Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The final Blogathon 2013 total: $1121.00 raised for the Hero Initiative. Thanks to the following sponsors: Tim Callahan, Dan Billings, David Brown, Derek Handley, Patrick Ridings, Bradley Grehan, Scott Cederlund, Lee Merovitz, Nathan Bethell, Tucker Stone, Slava Savelev, Patrick Waton, Chris Johnson, Jeff Lester, Alec Berry, Shane Hagadorn, James Moore, Michelle Nevett, Greg Burgas, Sandy Nevett, Scott Cresswell, David Clarke, Enrique Treviño, Mike Loughlin, Justin Hugen, Shawn Starr, Ryan K. Lindsay, Rick Vance, Garth Holmes, and Christopher Keels. Thank you to all of the guest posters as well. This Blogathon was such an overwhelming success. I still can't believe it. And I can't think of a more fitting way to close shop.

I haven't been happy with my online presence for a while. Not happy with my writing or with the way I approach the online world. I decided that I need to tear it all down, destroy it, and, then, decide what I want, what I enjoy. People have asked why I'm not taking a break from GraphiContent and then returning instead of ending it, and the answer has always been obvious to me: for me to change what I'm doing, I have to leave it behind. Before you can begin something new, you have to leave the old behind. GraphiContent will remain here. All of the archives will remain. I am incredibly proud of the body of work that I built here. I'm less proud that certain areas are unfinished, but, hey, that's life.

I said a lot of what I meant to say here over the past few days -- in my responses to David and Tucker, in today's final Random Thoughts... When I began GraphiContent with Steve Higgins and some others, it was with the naive hope of 'raising the bar' as it were on comics discourse. The bar didn't need raising and we certainly didn't do it. But, I couldn't imagine everything that would come from that original grandoise, delusional call to arms. It took a while for me to find what I wanted to say, but, once I did, I went for it. I hope, in what I do next, it doesn't take me so many years to find what I'm looking for and that I can do better. Don't you see? The problem is that I stopped trying to do better. Never stop trying to do better.

Thanks to everyone who shared some kind words over the past while. It's nice to know that people dug what I did.

But, I'm done.

Tomorrow, I buy comics just for me, not for you. Ha. Yeah. Yeah!


Chad Nevett
Just turned 30, listening to the Velvet Underground

Monday, January 28, 2013

Best of 2012: The Top Ten Comics of 2012

My top ten comics of 2012...

10. PRISON PIT BOOK FOUR BY JOHNNY RYAN! Book two made my 'best of the year' list, while book three did not last year. What makes book four of Prison Pit so worthy? After all, you'll see that a lot of big, important, fantastic comics did make this list. Yet, a comic about depraved violence does? Mindless, brutal violence with no redeeming value, some might even argue! I wouldn't be one of those people. I love fake violence. I read superhero comics, watch professional wrestling, and love me some Prison Pit. I love Johnny Ryan's imagination. While there is an element of "If you've read one Prison Pit book, you've read them all," that's not true. Because he surprises in every book with the ways he does the same sort of violence in new ways. The ways in which he keeps himself and the reader from being bored at a little bit more of the old ultraviolence. The ways he comes out with new monstrosities and new conflicts for Cannibal Fuckface to deal with, each bigger than the last. Each seemingly more hopeless.

Book three ended on a cliffhanger that left me wondering "What next? How can Ryan get CF out of this? WHAT HAPPENS TO PRISON PIT NOW, YOU BASTARD!" And, then, here we are, and CF gets out of it in a clever, entertaining way. Recently, I've become fascinated with the way writers will create seemingly impossible situations for their protagonists and, then, get them out of it. I love that stuff. And, like most fiction, that's all Prison Pit is at its core: Cannibal Fuckface gets into a seemingly impossible situation and, then, gets himself out. Usually, it's a big, monster of a foe that he has to kill in a bloody, disgusting way. We've seen him eaten by an enemy... and break his way out. He's set on a collision course with a former enemy in this book and the end of this book is... well, you have to see it to believe that someone would make a comic like this.

And I love it.

I spent a lot of time after getting Prison Pit book four flipping through it, letting Ryan's art just sit in front of my eyes... His messy blacks -- pages covered in black inky blood! That splash page where you can hear the metallic score reach a high mark in the background as CF stands with a sword, head and torso covered in blood as he demands another guy's boots and kneepads. It's pure fucking heroic storytelling! THIS IS COMICS!

9. SCALPED BY JASON ARRON, RM GUERA, AND OTHERS! Scalped released its final six issues in 2012 and I had a chance to read the entire 60 issues over the course of a week. It is an impressive work, especially in its final six issues. Jason Aaron doesn't give us a clean, easy conclusion. It's messy and awful and ends in a way that I hate yet respect and understand. It wasn't a book that was going to end in a way that satisfies, honestly. We all wanted a happy ending. After 59 issues of death and pain and struggle, all you really want is an issue where some peace and happiness can be found, especially for the book's lead, Dash Bad Horse. Scalped is an ensemble piece with the Rez acting as the star to a degree, but Dash is the closest thing we have to a protagonist and, fuck, I wanted him to get a win. I wanted him to be happy. I could live with everyone else getting fucked, but Dash? He did some awful stuff and I wasn't more happy reading this book than at the beginning of that final arc when he was happy and seemingly settling into a leadership role in the Rez. Not the leader, but someone who was finally looking beyond himself and his concerns.

But, it wasn't that kind of story. I should have known better.

I don't always (or often) get invested in characters like that. It takes something special to do it and Scalped had that. A big part of that was the art of RM Guera. It took some time, but I grew to appreciate and love his art. His work is so savage and sweet at the same time. There's so much passion in his line work and the way he builds pages. Even moments of calm (of which there are two or three over the couse of Scalped) have this energy that makes them seem like a page can barely contain them. His art is messy and grotesque in those best ways. His characters look like people and not -- exaggerations, but so specific and deep that they may as well be real.

Endings are hard to land in cases like this. How could that final issue live up to everything that the previous 59 issues promised? Hell, who wanted this book to end? We hate endings, because we don't want endings. Especially in comics. Comics don't end, they keep going forever! It's hard to really love an ending to a comic. Like I said, I respect and understand the final issue of Scalped... but I kind of hate it. Yet, this book makes my top ten comics of 2012 nonetheless, because it was still a damn good ending even if I hate it. Does that make any sense?

Every single one of these six issues released in 2012 were issues that I greatly anticipated and... they all delivered in their own way. They surprised me, they moved me, they entertained me, and they stuck with me.

8. ULTIMATE X-MEN BY BRIAN WOOD, PACO MEDINA, CARLOS BARBERI, AND OTHERS! This time last year, the Ultimate title that I was in love with was The Ultimates under the direction of Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic (it was my #7 book of 2011). But, Hickman and Ribic left that title for Avengers and Thor: God of Thunder, while Ultimate X-Men writer Nick Spencer was replaced with Brian Wood. What Wood did with the title was make it a book about a revolution, about a world where mutants are not just feared and hated, they are penned up and killed -- and just when it seems like they've won, like they've finally gotten their freedom, something comes along and all but 20 mutants decide to stop being mutants. Forget the 198, Wood made mutants a truly endangered species on the brink of extinction. And he made them unable to function as a single group.

That one-two punch of mutants coming together to fight against oppression and win only for humans to come along and find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat... it was masterful. It was taking advantage of the Ultimate Universe in a similar way to how Hickman did the same in The Ultimates. Take some familiar toys and fuck them up, because... why not? He could never do this on X-Men, but Ultimate X-Men is a whole other story.

Kitty Pryde has been the protagonist and leader of the mutants... even though, now, a sizeable minority seem to want her dead, because she seems intent on playing nice with humanity. In the most recent story, the mutants invent a seed that can grow anything anywhere... and she decides to give it away for free. This, after President Rogers gave mutants a dead piece of land for their reservation. You can see why some would simply want to declare war on humanity and die taking out of a few humans. But, Kitty sees a better way. It's a more spiteful way, I think. A "You try to kill us? Well, we're going to solve world hunger. Fuck you." way. It's doing good in a manner where everyone will want to accept it and some will hate themselves for it. It's forcing humanity to embrace its hypocrisy.

What would someone do if they were in a similar situation? Wood is quite good at creating these dramatic, fucked up contexts and, then, exploring how people would act in them. How noble intentions can go wrong, how people will still insist on doing stupid things, and how things will usually wind up bad even when it seems they can't.

Honestly, what I keep waiting for is for Wood to be paired with an artist that can make his scripts sing like they should. This is a book that makes this like despite the art. It's rarely been bad, but it doesn't enhance and improve like it should. It's serviceable at best. The strength of Wood's writing -- and the way that writing like this appeals to me specifically -- carry the day.

