We all have our things that put us in this special zen-like state. One of my old college friends got into that state by listening to heavy metal music at nearly full volume. I don’t know why that relaxed him as much as it did, but it worked. I’m not sure how good it was for his ears, but I don’t aruge with results.
For me, comics are that special thing that puts me in that special state of serenity. I download all my new books onto my iPad. I put my feet up and then I proceed to partake in the weekly joy that is New Comic Book Day. I challenge anyone to find someone as content and focused.
It’s a great feeling. No matter how my week is going, reading new comics puts me in that special state where everything seems balanced. It’s my shortcut to inner peace and contentment within a world that has been increasingly stressful over the past year.
Since that world doesn’t seem to want to settle, my weekly trips to comic book Zen will be all the more important. Even in the middle of winter, it’s easy to find something from the vast library that is Comixology that will warm your body and soul. This week is no exception.
Here is my pull list and pick for the week. Enjoy!
As a lifelong comic book fan, I like to think I’m easy to shop for on the holidays. Pretty much everyone in my family is aware of just how much I love comics. I also make it a point to send them lists of books I want, where to get them, and which are the least expensive.
They appreciate that a great deal. It also helps that most of the books I ask for are rarely more than twenty bucks. Those on a budget, along with those who are just cheapskates in general, love that my needs are so simple.
It makes the holidays that much more enjoyable. I’m just a simple man with simple tastes. I don’t need big, fancy gifts anymore. I can buy my own game consoles and gadgets. Just get me a stack of comics to read on Wednesday mornings with my coffee and I’m a happy guy.
New Comic Book Day around the holidays only makes me happier. It means I can both enjoy new comics and read them under the light of a Christmas tree. It’s as joyous a feeling as anything that doesn’t involve eggnog, candy canes, and gingerbread cookies. I encourage everyone to enjoy it.
With Christmas less than two weeks away, this is as good a time as any to supplement your comic reading with some festive tidings. To help, here’s my pull list and pick for the week. Enjoy!
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s another entry into my ongoing series, Jack’s Comic Gems. In it, I highlight some of the brightest gems of the comic book world. This entry is “Superman Unchained,” a rare blockbuster of a comic that had the highest production values, but still delivered. Enjoy!
It’s official. We made it through the summer of 2020. In most years, that’s hardly cause for celebration. In fact, around this time last year, I was lamenting over the end of warm bikini-enabling weather. This year is different because this year just objectively sucks for reasons we’re all painfully aware of.
We all have our own way of getting through awful years like this. For me, a weekly dose of new comics has been critical to keeping my broken sprits relatively intact. It’s not just about escapism and distractions, either. Comics are a good reminder that these ideals we still cherish are relevant, even when a pandemic comes so close to breaking us.
In years past, they’ve provided a sense of comfort and reprieve for when school started up. It was still much harder back then because I didn’t have Comixology or day-and-date digital releases. I like to think if I did have it, I would’ve coped better with my circumstances.
However, I don’t want to focus too much on the past or how awful this year has been. Summer may be over, but with another season behind us, we’re that much closer to leaving this awful year behind us. In the meantime, I want to focus on the present and how new comics make it objectively more awesome.
To that end, here is my pull list and picks of the week. Enjoy!
Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.
That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.
Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.
Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.
Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.
Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.
Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.
I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.
Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.
I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.
There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.
The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.
That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.
Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.
I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.
The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.
I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.
This past weekend was a damn good weekend if you’re a fan of all things DC Comics. The festivities surrounding DC FanDome, a showcase of the revamped future of DC Comics, was truly a sight to behold. As someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of DC Comics, and the comics industry in general, this was an incredible experience that gives me some tangible hope.
In a year like 2020, hope is almost as precious as a vaccine. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Now, I want to make one thing clear. I was not among those loudly protesting for the release of this movie. I saw the first “Justice League” movie in theaters. I didn’t hate it, but I could tell that it was not a well-organized movie. While I may not have joined the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, I did hope that we’d get some sort of extended cut at some point, if only because there’s a solid precedent for it.
Solid doesn’t mean good, but in Zack Snyder’s case, I think there’s a context worth considering here. Snyder’s record as a filmmaker is mixed, but the man clearly knows how to think big. For a franchise like DC Comics and Justice League, you need that kind of vision and scale to do justice to these characters. That’s why I thought he was such a good choice to turn DC Comics into a major film franchise.
Snyder approaches movies as a huge, over-arching vision. He’s great at making spectacles. His work on “300” is proof of that. However, Snyder also has a nasty habit of clashing with studios who want to chop his vision up into something people can see in a movie theater without taking one too many bathroom breaks. Oftentimes, that grand vision is difficult to condense into a commercially viable product.
This is especially true of “Watchmen.” Seriously, if you haven’t seen the Ultimate Cut of that movie, I highly recommend it. Even if you hated the theatrical cut, this one is a lot more satisfying, even if it’s over three-and-a-half hours long.
