Monthly archives: March, 2007

Writing comics is hard

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketRecent years have seen a serious influx of talent from outside mediums (TV, films, etc.) into the comics business, and it’s brought both some highs and some lows. But, for the most part, it’s brought attention to comics and new voices, more than enough to offset the major delays of Allan Heinberg’s Wonder Woman or Damon Lindelof’s Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. With the past two weeks bringing two new outside talents into comics, I thought it would be fun to take a gander at the transition from novelist to comic book writer, as experienced by Jodi Picoult and Tad Williams.

If you’ve seen my reviews of this week’s comics, you’ll know that I wasn’t much of a fan of Picoult’s debut on Wonder Woman. It was okay, but not at the level I’d expected from Picoult (my wife, an editor by trade, read one of her novels and thought it was very good). And two weeks ago came William’s entry into the field with Aquaman #50, which we Doomers thoroughly eviscerated in last week’s Book of Doom.

Two superstar novelists, and all we have to show for it is a couple crummy books. So, what happened?

Doom and Doomer: TMNT

Greetings, Legion of Dudes, and welcome to another installment of DOOM AND DOOMER. This time, Fin Fang Doom and I take on TMNT – the new computer-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

JIM DOOM: I came into TMNT with the background of being someone who never read the comics, loved the cartoons, and thought the live action movies were pretty awful. And while there were things about TMNT that I didn’t like or wish would have been done differently, I thought it was trying to be a fun kids’ action movie and did a great job of it.

When you’re looking at franchise adaptations, one of the big things is “Did it kill the characters?” The live action movies did for me. This definitely didn’t.

FIN FANG DOOM: I think the main reason i TMNT succeeded is what you just pointed out: the creators of the movie knew what kind of a movie they were making and played that up. TMNT was a kids movie, and instead of trying to bog it down with an overly-complicated plot or unneccesary character development, they just leapt right into a fun action adventure.

JD: And I liked that it was also able to be a kids movie without having to throw in tons of subtle dirty jokes for the adults to laugh at. April and Casey lived together without being married, yet they were able to not make jokes about two non-married adults shacking up that kids wouldn’t get (see: Cars).

FFD: No, I will not see Cars.

Worst to First: 3/28/07

Look at me. I’m posting reviews on time. Now, before you get excited, you should know that I’m just getting this out of the way so that I can take this week’s batch and move them far from sight. Just a very forgettable week. All six titles I picked up failed to meet expectations (I split it 4-2 in favor of DC). So, let’s get this over with.

Six: Wonder Woman #6

I’ll be writing more about this later, but novelist Jodi Picoult takes over the reins from Allen “Tired Joke” Heinberg and takes the book in a sort of new direction. I’m left curious what the heck happened to Donna, the new WW. Maybe that was tied up in the previous arc (but I gave up on that after seven months and two issues). There’s an interesting concept here, but it’s a long ways from where it needs to be.

Five: Fantastic Four #544

This books falls down toward the bottom of the pile if only for the Michael Turner cover. Balls to that. There’s plenty more to complain about, but I’ll save it for Saturday, since this is our Book of Doom this week.

Four: 52 #47

For a full recap, check Doom DeLuise’s latest in his weekly reviews. I think this issue bothered me as much as it did because we’re finally seeing a glimpse of what happened to some of the most important characters in the “missing year,” but all it really reveals is how little correlation we’re seeing in 52 and the beginning arcs of One Year Later. Also, I really, really didn’t care at all for the art. Not sure if it was Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils or Lorenzo Ruggiero’s ink, or if they just didn’t work well together, but this was a weak effort.

Week Forty-Seven

It’s a good week for those of you who want some loose ends tied up. With only five issues left, this week is a perfect time to wrap everything up before the big finale. Granted, they still need a week or two more to finish the wrapping, but you get the idea.52 week 47

So, what do we see this week that we haven’t seen in awhile? We get a glimpse into what’s been happening with Batman, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Nightwing, Manheim, Animal Man, Natasha and John Henry Irons, as well as a brief glimpse into the torture taking place on Oolong Island. Let’s recap.

Manheim and the Intergang thugs are in Gotham, looking for the twice-named daughter of Cain, who they were prophesied to kill five months ago. They finally realize that they should look for somebody with the name of Cain, rather than just look for the girl in the picture. So, they get her, and Montoya finds her shredded apartment at the same time as Nightwing. Together, they’re going to get her back. Kinda cool. Especially the picture of the trashed apartment. Very well done.

