Author Archives: miloprometheus

Christmas Carolz IV

Well, it’s Christmastime again, and with Christmas comes my annual playlist of X-Mas choons. 4 years in a row! Check out the previous three:

2010

2009

2008

Hopefully this list will remind you of some old favorites, introduce you to some new ones and provide some mirth and cheer this holiday season. Thank you, and enjoy.

Matte Badde – “Black Friday Medley: The Christmas Song/White Christmas”

Cocteau Twins – “Frosty The Snowman”

Weezer – “Christmas Celebration”

The Killers – “Joseph, Better You Than Me”

The Pogues & Kirsty McColl – “Fairytale Of New York”

Belle & Sebastian – “Are You Coming Over For Christmas?”

Kate Bush – “December Will Be Magic Again”

Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)”

Gruff Rhys – “Post Apocalypse Christmas”

Erasure – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

Flaming Lips & The Plastic Ono Band – “Atlas Eets Christmas”

Morning Musume, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy & Pluto – “Morning Musume Christmas Medley 2000″

See you back here this time next year for Christmas Carolz V!

G.

Comics In The Classroom: Grand View University

By Greg Goode

Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, appears on Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century list.  In 2009, The New York Times began publishing a graphic novel bestseller list.  The same year, Heath Ledger wins an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, Batman’s arch-enemy, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The comic book, long considered a disposable object exclusively for children, is finally getting some respect. Further validation for the art form can be found on college campuses, where graphic novels are becoming an increasingly common part of the curriculum, including at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Matt Plowman, Grand View’s associate professor of history, first experienced comics in the classroom at another institution as part of a critical thinking class on the Holocaust. Plowman said one of the most powerful texts the class read was Maus by Art Spigelman, a graphic novel about Spigelman’s father’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

“I’ve seen [graphic novels] used very effectively, and communicate things that just weren’t alive on the page of a history book,” Plowman said. “Literally, it’s graphing reality for them, picturing reality and playing with it.”

Later this semester in his European Cultural & Intellectual History class, Plowman will be using V For Vendetta by Moore and David Lloyd, a graphic novel about an anarchist’s war against authority in a near-future totalitarian England.

“With European intellectual history, you kind of have to show where society’s moving,” Plowman said. “So I was looking for something that was late 20th century, and particularly with where a lot of European thinkers were going, there’s a lot of dystopia. And the graphic novels tend to be on the edge of that.”

Plowman said he picked V For Vendetta partly because of the students familiarity with the story from its 2006 film adaptation.

“I wanted them to be able to see the original intent of Alan Moore and what he’s really trying to say about society,” Plowman said. “Sometimes it’s easier for some students, rather than trying to find a movie that has a traditional novel, where they have to do more literary criticism. Especially for the visual learners.”

Kevin Gannon, professor of history at Grand View, said he’s always been intrigued by the use of graphic novels in class. Two years ago, Gannon took part in a summer reading program for the Grand View freshman class that used Gene Luen Yung’s graphic novel American Born Chinese.

“I had never taught with that before and in my discipline, it’s not very common. We use pretty standard vanilla textbooks. I was intrigued with the idea,” Gannon said. “I was a bit intimidated by the idea, too, because I had no idea how to teach it. What I learned is that it’s just like any other text.”

This semester, Gannon is assigning A People’s History of American Empire, a graphic novel that adapts writings by radical historian Howard Zinn. Gannon said students have responded to the text enthusiastically.

“For me personally, a graphic novel fits right in with the way I structure my courses and what I want students to be able to do with the texts that we read,” Gannon said.

Other Grand View instructors utilizing comics include Ken Jones, who assigned the zombie apocalypse story The Walking Dead in his Introduction to Ethics class this semester and Jim Whyte, who has given students the task of creating their own comics in his Principles of Management class.

Gannon said he sees the use of graphic novels in his class as a way of expanding his students’ ideas of what materials can be used in the classroom environment.

“I ask my students to be open-minded and look at different things as text, not just the standard printed page,” Gannon said. “If I’m going to ask my students to look at a text in that way, I should be willing to do the same myself.  And that’s where graphic novels help stretch me as a teacher.”

70 Aspects of Batman: 34

JOHN ROMITA JR.

From Wikipedia:

John Salvatore Romita, Jr. (born August 17, 1956) is an American comic book artist best known for his extensive work for Marvel Comics from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Romita was born in New York City, the son of John Romita, Sr., co-creator of several notable Spider-Man stories in the 1960s and 1970s.

He began his career at Marvel UK, doing sketches for covers of reprints. His American debut was with a six page story entitled “Chaos at the Coffee Bean!” in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11 (1977).

