Monthly archives: August, 2006

I’m such a nerd

Today I accomplished something I’ve been dreaming of for nearly a decade. And believe it or not, I have Wizard, The Comics Magazine to thank.

Years and years ago, Wizard used to be really awesome. They didn’t spoil major storylines, the humor was less sophmoric, and they weren’t a mouthpiece for Marvel or DC. And they threw in lots of cool little bonuses like posters and calendars.

JLA ID SmallAnd then there were these:

A couple of years ago, after a good 5 years sitting in my dresser draw, I finally got around to splapping some pictures on these bad boys. I even went so far as to laminate them with those self-sticking ID holders they sell at Target.

Avengers ID SmallBut those things suck. They weren’t sticky enough to realy hold itself together, but they were sticky enough to pretty much ruin my chances of ever pulling the laminate off the card without ripping it. I’ve kept them in my wallet since then (which probably didn’t help their appearances), because even though they looked bad, they were still awesome.

In July I started a new job, and lo and behold, there was an ID card laminater (the heated kind) sitting on my desk when I got there. I instantly thought of the cards I’d nearly forgotten about in my wallet, and longed for some way to find the back issues of Wizard they came with so I could make actual good IDs. Alas, I was much, much too lazy to figure out which issues they originally came with, let alone find somewhere that actually had them for sale.

Earlier this week I had given up hope. But today, I was laminating a buch of other cards, and I thought I’d try to get the old laminate off my IDs so I could put the new laminate on. After a good twenty minutes of work, I had both cards laminated, trimmed, and proudly on display in my wallet.

The best part: my boss saw me do it and didn’t even care that I spent work time on such a ridiculous task. Sweet!

I have never felt quite so proud of feeling quite so nerdy in my entire life.

And in case you were wondering who approved my entrance into the two most distinguished teams in comic book history…

Avengers ID DetailJLA ID Detail

Now I’d like to issue a challenge to my fellow Legionaires and everyone on the comicsblogoweb, in the tradition of My First Comic week (the first one we participated in here at LOD): What is the absolute pinnacle of your comic book nerdiness? And no, having a comic book blog doesn’t count.

Week Seventeen

I don’t like Lobo. I read about a dozen or so issues of his series back in the ’90s, and I just plain didn’t like any of it. Every time I’ve read anything with Lobo in it, the writer gets this stupid idea in his head that Lobo will be funny if he’s an over-the-top womanizing, boozing, violence craving goof. To me, he’s always just come across as Poochy. He’s like Wolverine…to the X-TREME! He’s a product of the ’90s, which, let’s face it, is quite an insult. Lobo’s a one-note joke, and, hopefully, in the context of “52,” that will be enough. As a “bad-ass,” I also have always found him lacking. Sure, he killed everybody on his home planet for kicks, but where’s the fun in a character who can regenerate from a single drop of blood? At least Superman’s got his Kryptonite. What’s Lobo’s weakness? Spell checker?
52 week 17
With that personal caveat out of the way, let’s talk about what actually goes down in this week of “52.” Sure, I’d rather we talk about “The Trials of Shazam” this week, but, hey, you get what you pay for, and in this case, I’ve gotta talk about “52.” Luthor’s Generic Six show up to start things off, poised to make their big media debut in the coming days. The speedster girl flips out and quits, though, so we’re left with the Underwhelming Five. When the characters admit that they look goofy and are uninteresting, you’d think the writers would change something. I guess it’s the whole point, though, of having a superhero group made up of common people, so I can’t complain all that much. Most of the issue, though, deals with Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man, who are in space, stuck in an asteroid field, making bad references to nerd movies, down with a bad case of cabin fever, and facing the possibility of not making it home alive. They’re low on fuel, and the odds are against them, especially when Devilance returns, wanting to finish the job he started. After awhile, Lobo shows up and rescues them. He’s reformed, it seems, and wants to help them out. Yeah, right. Lobo’s a bounty hunter, just like Devilance. He takes out the competition, and, now, he leads the group into a trap. Right? Maybe. The issue closes with Red Tornado’s upper body waking up in Australia, repeating the number fifty-two.

After a stellar sixteenth week, I guess this week’s issue just falls flat for me. I don’t really have anything terrible to say about it, it just didn’t engage me while I was reading it. There’s not much to really grab hold of, although I do enjoy how they’re devoting entire issues to one storyline these days. That three pages a week for each was really annoying.

Anyway, as Lobo says on the cover, only 35 more ta go.

See ya in seven.

Justice League Interchangable

Months ago, DC released the first image of Ed Benes’ take on the Justice League of America.

