2.17.2011

Kenholic Weekly #3: Superhero Comic Book Edition

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out on Tuesday! My copy doesn't arrive until tomorrow, but that doesn't dampen the excitement I have for it. In fact, it kinda made me nostalgic for two things. All the time I spent in college playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and in the younger days of my geekdom, all the time I spent reading comic books.

Prior to my discovery of these things called anime and manga, there was Marvel, DC, and Spawn. And I was quite the collector. As you can see above, I was there for a lot of the major iconic comic book moments that occurred in the 90's: the premiere of Spawn, the breaking of Batman's back, Wolverine gets his skeleton ripped out by Magneto, Spiderman vs Venom vs Carnage, the amazing alternate universe where Charles Xavier dies prematurely and Magneto vows to keep Xavier's dream alive, and of course, the death of Superman. Good times, and these were just the tip of the iceberg for me; I used to go to my neighborhood comic book store weekly, sometimes twice a week if I knew something cool was around the corner. But before I continue any further with this, I'd have to list my top 3 superheroes of all time: #1 Spawn, #2 Batman, and #3 Jack Bauer Wolverine.

A lot of people's sole experience with Spawn is a crappy movie port with Michael Jai White and Martin Sheen. Which is unfortunate, because to this day, I still believe that the Spawn comic series is one of the greatest creations of modern day media; almost certainly greater than any other video game franchise or anime or manga series that I've experienced, which is saying a lot. I was way too young to understand the philosophy behind Spawn when I first started reading it in grade school, but I could tell that it was something special. As I got older, I began to realize just how epically different Spawn was from anything Marvel or DC or anything Japanese. Like anything else, you can't take it too seriously, and it's very aware of that fact, sometimes brushing up against the 4th wall to break the tension. There's a pretty neat issue (#10) where Spawn explores the various levels of hell, in which one of the levels of hell is where other comic book heroes (you see shadow caricatures of of superman, wolverine, etc.) go after they get their souls ripped out by the large publishers (Marvel, DC) after their creators sign their rights away. Spawn, you see, was published under the Image label, which was a consortium of independent comic book authors, whose founding member (and creator of Spawn) used to work at Marvel on Spiderman. So awesome. Even more awesome is watching Spawn's journey unfold, as he transcends life and death, heaven and hell, and everything else in between.

Batman is a pretty boring pick for #2, but I feel it's well deserved. No matter how he is presented, his core story is so compelling that everything else is just cake. The DC Timverse does an awesome job of exploring Batman's larger role in the DC universe, often on an intergalactic level, and it even dedicates a special episode to his legacy at the end of Justice League Unlimited, tying together Bruce Wayne, the United States Government, Batman Beyond, and even the Phantasm (yes, from the Mask of the Phantasm movie!) Pretty damn cool. The recent movies have also done some neat stuff with him, but my quintessential Batman experience is the Batman Hush series featured in Batman issues #608-619. In this story, he introspects a lot of the decisions he's made in his life and comes to grip over some of the haunting consequences that's resulted from them (the death of the second Robin, Talia's pregnancy, etc). All while fighting through his entire gallery of rogues over the course of 11 issues, and also having to deal with another ghost from his past that seems to know his every next move. There's a little bit of that Death Note magic to be found here. Did I mention that it also involves both Catwoman and Talia Al Ghul fighting over him? Rawr. Ultimately what keeps Batman fresh every time though, is the whole detective angle; most of his stories are framed as mysteries and as a result, they are smarter and more intriguing stories than his contemporaries.

Similarly, Wolverine is an ageless entity who sometimes brings darker motivations for being a hero. Everyone knows about Wolverine already, so I won't dwell too much on his story, but there are some interesting tidbits about him. His healing factor retards his aging, and guesstimates put him around ~175 years old. Contrary to his berserker image, he's a well experienced combat vet who's a also pretty good tactician, and he even speaks a dozen languages or something like that. This has extended his lore well beyond the present day, and places him in historical events like the American civil war and both WW1/WW2 with Capt. America. There's an excellent series, "Old Man Logan", which explores a future some 50 years down the line where the villains have won, and Wolverine is a recluse living on a farm repenting for his regrets. Very similar to Batman's Hush, it's a very introspective series that gets a lot of his thoughts onto paper. It's sad, but I don't think any Wolverine movie will ever do his character justice.

Wow, that's a lot of overview for just my favorite characters; I haven't even gotten into some of my favorite crossover events or which universe I think is better, Marvel or DC. Guess I'll have to save that stuff for another day.

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