The following interview was conducted by Joel T. Lewis at DiNK Comic and Art Expo 2018 in Denver, Colorado. This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
Let’s remove all pretense for a moment. I was scared to meet Jeff Lemire last weekend at the Denver DiNK Convention. Back when my favorite author was Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte I never had to worry about what I would say if I had the chance to meet them. Death has a funny way of preventing those kind of conversations. But after reading his work, Lemire leapt to the top of my list. His compassion, the poignance of his work, and the seemingly inexhaustible stream of new and diverse projects hit me all at once and I had to think about it. What do you say to your hero? To a man who’s made you laugh and cry and made you happy there behind the printed words of a single issue that could’ve been read or written by anybody.
But even then, the thought was merely cathartic fantasy. Sure, it was possible that I could meet him at a signing and have that brief moment of awkward chit chat, with me telling him how much his work meant to me, and him making polite small talk as he signed the issues I sheepishly pushed towards him. But the intimate conversation, the mild interrogation, the fevered gushing that I was planning wasn’t possible. It would never happen.
But it happened dear readers. I got to interview the man. I got to sit a foot away from a man whose work spoke to me, shattered me, and put me back together through the thin glossy pages of a comic book and ask him whatever I wanted. He was cool, he was kind, and he was very generous, both with his time, and with the answers he gave me. Here’s what I asked him and what he said to me. I hope you enjoy it.
One of the things I really like about your artwork specifically is your character’s facial expressions. They’re very expressive and I was wondering when you start a project with a new character is that where you start?
Jeff Lemire - Yeah, it's always faces. It’s the thing I like to draw the most. Usually with a new project it usually starts in my sketchbook and there’ll be a character like Sweet Tooth or something, and you create a little character and you don’t really know what it is and it might start re-occurring in your sketchbook and you start to build a story around them. My artistic style is very unique I think and kind of idiosyncratic and I have strengths and weaknesses. So I kind of play to my strengths and one thing I try to do is communicate a lot of emotion with my characters and their faces. So I think it’s one of my skills so I kind of build around that.
For sure, it definitely comes across. That’s awesome. I notice a lot of trinkets in your work.
JL - Oh really?
Well there’s the stopwatch, or the pocket watch in Underwater Welder, and the vintage radios in Royal City. So, I have a collection of little things like that and I was wondering if you did too, if that’s where that comes from?
JL - No, I’m not much of a collector at all. The only thing I really collect is books.
JL - But you know cool little objects like that can tell a story too. It’s not just characters. There’s something about those old radios that just evoked a time and a story that’s kind of supernatural to me you know? I don’t know why. Or that stopwatch. Those just cool sort of old things that have a story themselves, they can be really interesting. You can kind of fall in love with drawing certain little objects, different things that for some weird reason stick around.
Very cool. Awesome. So I’m a massive Moon Knight Fan.
JL - Oh Cool.
So I’ve got to take a second to say your run was spectacular. It meant a lot to me. Issue nine is my favorite comic of all time.
JL - Which one’s that?
That’s where he reconciles with his other personalities and kind of lets them go.
JL - Oh yeah, I like that one too. Where he hugs the one guy.
Yeah, it was really cool to see you treat a character I care about so much with such seriousness and compassion. That was really cool.
JL - Thanks.
So the question I had was: when you’re coming into a character that’s been established and they have this kind of nuanced history, how do you balance your vision for the character’s arc and the history that’s come before?
JL - Well usually that history’s really inspiring, and inspires new stories for me. So if I’m working on an existing character from Marvel or DC or something I haven’t created myself, the first thing I’ll do is collect everything on that character. Every run, every story, every comic I can get my hands on and I’ll just read everything and as I’m reading, I get story ideas like, ‘Oh this is a cool idea, but what if it went further with this idea or that.’ So, with that stuff you take advantage of the fact that it has this history that you can use. Especially with Moon Knight, I mean I made his whole history kind of part of the story. Sometimes it works better with certain characters with the idea that you have. Like the Moon Knight idea that I had, that stuff just lent itself to pulling from those different eras and characters. So when you can, that stuff’s a gold mine to use. Even with Black Hammer, those are my own characters but I’m obviously drawing from 80 years of superhero comic book history. Why not use it when you know it’s there? Like I was never a huge Moon Knight fan but I was a big Bill Sienkiewicz fan so I always respected and kind of liked that version of the character. So I started there and then I found other things along the way that I liked. You know for a character that hasn’t really had an ongoing series regularly over the years there have been some really good stories. The Sienkiewicz, (Doug) Moench stuff is obviously classic, it’s amazing and the Bendis stuff was really interesting I thought and especially the Warren Ellis stuff was a great jumping off point for me. He really kind of repositioned things. You know you use all that stuff and you build off of it as much as you can but I mean if you can’t bring your own idea, your own point of view to it then there’s no point in doing those things.
I noticed that you did that too with Old Man Logan with the Past Lives run, that was cool that you kind of paid homage to all those tragedies in Logan’s life.
JL - Yeah, you try to evoke the feeling of the stuff that everyone loves without just retelling those same stories and you can. It doesn’t always work but when it does it can be fun.
Was it always your intention to have several different artists for the different perspectives of Moon Knight?
