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EXCLUSIVE: Mohale Mashigo reveals Marvel character she’d love to write most

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Mohale Mashigo is the author of the widely acclaimed bestselling novel ‘The Yearning’. Her last book, a collection of brilliantly unsettling speculative fiction short stories called ‘Intruders’ explores how it feels not to belong. Also a comic book writer, she’s written a Black Panther story, knocked an acclaimed stint on United States of Captain America out of the park, and is working on some stories in ‘Batman: Urban Legends’ for DC. She’s also told us which Marvel character she would love to write next, and it’d be a pairing made in heaven. Did we mention she’s also an award-winning singer-songwriter? Well, she granted GeekAfrique an interview, and herewith are excerpts:

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

GeekAfrique: First of all, why did you become a writer, and at what point did you decide to? (Basically, what’s your origin story?)

Mohale Mashigo: I don’t know why I became a writer, but I have always been a storyteller. Even from a young age, I enjoyed telling stories. I started writing for fun, with a friend in high school. She would write one chapter, and I would write another. Even then I didn’t consider becoming a writer. It was only once my debut novel, ‘The Yearning’, was published did I think ‘Woah, I think I’m a writer now’.

GeekAfrique: You’ve written some very well-received books. Which of them is your favorite, and why?

Mohale Mashigo: I’ve written a novel and a short story collection. The short story collection is my favorite because I was testing my skills, strengthening my voice, and having fun. Not to say writing ‘The Yearning’ wasn’t fun, but I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote it. With ‘Intruders’, the short story collection, I visited different characters and put them in impossible situations. It was also the first time I really tried speculative fiction. The characters in ‘Intruders’ are also some of my favorites.

Not to say writing ‘The Yearning’ wasn’t fun, but I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote it. With ‘Intruders’, the short story collection, I visited different characters and put them in impossible situations. It was also the first time I really tried speculative fiction.

GeekAfrique: You’re known for skating in and out of various genres. Which, would you say is where you’re most at home?

Mohale Mashigo: I don’t think I’ve written enough to have a favorite genre yet. In fact, I sometimes find myself genre-blending so I would say my favorite is whichever I’m writing at the time. I feel most at home when I write about black women and girls if I’m being completely honest.

GeekAfrique: Your story in Marvel Voices was brilliant, showing us sides of many of our favorite superheroines we hadn’t been shown before. What inspired the story?

Mohale Mashigo: I liked the idea of young heroes being each other’s support system. I genuinely wondered: Who do these young women turn to when they need a break? What do they do on their off days? They know of each other, but could they possibly be friends? I liked the idea of a secret self-care spot and things started flowing from there. Riri, Shuri, and Kamala were perfect for the story.

“I liked the idea of young heroes being each other’s support system. I genuinely wondered: Who do these young women turn to when they need a break? What do they do on their off days? They know of each other, but could they possibly be friends?”

GeekAfrique: For non-South Africans, what’s the Kwezi comic book series all about?

Mohale Mashigo: Kwezi, created by Loyiso Mkize and Clyde Beech) is a story about a regular 19-year-old who suddenly (not really, there is a whole backstory) gains the hero starter pack of powers. Instead of going out here and doing things for “the greater good,” he uses it to become a social media sensation with dreams of being a global icon. It’s a story about ego vs altruism. We go on a journey of self-discovery with him, while he comes against dark forces that want to get rid of him. This all takes place in Gold City (a version of Johannesburg). I joined the team from issue 7 and the comic is now on issue 13.

“Cap is an interesting character, but writing him was never on my radar until I was presented with the opportunity to write a black woman taking on the mantle, then I was like ‘Uhmm…yes please!’ Nichelle Wright is such a badass!”

GeekAfrique: You went from a brilliant Black Panther story on Serial Box for Marvel to The United States of Captain America. Is cap’s story one you’ve always wanted to tell, or are the times simply calling for one?

Mohale Mashigo: Cap is an interesting character, but writing him was never on my radar until I was presented with the opportunity to write a black woman taking on the mantle, then I was like ‘Uhmm…yes please!’ Nichelle Wright is such a badass, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge. She’s also an activist by day, and Captain America by night. I simply fell in love with the character as we were creating her. Nichelle Wright is definitely one of the highlights of my young comic book writing career.

