BOOKS AND MOVIES BY COLIN SMITH
New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics(contributor)
TOP MAGAZINE CONTENT BY COLIN SMITH
It’s too good a story not to be treated with suspicion. Asked to recall his first comic by Lee Randall of The Scotsman in 2009, Mark Millar declared that he could remember the matter “exactly”.… [more]
Who’d pitch a character such as Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s Doctor Strange to one of the Big Two today?
Don’t print the legend. There was no such thing as an archetypal “Marvel superhero” for the first few years following the publication and unexpected success in 1961 of the Fantastic Four. What would in hindsight… [more]
In the shadows of the planet Thanagar’s great High Towers, where the three billion souls of the Empire’s alien underclass are segregated away in the most squalid and soul-butchering of conditions, there’s a statue of… [more]
In the very first Dan Dare adventure, which began to be serialised weekly in the Christian boy’s comic Eagle in 1950, we’re introduced to the ”Inter Planet Space Fleet some years in the future.”
He’s Not a Super-Hero, He’s Not Even a Very Naughty Boy: The Case Against Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith
He’s a bad one, that Zenith, and we can be sure about that badness because the people who know assure us that it’s true.
OTHER MAGAZINE CONTENT BY COLIN SMITH (131 TOTAL)
continued from last week The superhero genre had become more and more susceptible to the myth of the definitive version. It was a fan-consuming fallacy which presumed that each character possessed an irreducible core of… [more]
Continued from last week. It’s only to be expected that Millar’s work on the JLA would mesh with Grant Morrison’s agenda. But it is remarkable how closely and effectively Millar’s contributions reflected his friend’s wider ambitions… [more]
“How Can You Possibly Live In A World Without Superheroes?” – The American Superhero Comics Of Mark Millar Part 6
continued from last week Who was responsible for what in Morrison and Millar’s many collaborations? Credit boxes are often little help at all. Stories which carried the Morrison/Millar by-line were on occasion the product of… [more]
Continued from last week Though he’d never again see one of his scripts feature in any of the Batman’s many headlining titles, Millar would return to the character over and over again throughout the Nineties.… [more]
Continued from last week. How was it possible for Millar to show so much respect for Bruce Wayne’s back story while portraying such a deeply unconvincing Dark Knight? Though the writer’s take on Wayne was ludicrously… [more]
“There are Some Things in Life It’s Best not to See”: The American Superhero Comics of Mark Millar, Part 3
Continued from last week. The suspicion that Millar idled his way through his years at 2000AD is at least in part countered by the contents of Favourite Things. For it seems unlikely that he would have… [more]
Continued from last week. Favourite Things was the first mainstream superhero tale that Millar had ever sold. Previously, he’d depicted the costumed crimefighter as a horror-hybridised symbol of corruption and cruelty, as with The Saviour and… [more]
Continued from here. Exactly when Grant Morrison landed Mark Millar the job of scripting Swamp Thing is hard to pinpoint. Millar has hinted that the GLASCAC comic convention in the late April of 1993 may have… [more]
The Best of Millar: The 10 Most Enjoyable Examples of Mark Millar’s Work for UK Publishers, 1989-1997
As in last week’s “worst-of”, the following selections are presented in no order of preference; 1. Tales From Beyond Science: Long Distance Calls, with artist Rian Hughes, from 1992’s 2000AD #776. Just as I could… [more]
The Worst of Millar: The 10 Least Commendable Examples of Mark Millar’s Work for UK Publishers, 1989-1997
Shameless? will be moving on in the new year to discuss Mark Millar’s post-1993 career with a host of American publishers. But before setting out in the direction of Swamp Thing, Skrull Kill Krew and… [more]
Continued from last week. Hindsight suggests that Canon Fodder marked the beginning of the end of Millar’s relationship with 2000AD. It was by no means the last of his scripts to appear in the comic,… [more]
When I first read Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys: Friends, I stopped after the initial six pages and put the book away. For they were so perfect in themselves, so wonderfully concise and clever and moving,… [more]
Continued from last week. Though pinpointing exactly when Millar stopped working for 2000AD is an difficult business, he’d most definitely moved onto the American market by the time Canon Fodder returned without him in 1996. With the… [more]
Continued from two weeks ago. Canon Fodder reads as if two distinct stories had been awkwardly spliced together. In its first half, it’s the tale of how the Canon, Doctor Watson and Mycroft Holmes desperately combine… [more]
Continued from last week. The world-building that Millar had begun to invest in Canon Fodder was unusually rich, distinctly quirky, and full of promise. Yet that surprising combination of Catholicism, Holmesian characters, alt-world SF and superheroes… [more]
Continued from last week. “I had no idea what I was doing for the most part and just learning how to do very basic stuff then. Only good stuff I’d recommend would be Big Dave (which… [more]
