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Sunday, July 31, 2005
It seems like there were a bunch of horror themed Archie covers at around this time. I know Life with Archie and Little Archie got in on the action as well during this period.
Which suggests to me that horror comics were popular about three-to-five years before these comics came out, knowing how topical Archie's writers and artists have tended to be over the years...
The plots in any given issue of Sorcery were so trite and cliched that they'd make Rod Serling blush. But they almost all had art by Gray Morrow, Frank Thorne, Al Williamson and Howard Chaykin, so they at least looked good.
The Mahouse Glads were a band occasionally featured in the pages of Archie's Mad knock-off, Madhouse. Eventually they took over the magazine entirely and the format switched over to a semi-drama style.
You may have noticed that the sight has been a bit image-heavy lately. There's a very good reason for this. I'm in the process of moving and don't have time to sit at the computer for long stretches, but it's very easy to simply link to an already uploaded image.
For the next week, at least, I won't even have high-speed internet access, so I've prepared ahead of time a week's worth of posts for you all to enjoy: odd Archie covers.
Like many others, I was saddened to hear the news of Jim Aparo's passing. He was absolutely one of my favorite artists, particularly in his interpretation of Batman, which I still largely consider to be definative. So, in honor of that, I thought I'd share some of my favorite issues of The Brave and the Bold.
The issue which guest-starred the creative team of the title:
As a result of some re-arranging of the manga shelves, I've decided to take the plunge and try to arrange the manga by genre. As you follow the shelves down from the top, they go something like this:
Over-size books: books that, because of their size or shape, will only fit on the top shelf. "Mature" titles: these are actually the more, for lack of a better term, "male" orientated mature readers titles. The ones I wanted to make sure were out of kiddies hands. Historical drama: this is where all the samurai and ninja comics go. I tried, at first, to keep them strictly historical, but I had to lett a few of the more fantasy-based titles creep in there for space reasons. "Shonen": not strictly speaking comics for young boys, but the more male-orientated action and adventure comics. Shojo: this category was fairly easy to put together and is more or less accurately described. Josei/Yaoi/Shonen-ai: the more "mature" titles aimed at a female readership. Normally I'd have wanted to keep them on a higher shelf, but they'll almost certainly sell better if I keep them close to related titles. Desire for example will probably sell better if it's only a shelf away from another romance comic than it will if it's on the same shelf as something like Battle Royale. As much as it might amuse me to put it on the same shelf as Battle Royale to see people's head's explode when they stumble upon a gay romance comic while they're looking for their school-girls getting killed manga.
And, as I've mentioned before, the actual kid-orientated titles are already on our kid's comics rack, and have been for some time now.
There were a few times I had to bend the classifications a little, just for the sake of putting a title somewhere where I know it'll sell. Chobits and Maison Ikkoku for example, are not shojo comics, but they sell almost exclusively to our female customers, so they feel like a better fit for the shojo section. Likewise almost every horror-themed manga title I came across on our shelves felt like a shojo title, whether that was the author's intent or not.
It's also worth noting that in many cases, when I couldn't decide what category a particular title best fit in, the decided factor was the size of the female character's breasts. The bigger they were, the more likely the title was to end up in the "shonen" section.
A few trade paperbacks that DC hasn't released yet, and I don't understand why not:
Justice League of America #s 166, 167, and 168: This is the story in which the Secret Society of Super-Villains do a mind-swap with the JLA and learn their secret identities. Considering just how many comics DC has published within the last year which reference this story in some way, it's really very puzzling that DC hasn't released it in some format.
Wonder Woman in the [Decade]: They've got these books for Batman and Superman, and Wonder Woman has a long enough publishing history that it's possible to put these out. Granted, a lot of those sixty years worth of Wonder Woman comics are absolutely terrible, but they're really no worse, on the whole, than the Batman or Superman comics that DC has reprinted. Plus, Wonder Woman is one of those few comic characters that non-comics fans will actively seek out merchandise for.
Amethyst: a young girl travels to another dimension, is transformed into a teenager, can do magic, discovers that she's the prophesied savior of the kingdom, and has a bunch of cute boys competing for her attention. Put it into a manga-sized trade (including manga-size page count), and I think DC may have that cross-over book they seem to want so badly.
Sugar and Spike: I'm not actually particularly interested, but everyone else seems to be. I think even DC has acknowledged in the past that this is one of their most-requested titles for reprints. So why hasn't it been?
Another category of books missing: gay manga. No, not yaoi. I mean actual manga by and for gay people. The recent yuri titles are a nice start, and I don't honestly expect any US publisher to be brave enough to try to publish Gengorah Tagame's work, but still...it would be nice to read some gay themed manga that aren't about willowy under-age boys for once.
I'd just like to note that releasing huge amounts of manga in one week, like Viz did two weeks ago when they released nearly 30 titles at once, is very bad for our manga sales. The Shojo Beat titles would have done much better if they'd been released at a one-a-week rate. As it is, people who would normally have been buying them have been passing them by because buying all the titles they normally get, plus sampling several new first volumes of on-going series, is too much of a strain on their budgets. If the releases were spread out a little more I have every confidence they would have done better. Manga publishers, please note; you have, on average, four weeks a month in which to spread out your releases. They don't all need to come out the same week.
Dark Horse Hellsing: Impure Souls: It's a manga fumetti, and we just can't sell those. So we'll get one for the guy who gets all things Hellsing, and call it a day.
Berserk Vol. 9: I don't get the appeal of the title, but it's immensely popular.
Oh My Goddess: the first volume in the "traditional" manga format. I think the time for this title has pretty much come and gone, so we'll get a token copy and that's probably it. There are so many other, better drawn and written titles that tread the same "unappealing guy has several beautiful, magical women fall in love with him" theme, that this just looks dated and tame in comparison. Heck, I hate Love Hina, and it's better than this.
Samurai Executioner vol. 8: Samurai drama does nothing for me, and sales keep fluctuating wildly on this book. We'll sell out on one volume and then get stuck with the next. I'm going to cut orders slightly, because I'd rather have to re-order than get stuck with extras.
DC/CMX Chikyu Misaki vol. 1: This tale of a girl who moves next door to a shape-shifting monster looks cute, and it may have potential, but I'm going to go conservative. Again, because I'd rather have to re-order than have extras, but also because the CMX books, after a slight flurry of interest, have died back down again, sales-wise.
Pieces of a Spiral vol. 1: Yeah, we'll go conservative on the tale of reincarnation and demons. The cover art is pretty, but it looks and sounds like too many other titles to give me any confidence in it's long-term prospects.
Devil Does Exist vol. 3, Monster Collection vol. 3: Not really generating much interest from our customers.
Sword of the Dark Ones vol. 3: One of the few CMX titles actually building an audience with our customers.
Seimaden vol.2: One of those titles that, based on what are customers tell me they want, and what they are buying, should be selling better than it is.
ADV Full Metal Panic: Overload vol.2: It's got an audience, so who am I to judge? We'll keep orders at their current level.
Orphen vol. 3: This has been a slow mover, though. Very conservative orders are due, I think.
Broccoli Galaxy Angel vol.5: Fan-service manga sells well for us.
