The following is a new video from my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. It’s a trailer for an old, but epic fan fiction project I worked on several years back. Enjoy!
The following is a new video from my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. It’s a trailer for an old, but epic fan fiction project I worked on several years back. Enjoy!
My YouTube channel, Jack’s World, is still very new and still has plenty of room to grow. I really enjoyed making my video on “Dark Phoenix.” That’s not surprising. I enjoy talking about superhero media in general. To that end, I’ve made another video, this time on Spider-Man. I originally intended to make it an article, but I think it works much better as a video. Enjoy!
If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like me to cover in a video, especially the superhero variety, please let me know.
The comic book industry is in a state of crisis. I know you can say that about a lot of industries amidst a global pandemic, but the comics industry has been extremely hard hit. Shipments of new comics have ceased. Comic shops are likely to go out of business without that influx of new product. The industry that I’ve loved since I was a kid has never been this vulnerable.
It’s very depressing. I certainly have felt that after multiple weeks of no new comics. A handful of people, namely the whiny agenda-pushing loser types, have been talking doom and gloom about the comics industry for years. However, this hit has nothing to do with some overly political T-shirt that Mockingbird wore.
Even after the pandemic ends, this industry that I love will never be the same. It can’t go back to the way it used to be. This crisis has shown, among other things, that the current model that the comic industry utilizes just isn’t sustainable. It needs an overhaul of some kind.
I’m certainly not smart enough to know what that overhaul entails. I doubt few people are. However, as a long-time fan and follower of the industry, I have a few ideas. To keep it simple, here are four steps to saving the comic book industry in a post-pandemic world.
Step 1: Emphasize Quality Over Quantity
This is a simple metric. There are just too many books coming out all at once. However, this is a problem that predates the current crisis. It’s a problem that has lingered since the industry almost crashed completely in the early 1990s. It came down to simple economics. Publishers made too many books that not enough people bought. Even if they were only a dollar apiece, there’s only so much consumers can consume.
This is not a sustainable business model. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics grew the most when they were just publishing a dozen or so titles a month, with a few mini-series on the side. You could, conceivably, follow every major event in the Marvel or DC universe for less than $40, adjusted for inflation. That kind of easy access is what helped create the massive fandom that these franchises enjoy today.
That said, this isn’t the mid-1960s. The world is changed. Markets and consumer habits have changed. However, there’s still a place for comics in the publishing world. It’s just a matter of making those products more valuable. Books like DC’s Earth One series are basically single-issue graphic novels that tell a rich, complex story at a higher price and it’s worth every penny.
At a time when people are strapped for cash and looking for value, the comics industry is in a perfect position to tap into it. Make every comic count. Make every dollar feel like it was well-spent. It won’t just keep new fans happy. It’ll help create an entirely new generation of fans who are less inclined to go to crowded movie theaters.
Step 2: Embrace Digital (In A Novel Way)
This step plays directly off the first in that it embraces new technology. Decades ago, comics were easy to access because you could buy them at news stands and grocery stores. As a kid, I got most of my comics from the grocery store at first. They were easy and, much to my parents’ delight, cheap ways of putting a smile on my face.
These days, you can’t find comics in grocery stories. However, digital comics have grown a great deal and are more accessible than ever, thanks to companies like Comixology. Most comics are already released digitally on the same day they come out in shops. That’s great, but it’s basically just an extra convenience for those who don’t live near comic shops. That can’t be the extent of how digital comics impact the industry.
At the moment, digital comics are only a small part of overall comic sales, but they’re growing rapidly. In conjunction with that growth, the industry needs to embrace the other opportunities that digital offers. Services like Marvel Unlimited are nice, but they’re just giving us products that were already released. Why not give us something we can’t get anywhere else?
I’m not sure what that something is, be it a motion comic or something that sets itself apart from a traditional paperback. I’m not smart enough to figure it out, but digital offers so many rich opportunities. The first company to figure it out will make millions and entice a new generation of fans.
