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From Xebel to Atlantis: The Origins of Mera, Aquaman’s Queen

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The World of Atlantis wouldn’t be complete today without his Queen, Mera. As the wife of Aquaman, Mera has lived many adventures undersea and on land, showing what a formidable force she represents in the DC Universe.

Mera possesses the ability to control and manipulate water, showcasing strength and durability. She stands as a formidable superheroine in her own right, although she hasn’t consistently received such recognition since her debut over 60 years ago.

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Bane, The Supervillain Who Broke Batman’s Back

Batman: Vengeance of Bane

Unlike some of the most iconic members of Batman’s rogues gallery like Joker and Penguin, Bane is a fairly modern creation, if you consider that thirty years may still be considered recent in the world of the Dark Knight. This international masked criminal debuted in Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993). He was created by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan, but the original idea for the character came from Batman editor Dennis O’Neil.

Bane: Batman’s Back Breaker

O’Neil had the idea of introducing a new Batman and the concept of the long Knightfall storyline. He wanted a new version of the character who could challenge the readers’ expectations. He wanted a Batman who could kill (so, not Nightwing). This is why Azrael was created. He was going to be the replacement. With a new Batman, a new villain was also introduced–especially after the idea of using KGBeast was forgotten, the fall of the Soviet Union apparently made him irrelevant.

Originally named Doc Toxic, Bane was always a Venom addict–a drug introduced by O’Neill in Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20. He was thought of as being Batman’s equal on multiple levels. Chuck Dixon added a touch of the Man in the Iron Mask, and introduced a tragic origin story, making him a “prisoner from birth,” to offer a kind of parallel with Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma. It was Graham Nolan though who had the idea for the mask, giving him a Mexican Luchador look.

Bane came onto the scene with a plan to push Batman to his limits and, when the moment came, he confronted him and famously broke his enemy’s back.

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DC Comics’ Manhunter: The History of a Crime Fighter with a lot of Alter Egos

Kate Spencer - Manhunter DC Comics

People working at DC Comics sure love Manhunter. They gave us J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, but also the evil Manhunters—predecessors to the Green Lantern who took a bad turn. And then, there is Manhunter, the crime fighter. Well, there is more than one.

The Golden Age Manhunters

The original “Paul Kirk, Manhunter” created by Jack Kirby in Adventure Comics #58 (1941) didn’t use the name Manhunter, he was just a civilian investigator with no secret identity or costume. This Golden Age detective quickly passed the title to a new Manhunter, a former big-game hunter named Rick Nelson who became a proper superhero in Adventure Comics #73—a version created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The character who tracked down criminals in Empire City in his red costume (with a blue mask) also had to fight the concurrence as Quality Comics just launched his own hero called Manhunter (aka Dan Richards) in the pages of Police Comics #8 (1942).

Already, Manhunter was a popular name for a hero, but that was not the case for Rick Nelson who was renamed Paul Kirk after a few issues—he kept the big game hunter backstory. Also, when Quality Comics was bought by National Comics Publications (previous name of DC Comics), the two heroes kept the fight on, without even knowing they now existed in the same universe. During World War II, they joined teams to fight with, but not the same. Paul Kirk was a member of the All-Star Squadron while Dan Richards joined the Freedom Fighters.

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From Russia, With Love: A Brief History of Black Widow and Winter Soldier’s relationship

 

During February, love is in the air because of Valentine’s Day. In the Comic Book World, you’ll find many classic and great tales of love stories, from the iconic couple of Clark Kent and Lois Lane and the more complicated relationship of Batman and Catwoman at DC Comics, to the long history between Sue Storm and Reed Richards or Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker at Marvel Comics. And many many more!

Today, we turn the spotlight on a ‘more’ recent romantic relationship in the pages of Marvel with the tragic history of Black Widow and Winter Soldier — Natasha Romanova and James ‘Bucky’ Barnes. This spy couple was created during the classic modern run of Ed Brubaker on Captain AmericaAs the writer said himself “One of the reasons I thought she and Bucky made sense together was that they both have that brainwashed aspect, and I also thought it was a clever way to integrate her preexisting continuity as the femme fatale/fake ballerina.”

The perfect mix of espionage, thriller, and romance, Black Widow and the Winter Soldier’s romantic history is as complicated as it is tragic. Today, we revisit their history in comics!

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Who Is Spider-Ham? The Origin Story of the coolest anthropomorphic pig from Marvel Comics

Now a well-established character in the Spider-Family, Spider-Ham started his life more than 40 years ago as a character for a one-off Marvel comic, without any real future. But who could resist this funny animal version of Spider-Man? Not long after his introduction, Spider-Ham headlined his own series for a short while before slowly fading into relative obscurity.

