Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 4

The Immortal Hulk was a critically-acclaimed and fan-beloved run of one of Marvel’s most popular and complex heroes, Dr Bruce Banner and his ‘system’ of alter egos: the child-like Savage Hulk, the morally ambiguous Grey Hulk or ‘Joe Fixit’, and the protective and paternalistic Immortal Hulk. Concluding in October 2021, the series was written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, and centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot. Which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett used the opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battled such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s minds through smartphones. Gradually, the series expanded its scope to ask fundamental questions about the nature of man and our own ‘immortal’ obsessions with death, the afterlife, and the relationships we have to our emotions, our friends, our institutions, our society, and the divine. The final issues of The Immortal Hulk go both deeply personal and expansively cosmic, as Bruce confronts his ex-wife Betty (now a monster of her own called ‘The Red Harpy’), his potential for happiness had he not been turned into a monster, and eventually God Himself to ask “why does Hulk have to be Hulk at all?”

Every issue of The Immortal Hulk opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. Below, I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from volumes ten, eleven, and the ‘Great Power’ spin-off collection of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection.

If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Libby here. Check out the previous editions of this blog (Part One, Two, and Three) to read about all the references in the first nine volumes, and if you’ve read up to volume ten, reserve it here.

“Many times he died, Many times rose again.” – from ‘Death’ by W. B. Yeats : the poems / Yeats, W. B.

The best story of the ‘Great Power’ collection, which collects other writer’s takes on the Immortal Hulk, is Irish writer/artist Declan Shalvey’s ‘Flatline’, set early in the series when Bruce is still grappling the Immortal Hulk persona and his new inability to die. Shalvey opens the issue with a segment of the poem ‘Death’ by one of his homeland’s greats, William Butler Yeats. The poem reminds the reader that while we can personify Death all we like, we can never actually meet it on our terms face-to-face. Throughout the issue, death separates Banner from the Immortal Hulk, as one literally becomes the other upon dying, never to actually meet, and this tension fuels their early animosity.

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die” A Christmas Carol / Dickens, Charles

My favourite issue of the ‘Apocrypha’ collection (Volume 11) is ‘Black Christmas’. Stuck in a snowy, vacant New York on Christmas and under attack by symbiotes, Joe Fixit and Savage Hulk take shelter in a department store. When the attack is over, Joe treats the child-minded Savage Hulk to a night in the store’s toy section. On this lovely scene, however, we get the only quote that ends an issue rather than opening it, one from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Addressed to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Present, the line is a grim portent of Tiny Tim’s death if Scrooge does not end his selfish ways and treat Bob Cratchit to a fair wage to support his family. It’s a great payoff to Joe Fixit’s arc of learning how to be a more considerate person to other people and deepens his relationship between his fellow Hulk personas, particularly as a protector to Savage Hulk in the Immortal Hulk’s absence.

“Vengeance is from the individual — punishment belongs to God.” –  The last day of a condemned man / Hugo, Victor

As a genre, superhero comics are built on the idea that there is clear good and evil, meaning moral ambiguity has to be explored not through justice itself, but through the specific mechanics of justice. In issue 46, the government sends the Avengers to take Hulk out once and for all, with Thor landing the first blow. The issue opens with a line from Victor Hugo’s 1829 preface to his novelette against capital punishment, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, in which he argues that society sits between the individual desire to seek vengeance after a criminal act and the divine act of punishment from above. Hugo concludes that society cannot punish because that choice alone belongs to God. Ewing dramatizes this idea in Immortal Hulk through Thor, who acts as both a state-sanctioned superhero seeking to do right and a god tasking himself with ridding Midgard of the Hulk, as the Hulk fights back, rejecting Thor’s authority on both counts.

“I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me, and finding myself unsympathised with, wished to tear up the tree, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin” –  Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus / Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft

As the Hulk has his rematch with the Avengers, rage seems to flow out of him to infect everyone else, leading to a massive battle in New York. Stan Lee, co-creator of the Hulk, has said that one of his inspirations for the Hulk was Frankenstein’s Monster. Like the Immortal Hulk, the Monster is a brutish creature born of science, grappling with his place in the cosmic order, and capable of both eloquence and savagery. Thor believes Hulk to be Midgard’s ‘god of wrath’ and the blight on the World Tree, further tying him to how the Monster identifies himself in the book by Mary Shelly.

“And I dream of a grave, deep and narrow, where we could clasp each other in our arms as with iron bars, and I would hide my face in you and you would hide your face in me, and nobody would ever see us any more The castle / Kafka, Franz

The Castle is Kafka’s last novel, a paranoid dystopian story about a man, ‘K’, investigating a shadowy bureaucracy operating from the titular castle. The Immortal Hulk quotes a passage where ‘K’ and his fiancée Frieda argue about their relationship. Frieda laments that K is too distracted by his job, and she is so lonely as a result that she finds comfort in her dream of them holding each other close in a grave. Issue 48 focuses on the Hulk and his ex-wife Betty, the Red Harpy, as they reflect on their relationship, most of which was defined by hiding from their own ‘Castle’, be it the authorities hunting them down or Banner’s multiple Hulk alter egos getting in their way. As the series nears its end, we see how Hulk and Betty both had to change and be resurrected (in Hulk’s case, multiple times) to finally be honest about who they are and what they mean to each other. Love expressed through the grave, indeed.