Del Rey Negima vol. 7: Bumping orders up yet again...
Ghost Hunt vol. 1: I've heard good things, and I'm looking forward to it myself, so I'll go with optimistic orders on this shojo romance horror title. How's that for genre blending in manga?
Othello vol. 5: Gets good reviews, but that hasn't translated into sales yet.
Sugar Sugar Rune vol. 1: This story about rival witchs striving to become Queen of the Underworld looks cute, with all ages potential. I'm going to err on the side of conservatism again, because, y'know...rather reorder than...
Alone in My King's Harem: I suspect we'll do okay with this. One of the reasons I think we've been able to do well with yaoi titles is that the chain book-stores, as near as I can tell, aren't carry them. So it'll be interesting to see what happens when Tokyopop's "Blu" line debuts. I expect book-store buyers may balk at the idea a bit, given how strongly manga has become associated with teen readers at bookstores. That may be what finally starts to prompt those "kids are reading dirty Japanese comics" stories that people seem to be anticipating.
Yellow vol. 2: Another well-regarded title that I'm actually looking forward to sampling myself. With it's mix of crime and sexy guys, it should appeal to the same audience that made Fake a hit.
Princess Ninja Scroll Tenka Muso: I don't know quite what to make of this title. It's ninjas vs. samurai, but is it shojo action or fan service shonen? I'll go with conservative orders until I can make sense of it.
Dr Masters Hanidori Girl, Stellvia, and Tori Koro: Fan service, fan service, and yet more fan service.
Rahxephon vol. 2: It's a manga novel. Can't give those damn things away. Even the person who special ordered the Vampire Hunter D novel stiffed us, and that was the one manga novel I expected to sell.
Tsukihimie vol. 2: I actually sort of hear good things about this title, but I don't recall vol. 1 shipping yet, so I'm going to stick with conservative orders for the moment
Last Gasp Pure Trance: I realize that Junko Mizuno is one of those manga artists that the hipsters adore, but word has yet to reach Ventura that all the cool kids are supposed to dig her stuff. I honestly don't know what to do about this book. Mizuno is one of those manga artists whose work I feel like we should have in stock, and previous books of hers have sold...eventually. But $20 seems a bit steep.
Seven Seas Captain Nemo vol. 1: I've actually been disappointed with the bulk of Seven Seas sales, so very conservative orders here. I'd actually rather see an English translation of Captain Harlock than a pastiche.
Unearthly vol. 1: I really think this would probably do better if Ted Naifeh was drawing it himself.
Tokyopop Amazingly, the TP section is mostly in alphabetical order, with a clearly defined division between the featured new items and the rest of the solicitations. A very welcome improvement to the ordering process.
I Luv Halloween: Should appeal to Keith Giffen fans. Though I don't know why Tokyopop seems to feel that pointing out he used to write Legion of Super-Heroes is a selling point for a gross-out horror-comedy.
Devil May Cry 3 vol. 1: I'm constantly getting pestered for any kind of comics tie-in for this video-game property. Of course, that probably means that people will have no interest in this by the time it finally comes out...
Dramacon: This is one of the OEL titles that's getting a lot of positive buzz, but by and large those have been hard sellers for us. Mostly, our customers want "real" manga, not American, Chinese or Korean comics drawn in a "manga-style."
Kingdom Hearts vol. 1: I'm going with optimistic orders on this one, largely because we have a strong contingent of customers who buy any and all things Disney-related. So I hope I can talk them into this. That it doesn't have a "creator" credit listed gives me slight pause, but at the lower page count and price I'm sure I can move them eventually.
Lights Out vol. 1: We actually had...okay sales on Ragnarok, so I expect this series by the same creator to do...okay, at best, as well. What gives me pause is that it's in a significantly different genre, so it may not attract the audience as much.
Steady Beat: Again, an OEL title that's managed to generate some pretty positive, pre-release buzz, so I'm hoping it'll do well.
Justice N Mercy: A $40 art-book is asking too much of our customers. Pass.
Arm of Kannon vol. 7: I've actually been able to sell this by describing it as "the most graphically violent manga I've ever seen."
Chronicles of the Cursed Sword vol. 13: As far as I can tell, we do manage to sell at least one copy of this consistently.
Chrono Code vol. 2: I think I went with conservative orders last time and was happy with those, so we'll continue with that.
DearS vol. 4: See my comments on Chrono Code.
Doll vol. 6: Another one of those titles that very quietly sells a copy consistently.
Dragon Voice vol. 5: This doesn't really seem to be grabbing our customers.
Et Cetera vol. 6: Nor does this.
Hyper Rune vol. 4: It's from a former member of CLAMP, but it somehow manages to exceed even my cuteness tolerance levels.
In Dream World vol. 3: Yet to really make an impression on our customers.
Liling-Po vol. 3: There was some interest in the first issue, but not much to give me confidence in the long-term prospects of this title.
Mahromatic vol. 7: A consistent seller, thanks largely to the high fan-service quotient. Heck, TP is even pushing the frequent nudity in the solicitation.
One vol. 8: Another title yet to make an impression on our customers.
Peach Girl vol. 6: And we'll be passing on the reprints of this book from here on out. We simply have too many of the first printings still floating around to justify giving space to something that's only a marginal seller.
PhD: Phantasy Degree vol. 4, President Dad vol. 4: Just not doing it for our customers.
Planet Blood vol. 3: "Will appeal to fans of Krull" says TP...
Rave Master vol. 17: Actually sells, despite being utterly incomprehensible to almost everyone who has picked it up. Kids seem to dig it.
Remote vol. 7: Notable for being the only fan-service heavy title that doesn't seem to sell.
RG Veda vol. 3: The title that you must really be a CLAMP completist to get into.
Sorcerer Hunters vol. 4: The only re-issue TP book that is selling consistently.
Soul to Seoul: Say it with me--no impression on our customers.
Clamp No Kiseki: Even Borders is marking these down. Pass from here on out. $30 is simply too much.
I do plan on getting the Takuhai bundle, as it's exactly the sort of thing I've been looking for to easily educate our customers on upcoming releases and gauge their interest in them.
Viz Shojo Beat: sales on the first issue are finally in, and a slight lowering of orders are due. Shonen Jump: I'm dropping orders on this a bit more, though, as the monthly format seems to be wearing out it's welcome with our customers. The only issues I'm consistently selling out of are ones with bonus cards or other give-aways, and Viz isn't good at giving advance notice of those. So I'm willing to risk selling out in order to reduce costs a bit.
Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 1 novel: I'm actually going to be bold and order a copy of this for the store. We did finally get people to notice that we had the FMA manga in stock and not only sold through our stock but picked up some subscribers for it, so I'm hoping that the popularity of the franchise will move this off our shelves as well.
I'm not willing to risk the same for the Ghost in the Shell or Socrates in Love novels. I just don't see Viz's novel line having much interest for our customers, and while we do have an audience for Ghost in the Shell merchandise, I think $20 is a bit much to ask them to pay.
