Man of the Moment


Sean William Scott


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"Reading his blog is like watching a beloved 50's Rat Pack Vegas act"--Larry Young
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"Dorian Wright is intelligent and slightly bitter, like a fine coffee."--Kevin Church
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Friday, July 30, 2004

No Content, Just Pictures 



I'm sure there were no currently popular films that influenced this cover design.

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Conversations I'm Tired of Having With Customers 

If anyone ever wonders why I don't take smarmy comments regarding my occasional venting at comic book fans and comic store customers very well should bear this in mind: I work someplace where people have serious discussions about setting up conscription programs for the Gnomish Lands. The patience of a saint would be sorely taxed by that sort of thing after dealing with it for eight hours a day, five days a week for several years. Believe me, I could be much more foul-tempered about it than I am.

I'm tired of having to explain to people that a coverless comic isn't in "Gem Mint" condition.

I'm tired of having to explain to people that just because it's in a bag, that doesn't mean it's in perfect condition.

I'm tired of having to explain that the term "graphic novel" is not an indication of sexually explicit content.

I'm tired of having to explain to people that their long-boxes full of Image #1s is probably not going to contain anything we could want or need for the store and that frankly, on the off chance that there is something we could use in there, the amount of time it would take going through the box and checking it against our inventory in comparison to what we would actually pay for the one or two titles we do need isn't going to be worth either their time or mine.

I'm tired of having to explain to people that just because there are comic books based on "Sonic the Hedgehog" and comic books based on "Aliens" that doesn't mean that they're equivalent in terms of content.

I'm tired of having to explain that just because a publisher (*cough*Marvel, *cough-cough* Image) says a book will be released on a certain date that doesn't neccessarily mean it will actually be released on that date.

I'm tired of having to explain that, yes, I do really need to see a comic for myself before I could hazard a guess as to what it might be worth based on its condition.

I'm tired of having to explain to customers that I don't actually speak Japanese, and so they might have better luck asking me for help finding a particular title if they'd ask for it by the English title rather than trying to impress me with the fact that they know the Japanese title.

I'm tired of having to tell people not to lay down in the middle of the floor and read comics.

I'm tired of having to listen to people complain about what's happening in titles they don't buy.

I'm even more tired of listening to people complain about how much they hate the titles they are buying.

I'm tired of having to listen to the 1000th debate about who's a better Green Lantern, Hal or Kyle?

I'm tired of smiling politely as customers talk about which comic book heroines they'd "do."

(Okay, actually I lied, because whenever that particular conversation rolls around and becomes too bothersome I can always interject that I wouldn't mind a tumble with Wildcat and that usually puts a stop to it right away.)

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A Clarification 

No, seriously, I don't really want a "funny" squirrel name.

It was mostly just an obtuse dig at logging on yesterday and reading everyone talk about "funny" squirrel names.

I will post a link to Milo George's site just because, despite myself, I keep finding myself reading it lately.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Too tired to think of a clever title 

Our Diamond shipment arrived via UPS again today, only in time for us to deal with it this week. Of course, one of our boxes was mis-routed, and will hopefully arrive tomorrow. Probably, a little less than half of our DC books were in that box. So, much as I'd like to gripe about the LA warehouse packers fouling up our shipment, I can't do it in good concensience.

That being said, going over our invoice for the week, it looks like there's a bit more missing than I'd reasonably expect to fit into one of the boxes, so I may still get to gripe.

I'm officially sick of people talking about Identity Crisis and the prospects of Jack Black as Green Lantern. I wash my hands of it all.

Everybody else has already excerpted all the choice quotes from the new Grant Morrison interview. Of course, the real treat is going through the "responses" on the Newsarma boards. For a change of pace the discussion was almost sane and stayed mostly on topic.

Apparently Millarworld is discussing the "Spider-Man/Power Pack" comic I'm trying to find so I can do that piece about Marvel's history of portraying gay characters I want to do. But I wouldn't know, because I can't get Millarworld to load at all. I'm sure the discussion is just about as rational, on-topic and fair-minded as I expect...

I was not gifted with a "funny" squirrel name by Milo George. But I'm not bitter about it or anything. The way I see it, I already have a perfectly good "funny" name in Postmodern Barney. Besides, squirrels are just rats with bushy tails. I certainly wouldn't want to be compared to one.

[And since humor-impairment seems to be running rampant lately, I was kidding about that last topic. Mostly.]

{And just to be on the safe side, Ringwood Ragefuck is one of my favorite blogs. He's not the one with no sense of humor.}

And lastly, Pete and I have been absolutely horrified by the amount of money we've spent on comics in the last two months, and so the culling has begun. Smallville, Doom Patrol, Fraction, Excalibur, X-Men and Weapon X have already been dropped. All other X-titles are on probation, but will probably be dropped. Aquaman, Kinetic and Firestorm are on probation too. They each get one more issue before a final decision is made. The only titles that are safe for the moment are DC team books, because we're both too much of DC fan-boys to drop those, the Ultimate universe, mostly at Pete's insistence, and the Fantastic Four and 4, exclusively at Pete's insistence. I'll probably make mentions here when something gets culled, possibly stating why, depending on how much I feel like boring everyone.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Detective Fiction 

Something I saw on the Bad Signal mailing list the other day got me to thinking. Warren Ellis was asking after "straight detective fiction" in comics, and apparently the only responses he got back concerned Batman, Elongated Man, older series and supernaturally themed detective stories.

Which rather surprises me, because one of the most unexpected and underappreciated series Tokyopop has been putting out is Kindaichi Case Files. Volume 8 was recently released: "No Noose Is Good Noose" (I can only hope that the titles are the American editors attempts to translate the thematic meanings of the individual titles, rather than the literal). It makes me suspect that there may not be many people out there reading the title regularly, which is a shame as the series is quite good and entertaining.

The lead character is Hajime Kindaichi, a high-school student believed by most of his teachers and class-mates to be a lazy, foolish slacker. In reality, he is in possession of a deft and highly rational, logical and intuitive mind. Which makes sense, as he is the grandson of a legendary detective, Kosouke Kindaichi. And Kindaichi gets plenty of opprotunities to show his true nature behind his clownish pose, as he and his sometime girl-friend Miyuki Nanase keep finding themselves caught up in the middle of gruesome, and seemingly impossible, murder mysteries. He is occasionally aided in this by Detective Kenmochi who has learned to value the assitance Kindaichi can provide, but he is just as often frustrated by Superintendent Akechi, who sees Kindaichi as a competitor to the title of "greatest detective."

The art by Fumiya Sato is very cartoony, which perhaps lessens the impact of some of the truly horrific murders Kindaichi uncovers. Sato has a real talent, however, for creating very distinctive and expressive characters. Many manga artists have a tendency to draw the same face on all their characters, and differentiating them only by costume and hair-style, but Sato draws a wide variety of character types. The stories of Yozaburo Kanari are intriguing, and the common flaws of mysteries are avoided. All of the important clues are presented to the reader at the same time as they are presented to Kindaichi, so it's possible for the reader to come to the correct conclusion regarding "whodunnit" before Kindaichi figures it out.

If there is a weakness to the stories, it's that the motivations behind the murders tend to be repetitive. Out of the eight volumes released to date all but one of them, to my recollection, revealed the motive behind the slayings to be revenge for a crime the victims committed at some earlier point and escaped punishment for. It's not that it's an unbelievable motivation. Revenge is a powerful motive in mystery and thriller fiction. And from a thematic stand-point it does serve to make the killer more sympathetic to the reader, as they are meteing out poetic justice to people who they beleive deserve to die for their transgressions. But after eight volumes of it, it does feel a bit repetitive.

Volume 8 is an interesting example of the series style. Kindaichi and Miyuki enroll in a prestigious prep school which has a reputation of driving students to suicide because of the high standards and competition. Once there a math teacher asks for Kindaichi's help in finding the person responsible for a series of macabre pranks for which she is being framed. Once the pranks turn deadly, Kindaichi has to prove that the teacher is innocent and that the students committed suicide to make the teacher look like a killer. In a bit of departure from the usual structure, Kindaichi soon begins to suspect that he is being maniuplated by someone into letting the real guilty party get away with murder. It is perhaps not the best introduction to the series for a new reader, but it is a nice variation on the theme for those of us who have been reading along. Putting Kindaichi into a posistion where he seriously doubts himself is quite a difference from the usual thougtful and self-assured Kindaichi we generally see.


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Monday, July 26, 2004

Three Musings 

First Musing

Regarding the shut-down of the Bendis board and the reasons for that shut-down, I wish I could say that I was surprised that such things were going on, but honestly, I'm not. I really do hope that this was all a very tasteless "joke" that got out of control. Still, the "defenders" of the people who thought this was "funny", well, all I can think to say is, Methinks the assholes doth protest too much.

Second Musing

Two friends passed by post-con. Everything I hear about it makes me very glad I didn't go, but some strange little part of me wishes to partake in the nerd orgy just a little. If for no other reason than to hit artist alley with a sketchbook and hit people up for drawings of Wildcat with his shirt off.

I may have over-shared just a little there.

[That dastard Mike has occasionally joked that his favorite comic he's never going to see is Zatanna and Black Canary in "Fishnets Ahoy!" as drawn by Brian Bolland. The equivalent for me would be Steve Sadowski drawing Wildcat and Wolverine in "You Look Like You Could Use A Massage."]

Third Musing

Warren Ellis is a very smart man. He gets Marvel to sign him to an exclusive contract, that excludes all his creator-owned work and all his existing work-for-hire contracts at other publishers.

If I'm not mistaken, Warren Ellis got Marvel to pay him the rate they give to exclusive artists for what amounts to free-lance work. Like I said, very smart man.

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Catwoman 

Just a note in advance, updates may be sporadic for the next week, as I'm going to be house-sitting again and my Mom only has a dial-up connection and an older, slower computer. Which makes using the internet very, very frustrating. But anyway...

Pete and I went to see Catwoman last night. And perhaps I'm just being needlessly contrarian, but I rather liked it. That doesn't mean it was a good movie. Oh, not at all. But the reasons it was bad have nothing to do with the reasons you're likely to hear from fanboys or the general public.

First off, what I liked. Halle Berry as Patience, aka Catwoman, has a slinky appeal that is quite fun. The movie doesn't intend to take itself seriously. It's deliberate kitsch. And the rampant hyped up sexualization of the character plays into that.

The supporting cast was well-played as well. Benjamin Bratt is charming as the cop smitten with Patience, and Alex Borstein as the best friend gets a couple of nice moments and decent laughs. Sharon Stone as the ageing head of an evil cosmetics company has an icy aura of villainy, and although she hams it up just a little, so does Berry, so they balance each other out. I've noticed before in films of this nature that the actors who seem the most clued-in to the kinds of movies they're making often give the performances that are the most fun to watch. Stone and Berry know they're in a less-than-stellar film and they play up the absurdity of the film and their roles with abandon.

