30 December 2005

COMMENT: On 2006, and Some Greatest Hits

Personally, 2005 has been a pretty damn good year, from a comics perspective. CBC's barely a year old, quickly evolving from being a total lark to something central to reformatting my writing chops post-poetry slam era. (Not surprisingly, the activist angle of my work has transitioned intact.) Plus, I went from contributing reviews and the occasional feature at Buzzscope, to taking over as their Senior Comics Editor and spearheading the upcoming relaunch. As a result, my pull list has expanded from primarily Marvel and DC offerings and the random indie-published license, to a pretty diverse range of material that's introduced me not just to some great work, but as importantly, to a great community of ambitious creators.

The Buzzscope Drink-up on Wednesday was a lot of fun, finally putting some faces to names, but there were two moments in particular that summed up the year for me. The first came near the end of the night, standing outside talking to Jason Rodriguez, Rich Watson and Jim Salicrup. Each is, or is about to become, a Buzzsco--ah, I mean, PopCultureShock columnist, and the energy between us as we talked about the site and the industry and where we saw things potentially going in 2006 was absolutely electric. The second came a little while later, while talking with Jenny Gonzalez (another new columnist) about how she got into comics, and a specific story about her work with an Aspie, translating his Yu-Gi-Oh!-influenced stories into comic book form. It reinforced my sense that there's way more to the big picture than the Diamond Top 300 and ill-conceived cutoff benchmarks.

I left Botanica at the end of the night with a similar buzz to what I'd felt nearly 8 years ago to the day, in that very same bar, when a bunch of poets from diverse backgrounds and styles bonded over drinks and debate and formed the foundation of what would later become a little bit louder, the poetry series I founded and ran from 1998-2001, before turning it over to the collective of artists who'd made it their home and have kept it running strong, on the verge of celebrating its 8th anniversary next Spring.

I have a pretty clear vision for where I want PopCultureShock: Comics to go and, similar to how I built a little bit louder (aka louderARTS) over the first two years, it hinges on bringing together a diverse mix of talent and giving them a personal stake in its success, instilling a sense of ownership over both their own contributions as well as the larger umbrella they share, while keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel myself and not losing sight of where I'm trying to go. The proverbial winds of change are blowing through the industry right now, and I think there's two potential directions things can go: a variation on the boom-and-bust 90s, led by Marvel & DC's increasing reliance on big events and sales-boosting gimmicks; or, a relative leveling of the playing field, as indies shift their focus from the direct market, developing new audiences and distribution models. The latter direction is as likely to be driven by Marvel & DC's recruiting of mainstream writers like King, Huston, Dickey and Meltzer as it is by the defection of Craig Thompson and FLIGHT to higher-profile mainstream publishers. The opportunities are there; the question is, which ones will people take advantage of?

One of the most encouraging signs is the burgeoning comics blogiverse, an extremely vocal minority with more potential power to influence the industry than it seemingly realizes. (Not coincidentally, it's where I've recruited the majority of PopCultureShock's new columnists!) There seems to be a generational shift out there, with many from the original wave of comics bloggers either "retired" or bemoaning the passing of the good old days. As a member of the new generation of bloggers, I roll my eyes at the sentiment and point to some of the great blogs I have listed in the left column here, as well as a few that I'm tracking in Bloglines but haven't yet made the jump. Fossen, Cunard, Donelson, Rodriguez, Addams, Overaker, Carter, Watson, Shrew, Zilla, Neilalien, Hibbs/Lester/McMillan...and several others, new and old, make me believe that there's something brewing out there that simply needs to be tapped into, molded and properly channeled in order to have a real impact on the industry.

And that's what I'm ultimately looking to do -- help bring about a change in the industry. Ambitious, yes, but you can't hit what you don't aim at.

PS: Get a jump on things and update your Buzzscope links to http://www.popcultureshock.com/comics ;-)

2005 Greatest Hits

November 2004: COMMENT: On Reloads and Relaunches
My first industry commentary.

December 2004: Review: Worldwatch #3
My first really negative review, which led to my first contact with the larger comicsverse, meeting Erech and Dabb, and soliciting my first interview for CBC.

January 2005: Indie Spotlight: January 2005
The beginnings of my expanded pull list, including my first review of Skyscrapers of the Midwest.

February 2005: Comment: Being Black in a Four-Color World
Still one of my favorite posts here, and one of the most-linked to as well. Overall, February was one of the best months here, with several interviews, my reintroduction to Image, and the most posts ever from my co-bloggers.

