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Monthly Archives: October 2007

Geek Out Game: GameBiz 2

Game Biz 2 Stop criticizing video game companies and try running your own. GameBiz 2 is a free downloadable game where you oversee a team of programmers making games through the decades. You throw your fictional gaming company into a simulation competing with Nintendo and EA Games while making games for every console and computer since 1980. Create and license engines, support yourself on generic sequel after sequel, and refine the standard for quality in the gaming world. Once you’ve saved enough money, you can produce your own console, making backroom deals with publishers to make exclusive games. While the interface lacks a certain polish, the game is, of course, free.

Geek Out Game: GameBiz 2

Every Wednesday, I profile a unique web game to distract you from real-life.

So Dumbledore is gay…your point?

Albus Dumbledore, from Warner Bros. So I’m all for promoting tolerance and inclusive characters, but I don’t think it has the same effect if no one knew…or cared. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced last week (while I was away in London, an ocean away from my computer) that Potter’s mentor Albus Dumbledore is a homosexual. Ian McKellen must be pissed for missing out on this role.

I want to know what’s Rowling’s point for announcing this now. Yes there’s fan fiction that questions Dumbledore and about every other Harry Potter character’s sexuality, so I don’t really count that. As a lover of Harry Potter and someone who reads homosexuality in everything (like Batman, Frodo and Sam, and Magneto in the X-Men movies) I never even cared about Dumbledore’s sexuality. He’s a really old dude and that’s ewwwy.

But if Rowling is trying to show her stories to be filled with diverse characters, maybe she should have put this detail in the books. It doesn’t have to be overpowering. Just characterization. This way us readers could have debated and argued and watched the Religious Right fume. Now, it’s just like…uh…yeah…cool. Way to get back into the headlines. You go Rowling.

I wonder if this will be written out of movie Harry Potter continuity. Don’t be surprised if Dumbledore starts making eyes at Professor McGonagall.

7 greatest alien invasions

Aliens are awesome. Millions of aliens invading are awesomer. This week, I run down the greatest alien invasions across media. These are the biggest alien invasions. None of those one alien to conquer Earth. This is world versus world – where the fate of Earth hangs in the balance. So let’s see the different species desperate for a date with mankind.

7. Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day, from 20th Century Fox

You’ve got everything you could – huge alien ships destroying major world landmarks and Will Smith. Okay, maybe there’s something things you don’t want, but Independence Day certainly presents on of the best alien invasions summer blockbuster money can buy.

On July 2nd, several alien ships hover over the major cities of the world. The aliens wait until they are all into position before they unleash a massive energy blast, destroying whole cities. The President (played by Bill Pullman, obviously) uses the advice of scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and hot-shot pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith, who’s dating an exotic dancer, you know, for character development) to upload a virus into the alien ships, giving humans an opening to destroy the invasion force. Even though most every major city is wiped off the face of the Earth, everyone is happy about winning and still wondering when the sequel will happen.

6. Mars Attacks (1996)

Mars Attacks, from Warner Bros. Corny, creepy, and featuring Tom Jones. How can this at all be good? Well thankfully this is a list of the great alien invasions, not great movies. Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks, based on a series of, yes, trading cards, is spoof on all the classic alien invasions, from cliched flying saucers to toy-looking ray guns.

The skull-headed looking aliens arrive on Earth and are invited to speak at Congress where they kill the entire legislative body in a single blast: and on national television. And Mars Attacks, which was released shortly after Independence Day, spoofs the destruction of landmarks, dropping the Washington Monument on a troop of boy scouts, melted the Eiffel Tower, and used the Easter Island statues as bowling pins.

And for simplicity sake, the Martians were defeated by some truly painful yodeling music, “Indian Love Call” by Slim Whitman, which made the Martian’s heads explode. Yay for happy endings.

5. Ultimates #7-13 “Homeland Security” (2004)

Ultimates, from Marvel Comics So some shapeshifting aliens are planning to invade Earth? Who ya gonna call? Since the Avengers weren’t answering their interdimentional telephone, the alternate universe version, the Ultimates, came to the rescue. The second story arc for Marvel’s Avengers modern-age revamp sent Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and an entire brigade of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers against a hidden Chitauri base. The shapeshifting Chitauri, it seems, had set a trap for the Ultimates. For all we knew, the Ultimates were killed in a massive explosion.

With no one to be drawn in their way, the Chitauri set a bomb to destroy the entire solar system. Of course, the Ultimates survived the explosion and launched a counter-assault, in the air and on the land in one massive, world-engulfing war. And when things still weren’t going so well, Captain America called in their secret weapon, the Hulk, who no qualms about killing or eating the aliens. After Thor teleports the bomb to another dimension, in ash and rubble of Washington D.C., the Ultimates proudly stand having saved the world from the greatest comic book alien invasion.

4. Halo series (2001)

Halo 3, from Bungie and Microsoft After spending one whole game trying to lead the evil alien Covenant away from Earth, you gotta feel like a failure. Cause once Halo 2 comes around, well, it’s on. Playing as Xbox mascot Master Chief, you must defend Earth’s interstellar civilization from the religious and technically superior Covenant. The Covenant believe humanity is an affront to their gods, the Forerunners, and so Earth must be destroyed. The invasion goes all-out with next-gen technology in Halo 3 as you finish the fight to save Earth and galaxy (because Earth is very important to the galaxy always). The game takes you all over Earth, with the Chief and his Marines blasting their way through alien scum on every continent.