The story is slight, barely worth mentioning. Evil cosmetics corporation releases skin-creme that turns people into nigh-invulnerable psychotics with bad skin and kills anyone who finds out about it, including the mousey graphics desigener who turns out to be the chosen of Bast who then decides to taker her revenge on the aforementioned evil cosmetics corporation. There are some jibes thrown in on how society devalues older women, but they're clearly sops thrown out to the critics to make it appear that the film has some subtext that it doesn't really have. The true point of the film is to have Halle Berry dress up in a dominatrix out-fit and beat men up. I've got no problem with that, and frankly any attempt at "plot" just gets in the way of that.

The reasons the film are bad have to do entirely with the direction. This person, Pitof, has no business being allowed anywhere near a camera. Quick cuts, rapid camera movements, and very odd choices for camera angles make many of the scenes at the very least difficult to watch, and at worst impossible to see what is actually happening. It's self-defeating, and I hate this approach to filming as it's ruined many a film that would otherwise be enjoyable, but until someone with some actual talent as a director or cinematographer comes up with a new way to film action scenes for Hollywood to duplicate in all their movies, it's a technique we're probably going to be seeing for some time.

Oh, and the CGI was cheesy and silly and very obviously bad CGI. But I've theorized before that the reason we see so much really bad CGI in movies is because the audience apparently wants their CGI effects to be amateurish and bad, so again, we may as well get used to it being that way for quite some time.

The reasons you're going to hear the film are bad are two-fold. One, is that costume. Yeah, it's cheesy, and Berry actually wears an outfit earlier in the film that's much more attractive and bears a passing resemblence to the current comics version of her outfit. If it were my film, I'd have kept her in that outfit. But there's a certain thematic logic to the one she does end up in. At least part of the point of the film is to show as much of Berry as possible, so in that sense it works.

You're also going to hear a lot about how the character isn't true to the comic. Well, of course it's not. To be true to the comics you'd have to bring in Batman and all that rubbish, which would invariably reduce the character to a supporting role. No, if you're going to give Catwoman her own movie, best to just get her as far from the comics milieu as possible. True, making her the chosen one of the Egyptian cat goddess Bast is somewhat far-fetched as an origin. But if people can happily swallow the notion that getting bitten by a radioactive spider gives you spider-like powers instead of causing a nasty allergic reaction and cancer, I can believe this film's mystical origin. But apart from the change in the origin, the film is true to the character's personality. She's not exactly a bad guy, but she's not a good guy either. She's an empowered, sexualized woman with a cat fetish and ambiguous ethics. Sounds like the comic book character to me.

So, to reiterate, no, this wasn't a good movie, but it wasn't the death of cinema or of comic-book based movies. If you can get into the film's spirit, and you don't mind kitsch, camp and knowing winks to the audience that "yes, we know this is a terrible movie, but you're having fun, right?" than you'd probably enjoy it too.

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Friday, July 23, 2004

Still feeling random 

Edited to Add Item Zero
Found this just a moment ago. It appears to be a trailer for the film adaptation of Enki Bilal's Nikopol GNs.

One
Finally saw somthing in the SDCC news that I didn't a) already know about or b) am actually interested in (as opposed to say, everything that has come out of the Marvel news so far...)

Pride by Brian Vaughn and Niko Henrichon, a 128 page OGN about zoo lions accidentally freed during the war in Iraq.

Two
Haven't had a chance to look at any of this week's books, other than to give them a quick glimpse. New volumes of Demo, Tuxedo Gin and Fruits Basket are always good. Spaghetti Western looks good. And Apocalypse Meow looks as twisted and insane as I'd hoped.

Three
Recently that rascal Mike posted some additions to his list of ways not to ask for a back issue. I had a couple I wanted to add:

When you come in and ask me for Amazing Spider-Man #50, don't roll your eyes at me when I ask you "Which series?" When you follow up with a query regarding Avengers #40, please don't again roll your eyes when I ask, again "Which series?"

On a related note, asking me if we have Punisher #1 isn't very helpful. When I ask which of the seven Punisher #1s you mean, "the Garth Ennis one" isn't very useful a clarification.

Question
Does anyone have in their possession a copy of the Spider-Man/Power Pack PSA comic about child-abuse that they can give me/sell to me cheap/send me good quality scans of? I've gotten it into my head to briefly discuss Marvel's history of presenting gay themes and the Spider-Man story from that book would be helpful. Thanks.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Feeling Random 

I was looking at my list of sites over there on the left...most of which I check on a fairly regular basis, and it occured to me that I'm not sure how many more comics-related "blogs" the world can take before splintering occurs and you get everyone splitting up into little tribes. No longer linked together simply by being comics-related, instead linked together by being "conservative comics blogs" or "women's comics blogs" or "silver age fan's comics blogs" or some other additional descriptor.

My local paper had a big, two-page, color-picture-featuring article on the history of Catwoman in preperation for the film's release, including a big picture of the cover to the Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale trade. Should be interesting to see if that increases demand for Catwoman comics even more than the hype already has, or if this film is going to, Doc Savage like, completely and utterly kill all of the public's interest in the character.

This same issue of the paper also had a nice feature on the Polyphonic Spree. Including people who object to the band. Not "dislike" the band, as that would simply be a matter of differing tastes and be perfectly reasonable and acceptable. No, these folks seemed to object to the very existence of the band. The two reasons cited were: the robes (and complaining about the Spree wearing robes on stage strikes me as complaining about KISS' satanic clown make-up or Henry Rollins' black t-shirts and shorts) and "the optmisim of the songs." Yes, somebody apparently felt that the fact that the Spree's songs are "happy" makes them objectionable.

And people wonder why I use the term "misanthrope" to describe myself sometimes.

Y'know, I was going to talk briefly about some of the news from SDCC, but so far nothing I've seen is either interesting or in-depth enough to make me discussing it here worth my time.

And now, link-blogging, something I almost never do, so you know I must think it's noteworthy:

Warren Ellis talks about Global Frequency. It was one of the better selling books around our store. And, I know some people may see this as rubbing their noses in it, but I can't resist...
I kinda wonder how those people are dealing with the comfortable old Elongated Man's wife being raped and wasted in Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales' IDENTITY CRISIS right now. But one presumes they're still masturbating with rolled-up copies of GREEN LANTERN from 1976, so what the hell.

Bless his black little heart...

Everything you ever wanted to know about Donnie Darko but were afraid to ask. Would it be very pretentious of me to say that I'd actually figured out 95% of all of that without going through the web-site or the director's commentary?

Everybody else is doing it: Salon does a very nice interview with Alan Moore. I wasn't going to point it out, because as I already said, just about everyone else already has, but I had to as the story links to one of my best friend John's stories about Korea's wackiest cult-leader.

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Subtext? What Subtext? 



I don't really need to comment on this one, do I?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Thanks! 

Comics weren't on sale until 1PM today.

We open at 11AM.

Thank you, UPS!

Also, thank you for apparently losing the box containing the $100 Robotech action figure one of our customers special-ordered.

Thank you, all of our customers, for being very, very understanding about the fact that our shipment was very, very late today. I really appreciated the way you didn't stand there and stare at me as I unpacked boxes and counted comics to make sure we weren't completely shafted by the Diamond warehouse workers.

And thank you to all the people who decided that today was a good day to come in and go through all of our boxes of back-issues. It really made the job of unpacking all of those Diamond boxes and counting the comics so much easier, and faster too, because I had to continually stop to help you find a back issue you desperately needed right away.

And finally, thank you SDCC and the producers of comic-book movies. Every time you get any kind of attention from the mainstream press I get to deal with phone calls and walk-ins of people thinking they're going to get rich by selling their old comic books. I especially like it when you call me up and ask me how much a Hulk comic from the 70s is worth. Oh, no, don't give me an issue number or any realistic idea of what condition it might be in, so that I would be able to hazard a guess as to whether or not we might need it or be interested in purchasing it. It's much easier for you to hold it up to the phone so that I can peer at it through the phone-line.


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Today's Game 

Normally, I'd be trying to guess what Diamond's packers are going to leave out of the shipment this week. But it's the San Diego Comic-Con this week. Which means that the Boss-Man isn't going to drive down to the LA Diamond Warehouse, as he normally does, and pick up our books for us, which is a lot easier way to get our books than to have Diamond ship them to us. No, instead he's going to be in San Diego.

So today's question is "Will Our Books Get To Us At All?" As every year, without fail, every time the Boss-Man goes away, the books get here late. Which wouldn't be as much of a problem except they always get here after we've already been open awhile. And I don't know if you've noticed, but the kinds of people who have to be at a comic book store at the exact time it opens on the day the new comics are released have a tendency to get, shall we say, "testy" when they have to wait for their books, instead of having them neatly laid out for them on the comics rack, as God intended them to be. So I'm looking forward to a lot of theatrical sighs and sullen glares when I tell people that the books aren't here yet.

On the other hand, since we're "on the way" for people traveling south to Comic-Con, I also get to look forward to a lot of people I've never seen before, and am unlikely to see again, coming in and asking me for my "box of Silver Age" comics. About half the time they realize that I'm not just trying to be difficult when I ask them "which one? Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man?" We've got a good selection of Silver Age books, basically.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A Statement 

I'm not going to respond to any of the responses to my response to Idenity Crisis and the responses to it. And the totured grammar of the last sentence is one of the reasons why. One of the things that frustrates me about the "blogosphere" is the amount of time people spend talking about what other people said, to the point that the original work under discussion gets lost under a sea of points and counter-points. So, I've said what I had to say, and now I'd like to get on to more important topics. Like, are super-hero comics inherently fascist?

Also, and more importantly, intelligent adults can agree to disagree. Especially when it comes to matters of taste and interpretation.

Finally, here's the one use of children's characters in an adult context that I cannot support:



I don't need to see She-Ra's panties...really, I don't...

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Defending the Unloved 

[Spoiler warnings are for the weak...]

So, a lot of people have been talking about Identity Crisis. And I gather from their tone that many people think that there is something "wrong" with this comic. Not that it's a "bad" comic, because that would be a matter of taste. No, from the tone some people are taking, you would have to be a sick, perverted degenerate to find anything of merit in this trashy little exercise in exploitation and mysogyny.

Guess I'm a sick, perverted degenerate then.

Let's start with the obious. This is one of the most beautifully illustrated mainstream comics to be published in years. Rags Morales, with Mike Bair on inks, creates quite lovely fluid movements across the page, with intricate linework and more expressive characterizations than I've seen in quite some time.

Secondly, Brad Meltzer's characterizations are second-to-none. He's captured the voices of the characters, and is able to fully sketch their personalities through casual dialogue and subtle nuances. Pairing him with Morales on a character-heavy book was a brilliant decision. The dialogue and the narration are very eleoquently paired with those lovely, expressive pencils.

