Only a few days remain until a movie opens that I’ve been anticipating for years: this Friday, the Avengers assemble!
As a longtime Marvel fan, I’ve been looking forward to this blockbuster since it was first officially announced after the success of Iron Man.
And as if I needed another reason to see the movie, downtown Cleveland was transformed last summer into one of the film’s urban battlefields. As much as I love Cleveland, the idea of seeing E9th Street getting blown up on screen really excites me.
Needless to say, I’ll be heading out to a midnight showing on Thursday night near my local comic book shop in Sheffield Village. I plan on seeing it at least twice - once so I can revel in my Marvel fangirldom, and a second so I can enjoy the glimpses of Cleveland besieged by explosions and bad guys.
This isn’t the first time, though, that the world of caped crusaders has collided with Cleveland.
As the birthplace of Superman (created by Clevelanders Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Cleveland boasts an amazing heritage when it comes to writing and drawing comic book heroes. Even today, current and former Clevelanders continue this legacy – writing, drawing and inking for both indie publishers and powerhouses like Marvel and DC.
Awhile back I did a post on some of the ways Cleveland and comics connect - from Harvey Pekar to Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson. In honor of the Avengers opening, this time around I want to share a few crimefighting and sci-fi comics with a Cleveland connection:
Brian Michael Bendis: It’s fitting that one of Marvel’s heavyweights and the architect of a number of current Avengers titles is originally from Cleveland’s eastside. In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis helmed the debut of Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and continues writing it today with over 100 issues under his belt.
Having also written House of M and Daredevil, among many other books for Marvel, he’s currently writing for my favorite Avengers team: the New Avengers. In addition to traditional superheroes, Bendis created and writes the gritty Powers as well as the Jinx line of crime comics.
Fred Van Lente: Called one of the more idiosyncratic and insightful voices in comics, NYT-bestselling author Fred Van Lente shared in a 2008 interview that he grew up in the Cleveland area after moving here.
When I pick up a Van Lente book I have high expectations for a seamless combination of action, humor and really relatable characters — even if those characters are the Incredible Hercules or Taskmaster, which was one of the most simulataneously touching and action-packed Marvel miniseries I’ve read in the last few years.
Van Lente also created Cowboys and Aliens (the basis for last summer’s movie) with Andrew Foley, as well as one of the first comics Scott introduced me to - Action Philosophers! with his Evil Twin Comics cohort Ryan Dunlavey. This August, he’ll be participating in Valiant Entertainment’s relaunch with Archer & Armstrong.
Brian Azzarello: Although he may now call Chicago home, DC’s Brian Azzarello was born and raised in the Cleveland area. He became most well-known for writing 100 Bullets. Published through DC’s Vertigo line, the dark, hard-boiled crime series was honored with both the Harvey and Eisner Awards.
Among a long line of DC characters, he has written for both Batman and Superman, as well as Doc Savage. And although we’re not even halfway through, 2012 has been a powerhouse year for Azzarello:
- His post-apocalyptic Spaceman miniseries rockets to its conclusion this summer.
- On his ongoing run of Wonder Woman, the character has undergone a number of fascinating changes and risen to be a Top 20 title for the first time in years.
- And he’s collaborating on not just one – but two – of the books in DC’s highly anticipated Before Watchmen series - taking on my two favorite Watchmen characters Comedian and Rorschach.
On a personal note, meeting him and briefly chatting about favorite dishes at Greenhouse Tavern was one of my highlights from this year’s C2E2.
Marc Sumerak: After spending time in NYC where he worked on Marvel’s editorial staff after college, editor and writer Marc Sumerak moved back to his hometown of Cleveland in 2003 to continue his career.
In addition to titles like Power Pack and Franklin Richards: Boy Genius, Sumerak’s most recent work includes his first original graphic novel All-Ghouls School and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four: Hard Choices, a free comic in Marvel’s substance abuse prevention campaign.
Sumerak gives back to the Cleveland comic book community as well by hosting POP! The Comic Culture Club. Open to all Cleveland-area comic book fans, retailers and professionals who want to share their love of the medium, the group meets twice a month at the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Parma Heights Branch.
Other Cleveland-grown authors and artists to clue into (and by no means is this an exhaustive list):
- Brian K. Vaughn, who wrote the critically acclaimed Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and Marvel’s Runaways and recently returned to comics with his newest book Saga. I’ve torn through the first two issues of this St. Ignatius alum’s fantasy “space opera” and highly recommend picking them up along with issue #3 when it comes out in a couple weeks.
- Michael Sangiacomo, a longtime reporter at the Plain Dealer on the breaking news and crime beat. In addition to sharing his love of comics through his PD column on pop culture, he is the author of several graphic novels including Tales of the Starlight Drive-In and Phantom Jack, the story of a newspaper reporter who can turn invisible.
- P. Craig Russell, whose artwork is such a thing of wonder that I’d be remiss if I didn’t include him in this list though he’s from south of the Cleveland-area. Included within his vast body of work is a comic-adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and a story in issue 113 of my favorite ongoing series Bill Willingham’s Fables.
While you can order many of these creators’ books online, Cleveland is blessed with many independent comic book stores scattered throughout the region.
I’m a huge proponent of heading to these brick-and-mortar stores instead because you’ll not only be able to get many of these books there, but also explore an entire world of comics worth your time.
And this Saturday, comic book stores nationwide are making it easy for newcomers to discover new reading material. Free Comic Book Day takes place every year on the first Saturday of May and it’s the one day during the year when participating comic book shops give away free comics to anyone who visits their stores.
From the east to westside, Clevelanders have a number of shops to choose from to pick up their free comic books. Cleveland.com has put together a rundown of the different stores’ festivities and Cleveland Scene’s The Dork Side features 5 of the 40+ free books you need to pick up.
Come Saturday morning (after catching up on my post-Avengers zzz’s), I’ll be at Comics Are Go! in Sheffield Village.
Formerly Astound Comics, Comics Are Go! recently moved their store from Westlake to Sheffield Village (5188 Detroit Rd., Exit 148 off I-90) and on Free Comic Book Day they’ll be introducing new and longtime customers to the new location starting at noon.
Hopefully I’ll even see a few new comic book readers there!