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Thursday, May 31, 2007
Death Flaunts Its Golden Grin
Apparently four issues was all it took for some DC editor to call Bob Haney on the carpet and say "Bob, fix this." And that's just what Bob and Dick Dillin do in World's Finest #227, the follow-up to their earlier "Bruce Wayne has a long lost brother who's a psycho killer" story.
The story opens with Superman destroying a beloved national monument, the Statue of Liberty.
"No, dude, you totally are."
It's nice to see Supes get his comeuppance every once in awhile, after all those times he's gaslighted Lois or Jimmy.
Superman is destroying national monuments because he's been asked by the government to look into a gold smuggling ring. Batman was supposed to be helping him, but he's out goofing off, harassing circus acrobats.
Batman is doing this odd thing, not because of his fetish for young men in tights, but in an effort to find his brother, believed to be possessed by Deadman.
This doesn't sit well with Superman, who keeps reminding Batman that they're supposed to be working on a very important case!
Batman, meanwhile, just can't concentrate on anything like the devaluation of US currency, because he's so worried about what could happen if Deadman were to leave the body of his brother, the psycho boomerang killer.
"You dick, that table was in the Wayne family for twelve generations! And you know my parents are dead!" "Yeah, well my planet exploded, so stick it up your rear."
Batman goes out to harass some more acrobats, and finds a likely candidate:
Personally, I don't find "masked acrobat" all that compelling as evidence, but he is the "world's greatest detective" so there's possibly more he knows than I do. Or, you know, the story is running a bit long and Haney decided to speed things up.
No joke, I just think that panel's cool.
The mysterious balloonist/acrobat does a runner after catching sight of Bats, so Bats responds the only way a child of wealth and privilege can respond to a set-back: he buys something.
What follows is a stunning aerial chase between balloon and bi-plane, ending the only way such a stunning battle could end!
Superman, meanwhile, has gone to Switzerland to find the gold smugglers. Because all the gold comes from Switzerland, I guess. While there, he shows a healthy American respect for the rule of law.
His investigations lead him to a castle high in the mountains, which is apparently the headquarters of the gold smugglers. The only clue he can find as to how they're getting the gold into the US are the balloon mooring lines on the roof of the castle. HMMMMMMMM....
Back to Batman, who has laid a trap for Deadman. Or not.
Luckily, the REAL Deadman catches Batman on HIS balloon. Look, just go with it.
Batman and Deadman trace the fake Deadman to a canyon, without realizing that Superman has traced the gold smugglers to THIS VERY CIRCUS! HOW UNEXPECTED! Superman gets into a spectacular dogfight with the balloon and some bi-planes while Bats and Deads engage in some light bondage.
They catch up to the fake and his cronies, only to discover, OH NO, a dilemma!
And Haney fixes his mess.
Oh, and the circus was a front for the gold smugglers, who were sneaking the gold over to the US in solid gold balloon gondolas. Yes, I would think that would be very heavy. And not at all feasible.
See, even though I don't work in comics retail day to day anymore, I still assist my former employer by helping set order levels on the manga titles. Because there's a hell of a lot of them, and he's not that familiar with them. And I'll be honest, my first reaction to seeing the solicitation for Nymphet was "What the holy hell? A comedy series about an eight year old girl trying to have sex with her teacher? Who the fuck thought this would fly in the US, and why do they still have a job?" My second reaction was "Gee, as much as it might amuse me to see Mike go to jail, I'm not sure I want it to be for selling this comic." And so, I declined to order it.
Now, I'm not a prude. Far from it (just ask poor, put upon Mike). I'll happily order hentai manga for the store, sexually suggestive yaoi, and risque manga titles of all genres from all publishers. And even though I understood that this particular title was not anything other than extraordinarily raunchy (no actual sex is in the book, in other words), I didn't feel that sexually suggestive material featuring elementary school age children was a good fit for the store. And seeing some of these sample pages, out of context as they are, hasn't persuaded me that I made a mistake.
In the long run, I think a title like this would have done more harm than good in the US marketplace. We've all been sort of bracing for a big manga backlash from the forces of social conservatism and religious authority, and this could easily have been the book that tipped it off, as the mere suggestion of sexuality in children is enough to set off major moral crusades in this country. You can sort of see it happening already, with the "all manga is porn" responses that have appeared in reaction to this news. And as stupid and short-sighted as those responses are, I have trouble seeing the "CENSORSHIP! CENSORSHIP! WE DEMAND OUR LOLI!" responses from some of the books defenders as any more helpful.
This is What Comes of Sharing Your Wardrobe with a Twelve Year Old
A minor emergency* arose over the weekend, scuttling all my original plans, so I'm left with nothing for you but this oddly compelling yet strangely disturbing shot of Captain Marvel with his shirt off.
* Nothing to worry about, but the cascading results of this event permanently alter all of the plans Pete and I had made for the rest of the year.
I'm still feeling slightly interactive...what do you all think? Trailer reviews, or Previews reviews?
Tim speaks wisdom. As does Steven. And Heidi. I suppose if there really is any larger lesson to be learned from any of these things is that Marvel and DC, despite all their protestations to the contrary, really aren't ready to grow up and act like a serious business. If they were, someone would have realized that the money they make by pandering to the lowest common denominator isn't as much as they lose by alienating existing and potential customers and creating a negative view of their product in the wider culture. The lesson the non comics buying public took away from the Mary Jane statue situation wasn't that fangirls are hysterical and prone to over-reaction, or that Marvel licenses their characters out to specialty manufacturers for the creation of high-end collectibles. No, it was that comic book fans are sad perpetual adolescents who buy over-priced wank material. And that's not a good way to build brand recognition.
But that's old news, and frankly I'm in the mood for something lighter. Mainly, a completely innocent image which could never possibly be misconstrued...
My, but Kurt Schaffenberger draws a nice taint...
But the image by itself is a bit lacking, since we can't see what Superboy is flying into. So I did a little editing:
Hmmm...could Superboy be joining the Doctor on a new adventure?
Or maybe he's involved in an inter-company cross-over?
What else could Superboy be flying into, I wonder?
There's something to be said for line-wide continuity reboots. They allow really horrible ideas that should never have been published to be quietly removed from whatever passes for "canon" in super-hero comics. One of the stories we can thank the original Crisis for getting rid of is this little gem from World's Finest # 223, by Bob Haney, Dick Dillin and Vince Coletta.
It seems that Gotham has been plagued by a serial killer using razor-sharp boomerangs to kill people at random. And neither the police nor Batman has any clue as to who could be responsible. Because this is World's Finest and not The Brave and the Bold, where the killer would be Captain Boomerang and Batman would have to team up with the Flash.
Naturally, a boomerang using serial killer is big news, so Clark Kent is called in to investigate:
Now, I may be misremembering, but at this point in Superman continuity, Clark Kent was an anchorman. Which meant he didn't really have the time to go out traveling and cover stories. Certainly not stories a hundred miles away, driving the news van himself. Why wouldn't WGBS just pick up the story from the Gotham affiliate?
In the meantime, while attending the funeral of one of the victims, Batman happens to notice Deadman's grave. So he starts talking out loud in the hopes that Deadman just happens to be around. He is, because otherwise we wouldn't have as much of a story, and Batman and Deadman decide to team up to solve the murders, just as Superman arrives in town, and the three of them start pursuing parallel leads. By a lucky coincidence, Deadman happens to catch a glimpse of the killer and leads Batman to his hideout:
"Brilliant, wild things...that make no sense." Granted, Batman may not be the best judge of another man's sanity...
