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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Superhero Comics Reviewed & A Contest
Batman: Gotham Knights #56, Robin #129, Batgirl #55, Catwoman #34 and Batman #631: Reading two weeks worth of "War Games" chapters in one sitting makes a few things very clear. First of all, this is actually not all that bad as far as cross-overs go. Lord knows DC has published worse ("Our Worlds At War" springs immediatly to mind...), but this one actually has a rather simple, straightforward plot that makes it easy to hang individual chapters onto the over-arching story. That being said, the weaknesses become painfully clear. First, there's a tremendous amount of unneccessary exposistion and redundant information, apparently included under the mistaken assumption that someone out there is only going to be buying the chapters that happen to take place in books they normally buy anyway. Secondly, there are all kinds of weird gaps and holes in the narratives that put me in mind of nothing else so much as somebody thought somebody else was writing the chapter that explained how Character A got from Point X to Point Y and why Character B told Character C this.
Ultimate Elektra #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #64 and Ultimate Fantastic Four #10: Judging by on-line reaction I'm the only person who both likes the NuLook Doc Doom and wasn't the least bit surprised that they killed off Gwen Stacy. You know, if I were still in school, I'd be half-tempted to write a paper on "Fear of Technology in the Ultimate Marvel Universe." Nothing good ever comes of science or technology in the Ultimate comics, especially the ones written by Bendis. And is it actually possible to write a good comic featuring Elektra if you're not Frank Miller?
Legion #38: A whimper. Just as I was starting to warm to this incarnation of the LOSH, they go and cancel it so that Mark Waid can reboot the title yet again. Probably into something that more closely resembles the "classic" Silver Age Legion that only comic book fans in their forties really like...
Adventures of Superman #631: I'm still liking the more character-driven book this has become, as opposed to the all-hitting-all-the-time Action, which I also enjoy, and the talking-head-itis of Superman, which I'm not reading because my patience for both Azzarello and Lee is quite low.
DC Comics Presents:The Atom and DC Comics Presents: Justice League of America: Overall, I'd have to say that the stories that don't rely on characters meeting Julius Schwartz have been the best. It's just such a silly gimmick, and my patience for it wore thin after the third time in this series it was used. I didn't like the Atom book at all, and I only really liked the Wolfman story in the JLA book. The David/Ellison story was too pleased with it's own cleverness by half, not to mention being so preoccupied with "paying tribute" to actually bother telling an entertaining story. Overall, I'd say that the best story, by far, was Grant Morrison's Adam Strange tale, with Wolfman's JLA and Azzarello's GL and Stan Lee's Superman being the next best.
JSA: Strange Adventures #1: The price and format are a good argument for waiting for the trade, but I have a fondness for period super-hero tales, especially the ones with the JSA. The mix of Johnny Thunder's writing career and the A-Plot of Nazi saboteurs fighting the JSA is appealing. Besides...Wildcat! What is not to love?
She-Hulk #6: Easily the best book Marvel is publishing right now. It's all the bits about super-hero comics that are fun, without the pointless angst and stupid soap-operas that bug the hell out of me. And finally, someone remembered Damage Control!
X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers And Demons #2: If someone were to create a course in comic-book writing, and how to avoid cliches and trite dialogue and one-dimensional characterization, and how to make each issue accessable to new readers without relying on heavily exposistional dialogue, this book could be used as a concrete example of the exact opposite way to go about it. Not just bad, but insultingly bad. Books on the display shelf next to it are actually made worse by their proximity to it. But I understate.
JLA #104: I've seen several people claim, both on-line and in Real Life (what's that?) that this issue was actually pretty good. I can only assume they mean in comparison to the rest of Austen's "Super-Hero's Cry" storyline, because this was terrible. It's like Austen had never even read a single comic featuring the Martian Manhunter before writing this.
Plastic Man #9: True to Jack Cole's spirit, Plas is the only sane man in a world gone mad. It's over-the-top, yeah, and full of more in-jokes than, well, that Alpha Flight series Marvel is publishing right now. The key difference being, of course, that Baker's comic is actually, you know, funny. I mean, how can you not find the idea of Plastic Man and Woozy Winks plotting to kill Lincoln not absolutely hilarious? Especially when, in context, it's the most natural and obvious solution to everyone's problems.
Authority: More Kev #3: Garth Ennis should really write the Authority more often. His obvious loathing of super-hero comics actually has an appropriate outlet with this set of characters, creating a ludicrously over-done smorgasboard of operatic violence and bad taste. And it's funny.
Astonishing X-Men #4: I don't see how people are praising Whedon's writing. Unless it is that the see it as good only in comparison to what's being written in the other X-Titles. It's a reversion to the status-quo, giving the fans the safety of the same characters they've been reading for twenty years in the same kidns of situations. Even to the point of bringing characters back from the dead. Dull...but at least it looks pretty.
Supreme Power #12 and Doctor Spectrum #1: I don't understand the point of doing a Doc Spectrum mini at this point. Is this for the benefit of the legion of Doctor Spectrum fans, who demand more than the one or two page appearance every couple of months they've been getting in Supreme Power? And if so, what was the point of spending the first issue rehashing events from SP, with a few "important" background elements thrown in to pad it out to 22 pages? And, as for SP, I don't think Straczynski is quite a good enough writer to pull off page-layout trickery as he's attempting to here. The fact that one of the panels is static for a good chunk of the book really drives that point home. It reeks of trying to be clever, without displaying any understanding of how or why the comics form works. On the other hand, at least Zarda puts on some damn clothes and the plot moves forward, at least slightly, so maybe the book will pull itself out of the holding pattern it's been in for the last couple of issues.
Astro City Special: Supersonic: A nice examination of the flashy heroes of the Silver Age in the context of contemporary comics. It's one of the strenghs and a good part of the appeal of Astro City, but it does draw attention to the fact that often the stories themselves are somewhat slight. Sure, there's a hero fighting a giant robot, but all the real character growth and action takes place on the internal level, which makes it feel odd that so much time was spent on, well, a hero fighting a giant robot.
Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #1 and Promethea #31: The world ends, and it's not all that bad actually, and soemthing weird approaches from space. And that's about it. It's too hard to write about books like these without writing about the entire series, so I'm not going to try. Maybe someday I'll do write something about Promethea as a whole, but seeing as it's taken me this long to write about comics from two weeks ago, I wouldn't look for it anytime soon...
Manhunter #1: Like Bloodhound and Monolith, this title seems to be another part of DC moving into a slightly different territory than it's bright and shiny JLA image would suggest. Darker titles, more mature titles, and titles that reward an audience that's willing to give them a chance. So, I liked this book a lot. Tons of moral ambiguity, a compelling lead character, and a first issue that works strongly on it's own, but gives us just enough information and loose threads to hopefully draw readers back for more. I've been looking forward to this since it was announced, and I'm not disapointed at all. Good book, go check it out, new titles that don't have an "X", "Spider", "Super" or "Bat" in the title need as much support as they can get right now.
Speaking of which...Cognitive Dissonance is running a Fallen Angel contest. Seems a good segue to talk about the latest issue. It's a one-off story, catching us up on some of the supporting cast and what they've been up to. David is excellent at characterization, and all these characters are engaging. It's not quite the "jumping-on" point that the book maybe needs, but it's damn close. There are even two very surprising, uh, surprises snuck in for long-time readers. Go get it, or go enter the contest.
You know, now that everyone is making such a big deal out of the fact that Hal Jordan is "finally" going to be Green Lantern again, wouldn't it be great if at the last minute they reveal that they meant this Hal Jordan.
Technically it would be accurate...and it would make most of the Green Lantern fans heads explode. It would be worth it just for that.
I was in the mood to read a good story featuring Wildcat yesterday...more fool me.
See, the store doesn't actually have any copies of Sensation or Comic Cavalcade in stock, and even if it did, I probably wouldn't be able to afford them
All of the The Brave and The Bold issues he appears in are really awful, despite Jim Aparo making a pretty decent stab at drawing like Neal Adams.
