Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns: Who's Your Daddy?

I went and saw Superman Returns today and I liked it. It was a good follow up to the spirit, if not the actual story of 1978's Superman. Unlike most films that rely greatly on FX, if you mentaly edit all the effects out of the film is there is still a story. Not much of one but more than most.

A few parts of the film made me say 'tsk'. Like when Superman used his little known power of Super-Republicanism to spy on Lois and her family when at work and in her home.

The other was Superboy. No way will I buy that Superman had a child born out of wedlock. That's just not my Superman. I could believe Lois would because she is a dirty, dirty girl. It is more feasible to my mind that a pregnant Lois got exposed to some Kryptonian artifact that was left around in her apartment and it changed the kid's DNA than having them doing the Titano. I also doubt he'd leave the Earth without knowing he impregnated his girlfriend.

I'd rank Superman Returns up there with first Spider-Man and X-Men films as the way to do a comic book movie right. It had flaws, namely the slavish devotion to the Donner/Salkind style, but I still recommend it.

That said, it will be a crime if Krypto the Super-Dog isn't in the sequel.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Headed for PMITA jail?

Every time I drive in the vicinity of Forest Drive & Spa Road in Annapolis while I have the radio set to 88.1 NPR, the Howard Stern Show breaks in over the station. The intrusion lasts only a few minutes until I manage to get through the stop lights and pass through the area, then the radio reception return to normal.

I have these questions:

  • Since the network that carries that Stern show is accessible only through a paid-subscriber broadcast am I illegally "downloading" and receiving copyrighted content?
  • Will the MPAA and RIAA come after me for listening to Stern without paying for it?
I'm freaking out.

I'm too pretty for prison.

Those convicts will be on me like a psychic on a rich widow.

The I'm Leaving For Work In 15 Minutes Post

The Ferrett gives us the pros and cons of having a Robot Pope from a picture I posted last year.

I check El Blog de Jotace daily. I don't understand a word but fortunately he posts pictures that have plenty of subtext, so guys like me can enjoy it anyways.

I never want to see the words Hayley Mills and vagina in the same sentence ever again. Angels do not have yoo-hoos.

The twins look like they are being held at gunpoint and forced to perform. No wonder they are so messed up today.

Yeah, right.

The Prophecy of Evil Space-Nazi Yoda.
Probably referring to Angelina Jolie's next spawn.

Bozo the Masturbator.
"More innocent times", uh huh.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vigilante through the ages...

The Golden Age modern cowboy Vigilante who rode a scooter as he appeared in Action #42 (November 1941). He or some successor of his was killed (or not) recently in some mini-series or other. I'm sure he'll be back. Once Whedon makes the jump from Marvel to DC, I suspect the Golden Age version will rove the spaceways in a starship fighting injustice as a Space Cowboy or something.

Here is the next Vigilante with District Attorney Adrian Chase wearing the non-tactical ski suit with the night-safety reflection tape in New Teen Titans Annual #2 (1983). Chase became the new Vigilante in one of the most obvious tales of foreshadowing that ever appeared in comics. I suspect this was on purpose, since back then the new Vig did create a lot of buzz among fans before he appeared. Chase eventually retired and two more people wore the suit. But when they both died (here and here) in displays of amateurish dumbassery he went into action again and eventually shot himself because he was sad.

The next person who wore the ugly suit showed up in Deathstroke #10 (May 1992). This one was an out of control cop and like most strong women in 90's comics the depth of characterization was that she was either in heat or being a bitch. I confess I pushed the character entirely out of my mind because of the dull suckness of it until a commenter reminded me of her. The only thing new about this character was the belt buckle that pointed to the "Fun Zone".

Here is the new, new, new Vigilante from the final page of issue #6 of Vigilante (April 2006). An insane psychiatrist, this guy psychoanalysed himself and was proved to be a lousy doctor and tactician. He got beat up a lot but has a hot girlfriend. He has the power to ambush people and pull the trigger of a pistol.

Then there is Future Vigilante, who is a cyborg version who appeared in the DC opus Kingdom Come (1996). I'd like to see a steam-punked Vigilante (his body repaired after the events of 7 Soldiers (April 2005) by time-displaced Victorian-era mad scientists), in his own twisted series.

