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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Aquaman, Master of Observation
I mean, how was he supposed to understand the significance of that swastika and iron eagle he'd been staring at for the last three pages...
Let me summarize the comment thread to this Newsarama article about 52's price point: "What! $2.50 for an extra-length comic! How dare DC engage in this gross price gouging!" Because, yeah, given that your average comic fan already spends about $20 to $30 a week, minimum, that extra $2.50 a week is going to be a real wallet-buster.
While I'm taling about comics, the highlights of my purchases this week were the latest issue of Local, which after a start I found a little rocky has started to settle into a nice groove; Nextwave, which is the sort of fun book I'm increasingly surprised to see come out from Marvel; and Genus Male which is excellent gay porn and contains a couple of Pet Shop Boys reprints. Yes, my recommendations for this week are a hip indie book, a super-hero satire and gay porn. That almost says something profound about me, I think.
GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, hasreleased their list of nominees for their annual awards, and surprisingly, for once, it isn't the usual celebrity worship list GLAAD usually trots out. I have...a problem with GLAAD as an organization. They always seem more preoccupied with getting publicity by going after easy targets and kissing up to famous people to get them to appear in photo ops than in actually working to improve the image of gay and lesbian people in the mass media. But this year they seem to have actually gone out of their way to nominate those who don't have a high media profile. Let's take a look, shall we?
OUTSTANDING FILM - WIDE RELEASE
Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Capote (Sony Pictures Classics) The Family Stone (20th Century Fox) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner Bros.) Rent (Sony Pictures)
OUTSTANDING FILM - LIMITED RELEASE
Beautiful Boxer (Regent Releasing/here! Films) Mysterious Skin (TLA Releasing) Saving Face (Sony Pictures Classics) Transamerica (The Weinstein Company) Walk On Water (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Granted, Brokeback Mountain and Rent are almost painfully obvious choices, but there are still some films on that list that could actually be considered "by gay people for gay people," rather than the "movies for straight people that happen to have gay people in them" that GLAAD usually recognizes.
OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
Commander in Chief (ABC) The L Word (Showtime) Queer as Folk (Showtime) Six Feet Under (HBO) South of Nowhere (The N)
OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Out of Practice (CBS) Shameless (BBC America) Will & Grace (NBC)
I pretty much don't watch much TV anymore, so I don't have much to say about these choices, other than to reiterate my impressions that The L Word is more about titillating straight men than anything else and that we should all be very, very ashamed of ourselves for allowing the gay version of Amos and Andy, Will & Grace, to last as long as it has.
OUTSTANDING MUSIC ARTIST
Antony and the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now Melissa Etheridge, Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled Girlyman, Little Star Sharon Isbin, Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Ponce: Guitar Concertos Amy Ray, Prom
This is truly remarkable. Only one token gay pop celebrity on the list!
OUTSTANDING COMIC BOOK
Gotham Central by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker (DC Comics) Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio) Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore (ABC Comics/Wildstorm) Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn (Vertigo/DC Comics) Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg (Marvel)
I'm glad that Heinberg finally stopped playing coy in Young Avengers. I'm still baffled as to how anyone can think of Strangers in Paradise as a positive portrayal of lesbian relationships. And, while I enjoy Rucka's work, and Brubaker's (non-Marvel) work, and Gotham Central itself, I do have to say that my reaction to the outing of Renee Montoya is still "Gosh! The tough female cop with a drinking problem turns out to be a lesbian! How unexpected and original!" At least they've successfully avoided making her mannish.
Of course, I still have plenty of fault to find with GLAAD, despite the good choices for the awards this year. For example, applauding Gene Shalit's "I'm sorry if you were offended by my statements, but how dare you criticize me" "apology" for his homophobic misrepresentation of Brokeback Mountain is the kind of "don't piss off the famous people" nonsense I really hate seeing a prominent gay group engage in.
While I'm on my Queer Soapbox, guess what the United States, Iran, Egypt, Zimbabwe, China and Cameroon have in common:
I've got a couple of longer-type posts rattling around in the back of my head. I've got some thoughts on the role of sex and sexuality in computer games I need to get out at some point, as well as some thoughts on all the misanthropic television I've been watching on DVD lately, but I don't quite have anything I want to share with the public just yet on those subjects.
I'm tempted to talk about the list of Free Comic Book Day titles, but I think I'd rather wait until I actually can take a look at them to talk about them in depth. Though I do feel rather confident in saying that I really would rather wish that Arcana and Wizard wouldn't bother with contributions this year. I also find it curious that Claypool is listed as participating, given the possibility of Diamond dropping them from the catalogue.