His appearances in stuff like All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc. are incidental, at best.
In All-Star Comics, the later version, he's part of an ensemble and doesn't really do much to stand out on his own, other than argue with Power Girl.
I already have every issue of JSA and the Mike Parobeck illustrated Justice Society of America.
And Chuck Dixon wrote both Batman/Wildcat and Catwoman/Wildcat, so I won't be buying those.
So I settled for some of the The Brave and The Bold issues, an issue of Action where Krypto and Streaky have a "War of the Superpets" and an issue of World's Finest where Batman and Superman force Robin and Jimmy to dig their own graves!
Let's face it folks, the problem isn't that there aren't any comics for kids, or that kids aren't interested in comics. The problem is the parents. They control the purse-strings, they're the ones who have veto power over purchases. They're the ones you need to convince to buy the comic, not the kid. And by now we've all heard the usual advice on how to get the parents into the store, i.e. keep it clean, well-lit, organized and for God's sake take the Witchblade and Lady Death and Betty and Veronica posters off the walls. But that's not enough. So I present my probably-won't-usually-fail-sometimes tips and tactics for convincing parents to buy comics.
1)The Trade Paperback is Your Friend It's all about perceived value. Parents will frequently balk at paying $3 for a flimsy paper artifact that's going to fall apart as soon as the kid starts reading it, so steer them towards the big thick books with spines and real binding. People will pay more if they think they're getting good value for their money. There are two things I must caution you about, however. Don't call them "graphic novels" because no one seems to know that the word "graphic" is just a fancy way of saying "picture." They always seem to think it means "nasty sex and violence." Also, don't call them "collected editions" because nobody seems to be aware that the words "collected" and "collectable" mean two different things.
2)Don't Argue With Them About the Price of Comics This is related to the first point. You're going to hear a lot of statements along the line of "Comics sure are more expensive than why I was a kid" or "They're charging $2.25 for this! They used to be a quarter!" None of these people are economists and they have never heard of inflation. In the world they live in, nothing has gone up in cost over the last 30 years except for comic books. Gas still costs less than a dollar a gallon and for $10,000 you can buy a house in Southern California and still have enough money left over for a new car.
3)Be Prepared to Answer a Lot of Dumb Questions Specifically, the kinds of questions anyone with the slightest amount of commen sense would be able to answer for themselves if they thought for more than two seconds before opening their mouths. Questions like "Why is this book in black-and-white, is there something wrong with it?" or "Why are all the Japanese comic books printed backwards, did they misprint it?" or "Why are Superman and Batman gay in this comic?" Just smile pleasently and give a short answer that explains that the book in question is supposed to be that way. This ties in to points four and five:
4)They Think They Know More About Comics Than You "Ah yes, this is what they call a 'cyber-punk' comic. That means it has a lot of violence in it" was indeed once said to me by a parent looking at the cover of a recent Superman comic. I did not correct him, because as far as most parents are concerned, they are the experts. Not the person who actually works in the comic book store. I've a theory that some hormonal change occurs in people once they have kids that makes them believe themselves to be the fonts of all human knowledge, but I haven't cut up enough brains to test it yet. The best solution to deal with it is, again, to smile pleasently and perhaps right down some of the more entertaining bon mots to post later on you web-site.
5)They Think They're Better Than You Partly, this is because you're on the other end of the consumer-retailer continuum, and Americans have been wrongly conditioned to believe that as consumers they can do no wrong and are always in the right. Partly, it's because you work in a comic book store and are therefore pathetic and despicable and probably a sick pervert child molester to boot who gets off on cutting up Barbie dolls (which I was actually accused of doing by one customer when I told her we didn't buy Beanie Babies). Never mind that they're the ones giving you money for a trashy little comic book their kid is just going to tear up. Never mind that you actually have a college degree and only took this job to save money while you decided which grad school you wanted to apply to, while they got their girlfriend pregnant two months before graduation and had to give up that community college football scholarship and take the assistant manager job at their dad's Jiffy-Lube in order to support the new wife and kid.
6)Avoid the Back Issues This incorates elements of all the earlier points. Unless they were given a list of actual back issues their kid needs, don't let them buy back issues. First of all, they won't be able to figure out where any of the back issues are or how they're organized. It won't occur to them to look for Aquaman where all the title beginning with "A" are located and which you put a big sign up in front of that says "A" on it. Secondly, they won't know why the book that only has a slight corner crease on it is more expensive than the book with a spine-roll, subscription crease, extensive chipping a quarter of the back cover torn off. And if you try to explain that to them you will only get a blank stare in return and perhaps a comment along the lines of "But they're the same comic." Similarly, do not attempt to explain that age, condition and demand will determine a book's value, not the price printed on the cover. They will not understand that just because the book originally sold for 60 cents, that doesn't mean they can buy it for just 60 cents now.
Again, Trade Paperbacks Are Your Friend.
7)You're Going to Be Mistaken For A Baby-Sitter A bit of a tough-love approach is sometimes called for here. You need to be firm and remind parents that, yes, you're a comic-book store, but the key word there is store. If they wouldn't change their kids diapers on the jewelry counter at Macy's, why would they think it's appropriate to do so at the counter at the comic book store? If they wouldn't drop their kids off for two hours in the home of a total stranger, why would they drop their kids off at a comic-book store and tell the annoyed looking man behind the counter "I'll be back to pick them up in a couple of hours, they're not allowed to buy anything, can you send them out to meet me at 4?"
8)No Matter What It Is, Someone's Going To Be Offended By It Parents either think that either all comics are intended for children, or no comics are intended for children. It's something peculiar to comics that doesn't seem to translate to other mediums. Sure, some of the hysterical, reactionary parents out there might like to live in a world in which the only music, movies, books, games and television shows produced were suitable for children, with all the depth and moral and emotional complexity of an episode of Blue's Clues, but most people rightly ignore folks like that. But even the folks who sneer at the people who want to censor music or movies will be shocked, positively shocked and appaled at the fact that some comic books are...slightly more serious in tone or content than an issue of Archie. So, always be prepared to provide an alternate selection. If Ditko/Lee Spider-Man reprints are too boldy sexual for a parent, try Marvel Age Spider-Man. If Superman is too violent and political, try Superman Adventures. If Bone isn't sufficiently wholesome and innocent for their precious little angel, try post-issue 200 Cerebus.
9)No, Seriously, You're Going To Be Asked a LOT of Dumb Questions You're just going to have to learn that people don't know any better. They don't know that Previews doesn't actually contain comics. Why they insist on buying it after you show them that it doesn't actually contain comics and is just a rather silly catalog for fetishists is a mystery for the ages, especially when they come back the next day and want to return it because "there aren't any comics inside and you told me there were."
So, I have an interest in old physique photography. It appeals to me both as an erotic medium and as an artifact of gay history. Hooven's book serves as a nice introduction to the subject, but it suffers from some weaknesses. First of all, it's published by Taschen, which means that all of the text is tri-lingual. This leads to big blocks of text taking up most of each page, somewhat limiting both the number of pictures that can be fit into the book and the size of the pictures. Secondly, it has a somewhat narrow focus on the work of Bob Mizer and the Atletic Model Guild. From an historical perspective this makes a certain sense, as Mizer's magazine, Physique Pictorial, was probably the best known and most widely circulated of the underground gay/physique mags. Unfortunately, his work tends to be somewhat boring in comparison to other photographers and studios, relying heavily on gimmicks and often featuring models that don't quite fit into the definition of "bodybuilder" and were quite frequently just men Mizer picked up off the street because he wanted to see them naked.
