Three Joker’s Thoughts

The Criminal. The Comedian. The Clown.

Bruce. Barbara. Jason.

Three Joker’s meet three heroes.

Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok present us with The Three Jokers nearly 5 years after the concept was first introduced during the Darkseid War storyline in the Justice League book. Teases of it showed up here and there in the Batman books for DC Comics. By moving it to the Black Label line it is not shackled by that continuity of the regular comic books.

If you ask anyone I am not the biggest fan of the Joker. This is a character that is often overexposed to levels usually limited to Batman and Wolverine in today’s comics. Because of that sometimes alternate takes on him do not seem to fit together and want nice neat puzzle. By creating the concept of the Three Jokers, Johns nicely wrote a way out of this particular conundrum.

The art is wonderful. Jason Fabok’s work has been missing for far too long. He had really come into his own during the Darkseid War storyline. Which unfortunately seems like the last time we saw Fabok’s work. Besides depicting the current day story He also depicts scenes from the past most notably some of the more chilling scenes from The Killing Joke and Death in the Family.

This is one of Johns strengths-pulling from DC Comics history as a foundation for new stories. This is not simply a story of Batman versus the Joker. I would say in this first installment it is much more about Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon. Red Hood and Batgirl.

Of all the members of the Bat family they have suffered far worse than anyone else. And the Joker’s desire to make them suffer has little to do with either Jason or Barbara, it is all about hurting the Bat.

The best and probably most disturbing moment of this issue came when the Joker was reliving his beating to death of Jason Todd. Not only did Jason, just a kid then, beg for his life He also said he would do anything if the Joker would spare him.

He said he would be HIS Robin…

And in a way he has. Taking the moniker Red Hood(one of the Joker’s earliest aliases), at times becoming a criminal and then a merciless vigilante breaking Batman’s one rule. You could say that Jason’s change it since coming back from the dead may hurt Bruce even worse than his death.

This is just a first issue. There will be much more to unpack and I’m sure many more twists and turns before we come close to the finish. But it was a very good start.

And one that may even soften my personal stance on the Joker.

That in itself is a huge accomplishment.

Not Your Father’s Legion

6 years. It’s been over six years since we had a Legion series.

It’s been five years since they guest starred in Justice League United.

A long time for a book that has been more or less a constant since the 70s. There had been a couple of pieces of it coming back with appearances Justice League United and Saturn Girl showing up in Doomsday Clock. Truthfully I thought we were going to have to wait until the often delayed Doomsday Clock finished. Things change.

Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook changed all that. On November sixth we saw the first of a new series of the Legion of Superheroes written by Bendis with art by Sook and colors by the fantastic Jordie Bellaire. As far as a creative team you could not ask for much more.

It is early but promising. The Legion is a tough nut to crack. So many characters, so much history. It is hard to know where to start. A chase through the remains of old Gotham is nice. Leading off with Ultra Boy is even better. Some things change, some stay the same.

We got to see some nice throwbacks to Legion history: A reimagined Mordru, a changed Earth(calling back to the destruction of Earth in the five years later era), a new Superboy and a new connection to modern day DC Comics with Aquaman’s trident.

There are several new threads to pull here. Possibilities abound.

Are there concerns as a long time Legion fan?

Of course. We have been burned so many times that we have grown cynical. But there is light in the darkness. Hope.

And at least for me that is what the Legion has always been about.

Marvel Really Wants X-Men to Succeed

(There is a reason I used a Russell Dauterman X-Men piece here…more on that later)

At at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel Comics released few pieces of X-Men news that should have gotten everyone’s attention.

As expected they officially announced X-Men Black. Rather than a new Black Ops team led by Magneto like many speculated about. We will be getting a series of one-shot books featuring the premier X-Men villains. Honestly it feels like Marvel wants to channel DC Comics New 52 villains month.

These books should build anticipation but anticipation for what.

Well we got the answer to that as well. In November, Marvel will be premiering a new Uncanny X-Men book.

Yes you heard that right. The granddaddy of them all, the first mutant book by Marvel Comics is coming back. No creative team has been announced but just the fact that the Uncanny X-Men is returning should be enough to whet the appetites of many fans.

Marvel has tried hard over the last few years to bring the X-Men back to the level they were when Chris Claremont and Jim Lee will working on the title.

From from the Astonishing X-Men to teams such as X-Men Blue, X-Men Gold and the more recent X-Men Red it has been clear that Marvel has not quite managed to hit the right formula.

The creative team for the next Uncanny title has not been announced but I do have speculation.

With Chris Claremont writing the Magneto X-Men Black issues it only makes sense to bring the greatest writer in mutant history back home. There may be other options but this just feels right.

If you have Clermont writing it then who should draw it. Are you bringing back a name from the past or something new.

