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
Stand on Earth: Reading Manga During Fukushima

The horror-quake that hit Japan this past Friday has no context in recorded history. The human price is unimaginable. But it is a cultural shift in the popular imagination from the 1980s that allows us to understand the simple heroism of perpetually rebuilding.

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Where Your Heart Is 1: The PopMatters Exclusive with Radical’s Barry Levine

With the competition between print and digital distribution, the very medium of comics seems to be at stake. Newcomers Radical Publishing have had the truly sublime idea of viewing other media as a death-knell, movies and gaming might be an opportunity. In a PopMatters exclusive, Radical President and Publisher Barry Levine opens up about the company's rise, his own career path, and the future of the comics medium.

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Security Blanket: Previewing Robert Venditti’s ‘Homeland Directive’

Robert Venditti has always managed to use his narrative art as a staging area for wrestling with deeper issues around identity. PopMatters was afforded a rare sneak peek at Robert's forthcoming Homeland Directive, which promises to exceed even the sublime The Surrogates: Flesh & Bone.

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These Long Years, and the Miles: Remembering Dwayne McDuffie

With the passing of Dwayne McDuffie this last Tuesday we're left with the loss of a pioneer in film, television and comics, and a man of singular vision.

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The Ten Last Days: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba’s ‘Daytripper’

The conclusion of Daytripper, in its own way, both subverts and expands upon the ending of another notable work of literature to emerge from the post-911 condition, the TV show Lost.

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Solid State Society 3: Archie CEO Jon Goldwater and the New Economy

In the closing segment of PopMatters exclusive interview with Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater, the Iconographies considers not simply the cultural complexity of Goldwater's embrace of technology, but the bold moves he is making in redefining both the brand, and the business model.

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Ralph’s Jet-Pack Theory, Muhammad Ali and “Last Son”

A reprint of a classic '70s comic triggers schoolyard memories of an odd kid, and reignites a personal interest in the “big blue boy scout”

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Solid State Society 2: Archie CEO Jon Goldwater and the New Economy

With an ever-growing percentage of the population entering into social media through smartphones, the radical shift of Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater is focusing not on access, but on what you carry with you.

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Rebuilding American Manhood: The Green Hornet Circa 2011

More than escapism, the Green Hornet gives an U.S. audience nurtured on frontier imagery an example of individual agency that resonates with the effort to believe and achieve the American dream.

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Solid State Society 1: Archie CEO Jon Goldwater and the New Economy

Following on from their landmark announcement to synchronize their print and digital publication schedules at close of business yesterday, Archie Comics led by CEO Jon Goldwater is taking a leadership role not simply in comics, but in business.

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Clairvoyance: The Polarized Political Life of ‘DMZ: Collective Punishment’

Brian Wood's DMZ reads like a savage critique of the fracturing of political life that has led to the formation of the Tea Party. What makes DMZ all the more compelling, is its prescience in having identified those politics never six years ago.

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My Own Private Singularity: “Iron Man: Rapture” and the Horror, the Horror

Tony, Ex Machina!: In Iron Man: Rapture, a very real, very human brush with death sends Tony Stark over the edge. When faced with his own mortality, what does the smartest man in the world do? It’s simple: build a better body. But at what cost?

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“What If Superman Was Hopelessly Insane?”: Mark Waid’s Irredeemable

The man who made me love Superman, now makes me terrified of someone with such god-like powers.

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If You Can Read This, You’re Literate: An Interview with Filmmaker Todd Kent

After five decades of self-censorship stemming primarily from the Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, can comics reassert its rightful role in promoting literacy during childhood? Wertham had a few valid points, contends filmmaker Todd Kent.

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Vanguard Moon: How Johnny Zito and Tony Trov Reinvented the Future of Comics

In picking up the well-worn Golden Age classic Moon Girl, writing duo Johnny Zito and Tony Trov table the central debate of 21st century creativity -- an open source of intellectual property.

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The Three Creators: PopMatters at the “Chicago Women in Comics” Panel

This past week Columbia College hosted the Chicago Women in Comics but rather than unearth a discourse of marginalization, the event showcased a deep wellspring of talent and widescale commercial success.

