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Marvel’s Black Cat Origin Story, Not Just Another Catwoman

As Spider-Man wasn’t the first spider-themed superhero, Black Cat wasn’t the first comic book cat-themed cat burglar with an ambiguous relationship with a famous vigilante.

Master thief Felicia Hardy was created by Marv Wolfman, Keith Pollard, and Dave Cockrum and made her first official appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #194, in 1979. It wasn’t supposed to be her introduction as she was first drawn for the cover of Spider-Woman #9, before the story was even written. But Marv Wolfman left the book and brought his feline villain to another spider-titled series, the “amazing” one.

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15 Best Crime Comics to read, from Criminal to Sin City

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Some may think that comics are all about superheroes, but even the mask vigilantes and other overpowered costume heroes are just fighting crimes. Batman was born in the pages of Detective Comics after all, next to Slam Bradley and others. In fact, he is still doing investigating work in the street of Gotham, when he doesn’t fight super-villains.

Anyways, there have always been crime fighters in the realm of comic books, from Will Eisner’s The Spirit, pulp heroes like The Shadow, to paranormal investigators like Hellboy or Scooby-doo & co. There also are simple private detectives, cops, local sheriffs, and amateur sleuths in the pages of the Big Two comics or independent publishers–we can’t forget anthologies like Crime Suspenstories by EC comics.

If you are a dedicated reader of crime stories, you know that they come in a lot of different flavors. The following list is an attempt at covering the spectrum of the crime genre in comics with what is among the best series published. You can add to it by leaving a comment!

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Batman Dawn of DC Reading Order

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Following the events of the 2022 crossover events Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths and Lazarus Planet, DC Comics put an end to its publishing initiative known as the Infinite Frontier to launch the Dawn of DC line. Introduced as a yearlong storytelling initiative, it became another era of the DC Universe with its relaunches and crossover events.

Like with Infinite Frontier, new creative teams had already taken over the main Batman series before the new ‘era’ began, and they continued to tell their story without much interruption. The Dark Knight continues his adventures in Batman by Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez, Detective Comics by Ram V and Rafael Albuquerque (and others), Batman/Superman: World’s Finest by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, but also in new volumes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold by Tom King, and Batman and Robin by Joshua Williamson and Simone di Meo.

The Dawn of DC era is developing an overarching narrative that focuses on Amanda Waller’s last nefarious plan. Also, the Justice League didn’t reform following the events of the Dark Crisis. Overall, Batman is not at the center of the big story but still has plenty to do.

Of course, as it is always the case, the following guide is mostly about Batman, but the Bat-Family is also featured. Nevertheless, their books are not necessarily included. Though, you can find them on their dedicated pages: Nightwing, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Barbara Gordon, Batwoman, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Terry McGinnis (The Batman Beyond).

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The Origins of Man-Bat, a formidable friend… or foe of the Batman

In 1964, the Batman titles got a “New Look,” but as 1969 ended, it already faded and change was again needed as both Batman and Detective Comics didn’t sell that much anymore. Artist Neal Adams was motivated to bring the Caped Crusader back onto a darker gothic path and worked with writer Frank Robbins—and occasionally Denny O’Neil—toward this goal.

One of the creative highlights of the Adams and Robbins collaboration in 1970 was in the pages of Detective Comics #400 with the introduction of Man-Bat.

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Who is Azrael, Batman’s Ally?

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In 1992, DC Comics published a four-part miniseries titled “The Sword of Azrael,” written by Dennis O’Neil–the editor of the Batman line–and penciled by Joe Quesada. At the time, readers thought it was just another inconsequential adventure of Batman, not knowing that the introduction of the character Azrael was part of a bigger plan that would come to fruition with the Knightfall storyline.

Azrael, Vengeful Angel of the Order of St. Dumas

When Jean-Paul Valley’s father is mortally shot by a gangster he was sent to kill, he gives his son instructions to follow before dying. This led Jean-Paul to Switzerland where he had a rendezvous in a tiny mountain village to meet his destiny. There, a small man dressed as a monk named Nomoz becomes his new teacher. His brutal training starts.

Jean-Paul Valley is to become the new Azrael, the deadly Angel working to protect the Order of St. Dumas–a secret society/religious organization with a long history, dating back to the Crusades, that was originally connected to the Knights Templar. What he doesn’t know is that he was conditioned to take on this role from birth as were his father and ancestors.

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Marvel’s Blood Hunt Reading Order, Vampires Takes Over The World

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The Gang War concluded only a few weeks ago, but a new bloody menace is emerging and, this time, it’s not confined to New York, it’s all over the world. The big summer event of Marvel Comics is here.

Coming from writer Jed MacKay and artist Pepe Larraz, as the official synopsis tells it, Marvel’s Blood Hunt starts as “the skies have gone dark, the sun hiding its face from the carnage to come. The children of the night, the vampires, have risen from the dark and hidden places of the world as one to drown the Marvel Universe in blood. Earth’s final night has fallen—can even the heroes of this doomed world stem the tide of blood that is to come? A dawn might assuredly come, but not before the universe is drenched in crimson!”