Art of Shonen Jump One-Piece Color Walk: Although $15 is a more reasonable price for manga art-books, I just don't feel like it's something that our customers will be interested in. Of course, I'll always be willing to take special orders, but I don't think I want to risk ordering a shelf-copy in the hopes that it'll sell. And it's not just manga art-books we have this problem with, it's all art books. I'd just as soon not order them outside of special requests, as they tend to be too pricey for our customers and they get shelf-worn really quickly from people flipping through them with no intention of buying.
Beet the Vandel Buster, Bleach vol. 9: Very poor sales on these, to be honest.
Dragonball Z vol. 22: I think I have, maybe, one customer still regularly getting these, and the rest of the sales are from kids just buying whatever volume happens to have a cool cover.
Hikaru no Go vol. 5: I've got a very small audience for this comic, which just goes to show, there's some market for just about any comic.
One Piece vol. 8: Given how popular I'm told this series is, I'm vaguely surprised this doesn't sell better.
Rurouni Kenshin vol. 19: I'm cutting sales, as it now appears that our customers have lost interest. I rather suspect I have a customer with this on their pull-list who is putting copies back rather than buy them, but has yet to actually tell us they no longer wish to subscribe to the book. We really don't like it when customers do that. It messes up our orders, since we always use the number of subscription copies needed as a minimum ordering number.
Yu-Gi-Oh Duelist vol. 9: Despite being assured by my game-side co-workers that the property is "dying," I'm having to up orders on the manga volumes.
Yu Yu Hakusho vol. 8: Selling decently, but nothing to get too excited about.
Death Note vol. 1: A title with strong buzz, but you'd never guess that from the solicitation copy, which doesn't give me a clue to what the title is about. Here's the quick and dirty: genius high-school student finds a magical notebook. Anyone whose name he writes in the book, dies. He decides to "improve" the world by killing criminals. Which, of course, brings him into conflict with the police, who are trying to solve the mysterious string of sudden deaths of criminals. It's the sort of thing I think has a lot of potential to be a break-out hit, and probably get lots of concerned parents complaining about it. (Plus, uh, I've seen some scanlations, and it's very twisted with an appealing art style...)
Eyeshield 21 vol. 4: Funny, I had lots of people asking about this series before the first volume shipped. Now it just sits on the shelf.
Bastard vol. 9: It has a small but devoted following.
Beyblade vol. 7: And we're dropping this. It just doesn't move. And really, that probably shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
Flame of Recca vol. 14: Another in the long list of shonen titles that seem to have developed more female readers than male.
Midori's Days vol. 2: I'm always nervous about ordering second volumes before first volumes have shipped. The arched eyebrows the series concept seems to generate in everyone who hears about it doesn't help. I'm going to knock orders down a bit from vol. 1 and re-order if necessary.
Project Arms vol. 10: Again, a small but devoted following on this title.
Tuxedo Gin vol. 14: I think this may be the penultimate volume in one of my favorite series.
Video Girl Ai vol. 13: Still a consistent seller, after all this time.
Zatch Bell vol. 3: Again, I hate ordering volumes before first volumes have shipped. I expect it to do well, but I'm dropping orders a bit just in case the first two volumes are met with indifference.
Maison Ikkoku vol. 13: I really liked this series when it first came out, and I was tempted to pick up this second edition because of the inclusion of chapters skipped the first time around. It sells consistently, but only to a small audience.
Monster vol. 1: Another strong buzz book, with the promise of a twisted premise. Luckily Viz gives slightly better solicitation material for this one, so I'll order fairly confidently on this.
Saikano vol. 6: It's well-reviewed, but we've only been able to cultivate one customer for this title.
Tough vol. 4: Hasn't impressed our customers.
Howl's Moving Castle Picture Book: Another art-book. Pass.
Howl's Moving Castle vol. 3: The Ghibli fumetti books due tend to have okay sales, and I've had customers specifically request this one, so it should do okay.
Angel Sanctuary vol. 10: Very dark and twisted comic with a small audience in our store (including myself).
Banana Fish vol. 10, Basara vol. 14, Boys Over Flowers vol. 14, Hana-Kimi vol. 8, Sensual Phrase vol. 10: More titles with small cult followings.
Fushigi Yugi vol. 16: As much as I love Yu Watase's work, I've had to cut orders a bit. We seem to have encountered a foul-up in our orders here, where they were much higher than they should have been, due to some problems with the subscriber pull-lists, but I've got a better idea of what we should be ordering on this now.
Full Moon vol. 3: I'll go conservative, since the first volume I don't recall making a big impression...did it even ship?
Meru Puri vol. 2: I was going to drop orders, but then we had a subscriber add it to their pull-list. This is before vol. 1 has even shipped. So, I need to keep orders matched to vol. 1, at least until I see shelf sales.
Tokyo Boys and Girls vol. 2: I'll drop orders a bit, now that I've seen shelf sales. I expect it to do well, and I think the problem is that Viz simply released too many new vol. 1s at once.
Socrates in Love vol. 1: It's got a lot of buzz...but I'm starting to smell the over-hype machine at work on this property. Other-media success in Japan hasn't translated into US manga sales success in the past for our store.
Image Fell #1: I sometimes get the impression, based on creator comments and observations from other comic readers, that we must be the only store in the country carrying Warren Ellis comics.
Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit action figures from McFarlane Toys: Ordering blind is really, really annoying. When we don't even have any indication of what the figures are going to look like, our enthusiasm for ordering them at all is significantly diminished.
After Hours Sherman's Room: Chris Elipoulos does another all ages title. It should be charming.
AIT/Planet Lar Smoke & Guns: Cigarette girl gang war. Perfect high concept.
Colonia vol.2: At long last. This is a great comic, and I'm glad to see the second volume make its appearance.
Alias I almost feel like I'm picking on them at this point, but 8 pages of solicitations for 15 titles seems a bit much. Especially when the vast majority of the titles can be charitably described, at least in our experience, as shelf-warmers.
Avatar For every 303 or Scars, there are about a dozen Belladonnas, Lady Deaths or Thresholds, each with about a dozen covers a piece. And that's not even getting into the over-kill on licensed properties like the New Line horror comics or Stargate comics.
Bongo Horror greats contribute art and story to the latest volume of Treehouse of Horror. Should be good.
Dynamite Why do I get the feeling that the Red Sonja book only exists to generate cheese-cake variant covers?
Devil's Due I like how Brian Pulido apparently felt the need to publicly distance himself from the Chaos! comics DDP is publishing at one of the Comic-Con panels. As if the DDP product is going to fail to live up to the high standards he set while working on the title...
Dynamic Forces Solar, Man of the Atom statue: If you buy this, you have too much money.
Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths HC-Signed: for only $500. If you buy this, you have far too much money.
Ibooks Lots and lots of resolicited material. It's frustrating that the third volume of Blacksad is just sketchbook material, but I'll be getting it anyway.
The real surprise here is Ultimate Casper. I honestly never expected to see any of the Harvey characters in comic book format ever again. My gut instinct, though, is that the people who ask us for Harvey comics will not be willing to pay $15 for a trade edition.
Illusive Arts Dorothy vol. 1: It's good, you should be buying it, and if you passed on the individual issues, here's your chance to check it out in a compiled edition.