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Quality Time with the Powells: The Ordinary Anxiety of ‘No Ordinary Family’

While Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis both shuffle off darker roles in their recent past to become the core of ABC's new No Ordinary Family, the show itself might prove exceptional in its use of simple social structures in a time of a collapsing middle-class.

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The Future of Comic Stores in the Digital Era

Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics and founder of Free Comic Book Day, shares his insights into comicbooks, new media and the prospect of a world without print.

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Bloodletter: Ennis & Ezquerra’s Autopsy of the Female Action Hero Genre

Far from enforcing sexually exploitative stereotypes in the female action hero genre, Bloody Mary and sequel Bloody Mary: Lady Liberty simply explodes them.

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MAD’s Maddest Artist Gets Even: Don Martin Strikes a Blow for Creators’ Rights

In 1988, MAD's Don Martin helps set the stage for the move towards comics creators' rights in the '90s.

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Catwalk: Images of Female Power

For over 70 years Catwoman's Selina Kyle has been a character to offer a more credible voice to questions of power in the representation of women in comics.

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Confederacy of Bad-Asses #2: The Life of Reilly

From here on in for the next few years, The Punisher would be published exclusively under Marvel’s mature-readers MAX imprint, allowing Ennis to explore the character in a more realistic setting, with more swear words and fewer men in capes.

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“Patty Hearst Heard the Burst”: Joshua Dysart’s Unknown Soldier

It’s impossible, while reading Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s superlative Unknown Soldier, to not think of the late, great Warren Zevon’s ballad of Roland, the so-called “headless Thompson gunner”, and his seemingly endless battle. Perhaps there's a reason for that.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 7: A Wall of Swords

In the classic Lone Wolf and Cub writer Kazuo Koike achieves the redemption of the villainous Yagyu Clan by a meticulous depiction of their fighting style, the infamous Wall of Swords.

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Getting Better Than They Are: Harvey Pekar Obituary

At the age of 70, comics giant Harvey Pekar passed on July 12th. Survived by his wife of 27 years, Joyce Brabner, and his daughter Danielle, Pekar leaves a legacy of having nurtured a generation of cartoonists.

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Goblin on Our Back: Norman Osborn’s Path From Killer to Savior and Back Again

Marvel’s writing staff of the last seven years created an iconic, status quo-shifting series of events that redefined a universe and, most importantly, showed a staggeringly real, organic evolution of a character whose time, many thought, was over.

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Who Is Henry Pym, and Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things About Him?

Dan Slott has redeemed the founding Avenger and leader of the "Mighty" team, deftly and expertly removing him from the ghetto of mischaracterized misanthropic anti-heroes just in time for the Heroic Age.

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Confederacy of Bad-Asses 1: You ‘n Me, We Onna Same Side, Homes

The first in a series of Iconographies examining Garth Ennis-scripted Punisher villains spotlights Barracuda, one of the Punisher's sickest, most deranged enemies, who also turns out to be almost the exact same man.

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Gotham After The Rain: The Cult of Personality of Batman and Robin

Morrison's "Bat-God" gets a makeover after the seeming death of Bruce Wayne, revealing Gotham's near-deification of not just the man, but of everything from the costume to his methods to his legend and legacy.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Swamp Thing, Ecology and the (Sometimes Slimy) Nature of Being

Continuing the critical analysis of the Swamp Thing character as it transitions from creative control of Len Wein and Berni Wrightson to Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and Jon Totleben.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Swamp Thing, Ecology and the (Sometimes Slimy) Nature of Being

New Swamp Thing scribe, Alan Moore evolved the character in the early 1980s by introducing stories around the frailty of human consciousness into a book which until then examined human/plant interaction.

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Tabling the Debate: Comics, The Cultural Mainstream, and the O>Matics

Cross-media project "The O>Matics in Comics", tables a wide list of talking points around comics, the web and the sustainability of the garageband music industry.

