Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Oracle doesn't work...

Q: What's worse than when you press 'POST' and everything crashes?

A: When you reset your system and find out that during the twelve minutes you spent writing your recent blog entry, none of the site's automatic back-up functions worked, and the entire effort was wasted.

It sucks.

Now back to our regularly scheduled commentary about Oracle...

Barbara Gordon was always destined for greatness. As a youngster she joined the crime-fighting duo of Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne under the guise of Batgirl. Others have taken up that mantle since, but she was the original, and it came to a shattering end during The Killing Joke when Barbara was paralyzed (and sexually assaulted) by The Joker.

Other people would have been broken by this.

Barbara found a new way to serve her purpose in the world, becoming the foremost technology expert in the super-human community. She combined exemplary data analysis skills with highly developed information search skills and world class hacking to take on the identity of Oracle.

As the often mysterious Oracle Barbara has worked with and for The Suicide Squad, The Justice League, Batman (and family) and ultimately The Birds of Prey. Her network of connections is as impressive as anyone else in the DCU......which is where my problem begins.

Too often I find myself reading Birds of Prey (a series I recommend in spite of this objection) and marveling at how casually the writers ignore the power of being the super hero community's information super-highway. With connections like she has, there is absolutely no excuse for Barbara to be dispatching Lady BlackHawk into a crisis that endangers somebody's life without first attempting to contact a member of the "Big 7."

Martian Manhunter
Green Lantern

....and for those of you who will argue that calling for the help of a 'man' in some way undermines the purpose of Birds of Prey and diminishes the book....


Don't get me wrong. A series in which she routinely calls in the most powerful women in the DCU would be much more difficult to swallow, and would often serve to undermine the chemistry of the series, so I'm not suggesting that it needs to happen. What I am suggesting is that continuing to disregard her connections and ability to bring the most powerful people in the world into play undermines her credibility as a character. If I don't acknowledge that she has that at her disposal at least occasionally, then I start to wonder if her role as the information resource to that community even matters.

At that point....I wonder if Oracle even matters.

Did you know that there are strongly dissenting opinions on Oracle's worth and value as a character? Read her Wiki entry to get your head around the arguments. I can tell you that I stand firmly in the camp which believes that Babs serves the righteous much more crucially as Oracle than she ever could as Batgirl. BUT.....and this is the point I'm trying to order for that to remain true, you have to underscore her resourcefulness and connections more effectively than the writers have been doing.

If information is power......she should be Superman.

These days she seems a lot more like Plastic Man.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A world full of Batmen?

There is power in an idea.

Grant Morrison's recent New Gods opus that was wrapped delicately into the fabric of Final Crisis, and eventually spilled over into the death of Bruce Wayne and his subsequent return, is rife with the ideology that ideas, if they are powerful enough, can take on a life of their own. The foundation of this is rooted in Darkseid's ultimate vengeance on humanity through a time-lost Bruce Wayne.

As we have come to expect, Bruce outwits his opponents, and the world is saved from the wrath of the New Gods. He is not, however, unchanged.

His struggle against Darkseid implants in Bruce one firm, unshakable truth; ideas have power.  And he is in possession of one of the most powerful ideas that mankind has ever created; BATMAN.

And so my love/hate relationship with Morrison continues because the new idea he's infused into Batman is.......brilliant! I'm hooked by the concept, and the first three issues I've read (Batman: The Return, Batman & Robin & Batman Inc) have all served to provoke a thirst for more of the story. Can Bruce's resources accomplish what must be done? Will others join his cause? Who will he recruit and entrust with the mantle in far-off lands?

How it plays out is anyone's guess, but in concept.....this is a powerful idea.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Is Buffy's soulmate secretly Batman?

Last night I watched a comic on television.

I watch Angel.

I can already hear a host of people preparing to launch into a diatribe about how Angel is a television character first and the comic came later. Probably more than half of those people would like to condemn me for having an interest in anything related to the Buffyverse (admittedly I found a lot of the longterm storyline ideas of these series to be smart.) To both of these groups I would like to suggest that they back up, take a breath and see Angel (at least at the beginning) for what it is; Batman with super powers.

I watched the show a little when it was on television, but decided the other day that I wanted to start watching something from start to finish and I'd just finished Stargate SG-1. I was looking for something different. Less Sci-Fi and more Fantasy. I settled on Angel for no particular reason and popped the first episode on TV. As I was watching (along with my daughter and wife) I commented that Episode 1 really smacked of a super-hero story. About five minutes before the end of the episode Angel comes to Cordelia's rescue, puts saving the damsel above defeating the villain, and takes some bullets in the back while he carries her to safety.

My wife looked at me and said.....'He's Batman.'

My first reaction was amusement. Batman doesn't have super-powers silly woman! But as I thought it through, I came to appreciate her insight. The first episode is overflowing with Batman references and imagery and really could be the last book in Batman Year One. We have a dark, dangerous metropolis (Gotham City) that is alive with crime and danger. We have a young man (Bruce) who has begun to understand that he has a mission in the world (to help the helpless - to stop evil - etc) who is trying to figure out how he's supposed to do it (looking for the epiphany moment.) He's dark, brooding and isolated from the rest of the world (sound like Batman?) There is a girl he loves, that he can't be with because it will put his mission in jeopardy. His life is forcibly invaded by people who want to help him (Alfred, Robin) and when he's not out prowling the rooftops of the city (hmmmm) he's sleeping in a lair beneath a building he owns (like a cave?) Oh, and he spends a lot of time dressed all in black.

I don't remember the series well enough to dig deeper right now, but I'm very interested in seeing more and refreshing my memory. How long will the comparison last, before the writers find Angel's own groove and the similarities end? While I was looking at the topic, I did some Wiki reading.  Here's what Joss had to say about his own creation:

 "Angel was the one character who was bigger than life in the same way that Buffy was, a kind of superhero." 
I think the moment that best assessed for me his status as a super-hero came right before he saved Cordelia. She was trapped by a very old, very powerful Vampire who heard Angel approaching and when he emerged from being shrouded in the darkness (sound familiar?) the Vampire warned Angel off. Cordelia got a look of terrific satisfaction on her face as she commented "Wait. You don't know who he is, do you?" to the villain.

It had that feel of the heroine of the comic who knows a secret that the villain doesn't. That 'ah-ha' moment when she knows how much trouble the villain is in, even if he doesn't.

Seeing RED Part II

Last weekend I watched Red.

I should clarify that it is almost completely unlike the short limited series, whose general concept was the inspiration for the story. With that all said, it was a fun ride and I enjoyed it tremendously. I understand that it is neither deep nor meaningful, but sometimes that isn't what I'm looking for in my entertainment. Malkovich was hysterical, and Willis was his intense best flawlessly depicting a man who would be otherwise unassuming if you couldn't almost sense the hard, willful person hiding beneath the surface.

I think the coolest moment was the police car scene. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I mean. Just....COOL.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What we've looked at so far...

We've looked at 25 books which are bona fide contenders for a place on our 10 Best Stories Ever list. As a quick reminder, here are the books we've talked about:

1. Planetary ~ (complete series)
2. Kingdom Come ~ (complete series)
3. Starman Vol. 2 ~ (complete series)
4. Kick Ass ~ (complete series)
5. Preacher ~ (complete series)
6. The Authority ~ (#1 - 12: The Circle, Shiftships & The Outer Dark)
7. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns ~ (complete series)
8. Sandman ~ (#21 - 28: Season Of Mists)
9. Watchmen ~ (complete series)
10. V For Vendetta ~ (complete series) 
11. Griffin ~ (complete series)
12. Barry Allen: The Life Story Of The Flash ~ (graphic novel)
13. Crimson ~ (complete series) 
14. John Byrne's Next Men/2112 ~ (complete series & graphic novel)
15 .Marvels ~ (complete series) 
16. Mutant X ~ (complete series) 
17. Arrowsmith ~ (complete series)
18. Avengers Forever ~ (complete series)  
19. Uncanny X-Men ~ (#141 - 142: Days Of Future Past)
20. Action Comics ~ (#858 - 863: Superman & The Legion Of Super-Heroes) 
21. JLA ~ (#1 - 4: New World Order)
22. Astro City ~ (#4 - 9: Confession) 
23. The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect ~ (complete series)
24. Marvel 1602 ~ (complete series)
25. Negation ~ (complete series)

I've done an initial judging of them based around the criteria I mentioned below, plus allowing for the inclusion of a score for climactic moments. The big moment in a story or series where you just sit back and say....'holy crap!' The first draft left me with some very tight scoring, so I'm going to expand the scale to 1 - 10 and re-score, with perhaps the inclusion of 'character impact' as a category that reflects longterm influence over the character as a result of the story.

But for those of you wondering......the first draft yielded a slightly unexpected winner:

Kingdom Come.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I need some feedback...

I need to grade the twenty five stories that are currently floating around in the great debate for Best Story Ever, and while I recognize that it's going to be completely subjective and entirely MY opinion......I'd still like some input from people on what criteria I might use.