Now, for my reservations. This was sold to me as a mystery. As written by a best-selling mystery writer. Maybe it's just me, but I tend to think that for a mystery to work it needs to play fair with the audience. That means, don't front-load the story with a bunch of obvious red herrings, false leads, and misunderstood clues. Three stand out to me right away. First, why is Doctor Light the League's first suspect? Because of the attempted rape. But presumably they made him forget about that incident during his magical lobotomy. What evidence do they have that Light's brain-damage has been undone? None. Yet they go in, guns blazing, before fully assessing the situation. Sorry, don't buy it. Secondly, how did Light know the League was gunning for him? It's implied that Calculator has informed him and sent him to the Injustice Gang in search of a body-guard. So how does Calculator know? Villain scuttlebut would indicate that the heroes, in the mistaken belief that Sue Dibny was killed by a villain using heat or fire based gimmicks, are hunting down heat and fire based villains. Not light based villains. This is the sort of thing that needs to be explained, and I'll forgive it if later issues address the point. Lastly, Doctor Midnight determines that Sue wasn't killed by fire, and was in fact dead before she was burnt. He therefore concludes that Dr. Light couldn't possibly have been the villain. Well, the readers should have figured out by now that Dr. Light was just a red herring, but Midnight's conclusion is just a sloppy way to telegraph that information to the slower readers. What he's doing here is conjecturing ahead of the evidence. All he's really determined is that Sue was beaten to death, not burnt. That doesn't exclude Light as a suspect in and of itself. And why, exactly, was Midnight not surprised to hear that the League was attacking Light? Again, it's sloppy.

Another thing that has sort of frustrated me about this series so far: did we really need an explanation for why the silver age DC villains were so goofy? It's never exactly been a great worry of mine, and to be frank, the kinds of people who do want an in-continuity explanation for why the silver age villains were so "simple" are too busy hyperventilating because "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODTHEYKILLEDANDRAPEDSUETHEYKILLEDANDRAPEDSUEOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!!"

Which brings me to what most bothers me about the reactions I've seen to IC so far. The complete and total lack of perspective that people are approaching it with. The first bad assumption is that this story isn't appropriate to tell, because it features characters created as entertainment for children. Well, that might be a fair point, but the characters this most directly impacts are the Elongated Man and Sue Dibny. Who were both created forty years ago as children's characters. And then not used much until Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire used them in a knowing satire of super-hero comics intended for an adult audience. Like it or not, the audience for super-hero comics has aged, and children don't read super-hero comics much anymore. And when they do, they certainly don't read comics about the Elongated Man.
So, what's to be done to keep the characters viable? Well, if you're DC comics, and you've got a talented writer who wants to write a murder mystery involving your super-hero characters, and he wants to kill off a minor, under-used character which you have no plans for anyway, you let Brad Meltzer kill Sue Dibny. I mean, if all of these super-hero fans are so fond of the character, Elongated Man would have his own book, right?

That's a rather vital point, I think. I can't remember a time when so many people suddenly cared about the Elongated Man. They're actually upset about what happened to a character who was never popular enough to justify more than a back-up in another hero's title.

But to return to the topic of children and IC, there are a couple of things I'd like to point out on that score as well. Will children read Identity Crisis. Nope. Not a one. Because it doesn't look, to a kid, like something they'd be interested in. There's no movie or television tie-in, and let me tell you, as someone on the front lines of selling comics to kids, unless there is some sort of outside media attention, most kids just aren't going to look at super-hero comics (the perennial exception being Spider-Man, whose popularity with children seems to be independant of media hype). And yes, I know there's a Justice League cartoon on, but that title of the book isn't "JLA: Identity Crisis". If it were, all of the people complaining about the book damaging children's characters would have a point. But it's not, so they don't. I wonder, do these people complaining about the besmirching of a "children's" character complain about Fables, because although fairy tales weren't neccessarily originially intended as children's entertainment, in the American psyche they're as firmly considered as being suitable only for children now as comic books are. Will these people refuse to buy Alan Moore's and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls because it takes characters from children's literature and recasts them in erotic roles? Did they boycott stores that carried American Magee's Alice or Todd McFarlane's Twisted Land of Oz action figures, because they corrupted beloved childhood icons? Somehow, I doubt it.

Which brings me to this thought: is it ever appropriate to tell a story for adults using super-hero characters. My first impulse is, yes, because just because the characters and their fans are childish, that doesn't neccessarily mean the same thing as "for children." Let's take two examples. Watchmen is a super-hero stories for adults. It features a thoughtful approach to mature themese that, frankly, aren't going to be of interest to children. But adults can still find value in the story because the super-hero characters are used towards either symbolic ends or to contrast the perceived simplicity and innocene of their world with the harsher realities of the adult world. And then there's Supreme Power. Which is, for all intents and purposes, a straight-forward super-hero story, with needless swearing, gratuitously graphic violence, and female nudity designed only to encourage one-handed reading. It's almost the antithesis of a book like Watchmen, showing all of us in graphic detail how the idea of super-heros for adults can go disastrously wrong.

And by a rather circuitous logic, that brings me to the issue of IC and it's treatment of women. My rule of thumb has always been: white people don't get to decide what is and is not racist, straight people don't get to decide what is and is not homophobic, and men don't get to decide what is and is not mysogynistic. Usually I use it in the context of, you, Mr. Straight Person, don't get to tell me, the Gay Man, that, oh, let's say Will & Grace, isn't homophobic in it's presentation of gay men. Because I think it perpetuates harmful cliches and stereotypes and just because you happen to think it's funny doesn't neccessarily make me wrong. But it cuts the other way too. I'm not as current on my gender studies as other people, so all I can offer is: I don't think the fact that a man is writing about a woman being raped and murdered is a sign that the writer is gynophobic. He's a thriller writer, writing a thriller. The plot is dependant on something bad happening to someone. It's what is being used as motivation for the main character, in this case the Elongated Man. Is it a cliche to motivate the hero by killing off his spouse? Yes, absolutely. And if by the time all seven issues of IC are published that's all that's happened, I will more than readily concede that the series was founded upon a trite cliche. But at this point, I'm still willing to give Meltzer the benefit of the doubt. Because I don't think this crime was about the Elongated Man, or the Justice League, or even about super-heroes. My suspicion at this point was that the crime had to do with Sue. I suspect that her assault at the hands of Dr. Light is only the tip of the iceberg.

In the first issue we're treated to Ralph waxing poetic about his wife. A big point hammered home in that speech is that Sue is a lot deeper a personality than most people suspect. She could have chosen the good-looking guy full of flashy moves, but she went for the interesting intellectual. And far from it being implausible that Sue could be assaulted and never show any signs of it, I think the point Meltzer is going for here is how strong Sue was, that she could go through that and not be made a victim by it, forever dwelling on it to the exclusion of all else. That would be bad storytelling, defining her solely by that one event, and I think that would be the reductive, woman-fearing characterization. No, I think when all is said and done in this series, we're going to find out that it was Sue's "secret identity" that was the focus.

And now, my final thought: I can't believe that grown adults, including myself, are spending so much time debating the morality of what an author had happen to a fictional character.

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My Patience Wears Thin, At Times 

Why are people getting upset at the notion of Jack Black as Green Lantern?

I was under the impression that he was going to play Kyle Rayner in the movie. Don't all the GL fans want the world to think of Kyle as some bumbling clown unworthy of the name "Green Lantern"? I mean, it's not like the film is going to besmirch the name of the holy and sainted Hal Jordan, right?

Yeesh...get a grip...they're only fictional characters...

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Last Week's Comics 

Big haul this week, so even though I started reading them on Wednesday night, I didn't get through them all until yesterday (almost, I still have XXXholic Vol. 2 to read).

Batman: The Order of Beasts, by Eddie Campbell and Darren White, from DC:
The story here is very slight, concerning Batman investigating a series of murders in pre-War England. There's not much mystery here, and the story's resolution has a "crap, I only have six pages left" feel to it. Of course, I bought it solely for Eddie Campbell's art, so that doesn't particularly bother me. I'm more used to seeing his work in black-and-white, so the color work here looks oddly familiar, but not quite right.

Noble Causes: Extended Family #2 by Various, from Image:
Jay Faerber's super-hero soap opera is one of those books that often sounds better than it actually is, and this anthology of stories about the Noble family by several different writers and artists makes that clear. Some of the stories are good, most are just sort of forgetable.

JLA #101 by Chuck Austen and Ron Garney, from DC:
This was just painfully bad. And not original in the slightest. How many more of these "Superheroes aren't capable of saving everyone" stories have to get published before people realize just how trite and cliche they are. The one time, the only time, I can think of this kind of story being handled well was by Garth Ennis in Hitman.

District X by David Hine and David Yardin, from Marvel:
The first issue suffered from "Marvel First Issue Syndrome", the second issue actually introduced a plot, and with this issue we finally start to get a book thats, well, surprisingly good. I hate to have to say that about a book starring Bishop, whose presence can usually be taken as a sign that you're about to read a really bad comic.

Books of Magick: Life During Wartime by Si Spencer and Dean Ormston, from DC/Vertigo:
Proof that it's not just Marvel that publishes books that are completely unfriendly to new readers. Not only do you have to be familiar with the regular "magic" characters of the DC/Vertigo universe and have read all prior appearances of the Tim Hunter character, you have to be a sophisticated enough reader of comics to understand that this story appears to take place in a universe apart from the one in which the characters previous adventures took place. And apart from all that, this issue is all pro-logue. We don't know why there's a war going on, who the combatants are, why Tim is important to all of this, or why Tim has no seeming knowledge of magic and his role in all of this. DC might as well have put a big warning sticker on the cover: "Do Not Read Unless You Are An Obsessive Vertigo Completist."

Fables #27 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, from DC/Vertigo:
I'm partly just glad this storyline is over. Other than that, there's some resolutions, some hints as to the nature of the fables, and some forward momentum on other stories. It's good, but there's nothing too terribly exciting or noteworthy happening in this issue.

She-Hulk #5 by Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier, from Marvel:
I like Pelletier's work, and it's not that he's unsuited for a book like this, but I was really enjoying Bobillo's work, so I'm hoping this is just a temporary fill-in. Besdies that, the first multi-part story in this title is cute. It reminds me of a time in Marvel comics history when everything wasn't being taken so seriously and you were allowed to be silly and just play with the ludicrousness of super-powers a little. You know, the pre-Quesada era...

Alpha Flight #5 by Scot Lobdell and Clayton Henry, from Marvel:
This book is almost the exact opposite of She-Hulk. It thinks it's funny, but it clearly has no conception of what humor actually is. It's like Lobdell has heard of the concept but never actually seen something that was funny, and so he is trying to write a comic that, in the abstract, could be described as "funny" without ever once actually being funny.

Spider-Man #4 by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson, from Marvel:
I'm really starting to wonder what the point of this book is. So far it's just been an exercise in sadism. Millar is torturing the reader with how clever and witty and what-not he thinks he is. Expecting us all to gaze in wonderment at the giant of creativity he is, showing us this new, breathtakingly original and not at all cliche-ridden Spider-Man opus he's crafting...you didn't think by "sadism" I meant what he's doing to a fictional character do you? I mean, come on, you'd have to have no concept of reality whatsoever to get emotionally upset over what a writer does to a fictional character...

