Sandman Universe 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Sandman Universe 1

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

Drew: Of the “graphic novel” canon — that is, comics that non-comics readers have (however begrudgingly) deemed worthy of their time and interest — Sandman is far and away the longest. Persepolis and Maus constitute two volumes apiece, and Watchmen just the one, but Sandman spills into ten (or more, depending on how you count decades-later follow-ups like this one). However we diagnose that oddity — either as an unusually long, but no less novelistic “literary comic,” or as a more humble ongoing that was elevated to the pantheon of comics grownups aren’t afraid to read — I think the explanation is the same: the flexibility of Dream and his kingdom. Everybody dreams, affording Dream excuses to interact with every corner of the world, from kittens to serial killers, from William Shakespeare to the demons of Hell. And because of Dream’s role as a storyteller of sorts, the only guarantee in any issue was that it would contain a story (often wrapped up in a love letter to stories and storytelling). That is very much true of Sandman Universe 1, which spins its story off into four supporting series, but not before pausing to simply luxuriate in their worlds. Continue reading

The Press Finds a Way to be Free in Lazarus X+66 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Lazarus X+66 5

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

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.

Thomas Jefferson

I think it would be difficult to overstate how much the founding fathers valued a free, independent press. In their minds, it was an essential check on power, providing the citizenry with vital information about the actions of the government. In that way, the press can be framed as an antagonist of those in power, but only when the actions of those in power are at odds with the will of the people. Unfortunately, recent cults of personality have made certain people more inclined to root for those in power rather than the citizens, managing to tar the press as the enemy of the people. At the same time, news sources have become increasingly consolidated and corporatized, calling into question exactly how “free” and “independent” the press truly is. As ever, the world of Lazarus exists in the space made by playing out these trends to their logical conclusion, creating a world where the press is intended as the PR arm of the family, even as it’s made up of people who are deeply suspicious of them. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 18

Today, Mark and Michael are discussing Wonder Woman 18, originally released March 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Mark: One of the most compelling features of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman is its willingness to incorporate into real issues facing society, as we come to terms with our systematically poor treatment of women and grapple with how to resolve it. Like a proclamation of intent, the earliest arc in the book, “The Lies,” features Cheetah dealing with the devastation caused by abuse, rape, and victim-blaming. These are issues deeply entrenched in American culture made palatable to general audiences because the villains manifest themselves as mystical beasts and gods. But not all of the methods Rucka and his collaborators use to convey their message (for lack of a better term) are quite so foregrounded. For instance, every position of authority in Wonder Woman so far is held by a woman. This is a story about women, featuring women, that is in no way lacking because its pages aren’t filled with more dudes. Continue reading

Wonder Woman 16

wonder-woman-16

Today, Taylor and Mark are discussing Wonder Woman 16, originally released February 8th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: When you look at where the genre of superhero comics comes from, it’s unwise to overlook the influence of pulp fiction. Pulp fictions were serialized stories printed on crappy paper that told stories ranging from the bizarre to the terrible. While it’s easy to dismiss these stories and their authors, they had an undeniable influence on generations of writers to come. While the quality of pulp fiction may be suspect, there’s no denying the stories were innovative and daring. And even though the monthlies we read nowadays are printed on better paper, it’s always fun to look back and pay homage to these stories that influenced so much of our modern pop culture, just as is done in Wonder Woman 16. Continue reading

Batman Annual 1

Alternating Currents: Batman Annual 1, Drew and Michael

Today, Drew and Michael are discussing Batman Annual 1, originally released November 30th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: A few years ago, fellow Retcon Puncher Patrick Ehlers suggested that deconstruction had become so commonplace in Batman stories that they had come to become inseparable from the character. That is, deconstructing the character had become as essential to the telling of Batman stories as Batmobiles and gimmicky villains have become essential to the stories themselves. It’s a compelling argument — especially when you consider the fact that modern interpretations of the character are all informed by Frank Miller’s famous deconstructions of the character — but I maintain that it’s largely incidental to his existence. To me, the key fact is that Batman has been around (and beloved) for 75+ years, so of course creators that grew up with the character are going to relish playing with that history. I can expound on why I think that negates Patrick’s point in the comments, but for now, it’s enough to say that I think the deconstructions have more to do with nostalgia than anything intrinsic to the character. Nostalgia is certainly a central theme in Batman Annual 1, an anthology issue that brings together some of Batman’s most famous stewards, past and present, for a walk down memory lane. Continue reading