One of the most successful and addictive video game franchises, Halo not only provides such an over-the-top storyline that only video games can provide, but also lets players imagine the rest of the unseen battles through extensive and unmatched multiplayer matches. Did Independence Day let you do that? No? I didn’t think so.

3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

If aliens take over the world, and no one knows, is it still an invasion? Well, I say it not only is, but it’s amazing. The classic film Invasion of the Body Snatchers shows the citizens of a small California town being replaced by Pod People – emotionless alien replacements who help spread more pods around the world. But the warnings are too late. By the time the authorities are warned, the pods have spread and the world is doomed.

This B-grade horror movie evolved into a classic tale of an alternative to the alien invasion, taking over not with weapons but by taking over humans. And nothing’s scarier than humans who don’t respect your boundaries. It’s why I avoid my neighbor at all costs.

2. Cylons invade the Twelve Colonies (2004)

Most of the time, humans lose the battle but win the war. Well, in Battlestar Galactica, there aren’t enough humans left to win. Within minutes of the first episode, the robotic Cylons wipe out the entire human population across twelve planets. Only 40,000 humans are left, nomads in space searching for the lost thirteenth colony, Earth.

And this is the invasion that never ends. The Cylons continue hunting the remaining humans across the galaxy. And in addition to occupying the original colonies, the Cylons followed the humans to their settlement on a new planet, New Caprica. It’s two invasions in one!

Battlestar Galactica, from SciFi Channel

1. War of the Worlds (1898)

A classic book, several movies, radio show, video game, musical, and even some comic book adaptations make War of the Worlds the standard all alien invasions are measured against. Written by H.G. Wells in 1898, War of the Worlds told of an army of Martians invading Earth with giant, tripod walking machines with powerful heat-rays. The Martians destroyed all of Earth’s defenses, sending everyone, including Tom Cruise, running for the hills. And in one of the most unique ending of all, the Martians were eventually defeated not by man, but by our viruses – microbes the aliens had no immunity to.

War of the Worlds would have earned a top stop on timelessness and influence alone, but for extra credit, many people believed Martians were actually attacking. In 1938, Orson Welles performed a radio show based on the novel as a news reel causing an approximate one million listens to believe the broadcast to be real.

And if Orson Welles likes it, it must be good.

War of the Worlds, from Dreamworks

Every Monday, I force my opinion on you, my fearless readers, ranking the seven of something geeky.

Most influential moments in comic book history: #10-1

This week, while I’m away for the week, I have prepared an extra special week long-edition of the 7. It’s more than 7.14 times better than a regular edition of The 7 cause it’s the 50 most influential moments in comic book history. These are the moments that we remember for their shock, awe, and influence. They shaped the industry to being the crossover filled, variant covered, month-long-delayed industry we all know and love. Here’s the moments…

10. Lone Wolf and Cub Comes to America – 1987
Seven years after Gen of Hiroshima became the first English translation of a Japanese comic, Lone Wolf and Cub hit the American newsstands. Lone Wolf and Cub, though, became the success that opened the manga market on U.S. soil. Today, manga provides an enormous influence for American comics. Marvel employed Joe Madureia, with his complete manga style, to draw the X-Men. Dark Horse Comics created a solely manga line as Marvel has recently. In addition, Lone Wolf can be credited with opening up the market for the successful and incredibly influential Akira film, trend setting Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the art styling of the video games Final Fantasy and Capcom characters. The Matrix film also credits manga and, the animated form, anime, as a major influence.
Though a small niche in the comic book market, Viz Communications (who dedicates itself to produce nothing but manga translations) and other publishers are increasingly adding manga to their art styling as well as manga imports. Growing more and more as the years pass, Japanese comics provide a creative heaven in a land where comics account for 40 percent of the print material in the country as a $5.5 billion industry, compared to the $200 million in America. Manga provides credibility and thus, influence.

x-men_01_jim_lee, from Marvel Comics

9. X-Men #1 Sells 8 Million Copies – 1991
First, this is the single highest selling comic issue of all time. Second, it boosted Marvel’s dependency on its flagship team by creating a second title. Third, X-Men #1 arrived in comic stores wearing five different covers. The unexpected fallout from this brilliant sales strategy was that most other publishers imitated the same trick. Preying on the gullibility of collectors, Marvel, Image, and Valiant flooded the market with holographic, foil, chromium, special artist, bagged, die-cut, and glow-in-the-dark covers desperate to spark sales as collectors search for their next million dollar investment. Gold editions of Youngblood #1 sold for over $100 at conventions a few months after its release. When the dust settled, fans fled and collectors owned nothing but paper weights that fly away in the wind. Still, publishers rely on the “variant” cover as it came to be known, to boost sales. Unfortunately, much of the reason comics entered the slum they did during the early nineties can be blamed on the forced collectable trend.