Batman and Deadman trace "Thomas Willowwood" to the Willowwood mental hospital, where Batman is too impatient to wait for a warrant to find out more about who this Thomas is and simply has Deadman possess the presiding doctor and get the files for him that way. Apparently, it's pretty good stuff:
Superman has been spending his time flying back and forth over the city at super speed waiting for another attack. When it comes he thwarts it, only to be stopped from catching the killer by a coincidental subway disaster, managing to retrieve only a boomerang and the killer's coat.
You can just hear the sarcasm dripping off of Superman's words there, can't you?
Batman announces that there are no clues to be found, which leads Superman to the conclusion that Bruce has tampered with the evidence. While trying to catch Batman in the act, Batman and Deadman begin shadowing a judge who has been acting suspiciously, thinking it may be connected to the case. Of course it is, but why they would think that based on nothing more than a bailiff saying that the judge is acting oddly...In any case, Superman finally confronts Batman with his suspicions, only to discover the shocking secret of the boomerang killer!
Yes! The killer is Batman's brother, Thomas Wayne! What, you don't remember Thomas Wayne Jr? Well, neither did anyone else. Witness the startling secret origin of Thomas Wayne!
I think this panel is meant to show a car hitting a baby carriage. And not an underpaid nanny shoving an infant in front of a speeding car.
Okay, we need to talk about that last panel a bit. First of all, how do you do a psychiatric diagnosis on a pre-verbal infant? I've studied a bit of psychology, and I just can't see it happening. And that's putting aside the notion that you can't really diagnose a minor with, I'm guessing here, schizophrenia. It's just simply not done. But the important bit: the Waynes committed their infant son to an insane asylum. Forget Jor-El putting his son's pet dog in a rocket, forget David Cain teaching Batgirl to kill but not talk...Thomas and Martha Wayne are the worst parents in the DC universe. FACT my friends. Fact.
Back to the story...Superman insists that Thomas be brought to justice, Batman's brother or not, but Batman cleverly betrays him:
With Superman possessed by Deadman, Batman attempts to talk some sense into his long-lost brother, only to discover that, yep, he's nuts. Maybe spending thirty-odd years in an insane asylum will do that to you...
And then Batman pulls a Hal Jordan:
To wrap up: guy with wrecking ball tries to kill Batman and Thomas, Deadman lets Superman go take care of him, Batman comes to and announces that the guy with the wrecking ball was black-mailing the judge by killing people until the judge overturned a conviction, and tricked Thomas into killing all those people by telling them they were "enemies." So Thomas is still a multiple murderer, but he wasn't culpable because his belfry was full of bats.
And what did happen to Thomas, anyway?
Oh, it gets better...but that's a post for another day.
Countdown to Adventure looks to be padding of the basest variety, as so far DC has yet to give us a reason to think Lady Styx is a credible threat other than telling us that Lady Styx is a credible threat. Oh, sure, she took out Captain Comet and a couple of Green Lanterns, but who hasn't? ...Yes, I'll be buying it...
Lots of Countdown secrets being spoiled by solicits this month. The significant one is in All New Atom, where we learn that it's the new Atom, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and..."Bob the Monitor" looking for Ray Palmer. Why do people think mundane names like "Bob" means "instant funny?" Is it just me not getting the joke?
Amazons Attack ends, and gets at least three tie-ins. So I guess it's not all that self-contained.
All New Booster Gold: Booster as the sheriff of time and space. I'm there for that. But, honestly, was calling it just "Booster Gold" not enough? Is "All New" DC's response to Marvel relaunching everything as "New?" Is "All New" just that little bit more new-er than regular "New?"
52 continues, sort of, with a Four Horsemen one-shot and a Black Adam mini. I like the teams on both, so I'll probably get them. Plus, you know, sad pathetic fanboy DC-nerd over here...
Outsiders: Five of a Kind really probably should lead to a title change for the regular Outsiders book to Batman and the. We'll probably get All New Outsiders though. Honestly, that does kind of bug me now. Anyway...Batman forces potential team members to duke it out for a position on the team. Because he's still kind of jerk, I guess, after Morrison and Dini went to all the trouble of fixing that personality defect. At least we know that it's not any of the Outsiders that die as a result of this current cross-over with Checkmate. Which stinks, because I'd rather lose a couple of Outsiders as a sacrifice to the continuity gods than any of the characters in Checkmate. Except for Waller and Faraday. I think we've done about as much with the "doing wrong for what they think is the right reasons, but really they're just trying to maintain a tenuous grasp of power because that's all they know" personality types as is possible.
Batman Annual #26: Head of the Demon: I'm the only one who actually preferred Nysa to Ra's, aren't I?
Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious brings Sam Keith back to work-for-hire commercial super-hero work. Which means, hopefully, he'll be able to afford to do some of his own original work again in the near future.
Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or Worse is, as expected, a "best of" collection focusing on the unconvincing romance between the two. I don't know if I'll get it or not. I mean, it is prime material for Green Arrow being an ass, and as we all know, nobody actually likes Green Arrow, we just want to see him get what's coming to him...but I suspect he'll probably come off on top in most of these stories. Dammit.
The cover for Black Canary #4 suggests more dead children in the future of the DCU. If we take it for granted that this is not a fake-out, this is a trend I'm not terribly looking forward to going through.
Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Morality: Even if you don't believe me when I tell you that this series was utterly brilliant, and damn near the best use of postmodern theory as applied to super-hero comics as you're ever likely to come across, look at this cover:
How can you not want to rush out and buy that book?
Justice Society of America #8: I'll be the first in line to complain about Alex Ross making a bone-headed statement, or letting his peculiar Super Friends fetish take over a project, or even the generally stiff and lifeless nature of his art, but when he gets something right, even I have to admit that he gets it right.
Yes, that's what Power Girl is supposed to look like.
Okay, fanboy rant, so brace yourselves. JSA All Stars Archive has this description: This brand-new series collects all of the Golden Age solo stories of Johnny Thunder, Hour-Man, Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific, Wildcat and Red Tornado from FLASH COMICS, ADVENTURE COMICS, ALL-AMERICAN COMICS and SENSATION COMICS (January 1940-May 1942)! Okay, first of all, there's enough Golden Age Wildcat material to justify giving him his own Archive, dammit! And the same is true of Johnny Thunder and Mister Terrific as well, I suppose. But any Golden Age Red Tornado material really should be in a Scribbley book, not a JSA book, while we're on the subject.
I detect the hand of Grant Morrison in this Metal Men description: Doc Magnus’s creations are ready to take on all-new threats and some old, reimagined ones: Chemo, Doctor Yes, B.O.L.T.S., The Balloonatic and his Orphan Army, as well as the Robot Renegades led by an old Manhunter Robot! But the greatest threat lies in Le Cabinet Noir and its bid to control the natural order using dangerous lieutenants like the Nameless, an armored being that feeds off the blood of the innocent and controls the Gogoloth, giant stone Golems made of Granite, Bizmuth, Onyx and Lime. That sounds like stuff that didn't make the cut for Doom Patrol to me!
Sword of the Atom and Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders get formally solicited, and the Captain Carrot Showcase does not include the Oz/Wonderland War. Dammit.
Keith Giffen is the new regular writer of Midnighter. That's...interesting.
Mike will be happy to hear that Swamp Thing villains The Un-Men get their own series. I'm sure Swampy will eventually make a guest appearance.
Okay, we're all probably sick of talking of female super-hero character statues and toys, but I think this deserves comment:
That just doesn't look right to me. Her body, particularly her arms, seems far too delicate to support a chest that big. And speaking of which, maybe it's just the perspective in the photo, but it looks like her right breast is about three times as big as her left. I'm not really getting a "yay! Girl Power!" vibe off this toy.
