The Three Phases of Adam Warlock: Return from the Dead

Saturday, August 29th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Infinity_Gauntlet_Vol_1_1_001I’ve been taking a look at Adam Warlock, one of my favorite comic characters. In previous posts, I’ve written about his early period as a failed messiah figure on Counter-Earth in the early- and mid-1970s, and then his Jim-Starlin-written tragic middle period as the cosmic champion of life, which led to his heroic death in 1977.

Today, I want to take up the thread of the Adam Warlock saga fourteen years later, when both he and the Champion of Death, Thanos, were resurrected as the core of a massive cross-over event called The Infinity Gauntlet.

This may be timely for some folk who had never read the original or reprinted Warlock runs, because Marvel movies have already teased us with a hero-sized cocoon in a Thor movie and have announced an Infinity War movie for 2018.

So, since the Infinity Gauntlet series is now 24 years old, I’m not going to issue spoiler alerts; I’ll likely just berate you for not having read this already (you can, incidentally, stop reading this post, go pick up the Infinity Gauntlet at, and then come back when you’re done; I don’t own Marvel stock or anything, it’s just that much fun).

To remind readers where we left off, in 1977, Adam Warlock, the lonely, tragic Champion of Life, killed Thanos, the nihilistic, insane cosmic Champion of Death. Fast forward to 1991 to Infinity Gauntlet #1, and we find that quite a bit has happened. Death has been chaffing at the imbalance between Life and Death and has pulled out her greatest admirer and lover, Thanos to rectify things.

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Goth Chick News: Comics, Cosplay and Speed Dating — ComicCon Swings Into Chicago

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Cosplay at Chicago ComicCon 2015 3-smallFor one glorious weekend each summer, Chicago stops being The Windy City and instead becomes Metropolis. The urban crime rate takes a giddy plunge, not for lack of playing host to some fairly spectacular villains, but likely because the bad guys are too busy comparing breathable fabrics with their super hero arch-enemies.

Yes it’s August – ComicCon time in the city…

Wizard World Chicago, commonly known as the Chicago ComicCon, is the annual bacchanalia of pop culture held at the fairly ginormous Donald E. Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare airport. The four day event is among the largest comic book convention in the United States, in third place for overall attendance behind only the New York ComicCon, and the granddaddy of all entertainment cons; ComicCon International in San Diego.

Chicago ComicCon consumed nearly the entire 840,000 sq/ft facility and though at this time, attendance numbers for the 2015 event have not been officially stated, local media estimates the participants at well over 100,000.

Originally showcasing comic books and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as professional wrestling, science fiction/fantasy, film/television, horror and animation.

In addition to an impressive array of vendors, ComicCon played host to a large, daily offering of programming and events such as, “Advanced Costuming and Armor,” “Costumes + Playing = Cosplay,” and “Legal Basics for Game Developers.”

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Sharing Creative Space: An Interview with Marvel Editor Daniel Ketchum

Saturday, August 15th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

ketchu 3So far in this series, I’ve interviewed Marvel Associate Editor Jake Thomas, Assistant Editor Xander Jarowey, and Assistant Editor Heather Antos about their roles in the production process and their editorial voices.

Today, I wanted to e-talk about the sharing of creative territory between writer and editor. So, I’m having an e-conversation with Marvel Editor Daniel Ketchum, who edits A-Force, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Storm, X-Force, X-Men and other books.

Daniel, in an interview you mentioned that part of your job is deciding which villain the X-Men fight in the next issue. I suppose I assumed (naively) that the writer got to decide most things. How do you divide creative decision-making roles with your writers?

Haha. Truth be told, that answer I gave is more of an easy-to-grasp oversimplification of what Marvel editors do. Four times out of five, the conversation with a writer at the outset of a story arc starts with them pitching the story they want to tell. (That other one time is when something like AXIS or SECRET WARS comes up and you just shouldn’t avoid addressing it.)

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ramblings on REH

Monday, August 10th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Ramblings_KullAxeIn a way, Robert E. Howard’s career is similar to that of Dashiell Hammett. Both men had huge impacts on their genres (Howard wrote many styles, but he’s best known for his sword and sorcery tales). Both were early practitioners in said genres. Both men wrote excellent stories for about a decade. And both men ended their careers on their own.

Hammett, who seemed more interested in a dissolute lifestyle than in writing, effectively walked away from his typewriter. He wrote his last novel in 1934 (The Thin Man) but produced literally nothing for the remaining twenty-five years of his life. He could have gone back to writing the hard-boiled stories that made his career, but he voluntarily ended his writing life.

