The Iconographies
"The Iconographies" is a series of weekly features focusing on iconic moments, creators, characters or publications in the ongoing 'biography' of graphic literature.
More Recent Features
Monomythography of an Art Form: A Prelude to Considering “The Only Living Boy”

The Greil Marcus-edited A New Literary History of America offers insight into the deeper cultural DNA of David Gallaher and Steve Ellis's The Only Living Boy.

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Labored: Why Kyle Higgins’ “C.O.W.L.” Couldn’t Come at a Better Moment

If you picked up the launch issue of C.O.W.L. earlier this week thinking that, with the season finale of Mad Man, ‘60s nostalgia is now back in, you’re maybe missing the sheer depth of Mad Men, and definitely of C.O.W.L.

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Makin’ Out: Learning about Sex from Al Feldstein’s ‘MAD Magazine’

We miss him now that he’s gone—Al Feldstein was one of the dynamos of MAD.

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A Second Look at Jonathan Hickman’s Early Creator-Owned Work

Jonathan Hickman writes himself into very exclusive fraternity that includes greats like Philip K. Dick and William Shakespeare, where the writer is recast as public intellectual.

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Structured Silence: Comics Storytelling, Minus Text

Sometimes, it’s nice for the words to step aside in a comic and just let the art tell the story for a while.

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Jazz Age Redux:“Iron Metropolitan” as Lens on Emergent Social Media Storytelling

In Iron Man: Iron Metropolitan writer Kieron Gillen finally offers a unique vision of the signature Marvel superhero, leading us into a world where art deco becomes a metaphor for modern-day geopolitical upheaval.

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The Dead Child in “Scalped: Dead Mothers”

In Scalped: Dead Mothers Shelton is determined to see his mother’s killer brought to justice, refusing to leave the reservation until the killer is caught.

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We’re All Alive, in Spite of Death: Dan Goldman on the State of Comics Culture

We talk with transmedia writer and creator of the breakout Red Light Properties Dan Goldman about how he spent Free Comic Book Day and the state of comics culture in general.

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The Azzarello-Risso Yearbook, Part 4 of 4: “Brother Lono”

Lono was a major character in 100 Bullets, arguably the meanest, most sadistic. But at the beginning of Brother Lono, he’s already done a 180-degree turn around in attitude and demeanor.

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Mourning the Death of Gwen Stacy

I was five years old the night Gwen Stacy died. I didn’t hear the news. It will come as no surprise if Gwen Stacy does die in today’s release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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The Azzarello–Risso Yearbook, Part 3 of 4: “Spaceman”

The protagonist is Orson, also the “Spaceman” of the title, genetically engineered years ago by NASA to be able to travel to and live on Mars.

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An Avenger for All Seasons: Captain America, Identity, and the US Experience

The key to Captain America: The Winter Soldier success is clear. It captured and integrated into the Marvel cineverse Captain America’s dedication to the common man's ideas of America.

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The Azzarello–Risso Yearbook, Part 2 of 4: “Broken City”

Once they’d established themselves as a formidable creative force with almost five years of excellent work on 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso got to take a crack at one of the biggest comicbook characters ever: Batman.

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That Thing, That Time…: A Look at Mimi Pond’s “Over Easy”

Over Easy is hauntingly beautiful, breathtaking, ferociously intelligent. It allows us to peer behind the veil of private lives in a radically different way to other biographies.

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The Azzarello–Risso Yearbook, Part 1 of 4: “Jonny Double”

The star of Jonny Double is also its title character, a private investigator who fancies himself hardboiled but is really just headstrong and impulsive without quite enough talent to back that up…

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Redshift: Talking with John Arcudi About His Expanding the Hellboy Universe

Our month full of Hellboy to celebrate Hellboy’s 20th anniversary continues as we share an earnest conversation with Hellboy Universe collaborator John Arcudi who opens up about his expansion of the Universe with B.P.R.D. and the Lobster Johnson stories.

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Comic Book Story Storage

Each Wednesday comic selections have been made and it’s easy to end up with a sizable stack of new material each week. Fully absorbing, appreciating, and retaining every panel of every issue is challenging, if not impossible.

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Oriatur, or a Bigger, Richer World: The Interview with Hellboy Creator Mike Mignola

In the handful of days before Dave Brockie’s passing, Mike Mignola and I spoke at great length about the then upcoming 20th anniversary of Hellboy, a character who by his very nature resisted his fate, and hoped to shape new options by his own hand…

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Emerald City Comic Con and the Future of Media

Comic books become movies. Movies becomes soundtracks, games like Avengers Battle for Earth, become interactive experiences.