DC Beefcake for August Very slim pickings this month. All we really get is this beautifully rendered shot of Batman's ass from Detective #835:
I sometimes wonder how some of Marvel's covers get approved. I'm sure nothing was intended with this image, other than to create a dynamic cover that makes you say "what the hell? I have to own that!" But, I don't know...an African-American man, on fire, in front of an American flag...did it not occur to anyone that an image like that could be easily misconstrued?
But then, Marvel signed off on this picture as well, so...
I mean, there's no way anyone could misinterpret a boobies and naughty tentacle cover, is there?
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, published by DC/Minx
Being pretty far removed from the target audience for this book, both by age and gender, I wonder if that makes me a better or a worse judge of its quality. It reads a bit like some of the better shojo manga out there, with a dramatic, if not melodramatic, emotive approach to story, placing its emphasis on relationships between characters instead of plot. But a little more plot wouldn't have hurt, as new girl Jane, eager to reinvent herself in a new town after her parents fled the city in the wake of a terrorist incident, forms a new clique with three other girls named Jane. By the rules of high school cliquedom, that these four girls would so easily become good enough friends quickly enough to form an underground art collective that peppers the city with conceptual and installation pieces...well, it seems unlikely, and a bit too conveniently handled in order to hurry the plot along. But those quibbles of pacing and convenience aside, the story does have a nice emotional resonance that I suspect will mean more to someone not quite as old and jaded as I. Although, if I can inject a small complaint over one of my pet peeves: the gay best friend character? Who adds nothing to the story other than to be the "gay best friend" type of character? Yeah, I don't need to see that character in anything anymore. Jim Rugg's art is nicely matured here from his earlier work. He strikes a nice balance between a realistic and a cartoony style, which allows him to very clearly show emotion and action, but still caricature and exaggerate characters for whatever effect or mood the scene calls for. If there is a fault, it's the sometimes odd choices of "camera angle" which just call attention to themselves for their peculiarity. Just because Gil Kane could pull off an up-nostril shot, that doesn't mean they're always a good idea.
Countdown #51, by Paul Dini, Jesus Saiz and Jimmy Palmiotti, published by DC
Judging by online critical reaction, I seem to be in the minority in enjoying this comic. For what it's worth, it's not that I necessarily disagree with any of the more intelligent and perceptive critics who have been disappointed by this book. It's just that: what they call a slow story, I call deliberate pacing. I also can't get too bothered by the the somewhat insular appeal of this book. Let's be perfectly honest: this isn't going to be anyone's introduction to the DC universe. And while overtures to new and returning readers who aren't caught up with all the intricacies of contemporary continuity are always appreciated, I don't think a book that's designed specifically to appeal to the regular super-hero reading audience has to necessarily go out of it's way to pretend that "every comic is somebody's first." Even the much maligned scene from Justice League of America which reappeared in issue #50 works within that context, as it establishes a benchmark by which events in other DC books can be placed on a time line. Given that the title of the series is "Countdown" that seems like an acceptable use of a few pages every couple weeks. All that being said, I actually do enjoy this book. Dini has a good ear for dialogue and the voices of the various characters, his plotting is very deliberate, and the co-writers and artists lined up for this series have all done good work which I've enjoyed in the past. No, it's not the super-star line-up of 52, but it's competent craftsmen who know how to tell enjoyable super-hero stories in service of the corporate properties.
Manga Catch Up: Some manga titles I've been reading, that I don't believe I've talked about before.
Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs, by Yukiya Sakuragi, published by Viz A very, if not deliberately, cute comedy about a dog-crazy girl and the misunderstandings and adventures she gets into because of her infuriating naivete and love of dogs. It has good, if somewhat unremarkable art, with the exception of highly realistic and exquisitely rendered dogs. And in a really nice change of pace for a story about a naive girl in the big city, there's so far not a hint of any romantic subplots.
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki, published by Dark Horse A comedic horror/mystery series with engaging art in an original style, with a wacky cast of characters who, in any other title, would be really messed up, but just fit in perfectly and work here? What is not to love?
Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara, published by Del Rey I was actually a bit underwhelmed. Oh, the art is lovely, to be certain, but the stories are so...vague and ephemeral. Yes, I understand that what we're going for here is more tone and "bigger picture" effects than any emphasis on plot or character would allow. But the end result is something that feels a bit hollow.
Reiko the Zombie Shop by Rei Mikamoto, published by Dark Horse I can't even begin to adequately describe how much I've come to love this comic. I'm not sure if it's the super-cute artwork, or the utterly depraved over the top gore, the absurdist black comedy, or the intersection of those three elements, but it all comes together in a glorious totality of cute girls and horrific violence that puts the most ambitious torture-porn producing shlock producer to shame. And, to its benefit, unlike the torture-porn films, the women actually legitimately kick-ass and take no grief.
Welcome to the NHK by Tatsuhiko Takimoto and Kendi Oiwa, published by Tokyopop Unlike the various iterations of Train Man that have come out in the last year, this is not the story of a nerd who comes out of his shell and discovers the wide world outside of fandom. No, this is the dark mirror of that story, about a shut-in who only falls further and further into more and more depraved and soul-numbing depths of misanthropic nerddom. There's a bit of "there but for the grace of" feel to the enterprise, especially as this is no gentle mockery of the foibles of nerds, but rather a vicious evisceration of all their negative personality traits.
I hate the kind of scuttlebut that says "if you don't support Book X it will be cancelled" because the suggestion that a book is on the cancellation bubble is usually enough to get it pushed over, but since there seems to be concern over the survival of Aquaman, I thought I'd take a moment and say that Tad Williams has been doing a bang-up job with the title since he's taken over, adding a nice, lightly humorous touch to a super-hero adventure title that retains the best elements of Busiek's revamp while bringing the title more in line with a traditional Aquaman book. It's good stuff, in other words, and you should give it a shot if you haven't yet.
Speaking of which...I've been enjoying Will Pfeiffer's run on Catwoman a great deal since the start...but if there are any dead babies in upcoming issues, I'm done with the book. I put up with Nazis buzzsawing children because I trusted that Johns was going somewhere with it, and y'know, Nazis are bad. But killing a baby we've known for over a year, who actually brought something new and interesting into the title character's life...no, that's my limit. Consider yourself on notice, Pfeiffer.
I love comic book fans. "Oh noes, a not very good picture has been released to the internet! Clearly the movie is going to suck! I'm going to go on every message board I can find and make a Brokeback Gotham joke to express my displeasure!"
Apart from Doctor Who, the only television I've been watching much of lately is the new BBC Robin Hood series. It's overall good, but the "family appropriate" heart it wears on its sleeve is very telling and overpowers the stories a good deal of the time. If anything, the series is a bit too bloodless. When even the villain of the piece is making metatextual comments about how the hero is stupid for not just killing him already, you've perhaps pushed your "the hero doesn't kill" rule too far. But, apart from that, I enjoy it, and I'm continually fascinated that even the BBC was willing to put a children's show on the air that's basically a thinly veiled condemnation of the "war on terror" and Britain's and America's domestic policies in response to it.
I actually don't have much to post today, other than to note that I've been greatly amused at watching people argue back and forth over whether or not All Star Batman and Robin's latest issue was good or bad, and whether or not it was meant to be good or bad. Amused, and slightly disappointed, because while what All Star Batman is should be quite self-evident, I haven't seen anyone bothering to tear apart a really horrible comic, namely Ultimates #13. This book was so bad, I think it finally cured me of any impulse to ever waste any money purchasing anything with Mark Millar's name on it ever again. I think it cured me of ever giving Bryan Hitch my money again as well, simply out of guilt by association. With this issue, it's almost as if Millar managed to distill Civil War's ponderously self-important "I have an important political point to make, dammit! Right after this fight scene" style into one comic. But, ooooh, it had fold out pages, so I guess we're supposed to overlook the fact that it was terrible and made not one damn bit of sense...