8. Image Comics is Formed – 1992
They didn’t have a chance. Almost no one in the comic book industry gave the seven renegade artists any hope that their new company would stay open for long. The least of the expectations were what actually happened.
Artists Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Whilce Portacio quit some of the most coveted titles in comics to start their own company, Image Comics, where they could get a full cut of the profits, rather than see Marvel and DC Comics keep the mother load. Liefeld published his first comic, Youngblood, which broke the record for any independently published comic, reaching just under a million. McFarlane’s Spawn beat even that. Eventually, Image Comics grew to top DC Comics for it market share, becoming the second biggest comic company. The dust has settled, and now Image publishes a diverse line with little assistance from its founders, most of who left. The result, though, is the first independent publisher to challenge the big two and make them wet their pants with fear.

7. Julius Schwartz Creates A New Flash – 1956
The superhero genre was almost dead, except for Superman and Batman and a floundering Wonder Woman. Schwartz, an editor at DC, decided to reinvigorate a past hero, the Flash, by giving him no relation to his Golden Age predecessor and gave him a new identity and origin. The new character was a staggering First Fantastic Four, from Marvel Comicssuccess. The new character spawned a revival of the superhero genre, ushering in the age where superheroes dominated the medium. DC defined many of its major characters during this time. The Flash and Green Lantern replaced the original versions and became even more popular. Atom and Aquaman and many others became DC staples.
Marvel comics made its name during this time. Except for Captain America and Sub-Mariner, Marvel created all of its most popular characters during this time thanks to the Flash’s influence, of all the lives the Flash has saved, his greatest achievement has been saving the superheroes genre.

6. Fantastic Four Created – 1961
DC Comics was finding new success in creating superhero comics after over five years of dismal sales. Eager to compete, publisher Martin Goodman asked writer Stan Lee to create a team of superheroes as a response to DC’s Justice League of America. The result became anything but a similarity. Along with Jack Kirby, the two created a family with superpowers who struggled with money, love lives, and getting along with each other. After the Fantastic Four’s incredible success, Lee and Kirby continued to create characters with human problems including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, and the team the Avengers.

5. Zap Comix #1 Released – 1968
For those of you who like Image Comics, Dark Horse, or even smaller publishers; for those of you who like Maus, Love and Rockets, Cerebus, and any other independently printed comic, you should also like a little comic that paved the way for the underground comix scene – an early version of independent Zap Comix, by Robert Crumbpublishing. There were some hit and misses before Zap Comix was published; Zap began the trend. Created by über-humor cartoonist Robert Crumb and a friend, Zap started self-publishing through hippy shops until Print Mint took over production. The success astonished the industry proving there was an audience for alternative comics far before the direct market came around. Though the underground certainly existed without Zap, Zap allowed dozens of artists find their voice without censorship and with an audience. Crumb became the biggest success, spawning an X-rated animated film based on his Fritz the Cat.
Initially, underground comix had little influence on the mainstream. Present day comics reflect the styles much more. Marvel Comics and Vertigo push their censoring limits as well as employ veteran underground artists including Brian Bolland and Richard Corben. Furthermore, mainstream comic shops include a wider variety of clean, but more avant-guard alternatives to superhero fanfare. Every small press publisher owes its opportunity to the road Zap paved over thirty years ago.

4. Seduction of the Innocent – 1955
Comics were the rock and roll before there was rock and roll. The youth culture of America escaped in the vibrant colors of the funny books who, in turn, filled their pages with what readers wanted to see: sex, blood, gore, and violence. The biggest publisher at the time, EC Comics, filled every cover and page of their comics with sadistic humor and violence, attempting to top itself every issue. Renowned psychiatrist, Fredrick Wertham wrote Seduction of the Innocent, a book where he accused comics of increasing juvenile delinquency in America. Though lacking footnotes and references, Seduction of the Innocent became an enormous success and triggered the hearings for the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency as well as numerous laws banning violent and gratuitous comics. The Comic Code Authority, an organization in charge of comic book censorship, was formed as a result. After this, the comic book industry went into a slump that it never escaped.

Detective Comics #27, first Batman, from DC Comics 3. First Batman – 1939
Eager to earn a share of the money Superman’s creators were getting, Bob Kane, employing the help of Bill Finger, created the entire opposite of Big Blue. Batman hit the stands as a superhero that any person could imagine being. Batman had no superpowers. He utilized his intelligence and strove to reach top, physical condition through constant training. Since his inception, Kane added to the basis for superhero clichés with secret lairs, wealthy playboy secret identities, gadgets and vehicles, etc. Batman’s rogue gallery has also set the standard with the Joker, Catwoman, Mister Freeze, and Two Face showing how important the villains are to a hero. For one, Batman showed Superman was no fluke. Secondly, Batman broadened the identity for superheroes that allowed for more than planet moving knock offs. Creativity was key.

2. Spider-Man Learns the Identity of the Burglar – 1963
Intended to be a throwaway creation to end a dying title, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko had no idea what he had created the day Spider-Man was born. Enraged at his uncle’s murder, Spider-Man finds the burglar, defeats him, and then learns the murder was the same man he saw earlier that day. He had ignored the opportunity he had to stop him. Thus, the burger remained free to kill Spider-Man’s uncle. The high morals that propelled Spider-Man into a life of heroics made him identifiable to his readers and an instant success. Since, Spider-Man has grown to be one of the most popular comic characters ever with blockbuster movies and top selling comics. The imitations followed with teen heroes finding a place on the news racks after Spider-Man stuck himself on them.

Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy #15, from Marvel Comics

1. Action Comics #1 Released – 1938
In the midst of a directionless, undefined industry, fans needed a hero. That hero came as just that – a Superman. With enough strength to lift a car over his head, one of the most recognizable icons of the 20th century introduced the concept of the superhero. Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster formed the archetype for a hero in the industrialized world. Everything including the spandex uniform, cape, secret identity, and the word “Super” came from the Superman himself. The genre of superheroes has allowed comics to endure decades of fickle American fan bases has been superheroes. Superheroes would never have come about if not for their patron saint – Superman.

Superman in Action Comics #1, from DC Comics

Well, what a week it’s been. These are the Most influential moments in comic book history. Come back next week when I return with a whole assortment of new and exciting comments, lists, and obscenities.

Geek Chic: When to tell your boy/girlfriend how big a geek you really are

Here’s a quandary. You are falling head over heels for this rare person who hasn’t been scared away after three-five dates and you’ve managed to reign in the Star Trek analogies (of which there are many). But now your hopeful significant other wants to come over to your place…your Fortress of Solitude, filled with all your action figures, video games, comic books and/or Vampirella posters. Will s/he be scared away? It’s a scary thought. But here are some ways to lessen the blow.

  • Prep the object of your affection from the first date
    You risk scarying them away earlier, but better to find out someone’s a geekaphobe earlier than later. Just express your geekiness in cute ways. I like working in an aforementioned Star Trek reference into the conversation, and then tilting my head saying “Yeah, I’m a huge geek.” Basically, play up the boyish charm. Girls, you’ll have it easier of course. Guys will just be happy to have someone willing to watch Star Trek with them.
  • Show the breadth of your knowledge
    You might know every different kind of Stormtrooper, but you also know the current real estate market. You love debating the ethics of super hero registration in Marvel Comics, but you also enjoy a hearty debate about stem cells or about Britney losing her kids. It doesn’t matter what your extra curricular interests are, just as long as you have some outside of geekdom that you feel passionate about. Being a geek is something to be proud of. Not having a life is not.
  • Show a lot of interest in your significant’s other’s interests
    Even if all your girlfriend cares about are Coach bags, express an interest in learning and understanding. We are all geeky about something, whether it’s comics, Star Wars, or fashion or sports. So be understanding and understanding will find you.

Every Thursday, I put my geeky gayness to the task of bring geek culture to the fashionable mainstream. This is your geek life guide.

Most influential moments in comic book history: #20-11

This week, while I’m away for the week, I have prepared an extra special week long-edition of the 7. It’s more than 7.14 times better than a regular edition of The 7 cause it’s the 50 most influential moments in comic book history. These are the moments that we remember for their shock, awe, and influence. They shaped the industry to being the crossover filled, variant covered, month-long-delayed industry we all know and love. Here’s the moments…

Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore, from DC Comics 20. Alan Moore Writes Saga of the Swamp Thing – 1983
The British are coming! The British are coming! These were the cries that began (and continued today) when British writer Alan Moore came over to America to write a minor title called Saga of the Swamp Thing. The twisted writer, known for violent science fiction comics, brought an unexpected critical acclaim to the title, along with a flood of fans. His writing was geared toward adults and filled with dark themes. DC found an audience for intelligent comics and eventually created their Vertigo imprint. Also, Swamp Thing earned his own television show. Furthermore, Alan Moore went on to become one of the most popular and acclaimed writers in the industry. The comic industry imported more Brits than rock and roll companies did, a practice still major today with Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Mark Miller, Steven Dillon, and more taking over the reins of major comic icons.

19. Squadron Supreme is Published – 1980’s
Mark Gruenwald wanted to write the Justice League for DC, but he worked for Marvel. So, the writer invented his own imitations of DC’s big guns and put them together as the Squadron Supreme. Then, he realized, that since Marvel didn’t rely on these characters for its success, Gruenwald could do what he wanted with them. As a result, Gruenwald created one of the most influential stories in comic book history putting his super team on a path to create a world utopia. Themes later resonant in the pages of Watchmen, Kingdom Come, and Dark Knight Returns, Squadron Supreme added controversial, real-life issues that couldn’t be beaten by super powers. Ideas on brain washing, cryogenic freezing of the near dead, stealing to save millions, loyalty, and more were packed into the comic at a time when little was dealt with beyond good versus evil. In the Squadron Supreme, you couldn’t tell who was evil. And that was a first.

18. Frank Miller Makes Daredevil Grow Up – 1979
Marvel’s almost twenty year old hero, Daredevil, was failing fast amid absurd and unmemorable stories. Rising star Frank Miller turned the blind hero from a stale talker to a dark, brooding tale ushering in not only every defining Daredevil moment (until its Marvel Knight’s relaunch in 1998) but showed the comic book industry that fans want mature stories. Readers who started collecting comics in the 60’s and 70’s continued into the 80’s and grew up along the way. They wanted their comics to reflect this. Dark titles like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, and many others followed. From Miller’s example, comics moved toward adult audiences, more violence, and thought provoking themes. The industry gave itself credibility.

