Author Archives: ArcaneHalloween
“I am the shape of things to come, the lord of the flies, holder of the sword sinister… the death-bringer, I am the one who waits on the edge of your dreams… I am Nemesis”
Borag Thungg my fellow Squaxx Dek Thargo, and welcome to another instalment of “Great British Comic Book Characters.” In our last episode we introduced you to the UK’s biggest selling anthology comic of all time, 2000AD and its much celebrated principal star Judge Dredd, from this episode onwards we shall be exploring in detail the plethora of other characters that make up this diverse and innovative weekly comic book compendium.
Demonic alien entity Nemesis made his first appearance in 2000AD in prog #167 in July of 1980, created by writer Pat Mills and artist Kevin O’Neill.
Protagonist Nemesis is a fire-breathing alien who opposes the tyrannical and oppressive subjugation and systematic extermination of alien races by the evil human Termight empire and their fascist leader Tomas De Torquemada. His self appointed pursuit of justice against the xenophobic human forces began after discovering that his wife Chira and son Thoth had been murdered by Termite’s terminators under orders from Torquemada himself.
2000AD prog #167 first introduced us to our eponymous alien advocate in a short story entitled “Comic Rock: Terror Tube.” This initial adventure saw our freedom fighting anti-hero escape from the clutches of the then Chief of tube Police, Torquemada, after a sustained chase through a complex tube travel system on a planet named Termight (later revealed to be Earth.) Though for his first ever appearance he was strangely conspicuous by his absence, all the reader saw of Nemesis was the exterior of his ship, the Blitzspear.
Though short, Terror Tube set the scene for the continuing crusade of Nemesis and his lifelong antagonist Torquemada, the Termight Police were modelled closely after the Spanish Inquisition and extreme right wing factions (Torquemada himself was named after notorious Spanish Inquisitor Tomas De Torquemada) which made it rather straightforward for the reader to empathise with the plight of the subjugated alien races and the violent struggle of our titular lead Nemesis. Though Nemesis himself is far from pure and virtuous, with his human aide and confidante Purity Brown ultimately realising that his mission of vengeance was primarily used as an excuse to cover his own hatred of Humanity and his mission to exterminate them from the known Universe.
Our main antagonist Torquemada began his contemptible quest as a young boy, embarking on a crusade to rid the galaxy of aliens. Betrayed by the crusade’s leader he was sold into slavery, ending up as a thrall for an alien race for over five long years. This scarred him badly leaving what little compassion and humility he possessed to be discarded, and his hatred of other lifeforms outside his own, intensified tenfold.
After his stint as tube police chief, he eventually rose to become the overriding leader of the entire Termight empire, with the assistance of his superficially religious police force The Terminators. Later in the series he became a powerful phantom like figure after losing his physical form in a bizarre teleporting accident. He continued his existence and zealous quest through the possession of a succession of host bodies, though these would have to be replaced often as the ostensibly undead host would decay at an escalated rate.
Nemesis’ continuing crusade takes place initially across ten volumes, with the odd short story inter-cutting in various annuals, one-offs and specials. Book one entitled “The World Of Termight” introduced the leading players and set the scene for the epic galaxy spanning war. Each subsequent chapter would add more layers to the expansive storyline, culminating in book ten, “The Final Conflict” which saw both Nemesis and Torquemada deceased at the culmination of the tale.
Like all of Pat Mills’ classic creations (Judge Dredd especially) he drew on real world politics and inherent human prejudices. Nemesis spoke on many levels other than the ones accepted in the comic strip at face value. Bigotry, hatred and fascism were all explored in detail, and none of the leads were of great moral fibre, including our hero Nemesis, who is tainted by much the same abhorrence and repugnance as his arch enemy Torquemada, ultimately leaving this dystopian tale exceedingly ambiguous.
Splundig Vur Thrigg!
Nemesis the Warlock and all imagery copyright: Rebellion
Suffering Sappho! This month’s Wonder Woman cover surely must be a celestial gift from the old gods of Olympus, as artist David Marquez’s captivating celebration of the Themysciran Titan has become one of my fave recent renditions of the warrior princess, and the interior story and art by marvellous Mariko Tamaki and majestic Mikel Janin most certainly live up to the covers powerful promise!
