Monthly archives: January, 2006

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Characters

In the hands of Bendis, there’s no one I enjoy reading more than Matt Murdock. But lately, I’ve gotten a huge kick out of Judd Winick’s characterization of Black Mask. -Jim Doom

Batman OMACThe OMACs. The OMACs were everywhere this year. I don’t think there’s a hero in the DCU that didn’t fight one, and there’s more than a few that were taken out by them. They may not have been the brains behind the Crisis, but the OMACs have caused more chaos in than anyone else involved. For my money, there’s few villains better than swarms of mindles killing machines (which might explain why I like zombies so much). -Fin Fang Doom

Batman. It was a close call with Captain Ameirca. But Bats also endured the return of a former pal in villainous form. On top of that, he beat a city of clay monsters and took a major role in the Crisis. -Jean-Claude Van Doom

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Events

House of M. The “No more mutants” moment gave a much-needed jumpstart to the X titles. -Jean-Claude Van Doom

PreludeThe build-up to Infinite Crisis. While that has been going on for a few years now, I love seeing planning come together and watching something emerge so naturally from within the universe they’ve created. -Jim Doom

The countdown to Infinite Crisis. Even more so than Infinite Crisis itself, the 6 month build to the mini-series was huge. Nearly every single week, a new important issue came out, making it seem as if each week the DC Universe could be taken in a drastically different direction. Besides the main four series (Villains United, Rann/Thanagar War, OMAC Project and Day of Vengeance), we had The Return of Donna Troy, JSA Classified, Sacrifice, Crisis of Conscience and the dozens of tie-ins in titles such as Nightwing and JSA. When Infinite Crisis actually debuted, I felt a little let down that I’d have to wait another month, not just another week, for the next part of the story. Without the buildup, Infinite Crisis wouldn’t have seemed as huge as it does. -Fin Fang Doom

Q&A with Alex Robinson of “Box Office Poison”

Alex Robinson worked in a big-city bookstore for seven years after graduating from high school in 1987. After reading his first graphic novel, “Box Office Poison,” it’s very clear that he didn’t enjoy the job. Now, Robinson is the creator of two highly regarded comics (“Tricked,” his second effort, is available now) that are sold in bookstores like the one he used to work at.

While “Box Office Poison” (BOP, for abbreviation’s sake) is a story of pretty average folks struggling through the daily grind in New York, “Tricked” is a pseudo retelling of the John Lennon story. Both intricately weave together the lives of several people. Robinson’s black and white art that’s more reminiscent of newspaper cartoon strips than the latest issue of X-Men pulls readers into an intimate relationship with the characters.

I had a chance to e-mail some questions to Alex recently, and below is the transcript.

Me – I just finished Tricked. I’ve read some reviews and interviews with you, and it seems like some people were disappointed by it. I liked it. It’s a completely different kind of story from BOP, and I imagine that threw a lot of readers off. Did you know, going into the project, that you might disappoint people looking for more of the same?

Alex Robinson – Huh, I didn’t know that a lot of people were disappointed. Image hosting by PhotobucketI don’t read reviews so my only impression about how the book is received is from e-mail and when I go to shows, so I guess people are too polite to say anything. I did get one e-mail from someone who didn’t like the book.
But yeah, BOX OFFICE POISON did pretty well so it’s only natural that some people are going to be disappointed, especially since I wasn’t doing a sequel to the first book. It’s a compliment, in a way, because it means they liked the first book so much, but of course you want everyone to like your stuff. I’m actually shocked TRICKED has done as well as it has! One of the working titles for the book was SOPHOMORE SLUMP so part of me really expected the audience to be disappointed, but I’m a pessimist by nature.
I’ve started working on an idea for a new book and I’m already preparing myself for it to be despised and unpopular.

Me – The plot of Tricked had a lot of influence, it seemed, from John Lennon’s murder. Was that a subject you’d been interested in? It came to me partway through reading that in BOP, Sherman’s stories were often on the Beatles. Tricked almost seemed like something Sherman might have written.

