Monthly archives: November, 2005

And Ronin is…

New Avengers #13, which goes on sale this morning, November 30th, finally reveals the identity of the mystert character who has benn running around the book recently. As if you couldn’t tell by the title, I’m planning to spoil it in a bit. If you don’t want to know who it is, stop reading. Please enjoy this excellent panel from Infinite Crisis #1…the spoilers are beneath it.

When You Were Dead 450

Still here? Okay. Ronin is Echo. Who’s Echo, you ask? No, it’s not one of the new characters on Lost (well, it is, but this is a different Echo). It’s a character that appeared in a handful of issues of Daredevil a few years ago. Yes, the huge mystery character from Marvel’s highest selling ongoing series has been revealed as a somewhat obscure character from a mid-level book that sells less than half the copies of the aformentioned title.

In October, New Avengers sold 127,949 copies. Daredevil sold 45,071*. That means there are at least 82,878 fewer people reading Daredevil than New Avengers. So there’s a good chance about 65% of the New Avengers readers have no idea who Echo is. What kind of a payoff is that? Granted, Daredevil sold about 7,000 more copies back when Echo was appearing, but there’s still a huge discrepancy between the people who read New Avengers (the people invested in the identity reveal) and the people who read the Echo stories (the people who know who the character was once she was revealed).

Now, you may be asking yourself “Why is such an obscure character getting such a high profile story in New Avengers?” Simply put, because Brian Michael Bendis is in love with himself, and Joe Quesada thinks every single word he puts to paper is gold.

It’d be one thing if the mystery character storyline was part of the Daredevil title, and then spun off into New Avengers. Or if the secret identity of Ronin wasn’t the focal point of the story and marketing campaign. Or even if Echo had any connection to any character in New Avengers.

But when the only connection between Echo and New Avengers is that Bendis wrote them both, it becomes nothing more than self-masturbatory BS.

*Sales figures taken from Paul O’Brien’s Month-to-Month Sales Comparisons,;f=36;t=004463

Marvel’s Pony Express rider shot by savages

Eager to check out the newest run of Wolverine, I went to the comic store today to pick up issue 36, as well as plenty of other literature.

On the shelf sat issues 33, 34 and 35, but no 36. I asked the owner who said he’d been bugged about it all day by customers, but no, he hadn’t received the new Wolverine. Thinking back to last week, I asked if he’d ever heard why the latest issue of The Ultimates still hadn’t hit shelves. He just sort of shrugged and said Marvel has been as bad as ever lately in missing deadlines.

Between Ultimates, Wolverine, Astonishing X-Men, the incredible delays of Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Secret and Secret War, Marvel has been atrocious lately in getting things in on time.

If you’re supposed to be the top dog in comics publishing, that means maintaining a certain level of professionalism. And that means, among other things, getting me my freaking Wolverine when promised.

X-Men 3: The One Where They Break the Franchise

Many things agitate me. I’m just one of them types. But as far as my nerdery is concerned, nothing has irked me more than what I keep hearing about the Brett Ratner’s entry into the X-Men movie franchise. First it was the dismissal of Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in favor of … Beast. The Kelsey Grammer casting wasn’t a misstep, thank god. But the reason: they didn’t want two blue characters. So they took out a fan favorite in favor of another blue character who has been both not blue (remember, he was grey at first) and not furry at various points. They could have chosen any incarnation and maintained Nightcrawler in the whole of it. This is a minor irritation.

But the announcement that Stan Lee is going to say “What the f—?” in the movie is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and proves that Brett Ratner is everything that is wrong with movies. He has the grand blockbuster in his head, and it has to have edge, it has to have an unpopular prostitute character just because she’s an edgy character, it’s got to have the Stan Lee cameo push the envelope too.

While there is nothing wrong with edgy (at times), pushing the envelope to push the envelope results in nothing more than empty flash, a fireworks show. The explosions aren’t real; it’s just some bright colors in the sky. If there were a reason for Lee, the father of many a childhood dream, to say “What the f—?” then so be it. But as it stands, there’s not. If memory serves me correct, the fornicatin’ word is allowed thrice in a movie before it jumps to “R.” So Brett Ratner is gonna use one of them, and tarnish Lee’s reputation in the process, true believers.

