Friday, June 29, 2007

Fan Fiction & Activist Judges

A few weeks back, Brian Cronin wrote an interesting post on the term "fan fiction" where he asks what it means and how since it is rarely defined, as a critical term, it is relatively meaningless.

I posted what I thought the term to be, which was something along the lines of when the "inner fan" aspect of the writer wins out over the "professional writer" aspect. I know, that's vague and subjective, but that's the best I can come up with. I've long argued that anytime I read that a new writer will rock a book simply because he/she loves the characters that that comment tends to make me want to avoid the book, because I don't want to read comics written by fans, I want to read comics written by writers. Of course, being a fan doesn't necessarily mean the writing will be bad, just as not being a fan won't mean the writing will be good, but I'll place my bets on a non-fan over a fan any day of the week simply because I know there's a much better chance of the "professional writer" showing up than the "inner fan" showing up.

However, that's me and my idea of what the criticism "fan fiction" means, so it isn't exactly useful for everyone else (unless everyone else adopts it, of course). The discussion, though, got me thinking about the wider use of the term and the fact that it's usually used as a catch-all for negativity. The real world equivalent would be "activist judge." Like "fan fiction," "activist judge" is used only when the critic disagrees with what he/she sees, which means the term has little value. When was the last time you've seen either used to praise? Or used by someone who LIKED what happened?

Much like politics, where judicial decisions are judged by liberal/conservative standards, comics are judged by Marvel/DC standards. A bold judicial ruling that angers half the country, while making the other half happy? It's either a fine example of judicial oversight or judicial activism depending which side of the political scale it falls. It doesn't matter if the writing/plot points are nearly identical, if the comic was published by your guys, it's brilliant, if it was published by the other guys, it's FAN FICTION.

How sad is that?

So, yeah, I'm not using the term "fan fiction" anymore until the general level of discussion is raised above such petty, meaningless bullshit, the same way I never used the term "activist judge." Because, fuck it, I'm better than that--and you should be, too.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Cancellation Blues

My post on Automatic Kafka is coming. It's a rambling, sometimes stream-of-consciousness-esque post that I've been working on sporadically for a couple of weeks now. With any luck, I'll have it up by Monday.

But, writing about it and the fact that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip ends tonight has gotten me thinking about cancellation, and how I view the two as very different things for comics and TV.

I used to piss off my friend Shuk because I was always saying "I love the show, but I hope they do cancel Arrested Development." Yeah, that was me. And I said that simply because I didn't want to see a show I loved turn to shit like I'd seen so many times on television. In this age of DVD sets, fuck it, cancel that great show, because guess what, Mr. Network Producer? I'm going to be able to watch its brilliance whenever I want soon enough! A great example of this is Freaks and Geeks. A friend and I just finished watching it (rewatching for me, but it was her first time seeing it) and, yeah, by the end, we were both upset about the fact that there's no more episodes to watch, but the 18 episodes we did watch were amazing. Not a shitty one in the bunch. Would the same thing have happened in a second season? Maybe. A third? Eh . . . A fourth? Doubtful. Cancellation provides a chance for a novel-like experience where you're sad that it's over and want more, but at least it didn't drag out and go off the air five years too late like so many popular shows we've all watched and loved.

Why not the same attitude with comics? All of you Blade fans, why not mour briefly, but then say, "Well, at least it never had a chance to suck"? Why not look at those twelve issues as its own entity that was always meant to be contained and leaving you wanting more?

What's worse: left wanting more or being bored and annoyed at the decline in quality? Sure, you're probably missing out on a year or two of quality, but what about missing out on the few years of shit?

Or do comics avoid this because of the more singular, creator-driven vision? Do titles miss out on the chance to turn bad in the same way as TV shows because comics are often written by one writer and then passed off to another who may have such a different style and direction that it doesn't necessarly seem like the same title, while TV shows try to maintain the exact same voice no matter who is writing and what that writer's talent may or may not be?

Or, is the age of trades the same as the age of DVDs?

I don't know, but I do love how I have some short-lived comic series in my collection that kick ass all the way through and never had a chance to go bad. Same with my DVD collection.

"What might have been . . ." can go both way, you know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Steve also has 8 things

We got tagged, and then Chad choce to tag me again, so this is me answering my eight things.
The rules are in Chad's post before mine, which I can't be bothered to repost. That's one of the rules, reposting the rules, so you can see how I feel about obeying the rules.

1. I like comics aimed at teenage girls.
Spiderman loves Mary Jane is my favorite book being published right now, and I'm glad it's being handed off to Terry Moore, who I think will do the book justice. I have also in recent years been a big fan of Emma Frost. I love Courtney Crumrin, Blue Monday, Lost at Sea, and Leave it to Chance. I recently bought and read The PLAIN Janes, from the Minx line, and I look forward to other books from them, in particular Clubbing and Good as Lily.

2. I do not, however, like manga.
I've read some Fruits Basket, DNAngel, Battle Royale, Cowboy Bebop, Lupin III, Lone Wolf and Cub, Tokyo Babylon, Descendents of Darkness, The Ring, Ohikkoshi... and while there are some of those I'd gladly read more of if you gave me a free copy, the only Japanese comics I have ever liked enough to own are the recent collections of Yoshihiro Tatsumi stuff that Drawn and Quarterly released, and I only dug them because they're very Raymond Carver-esque.

3. I've become an original art addict.
I have on my wall pages by Jeremy Haun (Paradigm), Scott Chantler (Scandalous), Brian Hurtt (Three Strikes), Eric J (Rex Mundi cover), Ryan Kelly (Local), Simon Gane (Paris), Matt Kindt (Pistolwhip), Jamie McKelvie (Long Hot Summer), Takeshi Miyazawa (Mary Jane), and Bryan Lee O'Malley (Lost at Sea). And I intend to buy more in Chicago and San Diego this year.