The celebrated creative team up of Tamaki and Janin once again hits all kinds of highs as they bring their visionary mastery to Diana’s ongoing odyssey. Writer Mariko Tamaki is the 2020 Eisner award winning author of the much lauded DC Comics’ YA novel – Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. Interior artist Mikel Janin also provides the glorious goods with his stunning illustrations, riding off the back of his sterling work on Trinity War and Justice League Dark, Janin once again proves to be one of the very best artists currently working in the formidable field of comic-books.
It’s a fresh start for Wondy, as Diana begins to pick up the pieces of her life after her apocalyptic clash against the Four Horsewomen and her run in with the Phantom Stranger. It seems everyone has a view on who Wonder Woman should be – some who look on her heroics as admirable, and others who lie in wait, seeking revenge. A familiar threat is seemingly watching Diana’s every move, and now seems the perfect time to strike…
Wonder Woman #759 is a bold new start for Diana, and is a fantastic starting point for new readers of Zeus’ favoured daughter. Plenty of over the top superheroics are involved, of course, but also the mundane every day tasks that us mere mortals must travel through, with Diana perusing furniture at her local IKEA!! It’s these more grounded moments that I love the most, with Diana’s quirky fish out of water personality shining through, masterfully woven by the titanically talented Tamaki, with gorgeously rendered art by Mikel Janin who showcases some absolutely stunning splash-pages. Highly Recommended.
I mean, you’re not more evil than a SuperVillain, right? Wearing a mask protects yourself, your loved ones and everyone else… Be a Superhero, wear a mask!
Faora, Bane, Deadshot and Deathstroke are copyright: DC Comics.
You may have noticed… I’m a DC Comics fanatic, I grew up living and breathing their fictional worlds since the age of six when I first discovered the dark and surly one known as, The Batman. At age nine I encountered the astonishing Amazon, Wonder Woman for the first time and she quickly became my favourite comic book character of all time, even surpassing my adoration for the Caped Crusader.
Over many years I have immersed myself in the continuing stories, relationships and camaraderie of the many spandex clad heroes and villains of DC’s universe, there was one hero though, who wasn’t part of DC lore, he didn’t exist in the same universe as Wondy, Bats, Starfire and all the other characters I adore, this indigo hued interloper into my safe environment of a comic-book company I love was the hero that actually started it all, the original masked crime-fighter, The Ghost Who Walks… The Phantom!
Published by Dynamite comics under licence from King Features Syndicate, the Last Phantom is a modern retelling of the 21st Phantom, Kitridge Walker, who forsakes his centuries long heritage as a masked crime-fighter, instead choosing to help the people of his home of Bengali (aka Bengalla) through his charitable organisation Walkabout. But after his wife and son are killed by forces looking to control Benagali for their own nefarious purpose, Kit must begrudgingly take up the mantle of his forebears and show the world that wherever darkness and evil dwells, The Phantom will always be close by.
This particular retelling of the classic Phantom of old has been rather divisive amongst fans, the Kit Walker portrayed here is very much a divergent character to the noble and clean cut hero of yore, but that is the point of a modern reboot, to bring the character kicking and screaming into the present, making him more contemporary for newer audiences. This book does that, and rather wonderfully too, a story of redemption and the honouring of one’s heritage and birthright. This new Phantom may be different from his progenitors, but he still stands for the same morals and precepts of all the Phantoms who came before him.
This fresh reiteration of the Man Who Cannot Die has actually become one of my favourite versions of the character. An absorbing and enthralling tale awaits, fellow phans, delivered by super scribe Scott Beatty, with fantastic interior art by Eduardo Ferigato, not forgetting the absolutely astonishing covers by the habitually sublime Alex Ross, who pays homage to both new and old variants of Kit Walker’s classic character. Highly recommended.
Great Hera! the glorious gods of Olympus once more shine their light on the Themysciran Titan – Wonder Woman, as their halcyon hall of heroes bestows yet another fascinating fable from DC’s Young Adult range of graphic novels. This titanic tome is akin to a previous tale in the younger readers comic-book category, the fantastic “Diana: Princess Of The Amazons” and whilst that particular odyssey was most assuredly stunning and a must read for all ages, Tempest Tossed is on a whole other level of sublime.
