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Friday, December 31, 2004
(postmodernbarney.com)'s 2004 Wrap-Up Awards
The "There But For The Grace of God" Award for comic-book fans who most embody all the negative stereotypes about comic-book fans had a lot of stiff competition this year. For a while there I was sure the Bendis Board was going to come out into the lead for the now infamous "Fuck, Marry Kill" thread, but in the end the award had to go to the John Byrne Forum, for not only giving us such wonderful bon mots of wit as "hispanic women with blond hair look like prostitutes, no matter how clean they are" and "Christopher Reeve isn't a hero because he didn't choose to be crippled" but for also reminding us why cults of personality are a bad thing.
The Comic That Best Chronicles Its Creator's Ongoing Nervous Breakdown award has to go to Cerebus, which started out as a really very funny humor book, reached it's artistic height when Sim started using it to explore issues of religion and government and the relationship between the two, and went all to hell when Sim suddenly realized that women were out to get him, and that there was a sinister plot between women and homosexuals to emasculate all the God-fearing heterosexual men. He even managed to get in a few pointless swipes at Muslims as the series reached it's conclusion.
The Making My Job Easier Award goes to Marvel for their clear, easy to understand and consistent content guidelines.
The "Everything Old Is New Again" Award faced some stiff competition again this year. From comic-book companies going out of business due to gross financial mismanagement, to the revival of moribund properties and the return of artists we'd all rather hoped had retired, just about every major comics publisher was in the running for this award this year. But, in the end, it has to go to Marvel, for not only brining back books and characters from the past, rather than at least trying something new, but for instituting an arcane system of variant covers in an effort to bring the speculator market back into comics full-swing. Next year I fully expect Marvel to announce that they've partnered with CGC to pre-slab all their comics.
The Best Comic That Can Also Be Used As A Weapon Award goes to DC's "Absolute" format hard-covers. They're too big to comfortably read and a little too pricey for anyone but the most dedicated fan (says the man who owns at least 3 of them...), but man, if you ever need to stun a moose, these are the books you want with you.
The "We Get It Already" Award goes to Chris Ware, who now seems utterly incapable of not including some complaint about where his books get shelved in any interview, or on the books themselves. Mr. Ware, we all know you dislike your books getting shelved next to role-playing games and X-Men comics, but until a concerted effort is made to get bookstores to shelve art-comix in the literature section, I think you're just going to have to live with the situation.
The Most Entertaining Comic Of The Year Award goes to Brad Meltzer for Identity Crisis. Not for the actual content of the story, which was a decent but not exceptional pot-boiler, the super-hero equivalent of a book you take with you on a long plane flight, but for all the enjoyment I got out of watching bloggers, comics pundits and columnists, and message board posters going out of their minds alternately savaging and sainting Meltzer for his work.
The "You Know, They Make Good Comics Too" Award goes to Slave Labor, for continuing to bring us comic after comic that is desperately trying to recreate the success of Johnny The Homicidal Maniac and falling short.
And now, the slightly less sarcastic awards:
Best Super-Hero Comic is a tie between Adam Strange, for its lush art and fast-paced adventure, and She-Hulk for being a fun, all-ages and accessible comic that uses existing continuity as a point for building new stories, not as a way to freeze out newer readers. I hope both books become models of what a super-hero comic should be like.
Best Original Graphic Novel goes to Scott Morse's Spaghetti Western, for no reason other than it's the one I liked the best.
Best Non-Super-Hero Comic is a tie again, and goes to WE3 and Demo. Morrison and Quitely's sci-fi talking animal book is the most visually exciting and dramatic story I've seen in quite some time, and Morrison's talent as a writer shines through. Wood and Cloonan's tales of angst and strange powers was an excellent experiment in using the form of the 32 page comic to tell full, compelling stories that were far deeper than most of their neighbors on comic racks.
Sexiest Comic Creators is a tie-again.
They draw nice, too.
Person Of The Year I think is Grant Morrison, for bringing a delicious blend of Freudian undertone and whimsy to super-hero books with Seaguy, creating the best action comic in years with WE3, and bringing mad ideas back to the staid-old JLA with JLA: Classified. All-in-all, it was an excellent year to be reading books by Morrison, and with Seven Soldiers of Victory, Vimanarama, more potential Seaguy and All-Stars Superman to look forward to, 2005 should be an excellent year for Morrison fans as well.
(edited because, after I got home from work, a couple of minor typos were drawn to my attention, and I realized I never finished my thoughts on the Byrne Forum)
No, I'm not saying that Erik Larsen is a right-wing Neanderthal!
No, I'm not calling readers of Savage Dragon neo-con drones marching in lock-step with the orders of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News!
I'm saying that there's a disconnect between the readership of Savage Dragon and the tone of the most recent cover gag!
I am not part of the liberal media conspiracy, engaged in a sinister plot to keep conservative creators out of the comics biz!
For fuck's sake, you all should be used to my tone by now...
Here, I'll make the problem go away entirely: I'm never, ever going to mention Erik Larsen or any of his work on this site or any other ever again, for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of any of his fans. He could create the greatest work of comics ever, and you'll never hear about it from me, because the last thing I would ever want to do is offend anyone without a sense of humor.
I do, however, reserve the right to get in a dig at Chuck Dixon when the mood strikes me.
Dorothy arrived in our store today, apparently early...but all of you nice people already bought it, right? Right?
Nameless Name Dropping: So, Comics Pro comes into the store, and checks out the latest volume of work by Other Comics Pro, one With A Certain Reputation. And there was much head-shaking and eye-rolling to be had...
I tell you, if I were evil, I could really make some internet gossip columnists day...