The same goes for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Its extended cut is far more complete and concise than what we saw in theaters. No, it doesn’t make Jessie Eisenberg any less annoying as Lex Luthor, but it is a more competent and complete movie. It’s just longer and more fleshed out.
There’s also an extended version of Zack Snyder’s other film, “Sucker Punch.” Now, I’m not a big fan of that movie and that extended version doesn’t add much, especially compared to “Watchmen.” However, those extra minutes of footage add critical context to the movie that make it work better, as a story. Even if you don’t like how the movie plays out, you can at least appreciate the context.
In every case, it shows that Snyder had a solid vision for these stories. Too much of that vision got left on the cutting room floor. With “Justice League,” we’re not just talking about an extra half-hour of footage. Basically, this version of the movie contains footage that was almost entirely scrapped for the theatrical cut. It’s the same cast and concept, but a very different vision.
It’s also a vision that will have the time and space to be complete. According to Deadline, this cut of the movie will be nearly four hours long, divided into hour-long segments. That’s a hell of a vision and if history is any indication, it’ll be a spectacle worth seeing.
I, for one, will be eager to see the finished product. Snyder has shown in the past that he can tell a damn good story when he has enough time, space, and energy. HBO Max may be a more fitting platform than a standard movie theater. It may also open the door to a bolder vision for DC Comics in the future.
Only time will tell. All I’ll say from here on out is that the Snyder Cut is almost here. Hallelujah!
This year has been objectively terrible, but there’s still time to for it to end feeling slightly less awful. Among the many casualties of this year has been the release of “Wonder Woman 1984.” This movie was supposed to come out back in May. Then, a global pandemic hit and everything wonderful was either cancelled or pushed back.
However, there’s only so much you can do to push back Wonder Woman. Pandemic or not, her wonder is worth fighting for. That includes pushing through with a theatrical release. I don’t care how many masks I have to wear. I don’t care how many times I need to dip my hands in soap and/or hand sanitizer. I’m going to see this movie in a goddamn theater. This final trailer only proves why.
The internet can be a sick, twisted place. Depending on where you go, you’ll lose your lunch, your innocence, or your faith in humanity and not necessarily in that order. However, every once in a while, it gives us something that reminds us just how awesome the world can be.
Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you Henry Cavill assembling a gaming PC in a tank top, set to Barry White music. Trust me, it’s as awesome as it sounds and the rest of the internet agrees. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
In general, I’m a pretty optimistic person. I look at the future with a sense of hope and wonder. That’s why I enjoy writing about futuristic technology. It allows me to speculate on the amazing things that the future may bring us.
Then, a global pandemic hit. After several months of progressively bad news, my optimism is on life support. That’s exactly why I value New Comic Book Day more than ever.
I’ve gone through plenty of tough times in my life. I’ve lived through plenty of tough periods, as well. One of the ways I coped was through my love of comics. Every Wednesday brought both an escape and some much-needed inspiration. It’s what helped me make it through high school and the Bush years.
Now, I’m not sure it’s enough. Don’t get me wrong. I still love waking up early on Wednesday morning, checking into my Comixology account, and reading a stack of new comics with a hot cup of coffee in hand. It’s still one of my most cherished pleasures, especially after the industry got going again.
That said, every day brings awful news that just keeps compounding. This is not a war, a scandal, or even an election. This is a pandemic and it’s getting worse, just as we thought it was starting to get better. It has significantly changed my hopeful outlook on the future, but it hasn’t changed my love of New Comic Book Day.
I hope it’s enough to get me through this dark time. I’m usually confident that it will. Now, I’m not sure. At the very least, I’m ready to take a break from all the awful news and share my pull list and pick. I encourage everyone else to use this as a reprieve, even if it’s brief.
Some take it even further than that. Some will go so far as to claim that superheroes are filling the same roles as gods and deities. It’s not just the ones based on Norse or Greek mythology, either. In many respects, many iconic heroes fit many of the common traits ascribed to gods.
Superman is all-good.
Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet is all-powerful.
Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom, and even Mr. Fantastic are so smart that they might as well be all-knowing to most people.
Such divine, god-like feats make for iconic stories that offer lessons and insights on everything from morality to justice to society, at large. While superheroes aren’t worshiped within organized institutions or granted tax-exempt status by governments, they utilize a similar structure to that of other holy texts.
The narrative surrounding superheroes revolves around good, evil, and the struggles that occur in between. Both the good and the evil in these stories takes the form of some grand, larger-than-life character who embodies these traits and implements them on a level that’s impossible for ordinary people to comprehend. That’s what helps make the message so powerful.
However, it’s the qualities that set superheroes apart from deities that offers the most insights. I would even argue those insights are more critical now than they were before Superman, Batman, or Iron Man ever showed up on a movie screen. At a time when organized religion continues to exert immense influence on society, we should be scrutinizing these discrepancies.
I hope it goes without saying that modern superheroes can only do so much to compare with the deities of organized religion. No matter how much money “Avengers Endgame” made at the box office, it will never exert the same influence that the three main Abrahamic faiths have imparted over the two millennia. For better or for worse, history, politics, and the entire species has been influenced by these religions.