Celebrated author Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrator Leila Del Luca provide us with a fresh new take on Diana’s early upbringing as the only child on the paradise island of Themyscira, and it’s ended up being one of my absolute favourite takes on the wondrous one. Beginning with a retake on Diana’s birth, we witness the Five Mothers – Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis and Hestia as they weave their old magic to create the immortal female race known as the Amazons, a race of peace loving warriors, sworn to protect the planet. Hidden away from the world on their isle of tranquillity and tasked to one day save humanity when a great evil once more rears its head.
Yet, all is not contentment, revered Amazon queen, Hippolyta yearns for a child and upon hearing her cries of anguish the gods grant her wish, forming an infant from clay, Hippolyta’s dream becomes reality as the five mothers breathe life unto the lifeless form, giving birth to Diana, esteemed Princess, Amazon ambassador, emancipator and superhero, but these are titles yet to be won, as the Diana we follow in this monumental manuscript has just celebrated her sixteenth birthday, a unique concept on Themyscira known as Born Day, amongst a race of immortal adult females the abstraction of atypical birth is mystifying.
Her Amazon sisters have begun referring to Diana as “changeling” watching perplexed as her body goes through the normal changes of all adolescents as they hit puberty, once again a concept not familiar to the sheltered island residents of Themyscira. Mood swings, sudden growth spurts and occasional clumsiness mark her as different to her beloved sisters, Diana wrestles with her feelings of being an outsider, yearning to spread her wings and pondering upon what lies beyond her celestial homeland. All of this she will finally experience on her born day, as refugees wash up on the isle’s illustrious shores having passed through a break in Themyscira’s magical barrier.
The books opening chapter is comparable to how Diana originally saved Steve Trevor, with her diving fearlessly into a tempestuous and tormented ocean to save the refugees and bring them to safety, yet instead gets swept out to sea passing beyond the mystical shield and seemingly unable to find her way back. Joining the refugees she ends up alongside them in Greece, once there she is detained and placed in a refugee camp. This is her first taste of humanity beyond the shores of her cherished island, and it doesn’t leave a good impression as she witnesses in incredulity the depths of mistreatment, abuse and neglect the refugees suffer on a daily basis.
Railing back at the internment guards and treatment of refugees, Diana comes to the notice of two UN officials, Steve Chang and his husband Trevor (yep, Steve Trevor) as they pluck her from the camp and introduce her to a new life in America, with the promise that Diana can do more to help the downtrodden by securing a formal education and thus later returning to save the refugees, Diana reluctantly agrees. It’s here that we are introduced to the two most influential people in Diana’s new life, Henke, a Polish grandmother and her capricious grand-daughter, Raissa.
Tempest Tossed is a superlative piece of art from Anderson and Del Luca, showcasing their wonderful talents for empathy and enlightenment. Dealing with Diana’s integration into a strange new world, there is a lot of joy, from taking part in a Polka dance off, through discovering a secret parkour group run by Raissa, of which, of course, Diana excels in. The book also delves into the problematic areas of poor neighbourhoods and poverty, with Diana becoming increasingly alarmed at how badly people are treated by their peers and vowing to cease and educate on such practices. Throw in a crooked property developer and the increasing and upsetting dilemma of missing children, it seems adolescent Diana certainly has her work cut out for her.
Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed is an absolute must read, from the moment I got home from my local comic-book emporium clutching my hallowed copy I was engrossed, a superlative coming of age drama that’s not afraid to delve into the darker sides of humanity but is ultimately a book of family, friends, love and emancipation. One of the very best Wonder Woman tales I have ever read. Highly, highly recommended.
In 2017 Author, Kevin Grevioux brought over his love for strong female characters to a new mini-series for DC Comics with “Odyssey Of The Amazons”. Grevioux is probably best known as the co-creator of the smash hit “Underworld” series of movies, the Kate Beckinsale led film franchise that dealt with the ongoing, millennia spanning conflict between Vampire and Lycan (werewolf) clans
This collected volume encompasses the original six issue mini-series and is set many years before the birth of Princess Diana, and follows a host of Amazons as they set out on an expedition to re-discover their bygone Amazon sisters, along the way they encounter mythical beasts and legendary creatures, though their campaign soon graduates into a rescue mission as two of their sisters are captured by Norse Storm Giants.
