Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios
Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios
Mingjue Helen Chen // Boom! Studios

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #1

By Chynna Clugston Flores, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell and Whitney Cogar
Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios

The most popular recent comic for tween girls (one that isn’t written by Raina Telgemeier, that is) is probably Boom! Studios’ award-winning Lumberjanes, which is about a group of girls that investigate supernatural mysteries while away at camp. Around the same time the Lumberjanes series began, DC Comics launched a comic called Gotham Academy about a group of girls at a boarding school in Gotham City who get caught up in various supernatural mysteries. DC is not known for making comics for younger female audiences, but Gotham Academy has a steady and loyal readership. It would only seem natural for these two comics to join forces, but such a joint-publisher effort is not all that common. This is the first time that Boom! (still a relatively young publisher) has worked with one of the so-called “Big Two” comics companies.

While this six-issue series will not feature creative work from either of the series regulars, it has pulled in a couple of popular, like-minded creators in Chynna Clugston Flores (best known for her award-winning series Blue Monday) and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, who has previously worked on a Lumberjanes one-shot.

2. GORGEOUS

By Cathy G. Johnson
Koyama Press

Koyama Press

In the short graphic novel, Gorgeous, two anarchist punks steal a guitar from a rock show and drive off in a reckless, drunken haze. They eventually crash into a car driven by a college sophomore named Sophie, and their meeting proves to be greatly problematic for her.

This is Cathy G. Johnson’s first graphic novel since winning the 2014 Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent. Johnson is part of a new generation of cartoonists that eschews technical polish to produce quicker, spontaneous works. These capture a sense of realism and emotion through rough-hewn pencils, and the artists aren’t afraid to show erasure marks or unfinished lines.

3. MERRY MEN #1

By Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis and Marissa Louise
Oni Press

Oni Press

Inspired by modern academic speculation about the true nature of the tale of Robin Hood, Merry Men is a new series that depicts Robin and his crew as gay men cast out from Christian society. Robin (who goes by his real name, Robert Godwinson) is on the run from Prince John—not for robbing from him or stealing his lady, but because of a relationship he had with John’s father, King Richard. Whether or not the original tales of Robin Hood actually have such roots, this is a perfect 21st century take that works as both a slash fiction romp and an appropriate allegory for the legislative and religious battles the LGBTQ community faces today.

4. DC REBIRTH

By Various
DC Comics

DC Comics

In week two of DC’s new “Rebirth” era, the publisher continues to set up new storylines for forthcoming series by rolling out special issues:

Wonder Woman Rebirth #1
Popular writer Greg Rucka returns to this title and appears to deal with some discrepancies in Wonder Woman’s origin.

Flash Rebirth #1
The plot of DC Universe Rebirth #1 from two weeks ago primarily revolved around the return of Wally West, who was forgotten by friends and family and displaced outside of reality. Here we see Wally’s return from Barry Allen’s point of view as he investigates the mystery. This appears to be the introduction of Watchmen into regular DC continuity.

Action Comics Rebirth #957
(Some of these are reverting to their legacy numbering rather than introducing a new #1.)

Continuing the story from Superman Rebirth #1 in which Superman has died, Lex Luthor steps in to become Metropolis’ new Superman, but so does the “pre-Flashpoint” Superman. Not only that, but there seems to be yet another Clark Kent running around alive and well. Writer Dan Jurgens of “Death of Superman” fame will be in charge of this series and is echoing some of those early-1990s Superman story beats.

Detective Comics Rebirth #934
Batman and Batwoman team up to build an army of Gotham’s vigilante stragglers including Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and even the villain Clayface.

Aquaman Rebirth #1
Aquaman and Mera battle Atlantean terrorists (and get a bit to eat at a seafood shack).

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Marvel Entertainment
The Litigious History of DC and Marvel’s Rival Captain Marvel Characters
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Carol Danvers is just one of many heroes to hold the Captain Marvel mantle for Marvel
Marvel Entertainment

Behind-the-scenes struggles and legal wrangling have played just as big of a part in the history of comic books as the colorful battles on the pages themselves. And one of the most complex and long-lasting disputes in the industry has focused on Captain Marvel—or at least the two distinct versions of the character that have coexisted in a state of confusion at both Marvel and DC for decades.

Like many comic book tangles, this dispute was made possible because of the debut of Superman. Soon after his first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #1, there was a deluge of knockoffs from publishers looking for a piece of the Man of Steel pie. Though most of these were fly-by-night analogues, Fawcett Comics’s attempt at its own superhero wasn’t an inferior model—it quickly became real competition.

ENTER: THE BIG RED CHEESE

Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was created in late 1939 by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck and debuted in Whiz Comics #2. On his first cover, Captain Marvel is shown carelessly throwing a car against a brick wall, as two criminals bolt out of the windows. In Action Comics #1, Superman made his debut by hoisting a similar car over his head and driving it into the Earth, as the criminals inside fled.

The similarities were unmistakable: Here were two caped strongmen with heroic squints and circus tights leaping around cities and battling mad (and bald) scientists. But while Clark Kent got his powers from his Kryptonian physiology, Captain Marvel was, in reality, a young boy named Billy Batson who would receive his powers by shouting the magic word “SHAZAM!” If Superman was the straitlaced Boy Scout, Captain Marvel earned his moniker of "The Big Red Cheese" through sheer camp, a wink, and a nod.

Seniority mattered little to young comic book readers, and once Captain Marvel found his footing, he was outselling Superman at the newsstand and beating him to the screen by receiving his own live-action film serial in 1941. But as Captain Marvel reached larger audiences, DC was in the midst of legal action against Fawcett for copyright infringement. The claim was simple: Captain Marvel was a bit too close to Superman for DC's comfort.