4. I am an unabashed fan of Vertigo.
Swamp Thing from before it was fully a "mature readers" book. Doom Patrol. Animal Man. Hellblazer. Sandman. Shade the Changing Man. The Extremist. Sebastian O. Egypt. and on and on and on to the present day, when Vertigo is the publisher I buy the most books from in any given month (not DC but Vertigo). If I don't own it, I've read it. If I haven't read it, I know enough about it to talk to you about it.

5. I am a comics advocate.
I used to do a column for Broken Frontier about how to best support the industry by buying books to give away to friends, loved ones, and complete strangers (seriously, next time you go to the barbershop, take a kid-friendly comic with you and leave it there for someone else to read). And I still follow the tactics; I just don't write about it anymore.

6. If I ever have a son, which isn't very likely...
but if my wife and I ever decide to have kids, and we have a boy, the frontrunner name at present is Seth Alan. Seth for the penname of cartoonist Greg Gallant, and Alan for Alan Moore.

7. My sketchbook project
The sketchbook I take to cons to get artists to draw in for me is full of images of my wife. I take photos of my wife as reference and ask them to draw her. Worst one? Rich Koslowski, who I normally love. Best one? Jeremy Haun, who knows my wife so took his time with it to make it lovely.

8. comics of my own
It is my personal goal to have a table at Wondercon next year to sell books I have written that I've paid artists to draw for me. I've got over a thousand bucks saved up at present to pay various artists (with another thou by the end of the summer and another by the end of the year--thank God for teaching overload), and a couple of artists are working right now on stories for me. More details to come when I have enough material to start talking about it with people, hopefully around the beginning of August.

And now the rules say I have to tag other people. But I don't care to, so I'm not gonna.

8 Things

I got tagged by Spencer Carnage and figure I better participate or else . . . well, I dunno. Something, I'm sure.

First things first:

- I have to post these rules before I start.
- I have to tell you eight facts about myself.
- I have to tag eight people to participate.
- I'm supposed to leave a comment telling them they're tagged and to read my blog.
- And the tagees need to write their own blog post, telling us eight things and posting the rules.

Since I was tagged for this blog and not my personal one, I'll try to keep the facts all comic-related.

1. I like Spider-Clones.

No, that's a lie. I LOVE Spider-Clones. Fuck all of you who say cloning Spider-Man is wrong and against God's plan. God wants as many Spider-Men as possible so each can have his own monthly book, thus making sure you don't NEED to buy any of them except for the one of your choice. The Spectacular Spider-Man is a different Spider-Man from the Amazing Spider-Man! Web of Spider-Man? WHICH FUCKING SPIDER-MAN????

That, and the whole clone saga was awesome for the first six months to a year, okay? The lesson with that story isn't that clones are bad, it's that you need to know how to tell a story right. Two different things.

2. I like Warren Ellis' writing about comics more than his comics.

In one pile, you have Transmetropolitan, Planetary, The Authority and every other comic Ellis has ever done. In the other, Come in Alone, the two volumes of From the Desk of . . ., the two volumes of Bad Signal plus a special book collecting everything else he's written about comics.

I choose pile number two. Hell, if the second pile was just Come in Alone, I'd still choose the second pile. Ellis' comics are great, but his writing on comics is better.

As for why, it may just be that Ellis writes in a very intelligent manner about comics from the perspective of a creator who operates well within the mainstream while maintaining a sense of individualism. Not many people do that and the others who do it just don't do it as well. Same can't be said for his comics (although, I realised the other day that he writes a shitload of comics and the worst of the bunch are still better than most of what's on the shelves).

3. I don't like DC: New Frontier.

I've said it before, but I got the first volume of this "masterpiece" and found it lacking. Lacking quality, that is. (OH!) Seriously, the story didn't engage me, the characters had little or no development and I couldn't think of a single reason WHY I was reading it. Nothing in it seemed to warrant my attention aside from the art, which was pretty.

4. I'm getting on the Joe Casey bandwagon before it leaves the station.

The way people discuss Grant Morrison right now? That will be Joe Casey someday, so that's why you see me writing about his stuff a lot. Trust me. Automatic Kafka and Codeflesh will be beloved by all.

5. I'm looking forward to the new Thor book.

What can I say, I love that Norse god. Although, not a month goes by that I don't curse Marvel for using Warren Ellis' direction for the character beyond the eight or ten issues William Messner-Loebs did (which were good). Shirtless, human-talking Thor who fucked the Enchantress and fought mad scientist cannibals, while avoiding chain-smoking British cops. What's not to like?

6. I don't read Ultimate Spider-Man simply because he doesn't say "fuck."

Fuck you, I was a geeky guy in high school and I said "fuck." And I was last in high school five years ago--teens have gotten even more foul-mouthed since then. At least have Ultimate Wolverine call Sabretooth a "cocksucker." Because he would. Because Sabretooth is a cocksucker.

7. I still feel cheated by the whole "Reign of the Supermen" storyline.

DC said one of them would be Superman! None of them became Superman! My ten-year-old self is fucking pissed off, DC. You pussed out and now I don't trust comic companies at all. Oh, oh, oh, Captain America's dead? MAYBE HE'S SHOW UP IN SOME FUCKING ROBOT AND JUMP OUT COVERED IN WEIRD LIQUIDS! SUPERMAN DID! Elektra's a Skrull? Yeah, maybe she isn't and that's just what the Kree want us to think! I read your book, you magnificant bastard!

8. I never understood why Superboy freaked out when he found out Lex Luthor's DNA was also used to clone him.

Seriously, what the fuck? Shouldn't he have spent, like, five minutes going "Well, that sucks" and then MOVED THE FUCK ON BECAUSE WHO FUCKING CARES? You're a clone, for fuck's sake! You were already some weird freak, so adding a slightly more freakish thing into your story doesn't mean shit. Maybe if you found out that you were part spider, then, yeah, I'd freak out. Part Lex Luthor? PFT! If he pulls that "I'm your dad" bullshit, you just go "You jerk off into a cup full of Superman's spunk--good job, Mr. Super-Villain-Genius!"