Well it just so happens that Russell Dauterman, who did an incredible job the last few years on the Thor titles, has been without a book since he finished Jane Foster’s journey as Thor.

Told you there was a reason I chose that picture earlier.

Dauterman would be perhaps the best artist on X-Men since Jim Lee left for Image Comics. His art simply comes alive on the page. So let him bring the X-Men back from the dead.

Make it happen Marvel.

We will be watching.

DC Universe Presents: The Titans

The first day of San Diego Comic-Con and DC Comics has hit the ground running with the first trailer for the new live-action Titans series. This is just the first of a slate of brand new programming for the DC Universe streaming service which it was announced will cost approximately $75 a year.

I thought they did I good job. Raven seeking out Dick Grayson is a nice callback to Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s run on the New Teen Titans in the 80s. That run is still considered one of the all time greats (not just for Titans but for comics period).

Brenton Thwaites makes a believable Dick Grayson-his anger at Batman may have been a little over the top. Raven as portrayed by Teagan Croft seems to have combined several of her previous versions into one. It works for me.

You only see glimpses of the other main characters but at the least they look the part.

It was just enough of a tease to leave me wanting more.

Interview: Ethan Kennett

This week I sat down at Hourglass Brewery in Longwood, Florida to talk to comic creator Ethan Kenneth. Returning to the scene of his comic release party Saturday June 8th.

“The book is called Torlena. I thought I actually created that word.”

As Ethan tells me it is hard to come up with a name because everything you can think of is already taken.

“I come up with this word… Torlena. It’s a woman’s first name.” After doing a little research…”In Hindu it means fractured…it kind of fit what I’m trying to tell.”

Sometimes things fall into place.

This is the story of the man behind Torlena. It starts in a lot of places Megacon 2017, Wheaton College, as a kid having his mom telling him the story of The Incredible Hulk. Like I said in a lot of places. It is a journey as they say.

Drawing since he was a little kid, Ethan just wanted to make comics he didn’t even want to go to Art School. But eventually he did go. He went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts he was so excited but all I want to do is make comics.

“My first drawing class-my teacher was like ‘we have to start you over from the get go, we need life drawing’. That was the last thing I wanted to hear-Dude I want to draw comics.”

By the time he was finished up at Wheaton he was burned out on drawing so he went with his other passion music. He moved down to Florida in 2001 to try to make it as a rock star and he had some success. According to Ethan more people know him as a musician than as an artist right now. I believe that is about to change.

It took a friend practically dragging him to Megacon in 2017 to put that change in motion. (Megacon is Orlando’s premier comic convention. I have spent many a weekend there myself.) Six hours in artist alley changed his path. He met artist Sorah Suhng(who had done covers for Ninjak among other projects) talking to her got the blood flowing. She suggested he speak to Nick Bradshaw then it was Clay Mann and others. Something in the universe touched him. It was time to make some comics.

Fast forward to August 2017. He quit his job, this is going to happen. The next day he was already working on getting his chops back. Looking at anything to do with the art of making comics because that is what he was going to do. By February of 2018 he was starting to work on Torlena, by March he was treating it like a job. Getting trademarks and copyrights and doing all other things we never think about when we pick up the books at our local comic shop.

I met Ethan a new Comic Book Day first Saturday of May. He was drawing in the back of my local comic book store working on Torlena. I talked to him for a few minutes. I already knew I wanted to see the final product. And I was happy for him that he had gotten that ‘zero’ issue published.

Asking about Torlena. The first and second issues are written and he is working on the 3rd. He figures it will go eight issues but then again the zero issue was originally going to be 25 pages and ended up at 28.

Initially he wanted it to be like Spawn and just go on forever. Todd McFarlane is one of his comic heroes after all.

This is the start of something. Hope it is a long, long ride.

Torlena # 0

A team of scientists must save

a little girl before she brings

her bad dreams to life.

You can order Torlena from EthanKennett.com or Torlena.com.

Enjoy.

Coming Home

Life is a journey

Journeys end. Time comes for a man to find his way back home.

Before I sweep the cobwebs away and dust off my trusty typewriter (laptop) I have a story to tell.

I started The Pulp Chronicles in the summer of 2013. I had been doing some freelance sportswriting and I wanted a venue for some of my other writing endevours.

And write I did. I am still proud of the work I produced under this banner. But it was not easy writing here, doing my sportswriting, not to mention my day job that paid the bills. Something had to give, something needed to change.

So in 2015 I had a bright idea. I would create one site to put all my creative pursuits under. No longer would I have to run multiple sites, just distill it down to one with separate sections. OneTrueGeek.com was born. I could see it: Sports Geek, Comic Geek, Writing Geek, etc…

It simply never became what I envisioned. Life got in the way, writing did not come. One True Geek slowly withered away.