Step 3: Make Comic Shops More Than Comic Shops
I love comic shops. Some of my fondest memories have occurred in comic shops. I don’t want them to go away. However, embracing digital comics doesn’t mean the same as ditching these important brick-and-mortar structures. It just means changing their role in the overall comics infrastructure.
When I was a kid, there were two types of stores. One were the stores you could hang out in and the other were the stores in which the owners kicked you out if you lingered for more than 10 minutes. The future of the industry needs to embrace the former rather than the latter.
Comic shops can’t just be about selling comics and merchandise. Too much of that is online and relying on that model is doomed to failure. Instead, comic shops need to be part comic shop and part coffee shop. Make it a place where you don’t just browse the racks for new material. Make it a place where you can sit down with friends, get some coffee, get a snack, and enjoy comics in a communal manner.
Once comic shops are an experience again, people will visit them and not just because there are new comics to buy. If comics can become a popular hang-out once more, then they’ll have a place in a new market.
Step 4: Empower Creators (Instead Of Screwing Them Over)
As much as I love comics, I don’t doubt that it has engaged in some shady business practices. There are many stories about comic creators getting screwed over by major publishers. While every industry has shady practices, the comics industry relies too heavily on brilliant creators to screw them over.
While Marvel and DC have their Disney/WB overlords to please, they can’t just rely on being farms for intellectual property. There has to be a new and better way for compensating creators. Alan Moore may be a cankerous blow-hard, but he really did get screwed over when DC flat out broke their promise to him.
Broken promises always cost more in the long run, especially with respect to comics. It’s not enough for the publishers to just acknowledge the contributions of creators. They need to have a way to profit. It’s not impossible. Apple does it with their app store, creating a means for creative developers to profit from their creations while still making Apple billions.
When both benefit, everyone benefits. It’s really that simple.
I know the comics industry is undergoing rapid change. I don’t doubt I’ll be upset with some of those changes. However, I also understand that the industry needs to change in this increasingly chaotic world. These are just some ideas on how to go about it.
Whatever happens, I hope this industry that I love continues to thrive. I don’t know how, but I do know that a lot of people love it and they’ll find a way to make it work.
Another Wednesday has arrived. Once again, it’s another Wednesday without the weekly dose of joy that is new comics. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still happened. All major publishers, including Marvel and DC, have announced that no new comics will be released this week, except for digital only titles or previously scheduled compilations.
There aren’t enough words in any language for me to articulate how much this sucks. However, rather than spend another lonely Wednesday complaining about it, I’m going to make an effort to find a shining gem in this sea of doom and gloom.
Yes, major publishers are still delaying their shipments and releases. That’s to be expected of big, entrenched businesses who have been following a particular model for decades.
At the same time, independent comic creators still have an opportunity to publish their work on established platforms outside that entrenched system. Thanks to sites like Comixology, some creators can bypass the typical comic publishing model altogether and release their work straight to the public. As a lifelong comic fan, I can’t say enough about these creators.
While the selection of independently created comics tends to be limited, there are still quality books within this crop. I would even argue that the current lack of major titles gives them a chance to shine in ways they never would’ve been able to in an ordinary market. If a book is really good, it deserves to be singled out for the joy it brings during these difficult times.
To that end, I’d like to highlight one particular book that came out today. It’s not a superhero comic. It’s not from a major publisher, either. Despite all the forces working against it, this book still found a way to shine through on this gloomy Wednesday and for that, I’m happy to single out its greatness.
Some stories don’t need to be full of epic space battles and alien invasions to be impactful. In fact, the sheer grandiosity of those stories often make it hard to relate to. Most people aren’t billionaire playboy philanthropists or a demigoddess born into a race of warriors. We can be in awe of their exploits, but overwhelmed by their impossible standards.
That’s exactly why “Lost on Planet Earth #1” is so refreshing. It’s a story built around futuristic, sci-fi aesthetics in a post-scarcity world. It involves alien races, star ship fleets, and a universe full of interplanetary intrigue. At the same time, it feels like a down-to-Earth, slice of real life story that real people in the real world can relate to.