Music Video Stream of Conciousness: Have You Heard...
My friends always seem very surprised by my taste in music. I don't know what it is, my musical interests are diverse enough that I hardly think I could even be said to have a specific taste in music. And yet, I hear "You like Dolly Parton? Really?" or "I would never have guessed that you'd ever even have heard of The Cows" or "I've never even heard of Scared of Chaka" to get the impression that if my musical likes and dislikes confound people so, I must be doing something right. As a result of this, bands I've never heard, or heard of, get talked up to me periodically. And with the invention of the internet, it's become fairly easy for me to sample songs from those recommended groups.
Kings of Leon, "On Call": I know folks who absolutely adore this band, and actually arrange their vacation and travel schedules to see them whenever and as many times as possible. I just don't have that level of devotion to any band. And, you know, they're not bad, but I can't say I'm too taken with this song. It's rather droney indie-rock sounding, and honestly, that sound doesn't really do it for me anymore. <
Big & Rich, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)": When country became rock with an obnoxious accent, I really stopped caring about country music. There's nothing special about this at all, just the exact type and sound in country music that I can't stand. I can see why this became somewhat popular, what with its taking a t-shirt slogan and turning it into a song. It's the sort of pop-orobous which contemporary American culture seems to thrive on.
Goldfrapp, "Strict Machine": Now, I could get into this. It's got just about all the things I like about electronica (about the only musical genre where I find that I prefer female vocalists to male vocalists by a wide margin), but even those elements of electronica that I tend to dislike, such as the back-beats which frequently overpower all the other elements, are restrained here. Of course, all it takes in that situation is one lame DJ to turn up the bass too damn high, and that delicacy is ruined.
Shiny Toy Guns, "You are the One": Oh my word. The imagery is damn pretentious as to be absolutely giggle-worthy. Especially when it's being used to promote the music of a rather generic indie-RAWK! band that had to resort to the chick-singer cliche to differentiate themselves from all the other nearly identical sounding indie-RAWK! bands out there. Of course, that being said, they're not bad, and I could see myself buying a CD. If I found it used or similarly on sale. It could make good driving music.
Neilalien has a short piece up responding to the "Doctor Strange is teh ghey" meme, which most recently reared it's head at right-wing news-site National Review Online. An important point he makes is that Doc is actually quite the stud and lady-killer...but the model of virile masculinity he's based on is very much out of time.
I'm not usually one for picking on the "scans_daily" crowd (it's a real "fish/barrel/gun" proposition at the best of times), but I felt this thread was noteworthy. I'm honestly baffled by the number of people who seem to seriously think that this:
Is an actual forth-coming cover for the Wonder Woman series. Now, I don't expect everyone on the internet to immediately recognize that picture as a Glen Hanson piece that's at least a year old (NWS link, by the way), as I did, but come on! To even think for a moment that DC would ever seriously consider putting an image like that out on a cover shows a painful disconnect from the realities of the comics publishing world. What's worse are the responses that seem to think that, okay, because here's an unabashed piece of super-hero themed beefcake, that excuses all the sexist and misogynist portrayals of women in super-hero comics. Uh, no. When Newsarama forum posters get the joke you have to have fallen pretty far off the clue train to miss it...
Oh, what the hey, have a Wildcat picture, from Sensation Comics #36:
Yeah, yeah, it's a cheap-shot, "fagged" just means "tired" in this context...but that's actually a guy in drag Wildcat's fighting. Subtext becomes text!
Diamond Comics Distributors has once again rejected from their catalogue work many people find of value. In this case, it was the print version of formerly on-line comics magazine Comics Foundry, edited by one of the sexiest men in comics, Tim Leong. Now, I don't find everything that appears in Comics Foundry to be of value, but it's certainly a hell of a lot better than other "generalist" comics magazines like Wizard or The Comics Buyers Guide. Diamond, however, didn't find it worthy of a listing because, apparently, it's in black and white. Which comics magazines of far narrower scope carried by Diamond are.
Now, as for me, I'd much rather see something like Comics Foundry on the shelf at my local comics shop than another TwoMorrows nostalgia fetishist magazine, with yet another interview with a Harvey comics colorist (after your fourth "and then the low pay drove me to alcoholism and my wife left me. I don't even remember what my kids look like" interview with someone who used to work in the comics industry, they all blend together), or another price guide of dubious accuracy. And if you feel the same way you could maybe write to Tim Huckelbery at Diamond and politely tell him so.
Tiny internet elves pointed out this handy function at the website for Canadian bookseller Chapters, where you can see scheduled ship dates for various DC trades. Many of which haven't been officially announced yet.
Amongst the highlights are: Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster featuring the Atomic Knights: more Silver Age wackiness, with a tie-in to Countdown. (November) JSA All Stars Archive: At $75 dollars, I'm at a loss as to what this might be. (November) Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex: Presumably a second volume, without any annoying unrelated characters butting in. (January) Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons: Bob Haney baby! (December) Showcase Presents: Metal Men: Eh. (October) Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye: Apparently a Levitz era trade, when the jerkiness of the Legion was at its height. Good stuff. (December) Tales of the Multiverse: Batman-Vampire: Probably "Elseworlds" material under a new trade dress and title. (December) Showcase Presents: The Secret Society of Super-Villains: Oh, yes. Yes indeed. Showcase Presents: The Suicide Squad: John Ostrander is credited as the writer, so it's probably the post-Legends version. Which...wow, that's very recent material by the standards DC has previously set for Showcase trades. (November) JLA: Ultramarine Corps: Grant Morrison is credited as writer, but I have no clue what this could be, as I was under the impression that all previous Ultramarines stories had already been collected in JLA trades. (November) Kimmie66: No clue. Possibly an OGN. (November) Water Baby: Again, no clue. Possibly an OGN. (October) Edit: It just occured to me, these are almost certainly Minx titles. The Question: Denny O'Neil era, which will please many I'm sure. (October) 52: The Companion: Notes? "Behind the scenes" material? Sketches? (October) Showcase Presents: Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew: Oh, yes. This is fantastic news. Especially if it includes the Oz-Wonderland War mini-series. (October) Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders: A book I keep meaning to buy in back-issue form, so news that pleases me. (September) Sword of the Atom: The swords-and-sorcery revamp from the 80s. Probably a Countdown tie-in. (September) Dr. 13: Architecture and Morality: Brian Azzarello's brilliant meta-text from Tales of the Unexpected in stand-alone format. You really should get this. (September)
Bear in mind, this list could be wildly inaccurate. Heck, it updated while I was typing this. And just because it's on the list, that doesn't mean it's coming out. Will Pfeiffer's Hero is on the list. With a pub date of Januray, 2050. I doubt even DC sets their publishing plans decades in advance. Edit: Since the link seems to not work all the time, do a search for "DC", then order by publisher, then order by release date.
All this recent talk of gendered genres prompted me to remember a detail from my comics retail days. If you take the most sexist looking, T&A-riffic books on the racks, you're probably talking stuff like Lady Death, Purgatori, Tarot and Witchblade. At least in our neck of the woods, it seemed like the readership for those books was somewhere around 90% female. Now, you could argue, I suppose, that those books are about female empowerment. I'd look at you funny, but you could make the argument. But I think the appeal for our female customers was simpler: they wanted to read about women in heroic (or anti-heroic at least) action roles, who looked good in those action roles. Now, if something of as dubious quality as Chaos! Comics can attract a female readership, there's no reason to think that Marvel and DC can't.
