Monday, December 29, 2008

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - Batman & Son

As you may know (or care) my job leaves me with a fair bit of empty time in the middle of the night. How do I fill the empty hours, you ask? Instead of pondering exisential crises, I've been reading a lot of comics. Having recently read through Batman #681, I've been playing with the idea of re-reading Morrison's run over the course of a few nights of work. There are definitely a few issues in there that aren't very straightforward on their first read. I figured I'd like to see if they made more sense as a bigger part of a coherent whole. So I grabbed a handful of issues before I came in tonight, and I'm going to write my impressions as I re-read them.

The only issues I plan on skipping are the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul issues. I'll probably even post my comments as I torture myself by re-reading the Grotesk story arc that popped up early in Morrison's run. Hey, my torture is your enertainment. I get that.

Now, because I do have to ge up and occasionally do bits of work, I'm just going to save drafts, and push the 'Publish Post' button once at the end of the night. (Hence, pseudo-live-blogging.)

So let's get started with Batman #655, the start of Morrison's run.

  • Wow, talk about starting off with a bang. The commisioner's been gassed! The Joker's beaten Batman with a crowbar. I can't help but wonder if it's the same one he beat Jason Todd with.

  • Okay, just noticed that. Graffitioed all over the wall on the page with the title/credits is "Zur En Arrh". Seriously, it's ALL OVER the wall. That's really something Morrison was playing from the beginning.

  • I don't know what amuses me more... that Alfred actually feeds the Bats in the cave, that Bruce has never noticed, or that the bats apparently have a favorite meal. Those are some spoiled rodents.

  • I like the scene where Alfred is coaching Bruce on the finer points of being Bruce. It's a nice commentary on the Batman books.

  • Damian gets a nice intro in this issue. It's subtle, but you can pick up on the fact that he's a bright kid. He's good enough to pick out the father he's never met in a crowded room. Of course, that may be in part due to the fact that Bruce is so used to being Batman.

This issue's a nice entry point. It throws a fair bit of Batman at the reader, with Jim Gordon, Alfred, Robin, The Joker and Kirk Langstrom... but it never quite manages to seem overwhelming. It also punctuates the 'grim and gritty' with a few surprising bits of humor.

  • Grant... you had me at Ninja Man Bats.

  • I love the interplay between Batman vs Ninja-Man-Bat action, and the comic-book art panels on display in the museum. Really neat way to work in sound effects, etc.

  • I like the way Batman goes through plans A through D in a matter of seconds, as he waches the situation escalate.

  • It might be a tip that Jesebel knows that Bruce is Batman. As Alfred helps her out of the museum, she comments that Bruce Wayne is still inside with the Prime Minister's wife.

This one's another solid issue, but where the last issue was largely setup, this one consists mostly of action. But it's never hard to follow and it's never dull. There are also nice touches to help explain Batman's almost superhuman tactical skill. He comments (via inner monologue in a caption box) that the cowl's mic is so sensitive it can pick up the Man-Bat's navigational shrieks.

  • Wow... Talia just tells Bruce that he's Damian's father and he's already showing him around the cave?

  • The confrontation between Damian and Robin seems a little sudden. I don't know, maybe it's just that Tim has been around long enough as Robin that I don't expect him to immediately feel threatened by Damian.

  • I like that Batman is making wry comments on Damian's spoiled behavior. It's good to remind us that Bruce does have a sense of humor.

  • I like the idea that the police try to infiltrate the gangs of Gotham's costumed criminals. Nice touch. But in the first issue, didn't they say that Batman had coralled pretty much all of the costumed crooks in the city? Was the Spook too small a fish to count?

  • The notion of Damian as a rival for Tim is a really neat idea. I wonder why they never let him into the Robin title? That would have made for some great reading. The more I read about Damian, the more I like him. He's absolutely brilliant, but criminally misguided.

  • Does anything ever surprise Alfred? Beaten up by Bruce's son and locked in a closet, and he's right back to business as usual? I suggest testing him for metagene activity.
  • Damian's a surprising character at every turn. He's brilliant, and dangerous with a criminally skewed view of the world. But seeing him desperate for Batman's approval? I'm suspicious. But this first four issue arc has me wishing we'd spent more time with him.
  • Batman has a rocket? I can see boats, cars and jets... but I tend to have a little trouble with the non-traditional vehicles.
  • Why does Batman refuse Talia? If he joins her, she'll help him fight crime. I'd have liked a little more explanation for saying no. Granted, kidnapping the wife of the British Prime Minister seems a bit of a complex task for making the offer, but it did get Bruce to spend some time with Damian.

I think I'm going to draw this post to a close here. Maybe I'll stick with generating a post for each story/story arc.

What did we get out of this issue? "Zur En Arrh" all over Gotham City. Jezebel Jet was introduced to Bruce's life, and we know she plays a big role later on. Damian was introduced, and he also comes back into play... both for the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul and in Batman R.I.P.

It's also a good, fun Batman story. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend picking it up. Aside from the buildup towards Batman R.I.P. this one's an entertaining story all on it's own. Grant Morrison is showing his love not just for Batman, but for Bruce Wayne. He's referencing some of the earlier, crazier Batman stories with elements like space ships and Zur En Arrh... that's a trend that definitely continues later into the run, and is key to Batman R.I.P. It's good stuff.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strangers in Paradise


A rather generous soul where I work has loaned me, in bits and pieces, the entirety of Strangers in Paradise. I finally finished reading it tonight, and I'm sortof processing the entire experience.

The book is, by no means, perfect. The story has several spots that don't fit right. There are either inconsistencies in the story based on something we've previously been told, or events as they unfold don't jive with flashes of the future we received in earlier issues. So to be evenhanded, there are definitely inconsistencies. What made this a stand-out book in my mind, is that it involved me so much in the characters lives... it caused me to emotionally invest in them enough that the inconsistencies didn't bother me.

There's a specific point fairly early in the ongoing series where the book flashes ten years or so into the future, and shows where the characters are now. And while the ongoing series hits several of the beats predicted by that segment, we never catch up and move forward from that point. And while that gives the book a disjointed feel if you dwell on it, I'm enchanted enough by the characters not to care.

The series is largely an emotional soap opera surrounding three characters... Katchoo, Francine and David. The primary dynamic of the story is a non-traditional love triangle. David loves Katchoo, Katchoo loves Francine, Francine doesn't know WHO she loves. She's had a string of bad relationships with men, but isn't ready to move to a same-sex relationship with her High School friend and current roommate, Katchoo. Katchoo has no interest in men, but David knows that somewhere down the road, she's going to need him and he's determined to be there for her when that day comes. The events that separate these characters and bring them back together probably aren't that far removed from the fare of daytime soap operas, but after a point I was so drawn to the characters that I didn't care. I just had to know how it ended, even knowing that prospects were dim for one of the three.

The series also has plenty of comic relief from not only the main characters, but from a wonderful supporting cast. And by the end, even Francine's sleazy ex-boyfriend is shown to have a decent side to him.

But I don't know if I could have stood reading this on a month-to-month basis. The need to know what comes next is strong. And when I could easily reach for the next issue, that was manageable. That said, it's gotten me to pay more attention to Terry Moore as a writer and artist. As of my most recent order with DCBS, I've picked up Runaways from Marvel, which he is currently writing, and I'm going to start ordering his new independent series Echo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Battle for the Cowl?

So the identity of Batman is going to be up for grabs amongst all of Batman's associates past and present? Who's going to be Batman? Dick Grayson? Jason Todd? Tim Drake? Bruce Wayne? It'll never happen, but here's my pick for the new Batman...

Who is it?


Jean-Paul Valley!

This would be the greatest sucker-punch in the world. Who has the largest amount of experience as Batman, short of Bruce Wayne? Yeah, sure... maybe he let a murderer die, possibly condemning his last victim to a slow and horrible death. Okay, he's got moments where he goes just bat-sh!t crazy. But I think I would applaud the sheer cojones a move like this would require.

Who says nothing good happened in the 90's?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Secret Invasion - A Dear John Letter

Secret Invasion,

I don't know how to tell you this, but our relationship has just changed too much. You're not the comics event that I fell in love with anymore.

In the beginning, it was like everything was a game. You teased me with clues, allegations and innuendo. You lead me on, and I willingly followed the promise of your mystery. "You don't really know what's going on in the Marvel Universe" you told me, and despite having been burned once or twice before, I believed you. I followed you through New Avengers, and Mighty Avengers. Our courtship culminated when your premier issue was finally delivered into my rough hands and it was wonderful.

