Stan Lee (1922 – 2018)

Stan Lee © Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The unstoppable force behind Marvel, the person responsible for putting the “hero” into “superhero”, transforming the erstwhile walking cardboards with ten commandments written on them into human (or godly) beings, full of foibles, insecurities and vices, but at the same time always striving to become better and to do better.

Lee as few others understood the human need for telling stories, for heroes, and for heroic journeys. He was the \co-creator of Spider-Man, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Black Panther, and Ant-Man – as well as many other superhero characters. He was also a tireless advocate of introducing comic superheroes to the wider public, and his efforts brought us the wonderful recent Marvel superhero movie onslaught, irrevocably changing the comics’ place and magnifying their significance in pop-culture.

Piotrek: I’ve re-watched the first Captain America today with my Dad and the usual Stan Lee cameo made me smile. How many more did they manage to prepare? Probably just Captain Marvel and the second Infinity War movie…

Ola: Apparently all 2019 Marvel movies will have Stan Lee cameo. It’s become such a feature of the Marvel movies that it’s difficult to imagine a movie without his appearance 😉 As John Romita put it in one of his interviews,

He’s a con man, but he did deliver.

He was one of the rare giants that transform their chosen field irrevocably – a facilitator, a face, an moving force behind the scenes, an impresario.  He led a full, adventurous life that brought us much joy and inspiration.

Thank you, sir, and farewell!

‘Nuff said.

Batman

I had a long break from blogging, because, you know, life 🙂 But now I’m finally back and I can happily present to you my first Batman drawing, a result of a recent in-house geeky challenge with certain strict rules: pencils as a chosen drawing technique and Batman portrayed up front 😉 So here we go!

Batman 4

Batman A. Gruszczyk

Jean Van Hamme, Grzegorz Rosiński, Thorgal (1977-2006)

and several other, not as good, writers, from 2006 onwards, and maybe they should stop, but it started great, and continued strong, for three decades 🙂

When I was a kid, I did not have easy access to Marvel, or DC, comics. Some Batman storylines, The Amazing Spider-Man published in Poland by TM-Semic… I’ve actually only come to really appreciate comics in my early twenties. On title that was always around though – Thorgal. One of a few comic book series hugely popular in a comic wasteland that Poland was, and perhaps still is – we have notable authors, sure, but the scale is small.

Thorgal is a science fiction Viking fantasy (!) series written by (first, and best, 29 issues) a Belgian author Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by a Pole, Grzegorz Rosiński. Belgian, part of the big universe of Francophone comics, the biggest force in the European comic book scene and well worth your while. Smart, pretty – often in a rough way, less polished, and less uniform, than their American counterparts and also less prudish than American publications. I would argue – on average, more sophisticated. With no luck in the film adaptation department, as recent unremarkable Tin-Tin and messy Valerian prove.

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Wonder Woman (2017) – votum separatum

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There’s been a lot of talk about Wonder Woman, very favorable reviews (one of them, by Piotrek, on this blog), fan hype and critical acclaim. The movie’s heyday is already past, with Justice League on screen and other superhero movies crowding the benches. So why do I come back to it now?

Well, probably partly because I’ve been recently reading Moses Finley’s seminal work, The World of Odysseus – very highly recommended to anyone interested in ancient Greece. And partly because the movie sits like a thorn in my side, its popularity and acclaim, when confronted with its painfully stereotypical message, truly baffling.

Wonder Woman has been hailed as the first superhero movie with a woman as a lead. This is surely something laudable? After all, thanks to this movie we’ve read about subversive feminism and whatnots, discussed chainmail bikinis as a source of empowerment or subjugation, depending on one’s stance, and so on. Even Gloria Steinem took a stand, saying the film was very good, although noting at the same time that she “may be desperate – […] just happy that the Amazons had wild hair”. It’s been called the best of DCU movies so far, and while it in itself is not a big feat, it definitely forces comparison to other movies. It all seems highly beneficial to a summer flick which on its own is rather mediocre. We’ve all probably heard the voice of reason, saying, “it’s not perfect, but better this than nothing”, “it’s a step in right direction”, “I’ve seen worse”.

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Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (1984-?)

Popular culture gives us many great samurai figures. There are probably almost as many live action samurai movies as westerns, and The Magnificent Seven Samurai duo of wonderful classics show us how close these genres could be.

But I want to introduce one of my favourite comic books, so no more about cinematic depictions (hmm, who would have won if guys on the left fired on the guys on the right :D?).

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In a world of countless great mangas, my favourite graphic novel Japanese warrior is an anthropomorphic rabbit by Stan Sakai, who, though born in Kyoto, is undoubtedly an American artist. I’m not going to argue it’s the most accurate vision of the medieval Japan, from the stuff I’m familiar with the honour goes to Vagabond, probably, and Rurouni Kenshiin has some great moments – usually just before going for silliness and fanservice. And then there is Samurai Jack, a hero whose story recently concluded, after years of waiting.

But Miyamoto Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo, he is my favourite!

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Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, Civil War (2006)

Civil_War_comic1

Civil War was – and is – one of the biggest events in Marvel Universe, and that says something after over half a century of modern Marvel history and many epic, all-encompassing story arcs.

Ola: Marvel Civil War spans over a hundred separate comics – from Spider-Man through Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Captain America and Iron Man or New Avengers to less-known titles, such as Deadpool and Cable or Thunderbolts.And of course, the big cross-over thing binding them all: 7-part Civil War. Mark Millar, asked to sum up the subject matter of his opus magnum, said:

Civil War is about what happens when the Marvel heroes are forced to grow up. It’s as simple as that. The public need and want the heroes. They couldn’t survive without them in a world filled with super-villains and alien invasions. However, the wild west fantasy these guys have been having, where they put on a mask and fight whoever they like just doesn’t cut it in the modern world.

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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Fresh on our screens, already a critical and commercial success, one of the highest-grossing Marvel movies to date, with a wave of franchise and PR that resembles a veritable tsunami… And with admittedly great posters :). Who hasn’t seen, or at least heard, about Captain America: Civil War?

Ola: Yeah. And that’s why we’ll take a look at it from a bit different angle: not only the fabled “continuity” within Marvel movies, but also from the perspective of the comic books that Civil War was inspired by.

The movie contents are hopefully known to everyone by this point, but if not – BIG SPOILER ALERT: we’ll unabashedly write about events and characters appearing in the movie.

Piotrek: Yes. Here be spoilers. Seriously, go, see the movie, and get back here after that. By now, you know what the MCU is about, so there is no point in reading tonnes of reviews to make up your mind about going to the cinema.

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