On Monday I got a look at our Diamond invoice, and I noticed that there was a Hell House comic coming out...and I rather like Richard Matheson's work, so I think about checking it out. It comes in the store today, and I see that it's been published by IDW, which immediately kills all my enthusiasm for it, because there's no way I can justify the expense of a square-bound mini-series at IDW's prices to myself.
The cover of the most recent issue of Spawn is of some decidedly feminine version of Spawn...and I don't want to know who McFarlane thinks he's pandering to with that.
The new issue of Savage Dragon has a picture of the Dragon punching George W. Bush on the cover. If ever there was a book whose audience isn't going to appreciate a comic making fun of Bush, even in an incidental way, even if the interior has a vague pro-Bush conclusion, it's Savage Dragon. Or anything written by Chuck Dixon.
(But how likely are we to see an anti-Bush comic from Chuck Dixon?)
I can't help but think that Marvel wanted to get their Elektra movie adaptation out early so that they at least stand a chance of selling some copies. Because once the movie does come out, those things have "shelf-warmer" written all over them.
The only What If... books that seemed to attract a lot of attention were the ones written by Brian Bendis. I'm not quite sure what that indicates, but my suspicion is that the core audience for books by Bendis and the core audience for fan-servicing alternate-universe Marvel Universe stories heavily overlap.
I was very glad to see that Christmas shoppers seriously depleted us of our toy-stock. Except, of course, for the gayest item in the store, gayer than any of the gay porn comics we stock. Even I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the homoeroticism of this object.
And on a related note, about the only toys that didn't blow out of here were our stock of McFarlane produced toys. I've got a terrible suspicion that they're going to sit on toy shelves everywhere for years as a testament to the bad business decisions of Todd McFarlane.
Mike already mentioned that it was a big year for sales of Elfquest trades. It was also a pretty good year for manga in general, as well as Star Wars and Batman. The only X-Men comics people wanted were ones written by Joss Whedon, and Fables and Y: The Last Man were the only Vertigo books in demand. To be honest, there was almost no interest in any of Neil Gaiman's work at all this Christmas. Dark Horse even put out an inexpensive hardcover of Gaiman stories illustrated by Mike Zulli the week of Christmas, and it just sat on the shelf.
It probably would have been a good Christmas for Love and Rockets books as well, judging by the number of requests I got for them, but over half of them are not currently available from Diamond, including Locas and Palomar.
Nobody wants that new Hardy Boys comic...I've been shelving it with the kids comics, the manga...nobody has shown any interest in it. The target audience appears to be children, but when was the last time kids thought that the Hardy Boys were cool? And as for adult Hardy Boys fans, I heard several make sneering complaints about the manga-style art.
Which, I think, is a common problem with comics publishers trying to bring in kid readers...they approach it from the "this subject matter used to be popular" angle and alienate the kids, or they approach it from the "this style of art is popular now" angle and alienate the pre-existing audience. And this particular comic got it from both ends, so to speak...an art style that many existing comic fans don't like, and subject matter that doesn't interest kids. Had they gotten Lea Hernandez to draw mystery stories with new characters I probably would have had more luck selling them. But no, they had to put The Hardy Boys in big bold letters across the top 2/3rds of the page.
We have a few customers who are really only comfortable talking to one or two people who work in the shop. This is very frustrating, because whenever they call or come in, the person they "need" to talk to is invariably busy with something requiring a fair amount of attention. And, of course, what the customer needs help with is always something that anyone in the store could help them with.
Yesterday, a customer called and asked to speak with "R***"...who hasn't worked at the store in years and years. And years. The urgent question that could only be answered by "R***", arrived at after several minutes of my patient and reassuring questions designed to get to the purpose behind the call? "Do you have any comics by John Byrne?"
I believe the technical term for the amount of comics coming in this week is "a boatload." And only half of them are What If... specials or Avengers variant covers.
And I find that, this morning anyway, I don't have much to say. Pete and I took my mother to see Phantom of the Opera and it was surprisingly good, given the middling to bad reviews I'd seen of it. Pete, who has 9/10ths of a degree in music, took opera lessons, is the director of a gospel choir and sings in a classical choir, agreed with me that all of the actors did have good, strong voices, and that much of the complaints you've heard about the singing are due to people being annoyed that it's not Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the film. Personally, I could have done with fewer shots of the actress playing Christine in form-fitting lingerie, but that may just be me. Most importantly, my mother really liked it, even if she thinks Gerard Butler was too young to be cast as the Phantom.
I've also been entertaining myself by going through the Golden Age Sandman Archive which I bought as a gift for myself with my Christmas bonus. The stories have that typical Golden-Age flaw of occasional rough art (and that's fully knowing that not everyone can be Lou Fine) and repetitive stories, exacerbated in this case by the fact that all the stories are very short. There's only so many "The Sandman foils a convoluted burglary plot" stories you can read in one sitting, so I've had to limit myself to no more than two or three at a time. But, of course, what I was really interested in was the weird, pulpish nature of the character. Strange ideas are just thrown into the ether in this title...the sand calling card, the "crime intuition", the leaving of a small Wesley Dodds doll in his bed when he goes out as the Sandman. It reads less like a super-hero book and more as a pulp adventure. And the relationship with Dian is very interesting as well. She's one of the few female characters I've come across who doesn't fall into the perennial hostage role. Her relationship with Wesley is more of a partnership, and she's shown as being proactive and independent on her own, without needing to be constantly rescued by Wesley. Heck, it's even established that she's a better safe-cracker than Wesley at one point.