This situation changed in the 2010s when Spider-Ham came back slowly but surely into the spotlight. First, with his cameo in the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Then, making his real comeback into the comic book world in the big Spider-Verse event, followed by a stint as a main member of the Web Warriors team. And finally, making a splashing entrance in the mainstream area with the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018. 

Today, let’s explore Spider-Ham’s creation and origin story, from his improbable invention to his also improbable transformation into a superhero pig!

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Doctor Occult, DC’s legendary Ghost Detective

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John Constantine wasn’t the first occult detective in a trenchcoat at DC Comics. Long before him, there was Doctor Occult, also known as The Ghost Detective—one of the oldest characters in the DC universe. Making his debut during the Golden Age, Doctor Occult paved the way for one of the most iconic superheroes of our time.

Doctor Occult, a prototype for Superman?

Doctor Occult made his first appearance in New Fun Comics #6 in October 1935—the last issue before the title was renamed More Fun Comics. Billed as a Mystic Detective but more often referred to as The Ghost Detective, he was introduced as a trenchcoat-wearing private eye the style of Sam Spade, specializing in cases involving the supernatural.

During the Golden Age, Doctor Occult did not possess particular superpowers, but he was aided by his “mystic symbol”—a powerful magical weapon that allowed him to defend himself and launch attacks against supernatural enemies such as vampires and werewolves. Doctor Occult wasn’t battling alone; he had the help of Rose Psychic.

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Who is Clea? Marvel’s Sorceress Supreme and Daughter of the Dark Dimension

Wanda Maximoff can be considered Marvel Comics’ most famous sorceress, but she isn’t the sole possessor of mystical powers. Clea, introduced the same year, stands out as a superhuman spellcaster and illusionist, deserving readers’ attention.

She was first introduced as a damsel in distress to be saved by Doctor Strange in the Dark Dimension before she became her disciple and lover. Endowed with vast magical powers and knowledge, Clea dedicates much of her life to fighting oppression, on Earth or in her dimension, with Strange and as part of the Defenders. She fought many menaces (including her own family), led the rebellion in her dimension, took over as the new ruler, and became the Sorceress Supreme of The Dark Dimension.

Despite those prowesses, Clea appeared sporadically in Marvel Comics for a long time and was mostly used in service of other characters, mainly Stephen Strange. Her origins started to be explored only ten years after her debut, and it took many more decades before the character was offered a real chance to shine away from Strange. She had to undergo numerous tribulations, but her fate started to change in the noughties. She finally became a main character in her ongoing series in 2022, completing her transformation from the “mysterious silver-haired girl” into the Sorceress Supreme we know today.

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Who Is Metamorpho? DC Comics’ Element Man

Metamorpho DC Comics Elemental Man

During the mid-1960s, unconventional heroes like the Doom Patrol or the Metal Men found a bit of success at DC Comics. To capitalize some more on what seems to be a trend, writer Bob Haney and artist Ramona Fradon were asked to create a new character in the same vein. The result was Metamorpho who debuted in The Brave and the Bold #57 (January 1965).

Also known as the Element Man, Metamorpho found immediate success and started appearing in other popular titles like Justice League of America (even if he refused to become a full-time member), but he also got his own ongoing series. It lasted only 17 issues though. However, this was by far the end of the character.

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DC Comics Omnibus: The Release Schedule

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Omnibuses are a favorite among collectors. They are large-format graphic novel editions, beautiful hardcover editions collecting reprints of complete series, runs, or events. They are heavy, but it’s often the best way to collect some hard-to-find comics. If the editing is good, it’s also the best way to read in order.

Sadly, these books are not cheap or printed in large quantities. It’s too easy to miss out on a new one. We will try to list here what’s coming, what’s already published, and if there are reprints.

You can also take a look at the release schedule for Marvel’s Omnibuses.

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Madame Xanadu, DC Comics’ Powerful Sorceress

In 1977-78, a new strategy was implemented by DC Comics, it was called the “DC Explosion.” The idea was to give readers more stories for their money and, as a result, happy customers were to buy more and put an end to the unsatisfying sales that started to worry everybody. Multiple new books were then launched. One was Doorway to Nightmare, a horror anthology series with an intriguing new character named Madame Xanadu.

The Creation of Madame Xanadu

Design by artist Michael William Kaluta who based her appearance on real-life model Cathy Ann Thiele, Madame Xanadu was herself a mystery. Co-created by David Michelinie, she was introduced as a mystical fortune teller who did tarot readings to the clients who entered her shop in Greenwich Village (originally in the East Village).

The stories in Doorway to Nightmare were about those clients with Madame Xanadu playing a secondary role. This was for only 5 issues as Warner Communications declared the end of the DC Explosion just after it was launched—barely three weeks after. It was the infamous “DC Implosion” and Madame Xanadu had to move her shop in the pages of the anthology The Unexpected (for only 4 issues). That said, she eventually got a one-shot title simply titled “Madame Xanadu” in 1981.

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