Here are some early/easy ones that I'm leaning towards including:

Originality: I know that themes are rehashed constantly and very little is truly original, but when I look at great stories I find things that make them unique. I think I should include some measuring of how creative and different the story is from all the similar ones that have been done. In my mind a book like Sandman would have had this in spades, as it basically redefined/spawned an entire genre for comics, while a book like Kingdom Come would lack some in this area because many of its key aspects had been done before.

Impact: I'm thinking about its impact as a book, and the influence it had over other writers and other series and most importantly readers. Did it change what we look for in comic books, or was it just another nice story? Batman: The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen would score very highly for this.

Scope: The mirror of Impact, but this time internally. Did the events in this story change the character, the environment or the universe (books beyond this one) in a real and lasting way. Even in self-contained stories (Kick-Ass) we can extrapolate on this. On big brand characters we have to wonder.....will the changes stick? No way to know for sure, but sometimes the indicators are there. Uncanny X-Men #141-142 would score high in this. The scope of that story continues to influence events at Marvel today.

Fun: Right. I said it. Sometimes books aren't awesome in any particular way, but something about reading them is For me, I find Griffin to be a story very much like this. Nothing about it is incredibly original, and it didn't make any real impact on the industry, but the FUN factor has always been there. I just like to read it, and share it with friends.

Synergy: Did the art sync well and add to the story? Sometimes it distracts, and other times it enhances. Starman might represent this better than any other title. The artwork conveys the story on a level almost equivalent to the prose.

So.....what might I be missing? Do I consider the climax? Do great stories simply have to have a WOW moment? That's one idea I'm batting around. Please share. I'd like to define what I'll use and then start looking at those 25 and figure out where everyone stands so I can move on to explore more stories!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More from The Atomic Brain Aneurysm...

Well it didn't take long for me to find more blog worthy commentary as I cruised through a single thread on The Atomic Think Tank. These guys who play Mutants & Masterminds are really setting the bar for those who will one day come to play in their little corner of geekdom (for the record....I play Harn.....which is waaaaay cooler!)

King Snarf (seriously, that's his handle - and he chose it himself! It wasn't a punishment by his mom for living in her basement past the age of 25) at least shows some smarts when he points out that Marvel uses the reset button as well, although his example isn't the strongest one out there.

He's quickly forgotten though, as we see somebody take up NughtHunter's argument.

Re; NightHunter support

"For instance, with Professor X, during the time that he's been able to walk and no longer able, etc., he has developed as a character. He's gone from the idealistic academic to taking a more active role in events (as a member of the Illuminati), to kinda of a manipulative jerk. Now, he's dealing with the consequences of his actions as Summers has assumed command of the X-Men.

A particularly egregious example from DC would be The Flash. Barry Allen died, then Wally was The Flash. He grew up, had a family then Bart took over. Bart died then Wally came back. Now Barry is back, Wally has sort of been shunted to the sidelines, and Bart is back as Kid Flash. Everything has been reset to an artificial status quo from, what, 20 years ago?

As another example, Bruce Wayne has been gone. Dick stepped into the cowl, and it appeared things would develop. Now, Bruce is coming back to be the Batman.

Marvel did something similar with the death of Steve Rodgers. However, Bucky is going to remain Captain America, and Steve is adopting a whole new role in the Marvel U.

Marvel's characters have a tendency to develop in ways that DCs characters have a tendency to not. Now, there are exceptions: Marvel's "Brand New Day" reset Spider-Man, and DC's Booster Gold has gone from an attention-seeking goofball to protector of the timeline. However, overall, Marvel tends to allow for more development and appears on the surface to be less concerned with enforcing an arbitrary status quo."
~ Mungdaal                                            
Laughter. Laughter was my reaction. I just read somebody's own description of the massive and ongoing growth of the Flash lineage, while they were supporting the suggestion that no growth and development takes place with DC characters. Wally West was kid flash. When Barry died, he assumed his mentor's mantle, grew into the role and eventually surpassed his uncle in understanding the Speed Force. He grew up, got married and had kids, before leaving the role to Bart Allen. When Bart died, Wally came back to resume the role, but in Final Crisis Barry Allen returned from the Speed Force freeing Wally to focus on being a father. The story continues of course, and given that they are a clan of speedsters with their own bag of time travel headaches to sort through, it gets convoluted fairly often. suggest that the characters haven't grown and evolved is a show of pure ignorance.

The comment about Dick's time as Batman is equally shallow. Are we suggesting that characterization cannot develop and grow unless Bruce never comes back? That what this time has meant to Dick (or Bruce) won't change them?

Yes, for the time being Marvel has opted to allow Bucky to remain as the "official" Cap. But only a neophyte comic reader would believe that it will stay that way. Steve Rogers is Captain America, and while this current editorial tact is allowing for Bucky to retain the role as Steve assumes Fury's old position, that will all change back to the way it was in time. Will that then erase Mungdaal's support of Marvel? 

Another opinion based around a terribly one-sided understanding of what these two companies do as a whole.

King Snarf jumped back in after that post and quickly pointed out how often Hulk's been reset and bounced around over the last 25 years. Keen observation for a guy stuck on a board full of Spider-Man fans.

The best comment of them all though might have come from Der Schatten, who also dismisses the ridiculousness of Mungdaal and Nighthunter's comments, and then presents some valid observations of the state of both companies.

Re: Smartest comment on this thread

"I don't mind the resets. They let other writers give us their take on iconic stories. And new blood just might surprise us with great stories."

In the end, isn't that the point?


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Stealing topics from somebody else's geeks

Something to really.....REALLY.....enjoy:

The Dark Knight meets Superman

Did you watch it? Classic.

Now let's move on.

I may never have time to spend time thinking about what I'd like to blog about again. I have a new strategy; I'm going to read other forums and comic blogs and allow the terribly stupid and the incredibly insightful commentary that I find there fuel me.


Today I was thinking about the parallels between this year's theme at both Marvel and DC and I ran a Google search to see who else was reflecting as I was. One of the sites where the issue had come up was The Atomic Think Tank (a bulletin board site based on Mutants & Masterminds) which provided me with the following comments, all of which elicited a reaction I felt was blog-worthy.

Re: The Heroic Age
"What especially gets me about the announcement is the feeling that optimism and heroism are somehow a bold new thing that nobody's ever done. You can't take away my chocolate for ten years and then act like you invented a new flavor when you hand out the cocoa."
~ Overdrive                                      

If what Overdrive posted was true, and that was how Marvel was marketing The Heroic Age, I think he would have my full support it condemning them for their arrogance. In that scenario, everything he stated would be spot on accurate. It wasn't my impression when I saw The Heroic Age's promotional material though, nor did it feel that way to me when I started reading The Heroic Age books. To me it felt not so much like the idea was being put forth that they were achieving optimism for the first time, but that they were moving out of an age of darkness and back to a brighter time that they had forgotten.

The question that should be being asked is who had the idea first? DC or Marvel.

Re: Character growth and development
"One of the biggest complaints with serialised story-telling is that no major changes ever happen to the characters. It's the reason I've never been a huge DC fan. Constant resets mean that any time I get invested, the character just returns to who they were at the beginning of any writer's run.

The Marvel Universe has gone from a standard superhero universe, to one with political and ideological ramifications for its characters. It has gone through some darkness (starting with Disassembled and ending at Heroic Age). The heroes have suffered defeats, and have had little time to revel in their triumphs.

Taken as a unified whole, the Marvel Universe has grown and changed in a lot of amazing, innovative and interesting ways. I'm not a blind fan-boy. I had my own backlashes (damn you Quesada! Bring back my Spider-Marriage!) but at the same time, I'm still enjoying the stories that are being told.

Overall, I'm glad that the Marvel Universe doesn't undo its history every couple of years to entice new readers. It just lets people know what the current status quo is. I'm pretty comfortable with that.

Also, last time I checked, Superheroes were still punching villains, kissing lovers and dealing with soap operatic tragedies. What's different between now and the pouch lovin' 90s?"
~ Nighthunter                                               
I'm pretty sure I could write about Nighthunter's post for days without running out of contempt for the flippant inaccuracy of his summation, and the fact that his obvious preference for Marvel has, in fact, qualified him as the very definition of "blind fan-boy" that he assures us he's not. Anyone who's biggest decrying of Marvel "reset" buttons is the dissolution of the Spider-Marriage can't be taken for very much of an authority on any topic. know.....Spider-Man fan.

First of all, his complaint against serialized story telling can be deconstructed with some very basic examples from both universes. Northstar is homosexual. I'm fairly certain that anyone and everyone (including the character's creator) would consider that a major change that took place in the character's development and is maintained to this day. Superman revealed his identity to Lois Lane, and then married her. Contrary to the argument brought forward, that was not the longstanding canon for Superman books, and was actually a very modern development (although it had been done in one-off fashion here and there before, but never truly blended into continuity) that has been maintained, marked a clear and important change in the character's life and relationships and has survived multiple crisis resets.

