Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

Kindly direct email to:
dorianwright [at] gmail[dot]com

"Reading his blog is like watching a beloved 50's Rat Pack Vegas act"--Larry Young
"One of the few comics blogs I always make time for"--Antony Johnston
"Dorian Wright is intelligent and slightly bitter, like a fine coffee."--Kevin Church
"Absolutely huggable."--Bully
"It's always fun to see Dorian be bitchy."--Chris Butcher
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why Wonder Woman's Shop Failed 

Now, "ginchy, far out, fab gear" is one thing. But "oh dear Lord, take it away and burn it! BURN IT! Unclean! Unclean!" is quite another.

Diana was apparently unable to tell the difference...


Wildcat's Ass 

Is there anything quite so magnificent in all of comicsdom?

Let's take a closer look, shall we?

I swear, it's almost as if they're publishing comics solely for my benefit sometimes.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Reviews 

Jeremiah Harm #3 continues with the black comedy and ultra-violence that marked the previous issues of the Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Rael Lyra series. The high-light of this issue is the flirtation through bloody violence that goes on between Jeremiah and alien killing machine Ayoma. The cast of hangers-on continues to grow, looking to Harm for some salvation in an overly optimistic manner. Something tells me they're all going to end up as happy and healthy at the end of this as a puppy in a Joe Kubert comic. And the less interesting characters continue their search for the Macguffin, which leaves lots of room for that dark humored flirtation I mentioned earlier.

Meanwhile, in the third issue of Michael Nelson's and Chee's War of the Worlds: Second Wave, the characters continue to search for someplace safe and try to avoid the alien invaders. It's essentially an issue devoted to moving the characters from one point to the other, and establishing the next cliff-hanger and series of reveals, though some significant back-story on Miles, as well as at least one rather significant clue regarding the aliens, are cleverly and seamlessly communicated to the reader without having to resort to clunky and implausible expository scenes.

The first ongoing issue of Hero Squared by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis and Joe Abraham continues the mix of broad humor and relationship melodrama, seen through the filter of parallel universes and super-heroics. Much of the issue is devoted to quickly catching readers up to speed on events from the previous specials and mini-series, while adding a few new complications onto the already convoluted, yet funny, mess.

The premier of Keith Giffen's and Kody Chamberlain's Tag is, broadly, another in the line of post-modern, alternative takes on zombies that Boom has made a critical success of. Kody Chamberlain's art is moody and atmospheric, and the premise of the story, that the childhood game of "tag" is in some way connected to a supernatural living dead curse, is a marvelously sinister and original idea for horror fiction. For zombie comic fans, this is going to be another "can't miss" title, but for those looking for clever and original horror comics this is also too good to pass by.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Why, That's Me! 

Oh God, yes! Never before have I seen a quiz so accurately assess how I feel!

Thank you Teeny Quiz! You've let me know that I'm...not alone.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

That Sound You Hear is a Fanboy's Head Exploding 

The New York Times gets the scoop on the new Batwoman. As I sort of suspected, she's Kathy Kane. It's a nice nod to the Golden Age version of the character, but it's still clear that this is going to be a mostly new character. For one thing, she's now a "buxom lipstick lesbian." I kind of hope that's just how the NYT is describing her, and isn't intended by DC as some sort of personality short-hand.

But, given how generally open-minded and accepting of "that which is different from themselves" comic fans are, how is the news going over?

At Newsarama, reaction seems mixed:

"*Yawn* More Silver Age masturbation at DC. There's schocking news."

"Does anyone else find this sick? Pushing alternative lifestyles on all-ages books? No offense to gays--who anyone sleeps with is their business. But alternative lifestyles belong in non-mainstream books intended for older audiences. DC is truly obsessesed with homosexuality and pushing it on their audience--even more than Marvel. They are totally misjudging their audience. Does comics' mostly male audience want all gay, all the time comics? You'd think so, judging from DC's output. No scene of same sex couples in the bedroom or other intimate behavior is too outrageous for Dan Didio.
If I was in charge of DC this nonsense would stop immediately and Didio and all editors would be fired (or transferred to Vertigo, whose titles are of an adult, mature nature). Potentially pushing this stuff on kids is again, sick. What happened to true heroes fighting crime? That's all gone now. Everyone wants to make a social/political statement.
I've been reading superhero comics for over 35 years. I think that time may be drawing to a close."

"Bastardization of Batman Beyond and the worst aspects of the Silver Age.
Hopefully this joke goes the way that all the post-Matrix / Pre-Current Supergirls went.
I wonder if Dido is asking the important question: What does a Batwoman contribute to the Batman Legacy.
The answer is simply nothing of lasting value."

"What their audience doesn't want to see is two gay men in love, but gay women are a-ok. Manhunter dropped in sales dramatically because it had a gay male couple."

"This just screams a blatant attempt to appeal to the Lady Death-Avatar crowd looking for softcore masterbation material."

"They replaced the original white Batgirl with an asian Batgirl. Now they've replaced the asian Batgirl with a white woman. How is that diversity?"

"I would like to officially proclaim that a lesbian Batwoman is TOTALLY FUCKING HOT!"

"First they show the womens and the coloreds voting and owning property, and now THIS? What's next? A Hispanyolo sit-com? Well, gaaaaaaaawly!"

"What the hell is DC doing...oh my gosh! So fans of DanGarrett/Ted Kord, Ray Palmer and non-lesbian Kathy Kane get brushed aside so that DCU can have diversity. You want diversity than stick your necks out and make freaking new characters we can all like. I'm so sick of this. Classic characters are being bastardized for a lame reason."

"Does the mostly male comics audience want gay heroes? I don't know. I can only speak for myself. I know this straight white male does. I want gay heroes, black heroes, Latino heroes, Asian heroes, Native American heroes, Arab heroes, disabled heroes, whatever. I want a fantasy world that resembles my own, not one that's been white-washed so that everyone will look like me. A character like Batwoman isn't being "pushed" on kids or going to brainwash them. If anything, it provides a chance for discussion. "Yes, Little Timmy, there are people like this in the world. This is where I stand on the idea."

Sadly, at the time I write this, there isn't any noteworthy discussion of this going on at the always reasonable DC Comics message boards. But there will be...

Edit: Here we go with some DC message board reactions:

"Just when I thought comics couldn't sink any lower...."

"well, at least she wont be crossing over with NIGHTWING. last i checked, she wants no interaction with Dick whatsoever."

"DC has descended to the depths of Lady Death and other Lipstick Lesbian/Bisexual ridiculousness. That Didio described her as a "Lipstick Lesbian" shows zero respect for a gay woman character."

"it may be kathy but i find it hard to believe that the times would publish something so trivial..... "

(Be sure to check out that NYT article, by the way. The whole of it is about Marvel and DC trying to increase the racial and ethnic diversities of their universes, and the problems they've run into with that. It's not just "buxom lipstick lesbians.")

Postscript: Yeah, it's now Tuesday morning, and having seen even more reactions to this story, all striking me as insincere sounding desperate bids for attention and snark one-up-manship, I have to say...comic fans are damn annoying.
I feel a Wildcat week coming on...


Friday, May 26, 2006

Bitter and Cynical Thoughts For the Weekend 

Why is it that the only people who seem to care whether or not a comic is "accessible to new readers" are people who have been reading comic books for twenty years or more?

The prospect of seeing X-Men 3 fills me with ennui. Not dread, not anticipation, just remarkable indifference.

Yes, Superman Returns is provoking the same reaction. It's eerie.

Ghost Rider on the other hand looks like a fun and clever satire of super-hero films.

What do you mean by "it's not meant to be a comedy?"


Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Shoulda Known Better 

What I learned from a comic book message board today: reading Lost Girls will apparently turn people into pedophiles.

I'm enjoying the current "feel" of the DC Universe, but even I have to admit that DC's idea of more clearly defining the differences between their heroes and their villains seems to me not to be lightening up the heroes but rather to make the villains absolutely monstrous.