Top Shelf I just moved our existing Owly volumes into a more prominent display, so I have high hopes for volume 3 sales.
Video I said it was yaoi month, didn't I? As far as I can tell, Sensitive Pornograph adapts several yaoi comics into anime form.
Batman: Gotham County Line by Steve Niles and Scott Hampton. I've enjoyed some of Hampton's work in the past, but Niles, despite my best efforts to get into his work, just leaves me cold. And it's a shame too, as I rather like the idea of forcing Batman to leave the safe confines of the city and investigate weird crimes in the suburbs (where all the really scary and creepy stuff is anyway).
I like how the solicitation text for All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder tells you absolutely nothing about the contents of the issue.
Infinite Crisis begins...and so will begin seven long months of people taking comic books too damn seriously and hysterically over-reacting to everything that happens to fictional characters. Now, it's not that I think Jim Lee is a bad artist, he's certainly competent as a draftsman. There's just nothing about the way he draws humans that appeals to me. So I'll be getting the Perez covers.
Bob Harras and Tom Derenick on JLA? Interesting choices, if even for just an interim story-line while Infinite Crisis goes on. The same seems to hold true for Joey Cavalieri on Flash. My guess is: new, regular creative teams for both titles will premiere with the beginning of the "One Year Later" story-line, sometime in February. Of course, Harras can tell entertaining, if occasionally old-fashioned, super-hero yarns, and as a long-time JLA fan I must admit that there is a certain appeal to the idea of a League with Green Arrow, Black Canary and Aquaman as the anchor characters, rather than Supes, Bats and Wondy.
The animated DC U version of the Trenchcoat Brigade puts in an appearance in Jutice League Unlimited. I look forward to trying to explain who these characters are to hyper-sensitive parents: "Okay, that's Zaurial. He's a former guardian angel who came to Earth because he fell in love with his charge, but that didn't work out so he became a super-hero instead. That's the Demon. He's a demon. Then we have the Phantom Stranger, who is another angel, but one who refused to choose a side during Satan's rebellion, so he wanders the Earth as penance since neither side will have him now. Next to him is Doctor Occult, who's sometimes a woman named Rose. Then there's Zatanna, who casts magic spells by speaking backwards...like on heavy metal albums, right. Above her is Doctor Fate, who worships the pagan gods of Egypt. And in the middle is Wonder Woman, another pagan from an all-female society, and apparently she has been possessed by Deadman. His power is that he's dead...hey, where are you going, I thought you wanted to buy your kid a comic!"
You know...nothing really does much for me here...I'll talk about them in my regular manga orders round-up.
Captain Atom: Armageddon: The creative team, Will Pfeifer and Giuseppe Camuncoli, guarantee that this will get at least a look. But...I have to choose between an Alex Ross cover and a Jim Lee cover? That's a bit like asking me if I'd rather be punched in the gut or kicked in the shins.
Brian Azzarello is one of those writers that I feel like I should like, but I just can't get into his work. So I'll probably give a look to the first issue of Loveless at least. It has a very striking cover, and I have enjoyed Marcelo Frusin's work in the past.
Chiaroscuro being released in TPB form has absolutely nothing to do with trying to cash in on The DaVinci Code-fever, I'm sure. And you would have to be a fool and a communist to suggest otherwise...
Is it just me, or is $30 a bit much to pay for what looks to be a comics adaptation of the Fountain film?
Another gorgeous James Jean cover for Fables. The story-line finally catches up to the long-ago promised introduction of characters from Arabian myth. I absolutely adored Sinbad stories, in any medium, as a kid, and my copy of Arabian Nights was read to pieces long before any wear started to show on my Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson books. So, yeah, looking forward to this.
New Identity Crisis action figures: Where did Batman's internal organs go? Just how bad is Flash's roid-rage? I'm sure Elongated Man's action-feature seemed like a good idea at the time...but don't ask me what the hell happened to Black Canary. I thought the usual defense of Michael Turner's art was that at least he draws pretty women... (And where's my Jean Loring with flame-thrower/Sue Dibney two-pack, dammit!)*
* Yes, I'm deliberately rubbing salt in wounds...because I'm a jerk...
Was it wrong of me to expect more interesting news out of the San Diego con than the return of old comics, annoucements of cross-overs, re-announcements of already delayed Vertigo projects and more of Marvel's misleading hype destined to never pay-off? Edit: Okay, actually, everything at the Oni panel sounds good, or at least entertaining.
I wanted to say one more thing about the Darwyn Cooke Spirit series that was announced. I like Darwyn Cooke's art. I think he's a very talented and interesting artist. But when I look at his art, what I see is an homage to the aesthetic of the Eisenhower era. I don't see the kinds of visual inventiveness and playfulness that I associate with Eisner's Spirit. So, while I will probably end up buying the comic, I don't expect it to be more than a faithful recreation of the surface aspects of Eisner's work (much like everything John Byrne has done to Kirby's work over the last two decades). The best tribute and recreation of the Spirit, to my mind, was the superlative Greyshirt series by Rick Veitch. After that, I find it kind of hard to see what more can be said about the Spirit-type character.
In this entertaining and informative book, Jason Colavito traces the origins of the belief in ancient extraterrestrial visitors to the work of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). This amazing tale takes the reader through fifty years of pop culture and pseudosciencee highlighting such influential figures and developments as Erich von DÃniken (Chariots of the Gods), Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods), Zecharia Sitchin (Twelfth Planet), and the Raelian Revolution(The folks behind the inexplicably praised cult-recruitment film What the Bleep Do We Know--Dorian). The astounding and improbable connections among these various characters are revealed, along with the disturbing consequences of Lovecraft's "little joke" for modern science and public knowledge.
A Lovecraft scholar examining how people who can't tell the difference between fiction and reality have misunderstood his work. Brilliant!
It also puts me in mind of many of the books attempting to "counter" the "information" in The DaVinci Code. People working themselves into a lather because a fictional novel may not be, strictly speaking, "true" is great entertainment. Although in Colavito's case he's actually attacking the pseduo-science, rather than the fiction. Which is even better, to my mind.
Issue Five of City of Heroes, "The Forest of Dread," appeared on the test-servers, so I played around with it awhile and took some screen-shots. The usual suspects will complain about "nerfs" hitting the easy-to-exploit abilities, but my initial reaction is that most of the changes that have been made go to balance the game-play quite a bit. I am somewhat disappointed in the long-awaited Archery and Sonics sets. They're associated with the Defender class, and frankly they don't seem very useful to me at this point. Do not even attempt to solo as a Sonic or Archery Defender, in other words. The power-sets look like they'll be much more useful to Controllers and Blasters as secondary powers.
The new zone, Croatoa, didn't make me as awed as Striga did, but it's a fairly big, expansive zone...with very little to do outside of the story-line associated with it. I found several plaques, but no badges, and I failed to find the giant monster who roams the zone. The mix of enemies is fairly good, if a little repetitive to those familiar to fighting Trolls, the Devouring Earth and the Circle of Thorns. Having scare-throws fling flaming pumpkins at you is fairly amusing the first-time it happens, though. I even found what I believe to the task-force (she wouldn't talk to me...) and the trainer. It's Warwitch, resurrected from her "death" in the original (and better-drawn) City of Heroes comic.