“Through me you pass into the City of Woe: Through me you pass into eternal pain: through me among the people lost for aye. Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d: to rear me was the task of power divine, supremest wisdom, and primeval love. Before me things create were none, save things eternal, and eternal I endure” – Inferno : a verse translation / Dante Alighieri

The penultimate issue of the series sees Hulk mounting a rescue mission to the Below-Place to save Banner from the Leader. Using the Fantastic Four’s ‘Forever Gate’, Hulk sees a vision of a possible Bruce Banner, without the Hulk, truly happy with his family and supporting cast. It’s a life that Banner can never have and never could, because the Hulk isn’t in it, which Hulk has to bear witness to before he sets off to rescue his ‘puny’ human persona. Seeing the Hulk at his most pensive and uneasy, it’s befitting in an issue about standing on a threshold that the chosen quote precedes the most quoted passage of Dante’s Inferno, the phrase above the gateway to Hell; “All hope abandon, ye who enter here”.

“I behold thee Enkidu; like a god thou art. Why with the animals wanderest thou on the plain?” –  Gilgamesh : a new English version

The Apocrypha collects an The Immortal Hulk spinoff called ‘Time of Monsters’ which depicts the first-ever Hulk in ancient Jordan, circa 9500 BCE. The opening quote compares the Hulk to Enkidu, the ‘wild man’ from one of the earliest surviving pieces of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh. While he is positioned as being from outside civilisation due to his wild status, Enkidu is no less heroic, helping the more traditional hero Gilgamesh in his adventures, despite eventually perishing after being punished by the gods. An unconventional hero seemingly more beast than man, who is positioned against civilisation and the gods and dies tragically? To my mind, it shows that since we first started writing stories, there has always been a Hulk.

A Final Note on Theme: The Left Hand is Strength, but the Right Hand is Mercy – Kabbalah : a very short introduction / Dan, Joseph

So you may be thinking having reached the end of the series, what was the deal with The One-Above-All calling Hulk ‘Geburah’ and ‘Golachab’? And what exactly of ‘Chesed’? These are references to Kabbalah, a practice of mysticism from Judaism. In Kaballah, a mystic traces a path through ‘the Tree of Life’ which contains ten heavenly spheres called the Sephirot, each representing an attribute of God (two of which are Geburah and Chesed), in order to better understand the divine with themselves. The Sephirot also has an inverse tree in the Qlippoth, which have opposing negative qualities to each Sephirot (Golachab as the Qlippoth to Geburah). A running theme of The Immortal Hulk is what the Hulk represents as an entity and what he should choose to do with his immeasurable strength, and tying this to Kaballah allows that idea to be explored within the bounds of morality and obligation, particularly in whether we should act with condemnation or compassion towards others.

Summer reads from our Overdrive comic collection

Make the most of your downtime this summer and catch up on a series you’ve been putting off with our comic collections on Overdrive. We’ve got a range of long-running series for all ages and fans, as well as some recent graphic novel hits from 2021.

Just download the Overdrive app to your device of choice, find Wellington City Library in the library listings, sign in with your library card number and PIN (the last four digits of your phone number), and download a great comic like one of these!

Omnibus Editions 

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The best way to get into a long-running series is to grab an omnibus. These collections have anywhere from 20 to 50 issues apiece to keep you covered for any long rides or beach reading. For fantasy fans, we’ve got the first four Omnibuses of Mike Mignola’s beloved Hellboy, five collections of Stan Sakai’s celebrated Usagi Yojimbo saga, and an omnibus of the The Witcher comic series. If you’ve just caught up on The Boys on Amazon or rewatched Avatar The Last Airbender or Buffy over the lockdowns, why not check out the comics as well?

TV and Film 

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Speaking of film and TV, 2021 was a huge year for comic-to-film adaptations. The first season of Invincible dropped and rocked viewers with its epic battles and family melodrama; if you can’t wait until the next season, you can read the entire series in three big compendiums on Overdrive. For the Marvel fans, we’ve also got collections of Shang-Chi, the original Eternals series by Jack Kirby, and the first four volumes of the most recent Venom comic. Tales from the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death continues the Umbrella Academy story from the hit comic and Netflix show. And if the recent Denis Villeneuve film wasn’t enough for you, you can also check out Dune: the Graphic Novel, Book 1

Finally, you can also catch up on the Marvel Star Wars books, including the first four volumes of Star Wars and all five volumes of the acclaimed Darth Vader run by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca.

Superheroes

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If you’re looking for a sizeable superhero story to tide you over this summer, why not check out Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers, starting in Avengers: Disassembled and continuing in the first four volumes of his New Avengers run, which has Spider-Man and Wolverine join the team for the first time. For the MCU fans, we have the Young Avengers Ultimate Collection, collecting the first twelve issues of the teenage heroes inspired by the Avengers, some of whom started appearing in this years’ Disney+ shows. And for more Marvel-set teen drama, there’s The Runaways, the hit comic by Saga writer Brian K Vaughn and Ms Marvel artist Adrian Alphona, about a group of teenagers who go on the run after learning that their parents are supervillains.

We have the first six volumes of both Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther, and the first six volumes of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk, both critically-acclaimed series that revitalised their respective characters and came to a close this year. On the DC side, we’ve got Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s opening issues on Batman, the ‘Court of Owls’ storyline, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s beloved All-Star Superman. And to put you in the Christmas mood, what better book than Klaus, the secret superhero origin of Santa Claus himself?

Graphic Novels 

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For mature readers, there’s a number of long-running graphic novel series on Overdrive as well. For the history nerds, there’s Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a four-volume series cataloguing the history of Japan during the era of Emperor Showa from 1926 to 1989. From Image Comics, we have the first nine volumes of both the pop-god urban fantasy series The Wicked + The Divine, and the space epic on love, war, and parenting Saga (which is coming back from hiatus in January, so now’s the best time to catch up!). And with Taika Waititi announced to direct the film of Jodorowsky and Moebius’ acclaimed space epic The Incal, why not check out the original comic?

