Retcon Punch Signing Off

by The Retcon Punch Editors

The panels above come from Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf’s Batgirl 1. This was the very first issue that we wrote about together. Our discussions were embarrassingly rudimentary then, but contained our primordial fascination with how comics inspired us. That eventually became Retcon Punch’s mission — treat all comics like the works of art literature that they are.

That was seven years and like three DC re-launches ago, and since then Retcon Punch has become an integral part of our lives and the way we experience comics. Now we’re perched on the precipice of exciting opportunities, and it’s mighty tempting to stay on the comfortable forum Retcon Punch has provided for us. But Barbara Gordon is right — it’s time for us to stretch our legs.

As a consequence of that stretching, this will be our last post, at least for the foreseeable future. The site allowed us to connect with so many amazing creators and fans, and interacting with y’all has been the best part of this experience. We just wanted to thank everyone for reading our pieces and participating in the conversation for all these years.

Michael: I hate saying goodbye, hate it. But nothing lasts forever and all of those applicable cliches, right? I have this philosophy: you move into a new place, get some picture frames, etc. to place on the wall and you brag about how cool that thing is, right? But eventually the frame fades into the background and you stop noticing it as much – it’s a fixture, as if it has always been there. I have, on many occasions, taken Retcon Punch for granted in such a way. Because as commonplace as it eventually felt to write on the new comic book releases of the week, it was in reality a genuinely extraordinary opportunity. I had been knocking my head against the wall trying to get writing gigs and somehow – I can’t even remember – I stumbled upon Retcon Punch. I was brought on as a guest writer and eventually became “Associate Editor” – pretty snazzy, no?

But even cooler than snazzy titles was the recognition and positive feedback we received from the creators of the comic books we covered. It was a mutual form of respect: we dissected their work and pointed out their deeper meanings and in return they thanked us – everyone felt seen and acknowledged. And I know that writing for Retcon Punch has sharpened my skills as a writer and observer. I was not afraid to ask Patrick and Drew for notes and suggestions on any of my piece. They gave me great feedback that helped focus my writing and direct my attention to details I tend to gloss over. I even got to meet Patrick and Drew in the real world this past April at C2E2 and it was a blast. Spencer, I’m sure we’ll have our day as well. So yeah, thank you to everyone who has ever read our pieces on Retcon Punch: family, friends, fans and creators. Thank you to Patrick, Drew and Spencer for the opportunity – feels like we’ve been doing this forever. The source is escaping me, but I’ll conclude with with a final caption that I’ve always loved: “Never the End.”

Spencer: I was a reader and fan of Retcon Punch long before I first joined its staff. The kind of writing Patrick and Drew were doing here was exactly the kind of comics analysis I wanted to read, and when I got the opportunity to start writing for the site myself, it was one of the happiest moments of my life; not only did I feel seen and validated, but I got to help put out the kind of comic book writing I thought — and still think — the world desperately needs. I could fill pages and pages with things Retcon Punch and I have achieved that I will never forget, but ultimately, I’ll always be most proud of the actual work we produced. From beginning to end, Retcon Punch has been my platonic ideal of comic book coverage. I’m going to miss it more than I can even begin to articulate right now, but I’ll always be so proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

But Retcon Punch has helped me grow so much as a person, too. Change has always been my kryptonite. In elementary school I cried when teachers changed classroom decorations; I bawled my eyes out when favorite childhood tv shows went off the air; even as an adult, I had a hard time dealing with creative turnover on my favorite comics. But life is, perhaps more than anything else, change and endings, and Retcon Punch has helped me to understand and embrace that. Whenever Patrick and Drew would approach the rest of the staff with new ideas for the site, I was always hesitant. I loved the site so much just the way it was that the thought of it changing terrified me. But every time the change was for the best, and each change helped the site look and read better than before. Even when it came to writing the articles, early on I often felt like I could write about a particular issue forever, constrained only by my word count. But eventually I started to reach a point where I could just feel when an article was over. Maybe I had more to say, but it wasn’t the time to say it; I’d reached the end, and I wasn’t going to find a better way to conclude no matter how much I wrote.

And I’ve grown enough to realize that that’s the point we’ve reached now. I’ve told so many people that Retcon Punch was my dream job. I thought that, if the site ever ended, I’d leave kicking and screaming, or find a way to keep it going even if I had to do it alone. To be honest, I’d keep writing for the site as it’s been the last few months the rest of my life if I could. But now feels like the right time to bring things to a close, and I never could have recognized that, much less found peace with it, without everything I’ve learned here. Thank you, Patrick, Drew, Michael, everyone who has written for Retcon Punch in the past, and everyone who has ever read our work, for helping me grow so much. I never could have done it without you. I think the four of us will go on to do great things, and I hope all of you come along with us, whatever form that takes.

