Muslims in America, Italians in Russia

In catching up on some NY Times arts coverage this weekend I found two Bizarro-Twins-appropriate articles I thought I’d merge into one…

Chronologically first, Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has a new album of baroque operatic arias called St. Petersburg.  Not a city we associate with baroque opera, but as Bartoli’s latest musicological excavation effort points out, as was the case all over Europe, the Russian court was home to several Italian composers patronized by emperors and empresses, alongside other artists from across Europe.  The pieces they composed basically followed Italianate opera conventions, though they were occasionally performed in Russian, but all 11 tracks on the CD are world premiere recordings so it’s certainly a rare set of materials.


Bartoli herself went to the Mariinsky Theater archives to peruse these scores, which were sort of hidden especially during Soviet times to suppress the history of Russia looking to Western Europe, a binary that’s relevant to this day.  I’d certainly like to know a bit more about those archival adventures!  (NYT article)

The other story I wanted to share was a conversation between three Muslim-American artists on how being Muslim, and depicting Muslim characters, influences their work.  The trio included Ayad Akhtar, creator of the Pulitzer-winning play Disgraced, currently on Broadway, Sundance award winning filmmaker Musa Syeed, and of special interest to us, writer G. Willow Wilson, creator of Marvel’s best-selling Ms. Marvel comic, of which the first trade paperback came out earlier this month!  It’s an interesting conversation in its own right, and Wilson talks to how the themes of assimilation and representation pop up in Kamala Khan’s own hero’s journey. (NYT article)

Ms. Marvel by Adrian Alphona, Copyright Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel by Adrian Alphona, Copyright Marvel Comics

Apparently the new Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City whose own comic debuted in February of this year, is now Marvel’s top-selling female character, and that’s with competition from titles like Black Widow, Storm, She-Hulk, Elektra, and even her inspiration, Captain Marvel!  Not bad kid, not bad…

Seasons and Months Ahead

Met Opera 2014-15 Season Teaser

Met Opera 2014-15 Season Teaser

The Metropolitan Opera announced today that they will announce their 2014-2015 season tonight, so that’s exciting, I always love looking ahead to the next season, so eager and impatient…

I don’t know what it is about the west coast, but two California opera companies already announced their 2014/2015 seasons earlier this year:  LA Opera has a Figaro theme, including the West coast premiere of Corigiliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, as well as a revival of Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas which LA Opera co-commissioned.  They’re also giving the quite new Dog Days by David T. Little as part of their “Off Grand” series, of more unusual works presented outside their main  opera house, so good for that widely praised new work.

As for new opera, San Francisco Opera is premiering a new work by Italian composer Marco Tutino, but I’m also excited by their Handel and Floyd offerings…

The new, Chicano, Ghost Rider from Marvel Art by Felipe Smith

The new Ghost Rider from Marvel
Art by Felipe Smith

Its occurred to me recently that opera companies’ season announcements are kinda like comic publishers’ release of monthly previews, both of which I look forward to immensely…  And these days, with both Marvel and DC taking on a more “season” style publication scheme, there are always lots of exciting new titles coming out.

For example, I think I found my next comic book crush in the new, Chicano, Ghost Rider coming from Marvel.  The character design concept art by Felipe Smith, at right, has me interested in Ghost Rider for like, the first time…  Even if we don’t get to look at his pretty face when he’s all Ghosted up…

Also, along with the new Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel and new titles for their top female heroes, I’m excited about this diversifying push out of Marvel…

Superheroes on PBS

I almost forgot about this myself, but PBS aired Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a 3 part documentary on the history of American comic book Superheroes, this week and now all episodes are online for a limited time only!

Here’s a panel on the documentary from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con if you wanna pre-game post-emptively:


I saw the first installment of the series and enjoyed it, especially to see interviews with some of the original creators in the field who have since passed, like Joe Simon, Carmine InfantinoJerry Robinson, and even some archival footage of Jack Kirby.

PBS' Superheroes book

PBS’ Superheroes companion book

The documentary series has an accompanying book too, reviewed favorably for its inclusionary history over at DC Women Kicking Ass here.

Runaway Fashions

Hey all, sorry for the long absence; I’m easily overwhelmed with school work, and now part-time work too!  So yes, I have a job in an archive…  of clothing!  I’m not the most fashionable guy, so not sure how I got hired, but I’m learning lots of fashion terminology, so very fun times…

Runaways Cover

Runaways Cover by Alphona & Strain

I’ve also lately picked up where I left off with Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona‘s Runaways, the 2003 debuting Marvel comic series about a group of LA teens who discover their parents are a group of supervillains.  I love it and I love Alphona‘s art, especially his sharp fashion sense…

That fashion sense is so sharp in fact, that I was not at all surprised to see he had a fashion tag on his (kinda out of date) blog.  Further evidence of his stylishness:

Alphona's Fashion Illustrations

Alphona‘s Toronto Fashion Week 2012 Illustrations

These illustrations from Toronto’s 2012 Fashion Week.  Snazzy.