And I'll tag . . . Chip, Adam, Andy, Shuk, Troy, Erin, Doc, and Steve

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Previously on GraphiContent . . .

First off, go read Greg Burgas' excellent review of JLA #10, including the comments as they are important. I'll wait, as it should take you a while, but it's worth it, trust me. (Seriously, I wish I could write reviews as intelligent as that. I bet the six of you who read this blog do, too.)

Done? Great.

I find the whole topic of "Previously . . ." pages or montages interesting, as I've been paying close attention to those used on The West Wing since January, when Canadian Learning Television began running the show every weekday from the beginning (this is the second run-through, I believe since it was airing before, but, luckily, it started again in January and I've been watching--and if I missed an episode, used my DVD set of the show to fill in the blanks--yes, I bought the show on DVD for this specific purpose as I wanted to watch the show daily and enjoy it over a period of seven months instead of seven weekends--if that). The West Wing is a show that needs a recap usually, because if you watch the recaps, you'll note that a lot of the time, they show scenes from three or four episodes back, NOT what happened last week. And, even when they do, they usually do so in a way that both provides information and, in a way, acts as a short, 30-second trailer for WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS SHOW! (Oh, and then there are the recaps where scenes of characters saying their names are shown very quickly to great comic effect. I love those.)

Of course, it's just unfair to demand that everyone else do recaps as well as The West Wing, isn't it?

Fuck it, if we're going to discuss the concept, we're going to look at the best (and if you think another show/book/whatever does it better, I'm open to that) and demand that everything else do it just as well, if not better. Otherwise, what's the point?

So, I think Burgas is right in saying some comics need recap pages, especially ones involving large casts and in the middle of a storyarc (and fuck YOU if you think being anything but part one of a story is an excuse to demand that a reader not bitch about not knowing what's going on--most people recognise that they're not going to know anything and complain only when they can't follow along AT ALL, which is a big problem), but that's not enough. Recap pages should not merely give information, they should make the reader want to see what happens in this issue based on the description. A new reader should read the recap page and say "I must know what happens next!" the way a reader of the previous issues (supposedly) does.

This means only one thing, let's look at some recap pages and ask ourselves if they make us want to read the comic following it. Now, I'm not going to tell you what I think. I will give you the title of the book and the recap. Try and pay attention to the books you don't read, because if you read it, odds are, the recap will just make you want to read it. (Oh, and I don't know who wrote most of the recaps, so I'm not crediting anyone unless I know for sure who wrote it.) And forgive the selection since I am choosing from books I read--which means the first three are from Warren Ellis books, but that shouldn't matter.

1. newuniversal #2

(we have a picture of a large spaceship approaching the figure of a small human)

The evening of March 2, 2006 started like any other. But at 06.49 UTC, the sky ignited, illuminated by the most startling celestial phenomenon ever witnessed by the human race: the White Event. And from the wake of the White Event, a handful of humans emerged as something more...

NYPD Detective JOHN TENSEN awoke from his coma, most of a bullet still lodged in his brain. After "seeing" the crimes his nurse had committed, Tensen murdered the man and then disappeared from the hospital, leaving only the word "JUSTICE" written in blood on the wall.

In Oklahoma, KENNETH CONNELL awoke in the field where he and his girlfriend, MADDIE FELIX, had fallen asleep. He was horrified to find all that remained of Maddie was a charred corpse.

IZANAMI RANDALL awoke not in her home in San Francisco, but in a dream--a dream in which a massive construct informed her:



2. Nextwave: Agent of H.A.T.E. #10

(we have the members of Nextwave all lined up, including Dirk Anger)

WELCOME READERS!! Welcome to your interactive NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. Primer Page. We'll start with a Q and A session:

Q. What is Nextwave?
A. Nextwave is a group of super heroes put together by the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort (H.A.T.E.).
Q. Wait a second, I thought they were fighting H.A.T.E.
A. You are correct! You see, Nextwave discovered that H.A.T.E. and its parent company, the Beyond Corp., were being funded by a terrorist organization when Tabitha (see later answer) stole the Beyond Corp. marketing plan.
Q. Then why is the book called NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E.?
A. I don't know. Have you ever really, really, really ever loved a woman?
Q. "Really, really, really ever"?
A. That's what I said.
Q. There was Bernice Baxter, back in second grade. Wonder where she is now? Who are the members of Nextwave and what are their powers?
A. Monica Rambeau is their leader. She can transform her body into any form of radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum. Aaron Stack is a robot who does robot-y things. Elsa Bloodstone has a magical stone that she wears around her neck that gives her super-strength and invulnerability. And she's English. Tabitha Smith can make things explode. The Captain is really strong and can fly, thanks to powers bestowed on him by aliens. He's your hero.
Q. Who is this Dirk Anger person?
A. He's the leader of H.A.T.E. He's not happy that Nextwave has rebelled. Last we saw him, he hung himself. And he makes a very untraditional, warm gazpacho.
Q. I'll have to try that. Cold soup always freaks e out. Did I miss anything in #1-8?
A. Boy, did you! The Beyond Corp. has ambushed Nextwave with three brand-new super hero teams. Things look dire for our friends!
Q. Are you really friends with them?
A. Not really. But I met them once.
Q. You're such a loser.
A. Sticks and stones... Now READ THE BOOK!


3. Thunderbolts #113


(a small pic of the Thunderbolts below the book's logo)



(three pics of Woods, Strongbow and Osnick from a previous issue)



4. New Avengers #31

(a pic of the group fighting Elektra and a shitload of ninjas)

The Civil War has ended. Captain America surrendered to Iron Man's pro-registration forces, and now the Avengers are no more. Superhumans such as Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Spider-Woman have gone underground rather than register their identities with the government.

Meanwhile, Maya Lopez--the deaf woman known as Echo--is violently killed by Elektra, the current leader of the Hand, after being dispatched by the Avengers to Japan to keep an eye on the Japanese underworld. But Elektra brings Maya back to life and begins to brainwash her. Before her mind is completely destroyed, the New Avengers, including Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and Clint Barton, who now wears the mask of Ronin, arrive to rescue her.