We’ve also acquired a number of new graphic novels to read digitally, including cartoonist Andi Watson’s dark comedy The Book Tour, Tania Ford and Nnedi Okorafor’s sci-fi immigration parable (and winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Work) LaGuardia, Alison Bechdel’s newest comic The Secret to Superhuman Strength, and Emei Burrel’s political biography We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories.

Manga 

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Overdrive is the place to be to get your manga fix, whether to catch up on a series or check out a classic from the long history of Japanese comics. For starters, we’ve got the first six volumes of Kousuke Oono’s recent hit The Way of the Househusband, which follows a yakuza giving up the criminal life to pursue the path of quiet domesticity. Plus, the first 10 volumes of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the first 10 of Naruto, the first six of Bloom Into You, and all 27(!) currently published volumes of My Hero Academia.

When you’ve caught up on your series, why not check out a classic manga as well? We have the first 8 volumes of the original Astro Boy series by ‘god of manga’ himself Osamu Tezuka, two omnibuses of the ‘magical girl’ series, Cardcaptor Sakura, and the whole series of 90s sports manga Ping Pong in its two volume ‘Full Game’ editions.

Children’s Comics

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We have comics to keep kids of all ages and interests entertained this summer. Our Overdrive collection has 24 volumes of the long-running Pokémon Adventures manga, which goes through all the Pokemon games and generations in comic form, and every volume of both Dav Pilkey’s beloved Dog Man, and the Eisner award-winning Lumberjanes.

For lovers of magic and mythology, we have all the collections of The Magical Adventures of Phoebe and Her Unicorn, as well as George O’Conner’s hit comic of Greek mythology retellings The Olympians and the Dragon Kingdom of Wrenley series, starting with The Coldfire Curse.

And while Comicfest sadly didn’t come to pass in 2021, you can read the comics of New Zealand comic artists on Overdrive, like Johnathan King’s new mystery comic The Inkberg Enigma and Kay O’Neill’s Tea Dragon series, starting with The Tea Dragon Society.

Treat Yourself to some Horror and History this Halloween

A lot of horror movies and books offer a commentary of modern times, but a more recent trend in horror writing is to add a horror scenario to a previous event or time in history. Graphic novels have really picked up this ball and ran with it, as the visual storytelling lets you quickly immerse a reader in a time and place.

This ‘horror in history’ approach can be a great gimmick to enliven an old horror trope, like throwing werewolves into the backwoods criminal underbelly of the Prohibition era (Moonshine) or vampires into the sun-drenched American Wild West (American Vampire). The best takes usually offer some kind of commentary on the times, whether its looking at the 1920s through the eyes of an underrepresented community, like the Sangerye family in Bitter Root, or examining a person’s life through the horror genre, like Sarah Winchester inheriting the Winchester rifle fortune and the ghosts of its victims in House of Penance.

For this spooky season, here’s a list of recommendations for horror comics set in different periods of history for you to check out.

Monsters from Mythology Return…to 1970s Detroit!

Abbott / Ahmed, Saladin
“While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite. In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy. Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed and artist Sami Kivelä present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.” (Catalogue)

A House Haunted…by the victims of the Winchester Rifle!

House of penance / Tomasi, Peter
“A horrific story of a haunted house and one woman’s mission to wash away the blood curse of her husband’s invention from claiming her own life and soul” (Catalogue)

 

 

A Family of Monster Hunters…in the Harlem Renaissance!

Bitter root. Volume one, Family business / Walker, David
“In the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing, and only the Sangerye Family, once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, can save New York — and the world — from the supernatural forces threatening to destroy humanity. But those days are fading and the once-great family that specialized in curing the souls of those infected by racism and hate has been torn apart by tragedies and conflicting moral codes. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins divided between by the desire to cure monsters or to kill them; they must heal the wounds of the past and move beyond their differences… or sit back and watch a force of unimaginable evil ravage the human race.” (Catalogue)

Werewolves stalk the mountains…at the height of Prohibition!

Moonshine. Vol. 1 / Azzarello, Brian
“Set during Prohibition, and deep in the backwoods of Appalachia, [this book] tells the story of Lou Pirlo, a city-slick “torpedo” sent from New York City to negotiate a deal with the best moonshiner in West Virginia, one Hiram Holt. Lou figures it for milk run– how hard could it be to set-up moonshine shipments from a few ass-backward hillbillies? What Lou doesn’t figure on is that Holt is just as cunning as ruthless as any NYC crime boss and Lou is in way over his pin-striped head. Because not only will Holt do anything to protect his illicit booze operation, he’ll stop at nothing to protect a much darker family secret… a bloody, supernatural secret that must never see the light of day… or better still, the light of the full moon” (Catalogue)

A ghost story…on the eve of the Russian Civil War!

The gift / Maeve, Zoe
“The Shining meets Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in this gripping debut from an award-winning talent The Gift is a fantastical/horror retelling of the story of Anastasia Nikolaevna and the Romanov family, the last rulers of Imperial Russia before the revolution. Her childhood days are filled playing on the palace grounds, the guards always on watch. She recieves a gift of a camera on her thirteenth birthday and begins to document her days. It is through her dreams however, where her gift of seeing the supernatural is made evident. She witnesses a creature on the edge of her vision. But could this creature actually be real? When the revolution begins, Anastasia’s world comes crashing down and she must flee. But something is following her, and it might not be human.” (Catalogue)

A new breed of vampire rises…in the Wild West!