GeekAfrique: Speaking of that, is there a particular Marvel character you’d love to take on?

Mohale Mashigo: Blade. Without. A. Doubt.

GeekAfrique: Do you find flitting from comics to prose to songwriting to screenwriting even a little dizzying?

Mohale Mashigo: Besides learning the technical elements of the different disciplines, no. I’m a storyteller and every story needs the same thing from me: to tell the best way I can. Perhaps I’m a multi-linguist that way. I understand the personalities of the languages but in the end, a story is just a story.

GeekAfrique: While we’re still catching our breaths from ‘Intruders’, when is your next novel coming out?

Mohale Mashigo: I have no idea. I’m certain my publisher will say 2023, ha-ha. In the meantime, I’ve become Lead Writer for a South Africa game developer (Nyamakop) and we are working on something SUPER-exciting. Can’t say what right now, but it’s pretty dope. I also have a 3-part story in ‘Batman: Urban Legends’. The editor (Ben Abernathy) approached me asking if I would be interested in writing something for DC. I said yes, and I was given the character Kid Eternity. He’s in Gotham and things are getting weird and interesting for him. I had fun working on Kid Eternity in Gotham because he’s a weird and mysterious character, which is definitely in my lane.

GeekAfrique: Finally, what, would you say, is one thing a reader would most certainly find in every Mohale Mashigo story?

Mohale Mashigo: Humour. No matter how dark or light the story may be, there will also be humor. It’s how I navigate my own life and it finds its way onto the page. There is always room for laughter.

COMICS

#SeunSays: Why Bane’s role In Knightfall saga may be overstated

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Is Bane truly the mastermind behind Knightfall he is hailed as, or was he just an opportunist? A super-fan and columnist extraordinaire weighs in on the now-classic storyline.

By Seun Odukoya

The Knightfall saga is revered as one of the most iconic Batman storylines. It featured Batman as he is rarely seen; run ragged to his last breath, exhausted and broken – figuratively and literally – by the end of the run. It was a smash with readers worldwide for several reasons, one of which has been mentioned. A couple other reasons are; it was the reintroduction of a substance Batman had struggled with earlier in his career; venom, and it introduced the much-regarded Bane.

And while Knightfall was good storytelling, how great is its main antagonist, Bane?

Knightfall is the story of how Bane broke the ‘invincible’ Batman. Bane became interested in Batman when one of his prison mates in Pena Duro told him about his hometown Gotham and its indefatigable protector. As the legend of this Dark Knight was confirmed all over the prison, Bane decided that to be indeed feared by all men, he must take this Batman down.

And so it began…

Several issues later, Bane comes to Gotham and starts to monitor a Batman rapidly losing his edge and unable to focus. And he realizes…he is not strong enough to go against this man…this ubermensch. He realizes; The Batman is truly worth every word of his legend.

So what does he do? He breaks out every criminal from Arkham Asylum and watches as a sick, physically drained, and mentally exhausted Batman goes after them and takes them down one after the other. And even though, with every re-apprehended criminal, Batman draws nearer to his breaking point, he pushes through and apprehends every one of the criminals.

He nearly lost his mind twice – beating Victor ZsasZ nearly to death and then giving The Joker the same treatment. He repeatedly refused help from Tim Drake, keeping him on the sidelines on an observe-and-report mission. All of this, combined with his failing health, loss of focus, assumed mourning of his friend Superman, made him easy pickings for an unnaturally enhanced Bane.

So, what exactly is the ‘superhuman feat’ Bane executed that made him one of Batman’s better-revered foes? The only impressive thing (which is really not-so-impressive considering) is Bane figuring out that Bruce Wayne is the mask and Batman is the man’s real face. Everything else has been exaggerated, mostly because of the imposing sight on the last page of Batman #497 – Batman slammed across Bane’s knee – and the sound effects of his spine snapping like so much kindling.

Truth is, Batman lost that fight long before Bane showed up at the Wayne Mansion’s door that night. Another oft-ignored truth is that, despite Batman’s severely weakened state, Bane still had to dose up on Venom to beat Batman the way he did. How many times has he been able to take on Batman, in hand-to-hand combat since then? The only time he seems to have a clear upper hand – at least at the beginning – is when is he operating from the shadows and manipulating Batman, as can also be seen in the Rebirth storyline, I Am Bane.

