The Sunday Magazine: Pierre Benard Challenge Geek Edition

For the audience who only comes to Colognoisseur for this column I am in the midst of the Pierre Benard Challenge where I am spending ten days on fragrance inspired posts. I decided I would alter that effort for this week’s column picking geek influences which mean something to me. I’m going to do it in roughly chronological order.

At the beginning there were comic books. Specifically Marvel comic books. Even though it was my father’s Batman and Superman comics which got me interested it was reading Spider-Man which hooked me. I’ve read Marvel comics for almost 55 years now. I was always asked when I was going to stop reading “funny books”; never.

Then came a television series like nothing else called Star Trek in 1966. Even as a child it fired my imagination. As we were taking our first steps toward the moon Star Trek extrapolated that to something grand. One of the things I was grateful for the show was the way it displayed all races and nationalities working together as explorers and scientists. I am happy to say it continues in 2020 with Star Trek: Picard.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien was one of the first epic fantasy books I read while in high school. In those days Sci-Fi/ Fantasy took up a few shelves in our local Walden Books store. Now it fills our movie screens with whole entire bookstores devoted to the genre. When I start reading the first book in a new series I always inwardly wonder if it will be the next Lord of the Rings. Only rarely is the answer yes.

At the end of my senior year in high school my two friends and I went to see this movie called Star Wars on opening night. I would spend the ensuing summer seeing it over 50 times. George Lucas tapped into a desire for adventure among the stars that has created an amazing amount of pleasure for me. Little did I know the explosion of the Death Star was just the beginning.

In 1984 I was introduced to William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. It created the genre of sci-fi called cyberpunk. I have been jacked in form the beginning. More than any other style of speculative fiction this one has been the most prescient. Back then it was fiction in 2020 it is becoming reality.

These are the pillars of my favorite geeky things. As I wrote this, I realized all of them were ridiculed to some degree when they first appeared. Now they all are revered without having changed. I lived long enough to see it happen. Ain’t life wonderful?

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Silk #1- The Future of Marvel Comics

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When it comes to movies there is probably no more successful production studio currently than Marvel Studios. The visual arm of the comic book brand has connected with audiences in a big way. As a longtime fan of the comic books Marvel produces I am not surprised. The biggest difference between Marvel and their main competitor DC was that the superheroes on the Marvel page felt more relatable, more like real people bestowed with extraordinary powers and the struggle to adapt to them. As a child I could sympathize with Peter Parker as he navigated high school and being Spider-Man simultaneously. It is this which I think is the foundation for Marvel’s success on the page and the silver screen.

MarvelSilk1Cover1

When I was growing up, girls didn’t read comics. In 2015 that is not true. Women are the fastest growing segment of the comic book reading audience. It has been very interesting to watch as Marvel has actively reached out to that audience. This effort began in earnest with Ms. Marvel in February of 2014 which chronicles a shapeshifting Muslim teenager in New Jersey. In less than a year it has become one of the best-selling titles for Marvel. Last fall the holder of the mystic hammer Mjolnir which makes one Thor was a woman. In January of this year The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl debuted as she fought off a supervillain while moving into her dorm in college. Just this week the character which I think is the best of all of these debuted in Silk #1.

Silk tells the story of Cindy Moon who was bitten by the same radioactive spider which turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man. She has spent the last ten years isolated in a bunker by a mysterious businessman Ezekiel. Ezekiel kept Silk hidden away to “protect” her because she had no training in her powers. Now that she is back in the world she is awkward not knowing anything about the last ten years. She doesn’t know what Twitter is, as an example. This is classic Marvel territory that was explored with Captain America when he was revived in the present day after being frozen post-World War II. It makes for an interesting story hook as this time the hero is not all-knowing and will make mistakes from her lack of current knowledge. Also, like Peter Parker, Cindy Moon is learning what her powers can do. In these early days they don’t seem to function as well as they do for Spider-Man. Cindy Moon will figure it out as we move along with her. The writer who will pen these early tales is Robbie Thompson who is one of the writers on the television series “Supernatural”. Based on the first issue it seems like Mr. Thompson has a definite direction in mind and the first issue is almost overstuffed with plot threads for him to weave together in the future.

SILK panel

Art by Stacey Lee

There is another vital component to comic books and it is the art. I’ve been reading comic books for over forty years now and it is a rare joy to pick up a comic and be bowled over by the artwork by a newcomer. The artist on Silk is Stacey Lee and she has a very distinctive style right from the start for Silk. She has chosen a streamlined Manga style with less of the day-glo components and no enormous black eyes. Ms. Lee’s artwork is as compelling and fascinating as Mr. Thompson’s words.

I haven’t enjoyed the debut of a comic series as much as I did Silk #1 in a very long time. This feels like the start of something big. What is nice about it is it is built on a foundation of Marvel traditions as it swings into the future. I’m going to be reading the adventures of Cindy Moon for a long time, I hope.

Disclosure: This review was based on a copy of Silk #1 I purchased.

Mark Behnke