But something happened after that day. I don't know if it was you, or if it was me... but the mystery had ended. You tried... you tried so hard, as you revealed some of your mysteries to me through New Avengers and Mighty Avengers... but the magic between us had vanished. Maybe we lingered too long in the Savage Land? But the games, and guessing disappeared, and everything was straightforward. I tried to adjust. I held out hope that you were playing a deeper game, preparing to surprise me with your conclusion.

But you didn't. You became just another action comic spectacular, along with the token death in the final act for shock value. For all that, I might have still loved you... but your conclusion broke my heart. I don't know what you see in Dark Reign. The two of you don't seem to have anything in common. I can't even imagine how you met, much less what you talk about. But the growing closeness between you two leaves no room for me. I'm leaving.

I'm not leaving the Marvel Universe... nothing that extreme. But, I don't know if I'll be seeing you around for awhile. It's awkward though, since I know I'll be seeing Dark Reign all over the place for a few months. It saddens me, because I really thought we had the potential to make it.



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Greatest Batman Story Ever!

We've had stories where Bruce Wayne was put on trial for a crime that only revealing himself to be Batman could possibly clear him of. We've had stories that put Bruce Wayne in a wheelchair. We've had plenty of stories where someone close to Bruce has learned that he's secretly Batman.

Blind Justice, running from Detective Comics has them all! That's right, Bruce Wayne on trial over a decade before Bruce Wayne: Murderer! A wheelchair-bound Batman four years before Knightfall! What? You haven't read this epic by Sam Hamm? Told in two oversized issues sandwiching a single issue middle chapter, it's got more story than three normal Batman story arcs!

While investigating a strange series of crimes, Batman learns of a secret government cabal performing research within Waynetech. Disposable villain, Dr. Kenneth Harbinger has been experimenting on implanting chips into people in order to control them remotely. When Bruce threatens to shut them down, they come right back saying that they know his secret. If he moves against them, they'll go public. Unwilling to be bullied, Bruce Wayne prepares to file charges only to find himself arrested and charged as a communist spy! Apparently the cold-war era US government didn't smile on billionaire playboys in charge of multinational corporations who spent a lot of time in Communist China at impressionably young ages. Who knew?

Of course, Bruce could explain that he was training with martial arts masters so that he could become a dark avenger of the night... but yeah, talk like that would put him in Arkham sharing a cell with the Penguin. So instead, he prepares a legal defense. Or he would, except that Dr. Kenneth Harbinger, having permanently shifted his mind into another body to break free of the secret government cabal, tries to gun Wayne down. Failing to kill him, it does leave Bruce paralyzed. Gee, without Batman to do the legwork to exonerate Bruce Wayne, things look bleak don't they?

Enter Plot Device #3, disposable supporting cast. Early in the story, Bruce helped reunite Jeannie Bowen with her long-lost brother Roy Kane, who was one of the innocents the cabal experimented on. Accidentally discovering that Bruce Wayne is Batman, Roy offers to let Bruce pilot his body by remote, allowing Batman to return to duty! Repelled by the notion, Bruce reluctantly agrees. Of course, by learning Bruce's secret we can already guess something about Roy... and as one would expect, he's not getting out alive. While he's able to recover the information he needs to prove that Bruce Wayne was framed, 'Batman' is killed. It seems Roy wasn't quite the athlete that Bruce is. So we also get another level of stuff for Bruce to torture himself over as he torches every last bit of the technology that allowed him to endanger Roy's life.

If you haven't ever seen this masterpiece for yourself, check out Detective Comics #598-600.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recent Re-Reads: Batman - War Games, Acts 2 and 3

Okay, better late than never. While I've still got it roughly in my head, I figure I'll talk about what turned me off about the rest of War Games.

I think I mentioned that what I liked was the mass-Gang-Warfare that was tearing Gotham apart, leaving Batman pretty impotent to stop it. He was pretty much going from one place to another putting out fires, without achieving anything noteworthy. It was like Knightfall writ large. In that story, he was chasing down a couple dozen psychopaths, whereas here every street gang in Gotham went to war at the same time.

But after the first act, the story felt like it lost focus on those players. You stop hearing mention of the specific gangs involved. The whole thing seems to just descend into anarchy. And by the third act that's precisely what happens. While anarchy might very well be a more frightening scenario, they never really stated why the gangs fell apart.

Instead, these acts focused on the notion that since this was all based on Batman's plans, then Batman knows what he has to do in order to 'win'... and what happens when that completely backfires on him. Here you have a classic Batman-is-a-dick moment, when he overrides Police Commissioner Akins and basically takes charge of the Gotham police. When he blows it, he's blown any trust that Akins had for him, and made an enemy of the cops. Now, I think this was pretty much an editorial mandate... but so soon after Bruce Wayne: Fugitive when Bruce realizes he needs to soften up a little, let his friends and associates in a little further, and act less like an ass... well, is't it a bit soon for this?

Then there's the torture of Stephanie Brown. While, thankfully, DC decided to spare us the explicit details (a decision they wouldn't repeat in Infinite Crisis, or the DC Universe at large in it's wake) there's still a lot of uncomfortable violence directed her way. But while it's not something I'm comfortable with, it actually sat better with me on the re-read. I shudder to think what we would've seen had this been a little more contemporary. When DC shows us Wonder-Dog mauling Marvin fatally and chasing Wendy around Titans Tower... who knows?

But ultimately, one of the most disappointing things about War Games is that while it was a major crossover event designed to change Batman's continuity... it barely hung in there before it was almost completely reversed. And now that Spoiler has returned, there's almost no element of this story that still stands. In hindsight, War Games is completely skippable, and for something that dominated eight titles for three months, that's kindof sad.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recent Re-Reads: Batman - War Games, Act 1

So between large boxes of comics once a month, I'm spending a lot of time re-reading stuff I've already purchased. This helps justify my actually keeping my comics, as well as allowing me to help update entries in my database.

So last week, I re-read the three-month, 25-chapter epic War Games. This book occupied every book DC published that was even tangentially related to the Batman universe. Even Legends of the Dark Knight which was usually kept exempt from crossovers was occupied. This story is relevant, considering my recent rant on liking Marvel's crossovers more than DC's because of the lasting impact on their respective universes. Particularly, my gripe was that Marvel accomplished visible goals with their crossovers while DC tends to just use theirs as a reset button.

This one is an exception to that rule. This crossover largely existed to shake up Batman's status quo, revamping his relationship with Gotham's police and set up a new 'head criminal' in Gotham. So in this case, DC was actually doing something I think was worthwhile. The problem is that after the first third, I think the story just flounders.

Here's the gist. I think by now we all know that Batman plans for every possible (and apparently impossible) contingency. I mean, a man who keeps a backup PERSONALITY is probably ready for everything. Including the possibility that every gang in Gotham might go to war at the exact same time. Stephanie Brown, who was Robin for about a week, steals that particular contingency plan, and decides she's going to prove herself to Batman by carrying it out. I mean, if she can make one of his plans work, then he was wrong to fire her... right? Show of hands if you think this was a good idea.

She sets up a meeting with all of Gotham's top (non-lunatic) criminals, and is suitably shocked when they start killing each other. Out of 21 attendees, eight survive. So most of Gotham's gangs are now leaderless and wanting blood. This part of the story highlights Batman's helplessness to contain the chaos. Tim is still retired as Robin, Nightwing isn't even in Gotham yet, so it's basically him, Catwoman and Batgirl versus every crook in Gotham. Nightwing does make it to Gotham in this chapter, but he's got his own baggage. This act basically culminates in a standoff between several gangs of criminals and the police at Tim Drake's high school where one of his fellow students (and daughter of one of the new mob bosses) has been shot. Batman and his crew are able to save the day, but not in time to save the girl, who's bled out.

Throughout this first act, Batman has no idea what's going on, or what prompted all this. He's wondering who's behind it. The audience only learns as Stephanie confides in Catwoman that she set up the fatal gangland meeting, but that the key figure involved didn't show up... some hood named 'Matches' Malone. (Most Batman fans are aware that 'Matches' Malone is a criminal identity Bruce Wayne set up for dealing directly with Gotham's underworld to gather information, etc.)

Through this first act of the story, it's directed and tight. Sadly, that doesn't seem to last beyond the first act. I'll see if I can't post tomorrow to discuss where this one goes downhill in Act 2.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vaya con Dios, Blue Beetle

One of the books that I’m most disappointed about in that regard is a book like Blue Beetle, which we are cancelling. That’s a book that we started with very high expectations, but it lost its audience along the way. Recently, we felt that it was standing on firmer ground, and was getting a more positive response. The problem is that the firmer ground and positive response is not enough to keep the book afloat. So unfortunately, we had to cancel that series.

So sayeth Dan Didio in a recent interview with Newsarama.