Barry Allen is characteristically late to a date with his wife Iris, at the look roller derby rink. Iris is working on a story about the star of the roller-derby, Kate Krasher. Clearly, an early human interest piece on the gay rights movement, because we all know what kinds of hard women get involved in roller derby, don't we? Barry knows for sure, because when he finally finds Iris he's none too pleased:
"New fish! New fish!" all the girls seemed to be chanting.
When we finally meet Kate Krasher, she's the largest, manliest woman in the rink. You can almost sort of feel Cary Bates trying to get away with using the term "bull dyke"...
Of course, when Lee Marvin goes toe-to-toe with Mary Tyler Moore, the inevitable happens.
Iris responds to Kate the way you'd expect any uptight, middle-class Republican to react. By imagining her as some sort of alien creature.
Oh, Iris, is it your beourgeosie background that gives you such a talent for othering people who are just trying to live their lives?
In case all that girl-on-girl violence wasn't enough for you, Central City is then hit with a "scientifically impossible" earthquake.
At the Science Institute, the earthquake's origin is determined to be...can you guess? That's right, the roller derby rink? When the Flash heads over to investigate, he finds that all the roller skates glow with an unearthly radiation. He then pulls a Hal Jordan.
Waking up and finding himself trussed up over the rink, Flash, and by now the reader, is not at all surprised to find that Kate Krasher is, in fact, the bad guy, and she plans on destroying the world. Starting with Central City. Using the awesome power of roller derby. Hey, it was the 70s. Just go with it.
I believe this panel was later reused in Maude's Handbook to Geology.
Anyway, Flash escapes, he undoes the earth-quake machine by skating around it in the opposite direction of the coil, and he saves the day once again for heteronormativity.
When I went in to pick up my comics on Saturday, I asked Mike where the Kevin Church co-written Cover Girl was, since I didn't see it on the racks. So Mike showed me where they were keeping it:
(No, but seriously, the book's pretty good. And I'm not just saying that because I'm afraid of Kevin. Because, honestly, I'm not. Have you seen him? An asthmatic squirrel could probably take him in a fight.)
I had an uneventful weekend of watching watching Little Britain: Live (how can so many unpleasant characters be so funny?), playing Puzzle Quest (who knew combining Bejeweled with a console-RPG could be addictive?), listening to The Feeling (which I still suspect was unusually emo of me, despite reassurances to the contrary) and reading comics (you know, the multiverse has only been back two weeks, you'd think the fanboys could hold off calling it confusing or a creative failure a bit longer, but no). Pete, meanwhile, spent his weekend driving back from Colorado. I think I got off the better of the two of us. And what did you do this weekend?
There's not much more I can think of to say that hasn't already been said. I mean, it's pretty crass, and tasteless, and indicative of a growing trend in super-hero themed merchandise. I mean, when the female figures Todd McFarlane's company puts out are looking more tasteful and restrained than stuff bearing the DC or Marvel stamp, something's gone horribly wrong.
And, at the end of the day, I still find this hideous thing about a thousand times more offensive:
Given the choice, I'd much rather see a tacky and anatomically improbable Mary Jane than a disemboweled Mary Jane on someone's book-case.
And the sheer silliness of these hyper-sexualized toys makes me bemoan the lack of beefcake merchandise from the big-two. Oh, sure, DC gave us a Warlord action figure, but where's my be-thonged Wolverine statue? Where's my "Wildcat gives Hawkman a sensuous rub-down" maquette? Edit: See, something like this would be welcome if actually manufactured. I'd buy something like that. Well, not exactly like that, as I don't like Spider-Man, but you get the idea.
Music Video Stream of Conciousness: They Did Have Other Songs Edition
Tatu, "Nas Ne Dogonyet": I thought the "they're hot underage lesbians!" marketing angle on this band was pretty exploitative and offensive in it's exploitation, but I secretly liked their sound. Which is fairly impressive as I rarely gravitate to female vocalists, particularly female pop vocalists. The only song of theirs I ever remember getting any serious airplay was the English version of "All the things she said" but I particularly always liked hearing their songs in Russian. Frankly, it just sounds "right" with the music and beat to hear their songs in the original language.
Men Without Hats, "Pop Goes the World": I think this was actually a second, modest hit for the group, but let's be honest. People only remember "The Safety Dance." That they were a pretty solid 80s synth-pop band will be lost to history, so long as VH1 can still find comedians in need of a paycheck who will sit in a front of a camera and make fun of a video that in actuality wasn't significantly goofier than any other video from the period.
Sparks, "Moustache": Even though Sparks has been around, well, longer than I have, I'm still surprised that people are surprised they're still around. That is, when they even realize that they weren't just Jane Wiedlin's back-up band. This video is worth checking out just for the unsettling and unusual sight of Ron Mael without his moustache.
The Hidden Cameras, "Awoo": I'm not sure what it is about sarcastic gay Canadian musicians, but they appeal to me. Most people, if they've even heard of the Hidden Cameras (don't Google them...you'll only regret it), are only aware of "Ban Marriage," but Joel Gibb has been pretty steadily releasing material of high quality. I find that I generally prefer the band's albums as a whole to isolating particular tracks, but this song works fairly well on it's own. The video is a little masterpiece in and of itself, offering creepy imagery which seems at odds with the cheery tune, but not the lyrics themselves.
Ragnell examines a trend in recent comics conversations online, in which fan entitlement concerns are dressed up as outrage over imagined sexism to give those arguments undeserved weight. This is a trend I've been sensing coming on for awhile now, and it does no one any good as it obfuscates genuine issues of concern and gives the pro-misogyny crowd ammunition to dismiss legitimate critiques by associating them with illegitimate ones.
On a related note, I can't stress enough how much I disagree with Johanna's fundamental position, that super-hero comics "aren't for girls." It's an overly reductive, near-essentialist attitude towards gender and genre that I'm really disappointed to see coming from such an intelligent and articulate commentator. It's not the genre itself that is sexist, it's the way the genre is marketed. There is nothing specifically masculine about Manichean morality plays in tights. I'm further troubled, because the "super-heroes aren't for girls" argument is the flip-side of those stupid "get your girlfriend to read comics" articles that pop up in the nerd-press from time to time which always recommend Strangers in Paradise and Sandman for women comic readers, as if there is some sort of female hive-mind enforcing uniformity of taste. It assumes that women "naturally" don't want to read about super-heroes, and that those who do are outside of normative parameters.
Kevin makes some very good arguments about accessibility in contemporary super-hero comics, and I essentially agree with him. Where we differ, I think, is that I'm not as concerned with accessibility in comics that are quite clearly designed to appeal primarily to existing fans with an extensive knowledge of comics continuity as I would be in work that is meant for a wider audience or has the potential to appeal to a wider audience. I'm okay with tailoring work for the "continuity porn" crowd to that crowd, in other words.
Chris talks about Dark Horse, and their inability to make material that they're advertising, material aimed at a very narrow market, available to their primary consumers; retailers. So, it's business as usual for Dark Horse, really.
Here's your fun link: I've finally figured out why the character designs in the new Transformers movie bother me. All the robots look almost exactly the same. Apart from variations in color, I'm hard-pressed to tell them apart. The fact that they all look like they've got metal dildos glued on to them doesn't help much either.
