Action Comics #1000: the 10 most important issues from 80 years of Superman

From Superman’s first flight to the issue where he lost his job (and that time he made Santa buff), a look back at eight decades of Action Comics

Eighty years ago today, the first issue of Action Comics was released, with the now iconic cover showing Superman lifting a car over his head as hoodlums flee. It was comic book readers’ first introduction to the character, starring in the lead story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Now, Action Comics has become the first monthly comic book to hit its 1,000th issue. In the manner of major book and film releases, #1000 got a midnight release, with studio DC Comics encouraging comic book lovers to mark the historic issue, which includes stories from artists and writers including Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, Louise Simonson, Jock, and Marv Wolfman. But what are the most important issues in Action Comics’ 80-year history? ...

‘The man’s a genius!’: Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman on Eddie Campbell

From printing strips in a Southend bedsit to working for Marvel and DC, comic artist Eddie Campbell has drawn everything in between, all the while remaining in the shadows of stardom

Eddie Campbell is a genius. But don’t take my word for it, take Alan Moore’s. “Eddie’s is a genuine one-off talent, utterly idiosyncratic and personal,” he says. Or perhaps Neil Gaiman’s: “The man’s a genius, there’s an end to it.”

If you don’t know Campbell by name, you’ll know his comics: most famously, he was Moore’s artistic collaborator on the tour-de-force From Hell, eventually adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp. But the Glaswegian artist produced a wealth of work both before and after From Hell. The Glaswegian artist’s oeuvre ranges from the ultimate punk-DIY – photocopying and distributing his autobiographical In the Days of the Ace Rock’n’Roll Club strips from a Southend bedsit in the 1970s – ...

The Killing Joke at 30: what is the legacy of Alan Moore’s shocking Batman comic?

Published three decades ago, Moore’s take on Batman has been polarising readers ever since, with the writer himself calling it a ‘regrettable misstep’ – but is there good to be found in this violent and troubling comic?

When The Killing Joke was published, 30 years ago today, it was instantly hailed by critics as the greatest Batman story ever told. Written by Alan Moore, the comic won an Eisner award in 1989, hit the New York Times bestseller list a decade after it first came out, and was adapted into a R-rated film. The ripples have been felt across superhero comics ever since.

It is an important comic book for many reasons, not all of them worth celebrating. The 46-page psychological slug-fest posits the ultimate standoff between Batman and his oldest foe, the Joker; the green-tressed villain wants to prove that all it takes to make a sane, ordered person ...

Just how monstrous is the Sun’s ‘Flakensteins’ story?

Its report, confecting outrage that oversensitive millenials feel Mary Shelley’s monster was misunderstood, is not perhaps as philistine as it sounds

As Sun headlines go, “Flakensteins” isn’t really up there with the classics such as “Gotcha”, “Up Yours Delors” and the immortal “Freddie Star Ate My Hamster”, but it’s causing something of a stir nonetheless.

“Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ – and is in fact a VICTIM” trumpeted the Sun’s story on Tuesday, echoing an earlier Times article that drew from a new edition of Mary Shelley’s 200-year-old novel. In its foreword, Exeter University’s Nick Groom writes that many students are sympathetic to the creature given life by Victor Frankenstein, despite the fact that the tortured monster then, as the Sun succinctly puts it, “murders his creator’s brother, pal and bride”.

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Just how monstrous is the Sun’s ‘Flakensteins’ story?

Its report, confecting outrage that oversensitive millenials feel Mary Shelley’s monster was misunderstood, is not perhaps as philistine as it sounds

As Sun headlines go, “Flakensteins” isn’t really up there with the classics such as “Gotcha”, “Up Yours Delors” and the immortal “Freddie Star Ate My Hamster”, but it’s causing something of a stir nonetheless.

“Snowflake students claim Frankenstein’s monster was ‘misunderstood’ – and is in fact a VICTIM” trumpeted the Sun’s story on Tuesday, echoing an earlier Times article that drew from a new edition of Mary Shelley’s 200-year-old novel. In its foreword, Exeter University’s Nick Groom writes that many students are sympathetic to the creature given life by Victor Frankenstein, despite the fact that the tortured monster then, as the Sun succinctly puts it, “murders his creator’s brother, pal and bride”.

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Marvel comics’ Fresh Start looks like a return to old cliches

With yet another reboot for Thor, Iron Man and Hulk on the cards, the cartoon giant is showing worrying signs of pandering to its most conservative readers

Another year, another relaunch at Marvel comics: on Tuesday, it was announced that it is revamping its output with a project called Fresh Start. Its May launch will be, by my count, Marvel’s seventh or eighth fresh start since 2012, coming just months after the company last rebooted its characters, in September 2017’s Marvel Legacy line, and cementing the company’s reputation as the serial monogamist of the comic book industry.

