Friday, February 29, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Gen13 #42

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey comics you probably didn't know exist. Oh, I'm sure you had a vague idea that Gen13 #42 existed, just not that Joe Casey wrote it. Well, he did. How do you like that? Me, I like it a lot, but let's not get into that just yet. As always, I will conclude my post by deciding if this comic deserves to remain forgotten. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Joe Casey. Kevin Maguire. Hells yes.

Did you read how the Casey/Maguire Velocity was the big winner of Top Cow's "Pilot Season" contest? It kicked the crap out of every other book in the voting. So, sometime this year, we'll be getting another Joe Casey book.

But that's then and this is now and now it's time to look at Gen13 #42, a fill-in issue that bridges John Arcudi and Scott Lobdell's runs on the book (oh, Adam Warren has two issues in there, too). This one involves secret agent men of action and wrestlers. It also involves Grunge being retarded and dragging Bobby along. The rest of the group barely shows up.

It's a pretty light issue that is a lot of fun. I like the wrestling bits (particularly some of the names Casey comes up with: Nelson Full Nelson, David Goliath and Kingsnake Jake all crack me up), and the discussion where Grunge claims his long hair will get him more women than Bobby's soul patch. Throw in Kevin Maguire's mastery of facial expressions and, hot damn, it's some good stuff.

I'm not sure where this issue fits in with Casey's other work. Maybe the inclusion of wrestling as another form of popculture, demonstrating the relationship between the two. Mostly, it just demonstrates Casey's ability to write young, stupid people. Actually, the way Grunge and Bobby act here leads in pretty well to The Intimates (with a little Children of the Atom thrown in).

Should this book remain forgotten? No! Go pick it up! Will it change your life? Of course not! But is is a good read--of course it is!

Okay, on Monday, I'll get into Batman: Tenses #1--for serious this time (I had planned on it for today, but I picked up this issue of Gen13 yesterday and figured I'd end the week on a one-shot rather than spread out a two-part story over the weekend like that).

Short reviews

On my flights to and from San Fran, I read:

Shooting War--I felt awkward reading this in an airport actually but it was a good story focusing on what the future of the Iraq war might hold for us. Part satirical, part futurist predictions, part political drama, part action flick. And all of that actually works. (I'd still recommend waiting for paperback though, if I were you.)

Past Lies--How did I not read this before now? A detective story involving hypnotherapy and repression of past lives? Cool. Written by De Fillipis and Weir for Oni? Sign me up. Art by Christopher Mitten? Done deal. Looking forward to the reported sequel.

Last Call vol. 1--Hmmm, weird. I liked the head trip nature of the story, how the main character suddenly finds himself in a different place, on a train full of strange, inhuman characters. It's like a Gilliam film in some ways, and like a tripped-out Harry Potter in others. I will check out the second volume.

Maintenance vol. 1--Funny stuff but in the end kind of inconsequential. It's about two guys who work as janitors for mad scientists. But how far can you really go with that premise in the end? Is there going to be an overarching story, or just gag issue after gag issue?

First in Space--It's about the monkey Ham that was shot into space in the '50s as a test for the eventual manned US missions. It's really good. If Laika hadn't come out the same year as this, I think it'd have gained a lot more notice.

Fragile Prophet--Picked this up on a whim while walking Artists Alley. It's from a publisher called Lost in the Dark, and it's about an autistic boy who can tell the future and his brother who is accused of profiteering from his younger brother's handicap when really he's just trying to look out for and protect him. Art's OK, story's OK, but the pieces seem to add up to be something good.

Paul Goes Fishing--I like the Paul books overall, but this is probably my least favorite so far, since... it wasn't really that focused, I didn't think. At first it was about a fishing trip and then the story shifted midway through. What it was originally, I liked, and what it became, I liked. But the two things didn't gel together very well, I didn't think.

Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks AND Loyola Chin and the San Peligren Order--Both are early books by Gene Yang, author of American-Born Chinese, which I adore. These books are both set in the same universe, but Loyola isn't strictly a "sequel" to Gordon even though there is some character crossover. Anyway, both are high school dramas with a heavy mix of fantasy; you might even call them magic realism. And if you liked American-Born Chinese, you should check these out as well. Great stuff.

I also recently reviewed the "anthology" book Out of Picture for Playback St. Louis, and you can check that review here.

AND I just put out a mini-comic. If you're interested in learning more about it, visit my poorly designed website for it.

The Splash Page: Iron Fist, Joe Casey, and the State of the Art

The fourth (and greatest) edition of the Splash Page is up. I don't want to spoil any of it by hyping it up, but it's pretty fucking awesome. Tim and I? Brilliant. Go read it now.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #67

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Continuing "Sign of the End Times: Total Chaos in Three Parts," Cable teams up with the Avengers to take on Apocalypse's Harbinger, which is bent on destroying New York.

This is a very straight-forward superhero action issue. Not much experimentation or even advancement of Casey's pet themes. Most of the issue is spent on Cable and the Avengers trying to take down the Harbinger, an ever adapting enemy. The only thing that seems to succeed is Thor's arrival and his use of a transdimensional warp--but even that only keeps Harbinger occupied for a short period of time.

The composition of the second page is interesting as it has Cable and the Harbinger divided by panels midway through the page that fill us in on what happened. Cable is at the top of the page, seemingly above Harbinger, until we see the whole picture and notice that Harbinger is standing over Cable's unconscious body. Ladronn plays with our expectations of the hero being above the villain and subverts them by having Harbinger actually standing over Cable.

The sequence where Harbinger adapts to return from space is very reminiscent of Casey's later cosmic work.

It's also interesting to see Cable interact with the Avengers as this is the height of his integration into the Marvel universe and he's a terrorist to them thanks to SHIELD. They don't know him and only barely recognise his affiliation to the X-Men. In a way, Cable is trapped between those two worlds, not accepted in either.

At the end of the issue, Apocalypse activates Harbinger's self-destruct sequence in an effort to destroy New York.

Personally, I love Ladronn's Avengers. His Kirby-esque style works very well here.

On Saturday, I'll conclude my look at this story arc and discuss deus ex machina a little.

Link 2: Dick Hyacinth's 2007 Metalist

Go check out Dick Hyacinth's metalist of the best books of 2007. He took as many lists as he could, gave each reviewer an equal number of points (so books ranked high on shorter lists got more points than those on longer lists) and added up the points--using a mathematical formula I came up with. I'm a bit of a math geek sometimes... and it was a good way to kill half an hour. The list is interesting for a number of reasons, but here are some of my thoughts:

* Two books in my top ten made the meta-top ten, which is pretty decent. I do regret not including Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto in my top ten, though. It should have been there.

* Six of my top ten made the top 100. But then again, I didn't really expect The Boys, Thunderbolts or Gødland to make the meta-top 100. Am a little surprised that The Nightly News didn't make it as it got a lot of praise when it came out. But then again, I think it made my list partly because I got it in December, which meant it was still recent in memory for me. Had I gotten it in the summer, I may have forgotten about it. Not to say it didn't deserve its place, but stuff that's more fresh in your memory is going to have a better shot at the list.

* Three of my almost-top-ten books made the meta-100.

* Casanova is only #35? What the fuck?

* Dick is almost certainly right when he says that ACME Novelty Library #18 would have ranked higher than 52 had it come out a little earlier in the year, especially in the direct market. I got my copy in a bookstore weeks before Diamond shipped it. Plus, how many of the lists Dick looked at were made before the end of 2007? One of my biggest pet peeves are lists created before the year is over for reasons like this.

* I still don't get you people's weird love of All-Star Superman.

* I've read six of the top ten and plan on getting at least another two for sure, probably three. The only top ten book I have no interest in is Buffy Season 8.

* Interesting to see that a book like Y the Last Man ranked so high thanks to non-comics sites. Is this a case of comics sites not liking it or that it's a book that was taken for granted? I've yet to read past the first trade (which didn't do much for me), but I imagine there are a lot of really good books that got passed over simply because everyone is so used to them. Perhaps demontrated by Jack of Fables making the meta-100 while Fables didn't? The newer spin-off ranks because it's more fresh? (Or it could just be a better book...)

Others can almost certainly come up with better things to say about this meta-100. But, go check it out, see how some of your favourites rank with the collective comic criticism community.

Again, regular Thursday post coming later.

Link: Joe Casey on Promoting Books

Tom Spurgeon has a great interview up with Joe Casey on self-promotion that's well worth a read. I mention it mostly because this blog has shifted to a pretty Casey-centric place (as far as my posts are concerned), but also because it gives some great information into what creators do to get their books noticed. And, Spurgeon's interviews with Casey are always great and worth reading.

Regular Thursday post later.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Captain America annual '99

[Continuing my look at some of the lesser known Joe Casey-penned comics. I bet you didn't even know he did a Captain America annual. As always, I will examine these lesser known works in relation to Casey's more prominent projects and ask if it should remain forgotten. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

The plot of this issue is pretty simple: some corrupt businessman named Calvin Halderman is using Flag-Smasher to kill people and help the business. Some Daily Bugle reporters get involved and help Captain America. Simple enough.

This issue isn't that remarkable, but does have a few interesting elements...

The first is Casey's use of pushing dialogue to the gutters in some scenes involving the reporters. We will get panels of art by Pablo Raimondi with the actual dialogue below. Normally, this technique is reserved for TV shots where words and pictures don't mix, but it works well here, because newspaper reporters work exclusively in words with pictures juxtaposed. By separating the words and pictures, Casey highlights the importance of text for these characters. However, it's not the most effective technique as it is often cramped and not always used with the reporters, only when it seems to strike Casey's fancy to do it. If it were used more, it would work much, MUCH better.

It fails partially because of the use of third-person captions twice in the issue that are supposed to give us insight into Captain America. Since that technique is only used twice, seemingly as filler, it undermines the narrative flow of the entire issue.