I've been thinking a lot about the Blue Beetle for the past couple of days. While having lunch with a friend yesterday, I remember saying that I just didn't love it as much as I did when John Rogers was writing it but I couldn't really come up with a reason why. And it's not the first time I've had that opinion of the series... I initially dropped it after the sixth issue, learning that the Scarab was a piece of alien technology. I don't know if it was that conclusion specifically, but something in the book failed to grab me at that point, and it took me eight months to give it another chance.

Now, I haven't dropped the book. I thought about it after Will Pfeifer's two issues, but ultimately decided to hang in there to see if Matt Sturges could do anything. I thought about all this while I tried to pinpoint what it was that was missing, and after a day and a half or so, I think maybe what's gone missing is a sense of direction. When John Rogers introduced the Reach in issue #12, he started a story that essentially ran for 14 issues, and provided the Blue Beetle with a threat that only he could sense, much less stop. And the last four issues of his run were a thundering conclusion that cemented Jaime Reyes as a hero... and brought that story to a close.

The thing is... direction requires time and stability. Following Rogers, we got three issues that could essentially have been skipped. Jai Nitz' experiment in Spanish-language comics, and two stories by WIll Pfeifer did more to hurt the book, I think, than anything. Hindsight is 20/20, and it seems to me that following Rogers' run on the book, what it needed was someone who was going to stick with it, and take it somewhere. That's why I've stuck around, even though the book doesn't feel to me that it's 'as good'. I want to give Matt Sturges a chance to get his feet under him with the character, and try to go somewhere. Too bad it sounds like he won't get the chance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Marvel Comics Events

I'm just pondering before going to sleep late today... what do people think the resolution of Secret Invasion will be? I was talking with Chad about this a bit over lunch today. There's some belief out there that the logical conclusion is a Skrull occupation of Earth. I think this would be cool, but it would be too disruptive to books that have, in recent years, been permitted to go on with their own stories without having to bend the knee to big events. (Captain America and Daredevil spring to mind.)

I got to thinking about it another way... the last two massive events (House of M and Civil War) implemented massive editorially-mandated changes to the entire Marvel Universe. House of M removed almost all mutations from the planet, making mutant-minority stories relevent again. Civil War shook up all of the character relationships, increasing the levels of uncertainty present in the Marvel Universe, while creating a grey-area for unsanctioned heroes to function in.

What kind of editorial goals could be accomplished in Secret Invasion? Is the Hood's recently revealed connection to Dormammu going to lead to a resurgence of mystical characters in the Marvel Universe? (Dr. Strange has been conspicuously absent since World War Hulk.) Is a Skrull occupation (or at least presence) on Earth going to lead to a more prominent connection to Marvel's cosmic heroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy?

One thing I have to give Joe Quesada credit for, is that many of the crossovers and events on his watch have served an editorial function and been used to tweak the Marvel Universe... and while I may kick and scream about the individual changes, it probably IS more interesting to read than it was three or four years ago.

Anybody have any thoughts on where this is all going?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Vote for Darkseid is a Vote for Anti-Life!

Holy cow! I called it! Campaign manager G. Glorious Godfrey saw my post, and just e-mailed me a link to the following video! The Dark Lord of Apokolips is preparing to smite the inept leadership of our puny world, and I for one say... it's about time!

Remember! Anti-Life justifies your hatred! A vote for Darkseid is a vote for Anti-Life!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Darkseid in '08!

With all the wonderful economic and geo-political news today, I think that we all agree that the time has come for a change. Neither the Republicans or Democrats truly have the well being of the US citizens at heart. The third party candidates mean well, but have largely proven incapable of garnering enough attention to have a serious chance. I think it's time for a Fourth Party!

A Fourth World Party!

I'd like to declare that Darkseid is my candidate in these perilous times! Amidst rising inflation and unemployment, as well as the devestation being wrought on the stock market, I say that the only valid choice is no choice at all! In times such as these, Free Will is part of the problem, and Darkseid's platform of Anti-Life is the only answer. Free will just leads to dissatisfaction with things beyond the ability of the average person to change! Surrendering it to Darkseid is the first step to change!

And the best part of all? A vote for Darkseid is a personal victory, regardless of what happens on November 4th! You don't even have to leave your home! Embrace the anti-life equation, and make Darkseid your candidate today!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Would-Be Super Villain In All Of Us

Well, my nocturnal schedule has kept me away from my blog for longer than I'd anticipated. And miraculously, I haven't bought any comics that have truly inspired me to rant... which must be a good thing. Because, I'm in fact here to rave.

While listening to this episode of Comic Geek Speak, I heard mention of an independent book called The Nearly Infamous Zango. It's the story of Lord Alfred Zango, Jr. He's the heir to a masterful criminal legacy, when his father eliminated the city's superheroes. But he just spends most of his days on the sofa, still wearing his pajamas, watching television.

The three issues currently in existence are filled with cyborg gorillas, apple-monsters and a henchman who loses a body part in almost every issue. If you like fun, you owe it to yourself to check this book out. And what's even better, writer/artist/creator Rob Osborne has an wesome deal. For $7, he'll ship you three issues all signed. It's the same deal he offers people at conventions, except that $7 includes shipping too! Just click on through to his store. It's an awesome read.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The New Gods

As a DC fan, of course I'm reading Final Crisis. A big part of the problem, though, has been that I feel like I'm missing a lot. As I considered this, I came to the conclusion that maybe I just didn't have a good enough background with Jack Kirby's New Gods.

Now, bear in mind that ultimately Paul Dini and Bruce Timm are responsible with my entering comics. I was in college with Batman: The Animated Series was running, and I fell immediately in love with it. Much moreso than with the Tim Burton movies that inspired it. Later, when it was introduced, I watched the Superman series as well... and I believe it was this series that introduced me to Darkseid, and by extension the New Gods. I don't recall an explanation of the Anti-Life Equation, and still know, I suppose, surprisingly little about New Genesis.

So, with the aid of I purchased the first volume of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus. This should hopefully allow me to experience the work from the beginning, as though I were buying all of Kirby's books off the rack.

Just last night I read through over half of the volume, but I'm not sure what my impressions really are. I mean, it's weird and wonderful. Starting with a bang, elements of Kirby's mythos appear rather quickly. But most of what I've read is establishing material, setting up the conflict between New Genesis and Apokolips, and the secret nature of the war between these two worlds carried out on our own.

I'm hoping that it will give me a keener insight into Final Crisis. I'll try to post more thoughts about the book itself here after I've finished it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What I've Been Doing

Well, I'm now officially Count Jovial1, Creature of the Night. I've got a new third-shift position, and while it's not going to help my complexion, it does generally leave me some good time for reading.

Since I'm finding myself with a bit of a shortage of new comics to read between DCBS boxes, I'm taking a cue from Bill over at Just Bill's Comic Drawerbox to re-read some of my back material. It's not quite the same, as Bill is still working on catalogging his collection. As my collection is much more modest, I'm taking it as an opportunity to get some benefit of keeping my comics.

So that leads (invariably) to the question... what have I been reading?

I've been going back and reading some of my Batman books from 2000-ish. Rucka's Detective Comics, Brubaker's Batman run and Grayson's Gotham Knights. And, on the whole... I'm finding that they're holding up pretty well from my perspective. I loved the division between the Bat-titles. Each one had a purpose, and I thought the writers did a pretty good job of differentiating the books. I've also just re-read the first 10 issues of Gotham Central, in light of Rucka's joining Brubaker and Lark on Daredevil.

I've also been re-reading some of my (limited) Superman books. I'm not sure if I've read many truly great Superman stories, and I'm sortof paging through what I have to see how it holds up. I've reread the Sacrifice crossover resulting in the death of Maxwell Lord, and the One Year Later story that crossed Superman and Action Comics. If anybody can recommend a good Superman read, please let me know. I know one friend has suggested the Election 2000 stuff. I'll have to check that out.

A couple more weeks, and I'll have another shipment from DCBS to add to the collection.

Monday, August 4, 2008

DCBS - First Shipment

Today I received my first shipment of comics from DCBS. I thought I'd take a moment to record my impressions, since I know that at least one of my friends is also just trying DCBS out.

The comics came well packaged. I paid the nominal fee to have them bagged and boarded. They came as promised, and tightly bound into two small bricks of comics. Those two mini-packages were themselves packed into a box filled with foam packing peanuts. Everything seems to be in excellent condition.

I initially thought that the quality of the boards being used was less than I was used to, but I'm going to take that back. There was one board in the first comic I read (She-Hulk #31) that didn't seem to have a 'smooth' side. The boards in each of the other books I've been able to read thus far have been perfectly fine. I've swapped that board out, and have no complaints.