Second of all, by singling out DC for constant resets, this blind Marvel fan-boy has discredited himself. Marvel has an equally repetitive history of pressing the reset button as a way of allowing incoming creative teams to refresh and redevelop a series from its "base" canon. From a quick, and admittedly gap filled, reflection I would summarize the differences not in either company's propensity for using the reset button, but in the scope of that button. DC has made a bigger event out of company-wide resets, while Marvel's have tended to be book or title-group specific. But that does not mean that there have been significantly less of them (although some books have, perhaps escaped with less.)

Need examples? How many times has Squadron Supreme been redone, re-envisioned or re-interpreted? The entire Ultimates line is a giant reset button that has allowed Marvel to do what they wanted to do, while doubling their revenue stream from readers (Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man now both get purchased!) Brand New Day? Guardians Of The Galaxy. Magneto and his agenda. Any number of time travel related stories with Kang, Immortus and the Fantastic Four have been 'reset' using the explanation that they didn't/won't happen in this reality because of time travel.

Thirdly, is he (she?) really suggesting that Marvel is the only company to introduce political and ideological ramifications for its characters? Based on what? The abortion that was Civil War (which while not erased with a reset button might as well have been given how little I've seen of its far-reaching impact on inter-personal relationships amongst the heroes - I'm still annoyed that Rogers and Stark have made peace so easily!) The power Osborne achieved in Dark Reign? Been there, done that: Luthor was President. JLA members conspired to rob Batman of his memories.

The point, I think, isn't that Nighthunter is wrong in his assessment of one company or the other, but rather that he's wrong about both of them. Each is guilty of using resets, though perhaps in different ways, and each has found opportunity and purpose to develop and enhance their characters and their universe in ways that have survived those resets. Painting either one with a singular brush would be an enormous mistake and a sure sign that the pool from which you're drawing your information isn't nearly deep enough.

But he's a Spider-Man what else should I expect?

Alright....there's more from the same thread.....but we'll leave it until next time.  I thought I might get it all into one blog.....but there's a lot of stupid (and a little smart) that needs to be pointed out. 



Yes, I read a Spider-Man book!

Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 2: Learning Curve

It was one of those $1 specials at the convention last August, and given my desperate need for a shipment of books, I have been reduced to reading it.

But I've got a surprise for you: it wasn't terrible.

Don't get me wrong. Spider-Man still sucks, but this rendition of him, carefully crafted by Bendis in the Ultimate Universe, was well done. The story didn't bring me anything special, but I did find the characterization of Aunt May much more engaging than the one to which I am accustomed. Her implied lecturing of J. Johan Jameson was good for a heartfelt laugh, and the situation at the end of the book in which she makes Peter squirm while she asks him if he knows about the birds and the bees was classic.

The way Bendis writes her, I could read a whole book about the wily elder, and her interactions with the people of the Marvel U.

The story had a couple of other points I thought were smart.

The first? Peter tells MJ he's Spider-Man. Smart move. I've always found it completely idiotic that heroes lie to people they love. Sometimes, maybe. But not every one of them all the time. So this change in approach worked for me. And her reaction suits a teenager who just found out the boy she's crushing on is a super-hero.

The second? Bendis underscores the point that Peter has fallen into a dangerous trap when he's in costume. He's relying on his new powers and acting like a moron. Peter realizes this and finishes the book using his prodigious brain much more effectively. It's a lesson that most heroes could use, but which is especially important for people like Tony Stark, Peter Parker and Barry Allen (all are incredibly smart) who have been written for too long without regard for that primary asset of their character.

The story itself is fine. Nothing special. It still doesn't explain why a Spider would be blue and red, but it does do a good job of entertaining with the inter-personal dynamics of the characters.

Overall? I won't actively seek out Volume 3, but I did find myself entertained.

Omni Mind And Community thoughts...

I just reread the six issue The OMAC Project series from right before Infinite Crisis (and immediately following the more than once referenced here Countdown To Infinite Crisis!) and it got me thinking about a couple of things.

1. Members of the Justice League took a hard line stance when Dr. Light raped Sue Dibney, and decided to erase Light's memory so that he would no longer know her identity, or any of the other secrets he could use to strike at hero's personal lives. Erasing somebody's memories is effectively acting not only as a vigilante, but as judge and jury as well, and when Batman walked in on them doing it, they made a dangerous choice; they took his memory of the incident. Batman being Batman, he ultimately figured out what had happened (World's Greatest Detective right....shouldn't these idiots have known that?) and in order to prevent such abuse in the future he created Brother Eye, who was later subverted by Maxwell Lord, Checkmate's rogue Black King. Lord used Brother Eye to create the OMAC protocol which ultimately threatened every meta on Earth.

It's an interesting story, but it left me wondering very strongly.....why was Batman viewed as the 'bad guy' by Superman for creating the Brother Eye? His reaction to vigilante criminal conduct within the JLA was not only appropriate, but might have been too restrained! Superman's reaction should have been....."Good thinking....but next time don't lose control of it!"

2. Wonder Woman executed the enormously dangerous Maxwell Lord, and Brother Eye broadcast it to the entire world. Diana was immediately cast in the role of 'fallen hero.

' Ummmm.........why?

Maxwell Lord subverted the will of Superman, and was prepared to use him to further his agenda of metahuman murder. I repeat: Superman. Under Lord's control! Diana did what was required, and while the action was repugnant, it was very, very necessary. Should the world have been shocked.....or relieved? You all know that I like my heroes to be HEROIC, and that means that you use any and every means possible to resolve situations without violence (which is why the Punisher is a murderous thug) but there is a line called necessity.....and in this case.....I'm with Diana.

3.  A lot of work went into making the DC universe darker and more grim than it had been in previous decades, and that work was pulled to the fore and highlighted in anticipation of Infinite Crisis. The last two Crisis installments were meant to bring DC back to a state of truer heroism (at least I certainly see that when I look at the chronology) and to me this series seems like a real look at the DC Universe's failure under a microscope. Heroes acting without regard for laws? Betraying each other? Taking actions to prepare for the annihilation of meta humans in an effort to save normal people? All these things are present, but the most obvious picture being painted in this series for me is the breakdown in relationships amidst the heroic community, most notably between the Big 3. I think this book illustrates everything that goes wrong in the dark, grim and gritty storytelling that was so popular in the nineties and early this century. Real heroes can't survive in that darkness without sacrificing what they stand for.


Plus.....I liked the book.

Did I mention that part?

Friday, November 05, 2010

More this & that...

No sign yet of Marvel keeping it's commitment to relaunch the Crossgen Universe, which is a major disappointment for me. I've been rereading The Path lately, in which Ron Marz does an excellent job of mixing awesome cosmic power with a story reflective of feudal Japan.

A while back (a loooooooong while) somebody answered my commentary regarding the X-Universe and how disappointing it was that it had become so convoluted that it wasn't worth following anymore. One of the reasons this reader gave for the state of the X titles was a gentleman named Matt Fraction. At the time I didn't have anything to offer in response, because I didn't know Fraction's work. I recently started reading his work on Iron Man, and I have to say that it seems really unlikely that he was the cause of any disappointment on the X books. The man can write.  More likely the books with the reputation of being the most over-edited books Marvel produces suffered from exactly that; over-editing. When is Marvel going to learn to just let the writers write?

Somebody once told me that Mark Waid's epically short time on the X books was due to the editorial interference. I'd love to know if that's a fact, because if the truth is anything like the rumors and somebody high up at Marvel hasn't put a stop to it.....that's a major case of mismanagement.

Did everyone watch the Walking Dead last week?

The show sprouted a question by Cam, who wanted to know what I thought of the series. In the moment, my reflection on it was that it was a constant stream of bleakness that offered little hope or reason to hang around, other than to get another healthy dose of the macabre fate that awaits survivors. Through the discussion though, I think I decided that I would revisit the series and blog about it as I read. Maybe if I spend more time thinking about what I'm reading I'll find something in that series to entertain me.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Looking forward

I usually give you guys a rundown when I get my comic shipment, just so I can let you know what's come in and what I'm stoked about reading. I thought that this time around I would try something a little bit different. I'm going to share with you my recent order, which I won't see until January.

For those wondering, I order through a U.S. based site that Randy recommended to me:

Boom Studios (4) I ordered four books from Boom Studios this month guys. Ever since I discovered BOOM as a result of Mark Waid's work there (he's the Editor In Chief) I've been keeping an eye on this company. They have the license for publishing Disney's books right now (I have to assume that will change with Disney now owning Marvel) which no doubt keeps them with steady revenue streams and the opportunity to grow before that license expires.

So what am I reading from them? Well I'm still reading Irredeemable & Incorruptible, but recently they launched a series of books that were created in concert with Stan Lee. I was intrigued enough that I ordered the first issue as a sampling of each title. If I like them I'll read them in GN format. Most of them anyways. The one which is a collaborative effort between Waid and Lee is now a regular order. That book is entitled Stan Lee's Traveller. The new title this month is Stan Lee's Starborn.