Also, considering that Batman has been pushed to his physical and mental limits several times before, and by more spectacular opponents also begs the question – exactly what is it about Bane that makes him spoken about the way he is spoken about?

There is a story that happened several years earlier – a miniseries that took a closer look at what would happen if a criminal managed to break through the walls Batman guards his psyche with.

There is a story that happened several years earlier – a miniseries that took a closer look at what would happen if a criminal managed to break through the walls Batman guards his psyche with. Titled Batman: The Cult, the series introduced a villain known as Deacon Blackfire who has allegedly lived for centuries. This skilled and charismatic conman was able to build an army of the homeless in Gotham and hide them away in the sewers, with his ultimate goal being to take over the city.

Blackfire captured Batman who was investigating a series of grisly murders, brainwashed and drugged the Dark Knight, and recruited him to his cause. He even made Batman break his no-killing rule, a move that further haunted the Dark Knight and made him incapable of pursuing him – even after breaking his conditioning. Even the torture and drugging Batman went through at the hands of The Court of Owls in the Snyder/Capullo New 52 Batman run is more organic and creative than Bane simply seizing an opportunity at a convenient time.

There may be other moments, other triumphs in store for Bane, and he may have been a steroid-enhanced giant with genius intellect, an incredible threshold of pain, and amazing fighting skills. The distinction he is yet to truly earn, however, is the title of ‘the man who broke the bat’. There are definitely others more deserving of that title. Blackfire, for one.

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George Pérez, legendary ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Teen Titans’ comic book artist, dies at 67