The second element of note is Casey's commentary on corporations, which ties into his later work on Wildcats. There's nothing of particular originality here beyond the fact that despite Halderman's criminal activities, the corporation he's involved with is able to continue with little or no penalties. Juxtaposing this sort of story with Captain America is very smart as it suggests a different level of corruption for Cap to contend with that I don't think was ever really examined. Where do his ideals fit in a world where corporations have the same rights as citizens, but far, FAR more means?

In this way, the inclusion of Flag-Smasher is particularly smart. He is an anti-nationalist character that sees countries as divisive--he's also a braindead vegtable that is animated with drugs, basically. Halderman uses his anti-nation views against him and talks up corporations as a viable alternative to countries: "ONLY CORPORATIONS PROVIDE THAT SOUGHT-AFTER UNITY IN THIS MODERN WORLD."

These are some very intriguing ideas that, as I said, work very well with Captain America, but are very compressed here--to the point where Casey barely skims over them. This issue provides a glimpse at a larger, more complex, more epic story that Casey could have potentially told. However, elements did show up in other works like the end of his Uncanny X-Men run and his work on Wildcats.

Should this comic remain forgotten? For the purposes of entertainment, yes. It's not a very good comic to read. The story is pretty convoluted and mashed up. The art is serviceable, but not spectacular. And the character work is weak. But, if you're like me and are reading Casey's work to see how ideas connect and what techniques he's experimenting with, this is a worthwhile book in those regards. So, yeah, probably best left forgotten except by weird geeks like me.

On Friday, I'll look at Batman: Tenses #1.

presentation on "Showing Helder"

This past Friday I presented at the Comic Arts Conference (which is attached to Wondercon) in San Francisco. My presentation had to do with the thin line between truth and fiction as seen in autobiographical comics, specifically in Chester Brown's short story "Showing Helder." (To read the full abstract I submitted as a proposal to the committee, click on this link to an earlier blog entry.)

Here's a brief outline of my presentation. If you'd like a copy of the entire presentation, let me know here and I can email you my powerpoint.

I started off by reading the first paragraph of my abstract as an introduction, and then I moved on to discuss some examples in other media of truth and fiction being blurred (A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, "How to Tell a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien, the Assume the Position HBO specials by Bob Wuhl). I continued by discussing the rise of the "graphic memoir" in the mainstream, citing examples of Persepolis, Blankets, and Fun Home.

I then summarized the story itself as follows: Chester Brown's new issue of Yummy Fur features an autobiographical story called "Helder." It shows his encounters with a former housemate named Helder who is an abusive bully. Chester runs into problems, however, when he seeks out feedback on the story from his friends. Their opinions vary, some of them telling him to print the story as is and others challenging its veracity. (I contrasted this explanation with two images, the first from "Helder" showing the character Helder being a bully and the second from "Showing Helder" showing one of his friends objecting to the scene depicted on the previous page.)

I talked about how the story catalogues the changes he made to the story "Helder" between its original draft and final publication. The cover image in fact from the issue of Yummy Fur containing "Showing Helder" shows Chester making a change to a page from "Helder." It's very metafictional, and the first inclination is to make you wonder if he's simply documenting his creative process. But you also think that perhaps he's simply bringing the story closer to reality, because the changes he makes are always to remove panels of narration in which he talks directly to the audience, which of course would not have happened in real life. (These also don't work from a storytelling perspective, because he is TELLING his audience things he has already shown them, a prime example of a word-picture combination Scott McCloud refers to as "duo-specific.")

I then analyzed why he asked so many people for input on the story's content, a total of five different people during the course of the story (two of which, oddly enough, were in a scene Chester cut from the final draft of "Showing Helder" that eventually saw print in the collection The Little Man, to continue the metafictional maze). Is he searching for validation? When one friend Mark disagrees with him about the story, he seems rather dismissive. Or is he seeking to bring his story closer to the truth? Again what he seems most focused on (and in fact asks EVERYONE about specifically) are the moments of narration, which didn't really happen and are simply a stylistic choice. Perhaps he is already uncomfortable with this device because it is not "true" enough for him.

I turned my attention to Chester's friend Kris next, whose opinion was the most problematic. She takes issue with the way he has drawn her at one point, and he tries to please her by agreeing to redraw that part. Is he allowing his artistic vision, his interpretation of the "truth," to be corrupted then, or is he simply trying not to offend his friend? In one scene he quibbles with how he has depicted one scene she was present for, and he argues that what is on the page is how he remembers it. Thus, by not making the changes she suggests to this scene, he is acknowledging that perhaps his interpretation of events is faulty (because he only has his senses and his memory to rely on, both entirely subjective) and he is asserting that his vision for the story will be the one he puts forth. Does that make his version right and hers wrong? I don't think he means to say so, simply to say that that is all he can do is be true to his version of events.

I suggested then that the final scene, in which Kris tells Helder that she doesn't like the narration but later admits (after he has gone about removing the narration) that this was a lie she told only to prove that he never listens to her, this scene shows Brown's true intent with "Showing Helder." In the end he DID publish the story without the narration (perhaps because he had already made the changes and didn't want to go back and redo the pages again or perhaps because he had a growing distaste for the device in his storytelling, since he similarly removed a great deal of his narration from the longer story "Fuck" when it was eventually republished as I Never Liked You). But by publishing "Showing Helder" he got to have his cake and eat it too. His audience is now aware of the version of the story which had narration, and it is up to US then to decide which version is more real to US.

I started to wrap things up by pointing out that any autobiographical comic is automatically going to be distanced from reality simply for the fact that it is DRAWN, an artist's rendering. I showed a photo of Chester next to pictures of him as illustrated by Seth, Joe Matt, and Chester himself. I then proposed that none of these were the REAL Chester Brown, merely captured images filtered through a variety of lenses, much like how each person's interpretation of the murder at the center of the film Rashomon could never add up to an approximation of what "truly" happened. I continued by illustrating how Chester tends to be his own worst critic, both personally (in his analyses of his masturbation habits in The Playboy and his failed childhood romances in I Never Liked You) and professionally (as seen in this story when he is at first pleased with a page but upon rereading the entire story feels it's horrible and that he might need to run an Ed the Happy Clown story (representing an artistic step backwards in many ways) instead.

The conclusion then draws all these ideas together by turning to the notes on "Showing Helder" in the back pages of The Little Man. In that note he explains that after this story he stopped telling autobiographical stories in the present day, for fear of offending his friends (since Kris took even more offense at her portrayal here). But I stated that I felt this decision really reflected his desire to ensure his version of events remained pure, because he did choose to continue telling autobiographical stories; he simply started telling stories of his childhood because he had lost touch with his friends from back then and none of them could complain about their portrayal. However, he did start the practice of publishing copious notes in the back of his TPBs, detailing how his version of events may have deviated from "reality" (a tradition he continued on through the historical book Louis Riel actually). This way he could again freely admit his version was simply his version, a subjective look at the events portrayed, and let his audience decide what to believe, laying culpability firmly in our laps.

(I had a lot more to say about the story too, but I had already talked for thirty minutes when I was only supposed to speak for twenty, so I cut things short at various points during the presentation. If anyone has questions, please ask and I'll be happy to elaborate.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #66

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The biggest flaw with this comic is that the cover does not include a quote that Blaquesmith says in the issue as the primary text:


Putting that on the cover would have made this issue.

Nonetheless, this is a good issue, kicking off the three-part "Sign of the End Times: Total Chaos in Three Parts" where Apocalypse's Harbinger returns to destroy New York with only Cable and some Avengers standing in his way.

The Harbinger is a really interesting villain as his power is his ability to evolve to any attack, situation or environment. Put simply, he can't be defeated. That really builds the tension in the first two issues of this story because you have no idea how he's going to be taken down. That will cause some problems in the third part, but, for now, it makes for some great comics.

One of the big elements of this story (the entire arc) is Cable and Stacey's relationship as she deals with the knowledge that he could be out dying right now--and he doesn't think about her at all because he's got a job to do. Stacey is someone Casey comes back to again and again in this arc to hammer home the consequences of Cable's attempts to create life for himself.

There's also the continuing tension between destiny and free will as Ozymandis shows Blaquesmith the prophecy that says the only way to stop Apocalypse is to allow New York to be destroyed. Of course, this being a superhero comics, no dice, Ancient Egyptian King.

The Avengers (in this case, Captain America, Iron Man, Wonder Man and Vision) only appear at the end of the issue, but, again, work with Cable's larger goal of integrating Cable into the Marvel universe.

Next issue, things get worse and my favourite Avenger shows up.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Flash #151

[Continuing my look at the lesser known Joe Casey comics. I bet you didn't even know he wrote an issue of The Flash! Well, shit, brother, neither did I until a month ago! You learn something new everyday. Like with every other lesser known Joe Casey comic, after discussing the issue, I will tell you if it should remain lesser known and forgotten or if it is the shit and you would be stupid not to rush out and dive into back-issues bins to get yourself a copy. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

This is a fill-in issue with the frame (one page at the beginning and one at the end) provided by regular Flash writers Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn (by the way, Brian is by far the most popular name for comic writers--I currently have labels for 7 Brians--and one Bryan--what's up with that?). If you'll recall, this was the period where Wally West from an alternate universe or the future or something was the Flash and, here, he reads his journal and we get an old Kid Flash adventure.

The plot is basically, Kid Flash stops a Gorilla from stealing a fossil from the museum, thinking it's Gorilla Grodd, but it turns out that this is a nice gorilla sent to retreive the bones of one of his people that a hunter stole from sacred burial grounds. Now, they need to get the gorilla back to his city in less than 72 hours or cause a gorilla/human war. Oh, and Kid Flash destroyed the gorilla's rocket-pack.

Instead of doing the smart thing and contacting the Justice League, young Wally decides he can get the job done himself, because, lately, he's been feeling powerless since he's only 15 and can't even drive. He can run faster than damn near anyone in the world, but that's a secret and girls dig guys with cars.