The Hand tracks the team to Castle Yashida, home of the Silver Samurai. And it is not long before Maya gives in to the Hand's brainwashing and violently stabs Doctor Strange...


5. Casanova #5 (by Matt Fraction)

(the recap box is at the left of the inside cover, under the logo, title of the issue and credits)

Casanova Quin--rogue, scoundrel, thief for hire--was kidnapped from the safety and security of his own timeline and brought to a new continuum where he's blackmailed into betraying his father.

Joining the forces of E.M.P.I.R.E., Casanova secretly serves at the behest of W.A.S.T.E. and its mastermind Newman Xeno. Monitored, tortured, and taunted by his wicked twin sister Zephyr, Casanova begins his new life beholden to several masters.

E.M.P.I.R.E. has tasked Casanova to dismantling the criminal empire of a computer and robotics specialist named Sabine Seychelle as part of a larger war on supercrime.

Casanova eliminated a Seychelle agent named Winston Heath. Afterwards he was punished by both E.M.P.I.R.E. and W.A.S.T.E. for various failures. Suspended from active duty, Cass tracked his catatonic mother down to a home in Big Sur, California.

Last month, a mission critical to geopolitical stability suddenly arose: the reincarnation of Buddha was about to return and Casanova needed to stop him. A W.A.S.T.E. counter-mission brought him face to face with an unknowing Sabine Seychelle, and climaxed as Casanova returned home to find his mother under attack by three mysterious--and totally hot--assassins...


6. Godland #13 (by Joe Casey)

(inside cover, recap at left above company credits, in the middle of the page are pics of Adam Archer and the Never with labels and at right is some text ("THE COSMIC EVENT YOU WERE WAITING FOR!") and book credits)

Commander ADAM ARCHER--former NASA astronaut who possesses incredible cosmic powers--lives in Manhattan with his sisters in a hi-tech facility known as INFINITY TOWER. Of course, all of this is true... in our universe. But Adam isn't in our universe. Not any more...


7. Green Lantern #16 (by Geoff Johns)

(not actually a recap page, but the first page of the comic--images correspond to text and I'll use a single asterisk to denote panel change)
















Seven comics, seven recaps. Do they do the job of telling you what you need to know AND making you want to read on? Let me know.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Everybody wants you to be special . . .

Okay, a confession, I haven't actually reread the first six issues of newuniversal. I reread the first five issues whenever issue five came out, but I got issue six yesterday at a 7-11 and really don't feel like rereading it all today. That doesn't speak to its quality, it's just that I reread the first five issues a short while ago and read the sixth issue yesterday. I don't NEED to reread it all.

newuniversal is interesting as it provides us with Warren Ellis' take on "What if superhumans popped up in the real world?" Now, he's done a few projects similar to this in one way or another (oh, Ruins, Stormwatch/Authority, Planetary and the newly-begun Black Summer--I'm probably forgetting something, but fuck it--and they all do this, just in different ways and with different ideas of realism and starting points). This is the first one he's done (I believe) that begins with no superhumans, though, so we get to see how things progress from the get-go.

Now, the world Ellis uses isn't the real world (aka our world). It's one where John Lennon is still alive and it appears Hillary Clinton is president. It's also a world where superhumans have existed, but don't anymore. Mostly because they were killed.

Most of these six issues is set-up. Hell, all of it is set-up, really. There's a "White Event" where the sky all over the world goes white. After, four people have superpowers and are in charge of helping the Earth fit in to some cosmic "highway" . . . sort of. Most of what we see is their reactions to what's happened and some limited background on the times this happened in Earth's history already.

These issues move both fast and slow. Slow in terms of actual plot momentum, but fast in the sheer number of ideas and characters thrown at the reader.

The best issue, in my opinion, is actually issue six, because it is the most focused. There are, basically, six scenes: two of the superhumans in an odd "getting to know you" scene; two scenes that connect about the US government's response to the problem; a scene where "Justice," the superhuman who believes he's dead and in hell, kills a street full of people because he can see all of their sins and they deserve to die--before walking up a bunch of steps he created; a brief TV recap of the slaughter that spins it; and a scene with Jennifer Swan, who is one of the superhumans and works for the man who's just been put in charge of killing the superhumans . . . with a HEXsuit she just got working. The issue builds on previous plot elements and has some great scenes.

What I particularly like is how Ellis handles the "Justice" character and Phil Voight (the aforementioned superhuman killer). Justice is a cop who was shot and lay in a coma and, as said, believes himself dead and in hell. He kills people because, fuck it, they've done wrong and what does it matter if he's in hell? There's a real sense of a tortured soul in the character. I look forward to seeing how Ellis integrates him with the others.

Phil Voight is interesting, because he's an old man (maybe late 50s, early 60s I'd guess--perhaps older) and he's the only person alive who has killed superhumans. He did it before and he knows how to handle it. And we can understand WHY he wants to kill them. Ellis does an excellent job of setting up these two opposing sides and making us empathise with both.

The slow moving nature of the story is a problem, but, hopefully, future issues fix that. This series does seem to require a slower set-up since it is expansive.

Oh, and Salvador Larroca's art is pretty good.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Someone else worth reading today . . .

In lieu of an actual post today, go read Steven Grant's Permanent Damage for this week. Some very good thoughts on Zombie Mary Jane and The Flash.

Tomorrow and Friday: a look at the first six issues of newuniversal and a long post on Automatic Kafka.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thoughts on September's Previews

It's that time of month again. Yay. Celebrate good times come on.

Actually, every month, right before I look through the new solicits, I am excited, but, by the end, I'm usually ready to swear off comics because it's just piles of shit atop piles of shit. So, let's do this.

DC's September solicitations.