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George Pérez, a legend of DC Comics frequently considered one of the best comic book artists of all time, died Friday from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. He is survived by his wife, Carol Flynn. In her statement, Eza announced the official memorial for Pérez will take place this month during the comics convention MegaCon Orlando. The service will be open to all.
Last December, Pérez announced that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The news of his death was shared by his close friend, Constance Eza, who posted a statement on Pérez’s Facebook page and her personal Twitter.
“Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator,” Eza’s statement reads. “His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy — and I hope you all carry that with you always.”
Famous for his detailed, realistic renderings that captured both the power and the humanity of superheroes, Pérez rose to prominence for his work on “The New Teen Titans,” which saw him co-create popular characters such as Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and the menacing Deathstroke. He penned some of the most critically-acclaimed superhero comics of all time, including two extended runs on “The Avengers” and the groundbreaking event series “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
Although primarily an artist, he also wrote several comics, including a much-celebrated run on “Wonder Woman,” often considered the definitive storyline of the iconic heroine. Accolades he received during his time as an artist include four Eagle Awards, two Jack Kirby Awards, an Inkpot Award and a lifetime achievement Inkwell Award for his work as an artist.
Born in 1954 to a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx, Pérez aspired to be an artist from an early age. When he was 19, he began working for Marvel Comics as an assistant to “Fantastic Four” artist Rich Buckler. In 1974, he made his debut as an artist in a story for the anthology series “Astonishing Tales.” He would go on to do the art for multiple other Marvel titles, co-creating the White Tiger, the company’s first Hispanic superhero, with Bill Manto in “Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.”
Other titles he had stints on included “Fantastic Four” and “The Inhumans,” but his most notable Marvel title was “The Avengers.” A regular artist on the title from 1975 to 1980, Pérez drew many notable storylines for the comic, including “The Korvac Saga” from writer Jim Shooter. He also co-created the characters Henry Peter Gyrich and the Taskmaster during his run.
In 1980, Pérez was approached by DC Comics to do the art for “The New Teen Titans,” a relaunch of the teenage superhero team helmed by Marv Wolfman, who he previously worked with on a story for “Fantastic Four Annual.” Pérez penciled the title for five years, and it proved a breakout hit, becoming the highest-selling comic for DC. Over the course of his time working on the series, Pérez attracted attention for his dynamic page layouts, honing his detailed, expressive style. After leaving the title in 1985, he would return for an extended stint in 1988, penciling and co-plotting a new origin for Wonder Girl Donna Troy.
After his initial “The New Teen Titans” run, Pérez collaborated with Wolfman on “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” a 50th anniversary DC Comics event series designed by the company to act as a soft reboot for its characters. The epic 12-issue limited series, which sees the heroes of DC band together to defeat the intergalactic Anti-Monitor as it attempts to destroy the multiverse, is often credited as an influence for many other large-scale event crossovers in comic books. Pérez’s artwork for the series, which saw him draw numerous, extremely detailed crowd scenes featuring the heroes of DC, attracted praise. His cover for the seventh issue of “Crisis,” which shows Superman mourning a dead Supergirl, has become one of the most famous and frequently homaged covers in the history of comic books.
Following the end of “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Pérez joined the “Wonder Woman” comic book to help steer a full-scale relaunch of the character. Although he initially worked as a co-plotter for writers Greg Potter and Len Wein, Pérez eventually took over full scripting duties, writing either solo or with co-writer Mindy Newell. Pérez’s depiction of Princess Diana was more athletic and brawny compared to other artists’ takes on the character, and the reboot significantly altered her backstory, giving her a more in-depth connection with the Greek pantheon of gods. Pérez’s run would be cited by Patty Jenkins as a key influence on her 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman” film.
Pérez left “Wonder Woman” in 1992, following a dispute with DC over their treatment of his mini-series “War of the Gods,” which he created as a celebration of the character’s 50-year anniversary. Pérez felt that DC wasn’t doing enough to commemorate the anniversary, particularly when they neglected to put the story on newsstands, making it only available in specialty comic book shops. After DC stopped him from having the characters Steve Trevor and Etta Candy marry in the final issue of the miniseries, in favor of having the next “Wonder Woman” writer William Messner-Loebs include the wedding in a future issue, Pérez stopped working with DC for several years.
During this period, Pérez returned to Marvel to pencil the event series “Infinity Gauntlet,” from Jim Starlin, which became a top-seller and would act as an inspiration for the Marvel films “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Due to a heavy workload with “War of the Gods” and the stress of his dispute with DC, Pérez was unable to finish “Infinity Gauntlet,” with artist Ron Lim handling the last two issues.
However, following “Infinity Gauntlet,” Pérez began working more extensively with Marvel again, including on the 1992 “Hulk: Future Imperfect” miniseries with writer Peter David, often considered the all-time best story for the character. In 1994, David and Pérez also collaborated on the 1994 miniseries “Sachs and Violens,” and he would later have a stint as a writer on “Silver Surfer.”
In 1998, Pérez returned to “The Avengers” for a relaunch of the series with writer Kurt Busiek. The back-to-basics series saw Pérez receive acclaim for dynamic, clean artwork. After leaving the series Pérez and Busiek reunited for the 2003 crossover miniseries “JLA/Avengers,” which saw both teams encountering each other and teaming up to combat a threat. Pérez was one of the original artists of a planned “JLA/Avengers” crossover in the ’80s, which was cancelled due to company disagreements, and his pages would be published in the collector’s edition of the miniseries. Pérez depicted many crowd-pleasing moments over the course of the series, including Superman dual-wielding Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield.
After “JLA/Avengers,” Pérez’s output slowed down, though he remained active as an artist for many years. In 2005, he was one of the artists for “Infinite Crisis,” a follow up to “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” and in 2008 he served as the main artist on “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds.” In 2007, he drew the first ten issues of “The Brave and the Bold,” working with writer Mark Waid.
In 2012, he again stopped working for DC after departing from his role as writer and cover artist of “Superman,” which he helmed during the DC Comics New 52 reboot. Pérez explained his decision as a result of disagreements regarding rewrites of his material and poor editorial planning regarding the reboot. After leaving DC, he wrote and drew a sci-fi miniseries “Sirens” for Boom! Studios from 2014 to 2016. He announced his retirement due to health issues in 2019.

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Neal Adams, legendary comic book artist who revitalized Batman, dies at 80

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Neal Adams, the legendary comic book artist who reinvigorated Batman and other superheroes with his photorealistic stylings and championed the rights of creators, has died. He was 80. He Adams died Thursday in New York of complications from sepsis, his wife, Marilyn Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter. He jolted the world of comic books in the late 1960s and early ’70s with his toned and sinewy take on heroes, first at DC with a character named Deadman, then at Marvel with the X-Men and the Avengers, then back at DC with his most lasting influence, Batman.