I'm half-tempted to write about the new Flash series, but given how little content is actually in that article ("It's a bold new direction!" Again?), I can't work up the enthusiasm. (The article also makes me want to create a little banner that reads "Barry Allen is still dead. Get over it.")
Instead, to fill up space, I'm going to make an observation about C.S.I. Nick Stokes should be gay. Let's face it, the characters on this show have only the barest hints of personalities. You've got the ex-stripper single mom whose dad is a mobster, the snotty girl with an Electra Complex, the geeky kid, the geeky boss, the grizzled veteran cop, the good-looking black guy and the good looking white guy. Nick is practically a cipher as it is. The only things we've learned about him in five years is that he's from Texas, he was sexually molested as a kid, and he once had sex with a hooker. I mean, given the way the show works, it would only be brought up once and used as an excuse for the character to get indignant over a case, then never brought up again, so what could it hurt?
After years of writers dancing around the issue, Obsidian finally comes out.
Lady Blackhawk finally gets a clue.
And Wildcat finally remembered that he has medical training.
And, well, all of All Star Superman but I'm not going to scan the entire book.
Prism Comics is having a pre-sale on their 2006 guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comics and creators. And, for a limited time, pre-orders will get a bonus book with work by Stephen Sadowski, Paige Braddock, Matt Fagan, Donna Barr, Craig Hamilton and others.
The Prism guides and specials are always full of good material, and at 144 pages this is their biggest guide yet.
I noticed this the last time I was at the comic shop. The cover and every article inside refers to the CLAMP series xxxHolic as Holic.
See, I've noted before that AI, for a magazine devoted to a subject with a large number of female fans, does itself a disservice by maintaining the frat-boy attitude of every other Wizard publication. A "fan service" pin-up a month of an attractive bishonen does not a women-friendly magazine make.
I'm left with the impression that they just couldn't be bothered to actually get the name of their cover-featured title right because it's "for girls."
I'm trying so hard to not be too harsh, but Marvel makes it difficult...
Ultimate Spider-Man features Ultimate Deadpool. The polite way to phrase my reaction is that Deadpool seems far too recent a character to be "ultimatized."
The last solicitation for Marvel Knights as it was are in this batch, and frankly, it's probably a long overdue move. The line hasn't really had a focus for a long time. The closest it's ever seemed to come is "more mature than the standard line, not as offensive as the Max line."
The Annihilation one-shot spins off into four minis, and Civil War serves as a subplot in on-going titles. I'm biting my tongue on this one...
Yet another Marvel Romance book comes out...why are Valentine's Day tie-in comics being published in March and April? Or does Marvel seriously intend to try their hand at an ongoing romance line?
Marvel Zombies does apparently tie back into Ultimate Fantastic Four. So, what, it was a five-issue fill-in mini?
Spider-Woman: Origin concludes. Based on the first issue, I kind of wish they'd stuck with her original origin. You know, the one where she was a spider grown into a woman by the High Evolutionary. Man, we don't see enough of the High Evolutionary, do we?
Wolverine: Origins. So, he appears in X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, New Avengers and two on-going solo titles, in addition to frequent guest appearances and obligatory appearances in minis. Remember how sick people got of the Punisher and Lobo back in the day?
Regarding Robin #149, and the seeming spoiler on the cover...hoo-boy, Pete is not going to be happy.
Checkmate seems like a safe bet. I like Rucka's work, I like Saiz's work, and I've enjoyed their take on the covert aspects of the DC U.
I don't particularly care about what happens to Bludhaven in Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, but I'll be picking it up anyway because:
Holy Cow, is that the Force of July? (It's a stupid reason to buy a comic, I know, but Force of July is one of those deliriously cheesy concepts I love in super-hero comics. Plus, y'know, Palmiotti and Gray have written quite a few good comics at this point, and Dan Jurgens is can be very good as well.)
Pete is a huge fan of Kyle Rayner, so we'll definitely be picking up Ion. (Hopefully it'll make up for the seeming events in Robin...)
Showcase Presents Haunted Tank won't be making it into my purchase lists, but by God am I happy that DC is putting the book out.
The Infinite Crisis action figures seem painfully unnecessary to me. Plus, y'know:
Superboy Prime wearing what appears to be pieces of the Anti-Monitor's armor looks like a significant spoiler to me. And:
Dark Horse I was going to get Conan: Book of Thoth, but at $4.99 for four issues, I can wait for the trade. Lullabies from Hell is the "new" Hideshi Hino collection. He's got a great cute/horror style and I've enjoyed all his other work, but it's been a real hard sell to get your average manga reader to look at something that looks old-fashioned compared to more recent manga. Space Pinchy still looks awful to me. I'd consider getting Star Wars: The Return of Tag and Bink, but I think I'd much rather just have a collection of all the Tag and Bink stories.