Written by Magdalene Visaggio, with art by Claudia Aguirre, we follow the boundless ambition of a young woman named Basil Miranda. She starts out as focused, determined, and dedicated. She’s like that person we all knew in high school who went out of their way to overachieve, setting a high bar for herself and doing everything she can to top it.
She’s not smug or self-righteous about it, either. She’s also not someone who relies on a super soldier serum, bites by a radioactive spider, or a billion-dollar bank account to pursue that ambition. She’s just a very driven young woman who decided at age 5 that she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. From that day forward, she worked hard every day in pursuit of that goal.
Then, the day of her exam to join the interplanetary fleet, something unexpected happens. She’s asked a question that she never could’ve prepared herself for. It’s a simple question, but one people in real and fictional worlds alike struggle to answer.
What makes you happy?
It sounds basic, but it has profound implications, both for Basil and for anyone who has ever thought about it for more than five seconds. In all her ambition, she never stops to contemplate whether this goal she decided when she was five-years-old is what will make her happy.
Yes, it will make her successful.
Yes, it will put her in a position to have a major impact on her world and others.
However, will it make her happy?
That triggers a full-blown crisis in Basil, which Aguirre’s colorful artwork captures beautifully every step of the way. Suddenly, this determined young woman who was so disciplined and certain is now utterly overwhelmed. She doesn’t know what to do with herself and struggles to figure that out. I won’t get into spoilers, but it does lead her down some unexpected paths.
What Visaggio does with “Lost on Planet Earth #1” is remarkable in how it flips the script on an ambitious character’s journey. It’s easy for anyone in a sci-fi fantasy world to look up at the stars and yearn to explore, thrusting themselves into new conflicts. It’s also easy for someone in the real world to envision their future, thinking this is what they want for themselves.
It’s a lot harder to stop for a moment, take a look inside yourself, and ask why you pursue these goals in the first place. Do you genuinely think they’ll make you happy? Is success and achievement really the same as happiness and fulfillment? These are questions some people go their whole lives without contemplating. Many people, especially young people like Basil, aren’t inclined to think that far ahead.
These heady concepts help make “Lost on Planet Earth #1” a unique story within a sci-fi worlds. They’re concepts that are worth exploring in the real world, as well. We can all identify with Basil’s unexpected struggle in this story. In times of crisis when we have more time than usual to think about these things, this book asks some profound questions that are worth answering.
To Magdalene Visaggio and Claudia Aguirre, thank you for making this comic and releasing it during difficult times like this. As a comic fan and just someone in need of a more uplifting story, I really appreciate it.
Another Wednesday morning has come and once again, there are no new comics to wake up to. This is the second week in a row that this tragedy has occurred and it’s not something I want to get used to. The news came down on Monday, so I still had time to brace myself.
It still wasn’t enough.
This is the longest I’ve ever gone without enjoying a new stack of comics since the dark days of waiting by the mailbox on Wednesday afternoons, hoping that my comics weren’t late, which they often were. There were times when stores were closed and entire shipments were delayed, but that was usually because of a blizzard or a severe weather event. Those never lasted this long.
There’s still no timeframe for when New Comic Day will resume, just as there’s no timeframe for when sports will resume. According to the Comixology website, some of my pre-orders and pull lists are set for release on April 15th, but that’s very likely to change. Pretty much every release date is likely to change until the pandemic subsides.
Even for those saying the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, it can’t come fast enough. It’s hard enough going through the first few weeks of April without watching any baseball or going to the movies. Not having new comics to read on a Wednesday morning is just making it worse.
It’s downright disheartening.
That said, I am finding ways to cope that still involve comics. As hard as it is not getting anything new for weeks on end, it has given me an opportunity to catch up on some other books that I haven’t had the time or budget to read. Most of these books are compilations or older graphic novels that I’ve been waiting to buy on sale through Comixology. Thankfully, there have been plenty of those sales lately.
