Golden Age Showcase: The Red Bee

You know what?  Over the past couple of months this blog series has forgotten its roots.  Lately I’ve been doing more and more special posts about special holidays and even departing from the beloved Golden Age of Comics.  I think it’s time to return to form and talk about some of the sillier moments that made up the early days of comic books in the 1940’s but who can I talk about?  What early superhero from an early publishing company would fit the bill and be just ridiculous enough to get this blog back on track?

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Oh, well this looks promising.

Origin and Career:

The Red Bee made his first appearance in Hit Comics #1 in July of 1940.

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I’m not going to lie, that cover image is pretty darn cool.  Also, he was created by writer Audrey Blum,

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one of the few ladies writing comic books at the time.

The Red Bee started out as mild mannered Rick Raleigh, an Assistant District Attorney living in Superior City Oregon.  Rick grew tired of watching criminals go free thanks to loopholes in the system and decided to take matters into his own hands and become a costumed vigilante.

Now most of the pictures I found involved The Red Bee using his hands and feet to beat the bad guys and he was pretty adept at hand to hand combat.  But he had another power, something far greater, and much more terrifying, than mere physical strength.

Bees, the man could train and control bees to do his bidding.

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and he used them.

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The Red Bee usually winds up on a lot of “worst heroes ever” lists.  I really don’t understand why because HE CAN CONTROL BEES!!

All yelling aside the Red Bee was pretty silly.  In all my research I never saw him use his power to it’s terrifying potential and control a swarm of bees.  Instead he used the power to control a few bees at a time in order to augment his physical combat skills.

Fun fact: apparently he had a favorite bee named Michael.

beating out Ant-Man’s “Anthony” by several decades.

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So what happened?

Sadly the Red Bee didn’t catch on and become that popular of a superhero.  He would battle a collection of gangsters and Nazis until his final Golden Age appearance in 1942.

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He would remain largely forgotten until 1983 when he made a comeback with DC’s alternate universe team “All Star Squadron”

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Without going into too much detail the All Star Squadron was a group of established DC superheroes BUT they were from an alternate dimension that was still stuck in the 1940’s and fighting in World War 2 against the Nazis.  I won’t go into too much detail explaining it but basically it gave DC writers a way to write stories about WW2 superheroes without having to worry about screwing up their main comic book universes.

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That man in the yellow uniform with the pink cross on his chest and the swastikas on his neck?  That’s Baron Blitzkrieg and he did this to the Red Bee

The Red Bee died a hero’s death saving the lives of his friends and fellow heroes.

The Red Bee’s legacy does live on in the modern day.  Richard Raleigh’s daughter, Jenna, took up the mantle of the Red Bee in a 2006 miniseries entitled Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.

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The new Red Bee had some serious upgrades to her gear and weaponry.

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She now had a special battle suit that allowed her to fly, granted her super strength, and two robotic bee assistants capable of firing lasers.  However, a year later she would undergo another major change and became more insect like.

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While still in possession of the battle suit she now had actual wings with antennae on her head and the ability to spray pheromones onto targets in order to track them.

Sadly Jenna suffered the same fate of her father in that she just didn’t become all that popular.  She briefly went bad, tried to colonize the Earth, and was stopped at the last minute.  After regaining her mind she quit being a superhero and pursued a career of academic research.

So that’s the history of the Red Bee and to be honest, while I think that the story of the Red Bee and his daughter is kind of ridiculous I do think the idea was pretty good.  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and the Red Bee was the first superhero with insect related powers and who was named after a bug.

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Seems like a pretty good legacy to me.

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Crowdfunded non comic projects that deserve my attention: Extra History

When I started this little blog series I promised myself two things.  First, I would focus mostly on comic books and second, I would be drawing attention to little projects that weren’t getting the attention I thought they deserved.

Today is the day I break both of those promises.