Where’s the Runaways crew now?  Alphona had been away from comics for a while, but he’s been making a welcome comeback back at Marvel.  Brian K. Vaughan also had a prolonged comics absence but came back in a big way with the much praised Saga from Image Comics and his similarly adored pay-what-you-wish online comic, The Private Eye, with art by Marcos Martin.  Christina Strain, a near constant throughout Runaways’ run as their colorist, debuted her own comic, The Fox Sister, 2 years ago, so you can catch up with that too…

700 number 1’s, round 2

The last time Marvel tried to give away free digital versions of 700 of their number one issues of series from over their full range of publishing history on ComiXology, the site crashed.  : P

Today is your last chance to try this once more, but this time you need to sign up for this digi-shopping free-for-all on ComiXology with an account on Marvel‘s site; then you and other lucky shoppers will get run of the store in waves, so as not to overwhelm their servers.   Full instructions here, from Newsarama.  Happy shopping!

Marvel Mixer at ComiXology

Marvel announced over the weekend at SXSW that 700 first and one-shot issues from across their whole publishing history will be available for free download through ComiXology until 11pm eastern time on Tuesday.  I’m actually having some difficulty getting to ComiXology now, so may just be totally swamped.

Here’s an NYTimes article of this and Marvel‘s other new digital initiatives (and in what’s either a pure coincidence or some weird stab at cross-promotion, here’s a “Sunday Routine” NYTimes article with David Steinberger, CEO of ComiXology).

Happy downloading!

Marvel Now over Young Avengers

Marvel‘s Young Avengers relaunch by the UK dream team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (with art assist from Mike Norton) hits your local comic book shop today, and as you may know I am pretty excited for it…  As someone interested in writers’ and artists’ processes, I’ve been enjoying Gillen‘s blog posts presenting his thoughts on each of the main characters (with carefully selected, character-specific songs to boot), all collected here.

In Young Avengers, we have explicitly stated we’re doing little to pastiche the decades of history before us. You won’t see us doing a parody of the cover of the first issue of the Fantastic Four, for example. But the flip of that is trying to do something that speaks to the core values that resonate throughout the structure, imagine how a Marvel Universe may feel if it was created wholesale on January 23rd 2013.

Sounds pretty grrreat…  Newsarama has an advance review: 10 outta 10, my friends.  Be pumped.  Be very pumped.

After Finals Catch Up

Hey all, sorry for my recent inactivity, I’ve been wrapping up my first semester of library science school.  I’m out of the woods now though, so back to blogging with some catching up to do!

This week’s BBC Radio 3 streaming opera is a classic, Donizetti‘s L’Elisir d’Amore from the Royal Opera House, up here through Saturday, when it’ll be replaced by Verdi‘s Un Ballo in Maschera coming from the Met Opera in New York.  You can also preview that Ballo live (again) tonight, at 7:25 here from the Met‘s own live-streaming website.

JIllian Tamaki Awago Beach Babies art

Shifting to comics, I missed this when I posted about Jillian Tamaki the other day; forget reverse, it’s full speed ahead for Tamaki as she works on a new book with her sister Mariko Tamaki, partner-in-crime for the 2008 Skim.  Also, over on her sketchblog Jillian muses on the difference between drawing and illustration and how it bears on former students who don’t make it as freelance illustrators:

Illustration is about fitting your conceptual and aesthetic style to a problem. There is a “solving” aspect to it. I find students either revel in this aspect or absolutely hate it. It can represent a brainteasing challenge or be completely oppressive, depending on your point of view. If you want to become a professional illustrator, it helps to be the former.

Also, you’ve probably already heard about the over-the-weekend sensation that is the Hawkweye Initiative, but if not, enjoy Hawkeye as you’ve never seen him before…

Cherokee Valkyrie

Wrapping up National Native American Heritage Month by finally including a Comics post on the theme!

I’ve been thinking that Native Americans are probably the most over-represented ethnic minority in mainstream American superhero comics.  I guess the associations people have with American Indians and different kinds of mysticism and magic make them an attractive source of inspiration for fantasy worlds…

(at left: Danielle Moonstar, Cherokee member of the New Mutants.  Image by Bob McCleod, Copyright Marvel Comics.)

On the one hand, maybe these characters were sort of exoticizing, but on the other, there’s now a well-rounded, diverse range of native characters for creators to work with, certainly more so than for other minority groups…

Danielle Moonstar‘s probably one of my favorite of these characters, leaning as I do towards the X-Men side of things.  Sure, she uses a bow and arrow, is shown as hot-tempered, maybe sorta stereotypical attributes, but she also became an honest-to-gosh Valkyrie, so I think it evens out.

Moonstar was a founding member of the New Mutants, a high-profile Marvel character since the early ’80s, and most recently the leader of the newest New Mutants, despite losing her own powers.  Just an all-around BAMF.  Look out for her in Marvel’s forthcoming Fearless Defenders.

BTW, the Moonstar links go to a character biography on, an exhaustive fansite for all your Marvel Mutant needs.

Valhalla, Home of Med Students

If all goes according to plan, tonight I will dine in Valhalla…

Marvel's Journey Into Mystery #83, 1962Image by Jack Kirby, Copyright Marvel

Nope, not that one; Valhalla in Westchester County, New York!  I was expecting lots of Norse-themed kitsch, Wagner soundtracks, Thor as town mascot… but according to my friend, it is none of that… so now I’m just expecting to be disappointed  : (

I’d feel bad if I didn’t leave something more exciting for you, so here’s a 1944, public domain Quality Comics Police Comics story, for some reason called “Manhunter and Thor“.  Totally unrelated to the Norse Thor, just like Valhalla, NY    : (  Welcome to my disappointing life.

Police Comics - Manhunter and Thor, 1944

That being said, Four-Color Shadows is a nifty blog featuring full, old-school comics, so that’ll be going up on my Free Comics resource page!