This is a pretty entertaining issue that, like a lot of Casey's work, leads into one of his off-beat works--in this case, The Intimates. Casey does teen angst well, as it rarely comes off as whiny, instead is very relatable. He gives us a downside of being a superhero that we don't see very often and has him working with fellow teen heroes Robin and Aqualad. There's even a nice bit where Robin was going to help Kid Flash and the gorilla sneak aboard a Wayne Enterprises ship headed for Africa, but Batman overhears thanks to phonetaps and has the ship leave early. Batman = douchebag.

Wally here is very easy to relate to and you can understand why he doesn't want to call in the grown-ups. It's also very stupid not to, but the desire to solve the problem on his own and see it through is understandable.

It's not the most adventurous story Casey's ever written, but has a few trademarks, like when Wally stops the hunter by stealing his clothes at superspeed and catching a bullet--and then remarks, "KINDA ANTI-CLIMATIC, HUH?"

Should this issue remain forgotten? No. You should check it out. Solid done-in-one issues are rare and this fits in perfectly between Casey's Mr. Majestic and Intimates stuff. As well, fellow Man of Action Duncan Rouleau provides some great art.

On Wednesday, I'll look at Captain America annual '99.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Sunday Open: 24/02/08 Books

And here we have my weekly look at what I bought during the previous week...

The Death of the New Gods #6

Shit, I much rather prefer my idea where Mister Miracle becomes corrupted by the Anti-Life Equation to the point where he turns out to be the killer and Orion uses the Source in a similar manner, the two working against one another as pawns of the greater forces. Instead, it's the lame guy with a paunch. Lame.

Aside from that revelation, I really enjoyed this issue. Starlin's depiction of Orion here is fantastic, demonstrating why the character is more than just a brutish thug. I'm also liking his Mister Miracle, a man so despondent that he's at the edge of his sanity. It plays right into Starlin's usual interests.

I will admit that his art on this book is a lot weaker than that he did at Marvel. I don't know why, but he just can't seem to find a groove with these characters. He does a decent Darkseid and Metron, but everyone else is pretty weak.

I look forward to the last two issues of this series as well as Holy War. Come on, Starlin and Lim together again--if you're not excited about that, you just hate comics. (Kidding.)

Mighty Avengers #9

This is a mostly boring issue with the Avengers versus Doombots. Whoo. There's a fight between Iron Man and Dr. Doom where Doom pulls out *gasp* magic! Because that's such a fucking surprise considering he's widely known as second only to Dr. Strange or something. I thought Tony Stark was supposed to be smart. But, then again, he's a Futurist, which means a total obsession with machines, violence and death, while shunning outdated things like magic, loyalty and logic.

The issue ends with Iron Man and Doom back in the past where pointillism colouring signify that it's the past... except Rocky is playing at a theate, which means we're talking 1976... and they're using pointillism to suggest that era? Was the colouring really that bad back then? I don't think I actually own a comic from that period (or, not an original comic at least), so I can't check, but it feels wrong to me. It makes me wonder when we'll see flashbacks to the 1980s that uses the same thing and then the '90s and then 2008... how long until stories taking place in 2008 are signified with pointillism?

I did enjoy the three double-page spreads to show the giant fight. They work better individual panels since the fight is a giant melee and large spreads depict that much better.

My favourite part of this issue? When Tony looks out on 1976 New York, we see a billboard for Camel Cigarettes. Must have slipped past ol' Joey Q, eh? (Is it weird that I feel the need to champion any runaround Quesada's 'no smoking' edict? I don't smoke and generally think that anyone who does is kind of stupid. But, then again, the edict bothers me for some reason. I guess it's the same--to me--as putting out an edict that says there will no longer be stupid people in Marvel comics.)

Something occurred to me a week or two back: has Tony's alcoholism been addressed much since/during Civil War? I haven't seen it mentioned in the books I've been reading, so it MUST have been mentioned in his title. And, if not... why? If you being partially responsible for Captain America getting killed after fighting against a lot of friends followed up with the responsibility of proving you weren't completely wrong and running the largest military force in the world doesn't make you want a drink, then what would? Can anyone help me out here?

Ultimate Human #2

Speaking of an alcoholic Tony Stark... does Ultimate Tony ever NOT have a drink in his hand? This guy fucking lives on vodka it seems. It's like if you took all of the water, juice, milk, coffee, and pop the average person drinks in a day, multipled it by ten and replaced it with vodka, you'd get near how much of the stuff this guy drinks. Do the nanites in his body run on the stuff? Do his Ultimate Iron Man suits? Has Ultimate Tony Stark invented machines that require him to drink vodka all day constantly? Ultimate Tony Stark is my new favourite hero.

...wait, I see panels where Ultimate Tony is drinking coffee. At least, Ultimate Bruce is and Ultimate Tony has a mug with steam coming out... unless he's invented a coffee/vodka blend where it's just hot brown vodka that he passes off as coffee, because he realises everyone is concerned about his drinking, but fuck them because Ultimate Tony Stark runs on vodka and loose women... okay, I'm going to stop right there or else I may just wind up writing a long paragraph about the lengths Ultimate Tony will go to make sure every liquid he takes in is actually vodka... think about it... think about it... there you go... yes, I'm a sick, sick man... I'm sorry. (And if for whatever reason you don't realise what I'm getting at, you're better off. Trust me.)

This issue is decent, but the first one was better. Still, probably just for the ending, but this one is good. It sets up the next two well while resolving elements of the first. Ultimate Bruce is cured of being the Ultimate Hulk, but I imagine that's a bad thing now that Ultimate Pete Wisdom (the Ultimate Leader) has kidnapped them. I don't actually care about the plot that much, I just want to see Ultimate Tony find new and interesting ways to get vodka while locked up by Ultimate Wisdom--who will rant to them about his giant head--his giant Ultimate head--and how he should be them, he should be an Ultimate, rather than some crazy freak who wants Ultimate Bruce Banner's blood so he can become Ultimate Hulk and explore Ultimate space as an Ultimate Super-Soldier. you think Ultimate Tony drinks a vodka called Ultimate Absolut? Or how about Ultimat?

...god i need a drink...

Youngblood #2

Casey has given Shaft the shaft. SPOILER!

...shit, the "SPOILER!" goes ahead of the soiled part of the story... there it just seems like I'm weird energetic person who does something and then yells what I just did. Like I show up at the store after walking there and yell "WALKED!" That would be pretty weird...

A much stronger issue than last month's debut, Casey pushes the concept to an area that I love: fictional. Youngblood has a fake rivalry straight out of Vince McMahon's playbook. I've long wanted more comics to emulate wrestling since I see many obvious connections. Actually, my idea was for a Mighty Avengers or Avengers: The Initiative annual where the registered heroes put on a charity event where they all fight each other in wrestling-like matches. The outcomes are predetermined as are some of the moves used--a cool way to showcase the government heroes and do it for a worthy cause...

While we're on the subject, why does the fact that wrestling's events are scripted take away from it in the eyes of some? It's just like any other fictional show, except they still have to do the fucking moves. What, because they know Triple H is going to beat Umaga, that suddenly makes getting slammed onto a chair painless or doing a suplex effortless? Like the illusion that it was a sport was what mattered--it's athletic fiction.

Anyway... this is a cynical comic that has everyone involved totally aware that it's a fiction, except not the larger fiction. Casey has pushed the concept further and managed to kill off the one character who probably wouldn't have gone along with it.

What does Johnny Panic do as a postmodern superhero?

Badrock is breaking up... heh.

This marks the second (that I can remember) appearance of Bill Maher in a Joe Casey comic--the first waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in X-Men: Children of the Atom (which I will get to at some point in my look at his work here on GraphiContent), except then, it was Politically Incorrect and now it's Real Time. I do love me some Bill Maher--I wonder if he's aware of his appearance in this comic...

The art on the book isn't wowwing me. It's a little simplistic and cartoony in an unappropriate manner. I know that since we're dealing with varying levels of fictionality that an obviously unreal art style may be appealing, but I think a more realistic or, possibly, surreal style would suit the subject matter more. Particularly since the levels of fictionality are not handled in a childish manner, but a more nuanced, adult one that examines the cynicism of the modern world. Or something.

I do wish Casey was a little more subtle in his explorations of metafiction here, though. His one failing is that he has a tendency to not only do something cool, but to feel the need to tell you he's doing something cool as he's doing. It's not quite as pronounced as Mark Millar's need to the do the same, but it's there nonetheless. He needs to trust his audience more--although with the failure of more subtle, nuanced books that required actual thought and interaction from the audience like Wildcats Version 3.0, Automatic Kafka, Mr. Majestic, The Intimates, and Deathlok, I can't say I blame him for going the obvious route.

Am looking forward to issue three...

Spider-Man: Reign

Ten dollar Marvel hardcovers, people. That's what the shop I go to here in Windsor has as Marvel attempts to get rid of some stock and provide an easy way for shops to full backstock as they realise maybe people don't always want hardcovers for books that they can still find singles for or wait two months for the trade. So, I picked up this book for ten bucks, which I'm really glad about since I wanted to check it out ever since the original issues came out (I couldn't find the first two, so I decided to wait for a collection).

I'm actually not quite sure what to make of this book, because the Peter Parker/Spider-Man we get here isn't the same as any version I've seen before. The difference between the two facets of his personality verge on multiple personalities, probably one of the reasons why this feels like The Dark Knight Returns--aside from the similarity in approach and some artistic similarities. That disparity put me off initially because it is so different, so out of the form for a Spider-Man story. Parker may have had his problems, but to go this far?

Same with the Mary Jane delusions...

But, I think it works. Parker has always been pushed far and, after Mary Jane's death, the idea that he would go off the deep end a little makes sense. He isn't completely insane--just a tad insane.

There were a few elements of the story that weirded people out, particularly the radioactive spider-sperm that apparently killed Mary Jane. Seems like a logical extension of the character's powers to me and, well, a weird as fuck way to kill off MJ. What I noticed while reading this book was how it reflects on One More Day since the relationship between Mary Jane and Peter is held to such a high standard here--it's elevated so much that it makes discarding it seem even worse. Of course, the two stories are unrelated, but can't help but see it that way.