American Vampire. [Volume one] / Snyder, Scott
“From writers Scott Snyder and Stephen King, AMERICAN VAMPIRE introduces a new strain of vampire – a more vicious species – and traces the creatures’ bloodline through decades of American history. This first hardcover volume of the critically acclaimed series collects issues #1-5 and follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King, both with art by future superstar Rafael Albuquerque. Snyder’s tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. And in King’s story set in the days of America’s Wild West, readers learn the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A little lightspeed music and reading for Space Week

Benson, Arizona, blew warm wind through your hair
My body flies the galaxy, my heart longs to be there
Benson, Arizona, the same stars in the sky
But they seemed so much kinder when we watched them, you and I.

Chorus to “Benson, Arizona” by John Carpenter, Bill Taylor and Dominik Hauser (from Dark Star)

The 4th to the 10th of October 2021 is World Space Week, where we celebrate the accomplishments humankind has made in exploring and studying the cosmos.

While scientists, engineers, and astronauts work to broaden our understanding of planets and galaxies beyond our own, writers, musicians and artists are already light-years ahead of the curve with imagining life in space; not just from the idealistic view that we’ll find better worlds when we leave our old one behind, but critiquing that idea as well. John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s Dark Star, for instance, deflates the idea that life in space will allow us to achieve a new state of cosmic enlightenment and technological efficiency; instead they present it as just another work-a-day job, like trucking or an office job today.

Here’s a list of new and lesser-known music, books and films to explore for Space Week 2021:


Planetarium / Stevens, Sufjan
“Inspired by the Solar System, Planetarium‘s 17 tracks are named after celestial objects and related phenomena. Each piece is a musical mini-drama, with the glistening wash of “Halley’s Comet” lasting about 30 seconds, and “Earth” getting the most attention at around 15 minutes. Keyboard instruments ranging from piano, organ, and celeste to Mellotron, Moog, and other synths blend with Stevens’ airy vocal timbre.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Trilogy; past present and future. / Sinatra, Frank
“One of Frank Sinatra’s final albums, Trilogy is a three-part celebration of his career, covering his classics (Past), some then-new songs (Present), and a finale ‘Future’ that is both baffling and strangely compelling. In Future, Frank imagines a distant age where one can travel the Solar System in an afternoon, and how mankind achieved an era of peace by burning all of Earth’s weapons (‘World War None’). It’s worth listening to just for the sheer dissonance of hearing ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ sing about spaceships.”

Dark star
“Dark Star was a student film expanded to theatrical length, directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York) and written by Carpenter’s UCLA classmate Dan O’Bannon (who later retooled one sequence of the film into the script for a little production you may have heard of called Alien). The film is a pastiche of 2001: A Space Odyssey, following a crew of spaceship workers who have the thankless task of dropping bombs on unstable planets for an interstellar mega-corporation. A deeply underrated and underseen cult-classic that inspired the likes of Red Dwarf and Red vs Blue, Dark Star is essential viewing for any fan of sci-fi comedy.”

Persephone Station / Leicht, Stina
“On the backwater planet of Brynner, a community of android refugees, all female, are hiding since they were able to awaken their AI and escape servitude. But the Serrao-Orlov Corporation is nothing if not tenacious, and it wants their property back. However, Persephone is run by Rosie, and they are in charge of an organized group of beneficent criminals and assassins, along with a bunch of worn mercenaries who have a thing for doing the honorable thing, despite the odds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Will save the galaxy for food / Croshaw, Yahtzee
“Space travel just isn’t what it used to be. With the invention of Quantum Teleportation, space heroes aren’t needed anymore. When one particularly unlucky ex-adventurer masquerades as famous pilot and hate figure Jacques McKeown, he’s sucked into an ever-deepening corporate and political intrigue. Between space pirates, adorable deadly creatures, and a missing fortune in royalties, saving the universe was never this difficult!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The farthest : the story of Voyager : 12 billion miles, and counting
“In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager missions as a way of exploring the solar system’s outermost planets, capturing images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their moons. “The farthest” documents Voyager’s journey, including first-hand accounts of the men and women who built the ships and guided their missions. Bonus film Second Genesis explores the scientific quest to find life, or evidence of it, beyond Earth.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mooncop / Gauld, Tom
“The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum. Mooncop is equal parts funny and melancholy, capturing essential truths about humanity and making this a story of the past, present, and future, all in one.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We only find them when they’re dead. Book one, The seeker / Ewing, Al
“Captain Malik and the crew of his spaceship are in search of the only resources that matter – and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. And now they see an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 3

The Immortal Hulk is the newest comic to feature Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter ego. Since the series’ debut in 2018, it’s become a massive hit with fans and critics. Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, the series centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot, which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett use the story opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battles such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and — my personal favourite — Xemnu the Titan, a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s memories through smartphones.

The other unique angle to The Immortal Hulk is that every issue opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. Below, I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from volumes seven to nine of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection.

If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Overdrive here. Check out the previous editions of this blog (Part One and Part Two) to read about all the references in the first six volumes. If you’ve read up to volume seven, reserve it here.

“And from this mind I will not flee, but to you all that misjudge me, do protest as ye may see, that I am as I am and so will I be” – Collected poems / Wyatt, Thomas

The quote that opens Volume 7 is the final line from Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “The recured Lover exulteth in his Freedom, and voweth to remain free until Death“, a poem about defining one’s identity in the face of other narratives forced upon it. Volume 7 also introduces Xemnu the Titan to the series (who first appeared as ‘Xemnu the Living Hulk’ in Journey into Mystery #62 from 1960). The Roxxon corporation exploits Xemnu’s ability to hypnotise people through media like televisions and smartphones to make everyone forget the Hulk existed, including Banner himself, and plant a false memory in the public consciousness that Xemnu was always the Hulk. With the other personas of the Hulk locked up in Banner’s mind, it falls to the child-like ‘Savage Hulk’ to remind Banner who he is: that ‘Hulk is Hulk’.