Yep, that's Simon Pegg

As a teen, which comic babe got your JUICES FLOWING?!

I have no witty comment here, just wanted to point out that the above thread was as far as I was able to get into the DC Comics message board before being over-come by hysterical laughter.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Closet Monsters 

Legend of Hell House

I reviewed the book this film is based on some while ago. This was a rewatch for me, as this was one of those films I'd seen as a child and remembered being really scared by. But much like Star Wars and Transformers, revisting the things I enjoyed in child-hood largely resulted in me realizing just how bad my taste was as a kid.

It's not that the film is bad, per se, and Matheson adapts his own novel for the screen here (in the process proving once and for all that he's a better script-writer than novelist), but it's a terribly dull film. Matheson strips his book of all the gore and supernatural menace, and replaces it with fish-eye lenses, extreme close-ups, and people acting scared. Yes, I know they're actors and they're supposed to act, but there's acting scared and then there's acting scared. Matheson also chops out almost every last bit of the sex, though strangely manages to keep the misogyny. Sadly, stripping out the sex renders one of the central metaphors of the novel, men's fear of emasculation, completely empty.

As much as I lament the silly effects-driven ghost movies of today, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to go back to films where someone stand outside of the frame and goes "wooo" to try and scare the viewer. A happy medium must exist somewhere. On the other hand, Roddy McDowall looks completely and utterly miscast in this, unless Matheson really did want to firmly establish that the character of Benjamin Fischer really and truly is gay.

The Stendahl Syndrome

I fully expect that there picture of Asia Argento kissing a fish to be hotlinked to here and back.

I like Argento films. I like giallo films. But this was Argento moving into more traditional thriller territory, and it's not a strong work. Actually, many of Argento's more recent films haven't been very good, and the films where he tries to move away from the traditional black-gloved killer tend not to be very good either. And this is a difficult film to watch. And though many of Argento's trade-marks are here (the importance of a work of art, copious red herrings, bizarre camera angles and trick shots), the enterprise still feels "off" somehow.

The makers of the torture/gore films that seem momentarily popular could learn a few hints from Argento, as the focus of this film is the rape and torture and stalking of several women, notably a young police-woman played by Asia Argento. Even though the rape and torture scenes are relatively mild and non-explicit by the standards of the genre, they still pack more of an emotional punch than the buckets of blood films US directors have been putting out.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what I think of that aspect of the film. I always get the impression that Argento likes his female characters to be strong, but his killers always target women who "deserve it" in their minds. He likes to straddle that "is it or isn't it misogyny" line. And the ultimate conclusion of the film, which is not that Policewoman Anna Manni triumphs, but rather, Anna Manni goes batshit insane and becomes a multiple murderer herself, is so god-damn depressing and defeatist after what she's been put through, you feel just more than a little sick afterwards.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I'm A Trend Whore 

Two memes in two days. Yeesh.

Anyway, my contributions to the Great Curve's 50 Best DC Characters poll. Don't give me no grief about Wildcat's placement! I'm entitled to skew the results at least once!

1. Superman (Clark Kent)
2. Batman (Bruce Wayne)
3. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince)
These three are pretty much the models for all the others
4. Wildcat (Ted Grant)
5. Lex Luthor
The quintessential mad scientist
6. The Joker
A near perfect personification of toal chaos
7. Lois Lane
The first and the best of the super-girlfriends
8. Black Canary (Dinah Lance)
9. Robin (Dick Grayson)
The first and best side-kick
10. Plastic Man (Eel O’Brien)
11. Zatanna
12. Alfred Pennyworth
Everything a supporting cast member should be
13. The Question (Vic Sage)
A great visual, and the most succesful of the super-heroes based on a philosophical viewpoint
14. Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson)
15. Johnny Thunder
16. Krypto the Superdog
He's a dog. With Superman's powers. How do you not recognize the genius of that?
17. Detective Chimp
18. The Phantom Stranger
19. Dream of the Endless
20. Animal Man (Buddy Baker)
21. Swamp Thing (Alec Holland)
22. The Creeper (Jack Ryder)
23. Mr. Terrific (Terry Sloane)
24. Oracle (Barbara Gordon)
25. Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
She strengthens the concept of Superman, I don't care what anyone else says
26. Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz)
27. Cheetah (Priscilla Rich)
28. Captain Carrot (Roger Rabbit)
29. Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
30. Deadman (Boston Brand)
He's a super-hero. And he's dead. How do you not recognize the genius of that?
31. Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot)
32. Two-Face (Harvey Dent)
33. Mr. Mxyzptlk
34. Amanda Waller
A fantastically human and plausible nemesis
35. Ambush Bug (Irwin Schwab)
36. The Spectre (Jim Corrigan)
37. Klarion the Witch-Boy
Always a great visual, transformed into something nigh-sublime after Grant Morrison's revamp
38. Jonah Hex
39. Cinnamon
40. Hawkman (Katar Hol)
41. Metamorpho (Rex Mason)
42. Adam Strange
A thinking super-hero is still a novelty
43. Mister Miracle (Scott Free)
44. Doctor Psycho
45. The Flash (Jay Garrick)
46. The Red Bee (Rick Raleigh)
47. The Black Orchid
Another great visual, and the fact that her secret ID was never really revealed (outside of Gaiman's mini...) adds to her appeal
48. Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)
49. The Atom (Ray Palmer)
50. Darkseid
The only "cosmic" villain worth talking about

Almost Made the Cut:

51. Robot Man (Cliff Steele)
52. Green Lantern (G’Nort)
53. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)
54. The Warlord (Travis Morgan)
55. Sgt. Rock
56. The Metal Men et al
57. The Inferior Five et al
58. The Thorn (Rose Forrest)
59. The Demon (Jason Blood)
60. Blue Devil (Dan Cassidy)

Edit: Gah. I can't believe I forgot Catwoman and Aquaman. The greatest comics femme fatale should be up there at around 19.5, and Aquaman at about 39.5.


[Insert Obligatory "McFarlane's Balls" Joke Here] 

When Sports news and Comic Book news collide:

How the hell does a guy that creates a comic book have so much money? Hell, I was about five the last time I read a comic book, and I don't know anybody who reads them now. I know there are some geeks out there who get off on comic books, but enough to make this guy a bazillionaire? All I know is they did some shitty Spawn movie a few years ago, which sucked major ass and bombed at the theaters. Again, how the hell did this guy turn some doodles and a juvenile story into a billion dollar empire?

Surprisingly, sports fans seem aware of punctuation, capitalization, and basic English grammar. Which puts them ahead of comic book message board posters...


Monday, May 22, 2006

Conservative Rock Songs Are Go! 

Via Mr. Dan Kelly comes the latest in memes:

Put your music player on shuffle and list the FIRST FIVE rock songs that come up (NO CHEATING!) For each one, write a deranged misinterpretation proving that the song somehow is related to and supports the modern-day American right-wing agenda. Then tag five of your friends!!!

#1: "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land" by Phil Ochs

This stirring anthem is an ode and testament to the bravery of the American soldier. The song takes a particularly brave stand in its refusal to stomach the notion of "sympathy" for counter-insurgent forces.

Blow them from the forest and burn them from your sight
Tie their hands behind their back and question through the night
But when the firing squad is ready they'll be spitting where they stand
At the white boots marching in a yellow land

#2: "Walking in L.A." by Missing Persons

One of the most important of American freedoms is the freedom to drive. It is the God-given right of every American to drive as big a vehicle as possible as often as possible. It's part of our dominion over the Earth. And as for notions of "environmental responsibility" or "alternative transportation" they are rightly held up to ridicule. It is preposterous, after all, that anyone capable of driving would voluntarily choose not to.

I don't know could've been a lame jogger maybe
Or someone just about to do the freeway strangler baby
Shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovie
One thing's for sure, he isn't starring in the movies.
'Cause he's walkin' in L.A.