Last year some friends and I started a comic news and opinion site ComicBook-Underground.com (come take a look). I was writing again. I was not on my own anymore. A team of writers and editors talking about the things we love.

Still I found myself longing for more. Sometimes you need a place all your own. A place that feels like home.

So I returned to a place I loved. After I unpack a bit I hope to get right back to work. Talking about movies, writing and yes comics. And not just other people’s stories. I have my own to tell. It may take a while. I feel like I am chipping away at a grand canvas but I am sure that it shall be worthwhile.

And the journey begins…again.

Black Panther: We Are All The Same Tribe

black_panther_2018_4k-3840x2400(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

A movie is not always just about one thing. There are layers.
On the surface the Black Panther is an excellent superhero film. Well-acted and direct, with some stunning special effects. They brought the fictional nation of Wakanda to life before our eyes.
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan were perfect as two sides of the same coin. The Black Panther and Killmonger. It was a nice illustration of the sins of the father coming home. But that is not the whole story.
Director Ryan Coogler manages to weave multiple themes into one beautiful tapestry. There are minor missteps. Slight things that as a comic fan stood out to me but the average viewer might not even notice.
They explore some big ideas. And not just the low hanging fruit.
Yes, they explore the treatment of different ethnicities by those that wield power across the planet. Jordan’s character references the plight of slaves taken from Africa during the era of Colonization wanting to die a free man rather than live in a cage.
Beyond that they ask the question: Should those of us that have the means help the rest of the world? Is there a responsibility to care for our neighbors?
Can a world leader simply close their borders and ask everyone else on the planet to fend for themselves?
Yes, there is that temptation. The argument that it is not our problem, that we need to take care of our own house first.
This is a very ‘American’ question. It has come up time and time again and they do a nice job of framing their argument about it.
Ultimately we are all brothers across the world no matter how often we try to blow each other up. Taking care of each other is the only way we can take care of this Earth. Putting aside our own arrogance and selfishness to reach out with basic human compassion can save the world.
We are all the same tribe. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are family.
Time to act like it.

Creators Create

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(Originally published on ComicBook-Underground.com)

Creators create. At least that is how it used to be.
August 28, 2017…Jack Kirby would be 100 on that day. An entire Century old. Yes, I do realize that Kirby did in fact pass away twenty-three years ago. I do not care. He was our King.
In an industry known for creativity and creators. Known for worlds, no universes created out of nothing. He was the King. He was the Alpha and the Omega. He was Jack.
Before this starts sounding like and overdue eulogy for Kirby (I am clearly not qualified for that), let us get to the meat of the matter.
In comics we celebrate creators like no other creative enterprise celebrates them. Jack and Stan, Bob Kane, Bill Finger. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. We celebrate these visionaries who gave us our new world pantheons of gods. They gave us our mythology.
So why are we so more willing to change characters that someone else sculpted out of the ether, than actually create something new for us all?
The new Wally West, Lady Thor, Two Nova’s, Two Blue Beetle’s, Two Hulk’s. Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson have all carried the mantle of Captain America, please don’t get me started with John Walker (US Agent). We even have AzBats coming back. A beloved character will be replaced by an unfamiliar face. Oh there are usually storyline reasons: Thor is unworthy, Captain America got old, Batman had his back broken or let’s kill the hero just for a little while. Other times it is for the sake of diversity, yes I am looking at you Wally West. The fact is the character has changed. Sometimes for a few months, other times for years.
There have been some cases when I have enjoyed these changes. The current Mighty Thor title is excellent. Whether that is because of the novelty of a female Thor or the excellent creative team of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman is up for debate. Other times I find myself biding my time until they ultimately bring the original back. A good friend does not mind these changes. He looks at it as a way to simply refresh the brand. Maybe I am just yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.
Is it that hard to create something new instead. New heroes, new villains. We are in the business of creating are we not. There are roadblocks to be sure. Building an audience is not easy. Lack of ownership of our creations is a reality that needs to change. But the joy of discovering Gambit. Harley Quinn. Or seeing Deadpool for the very first time. That is not something that can be replaced by putting someone else in another characters suit in their mythology.
Let the creators create. Let the next generation dream of building their own worlds.

Discovering the Artist

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An empty page, a single pencil. That is where it starts. Scratching shapes and forms across the blank canvas until an image forms.

Actually that is not where it starts. It always begins inside, working out the details before you actually start the work.

I usually work in pencils. Comic-style art. At times I step back to look at where I came from. Recently I found an old drawing pad filled with my work. It was like stepping back in time.

Two decades actually. 1994. The work was better than I remember. Reminding me that if I had never stepped away from the pencils I might be a much more accomplished artist than I am now. I also saw my influences jump off the page at me. Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Dave Johnson…

That brings me to where I am now. What artists have affected my style(which seems to evolve every day)? What is actually mine versus what have I pilfered from others?

