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Category: The Pull List (Page 2 of 2)

5 Stories to Remind You Batman is a Detective and 1 That Will Make You Forget

I have one complaint about the depiction of Batman in the recent slate of films. These stories downplay The Worlds’ Greatest Detective’s analytical skills by focusing on the technology and “toys” that Bruce Wayne’s fortune allow him to obtain. This week, let me suggest stories that helped to establish Batman as a premiere investigator.

5 Stories to Remind You Batman is a Detective

“The Man Behind the Red Hood,” from Detective Comics #168, 1951. Story by Bill Finger with art from Lew Sayre Schwartz and Win Mortimer.


“The Man Behind the Red Hood”

In this issue, State University invites Batman to teach a Criminology class. He uses the opportunity to challenge the students to solve an unresolved, ten year-old case. A villain, dubbed the Red Hood, stole $1,000,000 from the Monarch Card Company and escaped down a discharge pipe. Neither his identity, nor his body, were ever discovered. The Red Hood never committed another crime.

This comic balances 50’s era camp with interesting detective work. Batman co-creator Bill Finger throws in a few entertaining twists and turns. Mistaken identities, false leads, and a shock reveal at the end should keep you engaged throughout the issue. Detective#168 also marks the first telling of The Joker’s origin story.

“One Bullet Too Many,” from Batman #217, 1969. Written by Frank Robbins with internal art by Irv Novick and cover art by Neal Adams.

"One Bullet Too Many"

“One Bullet Too Many”

This comic marks a clean break from the campy Batman stories of the 1960’s and is one of the first comics of the Bronze Age. After Robin moves out of Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne and Alfred pack up to establish a new base of operations in a Gotham high-rise. Batman adopts a new logo; the familiar bat wings surrounded by an oval of yellow.

None of Batman’s gadgets make an appearance in this story. Batman, and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne, rely on their charisma and skill at disguise to investigate the murder of a doctor and coax the killer out of hiding. Batman’s physical prowess fails him, and a bullet wound in his arm becomes one of the key elements to solving the case. The creative use of thought bubbles in this issue reveals Batman’s mental process of working through the evidence and offers a behind-the-scenes look at what happens in an investigative mind.

“Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman,” from Batman #225, 1970. Written by Denny O’Neil with internal art by Irv Novick and cover art by Neal Adams.

"Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman"

“Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman”

“Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman” describes an elaborate scheme to frame the Caped Crusader by a confrontational talk show host. O’Neil leads us through the Batman’s investigation, challenging the reader to identify what his detective’s mind has noticed.

No author has done more to establish Batman as a Detective than Denny O’Neil. I found this issue representative of the overall quality of the run. O’Neil started with the character in Batman #217. Collaborating frequently with artist Neal Adams, the two set the tone for the Batman throughout the 70’s and beyond. O’Neil’s work has recently been collected into a single omnibus I can heartily recommend. There’s not a bad comic in the bunch.

Batman and the Monster Men, 2006. Story and Art by Matt Wagner.

Batman and the Monster Men

Batman and the Monster Men

In 2006, author and artist Matt Wagner went all the way back to a short story from Batman #1 to flesh it out to eight issues. The tale relates an encounter between Batman and the villainous Dr. Hugo Strange. It also includes all the characters found in the Detective’s early stories. As the story begins, Jim Gordon’s promotion to captain provides Batman with additional investigate perks. In addition, Bruce Wayne’s first love, Julie Madison, graduates from law school. Her character hopes to start a life of her own or to spend time with Bruce in pursuit of her MRS degree.

Wagner’s time on Grendel and The Shadow provide him with impactful expertise in writing for the mystery genre and detective characters. He wisely utilizes this knowledge to place Batman in the Batcave’s crime lab for a fair chunk of the story. Jim Gordon allows Batman access to the crime scene in advance of the GCPDs’ own CSI unit. Unlike the original, however, Batman doesn’t cure himself of Dr. Hugo’s monster making compound in a few scant moments. Still, in this version the World’s Greatest Detective takes care to use his mind and not only his fists, or toys, to catch the bad guy.