#3: "Life is Shit" by the Dead Milkman

In this hymn-like piece, the Milkmen sum up what it would be like to live in a world in which liberals controlled everything. And they use stirring, patriotic imagery such as Baptist school-girls and Richard Nixon to communicate that point.

And on a pretty Sunday morning
A bunch of pretty Baptist girls
Linked their pretty hands and they sang
Life is shit, life is shit
The world is shit, the world is shit
This is life as I know it
This is life as I know it

#4: "Let Love Be Your Energy" by Robbie Williams

This tune is all about the wrath of the Allmighty. It starts out with an anti-abortion sentiment before moving onto the eventual Apocalypse provoked by God's wrath.

Out of a million seeds
Only the strongest one breathes
You made a miracle mother
I'll make a man out of me
Daddy where's the sun gone from the sky?
What did we do wrong, why did it die?
And all the grown ups say 'sorry kids we got no reply'

#5: "When My Boy Walks Down the Street" by the Magnetic Fields

This short simple ditty is another rumination on the miracle of life. It describes the marvelous things a father experiences when he watches his offspring.

Grand pianos crash together when my boy walks down the street
There are whole new kinds of weather when he walks with his new beat
Everyone sings hallelujah when my boy walks down the street
Life just kind of dances through ya from your smile down to your feet
Amazing he's a whole new form of life
Blue eyes blazing and he's going to be my wife

Now, five people I wouldn't mind seeing take this on (but I'm not officially tagging since I know not everyone is into the whole "internet meme" thing):

(go here if you don't get the joke...)


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Comics and Raped Men 

This is one of those posts where I half-suspect I'm going to upset people I don't mean to upset, and have people I despise thinking that I'm arguing for their position when I'm not. So, just to get this out of the way first, this is not a "who's more oppressed game" post. This is not a "women are over-reacting" post.

One of the things that absolutely infuriates me whenever the topic of violence against women in comic books (and to a larger extent, in entertainment mediums in general) comes up is that there's always someone seriously trying to counter-argue that "well, bad things happen to men, too, so you're just seeing something that's not there." This is utter nonsense, of course, because the argument has never been "nothing bad should ever happen to female characters." Rather, the argument, as I've interpreted it, has been "when violence, particularly sexual violence, is used against women in comics it is either particularly degrading or only dealt with in terms of the impact the violence has had on the men in the victim's life." And this is one of those situations where you can't really make the counter-argument that this happens to male characters to. Because I've been thinking about male characters who have been sexually assaulted in comic books. And the pattern that emerges is quite different.

Apollo--Raped by stand-ins for Thor and Captain America between panels.
Batman--In the "Gothic" storyline an implied attempted assault took place at Bruce's boarding school.
Electro--Turned bisexual after being raped in prison.
Hulk--Attempted rape in YMCA shower.
Nightwing--Implied rape by Tarantula.
Obsidian--Physically abused by foster father, implication of sexual abuse as well.
Sand--Implication that Johnny Sorrow's obsession with him is pederastic in nature.
Spider-Man--Implied attempted assault by another boy while in school.
Starman (Jack Knight)--Drugged and sexually assaulted by the Mist.
Wolverine--Attempted assault while in prison, mentioned in dialogue but not shown.

(These are the characters that came to mind once I sat down and tried to think about depictions of sexual violence against male characters. It's not a very long list. There are a few characters whose names I've heard mentioned in relation to this topic, such as Damage and Justice, but my understanding of those situations is that they were strictly related to physical abuse as children. Though there is perhaps some merit in looking at Justice and the circumstances in which he murdered his abusive gay father, but some other time. I'm also fairly certain I'm missing a few super-villains raped in prison.)

What I find interesting about this list, is that the majority of these incidents are implied only. They're never explicitly stated. Not so with female characters. And by keeping the situation implication only, there's always an "out." Another writer can always simply say that it just didn't happen. Also, many of these incidents happened to children, and as a society we don't think of child abuse as comparable to adult sexual assault. Children are incapable of consent, not able to "fight back" and can bear no responsibility for the incident. No one would ever say that a six year old "was asking for it." For cheap dramatic effect they're the perfect victim, as it leaves no doubt just how vile a villain is.

Of the incidents that remain, there's a great deal of homophobia implied in them. Apollo's assault was an explicit act of homophobic violence, and the assaults against Wolverine and Electro were played off as gay jokes. And in the case of Electro, I'm particularly bothered by that. I've always been infuriated by the way that prison rape is thought of in our culture. We make jokes about it. We act as if it's somehow to be expected, as if it should be part of normal prison conditions. Which is appalling to me. That we excuse it in any way is a sick form of societal homophobia that displays just how wretched and monstrous most Americans are just under the surface.

In fact, the only sexual assault against a male character I can think of that even comes close to being treated seriously as a sexual assault is the Mist's rape of Jack Knight. She assaults him for the sole purpose of becoming pregnant. It's a clear incident of an individual being robbed of their consent by another person.

And just to put things in perspective, I want to briefly talk about the two rapes of female characters I'm the most upset by, because I think they prove the point that sexual violence against women is used for completely different purposes and towards far more objectionable effects than sexual violence against men. And that's Red Sonja and Black Canary. Red Sonja, as written by Roy Thomas, is pretty much defined by rape. Without rape, there is no Red Sonja character. Her entire attitude and drive to excel as a fighter is born out of a desire for revenge. She is literally created by rape. And in the case of the Black Canary's assault, the entire incident was used to show how Green Arrow reacted to it and dealt with it. How Dinah felt about it was never really dealt with, or only dealt with in a perfunctory and dismissive way. The entire focus of the storyline and the aftermath was how it made Ollie feel helpless. The entire point of the assault was to give the man some motivation.

And those two approaches are pretty much how assault against female characters is dealt with. Either it defines the character, or it's something for the men to angst over. But with sexual assault against men either it's only vaguely hinted at, or it's more properly defined as child abuse, or it's a joke. It never becomes a central part of the character. It's usually never even mentioned after the end of the issue. And you never, ever see the female supporting cast rushing out to take vengeance upon the perpetrator. You never see the woman feeling like failures because they weren't able to protect the men.

Why, you'd almost think there was a double standard...


Why I Buy Music Online 

I ventured into the alterna-hip-indie record store in Ventura yesterday. I was looking for a Candy Butchers album. I couldn't find one. No, not even under "Mike Viola" or in the used section. So, I went and found the one employee with natural hair color and no facial piercings, thinking that this would be the person most likely to be able to assist me without commenting on my taste in music in the process (a particular problem with many of the employees at this store).

"Excuse me, do you have any Candy Butchers albums?"

Uh...did you look under "C".

"Yes. In 'Rock' and 'Used.' But I've learned from past experience that things in this store tend to be shelved according to the musical standards of whoever happened to be working put-away that day, else how do you explain why The Damned keep ending up in your 'Goth/Industrial' section while Pink is in 'Punk' and No Doubt is in 'Reggae'."

Let me check the computer...We have about a dozen different Canned Heat albums, is that what you're looking for?

"No, I don't really care for hippie blues bands, and besides, I came in looking for Candy Butchers."

Dude, I don't think they really exist. If they did, we'd have their albums. We're the local alterna-hipster indie music store, after all.

"Let's see...the last bands or performers an employee here told me didn't exist were Queen Adreena (you kept trying to sell me Queen), Scissor Sisters (Michelle Shocked), Hidden Cameras (Mott the Hoople), Mountain Goats (Madonna), Polyphonic Spree (Pet Shop Boys) and Stephen Lynch (Sleater Kinney). And yet, in each case, I was able to purchase those albums either on-line or from a chain store. Oh, and by the way, is it really necessary to play Salt-N-Pepa so loudly in the store we've had to have this entire conversation while shouting?"

