Salvatore Pane

Tag: Marvel

Comic Convention Misogyny

“We as a geek community have some of the most rampant sexism and misogyny I have ever seen. Women in cosplay are treated as pieces of meat, on display to satisfy a man’s fantasy of that character. We are without personality or interests, and there’s no way people will believe that we actually know ANYTHING about the character we’re dressed up as.”

–Moly McIsaac in The Geeky Peacock

Great article. Please read.

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The Best Comic I’ve Read All Year Is About Pat Riley Hatching An Army Of LeBron James Clones

I’ve been a fan of the comic writer Christos Gage ever since I first read his work years ago in Avengers Initiative. This, however, is the best comic of the year.

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.

AWP 2011 Aftermath: Woah Now Hey Mr. Rager Mr. Rager Tell Me Where You’re Going Tell Us Where You’re Headed I’m Off On An Adventure Mr. Rager Tell Me Some Of Your Stories Tell Us Of Your Travels

AWP 2011 is over. Highlights, in no particular order, below.

1. Dancing in a group including xTx, Roxane Gay, my roommates Adam Reger and Robert Yune to the song “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love Tonight” by the Outfield at HTMLGiant’s Literature party amid a crowd of hip motherfuckers.

2. The Gary Shtenygart/Amy Hempel reading/convo. Shtenygart is so fucking funny in person. I want him to be my older brother.

3. During my Future of the Book Review panel with Emily Testa, Irina Reyn and Paul Morris, some dude totally called shit on us while walking up the aisle of the ballroom and sporting sunglasses.

4. I love Emma Straub. I met her. We talked a few times. She signed my copy of her book Other People We Married. Then one night I was returning to the hotel drunk and saw her chatting with some reasonable humans and I shouted, “Emma Straub knows!” She nodded. She knew.

5. At Recessions, I met Amber Sparks and while drinking a 20 ounce Bud Light explained Spider-Man’s wife’s miscarriage from the mid-nineties and the complexities of Pokemon cards.

6. One night later I had a similar conversation with Amber’s husband in the bathroom of Ireland’s Four Provinces.

7. Aubrey Hirsch and I repeatedly asking people if they were the html giant.

8. Seeing Steve Almond, Michael Czyzniejewski, Nicolle Elizabeth and all the Smokelong/Corium/Spindle readers read at the Black Squirrel which has all these 80’s Marvel comics on the walls.

9. Jennifer Sky arm wrestling Tao Lin.

10. I finally met Brian Oliu! We walked through the hotel and parted ways outside, and only later did I realize not once did we bring up Nintendo games as expected.

11. Watching Joel Coggins puke in an Arlington trash can.

12. Getting a Write Like a Motherfucker mug from Isaac Fitzgerald and the awesome Rumpus folks.

13. Chandler Chugg-a-lugg

14. The Annalemma/Pank/MLP reading. One of the funnest readings ever.

15. The Myth of Relevance Panel.

16. This e-mail from Lauren Becker received at 3:28 am:

Subject: pegleg?

Body: argh, matey! 🙂

17. Consuming a mass amount of beer every night for four straight days.

18. Proposing to a woman named Polaroid on the Literature Party dance floor after she literally told me she would be “the Alice Munro to your Charles Baxter.”

19. Convincing a woman at Literature Party, albeit briefly, that I was Sugar from the Rumpus. Called her sweetpea and everything.

20. Cathy Day mocking Steve Gillies for being 20 years older than me.

Comics Roundup XI: Remember the Spider

The last time I did a comics roundup was back in September. September! Oh, how the world has changed. O lost!

Basically, I’ve just been in a bit of a comics rut. I’m down to only a few superhero books a month (mostly from the Batman and Spider-Man families) and a ton of indies that I’ve ranted about too many times. Irredeemable. Sweet Tooth. The Walking Dead. American Vampire. And I only want to do these when I have new books to talk about.  But luckily, after five full months, I finally have enough new titles to get excited about to share with you people.

What you want me to do? Keep your shit the hardest.