Over the past couple of years Marvel has made some genuinely significant changes to its core characters: it replaced billionaire inventor Tony Stark in the Iron Man costume with a 15-year-old black girl, Riri Williams; deemed Thor unworthy to wield the hammer Mjolnir and passed the mantle to love interest Jane Foster; ...

DC is not kidding around with Hanna-Barbera reworkings for adults

If recasting Snagglepuss as a gay playwright in the 50s or putting Wacky Races in a Mad Max-esque fight sounds unlikely, it’s only the latest – suprisingly successful – reinvention from the comics giant

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Who could have thought that Snagglepuss, that bright pink mountain lion beloved of Saturday morning cartoon shows would one day be reimagined as a gay playwright in the 1950s in a serious, adult comic book? Or, for that matter, that such a reinvention would work?

DC Comics has embarked on the curious little experiment and, in Hanna-Barbera Beyond, given old characters a contemporary makeover. The scheme has seen Wacky Raceland drop Dick Dastardly, the Anthill Mob and the rest into a Mad Max-esque fight for survival in a postapocalyptic wasteland; the Flintstones remade into a satirical poke at the American Dream and Scooby-Doo rebooted as a “smart dog” with an implant that allows ...

Marvel criticised for comic-making tool that bans guns, drugs and bare midriffs

Terms for new online Create Your Own platform for fans stipulate that politics, social issues and ‘alternative lifestyle advocacies’ must not be included

The dream of creating comics for Marvel is one held by many writers and artists, but the company has always been a notoriously tough nut to crack … until now. But, although a forthcoming tool will allow amateurs to create their own Marvel comics, it has been widely criticised after the company released restrictive terms and conditions that ban comics from including content it deems controversial, including midriffs, contraception, guns and “alternative lifestyle advocacies”.

Marvel Create Your Own, which was announced on Thursday, will allow fans to create comics featuring the studio’s huge cast of characters, from Captain America to the Guardians of the Galaxy. The online platform will allow fans to combine various backgrounds and character images with editable speech bubbles.

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This Christmas, don’t give books to non-readers

For bibliophiles, it is tempting to buy books as presents to ‘fix’ people who don’t read – but this is snobbery of the worst kind

You’re making a list, you’re checking it twice, and your fall-back position will be a nice book or two for friends and family to unwrap on Christmas Day. Everybody loves a good book, right?

But wait. What about those who don’t read? (Take it from me, these people exist. I’ve seen them. I’m even friends with a few.) Now you and me, we know that books are great. Books enrich, educate and entertain. People who read books are smarter, nicer, more attractive. People who don’t read books live grey, humdrum, fiction-free lives, bereft of that essential spark that infuses the lives of us readers, allows us to walk on clouds, hear choirs of angels and piss rainbows.

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Turn up the volume: what’s your favourite literary pop song?

Book Week Scotland is being marked by a poll to find the nation’s favourite tune with a literary connection. What would you vote for?

Will it be The Invisible Man or Bell Jar, The Dark Is Rising or For Whom the Bell Tolls? Scottish Book Trust is celebrating Book Week Scotland with an online poll, of course. But this year’s vote isn’t looking for readers’ favourite books, instead it is trying to find our favourite songs with a literary connection.

Some of the songs on their 40-strong list of possible choices wear their bookish credentials on their sleeves. There are songs where no attempt has been made at obliqueness or subtlety, with titles lifted directly from the works that inspired them. Step forward Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) and the Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs (Leopold von Sacher-Masoch). For others, the connection is almost as direct. Bright Eyes by ...

The cartoon president – Trump has wielded power in comics for years

It’s just 12 months since the Donald took power in the US, but he has long been a figure to reckon with in the cartoon world

Donald Trump has now been in the White House for a full year, so it’s time to look back at some of the key moments in the life of the 45th president of the US. Remember when Luke Cage picked up that limo in New York and none other than Trump was inside? No? How about when he took on the global zombie problem? Not ringing any bells? But you can’t possibly forget the time when Trump appeared as a giant head with teeny-tiny arms and legs and designated himself MODAAK (Mental Organism Designed As America’s King), can you??

If none of these memorable appearances mean anything to you, you’re obviously spending too much time reading the Guardian and not enough reading comics. For ...

Horror fiction by numbers: my not-so-shocking AI collaboration

Shelley is an MIT project that aims to produce spooky stories half-written by Twitter users, half by artificial intelligence. It’s – mildly – scary stuff

Cue a lightning flash and some portentous music: I have written with a robot.

The robot is Shelley, who isn’t really a robot, but actually an artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the past couple of weeks, Shelley has been posting on Twitter the start of a horror story, and inviting users to continue it.

