In honor of Wonder Woman’s solo film debut this weekend, DC has proclaimed Saturday, June 3rd Wonder Woman Day. Created 76 years ago by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter as both a superheroine and symbol for women’s equality, Diana has had an eventful history. Her legacy is a rich one, which the staff of Nothing But Comics have often revisited. So, for those wishing to delve deeper into Wonder Woman and what she represents, here is a selection of writings from Nothing But Comics on the adventures of the Princess of Themyscira.
Comics can be strange. Rich men processing their grief by dressing up as a bat, pummeling street thugs and adopting an orphan/sidekick. Perfectly logical, right? And that is one of the more “grounded” examples. One of the sources of richness within the medium has long been the play between creators who favor naturalism versus absurdity. Coming down squarely in the latter camp is Bob Burden who dreamt up one of the most surreal series in comics’ history: Flaming Carrot Comics. Chronicling the mundane and outrageous adventures of its titular hero, Burden crafted a book that defies reason. Narratives would take sharp left-turns or, in some cases, drop-off entirely. Plot points from decades ago remain dangling to this day. Like his fellow absurdist Steve Gerber, Burden’s strengths as a storyteller did not include long-term plotting. Where Burden’s talent did shine, however, was writing and illustrating one of the funniest, most odd-ball comics ever published. Also, like Gerber, Burden’s output has retained its edge over two decades later.
Three decades ago a young writer and artist met in the offices of a telephone sales company. They were both novice talents in search of a way to break into the comic book medium. In this case, they were following up on reports that members of said phone firm were considering funding an “exciting” new anthology spotlighting fresh creators. As is often the case with such ventures, the anthology never panned out, but it did provide the opportunity for the writer and artist to have a chat. They decided they would like to work together, and, after a near miss or two, produced a graphic novel. First published 30 years ago, Violent Cases is the first collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, whose partnership has evolved over the following decades into one of the most distinctive in the medium’s history. Few others creators have been as closely associated with the other as they have. That history began with a tale of childhood, gangsters and that ever elusive thing called memory.
Before Grant Morrison led readers on a trip across DC’s Multiversity, before he guided Animal Man through the wastelands of Character Limbo, before DC hit the reset button of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the first place, there was Ambush Bug. In 1985, DC published a four issue mini-series starring the absurd hero of the same name co-written by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming and illustrated by Giffen. The series is a wacky, almost surreal dance through the current state of DC continuity. Along the way, Giffen and Fleming find plenty of targets for ridicule, while at the same time celebrating the silliness that is superhero comics. Does some of it get too silly? Perhaps, yet, in the same spirit of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, there is an anarchic spirit which enlivens the books, rendering nearly every page of it inspired fun.
“Everyone whose life has ever been touched by random, tragic chance has come away from it changed . . .” –Alan Brennert
In 1989, as part of their celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of Batman, DC printed a series of testimonials about the enduring importance of The Dark Knight. These ran in the back pages of Detective Comics #598-600 as postscripts to Sam Hamm and Denys Cowan’s Blind Justice serial. Most of the remembrances covered the familiar territory of how Batman stood apart as the non-powered hero who was most relatable to the average reader. A couple stood outside the pattern, though. Stan Lee, as if he were auditioning to write a Demon series, turns in a rhyming poem which somehow manages to be silly and grandiose at the same time. Adam West reflects on the then rare privilege of playing a superhero on screen. Writer Alan Brennert took a different track. His focus is not on the tragedy of Bruce Wayne, but the ideals of the Batman. For him, the hero’s sense of justice is what makes him so popular. It is not the anger which defines him; it is how he “channel[s] that anger into something constructive.” Batman is a creature of justice, not madness.
Alan Brennert has had a long career writing for different mediums. His most prominent work has been as a producer/writer in television, where he won an Emmy for L.A. Law. He has authored several prose novels as well. His contributions to comic books are sparser, yet, significant. His handful of issues include two of the all-time great Batman tales: “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” and “To Kill a Legend.” “Autobiography” (The Brave and the Bold #197, 1983) remains the best treatment of the long, tangled relationship between Batman and Catwoman. “To Kill a Legend” appeared in 1981 as the lead tale of Detective Comics #500. In it, Brennert delves deep into the origins of The Dark Knight, emerging with a fresh, fascinating take on the iconic character.
Last year as part of Nothing But Comics’ celebration of 75 years of scarlet speedsters, I turned the spotlight on Jay Garrick and Barry Allen. However, time ran out before I was able to tackle the third person to hold the title of The Fastest Man Alive: Wally West. Long a fixture of Barry Allen’s life, Wally’s promotion from kid sidekick to adult legacy hero represented a bold choice on DC’s part. Barry Allen’s debut in 1954 had given new life to the superhero genre, ushering in The Silver Age of comics. Thirty-two years later, his death played a pivotal role in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC mega event which is one of the markers cited for the ending of the industry’s Bronze Age. When the smoke cleared Wally West was poised to help lead into DC into a new era.
The Vision has had a long rich history since his 1968 debut in Avengers #57. Originally created as a weapon for the Avengers’ destruction, he quickly earned their trust and the devotion of their fans. Indeed, he ranked #2 in our own list of greatest Avengers ever. This Wednesday Marvel premieres a new Vision series written by Omega Men writer Tom King. Earlier in the year, I discussed the character’s earliest appearances. Today I shall focus my attention on Vision’s first mini-series co-staring his wife Scarlet Witch.
Vision and the Scarlet Witch had long been romantically linked when Steve Englehart wrote their marriage ceremony for Giant-Size Avengers #4. The wedding happened in 1975, but it was not until 1982 that the couple received a spin-off series. Written by Bill Mantlo and penciled by Rick Leonardi it depicted a couple trying to carve out a life for themselves apart from their former teammates in the big city. They purchase a modest home in suburban New Jersey (Leonia to be precise), hoping for a more quiet existence. And so, the first issue opens with the couple walking through the neighborhood on Halloween as trick-or-treaters parade past. When Vision is caught without any treats for a trio of kids, he provides them with a trick courtesy of his denisity altering powers. It is a charming sequences which ends with an affectionate exchange between the spouses. Despite some of the more outlandish aspects of their appearance, they truly feel like any other couple taking a nightly stroll.
Continue reading The Vision’s Empathetic History