We're playing Salt-N-Pepa because it's part of the drinking song mix we play here!

"Salt-N-Pepa's 'Push It' is a drinking song?"

Dude, it's ironic!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I buy music online.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Diana and First Impressions 

Because everyone loves a good old Wonder Woman panel, right?

"Always the woman?"


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Image Comics for August 

Full solicitations are here. I'm sort of sensing certain similarities to the kinds of titles Image publishes. See if you can guess what those may be.

Wait, look at one more before you guess:

And then there's this little beauty, just to add insult to injury:

What, appearing in over a dozen Marvel titles a month isn't enough, now Wolverine needs to be over-used in other company's comics as well?


Homophobia Kills 

International Day Against Homophobia


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Oh Look, Wolverine Guest-Stars in This Comic... 

Marvel's August solicitations feel like a bit of a chore to read. There's just this grim, joyless, "taking ourselves too seriously," "we must not displease the share-holders" feel to their books these days.

More Ultimate Universe annuals are coming out. I wasn't impressed with last year's offerings. In fact, I thought they were all pretty darn dreadful. I'm not seeing anything in the stories offered here to give me any hope that things will be different this year.

Claws #1

I think that sound I'm hearing is the bottom of the barrel being scraped in Marvel's quest to find characters to team-up with Wolverine.

I really find that I don't give a damn about Neil Gaiman's "reimagining" of the Eternals.

I feel vaguely dirty even thinking about the existence of the Women of Marvel Poster Book. I dread to imagine what images are actually contained within.

Have I mentioned that the Civil War trade dress is really unappealing looking. Those big black bars across the bottom half of each book are just amazingly ugly.
Also, regarding Heroes for Hire, isn't it usually considered bad form to launch your cross-over spin-off titles before the cross-over is actually over?

Exiles #85

See, under normal circumstances, I might find the idea of a team composed entirely of alternate universe versions of Wolverine momentarily amusing. But then I realize that not only is Wolverine going to appear in at least thirteen other books this month, but someone at Marvel is wondering if an "all-Wolverine" team-book is a viable series concept.

Marvel Zombies, Spider-Woman: Origin and Nextwave get hard-cover collections. At least they're not very expensive, but these rushed out hard-covers for super-hero works of marginal quality that Marvel and DC both seem so eager to do just make me wonder who in their right minds needs a hard-cover collection of a book like Spider-Woman.

The solicitation for SPIDER-MAN: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT PREMIERE HC contains this line:
The variants for the Marvel Premiere Classic line will have a limited print run.
Now, does Marvel mean that there will be no second printing of the "variant" hard-cover edition...or do they mean that retailers will only get one "variant" edition for every X number of regular editions they order? Because the later doesn't sound implausible.


Too easy... 

Dave Sim to read the Bible to help the poor.

Apparently poverty is caused by the femi-homo conspiracy to emasculate heterosexual men. Who knew?


Monday, May 15, 2006

DC in August 

The full solicitations are available, and I'm going to go slightly out of my habit and use lots of pictures to talk about them this time.

Batman and the Mad Monk

Say what you will, Matt Wagner draws a fantastic looking Batman. And his stories pull off the neat trick of feeling fresh and new while delving deeply into the past.

Batman #656

Batman versus ninja man-bats. God bless Grant Morrison.
DC is also offering a new soft-cover edition of Son of the Demon, the book which heavily implies that Batman and Talia didn't practice safe sex. Hopefully DC has this solicitation worked out so that the book is available after Wizard points out that the story is relevant to Morrison's.

Showcase Presents: Batman Vol. 1 is a far cry from the best Batman material available, but it seems to fit with the over-all Silver Age focus of the Showcase line. This is the period which, when you read the letters pages, you find letters complaining about how Batman should only fight costumed villains alternating with letters complaining about how Batman should only fight gangsters. Also, the Outsider is a prominent recurring villain. That alone is a sign of the dubious quality of this period.

Supergirl #9

No! Bad Ian Churchill! Bad! You don't get to "homage" Frank Quitely's sublime cover to All Star Superman until you start drawing Supergirl to look like she's eaten sometime this year.

The Steve Niles and Justiano Creeper mini-series appears to be a retelling of the origin. I hope this is a flash-back story and not an attempt to convince us that the Creeper is only just now showing up in the DCU. Because we all know how successful reboots like that tend to be...

52 #13

That a secret society of resurrected heroes doesn't seem out of place is one of the reasons why I love the DCU.

Hawkgirl #55

I'm trying to phrase this delicately but...why is Hawkman trying to push Hawkgirl out of the giant, toothed space vagina?

Justice League of America #1 gives me my choice of either half of an Ed Benes picture or a Michael Turner picture. I hate getting "split" covers. I resent it, in fact, because it's as bald an attempt to compel you to buy multiple copies of a comic as there is. And I dislike them so much that I'd willingly consider buying the Turner variant, only I know it's going to be in some ratio that makes it more than I want to pay. So as much as I want to get this comic, DC is doing their damnedest to make me annoyed at the prospect.

JSA Classified #15

Eh, they probably had it coming.

Manhunter #25

It's been a frequently expressed sentiment in relation to the news of this title's cancellation, but I find it horribly depressing all the same that this book slipped under so many people's radars, but Wolverine and the Punisher somehow rate two solo titles apiece.

It may be terribly nerdy of me, but I genuinely find myself interested in the "lost year" Titans, including Zatara in Teen Titans #39.

Cartoon Network Action Pack #4 reminds me that every time I see Ben 10 on TV, I'm struck by the thought that it's really just Joe Casey's attempt at convincing DC to let him relaunch Dial H for Hero.

Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson launch The Boys with two issues in August. All sorts of grim comedy and violence is promised. But, is it just me, or is that Simon Pegg?

I wasn't terribly interested in Deadman as a Vertigo relaunch anyway, but after reading Bruce Jones's Nightwing I'm really not interested in it.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon is something I've been looking forward to since they announced it, what, two years ago? And at $20 for a hardcover, it's looking like a must buy for me.

I'm not sure I'm the target audience for figures of the current generation JSA, though Hawkgirl is a nice looking figure (for now...the quality of DC's female figures seems to go drastically downhill between solicitation image and actual finished product). I am sort of baffled as to why the Golden Age JSA-er with the worst costume is given two figures.

I know others have complained but...I actually kind of like these "Women of the DCU" busts. They've got a playful sexuality to them that I find appealing. They're cheesecake, yes, but as cheesecake goes I find them mostly inoffensive. But I expect to see much griping on-line about this Power Girl figure. Power Girl is just one of those characters that people seem to love to complain about, based solely on the way she tends to be drawn, though as Ragnell has pointed out many times, there's more to her than her costume.
I love her because she's a brassy, no nonsense dame, in the best sense of the word. Plus, I'm a shameless Wildcat fanboy and the bickering banter back and forth between those two never fails to amuse me.


Giving the Fans What They Want 

Two good comics cancelled.

Meanwhile, there are ten monthly X-Men comics, not counting the Ultimate Universe version. Proving, once again, that you people get the comics industry you deserve.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Let He Who Is Without Sin And All That Stuff 

Snakes on a Blog posts some interesting quotes from Roger Ebert:

I'm tired of the age of irony. The age of irony is just an attitude that excuses you for consuming junk as if it were worth consuming. And irony is also just an excuse to avoid doing the heavy lifting of important art, you know? If you don'’t go to see great movies, or read great books, or go to great theater, or look at great television, then you don'’t have to think about it and you can just master trivia.

Which isn't necessarily a sentiment I disagree with, especially as it pertains to films of dubious merit which have to rely on pomo hipster detachment and post-ironic blogger boredom to seem credible, but as a reactionary knee-jerk wholesale condemnation of the current culture, it might have slightly more moral authority if it didn't come from the screen-writer of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.