Continue reading “Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 3”

Task Force Xceptional: A Dirty Half-Dozen Recommendations for DC’s second-chance Squad

The story of the Suicide Squad is one of second-chances. When DC Comics relaunched all their series following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in 1986, a lot of characters were left untouched, particularly a lot of the minor villain characters like Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and Count Vertigo. Inspired by The Dirty Dozen, writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale and artist Luke McDonnell gave these characters a new lease on life as Task Force X, a team of super-criminal prisoners doing covert missions for the government in exchange for shorter prison sentences. The team is supposed to be both deniable and expendable, a fact that their leader, the aggressively pragmatic federal agent Amanda Waller, rarely lets them forget. Many team members would wind up losing their lives over the course of the series, a rare thrill in a medium where characters rarely stayed dead for good. Though the series has been retooled and rebooted numerous times since 1986, it’s so good a premise that it rarely stays gone for good.

Now the team is getting a second-chance at a movie with James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad this August, which is said to be directly inspired by both the original 80s run and The Dirty Dozen, so we’ve assembled a rag-tag ‘dirty half-dozen’ recommendations to get you prepped. Whether you’re interested in the origins of the team or just want to see how many people King Shark can eat in one issue, we’ve got you covered!

Suicide Squad [4] : the Janus directive / Ostrander, John
When Amanda Waller begins to send out Task Force X for her own secret agenda, it draws the attention of every covert ops organisation in the DC Universe, and bring the hammer down in response. Little do all they know that Waller is being manipulated by another mysterious higher power. Part of the classic Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell run, The Janus Directive was one of the defining arcs of the original 80s series.

Suicide Squad. Volume 4, Discipline and punish / Kot, Ales
The highlight of the ‘New 52’ run on Suicide Squad is Ales Kot’s all-too-brief tenure on the book from 2014. After several missions gone awry, the team gains a consultant in the form of James Gordon Jr., the ‘recovering psychopath’ son of Commissioner Gordon, to help them better acclimate to prison life and find out what motivates them. Discipline and Punish (named for Michel Foucault’s book about the institutional origin of prisons) takes a more psychological spin on the team reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs while still managing to be fun and breezy, a rare balance that Kot nails so well you wish they stuck around longer.

Suicide Squad : hell to pay / Parker, Jeff
Based on the animated film of the same name, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay follows the team being recruited to obtain a mystical artifact that seems too good to be true; a ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card that allows the holder to completely absolve themselves from eternal damnation. Of course, sending a bunch of hardened criminals with rap-sheets longer than Plastic Man’s arm after such as card is quickly revealed to be as short-sighted an endeavour as it sounds, but it makes for a great exploration of the characters as they come to terms with their past deeds.

Suicide Squad. Vol. 1, The black vault / Williams, Rob
Part of the DC Rebirth initiative and drawn by DC boss Jim Lee, this run of Suicide Squad ties in closer to the then-recent David Ayer film. The team’s first mission sees them trying to break their newest potential recruit out of the ‘The Black Vault’, a secret Russian prison guarded by its own Suicide Squad, the equally dangerous Annihilation Brigade. A alum of Britain’s premier anthology comic 2000 AD, Rob Williams’ writing is a perfect blend of over-the-top action and gallows humour that makes for a great Suicide Squad story.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad / Williamson, Joshua
Sooner or later, the Suicide Squad comes into conflict with the Justice League, who aren’t exactly pleased that the villains they work so hard to put away are out on the streets and being co-opted by the government. One of the better DC Comics crossovers in recent memory (I also rated it in my Justice League recommendations), it’s genuinely impressive that every member of both teams gets a moment to shine, a hard task for a brief series with two massive casts slammed together.

Suicide Squad : bad blood / Taylor, Tom
The most recent Suicide Squad run sees the team behind the smash hit series Injustice: Gods Among Us, writer Tom Taylor and artist Bruno Redondo, take the reins. Once again under new management, the Squad is tasked with defeating and recruiting a team of anarchist superhumans called ‘The Revolutionaries’, allowing the creative team to introduce a slew of new characters to the DCU, any one of whom are bound to be a fan’s new favourite (mine being the out-of-shape speedster Jog and the Indigenous Australian tracker Thylacine).  Taylor’s signature humour and knack for great plot twists and Redondo’s expressive art that defined Injustice make this short run on the series one a must-read.

Be a Mental Organism Designed Only for Comics! Our best picks for comics that inspired the 2021 MCU shows

With 2020 firmly in hindsight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can continue apace as new films and television series expand the ever-growing stable of characters and worlds. In 2021, we’ve had The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, MODOK, Loki, and the upcoming Black Widow and Eternals. But before these characters hit the small and silver screens, all of their stories came from the comics, which tend to be far wilder and crazier than most cinematic budgets allow.

Did you know that the reason Sam Wilson became Captain America was because Steve Rogers was rapidly aged to be 80 years old? Or that before MODOK became a stop-motion sitcom patriarch, he ran his own Ocean’s Eleven heist crew and built a gun made of mushrooms for SHIELD as a Secret Avenger? Or that the Winter Soldier once went to space and romanced an telepathic alien princess from a planet named after a Japanese noise musician, and fought Loki, who was also fighting a younger version of himself at the time, and went to the moon with Black Widow to shake down a newly omniscient Nick Fury?

Whether you’re a True Believer following your favourite MCU characters or just need something to tide you over before the next series hits, check out our recommendations below. And if you wanted to do the same for WandaVision, you can read Monty’s recommendation blog here.

