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Indy Comics

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The Great Depression, the economic downturn the world experienced in the late 1920s through the 1930s, created great upheaval in the world. Businesses closed, banks failed, and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. Depression not only stood for the state of the economy, but also for state of the people living at that time.

People longed for a fantastic escape, one where they could forget their worries for a little while and enter another world. They craved entertainment—the cheaper the better. They found it in the world of comics and movies.

Comic books came into existence in the 1930s as a way to provide customers with all their favorite newspaper strips in one convenient package. For ten cents, readers can laugh at Mutt and Jeff, root for Joe Palooka, and thrill to the adventures of Buck Rogers, all in one thick volume. It was a cheap way for people to enter a fantasy world for a short time at least.

A slightly more expensive way for the folks in the 30s to escape the reality of their surroundings was through the movies. Movie prices averaged around twenty-five cents—ten cents if you were a kid—but provided a more realistic venue for fantasy. Movies starred real people, who moved, acted and talked. It provided a heightened sense of verisimilitude for its audience.

Savvy moviegoers would attend showings on Saturday. Saturday was an all-day extravaganza of entertainment. Viewers, for the price of one ticket, would get two full-length features, newsreels, animated shorts (such as Looney Tunes or Mickey Mouse) and one or more movie serials.

Serials were short bits of melodrama in film form. Each week, a new chapter of a serial would be released. The chapters would feature a hero or heroine fighting against an evil villain and each chapter would end in a cliffhanger—an ending where the heroes would be facing almost certain death. Would they get out of it? You’d have to come back the next week and see.

These serials enchanted a whole generation of moviegoers and influenced a wave of filmmakers, most notably George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. These creators came together in 1981 to create a franchise which paid homage to the by then defunct serialized cliffhanger format. That was the year they gave us Raiders of the Lost Ark and introduced us to the archeologist known as Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones is a hero in the style of the old time serial. He is a university professor who continually finds himself locked in a chase to find mystical artifacts. He travels around the world, racing against Nazis in pursuit of his goal, breaking hearts and jaws along the way.

The franchise was greatly successful. Eventually, the medium that competed with the serials of the 1930s for the public’s entertainment dollar took notice, and Indiana Jones was headed to the comics.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones first hit stand in late 1982. Marvel published the title monthly for the first 29 issues and bi-monthly for the remaining five issues, ending the series in 1986. Marvel also published the 1989 film adaptation for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

That film was thought to be the last of the series, so Marvel let the Indiana Jones license go. The license was quickly snapped up by Dark Horse Comics. Starting in 1991, Dark Horse published seven miniseries and, apropos of the serial that inspired the character, an adventure that was published over three issues of the company’s Dark Horse Comics anthology.

Dark Horse hasn’t published an Indiana Jones comic since 1996. That is, until this year. Another sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, hit movie screens this year and renewed interest in the character. The comic company appears to have held onto the license, because not only did they publish the adaptation of that movie, but also a new miniseries starring everyone’s favorite archeologist.

Tomorrow’s Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods is a return to comics of one of pop cultures most enduring characters. But it is also a reminder of a time in history when comics and movies helped people tolerate an intolerable situation. Taking that into consideration, Indy and comics are a perfect fit.     

Also out this week:

Amazing Spider-Man #565:

This issue marks the beginning of the return of Kraven to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. No, it’s not the Kraven who met his end in the legendary “Kraven’s Last Hunt” storyline. Nor is it the Kraven who recently plagued the Punisher over in Punisher War Journal. Nor is it Grim Hunter or Calypso or any of the other characters associated with the original Kraven who faced Spider-Man over the years. No, this is a BRAND NEW Kraven, and this time, it’s a woman.

Spidey does have one of the best rogues galleries in comics, but, in my opinion, Kraven is in the bottom tier. He was fairly one dimensional, kind of one-note, and his best moment came during the aforementioned “Kraven’s Last Hunt” saga.   But he is not a character we need brought back nor have a BRAND NEW version of.  

Marc Guggenheim (W), Phil Jimenez (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Final Crisis: Requiem #1:

By now, any comic fan who has internet access (and since you are reading this column, I’m assuming that means you) must have read about the controversy involving Final Crisis #1. There has been an uproar over continuity glitches, Morrison’s reaction to them, and the presumed lack of communication among DC editorial. But my biggest beef with the issue was the treatment of Martian Manhunter within those pages.

Martian Manhunter is one of DC’s most historic characters. He is arguably the first Silver Age superhero created and, in my opinion, one of the best. You’d think that legacy would mean that his death scene would be more that just a one panel offing purely to add shock value to a major event.