JL - No (laughs) Greg (Smallwood) just kind of got behind schedule. But again, it's one of those things where the story lends itself perfectly to that so just embrace it. Yeah but it really worked out. Greg’s pretty versatile himself. He can kind of do different styles but it was kind of seamless with what we were doing so I kind of got lucky there.
Yeah, you got Francesco Francavilla on there which was awesome.
JL - Yeah and Wilfredo Torres.
And James Stokoe.
JL - Yeah we got really cool people on there.
So, speaking of collaborations, I love After Death (A.D.). That was such a cool synergy of writing and your artwork. I was wondering how you worked with Scott Snyder and how that writing process was.
JL - Yeah, it was really unique and I had never drawn anything before that someone else had written. I had done a couple of short stories that Damon Lindelof had written but those were just 10 pages so it's not like a huge commitment but I’d never done something big like this that I hadn’t written myself. I’d written for other artists but never drawn for other writers so it was really intimidating and we kind of felt it out as we went along. I think Scott really trusted the fact that I also am a writer and visually I know how to tell a story. It kind of just evolved as we went but what it ended up being was Scott would spend the majority of his time working on the prose sections because those were pretty labor intensive for him and while he was doing that I would do the comics sections. And we really didn’t have a script for those. We would just have conversations where this happens and that happens and I would just start thumb-nailing it and drawing the comics. And when there were dialogue scenes I would just try to leave room for dialogue and then draw characters talking and hopefully get it sort of right and then he would go back and letter the stuff afterwards. And if in those dialogues I needed to tweak a facial expression or an emotion to match something he’d come up with I would do that but for the most part we kind of made it work. So it was sort of a unique collaboration.
Yeah, it’s such a unique book from those prose sections and then you have panels and panels with no dialogue. It was really playful. I loved it a lot. You’ve gotten to work with a lot of great artists, great writers: Andrea Sorrentino, is outstanding, Gideon Falls is really good, Smallwood on Moon Knight, so I was wondering if there was somebody in the industry you haven’t gotten a chance to work with past or present, living or dead who that would be?
JL - Oh boy, so many. I don’t know. There’s so many amazing artists it’s hard, oh god there’s so many! One guy that I’ve always felt like I really wish I had done more with was Rafael Albuquerque. We did a few Animal Mans together at the end of my run and we really clicked. I felt like we really had something, so I felt like he and I had like a similar sensibility kind of like the same way Dustin (Nguyen) and I had a similar sensibility. I feel like he and I could do something special together, but our schedules have never worked out so he’s someone I’d like to do something with someday. But I mean there’s dozens of artists just working today you know I’m drawing a blank of course but there’s so many talented people out there.
Do you know if, I know its early stages, but you were talking about a collaboration with Matt Kindt, do you know if you would draw, or if he would draw?
JL - No, we were both talking about that this morning, I think we decided we’re just going to write it together and we know what artist we want to work with. Because we both have so many projects already lined up that we’re drawing we know that if we waited it might never happen and we want it to happen.
Another question I had specifically about your work, is you have a lot of characters under water. There’s a lot of submerged kind of cold moments.
JL - It’s like a definite motif.
Yeah, so I was wondering what inspires that?
JL - I don’t know. It’s just subconscious. I just love being underwater. I always have since I was a kid. There’s just something so peaceful about it. Whenever I can I love being in the ocean. So I’ve always had this weird connection to that and I don’t know, symbolically I think water is so rich. It can mean so many things, life, death, rebirth, and I love drawing it. It’s just a weird motif that I’m drawn to. I try not to overthink it. Because when you start over-analyzing stuff sometimes it can go away. But yeah, it’s definitely a motif in a lot of my work. You know surprisingly not a lot of people have pointed that out. I mean it's in Royal City, Underwater Welder especially, it’s all over that stuff.
That was something about After Death (A.D.) that I noticed: that even though it was Scott writing, he talks about the ice over water and it always being there. So it felt like you were writing it too in that sense.
JL - Yeah, I never thought of that but yeah it’s definitely something very symbolic and I think it probably started with the Welder. But even in Essex County there were scenes where the old man would walk out into the water and sink below. So I’ve always been kind of drawn to that.
So, you’re going to be on Sentry soon.
JL - Oh yeah.
Which is really exciting for me as I’m a big fan of the Jae Lee stuff and Paul Jenkins. It’s kind of like you’re cherry-picking all of my favorite characters it's really cool. Do you know when that process will start?
JL - I think the series starts in June. I’ve written four of them and I know Kim the artist is finishing up the first issue so it’s coming along.
I think I was reading something you were talking about him (Sentry) in contrast to Moon Knight, about kind of the cerebral nature of their madness.
JL - Yeah, well they’re both characters that suffer from mental illness, but I didn’t want to just redo the Moon Knight story you know because it’s a different character, it’s a different illness, different way of seeing the world, different history. But I think there is a little bit of a link between the two in the way that I’m approaching it. But I want to tell a Sentry story that’s a Sentry story the way the Moon Knight story had to be a Moon Knight story.
Do you know if it's going to be on-going, or is it going to be 14-ish issues or?
JL - I’m not sure. I don’t know how long my run will be on that to be honest with you. I’m so busy right now so I’m definitely signed on to the first arc, and then we’ll see from there where it goes.
So I just have some rapid fire ones here to close out: What if any comics are you currently reading?