The Not-Vigilante

I'm curious about this character that appeared in 1st Issue Special #11 (February 1976). This guy was named Assassin and not Vigilante. Interestingly, there are parallels between Assassin and Vigilante 2005. The costumes are similar and in both stories, Assassin and Vig are under the care of ineffective psychiatrists, get beat down a lot and have hot girlfriends. A major difference is that the Assassin has scary mind powers and even brain-blasted a few criminals (and readers) into imbecility. I'm wondering if Codename: Assassin might have been an attempt to revive the Vigilante franchise by DC but was changed for some reason. It might explain why a stylized "V" is on the costume of a character named Assassin. If nothing else it might reveal that the writer and/or artist of the 2005 mini has a good comic collection and used it for reference.

Swipe? You be the judge.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More comic art swipes: Dr. Strange and X-Men

M.D. #1 (Apr-May 1955) & Dr. Strange #169 (June 1968)

  • As initially mentioned by BookSteve in comments to the post about the Adkins/Finlay swipe, here is the source and the offending panel. This was just shameless.

X-Men #132 (April 1980) & Astonishing X-Men #15 (August 2006)
  • I'd call this an homage even though Whedon went through too much of a contortion of this Hellfire Club story to have Kitty just happen to solidify deep in the earth in a small cavern that held some breathable air and waist-deep water. If intended as a hat tip to previous creators, it's fanboy-ish, awkward and clumsy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dr. Strange, Master of the Swiped Art

In what became known as the self-proclaimed Marvel Age of Comics, new heights of quality story-telling in comic book art was achieved by ground-breaking artists like Ditko, Steranko and of course Jack Kirby. Steve Ditko in particular stunned readers with his wonderfully bizarre landscapes of surreal dimensional space while drawing Dr. Strange in the Strange Tales anthology series of the 1960's.

In my opinion some of Steve Ditko's best 1960's work was during his tenure on Strange Tales. Art that was at first average swiftly improved in creativity. It appeared as if Ditko wasn't all that interested in Dr. Strange at first or was not sure what direction to take it creatively. It was somewhere in the story arc with Strange fighting to survive against Super-Villain Team-Up of Dormmamu and Mordo and while seeking the cosmic entity Eternity that Ditko really seemed to start to care about the character and the work that he put into the book. It was this period I have come to think of as Ditko Unleashed.

After Ditko ended his tenure other illustrators stepped in to perform the art duties, most notably, Marie Severin. Other artists, while competent enough, were not in Ditko's or Severin's class and had to refer to outside sources for their inspiration. One of these artists was science fiction aficionado and fanzine editor Dan Adkins.

While browsing Datajunkie's site I rediscovered this classic science fiction image, drawn by the great pulp and SF artist Virgil Finlay for the for the reprinted S.S. Held story, The Death of Iron in the 1952 Wonder Stories Annual.

The picture rang some bells so I looked through my Dr. Strange collection and found this page depicting a worried Stephen Strange contemplating threats from other worlds in Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts #169 (June 1968, v1).

It is a safe bet that before the internet and greater interest in pulp magazines it was easier to use another artists' work as a muse and have the swipe pass unnoticed by fans. It's unlikely that other professionals did not recognize the origin of the image but I bet this page made the kids' eyes bug out when they saw it (Scenes like this are also part of the reason why Dr. Strange was a must-read title among college students back in the late 1960's).

This swipe is as obvious, though ultimately a bit more harmless in its deception, as the one spotlighting Bob Kane's artistic integrity and creativity vis a vis Batman, as related at the Vallely Archives.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

True Deli Tales

I work the delicatessen. This is my story.

Something I never get tired of saying:

Take it! Take your pound of flesh!

A mom and young daughter are shopping for lunchmeat:

Customer: What kind of Salami do you have?

Me: We have Hard salami and Genoa.

Customer: What's the difference?

Me: Genoa has peppercorns in it.

Customer: Ohhh, give me Hard. My daughter really loves the Hard salami.

Me: Oh. Okay.
Co-Worker: Stop saying 'flesh'. It's gross.

Me: Why? That's what it is. The flesh of dead animals. Killed because they are tasty.