Identity Disc #2 by Robert Rodi and John Higgins, from Marvel:
This book is so blatantly modeled on The Usual Suspects that at this point I'm going to be more surprised if it turns out there actually is a Tristram Silver. The most frustrating thing about this is that Rodi is usually a good writer. So how did this end up being so pointlessly dull?

Pulse #4 by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, from Marvel:
This would have been a great four issue storyline. Too bad it's being padded out to at least six.

Guardians #1 by Marc Sumerak and Casey Jones, from Marvel:
I did manage to get a copy of this, and I'm not sure I should have. It's not a bad comic, but it suffers, again, from "Marvel First Issue Syndrome." We're given nice introductions to some characters, who for a change in a Marvel first issue are compelling and interesting and I want to read more about them. But I'm not really given much to compel me to come back for a second issue. The gist of the story is, a group of children "save" an alien, and twenty years later all but one of them has convinced themselves that they imagined the whole thing. The art doesn't really do much of anything for me and the story doesn't seem strong enough to support itself past one short storyline.

JSA #63 by Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway, from DC:
I like JSA but issues like this one really drive home the fact that the intended audience for a book like this is people who have been reading DC comics for a long time. I don't know who Cave Carson is, apart from a few cameo appearance in other books over the years, so his presence and the presence of his assistants could have used at least a little exposistion. Likewise the many refrences to the various DCU Sandmen. It's simply assumed the reaser is already going to know all of those things, and I can't help but think that maybe it's a bad thing that assumption is almost certainly correct.

Legion #35 by Gail Simone and Dan Jurgens, from DC:
It's a good, old-fashioned super-hero romp and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. That's the good part. The bad part is: Legion, like JSA is also one of those books that is written under the assumption that every single person reading it has been reading Legion comics for the last twenty years. And from what I've heard of it so far, the Waid/Kitson revamp is going to be the same thing. But then, all of Waid's comics are written for, well, Mark Waid, so that won't be too surprising.

Action Comics #817 by Chuck Austen and Ivan Reis, from DC:
I'm enjoying Austen's Superman title. It's a little too dependant on knowledge of the DCU, but since Rucka's giving us a more mature, nuanced look at Supes, and Azzarello/Lee are giving us an ode to fanboys, it's nice to see Austen doing a Superman book for what I always think should be a character like Superman's primary audience: kids. It's a book of Supes hitting bad guys for twenty-pages a month. That's all most kids want out of him. And he's doing it in a way that's entertaining without neccessarily being insulting to older readers. That still doesn't excuse that issue of JLA.

DC Comics Presents: Mystery In Space by Elliot S! Maggin, Grant Morrison, Jerry Ordway, and JH Williams, from DC:
The Maggin/Williams story is good, but it's really just another Adam Strange story. But Morrison's story, that's a work of real note. We get not only an Adam Strange story, but a sly satire on US military adventurism, American machismo and its shortcomings lampooned, a defense of the much maligned "new man" and an ode to the lovely strangeness of the Silver Age of DC Comics and it's cheif architect. All beneath a typically dull Alex Ross cover.

Trucker Fags in Denial by Jim Goad and Jim Blanchard, from Fantagraphics:
Not for all tastes. In fact, probably only for very select tastes. Unsurprisingly for something written by the man who gave us the shock-zine Answer Me!, the comic manages to lampoon homophobia while still somehow seeming somewhat homophobic in tone. One of the assumptions the comic makes, and it's one I've seen far too many people make before, is that homophobia is a sign of repressed homosexuality. Well, the jury is still out on that one, and the "studies" that purported to prove it were at best inconclusive. Still, if you have the stomach for it and are not easily offended, this is an occasionally amusing comic.

Superman/Batman #11 by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner, from DC:
It's a big, blustery, incredibly dumb super-hero comic. So why do I like it so much?

Teen Titans #13 by Geoff Johns and Tom Grummet, from DC:
Johns gets around to revamping Garfield Logan's origin now that John Byrne has gone and rendered it moot for no reason other than to make his laughably bad Doom Patrol the "real" one. There's not much else to say about this issue. The idea of dozens of Beast Kids running around is amusing, but not much is done with it at this point other than set up the crisis for the next couple of issues.

Scurvy Dogs #5 by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, from AiT/PlanetLar:
Boyd and Yount graciously get off the stage before wearing out their welcome. This issue doesn't have the manic pace of the previous issues, though the dead-on satire of conspicuous consumerism and aging pop-culture refrences still provided me with some of my best comics-related laughs this week. (Okay, I kid about the conspicuous consumerism, but still, it's a funny, funny book.)

Bloodhound by Dan Jolley and Leonard Kirk, from DC:
See, this is how you should write a first issue. I'm given enough information on the lead character to have a sense of who he is, but I'm teased with the promise of more information yet to come. Stuff actually happens so I don't feel like this was all set-up for later issues, yet there are plenty of threads left open for devlopment in subsequent issues. Nice art, good story, slightly disapointing cover. This comic, the story of an ex-con, a cop-killing cop, set out into the world to hunt down super-powered criminals is what I want in super-hero comics: not the same-old, same-old I've seen dozens of times already, done in an interesting way.

Challengers of the Unknown #2 by Howard Chaykin, from DC:
The mystery of who these five people are deepens, while we're given more insight into the power players behind the scenes in their world. All your Chaykin touches are here: dead-pan cynicism, tough-as-nails broads, and even a guy who kind of vaguely resembles Chaykin himself. I love the conceit of the character's names and the idea of making FOX News the villain. Great, great comic which is just a fun, wild read. (With really spectacular backgrounds!)

Also good, but I just can't think of much to say about them, so "good" will have to suffice: Gotham Central, Bite Club, Aquaman, Fallen Angel, Nightjar and Touch.

I'm planning, time permitting, to give Eightball and Identity Crisis a couple of more reads before I write about them. EB has enough depth, and everyone else has already written so much about it, that I think it deserves a more in-depth examination than I usually give to reviews here. As for ID, well, there are some issues about it I want to address, and some complaints about it I've seen on-line that I particularly want to respond to, so it also needs a more thourough discussion than I usually do in my weekly reviews.

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Friday, July 16, 2004

I'm sorry, but I have to say it... 

So, Keith Giffen has sworn off working for DC now that a fictional character has been "killed."

But where will I get my fix of amateurish Jose Munoz swipes?



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Quick Posts 

Newsarama has a 14 page preview of Warren Ellis' and Trevor Hairsine's Ultimate Nightmare which is worth checking out.  Especially to see all the Newsarama posters complain about price point and how, in a 14 page preview containing a large explosion, worldwide communications disruption and three mystery suicides, "nothing happened."
 
I also, miracle of miracles, managed to actually read some of this week's comics...this week!  And of course, I don't have time to really write about them now,  but I will point out that the following comics were actually pretty good:
 
Fallen Angel
Bloodhound
Nightjar
Bite Club
Gotham Central
She Hulk
District X which I really don't want to admit to, but yeah, it was good
JSA
Noble Causes
Action Comics
Aquaman
DC Comics Presents: Mystery in Space, and I don't know what all you people complaining about the Grant Morrison story are complaining about...
 
I still haven't got to Teen Titans, Identity Crisis, Superman/Batman, Challengers of the Unknown, Fables, Eightball, Comics Journal, Ursula, The Tomb or XXXholic.  I'll likely do some more thoughtful reviews once I've finished everything, where I'll point out the comics I didn't think were any good.







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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Subtext? What Subtext? 

No time for content, Dr. Jones...have a vaguely dirty Archie cover instead.



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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

New Comics Day 

Item One!
I haven't updated the "Which Book Will Diamond Not Ship Us This Week" list in awhile because for the last couple of weeks all we've been short on were one or two copies of titles we either ordered plenty of copies of anyway, or were fairly certain weren't going to sell anyway, so we weren't sweating missing a few. What was kind of annoying was that we were continually not sent our DC comics preview pack. It's not a terribly vital thing to have, as usually it's too late to up our orders by the time Marvel and DC get the preview packs to us, but it is an indicator of how much attention the warehouse workers are paying. Every Diamond account is supposed to get a preview, after all, so if they miss a couple it means they aren't as focused as they should be.

Well, this week we didn't get Guardians #1 or Thor: Son of Asgard #6. At all. That's kind of annoying. Especially when we had several customers, both in-store and on the phone, inquire after those books. I'm not sure how much blame I can place on the warehouse workers, since it appears that no stores serviced by the LA Diamond warehouse received any copies of those two books at all.

Item Two!
Holy Crap, did I buy a bunch of stuff today. Bear in mind, I'm buying for both me and Pete. I'm not sure how other "two comics readers" couples do it, since Pete and I have very different tastes and buying habits. People have been known to go through the books and seperate out titles by whether they're mine or Pete's, and usually they manage to do it with an 100% success rate. Very little of what we buy, outside of some DC team books and a couple of humor titles like Aaron Williams' stuff and Barry Ween, is for both of us. And I can't complain too much, because although he gets more than I do by number of titles, most of what I get is more expensive than what he gets. So it evens out. He may get, say, 15 different titles in any given week, but they're all floppies. While I'm only getting 6 titles, but that's one trade paper-back, an OGN, a manga volume, and an indie comic with a high price-point, as well as two floppies (one of which is probably a prestige format book...).

There were a couple of noteworthy purchases, which you'll probably be hearing about soon: Ursula, last week's Comics Journal, the new Eightball, the ps238 trade as a present for Pete, XXXholic Vol. 2, Ranma 1/2 vol. 10000 or so, The Tomb from ONI, and the latest Video Watchdog which features reviews of both Escape from New York and Escape to Witch Mountain. That pairing amuses me greatly.

Item Three!
I didn't buy the Lizzie Maguire: The Movie cine-manga. But it did provide a great many laughs when I flipped through it. Of course, none of the things I thought were funny were intended to be funny, but still...

And the most horrifying thing I saw this week as a Greg Land illustration in the new issue of Toyfare of grown-up, sexy versions of Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite. I felt a little piece of my soul die when I saw that.

Item Four!
In non-comics stuff, I purchased several CDs yesterday, including the soundtrack for De-Loveley solely for the covers, the new Polyphonic Spree album, and the Scissor Sisters. Interesting note about that last CD. I had read several reviews of the album that made it sound like the kind of thing I usually like. So I downloaded a couple of the songs. And liked them. So I went out and bought a $30 CD. And you know, this isn't the first time I've spent money on an album after hearing some of the songs on-line, either through legitimate means or otherwise. In fact, I'd wager that I've spent more money on CD in the last two years, all on bands and artists that I first heard through music downloads, than I did in the entire ten years prior to that. So what lesson will the RIAA learn from my example, and the many, many, many people who, like me, and according to the RIAA's own research, are more likely to spend money on CDs when they can hear some of it for free on-line? Well, clearly, that people who spend lots of money on music they like are killing the record industry because they may download some music they shouldn't...