Supernatural: Origins #1, by , Peter Johnson and Matthew Dow Smith, with Geoff Johns and Phil Hester, published by DC/Wildstorm
I'm honestly not sure whether coming to this book without ever having seen even a single episode of the television series it serves as prequel to helped or hindered my response to the book. As a stand-alone concept, it worked fairly well. But there was a certain sense of "sketchiness" about many of the characters and the central premise, that left me feeling throughout the book that I was missing certain fairly significant details and elements of back-story. There are moments that feel very much like foreshadowing that will only pay off in the television show, or bits of exposition that explain gaps in an episode. So, while it was a well put together story and entertaining in its own right, I felt like I wasn't familiar enough with the background to get as much out of it as I was meant to. Smith's art, however, was exceptionally good, and reminded me a little bit of a mix of Duncan Fegredo and Mike Mignola. It's heavily shadowed and moody, which fits the tone of the book very well, and the stylized look to his art was quite striking.
Matt at No-Sword had a couple of brilliant posts up about post-war Japanese family planning guides. Here's part one and here's part two. It's really interesting stuff from an historical and sociological perspective, and as a comic reader it helps explain the "sister complex" I see so often in manga and anime.
Oh, and in reference to the current Man of the Moment, Topher Grace...I selected him because he was pretty much the only thing even remotely tolerable about the latest Spider-Man movie. How bad was it? Even Pete thought it was bad. I think the only other super-hero movie Pete didn't like was the third X-Men film. That's how bad it was.
A little bit of Subtext? What Subtext? for you, that I probably should have saved for Friday Night:
To be fair, pretty much any panel with Magicman is subtextastic. I mean, the green turban, the pearl necklace, the sleeve-less unitard slit to the navel, the pixie boots...and his secret identity? He's in the Army. I don't think they need to ask in the case of Magicman.
It's too damn hot in Santa Barbara to think. Here, let Grant Morrison think at you, about why you should never worry too much about what comic fans say on the internet, from this Newsarama interview:
GM: It's hard to say anything about comics fans in general based on what you read online because the majority of comics fans don't post. Of the 100,000 plus people who bought 52 every week only a tiny proportion ever commented on what they read and even fewer did so on a regular basis. The online community, nice as many of its members are, is not necessarily a representative cross-section of our readership, so while I always value and appreciate the genuine delight of the enthusiasts or shake my head in despair when I read the cranked-up-to-11 sociopathic onslaughts of the haters, I don't use the internet to judge my talent or gauge the popularity of my books.
As for their expectations, some of the people who appear to criticize the loudest are actually the ones we can most count on to buy the books week in, week out, so it's hard to rely on message board commentary as a barometer of success or failure. Remember it was the online community who insisted Daniel Craig would be the worst James Bond ever, (to the point where Craig himself was close to giving in to hopelessness), while the general audience has acclaimed him as possibly the best. Hardcore fans, while always welcome in my neck of the woods, are a very tiny, very specific subset of the audience which consumes popular entertainment and they don't always know what the public wants.
If you want your commentary a little more political, here's Mandy Steckelberg as Laura Bush in "Liberals Just Another Word for Gay":
And, finally, because I was bored last night:
Yeah, I know, laughing at my own jokes is so tired...
It's a typical day in the Fortress of Solitude, as Supes and Bats spend time playing the Sims with Superman's Kryptonian super-computer:
As usual, it's all fun and games until Bruce gets moody:
"You...you really know how to kill a mood, don't you Bruce?" "My parents are dead." "Yeah, I know!"
Clark departs the Fortress to go gaslight Lois and Jimmy, while Bruce heads off to mope in Gotham. Unfortunately, the forget to exist out of the Matrix, and the program continues running...
"World's Greatest Detective" my Aunt Fanny! His "son" figured out he was living in a computer simulation, and he isn't even real!
Somehow or another, Superman Jr and Batman Jr manage to escape from the Supercomputer. Actually, they "fly" at such a great speed as to overload the computer circuits. Which makes them real. Just run with it, okay?
I have no funny commentary here, I just want to point out that Superman Jr is just as big a dork as his father. Oh, okay, if you want a dumb joke, insert a Short Circuit reference here.
After saving some Arctic explorers from a crazy man with a gun (look, just run with it, okay?), Superman Jr and Batman Jr head off to look up their dads. Supes Jr runs into some of his pop's friends first, though.
Cry Emo Lois! Cry!
Bats Jr's reunion with Bats Pere goes a little better:
"Selina? No, too old. Julie? No, too young. Vicki? Maybe it was Vicki. Did I ever get that drunk with Vicki?"
Clark, meanwhile, has discovered that, everywhere the Super Sons go, a natural disaster follows. He and Bruce take the boys back to the Fortress, where Clark proposes the easiest, most elegant solution to the problem of computer simulations coming to life:
There's not really any logic to Clark's decision...he just solves all his problems with the Disintegration Pit. Why do you think no one's seen the Yellow Peri in so long?
Since Clark is unable to talk two teenage boys into committing suicide, the World's Finest partners but not in a gay way resort to BatLogic:
"Besides, boys, there was no need for us to imagine mothers for you, because women are soulless parasites, and will drain you of your vital energies." "Christ, Bruce, knock it off, do you want Diana to break your legs again?"
And yet, somehow, that works, and the Super Sons agree to throw themselves into the Disintegration Pit.
"I didn't really want to exist anyway" is quite possibly the most bathetic line Denny O'Neil ever wrote.
"Clark...I know we just watched our sons kill themselves..." "Yeah..." "And I know you're feeling very emotionally vulnerable and confused right now..." "Yeah..." "Want to make out?" "...Yeah."
Yes, the vicious rumor Mike was spreading was true, and he forced me to return to the world of comics retail for one more day. And, sad to say, as much as those who missed my regular tales of comics retail woe may have been looking forward to a return to that type of blogging, there simply weren't enough crazy customers to come in that day to make an impression. No, not even any drunk women hitting on Mike. No, nor customers looking for comics about quantum physics. Dammit. Though I suspect Aaron and I did manage to give Mike a few more gray hairs in our discussions of the new Pokemon games. And yes, my Pokemans, I showed them to Mike.
Though, as Mike has mentioned, a number of people in Spider-Man costumes did appear.
The best illustrations I can think of to make for the day, are these two shots. Here's Aaron near the start of the day, still full of youth and hope and energy, with plenty of free comics to give away.
And here's Aaron at the end of the day, looking visibly older and yearning for a long rest.
Somehow, as in past years, I somehow talked myself into reviewing every single damn FCBD comic I could get my hand on in advance of the event. This year it was pretty rough going. I think I worked off a couple of centuries in Purgatori if doing this manages to prevent anyone else being accidentally exposed to horrible comics. I usually eschew review scales, finding them overly reductive, but it's pretty much essential for an event of this nature. It's pretty easy to understand, too. Get it means I think it's a good comic and you should check it out. Eh means that it's not a bad comic, but certainly not a great one, but it's free, so what do you care. Avoid means that you're better off socking in the jaw any comic shop clerks who try to hand you a copy.