watchmen 17. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns Receive Critical Acclaim – 1986
Since the 1950’s, after comic books became the American scapegoat for everything wrongs with kids, comics remained associated with just that – kids. Two comics helped to change that. Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and the Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller, both expounded on the genre of superheroes by first, placing their characters in settings outside their regular continuity. Secondly, the creators did whatever they wanted to do with them. Moore, in Watchman, analyzed the effects of superheroes if they lived in the real world. One hero caused cancer in those who spends too much time with him. The villain drops an atom bomb on Manhattan. In Dark Knight, Miller pushes Batman to his limits. Both comics earned critical acclaim in more than just comic fans. Literary magazines and mainstream reporters gave praise to the immature medium noting at how comics were growing up. The result brought book publishers to produce their own graphic novels as well as bring in top authors, like Clive Barker and James Herbert, to write comics. Publishers also learned how to gear their sales. Readers wanted to read their comics all at once, so publishers collected the entire runs of Watchmen and Dark Knight and sold them in one edition. This initiated the trade paperback industry as well. Also, the fans and the stories had grown up.

16. Dazzler #1 Sells in on the Direct Market – 1974
Dazzler #1 has had little to no influence on the comic book industry, but two words written by its bar code made the difference: Direct Edition. Since the industry began, comic books have been sold through newsstands where retailers could return unsold copies for a partial refund. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, titles sold more than 70% of their print runs. By the seventies, publishers broke even with sales around 30% and 40% making comic books unprofitable. The growth of specialty comic book shops around the same time saved the industry. Distributors formed to bring the comics to the stores under the agreement that sales could not be returned. As a result, publishers found incredible profits with drastically lower prints. Furthermore, comic book stores allowed publishers to expand their product lines with more specific, riskier ventures like limited series or titles starring less popular characters. Also, the independent publishers could finally get a foothold into the marketplace.

15. Wolverine Comes Out of the Sewers –1980
First created as an enemy for the Hulk, Wolverine graduated his two issue appearance to flounder in the rebooted, international X-Men team. Writer Chris Claremont struggled to give the character his place and artist Dave Cockrum hated him. Then, during the Dark Phoenix Saga, Wolverine, along with the X-Men, battled the Hellfire Club and lost. Wolverine was dropped through numerous building floors into the sewers below, assumed dead by unexpected fans who cared little for the mutant.
Then, the unexpected happened.
While henchmen for the Hellfire Club searched the sewers for Wolverine, Wolverine got the drop on them. He shreds through the henchmen with his unbreakable claws an, as out hearts start pounding, emerges from the slimy water, bruised and peed-off.
The ruthless killing machine that went on to become one of the most popular characters in comics. This defining moment went on to influence the stream of valueless heroes to follow including Spawn, Darkness, and the Authority. Wolverine’s popularity can also be linked to the monumental success the X-Men became. And this is all thanks to a villain who pissed Wolverine off a little too much.

Wolverine out of the sewers, from Marvel Comics

14. William Gaines Testifies for the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenal Delinquency – 1954
Initiated in part by Fredrick Wertham’s book, Seduction of the Innocent, politicians, parents, and psychologists went into a frenzy, fearing that comics were corrupting the youth of America. The Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency began searching for the causes of juvenile crimes in early 1953. Chaired by Robert Hendrickson, a New Jersey senator, the Subcommittee started investigating comics in 1954.
On April 21st, 1954, the subcommittee held a hearing in New York City to address the issue of comic books. They paraded horrific images from the comics and described the sexual innuendoes and violent examples the comics contained. Wertham testified with great results. EC Comics President William M. Gains testified to defend his gruesome horror comics. In the end, Gains failed to defend his horror comics as aesthetic creations. The subcommittee ordered the comic industry to self regulate its comics. The industry formed the restrictive Comic Code Authority.
As a result, EC Comics closed down and the industry went into a deep depression. Never again would comics enjoy the incredible sales they had before. They received their reputation as children’s fluff and failed to earn respect as an art form even fifty years later.

13. Maus Wins the Pulitzer Prize – 1992
So you think comics are for kids? Well, this little piece of work tells of the creator’s father living through the Holocaust. Told using animals, Maus relates to the creative success of George Orwell’s Animal Farm as a social commentary keeping the audience at a distance. By winning the Pulitzer, comics earned a sense of credibility that rarely comes around. The rebuttal comic fans give to nay-sayers usually includes a reference to the classic work. Maus proves comics aren’t just about muscular men in tights. They are a powerful medium deserving of wider critical acclaim.

12. Jean Grey Kills Herself – 1980
The hero didn’t die. Those that you root for you can expect to see the end as you put down your comic, novel, movie, or whatever with that happy feeling. Writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne changed the face of comics when they not only killed a major player in the X-Men comics, but they had her commit suicide. Jean Grey, a.k.a. the Phoenix, lost control of her incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers due to a supernatural entity that bonded with her. The entity (also, the Phoenix) turned Jean into a near-omnipotent being, flying through space and causing a supernova when feeding on the energy of a sun, killing the billions of inhabitants in the neighboring solar system. Jean regained control, but the alien race, the Shi’ar, wanted the Phoenix dead. Jean killed herself to save the X-Men who defended her.
Since then, comic book deaths have become major gimmicks. The Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy, Flash, and even Superman all bit the bucket. Jean eventually returned from the dead as do most characters who die. But the influence of Jean’s death remains powerful as it inspired other writers to employ the same plot-device. In addition, it’s hard to shake the feeling of tears when Jean says good-bye to her love, fellow X-Man Cyclops, as she hides her plans from him.