JL - My favorite kind of ongoing book is Paper Girls. I love Cliff (Chiang)’s art so much. There’s a lot in that series I just find very entertaining and I like that a lot. Nate Powell has a new graphic novel coming out called Come Again which, it’s not out yet, but I got to read an advance copy and that was fantastic. I always read Matt (Kindt)’s stuff. He’s always doing great stuff. Of the more mainstream-y superhero stuff I don’t read a lot to be honest but, I try to keep up on Jason Aaron’s stuff because I really like Jason’s writing a lot.
Mighty Thor’s been outstanding.
JL - Yeah, his superhero stuff and his creator-owned stuff is always so strong, he’s just such a great writer. I follow more creators around. Those are the ones that pop in my head of the stuff that I’m into right now.
If there’s a single issue or series that you’re most proud to have written what would that be?
JL - That I haven’t drawn myself? Yeah, that’s tough. I sometimes look at that stuff and sometimes it’s hit and miss you know. Some things work better than others. I don’t know if I could pick one, but I think the ones that I’m most proud of would be Green Arrow with Andrea (Sorrentino), Animal Man, Moon Knight, and my Bloodshot for Valiant. Those are probably the ones that pop up. I mean that’s not counting any of my created stuff. Obviously Black Hammer and Descender are much more dear to my heart than any of that stuff. I'm just thinking of the more freelance work I’ve done, it would be those runs.
So same question but with drawing.
JL - That’s tough too. To me they’re all like documents of where I was as a person when I was doing them so they’re all special to me in different ways. You can’t pick one you know but, I mean Essex County was sort of like the first project where I found an audience, where I found a voice as a writer. So it’s always going to be special to me. Sweet Tooth’s always going to be special to me because that was the longest project I ever did. It’s like four years of writing, of drawing those characters everyday so they’re always dear to my heart. And it’s usually whatever I’m working on now is like the thing I’m most engaged in so that’s like my favorite. Yeah it’s hard to pick between that stuff.
What’s the strangest request for a commission that you’re ever gotten?
JL - Oh god. (laughs) I don’t do a lot of commissions anymore. I haven’t done them in about ten years but I used to get some weird ones. It’s just weird where you know my art style is so specific and you’ll get people will ask you for something that clearly like plays against all my strengths. If you can ask me for all the things why would you want like, whatever, Donna Troy? I’m not going to do a good beautiful woman you know. Sometimes you get some pretty weird, infamously weird commission requests that all artists get from these certain people all the time that are like these weird kinky things. So there’s some strange ones.
And just the last one: if someone was new to comics, and wanted a starting point what would you recommend?
JL - The two entry points for all my work always over and over I always say are Sweet Tooth and Essex County. I guess one of those. Those would be my starting points for my stuff.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
There have been a lot of Horror Comics. There have been a lot of independently published Horror Comics. But there hasn’t been a comic quite like Scratcher before. John Ward and Juan Romera deliver a story that manages to be unique, familiar, and fascinating all at once. Scratcher is what you’d get if you took Evil Dead, swapped Ash out for a badass, lesbian tattoo artist of color with a strong sense of pride, responsibility, and enough demons on the inside to match the ones she faces on the outside. The premise of Scratcher is exceptional in its simplicity; a tattoo artist tracks down her old clients that have become possessed by the tattoos she gave them. What a unique delivery system for mayhem!
And this is the critical element with Horror: innovation. How many zombie, vampire, possession, or slasher premises have we seen recycled and rebranded over the last 15 years across all mediums? What keeps us jumping in fright and fascinated by fear is surprise, and when a creator is able to breathe new life into a genre with something as surprising as demon tattoos that’s exciting! That’s what Scratcher brings to the table; it’s wildly refreshing.
Now I would like to say at this time that this is a Spoiler Free review of Part 2, but I will not refrain from spoiling elements from Part 1, so if you haven’t read the first issue (and you really should!) please do so before continuing. We catch up with Dee Wilson as she arrives in Los Angeles to track down Jerry Jones, one of her 3 remaining clients. She finds Jerry preaching in a derelict church to an usual audience of garbage. After having her offer of assistance violently rejected by the deteriorating priest, Dee teams up with a mysterious molecular virologist who has a theory that the people Dee tattooed are suffering from a nano-virus introduced into their systems by the tattoo ink. This unlikely duo proceeds to track Jerry down in order to obtain a tissue sample from him and stop him from committing further acts of horrific violence.
The Scratcher comics are brisk and you get your money’s worth. Reading over the issues I was impressed by the amount of ground Ward was able to cover in only 28 pages. Where I could easily see DC or Marvel milking the narrative beats of this issue out over 2 or 3 months, throwing multiple last panel cliffhangers, I found myself pleasantly surprised that each issue of Scratcher gave me more actual story than I anticipated. This issue was action-packed and the twist Ward leaves you with really opens up the world he’s created.