There are many similarities to The Dark Knight Returns, including the style Kaare Andrews uses for the art--there are some panels that look really close to Frank Miller's work from that era. However, I find it interesting that this book's subject matter is a lot closer to that of The Dark Knight Strikes Again as far as the antagonists go. Both of those books examine a post-9/11 world dealing with corrupt power figures that use security and terror to rule with iron fists, unafraid to use old villains to get their way, fighting against costumed heroes. In that way, I have a hard time taking Reign too seriously--but I would say that it falls somewhere between the two Miller works. It's not as serious as DKR, but it's not as absurdly comedic as DKSA. (I could also see a little Channel Zero in the book during the broadcast part of the story.)

The use of Venom is interesting as Andrews gives the character some really solid motivation for his attacks on Parker, painting Parker as the true villain and the symbiote as an innocent bystander. It works well and gives the final part of the book a bittersweet "victory."

Actually, a lot of Reign is devoted to demonstrating that Peter Parker is a bit of a selfish asshole. The symbiote is brought to Earth and abandoned by him; he spends years lying to J. Jonah Jameson and using him to make a living; he never considers how his changed physiology could hurt Mary Jane... the Peter Parker of this book is haunted by the fact that he focused so much on one particular aspect of his "responsibility" that it led to him ignoring others. For the first time in a long time, I see the character as incredibly flawed--still heroic, but very, very flawed. Andrews has managed to make Peter Parker a complex and interesting character after decades of him being the same guy we've always known with no growth (except tiny little hints of change that never last).

I'm still not convinced, though, about the disparity between Parker and Spider-Man. That doesn't work for me... it's like Andrews pushed things too far in that regard, I'm not sure. That said, Spider-Man punching out Jameson at the end of issue one is one of those Great Moments... and really demonstrates the maturity and complexity of this Peter Parker.

If you haven't picked up Reign, you should. I could probably go on a lot more about it, examining each character and what it means to Spider-Man. I mean, my god, the cemetary shit in issue three... what is that all about really? Wow. I may reread this book today, actually, and come back to it later here. Maybe during the summer.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #65

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Something I keep meaning to mention: remember how I noted that the font seemed to change in issue 59 with the beginning of "The Nemesis Contract"? Well, that's because it did as Comicraft created a font based on Ladronn's hand lettering that has since been used on other Ladronn projects. I always noticed the change, but really cool to learn that it's actually a new font specifically designed for Ladronn.

Let's get on with issue 65, though...

Cable's enemies in this issue are the Tinkerer and his Acidroid, again not typical X-villains--Cable continues to exist in the Marvel universe, not the little X-centric corner of it. There's a lovely bit where, to fit the Acidroid, Cable must put on a mask to protect his face, again pushing him into a more superhero place. I actually wish he kept the mask since it's a really good look.

His relationship with Stacey becomes more complicated as they discuss her request to help Kenny's down syndrome, and she initiates his encounter with the Acidroid. She also points out that much of what Cable feels is his responsibility is only that because he decides that it is. One of the great lines of the issue is her asking him, "...DOES CAPTAIN AMERICA OBSESS LIKE THIS?" A little foreshadowing as the Avengers guest-star in the next three issues, allowing for the first direct comparison between Cable and other Marvel heroes since issue 54 when the Black Panther guest-starred.

While Casey continues to redefine Cable in that way, he also lays a lot of foundation for the ultimate showdown with Apocalypse by having Ozymandis show Blaquesmith that two signs signalling the final confrontation have happened: snow in Egypt and a "great darkness" (aka a major blackout caused in an issue of X-Men). Also, Rachel Summers (aka Mother Askani) contacts Cable from the future and we have a "cosmic awareness" panel right out of Starlin's Captain Marvel, also acting as one of the first overt signs of Casey's love of the cosmic type of story that Gødland revels in. I love the fact that Ladronn's art at this time is very similar to Tom Scioli's art in Gødland, both very Kirby-esque. A nice little coincidence.

The issue ends with a lead-in to the next storyarc, which take up issues 66 to 68 as Cable teams with the Avengers take on Harbinger, last seen in issue 50. Isn't it great how I do three issues a week and this is a three-issue storyline? Next week is "Sign of the End Times" week apparently. Can't miss that, can we?

The Splash Page 3: Amazing Spider-Man #549-551

This week's edition of the Splash Page, the column I do with Tim Callahan is up. I think our discussion is pretty good this week, but I am a little bothered that a lot of my side relied on instinct rather than specific points. Although, instinct is a large part of liking/disliking works of art, I find--and I've learned to trust mine since I have an amazing ability to pick out quality randomly. *shrugs*


Go read the column. Next week, we're changing things up a little with a more general discussion of what we're digging and hating right now. If you ever wanted to read a column where two guys agree 90% of the time and have no opinion the other 10% because they haven't read the book in question, that column will be for you. Heh.

Regular Saturday post later.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Iron Man annual '99

[Continuing my look at the lesser known/minor works by Joe Casey. Those fill-in issues, one-shots and short runs that only the most hardcore of the hardcore are aware exist. With each, I will ask whether or not the work should remain forgotten or if it is a lost treasure. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

I've mentioned this before, but Wizard called Joe Casey the next Kurt Busiek in their issue 2000, and here we have Casey and Busiek co-writing a comic (Busiek only co-plots, presumably because of illness as, if I remember correctly, he had some medical problems around this time). Casey and Busiek suggests a powerful combination, but this issue is pretty shit.

Okay, that's a tad harsh as it's merely mediocre. It's not bad, it's some solid superhero action that doesn't rise above itself or give cause for rereadings. The plot involves some mysterious forc sucking ionic energy from people with said energy. Iron Man must figure out who's doing it while working with a sexy SHIELD agent that gets him all hot and bothered. Turns out that the culprit is Count Nefaria--which is only funny because, at the beginning of the issue, some dude called Nefarious was killed for his ionic energy. Wait, that's not funny at all--and yet it's the closest thing to wit in this issue.

There are lots of kinda lame fights and... not much else. Stark has some angst over digging the SHIELD agent, but that comes off as hacknayed and weak. The issue also ends with that old "diplomatic immunity" gem.

Should this book remain forgotten? Yes. Unless you have a fondness for mediocre, uninventive superhero stories involving Z-grade villains.

On Monday, we'll have Casey team with Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn (kind of) on Flash #151.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #64

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Last time, I mentioned this may be the best single issue of Casey's run on Cable and it's all talking. Most of the story is told through Irene's perspective in her writing. Instead of using captions per usual, this issue pushes the text to the gutters and gives us pics without text. This technique works well as much of the issue is Cable telling Irene his past--which means lovely Ladronn drawings depicting those various moments.

There's also a subplot where Stacey, not knowing Cable's powers exactly, asks if he can use them to help her brother with down syndrome. One of those "comic book logic meets real world problem" moments, but it works as it's portrayed more as her being so desperate to help her brother that she'll grasp at any straw, including those she knows won't/can't work.

This issue was also meant to be the final appearance of Appocalypse before the year 2000, kicking off the road to the crossover involving the Twelve and Cable's final battle with Apocalypse--something the X-office then fucked up horribly, including kicking Joe Casey off the book basically after he set the whole thing up. That's a simplification of the whole thing, I will admit.

One of the interesting, albeit cliche, parallels drawn in this issue is between Cable and Christ as the story takes place around Christmas and Cable discusses his role as a messiah/chosen one. It's actually more subtle than most Christ allusions, which works in its favour.

What makes this issue so good is just how well it functions as a whole, self-contained story. It's a good jumping on point for new readers (at the time) and really sums up the main characters.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil

[Continuing my look at some of the lesser known comics by Joe Casey. The annuals, the fill-ins, the one-shots, and the forgotten runs. With each, I will answer one question: should the book remain forgotten? New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Produced along with four or five other one-shots during some month back in 1999, Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil takes us back to the "Heroes Reborn" universe. Remember "Heroes Reborn"? Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld do the "Ultimate" thing before the "Ultimate" thing? Lasted only a year because it sucked ass? Concluded with a crossover with Wildstorm?


Casey teams with Charlie Adlard here for a story that has very little to do with anything. The Masters of Evil in this book are the Black Knight (Garrett), Whirlwind, Radioactive Man and the bed-ridden Melter. Not the most auspicious group. The conceit is that, with the heroes gone, villains have the run of the place and these guys are just petty thugs, basically.

The issue has two plots: Garrett's attempts to raise himself above his low status and Whirlwind coming to grips with the fact that he doesn't like his life. The ideas behind this issue are great, but, sadly, the execution is lacking. I don't want to call this comic boring, but... it's pretty fucking boring.

Scenes that should be packed with witty dialogue and fun "supervillains as real people" stuff don't have anything to them. Whirlwind and Radioactive Man are in a diner in one scene and it leads nowhere beyond establishing that RM doesn't talk.

What the issue seems to suffer from is its ties to the other "Heroes Reborn" one-shots. Casey does his best to make those ties interesting, like Garrett's appeal to Dr. Doom to serve him, but his efforts are wasted.

There is a rather funny scene where Whirlwind interviews the Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo for positions as Garrett's bodyguards that turns into a fight between the two as they gleefully attempt to show off how awesome they are.

Should the book remain forgotten? I'm going to have to go with "maybe" here. While the actual comic isn't that great, the ideas behind it are pretty solid and I've gotten enjoyment out of the hints towards something better. As well, Charlie Adlard's art is great. (I never know what to say about art. Dammit.) The format and editorial constrictions make this a much worse comic than it should be. Could be worth a look if you see it in a quarter bin somewhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #63

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Ladies and gentlemen... Stephen Platt on art. I could probably find worse art, but I'm too lazy to pick on Platt that much today. His art is horrible and I dread the fact that, soon, a copy of Cable/Wolverine: Guts 'n' Glory will arrive with his art (and Casey's writing).