The most notable and obvious difference between them and superheroes is that the deities of religion aren’t presented as entertaining fiction. To the believers of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other religions, the deities and the characters in their holy texts are real. They’re not myths or legends. They’re real people and real forces that have real effects.
Regardless of how true that is, and I know atheists will point out how none of those effects can be verified, this is the critical difference between superheroes and deities. Adherents don’t just believe that these characters are real. They place their trust and faith in them, believing that doing so will guide them in life and protect them in death.
I understood this difference as a kid. I was both a fan of superhero comics and surrounded by relatives who were devout believers. I knew they didn’t see their holy texts the same way I saw Superman comics. Superman was just another character. They knew who created him. They knew he was a licensed fictional character from DC Comics.
However, even back then, I found myself wondering whether those same relatives would see Superman differently if they didn’t know he was a comic book character. I imagine if there were old stories about him from centuries ago, written as though they actually happened, they might be less inclined to discount him as fiction. Some might actually be more inclined to place their faith in him over other deities.
It’s an interesting thought experiment, but it only scratches the surface of what sets superheroes apart from ancient lore. Aside from how real people think these characters are, and some take it much further than others, the standard superhero narrative reveals something striking about the standard religious narrative.
Despite all this power, Superman seeks only to help humanity. He doesn’t ask for praise, worship, payment, or sacrifice. He simply does it because it’s the right thing to do. He’s the ultimate paragon, selfless and compassionate to the utmost. The people of Metropolis, and the world at large, don’t need to have faith in him. They just need to trust that he’ll keep doing the right thing.
These deities, many of which are believed to have created humanity and the world, exercise a certain level of authority over people. It’s not always outright forced, but the nature of the story provides plenty of incentives and/or punishments to those who rebel or subvert that authority. Some become cautionary tales or outright villains.
Some villains are sexier than others.
In this context, the religious narrative builds an over-arching theme that has little room for heroics. These deities and super-powered beings aren’t necessarily there to save the day. They’re there to maintain the order that they helped create. They function as the glue that holds the universe and humanity together. Anyone or anything that goes against it requires recourse from both adherents and divine forces.
We often see this manifest in the real world when religious people argue that things like homosexuality, which is often condemned in holy books, are this bigger threat to the world. That’s why you’ll hear plenty of dogmatic preachers claim that homosexuality won’t just give people distressing thoughts. They’ll say it will destroy society.
Religious dogma, by its nature, depends on a strict adherence to what is the status quo for a particular place, people, and time. Defending it isn’t just seen as an act of piety. It’s akin to a superhero saving the day from evil forces. Whether those evil forces are demons from the underworld or a gay couple who want to get married doesn’t matter. It’s all about preserving a system.
Conversely, superheroes like Superman don’t limit themselves to a status quo. They’re less driven about how things are and more focused on how things could be. Superman doesn’t just want to save the day and help people who need it. He seeks to give people an ideal for them to aspire towards. This is perfectly reflected in his father’s message to him, as read by the late Marlon Brando.
It is now time for you to rejoin your new world and to serve its collective humanity.
Live as one of them, Kal-El
Discover where you strength and your power are needed
Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage
They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be
They only lack the light to show the way
For this reason above all, their capacity for good
I have sent them you, my only son
It’s in this defining message that the superhero narrative distinguishes itself from religious traditions. These superheroes, as powerful as they are, didn’t create us. They don’t hold any inherent dominion over us. They didn’t create the current situation, however flawed it might be. They still seek to help people, carrying out feats that others cannot. That’s what makes them heroes.
One fights to maintain what society is while the other fights for what society could be. These narratives can exist alongside one another and can carry greater meaning for certain people. There are critical lessons in both, but I believe the lessons of Superman are more relevant than anything offered by the stories of religion.
For much of human history, organized religion was part of that social glue that helped keep society stable. For a good deal of that history, society was only as stable as the conditions around it. People hoped and prayed that there wouldn’t be a famine, a storm, or some other catastrophe that they could not control. Survival, even among kings and emperors, was their primary concern.
That’s not to say that the rise of superheroes is directly linked to the ongoing decline of religion, but the contrasting narratives reflect just how much priorities have changed. Superheroes don’t demand faith, sacrifice, and reverence, just to keep things as they are. They go out of their way to save a world that they believe is worth saving, hoping that it can better itself.
They can help, but they can’t do it for us. That’s another trait that Superman demonstrates, much to the chagrin of villains like Lex Luthor. Like deities of old, he doesn’t use his powers to achieve everything for humanity. He seeks to empower them to achieve those feats on their own. That process of aspiring to be greater than is often an affront to a religious narrative, but critical to the themes of superheroes.
Even if superhero movies stop making billions at the box office, the over-arching message will still be relevant. Faith in what is just isn’t as appealing as hope for what can be. The gods of religion offer comfort in familiar order, but superheroes can inspire hope in something better. Given the many flaws in this chaotic world, I believe that hope is more valuable than any ancient doctrine.