All-new Captain America [1] : Hydra ascendant / Remender, Rick
All-new Captain America is the first series where Sam Wilson takes on the role of Captain America, combining his winged Falcon suit with a slick new red, white and blue update. Writer Rick Remender uses the opportunity to reintroduce the weirder and pulpier science-fiction enemies that defined the franchise in the 70s and 80s, and Stuart Immonen is one of the best comic artists for style and action, which makes Sam Wilson’s debut as Captain America a high-flying, HYDRA-punching thrill-ride.

Bucky Barnes, the winter soldier. 1, The man on the wall / Kot, Ales
After Nick Fury becomes the Watcher (long story), Bucky Barnes takes over his position as ‘The Man on the Wall’, the only espionage agent protecting Earth from extra-terrestrial threats. Only once he gets to space, Bucky doesn’t find threats, but peace, love, and mind-expanding telepathic conversations with alien princesses. Writer Ales Kot is one of the best at subverting the bleak and world-weary tropes of modern spy fiction, and artist Marco Rudy makes the whole series look like a 50s sci-fi paperback novel cover.

Super-villain team-up : MODOK’s 11 / Van Lente, Fred
Ever wanted to see a heist movie where all the thieves have superpowers? Fred Van Lente and Francis Portela give you the best version of that idea in MODOK’s 11. The titular Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is ousted from his position as the head of the science-terrorist group AIM, and in revenge, he assembles a team of C-list villains to steal an absurdly powerful energy source from under AIM’s nose. Snappy one-liners, double-crosses, and explosions ensue in the Merry Marvel Manner. The comic also gets a fun reference in the MODOK TV show (although in that version, he can only manage a mere MODOK’s 6).

Secret Avengers [1] : let’s have a problem / Kot, Ales
Run the Mission. Don’t Get Seen. Save the World. This is the credo of the Secret Avengers, a clandestine team made up of the Marvel heroes best suited for spy work. This time however, they’re joined by MODOK, who’s been put to work making weapons for SHIELD in exchange for immunity. Ales Kot and Michael Walsh deliver high-stakes superhero wackiness paired with some surprisingly deep character drama, as MODOK falls in love, sentient bombs are talked out of exploding, and the team confronts their individual traumas through the power of friendship and Argentinian magical realism. If you’ve ever wanted to see Jorge Luis Borges explained by Deadpool, then this is the book for you.

Loki : agent of Asgard [1] : trust me / Ewing, Al
After a stint in the Young Avengers, Loki goes solo and discovers that trying to keep on the straight and narrow is harder than it seems. Especially when you have a) a living lie detector for a friend, b) an older version of yourself hunting you down, and c) your morality flipped so you can only be good, just in the same overly complicated and circuitous way you were when you were bad, so either way no-one trusts you. Created by Lee Garbett and Al Ewing (of Immortal Hulk fame), Agent of Asgard is considered the best modern take on Loki, so if you’re a fan, it’s well worth your time.

Black Widow : the complete collection / Waid, Mark
Writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee and colourist Matt Wilson, who worked together on a critically beloved and fan-favourite run on Daredevil, team up again for this Black Widow miniseries in which the Avenger’s premier spy must go on the run from SHIELD after they declare her an enemy. Featuring some of the best visual action storytelling I’ve ever seen in a comic (Samnee dictated the story more than Waid, a rarity in comics where the writer normally takes the lead) and a creatively versatile use of a sparse colour palette by Wilson, this series is a great primer for Black Widow that will get you psyched for the movie.

The Eternals : monster-size / Kirby, Jack
Kirby’s Eternals revealed an entire new realm of heroes. Once worshipped as gods, this fantastic group left Earth to explore the stars after warring with the Greek, Roman and Norse pantheons for supremacy over humankind. But the Eternals are just one part of a cosmic mythology. Their opposites – the Deviants – also secretly populate Earth, and the towering cosmic entities that created both – the Celestials – are fated to return and judge us all.

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 2

Read Part one in this blog series

The Immortal Hulk is the newest comic to feature Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter ego, and since the series’ debut in 2018, it’s become a massive hit with fans and critics. Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, the series centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot, which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal.

Thanks to this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett use the story opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battles such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and — my personal favourite — Xemnu the Titan, a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s memories through smartphones.

The other unique angle to The Immortal Hulk is that every issue opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. Below, I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from volumes four to six of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection.

If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Overdrive here (and check out the previous edition of this blog to read about all the references in the first three volumes). If you’ve read up to volume four, order it here or read it on Overdrive here.


Opening Quotations from The Immortal Hulk

Behold: I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard. I cry aloud, but there is no judgement.

The Book of Job

Catalogue link for The book of Job : a contest of moral imaginations / Newsom, CarolThe Book of Job is one of the most discussed books of the Bible, and also the one most frequently quoted in The Immortal Hulk. In the Book, God tests the faith of a pious man, Job, by robbing him of all his family and possessions, and when Job tries to know why God has punished him, he is only shown how much he doesn’t know. Ewing returns to Job as a motif whenever the Immortal Hulk is being tested, whether it be by shady government black-ops hunting him down, the return of old enemies, or with his own inner turmoil.

Nothing valued is here. What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

Catalogue link for The age of radiance : the epic rise and dramatic fall of the Atomic Era / Nelson, CraigThese phrases aren’t from a work of literature, but from the United States Department of Energy. A growing concern in the organisation is how to warn people in the far future to stay away from nuclear waste disposal sites; these phrases were written to help design pictographs that best symbolise the danger represented by radiation to potentially illiterate future humans. Ewing uses these phrases as opening quotes in the issue where Shadow Base, the government black site hunting the Hulk, create a new version of the classic Hulk foe The Abomination, not knowing the danger they are getting into by creating a Hulk of their own.