The Male Ideal: Lon of New York and the Masculine Physique by Reed Massengill
Massengill's overview of Lon's career, on the other hand, is an excellent book. It opens with a long text piece, well-illustrated with photos, detailing Lon's life and career and the legal ups and downs he and his studio experienced. The second half of the book is a nice, comprehensive over-view of the best of Lon's work, from his early studio days in the 1930s to his semi-retirement in the 60s. Lon's work is interesting in part because Lon himself somewhat bristled at the suggestion that he was creating "dirty pictures." As far as he saw it, he was creating art, very much molded on the classical models of Greece and Rome. And there is a formal element of clacissim to his work that lends it a kind of timeless look. Apart from the hair-styles, it's difficult to tell at first glance at what period one of Lon's pictures might have been taken. And in fact a lot of contemporary male nude photography looks remarkably similair to Lon's work. Two other aspect's of Lon's work bear notice. Full nudity is quite commen in Lon's work, even well before it was technically legal for someone in the US to take a photograph of a penis. And secondly, in contrast to most of the other major physique photographers and studios, Lon frequently featured African-American and Hispanic models in his work. Which is quite a change from the corn-fed, midwestern-wholesomeness of a lot of photographer's preferred models.
Imadoki by Yu Watase
I was first aware of Watase's work through her epic fantasy-romance Fushigi Yugi, and most of her work, that I've seen, has contained a supernatural or fantastic theme. So it was quite a contrast, and an appealing one at that, to read a work that doesn't contain anything extra-normal. What we have here is the story of a girl, Tampopo, who has newly transfered to a school full of rich snobs, determined to win people over and make friends. Particularly the handsome and moody school Alpha Male, Koki. It's a very light, uncomplicated story in which it never really feels like there's anything too bad that can happen. Which is a nice change of pace. It's a straight-forward romance in which the only thing at risk is someone's feelings, which can pack a lot more of an emotional punch on a reader than "the world will blow up" or somesuch similair dilemma. Watase's art is as open and appealing as ever, and her usually off-kilter humor is on full display. Even the male lead, Koki, has the same generic "good-looking" appearance of all of Watase's other male leads. And Tampopo is definatly a Watase heroine: good natured, kind of clumsy, and not quite as bright as everyone else around her. Luckily, she's not the door-mat some of Watase's heroines tend to be, as she's brash, outgoing, and determined. It's a charming little story and I look forward to more.
Ursula by Fabio Moon and Gabrial Ba
It's hard to review a book like this. Even after going over it several times in the last month, I'm a little bit at a loss to sum it up. How much of it is fantasy, and how much is meant to be "real"? And does it really matter? On an artistic level, it's an absolutely gorgeous book. And the narrative has an ephemeral, dream-like quality that adds much to the aura of the book. Probably the best way to look at it is as an exercise in creating an emotional repsonse in the reader. If so, the book is a resounding success. It puts you in a reflective, contemplative mood.
--Although it was nice to see American Flagg! splashed across the cover of Previews, I have to wonder about their decision to use the phrase "Finally Collected" in reference to the Image/Dynamic Forces AF! trades...becaue, you know, there were actually AF! trades before. I'm reasonably certain we still have one or two in stock...
--Now that Wizard has made a reference to this allegedly funny JLA panel can we all agree that it never needs to be brought up again?
--Flipping through the latest issue of Green Lantern, I noticed that Ron Marz has made a knowing, one could almost say "pointed", reference to Women In Refrigerators...
--Speaking of which, in a round-about sort of way, some of the folks complaining about the content of Identity Crisis should check out Chuck Austen's Worldwatch so that they can see just how bad Meltzer's book could have been. From such classy lines of dialogue as "Who are you calling a jerkoff, you bondage whore" to a rather nasty on-panel rape to more topless women than I can remember seeing in any comic that wasn't actually drawn by Jim Balent, it's a real tasteful book which displays a lot of respect for women! Or, as Mike said: "Please give me some of that Wanted money."
You know what I don't understand? People who desperately attempt to cling on to the things they loved in child-hood, no matter how crap they actually were. Little kids have terrible, terrible taste, and most entertainments for children are solely designed to only keep them entertained enough to sit through commercials or want to tie-in toy. Every once in awhile I'll catch myself watching something I really enjoyed as a kid and every single time I come away thinking: "Wow. I was a really stupid kid."
And yet...there's this entire industry built on supplying the nostalgia fulfillment needs of people in my age demographic. And clearly it must be making money, otherwise, American capitalism being what it is, this nostalgic garbage wouldn't exist. Which leads me to the horrifying conclusion that most people don't realize how truly awful and stupid the things they liked as children were. And what's worse, as adults they somehow have gotten it into their heads that the trash they liked as kids still somehow has merit.
Now, I myself am guilty of perpetuating this wrong thinking in people. For the sake of ghettoization I took all the retro-toy comics that are coming out, mixed with a few revival properties, and made a particular section on our display rack for all those terribly drawn and written Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Masters of the Universe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Voltron comics. And putting them all together ended up increasing sales on those titles. Well, except for Micronauts and Battle of the Planets, because apparently nobody ever really liked those two properties.
We have customers who will only buy nostalgia comics. We have customers who come in every week and demand to know when the next issue of Ghostbusters or Snake Plissken are coming out. We have customers who are really looking forward to a Silverhawks comic. (But only if it's "faithful to the show"...) In short, we have customers who wouldn't recognize a good comic if it bit them on the ass, danced around them and sang "I'm a good comic, I'm a good comic," because they're too busy in some weird infantilizing ritual in which they are reliving their childhood stupidity.
And these things are stupid. I've seen gay porn that's less homoerotic than Masters of the Universe. Transformers is an inherently stupid concept and it isn't even internally consistent. They're all giant robots, but they somehow manage to shrink down to the size of a tape-player or hand-gun? And don't get me started on G.I. Joe which makes no sense whatsoever. So Cobra plans to take over the world because...something that was never really clearly defined. And somehow engaging in pointless, ill-defined conflict after conflict with G.I. Joe will accomplish this goal? It would make more sense if Cobra was actually a division of G.I. Joe, created to convince Congress of the need to increase Joe's funding every year, in order to "fight Cobra."
And lastly, we come to the grand-daddy of all crappy children's entertainments: Star Wars. Now, I'm not going to pick on Star Wars fans, because that would be like shooting fish in a barrell, and frankly the worst insult I can think of for a Star Wars fan is to simply point out to him or her that they are a Star Wars fan. I will say, however, that I find it ever so amusing when I see Star Wars fans getting worked up about the perceived lack of quality in "Episode 1" or "Episode 2." Or getting angry about the possibility of Lucas making "Episodes 7, 8 and 9" because he will "fuck it up." Because, as we all know, the original Star Wars films were the most perfect works of art of all time. Utterly and completely flawless. For centuries to come they will be studied as the pinnacles of film-making, superior in all ways to what came before, destined to never be surpasses by antything that comes after. Oh, wait, no, my mistake. We were talking about the original Star Wars films. They were crap. Deliberate crap. The first one was an over-serious attempt to duplicate a crappy Saturday morning serial. It was Lucas himself wallowing in nostalgia for the cheap children's entertainments of his youth. And then the toys started selling and that was it. Instead of a coherent narrative in the next two films we were treated to scenes and characters that only existed in order to sell poorly-made plastic toys (Boba Fett fans, I'm thinking of you) to children who would whine incessantly to their parents if they didn't get them. For God's sake, Lucas was able to sell kids an empty card-board box and it was a huge success!
So yes, I'm entertained when people complain about how the newer batch of Star Wars films "aren't as good" as the original films. As if Lucas, who waited years to do these movies, financing them all himself, was somehow not doing the best job he's capable of doing. The slightest glimmers of quality in the "5th" and "6th" movies were only there because people other than Lucas worked on them, and even then those movies weren't very good. What are the Star Wars fans expecting? Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane in space? Not going to happen.
I've moved on from my crappy child-hood loves. Why isn't anyone else?
Yes, I've had the occasional brush with fame, working in comics retail. And by that, I don't just mean that I've had more than my fair share of opportunities to chat with comics pros and sell them funny-books. No, I mean that I've met real celebrities while working in comics retail.
Well, a few anyway. So I'll pad out this piece with a few comics pro stories as well. (Notably, the time I accidentally insulted Randy Queen...more on that later.)