Is there any rational order to these solicits? DC can usually be counted on for SOME semblance of organisation, but this month, it just seems like they're throwing various event books at us in whatever order they feel like it. Good luck finding any comic you're interested in ahead of time in this mess. And then, good luck walking away with any interest in the comics they're peddling.

First up is everything "Countdown" related. Seriously, a year-long story spanning a shitload of books that's really just a lead-up to the actual story? Why would anyone be interested in that? I don't get it, I really don't. Wait a year, save money and then read the fucking synopsis. Bam, done, all set, rock and roll.

Then there's the wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary, which requires many, many books. I think this wedding may have an equal number of books devoted to it as the weddings of Superman and Lois, Spider-Man and Mary Jane, and Cyclops and Jean Grey did combined (okay, probably not really, but more than any of them individually, which is still kind of messed up). Makes sense.

I do like how the trades are separated from the monthlies this time around. That's one thing Marvel has been doing right for a long time as it recognises that *gasp!* the two are different and possibly attract different types of readers!

Wow. This text comes with the Albion trade in the Wildstorm section: "Reoffered to coincide with ALBION ORIGINS, solicited in the Titans Books section of this Previews." Strangely intelligent on DC's part to re-offer a book to work with the book of another company. Or, it could seem like when the Hives' old record company released Your New Favourite Band (a compilation album originally released in the UK to promote the band) a week before Tyrannosaurus Hives in an effort to bleed off some sales from ignorant consumers. Either way, smart.

It looks like the cyborg dinosaur is back in Deathblow! Seriously, Brian Azzarello is writing a bok featuring a cyborg dinosaur. Doesn't that strike anyone else as odd?

Aren't The Authoriteens the cutest little heroes you've ever seen? I just want to squeeze 'em!

Aaaaaaaand . . . nothing else interests me.

Marvel's September solicitations.

"This is the Goblin arc no Ultimate reader can afford to miss!" (inre: Ultimate Spider-Man #113-114) Just so you know.

While I love the fact that there's an Immortal Iron Fist annual, I am disappointed at the fact that there's no actual issue in September. Remember when annuals were IN ADDITION TO the series?

Not only does Penance get his own mini, but also his own issue of Thunderbolts. Hmm, Paul Jenkins v. Warren Ellis. Who ever shall win? Is there really such a demand for S&M heroes?

I really do love New Avengers #34's cover. Is it an alternate reality story? An effort to fuck with the Skrulls? OR a team of Skrulls posing as the New Avengers, but in different forms to fuck with the New Avengers' heads? (Also, is that Steve Rogers or Clint Barton as Captain America? I'm betting Barton.)

Wow, I'm actually tempted to buy Moon Knight #13 with this solicitation: "The Initiative. Membership has its privileges. Backed into a corner, Marc Spector does what they least expect him to. He's here for his registration card, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to get one. Repeat: Whatever it takes." Could be interesting.

When did Skottie young begin delivering such cool covers?

I keep having deju vu feelings with Marvel's trade solicits as I keep seeing items I could have swore I saw there months ago--before realising maybe it was in that stupid hardcover format that they--and others--seem so fond of. I miss the old deluxe hardcovers that they only use for the odd thing now (thankfully, they continue to do so for Punisher MAX). Those were great.

And that does it for this month. Next month, I promise to praise DC and make fun of Marvel more to make things even steven.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I love the devil. I will kiss his tongue. I will kiss the devil on his tongue.

The first of the summer cons is over and, like, every year when it's convention season, one must ask, "What the fuck do I care?"

First, Newsarama has a lovely little list of links to convention news.

Second, I was actually impressed by a few things I heard this weekend.

The thing that impressed me the most was DC admitting that they lied to everyone by soliciting issues of Flash that will never come out. I love that sort of bold gambit designed to circumvent Previews and actually maintain some sort of surprise. Now, if it were me, I would have waited until the next convention after Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 was released just to fuck with people more. But, that's me. I understand the need for Previews and all, but I hate the whole thing. Takes a lot of the surprise out of stories. Marvel did a similar thing post-Civil War and pissed off people doing it, but what's the point of writing stories that rely on surprises if the ending is spoiled three months in advance?

Apparently, readers will be treated to a series starring Angel. You know Angel, that lame member of the original X-Men who has wings and was rich and only did one thing interesting since, which was becoming a Horseman of Apocalypse and nothing since. Yeah, that Angel! Oh, X-minis devoted to characters people barely care about as part of a big team, how I miss thee.

Amazing Spider-Man will be coming out three times a month! This move actually makes sense. It provides Spider-fans with the same number of books, but doesn't have to worry about over-exposure at the same time in a weird way. Spider-Man having three different adventures that don't connect at all per month? Fucked up. Spider-Man coming out three times a month in connected stories? Awesome. It's also a lovely ploy to get people to buy three comics per month when they previously had the option of only one to fill that Spider-void inside their heart. What I find funny is that I was never an Amazing Spider-Man guy. Back in the day, I was all about Web of Spider-Man, which was the superior title. But, I also read the books mostly during the Clone Saga and Web and "adjectiveless" were devoted to the Scarlet Spider, while Amazing and Spectacular were plain ol' fashioned Spider-Man. When you're . . . what, eleven? (Maybe twelve?) what seems cooler: Spider-Clone or Spider-Man? SPIDER-FUCKING-CLONE! It's the exact same guy, except all mysterious and interesting and cool. Plus, he had those cool stingers and web-balls that just exploded webbing. Why didn't Spider-Man ever begin using those? Someone should bring back that "impact webbing" stuff (I think it was called that because it exploded webbing on impact). As for the new Amazing schedule, no word on the creative team, which is kind of lame.

Nothing else really impressed me (oh, Immortal Iron Fist annual!), but Brian Michael Bendis did have the best line of the weekend: "Spider-Man will never kill someone with his bare hands just to get an erection."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Civil War V. Infinite Crisis

The question long on people's minds: "What was the better crossover event book, Infinite Crisis or Civil War?" Well, I have read both in their collected forms and am here to tell you once and for all.