Meanwhile, Animal Man is zooming home, only to run into those weird little yellow guys again, who tell him that he can use such-and-such nonsense to get home instantly. Only, he sees home, and he sees his wife, and the bitch be cheatin’! He freaks out. No kidding. Dude goes out to space to risk his life for the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, only to find out that, after spending all this time trying to return home, his bitch is all up on some other dude. By the way, I’d really like the writers and editors to deny the allusions to the Odyssey now.

Elsewhere, in Nanda Parbat, Robin is waiting and meditating outside some cave where Bruce Wayne is going through some spiritual journey. By the way, it’s ridiculous that the cave is covered with a round rock, ala Jesus Christ’s tomb. That’s just silly. Tim also gets a few words of advice from Wonder Woman, who is also in Nanda Parbat, for a meeting with Rama Kushna, that weird Zordon-looking floaty-face thing that told Ralph Dibny that the end has already been written. I sure hope it has. Otherwise, we’re in for a disappointing few weeks. Oh, at the end, Bruce emerges from the “tomb” and is smiling. And his shadow is a Batman logo.

All in all, not a bad week for those of you who want to see a bunch of nonsense brought to a close. For those of you who want to see Black Adam go on a murderous rampage or see the return of Rip Hunter/Booster Gold/Skeets, well, you’re going to have to wait awhile.

See ya in seven.

International Affairs: Kampung Boy

From all the internationally created comic book work I’ve been reading lately, I’ve noticed that most of the books are very universal. Their stories could quite easily be set in any country with a few tweaks. While it’s heartening to see shared ground between far-flung societies (and wouldn’t that make Thomas Friedman proud), there are some books that are improved by how much different they are from the comics we typically see and how their story couldn’t possibly be set anywhere else.

All of that, then, is my overly long buildup to today’s entry into our ongoing look into the wide world of comic books. As with some of the previously mentioned books, today’s comes from First Second Books. Kampung Boy, by Lat, is a fictionalized memoir of Mat, a Malaysian boy who is born and raised in a little village in a remote rural region of southeast Asia. By turns, it’s insightful, funny and touching. The book jacket makes a comparison to Charles Schulz, and it’s not an egregious stretch. Kampung Boy is not so much simple, but simply entertaining.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe book begins with Mat’s birth and follows through his early years to late childhood, when he leaves home for a distant school. In the 120 or so pages between the moments, Lat takes his near-namesake through a string of slice-of-life adventures. With no dialogue and straightforward narration, he describes some memories that anyone can relate to: going fishing, fighting with parents, not understanding parents, etc.

A big part of what makes this book so enjoyable, though, are all the other stories, the ones that set it very distinctly in southeast Asia. In telling the strange ceremonies that follow a birth, and the little details of how people lived, and the Islamic education, and even the very different ritual of circumcision, Lat gives readers a full on immersion into the every day lives of people in rural Malaysia. It takes a strong writer to take something that could be a very dry account and balance the informative side with the storytelling and humor, and Lat strikes that balance quite well.

Book of Doom: Fantastic Four #544

It’s Book of Doom time, kids, and this week, there’s a whole lot of stuff that we’ve covered in recent Books of Doom – Godland (supposedly), Daredevil, Wolverine and Superman: Confidential, so I’m going to branch out from my usual selections and declare Fantastic Four #544 as this week’s pick.

I never read Fantastic Four, but I figure since this puppy’s gonna have a Michael Turner cover, I best pick it up, and so should you! And maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll find out who those other two members are! Take it away, Marvel Marketing!


In the aftermath of Civil War comes Reconstruction, the beginning of a stunning new era! Rocked to its foundations by the events of the past several months, Reed and Sue plan a hiatus from the team to work out there marital problems, leaving Ben and Johnny to hold down the fort. But they won’t be doing it alone, as two new members join the team – and you won’t believe who they are!

Meaningless Spotlight: X-Men

xmen197I’ve been buying adjectiveless X-Men on a regular basis for over ten years, longer than any other title I currently buy aside from Uncanny X-Men (which I started buying at the same time). Quality over the years has varied greatly, ranging from acceptable (mid-to-late-90s) to enjoyable (yes, I enjoyed Chuck Austen) to pretty horrible (good riddance, Peter Milligan). There was even a time where the title was great, but at that point the name had been changed to New X-Men, which I don’t actually consider the same series. Regardless of quality, I continued to buy X-Men, partly out of habit, partly out of my love for the characters. Milligan aside, I was never really disappointed in the series, but I was never really excited about it either.