In any case, here's the most disturbing thing I've come across in a comic-book lately, the newly redesigned metrosexual Riddler, from Legends of the Dark Knight #186:
Man, I couldn’t get a wink of sleep last night…these “ghosts” kept appearing to me and showing me scenes of Christmas cheer and joy in an attempt to get me to change my ways and embrace the “goodness of man” and “the true Christmas spirit.”
The first one kept saying that my cynicism in Christmas is linked to the fact that one year I got a “Masters of the Universe” action figure instead of an RC car. When I pointed out that playing with He-Man made me gay and that I thought that was a fair trade, she got a little discouraged.
The next one tried to show me how good mankind was, and as demonstration claimed to have grown large and fat on “the milk of human kindness.” The guy was, maybe, 98 pounds sopping wet and barely came up to my elbow, and I’m kind of short. Ghosts must not like that when you point that sort of thing out to them and he left in a huff.
The third ghost showed up in grim reaper drag and showed me how everyone would feel if I died without adopting the hypocritical “I love Christmas” attitude of all the people going into debt to buy relatives they don’t really like things they don’t need and can’t use. To be perfectly honest, things looked pretty much the same then as they do now. I mean, you’d have to be a real egomaniac to think that the whole world’s destiny hinges on whether or not you can get excited about Christmas.
Still, it was a more interesting night than last Christmas Eve, when I had that deformed moose with a 40-watt nose show up on my lawn and tell me that Santa Claus was being held prisoner by an evil burgomeister and that a sasquatch was attacking the Island of Misfit Toys, and that I had to help him find Frosty’s magic hat to save Christmas…apparently Animal Control euthanizes deformed mooses as soon as they get them into custody. At least I got something interesting to hang over my mantle out of all that.
Please, next year, do me a profound favor and do not shop for Christmas presents if you are a) drunk, b) stoned, or c) on crack. When I have to stand five feet away from you because of the alcohol fumes it makes it hard to hear what you're slurring at me. Likewise I can't stand the smell of the demon weed, and patchouli doesn't actually hide it at all, it only accentuates it. And when you're on crack, well, it's really hard to hide the fact that you're on crack...
Also, please mind your children while they are in the store. It's very distracting to have to stop your kid from climbing up the comics rack when I have customers to help.
"Do you have any unique comics?"
Well, what exactly do you mean by unique.
"That have Spider-Man in them."
There are quite a few comics with Spider-Man.
"Well, I want one that's really special and unique and that no-one else will have."
In that case, I do happen to have some older and hard-to-find Spidey books in the display over here.
The scene: a customer has just bought a small stack of comic books, and individual bags for each. There is a small line of people waiting to be wrung up behind said customer. The credit-card machine has been acting-up, which means many transactions are taking longer than they should. This is what I hear from my customer:
"Can you put the comic books in the bags for me. I don't know how."
And that, ladies and gentlemen and others, is why I'm glad Mike gets to deal with post-Christmas shoppers...
Another one of Huey, Dewie and Louie's many attempts to "help" their Uncle Donald...what is it about cartoon nephews and murderous intentions towards their uncles...what weird kind of Freudian issues were being played out at Dell?
Mike: "You want to know what my problem with the concept behind these Ultimate and All-Star lines is?"
Dorian: No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me anyway.
Mike: "By saying that they're putting their best writers and best artists on their best characters, they're basically saying that all the writers and artists who have worked on those characters for the past twenty or so years aren't the best. It's a big 'eff you' to those people. It's telling the fans of Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, 'Sorry we made you read crappy comics for twenty years, here are some good ones for a change!'"
Dorian: Well, in the specific examples of Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, that's probably a fair assessment of most of the last twenty years worth of comics...
Miracle of miracles, we finally got some stuff from Oni in...too bad all our big ticket, got-here-just-in-time-for-Christmas items were all no-shows...
I decided not to get Punisher: Red X-Mas because after going through our preview copy I decided that the whole thing reads like the abridged version of a much longer comic. Which is a shame, because Palmiotti and Gray have been doing a lot of good stuff lately...at DC...
I also flipped through the preview for next week's Legion of Superheroes, which I believe is the 200th relaunch of the title. I can't decide if the reappraisal of the nature of Colossal Boy's powers is really clever or the kind of wink-to-the-fans that only hurts a title like the Legion.
Another true-tale of Christmas shoppers:
"Do you have any used cassettes?"
No, we don't really carry any albums.
"Oh. Well, do you have any used AC/DC albums on cassette?"
I also got a call today which went something like this: "I'm looking for a comic book, but I don't remember the name of the comic, or the issue number, or who published it, or what it looked like, but I know that the cover was redrawn and used on a punk album. Do you have it?"
God help me, I actually knew this one...we even had the comic it was based on in stock at one point, but I still can't for the life of me remember what it was.
I find myself listening to the Hair soundtrack quite a bit lately (the film, not the play, though I do own that as well). I don't know why I would find a musical about the pointlessness of sending young men off to die in an unnecessary war at all topical...
One gets DC to the masses by putting these books in manga format and making them available in every cinema, record store and bookshop. That's not my job, however. All I can do is make the stories as good as I can. All Frank can do is draw as well as he can. If we still can't sell well-written, well-drawn books at a time when everybody in the world is watching superhero movies and eating superhero cereals, it's because the pricing, format, promotion and availability of comic books is preventing us from cracking the glass ceiling.
don't think we need to 'make' Superman relevant. We just have to tell stories which resonate with human experience. The best Superman stories are fables about love, pride, shame, fear, death, friendship etc. We can all relate to those big issues. Superman stories should represent huge, basic human dramas and human emotions, played out on a larger than life canvas.
