirby was the artist who worked with Stan Lee to create such icons as the Hulk, The Black Panther, and Thor, who is especially interesting because Marvel’s Thor is probably the best representation of one of Jack Kirby’s favorite tropes/theories: The Ancient Astronaut Theory.

Basically the theory goes like this: A long time ago aliens visited Earth and had such advanced science and technology that the humans who observed them thought they were gods.  They preceded to tell everyone they saw about these gods and that is how beings like Zeus or Thor came into being.  Kirby was a big fan of this theory and it showed up in his work which is why Thor is a living being from another dimension.

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That’s the sort of thing that needs to be in a Fantastic Four movie.  The Marvel Universe is filled to the brim with strange and crazy alien races with all sorts of weird powers and abilities and would make for fantastic stories.  You have one of the Fantastic Four’s greatest foes, Galactus (who is NOT a goddamn cloud monster like the movies dammit!) who is a being of cosmic power that eats planets, not out of spite or malice, but simply because he’s hungry.  If the second Fantastic Four movie had this on screen with more time to explain his motivations.

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You’d have an amazing movie.  The point is that the Marvel universe is home to some of the strangest alien beings ever seen in literature and most of them became known through the Fantastic Four.

2. For the love of all that’s holy fix Dr. Doom!

Dr. Doom is one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.

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In the comics he is a mad scientist, a master of magic and the black arts (his mother sold her soul to the devil), and the leader of his own country.

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He is not, and never has been, a childhood friend to any member of the Fantastic Four who winds up being a whiny little pushover when it’s time to beat someone.

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Forget all the grand strange cosmic threats that the Four have faced over the years, just having someone as powerful as Dr. Doom threatening to take over the world and having a massive battle with armies of robots and black magic would be worth the price of admission alone.  Heck, you could probably make a better movie about the origins of Dr. Doom alone.

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In fact, holy crap why haven’t they made a movie about Dr. Doom yet?!

3. There should be more to a Fantastic Four movie than just the Fantastic Four.

It’s no small secret that Fox and Sony are engaged in something of a bitter feud with Disney over the fate of many of Marvel’s superheroes that is something tantamount to a four year old shoving match on school playground.  While Disney owns most of the Marvel Universe and is working on re introducing Spider Man after Sony borrowed him for a while, Fox is still bitterly clinging on to the two franchises it still has control over: X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

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This brings us to an uncomfortable fact about the Fantastic Four: their best and most memorable comic books usually involve appearances from other, better characters.  The simple truth is that the Fantastic Four haven’t been the kind of superhero team that can carry a comic on their own, what they are really good at is introducing and working with or against other characters.  Besides Dr. Doom here’s a sample of the other characters the Fantastic Four helped introduce.

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The Black Panther and the Inhumans are two movies that are going to be released by Marvel in the not too distant future and they owe their existence to the Fantastic Four.  Then there are the cameos and team up issues which are just too numerous to list here but here are some of the most noteworthy:

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Some of the team’s best stories were created with other characters which is a prospect that, between the long string of crummy movies and the current business climate, seems highly unlikely.  Maybe it’s time for Fox to throw in the towel and let the rights revert back to Marvel, or maybe they could have the Fantastic Four team up with Fox’s other property the X-Men (which could be cool) but either way it is important to remember that the oldest superhero team in comics usually works better with others.

What do you think?

Cambrian Comics Friday Showcase: My favorite comic #2

Today we’re back from Boston Comic Con (we’ll be posting pictures over the next couple of weeks on our Facebook page) so now we’re starting right were we left off.  My second favorite comic book series is another title from Image Comics and the strongest argument I’ve ever seen for creator owned, written, and produced work.

2. Saga (Image Comics)

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Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

Issues (as of writing): 30

Saga is brought to us by comic book and screen writer Brian K. Vaughn whose resume is one of the most impressive out there to date.

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(note: he worked on the show from season 3-5)

Here he teams up with artist Fiona Staples who is widely considered one of the greatest comic book artists around today.

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Together they created Saga, a science fiction epic about two soldiers from opposing sides who fall in love and have to travel across the universe to raise and protect their child all while dodging monsters, assassins, and their former cohorts in a story that combines elements of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet.

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First and foremost the set up and character archetypes are unbelievably cliche.  I’m serious, if you’ve seen any science fiction movie in the past 30 years you can guess what’s probably going to happen.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they run away but can’t run fast enough to escape the forces pursuing them, people die in tragic circumstances, it’s all very sad.  And with all due respect to Ms. Staples, the artwork does not lend itself very well towards traditional sci fi.  When you hear the words “science fiction” a lot of people think of this

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not this

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So we have a cliche plot coupled with artwork that seems a bit weird to someone more used to traditional sci fi

But this comic is much more than that and absolutely (pardon my language) fucking nails it!

This comic could very easily be a Star Wars knockoff or a Romeo and Juliet clone but it isn’t.  Vaughn’s stellar writing makes all these characters unique, complex, and truly gripping.  In the best kind of written traditions no character is completely good or evil, everyone has their own hopes and dreams that make you want to root for them and their own flaws that make you want to scream at the comic book when they do something really stupid.

Consider the man in the picture above.  His name is The Will and he is a freelance assassin tasked with hunting down the two literal star crossed lovers.

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As you can see The Will is incredibly capable (and yes this is a very violent image, more on that later) and incredibly deadly.  But he is much more than that.  Over the course of the comic he goes from apathetic about his life and work to rescuing a child prostitute and starting his own little twisted family (I won’t dare say anymore and risk spoiling the plot, go read this book).  He even has a cat that can tell if you’re lying or not.

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And this brings me to the two main characters, Alana and Marko, who are now officially my favorite couple in any form of media.

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I mentioned that this comic is a bit…risque and that is absolutely true.  This is NOT a comic book for children. There’s blood, gore, sex, cursing, sex, violence, and did I mention sex?  But all of this goes towards making the two main characters very tender, very touching, and very believable.  Sure Alana and Marko have a child that they have to take care of and keep away from forces much larger than themselves and sure they did fall in love at first sight but the comic takes the next logical step and shows what really happens to couples when that first rush of true love wears off.  One minute the couple is happy, the next they are fighting and bickering, the next their running for their lives, and the next moment they’ve made up and proceed to screw each other’s brains out.  You know, how normal couples act.

And as for the art…

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saga-vol-1-screen-2Fiona Staples has some of the best emotional drawing I have ever seen and her position as one of the best artists out there today is well deserved.

This comic is like nothing I, or anyone else, has ever seen.  It tells one of the best modern love stories while being set in a bizarre, quirky, violent, sexy, and fascinating universe that I just can’t get enough of.