Inspiring "DEMO"nstrations of Skill and Possibility

"DEMO" v2 #1 from Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics)

Have these questions ever crossed your mind: "Superheroes could be so much more as a genre, couldn't it?" or "Why do they all have to be in that damn spandex, why can't they just be regular people with weird abilities?" If you ever thought these things (and REALLY, haven't we ALL?) you should be reading "DEMO", the anthology comic-book mini-series written by Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan. Either go back and find the original series from small publisher AiT/Planet Lar or buy these new issues from big publisher Vertigo as they come out. Or better yet, both.

When I came across the collected first volume of "DEMO" on the comics shelf of my good friend Davy Brustlin, I was mesmerized. I still haven't read all of Volume 1, but as the series is an anthology (and as such doesn't have any continuing characters or situations) we all have the freedom to read whatever we can find.

I have come to think of the series' name as an implication more than a label. A dare: 'This is what we can do with superheroes. This is our demonstration. Can you top us?' And this issue shows us once again why they deserve that title: These stories are strong. [At left, is a page from v1 #1. Raw teenage angst portrayed in angsty lines.]

To kick off the new volume Wood and Cloonan show us the mind of Joan. (Which is my mother's name. Weird.)

Joan doesn't really sleep anymore. She can't. She keeps seeing a vision in her dreams of someone falling to their death. Feeling a moral ache and an apparent inability to do anything about it, Joan draws away from her own life in San Francisco in growing concern over this person, this woman, in her dreams who seems to be falling to her doom.

Finally, deciding the location of the girl's fall she rushes across the globe hoping to save her in time. Quitting her job, breaking up with her boyfriend, and spending all her savings in a desperate and STILL sleepless race to St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

What she finds is that there is no girl about to fall, that the life she abandoned was very easy to abandon, and that in the falling moment of final freedom of all her burdens, as she topples over the guard rail to be saved at the very last moment by a nameless security guard, she can finally sleep.

At first glance a pulpy, simple story about a girl who dreams someone falling and rushes there to self-fulfill the prophecy, the story becomes something much deeper. If her life was so boring, by traveling half-way around the world and stranding herself there on a wild-goose chase, she did save the girl in her vision. She saved herself.

[To the right, super gorgeous page from v2 #1. A more mature sleek style for a more mature woman.]

Though this first story doesn't have the raw power of the debut issue of the first volume it is still really, really wonderful. And, although Brian Wood may not have been quite as awesome as he has been in the past, Becky Cloonan shows a great refinement of the crazy intensity and skill on display in her past work. Plus the story of a girl taking a chance, leaving her shitty life, and being helped by a male supporting character actually kinda parallels the story in v1 #1. So that's cool!

This comic is like NBC's "Heroes" with all the stupid taken out. Read it.

Bendis' Favorite Character Suits Up With The Avengers in June?

Jessica Jones has been announced among others here on as one of the superheroes in Brian Michael Bendis' new, new, New Avengers team in a more official way than she has been so far.

Here she is in the costume of Jewel, her old superhero identity, looking badass:
Jessica Jones has never really been seen as a superhero character because she never was a superhero character...

Let me try that again.

In 2oo1, Bendis created Jessica Jones in her own title "Alias".

[The following is a dramatization and in no way reflects the thoughts, opinions, values, financial status, parent company, or sex lives of Marvel Entertainment, INC.]

So the story goes: The first script opened with the word "fuck" and Marvel's editorial department was all prepared to do the usual "Bendis, I know you want this character to be a foul-mouthed lady and that's cool, but the same company that publishes Spider-Man CANNOT publish comics with the word 'fuck' in them," but then someone said "Why can't we publish this? Why can't we put it in the comic-book stores with a MATURE label on it like the music industry does?"

And so the Marvel MAX imprint was born. A place where Marvel's creators and Marvel's characters could be naughty together. It's still around today in case you didn't know.

Jessica Jones was a private investigator who specialized in cases involving superheroes or super-powered people. She was the only person who could do this because-- drum roll..... she USED to be a superhero! She attended Midtown High, the same high school as Peter Parker and had a big crush on him (Bendis still got Spidey in there!) and in the classic Marvel 1960s million-in-one-accident explanation she got superpowers. A teenager with superpowers she of course ran out and became a superhero. Called herself Jewel and dressed, essentially, like she looks at the top of this post.

But things did not go rosey and super-heroric for Jessica Jones. She went through hell and quit. But all that is flashback to the main story in which Jessica is a private investigator and is dating Luke Cage. So, ya see, she was never a superhero character. She was a retired-superhero detective character from day UNO.