Activity Book: The phrase from my comics retail days which comes to mind when I attempt to read this is "they tell me it's good, but it's not." I know Lynda Barry has her fans, but this is one of the ugliest objects I've ever handled. I attempted to read it, but it was impossible. If anyone else out there can get through it, more power to you. Avoid
Amazing Spider-Man: It's always nice to see Phil Jimenez art, and Dan Slott is one of the very few writers out there, it seems, who can write an entertaining Spider-Man story without wallowing in emo whininess or character inappropriate mature themes. I'd probably have liked this more, though, if it wasn't quite so plainly set-up for events in the regular Spider-Man books and been a little more self-contained. Also a nuisance: a short preview of a Spider-Man comic by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada, which in six pages manages to sum up everything I hate about Spider-Man. Get it
Amelia Rules: Hangin' Out: It's a cute, silly, essentially throw-away little incident in the lives of the characters. The Amelia Rules books have been highlights of past FCBD events, but it still feels, slightly, as if the reader's familiarity with these characters is being taken for granted. Get it
Ape Entertainment's Comic Spectacular: The over-all quality of the short stories and samples reprinted here is generally good. Even the works which didn't particularly appeal to me had a recognizable level of quality and craftsmanship to them. There's nothing ground-breaking here, but the works are solidly entertaining. Get it
Arcana Studios Presents: Of the three short previews included here, Kade is by far the worst. Imagine a really horrible D&D campaign devised by a guy with nothing in his wardrobe but Iron Maiden and Dio shirts. This reads like a bad comic adaptation of that. 100 Girls has the feel of coming in at the tail-end of a longer story; I'm clearly meant to have a better idea of who this character is, yet I don't. Clockwork Girl has an appealing art style, but all we see here is seven pages of a mad scientist ranting. Avoid
The Astounding Wolfman #1: I like werewolves, but even I have my limits. Jason Howard's art is blocky and unappealing, and Kirkman manages to write a super-hero origin story that gives us no reason to care about or like the protagonist. In short, it's yet another by-the-numbers Image super-hero title, with just enough of an "edge" to appeal to comic fans who think they're too sophisticated to read Marvel or DC comics, yet still want to read stories about people in tights wrestling with each other. Avoid
Bongo Comics Free-For-All: This is one of the few "sampler style" comics that really works, mostly because we get complete stories. The stories are a bit more kid-orientated than the regular Simpsons and Futurama shows, but are still actually funny, which puts them ahead of the last several seasons of The Simpsons in any case. Get it
Buzzboy/Roboy Red: The Buzz and the 'Bot: Cute, unassuming super-hero comics, very much aimed at younger children. It's a very good kids super-hero comic, in fact, but quite probably a bit too kid-orientated for anyone with their age in the double digits. Get it for kids, Eh for everyone else
Choose Your Weapon: Tokyopop's FCBD contribution is a rather frustrating sample of Korean and American titles, all with rather generic sci-fi and fantasy themes, and mostly rather derivative appearing titles at that. That two of the titles are adaptations of on-line role-playing games doesn't help much either. Some of the art isn't bad, but it's in service to horrible stories. Avoid
Comics 101: There's potential in this collection of articles from various TwoMorrows magazines and books, but it's mostly wasted potential. A brief and reductive history of comic books has been included, but only after several workmanlike and wordy articles on comics art and writing. And, in usual TwoMorrows fashion, the intended audience appears to be people who have been reading comics for several decades. And so while the end result isn't terrible, it's still hardly to be recommended. Eh
Comics Festival: Another brilliant sampling of the cream of the crop of Canadian cartoonists. I don't think there's a single "miss" story in here. Though it's a toss up between "Jett Vector" and "Moster Cops" for my favorite. Darwyn Cooke's featured piece, "The Alex" is particularly haunting and evocative as well. Get it
Comics Genesis: An incredibly uneven compilation of web-comics. There's some good material here, some terrible material here, and a lot of mediocre material here. Eh
Digital Webbing Jam 2007: The E-Man story included here, with nice art by Joe Staton, is a brief recap of the heroes origin, while Fist of Justice is a Byrne-ish super-hero tale which appears to want to be postmodern but can't quite pull it off. There's a surreal gag strip called Punks which was...sort of funny. And then there was yet another damn zombie comic and a "hot" vampire babe comic. Eh
Family Guy/Hack/Slash Flipbook: I want to like Hack/Slash. It's got a tongue firmly in cheek approach to horror that I can appreciate, but it just hasn't clicked for me. Although I did like the implicit criticism of the torture-porn genre of horror. Family Guy manages to be funnier and more original than the show it's based on. But then, that's not hard. Eh
Gumby: An assemblage of talented cartoonists put out a just darn peculiar story of Gumby and Pokey going to the art museum. It's utterly bizarre, in a very, very good way. Get it
Hunter's Moon/Salvador Flipbook: Both of these samples are short on plot, but what we see of Hunter's Moon is a promising start to an intriguing human drama. That lack of plot is a bit of a short-coming, however, because without knowing a little bit more of what's going to happen the the emotionally distant father/rebellious son team here, I can't tell if it's a story I'd want to read or not. Especially given how hard a sell I am on stories about characters with "daddy issues." Salvador has not bad art, but even less plot on display than Hunter's Moon, and so I'm given even less reason to care about it. Eh
Impact University Volume 3: A very straight-forward sample of pages from instruction manuals, done in a (mostly) professional and straight-forward way. Since the whole point of FCBD is for stores and publishers to advertise themselves, it's hard to find fault with this package, but it's still incredibly dull. Eh
Jack the Lantern: Ghosts: This reads like a throw-back to the kinds of material Chaos! Comics used to pump out, only with slightly better art. There's some kind of back-story here, and I know I've read previous FCBD editions of Jack the Lantern comics, but I couldn't honestly tell you what any of those were about, who was in them, or why anything happened. Five minutes after reading this one, I have the same feeling. Avoid
Justice League of America #0: AS the start of a storyline, this issue had faults. As a sampler, offering a wide-ranging look at the past and potential futures of the Justice League, it's not too shabby. The wide range of art styles works remarkably well in this context, helping to unify the book while making each "chapter" more distinctive. Get it
Keenspot Spotlight 2007: More web-comics samples, and if anything the ratio of good/mediocre/bad is tilted more towards the "bad" end of the scale. There's a reason I read hardly any web-comics. Books like this drive home the lesson that I'm not missing anything. Eh
Last Blood: I actually found this to be, if not clever, at least an interesting twist on the over-trod vampire and zombie genres. The art is a little rough, and the writing is more enthusiastic than polished, but the conceit of vampires protecting humans from zombies in order to maintain their food source is at least original. Eh
Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century: Well, this actually feels more like the "real" Legion to me than the regular title DC publishes, if for no other reason than the large amount of time establishing the fact that the members of the Legion are all total jerks. With this book you get nice art from Chynna Clugston, and what appears to be an abbreviated adaptation of the first episode of the Legion cartoon. Get it
Liberty Comics #0: Four short stories of a faux Golden Age character with pedestrian stories and mediocre and inconsistent art. About the only thing of particular interest is an anti-environmental fable, the moral of which "plants have only themselves to blame for not adapting to environmental damage" which I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm meant to take as sincere or ironic. Avoid
Little Archie: Legend of the Lost Lagoon: Hey, how do you make Archie even less appealing? Kiddify it. While it's nice to see Bob Bolling art again, the story is just a bit too twee. I mean, Veronica sees an elf...and it's a two-panel throw-away gag. I'd have much preferred something a bit more comedic in focus, like a standard Archie comic, than a danger and suspense free "adventure" comic. Eh
The Lone Ranger/New Battlestar Galactica: I haven't swallowed the "BSG" kool-aid yet, and this prequel story doesn't do anything to convince me I'm missing out. I do like the Lone Ranger, but I passed on the regular series for looking too much like it was being written for the trade, and while I liked the story well enough, it hasn't convinced me that was a wrong decision either. Eh
Love and Capes #4: Thomas Zahler's super-hero romance comic is cute and unpretentious, and liberally littered with in-jokes for super-hero fans. He has a unique art-style and a good ear for snappy dialogue. About the only problems with the book are sometimes muddy colors and transparent word-balloons which are frequently hard to read. This particular issue's story, about a Superman-type hero's jealousy of a Spider-Man type's popular film is especially fitting given the timing of this year's FCBD. Get it
