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.

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.

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

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.

Comics in Conversation with Cinema: Justice League – The Director’s Cuts

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.

Snyder certainly had the track record to adapt DC Comics’ premiere super-team to the silver screen, having a number of comic-to-film adaptations under his belt already and a distinct aesthetic directly inspired by comic books. But there are many Justice League stories worthy of adaptation into film (particularly from JLA, the deliberately cinematic and much beloved series that ran from 1997 to 2006), just as there are many directors who would be perfect to adapt them.

So if you’re after more of the World’s Greatest Superheroes (or some great film recommendations), here are my picks for Justice League comics based on what directors would best adapt them into movies.

JLA : New world order – Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012)

When Justice League was relaunched as JLA in 1997 by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, their intent with the series was to tell big-scale stories like a blockbuster movie in comic form. The first story of their run, New World Order, delivers on exactly that, featuring an invasion by superheroes from another planet that opens with a giant spaceship over the White House (just like Emmerich’s Independence Day, coincidentally released the same year) and continues heightening the stakes from there. If they made a JLA movie in the 90s, you could absolutely see Emmerich as a front-runner for the director’s chair.

Bonus trivia: Every issue of JLA: New World Order is named after a sci-fi movie from the 1950s: THEM!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, and Invaders from Mars.

JLA : Earth 2 – Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers)

A good version of Lex Luthor recruits the JLA to help him fight the Crime Syndicate of Amerika (not a typo), their evil equivalent from an parallel Earth made of anti-matter, where reality, history and morality is reversed. People’s hearts are on the right side of their body instead of the left, pirates and gangsters are worshipped as heroes, executions are televised, and the dollar bills have “In Mammon We Trust” written on them, referencing the demon of greed. It brings to mind some of Paul Verhoeven’s best satire in Robocop and Starship Troopers, where the excesses of American capitalist and military society are heightened to ludicrous absurdity.

Bonus trivia: JLA: Earth 2 was later adapted into an animated film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, in 2010.

Justice –  George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet)

Justice hits all the beats of a great Justice League story: big action, great character moments, and deep-cut references from across DC history, but the main conceit of Justice is that the Legion of Doom, convinced that they are saving humanity from a coming apocalypse that the Justice League can’t prevent, become the story’s heroes. While George Miller would be a great choice for any superhero movie for his skill at directing action and tone, what makes Justice an ideal story for him would be the Legion of Doom as a cult of personality believing they know what’s best for society. It’s a theme that Miller has explored throughout his filmography, from the various desert demagogues of the Mad Max wastelands to the conservative penguin hegemony of Happy Feet.

Bonus trivia: In 2007, George Miller was tapped to direct a Justice League movie called Justice League: Mortal, but due to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros decided to focus on solo hero movies and the film was shelved indefinitely.

JLA: Golden Perfect – Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984)

After facing a crisis of conscience, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth is destroyed, and with it, the very concept of truth itself has been fractured — and the Justice League must contend with a world capriciously redefined by the dreams and fears of the human race. When explaining her writing process for WW84, Patty Jenkins said she wanted to write a superhero movie where at the end, nobody dies and the day is saved with a conversation rather than with brute strength. Golden Perfect hits on a lot of similar themes and ideas (WW84‘s Wishing Stone also has a similar effect on the world as the Lasso of Truth breaking), and while she would be repeating herself, it would be interesting to see Jenkins’ take on the rest of the Justice League.

Bonus trivia: Wonder Woman has also appeared in a solo animated film, and appears in the DC Animated Movie Universe beginning with Justice League: War.

Justice League Dark – Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim)

Justice League Dark was created to highlight DC’s stable of magical and horror-influenced heroes such as John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Deadman, who fight the supernatural threats that the regular flavour Justice League can’t handle. While there was an animated film that came out in 2017, Guillermo Del Toro has been trying to make a live-action Justice League Dark film since 2013. Given his experience in directing fantasy action and surreal horror (the first issue of the series has the Justice League contend with a storm made of human teeth, for starters), giving Del Toro the chance would be a no-brainer.

Bonus trivia: While Del Toro has set aside working on Justice League Dark (for now), a TV series is currently in development for HBO Max, spearheaded by J.J. Abrams.

JLA : the hypothetical woman – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker)

The Justice League of America is caught in a harrowing situation after being sent by the United Nations Security Council to intervene in a South American nation ruled by an iron-fisted dictator. In response, the world’s nations start stockpiling discarded supervillain weapons and alien spacecrafts and repurposing them into weapons out of fear the Justice League will do the same to them. An underrated Justice League story that weds traditional superhero tropes to the realism of international relations and military strategy, this is probably the only JLA story I could see Kathryn Bigelow adapting.

