Over the course of my life, my love of comics has evolved a great deal. Some of that was just due to pure logistics. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wake up on Wednesday mornings and just dive into my pull list. I had to wait until my comics arrived in the mail and even then, they didn’t always come on time. It wasn’t unusual for a comic that was supposed to come out on Wednesday to not arrive until Saturday.
I don’t miss those days. I don’t know a single comic fan who does.
Then, I lived near a comic shop for a while. That allowed me to keep up better. I would often schedule my day, be it work or class, around when I’d get to a comic shop and how much money I would be able to spend. That was often the most exciting part of my day. Sometimes, it was a distraction. I remember many classes and work days in which I was not fully focused. I was too eager to see what happened with my favorite comics.
Now, thanks to digital comics and Comixology, my love of comics feels like it has achieved its final form. I no longer have to leave my house. I don’t even have to put on clothes. I just wake up, grab my iPad, and download my latest round of books. I don’t even have to leave my bed. It’s a damn good feeling and it has allowed me to really embrace everything comics have to offer.
I’m no longer bound by what a shop has in stock or by which series offer subscriptions. Thanks to digital comics and New Comic Book Day, entire worlds are literally at my fingertips. Over the past couple of years, I’ve only come to appreciate this access even more. It makes every Wednesday morning a true joy and being able to read comics under the light of my Christmas tree just makes it even better.
I say all this to just acknowledge how much digital comics have improved my life as a comic fan and I am deeply thankful for that. Those who never had to live with the agony of waiting for comics in the mail will never know the same rigors I once endured and I would never wish that upon them. We should still be thankful, so please keep that in mind as I share my pull list and pick of the week. Enjoy!
I’ve been reading comics for most of my life. In that time, I’ve seen many major upheavals and big events. A few of them even made mainstream news. I still remember how big it was when the Death of Superman first came out. That event made for some big headlines and its effect on the comic book industry is still felt today.
At the same time, reading comics for so long has given me a knack for sensing when an event will make mainstream news. It has also helped me get a feel for the kind of reaction it’ll get from those who don’t follow comics that closely. As a result, their reaction tends to be somewhat misguided.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about Superman coming out as bisexual, a big reveal that made national headlines earlier this week. When I saw this, I was temped to post my immediate reaction. However, I held off because I suspected the oncoming storm of outrage would obscure any sentiment or point I made.
Sadly, it didn’t take long for some of that outrage to take hold.
Plenty of reactionaries whined about it for plenty of non-surprising reasons, ranging from your traditional anti-LGBTQ whining from religious zealots to people who just whine about comics becoming “political.” I put “political” in quotes because by political, it usually denotes “politics I don’t like.” It’s still just whining at the end of the day.
For me, personally, I’m all for this. I love that DC Comics is doing this with one of their characters. It’s something that I think fits the spirit and principles of Superman. He is someone who has love, compassion, and understanding for all. He saves men, women, and everything in between. His capacity for connecting with others knows no gender or preference. That’s what makes him Superman.
That being said, there is some important context to add to this. If you just read the mainstream headlines, you might get the wrong idea. For the most balanced take, I recommend the following NPR piece. It nicely sums up what’s going on here.
Yep: Superman, Champion of the Oppressed, the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, the Last Son of Krypton, the Big Blue Boy Scout, Mr. Not-A-Bird-Nor-A-Plane Himself.
Queer. All of a sudden.
And at 83 years old, no less! Bless his heart.
But that’s not what’s happening here. Comics being comics, the truth is a lot more granular.
We’re not talking about the classic, original-recipe Clark Kent/Kal-El Superman that’s been around since the June 1938 issue of Action Comics #1 first hit the stands. It’s not the Superman who’s infiltrated the global zeitgeist to become a part of our collective consciousness via comics, serials, radio, television, film, toys, roller coasters and the bedsheets I got for Christmas 1979.
No, it’s his son, Jonathan Kent. Whose precise backstory in the comics has been so ruthlessly pummeled by a series of reboots, retcons, space missions, time-travel and rapid aging as to render it so incomprehensible that it sends even diehards like me scurrying to the nearest wiki.
He’s slated to come out as bisexual in the pages of Superman: Son of Kal-El #5, written by Tom Taylor with art by John Timms, which will published on November 9th. Jonathan and his male friend Jay, introduced earlier in the series, will share a kiss.
I hope that clears things up. You don’t need to know all the complex continuity behind the details. You just need to know the basics.