Continued from last week. So how did Morrison and Millar use the pages of Big Dave to express their contempt for homophobia? Starting from the premise that their readers were similarly liberal-minded, they studded the strip’s… [more]
Continued from last week. The urge to stereotype Millar’s beliefs in the light of his least liberal scripts is an understandable one. Yet his work is anything but consistent on matters of social justice. As I’ve… [more]
Continued from last week. It’s not that Big Dave is without its pleasures, although the vast majority of them are to be found in Steve Parkhouse’s boisterously dynamic artwork. Though even he couldn’t compensate for the… [more]
Continued from last week. Given the evidence, it would be hard to argue that much of Millar’s work for 2000AD wasn’t worryingly homophobic. The best that might be said of a number of his scripts is… [more]
Continued from last week. The debate about the attitudes expressed in Millar’s work towards LGBT issues is hardly a new one. Even as early as 1993, Monaghan’s pseudo-interview with Millar and Morrison in Comic World #18… [more]
Continued from last week. Millar’s longest running assignment at 2000AD had been Robo-Hunter, for which he wrote several hundred pages between 1991 and 1993. (*1) Created by writer John Wagner and artists Jose Ferrer and Ian… [more]
Continued from last week. Laughter can be used to reveal prejudice before the mind has the chance to stifle it. But the Millar of the period gave no sign that he disapproved of his own heartless… [more]
Continued from last week. But Millar’s work for Fleetway often went far beyond casual, unthinking sexism. As the months passed and the examples of this piled up, he gave every impression of being a died-in-the-wool misogynist.… [more]
Continued from last week. The image of Millar as a tykish, daring and promising newcomer was wearing through by the end of 1992. What had at first seemed like boyish ambition, conspicuous potential and a novice’s… [more]
Continued from last week. Despite years of cold shoulders and rejection letters, Millar’s determination to write for the major players in the American comics industry never seems to have wavered. In particular, he continued to long… [more]
Continued from last week. The Spider wasn’t the only long-unseen British superhero to be radically reworked by Millar in Vicious Games. He also briefly laid claim to Tri-Man, who’d been a far more conventional example of the… [more]
Continued from last week. Fifteen months would pass until March 1992′s 2000 AD Action Special and the next of Millar’s superhero stories to see print. A stillborn revamping of the Sixties British superhero The Spider, it… [more]
Continued from last week. The obviousness of Millar’s influences would become more and more of a problem as his work for Fleetway continued. Of course, 2000AD had been founded upon a deliberate policy of appropriating and… [more]
Continued from last week. Millar hardly made it easy for the reader to sympathise with his protagonist. Arthur Montgomery is as unconvincing as a type as he’s unsympathetic as a character, and it’s only in… [more]
Continued from last week. In fact, it’s more than possible that Morrison actually had a considerable influence upon the format of Zenith: Tales of the Alternative Earths. Four years previously, he’d written his own series of… [more]
Continued from last week. For a brief moment in early 1990, Millar’s career appeared to be unambiguously prospering. As of May, Trident had, in addition to The Saviour, added Millar’s The Shadowmen to their schedule. Though… [more]
Continued from last week. It often appears that Millar is determined to deny any interpretation of his work that he doesn’t approve of. Yet as we’ve discussed, he repeatedly fails to produce comics whose political content… [more]
Continued from last week. Millar’s preference for deconstructing genre can at times make for routine and predictable comic books. For those who’d prefer more of close observation, ambition and innovation, and less of the bare bones… [more]
Continued from last week. Where religion’s concerned, there’s nothing but Catholicism to be seen in The Saviour. Not only is there no mention of any other form of Christianity, but there’s not a hint of… [more]
Continued. But more than anything else, Millar’s depiction of a demon-dominated Catholic Church was a playful, and often deliberately silly, reflection of his personal experiences and tastes. Few comic book writers have ever focused upon… [more]
There’s no better advert for the costumed crimefighter comic than Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s Marshal Law. Acclaimed for its superhero-loathing vitriol, it’s also the proof of how malleable and vital the genre can be. In… [more]
Continued from earlier today. Hampson released more than just a little of that accumulated despair and tension as Eagle moved into its second calender-month of publication.With a modest smile and the characteristic arcing of a… [more]
There are very dark things going on here. From the perspective of 2012, it can be hard to grasp just how challengingly bleak the set-up of the first month of Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare was.… [more]
It would be far easier to discuss those relatively few aspects of sci-fantastical fiction which haven’t been in any way influenced by Alex Raymond and Don Moore’s Flash Gordon. Even those genre creators who reject… [more]
