Salvatore Pane

Tag: Mark Waid

Here’s a Comic Book I Read in 1996: Spectacular Spider-Man #241 In Which Spider-Man Grieves His Daughter’s Death

At AWP, I somehow ended up explaining Mary Jane’s (of Spider-Man fame) miscarriage to Amber Sparks, her husband and Lauren Becker. I don’t know why this one particular issue has stayed with me so much over the years (especially considering that I’ve probably read hundreds, or more likely, thousands of other issues) in the interim. But I thought I might talk about it, and that maybe this could be a regular thing. That maybe occasionally I’ll dig through the tupperware container under my bed that has all my comics from the ’90s and reread one, then post some thoughts. Because, for the most part, the ’90s was pretty fucking awful.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #241 written by J.M. DeMatteis with art from Luke Ross.


The first thing that surprised me while rereading is that DeMatteis and Ross are names I’m familiar with now. Luke Ross is a phenomenal penciler and I loved his work on Captain America with Ed Brubaker. And DeMatteis is a classic scribe who recently completed a run on Booster Gold, one of my favorite DC characters.  I’m always surprised to go back to my ’90s comics and realize I was reading stuff by legends like Mark Waid or John Romita Jr., because at the time, I literally thought Stan Lee wrote all the comics and even wrote him a letter asking why the Clone Saga was so tough on old Spidey.

Ok. Some background on the issue. #241 takes place immediately after a multi-year storyline in which Peter Parker was replaced with a clone that culminated with said clone’s death and the miscarriage of Pete and MJ’s baby. There is a ton of good info on this whole debacle on the web, so I won’t go into detail, but if you’re interested, check this out.

#241 opens an undetermined amount of time after the miscarriage. At that time, editorial wanted to move as far away from the moroseness of the clone saga and the miscarriage as humanly possible, so DeMatteis had essentially one issue to sum up Pete and MJ’s feelings on a trauma far more terrifying than any of the over-the-top villains that shuffle in and out of the book on a monthly basis. So what we get here are three stories. The most typical is the Chameleon storyline. Superhero comics are eternally stuck in Act II and must always be paving the way for future stories. So a third of the page count is dedicated to setting up the return of the Chameleon which will pay off in future storylines.

But it’s the other two that are really noteworthy. This isn’t a nuanced look at loss, but it is pretty complex for a comic that at the time was aimed at 12-year-olds. I even remember my comic shop guy, at the wonderful Comics on the Green in Scranton, suggesting I buy something a little more fun. DeMatteis chooses to give us Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s separate reactions to the miscarriage before bringing them together. Spidey reacts in a way you might expect. He swings around the city trying to knock the cobwebs loose. At the time, he had only just returned from retirement in Portland where he expected to become a family man, leaving the web slinging to his now dead clone. But what’s really impressive are the Mary Jane scenes. Tucked between the Chameleon lamenting his obsession with Kraven the Hunter and bizarre Crash Bandicoot ads is a really quiet scene between MJ and her Aunt Anna. Mary Jane has just emptied her daughter’s room and delivers a kind of monologue which is pretty heartfelt and just shockingly mature.

The story weaves in and out of the Spider-Man/Chameleon scenes, but culminates with something much more emotional and earnest. Peter and MJ discuss moving away to be free of their memories before going to bed. But Pete can’t sleep, and in the middle of the night, puts his Spidey gear on and decides to swing around the city a bit to tire him out. But before he leaves, MJ wakes up and asks to go with him, a callback to simpler days in their courtship when Spider-Man would rescue MJ from more colorful foes like the Hobgoblin or Hammerhead or whoever. What follows is a really nicely rendered two-page, silent spread of the married couple swinging through Manhattan, at the end of which they embrace beneath a sunrise.

Look, I realize that the way Spectacular Spider-Man deals with a child’s death is reductive and on many levels, absolutely ludicrous. And I realize that this portion of Spider-Man lore is particularly maligned (for good reason), and that the daughter is never, ever mentioned in contemporary stories. But I have to give credit for DeMatteis and Ross for even attempting to tackle this subject in a serious manner. For starters, they were written into this hole and had to find a way to dig the character out. And so many times, comics deal with stuff like this by using clones or magic or alternate realities. But here’s a somber, serious take, or at least one as somber as you can get in a 1990’s superhero comic book. I guess I’m not saying you should track down this issue or these older storylines, but you should know they existed, that superhero comics and comics in general have the capacity of dealing with issues more important than which spandex-wearing dude can win in a fight.

Yeah, this ad makes total sense conceptually for this issue.

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Bi-Weekly Comics Friday Roundup VII: Obama, Spawn and Harry Potter Together At Last!!!