A disheveled man walked into the store one day. Long coat, straggly beard, baseball cap pulled low on his head. I thought he looked vaguely familiar, but Mike thought he looked like a suspicious character and so he decided to unobtrusively keep an eye on him while he wandered through the store. Especially as the guy came back to the Robert Crumb section of one of the book-cases, where a few other "adult" titles were kept. After some time, the gentleman, who I now recognize, buys some Crumb books, and also some of Judd Winick's Frumpy the Clown and Barry Ween books. Afterwards, I believe my comment to Mike was: "So, Mike...you thought John Ritter was a shoplifter?"
And then John Schneider came into the store one day. Now, at 5'10", I'm just about as "average adult male height" as you can get. I don't think of myself as short, not even when you over 6' freaks of nature somehow get it into your heads that it's somehow "normal" for a man to be over 6' in height. But that Pa Kent now, he's a tall man. Honestly, it was just about all I could think of. "This man is really tall." (Okay, to be honest, I was also thinking: "This man is damn sexy.") Very nice, chatty, personable fellow too. He was very interested in where we kept our Smallvile tie-in merchandise on display and how it sold.
Ironically enough, his son is a Spider-Man fan.
Wil Wheaton made a personal appearance at the store once. With his entourage. You wouldn't expect Wil Wheaton to have an entourage, but there it was. Also a very nice, personable fellow, but having a store full of Star Trek fans for a day really did nothing but remind me that I'm not a Star Trek fan and never will be.
Of course, when it comes to famous people what you mostly get working comics retail is comics pros. We've got several living in our immediate area or with relatives near-by, so we have fairly regular visits by most of them. It's one of the unintended frustrations of having a site like this, too, because now I know horrible secrets about other creators that I can't repeat. Although mostly what I know is forthcoming projects that I shouldn't really mention because they haven't been officially announced yet. Or, in a few cases, that I really shouldn't mention because they've already been cancelled before they even got announced. So, while I could create all kinds of internet buzz and create all sorts of traffic by revealing that I know Marvel is planning to do a one-shot book which will piss-off people of a certain political persuasion even more than that Punisher: The End book did, I won't, because that would be wrong! Or, that an artist who would have been absolutely perfect on a book about a shape-changing super-hero (no, not that one) wanted to do it, but DC apparently decided against it, because that would also be wrong!
Anyway, accidentally insulting Randy Queen...
Fellow comes into the store, with a shapely female companion. He looks around, seems more interested in browsing so I get on with other work. He buys a few back issues and goes to check out. While I'm ringing him up, he asks me if we have any of the Darkcyhlde lunch-boxes. I say, no, we had some, but we sold our last one a couple of days ago. He asks if we'll be getting any more in. I say that we probably won't, as "that kind of merchandise" is kind of a slow seller. So then the gentleman hands me his credit card. Which says "Randy Queen" on it. Crap.
By "that kind of merchandise" I meant lunch-boxes, I swear!
I hit an (so-far) all-time high of traffic yesterday, and I'm not quite sure why...Nothing particularly interesting was up...but I checked my referall logs, and sure enough, not only was there more traffic from the usual folks, but a bunch of names I don't ususally see traffic from were there as well.
So, here's something interesting to look at today:
I've got a huge stack of books I keep meaning to review and I just don't have the energy to do it right now. Likewise, I'm feeling a little lacking in the snark/evil/cruelty so I'm not in the mood to comment on anything specific. Hence, links...
Sean retires his blog and we wish him all the best.
Newsarama previews Uncanny X-Men #448...featuring the shocking returns of...Jaime Braddock, Viper, and Murderworld. There, I've spoiled the big surprise, and since this issue doesn't feature Alan Davis art there's now no reason whatsoever for anyone to waste money on this comic...
Conversations I'm Tired of Having With Customers--Addendum
"Do you have Amazing Caber-Man #12, 13, 14 and 15?"
Nope, looks like I only have #13. "Oh, so you don't have #12, 14 or 15?"
No, just #13. "So, you're missing #12, 14 and 15?"
Yes. We are missing #12, 14 and 15. We only have #13. "Oh. So you have #13."
"Do you have Luscious Lucy Jackson #1?"
Which series? The original series or the more recent one? "I don't like the new series. I don't like what they've done with the character. I think it has to do with the new management. They clearly don't care about the character's history. And by disrespecting the history, they're disrespecting the fans. And if it wasn't for the fans, they wouldn't have jobs. And I really wish they would take their resposibilities to both the characters and the fans more seriously. Because one of these days the fans aren't going to take it anymore. We're going to demand that the character and the audience be treated with the respect they deserve. And then they'll be out of jobs. Not that I really want them to lose their jobs. Because I'm sure they're nice people. But maybe being forced to work for a living will make them realize the huge debt they owe to us fans and why it is important to treat the characters they way they should be treated."
So, that's the original series you're looking for then?
"I object to the events depicted in the latest issue of Big Comics Event Comics. It's completely inappropriate to introduce serious real-world elements into escapsit fiction."
Okay, try this. Happy Super Fun Time Comics Guaranteed to contain no objectionable material. "But that's for kids!"
They're calling it New Avengers? Seriously? And how, exactly is it not "JLA-ing" the Avengers when they've put Spider-Man and Wolverine, Marvel's biggest cash-cows on the team. Oh, and something called Avengers Finale is coming out, just to gauge an extra $3.50 out of people.
So Captain America is going in an all-new direction...where he fights the Red Skull. Who has the Cosmic Cube. Again. Only Marvel could present the diligent maintenance of the status-quo as a daring move...
A Warren Ellis scribed Iron Man may be enough to get me to buy an Iron Man comic despite my total antipathy for the character. It depends on how cringe-worthy the art is.
They're calling it New Thunderbolts? Seriously?
Dear Marvel: putting out an 8 issue, $3.50 an issue mini-series like Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes on a bi-weekly basis is a sure fire way to get any casual readers to "wait for the trade."
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead: Yes, do let's revel in the "shocking" deaths that have occured over the past year that will surely be undone within the coming year.
Fantastic Four now appears to be regularly priced at $2.99 now. Just one more reason to try and talk Pete into dropping it...
Alpha Flight features the return of Flashback. Notable mostly for being John Byrne's shameless rip-off of an Alan Moore character from Captain Britain. So, a terrible writer is using a character created by a mediocre writer which was "inspired by" a good writer...does the mediocrity of Marvel know no limits?
She-Hulk is still the best book Marvel publishes.
I steadfastly maintain that after Grant Morrison left the book, no further X-Men books were ever published. Therefore, the fact that Marvel is soliciting more X-Men titles must be some sort of strange hallucination on my part.
The Ultimate family of titles look to be amusing diversions.
Ah, I see that Spider-Man: India will be published in English...now I can see if it actually is as terrible as all the original annoucements made it sound.
NYX is cancelled. So, that means, what with all the various rescheduling the series has undergone, we can probably look for this issue sometime in June.
The ultra-super-hyper-uber "War Games" story comes to a conclusion, allowing us to enjoy seven Bat-Family titles "dealing with the aftermath." Which I think is code for "we couldn't think of anything to write about except the big cross-over which just ended."
In Action, Chuck Austen is using a villain created by Michael Turner. Now, I've been enjoying Austen's run on Action on the basis that it's Superman hitting things for twenty pages, but this seems to be taking the mediocrity of the title to new heights.
Superman: Secret Identity gets a trade paper-back, which I'm sure will be a consistent seller for us as it was a very good series from excellent creators. If the sales on the Hush books are any indication, we'll have a consistent seller with the Azzarello/Lee trade Superman: For Tomorrow. I don't think the actual merits of the art or story will have anything to do with those sales, however.
Superman/Batman #14: I guess DC finally got fed up with people writing comics about doppelgangers of Bats and Supes taking over the world and decided to just go ahead and authorize their own version using the actual characters.
JLA: Classified: Of the writers who have written JLA since the new series started, the only one whose work I've enjoyed has been Grant Morrison. So Morrison writing a JLA story is good news. However, given that this "rotating creative teams" approach on the main JLA book has given us the much-beloved all-time-classics of Dennis O'Neil, Byrne/Claremont and Austen's current "Superheroes cry" arc, I'm not holding out much hope for quality after the initial Morrison story.