Stacy X seems to be a way to just sex up the image a little. This is the same purpose Mystique was (sort of) used for, but in her case it had a greater purpose in the plot (again, sort of.) Stacy is more fireworks, more cheap trinkets, a character no one liked except a misogynist Hollywood glitzifier like Brett Ratner.

When Brian Singer was on board, there was hope. When he quit, it died a little, but then Matthew Vaughn, like the character Famke Jannsen would play, helped hope rise again.

But now the Phoenix may well kill the franchise that helped comic films enter the mainstream. Let’s just hope Ratner has enough head on his shoulders to stop the madness and do what Singer did: Appeal to the fans while telling a compelling story, instead of focusing on fireworks.

“Subplot” is not a four-letter word

WCAI recently bought a set of the first two years of West Coast Avengers. I’ve been reading the series when I’m not reading the new comics of the week or a new trade I got. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the storytelling, given Marvel in the early 80s wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of comics. The one thing that stood out the most to me in the first few issues was something that I realized is sorely lacking from most comic books on the shelves today: subplots.

In any of the first issues of West Coast Avengers, no less than five story arcs are built upon. Instead of ignoring one character’s development while another’s story is played out, they’re all given time. For one issue, Tigra’s story will take center stage, and then the next Hank Pym will shine, yet both characters’ stories evolve in the other’s issue. It really gives the sense of an epic story. When a story is finally paid off in full, you can look back six months or more and see the seeds that were planted. It really gives the feeling that you need to read the next issue, because you just don’t know when the next big thing is going to happen.

Fast forward 20 years, and most of what we have is 6-issue story arcs that are usually completely independent of each other. There’s almost no carry over from one arc to another now. In most titles, there’s a beginning, middle, and end to an arc. You know what issue a story will begin, what issue will be the turning point, and which issue will solve everything. At the end, you might get a small tease as to what’s coming in the next arc. But why can’t that happen in the beginning or the middle? Why don’t we see subplots set up years in advance anymore?

InvincibleMarvel would probably tell you that comic fans just don’t have that kind of patience anymore. They’d say it’s impossible to hook new readers in if the first issue they read requires reading an earlier issue to understand. Of course, DC’s pretty much proven that to be a load of bull with the build-up for Infinite Crisis, a story at least three years (arguably, twenty) in the making. Comic readers like epic. Comic readers, due to the very nature of the medium, have more patience than TV or movie watchers.

Certain books recently have been doing a great job with this, though. Robert Kirkman’s Invincible springs to mind as a great example. I can think of at least four plot lines that have been set up and advanced without paying them off immediately in the past 10 issues. New Thunderbolts has done a decent job with the mystery of who is the new Swordsman and the true motives of Baron Zemo.

But far too many comics, especially the top selling comics, require so little of the readers’ attention that it’s not surprising that people are being turned off of them.

Howling Hell

Next week, the second issue of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos hits shelves. I won’t buy it. Chances are, you won’t either.

Best as I can tell, it’s a pile of junk. Normally, a book this silly looking – it seems to feature a team of monsters Nick Fury sends out to fight something, for some reason – wouldn’t be enough to grab my attention beyond a glance at the cover.

Luckily, NF’sHC was the beneficiary of an almost unbelievable stroke of advertising. Not only did it receive advertising, which is much more than most books get, but it earned mention in pretty much every Marvel book in the months leading up to the first issue. And not only was it in every issue, but it took up numerous preview pages in the back of each title. I can’t recall any previous advertising onslaught to match it, at least for something so clearly undeserving.

The preview pages weren’t too annoying themselves. I could easily just not read them, after all. But what really raised my ire is the waste of it. Just how much money did Marvel spend in extra printing for those pages?

Just recently, a lack of attention killed one of my favorite Marvel series, the New Invaders. Granted, it was never destined to be a top seller. But I can’t help but wonder if I’d still be enjoying the humor of Allan Jacobsen and the great art of C.P. Smith if the company had put just a hundredth of the marketing behind it that they did the Howling stinkbomb.

Where have all the new villains gone?

There are a ton of great villains out there, but they were all created 20 years ago or earlier, for the most part. The most recent one I could remember that I would call a “great” villain is Venom, which first appeared in 1984. Batman’s Hush is a good villain, but I don’t consider the much-bandaged one to be a member of the pantheon, yet.
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For the most part, when a new villain comes around most fans seem to respond by either yawning or spewing disdain. When the Spider-Man series “The Other” opened with villainous Tracer recently, I about quit the series over how dumb he was. Bad costume: check. Dumb powers: check. Lack of any backstory or buildup: check. Chances of disappearing within two years: Very, very good.

