Fantastic Four

Comics Events in LA: Week of 1/2/11

You don’t have to sit at home alone reading to get into comic books and graphic novels. There are always great events going on that celebrate the vitality and creativity of comics. Just here in Los Angeles, there are more events I can ever make. But I try, and so should you. You never know what you’ll discover.

Here are some local Los Angeles events coming up that celebrate the sequential art form.

This week:

Tuesday, January 4, 11:30 AM: Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, et al.) will be honored with the 2,428th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (in the category of Motion Pictures) at 7072 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles 90028 (in front of the Live Nation Building). Guest speakers: Gill Champion (President/COO, Pow! Entertainment) and Todd McFarlane (Spawn). Tickets: $0.

Wednesday, January 5: NEW COMICS DAY! Find your local comics specialty shop.

Wednesday, January 5, 8 PM: Comics podcast Bagged & Boarded with SModcastle’s Matt Cohen and Brendan Creecy with special guest TBA has a live show broadcast at SModcastle, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $10.

Wednesday, January 5, 8:30 PM: The Meltdown (weekly comedy show) with stand-up comedians Barry Rothbart, Brett Gelman, Jackie Kashian, Brendon Walsh, and Maria Bamford, at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90046. Tickets: $8.

Saturday, January 8, 8 PM: Battle for the Planet of the Geeks, calling itself “the dorkiest trivia war ever waged”, is being held at SModcastle, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $10 or $40 for 4-person team.

The future: (more…)

So you want to read Spider-Man comics

We’re in the thick of the holiday season. Shopping is probably inevitable for a lot of us. If you or someone you know thinks Spider-Man is pretty cool but is clueless as to what to read first, I’ve put together a great big list as a checklist or reading order guide.

Marvel Comics has been publishing The Amazing Spider-Man since 1963, so being a little overwhelmed about what to get is understandable. Peter Parker (right) is pretty confused by it all too. And he’s lived through it.

So, here’s my Reader’s Guide to Amazing Spider-Man with every graphic novel that’s been published from that comic book series, what’s inside, and in what order you should read it. I’ve also included cover prices and if there are alternate ways to get the stories (soft cover, hard cover, etc.). After the list, I’ve also included a recommended reading list if you’re only interested in the most universally loved material instead of everything. Please feel free to join in the conversation if you have any favorites, questions, corrections or suggestions.

Just a note for those of you Spidey-savvy enough: this list only focuses on the Amazing Spider-Man comics series from 1963 to present, and for the most part does not include spin-offs like Web of Spider-Man or the relaunch series like Ultimate Spider-Man or Marvel Adventures Spider-Man (both of which are great ways to read Spider-Man too but they exist in their own universe apart from Amazing Spider-Man, and as such, they’re pretty streamlined, self-contained and easier to figure out where to start – although if you’re not sure, post a comment or email and I’ll be glad to help out).

I’ve also got similar Reader’s Guides to Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four. And I’ll be posting more here as time allows. Any requests for comic book series to cover?

Copyrights and comics

As a preview to their upcoming Comic Book Comics #5 by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, Evil Twin Comics has posted a 6-page excerpt titled “The Grabbers”. It does an excellent job encapsulating and presenting copyright law and how it has effected the history of comic books. The piece focuses on Superman, so this is a great prequel to that BBC Superman documentary where we see Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster a few years after the events depicted at the end of this comic.

The comic also covers the legal shenanigans involving Bob Kane (Batman co-creator), Bill Finger (Batman, Robin and Joker co-creator), Jerry Robinson (Robin and Joker co-creator), Joe Simon (Captain America co-creator), and Jack Kirby (co-creator of Captain America and half of the rest of the Marvel Comics superhero universe).

What’s amazing (and kind of sad) is that a lot of these legal battles are still being fought.

Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko Omnibuseses on the way

Once again trolling Amazon, I’ve discovered a pair of listings for heavy duty hardcover omnibus collections of work from two seminal comic book artists and creators, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Most of the material hasn’t been available since it was originally published 30-50 years ago, but next Summer we’ll have it again.

Between the two of them, Kirby and Ditko co-created (in some cases, it’s been argued they solely created) and established the core Marvel Comics universe with Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, the original X-Men, and many, many more.

Wait, keep your seat. This isn’t that stuff.

You see, both Kirby and Ditko worked at one time or another for Marvel’s primary competitor, DC Comics, on lesser known comics. This is that stuff.

But despite being lesser known, it’s still worth some excitement. So maybe just attentively lean forward in your seat.

You see, before Jack Kirby returned to Marvel Comics to help create the Fantastic Four, he created what many believe to be the proto-Fantastic Four, a quartet of adventuring explorers called the Challengers of the Unknown. He also worked on a Green Arrow strip, which appears to make up the bulk of The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol. 1, according to the current product description:

In 1957, following the dissolution of his partnership with Joe Simon, Jack Kirby returned to DC Comics. Among his new assignments was the Green Arrow feature that ran simultaneously in ADVENTURE COMICS and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, pitting the Emerald Archer and his sidekick, Speedy, against a plethora of foes.

For Steve Ditko, he left Marvel Comics in the late 1960s after an insurmountable run on The Amazing Spider-Man and trippy Dr. Strange stories, and headed to rival publisher DC Comics where he created characters like the Creeper and the duo Hawk & Dove. The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 listing is scant on details but judging from the cover image above, the book looks to consist of his 8-issue series Shade, the Changing Man from 1977. The character and concepts were significantly revamped for an acclaimed series of the same name by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo in 1990, as part of the newly created Vertigo imprint, along side Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man.

Now you may be wondering to yourself, “What in the world is an omnibus?” And it’s an excellent question. In this instance, it’s not a type of vehicle for transporting a large number of people. Apparently it’s also a publishing term for an anthology or collection of multiple works. The comics world picked it up a few years ago. I think maybe Marvel was the first to use it for an ultra-huge hardcover collection of work that’s usually on the pricy side. It’s like a normal graphic novel on steroids. Now you know!

The League of Big-Heads

While looking at the recently “leaked” picture of Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond for next Summer’s Green Lantern movie, it occurred to me that I find big-headed superheroes and villains kind of hilarious. Their designs, transparently based off Cold War-era radiation paranoia, somehow manage to look both creepy and goofy yet are neither all at once. And they invariably result in some kind of mind-based powers. I don’t know who came up with the idea first, but there’s something weirdly compelling about them.

In tribute, I now assemble The League of Big-Heads. Here now is a collection of characters that have no motivation or legal ability to ever be on the same team except for the superfluous commonality that they all have enlarged craniums.

Naturally, we have to start off with Hector Hammond, since he kicked this whole idea off.