I’m going to talk about a video series on Youtube produced by a group of people who got their start talking about video games and have a large enough fan base to branch out into other talking points while leading an incredibly successful Patreon campaign that is currently generating over $12,000 a month.  They don’t necessarily need the extra press but dang it!  This project is just so good that I have to talk about.

Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you: Extra History.

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Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/ExtraCredits?ty=h

The project is a video series that talks about specific events that take place over the course of human history such as the First Crusade

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The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the build up to the First World War,

and important, if not so well remembered, historical figures like Mary Seacole and Odenathus

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Each subject is presented in a comic strip like slide show that has been thoroughly researched by James Portnow, narrated by Daniel Floyd, and drawn by a team of artists that I could spend all day talking about but we don’t have time.  They are all fantastic and amazing and deserve nothing but the utmost respect.

Why I like this project:

I was a history major in college.

While that statement alone should be enough to explain why I like this project I’d like to get a bit personal and go a bit deeper.

I studied history in college because I love history, specifically ancient military history.  Stories about the great Korean admiral Yi Sun-Sin and his famous turtle ships,

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the rule of Emperor Justinian and his equally talented wife Theodora,

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and the tales of the Roman legions desperately fighting off Hannibal and his army during the Punic Wars made up my childhood.

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And you just won’t believe some of the subjects that Extra History has covered.

For me, this web series is a trip down memory lane and I absolutely adore it.

Why you should donate:

When I tell anyone about my fascination with all things historical I usually get one of two responses:

  1. “I never liked history.  It’s so boring”
  2. “Oh, so you want to teach then?”

To answer the third question no, I don’t want to teach, thank you.  I want to write comics and write fun blog posts for the rest of my life so stop asking.

While Extra History can’t help answer the third question it can help answer the first two questions brilliantly.

First off, history is not boring…not by a long shot.  But it’s okay, because it’s not your fault for thinking so.  In school we’re taught that history is a linear progressions of events that have been whitewashed to fulfill school district curriculum and pass a test.

 

But history is not just “learn these dates and pass this test”.  History is a hodgepodge of blood, sweat, feces (a disturbing amount of feces), sex, politics, and violence that is all smashed together to create modern day society and it.is.GLORIOUS!!!

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This sort of history is the kind that Extra History excels at (minus the feces) and it’s an absolute blast.  The Extra History team talks about all the events, people, and conflicts that a lot of history classes don’t talk about.

Don’t you think more people would be paying attention in history class if they talked about the Anglo-Zulu War?

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How about the Warring States period in feudal Japan?

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I think it would, and Extra History talks about all of that and more.

History is not just a bland collection of dates and names, it is a living breathing beast of a subject that is infinitely more complex and engaging than what many people have been led to believe.  Extra History is doing a very good job of working to change that and while they already have a lot of money, they are definitely worth your time and a couple of bucks at the very least.

Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/ExtraCredits?ty=h

Martin Luther King, American civil rights, and comic books.

 

So it’s Martin Luther King Day here in America.

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For any international readers that might not know about this day, the 18th of January is a day where Americans celebrate the birthday of a man who was the face and soul of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s during a time when America was still grappling with a lot of issues concerning the grossly unequal treatment of black people in America.  He was a man who had his faults just like the rest of us but accomplished so much in such a short period of time that he is remembered as a great man by many.  I’m putting his famous “I have a Dream” speech below and I highly encourage everyone reading this to take five minutes out of their day to watch it.

 

But this is a blog about comic books so let’s see if there’s anything in the comic book industry’s history that can tie into the birthday of this man who had a dream that inspired millions.

The truth is that black people have actually been part of the modern day comic book landscape since its beginning in the early 1940’s and were even around before the publication of the first Superman comic in 1938.  The problem is that a lot of the portrayals of black people during this time period are horrifically outdated and fall into some very uncomfortable racist stereotypes.  So here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to list some of the most important and influential moments in comic book history that have either involved a black character and/or a black creator in chronological order.  I can’t promise we’ll cover all of them and I can promise that some of these will probably be pretty uncomfortable but here it is.