Bonus trivia: JLA: The Hypothetical Woman is drawn by artist Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez, who is responsible for the DC Comics Style Guide, the official reference guide book for all DC Comics merchandise.

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk

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, closer in tone to old EC Comics or Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, but with the same action and character drama you’d expect from a Marvel comic. 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. I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from the first three volumes 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.

 

 

 

 

 

‘My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring’ – The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other stories / Stevenson, Robert Louis

Out of all of the original 60s Marvel heroes, the Incredible Hulk is the only one with a literary pedigree; he was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The influence of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ on the Hulk is obvious, as they both tell the story of mild-mannered men grappling with a split personality that can physically transform them into a monster. Where the Hulk is usually childlike in his rage, Bruce’s new ‘Immortal Hulk’ personality is significantly more intelligent and menacing than the other Hulks, much like Mr Hyde in the book.

“One always dies too soon – or too late” – No exit, and three other plays / Sartre, Jean-Paul

For the first few issues of Immortal Hulk, Banner only transforms into the Hulk when he dies, and returns to life via a portal called ‘The Green Door’. A consistent theme of the series is how it would affect someone psychologically to come back from the dead, as comic book heroes frequently do. This pairs interestingly with Ewing’s choice to quote No Exit, a play by French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre about three souls who are locked in a room together in the afterlife. For the characters in No Exit, death is a one-way door, whereas for Bruce and the Hulk both, death is a revolving one, a trap for which there too seems to be no exit.

‘Many names hath god given him, names of mystery, secret and terrible’ – Red cactus : the life of Anna Kingsford / Pert, Alan

In interviews, Al Ewing has said that he picked up the idea of the Green Door from the vintage pop song ‘The Green Door‘ and from theosophist writer Anna Kingsford. In her book of her religious visions, Clothed With the Sun, she wrote that the devil, rather than being an adversary for God, works for Him in many roles: a destroyer, an avenger, and as the keeper of the door to Hell who ‘sifts’ souls so that only the wicked enter. Appropriately, the Immortal Hulk takes on the name ‘Devil Hulk’ during a fight with the Avengers, as he tears through them with no effort. But the choice of Kingsford’s quote implies that the Hulk could become a force for good as well, like her conception of the devil.

“Fathers and teachers, I ponder, What is Hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love” – The brothers Karamazov : a novel in four parts and an epilogue / Dostoyevsky, Fyodor

The main villain of the first three volumes is Bruce’s deceased father, Brian Banner, who has struck a deal with the demonic ‘One Below All’ so he can return to Earth. Brian was openly hostile to Bruce throughout his childhood, believing Bruce to be a ‘monster’ who would replace him, and Bruce’s suppressed rage at this treatment eventually coalesced into his Hulk personality. The issue where the Hulk finally confronts his father in Hell opens with the above line from The Brothers Karamazov, which follows three brothers and their respective relationships with their distant, unscrupulous father.

‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’ – Songs of innocence and of experience : shewing the two contrary states of the human soul, 1789-1794 / Blake, William

The Romantic poet and artist William Blake is referenced throughout the Immortal Hulk run. The above quote, from his poem ‘The Tyger’ in Songs of Experience, ponders how a creature as fearsome and stunning as a tiger could exist in the same world as an innocent lamb, and considers this a possible contradiction in God’s creation. Like Blake’s interrogation of the tiger, the ‘why?’ of the Hulk’s existence is a recurring question in Immortal Hulk; how could this monster exist within this man? Does he serve some kind of purpose that we’re not aware of? And what will he decide to do with his power?

Within the Mystery of WandaVision

After a lengthy hiatus, the Marvel Universe of films have restarted on Disney Plus with the unexpected meta-fictional world of WandaVision. Continuing on from the endgames of the last Avengers film, WandaVision eschews the usual Marvel film template with interlocking levels of mystery and deeply conflicted characters all wrapped up within a darkly satirical sitcom parody running across the decades.