Juan Romera’s artwork leaps off the page, almost a combination of Francesco Francavilla and Jeff Lemire’s work but with an exceptional eye for shadow and facial expression. The comic is gorgeous and the way Romera directs the eye from panel to panel, page to page, is incredible, subtle, and compelling. The cover art for this issue in particular is spectacular. It’s juxtaposition of the cherry blossom tattoos with the gore dripping from the closed fist and the imagery of the crucifix is very evocative. I was also impressed with Romera’s rendition of the iconic Griffith Observatory. The detail, shading, and shadow work is really quite breathtaking, especially with such a unique and recognizable landmark. This is a series to add to the pull list dear readers. It’s brilliantly executed, refreshing, and layered and I cannot wait for Part 3! Until next time, Geek On!
Look out for Scratcher: Part 2 on Comixology in April!
Special Thanks goes out to John Ward for providing Nerds That Geek with an Advanced Copy of Scratcher: Part 2!
Written by Joel T. Lewis
Mister Miracle is a special book, but I can no longer find that surprising. Special books are what you get from Tom King. He took Dick Grayson in a new direction with his spy series Grayson, he reshaped how a lot of us think of Marvel’s Vision in his brilliant 2 volume series, he’s breathed new life into the post Rebirth Batman series, and finally there’s Miracle Man. Look, if you know anything about me from my effusive Moon Knight reviews, or the Movie Mumble Podcast, you are aware of my tendency to discover an author, actor, director, character, aesthetic, what have you, and subsequently devour every little thing that I can about it. It’s almost a compulsion I have, it’s as if by discovering this avenue of content I was unaware of I’ve opened a chasm of desire, a hole in myself that I didn’t know needed filling that I have to fix.
I discovered Tom King through the Batman/Flash Crossover Arc ‘The Button’ which was the first real thread of the Watchmen/DC crossover event that was introduced by the Rebirth reboot of the DC Universe. And while I had come to that arc in particular to see what DC were going to do with the daunting task of merging these two comic book universes, I was struck by King’s tenderness when it came to Bruce Wayne. For a little bit of context, in the ‘Button’ Arc Flash and Batman travel to a parallel timeline (created in the DC Flashpoint event) where Bruce Wayne was murdered in that alley instead of his parents, and as a result, Thomas Wayne becomes a twisted foil of Batman and Martha Wayne becomes the Joker. The way that King handled the meeting between father and son across the chasm of time and chance was heartbreaking, generous, and tender, and it was this treatment of a character I love so dearly that brought me back to that series for the following 15 issues.
I then picked up King’s outstanding and eerie Vision series. The bizarre charm of King’s domestic drama starring the animatronic Avenger is something you simply must read to believe. From the opening panels depicting the Vision family’s jet-propelled mailbox to the escalating violence and mystery that develops throughout the 12 issue series, King strikes a balance between the uncanny and the innocent. I was mesmerized as Vision and the android family he built for himself, failed to live up to the domestic expectations of middle class suburbia. Reading that series was like eating a Twilight Zone cake: ominous and delicious.
Now out of that Batman series nearly every issue was a gem, particularly King’s Batman: Elmer Fudd issue, the whole of the ‘War of Jokes and Riddles’ arc, and the ‘Proposal’ issue, but the story that really stood out for me happened to be issue 23 ‘The Brave and the Mold.’ Now I did write a review of that issue for Nerds That Geek back in July of 2017 so I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s probably in my top five issues of Batman ever. Spectacular title, great cover, a Swamp Thing team-up: it has everything. But it also happened to be a one-time collaboration between Tom King and Mitch Gerads, whose work just compliments each other brilliantly. That’s not to say that King hadn’t collaborated with wildly talented artists before this; with talents like Clay Mann, David Finch, Jason Fabok, and Mikel Janin on Batman and Mike Del Mundo on Vision, King is no stranger to seeing his work brought to dazzling life by a brilliant artist. But something was different about the team-up between Bats and Swampy, King and Gerads, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, if they gave these guys their own series together I’d be in on day one.’
Turns out DC decided to give them their own series: Mister Miracle. And it was so popular that the first issue sold out so fast that I had to wait for the second printing before I could read it. The reason I haven’t been reviewing this series issue by issue is that I’ve had difficulty putting my admiration into words. One of the invigorating habits of the comic books in my life has been their ability to make me passionately invested in characters I knew nothing about, or couldn’t have cared less about, within the first few panels of a single issue. Christian Ward and Saladin Ahmed did it for me with Black Bolt, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman did it with the Mighty Thor, and King and Gerads have done it for me with Mister Miracle. Their startling fresh take on one of Jack Kirby’s New God’s characters, the master escape artist Scott Free has been the comic I’ve been most eager to crack open every month, and the recent sabbatical that the creators took between the two arcs of their 12 issue series was almost unbearable. It’s stunning, it’s tragic, it’s important. There are a number of ways to navigate your way through the wide world of comics. You can follow a character, a storyline, an artist, or if you choose to follow an author, you won’t be disappointed if you start with Tom King. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by John Edward Betancourt
So, it came to pass, the Last Son of Krypton, the world's greatest protector, a man made of steel had fallen in the streets of Metropolis, defending it with his life. The world was stunned, and all would mourn the passing of Superman, but his death...was only temporary. Yes, the Return of Superman was the only logical plot line to follow his death and DC Comics pulled out all the stops in telling such a tale.
Following his demise at the hands of Doomsday, the Man of Steel is entombed within a shrine and the world seems to be a worse place without him. But in his absence, there seems to be a flicker of hope as four men, each bearing the seal of the house of El upon their chest step in to save the day, and their arrival will make the world a vastly different place.
