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Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom are two iconic Marvel Comics characters. They have both been used in a variety of media from comics, to movies to games, but many don’t realize how much the characters have in common. They are both driven men, who strive to better themselves, albeit in different ways and for different reasons. Dr. Doom, despite being a man of science, is also a sorcerer like Dr. Strange and that is where  Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph & Torment comes in.

A recurring part of Dr. Doom’s stories for a long time was his goal to free his mother from hell. Every midsummer’s eve he would fight a demon, lose and vow to fight again. In, Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph & Torment a new approach is taken. After a test by the deities known as the Vishanti, Dr. Strange receives new affirmation of his role but also a new duty. Doom was also tested and nearly succeeded and Strange must grant him a boon, the boon being his aid in freeing Doom’s mother from hell. 

Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph & Torment, is unlike any other Marvel comic. First released as a standalone graphic novel, when Marvel had its line of Prestige Graphic Novels, the title has recently been reprinted along with some other relevant stories to give more context ( and one not so relevant but there is a reason for its inclusion). It was written by Roger Stern and drawn by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, and as such has a truly unique look to it. The comic shows the lengths Dr. Doom will go to, to free his mother, and gives, even more, depth to the dictator of Latveria, including insight into his sense of pride and honor. But at the same time, it helps expand the mythos of Dr. Strange, both by showing him interacting with other sorcerers of all kind and through his work with Dr. Doom. It also expands on characters like the Aged Ghengis, a recurring character, and shows a very different side of him. It also shows just how connected Dr. Doom and Dr. Strange truly are. It even gives new insight into the demon Mephisto and his role in hell.

Triumph and Torment is a strong title for the comic, but it has multiple meanings, some of which is not clear until the end. It was a highly acclaimed work, but sadly unavailable for many years, until as stated, it was recently reprinted. If you are a fan of comics, you should read this. Even if you dislike superhero comics, this is worth your time as it doesn’t really come off as a superhero comic at all. It is far more philosophical and spiritual in nature, reflecting on the nature of humanity and destiny and redemption. And if you like art, you can see Mike Mignola’s earlier pre-Hellboy work here. It is of an amazing quality and really helps the otherworldly nature of the comic and its protagonists. Do yourself a favor and give this one a read.

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Batman and Superman are two of the most well known superheroes ever created. In fact, I would say they are the most famous ones. It is common to see fans of the characters express their thoughts, but one thing always annoys me. The claim that Batman is better than Superman.

For many reasons, this is foolish. Not just because if there was a fight within actual canon, there is no way Batman could win, but rather looking at the characters and seeing what they represent.

Batman, is a symbol of fear. That’s been a part of the mythos since the origin was given. He chose the bat to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but lets continue. Batman has devoted himself to his life of crimfighting to the point that it takes priority over all else. In many ways,  Bruce Wayne is just a mask for Batman, who is the true personality. And what kind of personality does he have? That of a traumatized child unable to cope with a tragedy.  He fights the villains in Gotham, but more than one character has suggested that his presence actually attracts the villains to Gotham, making things worse.  In fact, the Joker calls Batman out on his mental state several times, notably in The Killing Joke, where he suggests Batman had “one bad day”. Obviously someone who recruits children into his war on crime, and is willing to build a satellite to spy on everyone, isn’t the most stable of individuals.

Batman has contingency plans to take down other heroes if they go rouge, but figures one isn’t needed for him, the man with billions, who can take down the Justice League.  If anything, Batman is one step away from being a supervillain himself. I wondered why that hadn’t been explored more, but then I realized it had been, just with another name you may have heard of: Lex Luthor. But while Lex is more motivated by jealousy and greed, the scary thing is that he still comes off as more stable at times than Batman, given how he is able to outsmart both Batman and Superman. Batman symbolism is less one of comfort and more one of fear and tyranny. While Lex needs to maintain his image, what would stop Batman from just deciding he can fix everything? Batman is a dangerously unstable character if you really think about it.

Now let us look at Superman. Superman is the opposite of Batman in ways people don’t think about. Not just because he has amazing powers, but rather what he represents. He is a symbol of hope, and a source of inspiration. Whereas Batman creates fear, Superman inspires hope in people. This can be traced to his origin as well. Yes he was sent from krypton as a baby to escape its destruction, but he was also raised by a kindly couple in Ma and Pa Kent. They raised him with good values and to be a good person. Superman is said to stand for Truth, Justice and The American Way, but what does that mean. Truth and Justice are easy to understand, but The American Way? The American Way is actually simple and isn’t what most people think it is. Its the one idea that has driven America from its beginnings and still does. If you feel something is wrong, you fight to change it. From the revolution, to the civil war, to the civil rights movements, this has been the driving philosophy in America, you fight for what is right.