Thankfully, Platt provides art for a mostly throwaway issue that's part two of a three-part crossover with X-Man and involves the return of Stryfe. That's right, a story where three Cables get together and mix it up. Pity Joe Casey, people.

The first bit of this issue has Cable show up at Babels and have a little talk with Stacey. For some reason, he comes straight from the SHIELD helicarrier still wearing his blue prisoner jumpsuit and his eye shooting out an insane amount of energy for no fucking reason. They have a nice little talk where she's a little freaked, but very understanding and it's made clear that these two are going to have sex in the near future. Of course, Platt's Stacey vaguely resembles Ladronn's... same with Platt's Irene who has been offered a gig with the Daily Bugle.

And then it's the whole Stryfe story, which I'm going to avoid because it doesn't matter. At all.

A mostly worthless issue that is the lowest point of Casey's run--with the only upshot being that the crappy fill-in art was used for a crappy crossover issue. Combining evils is always nice.

Next issue is one of the best of the run, so that's going to be fun.

I'm excited about the Last Defenders

Ever since The Last Defenders was announced, a lot of promo press has been popping up at Newsarama and, I've got to say, it's getting me rather excited about the book. Take, for instance, today's mini-interview with Joe Casey--the way he describes Nighthawk's character and the thrust of the story has got me wanting this book right now. Of course, I'm not exactly the hardest sell when it comes to Casey stuff, but all of the work he's putting into promoting the book is really paying off... with me. Check out that little story and then check out some of the other interviews (links to which are at the end of today's piece over at Newsarama).

Hadn't mentioned the book yet and figured I would. Normally, I'm not that excited about Joe Casey's new stuff. I really enjoy it, but I tend to take his writing (and that of people like Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis) for granted. When the quality is consistently high, it's hard to get excited about every book. Here, though, I'm excited. Weird.

My regular Tuesday post will be up later.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Wolverine: Black Rio

[Beginning my look at some of the lesser known comics by Joe Casey. The annuals, the fill-ins, the one-shots, and the forgotten runs. With each, I will answer one question: should the book remain forgotten? New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

First up in my look at lesser known comics by Joe Casey is 1998's Wolverine: Black Rio, a squarebound one-shot with art by Oscar Jimenez that has Logan in Rio for Carnaval. He gets in contact with an old friend, Antonio Vargas, now a detective investigating a series of murders that seem vampire-related--which, of course, means Wolverine versus vampires.

Not as much fun as you'd think.

This is a book very early in Casey's career and reads as such. There are some nice attempts to create witty banter and interesting dialogue, but they mostly fail. The overall thrust of the story is weak, as is the revelation that one of the vampires is Vargas's wife, long thought dead.

The main villain is an interesting character as he has some alien parasite attached to his stomach that speaks to him telepathically--making him seem crazy to all involved. But, even that isn't enough to warrant much interest.

There's also a baffling moment where Wolverine changes into an odd purplish-blue costume to take on the vampires that makes no real sense.

Jimenez's art is wildly inconsistent, ranging from fantastic to horribly rushed and sketchy. His depictions of Rio are great, though.

The book ends with a possibility for future stories and it is not surprising that no one has picked up the ball and ran with it.

Should this book remain forgotten? Oh hell yes. This is one of those books that only a weird Joe Casey obsessor like myself should pick up--and even I kind of feel like I've wasted my money. Normally, Casey manages to put in one or two really great moments, but this book is almost completely lacking.

On Wednesday, Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A little housekeeping...

Since I've finished my postings of old comic creator interviews, I will be expanding my look at Joe Casey's stuff. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will discuss smaller projects and some of his early work, mostly one-off stories like Wolverine: Black Rio, Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil and Captain America annual '99. I looked at the sheer amount of Joe Casey comics there are and realised that doing them issue-by-issue three days a week means I'll be doing this forever (I've still got three weeks of Cable). So, my look at Cable will continue on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, as will the Sunday Open, but the MWF slot will feature smaller works that no one cares about at all. I may mix it up with other stuff, too--but for right now, I'll be doing it this way. Fun.

The Sunday Open: 17/02/08 Comics

One of the reasons why I've avoided making weekly treks to the comic shop is that I spend more money that way. Where I'll only buy books I normally pick up and the odd take-a-chancer when I hit the shop once a month, I find I'm much more willing to just buy whatever looks good if I'm there every week. Now, that's bad news for my wallet, but it also means I'm checking out a whole lot more. So, let's jump into it:

Fantastic Four #554

Wow, what a boring comic. I have zero to no interest in books that simply revel in the typical, which this book does. But then again, others would simply call that showing us these characters as they were back in the glory days. My last experience with the title was the Waid/Wieringo run, which I got in hardcovers... and, yeah, why has Johnny Storm reverted back to his pre-teen self? How fucking boring. And look at Reed being actually boring! Or Ben being fun! Normally, I enjoy books with little action and lots of character development--except there is no character development here, it's all just character re-enforcement, which is all well and good, but why am I spending three bucks on a comic that's telling me things I already know?

Not a huge fan of Bryan Hitch's art here, if only because of last week's ClanDestine where Alan Davis shows up his imitator. That, and Hitch tries to make every panel look so unique as far as facial expressions go that they become almost parodic at times. Something about Johnny's face on page five just seems wrong...

I don't know, it seems like a comic more intent on recapturing old FF stories/moments than actually doing something new (aside from Sue's charity project, which is a fantastic idea, honestly). Even the so-called "cliffhanger" doesn't do anything for me, because there isn't enough information there to create an interest or any tension. (And, seriously, "Nu-World"? "Nu"? How utterly modern.)

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure

Remember when this was announced and everyone was all "OMG! NU KIRBY! KEWL!" and then everyone promptly forgot? That's probably for the best. This is a book for scholars, Kirby obsessors and... well, not many other people, because it isn't that good. But, don't worry, because everyone involved seems to recognise the lack of quality in this "lost adventure" that was meant to be Fantastic Four #102--Stan Lee ran #103 as #102 and then cannabalised this story in #108. It isn't bad, it's just utterly mundane. The way Marvel has put this book together, though, is pretty nice. They include a reconstructed version of the original #102, Kirby's original pencils along with his border notes and then #108 so we can see how his art was used. Not much entertainment value, but there's probably an essay or two's worthy of material in this book.

Ghost Rider #20

Tim Callahan hyped this book up so much I couldn't not get it. I don't think I've ever picked up an issue of Ghost Rider before in its various iterations. Never had much interest. But, Tim said it was all kinds of awesome and I tend to listen to Tim.

While it doesn't live up to his hype (what could?), this is a very impressive debut for Jason Aaron on the title. He establishes the book firmly within the horror/grindhouse genre and sets up the overarching story of Ghost Rider trying to get to Heaven to take revenge on an angel who was really responsible for his condition. Throw in some nurses with guns and tearing up a church and it's a lot of fun. Worth picking up--if only for Aaron's text piece at the end of the issue where he both bashes, but condones the previous creative team.

New Avengers #38

Now, this is what I'm talking about. After months of mediocre issues, Bendis finally delivers with an issue-long fight between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones after she's registered in order to keep their daughter out of harm's way. Is it a coincidence that Michael Gaydos does the art in this fantastic issue? Probably not.

I can understand that this type of issue isn't everyone's cup of tea as nothing "happens" except the breakdown of a marriage between two characters we're supposed to care about. What I find especially intriguing is that Bendis doesn't try to take sides, he simply presents the characters' points of view and the reader can decide who is right and who is wrong. As well, this is the first time I've really seen the fallout of Civil War in an emotional way (okay, maybe the death of Captain America, too). Yeah, we've had the New Avengers square off with the Mighty Avengers, but who cares. This was the first post-Civil War switch that actually means something (sorry, Spider-Woman, but who cares about you when you switch sides the way most people change underwear?).

Next issue promises the truth about Echo, which should, I hope, clear up how a deaf woman can read the lips of people wearing masks... or not actually facing her...

Spider-Man Family #7

The Mike Wieringo tribute story by Mark Waid, Todd Dezago and Karl Kesel--who also draws the story in a cartoony style similar to that of Wieringo. I'm actually surprised at how overlooked this issue is--and a little bothered that they'd stick the tribute story in this comic, mostly filled with reprints of old, bad Spider-Man comics (I'm talking stuff from the '90s--like the first issue of a Venom mini-series). When I heard about it, I made a mental note to keep my eye out for the issue and, thankfully, I remembered.

The story itself isn't anything worldshattering, but it's a lot of fun in the best ways. The Looter wants to find the twin of his beloved meteorite and this leads Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange on a wild goose chase to the Savage Land and a few other places. The Looter is a great character: a man in love with a green shard of rock that he actually talks to--and there's a moment when Spider-Man has it and he talks to it and I immediately wondered if maybe the Looter isn't so crazy and the rock can talk to whoever holds it. Probably not, but a cool idea.

What impressed me the most about this story is how some of the heroes see that the Looter is a man who needs help and treat him with compassion as such. They see a crazy guy who isn't really bad, just a little deranged and take steps to subdue him in non-violent ways.

The rest of Spider-Man Family is, as I said, reprints and I didn't read any of them. I may read the Spider-Manga reprint since I've never read one before.

Wolverine #62

Shit, this is the 7th issue of Wolverine I've gotten in a row--the first being Jason Aaron's excellent one-off story with Howard Chaykin. Marc Guggenheim's run wasn't that great, but since I did enjoy Aaron's take on the character so much in that one-off issue, I figured I'd give this a look. I mean, Wolverine hunting down Mystique... hard to fuck that up, eh?

This is a solid issue with a few cool bits, especially the way Aaron makes it seem that Logan has gone over the edge in his hunt for Mystique--a shapeshifter, which would cause a lot of problems no doubt. The end of the issue is nice, too. I'll be picking up the rest of this arc.