Batman #667-669, 2007. Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by J.H. Williams III


The International Club of Heroes: The Musketeer, Dark Ranger. El Gaucho with Raven Red, The Legionary. Man-Of-Bats, and Wingman.

In this tale, Batman and the International Club of Heroes find themselves trapped on an island. Batman, and Robin, who actually has a few nice moments to show off his detective skills too, must deduce the identity of a murderer before he kills all of its members. Writer Morrison slowly eeks out the history of the International Club of Heroes and offers up much in the way of motive and opportunity.

Leave it to Grant Morrison to pull an obscure group of heroes from the 1950’s, Detective Comics #215 to be exact, and provide them with depth they never had in the past. Exposing and detailing these characters add history and a complexity to an engrossing and human story. J.H. Williams III’s art provides a somber mood and flashes of whimsy that suddenly turn dark.

And One that Will Make You Forget

Batman: The Dark Night Returns, 1986. Written by Frank Miller, illustrated by Miller and Klaus Janson

DKR set the tone for Batman throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Stepping away from his traditional role as  detective, this vision of Batman from an alternate future, relies less on his intellect and more on wrote power. This era focused on gadgets and inventions that enabled Batman to have superpowers. In DKR, a suit of armor gives him enough power to fight and defeat Superman. The recent slate of movies draw heavily from this concept, each iteration leading to a new Batmobile and other “toys.”


The Batmobile from Dark Knight Returns

7 Stories to Help You Feel Better about Superman (and 1 That Won’t)

I’ve made no secret about my enjoyment of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Many hated it. The chief complaint I’ve heard centers around the portrayal of Superman. Let me suggest these seven stories that will wash the aftertaste of that movie right from your mouth and one that offers a bitter pill to swallow.

“Superman v Luthor” from Superman #4, 1940. Story and art by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Luthor_Action_Comics_23A red headed Luthor and Superman face off for the first time. Through a series of tests, Superman proves his power. He can travel faster, fly higher, and lift more than any technology, while surviving practically anything. Siegel and Shuster make a point to show Superman saving a number of people from harm establishing the character’s concern for others early on in his history.

“What if Superman Ended the War” from Look Magazine, 1943. Story and art by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

An early, interesting, and very short look at how Superman could affect world politics. In this issue, the Man of Steel flies to Berlin and Moscow, picking up Hitler and Stalin and delivers them to Geneva to appear before the league of nations.


Superman doesn’t waste time fighting soldiers or destroying the machines of war. Instead, he intervenes at the highest level to stop the conflict.

“The Girl from Superman’s Past” from Superman #129, 1959. Story by Bill Finger with Art by Wayne Boring

Forbidden love, Superman style.

Forbidden love, Superman style.

Bob Finger, one of the creators of Batman, penned this story of romance. After rescuing a disabled fellow student at Smallville University, a young Superman falls in love with this mysterious co-ed. The story reveals Lori Lemaris as an Atlantean spy, a mermaid sent to the surface world to evaluate the air breathers’ technological progress.

This story paints an image of a lonely and nearly friendless Clark Kent falling hard for a woman who matches Superman’s courage and may surpass his intelligence. By the end of the issue, Lori needs to return to her people and the relationship ends.

The comic doesn’t directly explain why these two can’t stay together. Superman is more than capable of surviving the ocean depths and no prohibitions against cross species marriage are mentioned. The reader is left to draw a singular conclusion. Unwilling, or feeling unable, to give up his role as Superman in the surface world, Clark resigns himself to a bachelor’s fate.

“The Death of Superman” from Superman #149, 1961. Story by Jerry Siegel with art by Curt Swan & George Klein.

AWALKIMAG008This imaginary tale starts with Lex Luthor curing cancer. Impressed by Luthor’s change of heart, Superman argues for the villain’s release from prison. Lex Luthor becomes Superman’s BFF and reveals the Man of Steels deep levels of trust and naivete.