The series was cancelled with issue #28, but the character and her setting was carried over to one of Bendis' next pet projects: "The Pulse". In fact, Jessica and Luke had already been popping-up in the pages of Bendis' major series "New Avengers". They got hitched in that series' first annual.

These two series not being a part of the MAX Imprint, they were constrained in their subject matter, but not in their use of the wider Marvel U. So Jessica became a bit less of a foul-mouthed lady (which was explained as an effort of her willpower for her soon-to-be-born daughter), but Spider-Man, Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich, and the Green Gobin play a big role in the first story-arc of "The Pulse" and we got the fun of Jessica interacting with Iron Man and Captain America in the pages of "New Avengers".

The fact that she and her hubby Mr. Luke Cage are now both going to be super-duper heroic members of Bendis' New Avengers team should be pretty cool. Although Jessica is now a mother and can't spout the F-bomb anymore, she is still tough as nails. And Luke Cage... Luke Cage was ALWAYS tough as nails. It's another step away from what originally made Jessica Jones great but I don't believe that characters should be so constrained as to be forced into one mold. She was a retired-superhero detective. She married a superhero. Now it looks like she's going to be a superhero again. Makes sense to me.

Marvel Announces New $1 Reprint Throwback Line

In what is obviously meant to be a compliment/counter to DC's "After Watchmen" program of last year, Marvel announced their "World's Greatest Comics" line on their corporate site back in December here and have made a second recent small statement here.

DC's "After Watchmen... What's Next?" program can be read about at, a sub-site of DC's website [which appears to have been taken down - DEAD LINK - 9/15/2o12]. It was just narrowly an even better program than this new initiative from Marvel, because it also included a free catalog that explained why they felt X, Y, and Z project they did was similar to "Watchmen" and why you should go buy them all.

This seems like an excellent idea to me. Comics, as a medium, is great. Individual comic-books are great. Superheroes are great. Trade-paperbacks are great. Marvel is great. DC is great. These programs essentially promote all of these things at once.

Already out is "Invincible Iron Man" v3 #1 reprint for FREE no less!
"Captain America" v5 #1
"Thor" v3 #1
"The Wonderful Wizard of OZ" #1
"The Punisher MAX" #1
are to follow over the course of March for a mere $1 each.

Putting out the first issues of the modern interpretations of the BIG THREE (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man) just before they are presumably going to be re-united by the currently ongoing "Siege" crossover 'event' storyline in cheap, cheap reprints is a stroke of genius! No question about it.

"Marvel's Greatest Comics" was the title of a reprint anthology series Marvel produced from 1968 to 1981, which was a re-titling of "Marvel Collectors' Item Classics" started in 1965. The bombastically promotional nature of the title is Stan Lee all the way. So there's a throw-back element here as well: the idea of presenting old comics material again at a lower price has been around for a LONG time.

"Marvel Tales Annual" #1 was Marvel's first and was printed back in 1964! It reprinted the origin stories of each of Marvel's biggest hit characters from the previous three years. In a way, this is EXACTLY what the new "Marvel's Greatest Comics" line is doing. I have fond memories of some reprint titles, as they were the only way to cheaply catch-up on old Spider-Man stories in those days before the internet!

Reprints may not be worth as much as the original, they may entirely miss the cache of that 'THIS WAS THE OBJECT, THIS WAS THE TIME' feeling, but reprints are a good thing.

In fact, the first comic-books were reprints. "How the fuck is that possible?" you ask. "How could there be a reprint if there were no comics to reprint!" you think, smug in your excellently logical thought process.

Well Mr. Smug, the first comic-books and comics trade-paperbacks were reprints of comic-strips. "The Funnies" #1 from January 1929 was essentially a newspaper comic-strip section without the newspaper. "Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics", published in 1933, was the first comic-book one-shot. "Famous Funnies" #1 kicked-off the first ongoing comic-book series way back in 1934.

They are all firsts, but they are also made-up mostly or entirely of comic-strips reprinted one on-top of another page after page, reformatted to the new form of the comic-BOOK.

To learn yourself more about this stuff:

Arthur's Marvel Comics Reprints Website is a catalog of Marvel reprint titles.
Marvel is a very detail-oriented examination of the Marvel Masterworks hardcover and trade-paperback reprint line.
The Collected Comics Library is a strange but thorough site which reports on collected reprint editions.
and has a detailed history of the invention of the comic-book format in the section titled "Newsstand Period 1922-1955".

UPDATE: 3/12/2oo9
Not only are these many first issues being made available in super-cheap reprints, but the second issues will be available for free as a part of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited on their website.


