Don’t Think You Understand….

Facebook and Twitter are a cesspool of hatred and racism. Yes, I open this blog up with a very bold yet obvious statement, but it’s true and it’s very apparent in nerd culture. It’s never going to stop nor do we have to the power to shut out negativity, but we do have the ability to overpower it.

For example, a recent post on the official Batman Facebook page, shared an image of the show Batwoman. This image was of Javicia Leslie in full Batwoman outfit stating that she is the first black lesbian superhero lead on a television show and the first black actress to play Batwoman. As of 6:16 PM on February 25th, this post had 3500 reactions with 2100 of them laughing at the post. Which honestly is quite sad. I understand if you don’t like the show but truth be told, Javicia is doing one hell of a job in the show. Before seeing the post, the original idea of this blog was to be about the massive improvement that Batwoman has had from season 1 to season 2. But it was heartbreaking to see the amount of hatred aimed towards Batwoman and Javicia.

While I stepped away to collect my thoughts and try to find a way to address the problem in a well stated matter, one more example of utter stupendous Facebook interaction happened with the most recent reveal of Blackfire in the HBO Max show Titans. When the better half showed me the costume and character design, my first reaction was “damn that’s George Perez’s art come to life”…. but the comment section decided to be ugly with comments like “No, it’s starfire” and “So every superhero is going to be black or brown”. Seeing stuff like that in a community that was built on characters that taught us values and how to be good people, really make you question, do they understand?

As comic book readers and fans of super heroes, we should know “with great power comes great responsibility” and to spread positivity is among our greatest responsibilities and powers. It’s easy to hate on something you don’t agree with, but it’s fulfilling to express love about something. Trust me, you’ll feel better with positive thoughts opposed to negative thoughts.

The man that many of us idolize, Stan Lee, championed for diversity and for over 40 years, he would address racism and bigotry in his soapbox in the pages of Marvel Comics. The characters that he helped create were allegories for women’s rights, racism, and social injustice. X-Men and the mutants are the perfect example of comic book characters fighting against bigotry. To argue that we need to remove politics and social events from comics, is a slap in the face to comics. Right from the beginning, comics were addressing social problems. Superman was created by two Jewish guys who were sick of the bullying and on the cover of Captain America, he was punching Hitler in the face. So to be blunt, if you don’t like these ideas in your comics, hate to break the news to you but you don’t know comics and are about 100 years late with that rhetoric.

I will never know the feeling of being represented by a superhero for the first time because most of the characters are white, as a kid I had Spider-Man, Batman and Superman. Now nearing my thirties, characters such as Miles Morales, John Stewart, Jessica Cruz, and most recently Yaya Flor from Future State: Wonder Woman are more interesting to me because of what they represent. I remember being eight years old when Static Shock was showing on WB Kids, it was one of my favorite shows and I never really understood why until I was much older. It was something new, it was giving us a character that was unlike anything else on tv and especially a cartoon. I truly believe we are in the midst of great creative changes in comics with writers, artists and characters representing everybody.

It warms the heart knowing that a young lady can turn on Batwoman, Titans , or Stargirl and feel represented. Seeing young kids look at characters like Black Panther and Falcon as their favorite superheroes is such a glorious thing. As comic fans, we should try our best to entertain these changes and not be afraid of a strong character that does not represent us. The world is always changing and things will always be different, but comics have proved over the last century to be a suitable outlet to represent the world.

It can be debated that it was not suitable at first with characters such as Ebony White in The Spirit being incredibly racist and offensive, and many other examples can be made. With the likes of characters such as Miles Morales, American Chavez, and Kamala Kahn who have become major influential characters in Marvel comics, the relationship of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn being explored in DC Comics and some characters being retconned to being a part of the LGBTQ community, we are looking at a beautiful and enlightened future for comics.

We don’t own these characters, the publishers and creators do (in some cases). So let’s say a character you like, were to change their gender, their ethnicity or their sexual orientation, there is not a damn thing you can do about it. You could stop buying the comic and merchandise associated with that character, but with that change that pissed you off and made you stop supporting it, that character would find a new audience on top of those that already supported it. Who knows, that change could reinvigorate a character that has become stall and give it much needed new life.

If you have made it this far into this blog and disagree with everything I have said, that’s normal, you feel attacked and I am now probably on your “shit list” but before you cast judgement, let me say this; We can have different beliefs and still have respect for one another, no one person is the same, so thank you for reading this and I hope you understand where I am coming from. It does not matter if we are thousands of miles apart or a very close friend or family member, we are different and I respect you.