Luthor eventually betrays Superman and kills him with a kryptonite ray. While the world mourns the loss, Supergirl captures the villain. A Kryptonian court sentences Luthor to the Phantom Zone.

“For the Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11, 1985. Story by Allan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons.

Before they created the Watchmen, the creative team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons authored what many consider the most well written Superman story. Attacked by a telepathic, alien plant, Superman lives through an idealistic existence as an average Kryptonian citizen on a planet that never exploded.

The comic offers the reader a rare glimpse into Superman’s true desires. He wants to live a normal life, marry a good and talented woman, succeed at an intellectually stimulating career, and have children. It is only his incredible power and deeply rooted sense of responsibility that prevent him from fading into the mass of humanity.

Superman fights the influence of the Black Mercy.

Superman fights the influence of the Black Mercy.

Shaking off the influence of the Black Mercy is described like ripping off an arm. Superman does it to save the Earth.

All Star Superman, 2005 ~ 2008. Story by Grant Morrison with art by Frank Quietly.

Author Grant Morrison pitched his idea for a revamped Superman all the way back in 1998. At the time he wanted to attempt “an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras. Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel.”

The fulfillment of that dream reached the stands in October of 2005. Poisoned by Lex Luthor, Superman faces the last year of his life. His actions speak to both the human and superhuman aspects of the character. He reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane and undertakes a bucket list to help both the Earth and Krypton.

All Star Superman presents a modern image of the character, without sacrificing the huge heart of the character and left a deep impression on Superman fans. ranks this tale as the #1 ranked Superman story of all time. This meme, critical of Zach Snyder’s handling of the character, draws from All Star Superman.


Superman: American Alien, 2015. Story by Max Landis with art by Nick Dragotta, Joelle Jones, Jae Lee, Frances Manapul, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jonathan Case and Jock.

This eight issue miniseries explores Superman’s origins from new and more longitudinal angle. Illustrated by a different artist, each issue focuses on a specific moment in Clark Kent’s life. This slice of life approach allows Landis to really examine the factors that combine to build the character of Superman. It’s “less about becoming a superhero,” the writer tells us, “and more about becoming not-an-asshole.”

Each step of this journey reveals some small component of Clark Kent’s compassion for others and a growing sense of responsibilities such emotions compel. Unfinished as of this writing, I am looking forward to seeing Landis’ vision of a fully formed Man of Steel.

Superman: Red Son, 2003. Story be Mark Millar with art by Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett

Superman_in_Red_SonThe master of nihilism, Mark Millar, delivers this tale of Superman landing in the Ukraine to become,”the champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.”

Believing in the Communist cause and acting for the good of the people, Superman grows up to nearly take over the world as an authoritarian dictator. Superman creates the ultimate “Nanny State.” It’s mentioned that people don’t even wear seatbelts anymore, firm in the belief their leader will save them if they get into an accident. Only through the efforts of Lex Luthor, depicted as quite the sociopath, does the US remain unconquered.

A true commitment to the underlying character of Superman, his compassion and humanity, generates a very different outcome.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Batman v Superman

I mumble about my enjoyment of Superman: Man of Steel. For all the visual spectacle, I felt the film lacked emotion. My excitement watching it felt as muted as the color palate used to depict the doomed dystopia of Krypton.

I will loudly proclaim my love for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. My worry and the sick feeling I had in my stomach have been replaced by a wide smile and a handful of chocolate covered almonds from the concession stand.

These frames from B:TDK will look awfully familiar after seeing BvS.

These frames from B:TDK will look awfully familiar after seeing BvS.

Director Zach Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong craft each shot with care to produce a sense of wonder. The pictures on the screen tug at the emotions and provide a series of stunning visuals. The images draw strongly from Frank Miller’s seminal work Batman: The Dark Night Returns, plucking art directly from the page up to screen.

BvS does not offer a very smart or mature Superman. Instead, it serves up a very flawed and human one.