Panels like this make me regret not being able to read Japanese. I'm kind of hoping that this is a case of either a too literal translation, or an overly Anglicized translation stripping the intended meaning from the scene.
In either case, Miyuki looks far too interested.


Subtext? What Subtext? 

I'm tempted to point out that Bruce is biting a pillow of some kind, but why belabor the obvious?
(via Mike)

(And Bully spotted an interesting juxtaposition that it would be a shame to lose to the electronic ether. Apparently Wildcat likes to watch.)


Friday, May 12, 2006

Upcoming DC Trades 

Newsarama has a large list

Writer: Anderson Gabrych
Artists: Pop Mhan, Alé Garza, Andy Kuhn, Jesse Delperdang, Cam Smith; original cover artists: Tim Sale and Amanda Conner
Collects BATGIRL #65-73
$14.99, 224 pages

I enjoyed Gabrych's run as writer, and it's nice to see DC finish up the run after the book's cancellation.

Writer: Unknown
Artists: Mac Raboy, Al Carreno, Marc Swayze; original cover artists: Mac Raboy and C.C. Beck
$49.99, 228 pages

If Archive editions were more in my budget I'd give serious thought to picking this up.

Writers: John Broome, Ed "France" Herron and Bill Finger
Artists: Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Bob Kane, Sheldon Moldoff, Murphy Anderson and Sid Greene
Collects stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #327-342 and BATMAN #164-174
$16.99, 552 pages

The Silver Age Batman stories that some people seem to think should be the only way the character should be portrayed. Sadly, I don't think this book covers the "Batman's Time Travel Crimes on Venus" era of stories.

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely; original cover artists: Frank Quitely and Neal Adams
$19.99, 160 pages

That's a very nice price for six issues in hard-cover, and of good material too.
I note that there's no solicitation in sight for All Star Batman's first collection.

Writers: Mike Friedrich, John Broome, Ed "France" Herron, Robert Kanigher, Jack Oleck, Len Wein and Gerry Conway
Artists: Neal Adams, Jerry Grandenetti, Leonard Starr, Bill Draut, Carmine Infantino, Frank Giacoia, Murphy Anderson, Wayne, Howard, Vince Colletta, Jim Aparo, Tony DeZuñiga and Jack Sparling
$16.99, 544 pages

I loves me some Phantom Stranger weirdness. This includes the early stories where Doctor Thirteen is trying to prove that the Phantom Stranger is just a con-man, and nothing truly supernatural is going on in the mysteries, just crooks in monster suits trying to scare people.

Writers: Dennis O'Neil, E. Nelson Bridwell and Elliot S. Maggin
Artists: C.C. Beck, Kurt Schaffenberger, Bob Oksner, Dave Cockrum, Alan Weiss, Dick Giordano, Don Newton, Tenny Henson, Bob Wiacek, Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell, Bob Smith and Joe Rubinstein
Collects stories from SHAZAM #1-24, 26-35
$16.99, 560 pages

Oh dear. I believe those later issues were the attempts to draw Captain Marvel in a "realistic" manner, and put him in more "conventional" super-hero stories.
Oh dear.

Writer: Gardner Fox
Artists: Howard Sherman, Jon Chester Kozlak and Stan Aschmeier
Collects stories from MORE FUN COMICS #55-98
$75.00, 396 pages

As Golden Age material goes, this is mostly pretty good, but the price seems terribly high, even at the expanded page count.

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Joe Staton, Steve Mitchell, Bob Layton, Bob Smith, Bruce Patterson, Jerry Ordway and Mike DeCarlo
Collects DC SUPER STARS #17 and stories from BATMAN FAMILY #18-20, WONDER WOMAN #271-287, 289-290 and 294-295
$19.99, 224 pages

Earth-2 Huntress stories! This will go nicely on my book-case next to the upcoming pre-Crisis Justice Society trade.


Quick Reviews 

Cthulhu Tales by various, from Boom Studios

After publishing a healthy number of zombie-themed horror comics, it was nice to see an attempt made at slightly more eldritch horrors, something a bit more up my alley scary-book wise. I've been a fan of Lovecraft and his imitators ever since I found a battered old paper-back collection of his short stories, the only English language book I could find in a German hotel my family once stayed at. Actually, come to think of it, that sounds almost like the set-up for a Lovecraft story in the first place.
The trick with a Lovecraft mythos story, though, is getting the tone of incomprehensible cosmic dread and horror just right, and not many writers are up to the task. If you doubt me, go and watch pretty much any film adaptation of a Lovecraft story. And in the particular case of this comic the results are a little more uneven than has been the standard for Boom's anthologies. Several stories suffer from a paradoxical mundanity, a slightly too easy acceptance of things that are supposed to be driving characters insane. It also seems that doing a "funny" take on Lovecraft's work is harder than it sounds.
A truly stand-out piece is John Rogers's and Andy Kuhn's quality time, which branches out from the strictly Lovecraftian base and into the world of Robert Chambers's King in Yellow. Chambers's mythical play is a symbol of corruption disguised as innocence, and Rogers and Kuhn recreate that in an effective and chilling manner.

Talent by Christopher Golden, Ton Sniegoski and Paul Azaceta, from Boom Studios

This book has a strong potential to be an engaging mystery comic. Nick Dane is the only survivor of a plane crash. After being unconscious in the water for sixteen hours, he finds that he has the memories and abilities of other people who were on the plane. The government suspects he's a terrorist, and a secretive religious organization is trying to kill him. It's a very high-concept work, with strong similarities to many of the mystery-driven episodic television shows that have become popular of late. This first issue also does an excellent job of establishing the core premise of the series without getting bogged down in heavy exposition or stretching out the story to fill a trade paper-back. Azaceta has a somewhat blocky style, reminiscent a little bit of Jock's to my mind, that makes very good use of shadows and abstract figures to accent the mood and tone of the story. This will definitely be a series worth keeping an eye on.

Wasteland by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten, from Oni Press

The "post-apocaplyptic" film genre was one of my favorites as a kid, and it's a genre that, when it appears in comics at all, usually involves talking animals or alien invaders. So it's quite nice to see Johnston and Mitten going the tried and true eco-disaster route in their take on the subject. Plus, it has mutants. You pretty much have to have mutants in your post-apocaplyptic saga. It's a rule somewhere, I think.
The first issue starts out with a quick and dirty and nearly wordless action sequence, and rapidly moves onto the plot from there. There's not a lot of time for exposition or anything other than brief character introductions and personality sketches before establishing what looks like a central mystery for the book and finishing up the book with a large siege of an outpost village. There's barely any time for even basic exposition, which really does work in the book's favor, as any attempt to slow down the plot to have the set-up explained to the reader would come off as forced and unnatural.
Johnston is a writer I've come to trust, particularly when he works in the little explored genres. Mitten is an artist new to me, and while I don't immediately warm to his style, I can't find any specific flaws in it either. This is also a series that will be worth keeping an eye on.
You can read more about the setting of Wasteland and read the first half of this issue at the official web-site.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fanboy Logic Hurts My Head 

Newsarama talks about the All New Atom by Gail Simone and John Byrne. Comic fans respond:

it seems like dc missed the boat on this one. they could've easily introduced Ray back into the dc proper without worrying about continuity. they could've explained continuity over a few issues to bring new readers up to speed. i don't think that older fans of Ray would've minded too much, and it would've been reader friendly to newer fans.

Yes, because spending several issues getting into Ray Palmer's backstory is so much friendlier to new readers than starting fresh with a new character based on the concept "hey, this guy can shrink."

Also, learn to capitalize. You're not E.E. Cummings.


A Gay Marriage Conservatives Will Support 

Yeah, I know, I'm a bitchy queen. But for some reason self-hating hypocrisy annoys me.
(Props to Pal Chad for putting the Sullivan/Cheney connection in my mind in the first place.)


It's Not Me! 

Spotted at QueerClick already, so you can stop forwarding the link to me, thanks!