It’s pretty much the only way I can get new comics. While most are books that have been spoiled, expanded, or retconned, they still have value to anyone who appreciates comics. In that sense, I intend to make the most of some of these sales and catch up on some of the books that I’ve had on my wish-list for a good long while.
To those looking for something to fill that lingering void that new comics aren’t filling, here’s a brief list of books you can buy now to help tide you over.
This will end eventually. It just can’t end soon enough. Until then, I’m going to take some extra showers every Wednesday so that I can’t tell how much I’m crying.
I knew it was coming.
I was bracing myself for over a week.
Then, it finally came and it still felt like the Hulk kicking me in the nuts.
The wheels for this were already in motion when major distributors shut down a week earlier. Now, the doomsday scenario is complete. The release dates on Comixology that were scheduled for today have since changed. The only new books coming out are compilations, which are full of comics that were already released, and small digital-only books.
This is a dark day indeed for comic fans like myself. I cannot overstate how painful this is to fans like me, who have made it a habit of waking up at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning to download my pull list for the week. I’d already lost all the sports I loved watching. Now, I’ve lost comics too.
This fucking sucks in ways I cannot hope to articulate. Every time I hope for things with this crisis to get better, it somehow gets worse. There isn’t enough beer and whiskey in the world to help me cope with a situation like this. Instead of a list and a pick, I’m just going to take a moment to mourn this sad, painful occasion with my fellow comic fans.
Fans of sports and movie releases can join in, as well. We’re all pissed off. We’re all miserable and just want this shit to end. However, the end seems so far away.
Usually, I try to end with something hopeful. The best I can do is this.
I love superhero comics. I love romance. Naturally, I love it when they’re combined into a perfect package of super-romantic sentiment. I’ve singled out a few favorites of mine in the past, as well as a few not-so-favorites that act as cautionary tales. Chances are I’ll find plenty more excuses to write about superhero romance in the future.
That said, I’d like to take a step back from the specifics of superhero romance and assess the forest from the trees, so to speak. Instead, I thought I’d highlight something that I’ve been noticing within the pages of some of my favorite comics. It’s not necessarily an egregious flaw, but it is a distressing trend for lovers of romance like myself.
It has to do with how superheroes are portrayed when they’re in romantic relationships. Almost every popular superhero is caught up in a romantic sub-plot. Superman has his ever-iconic love story with Lois Lane. Cyclops and Jean Grey have decades of romance and drama. Spider-Man gets around so much that he has multiple iconic romances.
Not every superhero is defined by their romantic sub-plot, although some are more effected by it than others. It’s hard to tell the story of Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards without involving her husband and children. However, certain characters are held to different standards when it comes to romance.
That’s to be expected, given the diverse circumstances of each hero. Not every hero is going to be affected by their romantic sub-plot in the same way. That effect also changes through different eras. Even the iconic relationship between Superman and Lois Lane has changed a great deal over the years, although not necessarily for the better.
However, this particular era has really twisted the standards for female superheroes in romantic relationships and not in a good way. I won’t go so far as to call it a double standard like the others I’ve cited, but the differences are stark. It goes like this.
A male superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses, he enters a relationship with his romantic interest, and continues being the same hero he’s always been. The relationship supplements his story.
A female superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses and she enters a relationship with her romantic interest, but the relationship conflicts with her ability to be a superhero. It gets to a point where the act of her being a hero is detrimental to the relationship. She can have one or the other, but not both.
These scenarios are somewhat generic, but they convey a similar message. Male superheroes can be in romantic relationships without it undermining their heroic persona, but female superheroes can’t have those relationships without it becoming an obstacle.
This strange, unbalanced dynamic played out recently in the pages of “Wonder Woman #754.” I’d even go so far as to argue that Wonder Woman suffers the most from this dynamic, despite being one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Given that she’s the ideal that other female superheroes are compared to, I think that’s telling.