March 2005: Adopt a Comic: Win Elk's Run #1
The snarky pick would have been my negative DEMO review that led to an entertaing little blog tête-à-tête with its publisher, Larry Young, but instead it's this bit of early activism, as I held a contest to give away a couple of copies of Elk's Run #1. I later added copies of Fade From Grace #1 to the pot, because sharing is caring.

April 2005: CBC Team-Up: Countdown to Power Pack's Sea of Red
This was a fun IM back-and-forth between myself and former CBC contributor, Stephen Maher, discussing a handful of comics we'd bought that week. It was an experiment that we never followed up on, but the concept is still alive in the back of my mind and may be revived soon as a podcast.

May 2005: CBC INFO: Ch-ch-ch-changes...
May was a tricky month as I'd started contributing to Buzzscope and CBC suffered greatly for it. Most interesting was this seemingly prophetic statement: "My goal is to take advantage of their larger audience to continue to spotlight good comics, particularly the underappreciated indies and underdogs of the Big Two, as well as the creators busting their asses to make those comics good." Who knew?

June 2005: Comment: Handicapping Batman Begins
Once again, most of my posting was Buzzscope-related, but this one I like because of how close I came to nailing Batman's box office, and how off I was in assessing Fantastic Four's prospects. There's predictions for Ghost Rider, Superman Returns and X-Men 3 there, too, which I'll stand by for now, until I see some more traliers for each.

July 2005: Indie Hype: Bumperboy
Because I never miss an opportunity to show some Bumperboy love!

August 2005: INFO: CBC Update
I'd put the blog on hiatus for about a month, returning with this philosophical brain-dump that suggested an upcoming zig instead of the zag that resulted. Life's funny that way, yes?

September 2005: On the Shelves: 9/8/05
A relatively unremarkable month, highlighted by this shift from listing everything coming out the week to commenting on select comics. I'd actually started doing it the week before, in August, but the name of the column changed here.

October 2005: Buzzscope: What's a Nubian? #1
Another month of mostly linking to Buzzscope material - I officially took over as Senior Comics Editor on October 1st - and this was the first time I offered a bit of DVD commentary, something I started doing more of in the following weeks.

November 2005: COMMENT: The Clone Saga & The Other - Part 1
This one actually isn't mine, but rather the first of a three-part essay from our resident fanboy, Dan, breaking down the Clone Saga and offering his guess on how it might tie in to The Other. Best thing he's done on the blog - except, perhaps, for introducing me to Vs.? - and hopefully we'll be seeing more from him down the line. Like maybe in a podcast...?

December 2005: COMMENT: Who Cares About Journalism?
December's been a good month - both traffic and content-wise - as I've finally found some balance between Buzzscope and CBC, and this particular bit of DVD commentary on my Speakeasy article is definitely one of my favorites, and hopefully a sign of what's to come for 2006.

Happy New Year everybody!

28 December 2005

On the Shelves: 12/29/05

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

My weekly look at select comic books being released THURSDAY, 12/29/05. The full shipping is list available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]

Men Of Mystery Presents Rocketman Vs Zombies DVD, $24.95

Is this actually a movie? Sounds like fun!

Jovas Harvest #2 (Of 3), $4.95

First issue was a great read, but did it cost $4.95? I need to start paying more attention to what I'm paying for comics.

Lone & Level Sands HC, $17.95

Rich Watson named this one of his best of 2005, so I think I'll check it out. See, that's how the comics internet is supposed to work.

Cannon Hawke #4, $2.99
Fathom #6, $2.99

I read a TPB of one of the early, if not first, Fathom story arcs - Mile High Comics had a really good sale! - and was unimpressed. Who buys this stuff? Is it just for the art, or does it fill some niche I'm missing?

Elvira #152, $2.50

"You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability..."

Perhapanauts #2 (Of 4), $2.99
Revelations #5 (Of 6), $2.99

Perhapanauts #1 was fun, with a nice little cliffhanger that has me looking forward to #2. Revelations #3 and #4 have sank to the bottom of my to-read pile as I'm going for the DIY trade collection.

All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder #3, $2.99
Lex Luthor Man Of Steel TPB, $12.99
Loveless #3, $2.99
Silent Dragon #6 (Of 6), $2.99
Vigilante #4 (Of 6), $2.99

I guess it's official, I'm simply not an Azzarello fan, yes? And no longer solely because of Cage. Lex Luthor started out great, with the best interpretation of Bruce Wayne ever, but then fizzled out at the end. Loveless #1 lost me thanks as much to the offensive art as its boring story and unappealing lead character, but I still need to flip through #2 as it apparently got worse. Silent Dragon ending means only two more months of a regular Andy Diggle fix. :-(

Cynical Orange Vol 1 GN, $10.95

No idea what this is, but I love the title! Best of the week.