I’ve hit a bit of a buying comics lull. During the busiest of weeks, my pull list occasionally balloons into the low twenties (I know; I’m a huge dork). But ever since The Heroic Age started at Marvel, I’ve found myself picking up three books at most, occasionally four. This has less to do with the quality of the comics and more to do with Marvel reshuffling their line and staggering their big releases. I’m still reading a bunch of indie and DC/Vertigo titles, but Marvel definitely makes up the lion’s share of my pull list, and I was definitely reading the majority of their Dark Reign/Siege offerings. In terms of trades, I’m making my way through Daredevil: Born Again. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Man Without Fear, but Frank Miller is making me a believer.

All right, enough procrastination. Let’s talk some comics.

1. Guardians of the Globe #1 written by Robert Kirkman with art from Benito Cereno

I know almost nothing about the Guardians of the Globe. They’re a superhero team in the Invincible Universe created by Robert Kirkman, one of my favorite writers and the scribe behind my beloved Walking Dead. Normally, I wouldn’t check out this book because I do eventually plan on reading Invincible from the beginning. But this stunt is enough to pique my interest. A few months back, Image teased the team lineup including Barack Obama, Spawn, Rick Grimes (the black-and-white protagonist of Walking Dead), and a Harry Potter knock off. Eventually, Image admitted it was all a prank, but now Chris Giarrusso of G-MAN fame is writing a back-up feature in Guardians about the fake team. I’m sold. Barack and Spawn!? Fake Harry Potter!? RICK MOTHERFUCKING GRIMES!!?? This is going to eat my face.

2. Avengers #2 written by Brian Michael Bendis with art from John Romita Jr.

Look at that cover. No, really, LOOK AT THAT COVER! Are you kidding me? Really? It’s so awesome I can barely even focus right now. Look at those evil clowns in the bunny suits! How about the gnomes holding hands with the walking eyeballs!? As for the comic, well, I’m a huge Bendis devotee and John Romita Jr is the closest thing the American comic industry has to royalty. I didn’t fall head over heels in love with the first issue of the new series–I thought Secret Avengers #1 one-upped it–but I’m willing to give the time traveling Kang story another whirl for a cover this gloriously strange.

3. Irredeemable #14 written by Mark Waid with art from Diego Barreto

I’ve sung the praises of Irredeemable many times on this blog. I love Mark Waid, and I love his tale of a Superman analogue who has had enough of petty human demands and goes insane, murdering the Justice League and blowing up entire countries. But what I really love is this cover. It says it all, doesn’t it? You take one look at this cover and you know what you’re in store for. God bless you, Mark Waid. And please, if you haven’t read Irredeemable, do yourself a favor and pick up the first trade. It’s only ten bucks!

4. Thor and the Warriors Four #3 written by Alex Zalben with art from Gurihiru

Alez Zalben is hilarious. His comic book review show, appropriately titled Comic Book Club, is awesome and the CBC live show in New York is legendary (I’m dying to see it in person). I wouldn’t have picked this up if it wasn’t for Zalben, but I’m glad I did. He brings his trademark humor to the Thor/Power Pack franchises, and if you’re a bit tired of the doom and gloom of the more mainstream superhero books, Thor and the Warriors Four is the way to go. Let me just put this out there: Baby Beta Ray Bill. Ok. Is that sinking in yet? Go buy this book. And Marvel, please put Zalben on some kind of Short Halloween-esque Spider-Man one-shot.

5. Sweet Tooth #10 written and drawn by Jeff Lemire

I’ve gone back to the well a few times this week, but I just couldn’t resist highlighting Sweet Tooth once again based on this two-page spread. If it looks wonky on your display, I apologize. Just know that Sweet Tooth #10 is one of the trippiest comics I’ve read in forever. The second arc in Jeff Lemire’s opus hasn’t been quite as strong as the first, but the standout moments are so great that they demand readers stick with the series. Again, the first trade is only ten bucks. So if you’re one of those people who complains about not wanting to jump on Spider-Man because it’s in the 600th issue, shut up and go buy Sweet Tooth. You can catch up to ten.

Summer Reading List

A few days ago on HTML Giant, Christopher Higgs posted his summer reading list and asked readers to do the same in the comments section.  I’ve been constructing elaborate summer reading lists for awhile now. Check out this stack that I (mostly) devoured over a three week period last summer.

But a curious thing happened when fall rolled around: I didn’t delete the reading list file on my hard drive. I just kept adding to it and adding to it, updating with way more titles than I could consume in any given month. And now, with a new summer upon us, I have a list that has ballooned to 33 separate entries. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but reviewing has taken a big chunk out of my reading for pleasure time. Oh, and this doesn’t even include all the graphic novels I’ve saved up for the summer (I have a different file for those with only 18 entries).

