The Avengers. Justice League. Spider-Man. The Walking Dead. All of these properties started, and continue, in the form of monthly periodicals we call “comic books”. Many of the comic book properties we see come from the “Big Two” (Marvel and DC) and have been running for over 50 years. Image Comics, current publisher of the runaway smash The Walking Dead that has been running for nearly a decade at this point, is gaining steam and competing with the two major juggernauts in its field by creating new IPs at a breakneck pace. All of the Marvel, DC, and Image stories for these properties you see on the big screen or on TV (with a little bit of tweaking), originated within these companies’ publications.
While the characters may have the same names and identities, their appearances and back stories have changed to reflect the modern times. With all of these separate stories being created, one may ask, what’s happening in the world of comics today? Well hit the jump for a guided tour of the big current storylines for your favorite heroes. Beware: Spoilers follow.
Spiderman is Doctor Octopus, Doctor Octopus is Spiderman.
The Amazing Spider-Man is dead, long live the Superior Spider-Man! In an unfortunate series of events, Peter Parker found himself in the body of one of his most dangerous foes, Dr. Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, and vice versa. After a long, grueling fight, Peter accepted defeat and died while in the body of his maniacal foe. Touched by Spidey’s character and sense of responsibility, Doc Ock now uses his former foe’s body to fight evil throughout New York City with a villainous edge and brutal mindset. The big twist? Outside of Otto, no one knows any of this happened, so all of Peter’s friends and family believe him to still be their same old lovable web-slinger.
Spider-Man has had a very long history and is considered by many to be Marvel Comics’ all time best superhero. With Peter Parker now taken out of the equation, readers are given a Spider-Man who is much more menacing and not afraid to end the threats of some of his villains permanently. With 18 issues of the Superior Spider-Man published, and no signs of stopping in sight thanks to high sales and critical acclaim, Marvel has taken the long haul and given Doctor Octopus the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future. Currently, Doc Ock is fighting the future Spider-Man of the year 2099, while the Green Goblin plans for his own resurgence in the background. With Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 dropping in summer 2014, will Otto still be in control, or will Peter’s return coincide with his summer blockbuster?
The JLA vs The CSA
DC Comics’ “New 52” was a reboot of their entire line of comics, essentially starting up all their properties from scratch, which took place around three years ago. Forever Evil is one of DC’s first attempts at a line-wide crossover since the reboot, with the Justice League missing and their evil counterparts from another universe, the Crime Syndicate, taking over the world. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Forever Evil has ushered in an entire month of one shot issues appropriately entitled, “Villain’s Month”, focusing on all the dastardly rogues of the DC Universe including Joker, Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn, and even Aquaman villain, Black Manta. To celebrate the one shots, DC released 3D covers for each which have been flying off the shelves, and has had hungry collectors grabbing what issues they can find from their local comic shops.
Since the inception of the “New 52”, it’s clear that DC Comics is trying to create a level of synergy with Warner Brothers’ movie and Direct-to-DVD departments with all of their characters being updated to reflect more of a current design trend. For example, the suit Superman currently wears in the comics is nearly identical to the suit he wore in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel this past summer, ditching the red undies of yesteryear. Based on this and many other examples that are too long to list here, one can expect that most, if not all, of the current designs and backgrounds for your favorite DC characters will be reflected in WB’s future superhero flicks. While the Justice League film’s story hasn’t been confirmed, expect the roster of the team to not differentiate much from its current comic book incarnation (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg). Who knows, maybe the movie will have them fighting their evil doppelgangers ala Forever Evil?
The Avengers … IN SPAACCEEE
In a little movie you may not have seen titled, The Avengers, the roster consisted of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Hulk. In the comic books, the Avengers roster is … everyone. Nearly every superhero in the Marvel Universe is either currently an Avenger, or has been an Avenger in the past, and nearly all of them are in outer space right now. Jonathan Hickman, current writer of both The Avengers and New Avengers (a secret team made up of Iron Man, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Beast of X-Men fame, and the Submariner) titles, has crafted a magnum opus that acts as Marvel Comics’ summer event, Infinity. Infinity finds the team leaving the Earth to fight the villainous Builders in outer space, teaming up with alien races across the galaxy. Meanwhile, the diabolical Thanos, the villain seen post credits in the Avengers movie, is taking the opportunity to attack the defenseless Earth.