So the official order is:
Incorruptibe #14
Irredeemable #20
Stan Lee's Traveller #2
Stan Lee's Starborn #1

Dark Horse Comics (3) I don't read a lot of Dark Horse, but the last couple of months I've been ordering a few books because they're revivals that are being done by the same man who once breathed new life into the characters when he built Valiant. I'm speaking of Jim Shooter's return to the old Gold Key characters Solar and Magnus. Last month that expanded when I ordered the new Turok book, and this month it grows once more.

Still, even as it grows, Magnus comes to an end. It was only a four book series. Turok isn't offered this month, which makes it an easy month from Dark Horse.

So the official order is:
Solar, Man of the Atom #5
Magnus, Robot Fighter #4
Mighty Samson #1

DC Comics (31) Of the big two, this is my BIG one. DC dominates my reading list for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that their characters have always been just a little bit more iconic in my mind. They're who I grew up with. I read all of the core books for Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, Justice League, Justice Society, Wonder Woman and The Titans. It's a lot of books, and it only gets worse each time some Batman editor green lights yet another Batman book. The truth is that I get annoyed when they stretch continuity over 4 or 5 books a month. The second it goes beyond that, I start thinking about dropping titles.

So the official order is:
Action Comics #896
Action Comics Annual #13
Adventure Comics #521
Batman #705
Batman Annual #28
Batman & Robin #18
Batman Inc #2
Batman The Dark Knight #2
Birds Of Prey #7
Brightest Day #15 & 16
Detective Comics #872
Detective Comics Annual #12
Flash #9
Green Arrow #7
Green Lantern #61
Green Lantern Corps #55
Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #5
JSA All Stars #13
Justice League Of America #52
Justice Society Of America #46
Legion of Super-Heroes #8
Legion of Super Heroes Annual #1
R.E.B.E.L.S. #23
Red Robin #18
Secret Six #28
Superman #706
Teen Titans #90
Time Masters: Vanishing Point #6
Titans #30
Wonder Woman #606 

Dynamite Entertainment (1)  No news here. I'm reading The Boys by Garth Ennis.

The Boys #49

IDW Publishing (1) Normally its not even on the list, but there was big news in this previews. John Byrne is returning ot his creator owned series that to me always felt like The X-Men done properly. As soon as I saw the listing I knew I would be ordering John Byrne's Next Men. The last time he did this book it was in the nineties (early nineties if my memory isn't failing) and the run was sensational. Full of everything you'd expect from John's work.

John Byrne's Next Men #1

Marvel Comics (17) It's funny to think about the stock I owned in marvel Comics and yet how utterly disappointed I was with the way they ran the company. Too many X-books. Mega events that climaxed early and never delivered on the promise of the story concept. Losing key writers. Plus there was always that pain in the ass habit they had of actually taking pride in Spider-Man. Damn that bothered me! But times are slowly changing. There's a new wave of talent that's been working at Marvel the last year or so, and these people can write. Two of the big tickets for me come in the form of Matt Fraction (who made his mark on Iron Man) and Jonathan Hickman (who is breathing new life into Fantastic Four every month!) I've always been a big fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who seem to capture the right perspective on just about every book they get assigned, and yet somehow they keep getting assigned to second tier characters. Go figure.

This month is no different as they launch a brand new Heroes For Hire series that will feature classic b-list Marvel characters like Luke Cage and Danny Rand. You know, Power Man & Iron Fist? In any event, I suspect the book will be under ordered and really, really good. That's just how books by Abnett & Lanning tend to be.

So the order this month for Marvel is:
Avengers #8
Captain America #613
Chaos War #4
Daken Dark Wolverine #4
Fantastic Four #586
Heroes For Hire #1
Hulk #28
Incredible Hulk #618 & 619
New Avengers #7
Secret Avengers #8
Secret Warriors #23
Shield #5
Thor #618
Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 #5
Ultimate Comics Thor #3
Wolverine #4

And that's it. That's the whole order for this month. I've dropped some things. I've added some things. I continue to be mainly a main stream book reader.

January's going to be so much fun!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why doesn't Stargate do better as a comic?

A little while back I made a comment in one of the blogs about how I think television is a better medium for comic books than the silver screen. Naturally, I was right.

So recently, I have taken a renewed interest in Stargate SG-1, the television series that was born from the feature film Stargate. Over the years I had always had a mild interest in it, but never had the time or inclination to sit down and watch it religiously. Then I was fortunate enough to come into possession of the entire series, so I decided that I would begin to watch it from the beginning. I'm wrapping up Season 6 (of 10) now.

What does any of this have to do with comic books?

Everything. While I was watching a particular episode last night, I actually caught myself thinking that their well developed mythology would translate exceptionally well to the comic book format. So when the episode ended I came down to my computer and fired it up (I lie, it's always running.) A quick Wiki search lead me here: I was disappointed to find out that there were only 18 comics, including convention specials, listed.

Which lead me to wonder why Stargate doesn't do better as a comic.

When I think about the series that I gravitate to, and that I typically recommend to others, I find many elements that I think already exist within  the Stargate Universe.

Mythology - More than once I have openly admired the brilliance of a writer's unique spin or interpretation of the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe. Elseworld books, Kingdom Come, Earth X & 1602 all fit that bill. The reason I'm so drawn to the major comic universes is that they have a deep seated mythology upon which every story's foundation is based. Stargate has achieved that, and they have done so by incorporating some truly creative and impressive explanations for the myriad of pantheons that exist across human cultures. Their inclusion of the lost continent of Atlantis is terrific, and the idea of a progenitor species called The Ancients is terrific.

Good versus Evil - Mankind, still in its infancy, stands in defiance of a race that has the technological knowledge to wipe them from the Earth. They draw clear lines in the series regarding good and evil, and then in a show of writing daring and skill, the writers muddy those lines at every turn. They introduce us to an evil race, and as soon as we're comfortable with them as the universal bad guys, they bring in the offshoot of the species as good guys. Mankind's own inherent struggle with virtue and sin is constantly on display in the series. On more than one occasion we are faced with a decision to consider; is the greater good served by an act of evil?

Characterization - The cast is a robust collection of characters, spanning numerous worlds. Many of them are easily dismissed as archetypes for any science fiction show, and I have seen more than one critic refer to their personas in derogatory terms. Yet the characters grow throughout the show, and more importantly, I think they grow on you. The writers show a progressive development not just of the characters, but of their working relationships.

Action  - All good comics have some form of action. Stargate has it in spades, without getting lost in it. In comic terms 'they know when to use a splash page.'

Serialized Continuity - One of my favorite aspects of a comic book is that I can pick it up and (aside from short limited series) after an issue be aware of the basic state of the book, its main character and the current driving plot. I don't have to have read the last one hundred issues to appreciate the individual story of that book......but it helps. Stargate likewise feels that way to me. There is a bigger continuity, that when referenced makes the growing story more interesting, but that can be ignored for the simple appreciation of the current episode.

I wonder if the series didn't do well because science fiction books, in general, haven't been nearly as successful as their heroic genre counterparts? And does that make any sense, since comic conventions are overrun with science fiction aficionados?

Why didn't this series make a more successful transition?

I just don't get it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Does IGN have a point?

A little while ago IGN created their list of the top 25 comic book movies ever made.

Here is their list:

1. Batman: The Dark Knight
2. Spider-Man 2
3. Superman: The Movie
4. Road To Perdition
5. Batman Begins
6. Iron Man
7. X-Men 2: X-Men United
8. Spider-Man
9. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
10. A History Of Violence
11. 300
12. Kick-Ass
13. Watchmen
14. American Splendor
15. Sin City
16. Dick Tracy
17. Ghost World
18. Superman II
19. Men In Black
20. Batman Returns
21. Blade
22. Hellboy
23. The Crow
24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
25. The Rocketeer

From my perspective: The list is tragically flawed, with way too much credit being given to camp & childhood entertainment (Dick Tracy is in, but The Incredible Hulk isn't?!?) , and not nearly enough credit being given to the achievement of staying true to the source material and reflecting on the silver screen the very things that made the character(s) popular enough to merit being 'green lit'.

Notable Absences: The Incredible Hulk. Blade II. Mystery Men. Akira. 30 Days Of Night. Wanted. All the Alan Moore story-based movies aside from Watchmen. Plus, do we count books or toys that became comics that became movies? In that case we have to look at Transformers or Tomb Raider or Mortal Combat.

My biggest issues: First of all I don't understand the love that so many people have for Spider-Man 2. I don't really care all that much about running it down for featuring Spider-Man (surprised?) but I do find it confusing that it's widely regarded as better than the original. I thought Spider-Men presented a strong case for the superior of the two movies because it did an exceptional job of laying down the groundwork for any Spider-Man that wanted to follow it. As introduction movies went, it was actually solid with few glaring errors, and only a few notable but acceptable liberties being taken. I was equally unimpressed with X-Men 2, and find it's position (and these two positions are reflected on other blogs and lists all over the web) ahead of X-Men to be tenuous at best. X-Men 2 butchered two sensational X-Men stories by trying to cram them into the same book and giving us a bastardized and unsatisfying version of Logan's origin, while setting up the equally abysmal interpretation of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Neither would make my top 10.