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Later on with Hellboy: The Mike Mignola Warm Up

Today, we kick off the lid on a month full of Hellboy, to celebrate the character’s 20th anniversary.

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Superheroes Are a Great Terrible Idea

There are lots of stories about superheroes helping out with natural disasters, military operations, diseases, hunger, and the other countless problems of the world. But there aren’t very many superheroes who only do that stuff and leave the crime-fighting to someone else. Why not?

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The Cataclysmic Destruction of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe

It redefined the comic book industry for the new millennium. Now it is an ever-unfolding tragedy.

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“FBP” and the Stability of Constant Flux

As the story progresses in FBP, it offers a steady supply of shock, giving the audience fresh reasons to get hooked all the time. Not knowing what’s coming makes each new development a delightful surprise, rather than an inevitability.

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Things Will Be Better Now: Dan Goldman on “Red Light Properties”

Dan Goldman is a precious intellect, and we need to rally around him. He is one of the rare few artists working in any medium who are actively engaging with the idea of what it means to be making transmedia.

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The Best Bad Influences: Drumhellar and Broad City

Drumhellar's main character, Drum, and one of Broad City's two leads, Ilana, are both what could and would normally be considered bad influences—they push their friends to do dangerous things for the sake of excitement or discovery.

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A Clean, Unlighted Place: A Prelude to the Dan Goldman Interview

Dan's fearlessness is, in all truth, the light of rationalism, and the courage of spirit that comes from humanistic values. And that is the fireside we both sit at, as we head into the darker winter of the conversation ahead.

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Black Kirby NOW: An Interview with John Jennings

An Afrocentric future is born out of the inspiration and aspiration of a growing African diaspora. Of course, this promising future is a reflection of a troubled past and contested present.

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Whiskey in a Bar: The Big Picture with Jimmy Palmiotti

Superstar creator Jimmy Palmiotti talks about PaperFilms, his most newest KickStarter project, Denver, and his mainstream success, but none of this in an actual bar.

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Sanctioned Spoilers

Isn’t modern life grand? A comicbook fan can dig into the histories of specific characters, creators, titles, etc. via the numerous online archives and blogs that are out there for just that purpose.

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The Past Is No Refuge: Watching Project Black Sky Unfold

For their Project Black Sky superhero line, publisher Dark Horse engineers one of the most formidable social media campaigns ever.

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The Fictional Science of Great Science Fiction

Right now there’s an abundance of great “hard” sci-fi comics, titles that pay close attention to the tiny details of whatever made-up sciences their stories entail.

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Make Me Wanna Die: Revisiting “Death Sentence”, Nearer the End

We said some very polite and clever things about the opening chapter of Death Sentence, identifying Monty's facility at producing a Dostoevskian or Dickensian narrative that confronted existential angst at a societal level. The truth is far more tantalizing.

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“Unity” Makes the Old New Again

The super-people who band together to take Aric down are all characters from other Valiant Comics titles, ostensibly making Unity something of a Justice League or Avengers type book for the publisher, except that the stars of Unity aren’t exactly heroes.

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Learning to Live Again: Privacy, Surveillance, and the Unwritten Apocalypse

A work as erudite and as literary as The Unwritten couldn't possibly be laced with current real-world, media-hyped, crises, could it?

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Scott Snyder’s Original Batman

Before DC relaunched their entire line, Scott Snyder had an 11-issue run on Detective with artists Francesco Francavilla and Jock. Bruce Wayne was believed to be dead at the time, so his first protégé Dick Grayson was under the cowl instead.

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Actus Tertius: Finale: Somebodies, Say Something!

The question on the use of popculture goes far beyond cultural legitimacy or even cultural validity, writer and critic Samuel Sattin reminds us…

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Wrestling with ‘Loose Ends’

Loose Ends is a truly remarkable work, with oversized pages that give the highly stylized art and dialogue ample room to impress, and a story that’s intimate but enormous, with wonderfully rich and bold characters to match.

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Samuel Says: Plumbing the Sociocultural Depths of “League of Somebodies”

It's the question I didn't ask author and critic Samuel Sattin that wakes me at 3am each morning…

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“Prophet’s” Patience

Prophet was a title created by Rob Liefeld as part of his Extreme Studios imprint. It was short-lived, however, and after more than a decade, Image Comics relaunched Prophet in 2012 with a brand new creative team and direction.

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Somebodies Talking: Introducing Samuel Sattin’s “League of Somebodies”

In League of Somebodies author and critic Samuel Sattin introduces the idea of the highbrow superhero deconstructionist novel. In doing so, he starts a quiet revolution in thinking.