I was initially nervous about getting the lion's share of my books only once a month. I think I've discovered over this past month that those were unfounded concerns. It gives me time to go back over my growing collection of back-issues to re-read those things that I thought were particularly worthwhile. Thus far, I have to say I'm an enthusiastic fan of getting my books this way. If you're looking to save a little cash on your comics, and if you've got something to help fill the time between shipments, DCBS is a great way to go.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Well, today I received notification that DCBS has printed a label for a shipment to me via DHL. This is exciting news to me, since I haven't been reading most of my books this month. And to this point, I've been very happy with DCBS... but it all comes up to the point where goods haven't yet changed hands.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not afraid that it's a scam, or that something will go horribly, horribly wrong. But I have a deeply held belief that full judgement needs to be withheld until all parties have what they want. They've got my money... I'm just waiting to see my comics. Nothing's late or anything. I went with once a month shipping (more on that in a moment) and I did so knowing what I was going into. Once I've gotten my July comics, they'll get a full endorsement to anybody who reads my blog.

In the break in which I haven't been getting many new comics, however, I've been starting to hit the stack of unread books that's needed putting-away for months or longer. I've also been dipping into my own back-issues. As much as I like Dini's run on Detective, it's nice to slip into Greg Rucka's run on the title. I don't think there's any aspect of Detective Comics coming out of No Man's Land that I didn't like... the cop-story ambience, the expanded Gotham City PD, and the gorgeous two-toned artwork. It's great stuff, and I'm glad I have time to re-enjoy it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Duplicate Issues

It happens to just about everybody who acquires enough comics to be considered a collection. Maybe you get a wire crossed in your head between what you want and what you already have. Or maybe you just buy a big box of comics off eBay that was part of an estate sale, and wind up with four copies of the first issue of James Robinson's The Golden Age.

Over time, you're almost destined to wind up with duplicate books... they take up space, and they don't really add anything to your collection. I've been wondering how to handle them for about a month now. Tonight I started giving it more thought. Most of these issues are not anything I paid any princely sum for, and I'm not looking for a lot in return. Really, I'd just want enough to cover postage and send the books on their way. Sadly, most of the sales options that leap to mind have fees bundled in, that make giving the books away problematic at best.

I mean, I've considered giving them away, and in some cases I've gone and done so. But I don't know if I have three friends who would want a copy of the first issue of The Golden Age. Anybody have any suggestions?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best. News. Ever. (Today)

According to Newsarama, both Casanova and Last of the Independents are the targets of Hollywood movie deals. A big congratulations to Matt Fraction on his success! Here's hoping it won't make him too cool to attend HeroesCon in 2009!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Bronze Age

As I've mentioned here or there, I don't have a large history with comics. I've only really been into comics for about seven years. As such, despite being old enough to have read some of the tail of the bronze age when I was little... I didn't.

That's not entirely true... I remember having comics, primarily Superboy comics when I was younger... but I never really read them.

But this year at HeroesCon, most of what I purchased came from a stand advertising bronze-age Marvel books for $1 apiece, or 11 for $10. I was a little unsure of what to get, not having much experience with that period, but I'd listened to Marv Wolfman's interview on Word Balloon a couple months ago, and decided to buy a big bunch of Tomb of Dracula. I'd looked into picking up some of it locally awhile ago, but found it to be a little more than I was willing to pay for single issues. (Of course the Omnibus' release is imminent.) I also picked up a smattering of the Fantastic Four, Captain Marvel about 11 issues of Thor and a couple spare Dr. Strange... and I haven't had a bad read yet!

I can see why these comics inspired Jim and Pierre to create Flashback Universe. And I can understand why Marvel wants to try to replicate that energy in Amazing Spider-Man. It's seriously some great stuff, and I'm going to have to see if I can't keep my eyes open for more.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In Honor of Independence Day

Here in the US, we just celebrated our Independence Day. (I celebrated mine by showing my dependence on my job, and working some overtime.)

As I was perusing some of the comics I've read in the past couple of weeks, I came across the page to the left. Comics fans familiar with the bronze age stuff from the 70's and early 80's will remember those wonderful Hostess cake full-page comic ads that populated both DC and Marvel featuring the likes of Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Spider-Man and The Hulk.

I don't recall seeing this particular page before, but I nearly burst a gut laughing. Hopefully clicking on the page should bring you to a full-size (readable) scan of the page.

Anybody reading the current Captain America series by Ed Brubaker should also get a particular laugh out of how his first story arc might have ended, had Cap been creative enough to employ cream-filled sponge cake!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 - Post Con Report - Sketches - The Hulk!

I got one other sketch as HeroesCon drew to a close. As we left Ron Wilson's table, very happy with my new sketch of the Thing, the Official Comic Shelf Photographer observed a sign advertising "Lousy Full Color Sketches" by Jim Salicrup.

That's right, Jim Salicrup, writer of Spidey Super Stories.

Of course, I wasn't aware of that at the time. Like many, I'd heard about the Spidey Super Stories series courtesy of Chris Sims' Invincible Super-Blog. So while I wasn't entirely aware of the rare opportunity in front of me, I'm fortunate enough that Salicrup's name did stick in my head. So I stopped, and watched him sketch. He was even working in the rare medium of fruit-scented magic marker! Say what you want about most of the artists at the convention, I didn't smell fruit around any of them.

When he was done, I handed over my sketchbook, and the requested modest fee and was gifted with the masterpiece on this post. It still smells fruity.

I'll have more pictures from the convention in future posts!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 - Post Con Report - Sketches - Turtle Power!

One of my earliest comic book memories is borrowing a friends' brothers' original black & white issues of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I read them back before they were a cartoon, back when they killed people.

Back when they were totally awesome.

So I thought it was truly cool to see that Peter Laird, who co-created the turtles with Kevin Eastman would be at HeroesCon. At one point, I had found and purchased a copy of the Raphael/Casey Jones one shot, but in all the moving I've done, it seems to have lost it's way.

That said, the only book I had for Mr. Laird to sign was a re-print of TMNT #1 issued a year and a half ago to promote their last video game. I convinced the employees of a local game shop to give me a copy some months ago. He signed it graciously, and the next day I went over to him and obtained the sketch on the right. This guy still draws the turtles excellently. He whipped up this little sketch in no time at all.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The 90-est Cover

After reading several other entries, I've decided to try throwing my hat into the ring in regards to the 90-est Cover Ever. Now, I didn't start reading until we started into the 'aughts so my collection of 90's books isn't very robust compared to others.

Presented for your inspection... Cable #1. Note, if you will, that there are as many guns on the wraparound cover as there are characters. Observe the Shoulder-Pads Of The Future! Witness the total lack of visible feet! May I call attention to the foil logo? And located right next to the logo sits the burst declaring that Cable #1 is a first issue, and thus... a collector's item! This example also displays the ridiculous overload of pouches and bandoliers evocative of the era.

It might be possible to locate a cover that evokes a stronger 90's vibe... but should you? Can your body handle the strain?

Has anybody else noticed that these are all Marvel covers?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 - Post Con Report - Sketches - The Thing

At Chad's suggestion this year, I procured a pocket sketchbook for the purpose of... well, acquiring sketches.

Now, the writing tends to grip me more about comics than the art. It's just the way I'm wired. I don't think art is inconsequential... in fact I know it's aboslutely crucial for the medium. In a collaboration between artist and writer, the writer may be the one making the story up, but the artist is the one actually telling it to an audience. I may personally have come up with the greatest and coolest stories never comitted to paper, but without the artwork to convey those stories to an audience, they're less than nothing. I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that one of my failings is to get more excited over writers than artists. But I think that the convention this year may have taken a big step towards breaking me of that.

Like a fool, I waited until Sunday to try to get some sketches. What this means to folks who haven't ever been to a convention, is that the only people who could take the time to sketch in my book were those who asked for money. It's a perfectly reasonable request, as these people are providing you with original artwork that is essentially one of a kind. Ron Wilson may have drawn The Thing a thousand times, but the one in my sketchbook was drawn for me. That's totally worth compensation. There are a plethora of artists who'll provide free sketches, but if you're not on-hand Friday to ask, and drop off your sketchbook... well, there's always next year. But as these folks are doing it out of a generous love for the fans, I don't have the heart to rail against the system.

Now, here's a peek at the sketches I was fortunate enough to get. In order to keep the page from getting too cluttered (and to let me draw out my post-con writing that much longer) I'll do one sketch per post.