7. WONDER WOMAN BY BRIAN AZZARELLO, CLIFF CHIANG, TONY AKINS, AND OTHERS! Earlier this week, I wrote that Wonder Woman often reads like the least Azzarello-esque thing I've read by Brian Azzarello. I stand by that. There's little in Wonder Woman or Orion that scream "Typical Azzarello!" but there's plenty that does. Like the way the gods play one another and vie for power. Or the way Azzarello writes dialogue with so much precision and playfulness. The most recent issue, for example, had the Wonder Woman/Orion stuff that didn't seem at all like Azzarello, but it also had the stuff in the bar that felt like the Azzarello we all know and are a little afraid to love.

While Batman seems like a more 'natural' fit for a guy like Azzarello, he's very suited to writing Wonder Woman. A pure character who has a dark, dangerous side. She comes from a violent, cruel world - the Amazons are warriors, their gods are spiteful... she can work within the dark side of things. She can think of dangerous, cruel things to do, because she has a noble cause. She clearly doesn't like doing certain things, but she will. She will doublecross gods and sacrifice herself to save a baby. She's a hero unafraid to do what it takes to protect life. Yet, it never feels like she's bloodthursty or as brutal as someone like Batman. There's a hope and optimism to the character that most don't have -- and it never feels corny like it sometimes does with the likes of Superman. She's a good person who will do bad things if necessary and that's pretty simple.

Wonder Woman had the best zero issue that I read from DC. Azzarello was so playful in the opening narration and used the conceipt in a way that clearly plays a big role in the story he's telling. Almost like a backstory he was aware of but wouldn't share unless necessary. A lot could be learned there.

The art on Wonder Woman is top-notch. Cliff Chiang brings the right sort of light, cartoony feel that helps soften Azzarello a little and make this work feel more like a complete whole than a mismatched writer/artist (it helps that they're not mismatched). And Tony Akins is a great fill-in artist, working in a similar style to Chiang. There's a very unified look to this comic and it's a strong, bold one. It's sort of what you want a superhero comic to look like.

The character designs really impress me as well. The looks of the gods are inventive while remaining true to their natures. Apollo looks nothing like you've seen him portrayed before... yet it doesn't seem wrong in any way. Hades is particularly inspired. And the Orion redesign is the best redesign of that character. Very true to Kirby's original while looking more contemporary in a way that isn't immediately dated. How did Chiang do it?

Tim, you should catch up on this comic. It's really, really good.

6. FURY MAX BY GARTH ENNIS, GORAN PARLOV, AND OTHERS! I picked the perfect summer to read American Tabloid by James Ellroy, didn't I? Ennis owes Ellroy a debt in how he's writing Fury MAX, but that isn't really what makes it such a great comic. Sure, grabbing a few things from a truly great piece of fiction never hurt. A lot of what Ennis does with Fury is stuff we've seen before in the few times that Ennis has written Nick Fury in the past. He's always written him as a hard man, cruel and lonely, but usually one who recognises his place in the world. If possible, Fury wants to make the world better and make sure as few innocents die. The closest we saw to him not doing that was in the first Fury series Ennis did -- and that was the point. The character had gotten old and desperate for something. Here, he's still young and all he wants to do his job well and make the world 'better.' Often, he learns that he didn't. There's a sense that this is a history of Nick Fury's failures. His self-delusion that he was a good person in any way. That his actions had any nobility. He leaved Indo-China in one arc on the side of a man, returns two arcs later to kill him. What changed? Politics. Is there a point? Probably not.

Parlov is one of my favourite artists to work with Ennis. He draws hard men well. He draws violence well. His Nick Fury is a man of stone that looks more cracked as we go on. Old Fury narrating... that man is unhinged but we see that only around the edges sometimes. This is a messy comic and Parlov captures that. Much like no one can draw Ennis scenes of two men shooting the shit in a bar like Steve Dillon, few can draw violent Ennis comics like Parlov.

If I did a list for 2013 (and I won't), this would make it again most likely.

5. PUNK ROCK JESUS BY SEAN MURPHY AND TODD KLEIN! When you hear the title of this comic, you expect a certain type of comic. Maybe something akin to American Idiot by Green Day. Certainly something a bit more crude and actually focused on the eponymous character. Instead, it's a wide-ranging character piece that spends nearly half of the series looking at the people surrounding Chris, the reality show clone of Jesus. If anything, the main protagonist is Thomas, the bodyguard at the J2 project. A former member of the IRA, he's a believer in the possible divinity of Chris and tries his best to keep his depressed, alcoholic, regretful mother alive, fend off religious fanatics that hate the project, and all while keeping watch over a child raised to be the new Christ... who, as he grows, realises more and more that it's a crock of shit.

I regret that this comic didn't come out 15 years ago. My teenage self would have loved it. It would have topped his best of the year list no doubt. I grew up going to Catholic school and, in my teens, became a hardcore atheist. I'm still quite anti-religion. This comic speaks to that side of me. But, that alone wouldn't earn it a spot on this list. Sean Murphy's writing and art do that. Anyone can take cheap shots and trash religion -- not everyone can create compelling characters, complex situations that make you think and consider your position, and deliver gorgeous black and white art. I loved his work on Joe the Barbarian, but this was better. More than that, this was Vertigo doing something unexpected: giving him a complete comic with no ads in black and white. How great is that? Could every Vertigo comic be that?

Murphy builds the world in this series. He doesn't simply jump in and start throwing punches. He does the work, he develops his characters, and, when Chris becomes the "Punk Rock Jesus" of the title, it feels earned. It feels organic and true, not simply an easy way out. This series showed writing skills beyond what I thought we would be getting. Everything about this series seemed to be about destroying my lame expectations. Well done, Mr. Murphy.

4. BUILDING STORIES BY CHRIS WARE! It seems that one of the things that takes a work from simply being something I respect/admire and makes it something I love is the ability to connect with me on an emotional level. There are plenty of technically profficient books out there, but if I feel nothing (emotionally, intellectually), well, shit, what's the point? There's got to be something besides lines on the page. Chris Ware has always done that for me. He did it when I first read part of Building Stories when it was released as an edition of ACME Novelty Library and he did it again here. His character study is engrossing and so far-reaching that it's hard to escape.

So much was made of the format of Building Stories that I'm not sure that I have a lot to say there. I think it worked in some ways, not in others. I wasn't a big fan of the little fragment fold-outs. But, I got the point of them. He gave you two little pieces with no set beginning or end and that's the only way to present that material to accomplish that. You can't do that in a book and produce the same effect. That formalist experiment is a nice thing to think about and I would love to see it explored further. But, that doesn't mean that everything worked quite as well. It's cute to put one of your stories in a storybook-esque package... but to what end?

But, I came here to praise Ware, not bury him. His art stuns me. Just floors me. The way he designs pages and make everything work -- adds such warmth to his characters, is able to communicate what's going on in their heads... His style seems like it would be cold and impersonal, but it isn't. That never stops shocking me. It always defies my initial expectations that I can't seem to shake.

3. GØDLAND BY JOE CASEY, TOM SCIOLI, AND OTHERS! And it's not over yet! That's what I had to say. All of that in Gødland #36 -- the ultimate battle of cosmic life against entropy and that's not it! One of the biggest superhero comicbooks I've ever read. Something that felt like it Mattered and would remain a part of me forever... Or something. It was a single issue of brilliance. Of payoff for 35 issues that came before. I mean: ADAMAXIM! Page after big of big pictures of cosmic battle matched with Casey's narration at its most bombastic. This is comics! This is the sort of thing that reminds me of being a kid, of when these things meant the world to me instead of being stacks that I read through and add to other stacks. This is the sort of comic that, back then, I would have read and reread and reread and, damn, I should do that more often. The finale is coming. I should reread this comic many, many times. I should know every line, every word, every hue and shade...

The moment where Kafka Nickelhead steps out of reality... Like the last time we saw that, reality sits in a room with Kirby '70s comics. It's all filtered through that. But, that's this reality. What about the next? What about what's new?

Tom Scioli... Tom Scioli... that battle. The weightiness of his lines... the sense of import, of largess... how can he do that?



I just want what happens next... what happens... next...

The new Gød replaces the old...

2. PROPHET BY BRANDON GRAHAM, SIMON ROY, GIANNIS MILONOGIANNIS, AND OTHERS! It's hard to see the shape of Prophet entirely. There's a war, the resurrection of the Earth empire, the awakening of its John Prophets... and a gathering of Old Man Prophet as the opposing force. So much is still unknown, but each issue is something new that I haven't seen before. Each issue brings more answers and more mysteries. Such touching moments of friendship and kindness fill these comics. The gathering of Old Man Prophet's group was nice. Old comrades coming together, remembering what it was like to be together, relearning, and enjoying one another's company. There's a bit of a 'hang out' book in Prophet. It's pacing is odd, but never not engaging.

Brandon Graham's imagination seems limitless as he comes up with new names and species and things that defy explanation. One of Old Man Prophet's closest allies is a sentient tree of some sort. But, really, he's just like anybody else. A surprise that shouldn't have been was the return of Die Hard. Graham makes good use of the universe he has to play with.