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“Six-Gun Gorilla” Wants You to Want Great Stories

What Six-Gun Gorilla is all about is encouraging us to seek out good stories for ourselves, to find and hold onto whatever value and meaning they contain.

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Silver Linings Playback: Exclusive Preview of MAD’s 20 Dumbest for 2013

Falling in love is hard on the knees, Aerosmith reminded us some two decades back. Between President Obama's "backpedaling" on the Syrian red-line and Miley's twerking, 2013 has been a little like that.

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I’ll Have Seconds

Unlike the Thanksgiving leftovers reheated, going for seconds is hard when it comes to comicbook issues.

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Wormhole to the Past: Superman and Lois Lane Turn 75

"Nostalgia is a seductive pleasure these days, but I worry about what it means for the ongoing health of comics…" A Look at Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years and Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years.

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Calling It a Comeback: Ultimate Spider-Man, Later

While the primary focus of this narrative is Miles Morales’ return as Spider-Man, the road there is paved with the tribulations of all the other characters involved.

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Drawing on a Wider Canvas: Artistic Wrestlings with Idea of the X-Men

It's been said that the power in the X-Men is that of social commentary, that the X-Men stand in for any oppressed minority. But could the X-Men really have made it to 50 years on the strength of nothing more than a thinly-veiled analogy?

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A New “Birth of the Cool?”: Reimagining Comics for the Digital Age

The shift to digital distribution in the comics industry is having a significant impact. Today, comics is witnessing its very own Birth of the Cool.

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The Lessons of Comicbook Loss

When it comes to character death, it’s necessary to split the discussion into two parts: mainstream superhero books and everything else.

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“Dress It Up Pretty…”: How “Inside MAD” Defeats Marketable Nostalgia, and Why It Must

Inside MAD proves that sometimes novelty and innovation parades as marketable nostalgia.

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“Hawkeye” Comes Together

In Hawkeye #8-13 six smaller stories come together to form the larger one, with each chapter written from the point of a view of a different character. Then the real magic begins.

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Sugar Crash Futures: What I’ll Read, Waiting for the Halloween Hangover

I almost never sleep on the night before Halloween ('cept really for that Devil's Night back in 2002, and y'know, when I was a kid). And that has absolutely nothing to do with comics.

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None of the Magic Has to Fade: Characters and Creators

The magic of comics is the magic of perpetual fiction--the idea that the well-worn and familiar can easily pop up in new and unexpected scenarios like the Silver Surfer appearing in analog on the cover of Joe Satriani's Surfing with the Alien.

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“Break It Down For Me”: Comics Beyond the Crimeboard

The crimeboard become the signature of high quality comics storytelling nearly a decade ago, but it would take another decade before metaphor would become medium. With Justice League of America #8, we seem to be on the cusp of another evolutionary leap in storytelling.

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Lying Cat, Sophie, and Me

If you’re not reading Saga, you’re robbing yourself of Lying Cat.

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Apocalypse Season: Exclusive Art, and John Ficarra on “MAD #524”

"We're comedy first responders," John Ficarra says, "…but it's going by too fast." And that's really all that needs to be said, comedy as a rescue from a grand danger we cannot yet conceive.

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The “Catalyst Comix” Superhero Style Guide

Granted, none of the individual sections of an issue of Catalyst Comix are full-length, but Joe Casey and his artistic partners make them dense and brisk, so even with a smaller page count, they do a great deal of storytelling.

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Breaking Bad Timing: An Eclipse of Venditti’s Shining Moment?

Will Robert Venditti's singular achievement with the opening chapter of "Lights Out" be eclipsed by what appears to be sublimely prescient timing?

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“Archer & Armstrong’s” Commitment to Fun

I don’t know how to start this column in a way that isn’t self-defeatingly dull. How do you dissect how fun something is, and why it’s fun, without spoiling the fun of that thing, even just a little bit? But that's the thing about Archer & Armstrong, it circles back around you.

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Everything Turns into the Land of Oz: Amanda Connor on “Silk Spectre”

Talking with Amanda Conner, co-writer and artist on Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre it's easy to become drawn into thinking about the recent evolutions of artists like Miley Cyrus.

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“Dream Thief” Is Better Than Other Things

The premise of Dream Thief is sneakily simple: the spirits of recently murdered people take over John Lincoln’s mind and body while he sleeps, using him to get revenge on whoever killed them.

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The Kids Are OK at Best

Growing up means realizing how little you know. Even if you should have been a superhero…

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The Changing Face of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

On September 24th, 2013, the great creator of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, Joss Whedon, will unveil his newest show on the ABC Network: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

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Batwoman: Unhappily Ever After

The spat between Batwoman’s creative and editorial teams has dominated comics news recently. And while the sexual orientation certainly makes the story sensational, this turn of events is solely about publisher DC’s editorial decisions.