Odyssey kicks off a previously untold chapter in Amazon lore as we follow the group of Amazon warriors and their indomitable leader Hessia, as they scour the world outside of Themyscira on a quest for more of their kind. Feeling very much in the mould of an epic tale of Greek antiquity such as Jason and the Argonauts, Grevioux’s mythical fable is fantastically well rendered and is an enthralling and welcome addition to Amazon mythos.
The series is in essence an Amazon origin story, exploring their existence and beginnings. Though the Amazons themselves are primarily a race derived from ancient Greece, they are also a diverse group comprising many ethnicities, and Odyssey aims to explain their eventual formation as the immortal female race of warriors, artisans, and scholars we all know and love.
Our first encounter with the Amazon emissaries is in battle, as they face off against an invading troop of O’Kungians in the fictional African country Zhu’Kara. It’s here that we first meet the group’s stalwart leader Hessia, a strong confident character revered by her Amazon peers, tasked by Queen Hippolyta with gathering Amazons from different cultures and nations, and returning with them to Themyscira. The visuals by Ryan Benjamin are gorgeous, beautifully detailed, they especially shine during the hectic battle sequences, where his kinetic art flows wonderfully.
Odyssey Of The Amazons is an engaging and exhilarating take on Amazon history by Grievoux, strong characterisation, an awesome central character in Hessia and sublime artwork by Benjamin. Highly recommended.
It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of legendary comic-book writer, Dennis O’Neil who died of natural causes at his home on June 11.
Denny was best known for his iconic runs on DC Comics’ Batman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern, and was also the editor for DC’s entire range of Batman comics from 1986 to 2000. Though Denny gave us many wonderful tales of heroism over his formidable career, he is most fondly remembered as the author (alongside his mainstay artist, the fantastic Neil Adams) who ushered in Batman’s return to the dark side in the early seventies, following on from over a decade of camp silliness.
Throughout his triumphant tenure on Batman, Denny also created some of the Dark Knight’s most memorable nemeses including such icons as Ra’s Al Ghul and his daughter Talia, and avenging angel – Azrael.
He was also responsible for revitalising DC’s foremost emerald dynamic duo (again alongside the great Neil Adams) Green Lantern and Green Arrow of whom he teamed up to become one of comic’s first ever social justice warriors as they roamed the planet fighting inequality and societal ignorance.
Denny also taught at the Manhattan School of Visual Arts, and wrote the didactic tome – The DC Guide To Writing Comics plus many, many other achievements too numerous to mention. In 2019, the city of Phoenix named May 25 “Denny O’Neil Day” in acknowledgement of his influence on the comic-book industry and his contribution to furthering the fight against unjust causes. Denny was a legend on and off the page, and we mourn his passing. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.
Wonder Woman has always been an icon for change, since her inception by her genius creator William Moulton Marston in 1941. Marston was a psychologist, author and a staunch supporter of the women’s rights suffragette movement of the 1930’s and 40’s, and specifically created Wonder Woman to counter the dominant male oriented comic-book market of the time. Diana easily matches her male counterparts in both strength and skill but is also filled with love and compassion for her friends, and enemies, her heritage has always been tied to her ability to empathise and forgive, traits that are not necessarily intrinsic to a large swathe of Superheroes who tend to rely on the fist.
Diana’s mantra of inclusion goes further than the emancipation of women though, she has also fought the causes of all societal ills that tend to plague “man’s world” she has been a shining bastion of hope and change for almost eight decades, and so have the other Amazons that have also borne the mantle of Wonder Woman, none more notable than her Amazon twin sister – Nubia.
There have been instances throughout Diana’s formidable reign as Wonder Woman that she has had to step back or hand over the reins to another worthy Amazon to forge their own path through inequality, Artemis, Donna Troy and even her own mother Queen Hippolyta have bore the responsibility of this, and yet unlike these other worthy warriors of cause, Nubia was never handed down that title, since her inception in 1973 she has always been Wonder Woman.