And each issue is geared towards the artist in question. What Simon Roy draws isn't what Giannis Milonogiannis draws isn't what Brandon Graham draws. All of these pieces fit together in such a way that it works incredibly well to have numerous artists that pick up different threads. I hope to see a jam issue one day if they can make that work logistically. Bring it all together is a mashup of different artists and styles. I wouldn't put it past them to give it a go.

Like I said, what really grips me is that every issue is a new experience. I never know what to expect and I have stopped expecting anything but surprise. No other comic can match that. No other comic fails to let me down like this one. It gives me what I didn't know I wanted until I got it.

1. THE BOYS BY GARTH ENNIS, RUSS BRAUN, DARICK ROBERTSON, JOHN MCCREA, KEITH BURNS, TONY AVINA, AND SIMON BOWLAND! Yes, The Boys. When compiling this list, no other comic cried out, demanding to be put atop like The Boys. It offered not one, but two fantastic conclusions this year. First, wrapping up the superheroes plot and, then, wrapping up business between Butcher and Hughie. It was an awful year of issues that broke my heart again and again. But, first Ennis concluded the superhero conflict as the supes descended on the White House and Butcher came face to face with the man who killed his wife. And he kills the bastard. Uses a crowbar to rip the top of his head off and pulls out chunks of brains. Because that's what you want to do to a man who raped your wife and impregnated her with a superhuman child that burst out of her like an alien. It's crude and nasty and so, so, so satisfying to see. I do love superhero comics, but I love hating superheroes, too, and, not since Marshal Law has a superhero murder been oh so lovely. The Boys do what they set out to do. The good guys win.

Until Billy Butcher does some nasty shit and things go south. And it keeps getting worse. Every issue is nothing but shock and gasps and heartbreak. Ennis plays off everything he can and do so masterfully. If there's something that man is great at, it's final storyarcs that just crush you and surprise you and leave you wanting more while hating him for what he does. Nobody does it better, honestly.

And, then, there's the final issue where Stillwell realises that he is fucked forever. And Hughie and Annie get a happy ending. I love happy endings. And I wanted this one more than any other. Garth Ennis may be a bastard of a writer, but he knows when to deliver the feel good moment. He much softer than people give him credit for and it's one of the reasons why he's one of my favourites.

While Darick Robertson returning for the final issue was nice, I will continue to be in awe of the way Russ Braun stepped onto the title when he did. It was so effortless the way he made the characters his own -- make the book his own. Robertson's return was appropriate, but didn't feel quite right. Then again, Braun got to draw the Hughie/Butcher finale and that was just fantastic.

The Boys was cheap and crude in its treatment of superheroes. But, it was funny and heartfelt and touching and true and right. I miss is quite a bit and I can't see that feeling ever going away completely.

Best of 2012: Pre-2012 Comics

Something that always seems to get lost in year-end lists is that no one experiences just new things. You always have a mix of new and old and the old always get lost. So, mixed in with my top ten comics of 2012, I will discuss five comics (in alphabetical order) that are from before 2012 that I read in 2012 and loved.

100% BY PAUL POPE! In the summer, my shop had a big sale and I picked up two Paul Pope hardcovers, Heavy Liquid and 100%. I was thinking about 'cheating' and including them both here, but decided to limit myself to just one. I love them both, but 100% edges out Heavy Liquid for reasons that I could never properly explain. I love the way 100% meanders from character to character, from story to story, and feels like Pope picked two random moments to begin and end. There's a real sense of being dropped into this world and then taken out at a whim. You want to know what happened before you got there and what happens after you leave. I mean, there are reasons why it begins and ends where it does... but forget that crap.

I'm amazed at the way that Pope interwaves these stories and makes them all compelling. In 'anthology' ensemble stories like this, there are usually ones you love, ones you hate, and then some that fall in the middle. I don't recall anything in this book that didn't grab me, didn't pull me along with the rest. I felt disappointment when he would leave characters and it would fade almost immediately because I was getting to see these other characters that I liked just as much. It's like going from hanging out with one groups of friends to another. A blessed life.

The world that Pope creates seems real. Things are different in the details, but close enough. The characters all seem like people you could meet. I don't know any of these people in my life, because I live a different sort of life from what's in 100%, but I've come across them in quick meetings. While I seem obsessed only with myself, I do love seeing people who aren't me and Pope makes them come alive. He's very good at leaving things unsaid, of creating a sense that there's history and depth in his characters.

And his art! Paul Pope's art... I don't even know what to say. Part of the way his characters look real is similar to what I said about Guerra's art in Scalped: they're kind of ugly and grotesque. And so are real people. Most artists draw generic beautiful people, while guys like Pope draw attractive, imperfect people. That works in harmony with his writing to create that sense of reality and depth that I spoke of. There's so much energy in Pope's art. They feel like his hand was struggling to keep up with his brain while not looking dashed off in any way. There's so much detail and nuance that I can open any page and see something that I haven't seen before. And I've looked at this book quite a bit.

But, why this comic specifically? It made for a nice evening reading it. I drank some coffee, had some music on, and lost myself in these pages. I didn't come out for days despite reading it all in a single evening.

CRÉCY BY WARREN ELLIS AND RAULO CACERES! I missed this when it came out for whatever reason or other. Ordered it when I pre-ordered Gun Machine by Ellis to reach the $25 free shipping mark. I had heard good things and I enjoyed this. I like the idea of an essay/long talk used in comics like this. Basically, a single character talking us through a situation above and beyond his station in a sense. Ellis used that technique again in Supergod and I would like to see more of it. It's similar to Harvey Pekar's approach to writing comics -- or something like Alice in Sunderland. But bigger than Pekar's comics and narrower than Talbot's. Somewhere in the middle. Crécy made me wonder if Ellis could pull this off at Marvel or DC with one of their superheroes. Not even would they let him try, but could he actually make it work. I don't know. I'd like to see him try. And have it not turn into some extended history lesson on the character in question. An issue-long recap. Fuck me.

No, could this form be used to tell an engaging story? It does here. There's warmth and humour and drama within this narrative -- and there's information. It's more than a simple lecture on what's going on at Crécy. The same thing happened with Supergod, except Ellis allowed himself to fall into the narrative a bit more there, if I recall correctly.

This comic gets a mention because it makes me wonder about stuff like this. Not many other comics did that this past year. Everyone do better.

THE METABARONS BY ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY AND JUAN GIMENEZ! This is one fucked up comic. It deals with a topic that I find rather interesting when it comes up: the idea that a family line has to come first. One of the things I liked most about Gormenghast was the way it looked at that idea -- even season two of Justified explored that to an extent. The Metabarons deals with it rather explicitly, going so far as to introduce little rituals and bullshit codes into what being part of the family line means. Most people would see a couple of freak accidents that result in requiring cybernetic prosthetics as things to avoid in the future, but these insane people turn that into a requirement. Want to be the new Metabarons, you need to lose part of your body and, then, kill your dad. The final Metabaron is the only sane one when he decides that he will be the last Metabaron, ending that cursed, fucked up family forever. Of course, if he were serious, he would have committed suicide. But, he's a weak one that boy.

This is space opera, emphasis on the opera. Large, generational, dramatic, and so damn addicting. I had read parts of The Metabarons before this year, but the recent hardcover release (the smaller, cheaper hardcover) was the first time that I read the entire thing. I could barely put it down. Also, the way that the robots' story actually factored into the overall plot was great. The slow build to the reveal was very well done and surprising.

Juan Gimenez is amazing. I'm not always the biggest fan of painted art in sequential narratives, but it's hard to not love Gimenez. Though, as Tucker Stone said, it's hard to notice him too much when you're reading about these fucked up things Jodo is writing. You almost need to stop and force yourself to forget that he's drawing a scene of sci-fi incest to appreciate his actual art. I wish I gave it more attention, honestly. But, the writing distracts far too much. It's kind of hard to get over.

That generational story. That focus on the idea of the family line... it's compelling and something I've yet to tire of.

NEXUS OMNIBUS VOL. 1 BY MIKE BARON, STEVE RUDE, AND OTHERS! I heard great things and they were right. This was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting something more superhero-y, I suppose. Instead, this reminded me a lot of Dreadstar in its tone. Not the art, but the feel of the series. That makes sense since they were done around the same time and, eventually, shared a home at First Comics. They were both series that took place in a cosmic setting with a protagonist that held certain superhero trappings. Nexus more obviously so, but Vanth Dreadstar became more and more like Superman as the series progressed. There was a lightness in both books contrasted with the extreme dark. In Nexus's case, it was his dreams and the compelling need to kill mass murderers. That sounds like a superhero, right? My kind of superhero, maybe...

There's a very freeform way to the way that Nexus is paced in these issues that's surprising. While the tone is similar to Dreadstar, the adherence to Starlin's issue-to-issue storytelling isn't there. There's a much looser feeling to this comic and a willingness to go where the story need to, damn what page it is. Also, Horatio Hellpop is a fantastic name.