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Not-So-Secret Identities

In a world of TMZ and Wikileaks, do secret identities even matter anymore?

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Prelude to the End of the Summer

This summer has highlighted the new shape of the comics industry and maybe the best way to engage these changes is through the poetry of Adrienne Rich.

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Around the “Dial H”

The cancellation of Dial H came as a bummer but not a shock. Its sales were never off-the-charts, and its story, characters, setting, and tone aren’t quite like those of any other title coming out of DC right now.

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Marvel’s Avengers Initiative, Part 3

Yeats wrote, in "The Second Coming", "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold." In a way, we see this exact line fleshed out as a comicbook narrative within New Avengers

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An Appropriately Epic Thor

Thor was a superhero’s superhero, battling evil on a scale inaccessible to most if not all of his colleagues in the Marvel Universe.

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‘Cept for the Pope, Maybe, in Rome: Exclusive Preview of the “MAD #523”

Think of it as the natural counterpoint to the entire debate around "personal liberty vs. public good…"

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Grand Theft Hushmoney

It's when I imagine myself standing in line to tomorrow's premiere of Jobs, that the idea begins to formulate in my mind. Like Steve Jobs himself, Robert Siciliano's keen appreciation and leveraging of pop culture is perhaps what makes him one of the keenest minds in cybersecurity.

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Star Trek, the Answers: An Interview with Writer Mike Johnson

With two big screen releases to establish the franchise-wide reboot under the belt, Star Trek: The Ongoing Series becomes a focal point for fan interest. We talk to series regular writer, Mike Johnson.

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Small-Town Horror and Heroines: “Rachel Rising” and “Revival”

A young woman is murdered and nobody knows by whom, including the woman herself who, miraculously, has returned to life. To complicate things further, she’s not the only person in her small town to recently beat death likes this.

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2 Aug 2013 // 4:50 AM

Why the Avengers Matter Now

How did the old school, more sombre, more tired Avengers of the '80s and '90s become the hip Avengers of the new millennium? Posing the question, and attempting an answer delineates some crucial insights into the perpetuating longevity of pop culture.

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There Is No “I” in “Storm Dogs”

What makes Braithwaite the right choice as artist for this series isn’t just his ability to bring the same level of detail and care to everything, from tiny space slugs to massive spaceships. It’s the way he makes common elements from so many different genres seem like they belong in the same world.

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Spectacularly Simple: “The Black Beetle”

The Black Beetle is a Francavilla original, a superhero character living in a pulp noir world. Because it is his own creation, and undoubtedly also because it’s a genre he’s passionate about, Francavilla’s art has never looked better than it does in this book.

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The Equalizer: Interview with ‘MAD’ Editor John Ficarra and Exclusive Preview of “MAD #522”

Exclusive artwork from MAD #522 lights up an exclusive interview with the legendary MAD Editor John Ficarra.

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Reboot to the Head: A Comicbook-based Analysis of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel

A solid film, but a solid Superman? A comparison between the latest version and the collective and popular history of Superman is most certainly warranted, especially with some of the more surprising aspects of Zack Snyder's “reboot to the head" that is The Man of Steel.

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Marvel’s Avengers Initiative, Part 2

What does it mean to be an Avenger? The journey continues through Young Avengers and Uncanny Avengers.

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Before Watchmen

The elephant in the room... did DC Comics have the right to resurrect Watchmen in the pages of Before Watchmen? Here's an exclusive preview of Before Watchmen: Minutemen & Silk Spectre and Before Watchmen: Ozymandias & Crimson Corsair.

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The Great Escape: Exclusive Preview of the Last Hellblazer Concept Art Ever

There'll be no more Hellblazer after this one. It's John Constantine's final appearance in the magazine, and it's the final collection of the same, Death & Cigarettes. Earlier this year I argued, maybe it's time to move on. But now I'm thinking, may it's time to remember…

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Sons of the House of L: Superman and the Drake Equation

There's a schism between the hopefulness and wonder of science fiction, and the dry analysis of science. But sometimes if the idea is big enough, it can overcome that sociocultural schism. Sometimes all you need is Superman, or Frank Drake.

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Supremium: Image Comic’s Less “Awesome” Superman

Every superhero owes Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's incredible creation a debt of gratitude for their very existence. And at the time of this writing, the hands-down runaway box-office hit is none other than The Man of Steel, just in time for the first Superman's 75th birthday. Time for a pastiche, don't you think?