Thinking back to the artists I first loved I started with Mike Grell with his work on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. That is what I thought comics were supposed to look like. That led to Neal Adams on Batman. And then I found Dave Cockrum. Each bringing a realistic but clearly comic work with their own signature style. Then one day I stumbled across Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It looked nothing like the comics I had seen before. It was like the first time I heard Eddie Van Halen play the guitar, Jim Steranko was a breath of fresh air(not that I needed one). Infusing graphic design with the sequential art I had fallen in love with.

These are the men who filled my imagination at a young age. As a young artist I often aped my influences. I would sit there trying to recreate what these masters did day in and day out. For a while I did well. Creating credible art…at least I thought it was.

In walked Jim Lee. Lee was brilliant and extraordinary. His work was on another level from many of the other artists I had seen. Pseudo-realistic, clean and frankly intimidating. Simply watching him draw with ease what would take me hours, days to complete was often discouraging.

I knew that a working comic artist had to finish pages a day not over a few days or a week. I could not imagine ever getting to be that fast. I was still young. Going to college. Going to work. My day of slaving over a drawing pad often consisted of an hour or two if I was lucky. For some reason it did not click that this was a full-time job for those artists. They spent hours a day just working on the art while I spent those hours tending bar. Once that did click my development grew by leaps and bounds.

My tastes changed some too. Once I felt like my work needed to look like my heroes or I was somehow failing. I would try to draw what I saw in my head and it never quite matched up. That is when I decided my style was simply the distance between what I saw in my head and what landed on paper. My inspirations were not confined to realistic, yet stylized artists. There was a broad spectrum. From Mike Wieringo and Huberto Ramos manga inspired work to the gritty look of Cary Nord. From the kinetic lines of Russell Dauterman on the Mighty Thor to the incredibly expressive work of Kevin Maguire and Aaron Kuder. Every month I come across some new artist that brings something new to my table. Things that I pilfer for a time until they too are part of my style.

It is constantly evolving. But now it is clearly mine. Whether drawing a cowboy dinosaur riding a mastodon or a simple sketch of Batman. I have a style of my own.

Time to get back to work.

Batman by Michael Tennant.

Origin of Powers

 

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There is a thrill that runs through you as Superman soars into the sky, much the same as we watch Thor call down lightning from the skies. We love the incredible powers gifted to these heroes(and villains). Beyond what they can do with these gifts there is a deeper question.

Where do these powers come from?

The creators imagine worlds greater than ours. Worlds where greater than human beings can fly, burst into flames, even call the powers of nature their own. With the great powers also comes the origin story. For me that is an important piece of the character. Where the powers come from can help determine the stories you tell.

There was a time when it seemed like every new character was a mutant. It was so simple to just say “oh he’s a mutant” and that explained away everything. During other eras it was the fortunate accident or alien heritage. For me that is lazy storytelling. I imagine a world where there are a myriad ways that characters might develop their powers.

Here are just a few examples:

Alien-Alien/Human Hybrid:

Superman is the first character that comes to mind. Born on another planet gave him his power once he reached ours. Nice and neat. They are an alien eliminates so very many questions. Of course it opens doors into what that alien civilization may be like or what other alien life forms they encountered.

Cultural Hero:

Some cultures have heroes whose powers are handed down from generation to generation. While the person behind the mask may change the name and powers stay the same.

Fortunate Accident:

I say fortunate because lets face it most of the accidents that create superpowers would actually turn out pretty bad for the victim in the real world. In the comics world it does give us characters like Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk. Some things are just better.

Government/Military Experimentation:

Two words. Captain America. One more. Deathstroke. It is not much of a stretch to imagine this worlds military organizations experimenting on its own soldiers(not to mention enemy combatants). The added bonus is you have characters already trained for battle.

Magic:

Sometimes it is a magic user, other times magical power is bestowed on a chosen one. From John Constantine to DC’s Captain Marvel to Doctor’s Fate & Strange right on to Zantana magic spells abound.

Mutation:

The X-Men do not have a monopoly on mutation. While most are familiar with mutants through Marvels various X-books there are other examples. Not quite born with powers, more born with the potential. With mutants it usually takes place around puberty. The Inhumans for example go through a right of passage which exposes them to the Terrigan Mists which activate an individuals powers.

Otherworldly Artifacts:

From the Quantum Bands to the Blue Beetle Scarab to one of the many-colored power rings objects often transfer their power to the wielder. Whether they are alien, ancient or magic based simple objects often hide great power.

Technology:

Sometimes it takes a super-genius. Tony Stark built his Iron Man-armour to fight his battles. He is not alone. Whether it is an incredible suit or a ship or even simple gadgets characters have used science for decades to help in the fight against crime. Or even just to commit crimes. Depends on where your morality lies.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. How these powers came about is just the start. That is when you start asking questions.

There should always be questions.