Online Videos That Profile Local Comic Shops!

I thought I was making some slow plodding headway in going to different comic-book stores in the area and mentioning them on the blog, giving those of our readers in the New York City area a vision of what they were missing by not going out and discovering their local comic shops.

But check out the recently started "Comics Round the Corner" video series, available from NEW-GEN (APNG ENTERPRISES) on!!

These guys have done a damn good job of interviewing the workers (and sometimes even the customers) of quality New York City metro-area comic-book retailers.

+ This past month of February they presented Jim Hanley's Universe Manhattan, right in the heart of NYC.
At the end of 2oo9, they did three:
+ Fortress of Solitude in Newark, NJ in late December.
+ In mid-December: Clockwork Comics in Union, NJ.
+ The first one appeared in early December and featured Wild Pig Comics II Kenilworth, NJ.

Hopefully more installments on more stores are yet to come.

I say you should watch these if you're even a bit curious as the host, Andrew McDonald, is an excited and entertaining guy and the question: "Where can I learn about/find comic-books without feeling uncomfortable?" has never been better answered to my eye.

In fact, some of NEW-GEN's other video and audio podcasts on comics are awesome as well.

It seems that these guys were not the only people to think of this. Heading to and searching for "comic shops" brings up mostly junk, but a few interesting results, including this video profiling Cosmic Comics in Manhattan and this one on Forbidden Planet, also in Manhattan.

Best results would probably come from utilizing Diamond Distributor's, which allows you to search for all direct market shops in the US that receive new comics from Diamond by punching in a zip code. THEN, go and put the names that come up into YouTube's search field one by one, and see what happens.

Support your local comic-book stores!

Here's What I Think

You know how yesterday I said that I couldn't believe that Spider-Man would be on two teams of Avengers at once? Well, with today's announcement that Wolverine will ALSO be on the New Avengers, I'm pretty sure that the cover to Avengers #1 is misleading. Take into account that neither Spidey nor Logan appeared in the teasers for Avengers and also that New Avengers #1 doesn't come out until June and, well, we have a recipe for misdirection.

Sorry, Jon...

... but it looks like you're going to have to buy even one more book, come June:

Is the Webhead really going to serve on two teams of Avengers at once? I suppose it's possible that there is a little bit of a bait and switch going on with the cover to the new Avengers title (isn't that confusing?) and that Spidey'll only be in the first issue or so, but that seems like it might be a little much.

Welcome Back, Barry!

So, like many people, I have been a little uneasy with Barry Allen's resurrection. Barry's death was important. He was a hero. This is the man who even Superman looks to as an example for what a hero is. Also, his death lasted over 20 years! Big deal.

However, in Blackest Night I just full-heartedly adore him. He is such an interesting character, and he is extremely inspiring. In Blackest Night #4 he says to The Atom and Mera (Aquaman's widow): "We need to run in, take charge and kick ass like we were born to. And Ray? Mera? We were born to."

That's on my list of "What it Means to Be a Hero" quotes.

Now, DC's Blog The Source has solicited a new Flash ongoing, staring Barry Allen, written by Geoff Johns. Oh but it gets better, Johns is joined by the fantastic Francis Manapul! If you were reading Adventure Comics then you know just how amazing this combination can be. Let's take a look shall we?

Wow. Just wow. All I can say is that I can't wait for April 14th to come around! I know that I'll be picking up Flash #1 that day!

Sweet Christmas!

A couple of weeks ago, Marvel announced that there were going to be two Avengers titles OTHER than the ones teased at the beginning of February, and now it looks like we've gotten our first hint of them- and, I'm pleased as punch to say that I was right on two counts when I handicapped the new Avengers status quo awhile back. I knew Bendis wasn't going to let go of Luke Cage, and I also thought there might be a street level Avengers team (led by none other than Power Man himself), and, given the presence of Cage and his chain, I think I was probably right on both counts. This book is going to continue to be made by the current New Avengers team of Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen (but it'll get a new #1), so if you've dug the recent issues I suspect you'll dig this stuff too.

Any guesses as to who else is on this team? Iron Fist, maybe? Daredevil? Batman? Moon Knight?
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Comic Symposium Assemble!

Those of you who attend Bard College with Clare and myself know that, on April 10th, we will be conducting the 10th Annual Bard College Comic Symposium with guest of honor Chris Claremont (who, as it happens, is a Bard alumnus). The deadline for submissions is TOMORROW, and in honor of that fact I thought I might share the posters I made up seeking submissions.

It's gonna be a great event, and we already have some great submissions- but we need a few more. If you're interested, send an academic or artistic abstract to by midnight tomorrow!