300 and Watchmen both deserve more love than they got on this list, and the fact that other fans don't admire them (and Sin City) for their efforts to better convey the medium of comic books in a visual form is surprising to me. All three are terrific movies, but even more notably they work hard to reflect the core material effectively and without too much compromise (although Alan Moore might disagree with me strongly!) Would I consider bumping Superman II a little bit higher? Surprisingly, I would. Maybe just for the fan-boy enjoyment of 'Come, son of Jor-El....kneel before Zod.' It amuses a lot of people that I think so highly of the 20+ year old Superman & Superman II and so lowly of Singer's effort to recreate them with Superman Returns - which was terrible.

So what would my list look like in comparison? Admittedly a little more slanted towards modern action, and a lot more titled towards reverence for the source material. I'll share my Top 15:

15. V For Vendetta
14. The Crow
13. X-Men
12. Blade
11. A History Of Violence
10. Watchmen

9. Superman: The Movie
8. Batman Begins
7. Sin City
6. Spider-Man
5. The Road To Perdition
4. Iron Man
3. 300
2. The Incredible Hulk
1. Batman: The Dark Knight

I have issues with Moore's other adapted stories as well, but certainly some, if not most of them would have made an appearance in my Top 25. While they fail in most cases to properly convey the source material, movies like From Hell, V For Vendetta and even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (with a nod to his role in creating Constantine as well) certainly surpass the entertainment value of Dick Tracy of Ghost World (which is a great drama, but slow time that I'll never get back!) If it qualified, Transformers would have shaken my list up some, and given the recent releases like Red and The Losers, there may be more adjustments coming.

Hell, I'll bet some of you can make a case for movies I've forgotten about.

So who wants to try?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How awesome is this?

I finally took some time and pulled stats from the website on who's been clicking in and taking a read at the mindless ramblings I throw up here from time to time (none quite so entertaining as the deconstruction of the myth that Spider-Man is in any way a hero.)

Last month we had visitors come by from:

Belarus, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain,  The United Kingdom, The United States.

Now if only I could draw the interest of the ruling monarch of Wakanda!

Seriously people, I don't write enough and what I do write serves only my own amusement......but thanks for stopping by all the same!


One word can change everything.

Seven years ago I read Issue #1 of a Warren Ellis limited series named 'RED' and was introduced to retired CIA killer Paul Moses, who lived a menial retirement highlighted by the weekly conversation he had on the phone with his case worker and the odd letter he got from a niece in England. Then somebody new came to power in the CIA and ordered Moses eliminated in order to bury his dirty, sordid past once and for all. Paul Moses discovered this and phoned in his status to 'The Company' as he had done week in and week out for years. But this time he didn't say 'GREEN.'

With one word he changed everything.

 So with Bruce Willis playing Paul Moses, and a story adapted and expanded in order to facilitate it being licensed into a movie, I've dug back into my archives and done some advanced reading. Reviews of the movie suggest that it isn't the gritty, dark film that the book presented, but rather is laced with comedy that lifts its mood and offers a more entertaining, upbeat action flick.

So the script that Ellis reportedly submitted to D.C. years before they actually published it generated an intriguing enough concept to be converted into a movie. I remember listening to Ellis speak in Toronto a few years ago (around the time the book was getting set to publish I think) and he seemed to be speaking with a certain amount of contempt for D.C.'s editors who sat on the script (and another one, which he didn't name but I suspect was Tokyo Storm Warning) until Ellis was actually a hot commodity in the industry, before deciding to publish it.

At the time I didn't give it a lot of though, but now as I reflect on it and the obvious success of the concept (as it crashes into theaters) I can certainly understand what I perceived to be his frustration. If I created something for you and you paid me, but didn't think enough of it to put it on display, I'm not sure I would be happy when you later sought to capitalize on my growing fame by pulling it out of mothballs and parading it around for the world to see. If you didn't think it was up to your standards before, I would have to wonder what had changed. Certainly not the script. So did the audience change, or did your standards change?

Or were you maybe, just maybe, wrong to begin with?

Not that I expect that Warren is in any way disappointed by the current turn of events, which would have put some extra money in his pocket. But there is certainly a sequence of events there that would have had me seeing 'RED.'

Thank god I'm not Paul Moses.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What a strange and interesting new direction...

Wonde Woman is 600.

In recent months many of comicdom's greatest heroes have had milestone birthdays, and with Issue #600, Wonder Woman joined exclusive company. True, the numbering process hasn't been linear, being rebooted and restarted on more than one occasion means that the title doesn't have the continuity of an Action Comics or Detective Comics, but it doesn't make the milestone any less impressive. 600 issues of Wonder Woman, and there can't be any doubt that she is the comic world's most successful and recognizable female. I think that her success is the one thing that Marvel was never able to capture. Something about this female just struck a chord with the public.

Now, following a run that I've heard panned in numerous comic shops (I thought it was solid and I like Gail Simone as a writer) DC has brought in super-scribe J. Michael Straczynski to take over the franchise and while we get a tease of his plan in issue 600, it is revealed in it's full and slightly confusing glory in issue 601.

As near as I can tell it feels like an Elseworlds story - which is DC's version of 'What If?' In it, we open to a Diana who is being hunted by what appear to be black ops teams from some sort of government agency. As we read through the book we find out that Diana is in hiding, in a world that does not know or remember Wonder Woman. The Amazon's secret island was uncovered when their gods abandoned them, and many of them fled to hide amongst the earth's population, including a young Diana. Her mother, the incomparable Hippolyta, has hidden Diana away where she can be trained and prepared to one day gather and save the Amazons.

I read the book and scratched my head.

It is such an enormous detour from the current story arcs in the rest of the DCU that I was, at first, miffed by the decision to effectively remove the book from continuity in order to allow J. M. S. his own private playground. How do you take a cornerstone of your universe and separate it from everything else?  Upon reflection though, I'm equally intrigued by the story he's starting to assemble, and therefor willing to overlook her absence from what is going on in the bigger picture of the DCU. JMS has crafted some of my favorite tales, although one pattern I have found that I am not a fan of is that he starts out like a house on fire (white hot and burning it up) and then flames out as we start to approach the apex of the story. Sometimes he even vanishes from a book before the apex really happens, or just after.

I have to hope that, as I have heard, that is a result of what editors he was working with, and not the result of somebody who cannot remain focused and on task through the completion of his goals. In any event, his unique, and original twist on the Amazon might make it an interesting pick-up for those of you who have never read her before.

After all, this is the guy who created Midnight Nation, amongst other exceptional comic tales.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 Weeks On The Road...

Work took me to Las Vegas and then on to Albuquerque over the last two weeks, and when I spend that much time traveling I inevitably do some reading and get caught up on things I wouldn't otherwise have time to read. I thought I'd share a little bit of what I read with you guys, because in all honesty I read some really, really good stuff!

Scalped: Dead Mothers - Mixed into the great $1 graphic novels I bought while at the con in August was a Vertigo title I had heard literally nothing about. I can't help but wonder if that's a reflection of the circles I run in, or a general apathy by the public to books that center around native reservations. In either case, I freely admit that I've been missing out. On the cover of the Dead Mothers (the third Scalped collection) is a quote from Garth Ennis giving it solid reviews and suggesting that we "Spread the word. Tell your friends. Talk about it. Blog about it."  Well Garth.....mission accomplished.

The story is an exciting mix of corruption, law enforcement and the difficult and disgusting politics of an Indian Reservation, and centers around an alienated man being played on all sides, and trying to decide which side he's really on. It's described as a 'Saga of Native American noir' and I doubt I could give it a more appropriate description. It is a refreshing, if depressing, change from the ordinary diet of books I read, and I'll be actively searching out collections #1 & #2 to add to my catalog of books.

The Death-Defying Devil, Black Terror & Project Superpowers: Chapter Two - Alex Ross works with Jim Krueger and Joe Casey on these Dynamite Entertainment titles, all of which are part of the universe resurrected from the land of the forgotten in recent years by Ross and Krueger. After having enjoyed the stage that was set in Project Superpowers: Chapter One, I jumped into these three books with great anticipation, and I wasn't disappointed. I read them in the order outlined above, and got some interesting glimpses into storylines that went beyond the simple expectations I had.

Going in I thought the series focusing on the individual characters from the core book would be typical character introductions in which we would rehash the histories of these golden age characters with a fresh coat of paint designed to make them edgier and more interesting to the modern reader. I cannot deny that some of that was going on, but more importantly I found the books to be supplemental and full of plot devices that expanded my interest in both the characters and the universe in general. I can't complain either, since I got all three for the grand total of $10.

When I finally got around to reading Chapter Two (Book 1) I had little difficulty following the twists and turns of the story and trying to get my head around this complex, globe-spanning super-hero revolution. The book could still use a little more subtlety in terms of the global political reaction to the White House coming under the control of the Superpowers (I find the reactions very overt and large, showing little of the cunning and subtlety that would have been required to create a shadow cabinet to rule the world.)