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Spider-Man comics finally swing into the big-money league

Our friendly neighbourhood arachnid is finally getting the attention he deserves among collectors – with a new issue shooting straight to No 1 and copies of the first series selling for hundreds of thousands When, as a child, I was given my first chemistry set for Christmas, I started by mixing all of the chemicals together, dropped a small spider into the mixture and popped it on my arm, willing it to bite me. It didn’t – or if it did, I didn’t get any superpowers. Devotion like that illustrates Spider-Man’s enduring appeal. According to Go Compare’s Comic Gains, the comic-book character whose average value has appreciated most is none other than our friendly neighbourhood arachnid, shooting up by 278%. An issue of his first appearance, from 1962, sold in 2016 for $275,000 (£211,000). His latest comic, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, is doing, well, spectacularly: the first ...

From She to Sheena: jungle queens’ enduring, ambiguous allure

H Rider Haggard’s beautiful white ruler electrified Victorian readers and minted an archetype still being reimagined in comics, prose and movies When H Rider Haggard’s novel She was published in 1887, it seems unlikely that anyone (including Haggard) suspected that it would remain in print for the next 130 years; nor that it would also spark a trope that has remained in pop culture – with occasional peak and trough – ever since: the jungle queen.
Haggard’s She was classic Victorian adventure to the Dark Continent of Africa; Horace Jolley and Leo Vincey undertake a perilous journey in search of a lost kingdom, eventually finding the Amahaggar, a native tribe ruled over by the 2,000-year-old white beauty Ayesha, or She-who-must-be-obeyed. Continue reading...

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror to spin off into books – but who should write them?

Stephen King and Margaret Atwood are among the stars obviously suited to writing these dark satires. But lesser-known names might do just as well After three seasons of satirical, speculative storytelling on the small screen, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is making the jump to the written word. Brooker will edit three volumes of novellas – in “high-tech ‘paper’ format”, as he quipped – that will be written by different authors, with the first due in February 2018, the second later that year and the third in 2019.

All-new stories from different authors, yeah?

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Ed Victor obituary

The go-to literary agent for celebrity authors from Sophie Dahl to John Banville When asked by a hopeful writer at the Hay festival how someone who wasn’t a part of the whirlwind party scene frequented by literary super-agent Ed Victor got a manuscript under his nose, the bluntly honest reply was: “You don’t.” Victor, who has died aged 77 from a heart attack after suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, was never the sort of agent to wade through the slush pile looking for the next big thing. From the start of his career more than 40 years ago he made a point of setting his sights on the clients he wanted, and getting them. Continue reading...

The Handmaid’s Tale tops book charts after TV series UK debut

Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel rockets to number one on Amazon after Channel 4 begins airing series starring Elisabeth Moss The Handmaid’s Tale, the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood envisaging a hellish dystopia where the US is ruled by an ultra-far-right regime that treats women as chattels, has rocketed to the top of the bestseller charts after the UK broadcast of the first episode of the TV adaptation. Channel 4 aired the debut episode of the series, starring Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes, at 9pm on Sunday, and within hours the paperback of the Canadian author’s novel had reached number one in the Amazon charts. Continue reading...

The Handmaid’s Tale tops book charts after TV series UK debut

Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel rockets to number one on Amazon after Channel 4 begins airing series starring Elisabeth Moss The Handmaid’s Tale, the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood envisaging a hellish dystopia where the US is ruled by an ultra-far-right regime that treats women as chattels, has rocketed to the top of the bestseller charts after the UK broadcast of the first episode of the TV adaptation. Channel 4 aired the debut episode of the series, starring Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes, at 9pm on Sunday, and within hours the paperback of the Canadian author’s novel had reached number one in the Amazon charts. Continue reading...

Online top ranking: what does Amazon Charts mean for the book industry?

Amazon’s new rating system for the book market is seeking to challenge the decades-long dominance of the New York Times bestseller status For nine decades, the New York Times bestseller lists have been the industry gold standard when it comes to obtaining a seal of approval that will make readers sit up and pay attention. But like most things in the book industry, it’s something Amazon has in its sights. Last week the online retailer launched Amazon Charts, which complements the site’s usual hourly updates of bestselling books. The new list combines what’s being ordered from them with data obtained from Kindle and Audible users to find out what books are actually being read and listened to. Continue reading...

George RR Martin has a duty to get on with The Winds of Winter

The Game of Thrones author is working on four HBO spin-offs. All very well, but don’t loyal readers deserve to see how the original story ends? George RR Martin is, as Neil Gaiman famously once opined, not your bitch. It is eight years to the day since Gaiman wrote this to a fan on his website who had asked whether it was fair to feel that Martin was “letting him down” by taking so long to publish the later volumes in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. That was in 2009, meaning that that fan had another two long years ahead before he’d get his hands on the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons. If that chap was feeling let down then his disappointment must be through the roof now, six years later, still waiting for the next book, The Winds of Winter. Continue reading...