1934: Lee Falk creates the first black character in comics

Lee Falk was a comic strip producer in the early 1930’s.  His two most famous creations were “The Phantom”

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and another strip entitled “Mandrake the Magician” which ran from 1934 all the way to 2013.

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Mandrake had a black sidekick named Lothar, who was an African prince of a confederation of jungle tribes (told you this might get uncomfortable)

The man was incredibly strong, capable of lifting an elephant with one hand, and the less I say about his outfit the better.  He is widely regarded to be the first African character in comics and despite the stereotypes he was a loyal friend to the main character and managed to hold his own in a fight.  His appearance would be changed in later issues of the comic strip to slightly less offensive garb.

1947: The first collection of black superheroes

In 1947 an African American journalist named Orrin Cromwell Evans

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created the first comic book publishing company founded, led, and staffed by African Americans called All Negro Comics.  They only managed to publish one anthology series featuring a collection of black heroes in 1947.  Here’s the cover.

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The comic featured heroes like the private detective “Ace Harlem” and the African hero”Lion Man” and unlike most comics at the time it was sold for 15 cents rather than 10 cents.

Sadly the company wasn’t very successful.  The comic was only able to circulate within the segregated communities of pre Civil Rights black America so distribution and circulation numbers are unknown and it’s very difficult to find copies that are in good condition.  Still, it was the first comic to be written, drawn, and published exclusively by African Americans so it deserves some recognition.

1956: EC Comics publishes “Judgement Day”

In 1954 the Comics Code Authority was founded.  It was an attempt to censor perceived violent, overly sexual, and otherwise immoral behavior that was allegedly causing the youth of America to descend into delinquency.  One of the hardest hit comic book publishers was Entertaining Comics, otherwise known as EC Comics, which published stuff like this.

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One of their most controversial (for the time) stories was a short story called “Judgement Day”.

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Basically the story went like this.  A mysterious representative of the Galactic Federation lands on a planet inhabited by robots in order to deem whether or not they are worthy to join the Federation.  While inspecting the planet the astronaut notices that the robot’s society is sharply divided between the orange robots and the blue robots.  While the two groups are the same the orange robots have more rights and privileges than the blue ones (subtle) and as a result the astronaut decides they are not ready to join the Federation and proceeds to leave the planet.  This was the last panel of the comic showing the astronaut with his helmet off.

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Needless to say the Comics Code Authority was not happy and EC comics would eventually be driven out of business, although they do live on through MAD magazine.

1954: The first Black solo star in comics

Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comics published Waku: Prince of the Bantu in their 1954 story collection Jungle Tales.

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He was the first black character to be given a solo series in any comic book, feel free to judge the publisher’s use of ethnic stereotypes to your heart’s content. 

1961-1967: The introduction of black supporting characters in Marvel and DC Comics:

The early 60’s saw the introduction of non stereotyped African American characters into mainstream comic books.  Characters like Jackie Johnson in the 1961 DC Comics series Our Soldiers at War

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and Gabe Jones in Marvel’s 1963’s Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos

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introduced the comic book world to the idea that black people could actually be written and treated like human beings in comic books.  Special mention deserves to be paid to another black supporting character who was introduced in 1967, the long lasting and kind hearted editor of the Daily Bugle Robbie Robertson.

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Who has helped make Spiderman’s life considerably more tolerable and who has been a staple presence to the Spiderman mythos ever since.

1965: The first African American solo comic book series:

In 1965 Dell Comics published the first comic book series starring a black character called Lobo.

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He only lasted two issues.