I would eat his heart in the marketplace

Catalogue link for Much ado about nothing / Shakespeare, William A running theme in The Immortal Hulk is anger, particularly the double standard invoked when women express it as opposed to men. In issue 19, Bruce Banner’s ex-wife Betty returns as the Red Harpy, a giant crimson bird-woman set on revenge against the Hulk for all the ways he ruined her life. The opening quote of the issue is an expression by Much Ado‘s character Beatrice, wishing that she had a man’s social privilege to publicly hold a man to task for slandering her friend. In Red Harpy’s case, however, she decides to take Beatrice’s metaphor very, very literally…

That stony law I stamp to dust, and scatter religion abroad to the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves…

Catalogue link for William Blake, selected poetryIn issue 26, after defeating and taking over Shadow Base, the Hulk decides to use its resources to launch a revolution against the powers-that-be, stating that he wants to ‘end the human world’. His friends and allies, however, are skeptical at whether Hulk’s mission will prove effective. Ewing once more returns to poet and artist William Blake, this time citing a passage from his America: A Prophecy, a book of poetry written about the revelatory potential of the American Revolution.

Such is the condition of organic nature! Whose first law might be expressed in the words, ‘Eat or be eaten!’

Catalogue link for Erasmus Darwin : a life of unequalled achievementIn issue 29, the CEO of the Roxxon corporation sends out a wave of giant monsters to attack Phoenix, Arizona to discredit Bruce Banner and prop up Roxxon’s own Hulk, Xemnu the Titan, as a hero. They are heralded by the above line, a poetic description of nature’s voracity by naturalist Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) from his book Phytologia. It proves literal too, as one monster eats the Hulk whole, leaving him to fight its car-sized internal parasites.

O’Brien’s looking skittish, but he’ll be fine once his blood’s up. Harryhausen is raring to go. Oh–and they didn’t feed Lovecraft today…

The four giant monsters that attack Phoenix all have codenames referencing Hollywood visual effects artists and horror writers:

Catalogue link: King Kong Catalogue link: Clash of the Titans Catalogue link: The complete fiction of H. P. Lovecraft Catalogue link: The vintage Ray Bradbury

Graphic novels for NZ Music Month

One of my favourite things about the art of comics is how they depict sound. Since the medium is completely mute, comic artists have to come up with novel visual tricks to portray music.

In Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree, the colouring will go into a shaky ‘double-vision’, giving the panel the disorienting effect of looking at a 3D movie without the glasses, to depict the rattling bass of a sound system. In Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram, music fans called ‘phonomancers’ turn pop songs into magic spells to illustrate (without music) that feeling of power and invincibility you get from listening to your favourite song.

It seems more and more comic artists are going to bat for this technical challenge, as the graphic novel music biopic has become a popular subgenre in the 2010s. Sitting somewhere between documentary and written biography, it allows artists to exaggerate and caricature the details of an artist’s career. Mike Allred’s pop-art inspired drawing style is a perfect match for his most recent work Stardust, rayguns & moonage daydreamswhich gives David Bowie a cosmic career odyssey worthy of the work that he put into building the myth of Ziggy Stardust. Similarly, The Fifth Beatle sees the Fab Four through the eyes of their humble manager Brian Epstein; the comic’s colouring accentuates the efforts Epstein went through to take four lads with the marks of musical greatness from the grey pallor of Liverpool to the bright shiny vistas of international stardom. The graphic novel biography makes bands and artists seem larger than life in a way that photographs or concert films can sometimes struggle to capture.

From the mega-pop stars, to the unsung heroes of music history, to the fans that keep the passion burning, there’s a graphic novel for every audience in our collection!


The complete Phonogram / Gillen, Kieron
“Collected in a single volume for the first time, the first critically beloved work from the creators of The Wicked + the Divine. Includes RUE BRITANNIA, THE SINGLES CLUB and THE IMMATERIAL GIRL, with RUE BRITANNIA coloured for the first time. The world where Music Is Magic has never looked better.” (Catalogue)

Hip hop family tree [2] : 1981-1983 / Piskor, Ed
“The second instalment of this acclaimed graphic novel hip-hop history (originally serialized on the popular website Boingboing) covers the years 1981-1983. Hip Hop has made a big transition from the parks and rec rooms to downtown clubs and vinyl records. The performers make moves to separate themselves from the paying customers by dressing more and more flamboyant until a young group called RUN-DMC comes on the scene to take things back to the streets.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The fifth Beatle : the Brian Epstein story / Tiwary, Vivek J.
“The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles — from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of “The Man Who Made The Beatles,” The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.” (Catalogue)

Blue in green / V, Ram
“The dark and haunting portrayal of a young musician’s pursuit of creative genius — the monstrous nature of which threatens to consume him as it did his predecessor half a century ago. From creators Ram V (Grafity’s Wall, These Savage Shores) and Anand RK (Grafity’s Wall). BLUE IN GREEN is an exploration of ambitions, expectations, and the horrific depths of their spiraling pursuit.” (Catalogue)

Bowie : stardust, rayguns & moonage daydreams / Allred, Mike
BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams chronicles the rise of Bowie’s career from obscurity to fame; and paralleled by the rise and fall of his alter ego as well as the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. As the Spiders from Mars slowly implode, Bowie wrestles with his Ziggy persona. The outcome of this internal conflict will change not only David Bowie, but also, the world.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Gunning for hits. music thriller / Volume 1, Slade : / Rougvie, Jeff
“In the 80’s NYC music business, Martin Mills, a record company talent scout, jumps at the chance to make a comeback album with his favorite rock legend. When it goes sideways, Martin is forced to use deadly skills from his past” (Catalogue)