Which, inevitably, has lead to the usual fan-boy bitching about how All-Star is "a stupid name for a comic book"...to which I of course respond: "It's no stupider than slapping the word Ultimate in front of every available noun, and didn't seem to bother comics buyers over the period of several decades when comics sold to people other than man-children..."
Speaking of gay comics creators, I finally managed to find the home-page for German comics creator Ralf Konig. His work isn't work safe, but he is one of the best, and funniest, gay cartoonists out there. Think Tom of Finland crossed with Asterix. Very little of his work has been made available in English, so I've had to make do with figuring out the gist of the jokes by getting my German speaking friends to translate for me. But with any luck some brave publisher will see this and decide what the world really needs are English language versions of Jago, Lysistrata, Like Bunnies and especially Konrad and Paul...
(What I expect will be a regular series this week, along with the "Bah, Humbug" pictures...)
"So, do you have any Sailor Moon graphic novels?"
Sure, they're right over here.
"Okay, now, do you know anything about these?"
A little. Why, what's your question?
"Well, when they say 'graphic novel,' how graphic are they?"
Uhm...graphic also means picture, and that's the context it's being used in for this product.
"Oh, I didn't know that. Do you get that question a lot?"
You have no idea...
"Hi, I'm looking for a gift for my nephew, and I wonder if you could recommend something for me?"
Sure. What is he into?
"Well, he's 13 years old, and he really likes these Japanese comic books and cartoons."
"Now, I don't want to get him something he's too old for, and I don't want to get him anything 'girly.'"
(Wondering if girly is being used as code for will turn him gay or not, but what I say is:) Ok.
"But, his mother is really opposed to anything with any kind of sex or violence in it, and she regularly checks his room so it's just better if I don't get him anything that's going to get him in trouble."
All right, here's what I understand; you want a Japanese comic or cartoon for a 13 year old boy that is neither too juvenile nor too feminine, and that won't upset his mother, who is opposed to sex and violence or any connotations thereof. Is that about the gist of it?
"Yes, exactly! What would you recommend?"
Well, if it were my nephew, I'd get him a good lock for his bed-room door and a subscription to either Playboy or Advocate Men, depending on what I suspected his orientation is going to turn out to be...but you might want to look on this shelf here instead.
Coming Soon: My "Bah, Humbug" week. I decided that even though almost all the pictures I planned on using ended up getting used byothersites as part or their Christmas fun, I'm going to post them anyway. Partly because I'm a big jerk and I want to make you all look at the same pictures twice. And partly because I've got some pics you haven't seen at those sites yet...
Johanna of Cognitive Dissonance is having a contest in support of Andy Runyon's charming little graphic novel Owly. I've seen the book, and if you're at all curious you should go enter.
Sites That Have Come To My Attention Lately, And That I Enjoyed
CulturePulp--film reviews and non-fiction comics, with a nice amount of wit to them.
The Rude Pundit--exactly what it sounds like, political commentary that doesn't feel the need to be "nice."
Innocent Bystander--Gary Sassaman of the comic of the same name and Geeksville has a blog
Trusty Sidekicks--a very visually appealing site, and another gay comics blog, with a healthy appreciation for Emma Frost
So, I guess new comics came in yesterday. Boy, I can't wait to have the ending of Identity Crisis spoiled for me...
I actually broke down and bought a toy. The Adam Strange one almost got me...the "First Appearances" Captain Marvel almost got me...but what finally did get me was a "Micronauts"-style Catwoman figure, because I'm not going to pass up something that's neat-looking, highly poseable and inexpensive.
Now if only I could justify to myself the cost of the Batman/Batgirl two-pack from the same line...
As Mike already mentioned, this week's Diamond error was to send us two big-ass Galactus statues. We apparently can't get any Oni books in, but two huge statues we neither ordered nor want will show up for no reason...thanks, Diamond!
Okay, these Little Lulu books that Dark Horse just put out...I can't be the only person who's a little confused by the way they're being marketed. From the format, an inexpensive black-and-white softcover, about manga-sized, you'd almost suspect that Dark Horse is aiming this at the kid market that has driven demand for the "manga-style" trade. But the design of the book (not to mention the stories) just screams out "old fashioned," and is mostly going to appeal to older comics fans. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm glad this material is in print, and I'll be shelving these reprints with the kid's comics when it comes time to take them off the "new releases" shelves. But if Dark Horse is aiming these at kids, I can't help but think that a more kid-enticing design could have been found. And if it's being aimed at adults an "Archives-style" book may have been a better choice.
I got my first "What would you recommend for someone that you don't know, don't know anything about and I refuse to give you any hints as to things they might like, as a Christmas present?" query of the season. If I get many more of these, I'm going to start recommending Galactus statues...
In Which I Once Again Marvel At The Eagerness People Display To Find Something To Be Offended By
"Don't take life so seriously, son. It ain't no how permanent." --Walt Kelly
So, it seems that there's a new blog out there that has managed to tick off a bunch of people. Not to mention the people who are ticked off that people are ticked off by the site. Which means, of course, that there are people out there that are ticked off that people are ticked off because people are ticked off.
Now, I saw the site shortly before everyone started talking about it, and I wasn't very impressed with what I saw. The site in question is essentially rating comics based on whether or not the site's author found the content "depraved" or "inappropriate for children." In other words, it's saying the same thing we've all heard hundreds of times already, usually much more cogently. Heck, I've been known to weigh in on the topic from time to time, usually coming down on the side that Marvel and DC are inconsistent in regards to the marketing, tone and content of their books, and that makes my job as a retailer more difficult than it needs to be. There should not be such a thing as a mature readers Spider-Man title, for example. But I found the tone of this site to be over-sensitive, almost to the point of self-parody.