AR – I never intended it to be about John Lennon but originally it was going to be even more Lennon inspired. I’ve always loved his work and found his life interesting but I don’t really like the whitewashing Yoko Ono does. Her version of his life–and their life together–has sort of become the accepted myth. I finally read Albert Goldman’s vicious bio of Lennon and I don’t think I believe that version either, so I wanted to present a fictional version that was somewhere closer to the middle, something I thought was closer to the truth
In one early verison of the story, the assassin was played by me–that is, he looked like me. It was my way of sort of confessing that I was engaged in character assassination. Yes, very clever.

Me – BOP didn’t have an extremely obvious central theme, but it did (as I interpreted it) share with Tricked the idea that people get what’s coming to them. “The love you take is equal to the love you make”? – sorry, had to throw another Beatles reference in there. What do you think were the “big ideas” that influenced the stories?

AR – For me the theme of BOX OFFICE POISON had to do with making difficult choices. Both Ed and Sherman are in unhealthy relationships, but they both handle them in different ways. So in a way you’re right, that you could see it as them getting what they deserve, but do you really think Sherman deserved to wind up trapped in an unhappy relationship? A friend of mine pointed out that what makes Sherman’s story so sad is that he seems to make all the right decisions but somehow winds up miserable. I guess, to paraphrase Jerri Blank, he was making the right decisions for all the wrong reasons.

Me – I’ll admit that I did like BOP more than Tricked. I say that as a compliment to BOP, more than an insult to Tricked. In BOP, there were these extremely subtle plots in the story that I didn’t notice until it all came together. The big example of this is the way that some very ugly characters are subtly built up, and then an emotional punch comes along that turns them from demon to human. The two that struck me the most were the landlady and Hildy’s little sister. Is that something you’re conscious of, trying to make all the characters relatable?

Image hosting by PhotobucketAR – That is something I like to examine. One of the things I thought was interesting was that, when BOX OFFICE POISON was serialized, everyone said they either loved to hate Dorothy or just plain hated her. Maybe it’s just the way people are conditioned, that there has to be a bad guy in the story, but I never really saw her as a bad guy. She had her problems, as we all do but I don’t think she’s genuinely bad. The only two real one dimensional villains in the book I can think of offhand are LeBlanc, the publisher of Zoom Comics (though I could’ve easily told the story from his point of view and made him more sympathetic–but somebody has to be the bad guy!–and Mako, who murders someone in cold blood.
I generally try to find the humanity in all the characters. When you spend so long on a graphic novel, thinking about it for years on end, you almost can’t help but give characters depth and backstories of their own.

Me – Another of the interesting twists of BOP was how the main character slowly shifted from being Sherman to Ed. Was that the intent all along?

AR – No, not really. I never script out or tightly plot my stories out, so I like to leave myself a lot of room to play around. I know how the story will end and what things have to happen before then but beyond that I like to be very flexible and sort of let the characters guide what happens. That sounds very writerly and pretentious but it’s true for me.
By the end of the book, I found Ed to be really blossoming and Sherman was on the decline, to the point where I was nearly disgusted with him, so if I wanted to book to not be a total downer I couldn’t end it with Sherman Throughout the book, different characters sort of narrate the action (Stephen in the Christmas story, Jane when she’s telling us how she and Stephen met, etc) so it didn’t seem too outrageous to have another character take over.
Some people didn’t like it, though. They thought it was unsatisfying.

Me – With Tricked, since you knew you were doing something pretty different, did you ever consider going in a different direction with the art as well?

AR – I actually switched to these Japanese pen brush things for TRICKED, but other than that I never thought about making a dramatic change in my art. I’m okay for what I do, but I’m not a versatile chamelon-like artist who can change styles easily.

Me – On the topic of art, when I read your books my first impression was that your style has the most similarities to newspaper comic strips and some of the stuff in Mad Magazine. Who, if anyone, do you think yourself to be similar to?