Nubia’s creation by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck in the 1973 issue of Wonder Woman #204 was a response by DC Comics to the civil rights movement of the sixties, she is historically DC’s first black female Superhero. As is the norm with comic-book heroes, Nubia’s origins over the years have been many – taken from her island home of Themyscira at a young age by Ares, and forcibly made to train in the ways of war to use as his weapon against her Amazon sisters. Post DC’s groundbreaking Crisis On Infinite Earths series an alternate version of the character was introduced – Nu’bia, whom upon meeting Diana for the first time divulged that she was the first Themysciran to win the ‘Grace and Wonder’ tournament, thus cementing her as Themyscira’s first ambassador to man’s world, the original Wonder Woman.
Now, social commentary isn’t something I tend to write about, I am lucky in as far as I was born with a certain amount of privilege, I am a white male living in a rather lovely part of the UK, and while I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, nothing in my life compares with the atrocities that I see taking place across the pond to our American cousins. People are people, skin colour matters for naught, and Precinct1313 stands with the Black Lives Matter cause. Nubia and Diana would not only be proud of the protests against racism and inequality, but would be actively campaigning alongside these outstanding individuals. Hate is destructive, love is encompassing, so lets try that instead shall we…
The pairing of two of fictions most legendary and popular warriors seems like a fantastic idea, throw into the mix superstar writer Gail Simone and equally talented artist Aaron Lopresti and you most certainly have a match made in Olympus, or in the case of this tantalisingly titanic tale – Hyboria.
A decade before our favourite Themysciran Princess first debuted unto the World stage, a Cimmerian, black haired and sullen eyed, sword in hand and ready to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet first appeared, his name was Conan – thief, warrior, reaver and slayer. Robert E. Howard’s cult character became a huge hit and has spawned myriad novels, comics and movie adaptations since his first appearance in December 1932. This virtually superhuman barbarian has crushed all who have stood before his powerful presence, man and beast has befallen his blade, but has he finally met his match in the form of Zeus’ favoured champion – Wonder Woman?
And since we’re talking legendary pairings, how about the venerable pairing of acclaimed scribe Gail Simone and prestigious penciller Aaron Lopresti, coming together once more to bestow upon us, humble comic fans, another glorious interpretation of the Themysciran Titan. Their previous collaboration on Wonder Woman a few years back was literally one of the greatest runs in comic-book history, and lo, once more their particular brand of magic artistry brings forth yet another astonishingly epic saga.
Now, at first glance the idea of teaming up Wonder Woman – the poster child of female liberation and emancipation, a shining emblem for feminism with a character in whose reality treated women often in the tired damsel in distress trope may seem like an odd pairing, but it’s for these exact reasons that this comic works so well, like popular heroine Red Sonja before her, Diana is able to turn the tables on the barbaric Cimmerian to prove that, not only can she match him in strength and fortitude, but ably surpass him.
Simone’s deliberate slow build up in the story allows us to richly immerse ourselves in Conan’s world, she is the Queen of immersion and deftly drags the readers into his cold and savagely tempestuous reality. Alongside Gail’s impressive writing talents stands Aaron’s always astonishing artwork, these two creators compliment each others work like no other, and Aaron’s pencilling is some of the best I’ve seen in comics for years.
“What makes one a legend? How do legends carve their name into history when countless others are forgotten? Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian are destined by the fates to be legendary, but when their stories collide, will both emerge victorious or will the fickle Gods cut their lives short?
The collected version of Wondy/Conan is available in both soft and hardcover variants from your local comic-book emporium. And now is an excellent time to support your local comic-book shop, as most offer a home delivery service and I can’t think of a better way to spend quarantine than indulging in the wonderful world of high fantasy! Take care and stay safe fellow fans of fantastic fiction.
“It is said that once every century, Death herself takes on mortal flesh to better understand the lives she must ultimately take, and taste the bitter tang that is mortality. This she is tasked to do as the divider of the living and the dead”
Death: The High Cost Of Living is a spellbinding three issue mini-series starring Death, sister of Morpheus (aka Dream) and one of the seven Endless. Written by super scribe Neil Gaiman in 1993, it follows a day in the life of DC Comics’ variant of the Grim Reaper, who once every century takes the form of a human girl to give her role as conductor of souls perspective and keep her in touch with humanity.
The Vertigo variance of Death was originally created by Neil Gaiman and Michael Dringenberg in 1989, making her first appearance in Sandman #8. Death’s appointment entails meeting with the recently deceased and guiding them on their way into an afterlife, but she is also known to visit all new born, though only she ever retains memory of that initial encounter with a new life. DC Comic’s Death character is a universe away from the infamous image of the Grim Reaper, appearing as a young goth girl dressed in black, wearing a silver ankh and bearing a Horus style marking beneath her right eye.