Speaking of which that classic Byrne/Claremont story gets reprinted in trade form. So now it'll be really bad and available outside of comic book stores so that people outside the comics industry will be able to see just how bad comics are.
Firestorm and Bloodhound cross-over, and I appear to be the only blogger enjoying both books so I have no problem with it.
Batman finally shows up in the Book Of Which We No Longer Speak. That should quiet some of the more fanboyish complaints about the series...
The solicitation for JSA: Strange Adventures #4 heavily implies that a JSA member will "die." Well, the cover kind of gives it away, guys...
Dear DC Comics: Regarding the cover of Justice League Elite #4, thank you ever so much for printing a book with the words "Justice League" in the title that I'm not sure I'm going to actually be able to put on display in my ultra-conservative community.
Rick Veitch's Question series finally gets released. Insert gratuitous Ayn Rand joke here.
Beyond the DCU
Oh dear. Has no one told Alex Ross that the Cartoon Network version of Space Ghost is probably taking the character about as seriously as it's possible to take the character? The whole concept of this project sounds like bad fan-fiction. "I know, if we get rid of the little kids and the stupid space monkey all the cool kids will have no choice but to realize how great Space Ghost is! Especially if we make him all grim and gritty! Because that would be kewl!" And yes, I realize that the book only exists to keep Alex Ross happy, but still is there anyone besides Ross who wants to see a "serious" version of Space Ghost?
None of the CMX books, Musashi #9 or Swan have much appeal to me, though the art on Musashi has a nice clean line to it.
The Nikolai Dante: The Romanov Dynasty trade may attract my attention, especially if it's not tied into the tedious Dredd-verse I just don't enjoy.
The Nikopol Trilogy is given a nice and fairly inexpensive omnibus trade I may need to pick up. Now if only there were any chance for getting a US release date for Immortel.
The Intimates: Joe Casey has solicited enough good-will from me that I'll at least check out the first couple of issues. Even though the subject matter of this series strikes me as a trifle precocious.
The final issue of Tom Strong's Terrific Tales features an Alan Moore/Peter Bagge collaboration. My mind boggles...
Wild Girl by Leah Moore and Shawn McManus sounds intriguing as well. I wonder how much complaining I'll have to listen to from fanboys because "she only got the job because Alan Moore's her father" despite the fact that the stories she's written on her own prior to this were actually pretty good.
Angeltown should be a strong title. I suspect I'll have to do a lot of hand-selling to get people to pick it up, though. Unless it's C.S.I. we have a hell of a time selling mysteries around here.
At $18 for the Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place soft-cover I probably should have just spent $25 on the hard cover.
Cue the Green Lantern fans complaining that the costume is different and this therefore shows total disrespect for the character, his history, and the fans who have worked so long to give Hal Jordan the prominence he deserves.
Regarding the big brouhaha which took place at the Wizard World Convention this past weekend: See, actions do have consequences.
And maybe, just maybe, someone in Marvel's management has learned from this that it's a good idea to edit yourself a little when talking to the press. Good rule of thumb: never say something to a reporter about another person that you wouldn't say to their face.
Of course, it's probably a fool's hope to think that anyone will learn anything from this...
So, heed these words instead. Today you may be a respected and talented and much loved by fans editor in chief. But at some point fans tastes will change or upper management will change and you'll be yesterday's news. And then you're Bob Harrass. Or, if you've really managed to piss people off on your way up, on your way down you might find that you're Jim Shooter.
Because just about everyone else seems to do it from time to time, I thought I'd share with all of you the more...curious terms people enter into search-engines in order to find my site.
divers lost australia Oh good. I've been looking all over for it and needed someone to blame for misplacing it.
dorian wright Not a vanity search, I swear. Probably someone looking for this guy. Sometimes I get e-mails asking when my next single is going to come out. I wonder if he gets angry e-mails about his comic reviews...
mallard fillmore subtext Uh, I wouldn't call his "liberals are stupid" asides "subtext."
catwoman hairstyle patience Oh, I have absolutely no patience with her hairstyle, it makes her look like a 12 year old boy.
http://www.postmodernbarney.com Again, not a vanity search...but it begs the question...if you knew the address of the site, why didn't you just type it into the address window on your web-browser?
she-ra's panties greg land she-ra she-ra's erotic club I should never have posted this picture.
movie rubbernecker jim carrey I have no idea how this brought my site up.
nanny dickering While Bill Ward originated the character's look, I always thought John Severin drew her best in those "Cracked Movie Musicals" they would sometimes do.
dorkin ayn rand joke Something about her changing a screen-play, right?
comic characters with asperger's syndrome Darkhawk?
tobey maguire and kirstin dunst boyfriends Well, she's a free agent now that she's broken up with the delectable Jake Gyllenhaal.
I have no idea who Tobey's boyfriend is...
marlon brando weight problem Uh, yeah, he had one. What that has to do with anything on my site is a mystery to me.
gay moive A homosexual Brooklynite pronouncing the word mauve?
spider-man identity crisis Was that the storyline where he had like four different secret identities for a month?
adult leather thighboots women leather thighboots women girls teens in thighboots Boy, did you get directed to the wrong site!
postmodern seriously If you're taking it seriously, you've misunderstood the point of postmodernism.
tim lehaye sun myung moon I think you may be looking for this page.
the pre-quesada marvel era Is distinguishable only from the post-Quesada era in that now they pretend that it is somehow "shocking" and "daring" and "a bold risk" when they diligently maintain the status quo.
progressive ruin identity crisis I'm pretty sure Mike has talked about the book from time to time.
postmodern hero If you think it's heroic, you've misunderstood the point of postmodernism.
harley and ivy 02 sex plants Yep...sure was creepy, wasn't it.
spartan traditions Going to war with your neighbors and having sex with men pretty much was it.
postmodern comics Enigma and some of Morrison's stuff.
...because I'm too lazy today to actually put too much effort into it...
Alpha Flight #6: Did anything actually happen at all in this series? I'm serious. I feel like I just read six issues of set-up with nothing important or interesting happening...
X-Force #1: I couldn't even bring myself to read it. The things we do because our significant others are Cable fans...
JLA #103: It's Green Lantern's (John Stewart) turn to cry. That's about all I got out of this issue, I'm afraid. I think my mind has blocked out all other memories of it in order to protect itself.
Spider-Man #5: With Frank Cho drawing I'm suddenly forced to ask myself "How does Brandy, I mean MJ, even stand-up, considering how top-heavy she suddenly is?"
District X #4: Has now become, despite the presence of Bishop, the only X-Book worth reading.
Emma Frost #14: I will echo the statements of others and say that this is the book that Marvel should have been marketing to teenage girls, but in the end, given the Greg Horn covers which for the first six issues showed Emma in various states of undress, it's probably a good thing the didn't.
(As an aside, regarding those first six covers, yes, we did have a couple of customers pick it up, look through it, and ask me why the "hot chick" on the cover wasn't actually in the comic.)
Aquaman #21: It looks like this title also gets removed from the probation list. It's become one of those books that is far better than it has any right to be.
Action #818: Superman hits things for 20 pages. And some people apparently feel that they want more out of a comic called "Action." Weird.
DC Comics Presents: Flash: This book bravely bucks the trend of giving us one good story and one not as good story to give us...two not really very good stories. And given the subject matter I really probably shouldn't bring this up, but the only good story in which a super-hero meets his creator was in Animal Man.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182 and Nightwing #96: Already cross-over fatigue is kicking in and I'm finding it hard to keep track of who is doing what to who and why. I haven't had a chance to play with the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow CD-Rom that came with these titles, but I suspect that this issue of Nightwing will pale in comparison to it.
Fables #28: This has all the ear-marks of a filler between "real" storylines, but the promised conflict of the next issue is wonderfully promising.
Challengers of the Unknown #3: Really, really, very very good comic. It's Chaykin at his most Chaykinesque. And who can resist the casting of Fox News as the villain of the piece?