Top 10 Ongoing Comics of 2020

Last blog entry was the most Pessimistic you will ever see from us, we strive to keep this a very optimistic portion of the comic community. So today we want to celebrate the best of 2020, yes believe it or not 2020 was not all gloom and doom. Some great comics came out in 2020 and here we will name our top ten ongoing comic books from the year despite delays and cancellations due to the pandemic.

A quick disclaimer before diving into the list, we have not read every comic book released this year. For example an obvious omission from the list is Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil, a series that we regretfully have not read yet. If by chance Zdarsky and team read this, we have bought the first two volumes of the series to read at least, also thank you for checking us out.

10) Star Wars: Darth Vader by Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco

We are so excited to add a Star Wars comic to this list, both the main title and Darth Vader have been constantly good this year. At times I find myself losing interests in the middle of a Star Wars story but Darth Vader has become a comic that I find myself excited to read. Greg Pak’s script adds new layers into a character that we are already familiar with. It’s not only Pak’s writing that provides growth in the character but Raffaele Ienco’s artwork extends that growth. We already know that Darth Vader is a badass character but Ienco’s artwork, shows us how badass the character can be. It’s a great team that creates an action packed character study and that’s why this is this the best ongoing Star Wars comic right now. 2021 looks bright for Star Wars comics with the continuation of Darth Vader and the main title, as well as the introduction of the High Republic (also, Doctor Aphra, she deserves some love too)

9) Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

After reading the first 4 trades of Monstress, it was hard to not get lost in the world-building that Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda create. Sana’s artwork alone is so engrossing and beautiful. It’s a mix of fantasy meeting steam-punk in a world of discovery for Maika, the main character and going along with her journey and continuing story. Nora has been trying to get Kyle to read it, hopefully eventually, but there is still time to get caught up as the sixth arc is starting in the new year.

8) Once & Future by Kieron Gillen an Dan Mora

Dan Mora’s artwork is a beauty to stare at. Yes, stare at. Kieron Gillen crafts a fun horror fantasy joy ride. Every Wednesday that this book is scheduled to come out, it is among the first we read. The main characters of ex-monster hunter Bridgette and her grandson Duncan have this dynamite relationship that we cannot help but love. This is certainly a comic series that we could see turned into a television series.

7) Thor by Donny Cates and Nic Klien

Much like 2019, 2020 was dominated by Donny Cates. Spoiler alert, we will have one more series by Cates on this list. Thor by Jason Aaron is a run that we plan on reading eventually, as it is a hole that we need to fill, but this run by Donny Cates and Nic Klien has been one of the best series by Marvel this year. Between the Black Winter storyline and the current story arc with Donald Blake, the series is never boring and always a pleasure to read. If you lack knowledge or background in Thor lore, you won’t feel lost and that makes this a great read. Cannot wait to see 2021 has in store for Donny Cates and Thor.

6) Aquaman by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Various artists

WHY???? Why did this amazing story have to come to an end? We are not sad over the ending, it was a beautiful ending. We are sad that the most recent issue was the final issue of a well-written and stunning artwork throughout. Definitely a must-read series.

5) Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele di Nicuolo

We did not expect to love this series, but Tom Taylor had a killer year with all of his books. Seven Secrets has the feeling of a new age James Bond blended with an anime feeling. Throughout the first five issues, Seven Secrets is filled with twist and turns and we itch for more each time the issue ends.

4) Something is Killing The Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera

James Tynion IV continues to bring the heat in his creater-own series. Neither of us expected this to be so engrossing. From the first issue, the artwork and story pulled us in and left us wanting more. What really is killing these children? The mystery behind it all is so well laid out, and Erica’s character continues to be mysterious and revealing each issue. Definitely a series we would recommend to anyone, even if they don’t read or like horror comics.

3) Killadelphia by Rodney Barnes and Jason Shawn Alexander

Amazing!!! That’s the best way to describe this great horror vampire series that mixes current issues and historical figures. Jason Shawn Alexander produces some of the best artwork in 2020.

2) Venom by Donny Cates and various artists

Truth be told, #2 an #1 on this list are the same from last year if we were to rank series. Donny Cates has been the main writer for Marvel in 2020 with Thor and Venom. The King in Black storyline is currently going on bringing back the amazing Ryan Stegman, who continue to produce greatness together in a comic. But, that being said, Venom continued to be great when Stegman was not doing the artwork. Seriously never thought Venom would be among the best comics.