Drew: Perhaps the bar for “life-changing experience” is pitifully low when you’re an aimless twentysomething, but looking back as a decidedly less-aimless thirtysomething, I owe this site a great deal for giving my life direction over these past seven years. Obviously, there’s the comics, the medium I had only passing familiarity with when we launched but has come to define my adult life and career aspirations. I had no idea there was so much to unpack from every panel, but now that I know, I don’t ever want to leave. The discussions we’ve had on this site opened up an entire new world to me, a world I’ve come to call home, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

But “the site” is just a convenient stand-in for the people it represents. I’ll start by thanking our readers. I’ve been routinely touched and inspired by our comments section and social media mentions — you all have some deep, thought-provoking insights into comics that have added so much to our conversations. But I’m also inspired by our silent readers who never commented — watching our numbers grow over the years has assured me that there is an even larger community of comics fans hungry for the kind of in-depth analysis that excites me so much. We would have called it quits a long time ago without your support.

I also want to thank all of the writers, artists, colorers, letterers, designers, and editors whose works we’ve analyzed over the years. It’s maybe too obvious to say this site couldn’t exist if you weren’t making comics for us to discuss, but we wouldn’t have much to discuss if you weren’t so good at making comics. Our analytical positions often championed the role of the reader, but that’s only because we had to go toe to toe with what you were already putting in.

And finally, I want to thank all of the Retcon Punchers. There’s too many for me to thank individually, but I’ll make special mention of Spencer and Michael — two “internet only” friends that have made the leap into real flesh-and-blood friends I’ve shared adventures and meals and good times with. Retcon Punch started as an excuse for me to stay in regular contact with one of my dearest friends, and as much as the site changed over the years, it never really stopped being about that. I’m so grateful to Patrick for being with me every step of the way, and I look forward to whatever comes next.

Patrick: As usual, my cohort have already expressed most of my sentiments more beautifully than I could have ever hoped to. I’ll echo that I’ve also learned an enormous amount about comics and art and writing and probably a thousand other marketable skills that I’ll be putting on resumes forever. But it is, of course, the people we have worked with, and whose work we analyzed to death, that have had the most impact on my experience. I am sincerely touched and humbled to be among such giants. Thank you Michael and Spencer for giving the site life and humor and insight for so long. And thank you to Drew for being the other half of my brain for the better part of a decade. My talents and sensibilities were forged in a fire we burned together, and I don’t think I’ll ever make a creative decision in my life without Drew’s voice in my head.

As I sit at my computer, hours before we publish our final post, I’m stuck in a position I’ve been in literally thousands of times. I know that I have been moved, and I know that I am supposed to articulate something about how I have been moved. And just like our discussions, I have to resist the urge to simply rate the quality of my experience. After all, Retcon Punch never once published a “review.”

But what the hell? Writing with Retcon Punch has been an A+ experience. The friends I’ve made working on the site are 10/10 friends. Every convention, every creator interaction, every reader comment has been five-star. I give “my last seven years with Retcon Punch” my highest possible recommendation.

I am very much looking forward to what comes next. Expect to see amazing work from former-Retcon Punchers for the rest of your life, because these are some of the smartest, most insightful people in comics.

Thank you to the all the wonderful contributors that have worked with us over the years: Shelby Peterson, Peter Kilkuske, Taylor Anderson, Scott Baumgartner, Jack Ehlers, Ethan Andyshak, Greg Smith, Mike Logsdon, Michael Capristo, Siri Hellerman, Pete Pfarr, Suzanne Nagda, Andy Lindvall, Shane Volpoe, Ryan Desaulniers, Mark Mitchell, Ryan Mogge and countless guest-writers.

You can always keep up with us on twitter. Patrick is @patrick_ehlers, Drew is @d_baumgartner, Spencer is @ThatSpenceGuy, and Michael is @CormacMichael

Daredevil 612: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: Each of the issues in Charles Soule and Phil Noto’s “The Death of Daredevil” is named for a fear one could reasonably ascribe to Matt Murdock. “Hold on,” you might say, “isn’t Daredevil supposed to be the Man Without Fear?” Well, if that’s the case, perhaps these issue titles are more reflective of what Matt has to overcome to be the hero Daredevil. Issue 612 is titled “Apeirophoba” – a fear of infinity or infinite things. This issue confronts just how much terrifying infinity there is in both life and death, in stories that wrap up nicely, and in stories that refuse to quit. Continue reading

Ironheart 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Michael DeLaney

Ironheart 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

RiriwhydidyoubecomeIronheart?

Xavier King

Drew: My favorite scene of Eve Ewing, Kevin Libranda, and Luciano Vecchio’s Ironheart 1 takes up most of the third act. Riri, exhausted from a day of inventing, superheroing, and unexpected tour-guiding, is rudely woken by her phone. The call is from Riri’s old neighbor, Xavier, whose out-of-the-blue call makes her suspicious. Sure enough, the call was Riri’s mom’s idea — exactly the kind of thoughtful meddling a teen would resent. In spite of this the two find some common ground with their shared enthusiasm for sci-fi and Hip-Hop. But then the other shoe drops, and Xavier blurts out the breathless question quoted above. In many ways, Xavier is articulating the central question of this series: Why is Riri Williams Ironheart? Continue reading