Redbone : the true story of a Native American rock band / Staebler, Christian
“Brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas were talented Native American rock musicians that took the 1960s Sunset Strip by storm. Determined to control their creative vision and maintain their cultural identity, they eventually signed a deal with Epic Records in 1969. But as the American Indian Movement gained momentum the band took a stand, choosing pride in their ancestry over continued commercial reward. Created in cooperation with the Vegas family, authors Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni with artist Thibault Balahy take painstaking steps to ensure the historical accuracy of this important and often overlooked story of America’s past. Part biography and part research journalism, Redbone provides a voice to a people long neglected in American history.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Total jazz / Blutch
“In these freewheeling short stories, vignettes, and sketches that originally appeared in Jazzman magazine, the famed French cartoonist examines not only the genre and its creators but the nature of the subculture. The grumpy festival-goer, the curmudgeonly collector, the anxious auditioner, and many others are his targets. As improvisional as Coltrane and Mingus, Blutch captures the excitement of live performance and of creating and listening to music.” (Catalogue)

Topp : promoter Gary Topp brought us the world / Collier, David
“As with all of Collier’s work, his latest graphic novel is a combination of memoir and biography. This time, he explores his involvement in the cultural landscape of Toronto in the 1970s and 80s, specifically focusing on the life of Gary Topp, a concert promoter and founder of the pioneering Canadian repertory cinema. Topp emerged from an immigrant background, abandoned the family textile business, and became an influential figure in the lives of an entire community. He was also Collier’s first boss and mentor. Though outspoken and opinionated, Gary Topp inspired love and devotion, not only in those who worked for him, but also in the acts he booked — including the Ramones, The Police, and the Dixie Chicks. This graphic novel looks at a rapidly disappearing past and uses Topp’s ability to see beyond the mainstream for a look at where our culture is heading.” (Catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Cinema: Justice League – The Director’s Cuts (Part 2)

After years of fan campaigning, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally arrived on our screens. The newly expanded film restores the initial vision of the auteur director behind 300, Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is loosely based on Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

But there are many Justice League stories worthy of adaptation into film, just as there are many directors who would be perfect to adapt them. Here are another six picks for Justice League comics based on which directors would be best to adapt them into movies. Read the first batch of recommendations here.

The people vs. the Justice League and Justice lost

Suggested director: Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Blackkklansman)

What happens when the Justice League get in the way of real justice? Many writers have tried to do the ‘what if superheroes had to deal with the REAL issues’ story and failed, but in The People vs the Justice League, Christopher Priest and Pete Woods are able to make the real world/superhero world conflict compelling without one side diminishing the other. Featuring a disgruntled fanboy villain, a rival Justice League more interested in community action than punching bad guys, and a parody of Black Panther who uses the League’s downed satellite base to start a war between two African nations, this topical two volume run has plenty of material for a smart, trenchant director like Spike Lee to make into a great movie.

JLA: Trial by Fire

Suggested director: Sam Raimi (Spider-ManThe Evil Dead)

After trying to overcome his fatal weakness to fire, Martian Manhunter accidentally awakens a hostile ancestral personality in himself known as ‘Fernus the Burning Martian’, who wants nothing more than Earth’s total destruction. Trial by Fire, by writer Joe Kelly and artist Doug Mahnke, starts with a demonic possession mystery that spirals out into a world-ending threat, and it rides an interesting middle ground between horror story and superhero epic. That’s why Sam Raimi, director of both great superhero movies and great horror movies, would really make this story sing if he were the one adapting it.

Formerly known as the Justice League

Suggested director: Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do In The Shadows)

In the late 80s, Justice League was written by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and artist Kevin Maguire, who turned the book into a superhero ensemble comedy featuring lesser known heroes like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Elongated Man. Formerly Known as… has that creative team return to the characters (now called the ‘Super Buddies’) who have fallen on hard times and operate out of a strip mall. Taika Waititi is an easy pick for the only explicitly comedic Justice League, but I chose him for this story because he also excels at writing people with high opinions of themselves trying to reclaim their dignity in the face of adversity; think of the aristocratic vampires of What We Do in the Shadows reduced to living in a dilapidated flat or Thor struggling with his self-worth after his hammer is destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok.

JLA: Rock of Ages

Suggested director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Interstellar)

Rock of Ages is another blockbuster-size JLA story from Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, in which the JLA face a crisis on two fronts: a corporate takeover-style threat from the Injustice Gang, and trying to prevent a map of all space-time from falling into the hands of the despotic alien Darkseid. Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker obsessed with time: how we fight against it (Dunkirk), what it robs from us (Interstellar), and how we could weaponise it for our benefit (Tenet). Rock of Ages has all the sort of mind-bending space-time headiness Nolan loves to play with, plus it has a lot of good Batman moments as well, so it would be a return to form for him in more ways than one.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad

Suggested director: The Russo brothers (Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame)

The Russo brothers had the monumental task of bringing ten years of a superhero universe to a conclusion with Infinity War and Endgame, and if fan response and box-office speaks for anything, they succeeded with flying colours. They’re the only duo who would be up to the task to adapt Justice League vs Suicide Squad, which like their previous superhero efforts features a huge and complex story, loads of characters, and centres around a villain pursuing a gem for ultimate power. They might be repeating themselves, but if they did it twice before, then third time is just another charm.

JLA: Heaven’s Ladder

Suggested director: The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas)

One of the weirder stories from the 90s JLA run, Heaven’s Ladder (by Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch) follows the Justice League trying to save Earth after it has been stolen by immortal aliens called ‘Quantum Mechanics’ who want to build their own afterlife using the cultural ideas of Heaven from various alien worlds. It’s a far-out concept, but one that hits on a lot of the shared themes of the films of Lana and Lilly Wachowski, like the fusing of spirituality with science-fiction in The Matrix or the idea of the soul transcending cultural boundaries from Cloud Atlas.