I have to admit, the entire story of how Superman returned, was to me, as compelling as the story that came before it. We had no clue who might have been the real Kal-El when it came to this ‘Reign of the Supermen’, minus of course Steel since John Henry Irons was born on earth. But the other three...well, they all looked like the Man of Steel, and flat out had his genetic makeup and it made for some incredible storytelling.
After all, the storyline did a fine job of slowly revealing the true origins of these Supermen and I loved that the Cyborg, who appeared to be the true reanimation of Superman at first, turned out to be one of the nastiest villains out there. After all, destroying Coast City and murdering seven million people in order to build an engine is pretty damn cold blooded. Oddly enough, my brother and I were split on who was the real Superman. My money was on the Eradicator since he seemed like a man who had dealt with death and my bro was all about the Cyborg and well...we were both wrong. Since it turned out the real Kal-El was healing inside the Fortress of Solitude all this time.
Either way, this was a story arc that completely pulled me in. I not only wanted to see Superman return badly, but I could not wait to see how he came back to life after being devastated by Doomsday. Of course, the story between Doomsday and Superman wasn’t quite wrapped up just yet, but we will visit that another day, down the road.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I remember growing up, when DC dropped a massive bombshell on all of us; the fact that Superman was going to die. It was something unheard of at the time, and such a big deal that it managed to make the six o’clock news back in the day and for me, it was a huge deal through and through, and The Death of Superman is still big and sweeping enough for me to go back and revisit whenever I have the time.
For those unfamiliar with the story line, buried on earth was a massive and monstrous creature. Covered in thick skin and jutting bone, a being known as Doomsday emerged from the depths of our world to go on a rampage. A monster of incredible power, Doomsday managed to beat down the ranks of the Justice League before finally meeting its match in Superman. But their battle left Metropolis in ruins and worst of all, the world without its greatest hero. When I first heard that the end was near for Superman, I made it a point to know the entire story, after all, this is the first superhero I had ever known thanks to my dad and it only seemed right to know exactly what force in his world could stop a man of steel.
Needless to say, I made sure to do extra chores, to earn extra allowance so I had enough cash to grab as many issues of this story as possible, and I was able to get my hands on a back issue of the Doomsday storyline every time my family went to the grocery store since a comic book store was right around the corner. But little could prepare my young mind for the horrors that awaited me in Issue #75, since that was the one that featured the Death of Superman.
As a young boy, this is a story that I look back upon with great fondness simply because of the fact that it completely and utterly captivated me. Doomsday was chilling to see on the pages as the writers and artists slowly revealed the creature's hideous form and the fact that it was simply a force of nature in many ways made the story even more incredible. But of course, the big stunner was that Superman was indeed dead. It really didn't seem possible but there he was, lying still atop the ruins of Metropolis as Lois wept.
It was a powerful image, a powerful comic series and in many ways, it truly ignited my love for comics with its incredible story arc. I know some people are not fans of this particular moment in DC Comics' history, but for me...it was a bold and powerful story that stunned me to no end and I wasn't kidding when I said that there are times I pull out the trade paperback of the entire saga and find myself in awe once again as I relive the moment when Superman died…
Written by Shae Rufe
Throughout the history of comics, there’s always been a war. Today the war rages on, mostly between DC and Marvel fans, but really, we’re all geeky nerds, so it’s all in good jest. Last time we explored the romantic side of DC, and today Marvel gets its spotlight time!
You know what I love best about superheroes? How they all just date one another. Like, that’s totally cool to just date other superheroes and then move on to the next. I’m sorry, but if my ex-girlfriend was someone like the Black Widow, I’d be terrified to date anyone else ever, or you know, work with said ex still! Yet our superheroes keep it cool, mostly because they’re fictional and subject to author digressions. Speaking of Black Widow, how awesome is Natasha? Depending on the universe, she’s dated quite the list of people. I’m not sure how I feel about her and Cap, but I did adore her and Hawkeye. Let’s face it though, Natasha and Bucky were probably a good pair...they’re actually one of my all-time favorite comic couples, just because. I’m a little wary on the whole Natasha dating the Hulk thing, but, you know, it’s different?
Speaking of different, I have to complain. I’m probably one of those rare people out there that hates Spider-Man but absolutely loves Spider-Gwen. Now, hear me out. I actually really like Gwen Stacey as a character. For some reason, Peter Parker is totally tolerable to me when she’s in the picture. Which, yes, alright. I am not a fan of MJ. There, I said it. I don’t like her character at all, but it’s alright. Gwen is just awesome, and the Spider-Gwen comics are really just…a win in my book. However, while I may not be the biggest Spider-Man fan, I have to admit that Peter has gotten some pretty awesome chicks. Mostly, the Black Cat. Felicia may not be for everyone, but this is one of those comic couples that intrigued me enough to go 'huh, maybe this isn’t terrible.' It’s kind of like Batman and Cat Woman….with less gritty violence and betrayal?