But beyond the lack of very many new cool villains, there just aren’t very many new villains at all. Beyond the two listed above (I’m not counting the Winter Soldier or Red Hood, who are old characters in new roles) I couldn’t come up with another new villain who held any kind of longevity. Granted, I didn’t read comics from 1999-2002, but I don’t get the sense that I missed much. Yeah, there are a few out there, but they’re clearly not very memorable.

Comic site IGN click currently is running a bracket-style tournament of the 64 greatest villains. Of those, only five made their first appearance within the past 20 years. That list includes Carnage, which is basically an extension of Venom’s character; Doomsday and Bane, who were essentially one-time villains that served the single purpose of putting Superman and Batman out of commission, respectively; and Saint of Killers and Violator, two villains from comic books that first came out in the 1990s.

Part of the problem is the unwillingness of fans to embrace new villains. We like our established bad guys, because they’re tied so closely to the heroes, and the knowledge we have of their characters makes for a richer reading experience. When a new bad guy is brought into the mix, it muddies the comfortable world our heroes live in.

Superman has Lex Luthor, Spider-Man has Venom, Captain America has Red Skull and Batman has most of the cool bad guys.

And maybe that relationship is the root of the problem. Which gets me thinking, where have all the new heroes gone?

Reggie Hudlin is an idiot

Don’t read Marvel Knights Spider-Man #20. By all things good and holy, I implore you: Let this piece of crap remain unopened.

MKSpiderman20So the story starts out with Spidey and two people dressed in the original Iron Man suits (one grey, one gold) breaking into Castle Doom. Once inside, it’s revealed that the two Iron Men are Mary Jane and Aunt May. Yes, Reggie Hudlin thought it would make sense if Spider-Man dressed his wife and elderly aunt in suits of armor and broke into one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Then they go back in time to reminisce on the time Peter’s parents left him with May and Ben. But instead of actually travelling in time, like Doom’s time machine always did before, they go “It’s a Wonderful Life” style and can’t interact with people in the past, just watch them. Apparently, everyone’s so senile they can’t just remember what happened.

The return to the present and are attacked by Doombots. Spidey has one of his ‘sodes, and MJ defeats the Doombots (I guess if Lois can beat an OMAC…). Aunt May “hilariously” loses control of the armor and screams like an old woman. Ha FREAKING ha.

Spidey returns the suits to Tony Stark, and says he’s going to take MJ to Vegas. Tony, because he’s an alcoholic, is excited and wants to go to Vegas to have sex with lots of anonimous woman, snort cocaine off of their asses, and inject scotch directly into his veins (at least, that’s implied). Spidey has a dream-like sequence where he imagines cheating at blackjack using his Spider-sense, getting arrested, and then fighting the entire Wrecking Crew by himself wearing just his mask.

Morlun wants to eat Spidey, so he goes looking for him. He walks through Avengers Tower and apparently he’s invisible, has no odor, and makes no sound, because Luke Cage and Wolverine don’t notice him when he’s standing right in front of them. But Morlun can’t find Spider-Man, because…(drumroll please!)


Then Aunt May cries, assumedly because she was forced to be part of such a horrible piece of garbage. Oh yeah, the art sucked too.

and the bad guy of Deadly Genesis is… (spoilers)

With all that setup, how could it not be Thunderbird, right? The mysterious space baddie is wearing TB’s costume, or at least seems to be. And check out the cover (Silvestri’s version). It’s a cool recreation of the cover of Giant-Sized X-Men #1, with the characters all decayed and dead looking. The only one who’s missing from the original cover? You got it, Thunderbird.

Well, the thing is, that’s just too obvious for me. As I was reading Deadly Genesis #1, I couldn’t help but have a faint recollection of something, something I’d read long ago but had mostly forgotten, something about another bad guy that was disposed of in space. Something that might’ve survived…
Yeah, that’s right, it’s Krakoa! The island that walks like a man!
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Guess where Krakoa was first seen? You got it, Giant-Sized X-Men #1. That gives him the familiarity with some of the team members, but not all of the new ones – as seen in Deadly Genesis. That explains the way he formed seemingly out of the muck of that asteroid or whatever it was.