This sensational series revolves around the character of Didi, who claims she is the personification of Death itself, here on her one centennial cycle to mingle with humanity and gain insight into their lives and emotions. Whilst exploring the loves and losses of mortals, she happens upon a suicidal young man named Sexton, who is struggling to find his raison d’etre, that is until the fickle hand of fate guides him to Didi, who befriends the forlorn youth and, in due course, leads him on a odyssey of self realisation and discovery until he finally gains a sense of self worth and an insight into his own mortality, and through these realisations, a love for life itself.
Not your typical superhero style comic, which should come as no surprise considering its author, the high cost of living is an astounding work of comic book fiction with real heart and emotion, and transports you on a beguiling journey into the human psyche, and presents you with a perky, fresh and fun version of Death, no Pale Riders here… just a pale goth, who celebrates life.
This is one of my absolute favourite comic book series of all time and could not come more highly recommended, whether you read comic books or not this is an eloquent, absorbing and stunningly realised story of life, love and loss and is also a great way to introduce yourself to one of this generations greatest writers … the inimitable Neil Gaiman.
Hey there fellow fans of fantastic fiction, and welcome to Precinct1313’s comprehensively capacious celebration of the capricious, captivating, and cunningly contradictory – Catwoman!
Cat burglar, criminal, anti-hero and lover of grim surly men who like to dress as giant bats, Selina Kyle has been liberating loot from the rich, powerful and undeserving for the past eight decades! Catwoman made her dynamic debut in Batman #1 which released unto the general populace on April 24 in 1940 courtesy of Batman’s bodacious birthers – Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
Introduced in her origin issue as “The Cat” she was originally posited a super-villain and antagonist to the Caped Crusader, yet her identity and personality have evolved over the long decades to anti-hero status, but even more significantly, partner, lover and catty confidante to the Dark Knight Detective himself.
Over the eight decades since her initial conception Selina Kyle has flourished as a much beloved female icon, a strong independent woman with her own agenda and ideology, and aside from a ten year hiatus from print from 1954 to 1966 due to the unswerving and at times creatively unfair ruling of the then Comic Code Authority, Catwoman has been in continuous print, whether as a major character in many, many DC Comics series or in her very own frequent comic book runs.
Selina also holds the crown for most portrayed female character outside of comic print media, with more live action variants than any of her fictional female peers. Beginning her real life feline felony career with a recurring role on the classic sixties Adam West starring Batman series, delineated through the exquisite talents of Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt.
Michelle Pfeiffer put in an impassioned performance in Tim Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns, whereas Halle Berry’s take in the 2004 standalone Catwoman movie proved to be a huge box office flop due to a rather lacklustre (and at times completely ridiculous) plot, and the fact that Halle’s version had virtually nothing to do with the original comic-book heroine, bar the titular name itself, holding up much better, and with a more definitive feel was Anne Hathaway’s performance in the 2012 Dark Knight Rises. Lili Simmons and Camren Bicondova both played Selina on the small screen in the 2014 Gotham TV show, rounding out with the most recent casting of our fave female Felis-Catus, who will be championed by Zoe Kravitz in the upcoming Matt Reeves’ epic – The Batman.
In celebration of Catwoman’s ongoing octogenarian outings, DC Comics had planned a one hundred page super spectacular dedicated to the Princess of Plunder, due to release this week. Unfortunately owing to the current crisis affecting the planet, the print version has been put back until mid May at the earliest. But what we can share with you are a selection of the many oustandingly gorgeous variant covers commissioned for the delayed tome, with some of comicdom’s most accomplished artists coming together to celebrate one the longest running and important fictional females in history, puuuurfect!
Happy 80th Birthday Selina, and with her nine lives still intact, you can be assured she’ll thankfully be with us for a loooong time to come… Cat-tastic!!
Catwoman is Copyright: DC Comics.