The thing I'm most looking forward to in the new issue are the tweaks to existing missions. Instead of just rescuing hostages, for example, you now have to escort them to safety. Villains will attack in waves, rather than just waiting patiently for you to come to them, villains now do damage when they fight each other, instead of just pretending to hit one another as they used to, and there's a new NPC type, the ally, who will aid you on missions. The first one I encountered is one of the many new tweaks they've made to the tutorial zone for the game. Also, and this was something I first noticed in an early Croatoa mission, tile-sets will now change mid-mission. I started out on a typical sewer-map mission, stumbled across some Tuatha deDaanan using tools to knock a wall-down, and found myself in the tunnels tile-set. A very cool tweak to the way game-maps work.
Creepy monsters sitting in trees.
More creepy monsters sitting in trees (it's apparently a theme for the zone).
Creepy monsters knocking down a wall. Note the separate tile-set on the other side.
And lastly, Pete and I went to pick up his copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We had a coupon, so we also picked up the copy of Tom of Finland: The Art of Pleasure that I've had my eye on. So, yes, two grown men went into a book-store and picked up a popular children's book and gay porn. And paid by credit-card. I'm sure my name is on some list, somewhere, now.
Actually, the two books side by side on the desk next to me makes for a visually interesting contrast. The artist for the Potter books uses a shaded pencil style quite similar to Tom's, come to think of it...
So the biggest news as yet out of the closest thing the comics industry has to a trade show is: the return of two old properties, neither being handled by their original creator.
Yesterday's grumpy face wasn't entirely motivated by the stupid, lousy slow computer at work. It was also prompted by the third kid in three days trying to buy Sin City comics. And I do mean "kid." We're talking the under-10 set in each case. That just boggles my mind. We go from a week of hyper-sensitive parents complaining about the content of Archie and Donald Duck to parents so lax in their monitoring of their children's entertainment choices that I have to explain to them that the comics feature extensive nudity, lewd sexual situations and extreme violence. I mean, surely these parents didn't take their kids to see the movie?
Oh, and anecdotally, if you want to make sure that you move all your copies of the latest issue of The Comics Journal in a day, be sure to shelve it with your new manga releases.
And to make up for making you all look at my mug yesterday, here's a picture of John Tristram:
Suitably decompressed now to talk about the things I missed photo-blogging.
As Mike mentioned, first customers of the day were the very nice Chris Brown and his wife Kelly Brown. Which was a nice way to start what turned out to be a very busy and hectic day. Wednesdays are always a bad day for people to try and buy back-issues...we're simply too busy and have too little space to do it properly, yet we had tons of people, either folks we rarely see or had never seen before, coming in with very specific shopping lists. I'm guessing they were folks headed to SDCC.
Speaking of SDCC, say hi to Ian and Sean while you're down there. And on Friday try to hunt down Kid Chris. And, I don't know, make fun of his ankle tatoos or something.
The Big BooK this week is, of course, Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the few pages I did look over struck me as Frank Miller doing his best to out-do, well, Frank Miller. It's pulpy and over-wrought and the people who praised Hush and hated Dark Knight Strikes Again are absolutely going to loathe this book. Look for lots of scathingly negative reviews from people who didn't get the joke. My suspicion: the book won't be very good, but it will be fun in an unapologetically trashy way.
Most Seriously Wrong Comic of the Day: Zombie King by Frank Cho. This was the book that had everyone who flipped through it asking "what the hell is wrong with Frank Cho?" If necrophiliac bestiality is your thing, you might enjoy this comic.
Most Frustrating Customer Moment of the Day: "Do you have any back-issues?" Sure, we have plenty, what are you looking for? "Do you have any independent comics as back issues?" Sure, lots. Which ones are you looking for? "Do you have any Pied Piper comics?" I'm not familiar with that title, do you know who published it? "I think it was just Pied Piper." So...is that the name of the comic or the name of the publisher? "Oh. I think it might be the publisher, I guess." Okay...well, I don't actually have a section for back-issues from a company called Pied Piper, which means that if I do have any of their comics, they'll just be put away by their title. Was there a particular title you were looking for? "Yeah, there was one title I was looking for. It was called Ex-Mutants." ...Uhm, yeah, we have that. (See, because a sane person would have just asked me if we had any Ex-Mutants comics...not approached the problem from the back-angle, so to speak.)
Guessing game! Who said: "Having sex with men? Is that some kind of gay innuendo?"
I spent nine hours doing inventory yesterday. Every Monday I do the cycle-sheets and pull all the indie, Image, Dark Horse and Wildstorm comics that have been out for over four weeks, in order to make room for new releases. Due to the boss and his wife, who normally does the Marvel and DC cycle-sheets and pulls, going away to San Diego for a week, I had to do the Marvel and DC inventory in addition to my normal tasks. Nine hours. Of staring at comic books, counting them, and trying to arrange shelves to make room for the coming week's releases. And this is in addition to all the other maintenance and customer service tasks I have to perform on a Monday. Like dealing with people who refuse to believe me when I tell them that the Haunted Tank never actually had its own title. It was one of those days that really makes you hate comics, in other words.
Continuing the theme of hyper-sensitive parents these last couple weeks, I did have a woman come in on Monday with two young boys, who had to have their hands disinfected before they could touch anything. Her primary concern was whether or not we had any "G rated" Archie comics. Yes, there are apparently people out there who think Archie is just a tad too racy for kids these days... The other head-scratcher was the parent who came in over the weekend and felt that all manga, regardless of content, was "inappropriate" for her teenage daughter...but Fillerbunny comics are a-okay!
Reviews Last week's comics largely failed to excite me. It was a fairly standard assortment of episodes for the titles I normally buy. Superman #219: I'm somewhat baffled by the format of this cross-over. One of the better elements of the "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" minis is that they've been self-contained. And so a four-part series that takes place between issues of Omac Project feels grafted on. Especially if, as the structure of this installment and this week's Action Comics indicate, we're going to see three "hallucination" episodes make up the bulk of each issue, with only a page or two at the beginning and end to actually advance the plot. It could be interesting, creating a kind of "Rashomon" effect for the story-line, but this first installment feels very by the numbers and rote.
Firestorm #15: I would say that this issue was actually a bit better than the previous one. Now that the new status quo has been established the actual story can begin. Here we get a decent super-hero fight scene, some opening teases of a potential new element to the Firestorm origin, and a cliff-hanger which makes promising use of the most distinctive new supporting cast member.
Wildguard: Fool's Gold #1: Now, this is fun. A good mix of humor and action with original characters and a strong world back-ground. This is the kind of fun super-hero comics that people should be checking out. Especially those who make a habit of complaining about the lack of good, fun super-hero comics.
Gotham Central #33: This works for several reasons. It presents a compelling mixture that well exploits the meta-narrative aspects of the DC Universe. We, as the readers, know that this can't possibly be the real Robin, but within the parameters of the fiction that assumption can't be made. The police simply cannot trust Batman at his word when he says that it's not Robin. So the real mystery, from the reader's perspective, is who is dressing up as Batman and Robin, and why. It creates an interesting disconnect between the mystery that the characters are trying to solve and the true, larger story going on around them that they are still unaware of.