1) Bitter Root by David F Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene

Best ongoing series has to be Bitter Root. It’s one of those series that each issue just stays with you days after reading, from the social commentary to the insane artwork from Sandford Greene. Not many things can be entertaining and provide you with knowledge, yet Bitter Root does that with ease. Cannot wait to see what the future of Bitter Root consists of and if 2020 is any indication, it will be hard to replace Bitter Root as the #1 book in 2021. Also, we were able to meet Sandford Greene at C2E2 (the only big con this year) and he was the nicest and friendliest person we’ve met.

After naming these ten great ongoing series, here are a few that we think could be among the best in 2021.

Iron Man by Christopher Cantwell and Cafu

Crossover by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw

Stillwater by Chip Zdarsky and Roman K Perez

The Department of Truth by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds

Wrestling with Geekdom

I am a fan of Comic books. I am a fan of professional wrestling.

These were two things that I would had never admitted to when I was a teenager. Those close to me, knew about the comics but not professional wrestling. I was heavily invested in wrestling till I was 13, once high school started it was something I would rarely think about. Comics, were not discovered till my early twenties. Now, as I finish up a long academic journey, I have found an interest in the two topics in my studies. The sociology of the comic culture and the wrestling culture have been present in many papers throughout the journey, but I never looked back and reflected on how they affect me.

Wednesday has become the day of the week for comic and wrestling fans, with new releases for comics. As well as NXT and AEW going head to head with some of the best wrestling on television.

But what does comics have to do with wrestling? I believe the fandoms co-exist due to the fact of simple storytelling. As well as the idea that both act as modern day mythology. In the wrestling ring, there is the good guy (baby face) and the bad guy (the heel), in comics we have the good guy (superhero) and the bad guy (the villain). Just from that standpoint, it represents a correlation, but it goes deeper.

Watching wrestling today, a viewer could tell the heel from the baby face much like a reader can from the pages of a comic book. Between Baron Corbin shoving dog food in the face of Roman Reigns or Bane takeover Gotham City. The two examples show that wrestling and comics have similarities in the method of telling stories.

Also the fans are another example that causes this idea of wrestling and comics to collide . Fans of a certain wrestler will follow them throughout their whole career rather they are good or bad, fans of Big Show have dealt with many changes in his character. Batman is an example in the comic industry where fans of the character will bitch about a writer on the series but still buy or read every issue due to the character.

As a fan of both wrestling and comics, I witness the toxic behavior of fans but also witness the pleasure that they both bring fans. As a wrestling fan I look forward to pay per views especially the royal rumble and wrestlemania even if I don’t watch wrestling every week. I find myself returning for a couple months. In comics, I am in a shop at least once a week and if one of the big two (Marvel or DC) have a epic event planned I have to read it.

There is just something about both wrestling and comics that brings people together even if they don’t partake in reading or watching every event. If WWE or AEW is in town, we try to buy tickets to the show. If there is a comic convention in town, you bet we will be there. It’s the community of both that allows for a love to be gained beyond what is created by wrestlers and comic creators.

If you haven’t yet, read Aubrey Sitterson’s The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling or Michael Kingston’s Headlocked series as they are prefect examples of how comics and wrestling work together.

The near future for both wrestling and comics has me excited right now between the return of Edge in WWE and Jon Moxley destroying it in AEW. In the comics world, Donny Cates is writing a crazy version of Thor that I can not get enough of and the announcement of Dark Knight: Death Metal, it is a great time to be a wrestling fan and comic fan.

Shame! I Know I Need to Read These Comics.

After admitting to these heinous crimes I will feel like Cersei Lannister, while you chat “shame” at me, but I am about to admit to not reading some of the greatest stories in comics. Now, before the judgement is forced upon me, let me defend myself. I did not start reading comics till closer to my twenties. Besides Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke, my reading would consist of a Deadpool trade once in a while, it would be around 2016 when I dove head first into reading comics. This list was inspired by the podcast “Stegman and his Amazing Friends” and a conversation between Nora and I on the way to our local comic shop.

Crime #1) Brian K Vaughn

Yes I am starting off the list with not one single series or book, but an author. Thinking about it, I have never read a story by Brian K Vaughn. The messed up thing, Nora has read the entirety of Saga and Paper Girls in the last two month. So, why have I not read Saga or Paper Girls if we have them collected? Truthfully, I have no damn clue why I have skipped over Brian K Vaughn. Looking at Saga, it has a intimidation factor to it, with the size of the recent compendium (collecting the first 9 volumes and features 1400 pages) that could be a reason or it could be the fact I know I will be instantly hooked and would get lost in the 1400 pages.