The big appeal of this volume is watching Steve Rude become so good so quickly. I love his art now and watching him improve on an almost panel-by-panel basis is remarkable. He becomes more and more confident in his line work, more inventive in his approach to the page, and creates a visually stunning comic. The more confident he becomes, the looser the writing becomes, like Mike Baron knew he could trust Rude to keep things grounded and make it work. The 11th issue is a marked improvement over the 1st. You can't always say that. I can't wait for the second omnibus volume. Where will they go next? How good can this comic get?

"THE SPIDER-CLONE SAGA" BY MANY, MANY PEOPLE! When "The Spider-Clone Saga" was happening, I read some of the comics, but not nearly all of them. What kid is going to be able to buy four or five comics a month like that? And what kid, if they can, is going to focus exclusively on one group of titles -- no matter how interesting the story is. This year, I bought all of the trades for "The Spider-Clone Saga" along with the six volumes focused on Ben Reilly when he becomes Spider-Man. I haven't made it past the first volume of that set. I really enjoyed "The Spider-Clone Saga" material, though. I knew a decent chunk of it. It's a story that began strongly and had a smart end point with Ben becoming Spider-Man, allowing Peter and Mary Jane to go off and have their family. Things didn't work out that way in the end, but it was a good idea.

What struck me was how little Peter Parker and Ben Reilly interacted at first. They each dealt with their own problems and mostly stayed apart. Those issues were incredibly strong with Peter trying to stop being so lost inside of the Spider and Ben trying to figure out what he wants to do -- and who he wants to be. Where the books close their way is by focusing on the bullshit surround the clone stuff. Focusing on who is the real Peter Parker, introducing more clones, reintroducing the Jackal... oh, that stuff is just dreadful and is such a huge misstep. It's a big ball of "Who gives a fuck?" I certainly didn't all those teases and promises of answers did was turn a perfectly good story into something tedious and awful.

If they had kept it simple and contained with just Peter and Ben, it could have been a lot better. Stuff like "Maximum Cloneage" was so misguided, so wrongheaded. I found it cool as a kid, but really bad as an adult.

This year, I plan to finish it by reading the Ben Reilly stuff. Those books are on the shelf beneath the Kirby stuff.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blogathon 2013 Archive Post

Here is a complete archive of the Blogathon 2013 posts:

Blogathon 01: One More Time...
Blogathon 02: Jack Kirby's Comics Work in the '70s (Part 1)
Blogathon 03: Jack Kirby's Comics Work in the '70s (Tim Callahan Guest Post)
Blogathon 04: Jack Kirby's Comics Work in the '70s (Part 2)
Blogathon 05: Keeping Up With the Critics (Part 1)
Blogathon 06: Keeping Up With the Critics (David Brothers Guest Post)
Blogathon 07: Keeping Up With the Critics (Part 2)
Blogathon 08: West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi (Part 1)
Blogathon 09: West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi (Ales Kot Guest Post)
Blogathon 10: West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi (Part 2)
Blogathon 11: Favourite Peter David Star Trek Novels (Part 1)
Blogathon 12: Favourite Peter David Star Trek Novels (Graeme McMillan Guest Post)
Blogathon 13: Favourite Peter David Star Trek Novels (Part 2)
Blogathon 14: Dreadstar #1-12 (Part 1)
Blogathon 15: Dreadstar #1-12 (Jeff Lester Guest post)
Blogathon 16: Dreadstar #1-12 (Part 2)
Blogathon 17: Best Time to Stop Reading Superhero Comics (Part 1)
Blogathon 18: Best Time to Stop Reading Superhero Comics (Tucker Stone Guest Post)
Blogathon 19: Best Time to Stop Reading Superhero Comics (Part 2)
Blogathon 20: 100 Issues in a Row (Part 1)
Blogathon 21: 100 Issues in a Row (Augie de Blieck, Jr. Guest Post)
Blogathon 22: 100 Issues in a Row (Part 2)
Blogathon 23: Garth Ennis's Best Female Characters (Part 1)
Blogathon 24: Garth Ennis's Best Female Characters (Brian Cronin Guest Post)
Blogathon 25: Garth Ennis's Best Female Characters (Part 2)
Blogathon 26: Cyclops was Right! Cyclops was Wrong! (Part 1)
Blogathon 27: Cyclops was Right! Cyclops was Wrong! (Tim O'Neil Guest Post)
Blogathon 28: Cyclops was Right! Cyclops was Wrong! (Part 2)
Blogathon 29: Uncanny X-Force (Part 1)
Blogathon 30: Uncanny X-Force (Kaitlin Tremblay Guest Post)
Blogathon 31: Uncanny X-Force (Part 2)
Blogathon 32: Monthly Quality (Part 1)
Blogathon 33: Monthly Quality (Ryan K. Lindsay Guest Post)
Blogathon 34: Monthly Quality (Part 2)
Blogathon 35: Identity Crisis (Part 1)
Blogathon 36: Identity Crisis (Shawn Starr Guest Post)
Blogathon 37: Identity Crisis (Part 2)
Blogathon 38: Spaceman (Part 1)
Blogathon 39: Spaceman (Adam Langton Guest Post)
Blogathon 40: Spaceman (Part 2)
Blogathon 41: Recommending Comics to Others
Blogathon 42: Whether Comics Critics Should Turn Pro
Blogathon 43: Different Formats
Blogathon 44: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Part 1)
Blogathon 45: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Tim Callahan Guest Post)
Blogathon 46: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Part 2)
Blogathon 47: Whether Comics Critics Should Turn Pro (Ryan K. Lindsay Guest Post)
Blogathon 48: 2012 - The Year Everything Ended
Blogathon 49: End It

Blogathon 49: End It

And that's 24 hours..........now!

We have raised $1020.00 so far for the Hero Initiative. That is well beyond my highest expectations. But, if you want to donate still, I'll keep the window open until Tuesday at 4:45 EST when Random Thoughts goes up over at Comics Should be Good. The ways you can donate:

* Direct donations to the Hero Initiative (click on the Pay Pal link)
* Purchasing products from their site, including annual memberships
* Purchasing products from their eBay store
* Donating funds to Peter David and his family through the Hero Initiative

Just shoot me an e-mail at chevett13[AT]yahoo[DOT]ca to let me know how much you donated to help keep track.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far. Thanks to all of the guest posters. And thank you to my wife, Michelle, who supported me all day by giving little pep talks and bits of encouragment and bringing me food and generally beind amazing.

This was the most difficult Blogathon yet -- and the most successful. A hell of a way to go out.

Thank you.

Good night.


Blogathon 48: 2012 - The Year Everything Ended

Maybe it was because the world was supposed to end, but 2012 was the year where everything else ended. From the middle of summer until the end of the year, a large chunk of the comics I loved all disappeared. RASL, Scalped, The Boys, glamourpuss, Bendis's Avengers, Brubaker's Captain America, Gillen's Journey into Mystery, Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, even Joe Casey and Nathan Fox's Haunt... I'm probably forgetting some others as well. In there are some big books for me and they're all gone away. I knew some would be given what was said about them by the creators, but some took me by surprise in good and bad ways. The end of Butcher Baker was inspired in its surprise, while glamourpuss was painful to read with Dave Sim's editorial at the end. I don't know, they all just seemed to end at the same time. It was hard to deal with. And I had already committed myself to leaving. I never questioned that. In two days, I turn 30 and I'm done. This blog ends and I'm gone. Everything ends. I'm sure there's a way to see that as a good thing. I see it as a good thing, because something began in 2012 that trumps all of those endings: my marriage. That's the balance: comics stuff ends; personal stuff begins. It's an easy trade to make (not that it's really a trade). While I've filled some of the holes in my pull list, I don't feel like I've really filled the holes left by some of those books. There's no new Boys, for example. Bendis taking over the X-titles is nice, but it's not the Avengers. After all, is there a mutant equivalent of Luke Cage? No? Not the same then. Everything ends, everything changes. But, why so many endings all at once? That's what I can't get over. 2012 wasn't a year of endings really given all of the new books I tried and loved; it just felt that way because of the second half where even the new stuff got drowned out by the deaths of so many comics. But, it's a good thing. Most of them ended when they wanted, on their own terms. What more could you want? It's like your friend moving away to take a great job. It sucks, but it's all right. Or something. It's nothing like that. It's just comics. It's just comics.

In 30 minutes, I end this.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 47: Whether Comics Critics Should Turn Pro (Ryan K. Lindsay Guest Post)

[Note: Ryan was kind enough to step in and write a quick guest post to fill a half-hour gap. Thanks a lot, Ryan. I do appreciate it. I will be back in 30 minutes with a post on 2012 as the year where everything ended.]

I’m always intrigued by this as a topic for discussion because it always sounds like there’s some binary dichotomy of which we should all be respectful. I honestly don’t get that.