Speaking of betrayal! Guys! I...literally just lost what I was about to type here. I promise it was going to be clever and funny, but now you’re stuck with me rambling for a moment while I try to figure out where I was going to transition this into. Oh! X-Men: Days of Future Past, the film adaptation took a lot of liberties with the storyline. While it was different and new, the story fell a little shorter than the comic or even the cartoon adaptation. But, since we’re on the subject, can we just talk about Wolverine and Storm? Why was that not a thing? Maybe it is, I didn’t keep up with the X-Men comics, because, look…there’s only so much time in the day! Either way, these two just need to be together. While it’s cute to watch Logan fawn over a very taken Jean, seeing him actually happy with Ororo is kind of better. Granted, I’m biased, but I enjoyed that story line. We also need to talk about Rogue and her tragic love life. Look, Rogue is a fun character, but the girl has the saddest, most isolating, set of powers ever. While she and Gambit will forever flirt and dance around one another, deep down, we all know that they’re also a perfect couple. Not to say Jean and Scott aren’t…I mean, they’re alright.
Marvel’s couples get probably more confusing and diverse for me than DC, for sure, but both universes are so expansive it’s hard to keep track. Especially with characters like Hawkeye, who I am pretty sure literally dated every female Avenger, ever. From Black Widow, to Scarlet Witch, to Spider-Woman, and even a failed marriage to Mockingbird, Clint’s extensive list of exes is more impressive than any other comic character. Except Magneto, who literally had how many kids with how many other mutants?! And he’s worked with them all too. I suppose this all stands as a lesson. If you become a superhero, careful who you date? Or more importantly, just date everyone, because why not? Comics have such in-depth characters and relationships that it’s no wonder we fall for them. Yes, they’re awesome and action filled, but comics can also make you feel things you didn’t know possible. And secretly, they sneak love stories into our plot lines without us even knowing it….and so, so, much more.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
I’ve given up trying to figure out what will come next from Max Bemis’ Moon Knight run. I have no idea. He’s broken the part of my brain that used to speculate about the next adventure my favorite superhero would embark on. Opening his run with a whole issue where Moonie doesn’t show up: brilliant. Giving Bushman a tragic and relatable bit of character development and pairing him with a more dramatic villain: inspired. Having Jake and Marlene raise a daughter behind Marc’s back: fascinating. At every turn, Bemis has defied prediction and made Moon Knight dance in ways I never would have thought possible. So I’ve given up trying to predict the next step in the storyline and I’ve decided to just let Moon Knight happen to me.
That being said part 4 of ‘Crazy Runs in the Family’ does not disappoint. After an epic battle of flame and fist, Moon Knight manages to escape the clutches of Bushman and the Sun King with his newly discovered daughter. Marlene, proving herself to be much more than mere damsel in distress by attacking Bushman with a knife, is unable to escape and abducted. As Khonshu explains the history of his ongoing battle with Ra to Marc, Jake, and Steven, the Truth is freed from prison and joins Sun King and Bushman in their plot to set yet another trap for the jet and silver avenger. The issue wraps up as Marc prepares to rescue Marlene and calls upon his oldest and closest friend Jean-Paul ‘Frenchie’ DuChamp to look after his daughter. But while the man who comes to Marc’s door is definitely Jean-Paul, the fact that he appears to be a zombie throws his fitness as a babysitter into question. Do you see why I’ve given up on trying to predict Bemis? The last issue ended with, ‘Surprise Moonie, you are the father!’ and this one dropped the mic with Undead Frenchie. Shut up and take my money Max Bemis.
The introduction of Diatrice (Moon Knight and Marlene’s Daughter) and the contrasting innocence she brings into the world of Moon Knight is truly refreshing. Moon Knight has never been a happy comic book hero, and the brief glimpses of kindness and tenderness within his story have been few and far between; his is a universe which was abandoned by innocence a long time ago. Enter Diatrice, a veritable moonbeam (please let that be her superhero name!) of innocence and curiosity who gives the audience a way of discovering a whole new side of Marc Spector. We see through Diatrice how complex and confusing Moon Knight is, how the madness we’ve normalized in our fandom would appear to someone outside of it, but she also brings a vulnerability and tenderness out of Marc.
Even as he butchers his explanation of his alter egos, we see him share his music with her in a very intimate and wholesome scene. The normalcy of this domestic scene is something that we’ve never seen in Moon Knight, and it’s something that I never knew I wanted for this character. Twisted and dysfunctional as Marc’s introduction to his own family is, what Bemis highlights in this issue is the potential for a real family connection for Marc in the arcs to come. This is a pretty huge shakeup in terms of motivation for this character, his relationship with Marlene, and how Moon Knight’s vigilante philosophy adapts (if at all) as a father.
Jacen Burrows is outstanding as always, playing with fire, Egyptian mythology, and even Cthulhu briefly in this issue (yes reader that’s right, I said Cthulhu). But in this issue Matt Lopes’ colors really stood out for me. The dramatic contrast he plays with within the pastel pallet he’s established is really striking. The heat that comes off of the panels where Moon Knight dodges the flames cast by Sun King and the cool blues that accompany the return of the Truth demonstrate the importance of an exceptional colorist when it comes to bringing comic book panels to life. Also, I cannot get enough of Diatrice’s splash of Pink hair. There is something so punk rock and at the same time innocent about her and it is only elevated by Lopes’ skillful color work. Until next time, Geek On!