1. Chew written by John Layman with art from Rob Guillory

This is the surprise of last year for me. Chew launched with a lot of hype, but the first issue (included in black and white in the back of an issue of The Walking Dead) didn’t capture my attention in the way I’d hoped. Recently, I picked up the first volume and realized just how stupid I’d been. For one thing, the coloring really adds a lot, and the way Layman has structured this series has to be seen to be believed.

Background: Chew‘s about a world where in the wake of a bird flu pandemic all chicken is banned. That leads to a hyper militant version of the FDA who cracks down on all black market chicken dealers. Our protagonist is Tony Chu, a mysterious FDA agent with the ability to see the past of anything he eats. For example, if he comes across a dead body, he can take a bite and learn how it died.

That’s a pretty wacky concept, but Layman just layers more and more with each new issue. Aliens. Vampires. Conspiracy. If you like longterm mysteries like Morning Glories but want something a little lighter, go with Chew. It’s only three volumes deep, so you can catch up fairly quickly. And the art by Guillory? Future Big 2 superstar.

2. Detective Comics #871 written by Scott Snyder with art from Jock

I think I’ve talked about how much I like Scott Snyder’s comics and prose work about a million times on this blog, BUT NOW HE HAS THE REIGNS TO MOTHERFUCKING DETECTIVE COMICS!!! This is huge, guys. Huge. A lit fiction guy handling Detective?! And it’s good! Really good.

Right now, the Batman franchise is in kind of an odd place. Living legend Grant Morrison is taking Bruce to all kinds of wacky heights in Batman Incorporated (which is also really great), but Scott Snyder’s taking the more grounded approach with his series about Dick Grayson (also Batman now; long story) in Gotham. This one’s gritty. This one’s dark. This one takes cues from Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. And Jock is delivering a master’s course in storytelling and panel construction.

Buy it. Love it.

3. Infinite Vacation written by Nick Spencer with art from Christian Ward

Nick Spencer is another rising star I’m keeping my eye on. Morning Glories is awesome. Thunder Agents is pretty good. I’m looking forward to his War Machine run. And Infinite Vacation is just utterly spectacular.

IV has one of the better indie concepts I’ve seen in some time. It follows Mark, an everyman cubicle monkey who lives in a world where people can buy into other realities through an app in their phones. Want to see what would have happened if you went to art school instead of business? Buy in. Want to see what happened if you went left instead of right? Buy in. But the central mystery involves a murderer who is killing all of the various Marks across the different realities. An intriguing first issue. Incredibly original.

Even if I didn’t love the story, Christian Ward’s pencils would be enough to lure me in each month. Seriously. This guy’s art is spectacular. The way he uses lines around characters is impressive and the coloring is just so vibrant and beautiful. And best of all? There’s only one issue out so far. So if you’re one of those people who can’t get into Spider-Man because there’s 600 issues (shame on you) go buy Infinite Vacation #1.

#4. Iron Man #500 written by Matt Fraction with art from Salvador Larocca, Kano, Nathan Fox and  Carmine Di Giandomenico

I love future issues in superhero comics. It frees up writers and artists to really push the boundaries when they know they don’t eventually have to return to the status quo after x however many issues. Iron Man #500 isn’t up there with Old Man Logan, but it’s a really good one-and-done tale that’s highly relevant to Matt Fraction’s ongoing Iron Man epic which has truly been great (if you haven’t read the 12 part World’s Most Wanted, what the fuck is wrong with you?).

So this issue, handled by an all-star lineup of artists, deals with Iron Man and Peter Parker trying to figure out why Tony built some type of super weapon during a period of time which has now been erased from his memory (don’t ask; move on). This storyline is interspersed with the future where the Mandarin has enslaved the world using Iron Man’s doomsday weapon. Meanwhile, the resistance is led by Tony’s son and daughter.

This is superhero comics at its biggest and brightest. Iron Man #500 is loud and brash and utterly budget-less. Fraction aims for the stars, and although this isn’t a perfect issue, it is a great jumping on point for Tony Stark fans.