Redefining Archie in a Post-Riverdale world in Archie 700

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

When Mark Waid and Fiona Staples relaunched Archie a few years ago they had the daunting goal of modernizing the franchise without losing its classic charm, but one thing they didn’t have to contend with was the influence of a totally different reboot launching at the same time. As the first new major run of Archie to launch in a post-Riverdale world, though, Archie 700 and its creative team of Nick Spencer and Marguerite Sauvage have the specter of the popular television show hanging over their heads. It’s fascinating to see how Spencer and Sauvage incorporate elements from Riverdale into their interpretation of Archie’s world, all without losing any of the heart, or even innocence, that’s made Archie Andrews such a beloved character for the past 70 years. Continue reading

West Coast Avengers 4: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

West Coast Avengers 4

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I just wanted to [work in the documentary format] to see what it was like. You know, to take those weights off our ankles. I feel like 30 Rock and Community never get an award for doing a format that’s twice as hard. Because it really is twice as hard. Not only can you not lay in a voiceover, sort of explaining what people are doing and how they feel, but on top of that, you are combining all of the crutches that come from flashbacks and jumping around in time and multiple points of view. I wanted to do it and verify that it actually is easier to make an episode funnier using that format. And the answer is, yeah, it is. I mean, there were a lot of jokes in the episode, and it just seemed faster, like we were able to fire off more and pack more into it.

Dan Harmon on “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”

Drew: I regret that this quote is so critical of the documentary format, since my takeaway isn’t that it’s “easy” to be funny using that format, but that the format itself is well-suited to comedy. (Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine caring about how easy or difficult a joke is to tell — I just care if it’s funny.) Indeed, I’d argue that selecting the format that best tells the story is of the upmost importance, and a format that is funnier and faster is ideal for a series like West Coast Avengers. In many ways, the documentary format itself — represented in this issue by the confessional sequences delivered directly to camera — sets the pacing for this issue, establishing six square panels as a kind of heartbeat for each page. Continue reading

Middlewest 1 Hides Magic in Plain Sight

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I regularly make the claim that I “don’t believe in spoilers.” And that’s like 90% true – if a work can be “spoiled” by learning one detail of what happens in it, it’s probably not going to be a thing I enjoy anyway. There are exceptions to this, of course, and there are the odd movie or series that I wish I could revisit without any knowledge of what it’s about. Like, can you imagine how cool it would be to watch The Truman Show without any idea that Truman is part of a giant reality TV show? The movie so patiently teases both the character and the audience with the reality of the situation before blowing the doors off about 20 minutes in. Skottie Young and Jorge Corona’s Middlewest 1 takes a similarly patient approach to revealing the reality of the world of their story, but the hints are everywhere. Continue reading

Colonialism, Manipulation and Art in Darth Vader 23

by Michael DeLaney

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I have very little love for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — many things come off as arbitrary, but nothing more so than Darth Vader’s “lava castle” on Mustafar.  But as he has done since the beginning of this series, Charles Soule takes something as simple as “Darth Vader has a lava castle” and adds deeper layers of pain, love and art to it. Continue reading

William Gibson’s Alien 3 #1 Rewrites the Initial Alien Encounter for Communists

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ridley Scott’s 1977 sci-fi horror masterpiece Alien works because it is slow, atmospheric, and truly terrifying. Much of that terror comes from watching the various forms of an unknown alien species wreaking havoc on the crew of the Nostromo, who are, by all accounts, a bunch of blue collar folk just trying to make their way in a world run by enormous corporations. These working stiffs would have survived their encounter just fine were it not for the dispassionate, often robotic, interference of The Company. It’s Weyland-Yutani’s plant, Ash, that breaks protocol and allows Kane and the facehugger onto the ship, despite ranking officer Ripley denying them access. The first issue of William Gibson’s Alien 3, Darkhorse Comic’s adaptation of Gibson’s un-produced script for the sequel to 1986’s Aliens, revisits a very similar point of first contact with the alien, this time without a company stooge to muck it up. Continue reading

Visions of Something Greater in Superman 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis open Superman 5 with a vision. Zod fantasizes of a New Krypton, of a world where all of Krypton’s survivors have united, where Zod and Superman have made peace despite their “ideological divide.” Superman, too, experiences a vision in this issue, one just as lofty. While these two men may share visions of something greater than themselves, though, it’s those pesky ideological differences that continue to drive them apart. Just because you dream of something better doesn’t mean the steps you take to get there are justified. Continue reading

Defusing the Tension in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 38

By Drew Baumgartner

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 38

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

You guys, I love The Thing. That’s the John Carpenter movie, not Ben Grimm (though he’s cool, too). I’m a sucker for parlor mysteries in general, but the thought that “the killer” might actually be an imposter adds room for extra little twists that make the mysteries more mysterious and the tension more tense. Ryan North and Derek Charm play with this concept in the opening scene of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 38, as Doreen and her computationally-minded friends devise a perfectly logical means of verifying everyone’s true identity. In Squirrel Girl’s world, there’s no white-knuckle blood-test scene, just the shortest route to diffusing that tension. It’s a choice North and Charm make throughout the issue, and while it sounds like it would rob the scenes of drama, it actually helps keep the pace moving along at a dizzying clip. Continue reading