In short, the Superman who came out as bisexual isn’t the primary Superman we’ve known since Action Comics #1. It’s Superman and Lois Lane’s son, Jon Kent. He’s actually a relatively new character, having debuted in 2015 just before DC’s Rebirth event. In that time, he’s grown and developed a lot, becoming one of the best Superman offspring characters we’ve seen in years.
He’s certainly grown on me in that time. This latest twist to his story only makes me love him more. I also encourage everyone curious about Jon Kent to read about him. If you need a starting point, I highly suggest a series called Super Sons. That firmly established Jon as someone who could wear his cape proudly.
In addition, it gives Jon something that further sets him apart from his father. Clark Kent will always be Superman, but that’s a title that need not be restricted to one man. Plenty of other characters have gone by that title and not all of them are directly related to Clark like Jon is. The title and the values behind it have always mattered more than the person.
Clark Kent understands that.
Jon Kent understands that.
The longtime fans of Superman also understand that.
Everyone who wields that cape protects, defends, and champions the values behind that name. Truth, justice, and the American way need not be the exclusive domain of a straight white man from Smallville. Someone like Jon Kent can also fight for them, but doing so doesn’t require that he be exactly like his father.
He can still be his own person and part of that persona just happens to involve bisexuality. That doesn’t at all detract from his ability to fight for those same values. It doesn’t change the importance of those values, either. At the end of the day, what matters most is that he fights for them with the same spirit and passion as his father.
That’s what makes him Superman.
It doesn’t matter whether or not he’s bisexual. He’s still Superman and one worth celebrating.
We all need an escape every now and then. Sometimes, the world is just such a mess that we need to take a step back, close our eyes, and pretend we’re not in the middle of an unfolding shit storm. Needless to say, we needed a lot of escapes last year for obvious reasons.
For me, personally, I needed a lot of escapes when I was younger. As I’ve noted before, I was a pretty miserable teenager. I had a lot of issues and whenever I needed an escape, comics were there for me. In my house, the TV wasn’t always available and we didn’t have smartphones yet. Sometimes, the best thing I could do for myself is just dig into my comic collection and forget about the world.
Flash forward a couple decades and things have gotten even easier, at least with respect to diving into comics. Thanks to Comixology, I can access my vast collection of comics through my smartphone and tablet. I don’t have to go digging through any boxes. I just have to have an internet connection. On Wednesdays, it’s even more satisfying with a new batch of comics to choose from.
After this past week, anyone who has followed the news in any capacity probably needs an escape. The world is in an objectively awful place right now and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. It’s a depressing thought, I know. That’s why we should all make the most of New Comic Book Day. It’s a temporary escape, but one I think we all need.
To that end, here is my pull list and pick for the week. I hope it helps you escape the awfulness of this world, if only briefly. Enjoy!
You don’t have to be a lifelong fan of superheroes to know the role that secret identities play in their over-arching narrative. It’s one of those story elements that often goes hand-in-hand with a hero’s journey. Part of becoming a hero involves forging an identity and, more often than not, this identity can’t function alongside the one they start with.
It’s a story that has roots in the early days of modern superhero comics. It wasn’t just a common plot point. It was practically a given. It was as necessary as capes, colorful costumes, and punishing masked criminals.
From a practical standpoint, having a secret identity has some legitimate merit. There are things Bruce Wayne can do as Batman that he cannot do and vice versa. The same goes for Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and many other iconic heroes. In “Batman Begins,” Bruce Wayne set the stage for his secret identity by crafting Batman as a symbol, one that conveyed an idea that went beyond the person in the costume.
In recalling that scene, I think that idea was more prophetic than Christopher Nolan initially intended. When I look at how secret identities have come to define many characters, I believe they’re more important today than they have been in any other era.
I don’t just say that as a long-time fan of superhero comics who has used his knowledge of the genre to exploreserious issues. I believe that we, as a society, are entering uncharted territory when it comes to how we manage our identities. The influence of the internet, social media, and an increasingly connected world is more powerful than any fictional hero. It’s already finding its way into superhero media.
Over the past decade, the value and vulnerabilities of secret identities have been under fire. One of the most jarring moments of the original “Iron Man” movie was the very end when Tony Stark didn’t attempt to hide the fact he was Iron Man. For those not familiar with the comics, it might not have seemed like a big issue. Trust me, it was a major shift.
While Tony Stark debuted as Iron Man in 1963, his identity didn’t become public until the early 2000s. That’s nearly four decades of him operating with a secret identity. In the context of his journey, this was not a trivial decision.