AR – I did enjoy MAD as a kid and the first comics I read were newspaper strips, and ARCHIE. The single biggest artistic influence I can think of is Dave Sim and his work on CEREBUS. I started reading his stuff when I was fifteen or so and it had a huge impact on not just my storytelling and art but on my attitudes about comics and the industry.

Me – Now the easier questions: Who are the artists/writers out there now that you make a point of checking out?

AR – There are the usual stars, of course, like Chris Ware, Chester Brown, Crumb, etc. On the less well known side is Tony Consiglio, who isn’t nearly as productive as he should be but he finally has a graphic novel coming out this spring called 110PERCENT which is terrific. Another guy you’ll be hearing big things from is Mike Dawson. He’s currently working on a big autobiography called FREDDIE & ME which will I think will put him on the map. I also enjoy Tim Krieder’s weekly comic THE PAIN:WHEN WILL IT END?

Me – What projects are you working on now?

AR – I’ve just started working on a story that I hope will turn out to be my next graphic novel. I say “hope” because there’s always a chance it could fizzle out, so I don’t want to say too much about it. I will say that it will probably be shorter than my two other novels and I’d like to have it out for summer 2007. Keep my fingers crossed!

Me – Top Shelf seems to be a good fit for you. How much have you enjoyed working with them?

AR – It’s been pretty nice. One of the big appeals of Top Shelf was that they said they were really going to make an effort to penetrate the bookstore market. That was a big incentive to give them a shot and I’m happy with the results so far.

Me – Ultimately, what do you want your readers to get out of your work?

AR – Obviously on the most basic level I hope they find it entertaining or interesting at least. Beyond that, it gets harder to say. Kurt Vonnegut once talked about something like this and he said part of the reason he wrote was sort of a way to offer comfort to his readers. The world was a screwed up place and sometimes awful things happen but the good news is that you’re not alone. You hope that someone will read your book and think to themselves “There’s someone out there who sees the world the same way I do” and take some comfort in that. I guess that’s as close as I’ve gotten to a good justification for what I do.

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Publishers

DC LogoDC Comics. Pretty much everything I can say I already said in my Best Single Issue entry. DC has more going on now than Marvel has in the last 10 years. The sense of a cohesive universe is amazing, an aspect sorely lacking from Marvel now. While Image puts out my two favorite titles, and Marvel still churns out 5 or 6 I couldn’t go without, DC is putting out more great books than anyone else. -Fin Fang Doom

DC had the event of the year, if not in the history of comics. It’s hard to vote against that. -Jean-Claude Van Doom

I think DC had the most going for it this year. -Jim Doom

DC Comics. -Colonel Doom

It’s like Shakespeare, but with lots more punching.

For those who missed out, that comes from the bizarre theme song to the latest Warren Ellis creation for Marvel, “Next Wave.” (To check out the song, go to The first issue came out Wednesday and was easily the most exciting launch of the week.

In a nutshell, it’s decent. Not great, not horrible. Decent.

The characters are an ensemble of also-rans: Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel and Photon), Aaron Stack (Machine Man), Tabitha Smith (X-Force’s Meltdown), monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone and Captain @#%&@#$ (or something like that). A diapered Fin Fang Foom makes an appearance as well.

The plot is that a secret terrorist organization is trying to unleash Fin Fang Foom on the world, and the Next Wavers step in to put a halt to the mayhem. Oh, and Fin Fang Foom is buried in South Dakota before he’s unleashed, for some reason.

Don’t expect implications anywhere else in the Marvel U. The characters don’t matter and the plot points are almost entirely new. It’s similar to Howard Chaykin’s 2004 limited series “Challengers of the Unknown” in that respect. The two series also share a “hit me over the head with a shovel” attempt at political commentary (Though Next Wave isn’t as bad, it still may as well have a “Republicans = bad” sticker on the cover).

More than anything, Next Wave is an attempt to have some silly fun. The first issue had moments that were kind of funny, but nowhere near enough to get me laughing out loud. It’s far less humorous than another “secret hero team fighting terrorists book,” the now-defunct “New Invaders.”