Romita’s early popularity began with his run on Iron Man with writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton which began in 1978. In the early 1980s, he had his first regular run on the Amazing Spider-Man series and also was the artist for the launch of the Dazzler series. Working with writer Roger Stern on Amazing Spider-Man, he co created the character Hobgoblin. From 1983 to 1986 he had a run on the popular Uncanny X-Men with Dan Green and author Chris Claremont which was well-received. He would return for a second well-received run on Uncanny X-Men in 1993.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Romita enjoyed an extended stint on Daredevil with writer Ann Nocenti and Eisner Award-winning inker Al Williamson, noted for its creation of long-running Daredevil nemesis Typhoid Mary. His work on Daredevil was well-received, with Romita Jr. further refining his style.

Romita later collaborated with Frank Miller on a Daredevil origin story entitled Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, a revisiting of the character’s origin. He worked on a host of Marvel titles during the 1990s, including The Punisher War Zone, the Hulk, the Cable mini-series, The Mighty Thor, a return to Iron Man for the second Armor Wars written by John Byrne, and the Punisher/Batman cross-over. Klaus Janson was a frequent inker.

In the 2000s, Romita had a well-received return to The Amazing Spider-Man with writer J. Michael Straczynski. He drew Marvel’s Wolverine with author Mark Millar as part of the character’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration. In 2004, Romita’s creator-owned project The Gray Area was published by Image Comics. Romita’s art has since appeared in Black Panther, The Sentry and Ultimate Vision, a backup story featured in the Ultimate line, written by author Mark Millar.

In 2006, Romita collaborated with writer Neil Gaiman on the reinterpretation of Jack Kirby‘s The Eternals in the form of a seven-issue limited series. Romita worked with Greg Pak on the five issue main comic of Marvel’s 2007 crossover event, World War Hulk.

In 2008, Romita again returned to Amazing Spider-Man. He is also collaborating once more with Mark Millar, for a creator-owned series, Kick-Ass, published by Marvel’s Icon imprint. The Filming of the Movie: Kick-Ass, began in September 2008. Romita, one of the producers, made his directorial debut by directing an animated flashback sequence in the film.

Romita is the regular artist for Avengers, which relaunched the franchise in May 2010.

John Romita Jr. may be the best pure superhero artist working in comics today. Over the course of his over 30 year career he has worked almost exclusively for Marvel Comics, so any images of characters from other companies by him. Fortunately, in the mid-90s before Marvel and DC became parts of huge conglomerates and were still open to crossovers, Romita Jr. drew a Batman/Punisher one-shot. For a reader used to Romita’s work only appearing in Marvel comics, seeing the denizens of Gotham City drawn in his style creates a certain cognitive dissonance…but once the brain adjusts, it’s a great visual experience. To date, apart from a sketch or two, Romita Jr. hasn’t drawn Batman since, which is a shame as his style has become more stripped down and direct as time’s gone on…kind of like this sketch below, done years after the one-shot:

I love this sequence from Batman/Punisher…it’s a well drawn sequence that flows and says a lot about the characters portrayed in it:

G.

70 Aspects of Batman: 33

WALT SIMONSON


From Wikipedia:

Walter “Walt” Simonson (born September 2, 1946) is an American comic book writer and artist.

Simonson’s breakthrough illustration job was Manhunter, a backup feature in DC’s Detective Comics written by Archie Goodwin. In a 2000 interview, Simonson recalled that “What Manhunter did was to establish me professionally. Before Manhunter, I was one more guy doing comics; after Manhunter, people in the field knew who I was. It’d won a bunch of awards the year that it ran, and after that, I really had no trouble finding work.”

Simonson is best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor and X-Factor (the latter being a collaboration with his wife Louise Simonson). Simonson took nearly complete control of Thor, during which he transformed Thor into a frog for three issues and introduced the supporting character Beta Ray Bill, an alien warrior who unexpectedly proved worthy to wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He started as writer & artist with issue #337 (Nov. 1983) and continued until #367 (May 1986). Sal Buscema became the artist on the title with #368 but Simonson continued to write the book until issue #382 (Aug. 1987).

Simonson became writer of the Fantastic Four with issue #334 (Dec. 1989), and three issues later began penciling and inking as well (#337, coincidentally the same issue number he started as writer & artist of Thor).

From 2003 to 2006, he drew the four issue prestige mini-series Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, written by Elric‘s creator, Michael Moorcock. This series was collected as a 192 page graphic novel in 2007 by DC. He continued to work for DC in 2006 writing Hawkgirl, with pencillers Howard Chaykin, Joe Bennett, and Renato Arlem.

Recent work includes cover artwork for a Bat Lash mini-series and the ongoing series Vigilante, as well as writing a Wildstorm comic book series based on the online role-playing game World of Warcraft for Wildstorm. The Warcraft series ran 25 issues and was co-written with his wife, Louise Simonson.