And maybe it explains where all the mutants’ power went to. Possibly, when the Scarlet Witch blasted it off the planet in House of M, it shot off the earth and was absorbed by Krakoa, giving it even more power than it already had.

But even with that solved, there’s still plenty of mystery to be solved in the upcoming issue of Deadly Genesis. So far it’s been a fun read, and the first relevant X-book since the chronically delayed Astonishing.

Yeah, Krakoa might not be the coolest villain they could’ve come up with. But any character can be worthwhile in the right hands, and Ed Brubaker has that covered. And just like with his run on Captain America, the central villain is hardly the only reason to pay attention.

Q&A with Eric Powell, of “The Goon”

I recently had the chance to email back and forth a little with Eric Powell, creator of the Eisner award winning “The Goon,” which is published by Dark Horse. I’ll be writing my usual comics column on this for the Arkasnas Democrat-Gazette. But I’ll post some excerpts of our online discussion below.

ME — The first thing I wanted to ask about is this feel I get from The Goon, that it’s just completely unfettered, for lack of a better word. There aren’t really “rules” at play, you don’t seem to be making any huge metaphoric statement, the characters are very over-the-top, and you don’t even label the city where all this happens.

ERIC POWELL — The entire reason for me creating this book was to play. I wanted to do anything I wanted. To experiment. I wanted no restrictions or limitations. I wanted to draw only the things I wanted to draw. Best way to do that is to create a book with plenty of nonsense.

ME — Along the same line, the characters are just a smorgasbord of inanity and insanity. Do you base any of them on real people?

EP — No, they aren’t based on real people. But they are people I’d like to have a drink with.

ME– I read somewhere that you’ve been writing and drawing stories since you were fairly young. What were some of the biggest challenges in getting a book onto shelves? And when did you realize you’d “made it?”

EP — The biggest challenge is simply not giving up when you hit the hundreds of road blocks along the way. And I’m still not secure. I’m still frightened that the rug is going to be pulled out from under me.

ME — Getting to work with Marvel on Devil Dinosaur and the covers of the other Monster books has to help you feel established. How did that partnership come about and how do you think it turned out? Do you plan on continuing to work with Marvel, or DC?

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EP — Marvel asked if I wanted to do it as a miniseries. Unfortunately I could fit it into my schedule. But then the idea for the monster book one shots game up and that was easier to fit in with the help of co-writer Tom Sniegoski and inker Mark Farmer.
It really depends on my schedule and the project. I’m really having fun with the Goon right now.

ME — A local comic store owner mentioned that he stocked you before you were at Dark Horse. How important was that kind of support?

EP — Immensely important! The retailers that supported the book in the beginning have a hand in it’s success. If it hadn’t started to gain some underground momentum, I doubt any of this would have happened.

ME — It seems like Dark Horse is a great fit for you, and they really seem to support you with trades – including the new Fancy Pants one. What are the advantages of DH as opposed to Marvel or DC, or to a smaller publisher like Speak Easy?

EP — You work for Marvel and DC if you just want to draw Spiderman or Batman. If that’s your life goal to draw a super hero comic, you work for them. You will make good money working for those guys, too. If you’re more of an outside of the box creator that wants to do their own thing, Dark Horse or a smaller publisher is where you go.

ME — A friend of mine has published a few comics, and he always has been interested in your art. He wondered about how your style changed from your early work to now (he says you are much more distinctive now).

EP — I’m restless when it comes to style. Or technique, really. Not style. I love to experiment. Every issue is going to be different. That may hurt the book, but it’s the way I want to work.

ME — Any new projects, a Goon movie, etc. that you’re working on?

EP — Maybe.

ME — Out of the mass of books out there now, what do you read? Favorite
writers/artists? Do you get into “events” like House of M or Infinite

EP — To be honest, I so rarely get to pick my head up from the table that I really don’t know what comes out any more. I miss a lot.

ME — When it comes to art technique, what’s the strangest thing you’ve incorporated?

EP — I did do a photo segment with my son as a little runaway hillbilly.

ME — Is there any hero out there in the mainstream you’d love to take a swing at (figuratively or literally, I suppose)?

EP — There are a lot of characters with the big two I’d like to play with. But who knows if I’ll have the time or ever get the chance.

ME — How gratifying were the Eisner awards?

EP — Last year was very gratifying because I had convinced myself that the year before was a fluke and it was never going to happen again. It’s very humbling.