JLA Preview 450

Last Wednesday, Justice League of America #1 hit comic shops. The image we had all come to love was split down the middle (because DC knew they could milk another $4 out of some of us), but that wasn’t the only change.

JLA 1 450

The cover was different. Several characters were swapped around, and others were removed all together. Makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

A lot of changes make sense. The front row is all characters who made the final roster, so it makes sense that DC wouldn’t want to give it away months in advance. That explains why Black Lightning and John Stewart traded places, and why Flash and Red Tornado are swapped. Also, Arsenal (I so want to start calling him Red Arrow now) replaces Green Arrow on the front line, moving Green Arrow up beside Flash, replacing The Elongated Man.

That’s when things start to get a little trickier. Ralph Dibny, along with every other hero who’s a starring member of the 52 cast, has been removed from the original image. Booster Gold’s been replaced with Big Barda, The Question’s been replaced by Martian Manhunter (conspicuous by his abscence in the original image), Adam Strange has been replaced by Hourman, and Animal Man’s been replaced by Batwoman. With Booster Gold already dead, perhaps we’re to assume that no one starring in 52 makes it out alive?

One guy, just to the left of the right flag, above Blue Beetle’s shoulder (Karate Kid? Bushido? Obscure Ninja Hero? Help me out here) is simply taken out. He isn’t replaced, and he isn’t shuffled around to another part of the image, he’s just not there anymore, and there’s a hole where he used to be. There’s also a hole where Guy Gardner used to be, after he moved up to replace Aquaman on the far left. Quite frankly, leaving those two spots empty throws off the composition a bit. Would it really have been hard to throw in Wildcat or Jay Garrick or Manhunter or any other hero to balance it out a little?

There’s also a few updates of character visuals for Kyle Rayner (now Ion, then just Green Lantern), Fire (now all flamy, then not so much) and Metamorpho (now Metamorpho, then Shift). Curiously, Captain Atom was not updated to coincide with the armor he began wearing at the end of Battle For Bludhaven. Even curiouser, Atom’s certainly not the type of guy the JLA would want hanging around after he destroyed Bludhaven.

The most puzzling aspect is that Nightwing was absent from the original piece, but he replaced Arsenal on the top row in the final cover. Perhaps this lends even more credence to the idea that Nightwing was originally intended to die during Infinite Crisis.

Ed Benes obviously drew the original cover well before the end of Infinite Crisis, and it’s clear DC didn’t let him in on every change they were going to make One Year Later. That would explain why he put Aquaman and Tempest in the original drawing yet they didn’t make it on the final image (they’re both MIA OYL). It explains why there’a a non-Ionized Kyle Rayner and a Shift-y Metamorpho.

But they obviously let him in on some stuff. The new Blue Beetle is on display in the original cover. Green Arrow is sporting his OYL hood. And Nightwing is nowhere to be seen. If characters like Donna Troy, Arsenal and Cyborg were all included in the original image, why would Nightwing be left out? Because he was supposed to be dead OYL?

If only I cared as much about the new JLA roster as I do about these tiny changes. You’d think with ten superfolks on the team, there’d be some I actually be interested in. Seriously…Vixen?!

1,000 and counting

Congrats to the Comic Shop News on their 1,000th issue. It seems like only yesterday that I picked up issue 973.

The free weekly pamphlet on the goings on in the comic book world has been around since 1987, which, in this latest edition the editors remind us, “when we started CSN, trade paperbacks were virtual anomalies … 1987 was two years before Tim Burton proved that there was still plenty of cinematic life left in comic book heroes.”

Thanks to editors Cliff Biggers and Ward Batty, working out of Marietta, Ga., for taking care of the “you’re so old” jokes for me. Really though, they do put out a cool product for free to readers and have managed to do it consistently while the industry changed a whole lot.

For that and more, kudos! Now, if only they hadn’t put Highlander on the cover of this momentous issue…

Brown bagging it

I picked up my comics this week and had a mild surprise when the fill-in clerk handed me my larger-than-usual stack of books in a white plastic bag emblazoned with the Free Comic Book Day logo. A bit dispirited, I paid and left.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with Free Comic Book Day. It involves comic books and freedom, so it really covers all the bases. And it didn’t bother me too much that this particular bag advertised the 2006 FCBD, which already happened.

What peeved me ever so slightly was the very nature of the bag: white plastic. This is a very minor part of the comic book experience, but I’ve grown very accustomed to my shop’s use of little brown paper bags that slip ever so perfectly over a stack of new material. I couldn’t find a good photo, so here’s as close as it gets:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

With every retailer now using almost all plastic sacks, these paper bags have taken on a classic, rare feel. Just like when you go to the grocery store, buy ice cream and they pull out the paper bag to keep it cool: paper only comes out for something special.