Image I think I'm just about the only fan of Aaron Williams' work who isn't at all interested in Truth, Justin and the American Way. Part of it may be that Scott Kurtz is involved and I don't enjoy his work at all. Part of it is probably that I don't much like the art. But mostly it's probably the strong Greatest American Hero vibe it gives off. Man, I hated that show... Oh, and I'll probably wait for the trade on the second series of Lions, Tigers and Bears.
Marvel Gosh, wouldn't it be an actually interesting twist if Ultimate Extinction ends with Galactus eating the Ultimate Marvel Universe... I really liked the New Universe books at the time. Of course, I was, what, ten? Yet, I'm really not interested in any of these one-shots. They just have the air of perfunctoryness about them. I suppose I might pick up the DP7 one, as that was always my favorite of the New U titles.
Adhouse I've found all of Scott Morse's work to be worthwhile and enjoyable, and I expect his latest, Noble Boy to be no exception.
ADV Films Anne Freaks looks to be the kind of dramatic noir/mystery manga series I've been enjoying lately, so I'm going to give it a shot.
AIT/Planet Lar Skyape: King of Girls. New Skyape. I'm a happy boy. Skyape brings me all kinds of joy.
Antarctic Press Mischief and Mayhem looks eerily like a Love Is strip with heavy weaponry.
Archie Archie #565 features Archie writing an essay about manga. Morbid curiosity may compel me to purchase that issue.
Drawn and Quarterly Maurice Vellekoop has a new book coming out, A Nut at the Opera. His art is gorgeous, but $20 may be a stretch for my budget
Fantagraphics Shockingly, the ratio of "looks good" to "looks god-awfully pretentious" is very good this month.
At this point, I'd like to mention that our former Diamond rep, in the "Staff Picks" section, is recommending Red Sonja. I'm not quite sure what to say about that, but it makes me sad for some reason...
Ignite Entertainment The second volume of Jayson comes out, as well as Ralf Konig's sequel to Maybe...Maybe Not, Maybe...Maybe Not Again.
Oni The charming Banana Sunday has a collected edition on the schedule. Buy it and you too can learn of the greatness that is Go-Go.
Radio Comix A new issue of gay-porn anthology Dangerous is solicited. Come on, everybody likes gay porn!
Seven Seas I understand this Boogiepop thing is rather popular.
Terra Major Gunned Down is a collection of short western stories by Brazilian artists, including Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Come on, everybody likes westerns by Brazilians!
Tokyopop Life has over-serious after-school special written all over it. East Coast Rising is Becky Cloonan's original graphic novel, and I've enjoyed her work quite a bit in the past, so this one should make it onto the purchase list. Sunken treasure and sea monsters should make for a good combo. X-Kai may be good, but I'll actually have to take a look at it first. It sounds very pretty and moody, but Tokyopop's solicitations have burned me before. Yubisaki Milk Tea, the "fan service" title about a cross-dressing boy sounds absolutely dreadful. It's like every horrible thing I hate about certain genres of manga mashed into one book.
Viz Monster has been delayed so many times now I'm half suspecting that it'll never come out...
And lastly, in the international section is another Ralf Konig book, Like Rabbits, which is solicited as having English text, though its presence in the "Spanish Imports" section makes me leery.
Even if you: read Wizard, don't like All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, like Ultimate Wolverine vs the Hulk, pick fights on message-boards and blogs, read Orson Scott Card comics, read Mark Millar comics, read Frank Miller comics as if there is no subtext at all, are unable to detect [name removed to prevent a fight I really don't feel like getting into right now, but trust me on this one]'s utter contempt for you, think Michael Turner is a good artist, are unable to recognize Grant Morrison's genius, still think "Superman is a dick" jokes are funny, are still complaining about Identity Crisis, are still trying to defend the second half of Cerebus or fail to acknowledge that Wildcat is a sex god.
"If you're watching the show because you're waiting for the big answers to come, you have to understand that by the nature of what it is -- it's not a movie, it's not a series of movies, it's not a trilogy, it's not a miniseries -- it's going to be on the air for as long as ABC wants to keep it on the air.
"How can you ever possibly think that 'Lost' will end in a satisfying way?"
Way to sell your show guys. "There's no possible way it's going to end in a way that doesn't insult your intelligence or make sense in light of what has gone before, so just deal with it." At least now I know who is probably to blame for all the really, really dumb stuff on the show that makes it frustrating to watch: Lindelof.