1966-1980: An explosion of black superheroes

Over the course of the 1970’s black superheroes and issues facing black men and women in a post Civil Rights America would become a major part of American comics, so much so that to talk about them all would take all day.  Since you could write a book about the subject I’m just going to show some of the more famous black characters to come out of the era along with the date where they were first published

Black Panther (1966)

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The Falcon (1969)

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Black Racer (1971)

Luke Cage (1972)

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Green Lantern John Stewart (1972)

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Black Goliath (1975)

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Storm (1975)

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Misty Knight (1975)

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Black Lightning (1977)

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Cyborg (1980)

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I highly encourage everyone reading this to check these heroes out.  Granted they weren’t always perfect and many of them still played to certain stereotypes that a lot of black Americans had to deal with but I think it’s safe to say that the 1970’s was a good decade for black and African American superheroes.

1989-2011: Dwayne McDuffie 

No article talking about African Americans in comic books would be complete without talking about the legendary writer and creator Dwayne McDuffie.

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See, everything I have talked about in this article has had one small problem.  An overwhelming majority of the black characters that were created and written for were drawn and written by white men and despite everything that happened in the 1970’s, the comic book landscape was overwhelmingly dominated by white characters.  McDuffie was probably the most famous and public face in the industry that wanted to change that.  Now there are a fair number of black comic book creators out there but here’s a small sample of some of the stuff McDuffie worked on.

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You will notice that if you were a fan of superhero cartoons in the early to mid 2000’s you were probably a fan of his work.

But that’s not what made McDuffie important to the comic book landscape.  Before he became in incredibly successful screen writer he was actively pushing for more diversity in comics.  In 1993 he founded a company called Milestone Media with several other black comic book creators with the express purpose of bringing a wider range of diversity to the comic book landscape.  It reached a deal with DC comics early on where DC would publish the titles while Milestone would write and create them.

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And things were going well until 1996 when the comic book market crashed and Milestone was forced to cancel most of its titles.  However, all was not lost and Milestone found success in launching a television show based around one of its most popular characters Static Shock.

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Sadly Dwayne McDuffie died due to complications from heart surgery in 2011.  His work continues to survive with Static Shock becoming a part of the mainstream DC universe and the countless numbers of people who were inspired by his work.

So there you have it, an incredibly brief, overly simplified, and not too detailed overview of black characters in comic books.  While many black and African American creators and heroes were either cast aside or poorly written due to racial prejudices at the time the comic book industry has (for better or for worse) forged ahead with their attempts to bring a more diverse collection of characters to their pages and while the results have ranged from outright offensive to well written and meaningful I am personally glad we live in a time where I can enjoy characters like Static Shock and Luke Cage.

Comic Book History: David Bowie and the British invasion of comics

Yesterday the world lost one of it’s most original and eccentric artists, David Bowie.

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I will admit that I am not personally a big fan of his music, although I do really like his song “Heroes”

 

And although I may not like his music all that much it is impossible to ignore the influence his voice, style, and sound had on modern music.   You do not sell over 100 million records and achieve tremendous commercial and critical success sustained over a career spanning three decades and change without doing something right.

So why am I talking about David Bowie on a blog series dedicated to comic book history?  Well, believe it or not you could actually make a strong case that David Bowie actually played a huge part in shaping how we view and think about comic books today.  But in order to do that we need a brief history lesson.

In the early 1980’s, right around the time David Bowie was undergoing a second career peak with songs like “Ashes to Ashes”

The comic book world decided to copy the music scene from the 1960’s with their own British Invasion.  Most people point to this guy paving the way.

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That is comic book legend and Lord of Snakes Alan Moore, who is responsible for creating some of the greatest comic book stories of all time.

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After Moore’s string of massive successes DC comics introduced even more British comic book writers and artists to American audiences such as Neil Gaiman

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Jamie Delano

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and Grant Morrison

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In order to accommodate these new writers and their penchant for deep, complex, and often mature themed works DC created an imprint called Vertigo that would go on to become one of the greatest names in modern comics.

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What’s interesting is that music, especially British pop music of the 70’s and 80’s, would play a huge part in influencing a lot of these writers.  Jamie Delano would become famous for his work on the long running Vertigo series Hellblazer which explored the life and exploits of the Alan Moore created occult magician John Constantine.