Then there’s the mystery. Just what is inside that bag? It’s opaque, though obviously shaped to fit something flat and in the 8.5 by 11 inch range. Maybe it’s holding… DOCUMENTS! (RIP Mitch Hedberg) Toting around this slender brown document case, I feel a bit like a hobo with his paper-bagged booze. You don’t know what he’s drinking, but it just might be urine. (OK, really, really bad analogy).

At my old shop (which some of the Doomers still frequent) they used to wrap everything up in recycled Wal-Mart bags. While I’m all for recycling, there’s just nothing enjoyable about carrying comic books in a non-special bag that doesn’t even fit them well and, to boot, makes you look like a cheap-o.

So, clearly, there’s no real point to this rant. But if any retailers are reading, you should use brown bags. They’re cool.

Week Sixteen

Thanks to the first issue of Justice League of America, my hopes for the three marooned space cadets has diminished quite a bit. In that first issue, Wonder Woman mentions that she wishes they could have Buddy (Animal Man) join the team, but alas. Someone then mentions that they should pay his wife a visit. That means that either, a) he’s dead, along with Starfire and Adam Strange, or b) he’s still missing, or c) he left his wife and married Starfire, since she’s hotter. It doesn’t really prove anything, as it’s merely speculation, but it’s interesting, nonetheless. JLA #1 is pretty sweet, by the way.
That’s not why we’re here, though. We’re here to celebrate Week Sixteen of 52 and the wedding of Black Adam and Isis. It really is a grand ceremony, with Captain Marvel serving as best man and the rest of the Marvel family along for the fun. “Shazam!” works again, and they use it to fire up the sky and excite the citizens of Kahndaq. The only snag is that Renee Montoya, fresh off a jail break, figures out why they found so much rat poison. It can be used in bombs, making them more deadly or something. She quickly enlists the help of the Question and her vapo-gun she found in Gotham on 520 Kane Street, and, together, the three of them crash the wedding. When they find the bomb, it’s strapped to a kid, and Montoya makes the difficult decision, at the Question’s behest, to blast the kid to Kingdom Come. She does it, the wedding wraps up, Black Adam gets some butt, and there’s your story.

Meanwhile, on Paradise Planet, Adam Strange, along with Starfire and Animal Man, turn atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed, and rocket off on their voyage back to New Earth.

Simply put, this issue is beautiful. Granted, I wish Isis would’ve been killed so that Black Adam would stop being a big smiling wimp, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a very pretty issue, and nicely done on all parts. There are a few questions that rise from it, however. Intergang. What are they doing? They were shipping guns and personnel into Gotham, which the Question and Montoya traced back to Kahndaq, but, once they got there, they were promptly framed and arrested. This week, they find that the entire plot on Intergang’s part led to the wedding, where some child was supposed to blow up a bunch of innocent civilians? Why? Because Black Adam refused Intergang’s peace bribe back in week two or three? That seems a tad harsh, and not to mention misplaced. I’m sure we’ll see some conclusive answers in the next couple of weeks.

Speaking of next couple of weeks, guess who’s coming next week? Lobo. Ugh.

See ya in seven.

Which god’s side are they on?

Seems only fitting to post this on a Sunday.

I wrote a piece for another outlet about all the wiki projects involving comic books, and one of the most interesting links I found catalogued a ton of Marvel, DC and smaller press characters by their religion (or lack thereof). Here’s the link to the page with photos and here’s the link to the main page.

Sadly, as a Presbyterian, my only protectors are Wolfsbane and Speedball, apparently. If I gave a crap about Civil War, maybe that would be cool or ironic or something…

However, I was raised Methodist, so if I fall back on that (and really, how much different are Methodists and Presbyterians?) I can claim Superman, Supergirl and Superboy (although he’s dead now/for now).

An interesting aspect of this is looking through the list of super villains and noting which religions are most represented during specific periods of the characters being created. For instance, some newer ones are Muslim, while older ones tend toward mystic religions, Catholicism and the very popular atheism.

Another interesting aspect is the trend toward greater affiliation between characters and faith (this is not a new development, starting really after Stan Lee retired, taking his intentional disclusion of religion with him).

Taking this in another direction (don’t worry, I’m about out of steam), there’s the launch of Virgin Comics, which will tell mostly Indian stories, many based in the nation’s religious background.

