What’s in a Moment?

There are two challenges to acting that never seem to go away. The first is listening. We get so focused on memorizing our lines that often, you are just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can get that line out.  (I was in a production of Henry IV Part 1, playing Hal, and realized halfway through our run that the guy who was playing my father, the King, was way more deaf than he had let on, and was basically waiting for my lips to stop moving so he could speak his next line–I don't blame him for not listening, but it gave me pause.) The other challenge is related to listening–it's living in the moment. Being present. Making the time you are living in the most important time–the only time–that you are paying attention to. It's tricky, especially when doing stuff on film, when you are surrounded by lots of equipment and people, most of whom are waiting for you to get it over with so they can get to the next shot and get home. However, when you hit it, when you are committed, the audience knows it.

Which brings me, finally, to comics. When you talk about comics with someone, we often discuss favorite characters, writers and titles, but once you come to some kind of common understanding, you invariably start your sentences with some form of, "Remember when ___ happened? Wasn't that ___?"  Everything else is just a foundation for memorable moments. (Of course, Conor's been on top of this for awhile–just do a search on "Great Moments" on the site!)

Issue #35 of Scalped was the inspration for this article. If you have never read that title but are curious to see what the buzz is about, you should run to the store and pick up this issue.  While it may not be representative of what the rest of the story is like, but it gives you a feeling of the "world" the book takes place in and, for me, was an incredibly touching story. There's a moment when the husband has to go into town that was incredibly touching and it's all because Jason Aaron was able to do enough work beforehand to set up an expectation that made the moment a bittersweet surprise…it was just awesome. There were lots of other moments, too, like when the couple is laying awake in bed, thinking…it sounds super boring as I reread this paragraph, but that's what's great about these kinds of moments–sometimes the only way to describe them is to experience them firsthand. 

What's cool about comics, as opposed to, say, regular prose books, is that when you discuss a comic book story with someone, the imagery is consistent, which means the writer and artist can control the experience in a very relatively focused way. The writer doesn't have to use words to set up the experience, he can work with the artist to make a silent scene that really realizes that maxim, "a picture is worth a thousand words".  It's a bit of magic when the creators can spark honest emotion from the reader, not by pounding the reader of the head with dialogue and narration, but with a simple look, a look that says volumes because the writers have embued the character with a consistent presence, with real intention. There are so many tender (and silent) scenes throughout that issue, it's really just an amazing piece of work.

Obviously there have been so many iconic moments in comic history that it is impossible to list them, so I will just mention a few recent panels that came to mind as I thought about this story. I remember in Final Crisis: Requiem when Batman put the cookie on the Martian Manhunter's coffin (a tragic loss done right). I remember the last issue of Local, when Megan seems to be talking to her mom, but she's sitting at an empty table. I remember when Tim Drake lost his father during Identity Crisis.  I remember the story that Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb did, when a young Clark Kent experienced the loss of his friend to cancer, and how he was powerless to do anything about it in Superman/Batman. When Clark Kent refuses to get distacted by Cat Grant's cleavage in Action Comics. When I realized that that girl DJ in Phonogram was never going to talk.

It is probably tempting to manufacture those moments. Ron, Conor and guest host Tom Katers discuss this in the most recent podcast, when discussing Captain America's reunion with his team in New Avengers. Like, that was a great scene, yet, it was just one of many scenes of Cap's return.  The Return of Captain America has been discussed ad nauseum, but it is interesting to it seems to have made nothing like the impact of his death–we certainly didn't see anyone talking about Captain America: Rebirth on CNN.  Sometimes we know a moment is coming, like in Ultimate Spider-Man, when Peter reveals his secret to Mary Jane, and we all just dive in to see how it's going to happen, reveling in the chance to see how its going to play out this time. 

Quick addition that I forgot to mention last night but remembered on my way into work (we never stop working here at iFanboy!):

While we can complain about the moments that feel "forced" to us, it is also interesting to note when we see natural opportunities completely passed by. Witness the relatively small role Superman is playing in Blackest Night. Oh, sure, he got a miniseries (the events of which I really don't remember, not a good sign), but I am really surprised we are not seeing Black Lantern Supeman going off in this story. Talk about pent up agression, you know? You'd think that the Black Lantern version of Kal-El would rail against Earthlings, to the point that he'd get all Irredeemable on our asses.  Given Johns's skill with writing Superman, I find this an incredible oversight, or, perhaps, just editorial realizing that it might be easiest just to pass over this altogether.  Interestingly, this is not the first time I have complained about Superman being "left out" of a story.  While I realize that we did get to see him react to Bruce Wayne's death in Blackest Night #0, I still feel that we never saw him mourn for his best friend. I actually brought this up to the DC folks at a panel during SDCC, but they actually demurred on answering the question and used it as an opportunity to talk about the lame World's Finest title they were going to release. 