Ben Grimm, also known as The Thing is one of my favorite comic book characters, period. As I mentioned above, Ron Wilson, a Marvel penciller from the 70's and 80's drew the classic story in which the Thing must face the alien Champion to determine the fate of the world. After having read about that story a couple times online, I obtained a copy, and loved it. So when I walked up to him at the convention, I knew I wanted him to sketch the Thing for me. He was busy with other commissioned artwork, including a gorgeous two-page spread (I'm not sure if the Official Photographer got a picture of it or not.) but decided he had time to do a quick head sketch.

It's awesome stuff. We chatted a bit while he drew. And I think he was originally going to just do the sketch in pencil, but as we spoke, picked up a pen to go over the lines. He drew this in no time at all, but it's easily one of the best things I got out of the convention.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Con Report Interlude: Dead Space

I received an e-mail today from a fellow affiliated with Electronic Arts today. After my sole prior incident, you might think I'd be used to people I don't know delivering warm, filling content... but I'm not. (It's all rather flattering, really.)

After a brief introduction, he moved on to the game, Dead Space. (For anyone who isn't aware, despite this being a Comics blog, I'm a voracious devourer of video games. As a rule, I don't discuss them here, but it's another subject that feel very strongly about.) Aside from the game, he wanted to make sure I knew about the accompanying comic book that was being released prior to the game's release.

Truth be told, though the game definitely had my interest, I hadn't paid any attention previous to his e-mail. As with anything else, a licensed comic book can range from very good (Image's adaptation of the PC game Freedom Force to Marvel's embarassing Marvel Nemesis: The Imperfects, tying into an equally bad game. I'm ashamed to have to admit that I actually own three issues of the latter.) With a few links provided, I figured I'd give a look to the material provided. Below should be the video feed for the online viewing of issue #3. In a move that's been popular over the past few years, the comic serves as a prequel to the game, explaining the initial situation when you put the disc into your system and turn it on.

Now I'm not sure if this is a preview, or if it contains the entire issue, but it strikes me as something with some promise. The art looks strong to me, and the creative team (Ben Templesmith and Antony Johnston) seem to have some work to their credit. Blending science fiction and horror has always struck me as one of those things that's very difficult to pull off well. When I stop by Ye Olde Comic Shoppe tomorrow, I think I'm going to see if I can find an issue or two.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 - By The Power of Fraction!

The personality who impressed me the most at the convention had to be the guy in line asking Roy Thomas to sign about fifty different copies of the same trading card, despite a good dozen people behind him.

But if you asked me who made the best impression on me at the show this year, the answer would undeniably be Matt Fraction. Not only does the guy have a solid grasp on what makes many of the Marvel Universe's most interesting characters tick, but he's also just so darned cool to talk to. Whether he's running a panel single-handedly (with only Ed Brubaker via cell-phone to back him up), diverting a line to keep the aisles of the convention free, or just chatting... he makes it all look easy, and he does it with style.

He was the writer I was most looking forward to meeting at this year's show. As such, I'd brought more of his books to the show to be signed than anybody else. I brought enough that I didn't feel comfortable carrying them in one shot. After presenting him with the Marvel stuff in the morning, I caught back up to him in the afternoon. The day was wearing on him, and talking with fans (and possibly mugging with Rick Remender seated next to him) was drying out his throat. As he was talking to a convention employee, Official Comic Shelf Photographer Hilary dug into a bag, producing a bottle of the Hilton's best water on the spot. (She was carrying around several of them.) Matt was so grateful, he included the following inscription on my Casanova: Luxuria hardcover:

To translate: "thank you for water. you have saved my life. Fraction!"

And that's the coolest thing I got at the show.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 - Post Con Report The First

Another year is past, and at this moment, HeroesCon is officially over. I'm back in Columbia, trying to digest my experience as I gaze at the small mountain of bronze-age Marvel books that I gleefully carried home.

Each year I attend the convention, I find that it's less and less about acquiring comics. I mean, check this out... I was at the show for three days, and got six more books than I did two years ago. I was late Friday, and left a little early today, but that's still plenty of time to go shopping. I think it's a key change in how I experience the convention. Whereas initially it was a big shopping spree, it's become the way in which I connect with the folks who create this entertainment that I enjoy.

I waited in line for a good half hour to let Roy Thomas sign two issues of King Conan that I picked up the previous day. While in line, I thought... this guy worked right alongside Stan Lee. Ron Wilson signed Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7, where the Thing decided the fate of the world in a boxing match. Matt Fraction signed... well, he signed a whole lot of stuff, while sharing anecdotes and and telling me how much he appreciated the fact that I purchased his work.

And at the advice of my friend Chad, I bought a small sketchbook and took the experience a step further by asking several artists to grace it's pages with a picture. And I think that those sketches are the most treasured items that came out of HeroesCon with me. While I'm sure that those artists draw plenty of sketches like the ones they did for me, those sketches are still unique.

I'll provide more details later, possibly with pictures taken by my official Comic Shelf photographer (and unofficial Matt Fraction Watergirl) Hilary. But to close out, here are some statistics. I took my laptop up with me, and updated my database each day.

  • 118 Books purchased at a total price of $111.64
  • Average purchase price: $0.95/issue
  • 31 Books signed at the convention this year

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Existential Quandry!

I'm in the middle of preparing for HeroesCon. I'm going to be tired at work tomorrow, but I don't particularly care. As I'm pulling books to take with me to the con, I decide to pull Avengers #350. Steve Epting, known across the country for his work on Captain America, pencilled this book and I figure he might want to sign something that isn't Captain America #25 on Saturday.

So imagine my surprise when I find that the book is already signed by Steve Epting! I've only met the man once, last year at Free Comic Book Day when I got him to sign my copy of Captain America #25. I'm almost positive I didn't have this book with me. I'm completely stymied, because I don't think I could have gotten this book signed. But unless someone else was in the habit of writing the name 'Steve Epting' in their comics, what else could this be?
Can I legitimately ask the man to sign this book... again? I'll take it with me anyway, but I'm really not sure what the etiquette is here. Anybody have any suggestions?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

DC Has Issues...

There's a great article over at the Comics Should Be Good blog discussing the astonishing silence of DC Editorial in regards to both Grant Morrison dishing on the inconsistencies between Countdown, Death of the New Gods and Final Crisis. It also goes into the matter of Chuck Dixon's mysterious, and apparently unsought departure from DC.

While both issues strike me as being Editorial in nature, the occurences themselves don't disturb me. Stuff happens all the time, right? But the deafening silence from DC is astonishing. You'd think that as a major publisher, you'd want to keep plot points straight for your major Summer Event... especially on obscure little details like who dies and when.

But I can look at that screw up, roll my eyes and forget about Death of the New Gods. I did that about Countdown months ago. But when DC made such a noise about the return of Chuck Dixon not just to DC, but to several of the Batman-related titles to see that they almost don't want to acknowledge that he's gone is shocking. I know we don't have any right to the details, but right now all we have is Dixon's terse confession that his departure from DC was not voluntary. It's showing a lot of restraint and professionalism on Dixon's part while DC continues in an ominous silence.

I don't know what's going on over there, but it would be nice to hear something from them. Especially at a time when I'm dropping DC books with greater and greater frequency. I don't see myself staying with Batman and the Outsiders beyond Dixon's last issue... and I'm not exactly joined at the hip with Robin either. Dixon's return to the book, and the return of Stephanie Brown kept me from dropping it a couple months ago. Looks like it might be headed back to the chopping block after Batman: R.I.P.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sightings - A Rant

It seems like only yesterday that DC's editorial staff told it's readers that special books with something important would carry this special 'SIGHTINGS' banner, and that within those issues would be something the readers would want to see. My personal understanding of the concept was that when something big enough to reflect notice in the DC Universe at large happened, this banner would appear on the cover of the book, so that fans would know to look. It's a good idea.

In my opinion, it's been misused completely in the two books I know of that have carried it.

Justice League of America, Vol. 2 #21 carried thie banner. What happened in Justice League #21? Libra recruited a loser criminal called the Human Flame for his new incarnation of the Secret Society, or Injustice League, or whatever they're deciding to call the faceless mass of supervillains for this Crisis. And I guess they beat up a few Leaguers doing it. Well... was there anything in this mess that wasn't covered by the first issue of Final Crisis? Not that I'm aware of. By comparison, Final Crisis #1 did not carry the 'SIGHTINGS' banner, and in that issue they killed a prominent mainstay of the Justice League. That would seem slightly more important to me.

Action Comics #866 arrived in stores today, and once again, another book bearing the banner. I've been steadfastly ignoring Geoff Johns' run on Action Comics for several reasons, so once again... a book that I wouldn't have normally read has a banner telling me something important is happening. It's a light week, so I nibble. I don't see anything noteworthy in the title, except that Johns is now apparently re-telling or re-imagining Brainiac's pre-Crisis history. (For the sake of further spoilage, I won't go into it here, but Wikipedia sums it up nicely.) Where's the landmark event in this book that makes it a must-read? Could someone please tell me?