As for his other works, Paper Girls, Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, and Y: The Last Man I believe that it comes down to my attachment towards superhero comics and the big two. This will change soon, as I plan on reading Saga sooner than later.

Crime #2) The Sandman

This is probably the one series I am most ashamed for not reading. Being a fan of Neil Gaiman and seeing Nora just fall in love with the series, I should have read it by now. But it is a series that I push aside for something else usually Batman or Spider-Man related. The worst thing about not reading this, is the fact that I have read Death: High Cost of Living and quite bit of Hellblazer/Constantine. In fact, the short animated film of Death that came with Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, I found to be a damn masterpiece.

It’s hard to call Gaiman, one of my favorite writers knowing that I have skipped this series that he won an Eisner award for. But, Black Orchid and Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? are among my favorite stories. Not reading The Sandman, almost gives a feeling of revoking my comic nerd card. Hopefully by the end of 2020, I can say I have finished The Sandman, but that is something I said for 2018 and 2019.

Crime #3) Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye

This was a tough decision between Hawkeye or The Walking Dead and if it was not for seeing Fraction’s Hawkeye on many different lists on decade defining books, I would have put The Walking Dead here. Fraction is much like Brian K Vaughn, regretfully I have never read any of his work. But, I think the perfect place to start would be this series. From what I hear about this run, it is unforgettable and the best Hawkeye story, which has me intrigued.

Hopefully by the end of the year I will be able to have a different hall of shame list, but one of the best things about being a comic fan, its like being in school. Everyday there is something new that you’re learning or adding to your pile to read. Also look out for Nora’s debut piece soon, maybe she’ll do a Shame blog, which I can bet will be mostly Frank Miller’s work.

Why Ryan Stegman is my Favorite Comic Artist of 2019?

Last Thursday (the last comic release of 2019, damn that flew) Venom #21 was released with the iconic Spider-man artist Mark Bagley doing the artwork, and as much as I love Bagley’s artwork, I realized that Ryan Stegman was my favorite artist of 2019. Its not fair to compare Bagley and Stegman because the art in Venom #21 is still amazing, but Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman created magic together on Venom and Absolute Carnage.

As certain friends would call me a walking contradiction, I am aware that there are better artist out there who dominated 2019 as well. For example what Jamal Campbell has done with Naomi and Far Sector is nothing but breathtaking. Ian Bertram had me drooling over Little Bird (which if you have not read yet, do yourself a favor and read it. It is a damn masterpiece) and as I have These Savage Shores sitting on my bookshelf to be read soon with beautiful art by Sumit Kumar, I have to admit that Stegman had a lasting effect on me.

Before Venom #1 in July 2018, I knew of Ryan Stegman but truthfully I would say I was not a die hard fan. I was going into Venom with the idea that Donny Cates was going to write a crazy ass story like he did with Thanos Wins. Little did I know I was about to fall in love with the artist. From just the cover alone, it had a sense of beautiful action horror, the way he drew Venom was perfect.

Throughout the series, Stegman would continue to create a haunting rendition of a character that was pretty well established. In Venom #3, the evil deity of Knull is introduced in the story and Stegman’s art makes the character unforgettable. The first volume of Venom is the Stegman show and his partnership with Donny Cates, made the book one of the best surprises of 2018. Stegman couldn’t surprise me again, can he?

Cates and Stegman would continue to dominate Venom and turn the series into the second best series coming out of Marvel. (Immortal Hulk is the best, if you are curious) Then in March 2019 at C2E2, Marvel would announce the comic event of Absolute Carnage. We were at the show and I remember looking Nora straight in the eyes and saying “Holy shit, this book is gonna be huge.”

Sure enough the first taste of Absolute Carnage came in the form of the Free Comic Book Day exclusive Spider-Man and I needed more. The way that Cates and Stegman changed Carnage was crazy, he became this creature that would induce nightmares and yet it was so damn beautiful. Carnage went from being kind of scary to “shit my pants” scary with Cates and Stegman turning him into a monstrous skeleton like god. I am sure other artist could had pulled it off, but there was something to Stegman’s artwork that made this version of carnage unforgettable. As some critics would say, Stegman was born to draw the book and they were not wrong, for the entire event, Stegman went crazy and crafted the most insane artwork of the year.