Written by Shae Rufe
Sometimes obsessions come along, and they hit you in the face like a ton of bricks. My current obsessions are cats (shocker!), Fear the Walking Dead, Steven Universe, Sebastian Stan, and pretty much all of YouTube. Like, literally, that is my life. Perhaps my biggest obsession ever, an always, is love. But Shae, how are you going to make that Nerdy? Well, that's simple actually. Let’s talk about our favorite couples across nerdom, shall we? First, let's get a snack...because, I mean, who doesn't like snacks?
First, the ultimate couple, Superman and Lois Lane. It does not get more iconic or nerdy than that, really. And while the New 52 boldly tried to pair the Man of Steel with the Amazonian warrior herself, it didn't really work with a lot of us fans. Granted, I don't really read Superman since he isn't one of my favorites (sorry John!) but seeing him with anyone other than Lois is just weird, even if she is a ginger now. That's the point though, Lois and Clark have had such a long-standing romance spanning their many years in comics, shows, cartoons, movies, and now video games, it's hard to see them with anyone else. And yet, some people enjoyed the new change with Superman and Wonder Woman dating. But it makes me wonder what is Lois doing now? Dating Jimmy? Being dead? Either way, I really can't see a world where Clark isn't with Lois.
Unlike Batman who is a total whore and sleeps with a lot of different women, depending on which story line. I always liked him with Selena Kyle. But, they're not my favorite Bat related relationship. If we're going by the comics I pathetically love, more than literally a lot of things (cake), I have to hand it off to Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson. Comically speaking the two have dated other people, and I really don't care if you say the original Robin belongs with Star Fire or someone else, because you are wrong. This Bat duo is my all-time favorite and really, shouldn't they be everyone's? In my world they are. But I also live under a comic rock and have hardly been keeping up on things, as life is busy, so I will choose to stay blissfully ignorant of any changes to that pairing what so ever. Speaking of changes, Poison Ivy and Harley? Dating? I'm not against it in the least, I'm just a little concerned our crazed psychiatrist left her beloved Joker. Ivy isn't as violently crazy, but she certainly has a few screws loose...so maybe they're perfect for each other.
This blog is strangely D.C. related...it's okay, Marvel will get their own blog! Because what love inspired, D.C. centered blog would his be if I didn't mention one of my favorite archers and his girlfriend. Green Arrow and Black Canary are probably right up there with Nightwing and Batgirl. Don't ask me why, because I have no idea, but these two stole my little Shae heart and ran away with it. They're utterly adorable. Yes, Olly has had his flings with the ladies, and while I loved Arrow and I adored Oliver and Felicity, the comics where Black Canary and the Green Arrow end up together are forever a top favorite of mine.
Of course this is all my little Shae opinion, of which are now law, because I have decided to run for supreme dictator of the world. And by run, I mean nominated, voted for, and elected myself. These are the types of things that get said in the strange hours of the night. But really, a second part will follow, because we know I can't just rant about one subject and be done.
Written by Zeke Perez Jr.
I’m starting to wonder whether we need to reconsider how we use the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I mean, sure, it still applies to people and - in most cases - books. But it definitely doesn’t work for comics. Ignoring that adage allowed me to stumble upon Rich Tommaso’s Spy Seal series.
I was strolling through Mile High Comics in August, hoping to scratch the itch for a new series to follow. I was growing tired of following the same heroes and the same universes. I wanted to find something different, something unlike what I typically read. I scanned the rack of new releases and instantly found just that. Bright colors, amazing design, fun characters, a compelling title. Judging it solely by the cover, Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix seemed to be among the most incredible comic books I had ever seen.
I’m not sure which aspect of the cover drew me in first: the exuberant colors or the title character. Either way, I was sold! Who doesn’t want to read a story about an anthropomorphic seal leading a life of espionage?? Immediately upon cracking the cover, I knew I made the right choice about picking it up. The story begins with a conversation between the titular protagonist, a seal by the name of Malcolm Warner, and his bird friend Sylvia. They discuss current events and the struggles of the oppressed working class in their country. The juxtaposition of cartoonish animals discussing high-level politics was unexpected, but I found it hilarious. It set the tone for the spy tale that was to come.
Between assassination attempts, chase scenes, gadgets, and hand-to-hand combat, Spy Seal presents an exhilarating spy story. Tommaso alternates between stretches that are very dialogue-rich and multiple shorter panels with no words and all action. The text-based panels tend to be a bit wordier than what you might typically expect from a comic, but they read smoothly and the story flows well.
I also truly loved Tommaso’s art and coloring. His artistic style is reminiscent of European comics, often appearing as a dead ringer for The Adventures of Tintin. The vibrant pastels made each cover and page pop. (My personal favorite was the cover for issue 003; a train rolling through a snowy mountain pass.) Even the inside covers feature unique and delightful patterns. In addition to the crisp characters and landscapes, I credit Tommaso for his attention to detail in each and every scene. Everything from paintings in the background of an art gallery to city skylines draws the reader’s eye, thanks to the nuances in each panel.
Rich Tommaso is currently at work on the next chapter in Malcolm Warner’s life: Spy Seal: The Flight of the Golden Bells. In the meantime, I wholly recommend giving Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix a read. The four-part series, labeled 001 through 004 in true spy fashion, is available today in a trade paperback collection. And not just a normal TPB either. The collection comes in an oversized ‘French album size’ book. Tommaso wrote, illustrated, colored, and lettered the entire work himself, a grand feat made all the more impressive by the quality of the series. Head to your local comic book shop or bookstore today to pick up the Spy Seal series, not only to find out why it made a number of ‘Top Comics of 2017’ lists, but to support a solid all-around comic artist.