"Dorian's first blowjob from a dude..." Yeah, right.


News Snippet 

"Booth Babes" at E3 told to cover up.

I'm sure that this is a sign of the video-game industry maturing and beginning to recognize that focusing on the physical attributes only of women is demeaning to both men and women.

And not, you know, an attempt to forestall criticism in the midst of a political climate that's blaming video games for juvenile deliquincy and violence against women, in a remarkably eerie parallel of the scapegoating the comics industry received in the fifties and the music industry in the eighties.

Surely not.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Closet Monsters 

Since I find myself with a lot of free time at night, not having cable, I've been watching a lot of bad horror movies via the Netflix. Oh, sure, every once in awhile a good one sneaks in, but mostly I find that I derive far more pleasure from a film that's bad and doesn't realize it than one that's trying to be both exploitively scary and "good." This means that most of the films I've been watching are a bit older, since most contemporary horror films are far too self-conscious to be anything other than just plain dreadful.

So in an effort to derive added pleasure in the misfortunes of others, I'm going to try to make my reactions to these cinematic grand guignol, or at least petite guignol a semi-regular feature here. I've even gone to the trouble of devising a rating system.

means the film is simply dreadful.
means the film is bad, but enjoyable anyway.
means that, against all odds, the movie's good.

The title is my attempt to come up with something catchy and pithy in light of the fact that all the good names for horror columns and blogs were already taken. Plus, I just can't let the gay thing go.

Dead and Buried

Watching this film, I wonder if Rod Serling ever felt any guilt for what he had wrought on the world. More than any other influence, I think The Twilight Zone and it's patented "ironic reversal" endings, are to blame for the strange mania horror film writers and directors have for the "twist ending." Especially since as viewers we've all been trained to expect and anticipate that supposedly shocking and unexpected ending that allegedly subverts everything that has gone before. Which brings us to this film, which not only has a "shocking twist ending" that's badly telegraphed about half-way through the film, an ending that not only subverts the entire preceding film, but one that also renders the entire preceding film utterly incomprehensible even by the wonky eternal logic of the movie.

The opening of the film has such promise, too. A photographer, out exploring the desolate New England coast chances upon a beautiful young woman (by early 80s standards, anyway). A rather blatant seduction via camera takes place, and then just as almost certainly gay photographer, but this was Reagan America and homosexuality didn't exist in pop culture thinks he's about to get lucky, the townspeople show up and torture and burn him while taking his picture. There's so much potential in that scene, so many explanations possible as to what's going on. Is this the eternal conflict between the rural world and the city world? Is this just a savage, inbreed town that sacrifices outsiders to some dark god of the sea? The sheriff is determined to find out what's up, but more strangers die and those few townspeople who seem willing to help him end up dying as well. And against all probability the people who die later show up in town, and everyone acts as if they've been there all along, and no one notices that the gas station attendant was being burned to death just a few scenes ago. It's not cheap casting by having actors double up on roles, it's a plot point!

Or, at least it might have been if anything ever came of it other than broad reminders to the audience that "hey, that guy died just a couple of scenes ago!" Because the resolution to the mystery is that, and I pretty much have to spoil it here because it's just that stupid a development, is that the entire town are zombies, and they kill outsiders so that they can resurrect them and add to their ranks! Every single one of the townspeople is a zombie! Even the sheriff! Who, apparently, is the only person in town to not realize that he's a zombie! So, what, all the other zombies were just fucking with him during the course of the investigation? The hell? Who knew zombies played practical jokes on one another.

Raw Meat

Also known as Death Line, this early seventies British film is a decent stab at gore, but it gets bogged down in a strange sort of pretentiousness, as if the director is trying desperately to inject some pathos and artistry into what is, essentially, a film about a cannibal living beneath the London subway system. There are long, meandering pans all around the cannibal's lair, never-ending still shots, and a strange attempt to make the CHUD a pitiful victim of circumstance with a tragic and misunderstood history. He misses his wife, you see. Or mother, sister or daughter. A century of CHUD inbreeding implies a domestic situation the film wisely shys away from addressing directly. But those scenes are interminable. I suspect that if you cut out all the scenes of the director playing with the dolly and the attempts to make the vicious cannibalistic murderer sympathetic you could get the entire film to run under an hour.

Of course, without all those shots of the CHUD crying, there really is no movie. There's an American actor hanging around getting into cute little lovers spats with his girl-friend, mostly because he lives up to most of the stereotypes of the ugly American abroad. Which is pretty much what every American actor cast in a European horror film in the belief that will get the movie sold to an American distributor does. And, from his introduction, you can pretty much map out where the film is headed, with the obligatory rescue of his girl-friend from the neighborhood CHUD. Who, of course, tries to rape the flower of English womanhood right before he's dispatched, so that we won't feel sorry for him anymore I suppose. Frankly, after listening to him shout "Mind the doors" and chase the girl down subway tunnels for a half-hour I was pretty much hoping he'd die anyway.

About the only redeeming aspect of the film is that Donald Pleasence is in it, hamming it up and turning his hippie-hating, American-hating, MI5-hating DCI role into the only bit of comic relief in the picture whatsoever. I could pretty much have watched a full hour and a half of Pleasence berating his subordinates, complaining about the tea, missing at darts, getting drunk in a pub, and getting bitchy with Christopher Lee (also in the film, for about 30 seconds) happily, and considered this one of the greatest films ever. And then they had to go and run it with Generic McBoringAmerican and his passive-aggressive girl-friend and the maudlin CHUD butting into all his scenes.


Brokebat Mountain 

It's cute. But I'm stumped as to which is more trite at this point; "Gay Batman" jokes or Brokeback Mountain parodies.

Of course, I can never get tired of gay Batman jokes. Hell, if I had to stop making gay jokes about comic book characters, I'd have to delete about half my posts...


Sticky Signing 

A Different Light in Los Angeles to host a book signing for the hard-cover edition of Steve MacIsaac's and Dale Lazarov's Sticky. It's this Friday, May 12th, at 7:30 at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood.


And, I'm Back 

That was a particularly frustrating four days for me.

Two things became clear, though. One is that Blogger is extremely reluctant to admit when there's a problem, even when it's not something that they caused. Unless, of course, you're publishing with a .blogspot address, in which case they seem to act with slightly more urgency. The other is that the system admins for my web-host and their affiliated companies are so out of touch with what's going on with the internet these days that they appear to have thought with all sincerity that Blogger was a spambot. Of course, given how many spammers Blogger seems to attract, they may not have a bad argument.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Sad Batman Video 

Originally spotted at Heroes and Villains


Wait, What Now? 

And sometimes I even manage to creep myself out with the context-free shenanigans...


Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Handy Link 

Episode commentaries for the new season of Doctor Who. That just happen to synch up to the episodes. Almost as if the BBC is aware of people downloading the episodes. But this certainly wouldn't be any kind of tacit encouragement of that. Oh no...

You should also go check out this post of Devon's. Utter brilliance.


Popre Spalling is Overratted 

Spotted at DC's 52 web-site, which is worth a look if you're a DC fan:

Unless they're making an oblique reference to City of Villains?


In Which Dorian is Cynical (What A Surprise...) 

re: Civil War #1

Anyone want to take bets on this series revealing that the Avengers were trying to "fix" the Masters of Evil (thus explaining why they became good guys in Thunderbolts) and Tony Stark objected, so the Scarlet Witch mind-wiped him, which is why he's been kind of an insufferable prick lately?

And then in the next cross-over (you know, the one after Annihilation and whatever the next X-Men thing Brubaker is building up to), the Golden Age Vision can come back from whatever limbo he's been stuck in, and he and Bucky/The Winter Soldier will try to recreate their Earth 617, only to have Patriot nobly sacrifice himself to stop them.