Co-Worker: It sounds bad.

Me: How so? These people know what they are getting. They want some animal cut into bite-sized pieces and I do it for them.

Co-Worker: It's just wrong.

Me: Hey, if the customers can't handle the moral implications of eating animals because I hold a mirror up to their ethics then they are free to visit our large produce section.

Co-Worker: Stop it! You are messing with our customer's heads!

Me: You are messing with my Feng-Shuei.
Customer: What is all that red juice and pink marbling?

Me: Uhmmmm...This is meat. Animals have parts.
Customer: All this meat has fat in it.

Me: Yes, it does. This isn't tofu. It's meat.

Me: Aaaaaand... Here's your cheese. The deeply-embossed thumbprint comes at no charge.

Customer: Cool! I like free stuff.
Me: Sit at home in your dark basement cutting up animals and they call you crazy. Do it at work and they pay you for it. What a world.
Me: At least I respect the sacrifice the animals made. I don't lie to myself all day about what I eat and where my food comes from. I am not in denial like some people.

Co-Worker: It just sounds cruel.

Me: Can I help it if some customer gets a glimpse of Medusa in Perseus' shield, only to realize that the image they see is, actually, themselves?

Co-Worker: Huh?

Me: Have you ever read a book?

Co-Worker: Of course I have.

Me: You think I have rocked the foundations of any customer's belief systems? Do they leave here so shaken by staring into the smoking mirror of truth that they go home, repeatedly say to themselves they are really, really a good person and get drunk on that bottle of whiskey they have hidden in the linen closet?

Co-Worker (To customers): Do you believe this?

Customers (Shrugging): He's right.

Co-Worker: I can't believe you are all on his side.

Me: Cage-free and free-range animals are stupid. The only time I want my food out of it's tiny cage is when the farmers show the animal shock videos of what's going to happen to it.

Co-Worker: They don't show the animals videos!

Me: Yes, they do. And after the movie they publicly ridicule them.

Co-Worker: No, they do not!

Me: It's all about the fear. When the animal knows it's about to get gacked it causes fear. Adrenalin is Natures' Tenderizer.

Co-Worker: Adrenalin actually causes meat to get tough and not taste as good.

Me: That's junk science. I can't believe you bought into all that 1960's Anti-War Berkeley propaganda. You hippie. You are a hippie!

Sometimes you have to come out from behind the counter to get to the salads and prepared food that are way up in front of the case and serve them from the front.
Customer: Oh, I didn't want you to have to go to all this trouble.

Me: No problem.

Customer: I'd have thought you could just do a reach-around.

Me: Hey, this guy doesn't do reach-arounds.
Me: Doesn't working in a delicatessen clash with your stance against animal cruelty and exploitation?

Co-Worker: I have to pay the rent. I need a job.

Me: So...You are against animal exploitation as long as it doesn't affect you personally?

Co-Worker: I'm going on break.

Me: Stay out of the linen closet! Hey, nice shoes. Leather?

Keep in mind this is all done in the presence of customers.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Does Vixen poop in the woods?


She also makes sure that any predators can't track her by daintily burying all traces of her spoor.

FYI: Vixen doesn't mind if you watch, either.

- Panel from JLA Classified #22 (July 2006)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Americans are the new Sabines

We are getting so used to the political corruptions, government incompetence on all levels, vicious hindrance to those trying to accomplish something positive, failure in war, cultural misdirection, having personal freedoms whittled away, spied on and having the data used to do it compromised that by the time anyone can muster enough of an effort to combat the whole messy situation I fear that people will be so used to it they will grudgingly, if not meekly or enthusiastically, shrug and just accept it all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Kookie Super-Ape

Scipio muses that the comic blogiverse is skewed towards the works from DC over those of Marvel. I think it just may well be that way, if only because of the long history and gold mine of goofiness that is the DC Silver Age.

But with books like Adventure #295 (April 1962) that have a cover this awesome (without disconnect to the story, even!) it is no wonder at all.

So what was Marvel doing in April-May 1962 that could stomp the concept of Bizarro-Titano?

Oh, just this.