DC wanted Fawcett to cease production of the serial and comics by the early 1940s, but Fawcett fought to delay a court battle for years. It wasn’t until 1948 that the case actually went to trial, with the dust finally settling in DC's favor in 1954. Legally, Fawcett would never be allowed to print another Captain Marvel book. By now, though, the superhero market was near extinction, so for Fawcett, it wasn’t even worth it to appeal again. Instead, the publisher closed shop, leaving Superman to soar the skies of Metropolis without any square-jawed competition on the newsstands.

MARVEL CLAIMS ITS NAME

The next decade would see a superhero revitalization, beginning with DC’s revamped takes on The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, and exploding just a few years later when Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics and launched a roster of heavy-hitters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, all by 1962.

Marvel was a buzzword again, and in 1966, a short-lived company called M.F. Enterprises tried to capitalize with a new character named Captain Marvel—generally considered one of the worst superheroes ever put to paper.

Marvel now needed to stop inferior comics from using its name on their covers, so it obtained the trademark for the Captain Marvel name and went about protecting it by introducing yet another character named Captain Marvel. This new alien version of the hero made his debut shortly after in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12.

The character was born purely for legal reasons. According to comic book veteran Roy Thomas, Stan Lee only created a Captain Marvel at publisher Martin Goodman's insistence: "All I know is the basis of the character came from a resentment over the use of the ‘Captain Marvel’ name."

Comics are nothing if not needlessly confusing at times, and by the early 1970s, Superman wasn’t quite the sales force he used to be. In need of some fresh blood, DC turned to an unlikely source for help: Fawcett. The company had reemerged in the late 1960s as the publisher of Dennis the Menace comics, but its hands were tied when the superhero business revived since it was legally forbidden from producing new Captain Marvel books. So they did the next best thing by agreeing to license the character and his supporting cast to DC in 1973.

CAPTAINS IN DISPUTE

Now the world’s two biggest publishers both had high-profile characters named Captain Marvel. But there was a catch: Since Marvel owned the rights to the name, DC couldn’t call its new Captain Marvel comic Captain Marvel. Instead, all of his comics went by the title Shazam, as did the character’s live-action TV revival in the mid-1970s. Oddly enough, the name of the character himself was still—wait for it—Captain Marvel. So DC could retain the character’s name in the stories but couldn’t slap it onto book covers or TV shows. Only Marvel could monetize the name Captain Marvel.

Right after Captain Marvel’s first DC book launched in 1973, there was an immediate hiccup. The full title of the series was the slightly antagonistic Shazam: The Original Captain Marvel. That lasted all of 14 issues before a cease and desist order from Marvel turned the series into Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal. Marvel, on the other hand, found itself in the position to keep its trademark by continuously pumping out more books with Captain Marvel on the cover, which is why the company’s history is littered with reboots and new versions of the character turning up every two years or so.

By the 1990s, DC had outright purchased its Captain Marvel from Fawcett, but it could barely promote him. There are only so many times you can put Shazam on a comic cover but refer to him as Captain Marvel on the inside without confusing your readers. So in 2012, DC and writer Geoff Johns decided to end the decades of confusion and simply rename the character Shazam, because, as John said, “everybody thinks he's called Shazam already.”

In 2019, these two characters that are seemingly forever linked will have another shared milestone when they both make their big screen debuts. Marvel’s Captain Marvel will hit theaters on March 8, 2019, with Brie Larson playing the Carol Danvers version of the character. And after nearly 80 years of switching publishers, changing names, and lengthy legal battles, Zachary Levi will play the title role in Shazam! a month later on April 5.

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Evening Standard/Getty Images
8 Actors Who've Played Batman (and What Fans Had to Say About Them)
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Batman is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, which has made playing him a difficult task for more than one actor. (Playing characters with rabid fan bases can be a double-edged sword.) Here, take a look back at eight actors who've donned the Batsuit—and how fans and critics reacted to their performances.

1. LEWIS WILSON

Lewis Wilson as Batman
Columbia Pictures

Lewis Wilson was the youngest person to play Batman. He appeared in the 15-part 1943 Columbia serial. Critics complained about everything from his weight to his accent.

2. ROBERT LOWERY

Robert Lowery took over the role in the 1949 follow-up serial, Batman And Robin. He was a forgettable actor in this role.

3. ADAM WEST

Adam West at 'Batman'
Evening Standard/Getty Images

West played the Caped Crusader from 1966 through 1968 in the Batman television series in addition to a film spin-off. Fans were torn: Either they loved his campy portrayal or hated it.

4. MICHAEL KEATON

Michael Keaton's casting in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film caused such controversy that 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Brothers’s offices.

5. VAL KILMER

Val Kilmer in 'Batman Forever' (1995)
Warner BRos.

Val Kilmer put on the suit in 1995 and received mixed reviews. Director Joel Schumacher called the actor “childish and impossible."

6. GEORGE CLOONEY

It's safe to assume Clooney regrets his decision to star in Batman & Robin. It was the worst box-office performer of the modern Batman movies and Clooney once joked that he killed the series.

7. CHRISTIAN BALE


© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Christian Bale is largely favored as the best actor to play the Dark Knight, he was not without criticism. NPR’s David Edelstein described his husky voice as “a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever.”

8. BEN AFFLECK

Most recently: Fans immediately took to the internet to decry the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), recalling his previous roles in the poor-performing Gigli and Daredevil.

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