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.