Bloodhound #2: This is a very good action book with so far only marginal ties to the DCU. It's quirky and entertaining and I suspect I'm going to have to push people into buying it a little more than I already am.
Gotham Central #22: It's good, but then it's always good. Though this time around the resolution of the story does tend to feel as if the creators realized that they were scheduled to participate in a big multi-book cross-over and had to wrap up the story as quickly as possible.
Authority #14: Morrison's a place-holder writer now, just keeping the title going until Brubaker comes on-board, and it's a shame because left to his own devices he's produced a very good little one-off story focusing on Jack Hawksmoor touching on his original characterization as an urban vigilante. Even Whilce Portacio's art, which usually hurts my eyes, is quite good and keeping in tone with the story.
Chosen #3: Okay, who, precisely, didn't see the "shocking surprise twist ending" coming from the very first page of the first issue? Absolutely no-one? Good, just wanted to make that clear.
JSA #64: It's good, and it's entertaining, but the the thing that makes it entertaining is also it's weakness. It requires the reader to have a fairly extensive knowledge of DC's last twenty to thirty years worth of stories.
Oh, and some other book came out this week, and I read it and I liked it, but it's a book we No Longer Speak Of, so there you have it...
Regarding the Book Of Which We Do Not Speak, I've been seeing a lot of criticism regarding how it is "inappropriate" to tell this kind of story with these kinds of characters. I think that boils down to differences in taste at the end of the day, but the particular analogy I keep seeing people make is this: Watchmen wouldn't have been as good if it had featured Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and The Question instead of Doc Manhattan, Nite-Owl and Rorsarch.
Well, yes, it would have been just as good, because Watchmen is good because of who the creators are and what the book is saying about the nature of the super-hero genre. It would be just as good with any characters in it, whether they are original characters or re-cast company-owned characters. The actual names and costumes of the characters isn't really important.
By this same logic, I'd imagine the people making this criticism would have us believe that Dark Knight Returns would have been vastly improved if it had featured Hits-People-At-Night Man instead of Batman.
The story Meltzer and Morales are telling is at least somewhat dependant on the reader having an emotional reaction to seeing characters that are familiar to them go through this. Doppelgangers just wouldn't work. I mean, is anyone really upset by the fact that Tom Thumb died in Squadron Supreme? No, because the story has no real emotional investment on the reader's part because it doesn't feature the "real" characters. And good fiction should cause some kind of reaction in the reader. Hopefully not an over-reaction, but some kind of emotional involvement.
Now, as to whether or not this kind of story should be an "Elseworlds" or something of the kind, I'd say that alternate reality stories have the same problem that stories featuring doppelgangers do. There's no emotional investment on the reader's part, therefore any impact the story could make is blunted. Take Kingdom Come...at the end of the day, who cares that almost all of the characters were wiped out in a nuclear explosion? They weren't the "real" characters, so it doesn't matter what happens to them.
Lastly, DC Editorial have decided that they want this story, for both creative and financial reasons, to take place in the "real" DCU. Creatively, because they clearly think there is value in telling this kind of story in the DCU. And financially because now they get to sell tie-ins, trade paperbacks, and garner lots of publicity for both this title and the line as a whole. You may think it's a bad idea, but frankly, they're not your toys to play with, they're DCs, and they can do what they please with them.
1) Newsarama brings you a three-page preview of the Book Which We No Longer Speak Of, but the real fun is the discussion afterwards featuring such missing-the-point highlights as "Deathstroke would never be able to take down Flash so easily" and accusations of nerd-dom.
That's right, someone posting at Newsarama calls someone else a nerd, with no trace of irony at all. Someone with a quote from "Big Trouble in Little China" in his signature line no less...
I think it provides an object lesson in the limitations of both the serial format and the trade format. This was a four-issue, Prestige Format mini. That's a lot of dosh to shell out for four months. I can understand why some retailers and fans may have balked. On the other hand, I'd be willing to bet money that a lot of people who passed because of the perceived expense of the indiviual issues decided to wait for the trade, which may or may not ever actually happen. Given that it's Busiek and Immonen on Superman, I'm fairly certain a trade paper-back would sell well, both in initial orders and over time.
3) It came to my attention that my piece on the gayest comic ever prompted some discussion on a comics board or two. So just to respond to a couple of points that were raised in those discussions:
-Since I am gay, I am allowed to call inanimate objects gay. It's not perjorative when I use it.
-Likewise, since I am gay, I'm really hard pressed to see how the piece was somehow evidence of anti-gay bias in this blog...
-I implied that Ultimate Colossus would have a good career starring in Kristian Bjorn movies because there is ample textual evidence to support that theory. And Mark Millar said so, too.
(The above was brought to you at the insistence of that big jerk Mike, who threatend to say something about the subject if I didn't...)
I'm always slightly skeptical when I hear someone say that there "no comics for kids." Because it's a manifestly untrue statement. There are plenty of comics either specifically aimed at children or are written for all age levels to enjoy.
What is usually meant by the statement "there are no comics for kids" is the somewhat narcisstic "the kinds of comics I read as a kid aren't being made anymore." And I say narcisstic, because such a statement presupposes that children today are going to want the same things out of their cheap, disposable entertainments that children 20, 30, 40 years or more ago wanted. It's the commen Baby-Boomer fallacy (though it's a thought process that certainly isn't confined to Baby-Boomers, they just epitomize it so well) that everything was at it's best when they were kids, and everything that has come after, or was around before, is somehow inferior.
Likewise, I take with a grain of salt the statement that "kids comics don't sell." Because kids comics do sell, and sell quite well. What is really meant by that statement is "super-hero comics for kids don't sell." Which is fair enough. Kids don't really want super-hero comics unless there is some sort of tie-in to other media, such as movies or television. Right now, for example, I'd like to slap silly whoever decided to rate "Aliens VS. Predators" PG-13 and push it heavily to kids, because I'm seeing a bunch of kids coming into the store looking for Aliens comics, Predator comics, and Aliens Vs. Predator comics, and now I have to explain to parents that the content of the books is more in keeping with the R rated original films than the apparent kid-friendly current film. (Which I have apparently been drafted into taking my 10 year old cousin to. Pray for me.)
As for kids comics not selling, well, it's certainly not super-hero fans in their thirties and forties who are fueling the growth in manga sales.
In fact, the biggest obstacle I see to getting comics into kids hands is parents. I've had parents complain about "inappropriate" sexual content in reprints of Lee/Ditko Spider-Man comics. I've had parents refuse to buy Uncle Scrooge comics for children who were begging for them because "comics aren't for kids." I've had parents balk at paying a whole $2.19 for a Sonic the Hedgehog comic (damn those greedy bastards at Archie for charging so much for a comic book!), because, you know, God forbid something cost more now than it did when you were a kid. I've had parents refuse to buy a back-issue for their kids because "those are collectables" (No, ma'am, it's last months issue of Batman Adventures, I think you can trust little Timmy with it). And thanks to what was probably one kids over-protective parent, kids can no longer buy Shonen Jump at school book-fairs.
So, there are plenty of comics that are okay for kids, and comics for kids do sell. Can we please move on to more important subjects, like who will Bendis kill next in Avengers?
2) Speculators: Here We Go Again...
I've noticed a sharp increase lately in the number of people investing in comics lately. More and more people are coming into the shop, taking every single copy of a comic off the rack and inspecting each one carefully to discover the one copy that is minter than mint.
I blame Marvel for this. The "no reprints, no over-prints" policy has encouraged panic buying in some customers and retailers. "If we don't buy it now, it'll be gone and we'll never get more." It was a brilliant strategy on Marvel's part to boost their across-the-line sales, because no retailer wants to be caught short on a book that's in demand. And on those (increasingly) rare occasions when a Marvel book actually does sell well enough to sell out in many stores, back issue prices have risen ridiculously. Of course, none of those books will retain those inflated prices, but try explaining that to people and they look at you as if you've gone insane.