It's also worth noting that one of the sticking points with this site's author is the absence or presence of labels. I don't like labels. I don't think it should be my responsibility as a retailer, or the publisher's responsibility, or the responsibility of anyone other than a parent to decide what is and is not appropriate for that parent's children. Mostly, however, I don't trust the judgment of people who want labels to consistently and rationally decide what does and does not merit a label. To use one of my personal pet peeves as an example, I've noticed that material containing positive portrayals of gay men and lesbians tends to be labeled as "mature" regardless of whether or not it contains any adult language, sexual situations, violence or nudity. But material that contains negative images of gay people or contains lots of "jokes" at the expense of gay people does not get rated as "mature" when it also has no swearing, sex or violence. And the same is true of other cultural hot-button issues such as abortion and birth control.
The other thing about labels that bothers me is the notion which goes hand-in-hand with them, that our culture must be sanitized so as not to offend people. Particularly that no material that is "bad" for children reach their sensitive little eyes or ears. Or brains. Because the last thing in the world we would want to do is expose people to material that might actually cause them to think for a minute.
All I have to say in reference to the unmasking of the Red Hood in Batman #638 is that it almost certainly isn't going to be who everyone seems to think it's going to be. They just aren't that clever over at DC.
The rest of the Batman solicitations look to be pretty much business as usual, with all the real surprises being in the trade paperback section. A Tales of the Demon soft-cover, clearly designed to cash in on the hoped-for interest in the character they just killed off. $19.99 is a promising price-point for the Batman: Year One hardcover, and the first volume of Batman Chronicles should keep all the people who complain about the price point of the Archive editions quiet for a little while. I'd like to be excited about the Batman Cover to Cover hard-cover, but in all honesty I just find Batman's covers kind of dull in comparison to most of the rest of DC's output.
I finally gave up on Action and Adventures of Superman, so apart from Superman/Batman, which is one of Pete's books, it doesn't look like I'll be reading any Superman titles in March. I've already decided to wait for the trade on Scott McCloud's Superman: Strength mini, and I won't be picking up the Lex Luthor series because I've yet to see what the big deal about Brian Azzarello is.
Blood Of The Demon would be a sure bet, except of course for John Byrne's involvement, which means it'll probably be unreadable, despite Will Pfeifer's best efforts to make it work.
I'll be getting DC Countdown, because despite my earlier comments, I'm a shameless fanboy when it comes to DC "event" books...I just like the idea of seeing all the heroes together and doing stuff and I always have. I'm not proud of it, but there you go.
More of the usual "who needs this" statues and action figures. But, oh look, the Black Mask action figure comes with little power tools! Maybe in the next set from DC Direct, "Sucks To Be A Supporting Character," they'll include a Spoiler figure and you can use the two figures to re-enact scenes from War Games...
Let's see...nope, no She-Hulk, which means there isn't a single Marvel Comic that I'll be buying in March.
That just leaves the various and sundry Ultimate titles that Pete gets...and oh look, noted right-wing homophobe Orson Scott Card is writing Ultimate Iron Man! And it has a foil cover! And a variant cover!
Looks like there's an Ultimate title Pete and I won't be getting.
--Any week in which I can look forward to a new issue of Deep Fried and a new volume of Tuxedo Gin is a good week. The Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill lunchbox is just an added bonus.
--My mood was so good, when I heard a customer say, in reference to a Jim Aparo drawing of Batman, in his post-"I must make everything look like Neal Adams drew it" phase, "It's okay, I guess, but it's not as good as the Jim Lee version" I didn't throw him out, despite the fact that he'd blasphemed in my presence.
DC Editorial: "If only there was a way to get all the fan-boys talking about our upcoming projects without actually giving them any details about our upcoming projects...If only we had some kind of image that we could 'leak' to the comics 'press' that would encourage comics fans to spend lots and lots of time in analyzing it, despite the fact that it's clearly designed not to give away any identifying details..."
Something That Sort Of Bugs Me, But Not That Much Really
The currently fashionable hating on "celebrity" comic authors. Let's get one thing straight, right off. None of the people who have worked in film or as novelists before writing comics for DC or Marvel ever really qualified as a "celebrity." Okay, maybe Kevin Smith and his small and ever-shrinking cult audience, but that's about it. Maybe if you stretch the definition of "celebrity" even further you could include J. Michael Straczynski and his even smaller and even more rapidly shrinking cult audience. But, come on, you don't really think that DC thought that having Anderson Gabyrich write some Batman books would bring thousands of fans of independent gay cinema to start reading Batman titles, did you? No, he had a pitch, they liked it, now he writes comic books. (Now, maybe if they got Zak Spears to write some DC comics we'd see a big bump in sales...) Heck, the closest thing to an actual "celebrity" writing comics is Judd Winick and his fifteen minutes were up long before he became a name in comics. It was Barry Ween that got him gigs at DC, not The Real World.
No, as usual what this is really all about is marketing. DC is hoping that if they remind you that Christos N. Gage wrote for Law and Order: Special Victims Unit you'll say to yourself, "Hey, I generally like the tone and writing on that show, maybe I'll give this Deadshot comic a shot." Likewise, Marvel is hoping that by drawing a connection between Young Avengers writer Allan Heinberg and the shows Party of Five and The O.C. (a show which already gets coverage in the nerd-press for it's occasional mention of comic books) you will say, "Hey, I like shows about teen angst. Maybe there will be angst in this teen comic" and feel strangely compelled to buy it. Granted, I'm not sure how pointing out that Reginald Hudlin is responsible for the hip-hop House Party comedies is a selling point for a gritty super-hero drama like Black Panther, but then this is Marvel and I've learned not to expect logic in any of their business decisions.
