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.