Marvel Adventures: Iron Man & Hulk: What we have here are too inoffensive, continuity-lite approaches to characters in kid-friendly adventures. I'm always skeptical of the appeal of the Marvel Adventures line; they seem to be essentially "dumbed down" versions of the regular comics. In my comics retail experience, kids had a great sense of avoiding material they sensed was talking down to them. But these are certainly more pleasant presentations of these two characters than we've seen in their regular titles for some time. Eh
Mickey Mouse: The Robin Hood Adventure: The Mickey Mouse newspaper strip looks a bit odd to modern eyes, as Mickey's behavior is frequently churlish, if not outright jerkish. It's probably a bit too different from what they expect for kids, but fans of classic comics should enjoy it. A qualified get it
Nexus: A "greatest hits" collection, reprinting more or less random pages from more or less random past issues of Nexus. While it's entirely probably that there were enough Nexus readers a decade ago who still care enough about the property to find some value in a book like this, those people would probably be the only people value in a book like this. The property has laid fallow long enough that a more direct re-introduction to the character was probably warranted. Avoid
Owly: Helping Hands: Owly stories are always a treat, with their appealing art and sentimental stories. They're the best kind of all-ages stories. The short preview of Korgi included here is lovely as well. Get it
Pirates vs. Ninjas #1: I'm continually surprised to see that Antarctic Press is still in business. This book not only features unremarkable anime-inspired art, but the "cashing in on last year's ironic joke" theme smacks of desperation on the "Disco Dazzler" scale. Avoid
Sonic the Hedgehog: Kids love Sonic comics. I know that probably comes as a shock to the average adult comic fan, but trust me, a comic shop well-stocked in Sonic back-issues can blow through them quickly. The story is impenetrable, and the art is really only okay, but I suspect it doesn't matter to the target audience. Eh
The Train was Bang on Time: This preview of Eddie Campbell's The Black Diamond Detective Agency is perhaps a bit too brief, but it does an excellent job of advertising the tone and plot of the graphic novel it's excerpted from. More of a sense of closure would probably have helped in a sampling as brief as this, but what we have here is still a strong introduction. Get it
Transformers Movie Prequel: Now, I'll grant you that it's been about twenty-five years since I really saw a Transformers cartoon or comic, but I don't remember them making as little sense or being quite so ugly as this. It's almost as if the creators are on some level embarrassed by what they're working on, and have forced oddly ill-fitting violent themes onto a children's toy property. Avoid
Umbrella Academy/Pantheon City/Zero Killer: "Inscrutable" would be the word of choice for this Dark Horse comics sampler. The only thing that even resembles a complete story is the Umbrella Academy preview, which spends far too much time trying to establish itself as "kooky" to bother being good. It's the sort of super-hero parody material that hipsters seem to love, but it's been done better, dozens of times. The only redeeming feature is the artwork by Gabriel Ba. The other stories on display, Pantheon City and Zero Killer are throw-backs to the kinds of material Dark Horse used to publish ten years ago. Both have a strong "Comics Greatest World" feel to them. Eh
Unseen Peanuts: This collection of previously unreprinted Peanuts strips is probably going to go down as the best received book this year. Even though it's easy to see why many of these strips haven't been seen since their initial publication, there's still plenty of high-quality material with broad appeal. Get it
Viper Comics Presents Volume Two: Another uneven sampler of forthcoming material. The stories are a tad too brief to really give more than an impression of art and tone, and for myself there's nothing particularly compelling here. The strongest piece is a sample from Sasquatch by "Nicc & Drew." Eh
Virgin Comics Special: Well, the art on these Indian mythology inspired super-hero books is pretty at least, but the writing is uniformly bad and over-dramatic. The only story with any charm is "Walk In" allegedly created by Dave Stewart, but the sample gives no indication of what the story is supposed to be about. Avoid
Wahoo Morris: The "relationship based indie comic" is a well-worn genre, and Taillefer's particular twist, introducing the supernatural and rock bands, is both familiar and sets the work apart. Eh
Whiteout #1: Oni generally does an exceptional job of picking which of their past titles to spotlight for FCBD. Greg Rucka's mystery comic is exceptional, with a strong opening and the choice of location is unique and compelling. Get it
Who Wants to be a Superhero: Dark Horse apparently rushed this out to capitalize on...well, the fact that no one seems to care about this tv show anymore, apparently. Bad art, bad story and yet another example of Dark Horse wasting money on the wrong comics license. Avoid
Wizard How to Draw: Free Comic Book Day Booklet: As opposed to the outright offensive materials Wizard has provided for FCBD in the past, this short sampling of "how to" articles is rather benign. There's not much in the way of sophomoric humor and the typical Wizard obsession with mammaries is absent, save for the rather cheese-cakey cover. It's still far from an essential, or even particularly interesting, offer, unless you happen to be interested in buying any of Wizard's "how to draw" books. Eh
Worlds of Aspen: This makes absolutely no damn sense whatsoever, and the art is pretty uniformly horrible. It's like watching five minute segments of several different soap operas. In Esperanto. Avoid avoid avoid
As part of a progressive-interview sort of thing, GayProf of the Center of Gravitas asked me five questions, to share with the world at large. So here we go:
1. We share a common interest in vintage gay porn/beefcake. Why are you drawn to these images (beyond the obvious fact that it involves men in various states of undress)?
A big part of the appeal to vintage physique and beefcake photography for me is the aesthetic quality of the material. On a fundamental level, I just enjoy looking at pictures of nicely put together men. But there's an historical appeal to this kind of material as well. Before there was really any kind of mass gay media in this or any other country, the physique magazines were around. And it was, basically, understood that the magazines were primarily put out by gay men and for gay men. The magazines and photography, now, represent a link to the times when simply being gay was illegal in every state, a link to and reminder of the difficulties gay men and lesbians have had to overcome. But it's mostly the aesthetics. When I look at gay porn now, what I see is usually either skinny, hairless boys who look barely pubescent, or steroid cases scowling angrily at the camera. I don't find either image erotic. There's a sense of naivete and innocence to physique magazines. Yes, we're being invited to gaze erotically at the subject of the photos, but it never feels exploitative or squalid. The men are fit, but not living caricatures, and they seem dosh-garn happy to be naked or nearly so. It's a much more pleasant and positive portrayal of sexuality than much of what I see today.
2. What is the thing that you miss most about working in a comic shop?
The regular interaction with the sane customers and coworkers is probably the thing I miss most. Actually, it's probably the only thing I miss. I made good friends working in comics retail, hey even made a best friend, but don't tell him I said that. So that part of the experience I don't regret at all. The pay and hours and general frustrations of working retail are not missed one bit, though.
3. Imagine that you finally went on a date with Wildcat (with Pete's blessing). What would it involve?
Well, Ted's pretty much a guy's guy, so I can't imagine that romance or wooing are his strong points. He means well, though, and he tries, so his idea of going out would almost certainly be to a sporting event of some kind, preferably something physical. Boxing, of course, being top of the list. This would be after a steak-and-potatoes type dinner at a restaurant. Nothing fancy, but not a dive either. The end of the evening would almost certainly be drinks out at a bar. And then home for the hot, hot man sex.
4. One of your posts a few months ago detailed your finding a stash of gay porn from a couple of sailors who lived near your childhood home. In retrospect, this was a formative moment for you. What are the questions that you would have for them if you could meet them today?
I'm going to go out on a wild limb and assume you mean this post. That's actually a tough one. There's all sorts of things I'm curious about. Why did they enlist? Was it to prove themselves "real men" or to get away from an intolerable small town or was it just simple patriotism? How did they find one another? The military isn't the most gay friendly employer in the first place, and in the early days of AIDS hysteria it could only have been worse. And when it became clear that, because they were being separated by new postings, how did they react? What did they talk about, that last day they had together before one had to leave?
5. Why do you worship and/or adore GayProf?
What is not to adore? A smart, witty, dashingly handsome man will always attract my attention.