And then, just when the market starts to stablize, Marvel springs their hare-brained variant policy on us. "Buy X copies of a book nobody would ever in a million years want, let's say Amazing Fantasy just as a hypothetical, and you can order Y copies of a variant cover for a book you are already fairly certain is going to sell well." Well, why can't we just order the variant directly, and let our customers choose which cover they prefer? "No! You have to buy X copies of a book no one is going to wnat!" But that doesn't make any sense... "Look, do you want to sell any Marvel comics or not?"
And now other publishers are getting in on the act. I can't really blame DC, as so far they've just filled the variants based on inital orders on a 1/1 ratio. I'm okay with that. It causes a slight bump up in orders, as there are plenty of people who will want both covers, but it's a bump up in orders we can live with. Devil's Due, on the other hand, needs to be slapped. Doing four variant covers on the first issue of Army of Darkness was excessive, especially when it turned out that the only cover anyone wanted was the J. Scott Campbell one. What we've managed to sell of the other covers is due largely to, you guessed it, speculators hoping to resell the covers they're buying in order to afford the Campbell one. But then, Devil's Due sprung two "incentive" variants (I'm still not sure what arcane formula they used to determine who got how many of which incentive) and a " retailer thank you" variant (which I don't get the logic of at all, unless it's to make up for the consternation retailers have had to put up with as a result of dealing with all these stupid variant covers).
See, this is the precise reason why I try very hard not to take part in these endless, back-and-forth, circling the point but never quite landing arguments/debates between bloggers.
[For the record, I like JSA but it does presuppose you are familiar with several decades worth of DC continuity. Teen Titans is fun, and I think it has the right amount of nostalgia to keep long-term fans happy but not too much to alienate newer readers, and judging by the fact that we still sell tons of copies to kids and people who don't normally read DC books I'd guess that I'm mostly right about that. I do think the tone he has established for Flash is completely wrong for the title and characters. I never read his Avengers because it was the freaking Avengers! Any team with both Iron Man and Thor can't possibly be worth reading about...]
Why are Superman and Batman more interesting when they're not really Superman and Batman? I think most people commenting on that thread have at least a partial answer. I usually find the characters are more tolerable in one-shots and minis than in ongoing books. In those situations the creators are usually much freer about what they can do with the characters. And when you put the characters in another book entirely you can focus on the essential elements of the characters, emphasizing what makes them interesting and has caused them to last as long as they have. And when you make them an entirely different character you can place even more of an emphasis on "what's right" with the character. I don't think it's impossible to make the characters appealing in their own books, though. I like Superman/Batman quite a bit. It's an event book, and it's short on plot, and it really isn't very good, but it entertains, and it places the characters of Supes and Bats on that same iconic level that they don't seem to get in their regular books. And God help me, I actually like Austen's "Superman hits things for twenty pages" approach to the character in Action.
I was asked who I think should play Wildcat if there were ever a movie. Without hesitation I answered Jason Statham. He's got the right look, build and screen persona to pull off Ted Grant. But, I knew comic fans would object to that casting because Statham is a diver and martial-artist, and thus doesn't have a heavy-weight boxer physique. Because we all know that the particular fact that Wildcat is a heavy-weight boxer is far more important to the character than the fact that he's a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble brawler who fights crime. I mentioned this bit of hypothetical casting to another comics fan, and sure enough, first words out of his mouth were: "But he's not a heavyweight!"
Of course, it was Pete who said that, so I'm not allowed to get too annoyed about it.
I have discovered the gayest comic of all time. Gayer than an issue of Gay Heartthrobs or Meatmen. And I fully intend to take advantage of the fact that I'm probably one of the few bloggers who can get away with a post like this, by telling you why Sensation Comics #1 is the gayest comic of all time.
Here's the DC Millenium Edition cover, as I, for some reason, don't have a lot of high-quality Golden Age comics in my collection:
First of all, the lead story is Wonder Woman. A heroine from the island of Lesbos, I mean Paradise Island, who has gone on to be more well-known as a gay icon and inspiration for drag queens than a crime-fighter.
Next, we have the Black Pirate. I mean, just look at the guy. As if the Freddie Mercury moustache and big gold hoop earring (in his left ear, indicating he's a "top") aren't clue enough, he's a freaking pirate! What, exactly, do you think cabin boys were for?
Next up is Mister Terrific. Really, really bad taste in clothing aside, he's a classic over-acheiver and neat freak. Just like every fastidious gay man who ever tried to impress a distant and uncaring father is. And while MT never officially came out, the signs are definatly there.
Moving along, we come to the Gay Ghost. No comment is neccessary, I believe...
The next feature is Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Sounds like the back-up dancers in a drag cabaret. But what we have is the opposite of Mister Terrific's wardrobe. It's simply not possible for a heterosexual man to co-ordinate that well, no matter how many "queer eyes" he gets trained on him.
Lastly, we get the origin of the swellest, butchest, most masculine super-hero of all time, Wildcat. I mean, come on...he's a little too butch to be straight when you get right down to it.
Justice League Elite #2: Okay, I read Monarchy and understood what was going on. I read Invisibles and The Filth and had no trouble understanding them. Heck, I read Morrison's "Rock of Ages" storyline in JLA and thought it was very easy to understand what was happening, which to judge by the general reaction to that storyline means I have the highest reading-comprehension skills in the world. So, when I say that I can't understand what is happening in this book, or why, or who any of these people are or why they're doing what they're doing, I think it's safe to say that the fault is not in me, but in the book itself. Or, rather, in Joe Kelly's writing.
X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers and Demons #1: A good primer in why the X-Men books are so lousy. Boring, trite, and heavily reliant on having to know the ins and outs of at least twenty years worth of X-Men continuity.
Uncanny X-Men #447: Quite possibly our last issue of this title. It's utterly unreadable. The only saving grace is the Alan Davis art, and it's so obscured by Claremont's word balloons you can't even really see it.
Firestorm #4: Probably moving off the probation list. I'm just curious enough, and it's just well done enough, that I want to see what happens next.
Birds of Prey #71: I kinda like this title. Yes, it's cheesy and has no reason to exist, but it entertains me.
DC Comics Presents: Superman: Man, I never thought I'd be praising a Stan Lee written comic, especially after all those Just Imagine... books, but his story is really the highlight here, along with the always a kick art of Darwyn Cooke. The other story...not as good. But I'm glad Jose Munoz is doing DC work again...
Hard Time #7: And this becomes the only Focus title I'm going to continue to buy. (Well, I might keep getting Touch until it's cancelled...) How many times do I have to tell people that this is a really good book before they start listening to me?
Monolith #7: Another underappreciated really good book, perfectly capturing that "weird" vibe of late 70s/early 80s DC that I love.
Majestic #1: What is it about the Superman character that he's so much more interesting when it's not him in the story, but rather a thinly veiled pastiche of him?
Swamp Thing #6: Of all the things I expected to happen in this title, I didn't foresee a "status quo--SUCCESSFULLY MAINTAINED!!!" Marvel-type resolution. Especially not one that returns the character to his pre-Moore status quo...
Milkman Murders #2: The best Dark Horse has offered in their horror line so far. Proving, I think, that zombies, vampires and other supernatural clap-trap just isn't as interesting as the horrors humans are capable of inflicting on each other.
Scratch #3: Uhm...I'm in it for the duration, but hoo-boy...little to no sense is made and the story is horrendously padded.
Y: The Last Man #25: See, Yorick is capable of solving a problem without anyone having to get killed. It's basically a "filler" storyline, taking up space between arcs, but at least we find out what Beth has been up to Down Under, in a cliff-hanger that, for some reason, I don't expect we'll get any resolution on for awhile, especially since it's been, well, 25 issues since we last saw Beth.
Batman: The 12 Cent Adventures and Detective #797: The "War Games" story kicks off, and I've seen worse beginnings to multi-book crossovers. Pete and I actually discussed whether or not we were going to pick the storyline up, and the decision we came to was, since we buy about half of the Batman family titles anyway, we probably should read the others so that we'll understand what's happening in the titles we normally buy.