Well, THAT'S pretty sudden...

While peering through my RSS feeds during my siesta, today, I observed a short post on Occasional Superheroine indicating that Chuck Dixon is no longer employed by DC Comics. Seriously, the post on his own forums is right here. It's too short to be cryptic per se, but it does lead me to wonder what precisely happened?

What... did he kill Dan Didio's dog or something? Did they just hire him back to revive Spoiler, and salvage a few issues of Batman & the Outsiders?

On that note, does anybody think that Batman & the Outsiders will continue beyond what Dixon already had in the pipe?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Virgin Comics

Wow... in the year that I've blogged, I've received a handful of comments and e-mails from unexpected corners... something I'm grateful for. This is the first time anybody's e-mailed me with content.

It could be my ignorance, but I've never heard of before receiving an e-mail pointing me at the video embedded above. (That's right! I've now embedded a video! I've just stepped into 2005.) I'm not positive if there's any business connection between and Virgin, but as Gotham Chopra seems to appear on, it does seem like a possibility.

But moving past the potentially promotional nature of the piece, it's an interesting video about the creation of a stronger media industry in India. The increase interest in anime and manga from Japan over the past decade shows that US consumers are open to this kind of entertainment from foriegn sources. Heck, the Indian film industry (Bollywood) has a following in our country, which birthed the Motion Picture Industry. Comics and animation from India could very well prove popular, especially as fans become more jaded with mainstream US comics.

As I move my comic purchases online to save money, maybe I'll take a look at a few of Virgin's titles.

Let's Do the Time-Warp Again!

Wow. I've already read this week's issue of Amazing Spider-Man.


Coming to me apparently via the US Postal Service's temporal delivery service, I have this Wednesday's issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

Now I realize there's no street date on comics. I mean the script for this issue was probably finished at least three weeks ago, possibly even further back. And it's not like Marvel's going to fine themselves $10,000 for shipping me the book early. I'll just have to remember to check the mail more often. Truth be told, this actually arrived yesterday. I'm just so conditioned to think of New Comics and Wednesday as the same concept that getting a book on Monday or Tuesday... that's just crazy-talk!

I've actually subscribed to four additional books through Marvel, at a special price of $19.97. (Sadly, the offer was limited to four titles.) So Daredevil, Captain America, The Invincible Iron Man and X-Factor will be coming to me factory direct from the House of Ideas. It's good to know that even as I begin to move towards online purchases for my new comics, I'll still get a few books near their ship dates.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Marvel Comics... Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It's weird... over the course of one day, I had two experiences that carried me to two very different thoughts about Marvel as a whole.

First, let's start with the positive. I got my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man direct from Marvel. It arrived day and date with the 'newsstand' release. I received it in the mail on the day I would have purchased it in the store. That's extremely cool. With the alternatives I'm exploring regards to getting my comic fix cheaper, it's great to know that this option is letting me purchase Amazing Spider-Man three times a week for less than half the cover price. My purchase price for the issue was roughly $1.39 and I can't complain about that.

What I can complain about is Secret Invasion. I love the concept of the event, and in some ways the execution has been pretty cool... but I can't for the life of me figure out why I'm paying an extra dollar for it. It's not a longer title... it's not bereft of advertising. Why is it more expensive than any of the other 32-page monthlies out there? Can anybody answer me that? Aside from that complaint, there's also the usual gripe that it's Bendis doing what Bendis does. The entire second issue could be summed up by saying "we think that Mockingbird from the ship isn't a skrull." Maybe I need to re-read it, but I think that's all that actually happened in SI #2.

But I think that the positive outweighs the negatives. And on top of that, Marvel's offering me further discounted titles for being a subscriber. I guess that'll make up for an extra dollar a month.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Something I Don't Want To Do

So, it's no surprise that with the US economy sprialing down the tubes, that everything's getting more and more expensive. This trend, fortunately, hasn't hit comics yet... but as $40 won't fill my gas tank anymore, anything I can do to help lower costs is something to be admired.

To that end, I'm finding myself seriously considering dropping almost my entire sub-form, and going to an online service like DCBS for most of my comic books. I've already taken a first step in removing my comics from ye olde comic shoppe by subscribing to Amazing Spider-Man, now three times a month, directly from Marvel. (They've got a rather nice deal, available via the above link, offering 36 issues, a full year of the book for $49.97.)

Services like DCBS allow you to place advance orders through their service at seriously discounted prices. However, it seems to me that you're responsible for placing your order each month, so you have to keep much more on top of what you're buying. And the big downside (as I see it) is that to take the best advantage of the service, you get your month's worth of comics in one shipment.

There's a special joy, to me, in purchasing new comics directly from the store every week. The guys down at ye olde comic shoppe don't need to ask my name, they know where my pull file is. I know a few of them, and consider them friends. I'd feel a little guilty pulling my business from behind the store, but when it all comes down, less money spent is less money spent. I've been shedding titles over the past few weeks, but I'm not sure that's enough.

Now, I'd plan on keeping 'event' comics on sub-forms at the store. I don't want to wait to read Final Crisis #3 until weeks after the news sites have already posted all of the spoilers. And any orders I'd place via DCBS will be for two or three months in the future.

So, I'd ask anybody reading the blog to chime in... have you used an online comic service? What did you think? Do you have a strong thought on the subject one way or another? Let me know!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Defining Moments in Cool

Henry Peter Gyrich may very well be the defining a-hole of the Marvel Universe. Hey may have stolen a prototype weapon meant to help defend the earth from a mystical threat from another planet, and used it to zap Storm, draining her powers. And he may run secret black-ops projects and employ former nazis trying to construct his power-base in the Initiative's training camp at Fort Hammond.

But it takes some serious cool to wear sunglasses inside a space suit! I couldn't pull that off... what if they slid forward? What if they made your nose itch?

Agent Gyrich... I salute you!

This image brought to you by the wonder and majesty of ROM#63 in which Forge supervises construction of a gigantic orbital weapon to zap all of the menacing Dire Wraiths off the Earth at once. Somebody saw a little too much Star Wars.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

As a rule, I keep my posting to this blog limited to comic-book related subjects only but today I'm going to make an exception.

What I enjoy most from my comic books, and from any other media that I consume, is quality storytelling. Ideally when I crack a book (whether it's got paragraphs or panels) I'm looking to be taken away to another place... whether it's Gotham City, Azeroth or the decks of the Galactica, I'm looking for a writer (sometimes assisted by artists or actors) to immerse me in the lives of other people and their own personal struggles.

Today, I completed Grand Theft Auto 4.

It's no big surprise that I love video games, but it was a surprise to me that I really enjoyed this one. I'd played a couple of the earlier GTA games, but they'd largely wound up as stress relievers for me. Had a bad day? Open up with a shotgun in a crowded street, and see how long it takes for the cops to bring you down. The story was simplistic at best, as you went from one mafia cliche to another, pulling off more difficult crimes until I lost interest. That's usually something that happeed fairly quickly. That's NOT what happened in GTA4.

I bonded with the main character, Nico Bellic pretty quickly. For the three people who might read this without being aware of the specifics, in GTA4 you play as Nico, an illegal immigrant from an unnamed country in Eastern Europe. He arrives in a fictionalized version of New York called Liberty City, to find that his cousin's promises of wealth and opportunity are unrealized dreams. Most of the activities that Nico takes a part in are no different than those in the previous games... but he's given an interesting past, as the survivor of a civil war in his homeland. He also has a personal mission in Liberty City as he searches for the man who betrayed his unit in the war, leading to the death of men he'd known from childhood. It's a story of vengeance that, for me at least, had a real impact. I cared about Nico, and about the new friends he made in his new home.

I came to the climax of the story today, and while the events of the climax are sad, I can honestly say I'm satisfied. The game's makers, Rockstar North, didn't skimp on the story. There was a theme that ran through the entire game (and it took me over 40 hours to reach the end.) In an art form where the pacing, and to some degree even the content are not decided by the creators, I'm truly impressed that the story told in this medium was as mature and developed as it was. This game deserves to get some press... for the right reasons.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Heroes Con 2008 Preparation -or- Hunting the Wild Autograph

As we roll inevitably into a sweltering South Carolina Summer, I find comfort in the fact that it means that the annual pilgrimmage to Charlotte and Heroes Con draws nigh.

I love Heroes Con... it's usually adjacent to my birthday, which means I almost always have some money I can spend there. It might be a bit of a drive, but I've yet to have a bad experience there. And the experience has only gotten better since I added two items to the menu: signings and panel discussions.