In 1936, Howard’s mother was failing in a coma. He walked outside to his car, pulled out a gun and killed himself. His writing career was more effectively finished than Hammett’s would be.

Both were supremely skilled writers who chose to deprive the world of their talent and left decades of stories unwritten. But there was a key difference between the two. From the beginning, Hammett was acclaimed and recognized as the leader in his field. Though Carroll John Daly came first (barely), there is no comparison between the two in critical view.

Howard was not critically lauded. His first Conan tale, “The Phoenix on the Sword” (a rewriting of the Kull story, “By This Axe I Rule!”), appeared in Weird Tales in December of 1932. The next two Conan tales were outright rejected!

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Knights of the Dinner Table 220 Now on Sale

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Knights of the Dinner Table 220-smallActually, issue #220 of Knights of the Dinner Table has been on sale for a couple months now, and I missed it. I just found out it was the 25th Anniversary issue, and now I’m doubly embarrassed.

Twenty-five years ago, Jolly Blackburn created the Knights of the Dinner Table comic to fill an unexpected one-page hole at the back of his gaming magazine Shadis. Today, the Knights of the Dinner Table headline one of the longest-running independent comics in history, and they also feature in board games, card games, t-shirts, and even an independently produce live-action series.

But the heart of the KoDT publishing empire remains the monthly comic, dedicated to the misadventures of a group of misfit gamers from Muncie, Indiana. It is written and drawn by my friend Jolly R. Blackburn, with editorial assistance by his talented wife Barbara. Black Gate readers may remember the KoDT spin-off The Java Joint, which appeared in the back of every issue of BG (and was eventually collected in a single volume in 2012).

In addition to Jolly’s hilarious comic strips, Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine is packed with gaming columns of all kinds, keeping you informed on the latest and greatest in the industry. KoDT 220 has no less than 11 full-length strips, plus some short “One-Two Punches.”

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Magneto, the Comic Series

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Magneto002COV-102bd-ab93eFor my my interview with Marvel Comics Assistant Editor Xander Jarowey, one of the covers I enjoyed including in the post was Magneto #1. Magneto is one of Marvel’s most iconic super-villains, having influenced the Marvel Universe in various ways since his appearance in X-Men #1 in 1963.

He started off as an older villain who, from the beginning, served as moral foil to Charles Xavier in the debate about the place of mutants. His arguments in the early days were never deep, and his power faded with various defeats, until by the excellent Savage Land story arc of X-Men #59-63, he was using mechanical devices to simulate his powers, and then in Defenders #16, he was reduced to infancy by one of his creations.

Then, Chris Claremont got a hold of him. In X-Men #104, the new X-Men faced a young, rejuvenated and more powerful Magneto, and he’s downright terrifying in Uncanny #112 (one of my favorites). Claremont revealed Magneto’s full literary power in Uncanny X-Men #150, when he put Magneto’s past squarely in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II as a victim of racism and persecution.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Wally Conger on “Rogues in the House”

Friday, July 24th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BG_RoguesComicOne of the cool things about being an active member in the Sherlock Holmes community is that I run across a broad spectrum of people with other common interests outside of the world’s first private consulting detective. Wally Conger and I have had back and forth conversations on versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles and other topics.

We may not agree on season three of Sherlock, but we do both enjoy reading Conan. So, I asked him to review “Rogues in the House,” which I knew he had just read. He was kind enough to do just that…

By the time Robert E. Howard launched into writing “Rogues in the House” in January 1933, he already had 10 Conan tales under his belt. He was very comfortable with the character.

In fact, upon publication of the story in the January 1934 issue of Weird Tales, Howard wrote to fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith:

Glad you liked ‘Rogues in the House.’ That was one of those yarns which seemed to write itself. I didn’t rewrite it even once. As I remember I only erased and changed one word in it, and then sent it in just as it was written. I had a splitting sick headache, too, when I wrote the first half, but that didn’t seem to affect my work any.

I wish to thunder I could write with equal ease all the time. Ordinarily I revise even my Conan yarns once or twice, and the other stuff I hammer out by main strength.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Bobby Derie on REH in the Comics – Beyond Barbarians

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

REHComics_REHOur summer of Robert E. Howard is just rolling along here at Black Gate. The latest entry delves into the comic book/graphic novel world of Howard’s works. I don’t know much about this area, but even I’m aware of Roy Thomas.