11. Will Eisner Published A Contract With God – 1978
Already a living legend, Will Eisner made his career forming the studio system for artists. He also experimented with the language of comics in the 40’s when most creators were in it for the money. With A Contract With God, Eisner went that much farther by inventing a new edition to the medium vocabulary: the graphic novel. The graphic novel begins and ends in that single volume, usually in a longer length. A Contract With God follows separate short stories about inhabitants of a street in New York, packing simple drawing and short dialogue with powerful themes and emotional moments. Eisner pushed the limits of the medium; beginning with his early works on his detective the Spirit back in the 40’s to tear-jerking drama with his stand-alone stories. No longer did creators need to rely on serialized characters retelling stories month after month. There was meaning the midst of the funny books. Comics grew up and catered to an adult audience with profound messages mixed into their drawings.

Come back every day this week for the full list of the Most influential moments in comic book history

Geek Out Game: Fly Guy

fly_guyWhile more Flash than Game, Fly Guy reveals the softer side of casual gaming. As some balding man waiting you the bus, you can suddenly fly through the sky meeting a variety of sky dwellers, each with interactions you can trigger, sometimes with consequences. Travel higher and higher for some beautiful pixel art and excellent mood-setting music.

Geek Out Game: Fly Guy

Every Wednesday, I profile a unique web game to distract you from real-life.

Most influential moments in comic book history: #30-21

This week, while I’m away for the week, I have prepared an extra special week long-edition of the 7. It’s more than 7.14 times better than a regular edition of The 7 cause it’s the 50 most influential moments in comic book history. These are the moments that we remember for their shock, awe, and influence. They shaped the industry to being the crossover filled, variant covered, month-long-delayed industry we all know and love. Here’s the moments…

30. Chris Claremont Starts Writing the X-Men – 1974
In 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a moderately successful comic called the X-Men. Sales dropped, so the comic went into reprints. In 1974, writer Chris Claremont, with a rotating team of amazing artists, took a newly created team of international X-Men and made them the best selling comic franchise for the next thirty years. Claremont crafted some of not only the greatest X-Men comics, but some of the greatest comics ever. Furthermore, Marvel became reliant on the X-Men, creating dozens of spin-offs and crossovers. Marvel retained its top seat as the #1 comic publisher much to the thanks of the X-Men’s enormous success. And for that, Marvel has to thank Chris Claremont.

29. Justice Society of America is Formed
So DC Comics get an idea to put together some of their most popular characters into one title and have them fight crime together. Even without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, DC made a smash with its Justice Society of America, teaming up the Green Lantern, Flash, and numerous other characters resulting in higher sales and a monumental influence on a new industry trend. From that point on almost every publisher eagerly wanted to create a team of superheroes – and sometimes even super villains. Often a sales gimmick, team comics became the breeding ground for lesser known characters and commanding larger audiences. The Justice League, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and dozens more surfaced in the decades to come.

Incredible Hulk, from Marvel Comics 28. First Hulk – 1962
As the comic book version of Jekyll and Hyde, the Hulk showed superheroes didn’t have to be boy scouts. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk could not be named a villain or a hero. He fell into a gray area because he could not control his destructive actions. The Hulk laid the seed for characters like Wolverine and the Publisher who also didn’t fall under easy classifications.

27. Young Romance #1 Hits the Stands – 1947
The creators of Captain America, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, conceived of another revolutionary comic having little to no relation to superheroes. Young Romance became one of the best selling comics in the genre it created: the romance comic. Within a short amount of time, romance comics covered almost half the newsstands, skyrocketing in sales. The stories, for the most part, were written by men and promoted women marrying and caring the home. Female characters that had careers and did not marry, no matter how successful, were always depressed.
Of all the knockoffs and spin-offs, most ended within a few years, including Young Romance. But one publisher made its reputation and success due to Young Romance’s inspiration. The teenage romance comics starring Archie and friends went on to over fifty years of readers buying various titles that have made the character a household name. Young Romance paved the way.

26. First Vampirella – 1976
Though her recent comics have been a series of financial misses, Vampirella’s introduction into the comic book world drastically changed how super heroines acted. Instead of the good girls like Phoenix and Wonder Woman, Vampirella imitated the ruthless, bloodlust that male characters like Wolverine introduced. She was the first female character to not uphold the wholesome views for women. She killed. The “bad girl” trend came to conquer the women of comics; they now had attitude and were prepared to fight on the same level as the men.

25. Crisis on Infinite Earths Rejuvenates DC Comics – 1985
In an attempt to save its convoluted, chaotic, and crowded universe, DC devised a way to fix their character population problem: kill everybody. Giving the reins to Marv Wolfman and George Perez, DC decided to destroy the dozens of different Earths and realities that had been created over the years. Hundreds of known and important characters, including the Flash and Supergirl, were killed. Anything that you thought happened to Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman in the past fifty years, didn’t. The DC Universe was rewritten and started over from nearly scratch. After incredible media attention, DC Comics became readable again. DC saved itself and became more successful as a result.