There’s even a notable episode of “Superman: The Animated Series” in which Superman flat out admits that he’d go crazy if he couldn’t be Clark Kent. Think about that for a second. Superman, one of the most powerful and iconic superheroes of all time, admits that can’t handle a life without a secret identity. This is someone who can handle Lex Luthor, Darksied, and Brainiac. If he can’t handle it, then what hope do we have?
That question might not have been too relevant 20 years ago. Before the age of smartphones, broadband internet, and social media, a superhero might have been able to get away with having their identity exposed. You could say the same for anyone who happened to have a dirty secret or a double life. Whether it was an affair or a secret hobby, you didn’t have to work that hard to keep it secret.
Back then, not everyone had a fully-functional camera in their pocket or a means of sharing their media on a mass scale. Even if someone did manage to take a compromising picture or video, it wouldn’t be a huge revelation unless it was published by a major news source and even then there was no guarantee it would have staying power, especially if other major stories broke at the same time.
Now, anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can capture compromising footage of anyone and share it with the world in seconds. In the world of superheroes, it makes keeping an identity harder than ever. Spider-Man found that out the hard way at the end of “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Ordinary people and major celebrities are finding that out as well in the real world.
The internet and social media has created an unusual, yet potent system that skews the dynamics of having an identity, secret or otherwise. On one hand, it’s easier than ever to create an anonymous persona on the internet. With that persona, people are unbound by the propriety of real-world interaction.
In this hyper-connected world, every word and every action is permanently archived and subject to greater scrutiny. Every mistake or misstep is amplified and blown out of proportion. Every bit of subtext and nuance is completely lost in the various biases and agendas of the public. In essence, public figures have little to no control of their identity. They are very much at the mercy of how others perceive them.
That kind of scrutiny can have benefits and drawbacks. You could argue that the added scrutiny of social media has held celebrities and people of influence to a higher standard. They can no longer operate in the shadows with impunity. Dirty secrets will come out. Bad behavior will be documented. The O.J. Simpsons and Bill Cosbys of yesteryear could not get away with their deplorable behavior in today’s environment.
That may be a good thing on some levels, but it comes at a cost and not just for those who have had their lives ruined by the internet. In a world where anonymous identities are easily created and valued identities are easily ruined, how can anyone hope to maintain a balanced perspective? Whether you’re an accomplished celebrity or just some random blogger, don’t you still need a persona that feels true?
For people who are stuck in difficult situations, such as those belonging to racial, religious, or LGBTQ minorities, having that secret identity might be the only one that feels true or genuine. If that gets exposed, then those individuals could be in legitimate danger. There are parts of the world who will punish these individuals in ways far more serious than online trolling.
In the past, these kinds of people didn’t have an outlet or a means of connecting with others who share their struggles. They either had to organize in secret or set up their own communities, which often meant making themselves real-life targets. The ability to create an identity, secret or otherwise, can be a powerful mechanism for helping people forge an identity that feels true to who they are.
To some extent, superheroes embody the importance of these identities. They can’t do what they do without them. They can’t remain connected to the people and the world they’re trying to protect if they’re always in costume, trying to maintain this persona they’ve created. Without it, they become disconnected and overwhelmed. As a result, they can’t be the heroes they need to be.
For people in the real world, having these identities is more important than ever. You don’t have to be a superhero to appreciate their value, but as our world becomes more connected, it’s become a lot easier to understand why Spider-Man and Batman work so hard to preserve their secret identities.
The fact they still struggle, despite having super-powers and billions of dollars, is a testament to just how difficult it can be. As the world becomes increasingly connected and increasingly tribal, it’s only going to get harder.
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is a brief exploration of one of the greatest fictional villains of all time, Lex Luthor. There has been an ongoing trend in recent year to develop more complex villains with equally complex motivations. However, there’s still room for the kind of old school, pure evil villain and nobody epitomizes that more than Lex Luthor. Hopefully, this video gives everyone a new appreciation of that. Enjoy!
It’s New Comic Book Day and it’s the middle of summer. I may not be in school anymore, but that doesn’t make me any less fond of this time of year. As a kid, the middle of summer was a magical time. Being out of school and having plenty of time to just lounge about and read comics made for some of the most enjoyable times of the year. While it sucked that I often had to wait for the mail to get my comics, I always found ways to enjoy myself.
These days, I may not enjoy the same summer break I got while I was in school, but being able to enjoy New Comic Book Day at the crack of dawn every week definitely makes up for. As I write this, the morning is clear and crisp. The sky is clear and the sun is rising. All I need to make it better is a cup of coffee and an iPad loaded with new comics, courtesy of Comixology.