Ultimate Spider-Man #63: This is only part 4 of the "Carnage" story? Man, it feels like part 12...
Ultimate X-Men #50: A vast improvement over Vaughn's last storyline on the title. Even if it does feature Gambit in a prominent role. A quirky, fun issue with some nice character moments. Particularly Nightcrawler's and Angel's "unauthorized" use of the Danger Room, and Dazzler's doomed attempts to flirt with Colossus (though, really, how dense is she that she hasn't figured out what's up with the big guy?).
Ultimate Nightmare #1: Ellis does a nice job of set-up here. I'm much more tolerant of "all-prologue" first issues when it comes to mini-series. I expect the creators will get to the meat of the story fairly quickly in such cases. (Not always...Secret War is two issues in and it's still all set-up.) The introduction of the Falcon is fairly intriguing, giving a new context to the character.
I'd just like to say, that when Johanna says she likes my reviews, I get about 400 people checking out my site. When Mike name-drops me, I get about 400 people coming to my site. When Tim responds to my defense of a book to remain nameless, I get about 200 people coming to see what I said. When Larry points out that I reviewed an AIT book, or Neil thinks I said something noteworthy, I get about 100 people coming to see what exactly I said. Mag notes the vast Ventura County blog conspiracy and about another 100 people want to know more. Heck, Ken sends about a 100 people my way without even specifically mentioning me in an entry. And all the other sites that send traffic my way are good for about 50-100 visitors a month.
So, when some guy I've never heard of, on a site that I find just a tad pretentious, links to my site in a somewhat confused article on how there are too many comics blogs and none of them are any good, and I only get 30 visitors as a result of it, that tells me something very important about the number of people reading his column versus the number of people regularly reading comics blogs.
Things The General Public Thinks Comic Book Stores Sell
Tax Preperation Software
Prose Fiction Novels
Video Game Strategy Guides
And, oh yeah, every once in awhile, someone does come in looking for comic books...
[I was very tempted to put "Toys/Action Figures" on the list, but I've been to so many comic shops that were really toy-stores with a few comics that I'd say it's a fairly accurate belief on the part of the general public that comic book stores carry toys.]
In furtherance of my theory that kids don't want super-heroes unless there is some kind of tie-in to other media, such as a movie or a television show, we had a few inquiries from the under-12 set regarding Green Arrow comics at the store today. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the premiere of Justice League Unlimited.
Apocalypse Meow Vol. 1 by Motofumi Kobayashi
There's a certain genre that I've heard referred to as "military porn." It's the sort of storytelling style in which plot, theme and character are all secondary to accurate portrayal of weapons and tactics. I don't think it's stretching the point too fine to say that this work fits into that category. It's not that it was a bad book, but there's not a lot of meat to it. There is a little too much attention paid to getting all the historical details right, and making sure that the weapons and uniforms are drawn accrately, and in other attempts to convince the reader that the author has spent a good deal of time getting all the tactics and behaviors right. Which is perhaps a luxury that a Japanese creator can afford. I strongly suspect that had an American undertaken a project like this what we would get instead is a lot of character's ruminating about the "meaning" of the Vietnam war. The problem is I'm just not very interested in whether or not the weapons are drawn correctly or the NVA tactics as portrayed in the book are true to history. Further the main draw of the book, for me anyway, is the weird inappropriateness of using cute little cartoon bunnies in a horrific war story. But nothing much is done with that aspect of the book. Even the author seems to suggest that the use of cute little bunnies was just an attempt to keep the book interesting to draw. Still, I only bought the book for the rabbits with guns, so I can't really fault the book for failing to deliver. It's more of a case of what I want out of a work, and what the author wants a work to be, being completely different.
Fruits Basket Vol. 4 by Natsuki Takaya
The other "cute animal" book I read was the fourth volume of Fruits Basket. It's hard to recomend this volume to anyone who hasn't read the prior three. There's little to no plot in this outing, just some background on a few of the characters, the introduction of another of the cursed family members, and the first full appearance of the semi-demonic head of the family. But it's still a charming little book. It's very much a "girly" book. All of the emphasis is on the relationships between the characters and their emotional developments. Almost no action to speak of. And the humor is very gentle, with just a hint of naughtiness here and there.
I also got my hands on the CMX Preview DC sent out to comic book stores last week. So far, nothing from this line really interests me very much. Musashi #9 has an interesting premise, with it's teen spies and espionage, with some nice art, but the preview pages didn't compel me to read more. From Eroica With Love has art the epitomizes all the cliches of shoujo style art, but that appeals to me in a twisted sort of way. And, I feel this strange obligation to support any gay-themed work that makes it into the US market-place (though that doesn't get me to buy Eerie Queerie or Gravitation...), so I will probably check out at least the first volume.
Witching #4: Pete owes me big time. This is quite possibly one of the worst comics of all time. We're talking SkateMan bad.
X-Statix #25: Probably good to end this now, they weren't going to top the naked men with medical conditions fight issue.
Justice League Elite #1: What just happened here? No, I mean seriously, what the hell happened in this book? If I'm reading it correctly they all just faked their deaths in order to make the guys who are recruiting assassins think tht they're dead. Was there a point to that?
JLA #102: I don't know which was more annoying--that the "super-heroes cry too" arc is still continuing or the stupidly out of place "check your smoke alarms batteries" PSA.
4 #8: Reed and Namor fight over Sue. That's an original plot for a FF comic.
Astonishing X-Men #3: Gee, what a surprise...the geneticist is in league with the villain. The villain has a mad-on for the X-Men because of something that happened in the past that no one bothered to tell us about until now. And the cure has some horrible secret behind it. Whedon is certainly breaking new ground on this title and taking the X-Men into directions they've never been taken before.
At least it looks pretty.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #9: Reed's powers are useless in combat. But we knew that already.
Hawkman #30: Wait...the Martian Manhunter is the killer?
Conan #6: Well, that was depressing.
Losers #14: So, the plot was just sort of "on hold" for two months.
Caper #10: I can already tell that this last storyline isn't meaty enough to support four issues.
Adventures of Superman #630: And filling an issue with in-jokes and cryptic foreshadowing immediatly moves the title into my "on probation" list.
DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern: Azzarello's story was brilliant. If you can't enjoy a story featuring Gorilla Grodd in drag, why are you even reading super-hero books?
Yuggoth Creatures #1: Johnston crafts some nice little Lovecraft pastiches here. Worth checking out if you're into that sort of thing.
CatWoman #33: It's mostly a filler issue, but it's a nice little introduction to the character and her status-quo. Looks like DC was expecting the movie to steer some people towards the comic. So, it was smart to release a new-reader friendly issue at the same time as the movie.
Batman #630: Well, that was a let-down.
Outsiders #14: I like the colors over pencils look, but I guess I'm alone in that.
Wonder Woman #206: I sometimes get the feeling I'm the only person who actually likes Rucka's take on Wonder Woman.
Plastic Man #8: All the people who have been complaining about this book because they somehow think a funny Plastic Man book is "inappropriate" must have been truly incensed at the digs at other creator's versions of Plas here.
DC Comics Presents: Hawkman: Honest reaction--this was even worse than the Batman issue, and that was pretty awful.
Witching #2: Strong first issue. Bit of a let-down here.
Ex-Machina #2: A good illustration of how super-hero books don't have to be stupid.
Demo #8: A very haunting and cryptic story which continues the over-all excellence of the series.
Jane's World #14: A welcome antidote to fake-lesbian, over-rated, over-hyped books that get far more attention than they deserve. And it's funny.
Planetary #20: Brilliant, as always.
Seaguy #3: Morrison packs more meaning into that one wink than most writers do in their entire "trade-ready" six-issue arcs.
New Frontier #5: It's good. It's very good. But I'm starting to feel like this is a five-issue story.
JLA: Another Nail #3: And on the other end of the scale, this was definatly a four issue series compressed to three, with some subsequent clarity loss. In the end, things just sort of happen, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of reason to it.