Civil War: A bunch of kids die when Nitro the human bomb blows up near a school while fighting the New Warriors. As a result, the US congress passes legislation making it illegal to operate as a superpowered individual without government consent. Some heroes agree, some don't, so they fight each other.

Infinite Crisis: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all kind of hate each other. Things have gone to shit in the DCU, so the four survivors of the original Crisis return with the plan to restore the old Earth-2 as it was better. Plus, about a billion other things happen.

Winner: Civil War. The basic idea is very interesting and has a lot of possibilities--and is general enough for anyone to jump in on. IC's plot is very continuity-driven and asks that you know a lot about the DCU. Although, I do enjoy the metafictional aspect that discusses the direction of plots over the past decade.


Civil War: Here, we have Mark Millar and he does his best, but it falls short in a lot of places, I find. The pacing of the series feels rushed most of the time, like he was trying to cram too much in. Instead of telling a strong story, I get the sense that hitting various plot points was the goal--or, rather, including "cool scenes." A major plot point, like the Thing returning in the final chapter falls flat, because we're never told that he went anywhere. Or, when the Punisher shows up and mentions following them around in a ski mask--that would work much better if we had seen that more than once. There are a lot of cool ideas here, it's just they're flung together without a lot to hold them together.

One thing that bothered me is the "THINGS TURN UGLY:" overlay in the first issue. That's just an issue of consistency as those overlays are used throughout the rest of the series for locations or character names. It seems out of place and took me out of what I was reading. Same with the use of letters at times. They work to provide information, but the letter by Reed at the end has that "crappy movie wrap up" feel.

Millar's characters did nothing for me, for the most part. I would have liked to have seen a bigger discussion amongst pro-registration heroes who refused to fght against anti-registration heroes. I mean, come on, are you telling me more of them wouldn't have said "While I agree with this law, I'm not fighting Captain fucking America, Tony! Are you insane?" The viewpoints were too black-and-white with little talk in between the extreme positions. And while I agree with Spider-Man revealing his identity (in that it does make sense), I'm not sure his automatically fighting against Iron Man works. Again, it belies the extreme nature of the characters that would have worked years ago, but a lot of these characters know each other far too well to go from working together one day to beating the shit out of each other the next.

Infinite Crisis: Geoff Johns does the same thing as Millar, except it actually works in this series. Johns often gives flashes of different scenes for brief periods of time, but that adds to the idea that everything is falling apart at the same time. The premise of the series is that everything is going to shit at once, so piling fights and scenes of destruction on top of one another works in a way that it doesn't in Civil War, because that is much more of a character piece. Like Millar, though, I do think Johns relies on story points that are fully explored outside of the series. Especially in setting up the story. To understand what was going on, you needed to know about the four lead-in mini-series, the "Countdown" special and that Superman/Wonder Woman story. Millar does reference previous stories in Civil War, but only briefly and just in that "here are a couple of other examples of heroes fucking up" where knowing WHAT happened isn't as important as knowing that something bad happened--the details aren't necessary to grasp the meaning.

Johns' style is also much denser, which works well here. It allows him to tell such a big story without seeming like he's always rushing through it like Millar's writing sometimes feels like it is. Although, some plot points are jumped right over, like Superboy-Prime and the Flashes. When he comes back, it does little because he was barely gone.

Johns also has a few narrative problems, especially with Earth-2 Superman's voice-over narration, which comes and goes throughout the series depending on when it's convenient. Changing up how information is delivered to the reader works in ongoing series and sometimes in limited series if done in a consistent manner, but here it's just done willy-nilly with no reason. It's the sort of thing that's not as noticeable when reading the book monthly, but it shows in the collection.

Johns' use of characters, though, is quite well done. Each of the main characters has their own unique motivations and traits. As the story goes on, we learn more and more and care about them more.

Winner: Geoff Johns. Overall, I think Johns did a better job of telling a complete story with stronger characters--but not by much. It's more like Johns lost the least, honestly. Both series suffer greatly from not telling the story completely within its own pages, relying far too much on tie-in books to pick up the slack, when really those tie-in books should work around the main series.


Winner: Rather than argue for each, I'm just going to come out and say I like the art in Infinite Crisis more. Yes, it takes four pencillers to do it, so it's not as consistent, but when those pencillers including Phil Jiminez, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway, it works because of similar styles. Ivan Reis's art does stand out as breaking the flow at points, I must admit. Steve McNiven's art on Civil War is solid, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I can't stand the whole plastic-look of every character. They remind me of the plastic people in Grant Morrison's Mister Miracle series and it creeps me out! It's a pseudo-realistic style that TOO close because it's off just enough to remind you that it's not quite realistic, which is more jarring than a cartoony style.


Civil War: Steve McNiven on main covers with Michael Turner variants. I don't really like either artist, but McNiven's covers do have very good designs, plus the added bonus of the "Civil War" trade dress, which was probably one of the better designs used company-wide in a long time.

Infinite Crisis: George Perez and Jim Lee each do one cover each. I hate Lee's art about as much as I hate Turner's, so they cancel one another out. While I like Perez more than McNiven, the only Perez cover I actually like is the two Supermen fighting. The rest just fall flat.

Winner: Civil War.

Big Moments

Civil War: The registration act, Captain America and his rebels, Spider-Man reveals identity, Thor returns (seemingly), the death of Goliath, the Negative Zone prison, the new Thunderbolts, Spider-Man quits, the 50-state initiative, the final showdown with Captain America's surrender, and Tony Stark takes over S.H.I.E.L.D.

Infinite Crisis: The return of the four pre-Crisis characters, Paradise Island disappears, Superboy-Prime becomes a lunatic, the return of multiple earths, the death of Superboy, the creation of one earth, the final showdown with Superboy-Prime, a earth without the big three.

Winner: Civil War. It was a series built on big moments strung together.


Civil War: Bare bones. We get the series and covers. It's on better paper, but that makes it cost as much as the Infinite Crisis hardcover, except in Canada where it's somehow six bucks more. Expect more bonus material in the upcoming script book.

