Tag Archives: J. Scott Campbell

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Black Cat Annual #1

Being an unapologetic fan of romance and superhero comics, I like to think I understand the dynamics of superhero couples better than most. Some, like Superman and Lois Lane, will always be iconic. They’re defined by how strong and ideal their love is in the face of overwhelming forces. There’s certainly a place for couples like that in comics.

Then, there’s Spider-Man and Black Cat. In terms of romance, they’re one of those couples who are like nitro and glycerin. Alone, they’re stable in their own right. Put them together, though, and things get volatile. Sometimes, it’s sexy. Sometimes, it’s literal. Most of the time, it ends badly, even by Spider-Man’s defining Parker Luck standards.

However, it’s because their relationship is so volatile that it’s also a lot of fun to follow. If ever you needed proof of that, “Black Cat Annual #1” should make that point beyond a reasonable doubt. In one single comic, you see why Spider-Man and Black Cat have such unique chemistry, yet still frustrate one another in the most adorable way possible.

You don’t have to be a romance fan to appreciate it, but it certainly helps. While “Black Cat Annual #1” is entirely a love story, it dares to have fun with a historically volatile relationship.

The story is billed as the wedding between Spider-Man and Black Cat. To all the Mary Jane Watson fans out there, as well as those not familiar with the dynamics between these two, there’s no need to worry. I won’t spoil much, but I will spoil that the wedding isn’t exactly traditional, even by superhero standards.

The wedding is just part of a more elaborate plot hatched by Black Cat. She just ropes Spider-Man into it because it involves dangerous criminal organizations like the Maggie. He’s reluctant. He’s not thrilled about it. Even his usual wisecracks are somewhat tempered. He still does it, though. That’s the kind of effect Cat has on him.

It’s not healthy, but it’s hardly the most toxic relationship Spider-Man has had over the years. This is a guy second only to Wolverine in terms of getting caught up in unhealthy relationships, some more so than others. While Black Cat might not bring out the worst in him, she’s more capable than most at getting him involved in less-than-heroic endeavors.

In this case, the wedding is almost secondary. Initially, it looks like Black Cat is just looking to steal from the Maggie and humiliate them while looking good in a wedding dress. Even for Cat, that’s pretty ambitious. However, as her plan and its many dangers unfold, her motivations aren’t quite as clear cut.

Writer Jed MacKay nicely captures Black Cat’s persona and motivations. She’s still a thief at heart. That, she doesn’t run from. On the surface, she’s cunning, sassy, and manipulative. However, she’s not a thief in the same mold as Spider-Man’s other villains. She doesn’t steal food from orphans and chuck it in the East River.

MacKay balances out her sass with some genuinely respectable goals. Even Spider-Man cannot deny that. While he’s still not thrilled with her methods or the fact that she roped him into a wedding ceremony, he still gives Black Cat his tenuous trust and she rewards that trust, for the most part.

There’s plenty of banter. There’s also plenty of quips and complaining on Spider-Man’s part. That doesn’t stop Black Cat from having fun with him, even as they face danger and deceit every step of the way. By the end, she clearly has had more fun than Spider-Man.

It’s a fitting summation of their relationship. They have chemistry. They genuinely care about one another. They also work well together. At the same time, they really push each other’s buttons, get on each other’s nerves, and have them do things they prefer not to do. It can make for a volatile and sexy romance, but it’ll never be stable.

MacKay captures the best parts of that dynamic in “Black Cat Annual #1” and fits it into one of Black Cat’s more creative heists. It all comes together perfectly in a single comic, complete with a beautiful cover by J. Scott Campbell and incredible interior artwork by the likes of Natacha Bustos, Juan Gedeon, and Joey Vazquez.

Black Cat Annual #1” will not convince you that Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy are star-crossed lovers in the mold of Superman and Lois Lane. However, it does nicely demonstrate that there’s plenty of room for a different kind of romance in superhero comics.

It doesn’t have to be a classic love story. It doesn’t have to be totally toxic, either. There’s a lot of gray area in between. Spider-Man and Black Cat occupy a unique spot in that area. They can team up. They can oppose one another. They can even love one another. All this is possible due to the unique dynamics between them. That’s what make them a special kind of superhero couple.

While “Black Cat Annual #1” didn’t give us a true, full-fledged wedding, it offered plenty of fun for these volatile ex-lovers. At the very least, this phony wedding went a lot better than the wedding between Kitty Pryde and Colossus.

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The Outrageous Outrage Of The Outrage Over An Invincible Iron Man Cover

As a general rule, I try to stay away from overblown media outrages. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion on them. It’s just that in my experience, peoples’ attention spans are so damn short and their outrage is so damn selective that it’s just not worth the time. I’d much rather dedicate my energy to something more productive, like writing novels that make men and women horny for all the right reasons.

However, there are certain outrages that I feel obliged to address. If said outrage involves comic books, superheroes, and people who whine about insanely petty issues, then I’m going to make my opinion known. I love comic books and superheroes. I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear on this blog. I’ll continue belaboring that love for as long as I must.

So when someone decides to throw a hissy fit that gives comic book fans like me a migraine, I’m going to take notice and I’m going to have an opinion, especially if said hissy fit involves something petty.