The thing that makes Stegman’s artwork so enjoyable, is that it’s so messed up, I can pick up a issue of Absolute Carnage or Venom and show a non-comic fan and they would be grossed out. It reminds me of Spawn and the work of Todd McFarland and Greg Capullo in that sense, the insanity of the art causes an emotion. McFarland and Capullo are among my favorite artists due to growing up loving Spawn and Batman, and it is obvious that they had a impact on Stegman through his artwork and that could be a reason beyond my love for his art this year.

Is his frenetic style for everyone? no, but it he is the perfect artist for Absolute Carnage and Venom. It will be interest to seeing what he does next after Venom. I have to ask, what type of craziness would Cates and Stegman think of on a creator own book, if they ever got the chance to do one. I look forward to the future of Stegman and Cates, as they work together and other projects.

Also his podcast, “Stegman and his amazing friends” is a blast to listen to. It is a lot like Venom and Absolute Carnage, you never know what is going to happen next.

Hope You All Had A Merry Nerdmas!

Now, you may be saying “hey dumbass, nerdmas is not a word”, which you would be correct but see here is the thing, much like “Noggin”, Nerdmas means something to us, it is every Christmas that we spend together.

While we see our families on Christmas, Nora (Other half of Noggin) and I also have our own holiday. We take a Christmas tree (sometimes the size of a charlie brown tree) and we fill it up with funko key chains and superhero ornaments. And underneath this tree, our gifts are wrapped in strange and unique paper. This year it was Star Wars and Umbrella Academy.

While most couples give gifts that represent their love, we buy each other Funko pops and graphic novels. Nora got herself a first print of Black Hammer #1 and I am still waiting on her to get me a key issues of a book I love. Hint, The Batman Adventures #12 or Mister Miracle #1.

We promise that not every blog will be like this, we will break down comics, films, and video games but after hearing Nora wish me a Merry Nerdmas on Christmas, I had to write about it. Now we have a tradition, instead of having “All I Want For Christmas is you” playing, we have the Into the Spider-Verse Christmas EP playing with the DC Universe Yule Log on the TV. Also, Batman Returns is a Christmas Movie, we may have to add that to our tradition next year.

But as we get back to the daily grind, we hope that whoever is reading this had or is having a happy holidays.

What Comics Mean to me (His story)

The funny thing about my love for comics, is that it started off as hatred. Growing up I loved watching the animated series, Spider-man was my shit, I remember thinking “let that spider bite me, I want powers.” But, my uncle was the comic collector and I felt that it was strange that a grown man was reading comics and asking myself “What is up with that nasty beat up white box?”. Fast forward almost twenty years later and I am that grow up reading comics with a room filled with those boxes (not beat up and nasty, most have graphic designs on them), but how did I get here? How did I fall in love with Comics?

I enjoyed the X-men films as a kid and the animated version of Teen titans was among my favorites, but I would have to say in 2008 the release of The Dark Knight and Iron Man would spark an interest in comics. But, it was mainly the films that had me intrigued, reading the comics was intimidating and plus I had this mindset of what if she catches me reading comics. There was always that one girl that I was trying to impress and this fear of being caught reading a comic would drive her away. I would continue to be a fan of comic based films but I would never read one, until I had no choice. The following year, Watchmen the film was released and I loved it, I had to read the graphic novel.

So I waited until a family trip the following year to finally dive in to Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. My mind was blown by this book, at that time, it would had been shocking to see me read anything but for some unknown reason, this book had capture my attention and imagination unlike anything before. Sadly, I do not recall events from the family trip, but I remember that feeling of falling in love with something I once felt was childish.

After finishing Watchmen, I had to find something else to read and I figured hey, The Dark Knight Rises is around corner, why not check out Batman: The Killing Joke. If I was not falling in love with comics after Watchmen, than The Killing Joke was the final straw, I was hooked.

I would spend years just causally reading, I had no idea what a Wednesday warrior was until I met the other half of Noggin. See, she had never touched a comic in her life and after a couple months together, she borrowed a Deadpool graphic Novel from the collection and from that moment our lives were change. We would find ourselves collecting single issues and graphic novels as date nights. Together, we became Wednesday Warriors and we consider our local comic shop (Issues Needed) as our second home.

So what do comics mean to me? I think they represent an idea of expressive creativity, something that I was lacking while growing up. They also represent a connection and bound that was strengthen between two. I know it may seem cheesy, but comics saved my life and allowed me to find the love of my life.