There is no line in the sand. At least, I don’t see it. Of course, I can see where problems might occur but I think – whether going critic to pro or vice versa – this can be circumvented with one simple rule: don’t be a dick. Shit, maybe just follow this for life and see 75% of your troubles disappear.

I’ll be very open here: I am a comic critic, and I am also a comic writer. I’ve written reviews for CBR for the past few years, I write and manage theweeklycrisis.com in my other hours, and then I write comics for IDW, Action Lab Entertainment. ComixTribe, and Challenger Comics. In doing this, I understand there might be some grey areas but I’m careful to tread lightly and not be a dick. I don’t think I’ve ever ended up in a spot where I feel my integrity has been compromised. At all.

I don’t review work for companies at which I’m presently employed, and I’ve never traded a positive review for the ability to pitch or be considered for the job, before you even have to ask. As it stands, I see the two writing jobs as never really crossing over. I do them both because I like to write, it honestly is that simple. I’ve been writing for years now, sometimes for free, sometimes for money, but pretty much always for love. I love comics so it seems obvious that I would like writing them as much as I like writing about them. They scratch different itches for me.

This year I’m writing a My Little Pony one-shot from IDW (it’s dropping in March, it’s about rainbow Dash, you should check it out), I’m also editing a book of essays about Daredevil called The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil from Sequart publishing (in which I’ve written many words, and it should be debuting at ECCC at my table), and while doing this I’ll be writing reviews for CBR. None of these things cockblock the others because they are just writing gigs. Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’m making a dick move, I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I just think I’m writing, and writing things I love, so why consider which side of the beast they are on if I really don’t have to?

When my Pony book drops, or any other book drops, I don’t see how that affects my CBR reviews at all. And if you think it means I cottonball my reviews so I can buddy up to creators later then I’ve only got harsh words for you. Read my reviews, they might not be scathing (see my rule, I’m not a dick – I’ll write about things I don’t like but I’m not out to needlessly be a dick with my words for sport or any other cause) but they aren’t all praise. I’ve dropped 1-5 stars across all publishers and I’m happy to continue to do so. This might cause me an interesting situation at a con, I don’t know, it would be fascinating to have editorial tee me up with an artist I had previous reviewed poorly, but I don’t think about that. I’m sure there’ll come a time where I’ll have to drop reviewing because I’m too close to too many publishers but until then I like writing reviews and I’ll do it while it’s still something I like and can do.

There is the possibility I could play both sides of the coin in a terrible manner, I admit, there is that possibility. I don’t know how I could do so for my own benefit but I get the whole idea of conflicts of interest. I get that. But I also see it not occurring in my world. Perhaps you disagree, I’d certainly love to know why, but I don’t get it. Why can’t a reviewer write a comic? Riddle me that. Is there a document that states once you’ve written about comics then you can never cross the floor and write an actual comic? If so, why would this idea even be started in the first place? Why would the two arenas be kept SO separate?

Man, this one doesn’t feel like a polished piece at all, sorry Chad, it’s really just a rant. Really not at place on this site at all J I couldn’t even boil down the central thesis but I think that’s because I don’t know what I’m arguing against.

I do know what I’m arguing for, I’m arguing for people to write that which they are passionate about. I’m arguing for people to not worry about the bitter incursions of others online, and I’m arguing for others to support and be happy for someone writing what they love. I’m arguing acceptance in the face of a tide of “Nuh-uh, you can’t, it’s not fair, and I can’t explain why, or how, but I just know I don’t like it so stop it before I complain more.”

As for future reviews, I have to agree with Chad, having written them for a while now I know exactly what they are so when they come in for my work I know I’ll be able to handle them for what they are. I’m not going to email the reviewer and bitch, I’m not going to get all passive-aggressive on Twitter about it, I’m going to accept it as someone else’s opinion and respect it as that. Always.

TANGENT: I’ve heard many people bitch that every comic ‘journalist’ wants to also break into the industry and that you don’t see movie critics trying this bullshit. To that all I can think is, who cares? I don’t plan my steps on what anyone else is doing, or what trend might be occurring, and neither should you. If you want to write about comics for free, do it, if you want to make webcomics with your mate, do it, if you want to make on online webseries about you reading comics, goddamn, go for it. I’m not worried about overall trends, I’m worried about filling my spare time doing things I love.

If you want to do something but first stop to see what other people are doing around that or thinking about it then I can’t imagine what decision making in your head must be like. Just do it, screw ‘em.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this piece during the Blogathon when I saw Chad write that some people didn’t participate and he was trying to fill the voids. I am currently waiting for my wife to finally drop our second child into the world as it is incredibly close. I am tired. But happy to help.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 46: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Part 2)

Tim knows me too well. It all went down the way he said it would go down. It's like he was sitting next to me as I bemoaned what I was reading. He even nailed the part where I lost interest and kept reading, because I am a Joe Casey Scholar. I am the Joe Casey Scholar. I can say that with confidence and pride. I read this comic out of duty to that position, for the Blogathon, and because I paid money. Three good reasons to see it through to the end. Some random bits:

* I love the spots where word balloons have been moved and the art needs to be fixed.

* I like how they reused some panels. Why not? I would have liked to see more rearranging.

* The subplot with the two alien races coming to Earth did not pay off at all in this hardcover. It also has a big number 1 on the spine. I wonder if there was a plan to redo the rest of the Youngblood comics and it never happened. That's the only explanation I can see for a two-page subplot scene that never goes anywhere.

* The story just sort of ends, doesn't it?

* Kirby is such a strange character. A musclebound warrior with Jack Kirby's head. Only Rob Liefeld could think of such a thing...

* Tim will need to tell me if Psi-Fire is as psycho in the original as he is here. That's one bit that I really liked by Casey. It actually felt like something he would write.

* There's a bit of that in his dialogue for Shaft. The way he shuns the spotlight and tries to play the game. It's not terribly exciting always, but it was clever in its way.

* I'm a little disappointed that Tim didn't discuss the bonus pre-Youngblood comic included in the hardcover. Do I smell an upcoming When Words Collide?

* I should reread Joe Casey's Youngblood run sometime...

* Combat is the worst name ever.

* But I do like his full costume.

* And the best green-or-blue hero is Martian Manhunter. He's green and has a blue cape. He wins.

In 30 minutes, Ryan K. Lindsay returns for a surprise guest post!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 45: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Tim Callahan Guest Post)

A guest post by Tim Callahan

To fulfill my self-appointed role as Youngblood archeologist and once-and-future Rob Liefeld acolyte, I dug through my longboxes to find my original (First print! Collect-them-all!) issues of the 1992 series so when I sat down with the Joe Casey/Rob Liefeld Youngblood redux hardcover, I could do a fascinating side-by-side comparison.

And maybe I will do that. But I can imagine your exhaustion as you approach the end of this 24-hour blogathon. I’m writing this well in advance, so I don’t even know if this will ever go live, or if you’ll crack under the weight of responding to comic book punditry from all sides and cramming your brain with insights and allusions and analysis ranging from “Who is the best green-or-blue-colored superhero?” to “If Robert Kirkman traveled back in time to the middle ages, what comic book series would he launch and what distribution methods would he use?”

Were those actual topics in the blogathon? They should have been. I think your responses would have been amazing.

So keep your spirits up, Chad Nevett. The light-at-the-end-of-the-home-stretch-tunnel-is-barelling-toward-the-break-of-day. It’s almost over. You can rest soon enough.


Boy I’m curious to read what you have to say about this 2008 hardcover edition of Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, as rewritten by Joe Casey. I’ll probably be asleep by now. Dreaming of Kirkman’s Battle of Hastings/Zombie Jesus mashup tapestry. But I’m still curious.

I’m guessing that you read the Youngblood hardcover with some interest, looking at how Joe Casey played with the superhero-as-celebrity motif that he has so often examined in his own comics work. And even with that beacon to guide you, it was difficult to make it to the end of the Youngblood volume. You lost interest soon after John Prophet was introduced, and the rest of the book slipped away even as it shouted at you from a distance. Oh, you finished reading the book, I’m sure, because you are a blogathon champion. But you read the last half of it with disinterest. Reminding you of why you’re so glad to walk away of this ridiculous not-really-a-job of writing about comics that you wouldn’t normally want to waste your time with.

Or maybe I’m projecting.

Because I know I found that Joe Casey revision of Youngblood pretty difficult to digest. I read every single page. But I don’t remember most of them. I remember it being self-referential, and defiantly aware that it’s a comic that was once ridiculed for its bad writing and so Joe Casey puts in a lot of “aha! Look at this ridiculous scenario and/or pose” dialogue to make light of the whole thing, while staying true to the originally-stated, if originally-not-quite-conveyed premise of Shaft and Badrock and friends becoming some of the first of the celebrity superhero breed. Casey hams up that angle, as he should, given the circumstances of the comic, and the pages that were in the Hank Kanalz/Rob Liefeld original first issue pop with verbal vibrations that they never had before.