All in all, I eagerly anticipate reading more from this universe. I think the thing I like most is not having the burden of history to sort through that I deal with in most DC or Marvel stories. It makes the read entertaining when I don't have to wonder if they did a retcon to make this story possible.

DMZ: Collections 3 - 5 - We've talked about this. If you're not reading DMZ you're making a mistake. Life inside the demilitarized zone of the second American civil war is difficult at the best of times, but for Matt Roth it can be absolute hell. Still, as the only reporter alive inside the ZONE, he has access to stories that can and will change the way the world at large understands what's going on.


Universe X - I finally finished this massive tale, and while I'm not sure I loved it as much as Earth X, it was still a sensationally deep read, with an incredible number of plot twists and story arcs all taking place at the same time. It is a thinking book that requires you not only to be reading, but to be paying attention to every detail as the story unwinds. Mar-Vell returns to the Marvel Universe to launch an unprecedented war on DEATH, and when the dust settles he makes a spectacular announcement that sets the stage for the third book in this opus; Paradise X. When I find a copy of that I'll give you a rundown on how this epic finishes.

If you have time to invest, this is a place you can invest it, and be paid back with interest.

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted - The first story arc written by Joss Whedon upon his assumption of duties on the X-Men, this book opens with news that rocks the mutant world; somebody has found a cure. The implication that the mutant strain is a virus and not an evolutionary transition shatters some mutants, and elates others. But is there a sinister goal behind the news?

The premise is solid, and sticks to the core concepts that all of the best X-Men books are built on. Better still, it brings back one of the most likable X-Men of them all; Colossus. How? Read it to find out. It's been years since I was a big follower of the X-Men and the 72 books they put out every month in an effort to steal every cent from my pocket, but after reading this book I'm sorely tempted to buy the rest of Whedon's run on the series and at least spend a little bit of time with Cyclops and the team.

It's a terrific read, and it doesn't demand to much mental energies.

X-Men good. Everyone else bad. What else do you need to know?

That's it for my GN reading while I traveled. When I get some time tomorrow I'll tell you about some of the monthly issues I read, and maybe we can talk about whether or not Brightest Day is working for DC.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Grant, why?

I may have mentioned before that I either love or hate Grant Morrison's work.

I might even have commented that I'm not a big fan of his recent Batman work because I don't think he shows Dick Grayson the respect that he's due.

Well I've just finished rereading the year plus long run he's had on Batman And Robin and I can now say without any doubt in my voice that I absolutely HATE his work on Dick Grayson. Everything about the way that he writes Dick seems meant to underscore the differences in Dick and Bruce (he does use Damien to reflect Bruce - so we aren't deprived of that aspect of the book) and completely neglects that Dick would understand how important it is that people not be so easily able to distinguish the difference between himself and Bruce.

Let's agree that the only reason for anyone to put on the cowl after Bruce's death is because the legend is so much more important than the man. If you're not going to pretend to be Bruce, and to send the message to anyone and everyone that Batman is alive and continuing his battle with crime, then there isn't any point in becoming Batman. You simply remain Nightwing, or Robin or whomever else you are, and fill the void as best you can. Once you decide that necessity demands that you assume the mantle, then everything you do centers around making sure the illusion in perfect.

Grant's writing feels too much like Dick is comfortable being different (while in costume) from Bruce. I don't care if it's a world class detective like Jim Gordon or if it's an obsessive maniac like Two-Face or The Joker, there is no excuse for Dick Grayson to be acting in any manner different than the one he nows Bruce would act in. Yet there he is, book in and book out, acting like a rank amateur when it comes to imitating the man that he knows better than anyone else alive (save, perhaps, Alfred.) Grant is either calling Dick incompetent, or stupid, and I'm not sure which it is.

I just know that I don't like it at all.

Astro City

I don't rave about this series of books nearly enough.

While carving through some of my July books, which didn't get read as soon as they got shipped to me because I spent a bunch of time reading graphic novels that I got my hands on, I stumbled onto Issue #1 of Astro City's newest offering: Astro City Special: Silver Agent.

One look through the first of this two part story reminded me of why I'm such an enormous fan of Kurt Busiek's Astro City work. His characters are deep, compelling and real and his stories span the feel of comics from the golden age right through until the modern age. There's a little bit of something in Astro City for everyone, and yet at no point in time do you feel like he sacrificed anything in order to accomplish it.

What I like best about Astro City stories, and this is a recurring theme in a lot of my favorite comics, is that Kurt isn't just telling me a story. He's building a mythology. There is historic depth and perspective to his characters that is often taken for granted or ignored in many mainstream books in deference to another action scene.

In Silver Agent #1 we follow the tale of arguably Astro City's greatest hero (although many Samaritan dans might argue) as he weighs the decision to return to the past (where he's from - our time) from the distant future and die for a crime he didn't commit. I won't give you any details beyond this, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might take my advise and go pick this book up, but I have a feeling that in only two issues Busiek is going to tell a story that feels enormous in its weight.

If you're not a regular comic collector and you're looking for a hero genre series to pick up in trade paperback and read leisurely, I would highly recommend Astro City. Start at the beginning and slowly allow the series to grow on you.

You won't regret it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Talent or personality? What matters more to the reader?

This question could certainly entertain a discussion beyond the realm of comic books, but since I'm here blogging (mostly) about comic related topics, we'll keep it tight and focused if we can.

I asked yesterday if it matters to you what kind of people your favorite writers or artists are, and I told you that to me it doesn't matter. Now I'll tell you why:

I read to be entertained.

I don't read to get to know somebody, or to reward them for being a person that I like (actually that might not be entirely true!) I consider Alan Moore to be one of the strangest and most unusual people I've ever read about, and not knowing him personally, I can only extrapolate on what he might be like to meet. I suspect I would find him interesting for about twenty minutes, but the more personal the interaction became, the more I fear I would consider him hard to relate to or like. That's just the feel I get from the interviews, reports and descriptions of his character that I've read over the years.

It has zero impact on how much I enjoy his work.

Where does all of this come from?

When I started discussing how much I'm enjoying Jim Krueger's work on both Earth X & Universe X, as well as pointing out that he's currently working on Project SuperPowers with Alex Ross, I heard from one of the blog's readers that they could never get past the fact that they were told he was a nightmare to work with by a friend they have at Marvel. As a result, he doesn't read Krueger's work.  To him, it mattered what kind of a person Krueger was, and so he has kept himself removed from a terrific writer's work because the man's reputation stains his opinion of Krueger.

I started thinking about it, and realized that I read a lot of books by people I don't admire or respect.

I met Warren Ellis once, and was turned off by the experience, yet I consider Ellis to be a phenomenal writer with a nearly limitless imagination and incredible characterization skills. The fact that my meeting with him did little to endear him to me means nothing to me when it comes time to place my monthly order for comic books.

The encounter with Stan Lee, as previously noted, was so sterile and empty that it left a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe you can blame that on Stan and maybe you can't, but as a person I no longer admire him. As a comic industry icon I still admire his impact deeply.

Now, I didn't enjoy meeting Joe Quesada or Todd MacFarlane, and at the time that I met each person I did opt to drop one of the books they were working on. However, I should point out that neither book was particularly good, so it's not really the same thing as passing on a contender for the Top 10 Best Stories Ever (which one of these Earth/Universe/Paradise X books might be!) I didn't care for their work overall to begin with, so deciding that they were enormous morons and staying away from those books was easy. But if Mark Waid ever turns out to be an enormous jackass, I won't rush out to drop my order on Irredeemable or Flash, or whatever book of his I'm reading at the time. He's just too good at what he does for me to deprive myself of the satisfaction of enjoying his art.

Now I should point out that if I have a little extra money, I might buy a book or two from somebody I really liked and enjoyed as a person, simply to support them. I met Beau Smith once at Mid-Ohio and he was such an incredible guy that I actually bought and followed some of his work for a while, despite the fact that I wasn't captivated by it. The same story can be told of writer/artist Mark Oakley who was so awesome and personable that months after meeting him a few times at different shows and shops around Toronto, I bought almost two dozen issues of Thieves & Kings (which is a great read.)

It inevitably doesn't last of course, because in the end I only have so much money and I want the best product for my money. Which means the best writers, and the best artists.

Even if they're jerks.

What about you?

Oh, and here's the feedback from some of my experiences:

Brian Bendis *This guy impressed me on a level I cannot even express. This is a guy who understands.
Bill Willingham *Bill was incredibly personal. Sensational!

Mark Oakley
Beau Smith
Geoff Johns
Phil Jiminez
Ian Churchill
Mike Wieringo

Gary Frank
Steve McNiven
Humberto Ramos
Jim Shooter *No meeting, but correspondence has always been excellent! 
David Finch *Not just because he's Canadian either!
John Byrne *At a baseball game no less....and he makes the list for handling it sooooo well.
Terry Dodson
Rachel Dodson

Mike Mignola
Stan Lee
Matt Hawkins *Should be noted that it started out as Awesome, and deteriorated as he became more and more successful 
Warren Ellis 

Todd MacFarlane
Joe Quesada

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A quick reminder

To anyone who hasn't heard me say this in a while.......