So, instead of following the increasingly successful and profitable way of making dramatic television shows in which there is a finite story with a beginning, middle and end...they've decided to follow the Twin Peaks model and just make stuff up as they go along in order to pad out the show as long as possible.
Yeah, suddenly I'm thinking I'll be doing something else with my Wednesday nights.
Well, that may be a bit harsh, but Burton, as a director, has a notable weakness in the storytelling department. His films are visually interesting, but he's not good at all at telling a story. Further, his style isn't exactly subtle or modest. No, I'm already picturing a big, over-the-top recreation of a particularly squalid 19th century England. The show is a grand guignol in every sense of the word, but all the successful stagings it has had have been very minimal in staging. Burton isn't going to get that. The actors are going to be lost under the sets and special effects.
And Johnny Depp is a very good actor...usually. I can't see him as Sweeney though. And I certainly can't see him singing his way through the role.
And the sad thing is, Burton would have been an inspired choice of director for another Sondheim play, Into the Woods. That's a production that lends itself well to extravagant excess.
I'm always a little irritated when writers go for the "I'm just a dumb palooka who's only good for hitting things" characterization for Wildcat. Yes, he's got a working-class every-man vibe going for him. Yes, he's got a cocky, macho attitude. Yes, he's a smart-ass. But he's not an idiot. He's a smart, educated man.
2: It's all Green Lantern's fault
I love this sequence. Ted Grant decides to put on a gaudy outfit and fight crime because he feels sorry for a kid who lost his Green Lantern comic. I've got this little scenario in my head where the reason the Green Lantern comic is so confidant about GL having a secret identity is because Alan Scott's company is the one putting it out. It's the most nonsensical explanation for becoming a super-hero I've ever seen, and it's handled like the most obvious, matter of fact thing in the world.
Wildcat doesn't much care for Grant Morrison's latest epic:
As you can see, he disliked it so much he managed to blot it out of his memory.
The Wonder Woman of Earth-2 has a slightly more positive response:
Granted, her hysterical over-reaction is a bit...odd. You can just hear Oracle sighing before he responds to her, can't you? I particularly like the "For God's sake, get a grip on yourself woman!" look on Hourman's face.
Word comes to me from Bill Roundy of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, that the Museum will be hosting an exhibit of Wildcat creator Irwin Hasen's art from January 14 to February 20, with Hasen in attendance for two nights, January 14 at 7 PM and January 16 at 6:30 PM. Those of you lucky enough to be able to attend can get a look at Hasen's original Wildcat concept sketch, as well as a painting of what the cover to Wildcat Comics #1 would have looked like. And if Wildcat isn't your thing, there's all the Dondi art to check out as well.
One of the things that always bugged me about Wizard when I still worked in comics retail is how you can read through the entire magazine and come away feeling like you know less about comics than when you started. It's not because simply reading the magazine saps away brain cells (though I suspect that's true...), but because the bulk of the magazine is, well, fan-service fluff disguised as actual information. So, I've been meaning for awhile to sit down with an issue of Wizard and go through it and see what, if any, actual content the magazine has. I've even given them the benefit of the doubt and chosen their "2006 Preview" issue, in the expectation that this will at least contain information about comics I could buy in the next 12 months.
First of all, I'd like to say something about the cover. It's a close-up picture of Brandon Routh dressed up as Superman. This immediately brings two thoughts to my mind, neither of them inclining me positively towards the upcoming film. One, they're doing that thing I hate with super-hero costumes where they make all the seams visible in an attempt to make the costume look "realistic." And two, Brandon Routh's package has no definition in that outfit.
Secondly, let's look at the ratio of ad pages to editorial content pages. Not counting the covers, the magazine has 152 pages. 21 of those pages are out-right ads, counting the "shows and cons" and "classifieds" pages as paid advertisements. That's pretty good, better than I expected actually. But, wait, 10 of those ad pages are for Wizard-related events and publications (11 if they have anything to do with ToyWiz.Com), not actual paid advertising. And 13 of the editorial content pages have 1/3 to 1/2 page ads on them, again with Wizard-related ads making up the bulk of those. Still, that's a pretty good ratio of "content" to "ads." I can't help but take the noticeable lack of paid, outside advertising as a bad sign. The only non-comics related ad I saw was one for a video-game. This suggests to me that advertisers do not wish to court comic book fans or their money.
Now, on to the actual editorial content. We've got two pages serving as an index, and one more serving the "letter from the editor" and staff roster/copyright information. This counts as content, sort of, but it's not the slightest bit interesting and if the "funny jokes" were removed this could easily be condensed down to two pages. Next we've got six pages of letters to the editors. Again, this barely counts as content and I strongly suggest against reading the letters if you entertain any illusions that comic book fans are rational and level-headed.