No contest.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

al-Zarqawi's a lumberjack and he's ok

Today's Top Stories

  • Lingerie found at site of al-Zarqawi airstrike
Screenshot of MSNBC, June 10, 2006

That a leopard print nightgown was found at the site of the obliterated al-Zarqawi safe house has nothing to do with anything. It would have been more relevant to say "Weapons, clothing found at al-Zarqawi safe house". It was not enough to report a terrorist was killed in a military operation, the racy lingerie had to be specifically mentioned. Once again the mainstream media is acting the part of Official Propagandist for a governmental administration.

But for the purposes of the War On Terror, this time around guns are not as sexy as a little propaganda. "Splintered Base", how so very, very clever that is.

There are probably a few reasons why a woman's dainties are mentioned so prominently. Firstly, the insult to masculinity. The implication is that al-Zarqawi spent his time off from beheading civilians dancing around in ladies' underwear for the amusement of his fellow twisted compadres. The only results in doing this will be to make the fanatics even crazier and re-confirm in the minds of the Red State Mouth-Breathers' Coalition that the US is in a war against the destruction of good clean Xian values and what happened was that some moral decay was scrubbed from the sparkling white teeth of God's Democracy. The nightgown also casts doubt that the Little Bent Cog from the Big Crazy Death Machine was on an entirely holy mission. After all, as our homegrown evangelists have discovered it is hard to fleece lead the flock when they get caught partying down with the babes. Another reason could be that the headline may have a different meaning semantically when translated into other languages. The title might well read as something like "al-Zarqawi is a sick transvestite".

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why does the media embrace the Wingnut Factor?


This morning MSNBC covered the story from a few days ago where lightning hit a tree in Arizona, surprising a couple of teens who were at home watching television and causing some damage inside the house. The strike supposedly caused a surge which was conducted into the house via the electrical wiring, blasted out the television and burned a couch.

Ok. Slow news day, it's a worthy story and fortunately no one was injured.

Then MSNBC had to add in the wingnut hook when they interviewed the mother of the teens, who was out shopping during the storm. The mother is claiming her son had a "premonition" of "something wrong" and wanted to leave right away so they rushed home. When the mother eventually made it home she discovered that the premonition of disaster had indeed "come true".

Isn't it a more likely explanation that a bored young boy is out shopping with his mom, is cranky and just really wants to go home to play video games or goof around?

Another perfect example of ignoring reality, self-delusion and editing the facts to fit into pre-conceived notions.

I become increasingly annoyed that the main stream media continually enables superstition and panders to the gullible instead of heaping ridicule on Bigfoot-seekers and Homeopathic quacks like they should.

I'd like to see some fact-checking done by the media before being so careless with their "news".

I have some questions:

  • How long was it between the "premonition" and leaving for home? A store receipt could narrow this time frame down.
  • Did mom indeed rush home based on the "premonition"? I'd like to know how much time actually elapsed. So did she drive normally, taking the usual amount of time it takes during travel between the departure and arrival points or did she speed home, arriving sooner? This would lend some credence to the supernatural claim.
  • Did mom stop off at other destinations between the "premonition" and arriving home?
  • Was there any communication between neighbors, Police or Fire Department or the children at home with the mother via cell phone?
  • Would mom want to earn a million dollars?
Questions directed to the fundies:
  • What were the girl's watching on that television that could earn as punishment the divine wrath of god?
  • Why would god send a premonition to the younger brother when he was punishing the sinning teens at the same time?
  • Is there some way this can be blamed on homosexuals?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Wolverine Conspiracy

While checking around the web I noticed that Incredible Hulk #181 was priced as high as $3800 for a CGC-rated copy. That's freaking ridiculous. What makes that issue so special? Well, according to people that do not know any better and have low IQ's it is considered the 1st appearance of the Wolverine.

It isn't. It is actually the second appearance. No kidding.

The likewise CGC-evaluated Hulk #180 is going for $86. Hulk #180 is actually the comic book debut of everyone's favorite over-exposed mutant.

So why the huge disparity of value between the two issues? What is going on here? Why is Hulk #181 so expensive and #180 so relatively accessible? Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is rooted deep in fan (and comic book store) perception of the character. The other is the effect of the dreaded speculator market that almost destroyed the comic book industry.