Infinite Crisis: actually, not a whole lot better. There's a new cover for the collection by Perez, which is good. There's also a round table discussion of the series with some of the people involved and touched-up art.

Winner: Infinite Crisis. Some bonus material is better than none. Plus, not price-gouging assholes.

Which One Did I Just Enjoy More

Okay, this is the only one that REALLY matters. Having read both, which did I enjoy more? Infinite Crisis. Because I am a person who looks for writing, the fact that IC read better, to me, made it more enjoyable. I really did feel that Johns structured his book better than Millar. Both had many of the same problems, but Johns had more go right for him. While Millar built in more "big moments," there wasn't much beyond them. Johns told a stronger story. I will admit, though, that Civil War made me want to see what comes next more than Infinite Crisis, but that's also because the end of Infinite Crisis was more definitive. Sure, there were a couple of loose threads, but that was much more in the "never-ending battle" nature of superheroes than Tony Stark's promise that the best is yet to come, which pretty much says "BUY WHAT COMES NEXT, BITCHES!" Civil War read too much like a set-up for a new status quo than a story unto itself, while Infinite Crisis was also a set-up for a new status quo, but did tell a complete story better.

That said, I wasn't actually that impressed with either. They both kind of read for shit when I tried to forget all of the details I knew because of what came next or what happened in other books. I pity anyone who tried to read either on their own, not knowing the histories of these characters or what was going on in other books. Both books should have been written as if they were the only ones telling the story, which neither did. Sure, as far as sales go, they were successes, but as stories? I'm not so sure.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I bought comics.

I bought comics today. Not a whole hell of a lot of comics, but comics.

Black Summer #0

"Really the first part" . . . "Simplistic politics" . . . "Wait and see" . . .

Paraphrasing other reviews I've read. And, yeah, they're right. This zero issue is actually the first part of the story, so don't wait for issue one--although, I would say that having issue one coming out in August isn't necessarily the best move. A superhero kills the president, the VP and various advisors for committing crimes. And, yeah, those politics are pretty standard/simplistic/whatever, but I get the sense that this is just a jumping off point. I really enjoyed this little teaser/first part of the story.

New Avengers: Illuminati #3


Oh, wait, I don't actually consider this revelation to actually mean much right now. Maybe it will connect up when this big story Bendis is currently rolling out actually, you know, rolls out, but I was left wondering why I should give a fuck. I'm not offended by this little retcon, because, COME ON, it's retconning a shitty z-lister who hasn't done shit-all since the fucking '80s. Who gives a fuck?

Next issue is Noh-Varr, though. I'll be more critical then.

New Avengers #31

One thing I was wondering: when did Spider-Man stop being funny? Actually, was he EVER funny? I mean, REALLY funny. Seriously, was he ever, because I can't remember anything him saying being that funny? (Well, except for the "Action is my reward, too." line from Punisher War Journal #1--that was fucking genius.) I only ask this for this issue because I read somewhere that Spider-Man's "banter" is funny in this issue. Oh, sure, it's ALMOST funny . . . for a Marvel comic. And that's something, I guess. This is the same place that publishes that Cable and Deadpool book that some people claim is funny, but I've never been able to figure out where I'm supposed to laugh. I do remember laughing a few times at the old Deadpool series, though, so I do know it's possible for these comics to be funny, but I can't remember Spider-Man ever being funny really. He's always said something that approaches funny and, I guess, would lighten the mood while fighting an army of ninjas, but . . . am I alone here?

Oh, and everything as we know it changes! I'm actually mre intrigued than I let on.

Deathblow #5

See my comments on every issue before this one. I would wait for the trade, but I always see the new issue and figure what the fuck. I'm liking it, but I'm also avoiding asking any Big Questions.

Criminal #6

This is probably the strongest issue of the series so far--which is saying a lot. The third person narration Brubaker uses works quite well, telling us what we need to know when we need to know it--but also setting the mood. The temporal jumps also work to give us what we need to know when we need to know it, and also engage us. Phillips sticks to a very straight-forward layout on these pages; all have three tiers and read in a very linear fashion. This works with the dialogue and narration for a strong sense of pacing, which both encourages a smooth reading experience, but also (somehow) causes you to slow down a little bit.

The basic plot is Tracy Lawless gets out of the army, finds out his brother died/was killed a year back and heads back to the city to find out what happened. Except, Brubaker and Phillips make it far more interesting.

Hellblazer: Reasons to be Cheerful

When I first started reading Mike Carey's run on this book in trades, I wasn't that impressed. His stuff was alright, but nothing special. But, with the final story of the previous volume and the shit he does here . . . for the first time in my experience with Constantine, I'm actually worried about and for the guy. My experience isn't that extensive, mostly limited to Ellis and Azzarello's runs--but they always gave the impression of John being in control, even when he was being fucked. Carey, though, has me convinced that John is fucked, pure and simple.

At the end of the previous volume, John lived in some dream where he fathered three children with a demon and now those kids are in the real world, killing off people near and dear to good old Johnny. And he's not exactly with it, because he's still trying to wrap his head around the forty years he spent in that little dream that was really only just a day--and the fact that he's spawned evil demon children.

Sadly, Vertigo's schedule for these trades is kind of fucked, so I already know what happens AFTER Carey's run because I've read the first one from Denise Mina's time on the book. Actally, I figured out that they could probably kill a solid year publishing one Hellblazer trade per month to catch up on all of the uncollected material.

Tomorrow: I also received in the mail today Marvel's Civil War trade and DC's Infinte Crisis hardcover, and I will tell you which seven-issue, universe-shaking event series truly is the best. I do tell you that DC is already ahead because of Marvel's price-gouging. Seriously: same US cover price, but Civil War is six bucks more in Canadian dollars. The fuck?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lie to me like I lie to you . . .