This & That

Have you watched that trailer in HD yet?

I still love when Black Adam shouts SHAZAM! and the lightning comes crashing down and causes the massive explosion that wipes out Flash & Green Lantern. Speaking of Green Lantern, I thought that the character in the video looked a lot more like Kyle Rayner than anyone else. Why does Kyle the get the love? Shouldn't that be Hal Jordan? And if not Hal, hasn't John Stewart earned it? I have no objection to them skipping over Guy.

That said, lots of people might. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about which Lantern is the coolest. Call me sentimental, but I always liked Hal. To me the character just has more real depth that any of the rest of them. Sure, the writers who latched onto John, Guy and Kyle all did their best to give those characters depth through tragedy and adversity, but compared to Hal's it always just seemed forced. I never did care much for Hal's time as a fallen hero, but I will say that once they made that move I would have been fine if they had simply kept it that way.

Just like I would have been fine if they had left Barry Allen dead( and I love Barry.)

Can anyone out there think of a second generation hero that they like more than the first generation version? I like Wally West best as The Flash, but off of the top of my head, I think that's the only time that I've enjoyed the kid sidekick taking over as the main hero.

My boys were here this weekend and they both read Earth2. It's top notch. Has everyone read it? It's worth the read.

I've been thinking about it and I need more Martian Manhunter.

Because I'm not reading regularly, I've actually been considering switching MOST of my monthly titles to trade paperbacks going forward. It will make it a little easier to manage costs on a monthly basis. We'll see if I still feel that way when I get next month's shipment of books.

I'm half way through Universe X, and I'm really enjoying it. Tomorrow I want to talk about whether or not it matters to you if the writers/artists you love are good people or not. It came up in recent conversation, and I've been thinking about it a lot the last couple of days.

I've decided I don't care (for the most part) and I'll tell you why.......tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


*spoiler alert* This isn't about comics!

**spoiler alert #2** it's going to be short, and very, very to the point!

For 8 seasons Scrubs was insanely funny. Then the network canceled it, and in a surprising move a different network picked it up. Almost everyone came back, though many of the characters are only on the show in a guest starring role in season 9.

Here's my question......why does everyone hate Season 9 so much?

I just finished it last night, and while it isn't the same as the first eight seasons, it's still better than most of the crap that's on television these days! Sure, the girl daydreamer doesn't do it justice like J.D. used to, and the writers took too long to figure that out, but Cole & Drew are golden new characters who entertain. The awkward dynamic of the love-hate relationship between Drew & Mahoney is fun, and Bob Kelso's still around. Kelso was the unsung hero of the first eight season, and spawned such classic moments as "what has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap? BOB KELSO"

In short, I'm not feeling the hate. It's not the old Scrubs, but it also wasn't garbage.

It entertained.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Earth X

Have you heard of it?

Do you know it?

Earth X is the brainchild of Jim Krueger, who birthed the series from notes created by artist phenom Alex Ross. The story is the tale of a dystopian future of one possible timeline of the Marvel Universe in which Krueger paints for us the cataclysmic outcome of a world in which everyone has acquired super powers and the heroes of yesteryear are no longer special or unique.

 What grabbed my attention first about this book, aside from Ross' insanely awesome cover work, is the notion Krueger brings forth that mankind's genetic potential (a longstanding issue in the Marvel Universe) was encoded into us by the race of godlike beings known as The Celestials. This idea is the backbone of a new mythology of the Marvel Universe which Krueger and Ross craft that is brilliant in its depth and awesome in its scope.

The first question, of course, has to be.....WHY?

Why did the Celestials take any interest in what are essentially insects to them? Why tinker with mankind's genetic destiny at all? To what end? The brilliance of the answer involves the purpose and mission of Galactus as an entity, the balance of the cosmos and the final fate of Franklin Richards - long identified as the most important mutant in the Marvel Universe.

While this story remains the core around which the rest of the series is crafted, the creators manage to entwine us into the lives of some of our favorite characters as they struggle and cope with seemingly unrelated crises' that threaten the slowly dwindling population of the planet Earth. In the end? Everything comes together in an epic story that has the kind of depth almost never found in comics.

I read it 11 years ago when it was published and forgot about it.

I found it recently at the local library and checked it out for another read, and was reminded of just how good it is. Easily my favorite overall piece of Marvel Universe storytelling. So much so that I purchased a copy of the Graphic Novel at Fan Expo, and then sought out Universe X Part I & II and purchased them as well. I'll update you on Universe X after I finish it, but so far?

More brilliance!

And if you like Ross & Krueger, I have to ask.....are you reading Project SuperPowers?

Have you seen this yet?

Make sure you're watching it in HD.

I just wish DC would make a movie like this, and stop toying with my emotions!

Also, as a footnote, I had absolutely no interest in playing what I expected to be an improved version of City of Heroes. I get tired too quickly of constantly just chasing the next level, or the next power. BUT.....this is so cool, maybe I'll consider it!

A couple of important observations:

1. Nothing the Joker shot would be fast enough to even comes close to hitting The Flash
2. Diana would have schooled Deathstroke.
3. While I love Black Adam, it was pretty entertaining to watch Superman flat out punk him.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Autographs at Fan Expo 2010

I have an interesting collection of autographs on some of my favorite artwork or comics.

For me Fan Expo was an opportunity to add some new pieces to that collection, and I did it in a very systematic way.

Steve McNiven - I think most people going to see Steve were high on his work from Marvel that he did with Mark Millar. Whether it was one of the books from the epic Old Man Logan story in Wolverine, or the newly released and incredibly edgy Nemesis, I saw a lot of people in line with that work looking for an autograph. I must confess I too had two books from the Wolverine run which I wanted signed by the artist (in hopes that one day soon Mr. Millar's signature will adorn the same books - I enjoyed Old Man Logan.) I also had with me my ten year old daughter, and we brought along two books for Steve to sign for her as well; both issues of the CrossGen gem called Meridian. Steve immediately latched on to those two covers as his favorite pieces of work from his time with Meridian, and they really are gorgeous pieces of art. He took a little bit of time to talk with my daughter, and even brought up and mentioned his own ten year old. Steve was a genuine and friendly guy, and I enjoyed meeting him.

With that said, I should mentioned that while we were in line (it wasn't too long - maybe 20 minutes) I did notice that Gary Frank came out and started speaking to Steve while other fans were up getting their books signed. I hate that, because Steve immediately gravitated to Gary, and I felt like the fans getting autographs at that moment were missing out on a chance to have any real personal interaction with Steve. If it had been me, it might have ruined the experience for me.

Stan Lee - One and a half hours in line to meet one of the most influential men in all of comics, and it was a sterile, sanitized and unfulfilling experience. I don't know whose fault it is that it runs that way, but I know that it was a terrific disappointment for me. I have Stan's autograph on a copy of Incredible Hulk #109 (also featuring Ka-Zar) now, and I can say I've met him, but it was like a person you're introduced to as they pass you going down on the escalator while you're on the other side going up. It hardly counts.

Gary Frank - Straight after Stan I went and got in line for autographs from Gary Frank. Aside from Stan he was the next most important target on my list due largely to the fact that I'm such a big fan of his work. I don't know that he was the second biggest name at the show, but to me he was clearly a step apart in terms of the impact he's had on my reading enjoyment over the years. The line moved well, and it was about a thirty-five or forty minute wait to get to the front. I broke my rule of only bringing two or three books and took five for Gary to sign, because he's worked on so many things that I loved. I had him sign the cover of the final issue of the awesome story in Action Comics entitled Superman & The Legion Of Super-Heroes, and then switched gears and had him sign the first issue of Midnight Nation. Sticking with Marvel published books after that I had him signed Incredible Hulk #420, the issue in which Bruce Banner's former sidekick Jim Wilson dies of aids. It was a controversial and powerful book, and an easy choice to get the men responsible for creating it to sign. I finished off with copies of Issue #1 and Issue #6 of Kin, a creator owned project that Gary did years ago that I really enjoyed.  It was always intended to be a series of three mini-series, but after talking with Gary I found out that the next two will probably never happen. A tremendous letdown, as all of my sons have read and enjoyed that book and I was looking forward to enjoyed the next round of books with them as well.

Gary was very personable when I spoke with him, friendly and witty. He held a conversation while signing, which is a plus. So many guys just sign and really don't have anything to say, either because they've been at it all day, or because they just aren't outgoing people. Gary was different and it showed.

Brian Azzarello - Fifteen minutes in line right after I exited the Gary Frank line, and I got two books signed by Brian. Seeing as I don't read 100 Bullets I went with one of his Superman books and the new First Wave #1. It was signed and done so quickly that I barely had time to thank him and I was out of there. Not much of an experience, although I thought that others seemed to be connecting with Brian more, so maybe it was me.