It’s one of the best parts of my week. Being able to enjoy it on a nice summer morning, knowing the pools are open and I can lounge about in my underwear, just makes it even better. I can only imagine how my summers would’ve been growing up if I could access new comics like this. I might very well have overdosed on joy.
I hope kids and comic fans alike appreciate how great it is enjoy comics these days. It has never been easier and cheaper to get into. It being the middle of summer only makes New Comic Book Day that much sweeter. If you’re still new to it, I assure you that it gets better. Here is my pull list and pick of the week to help in that process. Enjoy!
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s another thought experiment about superheroes and what makes them effective. It was an extension of sorts of an article I wrote years ago on how to be an effective superhero. However, this video is a bit more open ended in that it takes a big picture approach to heroics. To all that check it out, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy!
I don’t claim to know more than your typical comic book fan. Hell, I don’t claim to know more than any average person with an internet connection. I just know what I like, what makes me happy, and how I prefer to go about life. Reading new comics on Wednesday mornings is just one of those things I know will make every week feel complete and fulfilled.
It also helps that this is the time of year when many major publishers are gearing up for their big summer events. Around this time last year, evens like “X Of Swords” was just starting and, given the circumstances of last year, it really helped boost my spirits.
Now, some fans see these summer events as gimmicks. In many cases, that’s exactly what they are. They’re the big budget blockbuster movies meant to cause a lot of noise and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still fun. They’re still enjoyable. Some may see them as a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt in enjoying these events, nor should you.
These are exciting times for the world of comics. As the real world nears the end of the pandemic that upended so many lives last year, now is as good a time as any to dive head-first into big, fun mindless spectacles. If you want, it can start to today. Here’s my pull list and pick to guide you. Enjoy!
Whenever there’s an alternate version of an iconic character, writers often try to give them their own unique twist. Most of the time, it’s distinct, but still subtle. They try not to veer too far from the established canon of the character. Unless they’re writing weird fan fiction, writers stick to whatever is most prominent version of the character within the cultural zeitgeist.
However, Grant Morrison is not like most writers.
He doesn’t follow along with the cultural zeitgeist. Instead, he reverses it. When he writes iconic characters, he reshapes and reimagines them in big ways. All the cultural zeitgeist can do is try and keep up.
These stories didn’t simply tell new stories with DC Comics’ most iconic characters. They channeled every element from every era to mold a unique narrative. That’s difficult enough for Superman, given his 80-year history. With Wonder Woman, the challenge is even greater.
Before I get too heavy into spoiler territory, I’ll just say this. Morrison successfully rose to the challenge when reimagining Wonder Woman in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He succeeds even more in completing that story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.”
It’s challenging because most Wonder Woman fans, including older fans more familiar with her lengthy history, know her mostly as a proud warrior woman. They think Wonder Woman and they see Lynda Carter in the classic 70s show, Gal Gadot in the recent movies, and even the animated version in “Justice League Unlimited” that was voiced by Susan Eisenberg.
These are all great versions of this iconic character. That warrior spirit that makes her one of the fiercest fighters in the DC Universe is a major part of her persona. However, there are other aspects of that persona that have been either retconned or ignored. Morrison makes it a point to embrace those aspects in “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
Yes, that does include some of the kinkier aspects of Wonder Woman’s origins, which I’ve highlighted before. Namely, it embraces some of the BDSM elements that were woven into the early lore of Wonder Woman by her creator, William Marston.
However, it would be wrong, shallow, and short-sighted to call this aspect of Wonder Woman’s character too crude for modern tastes. These elements aren’t just for sex appeal and titillation. They reflect an important element to Wonder Woman’s philosophy, as defined by Marston.
To use power to dominate over others is inherently cruel and repressive.
To willingly submit with love and compassion is the truth path to peace and justice.
This is the core philosophy that Grant Morrison spends the first two volumes of “Wonder Woman: Earth One” exploring. That philosophy faces its ultimate test in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3.” I’ll spoil another detail here. It passes with flying colors and in a way that makes for a satisfying conclusion to such a uniquely wonderful story.
The story isn’t just about Wonder Woman facing the worst elements of domination at the hands of arrogant men and powerful gods. It’s about how this unique philosophy ultimately wins.
Now, contrary to what a bunch of whiny trolls may say, this effort is not about “smashing the patriarchy.” Seriously, don’t give these trolls any attention. They’ll say that about any comic that doesn’t cater exclusively to their narrow tastes, which usually involve Wonder Woman being a glorified warrior/stripper.
