Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Comics Wednesday: Black Beetle and Captain Midnight

Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Typically on Wednesdays, I feature a comic here on Daddy Rolled a 1 that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from preschool.

Today is a little different, as I'm going to draw your attention to two reviews of trade collections that I recently did over at ComicAttack.net. I think both of these collections will be of interest to all the Dames and Daddy-Os who read my blog.

Also, please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you want to read more of my reviews over at ComicAttack, just search my name-tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

BLACK BEETLE VOLUME I: NO WAY OUT
I've written about Black Beetle before for one of my "Pulp Noir Monday" posts, way back when in April when issue #3 of the four-issue limited series was published.

A few weeks ago, Dark Horse Comics provided me a review copy of the trade collection of this four issue limited series, "No Way Out" as well as the 0-issue prequel called "Night Shift."

You can learn more about "What's It About?" as well as "Who Is the Creative Team" and "Who Will Like It?" by reading my review at ComicAttack (link below).

Any Good Ideas For My Role-Playing Games?
Black Beetle is full of really great adventure, character, and adversary ideas for any kind of spy/thriller/pulp action type game, and many of the ideas could translate to other genres as well. The art is extremely evocative of the era is portrays, and it could be a huge help to a GM to just show his players some of the images rather than trying to describe a villain hideout or what a "helicopter backpack" looks like. The author, Francesco Francavilla, also clearly has a love for this time period of the 1940s, and remembers little details that will be of immense help to GMs trying to "set the stage", such as the role of jazz music, smoking, and cocktails.

Is It Good For Kids?
As I mentioned before, it's not rated by the Comics Code Authority. Dark Horse's website says it's for Ages 12+, but of course it's best to read it for yourself first before deciding if it's right for your kids.

Here's the first section of my review for ComicAttack:

Francesco Francavilla’s mini-series of the first Black Beetle adventures was one of my favorite comic stories this year, and it’s great to have this wonderful hard cover that collects the first story arc of this unique pulp hero.

I first discovered Francavilla through his blog where he posted regular updates of his various art designs, and then I went back and found some of his earlier work, including one of my favorite Batman stories ever, The Black Mirror. His art style evokes a different era – it’s sort of post-war Italian pop art mixed with earlier art deco and pulp influences...

You can read the rest of the review here.

CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT VOLUME I: CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT BATTLES THE NAZIS
This review of mine was just posted yesterday. Once again, the good folks over at Dark Horse kindly provided me with a review copy of this 253 page collection of stories about Captain Midnight, a military superhero that dates back to 1941. First published by Dell, Captain Midnight was later published by Fawcett Comics right as America entered World War II, and the stories in this collection all involve Captain Midnight battling the Axis powers.

Again, please read the full review at ComicAttack (link below) to get a better idea of "What's It About?" and "Who Is the Creative Team?"

Who Will Like It?
I deal with this a bit in my review, but wanted to point out that the strong point of this collection, to me, is not necessarily the stories themselves, but rather the historical perspective they provide. It's a true treat to be able to have a collection like this, of a "non-A List" Golden Age super hero from the dawn of comics - remember that the first story in this collection is from 1941, which is only three years after Superman was created and two years after Batman. While the early issues of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are still in constant publication in trade format, it's rare to find other heroes from other companies also given the same treatment.

If you like Golden Age comics, military comics, superheroes, or World War II-era comics, then you'll definitely enjoy this collection. It would make a great gift for someone who is into comics, or fancies themselves a "comic historian."

Any Good Ideas for My Role-Playing Games?
This is a perfect way to gain inspiration for running a World War II-era supers game, especially if you want to evoke the attitudes of the Americans toward the Axis Powers (but see my note below under "Is It Good for Kids?"). It also has tons of just outrageous, goofy, but very period-appropriate adventure seeds, locales, gadgets, and other stuff that will be very helpful to busy players and GMs who are looking to evoke that specific 1940s comic era in their games.

Is It Good For Kids?
I'm going to give this a very qualified "yes," which is a nice change for most of the comics I review here. These are stories of a different age - I hesitate to say more "innocent," but these stories lack the darkness and the gray morality of most modern comics. The Nazis are bad guys. Everybody knows that. It's pretty much impossible to defend them, so it's okay that Captain Midnight takes turns punching, kicking, and shooting them.

Yes, there's shooting in here, so if you don't want your kids exposed to both bad guys and good guys shooting guns, then this isn't for you.