Sort of tangentially related is this concern that getting people from outside comics to write them is somehow an attempt to "legitimize" comics, as if such a thing were ever possible. I've noticed this complaint lobbed at Brad Meltzer, on the grounds that DC is trying to "elevate" the comics he's written beyond criticism by noting that as a novelist he's a best-seller. Whereas I'm reasonably certain that Meltzer is actually taking a pay-cut to write comics. Again, it's a marketing decision. "This fellow writes decently competent thrillers about lawyers. Maybe he'll write a decent mystery involving super-heroes as well."
The other thing that strikes me about this currently fashionable hate is, it's new. I don't remember people being up in arms over that fact that Geoff Johns and David Goyer and Jeph Loeb worked in film before getting comics gigs. Did they start writing comics before it became ok to complain about people from outside media, or are comics fans simply unaware of their previous jobs. Likewise, I don't remember a lot of indignation about attempts to "legitimize" comics by getting Greg Rucka or Joe R. Lansdale to write a few. I guess their work isn't "legitimate" enough to offend comic fans in the first place.
Just to reassure you that not every day in Mr. District Attorney's office involved thrill-a-minute activities like fly-watching, some days were really dull and mundane...like trying to catch invisible men that walk on air.
I've now added Infinity Weblog to my side-bar, another Ventura-area comics blog. Soon all bloggers will be required to live in Ventura County! I also added Fortress of Blogitude, which is another one of those sites that makes me say to myself: "Why haven't I been reading this?"
Monday's Inventory Observations
We sold out of the New Avengers variant cover. This makes me sad.
We've also sold out of the first two issues of The Intimates, and this makes me feel a little bit better. Although I've decided the book is not for me (my tolerance for teen angst is very low), I'm glad that the book's non-traditional narrative style seems to be finding an audience. It's worth noting that a good number of the people picking it up are not usually buyers of super-hero comics.
Ex Machina has taken a bit of a drop in sales. I'm not terribly worried, but I kind of get the impression that people thought this was a mini-series, and so the book's audience may not be looking for a new issue.
That new Warblade book is doing steady and respectable sales. Several of the people picking it up have commented that they're glad to see Wildstorm going back to more "traditional" super-hero comics instead of "that weird stuff" they've been publishing lately.
I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that there are people out there who would describe a book drawn by Simon Bisley as "not weird."
Random Retail Complaint
Why am I not surprised that, invariably, the people who make the biggest mess of a display or the shelves or the back issues spend the least amount of money?
New Comics Goodness
That X-Men/Fantastic Four logo couldn't be any less clear if they'd tried. It's just a huge X4 in the corner. I'm sure someone's going to come in and ask for parts 1-3.
The second wave of Hush action figures came in. Now, instead of getting asked several times a day when the series 2 figures are coming in, I have "When are the series 3 figures coming in?" to look forward to.
(And looking at the Catwoman and Harley Quinn figures in 3D really draws Jim Lee's mastery of human anatomy into question.)
The LA Diamond warehouse shenanigans continue. Apparently Diamond's Memphis warehouse was the only one to receive any copies of the ONI graphic novel Awakenings, which I've been looking forward to. Word from our Diamond rep is that we probably shouldn't expect to see it. Whatever problem with shipping that's occurred appears to have been fatal.
Also according to our Diamond rep, the fact that we weren't shorted any of our Marvel or DC books these last two weeks (except for that issue of Losers, which showed today) was itself an error. See, usually when we don't get a book, it's an error. Now the warehouse situations are so thoroughly fouled that it's a mistake when we do get our books.
We should probably look into getting a new distributor. Oh, wait...
Quote Of The Day
Pal Corey: "If I wanted to read Space Ghost, I'd read Adam Strange."
Question Of The Day
Where do Canadian comic-book fans say their girl-friends live?
And if reading a comic about waiting to see which lump of sugar a fly happens to land on in it's random flight around the room isn't enough action and excitement for you, in the back-up story Mr. District Attorney's secretary has to get four cups of coffee to the conference room while they're still warm!
City of Heroes #7: The amusing "super-heroes" on jury duty story-line comes to it's conclusion. As usual, if you're a fan of the game there's probably something here that will amuse you (I was particularly taken with the fact that when one of the character's is "catching his breath" he assumes the same pose as your character does when you "Rest"), if not it's really a fairly typical and generic super hero comic, with at least a fleshed out back-story for it's setting.
Superman/Batman #15: Hey, it's a comic that you have to have read decades worth of DC comics to understand, only without the charm of JSA!
Exiles #55: Hey, it's a comic that you have to have read decades worth of Marvel comics to understand, only with a certain amount of wit and charm.
Monolith #10: I'm going to miss this book. The art is gorgeous, and despite some dialogue clunkers this issue, it's generally been a well written book.
Hard Time #11: And I'm hoping that this book isn't on "hiatus" for very long. It's probably been my favorite of the surprising number of good, new comics that DC has launched this year.
Fallen Angel #18: Well, it's an ending to a lot of the story threads that have been running through the book so far. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, other than to recognize that it's an interesting and compelling story.
Deadshot #1: Bad fun. Seriously, it's a story we've all seen before, in hundreds of action movies. Hard man cleans up bad neighborhood for the family he didn't know he had. But it's nice to see the DCU villains cutting loose every once in awhile. It doesn't quite rise to the level of Ennis' Punisher when it was good, and Manhunter is probably a better exploration of the urban vigilante motif, but it's naughtily entertaining.