#5. Fables vol. 4 written by Bill Willingham with art from Mark Buckingham, Craig Hamilton and P. Craig Russell

Ok. I’m totally cheating here. I know I wrote about Fables last time, but that’s when I had only read a few issues. That’s before I knew the truth: that Fables is a modern comics masterpiece.

I just finished the fifth volume last week, and I am stunned, utterly STUNNED by just how amazing this comic is. I don’t even like fairy tales, but Willingham has actually made me really care about the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, and Little Boy Blue. I can’t even believe that’s possible, but this is a big, modern, urban fantasy epic that can stand toe-to-toe with any other beloved run in comics.

Fables kind of starts a little on the slow side, focusing on a murder mystery that’s a tad predictable, yet charming enough. But after volume one, it’s all balls to the wall awesomeness. You want World War II? You got it. Want an invasion of wooden gangsters on Manhattan? Done. How about a Marxist rebellion of non-humanoid creatures who overthrow the shackles of their Fable oppressors? Hell yeah (and it’s led by Goldilocks and the three bears).

Fables is fucking awesome. Case closed.

Comics Roundup X: I’m Still Doing This

Ok. So I haven’t done one of these in awhile. The reason is because bi-weekly was just too much. I don’t discover that many new comics, and most of my roundups were becoming “Hey. Read The Walking Dead, Sweet Tooth and Amazing Spider-Man” over and over again. Moving forward, I’m only going to do one of these if I have five new books to mention, or if one I’ve previously hyped is launching some mega storyline or something that’s especially new reader friendly. Get it? Got it? Good.

1. Morning Glories #1 written by Nick Spencer with art from Joe Eisma

Morning Glories is about two things near and dear to my heart: cardigans and ties.  Actually, it’s a cross between LOST and Richard Yates’ A Good School (or any prep novel really). I don’t want to dive into too much of the premise because the discovery is half of the fun, but Morning Glories centers on a group of high school students with the same birthday who are brought to a mysterious prep school. The first issue floored me. Jump on this train before you have to trade wait.

2. Taskmaster #1 written by Fred van Lente with art from Jefte Palo

I fell in love with Taskmaster as a character during Christos Gage’s awesome run on the sadly canceled Avengers: Initiative. When I heard Fred van Lente–whose Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Zombies stories must be read to be believed–would be picking up this character post-Siege, I was instantly intrigued. But this first issue is better than I could have imagined. So many strange gangs! Look at that Revolutionary War-era militia! If you want an off-the-wall superhero story filled with levity and a dash of insanity, pick up Taskmaster. This one’s a miniseries too, so if you’re not down with the never-ending stories of most superheroes, there are no worries about that here.

3. 5 Days to Die #1 written by Andy Schmidt with art from Chee

Mark Kleman and I interviewed Andy Schmidt about 5 Days to Die a few weeks back. Go read that, then pick up Schmidt and Chee’s noir-soaked romp. It comes out weekly, and the final issue comes out next week. That gives you just enough time to catch up before the big finale. Don’t wait on the trade for this one. Support single issues, and we’ll see publishers take more chances on stories like this one.

4. Fables vol. 1 written by Bill Willingham with art from Lan Medina

Sometimes I get into things really late. I started watching Twin Peaks in 2010. I began my descent into Battlestar Galactica last fall. Fables is another of those examples. It’s pretty much a holy text in comics but I never read it, never even knew the concept. I’ve been sick the last few weeks and picked up the first trade on a lark. Everything that’s been said about it is true. This one’s a knockout. If, like me, you don’t know Fables, it’s about a cast of fairy tale characters who are exiled from their homelands because of an unseen Adversary (think Diaspora) and relocated to a small apartment complex in New York City. They self-govern while trying to conceal their magical natures from human, who they call the Mundane. If you like Harry Potter, jump onboard the Fables bandwagon.

5. Archie #616 written by Alex Simmons with art from Dan Parent, Jack Morelli and Digikore Studios

If you don’t read this, you hate America. Ball’s in your court, playa.