Walt Simonson first drew Batman during his acclaimed Manhunter stories with Archie Goodwin; he also drew a handful of issues of both Batman and Detective Comics in the late 70s and early 80s. His last Batman comic art to date was, as far as I can tell, a Batman Black & White story in 1996.

However, he’s found time to do numerous covers and sketches of the Dark Knight over the years in between his legendary runs on The Mighty Thor, Fantastic Four and Orion, to name a few.

 

 

Walt Simonson is one of comic’s true originals in my opinion. Though his debt to Kirby is apparent, he takes that influence and, like John Romita Jr., makes his work unmistakeably his own.

G.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 32

JIRO KUWATA

From Wikipedia:

Jiro Kuwata (桑田二郎, Kuwata Jirō, alternatively 桑田次郎, born April 17, 1935 in Suita, Osaka) is a Japanese manga artist.

A gifted artist, Kuwata started out as a manga artist at the young age of 13, when he created The Strange Star Cluster (怪奇星団) in 1948. His turning point came in 1957, when he created Phantom Detective (まぼろし探偵) (which was adapted into a tokusatsu TV series in 1959). Since then, Kuwata devoted himself to creating science fiction/superhero adventures. His most famous was 8 Man, which he co-created with writer Kazumasa Hirai.

Unfortunately, in 1965, when he was to finish the final issue of 8 Man, he was arrested for possessing a handgun (he had contemplated suicide). With Kuwata in jail, co-creator Hirai got other manga artists to finish the final issue, but wasn’t satisfied with it. It was published in a manga magazine, but has never before been reprinted.

Nevertheless, Kuwata, released from prison shortly thereafter, continued his manga work well into the 1970s, but also ran into depression and alcoholism. In 1977, he had an epiphany and converted to Buddhism. He has since done beautiful art books about the life of Buddha. He also occasionally got back into manga work, and in 1992, he agreed to do his own version of the final issue of 8 Man, upon being asked by co-creator/friend Kazumasa Hirai.

Kuwata’s Batman work was published in Japan around the time of the huge hit TV show; like most manga adaptations of American superhero comics, its appeal seems to have been somewhat limited to the Japanese audience, and was largely unknown in the States until the publication of a compilation from a couple years ago, entitled Bat-Manga.

Bat-Manga was curated by Chip Kidd, noted graphic designer, author and Batman fan. There was a bit of a kerfluffle when the book was published because of the absence of a credit for Kuwata on the cover. While this was almost definitely an oversight, it remains an unfortunate error. Nevertheless, on its release, Kuwata finally received recognition for his work on the character; Grant Morrison even introduced the Kuwata characters Lord Death Man and Professor Gorilla to DC continuity in the initial Japan-centric arc of his Batman Inc. series.

And, since it’s from Japan, you get some amazing scenes like these:

- Greg

Thanks to the excellent ISB for several of the scans featured here.

10 YEARS AGO: 2001

MUSIC

The Strokes – Is This It

Weezer – Weezer a.k.a. The Green Album

Gorillaz – Gorillaz

Ryan Adams – Gold

The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

FILM

The Royal Tenenbaums (dir. Wes Anderson)

Ghost World (dir. Terry Zwigoff)

Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch)

Donnie Darko (dir. Richard Kelly)

Amelie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

COMICS

X-Men #114 marks the beginning of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s acclaimed run on the title.

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Frank Miller’s sequel to his massively influential The Dark Knight Returns, begins its serialization.

X-Force #116 marks the beginning of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s acclaimed run on the title.

Marvel’s mature readers line Max Comics launches with Alias #1 by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos.

Starman by James Robinson, Tony Harris and Peter Snejbjerg concludes with #80.

TV

The Office premieres on BBC 2, July 9, 2001.

- Greg

20 YEARS AGO: 1991

MUSIC

Primal Scream – Screamadelica

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Blur – Leisure

Nirvana – Nevermind

Pixies – Trompe Le Monde

FILM

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (dir. James Cameron)

Silence Of The Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (dir. Michael Pressman)

Barton Fink (dir. Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (dir. Peter Hewitt)

COMICS

- “The Hard Goodbye”, Frank Miller’s first Sin City story, begins its serialization in Dark Horse Presents #51.

X-Force #1 by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza sells 4 million copies, making it one of biggest-selling comics of all time.

Bone by Jeff Smith begins.

- X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont & Jim Lee sells 8.1 million copies, making it the biggest-selling single issue from an American publisher, a record it still holds.

Sandman #19 by Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess becomes the first comic to win a World Fantasy Award; it remains the only comic to do so, as the rules for the award were changed soon after to disallow a comic from winning again.

TV

Twin Peaks airs its final episode on June 10, 1991.

- Greg