The story in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” is more ambitious. It also has an unusual structure, although not too unusual for Morrison. His writing style often takes advantage of different time periods, using future events to give context to the past. It’s what he did in the first volume of “Wonder Woman: Earth One.” He uses it again, but to tell a very different story.
In the past, Wonder Woman is still sharing her philosophy with man’s world. She continues her fight against what she sees as an endless cycle of domination by the powerful. To her, it’s no different than how the old Greek Gods attempted to dominate the Amazons. It just leads to more conflict and suffering for men and women alike.
This ideology of power domination isn’t exclusive to men, either. Early in the story, it’s established there are women who still fall into this trap, namely Artemis. She doesn’t care for Wonder Woman’s more compassionate approach to dealing with men. She sees them as extensions of Hercules, the man who once brutalized her sisters.
It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the more radical elements of feminism that tend to espouse the same hatred as their anti-feminist counterparts. It’s ironic, but one that Wonder Woman confronts with a unique blend of love, understanding, and warrior spirit.
That’s a potent, but critical combination. It’s very much in line with the persona that William Marston created for her in the early years of her story. While she is certainly capable of fighting with the tenacity of an Amazon warrior, she doesn’t approach conflict the same way as her male counterparts.
For her, fighting isn’t about dominating or subduing an opponent. It’s a way of countering and subsequently tempering their misguided passions. Whether it’s Artemis or Ares, she doesn’t win the battle by knocking them out. She wins it by convincing them to willingly submit. When they do, she embraces them with love and compassion.
This works well for Artemis, but the men outside her homeland are a lot harder to persuade. In both the past and the future, we see male characters trying to cling to or re-establish the domination that they once enjoyed.
In the past, it’s Ares trying to continue his war machine with help from the American military. In the future, it’s a member of an extremist faction of angry men who long for the days when they could dominate women. Given the atrocities committed by angry, misguided men in the real world, this struggle is more relevant now than ever before.
I won’t spoil all the details of how that conflict is confronted and resolved. Those simply looking for Wonder Woman to fight her way through the conflict are only going to get half of what they seek. There is plenty of fighting, courtesy of Ares, but the way those fights end don’t follow the same script as your standard superhero slugfest.
There’s always a larger conversation at play.
There’s always an effort by Wonder Woman and those who support her to confront these misguided passions.
It’s never with force, contempt, or scorn. They all listen with compassion, even to those who spew hate. They let angry men and angry gods voice their grievances, even while fighting back. However, they always counter with love. They understand that you can’t counter anger with more anger or hate with more hate.
Again, that’s a very relevant principle. Anyone who has visited 4chan or a Reddit comments thread understands that.
There’s also a larger story about this world’s version of Steve Trevor. He may not look like Chris Pine from the “Wonder Woman” movie, but the role he plays is just as critical. What he does and what he chooses is instrumental in helping Wonder Woman win the day.
Again, winning in this world doesn’t mean blowing up the bad guys or their weapons. It means winning the argument about which philosophy is more just. More than anything else, “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” makes the case that a philosophy of loving submission is more palatable than one of angry domination.
Morrison even refines some of Marston ideas from the early Wonder Woman comics. In this world, it’s not men or masculinity that’s the problem. It’s the domineering ideology they’ve embraced and relied on for so long. Letting it go isn’t easy, but convincing men to do so cannot be done with force. That realization must come from within.
In many respects, the philosophy in “Wonder Woman Earth One: Volume 3” transcends gender. Whether you’re a warrior woman or just some normal man with a family, there’s something to be gained by these insights. Loving submission offers something that angry domination does not. Embracing it comes with sacrifices, but Wonder Woman demonstrates that they’re worth making.
It makes for a powerful combination to a power story. Morrison really makes the extra effort to flesh out these ideas that Marston first established while artist, Yanick Paquette, crafts a beautifully colorful world that does justice to all its wonders.
It’ll challenge you perceptions while providing plenty of classic Wonder Woman type entertainment. It’ll also present a different kind of Wonder Woman, one that embraces both her modern iterations and the those of her past. The end result is a true wonder that does justice to this iconic character in a very unique way. If, by the end, you aren’t willing to submit to the loving authority of Wonder Woman, then you’re missing the point.
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a video I never thought I’d get to make. In it, I review Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” a movie that legions of fans, as well as the cast, fought for. I didn’t think it would succeed, but after years of advocacy, it came out on HBO Max. I made it a point to build my Saturday night around watching it and I’m glad I did. Watch this video to see why. Enjoy!