24. Captain America Punches Hitler – 1941
Amid controversy, Marvel (at the time called Atlas Comics) printed Jack Kirby’s cover where a superhero dressed in a suit resembling the American flag clocks Hitler in the jaw. Even before the United States went to war, superheroes already got involved. Captain America led the fray in terms of his symbolic nature. Created by Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America went on to become Marvel’s best selling title throughout the forties. Though canceled in the 50’s, Cap returned in the next decade to continued standing for the American Way. His symbolism deepened the complexity of superheroes by giving them a cause to fight for that everyone can identify with.

captain_america_comics, from marvel comics

23. Vertigo is Started – 1993
In a time when publishers were looking for quick sales and huge market shares, DC concentrated a small portion of its efforts into a new imprint geared to adult readers. Ignoring the comic code, creators could run free with their own stories and characters. Top writers like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman immersed themselves in the creative freedom while Vertigo gave birth to new, major talents like Garth Ennis and Brian Azzarello. Vertigo found great success in its non-mainstream material. Vertigo gave alternative comics a place in the mainstream. Also, the imprint helped mark the end of the Comic Code. More mature titles continue to surface where Vertigo set the stage.

wonder_woman_first_appearance, from DC Comics 22. Wonder Woman is Created – 1941
Ironically, a man created the first major female superhero. Dr. William Moulton Marston, also the inventor of the lie detector, created Wonder Woman to relay his beliefs in equal rights for women. His resulting heroine became one of the longest published comic book characters. Few other female leads have starred in a comic that lasted for more than several years.
Though Wonder Woman’s initial effect on the industry resulted in more negatives than positives, other female leads appeared, but with the common theme of appealing to boys by having the heroines frequently getting tied up.
Overall, Wonder Woman inspired the super heroine archetype. She holds her own in battle solo or on a team, which led to the dominance of Invisible Woman and the Phoenix on the their teams, the Fantastic Four and X-Men respectively. Every other attempt to create a star female character came from Wonder Woman’s influence. Just like in her comics, she barged into this man’s world and made comics safer for women.

21. EC Comics Begins – 1950
Originally a publisher of educational comics, William Gains inherited EC Comics from Max Gains, his father. William changed EC into a line of horror comics with gruesome results. EC’s comics were littered with gore, blood, and satirical overtones undermining the status quo. In addition, EC set the artistic standard at its time being one of the only publishers encouraging creativity, garnering the first star system in comics. EC allowed their artists to sign their works, something few publishers allowed in the 40’s and 50’s.
EC Comics additionally hurt the industry for many of the reasons attributed to its success. EC’s exceedingly gruesome titles caught the attention of parents, psychologists, and politicians who blamed the violence and subject matter on the increase in Juvenal Delinquency. Governments and activities strove to ban violent comics, eventually leading to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenal Delinquency hearings where Gains testified. EC got shut down and comics fell under strict censorship. In time, EC’s influence would be felt through movies and television. Tales from the Crypt reproduced the EC’s comics stories and Mad Magazine went on to be published by DC.

Come back every day this week for the full list of the Most influential moments in comic book history

Most influential moments in comic book history: #40-31

This week, while I’m away for the week, I have prepared an extra special week long-edition of the 7. It’s more than 7.14 times better than a regular edition of The 7 cause it’s the 50 most influential moments in comic book history. These are the moments that we remember for their shock, awe, and influence. They shaped the industry to being the crossover filled, variant covered, month-long-delayed industry we all know and love. Here’s the moments…

40. John Byrne Recreates Superman – 1986
After years of convoluted, campy, and just plain bad stories, Superman needed some saving. Known for making the failing Fantastic Four a best-selling title, John Byrne started his run on Superman with a six-issue mini-series called Man of Steel where Byrne completely recreated Superman’s origins starting him in the 1980’s. His parents were still alive, Lois had her competitive attitude, and Superman again appealed to the masses. Byrne made all prior Superman stories disappear; the current stories were a smashing success. His retooling gave him the reputation of a Mr. Fix-it in the industry, though his later attempts failed to gain the same success. However, Man of Steel saved Superman. It made the Big Blue readable and produced some of his best stories. The industry also learned how much control creators had on the continuity of characters. From then on, characters were redesigned, replaced, and rebooted in the new trend plaguing and attracting fans.

Marvels by Alex Ross, from Marvel 39. Alex Ross Paints Marvels -1995
Comic book fans are known cheapskates ($2.25 cover prices are nothing but an outrage, even though we pay them anyway). So bow in awe of a single artist who can pry $9.95 from over one hundred thousand fan boy pockets for his comics. The uber-painter Alex Ross resembles the 600 pound gorilla in regards to getting what he wants in the comic industry. And it all began when, out of no where, this painter with a style near photo-quality, created the instant classic with Kurt Busiek, Marvels. Retelling key moments in Marvel’s history, Marvels touched audience hearts and made an over-night sensation in Ross who went on to create another classic for DC, Kingdom Come. He gave credibility to doing comics with more than just markets and pencils. Painting gain credibility as did creativity. Now, Ross does what he wants, whether it is over-tabloid-sized comics, bringing the 80’s sensation Battle of the Planets to comic form, or being the plotter and creative director on Marvel’s Earth X and subsequent sequels, Alex Ross has the comic industry wrapped around his finger. When he speaks, we listen. When he draws, we spend our money.

