The Badger – Capital Comics (1983)

The Badger was originally published by the short-lived Capital Comics company and then First Comics. He was created by writer Mike Baron in 1983 and published through the early 1990s in a titular series that ended when First Comics also ceased all publications. Since the ongoing series ended in 1991, new Badger titles have been released through Dark Horse ComicsImage Comics and IDW Publishing.

 

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Adventure Comics – Dollar Comics (1978)

According to then-DC publisher Jenette Kahn, comics’ price-per-page value had been declining since the “Golden Age.” When superhero comics debuted in the late 1930s, they featured 64 pages of art for 10¢. As the decades passed, comparable publications liked Time and Life raised their prices, while comics stayed at 10 cents and reduced their page-count. Finally in 1962, National Periodical Publications/DC raised its price to 12¢, a 20% increase. (Comparable magazines, in contrast, were by then 3.5-to-5 times their original price.) By 1977, even though the typical price of a comic book was 35¢, it still lagged far behind its magazine competition, thus decreasing its appeal for newsvendors (which at that point — before the generalized 1980s shift to direct market distribution — was still the dominant retailing location for comics). Thus, the idea for Dollar Comics was born.

The Defenders – V1 (1970’s)

The Defenders had a rotating line-up from 1972 until 1986, with Dr. Strange and the Hulk being more or less constant members along with a number of other mainstays such as Valkyrie, NighthawkHellcatthe GargoyleBeast, the Son of Satan and Luke Cage, and a large number of temporary members. The publication was retitled near the end of the run as The New Defenders but featured none of the original members and only Valkyrie, the Beast and the Gargoyle of the former long-term members. The concept was modified in the 1993–95 series Secret Defenders, in which Dr. Strange assembled different teams for each individual mission. Later, the original team were reunited in a short-lived series by Kurt Busiek and Erik Larsen. In the 2000s, Marvel published a new miniseries featuring the classic line-up. Writer Matt Fraction and artist Terry Dodson launched a new Defenders series in December 2011.

Before Watchmen – Rorschach (2012)

The story follows Rorschach in New York City, 1977, where his crime-fighting activities cause him to be targeted by a crime lord running drugs and prostitution in the sordid Times Square. While focused on the gang, Rorschach makes the mistake of allowing another predator to operate unchallenged.

Before Watchmen - Rorschach 1 NM 6
Before Watchmen – Rorschach #1 NM $6

X-O Manowar (1992)

X-O Manowar began as an original character by Valiant Comics with issue #1 with a cover date of February 1992. Less than a year after it began, with the Unity crossover and quality storytelling bringing attention to Valiant books, back issue prices rose dramatically due to limited early print runs. With comic book speculators buying multiple copies of each issue, sales reached as high as 800,000 copies for X-O Manowar #0 (August 1993) before dropping off. This original series ran for 68 issues before being canceled after the Sept. 1996 issue, of which only approximately 14,000 were printed.

Amazing Spider-Man (Silver Age)

Due to strong sales on the character’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man was given his own ongoing series in March 1963. The initial years of the series, under Lee and Ditko, chronicled Spider-Man’s nascent career with his civilian life as hard-luck yet perpetually good-humored teenager Peter Parker. Peter balanced his career as Spider-Man with his job as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle under the bombastic editor-publisher J. Jonah Jameson to support himself and his frail Aunt May. At the same time, Peter dealt with public hostility towards Spider-Man and the antagonism of his classmates Flash Thompson and Liz Allan at Midtown High School, while embarking on a tentative, ill-fated romance with Jameson’s secretary, Betty Brant.

By focusing on Parker’s everyday problems, Lee and Ditko created a groundbreakingly flawed, self-doubting superhero, and the first major teenaged superhero to be a protagonist and not a sidekick. Ditko’s quirky art provided a stark contrast to the more cleanly dynamic stylings of Marvel’s most prominent artist, Jack Kirby, and combined with the humor and pathos of Lee’s writing to lay the foundation for what became an enduring mythos.

The Incredibles (2004)

Based on the smash cinematic blockbuster, this graphic novelization recounts the reawakening of dormant heroism that has seemingly been stifled by social conformity and lowered mid-life expectations. Bob Parr, his wife Helen, daughter Violet, son Dash, and baby Jack-Jack grapple with the banality of a comfortable suburban existence and yearn to reaffirm their individuality by expressing their unique “super”-powers.

Unlike most movie adaptations, this succeeds in both being faithful to and expanding the original plotline. It helps when the artist is a Pixar storyboarder and the writer is the film’s director. Serving up high quality art and narrative, this tale lives up to expectations.

Give Me Liberty: An American Dream

Give Me Liberty is a four-issue mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics in 1990. It was created and written by Frank Miller and drawn by Dave Gibbons. The title of the series comes from a famous quotation by Patrick Henry: “I know not what course others may take but — as for me — give me liberty or give me death.”

Give Me Liberty was one of Frank Miller’s two creator-owned (the other was Hard Boiled) titles he took to Dark Horse after deciding to stop working for DC Comics after a dispute over a proposed ratings system.

The story is set in a dystopian near-future where the United States have split into several extremist factions, and tells the story of Martha Washington, a young American girl from a public housing project called “The Green” (see Chicago‘s Cabrini–Green). The series starts with Martha’s birth and sees her slowly grow up from someone struggling to break free of the public housing project, to being a war hero and major figure in deciding the fate of the United States.

The series was a mix of Miller’s typical action sequences as well as being a political satire of the United States and its major corporations. The series proved to be a huge success for Dark Horse and was one of the biggest selling independent comics of the time. A trade paperback was later released and Miller followed up Give Me Liberty with several sequels continuing the story. All of these sequels were drawn by Dave Gibbons and published by Dark Horse.

Superman V1 (1980’s)

The 1980s saw radical revisions of Superman. DC decided to remove the multiverse in a bid to simplify its comics line. This led to the rewriting of the back story of the characters DC published, Superman included. John Byrne rewrote Superman, removing many established conventions and characters from continuity, including Superboy and Supergirl. Byrne also re-established Superman’s adoptive parents, The Kents, as characters. In the previous continuity, the characters had been written as having died early in Superman’s life (about the time of Clark Kent’s graduation from high school).

Amazing Spider-Man (2000’s)

 Amazing Spider-Man reverted completely to its original numbering for #500 (Dec. 2003). Mike Deodato, Jr. penciled the series from mid-2004 until 2006. That year Peter Parker revealed his Spider-Man identity on live television in the company-crossover storyline “Civil War“, in which the superhero community is split over whether to conform to the federal government’s new Superhuman Registration Act. This knowledge was erased from the world with the event of the four-part, crossover story arc, “One More Day“, written partially by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Joe Quesada, running through The Amazing Spider-Man #544-545 (Nov.-Dec. 2007), Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24 (Nov. 2007) and The Sensational Spider-Man #41 (Dec. 2007), the final issues of those two titles. Here, the demon Mephisto makes a Faustian bargain with Parker and Mary Jane, offering to save Parker’s dying Aunt May if the couple will allow their marriage to have never existed, rewriting that portion of their pasts. This story arc marked the end of Straczynski’s tenure as writer.