Item the Final
Both Anchorman and Dodgeball are very funny films, and probably the best films I've seen all summer. If you go to see them, however, for God's sake, close your eyes and stuff up your ears during the preview for Taxi! As if the presence of both Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah isn't enough of a sign that this film was a bad idea, the fact that the villains of the piece are sexy female bank robbers should be enough of a hint that making this film was a very bad idea!


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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Demographics 

Is the store I work at doing something wrong? Because I keep hearing how the comics industry needs to attract new readers and that the key demographics in that regard are a) children, b) teen-agers, especially teen-age girls, and c) women. And, well, to be honest, I look around at the customers in the store and I see a lot of kids, teens and women. And again, maybe this is our fault. I mean, we've gone out of our way to make sure the store is clean, well-lit, organized, that there isn't any offensive music playing or tits and ass posters on the wall, that there is as wide as possible a selection of comics. You know, like a legitimate business instead of an insular club for the unwashed coteries of super-hero fans and spandex fetishists. Apparently we were one of the less than 10% of American comic book stores that even bothered to carry Crossgen books (Crossgen says their product was carried by something on the order of 285 stores. There are something like just over 3000 Diamond accounts. You do the math.), and one of the first things you see when you walk in is a big floor-to-ceiling bookcase of manga (which is apparently, to steal a phrase, like Kryptonite to super-hero fans), and odds are if you come into the store looking for a book by Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, AIT/PlanetLar, Oni, Top Shelf, Alternative or Slave Labor we'll not only have heard of it, but have it in stock.

So, again, it must be us thats doing something wrong. Because I look at what Marvel, and to a lesser degree DC, are doing to attract "new readers" and I'm mostly left shaking my head at the near-mystical belief they seem to have that anyone would want these things, much less kids, teens and women. DC definatly has the edge here. Between Vertigo, Wildstorm, Humanoids, 2000AD, CMX and the regular old DCU it's hard to see how you can't find something published by DC that's to your taste. I sort of wish that Paradox was still around, as right now DC doesn't really have any self-conciously arty or intellectual books to compete with the indie/alt-comix crowd. What bugs me about DC right now is the kids line. It's trying too hard to play "catch up." All they've really got to offer is licensable properties. Which is fine, kids like stuff that's familiar to them. But, other publishers start putting their kids books into a smaller format, so DC does too. Other publishers do fumetti style storybooks, so DC does too.

But Marvel...Marvel freakin' kills me! They decide they want more mature, sophisticated readers...so they give us super-hero books with tits and cussing. But most importantly they're still super-hero books!!! Because, you know, the last thing you want to do is alienate your core audience, which has demonstrated over the years a willingness to buy your books, and here's the important bit, no matter what's in them or who's writing or drawing it! They're not called "Marvel Zombies" for nothing, you know. But those pesky kids, how will Marvel attract them. I think the logic went something like this: "Hey, kids like that Yahgiot crap right? What if we made a bunch of books that kind of looked like that. I bet kids would love those. Especially if we put them in books that are the exact size, shape and have suspiciously similar cover design aesthetics to a company that already publishes Yugahtot books!"

As I've said before, Marvel's logic seems to be, if it looks kind of like a manga title, it'll sell like a manga title. Because Marvel apparently thinks that people who buy manga are really, really stupid and aren't going to notice that this really badly drawn and insultingly written book has Spider-Man in it. Marvel doesn't seem to have noticed that all those manga titles that are kicking their ass in bookstore sales don't have super-heroes in them...

Or course, form does somewhat dictate sales in bookstores. I know at our store there's a lot of crossover between manga customers and Oni readers. Oni's little books are about the same size as a manga book, are priced competitively with manga books, and don't feature super-heroes. Similarly, if someone comes into the store asking for, say, a crime-drama, super-natural horror, or a romance, I'm just as capable of recomending something from one of the many fine manga houses as I am of pushing an Oni title. That's a crucial point that Marvel hasn't grasped yet. So, I'd guess that Dark Horse's plans to push Sin City in this format will pay off. The subject matter is close enough to what bookstore buyers are interested in.

So, purely as an intellectual exercise, I thought I'd share what actual customers are buying in our store.

Kids
Sonic the Hedgehog: I know, it terrifies me that this book is still around too, but I'm also not eight years old, so what does Archie care if I like this book?
Simpsons and related titles: A lot of the kids buying these books have been around for less time than the show.
Spider-Man and related titles: I'm not sure how much of this was spurred by the Spider-Man movies, but a good deal of it must be independant of them. Especially considering that two of the most popular characters amongst the hordes of the under-12s who regularly ransack our Spider-Man back issues are Ben Reilly and Carnage. (Odd, then, that this new Carnage storyline in Ultimate Spider-Man isn't selling better for us...oh, wait, that's right, the median age of our Ultimate Spidey buyers is 30...)
Also, whatever character happens to have a movie out right now. Which was why it was really frustrating as a retailer to not be able to sell, say Hulk and Daredevil when those movies hit. Hulk was flat-out inappropriate for anyone not in their teens, at least, and DD was so badly drawn and slowly paced that kids didn't care once they saw the comic. We had to show kids and parents pre-Quesada era back-issues on both those titles to sell any. Likewise, tons of kids came in asking for Hellboy when that movie was out. And right now I'm getting a lot of requests for Catwoman. Swamp Thing is asked for periodically as well, which is how I know when one of the movies has been played on cable.
I also get a lot of requests for Aliens, Predator (and more than usual right now), Jason/Friday the 13th and other horror titles based on R rated movies. Which tells me that parents aren't supervising their children as much as maybe they should. Or, I'm a lot older than I like to think I am...

Teens (and young adults)
This is where the disconnect between the buying habits of boys and girls starts to become pretty strong. Boys mostly stick to super-hero comics, graduate up to Spwan, and from there, if they haven't discovered girls/boys yet, to gross-out horror titles that more often than not I have to refuse to sell to them without permission from a parent. Which is odd, because most of the titles they ask for haven't been published in years, like Deadworld. I'd ask them how they're hearing about these titles, but I'm afraid of finding out what the answer might be.
Girls meanwhile, still buy a lot of Archie titles. And they don't seem to care what's in it or how old it is. They just want stories about those wacky Riverdale kids. Older girls also gravitate towards the gothity-goth-goth comics like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Gloomcookie, Lenore and Courtney Crumrin. I think this is the female equivalent of the gross-out horror trend boys go through at this age. Chynna Clugston-Major and her comics are a big draw for this crowd as well, especially the girls who are more into the indie-rock scene. Hell, half the girls who buy Chynna's books look just like her characters.
Vertigo books do well with this audience as well. Mostly it's Sandman, but all the mystical/magical books, like Books of Magic, Fables and Lucifer do pretty well. The more action-oriented books like 100 Bullets and Losers just don't seem to interest them. About the only non-"magic" Vertigo title that does well with young women is Transmetropolitan. And, to be honest, Warren Ellis in general seems popular with women.
Crossgen books did pretty well with teenage girls too. Pity...
And of course, manga, manga, manga. A good chunk of the teenage girls who come into the store never make it past the first twenty feet of the store. They hit the manga wall, go to the register, and split.

Women
Most of what I've said about manga and Vertigo holds true for adult women as well. (And by "adult" I really mean "old enough to have graduated from college"). But we can now add Alan Moore to the list of comics writers with strong female followings.
But what's really noteworthy is that what most adult women seem interested in are indie and alt-comix. In fact, sales on D&Q, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf and the likes books are almost evenly split between men and women. Which, to be honest, says more about the maturity of alt- and indie comics fans than about either gender. They're people who have "come up through the ranks" of comics readership, are still interested in the form, but don't want to have anything to do with super-heroes.
In fact, about the only super-hero titles that have any kind of large female following, of any age, are the X-Men titles. I'm always being told that this is because of their "strong female characters" and doesn't have anything to do with the frequent soft-core bondage or rape and lesbian subtexts that characterize most of the X-Men titles I've read.

So, given what sells to these much coveted "new readers" in our store, and given what Marvel and DC are actually doing to attract these audiences, I think it's safe to say that we're not going to be seeing a lot of new customers coming into the store thanks to the Big Two...

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Monday, July 12, 2004

DC For October 

Taken from Comics Continuum because I hate trying to navigate DC's site...

Batman Titles

Let's see, just about every single title here is somehow tied in to the War Games storyline. That's just swell.

I'm not sure I'll be picking up the Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition...I'm interested, but this is looking like it may be a very expensive month for me, and that's before I see anything other than DC solicitations.

Fortunatly, at $12.95 the Detective #27 softcover is much more tempting. I'm curious enough about it to give serious consideration to picking this up.

I will probably pick up the Hush Vol. 2 SC for the same reason I'll get Vol. 1 in SC. It's not that I think it's going to be particularly good, but enough Batman stories are going to cite this for the next ten years or so that I probably should read it in some form.

Superman Titles

Superman/Batman #11 is a concept I've seen so many times now, most recently in Wildstorm's Coup De'Tat that I really can't work up any enthusiasm for this iteration at all.

I think I can safely wait for the softcover on on Superman: Birthrigh. Like Hush I feel like I should read it just to be able to understand Superman comics until they reboot him again. Waid's story intrigues me, at least a little, but Yu's art just hurts my eyes terribly.

I really want the Superman: Man of Tomorrow archive, as Silver-Age Supes is my favorite, but did this have to come out the same month as the Golden Age Sandman archive, a book I've wanted since they announced the archive format? I'll probably save up for Sandman and wait a month or two for Superman. I can definatly pass on the DC Rarities archive, especially since it's $75.

DC Universe Titles

Will be getting for certain: Adam Strange, Aquaman, Challengers of the Unknown, Fallen Angel, Green Lantern: Rebirth (if only for purposes of domestic harmony), Hawkman, Identity Crisis, Hard Time, JSA, Kinetic, Monolith, Plastic Man, Scratch and Wonder Woman.
Titles I may get: Bloodhound, Firestorm, Justice League Elite (Pete's something of a JLA completist), and Manhunter.

Doom Patrol will be up to issue five, and Byrne is just now getting around to back-story? This has got to be the biggest train-wreck of a title, poorly planned and executed, I've seen in some time. Well, this and Excalibur.

Is it just me or does this "serial killer gets his hands on a HERO dial" storyline in Hero look like it's building towards an apocalyptic ending which will signal the end of the series?

Kurt Busiek on JLA is such a tremendously good idea I'm sort of annoyed he's not the new regular writer.

JSA: Strange Adventures feeds my sick Wildcat fetish...

A very special Outsiders feautes guest-star John Walsh. I trust Winick enough to not write this off now, but the solicitation reeks of "after-school special"
John Walsh of America¹s Most Wanted stars in the timely and compelling 3-part story "Most Wanted!" The Outsiders are an aggressive super-team, taking the fight to the bad guys and preying on super-criminals. But when one of the criminals they¹re chasing turns out to be a real predator, Nightwing and his teammates seek aid from an unlikely source. John Walsh helps the Outsiders deal with a very real problem that hits home with Arsenal, Grace and Walsh himself: child abduction.