In which the blogger hopes that folks might stick around while he discusses a thoroughly fine and not unimportant story which many of you probably haven’t read, but which you really might want to, regardless… [more]
Continued from last week. “Half the country, and by that I mean living north of the M25, were victims of Thatcher’s modernisation program. My Dad lost his job when I was 15 and never worked… [more]
Continued from last week. There’s a sense in which The Saviour helps establish the limits of deconstruction. For Millar stripped away so many of the genre’s traditions that it ceased to be much of a… [more]
Continued from last week. But even the most experienced and gifted of writers would struggle to make a success of The Saviour. It was far too ambitious and complex a project. In mixing so many genres,… [more]
Continued from last week. But despite its barnstorming high concept, The Saviour was, as Skidmore conceded, “hard to explain” (*1). Some of this was caused by the need to keep key plot-reversals under wraps. But… [more]
Everyone’s at least something of a villain in Iron Man 2, except for some of our superhero’s friends and those thoroughly unaccountable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and yet one of the very worst of the bad… [more]
Continued from last week. It’s impossible to say how much the young Millar wrote or how often he sent off his work to publishers in the years before he landed the Trident Comics contract. His… [more]
Continued from last week. The Saviour #1-6 (December 1989 to January 1991) Trident #5 (April 1990) The Saviour TPB Volume 1, Trident, 1990 (reprints all of the above except issue 6, with a Neil Gaiman… [more]
Continued from last week. Shameless? will inevitably reference the way in which Mark Millar has discussed his own work. As such, it’s worth noting that his distinctive public persona turns out not to have been… [more]
Continued from last week. It would take Millar almost a decade to develop a style that was as controlled and effective as his ideas were consistently intriguing. The first substantial evidence of this would appear… [more]
Continued from last week. “Why are they so obsessed with continuity? A story is a story – nothing more, and yet people want to know which Earth Watchmen takes place on.” (*1) The adolescent Millar… [more]
My So-Called Secret Identity: not just principled, smart and promising, but repeatedly downright enjoyable. Every story contains any number of manifestos. The less a comic’s creators focus on a precise expression of their own beliefs,… [more]
Continued from last week. From the middle of the Eighties to the decade’s end, the teenage Millar’s preference appears to have been for the breed of super-hero comics associated with the label of deconstruction. The… [more]
Continued from last week. Only Mark Millar knows which twelve months of his life would most deserve the title of Annus horribilis. But from what he’s said in the press, the years of the late… [more]
The Renaissance Man, The Master Of The World?: One Last Look at the Ditko / Lee Doctor Strange (Part 12)
One recurrent criticism of Doctor Strange as a character is that he’s simply too powerful. A great many writers and fans alike have contended that comic book magic provides him with the tension-destroying ability to… [more]
Well, why doesn’t the Batman simply kill the Joker? You’d think the answer would be obvious. Yet fans the blogosphere over appear quite flummoxed, if not dangerously apoplectic, about the matter. The Joker can’t be… [more]
Why would the Ancient One wait until after Strange had confronted Dormammu before rewarding his triumphant student with “new powers”? Perhaps the physical and magical enfeeblement caused by the Dreaded One’s spell had left the… [more]
It was the unprecedented degree of conflict, of course, which marked out the earliest Marvel superhero comics from their characteristically more polite, repressed competitors. No-one had ever produced the likes of Fantastic Four #1 before,… [more]
In the years since Ditko and Lee stepped away from writing Doctor Strange, the Ancient One tended to be characterized in terms of, at best, his moral authority and, at worst, his physical decrepitude. Yet… [more]
Steve Ditko was often displeased with Stan Lee’s interpretation of his plots during the last few years in particular of their collaboration. Sadly, there seems to be no way of telling how the artist felt… [more]
It took almost two years of monthly adventures before Strange finally realized how tremendously fond he was of Clea. As if the relief of finally rescuing her from Dormammu’s banishment had cut through the magician’s… [more]
As with friendship, so with romance. Love, or at least lovelornness, tended to ground Marvel’s superheroes in a version of mundane reality that reflected the world-view of young boys just learning to recognise both longing… [more]
It seems hard not to believe that Strange was deliberately making himself and his mission known to the world in a somewhat indirect and yet undeniably insistent way.
Even smiling at the literal-mindedness of the West was no little matter in the Marvel books of the period.
The Sorcerer’s Code committed Strange to the defense of the Earth, and it obliged him to place the welfare of humanity above that of any alien race.