Prose

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
God Jr. by Dennis Cooper
After the Workshop by John McNally
Samuel Johnson Is Indignant by Lydia Davis
Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
Something else by Jay McInerney (not Bright Lights, Big City)
The Half-Known World by Robert Boswell
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
Something else by Joe Meno (not The Great Perhaps)
Dalva or Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Morre
The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter
Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell
Something by Paul Auster
The Terrible Girls by Rebecca Brown
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
We’re Getting On by James Kaelan
End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley
Solar by Ian McEwan
Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin
Stories II by Scott McLanahan
American Subversive by David Goodwillie

Comics

The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
RASL vol. 1 by Jeff Smith
Young Avengers vol. 2 by Allen Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple
The Flash book 1 Blood Will Run by Geoff Johns and Scott Kollins and Ethan Van Sciver
Fantastic Four vol. 1 by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
Daredevil vol. 1 Ultimate Collection by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack and Alex Maleev
Daredevil Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Black Summer by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp
Batman Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
New X-Men vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and Ethan Van Sciver and Leinil Francis Yu
Global Frequency vol. 1 Planet Ablaze by Warren Ellis
Marvel 1602 Premiere HC by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
Superman/Batman vol. 1 Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness
Wolverine: Enemy of the State by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. and and Kaare Andrews
The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura

Obviously, this list is way too ambitious for any human to complete in a single season. But I’ll take a crack at it. I imagine that most of the graphic novels will fall by the wayside as I already read three or four comics a week each Wednesday. However, if you think I’m missing something absolutely crucial, please let me know. And feel free to post your own lists in the comments sections.

Bi-Weekly Friday Art Roundup

I’m going to momentarily pull myself away from the glory that is March Madness to introduce a new feature I’m working on (in my best Dicky V. impersonation: It’s going to the best, baby!). Bi-Weekly Friday Art Roundup is an opportunity to showcase some of my favorite artists working in the comic industry, as well as hyping The Black List with some unused art and promotional covers. And who better to kick off the inaugural feature than Rafael Albuquerque?

Vertigo released American Vampire #1 this past Wednesday with art by Rafael Albuquerque and scripts from prose writers Scott Snyder and Stephen King. This book’s getting a ton of buzz and for good reason. Although Dark Tower and The Stand have both been adapted into comics by Marvel, this is the first time King’s actually handled scripting chores himself on a comic book. And Scott Snyder’s no slouch either, having written a very well-received short story collection, Voodoo Heart, and an issue of The Torch for Marvel. But Albuquerque’s pencils come close to stealing the show. With settings including the Old West and 1920’s Hollywood, Albuquerque really has a chance to shine here. He’s a master of body language, facial expressions and wonderfully lived-in settings. This is a book to watch.

Mitch Geralds is an artist I hadn’t heard of, but I discovered his work over on Mark Millar’s forums. He’s self-publishing his book Johnny Recon, and from the looks of the art, it’s definitely something I’d be interested in checking out. Geralds seems to be relatively undiscovered so if there’s any comic writers out there looking for a collaborator, consider getting in touch with him.

What kind of promoter would I be if I didn’t take this opportunity to once again show off the artwork of Lamair Nash, one of my collaborators on The Black List forthcoming from Arcana Comics? This guy is a superstar in the making, and I know that both Mark (my co-writer) and I feel incredibly lucky that we found him before he broke into the industry. This is a unused cover from The Black List featuring an early design of Richard Nixon, one of our main characters and heroes. The final Tricky Dick design is slightly different, however (Our Nixon is slightly younger and more buff) so we won’t be able to go use this beautiful cover.

I apologize in advance for how srunched together the art appears, but Night Owls by the Timony Twins is a must read. Published by DC’s webcomic imprint Zuda, the art of Night Owls is remarkable due to its old timey feel and classic/wacky character designs. The juxtaposition of Ernest Baxter and Roscoe the Gargoyle is hilarious and gets a chuckle pretty much on every page. I also love how the art team chose to stick with the traditional grid layout of panels. It really makes the webcomic feel like something transported out of an earlier decade regardless of bizarre subject matter.

Also: it’s free!

If you’re not reading Irredeemable, you ain’t shit. This book is one of the best indies out there and reaffirms why Mark Waid is one of the most talented comic scribes in the biz. The artist, Peter Krause, is also doing phenomenal work, but the cover above was actually done by Paul Azaceta and Dan Panosian. I haven’t heard of either of them, but I’ll definitely be looking for their work in the future after this eye-catching, yet sparse, cover for the final issue of Irredeemable‘s first year.