And then Wolverine can kill Karolina, Wiccan and Hulkling because he hates fags is being mind-controlled by, oh, let's say the Scarlet Witch again, because Marvel hasn't had anything to blame an over-emotional woman on lately.

Marvel: The House of DC's Ideas from Last Year!

(Please Note: The preceding was a joke. If it offended you, well, you probably need to get out of the house more...)


Friday, May 05, 2006

Choosing Sides 

You can't pin this one on me!


Free Comic Book Day Reviews 

As I've done in the past, I made myself sit down and read all the Free Comic Book Day comics and determine whether a) I think they're any good and b) if I think they'll attract new readers. I use a very simple and easy to understand ratings system. If I say Get it, I think it's a good comic and you should try to check it out. If I say Eh it usually means that while the comic isn't particularly outstanding, any faults it may have are easily overlooked because it's a free comic. And if I say Avoid I strongly suggest you look elsewhere for your entertainment, unless you plan on reading the comic only to see just how bad it really is. Be careful, too many Avoid comics in one sitting and you might just find yourself swearing off comics all together.

Amelia Rules: Funny Story: Jimmy Gownley's all-ages comic has been a highlight of FCBD every time it's appeared, and this time is no exception. It’s well-illustrated, with engaging art-work and a good deal of humor and genuine emotion mixed together.
Get it

Arcana Studio Presents #3: I’ve been very harsh on prior FCBD works from Arcana in the past, and there’s not much here to make me change my opinion. The art isn’t terrible, but the writing’s a bit over-wrought. I’ve heard mostly good things about 100 Girls, but Kade and Ezra just leave me cold. There’s a one-page ad in the back advertising forthcoming Arcana titles, and many of those, just from the small glimpse of art I see there, sound far more interesting to me that what’s in this book.

Bluff & Tales from a Forgotten Planet: Narwain presents a book split between Bluff, a slight but amusing story of a dog and his flea adopted by a family, and a Ben Dunn sci-fi comic that reads, frankly, like everything else I’ve ever tried to read by Ben Dunn. Bluff was cute. Bluff is worth looking at.
Get it for Bluff, /Eh for the rest of the book

Buzzboy: Sidekicks Rule: I’ve enjoyed the Buzzboy comics I’ve read for FCBD in the past. They were fun takes on the super-hero genre that didn’t take themselves too seriously either. This time there seems to be more of an effort made to, well, mock relatively recent super-hero comics. It’s not bad, but it’s the sort of self-referential humor, where the jokes are dependant on having read the comics being mocked, that too frequently passes for comedy in super-hero books, and it’s not something I see translating well to new comics readers.

Comic Genesis/God Mode: This is a sampler of web-comics hosted on the Comics Genesis web-site, along with an extended reprint of a video-game humor comic called “God Mode” on the flip-side. The quality is very uneven, with perhaps more sub-par comics than good work on display. “God Mode,” surprisingly, I enjoyed, despite the lack of interest I have for either video-game humor strips or office humor strips.

Donald Duck: A trio of short stories by modern Duck artists is the offering this year. The stories are unabashedly humor, unlike the adventure stories that characterized past FCBD promotions from Gemstone, and it is nice to see more contemporary work than the habitual Barks reprints.
Get it

Free Scott Pilgrim: I’m told that this “Scott Pilgrim” thing is big with “the kids.” It does nothing for me, sorry. I realize that makes me something of a heretic in the comics blogging world, but I was just bored with the story. The book also features a back-up, something called Fearless Griggs, which seems heavily influenced by Mignola’s Hellboy. And that’s about as politely as I can phrase that sentiment.

Funny Book: Jason’s cartoons are entertaining, though a bit nerd-centric. The rest of the book is either simply awful, or a throw-back to the kind of self-conscious efforts to be “daring” and “original” that I’d had rather hoped had died out of the comics industry about ten years ago.

Future Shock: Image’s offering is a book with several short, out of context excerpts from recent or forth-coming books. I’m largely at a loss as to what this approach is meant to accomplish. There’s not enough of any particular story to really give any compelling reason to seek out the book. There isn’t even any attempt made to establish the basic premise of most of the books featured. I suppose if there is a target audience for something like this, it’s existing comic book fans who want to know what the “hot” books at Image are.

G.I. Joe: Sigma 6: G.I. Joe is a strange property. It primarily seems to appeal to adult men, but attempts keep being made to “revive” the concept for a younger audience. And so you get a book like this, which is too “kiddie” for existing Joe fans, and too dependant on a decades old property’s back-story to interest kids. I suppose in the unlikely event that a child with an interest in G.I. Joe does get their hands on this they’ll like it well enough. They’d probably like the cartoon tie-in I’m sure exists for the “Sigma 6” line more.

Impact University: This is nothing more than short excerpts from Impact’s line of “how to draw” books. There’s some value to it as a sort of primer for where at least one publisher thinks the comics industry is heading: fantasy and manga. And it is nice to see some emphasis placed on correct anatomy and story structure in here as well. In any case, it’s nothing remarkable, but nothing objectionable, either.

Jack the Lantern: 1942: This is simply dreadful, a throw-back to the days when half the comics on the rack seemed to be inspired by the work of Tim Vigil and Joe Linsner.

Justice League Unlimited: A reprint of a not very exciting animated-style Justice League comic. For a super-hero comic aimed decidely at kids, there’s an awful lot of people standing around talking. When there is some action, it’s nice to see a variety of more popular and less well-known characters getting in on it.

Keenspot Spotlight 2006: This is another collection of web-comics from the Keenspot site. There’s a very loose theme of “road trips” here which gives the collection as a whole some unity, but the disparity in art styles and quality of the strips reprinted makes for a very uneven reading experience.

Liberty Girl #0: It’s a good-natured cheese-cake title that harkens back to an earlier comics publishing era. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s nothing remarkable either. And any fan of this particular sub-genre of super-hero comics (faux-retro pin-up girls) is probably already well aquainted with the works published by Heroic.

Mr. Jean: Drawn & Quarterly offers some short reprints of Mr. Jean stories, as well as bibliographic comics about the creators of Mr. Jean and an excerpt of the forthcoming Moomin collection. It may be that this is all European material being reprinted, but it’s a rare treat to find art-comix these days that aren’t slavishly self-important and pretentious. (Or trying to shock you with how “offensive” they allegedly are.) The art in all these stories is excellent, and the humor has that slightly “off” European feel but it comes through strongly nonetheless.
Get it

Owly: Breakin’ the Ice: The Owly stories have distinguished themselves by their simple charm and innocence, so it’s quite a surprise to find a story offering a great deal of excitement and danger to the characters. This is definitely one of the stand-out books, and one every who heads to a comic store for FCBD should be on the look-out for.
Get it

The Preposterous Voyages of Ironhide Tom: A foul-mouthed stick-figure pirate who keeps shipwrecking. It’s amazingly funny and clever and simply brilliant.
Get it

Soulsearchers and Company/Deadbeats: I understand that both of these comics have devoted, almost obsessional followings, but they strike me as simply rather pedestrian retreads of genres I’m not terribly interested in to begin with. Like several other books offered this year, the over-all tone and style of these comics is very reminiscent of the early nineties.

Star Wars/Conan: I’m not a Star Wars fan, so I really don’t have a good sense of perspective on this one. Was it good, was it bad? I don’t know, it was just yet another Star Wars comic to me. The Conan story wasn’t bad, though it’s particular purpose seemed to be only to communicate, in as brief a way as possible, “Conan is kind of a badass.” I do sort of wonder at the wisdom of pairing a children’s comic like Star Wars with the more adult skewing Conan comic.