Written by Joel T. Lewis
At the conclusion of last month’s issue of Moon Knight, I was left wondering what had happened to Bushman that caused him to become the pudgy sweat-pants wearing drug dealer that Jacen Burrows brought to life on that final page. Max Bemis wastes no time in answering that question: Moon Knight happened. Bemis paints an almost pitiful picture of the once mighty Raoul Bushman, acknowledging his stint as an African Warlord in the 1989 Marc Spector: Moon Knight series, confirming that he was murdered and had his face removed by Spector in 2006’s Huston Run, and that he was resurrected and had his face reattached in 2009’s ‘Vengeance of the Moon Knight’ series.
Bemis’ Bushman bears all of the trauma that the different stewards of the Moon Knight mythos have put him through and the pudgy damaged man that remains is unique among the villains of the comic book world. Bushman is terrified of Marc Spector. He tells us so himself in issue 190. And I have to be honest, as I read his stirring and emotional speech to his army of Spector’s victims (a horde of street hoods left disabled and maimed by Moon Knight over the years) my first instinct was to sneer and turn up my nose. I actually thought, ‘Well that’s just a complete misunderstanding of the character.’
I don’t know what gives me the right to think something like that. The fact of the matter is that until Bemis came along, Bushman was a one-dimensional figure of terror. Ruthless, bloodthirsty, and cold. When Marc finally killed him in 2006, though the image was disturbing, I relished that the monster had been given a fitting end. Bemis on the other hand has given us a Bushman who’s just as damaged as Marc is, perhaps even more so as his resurrection came at the hands of a villain called the Hood who used the powers of Dormammu (probably the result of a bargain of some sort…pauses for laughter), a force more sinister than that of Khonshu. Bushman is still a monster, but he’s now a more relatable, fractured monster and that’s a breath of fresh air. Bemis is great at throwing our preconceived notions about our favorite jet and silver avenger out the window, especially when he shows us the multitude of street hoods missing limbs, eyes, and fingers courtesy of old Moonie.
When reading a Moon Knight Comic, you don’t really stop to think about the maimed and abused ‘thugs’ that Spector leaves in his wake, you just revel, as he does, in the brutal violence Khonshu requires as tribute from his priest. Bemis reminds us all that Spector cuts a more gruesome path through the New York City Underworld than Spidey, Daredevil, or even the Punisher. Moon Knight’s victims (at least since Huston’s run in 2006) bear the brunt of Marc’s vigilante Justice with crippled limbs, missing eyes, limps, stumps, and scars. This reminder reframes the beloved carnage that has been associated with Moon Knight as even more cruel and poignant than ever before.
Bemis is having a lot of fun with the tenuous team-up of Bushman and the Sun King, and the way those two interact with each other is really interesting and entertaining. Bushman doesn’t buy into the Sun King’s literal door-to-door evangelism and plays down his partner’s crazed pontificating but at the same time Sun King reins Bushman in when he starts monologue-ing. The two do a great job of interrupting each other when they start to descend into tired comic book villain tropes and that’s a really subtle and clever nuance to Bemis’ writing that really impressed me this issue.
In this issue, Sun King and Bushman recruit an army of Moon Knight’s former victims and plan to use Marlene as bait in a trap for Marc Spector. When they arrive at Marlene’s suburban home they quickly discover they have a lot more leverage than they thought. Meanwhile, Marc quite literally wrestles with himself within his mind as he struggles to reason with his Jake Lockley personality and discover the awful secret that the Truth had seen in the previous issue. This sequence is a lot of fun to read as artist Jacen Burrows gets his first crack at the inside of Spector’s head, shifting between scenery, color, and tone effortlessly. These internal glimpses are punctuated by panels depicting Spector calmly mediating in central park, and then shouting at himself. This frightens an elderly lady walking her dog near Marc and the effect is really fun and lighthearted.
Marlene, who has been estranged from Marc for about 5 years at this time, is forced to invite him back into her life as Bushman and the Sun King lie in wait. Spector arrives, springs the trap, and the Sun King reveals that not only does he have Marlene held hostage, but he also knows Lockley’s secret, and it’s really messed up. Turns out that Jake Lockley has been seeing Marlene behind Marc’s back for about 5 years. And pretty early into that 5 years Marlene had a child. A child that Lockley and Marlene have been raising in secret behind Marc Spector’s back. That’s right: Moonie’s got a five-year-old girl that he had no conscious knowledge about. I had not fully grasped how literal Bemis’ title of ‘Crazy Runs in the Family’ was going to be until I reached this final page reveal and boy did it throw me for a loop. What a great way to shatter the illusion of conscious harmony in Marc’s head and redefine the relationship between Marc and Marlene in one page! With one swift motion Bemis has linked these two characters together with a bond that is so much more nuanced, complicated, and realistic than has ever been written between them before.
This creative team continues to blow me away with their balance of poignant and playful moments and Bemis in particular is just making Moonie dance by shaking up the formula and reframing his relationships and rogue’s gallery. I can’t wait for the next issue! Until next time, Geek On!