And then there are 27 pages about the upcoming Superman Returns film. The first two pages are filler, serving as an introduction the film. Not, in the end, content. Next are several pages interviewing Brandon Routh, Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey. My initial inclination is to discount these pages, because they're about a movie, not a comic book, but given that it's a film based on a comic book, I'm going to let it slide and judge these pages as content. Then we have two pages of discussion about Brandon Routh's costume. It's fan-wank, and therefore not real content. As is the two page poll. And the two page discussion of previous film incarnations of Superman. This sort of thing reeks of filler. Next we have two pages about the new Superman video game. This comes closest to fitting the category of "unpaid advertising." Again, not actual content. And finally we have a page of Superman trivia. It borders on fan-wank, but I'm not quite prepared to call it filler outright. There is a kind of postscript to the section, detailing upcoming films based on DC Comics properties. The information tends to be vague and brief, but it's mostly factual and informative, so it just barely counts as content.
We've got a two page discussion of one still from X-Men 3 next. There's no actual information here, so I have to declare this filler. We have a two page explanation of the DC Multiverse which isn't necessary information by a long shot. I have serious difficulty believing that anyone who reads Wizard doesn't already have some passing familiarity with this subject, so it's filler. We've got another two pages discussing, in as vague a manner as possible the "One Year Later" status quo for DC. It's too vague to be useful, and if you have an internet connection and know the URL of even one comics "news" site, none of it is revelatory, but it's still not quite filler. Content, barely. Moving on, we find a page about the upcoming Marvel "Civil War" event which tells me absolutely nothing about the event. So, I'm going to go ahead and call it an unpaid advertisement. The "Superhero Registration Form" is one of the magazine's occassional attempts at humor, but it's just sophomoric fan-wank filler.
A comparison between Astonishing X-men and All Star Superman is largely the kind of editorial content I'd expect from a magazine like Wizard. It's fairly non-offensive and it's designed to get the readership excited about the subject. The following ten pages are devoted to interviews with comics creators, namely Brad Meltzer, Jeph Loeb and Mark Millar, about their upcoming work. As with the AXM vs. ASS debate, it's the kind of editorial content I really should be expecting to find in a magazine like this. You'd expect the three pages (four if you content the full page of art) about 52 to be content, but in 52 paragraphs very little information is actually revealed. The closest descriptor I can find for this article is unpaid advertisement. Sadly, the next five pages, with their focus on Spider-Woman, New Avengers and Stephen King's 2007Dark Tower comic also are more suggestive of unpaid advertising than actual informative content. The two pages Sentinel breakdown is mere filler, and the list of House of M spin-offs and depowered mutants is more unpaid advertising.
We've got three pages of unpaid advertising for the Ultimate Avengers DVD, and then we've got one of the things I really hate about Wizard. As a retailer, the fact that Wizard isn't very good at communicating the difference between factual information, speculation and crap they made up, and the "Casting Call" feature is one of the worst offenders. Every single time Wizard would run an article like this I'd get customers who just had to tell me how excited they were about the cast of the upcoming film that wasn't actually going to be in the film that wasn't going to be made.
Four pages of Alex Ross pictures tying into the Justice series crosses the line from "content" to "filler." There's barely enough information in the article to fill one page, and it gets four? The two page "interview" with Grant Morrison about his upcoming run on Wildcats is entertaining filler, but it's still filler. In fact, it probably amounts to more unpaid advertising. The two page interview with Michael Turner is just barely content, but its right on the border of filler given its lack of specificity.
The following fourteen pages with short snippets of news about upcoming comics counts as content, if only for the sheer volume of vague information it contains. The "index" for the 2006 preview section is flat-out filler, as is the examination of Thomas Church in his Sandman costume.
The ten pages of brief promos for this month's comics straddles the line between content and unpaid advertising. If there was more of a review-type approach to the material I'd be comfortable calling it content, but as it is...
Twenty pages of price guides probably make up the most contentious aspect of the magazine. I find that it encourages a speculator mentality in comic readers and is too unreliable and easily manipulated. But, to be honest, it's really what most people buy the magazine for. So...against my better judgment, content. Except for the pages about slabbed comic prices. Those are just enticements to greed.
The last page joke makes me weep bitter, bloody tears at the folly of mankind. Filler.
So, in my final count, we've got about 50 pages of actual, informative content out of 152, removing the price guide from the tally. Or, about one-third of this issue of Wizard isn't filler or advertising material, paid or otherwise. Informative content you could just as easily find on-line. And, usually, without the sub-frat boy level humor.