That is until Mike Carey took over the title last May.


Book of Doom: Aquaman #50

Welcome back to the latest edition of the Books of Doom. This week, we’re taking a scalpel to Aquaman #50. And by “we,” I mean Fin Fang Doom and myself, because those other Doom-holes didn’t bother to send in their thoughts. That’s why we have the comments section, I guess. Now, normally I’d just give my quick thoughts and turn it over to everyone else, but since we’re only two-strong, I’ll give Fin Fang first crack.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFin Fang Doom says:

Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice give new meaning to the phrase “A tough act to follow.” With Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #50, a new writer and artist had to step forward and attempt to fill the enormous footsteps left by their predecessors. But I’m not sure anyone’s metaphoric feet are big enough.

I like Shawn McManus, but he’s no Butch Guice. I really enjoyed McManus’ recent work on Shadowpact, and I’m glad to see he’s got a regular gig, but he’s just not a good fit for this title. With a distinctly animated style in the vain of Mike Weiringo or Clayton Henry, McManus seems born to draw over-the-top superhero adventures. Unfortunately, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis is not a superhero comic (and it appears as though it’ll be staying that way for the time being). To paraphrase anyone who’s ever described the book since One Year Later, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis is Conan underwater. Guice’s gritty, realistic art was a perfect fit for the book. McManus’s style is such a departure from Guice’s that it’s possible I’m not giving it the chance it deserves, but at certain times the art just appeared silly. McManus seems destined to become an artist on a more straight-forward “fun” superhero book like Robin or Legion of Superheroes, so hopefully Aquaman is only a short stop on the journey to a book that he can excel on.

More fun with Rick Veitch

If you enjoyed my earlier interview with Rick Veitch or the accompanying preview of his new book Army@Love, you’ll definitely enjoy this little bit of bonus material.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFirst, Rick just sent a note saying Army@Love now has a web site with some bonuses (particularly there are some cool character sketches and bios). You can find it right here. And, for the real meat of the bonus feature, I also found an old interview that I did with Rick when his last book came out, that being Can’t Get No (which is a book you NEED to read). The interview never made it onto our site, until now…

Worst to First: 3/21/07

If you’re wondering why reviews weren’t up yesterday, all I can say is blame Ohio State. I was too busy watching the Buckeyes ruin my bracket (anybody else go with Xavier for the upset and have Tennessee in the Final Four?) and I just didn’t get it done. Luckily, I have no monetary reason to continue watching the tournament, so here come the reviews!

A whopping eight books this week, including Aquaman #50, which is our Book of Doom this week, so I’m saving my thoughts on it until Saturday. Including that book, DC dominated my take, with a ridiculous seven of eight books. This seems unfathomable, given how much of a long-time Marvel loyalist I was, but things change. At the very least, Marvel still publishes my favorite book, X-Factor. Could it claim the top spot yet again? We’ll see.

Seven: Birds of Prey #104

I finally gave this a try back with issue 100, and right away I felt like an idiot for waiting so long to jump into Gail Simone’s series. Now? I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but Babs and pals are quickly heading toward the drop list. This latest has an Alias-esque adventure that never ramps up and a romance sub plot that isn’t given the proper time or attention.

What’s wrong? Too many characters, too little familiarity on my part and some annoying story structuring mishaps. Namely, Simone fractures the chronology at the beginning. But the only purpose is to toss in a “cool” scene (that doesn’t even pay off later). There’s a word for those kinds of things when they don’t serve the story: gimmicks.

Six: Detective Comics #830

I opted to give this a try, even though I really only read Detective for Dini. Surprise, surprise, this Stuart Moore fellow comes through with a nearly-as-good tale. For filler, it’ll work, but I’m still eager for the man to return. A drawback was Andy Clarke’s art, which is hyper-crisp in the vein of Steve McNiven. And though I’m no big fan of McNiven’s, at least he’s really good at his style. Clarke isn’t in that league.

Five: The Brave and the Bold #2

This will never be one of my favorite books, but for what it is (an old school teamup) there isn’t anything out there that’s better. Of course, Mark Waid and George Perez could probably slap a great classic-style story together at the nursing home craft hour. I’m still not sure what to make of Supergirl’s Hal-hungry antics (though Hal’s responses were funny), but everything else flowed nicely.

For any aspiring artist out there, check out the pages where Perez jimmies in nine or ten panels. Ridiculous stuff.