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What’s funny is that the character of Constantine was modeled after British singer/songwriter and front man for The Police: Sting.

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Grant Morrison had a more direct link to 1980’s British rock n’ roll, he was in a band called the Mixers who weren’t half bad.

 

As for Neil Gaiman, well he came out with a little known comic book series called Sandman which I have mentioned before is one of my favorite comic book series of all time.

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One of the most famous recurring characters in Gaiman’s epic was none other than Satan himself, Lucifer Morningstar the Fallen One.

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Gaiman made sure that this version of the prince of darkness was modeled after the appearance of David Bowie,

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which probably makes this David’s greatest contribution to comic books.

The fact that British comic book culture in the 1980’s took so many influences from British music at the time really isn’t that surprising.  They were both engaged in a period of tremendous change an upheaval.  The 1970’s and 80’s were a time when a lot of previously long standing conventions were being overthrown and new ideas were being brought to the forefront.  For music this meant the rise of countless genres like electronic music, glam rock (a genre that Bowie helped pioneer), soul, funk, disco, new wave, psychedelic, stadium rock, and so much more.  For comics it meant the final death of the long established Comics Code and the ability to tell meaningful and complex stories again.

The 1970’s and 1980’s were tremendous times for music and comic books and we were fortunate to have David Bowie in the middle of it.  Out of all the crazy and wonderful acts that came out of that time period Bowie was able to stand out as one of the most unique and longest lasting of them all.  His accomplishments and influence will be felt for generations and he will be sorely missed.

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If you would like to explore some comic books that are more directly about or influenced by Bowie there is a comic book series called Fame! which publishes comic books about the lives and works of famous musicians and Bowie’s book can be found here. Also, Bowie’s first hit and one of his most famous songs, Space Oddity, was made into a children’s book which you can read about here.

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Sons of the Forgotten

Boy it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these!

For those who might be reading this for the first time one of the things I’ve been trying to do with this site is bringing more attention to comic book projects currently on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon that I personally think deserve more attention then they are currently getting.  As always if you are a creator who has a crowdfunding project please feel free to reach out to me @CambrianComics, tumblr, or Facebook and I’ll take a look.

With that said let’s look at a Patreon project for a webcomic called “Sons of the Forgotten”.

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Sons of the Forgotten is a webcomic project currently on Patreon and is seeking funding to get off the ground and release content on a quicker and more regular schedule.  While there isn’t much in the way of story yet the two creators Rufino Ayuso and David Hueso have dedicated a lot of time to world building and creating a land with the kind of history and legends that will allow for great stories in the future.

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There are plenty of races, both human and not human, that inhabit this world but we’ll get to that later.  If you want to stop reading now and learn about this project on your own they have a website where they publish the story here.  If you want to donate to their Patreon page click on the link below.

Patreon link:  https://www.patreon.com/sotf?ty=h

Why I like this project

Look at this art work.

LOOK AT IT!

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Okay I’m calm now.  As you might have noticed the comic looks gorgeous.  David Hueso is a professional illustrator and boy does it show.

I will also confess that I am a sucker for this kind of story telling.  What these two have created is an entire world to play in, something that I am just now naming “sandbox storytelling”.  You see it in a lot of big open ended video games like Skyrim 

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and in a lot of traditionally “geek” pop culture icons like Star Wars and Star Trek.

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What do I mean by that?  Well think of it this way.  Everything I listed above tells a very small story within a much larger world.  Sure that story may have enormous repercussions within that world but there is still a vast amount of history and lore and a huge number of secondary characters and races to pick apart, analyze, and write about.  This is what gives movies like Star Wars staying power and video games like Skyrim their lasting appeal.  The author/creator sets the rules and guidelines and the fans get to do the rest.

This is exactly what Sons of the Forgotten is starting to do and I for one am looking forward to the story and creating my own within this amazing universe.