Superman  isn’t just an all powerful alien. Whereas I feel Bruce Wayne is a mask for Batman, I feel that the consensus is wrong, Superman is a mask Clark Kent wears. The idea of an evil Superman can make for a good villain, but Superman as a character doesn’t make sense to be evil. Whereas Batman noted he wont kill, but he does hurt people, Superman is more likely to try and resolve a situation without harm if possible. He will only release his power against someone who can take it. If anything, it is Superman who feels more human than Batman. And as noted above, his enemy is Lex Luthor, who is someone Batman could easily become. Superman may have powers far beyond what humans have, but he acts and feels human, whereas Batman is essentially hanging on by a thread to his sanity. The excellent comic story “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, And The American Way?” proves why Superman is an amazing character in contrast to darker and edgier characters. When contrasted against the Elite, he proves their reasoning flawed and shows that not only does his way work, but they are little more than psychopaths.

It all comes down to symbols in the end. Batman represents fear and control, and Superman represents hope and justice. I know which one I feel is better.

……..

 

The above was the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ROG or its staff.

No GravatarI recently had the chance to talk with one of the best comic creators working in the industry right now, Thom Zahler. We discussed his comics, his influences and his advice for new creators. have a read below.

 

 

 

 

 

JB: What were some of your favourite comics growing up?

TZ: I cut my teeth on Superman and the Justice League books. Especially when I was younger, the DC stories were 1-3 part stories that ended, which was kinder when you don’t have any control over when you buy your next book. Firestorm became my favorite because that was the first #1 I ever bought. In the world before reboots and constant renumbering, getting a #1 was special. Oddly, Firestorm was a very Marvel-style character.

 

JB: Who were your favourite artists and writers? Who had the most influence on you?

TZ: As a kid, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger. Curt drew Superman and he was everywhere. Kurt drew so slick and so perfect, his stuff was just gorgeous. Go back and find his stuff. Such a strong and smooth line, and he made simple look good. He wasn’t designed for everything, but his Shazam stuff was transcendent. And Perez took it to another level for me.

 

JB: You went to the Kubert school, what was that experience like?

TZ: I always describe it as boot camp for artists. We had two classes a day, five days a week. I did 100 assignments before I went home for Thanksgiving. Just the volume of work gets you better. I learned a bunch of new methods and materials, grew so much as an artist, and forged some of my closest friendships.

 

Ultimately, I appreciate that Joe was teaching us to be Will Eisner. I can create a book, top to bottom. It gives me a flexibility to produce books that are important to me. I don’t know how much I appreciated it when I was in school, but I’m so grateful for it now.

 

 

JB: Can you describe some of the major influences on Love and Capes?

 

TZ: Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm and the DC Animated art style were huge for the look of the book. A cartoony style was something I fought for a long time, but when I got on the right book and I started doing it, I realized it was my wheelhouse. All that time trying to draw like Curt Swan or George Perez and apparently my art brain doesn’t work that way. But cartoony animated stuff, that’s my jam.

 

Writing wise, Berke Brethed’s Bloom County was a giant influence. It may not seem like it, but Love and Capes had a four panel beat structure. Essentially, it was Bloom County comic strip style jokes stitched together. It was also a comedic metronome for me.

 

The banter comes from my love of TV and sitcoms. Aaron Sorkin, Friends, How I Met Your Mother all loomed large in my head. When writing. It’s hard, because words take room and you have to structure them so the cadence is right there, as opposed to delivered by an actor. But I thought I did well with it.

 

JB:  You mention in your books, some of your influences, and how you put one of your pre-professional creations into the comic. At what point did it hit you that you are a professional comic creator? That moment where you felt a sense of wow at the situation. Do you ever stop feeling like a fan, or do you just appreciate being a fan in new ways?

TZ: That’s a great question! I’m not sure. I felt like a professional artist for years, being a graphic designer for an ad agency. But feeling like I was a full-fledged cartoonist, whatever that means, probably not until IDW picked up Love and Capes. Self-publishing was awesome, but when someone else is putting their money into publishing your work, that’s a different level. And it’s been iterative. IDW made the trades, then started publishing new issues, and then hired me on My Little Pony which was my first non-creator owned writing gig. Ultimate Spider-Man was my first animated TV gig. There’s always another rung on the ladder.

 

I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable. But I think that keeps me hungry and growing.

 

JB:  Have you ever considered going back to Love and Capes? Maybe a spinoff featuring Charlotte?

 

TZ: I think about it all the time. Love and Capes is very special to me, but that’s also why it’s so hard to return to. The birth of their child was the planned ending for the series, and I really felt like I stuck that landing. I don’t want to overstay my welcome or go out on a false note. I think stories need to end.

 

That said, if I ever have the RIGHT story, I’ll come back in a heartbeat. It’s interesting you mention Charlotte, because she might be my favorite character. She never found a boyfriend in the series because I couldn’t manage to write anyone worthy of her. I’ve toyed around with shifting the focus to Darkblade and Amazonia, different love, different capes. But I haven’t felt that inner voice telling me “This story, right now.”

 

JB: Your comic Time and Vine is one of the most intriguing ideas I have ever seen. How did you come up with that idea? How long were you working on it before you made it a comic?