Hickman has really been playing the long game on his Avengers titles for Infinity, laying the seeds of the story over his 30-issue run on both titles. It’s very complex, yet rewarding, storytelling that may be a little difficult to get into at first but is worth it in the end. Think of it like reading Game of Thrones from start to finish. The comic book Avengers really differ from their movie counterparts in the fact that they’ve been around for so long and have a vast wealth of events that have taken place in their lives. The reason the Avengers are so big in the comics is that they’re so established and become so experienced that they’ve been able to open up their roster to new members constantly. While it may seem a little overwhelming, the main Infinity series is only three issues in and each Marvel comic has a convenient recap page, filling you in on the characters starring in each book and what they’ve been going through.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer LIVES
This is bucking the trend a little. Unlike the previous characters and stories I’ve mentioned, Buffy the Vampire Slayer started as a movie, became a television series, and is now continuing in the form of a monthly comic book. It’s been years since Buffy and crew finished out their adventures in Sunnydale, ending the successful TV series at season 7. Hungry for more, fans have been given the opportunity to continue Buffy Summers’ adventures in Dark Horse Comics’ current BTVS comics line. In the comics, the series has currently wrapped “Season 9”, breaking out stories into seasons akin to its television predecessor. If you were a fan of the show and haven’t been caught up to speed with what’s going on in the continuing adventures of the “Scooby Gang”, well buckle up.
Buffy Summers and crew destroyed, and subsequently resurrected, their world’s magic causing serious effects to themselves and the vampires they’ve been fighting. Xander and Dawn are a couple, Angel and Faith went on adventures together after Angel turned evil as the supervillain, ironically enough, named “Twilight”, Giles died and then was brought back as a 12 year old kid, and Spike is leading a race of bug people on a spaceship. Got all that? Comic books have recently been offering a home for shows that may have been taken before their time and are able to create stories that can be much more “big budget” than their originating television series as they need not worry about the cost of special effects. Dark Horse Comics, following the success of their Buffy books, has even begun subtly hinting at the resurrection of fellow Joss Whedon series, Firefly, in comic book form. Stay strong, Browncoats.
The Walking Dead: Rick and Co. are where now?
Where do I even start? I’ll start by saying this will have numerous spoilers for The Walking Dead which may or may not happen in the television show, so be warned. The Walking Dead started as a black-and-white comic nearly a decade ago, and has been gaining momentum over its lifetime, spiraling into the most popular cable television show on the air. While the television series takes a lot from the original ongoing comic book, it differs just as much. Numerous events and characters that made appearances in the TV show, such as Daryl for example, have never appeared in the comic book and vice versa. The main difference is that the comic book has had far more stories than the television series and the characters are much more weathered and even missing some body parts!
As far as the comics go, Rick and the gang are currently in Washington DC, well, the suburbs of Alexandria, VA to be exact, held up in a securely walled community. They’re currently fighting against a new threat in the way of Neegan, a particularly nasty antagonist who leads a group of psychopaths and carries around a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. Rick is missing a hand, Carl’s missing half of his head, Andrea’s still alive, Glenn is dead after being graphically killed by Neegan in a particularly soul-crushing scene in issue 100, and the days of living in the prison are long since past. Daryl, Merle, the Governor surviving the assault on the prison, and Tyreese not immediately joining the gang are all things that have been changed from the comic books to the screen. With AMC announcing a spin-off show for The Walking Dead with all new characters and scenarios, this is the opportunity for creator, Robert Kirkman, to really spread his wings and delve into unknown territory for the concept that not even the comics have covered.
Regardless of the property, I’m excited to see which movies and television shows based on comic books will come about in the future. We’re in a golden age, my friends, and we’re already at the point where an Ant-Man movie is on the horizon, so anything is possible at this point!