Avengers, Blade, Bloodline, Spider-Man, Hunter’s Moon, Tigra, Doctor Strange and Clea, The X-Men, and more are fighting in a war of a new kind against the creatures of the night.

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Dragon Ball Reading Order, Akira Toriyama’s Classic Series

When it comes to manga, Dragon Ball is a classic. Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama (1955-2024), Dragon Ball was first serialized in Shōnen Jump from 1984 to 1995. A long run due to the fact that it quickly became one of the most successful manga series of all time. A status cemented by the multiple adaptations into various anime series, movies, video games, and other media.

At first, the story of Dragon Ball tells the adventures of Goku, a pure-hearted, naive, and incredibly strong monkey-tailed boy martial artist, as he embarks on a quest for the mystical seven Dragon Balls, powerful artifacts that can summon Shenlong, a wish-granting dragon, when gathered together. Everything begins with Goku’s encounter with Bulma, a brilliant inventor who is searching for the Dragon Balls to fulfill her wish of obtaining a boyfriend. Together, they embark on a journey filled with battles against powerful foes, including the likes of Emperor Pilaf, the Red Ribbon Army, and the evil King Piccolo. Along the way, Goku trains under various martial arts masters, forms lifelong friendships, and faces increasingly formidable adversaries.

As the series progresses, Goku’s quest expands to include participation in various martial arts tournaments where he faces off against other skilled fighters from around the world. He also learns about his Saiyan heritage, a warrior race to which he belongs, and confronts powerful enemies like Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu, who threaten not only Earth but the entire universe.

Beyond the first long-running series, Dragon Ball continued with other series like Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball SD, Dragon Ball Super, and more! Hundreds and hundreds of chapters of the manga were collected in a fairly notable amount of volumes published in America by Viz Media.

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Mister Mxyzptlk, Recommended Reading for The Annoying Imp From The 5th Dimension (DC Comics)

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Some characters from the DC Comics universe are old. In the case of the infamous Mister Mxyzptlk, we are talking 80 years old. It was in the Superman daily comic strip by writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Wayne Boring that the mischievous imp made his first official apparition.

However, like with Bizarro, the planning of publication pushed the real first issue a bit later as Mister Mxyzptlk was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Ira Yarborough in a story published in Superman #30 (fall 1944).

Mister Mxyzptlk is a magical being from the fifth dimension (like Bat-Mite) who enjoys causing mischief and playing pranks on Superman and other characters within the DC universe. In fact, where he comes from, he works as a jester, a powerful magical one. He possesses the ability to warp reality and manipulate the laws of physics, often leading to bizarre and surreal situations.

He loves challenging Superman to some sort of game or contest, and Superman can only defeat him by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backward (“Kltpzyxm”)–a fine trick that was modified in the 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. After that point in time, Mr. Mxyzptlk changes his condition to leave with each new apparition (even if saying his name backward eventually came back).

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Adam Strange Reading Order (DC Comics)

As the Space Race was just starting to become a reality, National Comics (aka DC Comics) went back to produce a bit more science-fiction stories. It was 1958 and Space Ranger was created, and rapidly forgotten. That was not the case of another space hero created almost at the same time, Adam Strange.

The idea for the character came from editor Julius Schwartz and the costume design was by Murphy Anderson. Strange first apparition was on the cover of Showcase #17 drawn by Gil Kane, but it was Mike Sekowsky who penciled the story written by Gardner Fox following Schwartz’s direction.

Adam Strange’s origin story is highly inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars. The character was an archaeologist working in South America who was suddenly transported to the distant planet of Rann by a beam of energy from the Zeta Beam, a device created by a scientist named Sardath. On Rann, Strange discovered that he had gained superhuman abilities due to the different gravitational pull and the planet’s radiation. He also learned that the Zeta Beam technology only allowed him to stay on Rann for a limited amount of time before transporting him back to Earth.

Adam Strange became a hero on Rann, saving the world from tyrants, monsters, and extraterrestrial invaders among other threats. In addition, he developed feelings for Alanna, a Rannian woman, with whom he finally got married.

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Bizarro: Superman’s Deranged Clone is a tragicomic anti-hero NOT!

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The 1950s were another time, especially in the pages of comics like Superboy where strange things happened regularly for our young superhero. As the decade concluded, things would not become more conventionally heroic by today’s standards. Yesterday’s standards, that’s another story. Anyways, Superboy met The Super-Creature of Steel named Bizarro in Superboy #68 (October 1958).

Often portrayed as a distorted and imperfect duplicate of Superman, Bizarro had different origin stories through the years, but he has chalky white skin and distorted features–and is often depicted with a backward “S” symbol on his chest. His actions and speech are often opposite or inverted compared to Superman’s. As a result, he became the source of humorous situations or, on the contrary, tragic ones.

Credits for the creation of the character are often given to writer Otto Binder and artist George Papp, but Bizarro came from the mind of another writer, Alvin Schwartz. He was going to introduce this distorted mirror version of the Man of Steel first in the Superman daily newspaper strip. However, editor Mort Weisinger had reviewed Schwartz’s work and passed the idea to Binder to use in Superboy. The newspaper strip ended up published later and that’s why Alvin Schwartz is not the credited creator of Bizarro.

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