Fantastic Comics #24

The first "next issue project" release from Image where creators do the next issue of a Golden Age title. It's a nice idea and good gimmick for an anthology. But, like most anthologies, the results are not always the greatest. Most of the stories in this issue are mediocre. Erik Larson's "Samson" story is serviceable, but nothing special. As are Tom Scioli's "Space Smith" and Andy Khun's "Yank Wilson." Those three stories read like bonus features for the main events, namely Joe Casey and Bill Sienkiewicz's "Flip Falcon in the Fourth Dimension" and Ashley Wood's "Sub Saunders."

Big surprise, I know, me digging on the Joe Casey and Ashley Wood stories--but there's a reason why I dig these guys' work... they deliver some killer stuff. "Flip Falcon" has Casey play around with the idea of time travel in a cool way, while also having the character transcend his old boundaries. It reads like a very well-written preview for an ongoing series where the Golden Age character is a jumping off point. It seems that reusing these public domain characters is the current "thing" and this is the first time I've seen someone do something new and interesting with one. None of this "wake up in the modern world and show us how it's done" bullshit--it's take one of those cool mindfuck concepts and push it into the 21st century. Fucking right.

Ashley Wood's Sub Saunders story is obtuse and difficult to understand since it features mostly black panels and German dialogue, but when you figure it out, it's a fun little ending to the issue. Especially the introduction of an android named... AUTOMATED KEATS! Okay, I may as well explain it: Wood makes fun of using these old characters instead of creating new ones. He referneces Automatic Kafka as that was a character he and Casey took off the board to avoid things like this project. At least, that's what I took from the story.

The only other story of note is the "Stardust" one with Mike Allred on art. It's a pretty typical "the modern world sucks and the old heroes knew how to do" story that I'm surprised Alex Ross didn't have some involvement in.

I will probably pick up future volumes of the "next issue project" because it is a fun read, even the bad stories. Although, after that Wood story, can I really do it with a clear conscience? Hoo-ha.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #62

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

As I am kind of sick, I'm not in the mood for contructing sentences and putting together ideas, so in my look at the conclusion of "The Nemeis Contract," I'm doing things in point form with little attention paid to small stuff like grammar, spelling and coherence. Enjoy.

* Cable has a new haircut--cropped short, looks much better

* The four surviving Nemesis robots mutate into Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos (the other three being Dum Dum, Reb and Perce)--no real reason for this other than the fact that it's a lot of fun--again, emphasis Cable's connection to the larger Marvel universe

* Irene writes the expose on SHIELD for the Daily Bugle, giving Casey an excuse to write J. Jonah Jameson--the most Stan Lee-esque dialogue in any modern comic if you include the Howling Commandos as well

* Ladronn's lines are thicker in this issue, most Kirby-esque--Joe Casey is Stan Lee, Ladronn is Jack Kirby?

* Cable, now at full power, handily defeats Jack Truman, leaving Truman seriously injured as a result of the SHIELD helicarrier crashing, which sets up Deathlok

* Emphasises Cable's role as "hero"...

* One of the Nemesis robots mutates further, becoming Cyclops--demonstrating the role the Howling Commandos played in the MU?

Next issue is part two of a three-part crossover with X-Man... sure to be well worth our time and energy, eh?

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Splash Page 2: Booster Gold #0

The second edition of the Splash Page is up. This week, Tim and I discuss Booster Gold #0... and it actually isn't just us making fun of the issue the entire time. No, really, we get into Geoff Johns's metafictional side and all sorts of other stuff. I'm as surprised as anyone, really.

Next week, we'll be looking at Amazing Spider-Man #549-551--and it looks like Tim and I may finally have our first disagreement over a book. Oooooh, the excitement! I can't wait.

But, for now, read this week's column, because it's great.

Chad's Jackass Comic Creator Interviews from 2001: Peter David

[Concluding our trip into the past where I was 18 and apparently had an odd obsession with comic book creator underwear. And "chicks." Again, I would like to apologise to all those involved--and thank those who had no tolerance for my jackassery.]

Interview With . . . Peter David!
If you know me, then odds are you’ve heard me talk about Peter David. To put it mildly, I love his novels. I think the first book I read of his was his Hulk novel, and that was because it was comic related. Eventually, my love of Star Trek led me to start picking up some of those novels. I recognized David’s name from comics and such, so I read Q-Sqaured (the fact that I like Q didn’t hurt). It blew me away. It was a work of genius, so I quickly read everything else the library had to offer me of his, and I have been since.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

David: Peter David is a prolific author whose career, and continued popularity, spans nearly two decades. He has worked in every conceivable media: Television, film, books (fiction, non-fiction and audio), short stories, and comic books, and acquired followings in all of them. In the literary field, Peter has had over fifty novels published, including numerous appearances on the New York Times Bestsellers List. His novels include Sir Apropos of Nothing (A “fast, fun, heroic fantasy satire”--Publishers Weekly), Knight Life, Howling Mad, and the Psi-Man adventure series. He is the co-creator and author of the bestselling Star Trek: New Frontier series for Pocket Books, and has also written such Trek novels as Q-Squared, The Siege, Q-in-Law, Vendetta, I, Q (with John de Lancie), A Rock and a Hard Place and Imzadi. He produced the three Babylon 5 Centauri Prime novels, and has also had his short fiction published in such collections as Shock Rock, Shock Rock II, and Otherwere, as well as Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Peter’s comic book resume includes an award-winning twelve-year run on The Incredible Hulk, and he has also worked on such varied and popular titles as Supergirl, Young Justice, Soulsearchers and Company, Aquaman, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, X-Factor, Star Trek, Wolverine, The Phantom, Sachs & Violens, and many others. He has also written comic book related novels, such as The Hulk: What Savage Beast, and co-edited The Ultimate Hulk short story collection. Furthermore, his opinion column But I Digress has been running in the industry trade newspaper The Comic Buyers’ Guide for nearly a decade, and in that time has been the paper's consistently most popular feature and was also collected into a trade paperback edition.

Peter is the co-creator, with popular science fiction icon Bill Mumy (of Lost in Space and Babylon 5 fame) of the Cable Ace Award-nominated science fiction series Space Cases, which ran for two seasons on Nickelodeon. He has written several scripts for the Hugo Award winning TV series Babylon 5, and the sequel series, Crusade. He has also written several films for Full Moon Entertainment and co-produced two of them, including two instalments in the popular Trancers series as well as the science fiction western spoof Oblivion, which won the Gold Award at the 1994 Houston International Film Festival for best Theatrical Feature Film, Fantasy/Horror category.

Peter's awards and citations include: the Haxtur Award 1996 (Spain), Best Comic script; OZCon 1995 award (Australia), Favourite International Writer; Comic Buyers Guide 1995 Fan Awards, Favourite writer; Wizard Fan Award Winner 1993; Golden Duck Award for Young Adult Series (Starfleet Academy), 1994; UK Comic Art Award, 1993; Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, 1993. He lives in New York with his wife, Kathleen, and his three children, Shana, Gwen and Ariel.

Me: What was your first big break of sorts in the writing field?

David: Writing Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man.

Me: What have you written? And try to keep it under a 1000 words ;)

David: See #1.

Me: What are you currently writing?

David: Responses to this interview.

Me: What do you think of Enterprise so far?

David: Could be better, could be worse.

Me: You ever notice how the ending to Q-Squared could be modified slightly so that all the problems with Brent Spiner and make-up not covering his age would no longer be an issue?

David: Hadn't really given it much thought.

Me: Boxers or briefs?

David: Depends if you're fighting a pugilist or an attorney.

Me: Summer or winter?

David: Summer. Less clothing on women.

Me: Cats or dogs?

David: Cats.

Me: Any cool stories involving a chick?

David: I once stood at an incubator and watched a whole bunch hatch. That was cool.

Me: I just gave you a 100 untraceable bullets, who or what do you use them on?

David: The guy who thought of this question.

Me: Who are some of your favourite writers?

David: Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, Robert Crais, David McCullough.

Me: Who is your hero?

David: My wife.

Me: Who are some of the artists that you really want to work with?

David: Alex Ross. That'd be cool. Dave McKean. Adam Hughes.

Me: Did you design New Frontier as a possible TV series or was the use of pre-existing characters just because you thought them to be interesting? Not to mention the little one-liners about Morgan Lefler looking like Majel Barret Roddenbery . . .

David: No, it was always designed to be a book series. Using some pre-existing characters was suggested by John Ordover.

Me: Are you going to be doing any more B5 work? For novels, TV, movies, comics, anything?

David: Dunno.

Me: You've written numerous Q novels, do you find the way he's been portrayed to be contrary to the way that you view the character?

David: Sometimes. Wasn't wild about any of his Voyager appearances.

Me: Can you tell people, who won't listen to me, why they should read New Frontier?

David: Nah. If they won't listen to you, who has no vested interest, why would they listen to me?

Me: Who do you love?

David: My wife and children.

Me: Any final words?

David: Well, no, what with not dying anytime soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #61

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The penultimate chapter of "The Nemesis Contract" reveals the motivations behind SHIELD's capture of Cable: a covert group within the agency wants to harvest Cable's techno-organic materials to integrate with some robots they built. Seems simple enough.

This issue is unique in its lack of Cable, Casey preferring to focus on those around him as he is unconscious and locked up on the SHIELD helicarrier. Irene uses her journalistic skills to uncover what happened to him, while Jack Truman discovers the real reason behind his mission and does his best to fuck with Quartermain and Dr. Belgrade. As does GW Bridge, who is approached by Irene wanting information.

A key part of this issue is that Casey gets rid of Cable's techno-organic subplot here by having Belgrade remove most of it while Blaquesmith uses telepathy to contact Cable and reveal that Cable still has his telekinesis, it's just been inactive because of the shock of losing his telepathy.

In the end, Truman frees Cable in the hopes of getting a rematch where Cable is at his best.