Ocean #6: And so Warren Ellis' engaging sci-fi story ends as an action movie. And, given the set-up, that's a fair and appropriate ending. The issue doesn't quite work as a discrete unit, and it benefits strongly from a re-reading of the prior issues. Ellis is fond of characterization by implication, and he does enjoy his exposition, but I would have, for myself, preferred a more explicit examination of Kane's reactions to the aliens under the ice. How would a man who has made his life's work the taking away of weapons from people react to learning that the human race is the genetic inheritors of a race that exists only to kill?
I'd like to say something about the Fantastic Four film, but it's very hard to work up either any great enthusiasm or disdain for it. I thought it was middling and dull, with far too little action for a super-hero adventure. Jessica Alba was typically wooden, and she managed to drag the performance of Ioan Gruffud, who actually is a talented actor, down to her level. Michael Chiklis seemed to inhabit his role well, but the costume never worked for me. It never stopped looking like a foam rubber suit. The highlights of the film were Chris Evans enthusiastic portrayal of the Human Torch and Julian McMahon's sly Victor Von Doom. Both actors seemed to relish their roles and it came across. So, that's some decent acting, but not terribly much to be excited about otherwise. An unrelentingly mediocre film that it's hard to like or really dislike. It was nice to see lots of naked Chris Evans though. And if he didn't before, I suspect that the few shirtless scenes Michael Chiklis had has won him many new gay fans.
A customer just gave me attitude because we 'didn't have' any Haunted Tank. He didn't believe me when I tried to tell him it ran in GI Combat and stormed out. That looks like a fair amount of Haunted Tank comics to me.
Boss is out of town for Comic-Con all this week. Which screws up my schedule, as I now have to get to work extra early all week. I also have to try to hunt down our UPS guy since we normally use Diamond's pick-up service for comics, but we'll have them shipped to us this week. This never quite works out for us. I think every year the comics end up getting to us late. It's particularly annoying for me this year as I've been having car troubles and I just want to take my car in to be fixed, which of course I can't do because I need it to get to work...
Speaking of the hazards of comics retail, I noticed in the latest issue of Wizard a statment from another retailer that they had increased their orders on the House of M tie-in issues of Excalibure by 500%. Either that's a typo, or that retailer couldn't possibly have been ordering that many copies of Excalibur in the first place.
One of the fun parts about placing Cavalcade of Boys in our "Featured Trades" area is that I get to watch people's expressions as they flip through it. It's especially fun to watch them when they realize the book is full of faggotry. (I'm halfway through the first volume and I like it so far. Pete, surprisingly, didn't care for it.)
I keep hearing about the "iconic imagery" of Watchmen. And then I looked at the way DC is now selling the book. If you had never heard of Watchmen before, had no idea what it was about, what sorts of things would that image suggest? Because to me it looks like a bit of pretentious abstract art.
Mike had an absolutely brilliant idea. Imagine this logo:
Over a picture of Ozymandias and the Comedian fighting...on Mars! With the floating heads of all the other characters looking on the combat in shock. With the tagline across the bottom: "Superhero adventure as you demand it!"
Wouldn't that sell much better and be a more accurate reflection of the content?
I always hate it when comics get delayed a day, because it means I have a ten hour day to look forward to.
In any case, there wasn't too much to get excited about with this week's comics. Viz dropped nearly 30 manga titles this week, mostly the first installments of the Shojo Beat line. The only one I picked up was Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, because it was Yuu Watase and I'm not going to miss out on that. I also grabbed Dead Boy Detectives, which I thought was amusing but felt a bit thin for $10. I also picked up Desire, and Pete, oddly enough, read it first thing. He liked it, and complained about my jokingly describing it as "porn." I also got the latest volumes of Fushigi Yugi and Inu Yasha, but I'm several volumes behind on reading those, so I didn't even bother to crack them open and peek inside.
I flipped through House of M, mostly to see if there was finally something happening in the title (there is, but it focuses on Wolverine...just what we needed, another comic head-lining Wolverine), and partly to see if the rumor about the completely unexpected, surprise shock ending was true. This was how the conversation went with Mike: Dorian: So, do you want to know what the big ending to House of M is? Mike: Sure, lay it on me, daddio! D: (Ending revealed) M: And? D: No, no, that's it. M: No, seriously, what's the big ending. D: I guess Marvel thinks that is a big ending.
The universal reaction to the Crisis on Infinite Earths action figures was "I was thinking of buying one of those, but those paint jobs are terrible." Which is very frustrating and disappointing for DC Direct items. I don't think I've ever seen a set of figures from them that looked as sloppily done as these ones. I'm hoping that it's just a bad batch, and not a sign of things to come. It does put me in mind, however, of one of the crueler jokes to have come up at the store recently. We were sort of wondering just why DC felt the need to make so damn many Legion of Super-Heroes action figures, apart from the fact that Legion fans seem willing to spend money on just about anything. Witness the insane number of volumes the Legion archive series is up to. The inevitable (for us, anyway) conclusion was that Legion fans demanded so many action figures because they needed the whole set of Legionaires, so that they could pose them all in front of a window, so that every time there is a lightning storm they could stand in front of that window, arms outstretched, a beatific smile on their faces, cats mewling about on the floor, as they hope against hope that somehow lightning will strike their action figures and transfer all the Legionaires powers into them... (We really can be very mean when we want to be...)
The most frustrating thing about the day is coming to the realization of just how many hyper-sensitive parents we've been getting in the store lately, concerned about whether or not a super-hero comic is "appropriate" for the pre-teen children. Yesterday's anxiety was focused on Ultimate X-Men. I was busy helping another customer, so I was spared the brunt of it, which is probably good, as I suspect this would have been the customer to make me snap after a very difficult and stressful week. Because what I was on the verge of shouting, even after my brief involvement was "What! What kinds of things do you think are going to be in an X-Men comic! There's not going to be any gore or sex! For God's sake, if you let your kids watch the X-Men movie the comic is actually going to be tamer in comparison!" And now I can't shake the desire to really, really want to know exactly what these people think they're going to find in comic books. I don't think I can let "inappropriate material" pass any more. I must know exactly what these people are concerned about finding in a comic book. I want them to explicitly articulate their fears to me, dammit!
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Daredevil spends twenty-two pages getting the kettle out of the cup-board, boiling water, and steeping the tea. Occasionally there is a one or two panel flash-back to him fighting zombie ninjas.
Kabuki by David Mack In a twelve-issue maxi-series, Kabuki makes a cup of tea. At least, that's what Kabuki fans say she did. Nobody else has the patience to figure out what the hell is going on.
Ultimates 2 by Mark Millar Captain America sodomizes an obvious Superman stand-in with a tea-cup.
Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore Drinking tea makes cartoonish lesbian criminals write bad poetry and fall in love with men.
Cerebus by Dave Sim Real men don't drink tea. Tea is filled with mind-control chemicals that make men slaves of the feminist/homosexual plot to take over the world.
Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis "What are you doing Peter?" "Making a cup of tea." "Making..." "A cup of tea." "A cup?" "Of tea." In extreme close-up. For six issues...
Star Wars from Dark Horse Remember the third character from the left in that busy crowd scene in episode three? He makes a cup of tea.
Green Lantern by Geoff Johns The tea actually first appeared in an issue published thirty years ago, and if you didn't read that issue you won't understand its importance to this story.
All Star Sqaudron by Roy Thomas The tea actually first appeared in an issue published sixty years ago, and if you didn't read that issue you won't understand this story at all, because it's a direct sequel to the back-up story.
Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis The tea is actually being drunk by a trio of Peruvian sex midgets who swear a lot.
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez The tea is actually being used to make fun of how pretentious goth kids are, but it only inspires them to drink more tea.
Ways Not To Spend The Weekend, For Your Own Sanity
Reading five volumes of Angel Sanctuary in one sitting: I've described this series before as Garth Ennis and V.C. Andrews teaming up to re-write the Book of Revelations, and that's still fairly accurate. It's an unsettling mix of ultra-violence, incestuous love and shonen ai, and it makes for a heady brew. I'm not even going to attempt a recap of the plot up to this point, it's simply too much to try to explain to someone who isn't familiar with it.
Watch two seasons of League of Gentlemen...and the Christmas special. I've been a fan of the British show for quite some time, and I was always very frustrated by the fact that only the first season was ever released on a Region 1 DVD. Up until now, that is, when seasons two and three, as well as the Christmas special, were released all in one go. The second season strongly emphasizes the sit-horror feel of the show, as established in the first season. There's a strong mix of black-comedy, gross-out humor, surreal dread, and just plain uncomfortableness to this show that makes it hard to describe, and hard to sit through if you don't "get" the comedy. The Christmas special is amazing, mixing that BBC tradition of Christmas-time ghost stories with a tribute to the anthology horror films of 60s British cinema. However, the third season is the true stand-out. Each episode ends on a shared premise, a car-crash, and we see the same scene from six different angles, one for each episode of the season. The entire season is well-plotted, with random elements of one episode paying off in another, all building towards a cohesive whole and a surprisingly touching and redemptive conclusion to the series as a whole. (Doctor Who fans take note: Mark Gatiss, a League of Gentlemen member, has written several Doctor Who novels and audio-dramas, as well as an episode of the most recent series. Christopher Eccleston also has a cameo role in the final episode of the third series.)
I haven't really reviewed any monthly comics in about two months. Even I'm not insane enough to try and talk about each one that came out in that time. And there are quite a few that, frankly, I don't have anything to say about at all. Oh sure, I could say that Young Avengers and Runaways are pretty good, if somewhat mediocre, and the high praise they receive should be taken as a sign of just how bad everything else Marvel publishes is, and that the new City of Heroes comic from Image is terrible and misses the appeal of the game entirely, but I'd rather focus on things that I thought were interesting, entertaining, or felt I had something to say about.
Batman: Dark Detective: An almost deliberately retro and nostalgic comic which has been shipped and solicited in such a fashion as to suggest that DC would just as soon get it out into the market because they've already paid for it and don't know quite what to do with it. The first issue opens strongly, with perhaps one of the better Joker stories in years, but the tone and quality of the series after that varies greatly. Devoting an entire issue to the fate of Harvey Dent's clone may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but the execution left much to be desired. The over-all impression is something of a disappointment that this is only a good Batman story, spoiled somewhat by the inclusion of too many villains to be truly outstanding.
I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League, in JLA: Classified: Here's an unpopular statement for you; the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League hasn't aged terribly well, nor was it ever really as good as so many people seem to remember it being. It certainly wasn't the broad farce it has descended to in this most recent series. There's a disturbing notion I've seen voiced by many fans, that DC is apparently "out to get" Giffen, as evidenced by things that have happened in recent titles from other writers to characters he wrote about twenty years ago. It's a very strange notion, that corporate owned characters must remain true to the vision of one particular creator, who was not actually the creator of the character in question. One wonders why, if the Blue Beetle and Sue Dibny were so universally beloved and popular, they weren't the stars of the best selling comic of all time. Perhaps it is yet another case of that old super-hero fan standby, the resistance to even the illusion of change, that insists that the characters must remain in stasis forever. That they must always be exactly like they were when the currently dominant fan-base first started reading those characters. That being said, the series itself was good, with beautiful art, if the humor does tend to be over-broad. I'm just slightly annoyed that comic fans feel that the interpretations of the characters in question must be limited to this kind of story.
Last Hero Standing: An unpretentious, unapologetically "old school" super-hero adventure, virtually ignored by comic book fans. It's a throwback, almost deliberately so, to the kinds of "fun" super-hero comics that fans say they want, but nevertheless ignore when actually presented to them. I'm the last person who expects to say that they get more enjoyment out of Spider-Girl than almost anything else Marvel publishes, but yet that's the case.
City of Tomorrow: It's Chaykin being Chaykin, so your enjoyment of this may very with how well you can cope with that. It's probably the least interesting of his more recent efforts, but that still makes it far more engaging than most other comics on the stands right now. If it has a serious flaw, it is that the complex web of betrayals and counter-betrayals is not clearly defined or explained.
Ultimates 2 #6: The infamous "Defenders" issue. I can't decide if this is Millar giving characters he doesn't like the kind of treatment he thinks they deserve and giving fanboys a sick little thrill in the process, or if he intends any kind of larger point to the story. If it's the former, especially in light of Wanted, it's hard not to see this as another of Millar's expressions of contempt for his audience. But the interesting thing I see here is that Millar actually manages to improve the comic immensely with this issue by focusing on Hank Pym. By dispensing with the shock value for the sake of shock value antics of earlier issues and his "Millar-verse" titles, Millar actually manages to create a compelling character study here. If there is a larger theme to this second volume of the title, this issue, in light of the earlier "Trial of the Hulk" arc, it appears to be the redemption of Hank Pym, which is certainly a more interesting approach to the title than the "big fights and explosions" style that's become so trendy.
Punisher: The Cell: So Garth Ennis has now written "Punisher: The End" twice now. It's probably best to view this story as being not strictly in continuity for the character. It's Ennis' best work on the character since the initial twelve-issue Marvel Knights mini, but the way it comes full-circle for the origin of the character makes it work best as a kind of coda for Frank Castle.
Manhunter: This is a title that becomes very hard to talk about on a regular basis, because so much of the story continues on from issue to issue, with no clear conclusion to any one story thread, and because the over-all quality is so good. Like the rest of the better DC titles now, it's building on past stories, but taking them in new directions. It is not allowing, at this point, the character to remain in stasis. That can be a minor flaw at times, as the identity of the Manhunter killer is clearly going to require some knowledge of past Manhunter titles.
Firestorm and Catwoman: Both titles get new creators this month. And both immediately work to establish a new direction for the characters. With Firestorm the change is more extensive; a new costume, a new location, a new supporting cast. In Catwoman, it is simply a refocusing on the criminal aspects of the character, away from the "defender of the East End" characterization that has defined so much of this relaunch. Both comics are very good, and enjoyable super-hero stories. Quality disposable entertainments, in other words.
