Spider-Man: Still a nerd at 50?
Can you tell whether Peter Parker, as played by Andrew Garfield, is a nerd?
July 4th, 2012
12:56 PM ET

Spider-Man: Still a nerd at 50?

The very first page set the tone.

"Amazing Fantasy" #15 presented an image of a bespectacled, oft-tormented high school science whiz named Peter Parker. As bully Flash Thompson poked fun, Peter's shadow formed the silhouette of Spider-Man – a character who would use both his spider-powers and his intelligence to defeat larger opponents.

It was unheard of for a teenager, especially one with lots of personal problems, to be a superhero in comic books back in 1962.

"A teenager can’t be a superhero, he can only be a sidekick," co-creator Stan Lee remembers being told by his publisher. And as for heroes with personal problems, forget it.

But this nerd almost immediately struck a chord with comic book readers.

"Peter was an outsider, and that was me in high school," said artist Mark Bagley, who related to the hero of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and ended up working as the artist on that book years later.

At the start of his near-decade run on "Ultimate Spider-Man," Bagley was dealing with the unsavory mandate of "beefing up" Peter Parker in "The Amazing Spider-Man" books. Determined to save Peter Parker's nerd cred, he decided that "Ultimate's" hero would always be skinny. He saw that physical trait as an important reminder of Peter's underdog status, something key to the character’s popularity.

That was true for Brad Douglas of fansite SpiderManCrawlspace.com, too.

"He has problems just like you," Douglas said of the classic version of Peter Parker. "He can't pay his bills, he can't get a girl, when he does he has to ditch her to go fight bad guys. His costume rips."

Peter Parker puts on a mask and goes off on adventures to avoid bullies or other problems. What put-upon nerd wouldn't daydream about that? FULL POST

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Filed under: Brainiac • Comic Longbox
Anthony Bourdain swears he's a nerdy fanboy
Jiro is the chef at the center of Anthony Bourdain's graphic novel.
June 28th, 2012
11:45 AM ET

Anthony Bourdain swears he's a nerdy fanboy

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

Throughout the years, Anthony Bourdain has been cast as a punk-rock chef or as a food snob who will say anything to stir up a controversy.

For some he is the taste-making adventurer behind Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” the eight-season strong series where globetrotting is experienced through a cinephile’s eye, an audiophile’s ear and a gastrophile's stomach. Still others just think of him as that dude who ate warthog anus that one time.

But actually, Anthony Bourdain is a nerd.

Just as a comic book nerd can obsessively debate the merits of publishing companies, artistic elements, story arcs and creators, Bourdain is a food nerd who knows his restaurants, ingredients, dishes and chefs. He is a collector and communicator of food data, and you can add movie, music and, yes, comic book nerd to his list of labels as well.

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news. Bourdain uses his literary confessional “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” and “No Reservations” – along with his blogs, essays, books, writing gig for HBO’s “Treme” and presumably his upcoming weekend show on CNN – as a playground to sate big-kid wishes and hang out with icons like Alice Cooper and Harvey Pekar.

Now he is finally able to pursue a successful fanboy’s dream of writing a graphic novel for DC Comics. Published through the Vertigo imprint, Bourdain’s “Get Jiro!” is a satirical thriller set in a “not too distant future” where master chefs are mob bosses who pull the strings of power in Los Angeles.

(DC Comics, like CNN, is owned by parent company TimeWarner.)

The comic's two ruling “families” are the food-savvy but withholding “Internationalists” (led by an Alain Ducasse-meets-Robert Irvine kingpin) and the hypocritical locavore “Vertical Farms” (led by a pretty obvious Alice Waters stand-in). While the outer rim of the city is loaded down with obese, fast-food-gorging denizens, the inner rim is a place where a reservation at primo joints is a sign of influence. Then there’s Jiro, a mysterious sushi chef who wishes only to serve his culinary craftsmanship without getting caught up in the politics of the kitchen crime world.

Co-written with Joel Rose (“La Pacifica,” “Kill Kill Faster Faster”) with art by Langdon Foss (“Heavy Metal”), “Get Jiro!” is like “Ratatouille” meets “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” where deliciously gratuitous violence is juxtaposed with painstakingly accurate food nerd details. And Bourdain’s commentary about celeb-chefs and our food culture is about as sharp as Jiro’s tanto knife. FULL POST

The best comic convention you've never attended
The floor at last year's HeroesCon.
June 22nd, 2012
04:50 PM ET

The best comic convention you've never attended

Editor's note: When he's not teaching the Internet how to fist-fight, why being weird is awesome or how to self-publish your own books, Joe Peacock tours the world, showing his extensive "Akira" art collection. He's on his way to HeroesCon right now.

This weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, there is a comic book convention. It's called HeroesCon, and it's unlike any modern con you've ever been to.

There are no massive halls filled with video game companies hawking their latest wares. There are no movie studios promoting the latest summer and fall releases. There aren't any barely clad booth babes, and the volume of bandwagon cosplayers who don't actually read the material they draw their costumes from is kept to a minimum - and what cosplayers you do find there are high-class, high quality actual real life comic book fans.

Oh, and just about every single artist, writer and editor in the comics industry will be there.

I first heard of HeroesCon in 1994, during Dragon*Con in Atlanta.

It was my senior year in high school, and I was told by an artist in artist alley that if I loved comics, I needed to see HeroesCon. My convention buddies, Mike and Jay, hopped in a car with me that summer and we made the four-hour trek to the con. Once we got there, I was in heaven. HeroesCon was everything it was promised to be.

"HeroesCon is like the comics industry's family reunion," says Dexter Vines, inker for Marvel comics and a fellow member of Studio Revolver in Atlanta. "Heroes is a perfect storm of comic book convention and hanging out with friends. Every pro I know goes every year. You have editors from Marvel and DC driving and flying down on their own dime just to hang out. No other show I know has that."

A quick search on Twitter for #heroesCon finds hundreds of this year's attendees counting down the minutes until the con starts, and several dozen who can't make it this year lamenting that fact. FULL POST

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Filed under: Comic Longbox • Fandom
Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance
Nate Simpson's "Nonplayer" comic book won immediate praise for his artwork. He's also a video game concept artist.
June 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.

In spring 2011, “Nonplayer #1” (Image Comics) generated the kind of excitement that independent comics creators dream of.

Written and illustrated by video game concept artist Nate Simpson, the series introduced readers to Dana Stevens, a tamale delivery girl who escapes her mundane reality through the full-immersion online game “Warriors of  Jarvath.” The praise for Simpson’s story and lush illustrations was immediate and plentiful, making it one of the most critically lauded comics of the year.

By that summer, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights. Simpson, a newcomer to comics, had a huge hit on his hands and a highly anticipated second issue to finish.

Then, that fall, Simpson crashed his bicycle, an incident that could have been fatal if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet. As the right-handed artist wrote on his Project Waldo blog, “Every bone connecting my right arm to my torso was broken.” His arm in a sling, he was physically sidelined. But Simpson began to write candidly about the other obstacles he had to confront, namely, the enormous pressure he felt after “Nonplayer #1” hit the shelves, and the moments of frustration and outright panic while writing the second issue.

Those blog entries were a window into the reality of making an independent comic and the weighty expectations that accompany success, but they were also highly personal essays about creative perseverance. Fittingly, Simpson compared his craft to riding in the Tour de France.

“(No) matter how much the world begins to feel like a demense-covered treadmill, you remind yourself that the finish line is up there somewhere. It may be far away, but every turn of the pedals brings you a little bit closer. It took Lance exactly the same number of foot-pumps to get there as it'll take you," he wrote.

“The only way to fail is to stop.”

“Nonplayer” fans will be happy to know that Simpson hasn’t stopped. He has healed sufficiently to spend many hours a day working on the comic, even with a day job at online game company PopCap, and the second issue is in progress. Simpson talked to Geek Out! about being a professional comics and gaming geek, how immersive gaming inspired “Nonplayer,” coping with sudden success and having an honest dialogue with his readers about the challenges behind the curtain. FULL POST

Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?
Cover art from "Earth 2."
June 12th, 2012
04:34 PM ET

Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor, and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.

After DC Comics made it official that Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay, the reaction from the Trolliverse was as predictable as it was ridiculous. On Facebook, a friend hilariously mocked the all-caps, incorrectly punctuated outrage thusly:

“UGH ALAN SCOTT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER IN COMICS DC YOU REALLY *&%#? UP THIS TIME ALAN SCOTT IS THE MOST CLASSIC DC CHARACTER NOW HE’S GAY WTF”

It’s safe to say that those people didn’t pick up “Earth 2” No. 2 last week, when Scott made his debut in the relaunched DC Universe. Gay characters in mainstream comics aren’t new, but DC took a chance in changing the sexual orientation of an established character like Scott. Before the relaunch, he was a middle-aged hero whose son, Obsidian, was gay.

The coy, press-baiting runup to the announcement is another matter. FULL POST

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