As a youngster I followed Marvel pretty closely. I didn't have much choice as the only resource for comics was the nearby 7-11 convenience market spin rack. I had found a few of the over-sized DC Treasury Editions on the magazine rack along with the UFO and CarToons mags but over all DC wasn't represented very well and I can't recall ever picking up a DC book from the stand. Charlton and Atlas had a spot on the rack but oddly, DC didn't. My favorite books, along with those of my friends, were the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk. Hulk #180 wasn't that special to us but we did drive all our mom's insane by running around screaming "Wen-diiiiii-goooooo" all the time. The only intriguing part of #180 was that last panel featuring Wolverine. We all thought he was cool. He had claws!

A few months later when we were all able to find a copy of Hulk #181 we went insane. Wolverine was the best super hero ever! We played Wolverine, we drew pictures *. All the super heroes we made up had claws included in their costumes. Oh, yeah.

You multiply that times all the fans who also discovered Wolverine and there you have the fascination with Hulk #181. That perception was buoyed and carried along until everyone was convinced that Hulk #180 was not that important to the Wolverine story. Hulk #181 became what we wanted it to be. But we are wrong.

The other reason this error has been so compounded and reinforced that Hulk #181, like the cost of diamonds, has been artificially and grossly over valued.

Back in the bad old days of the comic book speculation market it would have been difficult if not impossible to sell Hulk #180 for $200. Let's be honest, Wolverine appears in the last panel of the last page of the issue. That's a hard sell as he doesn't even appear on the cover! But show the much more action filled cover of #181, and page after page of slashy fun and you have a sale! I concede that as a comic Hulk #181 rocks a hell of a lot more than the previous issue, after all it is full of Wolverine (Even though he is wearing the ugly kitty mask) taking on the Hulk and Wendigo in a ginormous battle of the ages. For the investment buyer, the feeling that you are getting what you pay for is important. Buy #180 for what amounts to one small panel at an inflated price and you feel buyer's remorse immediately. I would, and I am a fan.

So to protect the years of artificially induced value of Hulk #181, Wolverine's role in #180 has been actively marginalized and is considered a cameo. This is on purpose. That he has only a cameo in issue #180 is not accurate. To prove this I have included some images to show what a cameo is and is not.

The very definition of the cameo as done by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1940 film Foreign Correspondent.

A Superman cameo in What If #1 (February 1977).

Not a cameo of Superman in the awesome Superman vs. Spider-Man (Marvel & DC 1976).

The famous Sting cameo from the Saga of the Swamp Thing #25 (June 1984), considered by many to be the first appearance of the proto-Constantine.

A cameo of Venom in Spider-Man #298 (March 1988). I would be hard-pressed to call this a "first appearance", but some consider it so. As far as story goes it technically is a first. Then comes next issue, which is also called a cameo for some reason.

Not a cameo. This is stupid and another example of the what constitutes a Wolverine Conspiracy. This isn't considered a 1st appearance but Venom appears on 2 pages of story stalking Mary Jane Watson-Parker in her own home in Spider-Man #299 (April 1988). Why isn't this considered the debut? Because Issue #300 is double-sized, special centennial issue and contains lots of punching. See, comic fans equate what is important to a character with fight scenes. It is not considered a real first appearance in this instance unless the villain is embroiled in a senses-shattering battle with the hero. I guess terrorizing a woman for 2 pages doesn't count on Earth-Fanboy.

Not a cameo. Awful, but not a cameo. From Spider-Man #300 (May 1988).

A cameo of Wolverine from Marvel Graphic Novel #1, The Death of Captain Marvel (1982). Wolverine, along with many others, are just furniture in this scene.

The first appearance of Wolverine in Incredible Hulk #180 (Oct 1974). This is not a freaking cameo. Look...dialog and a full body shot. This is the debut of Wolverine. Sorry, but all you folks who paid big bucks for Hulk #181 got ripped.

The splash page of Incredible Hulk #181 (November 1974). Also not a cameo.