The main plot of the issue isn’t important. The side-plot is where this dynamic showed up. There were frequent flashbacks that highlighted Diana’s recent “drama” with her long-time romantic interest, Steve Trevor. I put drama in quotes because it feels less like drama and more like forced excuses.
It’s been an issue for Wonder Woman for decades. Despite being her most iconic love interest, going back to the 1940s, Steve Trevor has never been that official with Diana. Even though they’ve professed their love for one another in many forms and in many timelines, they’re rarely ever shown as being in a functional, mature relationship.
It’s not just with Steve Trevor, either. Even in the classic “Justice League” cartoon in which she was romantically linked to Batman, nothing ever became official. There’s was never a point where Wonder Woman went from being single to being in a real, functioning relationship.
In fact, the only time Wonder Woman was ever in a functional romantic relationship was when she dated Superman during DC’s short-lived New 52 era in the comics. During that time, Wonder Woman and Superman had their own comics and their own stories. Sometimes, those stories became entwined. Sometimes, they didn’t. It never undermined their relationship or vice versa.
I know comic fans have strong opinions about the New 52 as a whole, but I find it telling that this was really the only time Wonder Woman was allowed to be in a relationship while still being Wonder Woman. For her to be someone’s girlfriend and still be the hero she’s always been, her significant other had to be Superman.
Take a moment to think about the scope of that standard. Wonder Woman, the standard-bearer for female superheroes for decades, can be in a functional relationship, but only with someone as capable as Superman. She and Steve Trevor can be in love, but they can’t have a relationship. He’s just an ordinary man. He’d just undermine Wonder Woman’s ability to be the ideal female hero we know and love.
Meanwhile, male heroes like Batman and Spider-Man can become romantically involved with far less capable individuals, many of which don’t have superpowers and can’t fly across the planet to be on time for date night. They’re still allowed to be in those relationships, but Wonder Woman can’t even make the effort with one of her most iconic romances with Steve Trevor.
As a fan of superhero comic, romance, and Wonder Woman, I find this both flawed and frustrating. While the “Wonder Woman” movie did an solid job establishing genuine romance between her and Steve Trevor, they still never got a chance to actually be in a relationship. It’s as though a female hero can’t be in a relationship without losing something. At the same time, a male hero can’t have a complete story without one.
It’s a strange disconnect and I think it’s getting worse. In recent years, superhero comics have made a concerted effort to develop female characters and I applaud that effort. It has led to some major successes. The problem is that, like Wonder Woman, these female characters aren’t really allowed to become anyone’s girlfriend. Being in a relationship is seen as an obstacle to being strong, independent, compelling characters.
Respectfully, I call bullshit.
Being in a relationship isn’t detrimental to any character, male or female, if the relationship is well-written. In addition, female characters don’t have to be completely, 100-percent independent to be great. In fact, making them that emotional single-minded is a good way to make them unlikable and unrelatable because, in the real world, people have relationships. They form bonds, rely on others, and are effected by those close ties.
Now, I don’t deny that writing great female characters is challenging, especially in recent years. It feels like you can’t write female characters without having an agenda anymore, even when it’s not printed on a shirt. Again, I call bullshit. Female characters, like all characters, are deeply affected by the loving bonds they form. They deserve the same development and exploration as their male counterparts.
Why can’t Wonder Woman be in an official relationship with Steve Trevor?
Does being Steve Trevor’s girlfriend make Wonder Woman any less a superhero?
Does any female superhero lose something when they become someone’s girlfriend?
These are relevant questions that are worth asking. If someone as iconic as Wonder Woman can’t be in a relationship with someone without undermining what makes her Wonder Woman, then that’s not a problem with her as a character. That’s a problem with the standards and assumptions we have about superhero romance.
I’m sorry if this rant feels dragged out, but this has been bothering me for a while. I’d be happy to discuss it more. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
What do you do when you can’t go out to a movie, hit the gym, watch sports, or hang out at a bar? That’s not a rhetorical question. Seriously, what do you do? It’s a wholly relevant question when you’re living through a global pandemic and happen to be in an area that’s on lock-down. As I write this, pretty much everything is closed except grocery stores, hospitals, and gas stations. It’s scary and more than a little frustrating.