Storytelling-wise, Casey and Ladronn use the same layout twice for conveying information through SHIELD recordings. 24-panel pages (four across, six down) where the first and third panels on each tier are just text, while the second and fourth panels on each tier are just images. This is typical of Casey's work where he explores the relationship between words and pictures in comics, often separating them or using them in different ways to comment on one another.

Ladronn's art remains consistent with previous issues, so not much to add there.

All in all, this issue follows the previous two pretty faithfully in most ways and doesn't offer much in terms of discussion.

Next time, I'll conclude my look at "The Nemesis Contract."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chad's Jackass Comic Creator Interviews from 2001: John Layman

[After this interview, there's only one more left from the archives. Anyway, this is another interview I conducted with a comic creator in late 2001 where the questions are a lovely mix of intelligence and "stories about chicks." What the fuck, man? What the fuck. Also, I don't know if any of the links John mentions here still work, but I've kept them just in case. Final post in this series will be up on Friday. Who will the final interview subject be? Start guessing now!]

Interview With . . . John Layman!
When the whole thing was going on with The Authority, people were talking shit about anyone and everyone at DC and Wildstorm. Well, everyone except for writer Mark Millar and this man, the title’s editor, John Layman. Okay, some people tried to talk shit about Layman, but they were quickly silenced. Layman, from what I’m told, has fought for the book harder than anyone. He is a fan first, and an editor/employee second. I respect this guy for that. And for the fact that I look at many of my favourite books and see his name attached. That must mean something. I don’t know how much input he has, but whatever is his must be great. And without further ramblings by me, here is my interview with John Layman.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

Layman: I was born and raised in Marysville, California, a little town 40 miles above Sacramento. Went to college at CSU Long Beach and graduated with an English degree from Chico State, emphasis on creative writing and Victorian literature.

Me: How did you get interested in writing?

Layman: When you're an only child living on the outskirts of a small town, prior to the advent of cable TV and video games, you read a lot, and after I while you try to write. I'd wanted to write comic books for as long as I can remember. Did little mini-comics before I could even write in cursive. All have since been destroyed, thank God.

Me: How did you become an editor?

Layman: Before coming on at WildStorm, I worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune. On the side I wrote freelance stories, and I would always pitch comic-book and sci-fi related stories. After covering the San Diego Con for a few years, I got to know some of the people from WildStorm. I jumped at the chance to be an assistant editor for Jonathan Peterson. After a few months, the paper lured me back with an offer of a monthly comic book column, and a year later Scott Dunbier called me up, this time with an offer of a full-editorship. Kinda a long, weird, story, but the bottom line is there is no ONE way to become an editor.

Me: What titles do you edit right now?

Layman: Astro City, The Authority, The Monarchy, Planetary, Steampunk. A LOT of upcoming projects, including: Batman/Deathblow, Wildcats version 3.0, Matador, a few top secret Warren Ellis projects, a “revamp” that some people have speculated about lately and a few other goodies and one-shots. I'm also quite involved with the Left Behind books for Tyndale House Publishers.

Me: What have you written?

Layman: I've written probably more than a 100 reviews, op-ed, features and interviews for the San Diego Union-Tribune and various web sites (most of the web sites have since imploded.) I've had fiction published a of couple magazines, Into the Darkness and Hot Lava. Most recently, I shared a by-line with my girlfriend, who is a reporter, writing on article on “TV Girls Who Kick Ass” for a magazine called Strong. I've also have three novels and a fantastic screenplay sitting in a drawer, but I'm kinda lazy when it comes to sending stuff out.

As far as comics go, my first published work was a DV8 short story in the WildStorm Thunderbook one-shot a couple summers ago. I did some Gen13 scripting and fill-in work. Of course, my favourite creative project was last year's Bay City Jive. It didn't get a lot of readership, presumably because of the oddball subject matter, but writing and lettering that was certainly the high point of many high points here at WildStorm.

Since then, I've adapted Left Behind for Tyndale House. Got a few things cooking on the distant horizon, but editing takes a pretty decent chunk of time, so creative projects are few and far between.

Me: Ever had to hunt down a creator and use physical force to get their work?

Layman: No, only because I'm a wuss. I have carried art literally across continents, and have driven more than 50 miles in the middle of the night to pick up or drop off stuff.

Me: Boxers or briefs?

Layman: Humility prevents me from answering this question, so I can only point you to the following link:

Me: Cats or dogs?

Layman: For more than you ever really wanted to know on that subject you can go here, here, and here.

Me: Summer or winter?

Layman: Both! Once per year.

Me: Got any cool stories involving you and a chick?

Layman: Again, propriety prevents me from answering that, and yet still I will refer you to this link:

Me: I just handed you a gun and a case full of 100 untraceable bullets. Who or what do you use them on?

Layman: Probably nothing. Unless I'd hire a hit man to do my dirty work.

Me: What are some of the comics you are currently digging?

Layman: Stray Bullets is my absolute favourite comic, 100 Bullets is my favourite things coming out of DC/Vertigo, The Establishment is my favourite WildStorm title which I don't edit. I'm reading more Marvel stuff than I have in the past; a couple years ago I'd scoff at the idea of picking up an X-Men title. I'm nuts over anything by Kyle Baker, and I've credit Cerebus for bringing me into comic book stores, month-in, month-out, for more than almost 240 months.

Me: Any cool titles coming up that you can share any info on?

Layman: Just that Batman/Deathblow is going to be phenomenal. And some of the Warren Ellis stuff we got cookin’.

Me: What creator has been the worst with deadlines in your experience?

Layman: A piece of advice I got when I first came on board here is: “All artists are liars.” I wouldn't go that far, but I would say many are clearly delusional and many of them are insane. However, some of the craziest ones I count among my best friends, so there is nobody I could clearly point out as “the worst.” Cracking the whip is part of my job.

Me: Do you know how Planetary's going to end?

Layman: No, and neither does John Cassaday. Part of the fun for us is getting the script, and finding out what Warren has up his sleeve. John and I go back and forth about it. I mean, I should clarify: we have a rough idea, but both like to be surprised to we try not to know more than we need to. However, I will say this, and with considerable relish: I KNOW MORE THAN YOU!

Me: What has been your favourite moment in comics?

Layman: It has to be when I get an advanced copy of a truly beautiful book, when a Planetary hardcover is hot of the presses and delivered into my hands. Or an issue of The Authority or Astro City. Moments like that make all the BS and frustrations melt away, and is the euphoric moments that really propel you in this job.

Me: What do you think of Bob Harras coming into Wildstorm and Chris Claremont doing Gen13?

Layman: I think Bob has a good track record, and I think while other editors are concentrating on other lines, like Cliffhanger, Homage and ABC, or new lines like Eye of the Storm, it's reassuring to have somebody to shore up the core WildStorm Universe. I look forward to seeing what he's got planned.

Me: The Authority . . . whatever you feel like saying on the subject.

Layman: The Authority was (and is) a phenomenal ride. I took over for departing editor Rachelle Brissenden as of issue #14, and while each and every issue was a challenge, I'm proud of the end result of all of it. I think Authority was groundbreaking, and in the years to come people will remember the “Authority era” like I look back on my senior year of high school, when Watchman and Dark Knight Returns were coming out. It's nice to be a part of something like that. I always compare making Authority to trying to create a gourmet meal with an ever-shifting assortment of ingredients. Still, I believe the end result was pretty tasty, which is what matters the most.

Me: Who do you love?

Layman: ebay, Alice Donut, Homer Simpson, Lego, designers the makers of Grand Theft Auto 3 for PS2,

Me: Any final words?

Layman: John McCrea threatened to punch me in the face because I kept insisting he, John Cassaday and myself ride the Stratosphere roller coaster at 8 in the morning. I don't remember much about that night, but I do remember John wanting to kill me by the time it was over. It was also one of the two wildest nights of the last decade for me. Oddly enough, Cassaday was involved in my other wild night. Mental note to self: Stay away from John Cassaday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Cable #60

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Cable. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

"The Nemesis Contract" continues in this issue as Cable fights to evade capture by SHIELD. The issue begins with Cable and Jack Truman squaring off--Truman preferring to fight hand-to-hand rather than shoot Cable down with the giant gun he's got. They spar a bit and Truman is impressed, but they're interrupted by Air Cav, which shows up to finish the job.

Most of the issue has Cable on the run through Hell's Kitchen as Air Cav hunts him down and causes a lot of property damage until Truman finally tracks Cable down and they fight again. By this time, though, the techno-organic virus has spread so much that Cable barely has any fight in him and Truman beats him easily. This leaves Truman unsatisfied as he saw this assignment as a challenge, a means of pushing himself.

The issue is peppered with small little scenes like Stacey and Kenny in the evacuation of Hell's Kitchen. This scene contains a classic Marvel panel with Stacey thinking, "I'VE GOT A WEIRD FEELING. / NATHAN SURE BUGGED OUT OF HERE WHEN WE SAW THE FIRST NEWS REPORT. / I WONDER... IS HE INVOLVED IN THIS SOMEHOW...?" It's a quick moment that, again, places this title within the larger Marvel tradition as this could easily be a panel from a classic Spider-Man comic.

One of the more interesting additions in this issue isn't totally new, but I forgot to mention it before. In the gutters of some panels, information about the Air Cav and their weapons is given. Nothing major. When they first show up and we get a shot of Larry Young in his vehicle, underneath the panel, it reads, "S.H.I.E.L.D. FLYING TURBO MERCEDES - Y2K. INTERIOR VISUAL." And, on the next page, after they fire at Cable, it reads beneath the panel, "S.H.I.E.L.D. CONCUSSION TORPEDOES. SWEEP PATTERN." As I said, not the most innovative storytelling tricks, but it shows the beginnings of other techniques Casey has used (the scroll bar in The Intimates, for example).

Casey mixes captions with thought balloons in this issue effectively. Both Truman and GW Bridge narrate with captions, while we get Cable and Stacey using thought balloons. Those pairings are obviously conscious as Truman and Bridge both work for SHIELD, are not corrupt and have a respect for Cable, while Cable and Stacey have personal ties. There's also something, I don't know, ironic about Cable no longer having telepathy, but we get to read his thoughts. Casey has used thought balloons with Cable before, though, so it's not new.