New No. 1’s

I’ve reached out to a few new series lately and have more or less enjoyed them. Some are sure-fire additions to the buy pile, while others are still on the issue to issue trial basis. Either way, all are worth a look and you can probably find them on the shelves for another week or so.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAgents of Atlas (Marvel)
I picked this up pretty much on a whim, knowing only that it was a supposed team of weird Eisenhower-era heroes who rejoin forces to fight… um… someone. From that nondescript premise comes a surprisingly fun and intriguing series that has absolutely nothing to do with Marvel continuity.

Writer Jeff Parker (who’d previously been relegated to Marvel B-titles such as Marvel Adventures, Marvel Westerns, etc.) cooks up a pretty major whodunnit/whatthehell’sgoingon? We know the agents of atlas were once a great government team and that they save Ike from some mysterious Asian villain. They disbanded, fast forward to today and we find out that the human leader of the group, Jimmy Woo, led a rogue group of SHIELD agents into a craptastic situation and he’s the only one that made it out alive.

A giant talking gorilla and a robot (former atlas agents) steal a near-dead Woo away from SHIELD and revert him to his much-younger self – their only way to save his life. Seriously, what the heck is going on?

What makes the series worth following, beyond the solid art and the curiosity, is the subtle fun Parker has with the characters. Little touches like everyone referring to super-superhero Marvel Boy as “Bob,” and the great chemistry between the previously mentioned ape and robot made the first issue a blast. Give issue #2 a chance.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMartian Manhunter (DC)
I had been VERY on the fence about the new Martian Manhunter after reading DC’s Brave New World. It looked serious to the point of being unintentionally funny, in large part because of MM’s ridiculous new 1990s X-Men look.

I picked up the issue anyway and, surprise, it was pretty decent. I’m not ready to commit to the full series just yet, but I’ll be there for issue #2.

I still don’t really understand where MM disappeared to during the crisis, or how he came back (help me out, 52), but wherever he went, he apparently learned how to be a badass. He no longer is the dorky-but-friendly green-skinned member of the JLA. Now he’s got his traditional Martian oblong head going, the aforementioned brutally serious costume and – holy potatoes – he even kills. Once, anyway.

I still am not quite sure how this didn’t just completely fail, but MM’s search for the other little green men has started with a strong, palpably tense issue. I’m wondering how long Lieberman can keep that up, and if he’ll bother trying to get into MM’s character, rather than just treating him as a green terminator to go around fighting people. But, once again, I’ll give the next issue a chance.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingUncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (DC)
Okay, this is by far the oldest of the no. 1’s. My apologies. And, probably, everybody has either read this or doesn’t want to. But if you’re among those who passed on the first issue, give me a chance to change your mind.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters was another Brave New World promo, and this is easily one to go ahead and add to the buy pile before that next issue hits shelves in a couple weeks.

The Jonah Hex writing team is at top form, throwing you into a world of politics, conspiracy and violence. The complexity of just who’s who in this conspiracy is a good reason to grab that first issue. Miss it, and you’re probably lost till the trade comes out. Think a more violent, exciting comic version of the Manchurian Candidate.

I always love when writers take potentially lame characters (in this case, Father Time, Toy Man, Uncle Sam, the Ray and pretty much everyone else) and finds some way to make them interesting. You’ll find that here (and it continues to be a trend in DC).

The art is fresh; I can’t figure out just where drawing and painting butt heads on Daniel Ocuna’s work. My only gripe is the sometimes overbearing political message. But then again, subtlety doesn’t have much place when guys are getting punched through the chest cavity.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingElephantmen (Image)
I’m really not sure what Image’s Elephantmen is supposed to be about. I guess that makes sense, since it stems from a character created to advertise comic book lettering.

The first issue of the latest run of comics by creator Richard Starkings serves as a sly introduction to this world, showing that Elephantmen are genetic creations, bred as killing monsters, now curiosities more than anything. There’s no plot to speak of on display, just a lengthy interaction between an elephantman and a little girl.

While it was fun and merited a second look, I can’t imagine the stand-alone nature of the series being able to hold my interest for too long (only Jonah Hex holds that honor). A minor complaint also is the art, which is really beautiful (aside from the background-less flashbacks) only to be ruined by overly thick outline inking. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Whose side are you on?

This started out as a comment in response to the Civil War Machine Derailed post and accompanying web-based criticism of Marvel’s decision to delay Civil War due to shipping concerns.

Regarding all the uproar, I couldn’t disagree more.

There seem to be two prongs to this argument – a case made on behalf of the shareholders, and a case made on behalf of the fans.