Ian Churchill - The wait for Ian was only about fifteen minutes long, and it was easily my favorite time with any of the people who signed for me. Ian signed one book at my request; Titans #1, which I liked for the way that it reflected the team. We then got quickly into where he came from, and the time I spent traveling in the UK, and how much he loves Canada. I found him incredibly personable and engaging and would recommend that anyone with the opportunity to meet him does so. Terrific guy.

Now that you've heard about who I saw and what they signed....let me tell you about one of my autographing pet peeves. I absolutely HATE when somebody in line is allowed to go up with thirty books that they want signed. I think the authors and artists should limit them to five autographs and then make them go to the back of the line if they want any more. The selfishness that is rampant at shows is beyond my ability to properly describe to you, and it blows me away that there isn't better regulation of it to ensure that as many people as possible get to meet the special guests at each show.

I also would love to hear them insist that every book be signed TO somebody. If you're chasing autographs for resale, you should have to pay for them. The artists/writers are entitled to a piece of your heightened income on their book, so if you don't want it signed to you (or to a friend) then you can't have an autograph - you can BUY an autograph. That will also stop people from getting 5 copies of the same book signed (and you just KNOW those are for resale!)

Anyways, that's my 2 cents.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fan Expo 2010 - The good, the bad....the UGLY

Last weekend was a lot weekend, just ask my wife.

I disappeared on Friday afternoon into downtown Toronto to meet up with my niece, my sons and I took along my daughter for the opening bell of Toronto's Fan Expo 2010. I love that so much of my family goes, and really does enjoy it for a wide variety of reasons.  More on that later though.  Really, I just wanted to get the blog back up and running after a slowdown of epic proportions in August, so let's get it started by hitting on some of the key points of my observations last weekend.

Stan Lee! The Expo's premiere guest was none other than the builder of all things Marvel, and in my opinion the man who did the most to further the cause of comic books as an art form and literary medium in the twentieth century. With the inability to meet Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby or Bob Kane, Stan Lee now sits alone as the crown jewel in any comic geeks wish list.

BOOM STUDIOS Always happy to see a publishing house that isn't one of the big two out there doing great public relations work with their fans, and that's exactly what Boom did. Would I have preferred if they had brought Mr. Waid to the show? Absolutely. But we can't have everything. They had a nice booth, and the people working in were very accessible and engaging.

Adam West & Burt Ward Holy dynamic duos Batman! As if having these two icons of yesteryear there to do signings wasn't cool enough, the event organizers also had Julie Newmar - she of Catwoman fame from the worst (and best) Batman show of all time. It was a nice trip down memory lane, and I loved it.

The SHAT I could talk about other guests in attendance, some of whom probably meant a great deal more to other people, but as I get a little older, and a little bit more proud of my heritage in the great white north, I find myself really enjoying William Shatner and his proudly Canadian roots more and more. I'll watch Trek, but I was never a Trekkie (yeah, I said Trekkies NOT Trekkers!) so my appreciation of Bill has little to do with that. The man's just iconic as a Canadian, and I love that tens of thousands of people showed up to shower him with love.

Prices Some of the vendors understood that the con was a chance to divest themselves of excess stock and things that don't move, and they priced accordingly. Buying unappreciated trade paperbacks for $1 each was awesome. Even if I might not read half of them.

Thor I saw a guy dressed up as Thor who was easily 6'10". The costumer was OK, but being a GIANT certainly helped sell it.  

Jude The cartoon Network runs a show called 16 which I got hooked on while watching it with my pre-teen daughter. It's about a group of young friends who work, hang out and basically grow up in a mall. The show's funny, smart and engaging, but I was never so impressed with it as I was when I watched the voice actor who portrays Jude (the lovable and in my house most popular cast member) introduce himself to my daughter. The guy just gets it. He immediately understood that she was smitten and treated her like gold. Best moment of the show, and I'm very impressed with the young man. Very.

Sketch-Offs I only went to one of them, but the idea was very cool and it was the first time I'd seen it. In a room downstairs I sat in to watch the assembled fans challenge Oliver Coipel and Gary Frank to do an 40 minute rendering of NightCrawler, while fielding questions and engaging the audience. The result was a lot of jocularity, witty reparte (largely from Frank) and 2 wonderful sketches which were given away to lucky audience members. Great idea!

Stan Lee Yes, it was in the GOOD, but it's also in the BAD. The people who handled Stan's signing period made the entire experience clinical and sterilized, sucking from it any chance that people might actually connect with Stan in any personal way. I could have just paid my $40 and sent the comic into some facility where they could have had Stan's stamp handy and slapped the signature on the book. Even asking them for the extra six letters to write "To Jeff" on it was too much for them. They offered up a lame and completely fabricated excuse for why that wasn't a reasonable request (despite the fact that the question/answer sequence took longer than the six letters would have.) To go to all the trouble of bringing in Stan and then make the experience that stale and vanilla? What was the point?

Prices How do people set up shop right next to a competitor and not bother to at least undeerstand that just being there wasn't good enough to get sales? When the guy next to you has product on at 50% off the US cover price, how do you have the nerve to put up "save the tax?" Some people only got money from stupid shoppers!

Administration Whomever organized the show should be shot. If I had paid $150 to get a pass that allowed me to get in at 2pm on Friday when the event wasn't scheduled to open until 4pm, and the lineup was so long that I didn't get in until well AFTER the people who bought their pass at the gate at 4pm for much less than I did, I would be talking to a lawyer. How hard is it to know how many people ordered the pass online, and plan a better execution so that they got in when you told them they would get in? In fact the lineups all weekend long were a strong sign that the event's execution was subpar. Add to that the fact that all exits but one were closed and everyone was expected to exit through 1 set of doors, and you have a recipe for epic stupidity.

Artists Ally Always one of my favorite places to walk, wander and shop, I didn't do much of it at this show because the space was so narrow that it was like doing a constant grind with ugly people you wouldn't touch after 15 beers and a year's supply of crack.

There were lots of people in costumes, but a few simple rules should always be understood at such events.

1.   The less clothes they're wearing = the more clothes you want them to be wearing
2.  For every attractive person dressed up as a character from their favorite comic/movie/game there will be 10 really (REALLY!) unattractive people dressed up as the same.
3.  Single, old men should NOT be asking teenage girls if they can take their picture regardless of what costume they appear to be wearing (or not wearing). It's just creepy.

Pictures soon folks, and I'll be back to talk about some of the personal experiences I had, what I bought and who I talked with.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Serial Killer. No questions asked.

From Wikipedia:
A serial killer is a person who murders three or more people over a period of more than thirty days, with a "cooling off" period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification. Often, a sexual element is involved with the killings. The murders may have been attempted or completed in a similar fashion and the victims may have had something in common; for example, occupation, race, appearance, sex, or age group.
Serial killers are not the same as mass murderers, who commit multiple murders at one time; nor are they spree killers, who commit murders in two or more locations with virtually no break in between. 

Recently the poll on this page has taken a giant step forward in sanity, when the most popular identification of Frank Castle switched from 'misunderstood' to 'serial killer.' Thank Heaven! I was seriously thinking of tracking down all of the voters and putting you on somebody's psyche profile watch list. What kind of person looks at the hundreds (if not thousands) of people that Frank Castle has systematically hunter down and killed over the course of his life and describes him as 'misunderstood?'

No. I understand him just fine.

He's a sociopath, who hid his aberrant behavior behind (depending on which version you subscribe to) a position in the military or law enforcement, until a personal tragedy allowed him to justify embracing his sociopathic tendencies, while hiding behind the justification of avenging his beloved family.

As I told somebody during our discussion on this topic.....lots of heroes have killed.

Wonder Woman killed Maxwel Lord (and I was glad she did!)

Captain America killed.

Hell, even Superman has killed.

But there's a big difference between killing somebody, and being a killer.

Frank Castle is a stone cold killer, who does not feel a single ounce of remorse for the murders he has committed, nor any moral uncertainty over his constant denial of the rights which his victims are guaranteed under the laws of his country. He is no more a hero than any other serial killer throughout history, despite the fact that many people empathize with or appreciate that his actions continue to remove criminals from the streets.

Justification is easy, until you have to make it real.

If killing my best friend would save a hundred people I'll never know, I think those hundred people would die. That's part of what makes me human. Would it be heroic of me to kill my best friend?  Hell no.  It would border on an act of evil, despite the potential good it would result in.  Heroism would be him finding out that by dying he could save 100 people, and taking his own life.  That would be heroic, although maybe even that could be turned around.

My point that while we enjoy the stories and are engrossed in the enormously decadent violence that makes a Punisher story work....we should never lose sight of the fact that we're glorifying a serial killer. We may be happy that he killed an 'allegedly' bad, bad man.......but there is no way we can consider ourselves civilized and absolve him of his repeated acts of murder.

Frank Castle: Murderer.

Now, I really only read Ennis' Punisher, but how good a book would it be if we found out that he killed an innocent? You can't take it back. There's no 'fix' button for capital punishment, and you only have to be wrong one time. 100 rights will never wash that stain off of your soul.

I'd love to tackle that question.

Until somebody does though, never forget........if somebody admires the Punisher.....stay far.....FAR....away!