Solo will be a good series, or at least an interesting one, but I suspect the reason they're launching with Jeph Loeb super-hero stories is to get the spandex fetishists to pick it up. I've seen some of the Chaykin pages. They're great, and not a cape in sight.

Teen Titans gives us a look at the Titans as grown-ups. It's not a bad idea, though a tad obvious perhaps.

Johnny DC Titles

I was willing to give The Batman Strikes a chance, based solely on the new look for Batman, until I saw the design for the Joker...sheesh, but that's a crappy design.

Beyond the DC Universe Titles

Will DC somehow manage to totally screw up the marketing of Toe Tags, as written by George Romero, a man with a large and devoted audience who can probably be easily talked into coming into a comic-book store? Probably. Still, they'll probably give it a better shot than Marvel. I mean, would it have killed them to do any promotion of Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men outside of the comics press?

Humanoids Titles

Manara's Odysseys of Giuseppe Bergman intrigues me because of the connection to the Odyssey, but I'll have to see what the boobage quotient is before I commit myself to buying it.

2000 AD Titles

Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood looks like it may be the sort of thing I like. Red Razors doesn't, solely because of its connection to the Dredd-verse, which I just find boring.

CMX Titles

Frankly, none of this really look like my sort of thing. I'll probably give From Eroica With Love, for narcissism if nothing else. The story has overtones of Lupin III, which I dig, but that art...just leaves me cold. Maybe I'll give volume one a chance. But Madara looks like sub-D&D, fighting manga schlock and I can't stand that kind of nonsense. And Land of the Blindfolded may be too girly for even me.

Wildstorm Titles

Brubaker and Nguyen on Authority is a good thing. Relaunching the title with a new number one reeks of desperation. It may be time to just let the title lie low for a little while.

Ocean is something to look forward to. Ellis doing hard SF plays to his strengths, and Sprouse's art is always gorgeous and worth looking at. And oh, that cover...

Regarding Astro City: A Visitor's Guide...JUST FRICKIN' RELAUNCH WHO'S WHO ALREADY DC!!!

Razor's Edge isn't my sort of thing. Not by a long-shot. But there's enough Wildstorm U fans who felt that the direction the universe went in post-Authority was not their thing that hopefully this will do well. And then maybe we can have room in the Wildstorm U for super-hero antics and more thoughtful works. Like, oh, let's say Planetary and Sleeper, both of which have new issues this month.

America's Best Comics Titles

I'll be getting Terra Obscura and reading the Tom Strong stuff in SC TPBs.

Vertigo Titles

I've already got My Faith in Frankie and all the Sandman Mystery Theatres (I think...I may be missing the last couple of arcs). So I can pass on those trades. The softcover of Lovecraft is a sure-bet. I'm a Lovecraft fan, I've loved Breccia's art on Swamp Thing. Frankly, I'm sort of surprised I haven't bought the hardcover...

I'll also be getting: Books of Magick: Life During Wartime (or there will be no living with Pete), Fables, possibly the Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers trade, Losers, Swamp Thing, The Witching, WE3, and Y: The Last Man. And I really hope that this is the final cover. It looks perfect just as it is. Of course, all the Ampersand themed covers have been noteworthy.

DC Direct Titles

The Catwoman poster is a no-brainer. That Bolland image is fantastic. Would have been nice to have this in shops at the same time as the trade, or at least the movie, but still....

As for the Flash poster...not my thing, but I've already had customers asking me if DC plans to turn any of Turner's cover images into posters. I could probably sell a boat-load of posters for the Identity Crisis covers.

Captain Corey will probably want the Planet Krypton: Green Lantern Rings set...which is why I love, despise and worry for his sanity all at once.

I'm going to have to do an "Why Alex Ross Is Hugely Over-Rated" rant soon, aren't I?

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Last Weeks Comics 

Swamp Thing #5 by Andy Diggle and Enrique Breccia, from DC/Vertigo:
Well, that really shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, now should it. I'm a bit frustrated that it took five issues to get us to this point. As others are said, this is starting to look like a four- or five-issue storyline padded out to six. This issue alone I count two full-page spreads, a double-page, and 10 pages with no more than four panels on them. (Dear God, I've resorted to counting panels...I'm officially the type of person who reads Comic Buyers Guide now, calculating costs per panel and costs per page...)

Y: The Last Man #24 by Brian Vaughan and Pia Guerra, from DC/Vertigo:
Apparently the books been taking place in an approximation of "real-time" and I didn't even notice. Not much to say about this issue. It appears that Vaughan is gearing up for some thoughts on how religion works in a world without men, but all we really get in this issue is a justified slam on the Tim LeHaye books and some of Yorick's Catholic Guilt. Which doesn't stop him from getting some, naturally. And the Amazons rear their head as a sub-plot yet again, which is frustrating, as without their leader I was rather hoping they would have gone away. Frankly, they're dull, and too reminiscent of the sort of mysogynistic thinking that Vaughan usually undercuts with this title.

Milkman Murders #1 by Joe Casey and Steve Parkhouse, from Dark Horse:
I haven't had any interest in Dark Horse's "horror line" at all so far. Steve Niles looks to be writing about half of it, and as I've mentioned before I just don't see the appeal of his work. The other titles, well, unironic supernatural horror in comic books always seems just kind of campy and dumb to me. It almost never works. So, I'm really glad that Casey has gone in the opposite direction with his title. It's "Suburban Horror" if you will. All the violence and degradation lurking under the suburban veneer brought out into the light and revealed for what it is. Only question I have now is...what the heck does the milkman have to do with any of it?

Monolith #6 by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Tomm Coker, from DC:
I'm really digging DC's new weird direction and I'm hoping it lasts for awhile. Coker makes an admirable fill-in artist, especially for an issue guest-starring Batman, but the murkiness/moodiness of his art makes the events of the last two pages hard to follow.

Scratch #2 by Sam Kieth, from DC:
More weirdo and mutants from Sam Kieth is always a good thing. Though with this issue it's starting to look like Kieth, who's main weakness I've always felt to be his dialogue, really needed a script-assist. Because script-wise, this read a bit like something written by Byrne or Claremont, with lots of people talking about things we're being shown by the art, and that's not a good thing.

DC Comics Presents: Batman by Geoff Johns, Len Wein, Carmine Infantino and Andy Kuhn, from DC:
While I admire the concept behind these books, neither of the stories here did much for me. They're work-man like Batman scripts, but they don't have much to recomend them. Luckily, I don't think anyone's picking up these books in the expectation of reading one of the greatest comics ever. The concept alone, writing a new story around a "theme" cover, is an artificially limiting device that hampers quality a little.

Ultimate Spider-Man #62 by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, from Marvel:
Oh please. Like we didn't know this was going to be the eventual fate of the character from the moment she first appeared in the book. What rock have the people complaining about this in various on-line forums been living under?

Uncanny X-Men #446 by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis, from Marvel:
At least it looks nice.

Starjammers #1 by Kevin Anderson and Ale Garza, from Marvel:
Let's see...no explanation as to who any of these characters are or why we should care? Check. Entire issue obvious set-up/prologue to later issues? Check. Fake manga art and coloring because Marvel apparently believes that yes, manga fans are stupid enough to fall for that kind of thing? Check. Why, if I didn't know any better, I'd say this is the first issue of a Marvel series...

Supreme Power #11 by J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank, from Marvel:
Four pages of recapping previous issues, ten pages of boobies interrupted by more back-story, eight pages of actual plot advancement.

Also read Oz: The Comic, or Hard Time if you will, which is always good, and Birds of Prey which honestly isn't all that bad for a tongue-in-cheek super-hero romp with gratuitous cheesecake art. Haven't gotten to The Tomb or Trucker Fags in Denial yet. I'm looking forward to one of those. The other, I'm cautiously optimistic about but reserving judgement on.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

There's no such thing as... 



For some completely irrational reason, I miss this character. Not the Neil Gaiman version, which was fine, but this version, from DC's "weird" period in the 70s. And since, with books like Monolith, and the upcoming Manhunter and Bloodhound, DC seems to be moving back to this period thematically, and with Grant Morrison citing this period as an inspiration for his Seven Soldiers of Victory project, I'm naively optimistic of getting her back.

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Friday, July 09, 2004

Obligatory Linkblogging 

Warren Ellis: "If I ran Marvel

You can't publish things just because, you know, you've always published them. You don't keep a tumour in your head because, well, you've had it for years. THOR. No-one cares about THOR. No-one's ever cared about THOR. I wrote THOR. I wrote Thor in bed with a blonde woman wearing nothing but thighboots and opera gloves drawn by Mike Deodato. And still no-one cared about THOR. No-one's cared about THOR since Walt Simonson did the book. And what was the first thing Walt did? Got rid of Thor and replaced him with a horse from space. And the sales quadrupled.


God bless that man. Any man who shares my hatred for Thor is my brother.

You know this by now, but: Really lengthy, intelligent, and in-depth interview with Grant Morrison

When I had all the raw pitch material laid out for SEVEN SOLDIERS, my nose for conceptual glue drew me to DCs short-lived but fascinating 'Weird Adventure' phase of the early 70s – those gothic romance books with girls running in long dresses, bearing flickering lanterns across haunted moors, Kirby’s disturbing ‘Spirit World’ and ‘In The Days of The Mob’ books, Alex Nino’s pirate strips, Fleischer’s ‘Death Wish’ iteration of the Spectre, ‘Black Orchid’, ‘Jonah Hex’, ‘The Vigilante’, ‘Doctor 13’ and all those odd little stories of mad swamis, ghost-breakers, haunted mesas, doomed adventurers and creepy mansions – which, although it was a wave I mostly hated at the time, now seemed ripe for reconsideration and re-appraisal. I saw a chance to pitch a new aesthetic off the back of the strange feelings I got from this discarded bric-a-brac, so yes, there’s a definite attempt to take the SEVEN SOLDIERS material and infuse it with some of that bizarre diversity, re-seeding some old and worn-out genre pastures with memetically-modified corn in the GM style. Hard-hitting modernist epic super-drama ensues with pirates of a very unusual kind, psychological sci-fi, ‘Lord of The Rings’ fantasy in modern day Los Angeles, Puritan goth horror, a talking bloody horse and just about everything else I could think of. A big new range of super- flavours that has something for everyone, all-new kinds of thrills and not an old-style ‘superhero’ in the bunch.


The Mad Scotsman goes on to reveal that the series will involve, in some way, Guardian, Mister Miracle, and Spider. Particularly worthwhile in the interview are the not too subtle digs at Claremont's and Byrne's not subtle at all digs at Morrison's New X-Men.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Nostalgia & Bitterness 


from Batman #1, reprinted in Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale


Sometimes I really miss the simpler, gentler, more innocent comics of the past...