Maybe they should change around the theme song: “It’s like Shakespeare, except it’s not very good.”

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Moment

The vote for Best Moment of 2005 was unanimous. All four of us chose this moment from Infinite Crisis #1:

When You Were Dead 450


Wow. Just wow. You knew Batman meant it, and you knew he was right. Even better, you knew Superman knew he was right. -Fin Fang Doom

I had forgotten that Bruce Wayne had mastered the martial art of verbal BITCH-slapping. -Jean-Claude Van Doom

That moment was so many things that it had to be. It beautifully encapsulated the growing tension between Batman and Superman, criticizing a tangible difference in a way that only deep personal differences could accomplish. And it was a cocky, self-aware nod to a previous DC mega-event that was about to be dwarfed – if not rendered completely meaningless and forgettable – by the power and substance of what was to come. Much like the rest of Infinite Crisis has been, it was a perfectly crafted synthesis of naturally intersecting storylines and self-referential penetration of the fourth wall. Countdowns and miniseries built anticipation, but that line was the proverbial shot heard round the DC Universe. -Jim Doom

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- New Series

Fear AgentI really like the fact that New Avengers was given a purpose. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything that’s been done, but I like the idea. -Jim Doom

Fear Agent. With only a few issues out, Fear Agent has impressed me more than any other new title this year. Rick Remender’s old-school sci-fi book is packed with action, adventure and more action, and none of that unnecessary exposition we see so much in comics today. The first issue reads like the opening act of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and does more to establish the character than an issue of backstory could possibly do. Art by Tony Moore doesn’t hurt, either. -Fin Fang Doom

Young Avengers. The best thing to come out of “Avengers: Disassembled.” -Jean-Claude Van Doom

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Single Issue

Ultimates 2 #9. World War Three! -Jean Claude Van Doom

Wolverine #32 is the only case I can think of where I was really impressed with an issue on its own. -Jim Doom

CountdownCountdown to Infinite Crisis. Sure, I’d been reading trades again since high school, but this 80-page, $1 comic re-introduced me to the joy of getting comics every single week, and it was probably the most action-packed 80 pages ever, AND it made me love a character I had known before only as the basis for Nite Owl in Watchmen. Too bad he got the back of his head blown out. -Colonel Doom

Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Before Colonel Doom lent me his copy of Countdown, I had never read a single in-continuity DC Comic book in my ten years of avidly reading comic books. 80 pages later, I was hooked. I went out and bought a copy for myself, along with Identity Crisis, and Green Lantern: Rebirth. I starting buying the Countdown mini-series and slowly brought the number of DC books I was buying up to the number of Marvel books I was buying. Now, less than one year later, this lifelong Marvel Zombie considers DC his favorite publisher. All because of 80 pages. I can’t think of a better way to qualify “Best Single Issue.” -Fin Fang Doom


So yeah, I was wrong. Darkseid isn’t behind Infinite Crisis. It’s not a plan he and Lex Luthor started way back in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies to eliminate Earth’s metahumans so they could take over earth and the rest of the universe without opposition. Supergirl didn’t kill Martian Manhunter (although I’m still convinced she’s evil). But you know what? I couldn’t be happier I was wrong.

IC4PerezInfinite Crisis #4 came out this week, and with it came an amazing explanation of the big four events leading up to Infinite Crisis. The rampage of the Spectre in Day of Vengeance was of the utmost importance, as all of the world’s magic was reduced to it’s rawest form, creating the fuel necessary for Alex Luthor’s machine. On the other hand, the Rann/Thanagar War was merely a side effect of Superboy repositioning the planets to the way they were before the pre-Crisis Earths merged. The creation of the Society in Villains United was just a means to attain the ingredients necessary to run the machine: representatives from each of the pre-Crisis Earths. And the OMAC Project was…the programming? I’m not quite sure why a mystically powered, universe altering machine needs programming from a sentient computer, but if nothing else, it was a big red herring that kept the heroes’ attention pointed elsewhere while Luthor was able to put his plan into motion. And all that exposition only took up one page!