But here’s a secret – and this is where my honorary Associate’s Degree in Youngbloodology comes in handy – the original issues are better.

You wouldn’t know that, I assume, because you likely ignored the original Youngblood series when it came out (you were too young, or your father had refined taste, or you just hated fun) and never dared to go back to the source. And it was safe to stay away. Sure. Common practice.

But since I went through all the trouble of digging out the first few original Youngblood issues, I took the next logical step and actually re-read them (after I had recently read the Joe Casey revision in the hardcover) and, yes, they are clumsily written and completely direct and without any kind of subtext, but they are amazingly, hideously-beautifully colored in their original habitat – something the hardcover strips away and replaces with Frank D’Armata-meets-Justin Ponsor computer stylings which are all the rage in the 21st century.

But Youngblood isn’t a 21st century comic. It’s a 1992 comic, born out of a diet of Legion of Super-Heroes issues and James Cameron and Joel Silver movies and pen and ink and the imagination and passion of the teenage Rob Liefeld. Sure, Liefeld was no longer a teenager by the time Youngblood #1 was released – and kicked off the entirety of Image Comics, let’s not forget – but the series was born out of teenage Rob’s mind, and if there’s one thing Rob Liefeld has been able to do in all the years he’s been working in comics, it’s his ability to tap into his teenage psyche.

The “Awesome” appellation was never a pose. It’s an essence.

So the 1992 comic, which lacks the self-awareness and meta-sophistication of the Joe Casey rewrite, is a knuckleheaded comic. But it’s a comic meant to punch you in the teeth with a barrage of images and characters and motion lines so dynamic that they often shatter the very panel borders designed to contain them. It’s five fists of superhero science, coming straight at you from twenty-plus years in the past. Rob Liefeld. To take you home.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 44: Joe Casey Youngblood Rewrite (Part 1)

It's been forever since I've looked at the origin Youngblood comics. I can't remember, honestly, if I read all of the originals that Joe Casey rewrites/reedits in this hardcover. But, I have wanted to check it out for a while and see what Casey could do with the art done by Liefeld. After all, it's bit different than a regular scripting job where at least Casey would have delivered a plot to Liefeld. Instead, he's working from pages he had no input on and has to deliver a quality comic.

I don't think he quite succeeded. This is still an uneven work that never quite coheres. The dialogue doesn't pop the way Casey's dialogue usually does. He tries to emphasise the 'superhero celebrity' aspect of the concept and even lay some groundwork for his own run on the property where he expanded into supervillain celebrity in an interesting way. However, things are too limited by the art and the existing mythology to really transcend what it was to become something a bit more Casey's than Liefeld's.

That probably wasn't Casey's intention anyway. If anything, this reminds me of Casey's work on something like the Project: Superpowers books he worked on. Competent and forgettable to a degree. Less like his than him working to achieve someone else's vision. Which, oddly, you rarely see in comics he does for Marvel or DC. Those comics usually have a distinctive Casey voice to them. There are a few moments in Youngblood where he peaks through -- like the woman in Chapel's bed wanting to see him in the uniform.

Worse, by adhering so closely to the concept laid out by Liefeld, the work still seems somewhat antiquated and of the early '90s. While it's true that Youngblood was forward-thinking in its treatment of superheroes as celebrities, that's an idea that's been explored quite a bit in the meantime and it doesn't stand out as much here, especially since it's been rewritten. The originals could feel dated or antiquated, because they are to a degree. You expect a little more from a rewrite like this. Some fresher dialogue or something that makes it stand out -- and able to stand alongside other comics released now. The closest thing we get is Badrock's constant whining. I did like that.

Judging from a picture Tim posted on Twitter the other day, he's actually gone back to the original comics for a little comparison. In 30 minutes, we'll see what he found out.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 43: Different Formats

From Augie de Blieck, Jr.: "Which comics would you most like to see in either a smaller or large page format? Who's art would look better at a larger size? Whose artwork might work best shrunken down a tad to tighten up the lines? Include any current reprints that you like for these reasons, or surprises along the same lines, good or bad."

I'm not going to choose to shrink art too often. Though, I will say that Frank Miller's Sin City stuff looks great in the smaller paperbacks. Even the edition of The Hard Goodbye that I have that came with the DVD of the movie looks great and it's quite small. However, the only reason why I would choose to have a comic shrunk would be to make it more portable, not because I think it would look better. Some may well look better. I'm familiar enough with shrunken down art to say which books would benefit and which would be hurt by it.

Larger is a whole other story. I would love to see Kirby's stuff done bigger. Absolute Fourth World! A larger edition of Automatic Kafka would be great -- or Elektra: Assassin. Actually, this could be a long list. Almost any comic I think looks great would probably look better bigger. I know it won't be the case, but Marshal Law on Absolute-size pages... oh dare I dream it.

My favourite oversized hardcover is Absolute Authority vol. 1. The first twelve issues of the Ellis/Hitch/Neary/DePuy run of the book. Gorgeous pages that look even better at that size where everything seems to have more room to breathe. The colours just overwhelm you. I love the way DePuy did the sky at the end of issue three. That hazy dawn loook... wonderful. No other colourist has matched it. Gorgeous pinks and purples.

By the same token, a giant, blown up That Yellow Bastard could be a sight to behold. I've seen it smaller than standard size, now I want a giant version. It's the boldest of Miller's Sin City, visually. Big, thick lines to go along with big pictures. And that final scene... on large pages... It would be fitting.

In 30 minutes, I'll turn my attention to the Joe Casey rewritten/edited Youngblood hardcover with Tim Callahan.

We're up to $1020 raised!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 42: Whether Comics Critics Should Turn Pro

This is one of Graeme McMillan's topics...

Sure, why not. My reason for this is actually selfish. I would like to assume that any comic critic who turns pro would have the good sense not to bitch about critics so much. Not to e-mail critics complaining. That they would understand what's happening. It's not personal, it's just reactions to what's being read. Unless that's not how it is for them. Then, we're screwed.

I've never spoken to him or read what he has to say on the topic (I assume he has), but I've been interested for a while in how Kieron Gillen views reviews/criticism of his work. He spent a long time as a video game reviewer and would have a good understanding of what the job is like. There are some other pros who were once where we are. I don't have a lot of contact with creators or hear a lot of gossip so I don't know if they're better/worse than other professionals who were never critics. But, that understanding of what writing about comics is like, you'd assume they would better pretty easygoing.

Then again, maybe they would assume they should get a pass -- or that any negativity is just sour grapes. And that could be the case sometimes. I don't know. I've yet to deal with a situation like that. And I doubt it will come up in the next couple of days. I hope it doesn't.

There was a time when I wanted to write comics, but I don't anymore. it doesn't appeal to me terribly. The business side of comics disgusts me quite a bit. What you need to do and put up with... fuck no. I don't care that much about seeing any of my 'great ideas' in print. Besides, if you turn pro, you can't be honest about comics anymore. I'd never be able to do that. Someone would ask me the wrong question and I'd answer and, BOOM! I'm on Bleeding Cool in a Twitter war with someone. Sounds awful.

I would like to see more comics pros become critics as well. I like seeing pros write about comics. Even if it's just positive shit. Warren Ellis is still one of my favourite writers about comics -- that aspect of his career is my favourite, actually. It would be healthy to see a bit more crossbreeding between the two worlds. Next Boxing Day, how about all of the pros and all of the critics switch places? Sounds good to me.

In 30 minutes, something else. It's a surprise!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 41: Recommending Comics to Others

And now we hit the point where two people did not agree to a topic and/or turn in a post. So, now I panic, and start stealing other topics people offered (hopefully they won't mind). This one was on Tim Callahan's list...

I tend not to recommend comics to others specifically unless asked. I've had people ask me what they might like, especially when it comes to Joe Casey's output. They'll say they enjoyed, for example Wildcats Version 3.0 and wonder what else they'd like by him. People will ask about the stuff I know about or have mentioned reading. This past summer, someone saw that I had gotten Heavy Liquid and 100% by Paul Pope and asked which one they should read. I'll answer direct questions like that.

The only other way that I recommend comics is through what I write about them in a general sense. I've had a surprising number of people say they really do follow what I say. If I say something is great, they'll give it a shot. That's extremely flattering -- but also pure chance. They just happened to have found someone who shares their opinion more often than not. That's not exactly something I should be thrilled about. But, I am flattered, because it seems like a validation of what I think. I want to say that it's more than a shared opinion -- that I'm someone who's trusted to know what's good and what's not. That's a little absurd to me, because I know how specific my tastes can be. There are some things that I know I like that most people won't.

I never go out of my way to recommend comics. It's not my place. If someone wants a recommendation, they'll ask or just take it from my general writing. I never feel the need to really champion comics, to get people to pick up specific things. The closest you'll get to that is me simply praising a book a lot. I make my feelings clear and let other people decide what to do with the information. What else can you do?