38. Marvel Comics Goes Bankrupt – 1995
The first reaction: fear. Fans worried that Marvel was going to sell its characters to the highest bidder. But that didn’t happen. Instead, after a lengthy reorganizing, Marvel weathered the storm to become stronger and more successful than it had been in years. Like in therapy, one must reach the bottom before he or she can work back up – same for business. Once Marvel hit the bottom, it changed everything it could to regain its audience. The results have been nothing short of stellar. Marvel replaced its President with Harvard Law School alum Bill Jemas and named a new editor-in-chief in Joe Quesada. Almost all of Marvel’s main characters dominate the Top 50 sold comics with nine of them being in the top 10 for December of 2002. Movies started becoming more than just rumors. The unexpected side-effect was that Marvel let Stan Lee go from his exclusive contract. As a result, Lee went on to write a series of DC Comics as well as starting his own internet company.
After falling flat on its face, Marvel realized where it went wrong and did well to replace their mistakes with risks that paid off in not only sales, but fan satisfaction.

37. Mad Magazine Spoofs Superman – 1953
Mad Magazine began as a comic book published by EC Comics that spoofed and satire everything possible. Eventually, the comic invented their interpretation for DC’s big gun, Superduperman. Outraged, DC sued to prevent Mad from ever poking fun at Superman again. The courts ruled in favor of Mad saying that spoofs were lawful under the First Amendment. This ruling allowed Mad to remain a strong product for years to come. In addition, Mad inspired hundreds of imitators including Not Brand Echh, Sick, Crazy, and Arrgh. Even the underground comix owe their creative juices to reading pages of Mad. Furthermore, Mad Magazine (eventually bought by DC Comics) became a pop culture symbol receiving press on Star Trek, the Simpsons, as well as its own sketch comedy show.

Death of Superman, from DC Comics 36. Superman Dies –1993
With sales lagging for DC’s flagship character, the publisher needed a miracle. When they couldn’t find one, Superman creators took the opposite extreme and decided to kill him off, something that Superman creators always brought up but never acted upon. Superman’s death became a reality. Mainstream news and entertainment programs devoted massive amounts of attention to the sensational event. Fans and non-fans piled into the comic stores to buy Superman #75 where Big Blue died, expecting the specially bagged issue to skyrocket in value. Almost six million copies were sold, sparking DC to continue a long line of epic storylines hyping to retain the stellar audience. Sadly, DC’s subsequent stories failed to do anything but scare away fans. Superman became nothing but a stream of watered down gimmicks for sales, inspired by the success of his death. DC has finally rejuvenated the franchise, but for about seven years, the damage had been done.

35. Joe Madureia Draws the X-Men – 1994
With manga becoming increasingly popular in America and greatly influencing the art of a few titles, Marvel decided to trust its best selling title with a no-name talent, Joe Madureia, who started on Uncanny X-Men #312. Quickly, Madureia went on to become one of the most popular comic book artists and paving the way for manga to find success in the mainstream. Pat Lee and Adam Hughes and many others made their names from a deep influence from manga and starting to take over American styles.

34. Secret Wars Happen – 1984
Marvel Comics created the idea of a universe where all of their characters interacted. Their limited series, Secret Wars, brought that universe to the next level. Marvel took its top heroes and its top villains, placed them on an alien planet, and pitted them against each other. The result spawned spin-off stories in each character’s respective titles, a sequel series, dozens of toy lines, the alien costume that would eventually become Venom, and, above all, the concept of a maxi-series. DC’s eventually Crisis on Infinite Earths owes itself to the Secret Wars as that series showed publishers could find major sales in manufactured events that everyone knew would eventually end. Epic story lines that dominate the major publishers came because of the commercial success of the Secret Wars.

33. Spider-Man Combats Drugs – 1970
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to add an anti-drug message into one of Marvel’s comics. Lee incorporated the theme into Marvel’s best selling title, the Amazing Spider-Man. When Marvel sent the comics to the Comic Code, the Code refused to approve them. Marvel published the comics anyway, to the industry’s dismay.
The story was still an enormous success and brought into question the validity of the code. As a result, the industry revised the code allowing for more political commentary and reflections of the real world. With the world changing, comics needed to match the trend. Spider-Man and Marvel led the way.

Detective Comics #38, first Robin, from DC Comics 32. Robin Sets the Standard for Sidekicks – 1940
One of the most popular trends during the Golden Age of comics was giving superheroes a teenage sidekick. This appealed to the youthful readers who dreamed of being superheroes themselves. Robin, Batman’s sidekick, became the most popular and only one to last past the fifties, let alone until the present. The relationship of Batman and Robin set the cliché of superhero sidekicks that went on to be imitated and spoofed in hundreds of sources. Almost all superheroes during the 40’s and 50’s had sidekicks. Robin inspired the trend what became a staple in the medium.

31. Superman and Spider-Man Team Up – 1976
This idea was so simple, even the Hulk could have thought it up. Marvel takes its most popular character, Spider-Man, and teams him up with DC’s most popular character, Superman. The result? The first company crossover…EVER. After this manufactured tale of great heroes teaming up against their worst villains, Marvel and DC continued the trend, even to today when the publishers recently announced their JLA/Avengers team-up. Since then, almost every publisher has participated in a crossover with another, whether for a gimmick or great storytelling. Nevertheless, the idea became common practice.

Superman versus Spider-Man, from Marvel and DC Comics

Come back every day this week for the full list of the Most influential moments in comic book history