I recently purchased and read Steve Gerber's Fool-Killer series from Marvel. Great stuff. I suspect I might do a more thorough dissection of it here. The best short-hand way I can think of to describe it is: What if the Punisher was created by Ayn Rand? And the timely politcal aspects of the story have come full-circle: American military involvement in the middle east, a Bush in the White House, and lots of people struggling to get by in what we're continually being told is a boom economy.

It's such a far cry from what Marvel puts out now. It's a genuinely thoughtful work, with a strong satirical edge. In fact, I'd say the weaknesses of the book are the neccessary intrusions of the Marvel Universe into the story, including an utterly pointless Spider-Man cameo. Now Marvel's idea of edgy work is border-line mysogynistic porn like Eternal.

But what really annoys me about Marvel these days is this: their ordering and variant covers policy. To get the "Arachnoman" variant of Ultimate Spider-Man we had to order Amazing Fantasy in quantities of five. So for every five AF we ordered, we could order 1 Arachnoman. A similair gimmick was in operation for the two Astonishing X-Men variants. So, in order to get copies of something that we know we're going to get asked for, we had to order more copies than we'd have liked to of a title we know isn't going to sell. And now, Marvel is offering retailers a discount on Avengers #500 if we order it in equal or greater quantities than Amazing Spider-Man #509. On the retail end, it all feels like a desperate ploy on Marvel's part to make retailers over-order in order to drive up sales so that Joe Quesada can go to San Diego and claim that Avengers #500 was the #1 book for July. And I suspect a lot of retailers will fall for it in order to get "hot" variant covers and "sold out" titles. Bah...

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Catching Up On My Reading 

Catwoman: Nine Lives of a Feline Fatale by Various, from DC:
Nine different Catwoman stories, nine different Catwoman costumes, ranging in period from her first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940 to the Catwoman Secret Files from 2002. The end result is not so much a "best of" approach to Catwoman as it is a "typical of the period" approach. So in addition to some genuinely interesting golden and silver age stories, we get saddled with some less impressive modern stories. The Secret Files story, for example, is fine on its own, but it feels tacked on here. Likewise for the Jim Balent era and animated style stories. So while I enjoyed the book, the last half doesn't hold up quite as well as the first. The book itself is attracting a lot of attention in the store, thanks to the Brian Bolland cover, although the upcoming film has probably helped as well as over-all more people are coming in looking for Catwoman comics. Which I think supports my hypothesis that despite the general distaste for the film being expressed by the fan-boy population, the real world may actually be interested in it. The marketing seems to be driving home two things: girls kicking ass and Halle Berry in leather. Those two factors are clearly intended to get both men and women in theaters, unlike most super-hero movies which are decidedly aimed at little boys.

Sgt. Frog Vol. 1 by Mine Yoshizaki, from Tokyopop:
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. The premise is that a frog-like alien has become stranded on Earth after a failed invasion attempt and has become the "pet" of two Japanese children. The short preview in the FCBD Tokyopop preview book, as well as the good word-of-mouth the series seems to be getting, made me curious to pick up the first volume. It's funny enough, I suppose, but it's just as often strained humor. And there's far more fan-service than I generally like. I'm not sworn off the series entirely at this point, but I think I want to take a close look at the second volume before spending any more money.

Closer by Antony Johnston and Mike Norton, from Oni:
The set-up is thus: a group of scientists who engaged in a failed experiment years ago, one in which a person was killed, are summoned to the remote estate of a man who claims to have perfected their work. Only Serena Cumberland has taken the place of her dead mother, and with her pet rat threatens the plans of the madman who has devised this demonstration. There's a lot to like here. Johnston's pacing is dead on, and Norton's art, though occasionally a little stiff, has a lot of appeal. What is a little frustrating is the way in which Johnston presents the story. I get the feeling that he doesn't wish to insult the intelligence of his readers and explain every little thing to them, but there are still gaps in the exposistion. After reading the book twice I'm still not sure exactly who all these characters are and what they have been doing since the first experiment failed. And then there are the actual "horror" elements of the story. It's a weird mix of quantum mechanics and Egyptology. To say more would spoil it, but it's another one of those elements in the story that could have, perhaps, used just a little bit more explanation that what is provided. Overall, I'm not disapointed, as I enjoyed the book a great deal, but I'm reluctant to recomended it to anyone else without being certain that they'd be able to fill in the gaps in the narrative themselves.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Last Weeks Comics & Spider-Man 2 

Maybe someday I'll actually have time to read comics the week they're released...

Ultimate X-Men #48 by Brian Vaughn and Brandon Peterson, from Marvel:
This title, much like Ultimate Spider-Man, has now crossed over into the needlessly self-referential mode that only appels to long-term comics readers. Which, I gather, rather defeats the purpose of a line of books designed to be read and enjoyed by people who haven't been reading X-Men books for the last thirty years.

Caper #9 by Judd Winick and Tom Fowler, from DC:
This time around it looks like we're going to be seeing a "wacky" comedy about two schlubs who stumble onto a criminal enterprise. I'm less interested in this story than the previous two, mostly because the two leads are pretty much unlikeable.

True Travel Tales #1 by Justin Hall, from All Thumbs Press:
This fun book is a series of short vignettes, in which Hall adapts peoples true tales of travel. Most of the stories are of the quirky/comic variety, the sort of things that could happen to just about anyone while traveling abroad, but it's Hall's style that sells the work for me. His figures are very expressive, and there's a rough-hewn quality to it that's very nice looking. But it's the sort of book that I expect you'll only be able to find at your better comic shops, or from the publisher's web-site, where I note that two more issues are available.

Powerless #1 by Matt Cherniss, Peter Johnson and Michael Gaydos, from Marvel:
Yet again, a book designed solely to be read by people who have been reading the last thirty years worth of Marvel comics and will feel special and privlieged for "getting" all the refrences. And while there's certainly a place for that kind of book, this just seems like a gratuitous waste of paper.

Doom Patrol #1 by John Byrne, from DC:
Oy, where to start. Continuing the vampire storyline from JLA was a miscalculation, as most people lost interest in that story pretty rapidly. Yeah, the first two issues sold well. But we still have plenty of the later issues. And most people who stuck through it are JLA completeists. So, I've been seeing lots of people at the store picking this up, looking at it briefly, and then putting it back. And then there's the dialogue...every single panel is filled with huge dialogue boxes, which is a shame, because about the only good thing I can think to say about this comic is that the art isn't too bad. And then, there's the whole concept of the book. Basically, Byrne is writing this book for comic fans his age and the Byrne Forum. Because if the whole idea of this book was to re-introduce the DP to a new audience, wouldn't, you know, actually spending some time explaining who these characters are and why we should care be a good thing. But it's not neccessary, because the only people who are going to stick with this book already know all of that, and if they don't know, I'm sure one of the other Forum poster will explain it to them in a way that won't be condescending and snide at all...

JLA #100 by Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke, from DC:
Dear God, who let this atrocity get published? Oh, Mike Carlin...that explains a lot...

Amazing Fantasy #1 by Fiona Avery and Mark Brooks, from Marvel:
I've mentioned a couple of times before how tired I am of first, and even second, issues of new series and new storylines being nothing more than prologue. That's the case here. The entire book is set-up for something that will presumably happen in a later issue. And it's a story-telling device that's annoying enough when it's done with familiar characters, but when you do it with new characters and concepts it's a fatal mis-step. You've got to give readers a reason to come back, and a rather trite cliff-hanger frankly isn't enough.

Star Wars Tales #20 by Various, from Dark Horse:
This is utterly brilliant, drop-dead funny stuff from some of the best indie and art-comix creators out there. Y'know how I know? Becasue I freaking hate Star Wars in all its various incarnations and everything about it, and yet I bought this comic and enjoyed it.

Also of note: Midnight Mass: Here There Be Monsters #6 from DC/Vertigo, which was good, but maybe an issue or two too long, and Ultimate Fantastic Four #8 from Marvel, which should fulfill your daily weekly recomended dosage of Ellis-ism laden dialogue and snappy art from Immonen.

Now, as for the film Spider-Man 2 which I finally got around to seeing last night:
Yes, it was better than the first film. But then, it would almost sort of have to be, wouldn't it? Many of the problems from the first film are repeated here, notably the incredibly wooden "acting" of Tobey Maguire. His inability to emote in a manner which even superficially resembles real human emotions has now, unfortunatly, been transferred to Kristen Dunst and James Franco. She may be excused, as all she's given to do in this film is look pretty, scream, and run in slow motion. Franco however appears to attempting to emulate Dafoe's scene-chewing performance in the first-film, but it comes off like bad method-acting. Or is "bad method-acting" redundant? Damn you Berthold Brecht, you've ruined me for American Cinema!
As for the effects, the CGI is still over-used and still really dodgy. It all looks so painfully obvious like CGI that it starts to feel like you're watching somebody else play a video-game. And it's perhaps unfair to use that as a complaint, as the same is true of pretty much all CGI films, so I can only conclude that the American film-going public wants their special effects to look obviously clumsy and fake.
Story-wise, there are actually some improvements. The story is over-long, but there is at least the illusion of forward movement. The Doc Ock arc, apart from the bits about the arms taking over his mind (which struck me as fairly silly, even though I know there's textual evidence for this in the comics), was fairly compact and well-done. The Peter Losing His Powers arc could have potentially benefited from even more blatant sexualization, especially in the power-loss=impotence department, as I don't think they made that point clear enough in the film.
Using my film trailer rating scales, I would say that this was a matinee movie. Unfortunatly, I paid full price.



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Monday, July 05, 2004

Bah! 

Free Comic Book Day will now forever be known to me as "Stinky People Day." Lots of folks who need to be told not only what soap is, but also what it is for. Apart from that, 'twas okay. Lots of books went out the door. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, and only person made enough of a nuisance of themselves (a child continually asking for the bag of "mature reader" comics) to make me think about making them leave.

But then, there were the folks who came in later. It made the whole last half-hour of work one of the most surreal experiences I've had in quite some time. The exchange with one of the women went something like this:

"Do you have any comic books about quantum mechanics?"

Not specifically about that, no. Can you tell me anything else about it?

"I saw it in a movie. It had a black guy with a cape and it was about quantum mechanics."

[racking my brains...] Could it, possibly, have been called "Quantum & Woody?"

"No! It was about quantum mechanics. I saw it in a movie!"


...I'm still not sure what she thinks she's looking for. I half suspect it doesn't actually exist anywhere other than that movie, or perhaps her mind.

One of her other companions also asked me if we had any comics about Hindu gods. I could only think of Rogan Gash, which we didn't have in stock. He then asked me for any comics about Jesus. Then for comics about Thor. I suspect Zeus would have been next, but I was saved from him listing every world pantheon by the fact that we were now closed.

Finally, another one of the women from this group was looking though a Tales of the Bizarro World trade paper-back. I'm not sure why. I think she had asked that scoundrel Mike about comics in which people speak out of order. After flipping through it she puts in down hurriedly, almost as if the thing was some sort of blasphemous tome. It was, she declared to the world at large, "full of anger."

Now, there are a lot of adjectives I can think of to describe Bizarro stories. "Anger" is not one of them.