With all the extra time on my hands due to the current lockdown and quarantine that the entire planet is experiencing right now, I have finally managed to almost completely exhaust my monumentally vast backlog of comics and graphic novels (my video-game backlog though, continues to grow exponentially!) So with my stupendous supply slashed, I decided to revisit some of my absolute favourite comic collections from the past, beginning with the mysterious, mystifying and marvellous, Madame Xanadu…
Madame Xanadu was created by David Michelinie, Val Mayerik and Michael Kaluta in February 1978, making her first appearance in Doorway to Nightmare #1. Xanadu was the mainstay of the series of mystery comics, with the ongoing monthly horror anthology eventually paving the way for the beginning of DC’s Vertigo line of comic books. Vertigo was an imprint of DC Comics, originally created to publish stories that didn’t meet the strict guidelines set down by the Comics Code Authority, Vertigo enabled DC to have more graphic and explicit content in the stories than was possible in their main superhero line of comic books.
Disenchanted is the trade paperback collection of issues 1-10 of Madame Xanadu’s comic series, originally released in 2009. Written by Grendel creator Matt Wagner, and drawn by Amy Reeder Hadley and Richard Friend.
Madame Xanadu is one of world’s most mysterious and enigmatic magicians, for centuries she has aided both the powerful and powerless alike when threatened by supernatural forces. The esoteric character originally learnt her craft through Merlin the legendary wizard from King Arthur’s court. Wagner and Hadley’s spellbinding tale takes us on a captivating journey through the annals of time alongside Xanadu as she meets and aids illustrious figures from the past, from reading the fortune of Marie Antoinette, through serving in court as a precognitive for Ghengis Kahn, and even cheating Death herself in a game of cards.
Wagner’s tale makes for compelling reading as we follow Nimue through key points in human history. For all her burgeoning power though, Nimue is an emotional and empathetic character, who is fundamentally just trying to find her place in the world. Wagner brings much pathos and poignancy to Nimue, so much so that you cannot help but form a real emotional attachment to the character, which in no small part is also down to the magnificent visuals provided by the very talented Amy Reeder Hadley. Hadley is an extremely versatile artist and this shines through in a story that takes place throughout history, meaning that Hadley had to draw everything from medieval castles, through grimy 1800’s London and beyond into the early 20th century, Hadley’s consummate artistic talent accomplishes this fantastical feat with ease.
Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted comes highly recommended to all comic-book fans but most especially anyone with a love of the supernatural and esoteric. Introducing us to a somewhat lesser known DC character, who is an enigmatic and powerful mystic, yet at times an exceptionally vulnerable and tragic character, masterfully realised by the titanic team up of marvellous Matt Wagner and the astonishing Amy Reeder Hadley.
Zatanna and the House of Secrets is the latest entry into DC’s graphic novels for kids line, an accessible and fun series of original stories that beset readers imaginations with tales of classic superheroes and villains in their pre-teen years. Our last dalliance with this excellent series of character chronicles was with the dazzling Diana: Princess of the Amazons, this time around though we’re going to be setting forth into the magical and mysterious realm of the mystical mistress of magic herself Zatanna, as she explores the unknown boundaries of the House of Secrets!
Welcome to the wild and wacky world that is Zatanna, the backward speaking sorceress who possesses a mysterious rabbit named Pocus, and lives with her father the illustrious stage magician Zatara in the exceedingly esoteric House of Secrets.
The House of Secrets is a mystical abode full to the bombastic brim with mysterious doors, perplexing puzzles and fabled creatures. It’s the house that every local talks about but also avidly avoids. Zatanna though, loves her home and her life with her beloved bunny, Pocus, and her loving father Zatara. In fact the worst that life throws at her are the everyday rigours that most normal kids have to deal with – school, homework and the inevitable growing pains of youth. Yet, Zatanna is no normal kid, and as our occult odyssey unfolds, Zee will have more uncertainty to face than mere peer pressure as life goes from (relative) normality into full blown obscure oddity!
Written by Matthew Cody and gorgeously illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, Zatanna and the House of Secrets is a wonderfully witty and engrossingly endearing tale full of beautiful imagery ( I mean seriously, the artwork is absolutely fantabulous!) and fantastic humour (some of the scenes, literally, made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion) all wrapped up in the captivating chronicle of Zee’s eventual emotional acceptance of her eerie reality by dealing with traumas from her past, school bullies and distancing friends, and the thrilling yet also traumatic transition into her new life brought on by her slowly burgeoning magical prowess.