One person I never recommend any comics to is my wife. She's read some X-Files comics and that's about it. And that's only because she loves the X-Files. Comics are my thing and she's shown little interest. I prefer it that way. I like having these to myself. We share a lot of TV and movies, so something that's just mine is nice.

All of that said, if you haven't already, go get One Trick Rip-Off and Rare Cuts by Paul Pope. New hardcover from Image Comics.

In 30 minutes... something else.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 40: Spaceman (Part 2)

When Spaceman was announced, it was so surprising. Azzarello and Risso doing a... scifi comic...? The duo best known for 100 Bullets along with a few Batman comics and they're doing scifi? It was hard to fully grasp. Now, it seems so natural. They did their sort of story in a scifi setting. A world that Risso brings to life with stunning background and scenery setting. While I'm more likely to pay attention to the writing, because that's what I'm most comfortable with -- and far more likely to write about, because I'm far more comfortable with it in this arena -- it's hard to ignore the enormous role Eduardo Risso plays in Spaceman being as good as it is.

He makes the spacemen look different from one another. And not in big, obvious way. He maintains a sense of 'they all look alike to me' that would come with something as different and weird as the spacemen are. They have subtle differences like body language and haircut. Their faces are quite similar, which is fitting. Their hunched over bodies are strange, too. I remember reading when I was a kid that astronauts had to be six feet or under (maybe even less) -- yet these spacemen seem taller. Interesting choice.

That first shot of the docks is stunning. Perfect lines and colours.

Adam is right: this future isn't really much different from the world we know or have known for a while. There's the rich, the poor, and there's corruption One of the most chilling moments of the series is at the end when we see the cops now working security for the Ark. Money wins. Money always wins. That makes me wonder if we left the fantasy too soon. If Spender wouldn't actually fall victim to his brothers, because money wins.

I never would have guessed how much I like seeing Risso draw a spacesuit.

Of course, the dialogue Azzarello writes is so fun to read and figure out. It's a natural progression of what English is now, with some dropped letters and mispronounciations that I wouldn't be surprised were already occurring. But, it's not the language spoken in the Dries. That's something Azzarello is very mindful of. What we see is 'poor English' as it were. It doesn't even seem like it's out of place.

Trisha Mulvihill's colours... the reds and oranges... the paleness of Mars... spectacular.

Like Adam said, this is a comic. Nothing but a comic. Damn right.

In 30 minutes... I don't actually know entirely.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 39: Spaceman (Adam Langton Guest Post)

So Chad Nevett is insane and relishes putting himself through this blogathon business every year. Presumably the only motivation is masochism. But I am nothing if not an enabler, so heeeeere we go!

Sick and tired of comic books and comic creators that are all but begging for a film adaptation? Ever since the big comics2film boom of fourteen years ago, new comics (not the boring rehashed superhero fare) have become more and more like storyboards, complete with Hollywood hook. Hell, we’ve even got idiots like Mark Millar selling his yet-to-be-made comics to Hollywood studios, only to eventually turn out absolute garbage like “Super Crooks.” It would seem that our beloved little medium has become little more than a springboard in the minds of these men and women, rather than the home for original stories that couldn’t be told anywhere else.

Well that aint true for Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso; my evidence? “Spaceman.” “Spaceman” is one of those rare, delightful comic book stories that couldn’t work in any other medium. The best part is, it doesn’t have to work in any other medium--it’s perfect in a comic book, as it is. An original, self-contained sci-fi serial, “Spaceman” takes the trope of the everyman caught up in extraordinary circumstances... only in this case, Orson is anything but an everyman. Genetically engineered to survive space travel, Orson’s mission to Mars has come and gone; now, he has fallen the wayside in a futuristic world that doesn’t look very different from our own.

You’ve got to love Azzarello for creating a sci-fi future where life absolutely sucks for the vast majority of people. That is the way life has been on Earth for the past few millennia, why should it suddenly change a hundred years from now? When you think of the creation of a sci-fi landscape you immediately begin envisioning different directors ‘bringing it to life,’ but screw you, because Risso already did that. Combined with colours from Patricia Mulvihill and Giulia Brusco, Risso’s scenes featuring Orson’s flashbacks to Mars look and feel starkly different from the darkness of his life on Earth; the two stories are balanced beautifully, leaving the reader guessing at both until they dovetail into one another in a thrilling conclusion.

Wow, two storylines that both work on their own accord, dovetailing into one another at the close: why mess with the classics? “Spaceman” doesn’t need eighty twists or ten false-finishes. In fact, I stick to the word “classic” because that’s what “Spaceman” reads like: a modern version of a story from the 1800s. While the setting and plot involve all of the details and trappings of modern life, the storytelling and theme are decidedly old-fashioned, allowing the reader to glimpse an argument about our quotidian lives being made within each page.

Celebrity, priority, greed, money, society... all lambasted through the eyes of a man who never asked to be born, never asked to be different, and has merely been trying to wait out his years in our messed up reality. A reality that is obsessed with a simulacra of reality; be it the reality television that is anything but, the promise of riches that never come to pass, or the sexual fantasy of virtual pornography that cannot be realized, the reality of Orson’s world is one where the simulation has won: just as in our own.

Everything from the larger-than-life spacemen themselves to the very language of “Spaceman” refutes the argument for adaptation. While it would be distracting to listen to actors wrestle with the quirky dialogue that Azzarello has given his characters, on the page the reader is allowed to develop their own ear for the new slang, listen to it at whatever pace they are comfortable with in their minds. The result is a deeper immersion into this world the creative team has made, whereas in other media the language would achieve the opposite result.

“Spaceman” and comics like it are the reason that our beloved art form will still be around no matter how long the Comics2Film craze persists. Let 95% of creators make books for no other reason than a potential lottery ticket to Hollywood riches; the rest of us will cleave to creators like Azzarello and Risso and keep enjoying comics for what they are and what they’ve always been: simple, fantastic, occasionally subversive tales that let us see ourselves differently.

Kudos to anyone and everyone involved in “Spaceman.”

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 38: Spaceman (Part 1)

Spaceman was one of my favourite comics of 2012. It barely missed out on my top ten books of the year and I was glad that Adam is giving me a chance to talk about it (and a reason to reread the whole thing in one sitting).

Something that I didn't have as much of a chance to focus on when the series was coming out was the dream/fantasty Mars sequences. Some call them flashbacks, but every bit of information suggests that the mission never happened. Yet, they're incredibly detailed, telling a complete plot over the course of the series. Bits and pieces of dialogue relate those scenes to what's happening at the moment in the comic. That seems like a clue, but it's a technique that Azzarello uses frequently, so there may not be a connection beyond his preferred method of scene transitions. In the first issue, it's strongly suggested that the Mars stuff is something that Orson is dreaming... and, then, it continues while he's awake...? Or are we seeing the entire dream -- the unrealised dream?

After all, the mission to Mars was what he was born for -- it's his dream and the dream of the people at NASA, but it never happens. We get to see it continue. We get to see the dream fulfilled and it's a disaster of greed and betrayal between the spacemen. It's meant to be Orson's dream of what his life should have been, but it's infected by what his life actually is. It's sad. But, there's a glimmer of hope at the end as the remaining spacemen choose one another over the gold. They choose to be brothers...

There are so many implied things. Like, Bubba -- is he another spaceman? He calls Orson brother in one of the Mars fantasies and Orson seems to speak to him a few times throughout the series, including at the end. Or, is that what he calls everyone on the phone? Bubba was the ground man it seems -- the Earthbound one, their Mars mission's contact. Orson seems to not have any contact with his brothers, though. Unless he keeps his connection to Bubba private.

With Azzarello, so much is in the interpretation of language, so much that can be misread or misunderstood. The basic plot is simple, but everything surrounding it is given in little pieces here and there -- and never all of them. But, that's the way with his noirish storytelling. The plot is something basic like a kidnapping gone wrong or a group of guys find some gold and starting killing each other... It's the same shit you've seen a million times before at its core. But, the world surrounding it is so rich and different. Instantly recognisable, too. You know pretty much what happened without having it spelled out. Azzarello puts a lot of faith in his readers. I wish more writers did. We may get it wrong sometimes, but we're trying -- and we're thinking.

In 30 minutes, Adam Langton will drop a little knowledge on us all.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 37: Identity Crisis (Part 2)

I hadn't thought about the influence of Watchmen specifically on this book. Unless there are some very specific allusions, I never consider Watchmen specifically. I just assume it's an influence and move on. That's a terrible habit and I need to break it.

I don't know why, but they never seem to consider the limitations they'll face before undertaking projects like these, do they? Shawn and I both said some similar things (him better than I) and the main thrust is that Identity Crisis tried to tell a story that require the superheroes not to be DC superheroes. They needed to exist outside of concerns over next week's comics, because the story demanded that they not be limited in such a way.