Yesterday, I reread Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard's Codeflesh. Now, I've discussed the final chapter of this series/story in an essay already, so I'll probably steer clear of it. Even though, I must once again say just how fucking amazing that final chapter is. Because of it, I can see Codeflesh becoming big some day. It's a shame it already isn't.

The story is about as basic as you can get: Cameron Daltrey is a bail bondsman in LA that writes up bonds for super-powered criminals because they always skip and that means he gets to bring them in. However, a judge ordered him to no longer bring in skippers and to farm the work out to bounty hunters. As a result, Cameron dresses up in a mask and does it himself without anyone, besides his business partner Staz, knowing it's him.

Codeflesh operates in a tradition, namely that of Spider-Man. One of the subplots running throughout the eight chapters is the relationship between Cameron and Maddy, which is under strain because of his work. She doesn't know he still hunts down the skippers and he can never explain. We get a few clues that maybe Maddy knows, but nothing ever comes of it, because, in the end, Cameron chooses the life of the mask over love--just like Peter Parker. Knowing that doesn't ruin anything, trust me.

Unlike Parker, Cameron doesn't do it because it's the right thing to do. This is not a tale of power and responsibility. Cameron does it simply because he enjoys it. He's addicted to that rush of kicking the crap out of these super-powered criminals. In that way, it's the flipside of the whole "with great power comes great responsibility." It's almost "with great responsibility comes great power."

At the same time, there's something unique here. This book shines a light on a place regular superhero books tend not to look, really just in the premise. Wouldn't these guys skip out on bail? None of the criminals here at heavy-hitters. They're mostly the two-bit, piece-of-shit guys that would have apeared in a single issue of Marvel Team-Up or Two-in-One back in the day and never returned.

While it exists in the superhero tradition, it also owes a lot to Raymond Chandler and the pulp tradition. Much of the focus here is on Los Angeles and the feel of the shitty part of town where all of this takes place. That's partly why all of the criminals are the dumpy kind. This isn't Manhattan, this is Northeast LA. The fights are nasty and brutal--at one point, Cameron sticks a telephatic guy's head in a vice. Maddy is a stripper--an issue that doesn't even come up in a moralistic way--it's just a given and never explored, which says more about the tone and setting than any actual words COULD. If this was any other sort of superhero comic, we'd have an entire story devoted to it or something.

I'm honestly amazed more people haven't noticed Codeflesh, because it really is worth noticing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I swear, I swear, I swear it to you . . .

* Greg Burgas has some great thoughts on Flex Mentallo over at Comics Should be Good. At some point, I'll get back to looking at Morrison's post-Flex work again. I'll probably do New X-Men when I'm back in London, because that's where the hardcovers of the series are.

* This preview thread for Daredevil #98 is rather sad. Who doesn't love long debates about the nature of rape where the main concern is proving that you know more than everyone else? I'm actually amazed Ed Brubaker ventured into this.

Friday, June 08, 2007

No comics

I tried to buy comics today, but the selection at the store was shit. I think the only thing I wanted was newuniversal #6 (oh, and the latest issue of Punisher War Journal, but I have that on my pull list back in London, so I won't buy it in Windsor). And they had a wide variety of comics (and by comics, I do mean titles by Marvel and DC with the odd indy book thrown in). So, I don't know if my walking away with nothing (decided I'd pick up newuniversal another time) says more about the store or about what's being published.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Am I still killing comics?

* I have yet to finish Alice in Sunderland. I got it, what, nearly two months ago? Yeah, still haven't finished it. I've tried, but, you know what? It's not doing a whole lot for me. Sure, Talbot does some interesting stuff with genre, form, narrative voice, etc., but, really, that only takes you so far before pages upon pages of historical facts bog things down.

Now, I plan to finish it at some point, but I can't right now. I know it's supposed to be brilliant and all, but I'm not going to fake loving something I'm not just to fit in with the comic book elite (and I do say that in the most joking way possible, just so you know).

* Can't seem to attempt the rereading of Superman: For Tomorrow. It's been sitting atop my pile of stuff for a few days now and every time I open it, I see that Jim Lee art and every aethetic bone in my body screams. I really don't get the attraction to his work beyond thinking back to those days of the early '90s when that style was all the vogue and "Writing? What writing?" was yelled by fanboys from coast-to-coast.

* I did reread Warren Ellis' JLA Classified story and have decided that one of the reasons why DC is failing so much is that this is not the voice they are using. My god, do you know how refreshing it is to read a comic where these people actually talk like fucking adults? The scenes involving Lois and Clark are pure gold--imagine that, journalists being snarky, sarcastic and competitive, but not in a cutesy Grant/Hepburn way? There are a couple of spots where the Ellisisms become a bit too much, but, for the most part, you can see why Marvel has tapped the guy to write superhero books for them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

See, I'm not the only one!

Craig Welsh complains about Marvel's price-gouging ways.

What I find interesting about this whole debate is that when the Canadian dollar was in the shitter, Marvel was VERY quick to react. It altered its prices to reflect the poor dollar within in weeks. (Now, this is me going on memory, so I COULD be wrong, but I don't think I am.) Whereas, when the dollar has done well, Marvel is very slow to react. Hell, DC is slow, but they actually do it. Marvel is a fucking glacier in its speed.

Now, the pricing of graphic novels is different than the monthlies, because the trades will have a longer shelf life, while the monthlies are really only guaranteed that price for the month they're the latest issue. I can understand being somewhat conservative about pricing of a long-term product, but, seriously, using a 60-65% exchange rate when the dollar has been 20-30% higher for the past few years? That's not right.

And, I should note that other publishers do this too, specifically book publishers, except not nearly as bad. I just grabbed the closest book on the pile, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett--its price is $11.95/$16.96. And I grabbed the recently-released Civil War: Captain America trade--priced $11.99/$19.25. Hell, the second Red Manace trade is a dollar cheaper in the US than each of those books, but still a dollar more expensive in Canada than The Maltese Falcon. Does that make any sense?

The Canadian dollar is estimated to match the US dollar by the end of the year. Let's see how prices adapt then.