Zatanna and the House of Secrets is a wonderful work of art from the talented team of Cody and Yoshitani. The lushly rendered and beautifully coloured artwork leaps off the page, and the wry and witty writing is surprisingly deep and deft. Full of amazing visual gags and entertaining Easter eggs for Vertigo aficionado’s (a portrait or two of Cain and Abel come to mind) once again DC’s newest YA novel is another thrilling tale that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, scintillatingly superb, sorcerous storytelling at it’s finest… highly recommended.
(I would just like to say to all our followers and readers to please stay safe during the strange times we all find ourselves in at the moment. Remember to wash those hands, stay indoors as much as it is possible and keep in touch with your nearest and dearest as best you can by phoning and social media. Take care everyone)
Gee-Whizz, Rorschach’s awesome, isn’t he? Well, when I say awesome I do actually mean a violent sociopathic masked vigilante loon who revels in the violence and insanity of his chosen path in life! That said, even though Rorschy (yep, I said Rorschy! it may not roll off the tongue like Batsy, Wondy or Supes, but!) suffers wildly with anti-social personality disorder and an aggressive attitude only surpassed by a psychopath like the Joker, there’s still something endearing about Alan Moore’s unstable creation (and when I say endearing, I obviously mean if you ever encounter him… RUN AWAY!!)
We have written several posts about our absolute favourite Watchmen character over the years, some of them an in depth disquisition of his pernicious psyche, but also more light-hearted looks at how he ultimately perceives the world around him at large, with our – Rorschach’s Quote Of The Week being the absolute most fun to write, each post a small dichotomy from Rorschach’s perspective, and ours. I loved writing these back then, but ultimately, ran out of quotes, plus the views for the site were much lower way back when I first conceived the idea. And so, I decided it was time to resurrect Walter Kovacs and his warped view of morality and justice as a compilation of greatest hits! So read on dear agents of Precinct1313 as we explore the morality dilemma that is Rorschach!
‘Rorschach, Bringing Unstable Masked Vigilantism To The Masses Since 1986!’
Welcome fellow fans of fantastic fiction to an eclectic, eccentric and exceedingly effervescent episode of Precinct1313 Recommends! That’s right, our beloved DC Comics have daringly deigned to deliver upon us hapless Harley fans this week, not just one but two titanic and terrific takes on our absolute favourite mischievous minx of mayhem – one Ms Harleen Quinzel.
Not content with ably assaulting our senses (in the absolute best possible way, of course!) with the recently released ‘Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn’ (which was Quinn-tastic by the way, review coming soon) they throw all caution to the wind with this bombastic Black Label release – Harley Quinn And The Birds Of Prey, a brand new mini-series by Harley gurus and dynamic duo of comics, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.
When we first catch up with our hellacious hellcat of hi-jinks, she has fallen on hard times, local loan sharks have burnt down her hotel and beat her friend Big Tony so badly he ends up in intensive care, her relationship with Poison Ivy is on the rocks, and her Gang of Harleys, now homeless because of the hotel’s inconsiderate incineration, have temporarily moved into Harl’s place. To combat this Harley hatches a plan to leave her Coney Island home and return to Gotham to gain the funds she needs to rebuild her hotel. Unfortunately, waiting back in Gotham for Harley’s eventual return is her ex Puddin’, The Joker, and let’s just say he ain’t gonna be waiting for her with open arms… nope, more likely Smilex gas, a ton of dynamite and a killer smile (emphasis on killer, of course!)
Once again the titanic team up of Conner and Palmiotti deliver the gleefully gung-ho goods, their wit and wonder is seemingly unbound! Using DC’s mature Black Label imprint for Ms Quinn’s brazen adventures is essential, because this book contains so much toilet humour, overt violence, sexual innuendo (stuffed Beavers ahoy!) and fantabulously offensive material that it probably shouldn’t be read by anyone… well anyone without a sense of humour that is, the rest of us should dive on in to one of the most fantastically funny comics EVER! The dynamically delightful and dazzling artist/writer team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti once again prove that as far as comedic story-telling in comics is concerned they are unequivocally the virtuosi of the art!
Harley Quinn And The Birds Of Prey #1 is available at your local comic-book emporium right now, head on down and secure yourself a copy, you don’t want Harley to find out you didn’t, right?