The panel discussions are thoroughly enjoyable. I won't pass up on the DC Nation panel, because even though my interest in DC's heroes is waning in favor of Marvel, I can't deny that Dan Didio brings energy and enthusiasm into a panel. Even if I don't like what he's saying, he usually manages to amuse me. The Marvel panel last year fell really short of my expectations, and the fact that I don't see Joe Quesada on the guest list makes me wonder if we aren't going to see the same thing again this year, but hope does spring eternal. And if nothing else, the panels give me a place to rest my legs and look over my haul thus far.

But one thing that I think has really energized my experience at the convention is bringing books with me to be signed. I'm not usually an autograph junkie, and I don't tend to bother famous folks when I do stumble onto them, but I think that the signed book is the perfect memento of a comic book convention. I look at the scrawl on the cover, and it manages to take me right back to the experience of waiting in that line, and helps to keep the day fresh in my head. And the guest list for this year is considerable. Right now I find myself seated at my computer, trying to decide what to take with me.

Just a little over a month to go, and the excitement is building.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Taste the Irony...

Recently (as in yesterday) I walked into Ye Olde Comic Shoppe with a list of titles that I had decided to drop from my monthly pulls, after much soul-searching. One of those titles was DC's (well, in all honesty most if not all of the titles dropped were from DC... but I digress.) Among those titles was DC's The Brave and the Bold.

The relaunch of The Brave and the Bold was relaunched with an awesome story, told in a tag-team fashion like a campfire story. We went from Batman and Hal Jordan to Hal Jordan and Supergirl to Batman and the Blue Beetle, spiraling out in ever widening arcs of coolness. But subsequent stories were less and less cool, until I realized I was no longer excited about the title. That of course meant it was time for it to go away.

Enter today, as I'm reading Newsarama and see that J. Michael Straczynski will be writing the title come November. Now, folks that know me well enough, know that I'm a big fan of JMS. I discovered Babylon 5 late, but fell head over heels in love with it. I was a big fan of his run on Amazing Spider-Man... well, up until editorial mandates such as The Other and Civil War hijacked the book from him. And now I find that he's going to be taking over the book I just dropped. Figures. At least I'll have time to put it back on my sub form before it comes out.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Free Comic Book Day 2008

I challenge anyone to say that they got a better Free Comic Book Day than I did. When you get a genuine piece of Chris Sims artwork, signed by the master himself, life gets no better.

I've been neglecting blog posts as I settle into a new work routine, but as I said I'm also working on a writing project. I'm speaking to a couple of artists, which has me enthusiastic. I've wanted to try to write something with the goal of seeing it published, and to actually be moving in that direction is a great feeling. And with a few exceptions, the world of comics has been just making me sad, as Fraction and Brubaker prepare to wrap up their run on The Immortal Iron Fist, as the Order ends, and as Amazing Spider-Man continues a very mediocre Brand New existence.

But there is one thing I feel the need to weigh in on, and that's the new Iron Man movie. If you like comic books, you have to see this movie. I'm not an easy person to see a movie with, because my mind loves to pick apart the things that I DON'T like about it, rather than focus on the things that I do. And I'm saying, quite sincerely, that I could not find anything in Jon Favreau's interpretation of Iron Man that I did not, at the very least, like. Much of it I loved. This is easily on the level of Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man movie... but the more I consider it, the more I put it on the level of Spider-Man 2. I'm quite possibly on the way of declaring it the highest mark for a comic book movie out there.

To help put this all in perspective... I don't care for Iron Man in comics. I have purchased precisely 8 issues that have 'Iron Man' somewhere in the title. Eight. And if anybody hasn't told you, wait until the credits are done. There's a brief, but very exciting reward for doing so.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Better Late Than Never... The Secret Six Receive an Ongoing Series!

Several powerful staffing changes (The end of The Order, removing Matt Fraction from Iron Fist, Removing James Rodgers from The Blue Beetle, etc.) had drained my will to post for awhile. But this piece of news has finally revitalized my will to live.

The Secret Six were probably the best thing to come out of Infinite Crisis. (Though looking back, it seems that there wasn't much worth taking out of that particular event.) Nevertheless, a book that can make Catman as cool, or perhaps even cooler than Batman on some levels, has something very strong going for it.

I'd been actually wondering where these characters had been lately, going so far as to wonder if I needed to look for them in Salvation Run. But the news has come out from NY ComiCon... the Secret Six will receive a new ongoing book with Gail Simone as writer.

What else have I been up to? I'm still working with Jim Shelley on developing two interesting teams of characters for Flashback Universe. I'm also finally getting moving on trying to obtain the help of an artist in developing one of my concepts as a pitch. The concept is one I'm really excited about. It's very much a comic I'd want to read myself, and while I can think of one or two issues that work in kindof the same way, I don't think I've seen anything on the stands that's really like what I'm picturing. I posted requests for an artist/partner last night on a few artist sites, and I've already gotten a couple replies to look at.

I'll post more on that as things fall into place!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things I Shouldn't Have To Complain About

Many times, my experiences with the various and sundry forms of entertainment that help to occupy my waking hours pass without negative incident. (Or to put it simply, most of the time when I'm having a good time, everything goes as planned.) But every so often, little annoyances pop up. As solitary incidents, I can usually overlook them... but occasionally the same thing happens one time too many... and that means that you, gentle reader, get to listen to me complain about it.

Tonight's complaint? Staples.

We're all familiar with the way a comic book is put together... it's usually about 16 long sheets of paper with pretty pictures, folded across it's width held together by two staples near the edges. Simple, right? I thought so too. With a greater and greater frequency, I'm finding that the innermost sheet isn't bound by one of the staples. It's pulled free. I certainly didn't do it... I have more care for my comics than that, certainly. (My file cabinets, and bags/boards should attest to that fact.)

Now, I'm a person who can deal with minor issues. I wound up purchasing two copies of the same issue of Gargoyles a few months back. It was pulled when it originally came in, and then apparently a reorder pulled another copy. I didn't notice until I got home, but hey... mistakes happen. And interestingly, this issue was already the subject of a mistake... apparently on the first printing, there was an error... a page of art was re-used. But it's no biggie.

However, when at least one of my books every other week has the very middle almost ready to fall out, it starts to get annoying. Maybe this is just another sign that Jim Shelley's Paper Comic DeathWatch is winding down time for the industry. But I can't see any good reason for repeated quality issues like this. The culprit this week was my issue of The Mighty Avengers.

Maybe I need to start tracking which books have this issue. The two that leap immediately to mind are both Marvel publications. Please fix it. Contrary to what others might think, I really don't like to complain. Every moment I'm here pounding away at my keyboard like a demented monkey struggling with the finer points of King Lear is a moment I'm not enjoying my comics... and isn't enjoying comics the whole point of reading them?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Comic Day 03/12/08

Well, this week looks to be the quiet after a few very busy weeks. A break will be nice, and possibly give me a chance to better acquaint myself with Super Smash Brothers Brawl. While my own tastes are more grounded in the traditional 2-D fighting game (particularly those of the SNK variety), I'm starting to see the appeal of the game as I actually learn what it is I'm trying to do in it.

Nevertheless, I'm here to talk about comics, not games. Here's the anticipated shopping list. On the DC side of the tracks, we have:

  • SUPERMAN #674

Meanwhile, adds to my list the following offerings:

  • X-FACTOR #29
Regarding Marvel Comics Presents, I'm learning over the years that I'm actually a fan of the Anthology format. I even read the anthology-formatted US edition of Shonen Jump for awhile. Yes, I gave money to the vile terrorists that funded Naruto and Yugioh attacks on our great pastime. Primarily I was doing this in the hope that Ruroni Kenshin would be added to the roster, but I learned through the readng that there were a few titles that were enjoyable.

An anthology is a great book when you're not quite in the mood for a full on meal, so you order the appetizer platter. You might not like everything they bring you, but you're going to enjoy at least some of it. In the case of Marvel Comics Presents, Marvel has done the admirable job of cooking up a couple of pretty good staples in the form of Weapon Omega and Vanguard, two twelve part stories to anchor the more adventurous additions to the book... stories from lesser known (or unknown) writers, stories that are a little more 'out there'... On the whole, I've been rather pleased. Pleased enough, I suppose to continue to pay a $1 premium for it, but hey... so far I feel I'm getting my money's worth.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gnashing of Teeth? Check. Commence Wailing!

Newsarama broke the story that John Rogers, the writer who has consistently stunned me with the new Blue Beetle, is leaving the book.

Newsarama: Right up front, John, are you leaving Blue Beetle?