So what has people whining, bitching, and moaning at superhuman levels this time? Well, it all has to do with a comic book cover for an upcoming series called “Invincible Iron Man.”

It’s not actually the main cover for the book. It’s what we in the comic world call a variant, meaning there’s only so much that are printed. They’re basically a gimmick for comic collectors and since they can be pretty damn awesome, most comic book fans don’t mind. I certainly don’t.

This one in particular is actually a variant cover exclusive by J. Scott Campbell, a very talented and highly respected artist among comic book fans. This one was actually done for Midtown Comics, a premier comic book store in New York City that I make it a point to visit every time I go there. So of course it’s special and of course it’s going to carry more weight than others.

So what’s the controversy? Well, before I reveal that, let me show you the cover. If you can immediately spot the outrage, then I think you’re already part of the problem so this blog post won’t affect you. If not, then bear with me because it’s going to get even pettier than you think.

Not bad, right? Good colors, good lines, and a generally upbeat tone. It depicts Riri Williams, a young African American woman who will be taking the role of Iron Man for a while. Those of you who only know Iron Man from Robert Downy Junior’s depiction in the Avenger movies may be confused. Trust me, it’s actually more confusing than you think.

I won’t get into the reasons why someone else is taking over Iron Man. I’ll just note that this happens a lot in comics. Every now and then, an established character will either die or go MIA for a while so someone else can take up the mantle. It’s been happening a lot lately because Marvel has been seeking more diversity in its heroes.

Riri Williams is hardly the first. Last year, they did the same with Wolverine. The former Wolverine in the comics died and was replaced by his clone/daughter, Laura Kinney. By and large, it was a success. It generated little to no controversy. Even comic book fans shrugged it off. Who better to take over for Wolverine than his own daughter? It’s a beautiful thing.

So what’s up with this cover surrounding Riri Williams? On the surface, it’s the kind of cover that appeals to comic book fans who want a simple, visually appealing hook for a comic. It’s a visual medium, after all. Shouldn’t it be pretty to look at?

For some people, being pretty is some horrible affront to all that is good and just in the world. How is it terrible unjust? Just look at the cover again. Look at how sexualized it is. No seriously, look at it. Is this piece of artwork really so overtly sexual that a generation of children will be scarred for life by seeing it?

I try to be fair and understanding in all major controversies. I really do. This time, however, I have to fight the urge to bang my head against a brick wall. Is this what really qualifies as being too sexual lately? Is this comic book cover, in an era where the hardest of hardcore porn is available with a simple google search, just too damn sexy for public consumption?

Sadly, enough people whined about it to prompt Marvel to pull the cover from the market. It’s a victory for those who are so fragile, so weak, and so petty that they can’t stand the idea of any form of media being the least bit sexy. For anyone who is just a fan adding more beauty to this deranged world, it’s the equivalent of a tequila hangover.

This isn’t the first time people have lost their shit over a comic book cover being too sexy. A few years ago, those same puritanical, overly petty types lost their shit over this cover for Spider-Woman #1.

That cover is by Milo Manara, an artist with a history of creating artwork that is overtly pornographic. Is it the best style for a superhero comic that’s marketed to adults and kids? Probably not. At the very least, there’s some merit behind the outrage here. It doesn’t take an overly petty person to look at this cover and see that it takes too much inspiration from Nikki Manaj videos.

Again though, how petty do you have to be to think Riri Williams in this cover is too sexual? Yeah, she’s a teenager and she shows off her mid-drift. News flash people, teenagers dress like that. Anybody remember Madonna? She was a teenager at some point too a million years ago and she dressed like this.

Have we really regressed that much since the 1980s? Are we really returning to a time when a woman exposing her mid-drift is on the same level as flashing her tits at a bus full of kindergartners? I know outrage is usually selective and petty to some degree, but this is a world of internet porn and Honey Boo Boo. I think that kind of pettiness is obsolete.

Again, here’s the cover one last time. Again, this is Riri Williams, a young African American woman who is about to become a superhero. Look at it closely.

She’s not wearing a thong. She’s not wearing a bikini. She’s not even wearing a dress for crying out loud. She’s just wearing what you’ll probably see high school kids wear around the beach, a mall, or anywhere they want to show off how many sit-ups they’ve done. If J. Scott Campbell wanted to make an overly sexy cover, there are many other ways he could’ve done it.

Except he didn’t. Some may argue that Riri’s bodily proportions are wrong and unrealistic. Some would much rather have her look like someone we would probably ignore if she walked into a coffee shop in New York. These are the same people who don’t seem to mind Photoshop being used on fashion magazines or breast implants being used by porn stars. Once again, they have to be extremely petty and selective with their outrage.

I can stand people being petty. I can stand people being outraged over dumb shit. We’re a flawed species. We’re bound to act stupid for obscenely stupid reasons. However, when that stupidity is given credibility, I have a problem with it. I doubt this will be the last such problem, but it sets a sad and dangerous precedent. It means that those who whine and complain loud enough will have their childish arguments taken seriously.

We don’t take children seriously when they whine about not being able to eat candy for dinner every day. Why should we take them seriously with this? Trick question. We shouldn’t.

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