The Question #2: I'm really digging this. I may be the only one, but I loved the Question's interrogation of Metropolis as a counterpoint to Luthor's misleading and self-aggrandizing plans for urban redevelopment.
Detective #801: The War Games story had the side-effect of making me want to read more Batman comics. This is really an excellent story, emphasizing the bleakness of Gotham and the seeming impossibility of Batman's self-appointed task.
Y: The Last Man #29: Vaughn certainly has a knack for cliff-hangers, doesn't he? More threads come together and answers seem to be forthcoming, just as new complications seem set to emerge. This really is a terrific example of how to write serial fiction and keep the audience coming back.
It's been too long since I did one of my completely unfair assessments of an upcoming film based on nothing except the trailer. And with the winter movie season coming up, that strange time of year in which all the smarmy, self-important "family" films come out, as well as the usual "this concept will make us lots of money" big-event movies and the "please, give us an Oscar" dramas, it seems like a good time to see what will soon be playing at my local multiplex. If you remember, the way I used to catergorize the films was "Pay Full Price," "Pay Matinee Price," and "See It On Cable." Well, it's probably more fair to just lump all films that I'd be willing to see in a theater together into one category, and mark out those more marginal films that I used to "settle" on matinee viewings as the films I'm willing to at least add to my Netflix queue when they appear on video in the hopes that maybe they're not completely awful. As usual, if I say that I'm "waiting for cable" on a film, add silently the addendum "...if I'm sick and bored and have absolutely nothing else to do that might be marginally more interesting, such as watching paint dry."
See It In The Theater Darkness: I've seen trailers for this before, and it looks like another in this series of horror films emphasizing mood and atmosphere over shock and gore, and I tend to appreciate that style. I'm hoping this will be a good, creepy haunted house flick to take my mind off of the unrelenting holiday cheer around me.
House of Flying Daggers: It certainly looks very pretty. I wish I knew a little more about the plot, especially considering that I'm usually bothered by the political subtext of Yimou's films. It's also worth noting that martial arts films are being increasingly marketed to the art film crowd, and this is yet another example of that.
p.s.: Aw, man...I love Laura Linney, and every once in awhile, not often mind you but every once in awhile, I get drawn into sappy little romances. This looks like the kind I could easily get drawn into.
The Ring Two: The original (both American and Japanese versions) is one of my favorite horror films, and this is one of the most effective trailers I've ever seen. I'm definitely going to be seeing this one.
I'm Not Scared: I'm a sucker for Euro-thrillers. Even when they're not very good when you remove the European elements (Crimson Rivers anyone?) I'm still interested in them.
Bad Education: It's Pedro Almadovar making an action movie with drag queens. Of course I'm going to go see this, and I'll probably end up loving it.
Constantine: No, it probably won't be any good. And while I do have to say that making Constantine an American, and setting the film in LA, displays a complete misunderstanding of the source material on the part of the film-makers. But the reason it won't be any good won't have anything to do with the fact that it deviates from the source material. So, why am I going to go see it? I've already been told I have to go, for the sake of keeping loved one's happy.
Dark Water: I'm shamelessly a Jennifer Connelly fan, and this looks like a very well done and atmospheric scary movie.
Bewitched: It's Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell...it may be a completely unnecessary remake of an old sitcom, but some strange part of me is looking forward to this.
Batman Begins: Of course I'm going to go see it...it may be the first good Batman movie to be made since, well, ever.
Add It To The NetFlix Queue The Last Shot: It has an appealing cast of actors I generally like, but I've never been much of a fan of the "mob comedy" so I'm not holding out much hope for this to be anything other than an amusing diversion. (On a related note, I'm also very tired of movies about making movies...it's narcisstic to say the least.)
The Merchant of Venice: Well, I have to give them credit for at least trying to film this. It's never been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and the plot hinges heavily on improbably coincidences and the Clark Kent school of disguise. I'm sure we're going to hear quite a bit about how this film is going to stir up anti-Semitism, regardless of the fact that the kinds of people who are going to think that Shylock is an accurate portrayal of Jews aren't likely to go see a film based on a Shakespearean play in the first place.
The Woodsman: If this is about what I think it's about, it was probably a smart move to not talk about what it's about in the trailer. Could be very good, could be tedious and self-important.
Boogeyman: It looks like it wants to be The Ring, but something tells me it's going to be closer to Darkness Falls.
Ocean's 12: I can never sit through the first one, and I don't quite grasp Brad Pitt's appeal, but Soderbergh is rarely disappointing (well, except for Ocean's 11...)
Hide and Seek: Okay, so I like haunted house movies, and I like horror films that emphasize mood over gore. However, I've also learned that those types of horror films are best when they're not done with big name stars or producers gumming up the works. So this could be very good, or it could be very bad, and I'm not sure I want to pay good money to watch a bad film.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: I'm apparently the only person who doesn't see what the big deal about Wes Anderson (or Owen Wilson) is, but Bill Murray goes a long way with me, and I'm behind any movie about killing a shark out of revenge.
White Noise: I love the hard sell on this film that it's really possible to record the voices of the dead. It's actually a remarkably strong concept to hang a horror film on. Depending on how reviews for this go, this may actually get upgraded to the "See It In The Theater" category.
Mr. And Mrs. Smith: I still fail to see the appeal of either of the leads, and the premise seems very...familiar for some reason. I'm almost positive I'm going to end up getting taken to see it regardless.
Wait For Cable Flight of the Phoenix: Now with a multi-racial cast and Arab villains! So it's politically correct regardless of your politics! Pass.
Cars: And the Pixar streak of making films people actually likes comes to a thundering conclusion.