During his Batman run, Adams and writer Dennis O’Neil brought a revolutionary change to the hero and the comics, delivering realism, kineticism, and a sense of menace to their storytelling in the wake of the campy Adam West-starring ’60s ABC series and years of the hero being aimed at kiddie readers.

Adams created new villains for the rogue’s gallery — the Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul as well as the latter’s daughter, Talia, who became Batman’s lover. The father and daughter, played by Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard, were key characters in the trilogy of Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan. The Batman run also revived some villains who had grown stale, none more so than the Joker, who became less comical and more the homicidal maniac that modern readers and moviegoers know and love, truly taking his place as the Caped Crusader’s archnemesis.

“We took a harder edge. We decided that Joker was just a little crazy,” Adams told Abraham Reisman for a 2019 Vulture article that made the case that without that classic story, 1973’s “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” in Batman No. 251, comics such as The Killing Joke and portrayals by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Joaquin Phoenix would not exist.

Adams, also with O’Neil, came up with a then-controversial turn for Green Lantern/Green Arrow that tackled social issues such as drug addiction, racism, and overpopulation and introduced the Green Lantern hero John Stewart, who became one of DC’s first Black icons.

Their 1971 two-part story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” remains an important milestone in comics’ evolution toward attracting more mature readers.

Adams also proved to be an influence on generations of artists, giving many a boost or break into the industry. He acted as a mentor to Bill Sienkiewicz, who would draw an influential run of Moon Knight and New Mutants, and Frank Miller, who would go on to reinvent Batman himself with The Dark Knight Returns.“It wasn’t until I sat at tables at conventions next to the same people I would watch treat my father with such reverence that I understood: He was their father, too,” his son Josh Adams said in a statement to THR. “Neal Adams’ most undeniable quality was the one I had known about him my entire life: He was a father. Not just my father, but a father to all that would get to know him.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JUNE 20: Artist Neal Adams attends Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con 2014 Day 2 held at Pennsylvania Convention Center on June 20, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Adams helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping the original art by artists or even shredding and tossing it, influencing companies to establish policies of returning the art, something that allowed artists to enjoy a second income stream.

Adams helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping the original art by artists or even shredding and tossing it, influencing companies to establish policies of returning the art, something that allowed artists to enjoy a second income stream. The biggest case in point: Marvel returned pages of art to Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men and Hulk. He also proved to be a champion of two writer-artists who laid the foundation for DC, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. When he learned of their plight — one inciting factor was hearing that they could not attend a Broadway musical featuring the Man of Steel — he led a lobbying effort that eventually led to greater recognition for the pair, a creator tag in comics and other media that continues to this day, plus a pension.

Adams was born in New York City on June 15, 1941, and attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. He set his sights on comic books early, and while he kept getting rejected from DC in the late ’50s, he did humor gags for Archie Comics. He also worked in commercial advertising, bringing a comics art style to his efforts, which would later influence his DC and Marvel work and help him stand out. Adams also worked for several years in the ’60s on a daily comic strip featuring Ben Casey.

By the end of the decade, he finally landed at DC, at first doing covers, then back-up stories, then finally the main stories. When he was assigned Deadman in the title Strange Adventures, he had pretty much established his style, and it was only a matter of time before the industry noticed. Deadman became a surprise hit and earned him an Alley Award for “the new perspective and dynamic vibrance” he brought to the medium.

During the Batman heyday, when Adams was blowing readers’ socks off on a monthly basis, he also was causing a stir in the DC offices with his art.

“In those days, if the work came in early enough, it would sit in flat files in production for maybe three or four weeks before anyone would actually pick it up and do the lettering corrections,” then-editor Paul Levitz recalled at the 2010 Comic-Con panel. “The great books that would always come in, people would come and they would look at it. And when they would come in to deliver their art, they’d stop off in production, [saying,] ‘Do you have Neal’s last job?’ or ‘Let me see what’s in the Detective drawer.’ And that becomes a ‘Can you top this?’” The artist also understood the value of fan support and was a fixture on the convention scene, where he was lovable, cantankerous and a repository of comic book history who loved being a raconteur. In addition to his wife of 45 years and Josh, survivors include two other sons, Jason and Joel; daughters Kris and Zeea; grandchildren Kelly, Kortney, Jade, Sebastian, Jane, and Jaelyn; and great-grandson Maximus. His three sons and Zeea all work as artists in the comic book or fantasy field.

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