 

TZ: I blame Kurt Busiek. I seem to recall him tweeting something about a wine comic and the idea just came to me. It wasn’t the next story idea I had, but it quickly took over my writer’s brain. I was on a walk one day and the structure of the story just came to me and it was so right. Once that happened, I was committed.

 

The time travel aspect locked down pretty quickly. I knew what the story required and the rules worked pretty well. I don’t think there are any cheats or paradoxes. Magic helps a lot.

 

I hope it’s a powerful story. If I do it right, it’ll be my Up. And if you’ve heard me talk about how much I love that movie, you know what that means to me.

 

 

JB: What was it like working on the My Little Pony comic? That franchise has a very dedicated fanbase, so did that make working on the project any different?

 

TZ: I try to respect the fans for sure. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, so I know about loyal fanbases. But the best Trek movie was written by Nick Meyer, who wasn’t a huge fan. I hoped to bring that outside perspective to it when I started. Now, I am a fan of the show, and I am a fan of the fans. But, if I’m doing it right, I also have the distance from the property to write interesting stories. Using Trek as an example again, I’m not sure I would have been bold enough to write Kirk feeling old, having a child, or killing Spock. But those were all great choices… bold choices… by someone who knew what a good story was and not just what they wanted to see.

 

 

JB: What advice do you have to new writers and artists trying to break into the industry?

 

TZ: Keep learning and be persistent are the big ones. And make something. There are less middle range publishers who would pay you to do sample pages like when I broke in, so you’ve got to publish on the web, or Comixology, or self-publish.

 

But that’s the big thing to me. It’s never a static game board. The rules keep changing. I came out of Kubert with the skill of hand-lettering. But computer lettering was on the horizon. Which meant that I was riding a wave. I could get hand lettering work, but I had to decide if I wanted to adapt to keep getting more work. I’ve learned how to color on the computer, how to draw on the computer and so on. I never wanted to self-publish, but it became the solution to the problem in front of me.

 

Basically, your job isn’t being a cartoonist. Your job is being employed.

 

 

JB: What are some projects you would like to work on, licensed properties or otherwise?

 

TZ: Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Trek! I love Trek so much, and co-wrote a short story for Pocket Books. I’d love to do more.

 

And I’d love to do a traditional superhero book. I think my sensibilities are just enough off-center to do something quirky while still writing a standard superhero book. Superman, Iron Man, Firestorm… I’d love to take a shot at those.

 

 

JB:  Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

 

TZ: I’ve got a new project that just dropped from Webtoons, too! It’s called Warning Label and it’s about a girl named Danielle who’s been cursed by her ex-boyfriend that anytime she gets asked out, they get a warning label of all the things they need to watch out for. You can check it out at:

http://www.webtoons.com/en/romance/warning-label/list?title_no=1051

 

Time and Vine is in Previews now. And I’ll have a couple more My Little Pony issues coming out this summer, too!

JB: Thank you again for doing this.

 

TZ: My pleasure!

 

 

You can follow Thom on Twitter @thomzahler

 

 

Love and Capes and Long Distance are both available at Amazon.

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 3 Feb, 2017 At 01:47 PM | Categorized As Comics You Should Read, Editorials, Featured | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThis edition of Comics You Should Read is a little different. Normally I discuss individual collections of comics, but this time I am discussing an entire series.

Usagi Yojimbo is a legendary comic series by creator Stan Sakai about Miyamoto Usagi, a ronin in Edo era Japan. But there is one thing very different about this comic. Almost all the characters are anthropomorphic animals. Usagi is a rabbit for example and there are characters like Gen, who is a rhino. But do not be fooled by this, as this is not just a comic for kids but one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The stories contained in the comic range from funny to epic to tragic, as Stan Sakai presents a look at the life of the Samurai, albeit with some fantasy elements. The stories pull no punches with how the culture worked, with numerous examples of deliberate values dissonance between Edo era Japan and the modern west. There are amazing characters like Tomoe Ame, Lord Noriyuki and Usagi’s nemesis, the demon spearman Jei, the blade of the gods.

The series has been going on since the 80’s and has crossed over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more than once, but new readers do not need to be worried. All the stories have been collected by both publishers Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics and are available for all to read. I suggest starting from the beginning though, so you will understand just who these characters are.  Some disappear a bit into the comic, as others make their debut, but all are unique in their own way.

There have been video game adaptations of Usagi in the past, including one way back on the Commodore 64, and one recently on mobile devices. The latter is one I am actually familiar with and has mostly hack n slash elements but also an original story. I suggest checking it out if you are curious.

Usagi is a comic I will be discussing a lot more in the future but wanted to just give a brief overview of first. The stories are amazing, whether they be about Usagi stopping criminals, defeating bandits, transporting a sacred sword to a shrine, or even just making a pot. They all have that special something about them that many comics lack. Usagi is an incredible character, but by Stan Sakai’s own admission, he is an unusual samurai in how he interacts with people. But this isn’t just an idealized storytelling, and the comic makes it very clear why Usagi is who he is when it shows his mentor Katsuichi, This is a comic that has all the pieces fit together just right and even years after being read, it will stick with you.

I suggest checking it out.