2000AD artist Henry Flint still recalls the excitement of encountering the first issue of the weekly SF-adventure comic. It was, he says, “nasty, brutal. Parents hated it. The morality of the heroes was questionable. After… [more]
Having found his way to “India, land of mystic entanglement” in the hope of having the “Ancient One” heal his hands, the still entirely cynical Strange discovered that magic really did exist.
The Phoenix is so purposefully targeted at such a specific audience that it can be hard for the rest of us to remember that it exists.
The most radical propositions don’t always arrive with their trousers around their ankles, flashing their behind to the bourgeoisie while thrilling culture’s gatekeepers with headline-generating, career-making manifestos.
Sean Howe begins his history of Marvel Comics in 1961 with publisher Martin Goodman ordering Stan Lee to produce a knock-off of rival DC’s new and successful Justice League of America.
Did we really used to take this pretty much for granted? In what was considered a respectable, family newspaper? It seems absurd now.
We all know how the story ends, of course, and as soon as Tom Gauld introduces us to his own take on the Philistine giant, we can guess much of what the route to his… [more]
There are all too few moments when it’s as easy to adore Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B’s Best Of Enemies as it is to admire it.
An Interview with Rob Williams, on 2000AD‘s Ichabod Azrael and Comics Storytelling in General (Part 2)
Continued from last week. COLIN SMITH: I may well be very wrong here, but it seems from the outside as if you’re determined not just to tell a good story, but to push your own boundaries… [more]
I gave up on 2000AD in the early 1990s. Not only did it seem to have lost much of its sharpness and satirical edge, but it often appeared complacent, sloppy and even, on occasion, smug… [more]
In which the interview with Al Ewing — begun last week — is concluded. COLIN SMITH: To what degree does the writer of fantastical fiction have a political responsibility, and who’s that responsibility to? To… [more]
I’d struggle to overstate how much I enjoy and admire Al Ewing’s work.
By design and chance, Tales to Astonish #44 had presented a fledgling romance between Pym and Van Dyne which had the potential to constantly and plausibly generate both conflict and reconciliation over and over again.… [more]
Suddenly, Ant-Man’s wife was dead.
In which the blogger attempts to review Rorschach #1, despite the experience proving a thoroughly enervating one. Visitors should be aware that what follows contains spoilers and, uniquely for this article, a moment or two… [more]
Why should we care about Tony Stark? More importantly, why should we pity him?
It’s not so long ago that the very idea would have sounded thoroughly absurd. Yet, the Batman tales of the late ’50s and early ’60s by editor Jack Schiff, writer Bill Finger, and penciler Sheldon… [more]
Becoming a monster’s not all bad, or so Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko assured us.
Human beings don’t arrive on the planet Earth until its opening chapter is very nearly over. Yet every single panel of the first book of Larry Gonick’s The Cartoon History of the Universe contains something… [more]
1. Wherever you look, there he is. And if he isn’t there, well, why not? Because even today in 2010, there’s still something distinctly peculiar about any modern-era superhero comic which appears to bear no… [more]
Nothing ever ages worse than a typical product of the moment just before a paradigm shift.
“Adult” all too often has a different meaning now. But in the very best sense of the term, Jordan and Patterson’s Jeff Hawke was a newspaper science-fiction comic strip for adults.
1-2-3-4! Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s “The Case of the Hollow Men” is punk super-heroics.
Any amount of risible super-pirate Cap’n Lash is far, far too much, and there are five pages and more of the wretched character in writer Mike W. Barr and artist Trevor Von Eeden’s 1983 mini-series… [more]
You have to be careful what chapter of Charley’s War you pick to introduce yourself to the strip. It’s all too easy to stumble upon a three- or four-page episode that, at first, seems to… [more]
“After this, there’s nothing,” explains the ghost of the murdered Hong Kong cop. There is, he assures Planetary’s “mystery archaeologists,” no afterlife awaiting them, or indeed anyone else, when death arrives. Something has brought the… [more]
If 2012′s sales figures are to be trusted, today’s hardcore super-hero fans are predominantly reactionary creatures.
The received wisdom has it that the future world of the Legion Of Super-Heroes was originally an inspiringly optimistic, comfortingly cosy, super-scientific utopia.
In his Art of the Comic Book, R. C. Harvey offers Boys’ Ranch as an example of Jack Kirby having elevated comics into an “art form.”
NB: The Zaucer of Zilk is currently being serialised in 2000AD, so please be aware of oncoming spoilers as well as the likelihood that most if not all of my presumptions are entirely misplaced.