Well, this one-shot might be DC’s attempt to make his death a little more than that. It concerns the JLA’s attempts to fulfill his final wishes and should explain more about how he met his demise.

Peter J. Tomasi (W), Doug Mahnke (A), DC Comics, $3.99.  One-Shot.

I Kill Giants #1:

Barbara Thorson, like her namesake, kills giants. Just ask her, she’ll tell you. She kills them with the powerful Norse hammer she carries around in her purse. Sure, everybody just thinks she is a fearless, albeit a little bit crazy, fifth-grader. But she knows that she is keeping the world safe from big, smelly monsters.

But, what if that is all in her head? What if it is just a childhood fantasy gone so haywire that it affects her reality? What if she is only imagining things and the false bravado brought on by her delusions gets her in trouble? Or, even worse, gets her seriously hurt? Or killed?

Or, what if she is telling the truth? 

Joe Kelly (W), J.M. Ken Niimura (A), Image Comics, $3.50.  Seven-Issue Miniseries.

Aces: Curse of the Red Baron:

The only thing most people know about the Red Baron is that he fought Snoopy in the panels of the Peanuts comic strip and in that famous Christmas song. But he actually was a real person. A member of the German aristocracy, Manfred von Richthofen was one of the most successful pilots of World War I, with 80 verified air combat victories to his credit by the time he died. He was shot through the heart over Morlancourt Ridge in France on April 21, 1918.

Or, so everybody thinks. Sure, his body might have expired at that time. But his ghost lived on. That is what a British flying ace and an American infantryman find out when they hunt after the Baron’s secret, hidden treasure. See, the Baron doesn’t want his riches found. And he isn’t about to make it easy on our heroes.

Shannon Eric Denton & G. Willow Wilson (W), Curtis Square-Briggs (A), AIT/Planet Lar, $12.95. Original Graphic Novel.

Captain America: White #0:

When Marvel announced that it had signed both Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale to do a brand new comic in their “color” series for the company, fans were excited. After all, the Loeb/Sale combo is quickly reaching legendary status, and even people who aren’t fans of either man separately dig their collaborative work.

So, if you braved Daredevil: Yellow, were happy about Spider-Man: Blue, or saw rainbows over Hulk: Gray, well—you’re going to have to wait. The main Captain America: White is still a way off. But, this week, Marvel is giving a special preview of the series. You’ll get one complete story and a boatload of bonus features such as cover designs, script samples and an interview with Loeb and Sale to whet your appetite. 

Jeph Loeb (W), Tim Sale (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Preview Issue.

Booster Gold #1,000,000:

Part of what makes this series great is the way they use the time travel concept to tie-in to various big events of DC’s past. This issue ties in with DC’s Grant Morrison helmed 1998 DC One Million crossover. But the real draw for this series is writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, whose run ends with this issue.

Booster Gold, against the advice of Rip Hunter, went back in time to save the life of his friend, Blue Beetle. It turns out that Hunter was right, and sparing Ted Kord’s life changed the timeline entirely, placing the world under the dystopian control of Maxwell Lord and jeopardizing Booster’s very existence. Last issue, Kord made the ultimate sacrifice to make things right. But was it enough? And what does 1,000,000 A.D.’s Peter Platinum have to say about it?

Geoff Johns   & Jeff Katz (W), Dan Jurgens (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Growing Up Comics:

I would wager that a majority of people reading this column, and readers of comics in general today, grew up reading comics. Heck, you can say the major publishers have been playing on the nostalgia of these long time fans. And many a comic book shop discussion has started around the words, “I remember when…”

Consider this graphic novel a continuation of that discussion. Comics master R.G. Taylor (Sandman Mystery Theater, Wordsmith) illustrates the true stories of everyday comic book collectors talking about the comics they loved when they were younger and how they influenced their lives to this very day. It is a tribute to us, the comics fans and the medium we love so much.  

Various (W), R.G. Taylor (A), Desperado Publishing, $16.99.  Original Graphic Novel.

New York Four:

If there’s one thing we can tell about Brian Wood from his work on DMZ and Local is that he has a deep knowledge about, and possibly a great deal of love for, New York City and its environs. Now, the Brooklyn-residing creator is reuniting with his Local artist, Ryan Kelly, for a story set in NYC, the next offering from MINX.

Riley is a Brooklyn native who is starting her first year as a resident student at New York University. It’s her first time away from home and it’s an exciting time for her. But living in the city is expensive. Riley convinces three of her friends to join her in a research project to earn some cash. But what starts out as a way to make some spending money soon becomes a road to a potential romance.

Brian Wood (W), Ryan Kelly (A), MINX/ DC Comics, $9.99. Original Graphic Novel.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a frequent contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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