I have never understood Batman's outrage at mindwiping Dr. Light. That always seemed inconsitent with his character, which seems to have only one line: he doesn't kill. Everything else is fair game. Except there needs to be a reason for them to mindwipe him, too. Because they need a dark secret. The story came first, the characters second... in a world where the characters always come first, even over real people. ("Of course," says Grant Morrison, "Because they're more real than us! They'll outlive us all!") How does this slip through the cracks? To call it the beginning of the era of "DON'T SAY NO TO PEOPLE WITH NAMES THAT SOMEONE ON THE STREET MIGHT RECOGNISE" isn't right, because that had begun years prior with Kevin Smith and J. Michael Straczynski.

Books like this make people like me wonder what an editor's job is. And if they're proud of having it. You can just picture a group of nervous people muttering about all of the flaws while Dan DiDio stomps around, froth at the mouth, eyes everywhere, shouting "I SMELL MONEY!" over and over again until the muttering dies down and he's free to take a giant shit on each of their desks in peace.

In a comic of dumb moments, the dumbest always seemed to be the part where Green Arrow stabs Deathstroke in his eyepatch eye. Why wouldn't you blind the asshole? Why even introduce the idea that Green Arrow would do such a thing and not follow through on the logical path? It's stuff like that that confounds me. (So much about this comic does!) What does one think when they decide to have Green Arrow stab a guy in his eye that doesn't work instead of blinding him? Are we to assume that Green Arrow is a moron? That he think it too cruel to blind the assassin? What is the fucking point?

I shouldn't have picked this topic. It brings up bad memories.

One last question: what's worse, Identity Crisis or Infinite Crisis?

In 30 minutes, we move onto a good comic: Spaceman with Adam Langton!

We have hit ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS raised. Actually, it's $1010 officially. I keep running out of ways to express my shock at how much money has been raised, but it's still there. Over one thousand dollars. Amazing.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]

Blogathon 36: Identity Crisis (Shawn Starr Guest Post)

The failure of Identity Crisis is that it’s goals outweighs it’s author’s abilities by such a large margin that it collapses in on itself and reveals the fatal flaw of realism in comics, that it is impossible.

Meltzer attempts, with Identity Crisis, to recreate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen within the confines of the DCU, but Meltzer (no matter how many New York Times Best Selling titles are in his bibliography) is not Alan Moore, and even Alan Moore knew better than to be saddled with the DCU (or Rags Morales for that matter) while writing his magnum opus. What we end up with then is a surface level mimicry of Moore’s masterpiece, Identity Crisis touches on many of the themes of Moore and Gibbon’s Watchmen (generations, maturity, violence, sexism, political commentary, and the psychosis of a “hero”), but it never strains to go deeper than to push those buttons while misinterpreting why they were there in the first place.

Watchmen redefined what superheroes could be; Identity Crisis shows us what they cannot be.


The biggest failure of Identity Crisis, and the one which doomed the entire series from the start, is the DCU itself. Even though much of the continuity and characterizations in the DCU were relatively new compared to Marvel (following 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), Meltzer still had to deal with nearly twenty years of history. Where Watchmen used analogues (characters with the perception of history, but devoid of any experience Moore himself did not craft explicitly), Meltzer had to contend with the lived in originals (A.K.A. “The Big Boy Toys”). This forced him into the dilemma of retconning in major moments (the rape of Sue Dibny) in order to make his mystery have any legs. The problem with this is all the stray threads it produces. Joss Whedon called Identity Crisis an epiphany in his introduction in that he changed the very concept of DC history, I’d call it lazy writing.

Once the League chose to alter Dr Light’s mind following several threats to rape their wives (for about 14 pages) in the early days of the League, why didn’t the idea of neutering every villain in the DCU become commonplace? Dr Light was a dufus following his “realignment”, a straight up joke. The plan had worked! So why not just “R.P. McMurphy” the Joker and be done with him? He kills people, I mean a lot of people, and so why is the Flash’s wife more important than the lives of every citizen of Gotham? Huh, Flash? Huh?

(They even mind wiped Batman for Christ sake!!!)

Where Anthony Burgess could deal with the idea of reprogramming the mind, and its moral implications in A Clockwork Orange, Meltzer simply opens a Pandora’s Box of implications and tries to ignore he ever opened it. He needed that rape to happen, so that we knew it wasn’t like the old days. The difference is Burgess controlled his universe, both future and past like Moore, Meltzer though could not by definition as the old days still existed.


Another odd trait of Meltzer’s writing is its political aspect; Meltzer grafts onto the superhero community a definitive post-9/11 “American Vigilantism” reminiscent of the Bush Administration and also found in Neoconservative wet dreams.

Green Arrow’s vow of revenge against those involved in the killing of Sue Dibny "And whoever did this-he better pray the cops get him before we do." reads more like a Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry than something the DCU's permanent liberal would say (Unless he experienced an overnight epiphany like Christopher Hitchens). That vow though is, inevitably, expanded upon to mean anyone that could be connected with the perpetrators (fire was used, you use fire, you’re on the list) which resulted in goon squads of super heroes busting down anything that even resembles a hideout.

Wonder Woman goes so far as to choke and physically abuse an inmate because he used a specific type of knot while committing his crimes (a knot so common its Scout 101, as Superman comments), even when the perp had been incarcerated during the assault.

The political aspects of Meltzer’s scripts may be the most successful thing about the series; the only problem is that they cast the heroes in the role of the villain, and the villains as the oppressed to a large extent. A league of Rorschach’s defiling the Geneva Convention and habeas corpus to solve a crime one of them committed only to create a greater monster in the now-unwiped Dr Light.

This political message also ties into Meltzer’s attempt at “serious comics about serious stuff”. While many argue (and to some extent are correct) that the 90’s Image era was based on a misreading of Alan Moore and Frank Miller works (along with a dozen other creators I’m omitting because I don’t have all day), most of those comics (at least the popular ones) are the definition of anti-seriousness. Rob Liefeld never dropped his V for Vendetta for a reason, and the latter half of Miller’s career only goes to show where his allegiances lied.

Meltzer and the generation that followed him, the Post-Image, are the ones guiltiest of a wild and unsophisticated appropriation of Moore/Miller motifs. They make a mockery of it, with the intent of honoring it. Meltzer along with the Geoff Johns and now Scott Snyder’s, pile on these moments of seriousness, rapes, murders, miscarriages, etc., until they collapse on themselves and become a Johnny Ryan parody.

The final page of Identity Crisis #1 depicts Elastic Man holding the charred corpse of his wife (which as a scene is rather well done on its own), it’s not that exploitative, but then Meltzer just has to add onto it with just one more panel, to really nail the scene. That panel is of course of a pregnancy test lying on the floor with a note attached “Daddy, Two lines = POSITIVE!” and then that scene just becomes the funniest thing I’ve read since the opening story of The Furry Trap.

This isn’t the only instance, following the rape of Sue Dibny by Dr Light; Light spends 10 pages hunched on the ground foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog screaming about how he’s going to rape everyone’s families. Everyone from The Flash’s wife, Batman’s wife, Superman’s Wife, Green Lanterns alien lover, Whatever Hawkman does stuff with. I figured he would start threatening people’s dogs next if the page count allowed for it.

He just can’t stop himself from going that extra step, and it ruins everything he was trying for.


Then there's the ending of Meltzer’s mystery which is a last minute twist no one saw coming, just like EC comics, and just like Watchmen. The problem though is Ozymandias's plan was foreshadowed the entire time, it just that no one saw it coming. It was a perfect reveal because it made complete sense, but you couldn't see it coming (His confession at the end and the “I did it 35 minutes ago” meme it spawned is also a brilliant deconstruction of the villain plot reveal).

But Identity Crisis, I still don’t get it.

It doesn't make any sense. It’s like Armageddon 2001 where they just changed it at the last minute, but at least in the case of that book it was because people guessed the ending, but in Identity Crisis no one ever could because there is nothing in the prior text to predict it.

It certainly is Jean who killed Sue, that's undeniable, or it’s undeniable in the face of 10 pages of exposition as confession which says just that. A “fair play mystery” this is not.

The problem is that as Batman (A.K.A. the voice of reason) keeps repeating, who Benefits? I still don’t know the answer to that query. For example, how did Jean think she would benefit from this? The Atom in the beginning seems to still be in love with her, she seems past him (she was the one who left him), moving onto new experiences (signing back all his patients so she wasn’t indebted to him). So how did it go from that, to grabbing one of his suits and killing an unrelated person (which she brought additional weapons for, even though I guess it was an accident?) only so that she could get The Atom to come back to her and fall in love all over again. And how did that plan work?

Just to give an alternative scenario, a “cape killer” in Watchmen did not make Silk Spectre fall in love with Dr. Manhattan MORE after they began to disconnect, all it did was accelerate her leaving him and having awkward couch sex with Nite Owl. Jeans plan to have had the exact opposite effect and pushed him towards getting freaky with Tigra.


So my point is Identity Crisis isn’t as good as Watchmen.

Or something.

“An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." -Arthur Miller (from Identity Crisis)

P.S: Chad picked the joke book off my list.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]