Henry Cavill plays a subdued Superman. He is that quiet kid on the block, trying so hard to do the right thing and so evidently not understanding the gap between his actions and the perceptions of them. Confusion plays out across his face as the public tries to wrap their heads around the significance of the appearance of a powerful alien among them. A fire breaks out, he goes to save a child. During a flood, he rescues families. When called by his government to present himself, he goes. He plays the victim to the bully of Batman, pleading with the Dark Knight as a naïve boy scout in a desperate attempt to forestall a fight.

These two characters clearly adore each other in BvS.

Clark and Lois clearly adore each other in BvS.

An established love affair between Clark Kent and Lois Lane has not been presented on the screen before. Scenes between Cavill and Amy Adam as Lane, finally develop some chemistry between the two. Seeing these characters together, with their mix of playfulness and seriousness, feels real and honest. I believe it’s part of the reason behind the success of the current Superman: Lois and Clark comic and it works beautifully here.

If you're not reading this book. You should be.

If you’re not reading this book, you should be.

For all the previews of the armor and incredible toys, Ben Affleck reestablishes Batman as a detective and Bruce Wayne as a martini guzzling womanizer. The movie offers a vision of a slightly older Batman, a grognard deeply affected by his years of conflict. Again, Snyder pulls the best parts from the Batman: The Dark Night Returns, leaving Affleck’s surprisingly compassionate Batman war weary and tired, at the brink of true, authoritarian madness.

This is a Batman from the Golden Age. He is well armed and, using the words from 1940’s Batman #1, willing to “spit death.”

Frames from Batman #1, 1940.

Frames from Batman #1, 1940.

Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth deserves more than a mention. His version of Alfred offers a more compassionate foil to an increasingly pressed Batman in an effort to pull his boss back from the edge. The movie Alfred serves to remind Bruce that his efforts and time spent outside of the costume matter as least as much as those within.

A few choice lines reused from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns spice up the portrayal with sardonic humor.


I admit. I squeed at Wonder Woman’s entrance.

Without a doubt, Gal Gadot steals every scene where she appears. Diana Price never came off as so cool and collected, so poised and classic. Wonder Woman has never felt more right, a warrior princess from an island of Amazons. Gadot projects incredible insight into her character with a single, fleeting smirk during the climactic fight scene. Just thinking about that moment gets me counting the days until June 23, 2017 and the release of Wonder Woman.


It works better than you might think. Really.

They work better than you might think. Really.

It took a while for me to warm to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The comic book Luthor always feels unflappable; not one step ahead of the heroes, but five or six. Eisenberg’s character struck me as too flighty and disheveled to ever rise to the Presidency as did his comic book counterpart. Only in remembering Gene Hackman’s portrayal in 1978’s Superman, did I make peace with this interpretation. This is not the first time I’ve seen a more manic version of the villain. To Snyder’s and writers’ Chris  Terrio and David S. Goyer’s credit, this version of Lex Luthor works very well on film.

The story spills out like a comic book and can’t bear much scrutiny or careful consideration. The audience figuring out Lex Luthor’s convoluted scheme well before either Batman or Superman suits the movie, however.

This is an epic film, filled with epic characters. Like the gods of mythology, these are characters laid low by fatal flaws. A beacon of hope, Superman cannot conceive of the machinations of evil that surround and entrap him. A creature of darkness, Batman lies trapped by his inability to see anything but dark intrigues and collusions. This brings them into natural conflict with each other. I am thankful for the screenwriters who decided to use some pretty obscure bit of comic trivia to unite the two together. The conflict allows the friendship and respect of the two to begin.

I believe Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice marks director Zack Synder’s conquest of style with substance. I enjoyed both Superman: Man of Steel and Watchmen. For all their carefully crafted composition, they did little for me emotionally. BvS left me breathless and stunned, unsure where the movie was taking me, and not wanting the experience to end.