Thankfully, Wednesday morning still brings a brief reprieve in the form of new comics. It’s one of the few things I can still look forward to, although that might not be the case for much longer. I’m already bracing myself for the idea that new comics might be delayed because of this crisis. For a lifelong comic fan, it’s an inconceivably terrifying thought.
For now, though, New Comic Day is proceeding as usual, thanks largely the wonderful folks at Comixology. Seriously, these guys are a big reason why comic fans like myself can still enjoy this weekly batch of awesome that so enriches our lives. I really hope things continue to operate on their end without a hitch. There’s only so long a guy can last without new comics.
As such, my pull list this week is a little bloated. Does this count as panic buying? Yeah, it probably does. No, I’m not going to apologize for it. When every day brings terrible news about a worsening crisis, I think that kind of buying is forgivable. Please keep that in mind as I share my list and my pick of the week.
Stay safe and wash your damn hands!
What does a fair, just, and functional society do with their most deviant citizens? It’s a very relevant question for the real world, as well as the world of superhero comics. Ever since the famed Golden Age of comics, that question has been largely overlooked. Most stories end with the heroes throwing the villains in jail, getting a pat on the back, and telling kids to eat their vegetables. It’s simple, comforting, and frustratingly inane.
Then, a book like “Hellions #1” comes along and decides to stop running from that question. On top of that, it even dares to have fun while trying to answer it. After all, comics should be fun. They can also answer profound questions about the endless pursuit of a better society. It just takes the right kind of story and that’s exactly what writer Zeb Wells and artist Stephen Segovia set up.
The world of mutants and the X-Men have faced massive upheavals since the events of “House of X/Powers of X.” With the founding of Krakoa, mutants aren’t just looking to survive the endless attacks of killer robots, hateful humans, and superhero civil wars. They’re looking to build their own society and establish their own culture. It has been an arduous process that has spanned many books. “Hellions #1” is now part of that effort.
Specifically, it addresses the inescapable question of what to do with the mutants who aren’t necessarily supervillans, but are as mentally unstable as Deadpool in a chimmichanga factory. Many have popped up in various parts of X-Men lore. Most casual fans won’t know who Wild Child, Empath, Scalphunter, Nanny, and Orphan Maker are. However, you don’t need to know who they are to follow the story. You just need to know they’re crazy, violent, chaotic, and they have mutant powers.
While it would be easier for the powers that be on Krakoa to just shut them out of their growing society, that wouldn’t fit with their ideals. They founded Krakoa to help all mutants and not just the ones who look good in yellow spandex. That includes the psychopaths.
Wells and Segovia put together a quirky, but entertaining ensemble of characters together. They feel less like a superhero team and more like a collection of irritable psychopaths who just need something to do to keep them from being too psychotic. Fittingly enough, Mr. Sinister is tasked with doing just that, complete with the blessing of Charles Xavier, Magneto, and the rest of Krakoa’s leadership.
On paper, it sounds like the kind of thing that can only end in unmitigated disaster. In practice, it’s still a messy disaster, but one that can be aimed properly. Under the watchful supervision of Havok and Psylocke, this new team of Hellions is tasked with channeling their psychotic tendencies for good. It’s one of those ideas that sounds so crazy that it has to work.
Wells and Segovia don’t just throw this new team into the nearest conflict involving killer robots or angry aliens. Like many other X-books since “House of X/Powers of X,” there’s a legitimate effort at world-building and depth. There’s motivation, purpose, and vision behind each decision. The fact that psychotic mutants often make for hilariously entertaining moments is just a nice bonus.
It’s an approach that feels distinctly different from what petty, unevolved humans do with their deviants. If the final page of “Hellions #1” is any indication, there will be ample opportunities to test that approach. It’s bound to be chaotic, messy, and mentally unhinged. That’s exactly what makes it so entertaining and my pick of the week.