In other news, I was looking at our in-voice today, and I noticed that the Free Comic Book Day items which were not shipped to us have been cancelled. So with luck we won't have any books showing up a month after the fact, as happened with our Keenspot books last year.

Also, the Crossgen 2005 Wall Calender will be in on Thursday. Everyone can use it to track the release dates of their favorite Crossgen series. Oh, wait...

And someone yelled at me because, by asking him if he needed help with anything, I was apparently the rudest person who ever lived...yeah, some people just aren't happy unless they can complain about other people, I guess.

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Subtext? What Subtext?  



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Friday, July 02, 2004

Free Comic Book Day Reviews 

Adhouse Books: I've enjoyed everything I've seen from Adhouse so far, and this selection of stories gives a fair assessment of the type of material they publish. Joel Priddy's 24 Hour Comic is cute and clever and Scott Morse's brief story is fun as well.
Verdict: Grab it

Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius: Secret Crisis Orgin Files: I like Winick's Barry Ween comics a lot. But this doesn't strike me as the best introduction to the character. Either the elements of the story that lead into another comic should have been excised or there should have been a big banner of text somewhere that said: "Story continued in Barry Ween Vol. 4!"
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Alternative Comics: Again, this is a good over-view of the type of material you can expect to see in Alternative's publications. Personally, I liked the Peanutbutter and Jeremy stories and the preview of Nick Bertozzi's "Salon." In fact, I may have to go back and check out some Rubbernecker comics. The rest of the stories didn't do much for me, but that's just me.
Verdict: Grab it

Amelia Rules: I'm somehow guessing that this is going to be our break-out comic this year. It's clever and has wide-appeal with engaging art and fun characters. Probably this is one of the better books to be released for the event.
Verdict: Grab it

Arcana Studios Present: I can tell that the creators of "Ant" have their hearts in the right place. They've just chosen a pseudo-McFarlane-ish art style that completely gets in the way of anything they might be trying to do with their story. As for Kade and Ezra, honestly, I couldn't even bring myself to read more than a page or two each of those stories.
Verdict: Not even for free

Archie: Yawn. More of the same, tired, 60 year old gags from a title that either needs retiring or serious rethinking. I mean, an extended joke sequence is dependant on the fact that all the women in Archie's world have the exact same face and body. That's just sloppy.
Verdict: Not even for free

Astonish Comics: I must be a bad person, because the best thing I can think to say about this is that the art on "Herobear and the Kid" isn't bad. Nothing in here grabbed me or interested me in any way at all. But I'm willing to concede on something like this that I'm probably far removed from their target audience.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Back In Black: Brian Pulido Unleased at Avatar: If you were a big Chaos Comics fan, you'll probably like this. That's as nice as I can get.
Verdict: Not even for free

Ballad of Sleeping Beauty: They better hope Clint Eastwood's lawyers never lay eyes on that cover. In general, I dislike the idea of putting out stuff on Free Comic Day that you have to come back to get the rest of the story. You should be coming back because you thought the material was so good you want to see more. I've liked Mike Hawthorne's work in other places, I'm certain, so I don't know why this book looks so flat and dead. It just doesn't grab me at all.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Dr. Chaos' Comic Cornucopia: I'm struck dumb at the sheer awfulness of this comic.
Verdict: Not even for free

Del Rey Manga Sampler: I hate Love Hina and that brand of shameless fan-service manga. So, as you can imagine, Negima did nothing for me, despite Peter David's script. And we already know I love XXXholic. My main gripe with this book is that it's too damn short.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Best of Dork Storm: The humor of Dork Tower will probably be lost on a lot of non-gamers, but PS238 is a great comic that doesn't get nearly as much exposure as it should. And this is a new story! So you've got no excuse not to pick it up!
Verdict: Grab it

Duel Masters: We've yet to sell a single copy of the regular Duel Masters comic. Ever. And not for lack of trying, either. So any copies of this taken on Saturday will be the first copies ever to go out the door. This is just another in a series of blatant rip-offs of Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh, and it doesn't even pretend to be anything other than a marketing scam to seperate kids from money.
Verdict: Not even for free

Dungeons and Dragons: Crisis in Raimiton: As far as I can tell, this wasn't solictited with the rest of the Free Comic Book Day books, and so limited quantities may be available. If you dont' get one, don't worry, you're not missing a thing. Very poor story-telling, and amateurish art that appears to be done with magic markers. Makes me (more) embarrassed to play D&D.
Verdict: Not even for free

IDW Sampler: I have no interest in any of these licensed properties. The art seems stiff and too obviously drawn from photo-refrences. And IDW in general doesn't publish anything I care for. Niles and Templesmith and Wood as creators just leave me cold to be honest. So while I found nothing of interest in here, others might.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Image Summer Sampler: I don't read it, but Invincible seems to be one of the current darlings of the super-hero set. The story here isn't bad, but not reading the series myself, I feel like I'm missing some important info. The other stories well, I suppose there's an audience for those comics still.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Johnny Raygun Classics: There's a certain manic appeal to these stories. It's a light-hearted sci-fi humor series with appealing art and characters and some genuine laughs.
Verdict: Grab it

Keenspot Spotlight 2004: It's a big chunk of a book. There's a lot of unevenness in the art and the quality of the stories. The layout is abysmal. I hate having to count pages just to find out the name of the strip I'm reading. But there's bound to be something in here for just about everyone.
Verdict: Grab it

Love Fights/Everest: Frankly, I was more interested in the Everest preview than Love Fights, a book I've tried before and not found to my taste. It's not that it's bad, or that the art is below par. It's just the characters and story utterly failed to interest me in any way at all.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Marvel Age: Spider-Man: Again, Marvel seems to think that "looks like manga" is going to translate into "sells like manga." This is fine for little kids. Like pre-school age. But I can't see anyone older than that having any interest in something like this at all. The story is dumbed down and the art is just unattractive.
Verdict: Not even for free

Mickey Mouse/Uncle Scrooge: Both of these stories are cute and clever and represent probably the best in children's comics. Adults shouldn't be insulted by the stories, they don't talk down to the kids, the art is open and engaging and they've got a great mix of action and humor. So, naturally, they're over 40 years old...
Verdict: Grab it

NBM Free Sampler: I'm a big enough fan of Dungeon that I've bought some of the French editions. Both Boneyard and Silk Tapestry look intriguing as well, and I've liked other works I've seen by Richard Moore, so Boneyard at least may have acquired a new reader.
Verdict: Grab it

Reggie 12: These are cute little stories about an Astro-Boy-esque little robot boy. It's very cute, and very silly, and I love the little activity project on the back cover.
Verdict: Grab it

Slave Labor Stories: Personally, I'm disappointed with this year's Slave Labor book. I realize that the gothity-goth comics are their bread-and-butter these days, but there's a sameness to most of them just makes them kind of boring. The exception to that rule is Little Gloomy, which at least has it's own artistic style and voice. It's a good comic for ghoulish little kids. Even the Evan Dorkin material failed to amuse me this time around.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Sore Thumbs Election Special: I shouldn't find this funny, but I do. There are a couple of truly hilarious exchanges here. It's not for everyone's tastes, oh no. And certainly not for anyone who, for example, thinks that Mallard Fillmore is the height of political-cartooning, but for the rest of this there's some naughty fun to be had with this.
Verdict: Grab it

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures: The Clone Wars cartoons strikes me as one of the most cynical marketing ploys Lucasfilm ever came up with. Make people sit through a five minute cartoon, one minute of which is "previously on" and another minute of which is "next on" clips. Great way to sell advertisements though. The art I find, frankly, ugly, and the story is just dull. And proof-reading by spell-check just annoys me. Plus, it's Star Wars, so how good could it be to begin with?
Verdict: Not even for free

Teen Titans Go: Now, I know I'm not the audience for this comic. I think I'm somewhere between 10 to 15 years too old to be reading this book. Nauck's art is nice enough, though.
Verdict: Eh, it's free

Tokyopop Sneaks 2004 Vol. 2: This is another book that wasn't ordered with the rest of the Free Comic Book Day books and was apparently just sent to retailers, so availability may be limited. Unsurprisingly, it suffers from the same problems most anthologies do: lots of unevenness in stories and art. Very little here interested me, save for Paradise Kiss, which I already own. Saiyuki may be good, but I don't have much tolerance for fighting manga, and it looks like that's what it might be. I may be a Sgt. Frog convert. The brief excerpt here is twisted and funny, and that's the sort of thing I dig.
Verdict: Grab it

Top Shelf Tales: Bighead didn't do anything for me at all, but everything else in this book was pure gold! And I'd expect nothing less from Top Shelf. This is a great introduction to the publisher and the artists involved. Great, great stuff.
Verdict: Grab it

Wild About Comics: More Licensable Bear is always a good thing. Lela Dowling's Jabberwocky adaptations is fun as well. And while books like Crossfire and DNAgents may not be my thing, I'm really glad that About is keeping quality older material in print.
Verdict: Grab it

Never received: Bunch of Babboons, Delicous Seasons, From Pixel to Paper, and, for some reason, American Power.

General Thoughts on Free Comic Book Day III
-Next year, if Marvel has a hissy-fit because there isn't a big Marvel movie in May, and therefore FCBD shouldn't be in May, retailers and organizers need to tell Marvel to take a flying leap. Marvel is not the comic book industry, and the comic book industry is not Marvel. What happens if there are no Marvel movies next summer? No FCBD at all? No, Marvel's marketing schedule should not be a factor in this.
-Holding this event on the Fourth of July weekend? Double-plus-ungood idea. Lots of people are going to be traveling, which cuts the number of people with time to go to comics stores a bit right there.
-As broad and diverse a selection of publishers and materials there are this year, there are still publishers and imprints of publishers I would have liked to have seen participate. An Ait/PlanetLar sampler would have been great. A Viz sampler would have been good. Material from DC and Dark Horse that shows the variety of material they publish would have been great. A Vertigo sampler, for example. I understand Marvel doing a kids book, they only publish children's material. But Dark Horse and DC should have had something for people over the age of 11 to read.
-That's two books with James Kochalka in them and three with Scott Morse.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

People I Personally Know 

Ian Brill's Brill Building...the paucity of his years belies the depth of his insights. Smart fellow.

Captain Corey...my go-to guy for obscure horror movie trivia.

Tom the Dog's You Know What I Like?...this is the pop-culture popurri web-site I wanted to do before I accidently turned into a mostly comics most of the time web-site.

John Gorenfeld...An extraordinarily bright and talented guy working as an outlaw, ronin-journalist. For many laughs and a scary look at power-brokerage in Washington, look at his on-going feature Where in Washington D.C. is Sun Myung Moon?

And then there's that totally untrustworthy Mike guy...

[Why yes, I am shamefully attempting to boost my friends page-counts instead of trying to say something clever on my own, how'd you guess?]

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© 2007 Dorian Wright. Some images are © their respective copyright holders. They appear here for the purposes of review or satire only.