Why you should donate:

I’m going to be weird here and start off with a reason why you probably WON’T donate to this project.  Stop me if I heard this before.  A young lad stuck at home longs for an adventure and seeks to explore the world beyond his home.

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He meets a group of strangers from other races through a series of events and together they must travel together on a quest to stop some sort of evil force from taking over the land and they wind up learning about each other and themselves on the way.

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Okay so I don’t know if that’s the exact story of this comic but in my defense that’s been the norm for the fantasy genre since Lord of the Rings, unless you’re talking about Game of Thrones and even then ol’ George still can’t get past the “implacable evil that will wipe everyone out unless they work together.

So why bother reading this webcomic if it’s probably going to be the same old song and dance you’ve heard a million times before?

Because the devil is in the details and this webcomic looks like it has some very promising details.

Let’s look at some of the characters.

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Sure it looks like you have the starry eyed young protagonist who will fulfill his role as the main character with nothing but enthusiasm and it also looks like you have the close friend who is really strong and good at breaking things and yes, there appears to be an evil looking warlock as the villain but if you read some of the character descriptions on the website you’ll see that there is a lot of originality and creativity going on.

Let me give you a sample, within the pages of the comic you will meet

A self centered necromancer who accidentally summons the spirit of a long dead hero who joins the group as a floating skull

A race of lemming like creatures who can’t seem to die (or die over and over again I’m a little hazy on that) and as a result make it their life’s mission to seek out a “good death”.

A city where every house built out of stone and is connected to a river of lava which they use for heat and power.

A race of plant people who aren’t Ents but they do live for thousands of years and have inhabited the land for ages.

If any of the things I listed above sounds remotely interesting I cannot encourage you to donate enough.  Sons of the Forgotten looks like it’s going to be a blast and I can’t wait to see where they go with it.

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Patreon link:  https://www.patreon.com/sotf?ty=h

From the Golden Age into the Silver Age

Happy Holidays everybody.  After a fairly long hiatus we’re back!  Ready to talk about all the crazy and glorious moments and characters that make up the history of comic books.  Now since we’re at the end of the holiday season and into a new year is there a comic book character can we talk about that incorporates both Christmas and New Year’s into his/her mythology? Is there any super hero or super villain we can talk abou…Calendar Man, we’re going to talk about Calendar Man.

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Now the Calendar Man is an…odd super villain to say the least.  First and foremost he is absolutely NOT a Golden Age villain.  His first appearance was in Detective Comics #259 in September of 1958 and he looked like this.

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He was a gimmick villain, someone who committed crimes based around a certain theme or strange line of reasoning and in his case Calendar Man committed crimes based around the seasons of the year.  You’ll notice that I’m not talking that much about his backstory or motivation.  That’s because Calendar Man only had one appearance in the 1950’s and wouldn’t appear in another comic book issue until 1979.

So why are we talking about this one off gimmicky comic book villain that disappeared for over 20 years after his first appearance?  Because Calendar Man is actually a pretty good case study into the history of comic book superheroes after their Golden Age debut.

Calendar Man first appeared in 1958 and it’s important to understand that comic books, and comic book superheroes in particular, did not do well in the 1950’s.  After the Second World War ended and the various heroes were done kicking Nazi butt

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superheroes began to fade from the public image they had previously enjoyed.  Instead people turned towards more mature and grown up comic book subjects and comic book companies obliged with an outpouring of other comic book genres like Westerns

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crime and noir comics

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and horror titles.

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In a move that will probably surprise nobody reading this, the parents of the children reading these titles weren’t all too thrilled to have their precious innocent children risk being corrupted by such filth (certainly puts a lot of more modern talk about how things like video games and rap music is corrupting our youth today doesn’t it?) and things came to a head in 1954 with the Senate subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held a hearing on whether or not comic books were responsible for an apparent rise in delinquent behavior in American children.  You can read the full text of the hearing here.