Bi-Weekly Friday Comics Roundup VI: Fozzie Bear Has a Fucked Up Mustache

DC and Marvel have recently relaunched their lines into all new, all different positive directions (Brightest Day and The Heroic Age respectively). What this means is that much of the continuity baggage that’s been lugged around since Identity Crisis and House of M is being momentarily shifted to the side to focus on slightly more reader accessible tales (more so in Marvel’s case than DC). So now is definitely the time to jump on board if you’re curious about superhero comics but feel uncomfortable about diving into part 365 of a never ending storyline.

1. Green Lantern #54 written by Geoff Johns with art from Doug Mahnke

Dex-Starr was once an ordinary space kitten. Then one day, he was summoned into the Red Lantern Corps due to the unusual amount of rage in his heart. Now he lives on Earth with a giant Red Lantern ogre and murders gang members in the underground subway systems of New York City. His powers include acidic blood, super strength, and flight. Notice how he wears his Red Lantern power ring on his tail. You should now be convinced to start buying Green Lantern.

2. Muppet Sherlock Holmes by Unknown

I couldn’t really find any information on this project. The wonderful BOOM Studios just announced it, but they’ve yet to discuss the launch date or the writer or artist on board. I couldn’t care less. Look at Fozzie’s mustache! Where’s that thing growing from? Out of his fur? I’ll be picking this up for sure, and the only mystery I care about is the Case of the Bizarre Facial Hair.

3. Secret Avengers # 1 written by Ed Brubaker with art from Mike Deodato

There’s been a lot of hooplah about the relaunch of the various Avengers titles, and the one that’s got me the most excited is Secret Avengers by the superstar dream team of Brubaker and Deodato. Brubaker is known for his classic, gritty books like Captain America and Criminal, and Deodato’s page layouts in Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts and Bendis’ Dark Avengers have been phenomenal. Pairing the two is a stroke of genius and any team lineup that includes War Machine, Beast, and my favorite Marvel character created this decade (Robert Kirkman’s Irredeemable Ant-Man) is an obvious must read.

4. Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 written and drawn by Joe Kubert

Dong Xoai is the spiritual successor to Yossel, Joe Kubert’s ambitious reimagining of a WWII-era Jewish ghetto uprising. What links the two together is the art style. Kubert, an industry pro still working well into his 80’s, eschews colors and inks and draws these books in a sketchy, chaotic way aimed at reflecting the madness of war. Dong Xoai is his latest to be drawn in this style and focuses on American advisers during the early days of the Vietnam conflict before the fighting intensified into a full blown war.

5. Deadpool #23 written by Daniel Way with art from Paco Medina

Deadpool is the meta superhero for the 21st century. He’s the only character in the Marvel Universe who knows he exists in a comic book and will frequtnly break the fourth wall to address the reader. Recently, when he ran into Spider-Man, he ended the meeting by telling ol’ webhead that he’d see him later that month in Amazing Spider-Man #613. Daniel Way’s Deadpool is an absolute delight. It’s filled with ridiculous violence that tops any Warner Brothers cartoon and jokes that are actually funny. #23 is the start of a new arc and a perfect jumping on point about Deadpool piloting a robot in Las Vegas and fighting villains attempting to rob casinos. Check it out.

Bi-Weekly Friday Art Roundup II: Electric Boogaloo

Hi all. It’s time for another Bi-Weekly Friday Art Roundup. I would have liked to do a full post on the big comic news of the week–Marvel announcing an app for digital distribution on the iPad–but with AWP looming, I’m going to have to skip that for now and focus on smaller updates. For those of you who missed Roundup I, the purpose of these articles is to showcase artists I believe deserve recognition (and also to backdoor promote my upcoming graphic novel, The Black List). So why not just get started?