Bobby Derie is going to take us on a tour focusing on the non-Conan adaptations of Howard’s works. You’re going to learn about a quite a few you’ve missed. So, on we go!

The Golden Age of Comics passed Robert E. Howard by completely. The Silver Age treated him almost as poorly, save for in Mexico, where La Reina de la Costa Negra spun out the fantastic adventures of a blond Conan as second-mate to the pirate-queen Bêlit, and “The Gods of the North” found a few pages in Star-Studded Comics #14 (Texas Trio, 1968), and Gardner F. Fox borrowed liberally from Conan in crafting “Crom the Barbarian” for Out of this World (Avon, 1950).

In an era when DC Comics and their contemporaries felt no qualms stealthily adapting the horror and science fiction stories of H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and Ray Bradbury without permission or credit, they apparently did not touch the evocative weird tales of Robert E. Howard; neither did the sport comics or westerns or detectives.

In 1970 when Marvel Comics licensed the character of Conan the Barbarian from Glenn Lord, acting as the agent for the Howard estate, they were on unsure ground; up until this point, Marvel had mostly worked on their own characters and properties. Yet the barbarian proved an unexpected success as the issues wore on, with writer Roy Thomas receiving permission even to adapt some of Howard’s original Conan stories to the comics, including such classics as “The Tower of the Elephant” and the novel The Hour of the Dragon.

The success of Conan led Marvel to license additional of Howard’s characters for adaptation — Kull of Atlantis, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, and the Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane — as well as the creation of original spin-off characters, most notably Red Sonja, based in part on Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino.

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Is Berkeley Breathed Returning to Bloom County?

Monday, July 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Berkeley Breathed draws Bloom CountyBerkeley Breathed, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip Bloom County, posted the enigmatic image at left on his Facebook page, showing him working on a new Bloom County strip, with the caption, “A return after 25 years. Feels like going home.”

Bloom County, one of the finest comic strips of the 20th Century, ran from December 8, 1980 to August 6, 1989. It featured a great deal of political satire and commentary on pop culture, and introduced the characters Bill the Cat, 10-year-old newspaper reporter Milo Bloom, the completely moral-free attorney Steve Dallas, and Opus the Penguin. Breathed ended the strip in 1989 to focus on a Sunday-only comic, Outland, and later a number of best-selling children’s books, including A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story (1991), The Last Basselope (1992), Goodnight Opus (1993), and Mars Needs Moms! (2007), adapted into the Disney flop of the same name produced by Robert Zemeckis in 2011.

Breathed has not elaborated the exact meaning of his comment, but it seems pretty clear he’s returning to Bloom County in some fashion (and within hours of his post, speculation had already begun to spread that that’s exactly what he’s doing, in places like the A.V. Club and Comic Book Resources.)

However, there are some clues in the comments. Donald Trump, who was frequently the butt of Breathed’s jokes, and who played a role in the demise of the original strip (the final storyline featuring Trump buying out the strip and firing all the characters, forcing them to find jobs in other comic strips), is now running for President. Asked directly in the comments if Trump’s campaign had any influence on his decision to return, Breathed replied “This creator can’t precisely deny that the chap you mention had nothing do with it.” Stay tuned for additional details.

One Shot, One Story: Ray Bradbury

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Ray Bradbury-smallEnmeshed as we are in the world-shaking spectacle that is the 2015 NBA finals, this might be an appropriate time to take a break from the struggle of the Hobbits (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and their Golden State Warriors) against the dominion of the Dark Lord (LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers) and remember back to the last improbable time that professional basketball was mentioned on Black Gate.

That was in my article of last October, “One Shot, One Story: Clark Ashton Smith,” which was inspired by a discussion I had with a fellow NBA addict in which we debated the burning question, “If you had to pick one player to make one shot — to save your life — who would it be?” Once our argument had run its course, I started thinking about a different form of acrobatic exhibitionism — writing, which led to a related question: If you had to introduce a prospective reader to the work of Clark Ashton Smith with just one story, which story would you choose?

If you’re dying to know the sporting and literary answers to those queries, read the old article; it’s not bad, and I’m already thinking about an All-Fantasy Greats basketball team… let’s see, H.P. Lovecraft at point guard creating for his teammates, finding that punishing inside player Robert E. Howard in the post, or kicking out to Clark Ashton Smith for a deep three pointer… woah. Somebody had better stop me before I get silly…

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