However, a bigger issue, but one which I highly commend Dark Horse for, is that they have chosen to leave the original comics un-edited, meaning that many of the terms and portrayals of certain other races are way out-of-step with modern sensibilities. Both the Nazis and the Japanese are presented in an extremely stereotypical and very unflattering manner, and the names that they are called, particularly the Japanese, are these days considered very offensive. As an historical record of the time, I think it's important to leave the stories as they were written, but parents should be warned before letting their kids read them.

Here's the first section of my review for ComicAttack:

Every few years, a long forgotten character from the Golden Age of Comics makes a re-appearance. Some are going through a mini-renaissance right now, such as the old pulp-era heroes over at Dynamite Entertainment, like the Green Hornet and the Shadow. Others have actually never really gone away, including the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman over at DC.

In between those two extremes, however, are literally scores, if not hundreds, of characters which have gone forgotten. Fortunately, one of those characters, Captain Midnight, has been resurrected by Dark Horse Comics with both a new monthly title as well as this first volume collecting the original stories dating back to 1941 – 1948.

Originally a radio serial character created in 1938 by, of all things, an advertising agency in Chicago...
You can read the rest of the review here.

Cheers, all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: AleSmith X Extra Pale Ale
Listening: "North and South of the River" by U2

2 comments:

  1. Your "Is it good for kids" bit is interesting because of moral relativism. I like your comment on the onset "... of course it's best to read it for yourself..."

    We're both gamers and comic readers, so I suspect we have a lot in common. My wife and I, however, are very divergent along those lines. That is, I'm a big comic reader and she comes from a non-comic reading background. In fact, it took a few examples from my library to convince her that comics are every bit as relevant and appropriate as literature in building literacy and art appreciation. A lot of kid-based literature is really comic books even if it's not called such.

    The core concept of what is appropriate and inappropriate will hold true for both comics and movies and, indeed, any media presented to our little kiddo's eyeballs. I tend to lean on the permissive side with adult discussion follow-up. My wife and society tends to lean towards acceptance of violence and rejection of sexuality perspective. As a dad who watches a lot of kids movies and reads a lot of kid's books, I'm often struck by this disparity. Such a discussion is likely beyond the scope and intent of your post, so I'll stop. Thanks for the write-up, though. It's inspiring me to get some comics I've never read before.

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    Replies
    1. Firstly, I'm so glad that you're still reading my posts, despite my sporadic posting schedule. I always have good intentions of posting more often, but have just been slammed by a combination of work, travel (for work), and ridiculous sinus infections.

      Yes, I think based on having been following your blog since I started mine, and also our various comments to each other, that we do have a lot in common that goes beyond gaming, comics, and fatherhood (wine and beer come to mind).

      The particular thing I mention in this case, which I'm sure you can figure out from the context of my post, is a bit troublesome. Those Captain Midnight comics are, for the most part, "wholesome" in that they're just of a different era and all very "black-and-white." The Nazis are bad, and Captain Midnight and the Secret Squadron are good. That's easy to understand.

      But, as the husband of a mixed-race wife who received some very strange and unpleasant glances when we took a trip to the South together back in the mid-90s, I'm probably a little overly sensitive to racial slurs and stereotypical portrayals of "people of color" in the media. Our daughter has a lot of questions and continually comments about things like "Mommy has brown skin but we have white skin but it's okay because we're all the same family..." - she's testing to see if she understands correctly. And that's nothing we taught her. We never mentioned anything about our skin color to her, so that must have come from either the media or from her school mates.

      She's too young to read Captain Midnight yet (she can't read, period), but when she's old enough, I'd be fine with her reading it as long as I could prep her beforehand by trying to explain the context and that "we don't use words like that any more."

      Your point about the permissiveness of violence versus sexuality is one that I've debated about many times with many of my friends. There are obviously many reasons behind why Americans seem to permit violence but shun any mention of sex in the media, and it's a slippery slope. I try to just be very honest with my daughter (who is 4) about things like violence in media and have a frank discussion with her about it before she sees/watches/hears about it, so she understands the context of what's being presented. But at this age, there's been no discussions of sexuality, primarily because it's not come up in any of the media she's been exposed to.

      And, glad to hear that you're learning about some comics that you might want to read. If you have a tablet, Comixology is a great resource for reading comics. I myself still pick up "floppies" but I'm rapidly running out of storage space for them (12 boxes and still going, and that's not including my two bookshelves of graphic novels and trade paperbacks).

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