Fortunately, with the hints of the struggles to come sprinkled throughout the film, I know Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is just the beginning.

The Pull List: Please Don’t Suck

I have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, a coil of disappointment waiting to loosen. Tomorrow night, I’m doing something I haven’t done since Time Burton’s Batman in 1989. I’m going to watch a superhero movie on opening day.

It’s not that I will object to the crowds or any cosplay I might see. I’m really more worried that the movie will just suck.

Yes. I’m going to see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’ve got to be one of the few people that actually enjoyed Superman: Man of Steel. I didn’t care for the depiction of Jonathan Kent, or the general even emotional tone all of Zach Synder’s films. I found the movie’s dystopian view of Krypton fascinating.  The frenetic, kinetic fight scenes felt filled with super heroic power.

The movie effectively conveyed the scope of Superman’s power. To push a hero of Superman’s strength means inviting cataclysm, courting potentially worldwide destruction, and insuring high casualty count. Superman alone cannot handle these threats while protecting people.  When mere humans get involved at this level, they tend to do themselves a lot of damage. Superman: Man of Steel proves Superman needs an ensemble universe and I’m glad to see DC and Warner Brothers moving in that direction.

If it’s not MoS what’s driving my concern? Back in Summer of 2011 I had to choose between Green Lantern and X-men: First Class. I chose poorly. If there was a film I ever really watched to like, it was Green Lantern. It just didn’t happen.

I know my fears are unreasonable. My lack of enjoyment for Ben  Affleck’s Daredevil doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the Netflix series. A good chunk of the pre-release buzz has been positive so far. It’s just that…

I’m a DC guy. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman are some of the first characters I read growing up. I was a Teenaged Marvel Zombie, but DC comics outnumber Marvel in my collection 2 to 1. A 6” Mego  Aquaman action figure was the first I collected. These are “my” characters. I want to see them we ll cared for.

I’ll be back on Friday to let you know how DC  and Warner Brothers did.

The Pull List: The “I am Missing C2E2” Edition

Way back when, I used to manage a comic book store. I remember my time at Comic Relief in the Loop very fondly. The early 90’s were a great time for retail comics and games. I met all sorts of interesting people, including author Peter David and film critic Gene Siskel. And I got put on “The List.”

I never knew who maintained The List or how my name got on there. People on The List got invited to a number of industry specific events, including a rather wonderful retailer dinner in advance of the Marvel Expo in 1994. I really enjoyed sitting down to eat at Dick’s Last Resort with comic creators.

I was a bit surprised when, after being out of the comic book biz for more than 15 years, Reed Exhibitions contacted me in 2010 to join their focus group for a new comic convention they wanted to host in Chicago.


I never could find that one issue I was looking for.

I’m not a huge fan of comic conventions. I see them as a marketplace; somewhere to track down some obscure issue needed to fill a gap. With the rise of the Internet, I didn’t need conventions to find those missing books. Any number of pop culture sites would publish company news or announcements moments after they happened. I’m not a fan of autographs or standing in line. Compared to gaming conventions, comic cons seem almost anti-social. At GenCon (my favorite convention), I sit down with strangers then spend time with them in four hour blocks to try to save the world, escape madness, or conquer all. We have to interact as part of the game. Comic cons just don’t have that need to really interact with anybody.

After plying me with much food and alcohol, I fear I didn’t have anything helpful to say to Reed Exibitions. When they launched C2E2 later that year, I wasn’t really impressed.

Six years later, I have seen the error of my ways, not early enough to actually go this year, unfortunately.

Cosplay is a great way to connect with others.

Cosplay is a great way to connect with others.

Going to Anime Midwest a few years changed my mind. I learned hanging out with other cosplayers, Steampunks, and fans of X band is inherently social. There is something to be said for letting your geek flag fly while surrounded by the tribe. There is a connection created by fandom; that ability to talk with one of your people and have them understand while  one’s significant other or real world friends might just glaze over.  I am attracted to the idea of a participating in a panel discussion about a topic that speaks directly to a hobby I love.