So there is a vested interest in keeping the market value of Hulk #181 high. It is supported by years of inflated costs due to speculation, fan misconceptions and perpeptuated by re-sellers (though not by choice so much now because the issue was strapped onto a greed-rocket years ago). The price-inertia is unstoppable at this point. Too much time and money has gone into maintaining the artificial value of the issue and it will not drop unless the entire back issue market also takes a nose dive at the same time. It is more likely that Hulk #180 will rise to match the price of #181. Sellers will not be willing to take such a huge loss of investment by devaluing the issue. People will continue to pay whatever the market will bear. As long as companies rate and grade an issue and make the price "official" then fans are stuck with it, regardless of the reality.

There would be a poop storm if some company suddenly decided Hulk #180 was worth more than #181 or if #181 was devalued. Doing that would reveal how fragile the back issue market is. I recall some comic book store owners lamenting that the Crisis on Infinite Earths from DC caused a momentary drop in back issue sales due to the reboot rendering all the stories in the older issues moot. The only recourse for buyers and sellers at this point is to inflate the price of Hulk #180. This is not too likely to happen since the issue has been marginalized all this time. I imagine that somewhere there is someone who is buying all the copies of Hulk #180 he can find though, just in case.

Besides, I'm waiting for the value of my copy of Hulk #182 to jump. It has the first appearance of the Wolver-Copter and the Wolver-Cable attached to the Wolver-Bucket lift.

Now that's some toyetic stuff right there.

For an on-the-spot definition of a cameo that doesn't rant or digress, check out Marionette's blog, Dance of the Puppets.

* I created a super-speed hero with Iron Man armor, Wolverine claws (which could shoot out on long cables and snag objects and in one memorable scene, spacecraft), the Gladiator's spinning wrist-blades and nuclear fire-blasting powers. Maybe that was a bit of overkill, but what the hey. It was still a better creation than anything else the last 3 decades of comics produced. The line I am most proud of from the homemade comic book featuring this character was "It's a cheap ship! It's breaking up!"

Grocery Store Artifact: Maryland has crabs

Yesterday, while shopping at a local grocery store here in Maryland I discovered a novelty cookie on sale in the bakery. That this treat has a crab on it is not so unusual in this region. The Blue Crab is the official crustacean of Maryland because they live in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. If you enjoy eating bounty scraped from the bottom of a toxic sewer, then this is the place to be. Images of crabs (wholly red and not blue, oddly enough) are everywhere on tourist nick-nacks and other souvenirs.

This oven novelty is apparently making some tenuous connection between seafood and people who consume cookies. But, really...know what this is?

This is a Gingerbread Man with sexually transmitted lice infesting it's crotch.

This is what passes for humor or pride (I can't determine which) in Maryland. This state is an awful, awful place.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Behind The Lasso: The Fall of Wonder Woman

Sure, it's all Yah-Hah Party Time Fun Fun Fun being Wonder Woman. A member of royalty, gorgeous and eternally youthful, she is desired by men, women, assorted pantheons and Alien Space Gorillas. Her life is nothing but a never-ending stream of lucrative endorsements, semi-autobiographical movies and wild bacchanalias interrupted only by the occasional Crisis or battle with a lame super villain. But one fateful evening after mambo-ing on the dance floor she indulges in a little party-favor appetizer "just this one time" and before she knows it Diana is hooked!

Right, Diana. Just keep telling yourself that you can stop anytime you want. Next thing you know your immortality is shot, you start looking more like a lump of clay than a goddess, you've hocked your golden lasso and you are turning tricks on a Metropolis street corner to keep yourself supplied with The Crack.

The sad career path of Diana, Princess of the Amazons

Once Diana hit rock bottom she prayed for the sweet release of death. She planned to end her misery with a spectacular Suicide-By-Super Villain Crossover Event by dating Kyle but he wouldn't return her calls. At least until payday.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Great Big Awsomeness in Little Packages

There are in existence on this cold, loveless earth some statues that consist of the cast of Mouse Guard.

Mouse. Guard. Sculptures!!!!!

Read my lips in Braille...

If these are not made available for purchase I will die. I will just die.

It is my hope that a Mouse Guard movie will soon follow and there will be plenty of licensing opportunities so I will be able to buy Mouse Guard toys. I will skip buying food for my family just so I can buy large quantities of official Mouse Guard stuff.

Cute, furry mice. With SWORDS.

This is why comic books were created.