John Rogers:
It's temporary, although I don't know exactly when I'm coming back to the book. What happened is, essentially, Keith and I always wanted to tell the origin story and #25 wraps up that origin for Jaime.

This continues the trend where I post about something I'm feeling enthusiastic about, and the universe (oh so subtley) reminds me that I'm not supposed to. In the Newsarama interview, Rogers states that he'll be working on a big crossover mini-series (I wonder what that might be part of?) and an ongoing series.

I do want to say that the past 24 issues have been excellent... and at this point, I'm willing to give the 25th issue a pass... but I don't see how this could avoid being an awesome issue.

Long term plans on the book aren't specified, beyond Wil Pfeiffer is doing at least the first story arc following Rogers' departure. Rogers does sthate though, that he'd like to return to the book when he can, but wants to focus on his new projects.

Thanks, John, for one of the best DC-produced superhero comics in recent memory.

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Comic Day 03/05/08

Well, due to a work week that's working out pretty far from my own expectations, I don't think I'm going to be able to pick up my new comics on Wednesday this week. Another part of the less-than-ideal is that because my boss is on vacation, I'm finding myself with plenty of extra time on the non-Wednesday parts of this work-week.

Enough that I'm actually going to get back to posting my shopping list, at the very least.

So here it is... what I plan to spend my hard-earned scratch on this week:



TWELVE #3 (OF 12)

The return of the Dark Tower in comics is something I greatly look forward to. (I was quite happy with the previous adaptation.) While I don't doubt that there are plenty who took issue with it, I though it portrayed the meat of the story very well. And while these early chronicles of Roland Deschain's life don't convey the bizarre post-apocalyptic fantasy that fills the novels, it's still some great reading.

The Twelve is also an interesting project. The timely coincidence that caused it and Dynamite's Project Superpowers is interesting in and of itself. But I'm particularly amused to see that some characters are actually shared between the two. The one that comes immediately to mind is Dynamic Man, Curt Cowan.

I'm still kicking a few story ideas around. A few of them are for Flashback Universe, and one or two of my own devising. In particular, I think I've got a neat angle on a comic story based on the Terminator movies and TV show. If anybody has any clue as to who has the license, I'd be appreciative if you could kick it over to me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

If You're Not Reading The Blue Beetle...

Then you're part of the problem. I mean it. You're a mean, mean person who doesn't want to see good comic books, and probably kills pixies in his spare time.

Now, I don't really care about your Pixie Genocide, as pixies have nothing to do with my hobbies. But good comic books? Yeah, I care about that. And the Blue Beetle is seriously a good comic book. I can understand, Jaime Reyes is easy to miss. His name isn't "Superman" "Batman" or "Wonder Woman"... and he doesn't have a power ring... but right at this moment, if I was called upon to name my favorite super-hero, it would be Jaime Reyes.

In the current Blue Beetle, DC has taken a young, genuinely earnest kid who doesn't really know what he's doing, and over the course of 24 issues has turned him into a hero. And the current story arc is using almost everything that the series has turned out to date. I haven't seen Metron or Lonar yet, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they show up in the next issue. And the issue that hit shelves today (or yesterday, as it's 2:25 am) pays tribute to Dan Garrett as well as Ted Kord. There's more raw excitement in this book than any comic I've read for weeks, and that includes Grant Morrison's Batman, and Ed Brubaker's Captain America. (I'd add Daredevil to the list, but I haven't read that yet and I don't want to cheat.)

Seriously, you owe it to yourself to look into this series. It got off to a slow start on the introductory story arc, but it has been a phenomonally consistent, knock it out of the park book. I can't praise it enough. If you haven't been following it... pick up a few back issues, and catch up because I get the feeling #25's going to knock it out of the park.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons and Comics

As a child of the late 70's/early 80's I tend to think that I was treated to some of the best, most interesting Saturday Morning Cartoons in existence. I grew up enthralled by the Super-Friends, Scooby Doo, Dungeons and Dragons, and even Pac-Man. But one of the cartoons that stuck with me the longest (ironically, the one that I almost never managed to watch because at the weighty age of five, you don't really understand the concept of a 'schedule') was Thundarr the Barbarian.

For the uninitiated, Thundarr was an attempt to steal some of the popularity of Conan the Barbarian, mixing it with a little bit of post-apocalyptic road-warrior and a dash of Star Wars. Set two thousand years after the fall of man, we're introduced to a savage world full of super-science and sorcery. The titular Thundarr was Conan-lite with what amounts to a lightsaber. He had two sidekicks... Ariel the token woman and sorceress, and Ookla the comic relief/wookiee-wannabe.

After watching an episode recorded via DVR last night, I stumbled across a familiar name in the credits.

Jack Kirby

While he didn't design the main characters according to the Wikipedia article, it sounds like he designed almost everything else. Until I gained a real love of comics (about 7 years ago or so) I'd never heard of Kirby, despite the fact that I knew precisely who Stan Lee was, and could recognize him on sight. Now I find myself wondering is there anything that Jack Kirby hasn't influenced? The fact that he was involved with Thundarr doesn't surprise me a lick in hindsight, but it was a surprise to see his name there.

Edit 2/12/08

In what seems to be a badly timed case of foot-in-mouth, the creator of Thundarr the Barbarian (among many other characters in the fields of both comics and animation), a giant by the name of Steve Gerber, just passed away. I started seeing the news last night beore going to bed. Here's Mark Evanier's posting about it, as he knows far more about this pioneer of the imagination than I do.

From what little I've read about him last night and this morning, the world is a sadder, grayer place without him.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Irony and the Young Avengers

I've recently been re-reading the Young Avengers with the launch of the Young Avengers Presents mini-series, and in the introductory story arc I was just struck full in the face by irony. In the Sidekicks story arc, Kang the Conqueror is attempting to recover Iron Lad, who is his younger self. He's arguing that Iron Lad must return to his own time so that he can grow into Kang or the damage to time will be disastrous.

Yet in the Avengers Forever maxi-series, Kang himself was willing to risk the universe itself to himself avoid becoming Immortus, the lord of Limbo.

Kang, a despot whose hypocrisy is greater than Time itself. That's irony.

Avengers Assemble! Assemble! Assemble!

In a freak occurance rivaling an obscure astronomical alignment, we received not one, not two, but three Avengers books in a single week! But which Avengers book should I really be reading, and which one is just another excuse to kill a tree? Good question. Let's take a look at them and find out.

In this year's New Avengers Annual, we're treated to a super-villain gang-up which almost rivals the invasion of Avengers Mansion by the Masters of Evil in the excellent Under Siege story. The only thing that holds this one back is that despite having even more and bigger bruisers than Baron Zemo, The Hood's gang is trounced in a single issue by Dr. Strange. Ouch. Still, it's nice to see this particular team fight something instead of bicker over who's acting 'Skrully'. But it's still a bit unclear when this story falls. Spider-Man's still wearing his black suit, so I guess it's pre-One-More-Day. Too bad Mephisto's spell couldn't fix Marvel's shipping schedule.

And who can make fun of an Avengers book's shipping schedule without a good belly-laugh at The Mighty Avengers. While it's certainly not as late as the legendary All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, it's still worth noting that this issue ties in with an issue of the New Avengers that I bought over three months ago. If it were my call, I might have dropped this issue, and just tried to pull a bit closer to getting this book on track. But I guess the fun of seeing a massive Wasp-symbiote beating on the Avengers is fun... and it's nowhere near as decompressed as so many of Bendis' other Avengers titles. It's still probably the weakest of the week in my book though, since the New Avengers Annual's carnage is a bit more satisfying.

Which leaves the big A for Avengers: The Initiative - a book that has yet to disappoint me. I've read other folks commenting on the fact that new characters are such a difficult proposition for the big two comic publishers in a market where people want Spider-Man three times a month, and where Batman appears in no fewer than three books of his own. Matt Fraction's The Order is an example of an extraordinary book comprised almost entirely of new characters that's just been flushed. The Initiative is another title that's chock full of characters, many of whom haven't existed for a year and if you'll allow me the pun... it's a Marvel. Start with a bunch of fresh faces, looking to be the next Avengers, add in a bunch of super-powered trainers (with an excellent nod to Taskmaster as the current drill seargent) and top it all off with Henry Peter Gyrich's paranoid layers of conspiracy and you've got enough content for years. What's better, it's written by Dan Slott, who is one of the writers who seems to have the firmest grasp on the concept that people read comic books for fun. Hands down, it's your best Avengers book despite the fact that most of the front-line Avengers fail to put in any kind of appearance. It's always one of the first books I reach for when I've got it.

So that's a Triple-A Wednesday. Now I'm off to get some sleep.

What did you expect me to talk about, the New Captain America?