Below are a selection of comics, films, TV series and books that directly influenced WandaVision’s complex world of mischievous invention, enigma and heartbreak. From comics that helped drive plot in the TV series to TV sitcoms that influence each episode’s comedy, look and feel, to the Marvel films themselves, consider this a sideways look into the many genius aspects of WandaVision

Vision : the complete collection / King, Tom
“He was created to kill the Avengers but he turned against his “father.” He found a home among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and love in the arms of the Scarlet Witch. It didn’t end well. Now, the Vision just wants an ordinary life with a wife and two children, a home in the suburbs, perhaps even a dog. But it won’t end any better. Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta confound expectations in their heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, breath-taking magnum opus collected in all its Eisner Award-winning glory.” (Catalogue)

House of M / Bendis, Brian Michael
“The Marvel event of the decade is here! The Avengers and the X-Men are faced with a common foe that becomes their greatest threat: Wanda Maximoff! The Scarlet Witch is out of control, and the fate of the entire world is in her hands. Will Magneto help his daughter or use her powers to his own benefit? Starring the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers! You know how sometimes you hear the phrase: ‘and nothing will ever be the same again?’ Well, this time believe it, buster! Nothing will ever be the same again! Collects House of M #1-8, and Pulse House of M Special Edition Newspaper.” (Catalogue)

Scarlet Witch [1] : witches’ road / Robinson, James Dale
“Wanda Maximoff ‘s magical mystery tour continues on the streets of Paris; she will find the broken-hearted hero Le Peregrine. Can Wanda mend his broken wings and help him soar again? She’ll risk life and limb to try; next stop, Hong Kong, where an ancient warlock named the Dark Tongi has taken a powerful hold. Wanda must seek the help of a young witch, known as the Wu – but she has her own battle to fight. The former Avenger’s personal journey gets reflective as she explores her early memories and attempts to reconcile the sins of her past, but it’s time for a family reunion with her twin brother Pietro…but what happens when the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are on opposing sides? ” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Avengers: Disassembled, Brian Michael Bendis (ebook)
Collects Avengers (1998) #500-503. It begins with the return of a team member thought dead and by the time it’s over, everything you know about the Avengers will have changed! It’s the worst day in team history, as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes try to deal with the shocking tragedy around them. Who is behind this, and why? Will it tear the team apart? Who will fall at the hands of the Avengers’ greatest enemy? Guest-starring every Avenger…ever! (Overdrive description)

Pleasantville
“Two 1990’s teenagers find themselves in a 1950’s sitcom where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world.” (Catalogue)

 

 

The twilight zone : the original series. Season one. “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call… The Twilight Zone.” (Catalogue)

 

Gilmore girls. The complete first season
“Lorelai and Rory are a mother and daughter who are sharing life’s ups and downs in a small town in Connecticut. This heartfelt, humorous drama appeals to young and old alike with it’s blend of traditional family issues and hip attitude.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Modern family. The complete first season
“Modern Family takes a refreshing and funny view of what it means to raise a family in this hectic day and age. Multicultural relationships, adoption, and same-sex marriage are just a few of the timely issues faced by the show’s three wildly diverse broods. No matter the size or shape, family always comes first in this hilariously ‘modern’ look at life, love, and laughter.” (Catalogue)

 

The office [US]. Season one
“Earnest but clueless regional manager Michael Scott, the world’s worst manager, provides hilarious examples of bad management practice at the local Dunder Mifflin Paper Company Inc. office.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Avengers. Endgame
“The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured their ranks compels the remaining to take one final stand in the grand conclusion to twenty-two films.” (Catalogue)

 

 

Captain America : civil war
“After another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps, one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark₂s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.” (Catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Comics: Dial H for Hero Volume 2

This is the next in our Comics in Conversation with Comics series of posts, in which we explore comics and graphic novels that highlight, challenge, and celebrate the works that came before them, or say something about comics as an art form overall.

In this post we’ll be taking a look at the recent DC Comics series Dial H for Hero, by writer Sam Humphries and artist Joe Quinones.

Dial H for Hero is one of DC Comics’ more obscure series, but it’s a title that has a strong following among comic writers for its seemingly infinite potential. First appearing in House of Mystery #156 in January 1966, the premise centres around the H-Dial, a mysterious rotary phone (ask your parents) that, when H-E-R-O is dialled on it, can transform the caller into a random superhero. 

The 2019 Dial H for Hero series finds the Dial in the hands of two teen runaways, Miguel Montez and Summer Pickens, and this time the dial not only changes them into different comic heroes, but different art styles. These moments are the main draw of the series, referencing famous comics outside of the DC universe such as Dragon Ball, Krazy Kat, Peanuts, Tank Girl, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and paying homage to such celebrated artists like Dan Clowes, Mike Allred, Alex Toth, Rob Liefeld, Moebius and more over the course of the series’ twelve issues.

We’ve listed some of the best comic homages from the second volume, with links to the relevant comics that inspired them if you want to check them out from our collection. You can also jump away now and reserve both volumes of Dial H for Hero if you don’t want to be spoiled on the story.

Continue reading “Comics in Conversation with Comics: Dial H for Hero Volume 2”