Desolation Jones: Warren Ellis is always far more interesting as a writer when he's not tinkering with corporate trademarks. He can tell interesting and engaging super-hero stories, but they always feel slight. Here, he's giving in to his impulses, crafting the kind of story that he wants to read. It's full of sick jokes, passing mentions of contemporary cultural theory, and a serious attempt to exploit the possibilities of the comics form. It's also beautifully illustrated by J.H. Williams.
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere: This book quite possibly only exists so that there can be a trade paper-back collection sold in book-stores. It has good Glenn Fabry art, that is faithful to the source material, even if that leaves it feeling somewhat stiff. Mike Carey's adaptation has the same sort of stiffness...in being faithful to the source material, a necessity in a project like this, it leaves him with very little room to really make the project work as a comic in its own merit.
Stardust Kid: This was well-written and amazingly well-drawn, but it's also the kind of first issue that I find very frustrating. It's almost all prologue to the real story, and features very little actual action or character, consisting mostly of exposition and foreshadowing. As part of a larger story, that can be an effective way to begin. But given the subject matter of a comic like this, it's hard to be certain that the title will last long enough for any of that exposition or foreshadowing to pay off.
Astro City: The Dark Age: It's interesting to note that, in this current time when many super-hero comics are going for a more mature approach to storytelling, with a greater reliance on continuity and a presupposition of a readership familiar with the characters, that this comic which pays homage to the last period when this occurred, the seventies, be released. Many of the best remembered comics of the seventies were very self-consciously attempting to elevate the medium beyond the "hero battles villain, villian goes to jail, status quo maintained ad infinitum" storytelling that had so strongly defined the previous generation of comics. It's an interesting contrast, as while those stories feel quaint today, as Busiek drives home in this story they must have felt very dark and strange and out of place to the dedicated readers of the day.
Solo #5: The all Darwyn Cooke issue is enjoyable, but there are times when Cooke's adherence to the aesthetic of a particular era feels almost fetishistic. The Question story, in particular, has a strange wish-fulfillment fantasy element to it, as filtered through Ayn Rand, that doesn't quite feel like a match for the art. The end result is a package that's far more successful than almost all of the other issues of Solo, but lacks the cohesive feel that the Howard Chaykin issue did, which is still the best so far. In fact, it is the singularity of creative vision in this issue and the Chaykin issue that makes them the most successful issues so far.
Albion: I would probably have enjoyed this more if I'd had any idea who any of these characters are, or which back-ground details are important and why. The theme suggested by this issue, of heroes being relegated to "fictional" status because they are an embarrassment to the powers that be has potential, and it's a concern running through much of Moore's recent work. But without the background necessary to understand what the hell's going on, it reads like fan fiction.
Planetary: Always worth the wait. There are a few false notes in this issue (notably that much commented on Simpsons reference), focusing on how the Drummer was brought into the Planetary fold. There's also an incremental movement in the meta-plot, as Ambrose Chase is further revealed to be an integral character to the final story. It's also worth noting that Cassaday's art looks much better than it does on Astonishing X-Men. It could simply be because Ellis gives him more interesting things to draw than sexy evil female robots.
Many of these reviews seem overly negative or harsh to me, which is interesting because everything I mention here I actually enjoyed and thought was worthwhile. It may just be a result of me trying purposefully to think more critically about them after my last post, which makes it rather hard to be satisfied with saying "Wow, this was really good, you should check it out." It's also worth noting that I don't talk about the Seven Soldiers line or any of the DC titles that tie-in to the larger Infinite Crisis story-line. I'm saving up those for a later discussion of them as a whole.
Jog excerpts a recent message from Warren Ellis on Bad Signal, mostly focusing on why he doesn't read comics sites. It's the sort of dismissive, knee-jerk reaction that's been gone over many times already (i.e. "They're all bad because they have the nerve to criticize comics creators"), and I say that as someone who actually likes Ellis' work and finds that he almost always has something intelligent and worthwhile to say. But that's not what I want to talk about, because frankly the last thing I want to see is another round of "creator trashes on-line comics scene, on-line comics scene responds, creator's point is proven by the response."
No, what I want to comment on is something that Jog alludes to that has me wondering: why is so much of the critical discourse on comics focused on formalist and structuralist concerns, and why do people seem to think we need more of that? It's almost as if no one bothered to read past that chapter in Eagleton's Literary Theory. Frankly, the last thing I want to see more of is over-intellectual twenty-somethings talking about nine-panel grids, story structure, and theme. That's what The Comics Journal is for, and it already does that job quite well. Why is that whenever I do see comics critiques go beyond the limits of structuralist analytical techniques it's Dave Fiore doing more neo-Marxist/post-Enlightenment historicist criticism or Rose focusing on gender and race issues? Why has no one thought to do an analysis of Black Panther stories based on the works of Franz Fanon? Why has no one done a semiotics based reading of JLA? Why has no one thought to ask what Foucault would have thought of Batman Begins?
Even when our customers are being a tad eccentric they can be amusing. This was given to me in gratitude for helping to find Legion of Super-Heroes back issues.
"So, because it was kind of a sketchy neighborhood, and we weren't sure what it was going to be like inside, I decided to do the gentlemanly thing and go first." "And then what happened on your date?" "Well, we triggered a trap that made the floor drop out from under us and we were attacked by goblins."
Two of my co-workers discussing a "date" one of them went on. (No, it wasn't Mike. Or Kid Chris. Mike has a real-life flesh-and-blood girl-friend, and Kid Chris is, to put it bluntly, a tad over-sexed.)
Signs I'm not dealing with a future Nobel Prize winner: "Excuse me, could you please leave your skateboard under the table by the front door?" "What's a table?"
And that's when Dorian started beating his head against the wall: Can I help you find anything sir? "Yes, my nine year old son is sick, and I'd like to buy him some Marvel comics." Okay, what characters does he like. "Oh, he doesn't like super-heroes. But I liked Thor when I was a kid." ...Well, there hasn't actually been a Thor comic in a while, but I have the more recent issues over here. "No, I don't want the recent ones. I want comics for a little kid. The recent ones have too much sex and violence. Besides, I don't want comics anyway. I want the books. Ones that have the older Thor stories from when I was a kid, that weren't dirty." (I get this complaint quite frequently from people who have never actually looked inside the comics they're complaining about. But then, I get the "too much sex" complaint about reprints of Ditko Spider-Man, so I'm used to over-sensitive parents.) Well, in that case, I've got several books collecting Thor comics on this shelf here. The older ones will be in these two lines here, the ones that say "Masterworks" or "Essentials." "How much are these hardcover ones?" Those are $50 each. "What! It's legal to charge that much? You guys are rip-offs!" Well, the Essentials are much cheaper. Those are about $15 for about 500 pages of comics. "What! These are in black-and-white! You guys are rip-offs! I want color copies of all the old Thor stories, from back when it wasn't dirty, in a book that costs less than $10." There really isn't anything like that available. "How dare you not magically materialize the exact thing I'm looking for, despite the fact that what I'm looking for doesn't exist!" (Okay, he didn't actually say that last line, but that was the gist of his statement.)