The panel from 2015.

The panel from 2015.

I can’t make it this year, but I’m already making plans for next. If I were to go, this year I would hit these panels.

Marry, Do, or Kill? What Will It Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?

Time: March 18, 2016, 6:45 PM – 7:45 PM

Description: Female characters in comics have historically been limited to sexy good girls or sexy bad girls, with little between. Readers are ready for change! A Panel of Writers, Artists and Editors weigh in on “strong female characters,” “fridged women,” the Bechdel test and troubleshooting storytelling stereotypes. With Sandy King (Writer/Film Producer, Storm King Productions), Cat Staggs (Writer/Artist, Orphan Black), Jennie Wood (Writer, FLUTTER), Enrica Jang (Writer, House of Montresor, and moderated by Brigid Alverson (CBR).

As a male writer fond of portraying female characters, this sounds like a great session. I’ve read too much amateur fiction that reduces women to objects or overused tropes. That’s not a trap I want to fall into.

You fight like a girl! and Other Awesome Ideas involving Women and Comics

March 19, 2016, 1:45 PM – 2:45 PM

Description: Female readership can be attributed to a recent spur in the sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States: all major publishers are increasing character roles available to girls and women. In this panel, industry professionals and educators will explore the shifting nature of the field of comics with a focus on how creators are (and should be) focusing on strong roles for girls and women, and why it’s important for female readers to find themselves fairly represented on the page.

I feel representation is so important in comics, and the industry has only begun to make the slightest of inroads. I want to hear the argument and plan for continuing the trend.

Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A Career

March 20, 2016, 3:45 PM – 4:45 PM

Description: A panel of professional geeks from various industries, including video games, music composers, producers, podcasters, and journalists offer the audience sage advice for how to break into your chosen industry, and tell some funny stories of how they got into the jobs they’re in now. Includes a discussion on the different ways that being a geek can help you become a better professional, and advice on everything from copyright law to networking and turning your favorite thing into your career.

Actually, writing and publishing a comic is something on my bucket list.

The COMIC BOOK CREATOR AS CLIENT: An Overview of Representing the Comic Book Creator and Comic Book Properties

Description: Comic books are the new hot properties; movies, television, and the publishing industry are all scrambling to acquire the latest graphic novels. Are you ready to represent the creator of the next superhero smash hit? This CLE will help introduce lawyers to the business and legal landscape of the comic book industry with an emphasis on practical skills.

In my day job, I work with a host of lawyers. I am very interested in understanding how the legal and comic worlds overlap.

Anyone going to C2E2 this year? What do you plan to do? What should a first timer experience?

The Pull List for March 9, 2016

Since I was wrapped up in Daredevil last week, I thought I would point out a few choice items from today and last Wednesday.

vampVampirella #1 – Written by Kate Leth with art by Eman Casallos

The last of Dynamite’s Gail Simone driven reworks, Vampirella Vol. 3 #1 strips the lead character of her one-piece ribbon of a costume for something more practical for a fighter of the supernatural. I find it nice to see Vampirella step into the modern age.

The first issue of the series follows Vampirella as she makes a move to Los Angeles. Beyond the regular crop of monsters and other vampires, she also has to face the threat of the paparazzi.

The book does offer up a good jumping on point for the curious reader. Its words and art flow smoothly and provide solid fare. Relationships continue from previous volumes, but nothing so complex that they can’t be understood within the first couple of pages. I found it a fun read and I’m looking forward to picking up more.

bwBlack Widow #1 – Written by Mark Wade with art by Chris Samnee

The promise of Mark Wade’s work on a comic sucked me in again. He does not disappoint.

The book starts in media res and keeps the action moving throughout. The first issue relates one long chase scene, establishing Black Widow as the preeminent spy and, above all, a survivor.