Whew. Got that off my chest. Back to the original article.

Of course, much of one's reaction to a certain scene is incredibly personal. Oh, sure there are the epic ones–Flash running himself to death during Crisis, when Elektra is killed by Bullseye–that we can all appreciate, but oftentimes the moments are impactful because of your own life's experience. Like, I doubt that story in Scalped would have made such an impact on me if I read it when I was 16, you know? I think, though, that it is a combination of the artistry of the creators, the history of the characters and our relationship to those characters that provide the perfect setting for the moments that stick with us.  I guess what's so enticing about the scenes we all remember is that they are necessarily few and far between: we may only get a few scenes a year that really give us pause. The moments linger because of the history we have with the titles and the hopes and expectations we have of the characters, hopes and expectations manufactured by the creators themselves.  


Comics are both a tapestry and an exchange of experiences. The creators bring us these stories and these images, but our experience of them are our own.  The great thing about gettng comics every week is that there is a chance–a small chance to be sure, but a chance–that something amazing can happen in the comics that week, and we can all experience it together.  Whether it be marveling at Doug Mahnke's art in the recent Green Lantern, or giggling at Professor Zoom's pointer, we can collectively applaud, roll our eyes, or wipe them (something in the contacts, to be sure).

I realize now that it less the characters' stories and more the character defining moments that keep me coming back to comics.  Perhaps it is because while the characters might have been around for years and years, the moments that our current creators make are unique to our time.  What's great is that the moments that we cherish are truly just the oftentimes unexpected bonus to the enjoyment and inspiration we get from our books week to week.  When they happen, we all know it, and we can't wait to talk about it. 

Thanks for reading this article. I realize that this is less an essay and more an invitation to discuss. Like it began, this week's column definitely needs to end with some questions:  Which are the moments you've remember while reading these words?  Why do they stick with you?  


Mike Romo is an actor hyphen writer in LA.  Email him, or follow him on twitter. (Also, he'd like to thank everyone for their support yesterday with the audition he had for that pilot. He's not heard back yet, which is not a good sign, but still, it was a good step forward!)


  1. Nice piece – I’ll always remember it.

    A lot of mine come from my childhood – Hercules getting beaten by the Masters of Evil, that Spider-Man moment in #33 where he’s trapped under the giant machine or whatever (it was a Marvel Tales reprint – I’m not that old), a pre-Crisis Superman story where Perry White (I think anyway) proves there is one thing Superman can’t do – guess they were my formative years.

    More recently, there’s the end of that Scalped issue where Bad Horse and his lady start smoking heroine. That final panel of Ultimate Spider-Man 1, with Peter clinging to the ceiling.  A lot of Preacher scenes – like, a lot.

    I think it’s more of a cyclical relationship – great character moments define the character, which then inspires creators to create more of those memorable moments.

  2. I have yet to read SCALPED until it’s completed. Then, like Y, I’ll read it through in a single week.

  3. Sometimes, entire stories are built around moments.

    Uhm, that’s all I have to say.

  4. hey guys–

    Thanks for the comments. I will admit, I was running around in circles a bit with this article and ended up writing it in chunks, then moving stuff around, so it’s a bit disjointed, to the point that I literally just added a paragraph about missed opportunities for these kinds of moments.  It’s up there now.

    Hope you’re having a good day! thanks for reading.


  5. Christos Gage’s work on the Initiative has led to some of the most memorable moments for me.  Crusader’s revelation that he was a hero recognized by the likes of Steve Rogers and Nick Fury–screw the Skrulls!  Butterball’s touching final scene in his introductory issue…Penance being reunited with Niels/Hairball…Constrictor’s reveal that he knows Diamondback is a spy but loves her too much to care…little wonderful moments like Taskmaster and Ant-man bonding by watching Chuck…I could really go on and on.  Most of the really stirring moments of the last couple of years happened in that title for me.

  6. The talk about Jessica Jones on another thread reminded me of the moment that cemented my love for the recent run of ‘New Avengers’.  It’s when Carol Danvers comes home and has to tell Jessica that Luke has been captured.  Jessica reacts by bursting out the window and Carol goes after her and comforts her.  Perfect blending of character and visuals, awesome synergy between Bendis & Immonen.