I’ve never once criticised the work of another blogger in public, so why start now? Yes, Gene Phillips’s Making a Dirty Breast of the Matter (parts 1 and 2) are appallingly written pieces which express… [more]
Dan Dare is ancient comics history now.
Those who choose to see the superhero comic’s decline as a relatively recent occurrence may prefer to keep their preconceptions away from The Evolutionary War, a sequence of often-awkwardly linked stories which were originally strung… [more]
1. When did Alan Moore become ALAN MOORE? When did the promising prospect become the master Bardly craftsman? If his work for Marvel UK in the early 1980s is to be trusted, the graduation occurred… [more]
Scott McCloud’s The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln reads as if it had been pieced together by a team of expert comic-book historians from a great mass of often incomplete and even contradictory notes, sketches,… [more]
It’s not just great artists who steal.
The years steam past, the comics pile up, and the canon for any single moment of time soon collapses to a ridiculously over-simplified, back-of-a-Trivial-Pursuit-card answer.
Alan Moore doesn’t even slum it like the rest of us do.
Camus defined a rebel as a man who says no, and that’s exactly what Warrant Sergeant Hugh Thompson was on Saturday, 16 March 1968, when his helicopter flew over the Vietnamese village of My Lai.
Please do be aware: spoilers.
Please be warned: spoilers ahoy!
Violence is generally presented as a solution to problems in comics, because, being the illustrated form they are, they tend to over-simply, reduce everything to its most basic.
Please be warned; this second Valentine’s Day piece contains very significant spoilers!
It’s hard to tell at first from looking that the Clark Kent of 1959’s “The Girl In Superman’s Past” is desperately in love.
Some of it is still shocking.
There’s such an obvious distinction to be made between the two, but there’s a lot of folks who consistently fail to do so.
There’s something of the world before the meteor fell about the Marvel Comics of the mid-Seventies.
It may not seem like so at first, but everything is broken in Alan Brennert and Jim Aparo’s Interlude On Earth-Two.
What to do when trapped with a front-line, world-class bore?
Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man was the most impossible thing. It simply could not be. It was a category error, a fanboy’s absurd daydream, a conceit to be associated with an alternate Earth where each family… [more]
I don’t know how to write about this, and I’m extremely nervous about trying to do so. Truthfully, I can’t deny that I’m tempted not to try.
It seems that Geoff Johns isn’t writing scripts anymore so much as lists. And after the fashion of the unassimilable tourist abroad, who believes that the folks around him will understand what he’s saying if… [more]
On the evidence of Messrs. Hickman and Ribic’s The Ultimates #1, the fundamental concerns of feminism haven’t yet become a matter of public concern and debate on Earth 1610, or (it needs to be said) in… [more]
Even putting the context of DC’s “New 52″ initiative aside, it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which Legion Lost might qualify as even a barely-adequate comic. For it’s such an awkwardly and unhelpfully written book… [more]
“Ultimatum”, “Crisis On Infinite Earths” & “Onslaught” & The Thinning Out Of The Superhero Herd A Touch:- “The End Of All Flesh Is Come Before Me”
“Ultimatum” 14. “Ultimatum” was designed to affect an extraordinary culling of super-folks from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, a somewhat-ailing if still successful component of the companies multiverse. Like “Crisis” and “Onslaught”, it was a project designed… [more]
I can’t do it, I just can’t. It doesn’t matter how much I admire Kieron Gillen as a writer, and admire him I most certainly do. He’s undoubtedly one of the best half-dozen writers currently at… [more]
It’s hard to suppress the suspicion that there are comic-book creators who have quite deliberately chosen to ignore the business of storytelling in favor of butt-shots and throw-downs, pin-ups and continuity porn.
In Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain and MI:13 #1, the eponymous Captain is killed by a Skrull missile during an alien invasion of Britain. As is the way of super-hero comics — and as was something of a habit… [more]
It’s impossible to believe that DC Comics was careless where it came to Flashpoint: Hal Jordan. They must have known exactly what it was that they were doing. The powers at 1700 Broadway, NYC, must… [more]
In which we continue our look, begun here, at the first year of the Batman’s existence.
It’s not the responsibility of a manifesto to make sense. It’s the job of a manifesto to make it appear that the things which it claims to oppose don’t make sense.
The Bat-Man was not a bad-ass. He was an idiot.
We’ll talk of the value of Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s Flashpoint #1 solely in the context of a superhero comic at another time, but it’s worth saying in passing that it’s in many ways a… [more]
What are we to make of the hero and his alter ego in “The Mighty Thor and the Stone Men from Saturn,” from August 1962?