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How Does Superman Shave?: A Discussion with Mythbusters Adam and Jamie

Who are the Mythbusters? Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman take time off the set of Mythbusters to answer Gillette's challenge of "How Does He Shave?" And in a discussion with PopMatters, the Mythbusters get to the heart of why they make popular culture, and why it matters.

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Marvel’s Avengers Initiative, Part 1 of 4: Avengers and Avengers Arena

What hath Bendis wrought?! In unravelling the traditional structure of the Avengers nearly a decade ago, writer Brian Michael Bendis lay the groundwork for something truly unimaginable at the time. Something both Joss Whedon with the 2012 blockbuster, and current writer Jonathan Hickman are heirs to.

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A Decade by Lantern Light: “Green Lantern” vs. “The Office”

In his last review for the U.S. version of The Office, Erik Adams of The A.V. Club explained that the final episode of one of the biggest TV shows of the past decade “…gets sentimental, but it deserves to get sentimental.” But it was also more than that. As was Geoff Johns decade-long run on Green Lantern…

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Maim of Steel: Exclusive with John Ficarra on “MAD Superman Spectacular”

There's a pause from John Ficarra, then a slight chuckle, then, a wistful sigh before he answers. A special edition format like MAD Super Spectacular: Superman highlights John's stewardship of not only the cultural mainstay that is MAD, but his mentoring of an entirely new generation of MAD talent…

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No End in Sight: The Exclusive with ‘Watchmen’ Co-Creator John Higgins

Watchmen co-creator John Higgins talks about his opus Razorjack and his road to self-mastery as a comics creator's creator.

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New York City-Sourced Chaos in Graphic Novel ‘Strange Attractors’

Instability underpins this maps-and-Manhattan-centric graphic novel from Charles Soule.

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Eliot, then Chopin: Investigating ‘The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes’

Before Sandman, huh? Well that must mean there's at least a Sandman before, Before Sandman. So let's start at the beginning…

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Sword of Sorcery, A Retrospective

With an acclaimed career in writing TV shows and videogames, Christy Marx was practicing transmedia long before the term became popularized. Her reimagining of DC's classic Amethyst stories only underpin her mastery…

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Drawn Back Into Dreaming: Spotlight on Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”

Why would Neil Gaiman return to the proverbial scene of the crime, the scene of his greatest, grandest, longest-running comics success, the Sandman? Perhaps the answer lies in the work itself…

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Cold War Kids Are Hard to Kill, a Sonnet

While the Cold War might be over, for the creative teams behind Winter Soldier and Suicide Squad, the Cold War itself becomes a powerful metaphor.

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Re: Purpose: Is Summer 2013 a High Noon for the Superhero Movie?

Just as westerns in the 1950s addressed the role US geopolitical concerns during the Cold War, the superhero and pulp-hero movie seems to have slid comfortably into that same popcultural space.

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Great Literature, Circuits Through Time: A Deeper Look at “Saga #12”

Great literature is instantly recognizable, regardless of how its stories are relocated in historical context. Brian K. Vaughan's Saga reminds us that the same is easily true for the medium of comics…

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Comics Creator Matt Kindt’s ‘Fine Art’

Each page that comics creator Matt Kindt produces is marked by an ability to communicate nostalgia that is immediate and striking.

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Now the Hardness of this World: A Critical Response to “Iron Man Three” Continued

In Iron Man Three incoming director Shane Black presents us with a perfectly-crafted vision of Tony Stark that we didn't realize we needed to see, until now…

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In the End, What You Don’t Surrender: A Critical Response to ‘Iron Man Three’

In Iron Man Three incoming director Shane Black presents us with a perfectly-crafted vision of Tony Stark that we didn't realize we needed to see, until now…

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That Metal in Your Bones Soundtrack: The Music of Iron Man

Iconic sound effects like Wolverine's snikt or Spider-Man's thwip have always been crucial in comics storytelling. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau has shown how the right soundtrack can come to identify a superhero in the same way on the big screen…

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Tomorrow Is a Thief 2: The Countdown to “Iron Man 3” Continues

Jon Favreau's Iron Man wasn't only a reboot in the thinking behind how superhero movies hit the popular imagination, it also reminded us that when we asked, "How do you make money from the internet?" we were really asking something far deeper, something far more meaningful…

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Love and Fulfillment: On the Li’l Depressed Boy, Parks and Recreation and Neal Cassady

If Li'l Depressed Boy creators Struble & Grace achieve anything, it's a magnificent artistic range that can conceptually connect even Parks & Recreation with Beat icon Neal Cassady…

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
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Call for Papers: Do You Believe in Life After Auto-Tune?

// Announcements

"Which is better, Cher’s voice before or after Auto-Tune?

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