The reader is left wanting more when the final page turns. There’s not much substance to the opening issue of the new series, but it was enough to make sure I added the book to my pull list.

jan160150Leaving Megalopolis: Surviving Megalopolis #3 – Written by Gail Simone with art by Jim Calafiore

What happens when all the superheroes of a city go insane? Gail Simone answered that question in last year’s, Kickstarter funded graphic novel, Leaving Megalopolis. The book painted a picture of a world filled with sadistic, super powered horrors.

Surviving Meglopolis revisits the devastation of the metropolis to offer a more thorough exploration of the mortals who were left behind. Overall, the comic provides a fascinating look at the abuse of power and its affects at a street level. Neither the words or art shy away from the potential, all too realistic, results of dominion gone mad.

I believe it one of Gail Simone’s best works and well worth a look see.

The Pull List for March 2, 2016

With the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil kicking off on March 18, I thought I would take advantage of a slow week and offer up some background two of the characters joining the cast. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, but if you haven’t read about Elektra’s appearance in the Daredevil comic, I suggest skipping the last paragraph.

3-2-2016-9-27-33-AMFrank Castle, The Punisher

The Punisher first appeared in Amazing Spider-man #129, 1974. A victim of a shooting that killed his wife and children, Frank Castle vowed to wage war on criminals. His willingness to kill, kidnap, torture, and extort bad guys made for an unusual character at that time, although he did “team up” with a number of other super-heroes. By the late 80’s and early 90’s, Punisher’s antics left him as just one of a new crop of anti-heroes. Marvel Comics did their best to capitalize on the character’s popularity by launching three, monthly comics and a feature film in 1989. The Punisher even appeared in Archie in 1994.

The characterization of Frank Castle has varied considerably through the years. At one end, he’s a soul searching, honorable soldier, frustrated by his role as vigilante. Other authors have portrayed him as completely insane, going so far as to shoot a pair of litterers (Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man #82, 1983).

I suspect Daredevil will draw from Frank Miller’s seminal run on the comic, specifically the “Child’s Play” storyline in issues #183 and #184 from 1982. The story sets both Daredevil and The Punisher against the same villain, exposing the similarities and differences between them. An obsession to fight crime drives them both. While Daredevil strives for justice, however, Punisher seeks vengeance.

The power vacuum left by Wilson Fisk’s departure feels right for such character development. An ongoing, TV series looks like a great forum to build and explore the dichotomies between Daredevil and Punisher over time. Hopefully, this season of Daredevil will wash the rather bitter aftertaste of three so-so movies out of our mouths.

Acotilletta2-Elektra_H4HElektra, Elektra Natchios

Created by Frank Miller, Elektra first appeared inDaredevil #168, January, 1981. Introduced as a love interest to the title character, Elektra quickly emerged as a popular character in her own right. However, she has not done well outside of her handling by Miller and has yet to maintain a stand-alone comic for very long.

Elektra Natchios, daughter of Greece’s Ambassador to the US, attended Columbia University with Matt Murdock. The two became lovers. Elektra left school and the States after a terrorist attack, and failed rescue attempt by Matt, led to the death of her father. Alone and disillusioned, she wandered the orient to train in the martial arts. She eventually joined then separated a group of assassins known as The Hand.

As Punisher and Daredevil act as foils for each other, the early appearances of Elektra add a third element to mark the character development of Matt Murdock; obsession without moral direction. Elektra enters the conflict as a paid assassin, bringing her into direct confrontation with Daredevil. She begins to question her actions as her time and interactions with Daredevil increase. As the story progresses, Matthew’s desire to redeem his old lover grows and Elektra’s steps in that direction significantly endanger her.

Like Punisher, a long form serial production seems better suited than a movie to develop this character. Given Elektra’s moral ambiguity, It will be interesting to see where she fits into the established storyline of the Netflix series. Will she enter as an ally or enemy?

For all her success under Miller, it can’t be said that the often problematic author treated her well in the pages of Daredevil. She was introduced then disposed of in one story arc to only further the development of the main, male character. I’m hoping her television debut will provide writers a better opportunity to provide character depth and growth Elektra deserves.

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