Truman's captions contrast Cable's thought balloons, as well. The two, as I stated on Saturday, are foils for one another and we get to see both of their inner thoughts. However, Cable's are immediate and more frantic, while Truman's are a little more distant and calm. The technique demonstrates the state of mind as well as the position within the situation. Captions seem more planned, more deliberate, more like narration than thought balloons--suggesting that Truman is in control and able to think beyond the moment, and Cable is not.

Ladronn continues to excel and uses grid-like layouts, usually with six panels per page (sometimes more and never less, aside from two splash pages). The final page of the issue is one of the best pieces of art I've seen from him--it depicts Cable unconscious, Truman standing over him (our perspective right at ground level, looking up) and, behind/above Truman are Air Cav vehicles and the SHIELD Helicarrier. SHIELD's entire operation has captured Cable and we know he is completely fucked.

Until Thursday.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chad's Jackass Comic Creator Interviews from 2001: Kurt Busiek

[The first in our final week of interviews from 2001 where I walk that fine line between "Cool, insightful questions, man!" and "Why the fuck are you asking Kurt Busiek about his underwear?" Goddamn you, 18-year-old Chad... won't you ever learn? The final two posts on Wednesday and Friday.]

Sunday December 2, 2001
Interview With . . . Kurt Busiek!
I don’t remember Kurt for Marvels or Astro City or even his run on Avengers. I remember Kurt for Untold Tales Of Spider-Man and the first issue. I was about 12 at the time when the first issue came out and one Saturday when I was at the comic book store with my dad, he said I could get a comic. Remember, this was when I was in that “gotta get every number 1” stage that most of us were going through at the time (early-middle nineties), so I saw issue one and saw Spider-Man and then I saw the price: 99 cents US or $1.38 Canadian. So I got it and read it on the car ride home. I was blown away. I was used to the clones and the wife and the dead aunt and here was Spidey as I had read about in magazines and the occasional reprint. I was so excited about it, too. I remember telling my mom all about it, the writing, the art, the classic Spider-Man, and of course, the price. I picked up issue two after that, too, but sadly my interest went off in another direction and I stopped buying it. Since then I’ve bought a few issues here and then, and if I see a back-issue, I’ll pick it up. I’ve read a lot of Kurt’s work, but that’s what I think of when I think of him.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself.

Busiek: Born in Boston, September 16, 1960 -- grew up in the area, mostly in Lexington. Four sisters, no brothers. Got interested in comics first through strip collections (Pogo, Dennis the Menace, Peanuts) and European albums (Tintin, Asterix) that my parents had, and discovered American comic books at the barber shop and at the homes of friends. Decided I wanted to be a comics writer during high school, and wrote (and sometimes drew) amateur comics with my friend Scott McCloud until we'd pretty well figured out how to do it. Sold first script to DC Comics several days before graduating from college, first script to Marvel a month or so later. Married for 12 years, two daughters. Spend too much time on the Internet.

Me: How did you get into writing?

Busiek: I always wanted to be a writer of some sort, going back to my first efforts to write my own Oz novels in elementary school, which tended to peter out after a couple of paragraphs. But writing a novel or a screenplay seemed intimidating -- all that work, and it might turn out that once you're done, it sucks. So I never got around to doing much until I realized that comics were written and drawn by real people who made a living at it. And with comics, at least, they weren't all that long -- 17 pages, when I made the realization. If you sucked, at least you'd be done sooner . . . ! As I practiced, figuring out how to write comics, I found out I liked a lot more than just the length -- I liked the storytelling, the way the words and pictures combined to do something neither could do on their own. So I found out it was something I loved doing, and kept at it. I've been doing it professionally over 20 years now, and I'm not ready to stop anytime soon. While I was in college, I interviewed Dick Giordano, then the editor in chief at DC, for a term paper on magazine publishing. I told him I was hoping to be a comic writer when I graduated college, and he suggested I send in script samples. So I wrote four sample scripts and sent them to him. He parceled them out to the editors of the books they were written for, and one of them -- a Flash script -- got me an invitation to pitch “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” backups from the editor of FLASH, who also edited GREEN LANTERN. That led to my first pro sale, in GREEN LANTERN #162. While I was working on another GLC story, I noticed that over at Marvel, POWER MAN & IRON FIST was running a lot of fill-ins, so I sent in a story outline to the editor there, including a note saying I was already writing professionally for DC. I was invited to flesh it out into a script, so I did that -- and wound up writing the book regularly for a year.

Me: What have you written?


Me: What are you working on right now?

Busiek: I'm wrapping up over four years on AVENGERS, starting off a new project, THE POWER COMPANY, co-writing DEFENDERS, writing ASTRO CITY as my health allows, and writing the long-awaited JLA/AVENGERS project.

Me: How big of chunks are you having to write the Avengers/JLA scripts, page-wise?

Busiek: I'm not sure what you mean. I turned in the first plot in chunks -- first ten pages or so, then twenty, then the whole thing -- just to get some stuff in George could start on. With the second issue, which I'm working on now, I'll have the whole plot done before George begins on it. In dialoguing them from George's pencils, I'll write each issue all at once.

Me: What are some of the upcoming Astro City stories about?

Busiek: The next one's about a girl who lives in Astro City and is sent to live on a farm for the summer, and what she finds there, in a place she expects to be nowhere near as exciting as home. After that, we'll do a story about a superhero's girlfriend and her unceasing attempts to uncover his secret identity, and what that leads to -- then a story about a lawyer trying to win a case by arguing that the murder victim's not dead but in a death-like coma -- and a story about a retired superhero's last case. After that, we'll start in on another extended story, but I'm not 100% sure which one it'll be yet.

Me: What's the creative process with George Perez like? I remember Warren Ellis, who hates the Marvel style of scripting, saying that doing that style with George was an enjoyable experience. So, is it that good?

Busiek: I have no problem writing plot-style, myself -- I write in whatever format best serves the artist and the project. But working with George is great. He's an inventive and terrific storyteller, always eager to do new things, and he's a nut for excess -- ask him how many Avengers he wants to draw, and his immediate answer is “All of them.” One of the biggest thrills of working on AVENGERS was getting new pages in from George. When I wrote the plot, I generally thought it worked fine -- I was happy with it as a story, happy with the characterizations, that sort of thing. But it was just a story, something I'd written. Once it came back from George, though, it was an _Avengers_ story -- it had that majesty and larger-than-life oomph that I've always associated with the book and with George. You could practically hear trumpets in the background. So George takes a story, and he makes it sing. He makes it magic. That's what's so good about it.

Me: Boxers or briefs?

Busiek: Almost always, yes.

Me: Cats or dogs?

Busiek: I've owned both -- don't have either now, but we're planning to get a new dog. My wife is allergic to cats, so I doubt I'll be a cat-owner again. But I grew up with six of them . . .

Me: Winter or summer?

Busiek: Depends where I am. Summer here in the Pacific Northwest is wonderful. But in general, I'd rather be cold than hot, so winter, I guess, if I have to choose. But my favourite season is fall.

Me: Any cool stories involving a chick?

Busiek: Yes.

Me: I just handed you gun and 100 untraceable bullets. Who or what do you use them on?

Busiek: Nobody. I don't have murder in my heart, and I wouldn't want to shoot anyone, even if I despised them. Besides, you're just some guy on the Internet. Why would I believe you?

Me: What comics are you currently digging?

Busiek: Favourites include KANE and JACK STAFF by Paul Grist, USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai, SAVAGE DRAGON by Erik Larsen, Chuck Dixon's NIGHTWING, CASTLE WAITING by Linda Medley, ROB HANES ADVENTURES by Randy Reynaldo and a bunch of other stuff that isn't leaping to mind right now.

Me: Do you find it hard to use certain characters in team books when their regular series are taking unexpected turns? For example, the Hulk's book now and The Defenders. Any conflicts?

Busiek: Haven't had any problems so far. The only difficulty -- and it was a minor one -- was when Captain America kept changing his shield, and they'd forget to tell us until we'd gotten it wrong . . .

Me: What artists do you really want to work with that you haven't yet?

Busiek: Lots of 'em, from Alex Toth to Walt Simonson to Claire Wendling to Bryan Hitch to Dave Gibbons to Steve Sadowski to Michael Golden to Mike Wieringo to Yanick Paquette to Lee Weeks and many, many, many more.

Me: What one book would you write if you could, ideally?

Busiek: ASTRO CITY. But assuming you're not talking about health, and you mean something I didn't create . . . KAMANDI. I'd love to write KAMANDI someday.

Me: Are you reading Thunderbolts? And if so, how do you like it under Fabian?

Busiek: I read it off and on -- it's always hard to read a book you've been heavily involved in writing, because every time the characters do something you wouldn't have had them do, you tend to think, “Hey, they wouldn't do that . . . !”, whether it's a good idea or a bad one. It just doesn't fit your own internal conception -- and since the new writer, whoever it is, can't possibly have your particular perception -- however close they are, it's still different -- it's impossible to read it the way an ordinary reader would. So I pay attention, but I find I don't read every issue. Still, what I've read, I've thought Fabian has done a good job on, even if it's not what I would've done . . .

Me: How do you respond to sceptics who think that your upcoming Defenders storyline is just a rip-off of The Authority?

Busiek: I laugh. First off, how would they know? It isn't out yet. Second, once they read it (if they read it), they'll realize they were wrong. It's a big ol' splashy superhero story, but it's not Authority-like. It's about character and the curse and warmth and humour and creepiness from characters who have often been presented as scary long before the Authority came along -- or, heck, before Warren was born.

Me: Who do you love?

Busiek: Not Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson, no matter how often they ask me to take a little walk with them . . .

Me: Any final words?

Busiek: I've always been fond of George Orwell's final words, which were reputedly, “God damn you all, I told you so!”