    And total sidenote, Mike, I love that you mentioned about playing Prince Hal.  Such an amazing play, that must have been a blast.

  7. The one that springs to mind most readily is Thunderbolts #20 (I think it was 20… eons ago), and I ain’t talk any of this Ellis or Hickman or Diggle or Parker BS. This is old school Busiek/Bagley style T-Bolts.

    The week before I had just watched my favorite character at the time, Hawkeye, leave the Avengers with a note on the fridge. Then, the very next week, we get an issue of T-Bolts in which the team is saved by come loser in a helmet… Dreadnight, or something. While the team argues about whether to keep the guy around, or even to stay together at all, the helmet is thrown down at their feet, revealing Hawkeye, bow at the ready, with an offer for the former criminals.

    As a young person, my brain was fried. This was one of my first instances of continuity between books directly affecting my reading experience, and it was AWESOME!

  8. I was actually just talking about this with someone, but there’s this great moment in Superman, it was one of James Robinson’s first issues on the title.  Lois is having a bit of an insecure moment about Zatanna at the breakfast table (which, speaking as a woman, is totally understandable) and Clark looks at her and basically says, "I’ve been all over the Earth, I’ve been to hundreds of different planets and universes, and you are the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen." … and Lois jumps him. It’s just this wonderful, real couple moment and I love it.

  9. I never read scalped but picked up #35 because the cover stood out to me, it was great. It was so realistic, I happen to know the native american struggle in this country and know a lot of people who work to bring light to their culture and the problems they face (addiction, highest suicide rate, most impoverished, racism). I think those working in social justice for native american would of approved and been happy to finally be depicted as they really are. This story was beautiful. You all should read it.

  10. The article’s cool. I just don’t  have any "moments" to share really.

    One that is important is Vic Sage relasing the bonding ggas and turning into the Question. I was very fascinated by that transformation as a teen. But it’s not one moment but several.

    That’s the sort of thing that stays with me.

    Thanks for the insight into the acting thing. It’s an artform that i’m completely confounded by. I am a visual artist and musician/songwriter and find I can relate to artists from other fields but I have no friggin’ clue what an actor’s creative process is like. To me acting is like magic. No really, it freaking amazes me that some people can convince me they are someone else while being right there in front of you obviously pretending to be someone else but you think it’s indeed someone else. It’s voodoo man!

  11. Great article Mike. There are a ton of cool moments we all can relate do.

    I think the moment that I best remember is in Kingdom Come. Towards the end of (technically) the third issue, Superman is racing to stop the Gulag assault and then suddenly he gets struck down by a red blur. That final page of Captain Marvel, looking down to Superman with a big grin on his face, gives me chills every time. The first time I saw that page I thought: ‘Damn, this shit just got real.’

    More recently I think the last page of Final Crisis #6 made me giddy. Cause that moment of Batman getting hit by the Omega Sanctions, I had no idea what was gonna happen. Then we see Sups carrying (or at least we thought at the time) the corpse of Batman….As a lifetime Batman fan I was excited, sad, angry, and amazed at the same time.

  12. @JumpingJupiterVic’s death in 52 was one of my favourite moments in DC comics in a long while. The building up of the relationship the passing of the mantle and the amazing image of the question mark in blood on the snow. Moving stuff.

  13. Off the top of my head: Hal grinning like a nutcase after Sinestro punches him across the surface of the Moon in Green Lantern: Rebirth; Adam Strange throwing an all-too-human tantrum and kicking his helmet in 52; Booster calling out Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for neglecting Ted Kord in The OMAC Project; Plastic Man is Batman’s "secret weapon" in JLA: Trial by Fire; Ollie’s Robin Hood speech in Green Arrow: Year One; Two-Face’s "couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy" bit in The Long Halloween.

  14. There’s something about the final scene in that issue of All-Star Supes where Superman is mourning at his father’s grave that really got to me. Mostly because it stood out to me as a moment where the most powerful superhero was powerless in being able to do anything to save his father.

  15. Interesting article, Mike.  Sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it. 

    My single favorite moment from comicdom comes from G.I. Joe #21.  It is a silent issue (the first I’d ever read) and features the HUGE (for me, at the time) reveal that Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow were somehow linked.  They both had the Arashikage clan tattoo on their forearms.  I ran and told my mom (this issue came out when I was 5, but I didn’t read it until a few years later) and she had no idea what I was talking about.

    The fact that the issue was silent staggered my young mind.  The reveal that the two coolest characters in the book were linked in some mysterious way blew my staggered mind away. 

    Larry Hama is the man.