Superman/Batman #1: I actually think it’s quite clever of DC to put this book out. It builds on momentum from last years Batman Begins while subtly promoting the forthcoming Superman Returns. And while it’s fashionable to bash Jeph Loeb’s work as a writer, I’ve always felt that this title somehow works as a bombastic, over-the-top, silly super-hero melodrama. To be perfectly honest, I think this is an even better kid-friendly super-hero book for DC to be putting out for FCBD than Justice League. It’s got lots of action and a slick art style.
Get it

Tokyopop Sneaks: This book contains excerpts from three books from Tokyopop’s line of original titles, Kat and Mouse, Sea Princess Azuri and Mail Order Ninja. Of the three, Kat and Mouse was the most entertaining. It follows the story structure of a high-school set shojo comic fairly closely, but it doesn’t all out ape the look and feel of a Japanese comic. It has a nice blend of American and Japanese styles. If more of Tokyopop’s original line was like this I’d be more favorably inclined to their efforts. Sea Princess Azuri has the potential to be an engaging all-ages fantasy title, while Mail Order Ninja seems to be trying too hard to copy the look and feel of a Japanese comic.

Transformers: Infiltration/Beast Wars: The Gathering: It’s books like these that make me regret my decision to review all the FCBD books. I loved Transformers when I was a kid, but I don’t delude myself into thinking that the cartoon or the comic had any artistic merit at all. This is a comic for men my age and older disguised as a children’s comic, and an exploitive one at that. It makes my head hurt just trying to figure out what the hell is supposed to be going on, and I grew up on this garbage.

Viper Comics Presents: Of the various sampler comics, this is the most successful. The art is of generally good quality, the stories tease but still succeed in setting up their premise, and there’s a nice variety of material on display.
Get it

Wizard Top 100 Trade Paperbacks Of All Time: This is, near as I can tell, pretty much the exact same book Wizard put out last year. It was dreadful then and it’s dreadful now. While you may be tempted to forgive Wizard their fixation on penis and poop jokes because of the perceived value of a guide to quality graphic novels, don’t. This is the sort of thing that causes people to look down on comic fans as maladjusted immature twerps. This is not simply a book to avoid, this is a book to despise.
Avoid at all costs

Worlds of Aspen: I’m not a follower of Michael Turner’s work at all, so while I try to be objective on a book like this, I find myself turned off by the artwork and utterly bored with the story. It’s not terrible, and I can almost, sort of, kind of, see the appeal in work of this kind, but it’s not for me.

X-Men/Runaways: I like the Runaways. I like the X-Men when they’re written well, which is rare. I like Brian K. Vaughn’s work as a writer. But the lead story here was simply terrible, and all the blame must be laid on the “art” of Skottie Young. It’s ugly and unappealing and it reeks of a clumsy attempt to ape an anime look. It’s the sort of blatant pandering to perceived trends that so often typifies Marvel’s comics. The only thing tolerable in the book is a Chris Eliopoulis and Marc Sumerak Franklin Richards story, and that is severely hampered by the heavy Bill Watterson influence on the art. Of particularely noteworthy contempt is the odd prominence of Giant Girl’s ass in the Marvel Adventures: The Avengers excerpt. Given that the Marvel Adventures line is aimed, theoretically, at parents who object to the “mature” content of the regular Marvel universe, the strange prominence of that particular feature of Giant Girl’s anatomy is…worrisome.

Be sure to also check out Johanna's review of the Gold Sponser books, the books most likely to be carried by all retailers participating in Free Comic Book Day.
(Due to the vagaries of Diamond's distribution, the comics from Archie and Bongo were not available to me by the time I wrote this. There was also, for some reason, a guide to the ninth edition set for Magic: The Gathering which was branded with the Free Comic Book Day logo, which didn't really make for entertaining reading.)


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fulfilling my Blogger Duties 

Alright already, the Superman Returns trailer is up.

I'm of somewhat mixed opinion. The images in the trailer lead me to believe that it'll be a very pretty film, but I'm finding the slavish devotion to the idea of continuing the story on from Richard Donner's nearly thirty year old films more than a little off-putting. Actually, the phrase I used was a bit more...colorful than that, and the sort of vaguely homophobic sentiment that I can only get away with expressing because I'm gay.

At the very least the messianic aspects of the first trailer, which I found so off-putting, are toned down a bit.

As far as the hints of the story we get, I think I'm okay with the direction they're taking. I've seen many complaints here and there about Kevin Spacey playing Luthor "too campy," which just makes me wonder if those making the complaints have ever read a Superman comic. Although I do have to say that if all Superman does in this movie, power-wise, is fight Luthor's thugs, I'll probably be a bit disappointed. It would be nice to see a Superman film where he faces off against a physical foe, rather than a primarily intellectual one like Luthor.


An extremely rare link-post 

Scipio perfectly sums up one of the attitudes comic fans exhibit that drives me nuts.

I really don't feel like getting into it more than that. Yes, there are some goofy comics coming out now. Yes, you may be very upset about something that happened in a contemporary comic book. Personally, I think it's a bit silly to get too worked up about things that happen to fictional characters written by committee. But twenty plus years of nostalgia doesn't make old comics any better, and overall I think the quality of writing and art has much improved.


Subtext? What Subtext? 

I'm not sure I have anything I can add to that...


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More Sticky Goodness 

In case you still need convincing, here's a small sample of the distinctive art used in Sticky.

And a much less work-safe preview, as well.


Subtext? What Subtext? 

Yes, Mr. Gaynor, please show us your very long bullwhip and what you learned to do with it in South America. Perhaps it was Rio you spent a good deal of time "cruising about?"


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

News, Reviews and Updates 

The excellent gay porno comic Sticky is now available in a hard-cover collection. Dale Lazarov and Steve MacIsaac do an excellent job in creating a porn comic that's well illustrated as well as erotic. In particular, there's a very nice variety of body types on display in the book, and a strong sense of sex as a fun, mutually satisfying activity. For any fan of gay porn, this is a "must have" for your collection.

Fear the Dead is the latest zombie-comic from Boom Studios. Even as the zombie-horror boom seems to be (thankfully!) fading away, Boom manages to keep it interesting. The format for this story is single-panel, pin-up style illustrations of zombies, accompanied by short text pieces telling the story of a journalist trapped in the city when the zombies came.
The illustrations are from a wide variety of artists, and run the gamut from the grotesque to the comic. A sort of retro look is well represented, giving many of the pictures a (for the subject matter) quaint appeal. A few pictures don't work, mostly the attempts to draw "sexy" female zombies, but the overall quality of the work is good.
For fans of the zombie genre in comics, this book is almost certainly a must have, but it should also have strong appeal for horror fans in general and fans of pin-ups and sketchbooks as well.

Some blogs I've been enjoying lately:

Thought Not
So I Like Superman
And bonus web-comic:
Best of Friends, the adventures of Jesus and Buddha.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Ah, the 40s... 

The Whip. Champion of the abused and mistreated migrant workers in the American Southwest. Scourge of corrupt sheriffs and land-owners.
Also an Anglo who pretended to be Hispanic by adopting an outrageous fake accent.
The Golden Age of Comics, where mixed messages, double standards, and casual racism collide!


God Bless Stephen Colbert 

I can't watch his show for more than ten minutes at a time. Honestly, I can only take his "isn't Bill O'Reilly a dick" one-note joke for about that long. Still, when people who have apparently never watched his show, or watched his show and didn't get that the joke was on them, invite him to give a speech in front of the President, comedy gold ensues:

The greatest thing about this man is he's steady, you know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change, this man's beliefs never will. And as [pauses] excited as I am [turns to president] to be with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story. The president's side and the vice president's side. But the rest of you, what are you thinking reporting on NSA wire tapping, or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason, they're super depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.

Over the last 5 years you people were so good. Over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didnÂ't want to know and you had the courtesy not to tell us. Those were good times, as far as we knew. But listen let's review the rules, here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he's the decider, the press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put it through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again, make love to your wife! Write that novel you got kicking around in your head; you know the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration: you know, fiction!

Of course in that "non-liberal bias" reality, it never happened.
I somehow doubt Colbert is going to be booked for very more speaking engagements anytime soon.


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