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Room For Danger: The Case For Marvel’s Ultimate X-Men

Ultimate X-Men was perhaps not the radical departure from Stan Lee's original vision it has always been taken as. The common ground lies in Ultimate writer Mark Millar's evolution of the theme of danger.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 6: Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger

Koike and Kojima explore the nature of true loyalty in this story of a disgraced ronin.

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Nice Job Kid: Fathers and Sons, Technology and Tomorrow in ‘Iron Man 2’

Threatened to be consumed by a world not ready for technological evolution, Tony Stark wrestles with the ghost of his father, and escapes self-destructive narcissism.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 5: Half Mat, One Mat, A Fistful of Rice

The warriors Ogami meets on his quest for revenge offer different interpretations of the path of honor, and even challenge legitimacy of his quest for revenge.

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Sedition of the Ignorant, No More: A Profile of Comics Evangelist Ruben Miranda

For the past 30 years, Miranda has been an avid reader and collector of comicbooks. Now working at Manhattan's Forbidden Planet, Miranda uses his encyclopedic knowledge to connect people with the books that they will love.

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Bleed American: Cap and the Watchdogs of the Internet

By now the story is well-known, the outcry against Captain America and Marvel from conservative bloggers. But why have cooler heads not prevailed?

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 4: Ogami Itto and the Rejection of Bushido

Ogami's actions become an indictment of the corruption and degradation of the samurai code and his forsaking of that path ultimately and symbolically redeems it.

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Beneath the Great Wave: Azzarello and Morales Return to the Roots of Comics

Azzarello and Morales tap the roots of modern popular culture to offer a highly stylized view of the birth of comic books.

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Oscar Afterglow, “American Century” and a War of Popular Cultures

Oscars hopefuls Up in the Air and An Education offer different but complementary views on popular culture. "American Century" throws this neat paradigm into question.

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Sorry I’m Late: The Real Return of Barry Allen

Racked by delays, pushed aside by creative commitments, and years after the phenomenal Green Lantern: Reborn, Flash Reborn couldn't really matter. Could it?

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 3: Artwork and Swordplay

The third installment of Shawn O'Rourke's series on Lone Wolf and Cub. This feature examines the way Goseki Kojima brilliantly uses different artistic devices to draw the reader into the story.

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Another Chance: Fox’s Reboot of DC Comics’ “Human Target”

Primetime TV may prove to be a necessary rescue of a classic DC character.

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A Modern Promethea: Mike Carey and Peter Gross Pen the Unwritten

Story these days is a battlefield, and Mike Carey and Peter Gross are the new generals.

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Life During Wartime: The Cultural Catharsis of Brian Wood’s DMZ

DMZ creator Brian Wood offers a cultural catharsis for our times, one that is enduringly artistic, despite being overtly political.

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Die With Your Mask On: The Grim Superheroics of Rick Veitch

Rick Veitch wonders where the next step in superhuman evolution will take us.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 2: Revenge in the Epic Narrative Tradition

For something to be an "epic", it must be replete with cultural significance and deal with important themes on a grand scale, just like Lone Wolf and Cub.

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Iconic Spider Jerusalem and The New Journalism

There’s someone every journalism student should know. The iconic, irascible and deeply compassionate Spider Jerusalem has proven to be darkly prescient of the decade that lay immediately ahead.

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What’s Past Is Prologue: The Best Comics of the Past Decade?

Could Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca have produced six perfect comics pages in the recent "Counting Up from Zero" issue of The Invincible Iron Man?

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Good Memories of Bad Times: Wolverine Under the Boardwalk

Under the Boardwalk taps hidden micro-genre in Wolverine, reaffirming the inexhaustible inventiveness of the character, and delivering hard comment on the need for human resilience.

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The Sociology of Superheroes: Andi Ewington and 45

Andi Ewington's 45 appeals to an audience that transcends 1970s Batman, and even the phenomenal Watchmen.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Part 1: History and Influences

This unparalleled tale of honor and vengeance illustrates the full scope of human drama. In this introductory feature, appearing monthly, a brief overview of the series is sketched.

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Masters of Horror Manga: Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino

Perhaps more so than any other artists, Kazuo Umezu and Hideshi Hino defined the genre of horror comics in Japan, an influence that extends to the West, and also to the world of J-horror films.