Elektra: Oh, good, two hours of "Tee-hee! I'm an assassin!"
The Final Cut: An intriguing premise that appears to have been totally wasted on a generic thriller/conspiracy plot.
Son of the Mask: My browser crashed three times trying to download this trailer. Clearly, it was trying to protect me from the horror that is this film. I think a little piece of my soul died upon seeing this.
Meet the Fockers: I think Meet the Parents had all of a joke in it, so I think this film heartily qualifies for a "Hell, no, I'm not going to go see that garbage!"
Madagascar: Okay, here's my beef with this current vogue for CGI animation: there is nothing about this film that dictated the need to do it in CGI, in fact it probably would have benefited from more traditional animation. It would look less jerky and, well, polygonal. I really can't wait for enough CGI films to bomb that studios start looking at traditional animation techniques again. (That being said, if this film were only about the penguins, I'd probably go see it.)
Sideways: Did we really need another movie about heterosexual men having mid-life angst? (Not that the films about gay men having midlife angst are much better, mind you...)
In Good Company: Oh great, more heterosexual men having mid-life angst! You don't suppose screen-writers and producers are having any aging fears this year, do you?
Fat Albert: Why do I doubt that the target audience for this film has ever even heard of Fat Albert?
A Sound Of Thunder: Speaking of misunderstanding the source material, wasn't the point of the original story that the changes to history were subtle, and undetectable by anyone other than the time travelers? I don't remember a city being besieged by giant monsters in the original story.
Given Marvel's fondness for the "big shock and surprise" method of storytelling lately, what do you want to be that the reason that Captain America Jr. there is in a shapeless costume that covers every inch of skin and reveals no facial features is because they're planning on doing a big "shocking and surprising" revelation regarding the character, i.e. "He's really a woman!" or "He's not Caucasian!" or something else painfully predictable like that?
(I hope he's really Alex Powers under there, personally...and that he's a horse again...)
Speaking of being asked odd/inappropriate questions in a comic book store...
A man came in this morning and asked me where the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated was.
I replied that we don't actually carry that magazine.
"What!" he angrily replied, "I've been to five stores this morning, and no one had it! It's a very popular magazine!"
Which got me to wondering: What were the other five stores he asked at? A hardware store? A pool supplies store? That store down the block from us that someone makes a living selling nothing but dart boards, darts, and fletches for darts?
It's true, comic book store employees are the wisest of all people. We see all and know all, there is no tiny speck of information that is unknown to us. At least judging by some of the questions I've been asked lately we are.
Now, I can sort of understand questions that are tangentially related to comics. "Who's the killer in Identity Crisis?" or "Who's the mystery villain in New Avengers?" are at least based on the supposistion that I, in my posistion as comics clerk, may have access to information that is not available to the general comics buying public. (And tangentially, if the answer to that second question isn't Loki a lot of Avengers fans are going to be angry.)
I can even, almost, sort of understand questions about the inner workings of the comics industry in general, for much that same reason. "What's Stan Lee's secret Hollywood project going to be about?" (I don't know, it's a secret.) or "When is Disney going to start publishing the Crossgen comics again?" (When everyone who remembers the Disney Comics brand, and how successful it was, no longer works for Disney.) I could maybe, kind of, sort of know the answer to if big corporations actually, you know, cared about the tiny American comics market and what it thought about their projects.
No, it's the questions that are utterly unrelated to anything even remotely comics related that get me:
"Where would I find a copy of The Silmarillion?"
"What years was the The Brady Bunch on the air." -- Mike's favorite question "Do you repair slot machines?"
"Is my hard-drive ready?"
"Where am I?" -- I get that one on the phone far too often
"Is it true that all banks are required by law to have a notary on the premises?"
"When will I be loved?"
The saddest assortment of JLA action figures came into the store yesterday: a dead teenager, a widower, and the guy who apparently made that last guy into a widower. I found myself strongly tempted by the Adam Strange figure, however, due mostly to Grant Morrison's and Andy Diggle's recent treatments of the character. I must remember to buy that Archive edition when I have the money.
It was Avengers Relaunch week! You had your choice of non-continuity based Avengers comics, and an Avengers comic featuring characters who recently appeared, or are slated to appear, in movies. And each had a variant cover you could own as well, because everyone loves variant covers, and surely they will save the industry.
Actually, I was starting to get a little annoyed by the panicky phone calls from people who wanted to make sure that we still had the variants for New Avengers and Ultimates 2. Up until now, we've never had any trouble keeping the variants that Marvel puts out in stock, so I was a little surprised that people actually seemed to want these two.
My completely unfair and evil thought: that Art of Greg Horn book better be, uhm, "sturdy." Considering the reasons people feel perfectly comfortable telling us as to why they buy books of that nature (or why they need a replacement copy), it had better be damn "sturdy."
Even at a quarter, people don't seem to want Hunter/Killer. It's not a good sign when I've never heard of your comic and you're distributed through Diamond.
The Diamond LA warehouse seems to be having "issues" with their pickers again. This week and last week we were shorted about half of the graphic novels and trade paperbacks we were supposed to receive. A lot of books that I know are out right now still haven't shown up at the LA warehouse yet. And the issue of Losers that we were supposed to get last week, and receive replacement copies for this week, has apparently been lost in transit. Of course, it could be worse...from what I've been led to understand, a lot of stores serviced by the LA warehouse didn't get their Marvel and DC comics this week...
Oh, and I finally got around to adding a couple of sites I really should have added a while ago:
Websnark: for all your on-line comics commentary needs.
Viper Comics Raw Feed, which is also doing a Christmas comics advent calendar of sorts
TangognaT, for nice articles on manga and libraries.