1. Sweet Tooth #7 by Jeff Lemire

Last month I did a top ten list of graphic novels for the literary inclined. Sweet Tooth would have made it, but at the time, it didn’t exist in paperback format, only in monthly issues. That is no longer the case. Without a doubt, Sweet Tooth is one of my favorite ongoing series. I won’t do the book any justice  describing what it’s about, so I’ll just say the work of writer/artist Jeff Lemire has to be seen to be believed. He eschews the realistic for a bizarre style that perfectly matches his apocalyptic dystopia. The most impressive aspect of his work is his facial features, something that gets glossed over by even the most successful of comic artists, especially those who photo reference. Lemire is not one of those artists. He positions his characters in straight-on, Wes Anderson style shots and lets their expressions tell the story. Anyone interested in the comics medium absolutely needs to study the work of Lemire, and there’s no better jumping on point than Sweet Tooth.

2. Blackest Night #8 Written by Geoff Johns with art from Ivan Reis

Blackest Night is an eight-issue miniseries that shows just how fun and insane superhero comics can really be. The conclusion to a multi-year story set in the Green Lantern section of the DC universe, BN succeeds on the merits of its hyper-talented artist, Ivan Reis. Check out this article by the good folks at iFanboy raving over the man’s ridiculous art skills. The average comic reader may not understand how difficult these events comics are to put out, but these are the toughest types of books to draw in the industry. Reis has to draw a cast of hundreds and literally squeezes dozens upon dozens of characters into single panels. Even if you know nothing about Green Lantern or Blackest Night, pick up this issue at a low, low price of four dollars for a master’s class in panel composition and character placement. Reis does not disappoint.

3. Unpublished Artist Tommy Smith

Tommy Smith is another artist I found on Mark Millar’s forums, and it’s very clear from a four-page sample of his work he posted that this man has chops. Being able to convey motion is a skill that sounds easier than it is to master, but right here in this one silent page, Smith gets across movement even while segmenting the flow of time. We don’t get every moment of this woman waking up, but it’s clear what’s happening thanks to the interesting angles and quirky subject choices. He doesn’t put the woman front and center in each panel. Sometimes she’s off to the side like in panel one, while others use a hyper close-up. Smith is currently looking for collaborators so if you’re a comic writer looking for someone who has storytelling down, consider shooting him an e-mail.

4. The Black List written by Salvatore Pane and Mark Kleman with art from Lamair Nash

This is one of the first finished pages Mark and I got back from Lamair, and we were absolutely floored. We posted a bunch of ads on various art websites looking for an artist and received many, many submissions. Lamair Nash was clearly the most talented, but we didn’t realize the extent of his skills until this page came in. Lamair takes a very simple, relateable moment–a twenty-something at a McJob caught goofing off by his boss–and turns it into something downright otherworldly. The closeup on protagonist Harry’s eye. The imposing figure of the boss. You can’t teach this stuff, folks. Lamair’s ability to make even the most mundane scenes bristle with energy and tension is one of the major reasons we so badly wanted to work with him on this project. And if this is what he does with a simple office scene, I can’t wait to show off what he can do with Richard Nixon firing rockets at stone mason mercenaries in secret underground laboratories.

5. Amazing Spider-Man #626 written by Fred Van Lente with art from Michael Gaydos

Three years ago I wrote articles for a great comic book website called Broken Frontier. Around the same time, a controversial of Amazing Spider-Man came out that rebooted the previous twenty years of continuity, namely the amount of time I’d followed the character. I flipped my shit. But since then, the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man has been absolutely superb. The book employs a rotating cast of creators, including the brilliant writer Fred Van Lente whose MODOK’s 11 is an absolute must-read, that continues to put the screws to the life of lovable Peter Parker. Issue 626 is no different. Michael Gaydos is one of the best artists in the industry, and like Jeff Lemire, he is a master at facial expressions. Look at this exchange between Pete and his roommate Michelle Gonzalez. Is this the art you expect from a mainstream superhero book starring one of the most recognizable characters on Earth? No. It’s breathtaking. It’s a reminder of everything comics can accomplish. If you think Spider-Man begins and ends with Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi, you owe it to yourself to run, RUN, to the nearest comic store and jump on board the new and improved Amazing.