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We Few, We Happy Few, We Bandaged Brothers: Jeff Lemire’s The Nobody and the Quest for Self

A touching, heartfelt meditation on identity and isolation in a small town, Jeff Lemire is able to redress an H.G. Wells classic and make it as timely and disturbing as ever.

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Celebrating the Death of the Dark Knight – and His Rebirth

With the recent passing of Bruce Wayne, can the Batman character escape the tragedy of Bruce Wayne's life that originally birthed it?

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Beautiful and Unique Snowflakes: Warren Ellis’ ‘Planetary’

Warren Ellis, once thought of by many as comics’ resident Orson Welles, an angry, embittered artist, is actually the industry’s Kurt Vonnegut, sent here to make us feel as if "everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt".

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Hollow “Victory”: J Michael Straczynski ‘Reboots’ the Mighty Thor

J Michael Straczynski's storytelling stands out as one of the most inventive in recent mainstream superhero comics.

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The Devil’s Due: What Ed Brubaker Did to Reinvent Daredevil

Could Ed Brubaker have written the definitive version of a character renowned for its production of 'definitive' visions?

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Maximum Carnage: A Look Back

I was a kid when I first read Maximum Carnage and it became my favorite comic book series. How well does the story hold up over time? Is it still as good as I remember or was my innocent childhood love misplaced?

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Abstract Comics

If nothing else, it seems that Abstract Comics makes explicit that the line between comics and high art is beginning to disappear.

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Fear of a Mouse Planet: What Disney’s Acquisition of Marvel Means for the House of Ideas

The fears of a Disney planet are fears that these characters we cherish will be tinkered with or even taken away from us.

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Explainers: Back to the ‘50’s and Up to the Present

Jules Feiffer's groundbreaking Village Voice comics delivered a satirical take on current events and paved the way for many contemporary strips.

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The Devil You Know: Mignola’s Hellboy in the Chapel of Moloch and the Old Debate

Modernist drama around the popularizing of the cultural archive, or postmodernist deliberation on the redemptive value of art in world awash in mass consumerism, the story of Mignola's Hellboy is also the story of comics' struggle for legitimation both as art-form and industry.

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The Boy Who Would Be The Beast of the Apocalpyse: Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Mythology, and the Human

Hellboy essentially argues that biology indeed need not be destiny, and that to exist as a human means something more than possessing a certain normative appearance.

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Red Menace in the Mirror: Identity, Politics and Identity Politics in Superman Red Son

In writer Mark Millar's visionary recasting of Superman as a Soviet dictator, questions of personal and social identity become the staging point for a central drama around global justice.

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The Legacy of Mike Wieringo: The Flash Years

The true legacy of Mike Wieringo is his radical redefining of the comics industry's obsession with navel-gazing.

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Manga and Minimalism: The Shared Visions of Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Raymond Carver

One is an acknowledged master of the modern short story, and the other is an influential figure in the world of alternative Japanese comics.

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Jack Knight’s First Team Up

The Starman is a generational tale of a young hero assuming his father’s mantle, which takes the reader on an educational journey through DC Comics’ past.

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I Saw You: Comics, the Internet, and Everyday Life

In this Iconographies feature, I Saw You will be used as a spring-board to understanding how the internet might be examined and made sense of through comics.

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Collapse: 1989’s Legion of Super-Heroes

This comic offers a profound meditation on the far-reaching effects the confluence of a literary revolution, engineering miracle and scientific doctrine would have on popular culture.

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The History of Comic Conventions

This edition of "Iconographies" looks at the rise in popularity of the comics convention, and the pop-cultural changes conventions have brought to comics.

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The Death of Captain America

"The Iconographies" is a series of weekly features focusing on iconic moments, creators, characters or publications in the ongoing 'biography' of graphic literature. This edition looks at the 2007 death of Marvel superhero, Captain America.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Wanted' Is a Spaghetti Western That Will Leave You Wanting

// Short Ends and Leader

"The charisma of Giuliano Gemma and some stellar action sequences can't save this sub-par spaghetti western.

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