That left 29 pages for the destruction of Bludhaven; a meeting between Batman and Nightwing (continued directly from the last panel of the issue of Nightwing that came out this week) that drastically improved Nightwing’s standing in the DCU (poor, doomed Nightwing); the continued mysterious mission of Booster Gold and Skeets, the most unfortunately named robot sidekick ever; the Spectre receiving a new host (a character from, of all books, Gotham Central); a huge knock-down, drag-out fight between Earth-Prime Superboy and the combined forces of the Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, the JSA and more, featuring dismemberment, decapitation and chest explosions; the end of the Speed Force and two Flashes; the (momentary) return of Barry Allen; Alex Luthor ripping a hole in the fabric of time and space; and the restoration of Earth-2.

IC4LeeSure, I could nitpick the tiny things, like how Nightwing was inside Bludhaven, not on its outskirts, when he met up with Batman in Nightwing, or that the Amazonian super-weapon shown in Infinite Crisis #3 doesn’t look anything like the one shown in Wonder Woman. But at least every character acts consistently the same in all of their appearances and things that relate to crossover titles are being addressed in them.

Joe Quesada take note: THIS IS HOW YOU DO A MEGA-CROSSOVER! Only halfway in and we’ve already seen more happen than what happened in House of M and The Other combined. Thank you, Geoff Johns and DC, for making all this actually mean something.

Legion of Doom’s Best of 2005- Mini Series

Villains United. Because Catman now kicks ass, and Deadshot showed children everywhere that Yes, smoking is still cool. -Colonel Doom

VillainsUnitedVillains United. The most fun of all the Crisis lead-ins. -Jean-Claude Van Doom

Spider-Man/Human Torch. Hey, remember when Spider-Man didn’t have to worry about bursting out a cocoon every year to discover he had new amazing powers? Remember when he was a loner and didn’t have many friends? Remember when Spider-Man was just plain fun? I do, and apparently so did Dan Slott when he wrote this amazing mini-series, chronicling several team-ups between Spider-Man and the Human Torch through the years. It may not have been ground-breaking storytelling and it may not have shook the very foundations of what we know about Spider-Man, but it was a damn fine mini-series that for my money ranks up there with the “The Night Gween Stacy Died” and “Kraven’s Last Hunt” as one of the best Spider-Man stories of all time. -Fin Fang Doom

Tie between The Question and Astro City: The Dark Age. When I read some comics that have some sort of scientific or mystical element to them, I commonly get the vibe that the author just read some scientific journal article or something and thought “Oooh, I’ll work that into a story.” I’m thinking of pretty much every Warren Ellis book I’ve ever read. I’m not saying that’s Mr. Ellis’ process, because I really have no idea. But I am saying that when I read his books that have some sort of underlying sci-fi scheme, it seems like the story exists to legitimize the scientific idea, and I don’t usually think that makes for a good story.

With The Question, a scientific / mystical undercurrent drove the whole book, but in this case, it served the story and gave it purpose, rather than the other way around. I also loved the tiny details along the way, such as using restrooms for evildoing since that’s the one place Superman wouldn’t use his x-ray vision. It created a completely believable scenario in which a 6-issue miniseries could happen in Superman’s city under Superman’s nose.

As far as Astro City: The Dark Age goes, there’s just such a level of gritty realism to that book that is simply breathtaking. Also perhaps treasured because of so many who fail trying to do the same thing, the “realism” here isn’t done through shock value or darkness – it’s through well-defined characters going through well-defined, yet differing, life paths. Told through the perspective of two brothers, these four issues manage to tell an inspirational heroic story the way you could really see it unfolding.

This was my first trip into Astro City comics, and at first, the obvious character ripoffs were distracting. But eventually, I saw that Busiek’s homages were a deliberate shortcut to get to the important part of the story, rather than having to spend 200 issues letting you get to know the First Family.-Jim Doom