Marvel is indeed throwing away short term sales, that’s true. But this commitment to the story as a whole – and not as a sum of monthly parts – is a wise move that will pay off in the future. Marvel sees the obvious writing in huge block letters on the wall – that the real money is made in trade format on the bookshelves. And while I can’t really imagine a scenario in which someone will refuse to buy the Civil War TPB because of a fill-in artist (unless it’s Brandon Peterson, and that person would be me), it shows that Marvel is approaching these arcs as independent entities that need to be presented as such.

Marvel is continuing to change the paradigm of what an arc is, and that’s where the long-term advantages for both the shareholders and the readers overlap. The transition has been happening for a while, with storylines being constructed for easy reprintability, but there were still things like dangling plotlines and fill-in artists forcefully reminding you that you were reading a fragmented serial and not a story to be appreciated on its own.

I have an anecdote to back up how a lack of this approach failed them in the past. I loaned a friend my copy of a Daredevil TPB, in which the first six issues or so were done by the brilliant Alex Maleev, and then the last two or three were done by a fill-in artist. This turned my friend off, pulling him out of the story, and he wasn’t interested in any more.

It’s fair to argue that might be an extreme reaction or something along those lines. Fine. But you wouldn’t enjoy a movie where they change the actors midstream. Loyal followers of soap operas bemoan the substitution of actors. Abrupt halts take you out of a story. And Marvel is showing consumers and shareholders that they are treating their stories differently than they have in the past.

I completely agree with Tom Brevoort’s rationale on the whole thing. They have a market plan, and they’re sticking to it, in spite of short term losses. For that commitment to a vision, and refusal to dismiss that vision in a moment of panic, I have more faith in Marvel than I have in some time.

It’s very easy to put together a wet-dream list of fanboy favorites to put in place of McNiven. But McNiven is not some sort of anomaly in his inability to put together an epic on a monthly basis with no lead-in time. So when you’re pulling someone off the bench, you get the people who aren’t working. And so you get crap.

And Jean-Claude, in your comment from the previous post that people weren’t talking about the art from IC 7, I present the following conversation:

Jean-Claude Van Doom: My biggest gripe: what the heck was with the art? I’m not sure if it’s that I don’t like Jimenez and Perez, or if they were just too rushed (even though it ran way late), or if they had to cram too much into too small of a space, but it just seemed really weak in spots. The Superman & Superman vs. Superboy fight had no grandeur. The final splash page was such a boring superhero collage that I didn’t bother looking at it for more than a few seconds.

Fin Fang Doom: The art was definitely rushed throughout the entire series. Phil Jiminez was apparently just not the right choice to keep this book on schedule. Besides Mark Bagley, I can’t think of any comic artist that has been able to churn out 32 or more pages of high-quality art per month for six or seven months.

Jim Doom: the art suffered because they had to bring in a lot of extra inkers. It’s too bad some of them are as bad as they are, because some of those pages really did lose their impact. Notice the pencils left in the first huge battle splash page? That’s unique to this issue. It worked because of the distance, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the first choice on how to present that page.

Doom DeLuise: Like when Superman was leading the charge, and he said something like, “You want to destroy our universe? Y’know what I say to that?” and then the next page is supposed to be this intimidating splash page where he’s saying, “Like hell,” except that it looked like SHIT. Yeah, that’s a bummer, but the line was still cool, so it was cool with me, kind of.

Scott Pilgrim

A friend just loaned me the first book of this series. Volumes two and three are out as well.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI’d made it about three fourths of the way through my first encounter with manga (can you really call it that?) and I was considering dropping the thing cold and chalking it up as a waste of time. The protagonist was dumb and mostly boring, the dialogue choppy, the art sloppy, the storyline nonexistent, etc.

The majority of the book only establishes that Scott is a 23-year-old in a crappy band, he’s poor, he’s dating a high schooler (WTF?) and he lives in Canada. Dialogue includes the following exchange: “No!” “Yeah, so whatever, man.” Forgive me for not being bowled over.

But the last half introduces a new love interest, a weird girl named Ramona who apparently travels through dreams, and the book takes off into Bizarro-land, culminating with Scott fighting the first of Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends. (Hmmm, I wonder if author Bryan Lee O’Malley read some Joseph Campbell…) The fight is a riff on video game culture, though, done with just the right amount of silliness (Read: Lots).

So the book went in the matter of a couple pages from being a lame attempt at “Box Office Poison”-style early adult drama to a fun, ridiculous spoof on the idiocy of early adulthood. That, I can dig.

I’m still not totally sold. I mean, the art had me wondering about illustrating some of my own writings. And I haven’t picked up a sketchbook in years. But the story has a cool goofy-ness that I’m willing to follow for at least another couple books.