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The hearings, coupled with the publication of the now infamous book Seduction of the Innocent by child psychologist Dr. Fredric Wertham,

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who just so happened to be the star witness in the Committee hearings, led to a slew of bad press for the comic book industry.

This led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority.  The CCA was an industry created organization that was designed as the main censorship body for comic books for the following decades.  Rules dictating how much blood could be shown, how the main characters could behave, and what was considered to be “in good taste” were strictly enforced through CCA approved stamps.

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Any comic book not carrying this stamp wouldn’t be able to find a distributor and therefore wouldn’t sell.

So what does all this have to do with Calendar Man.  Well as I said before, the 1950’s weren’t a very good time for superheroes.  A lot of the early superheroes were morally dubious, emotionally complex, and even had no qualms about killing people.  All of this went out the window with the advent of the Comics Code Authority.  Superman survived, he even became the first super hero with a live action tv show,

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but he became an incredibly watered down version of his former self.  Instead of taking care of criminals as a pretty violent vigilante

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There was…this

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Batman was the same way too.  While the early Batman had few qualms about killing people

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The Batman of the 1950’s became this…

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(kinda puts the Adam West Batman into perspective now doesn’t it?).  While Batman and Superman were hit with some pretty dramatic changes in the 50’s it’s only because they were the ones that were able to really survive.  Dozens of hero titles were abandoned because they either didn’t sell well enough or were far too violent and dark for the Comic Code Authority.

Back to Calendar Man.  If the new wave of censorship hit heroes hard it was even worse for the villains.  Not only were the bad guys unable to kill people or enact some sort of crazy scheme that could destroy half the city, they were now forced to always loose by the end of the comic.  This led to a stream of strange and often pathetic bad guys during this time period.  Some of them…kind of worked like Bat Mite who was introduced in 1959

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And the late 1950’s saw the introduction of most of the Flash’s current Rogues Gallery, so there was that.

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But you have a lot of very safe, non threatening bad guys who use some sort of gimmick as their trademark and wind up committing crimes that really aren’t that serious, and a villain like Calendar Man is a perfect example of this.

The Calendar Man would appear in the 1970’s looking like this.

He was reworked from committing crimes based around a season to basing crimes around the days of the week (his real life name was Julian Gregory Day, a play on the Julian and Gregorian calendars) and here’s just a taste of some of the costumes he used throughout his career.

like I said, he was a gimmick.  However, all that would change in the 1990’s.  Up until the 1990’s the old Comics Code had slowly been waning in power and publishers started paying less attention to it.  This would result in all the glorious sex, violence, and drug use pouring back into the medium and culminated in 1986 with the publication of two of the greatest comic book stories ever told: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns

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and Alan Moore’s Watchmen

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Quick note: there is much more to the death of the Comics Code Authority than these two books but for the sake of time I’m using these two titles to show the return of the “dark” comic book to mainstream media.

So again, what does this have to do with Calendar Man?  Well the boom of mature material in comics during the 1980’s left the floodgates open for more dark re imaginings in the 1990’s, and boy did the industry deliver.  Although Calendar Man was still treated as a joke during the early 90’s, he was part of a team of second string super villains called the Misfits in 1992,

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Everything about the character would change in the 1996 limited series The Long Halloween.

Calendar Man went from a flashy, non threatening, and pretty pointless character to looking like this

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It’s a pretty marked difference.  Going from a lighthearted gag character that nobody took very seriously to a full blown psychopathic mastermind the Calendar Man became an integral part in one of the definitive Batman stories of the 90’s.  This marked a revival for the villain.  In one of his most recent he had an appearance in the Arkham game series

Calendar Man is a strange case in comic book history.  He got his start as a one off super villain that probably wasn’t expected to go very far.  He had a strange power set, a strange gimmick, and an even stranger costume.  However, due to the changing nature of the industry, especially into the more modern era, he was re invented and turned into a capable villain who could hold his own against some of Batman’s lesser villains.  He’s an interesting case study and the perfect bad guy to kick off the new year.