Fallen Angel Idw #1, $3.99

After enjoying Madrox and the new X-Factor so much, I have to admit I'm tempted to give this a second try. The DC incarnation lost me pretty quickly, partly due to speculation over the lead character being Supergirl, whom I have no interest in. I was also too-recently returned to comics to fully appreciate it. And with so many indies bumping up to $3.50 recently, I'm finding it harder to hold IDW's cover prices against them.

Strange Girl Vol 1 Girl Afraid TPB, $12.99

Remender was supposed to send me some review copies of this, after we kissed and made up when I loved Fear Agent, but I haven't gotten anything yet, so I might just pick the trade up and take a chance.

Arana Heart Of The Spider #12, $2.99
Black Panther #11, $2.99
Black Widow 2 #4 (Of 6), $2.99
Daredevil #80, $2.99
Fantastic Four Special, $2.99
New Avengers #14, $2.50
Spider-Man Black Cat Evil That Men Do #5 (Of 6), $2.99
X-Factor #2, $2.99
X-Men And Power Pack #3 (Of 4), $2.99
Young Avengers Special #1, $3.99

Marvel ends 2005 with a bang as I think I'm reading more of their stuff now than I was at the beginning of the year, and that's after seriously pruning my Big Two pulls earlier in the summer. I'm done with New Avengers, though, and there's some idiotic completist thinking happening with Araña, Black Panther and Daredevil. It may be too soon to say so, but I think X-Factor is challenging Young Avengers as Marvel's best new title for 2005.

Revolution On The Planet Of The Apes #1 (Of 6), $3.98

I love me some Planet of the Apes! Is that price right, though? $3.98?

Rocketo #4, $2.99

Is anyone I respect reading this? Seen a lot of great buzz about it, but the first issue just didn't grab me.

Chicken Little Cinemanga GN, $7.99
Juror 13 GN, $9.99

My son loved Chicken Little, so I'll have to give this a peek. And Juror 13 rings a bell (must've read something about it), so I'll flip through that one, too.

Will Eisners Contract With God Trilogy HC, $29.95

If not tomorrow, then eventually.

Comics Buyers Guide Mar 2006 #1614, $5.99

Midtown always gets this a week early, but I didn't pick it up last week because I signed up for their $5 trial subscription a few weeks back. Let's see how good their fulfillment operation is and when this issue arrives in my mailbox.

COMMENT: Newsarama Interview with JQ

Last week, Newsarama did an extra holiday edition of their Joe Fridays weekly interview with Joe Quesada. During the interview the following came up:

"NRAMA: "When do the events in Spider-Man: The Other, Secret War, and House of M happen in relation to one another?"

JQ: Actually, we have this listed somewhere but it's now 3:45AM and I can't think straight. Not copping out on you but lets get back to this question next week and I'll have the info handy."
Two thoughts came to me immediately after reading this.

1st: I'd like to see if, and how the hell he explains this one. "Well, we started Secret War two years ago with the idea that it's happening in roughly the same time as The Other, but before House of M." You know if this gets answered it'll be some BS story about how it was all planned out from the beginning, a la Iceman getting his powers back already. (If I was an X-fan, I'd be pissed off at how Marvel handled that.)

2nd: Why doesn't JQ came out and say what he really thinks? It's probably along the lines of, "Back off f#*%ers. Do you like the stories? Does it really matter when each is set? If the stories and art are good, who cares. You should be glad we're putting something together that is actually worth $3.99 an issue. So what, the stories contradict one another? If I don't care, neither should you. Now go buy the newest variant cover for The Other."

Now if we got a response like that, I'd really respect the guy.

27 December 2005

Buzzscope Holiday Drink-up!

Wednesday, December 28th @ 6-8pm
47 E Houston St, NYC

Cross Street: Between Mulberry Street and Mott Street
Directions: B, D, F, V at Broadway-Lafayette; 6 at Bleecker S

Hey there, NY-area Buzzscope fans! We'd like to invite you out for some holiday drinking and socializing tomorrow [Wednesday] night, to meet and hang with some of your favorite contributors and forum friends.

I'll be there, Jon will be there...will you?

Come on out and buy me a Guinness! Or, better yet, an Irish Car Bomb!

Buzzscope Reviews: 12/21/05

Thanks to the holidays and, partly, the NYC transit strike, it's a light week for the weekly review roundup over at Buzzscope. Nevertheless, I managed to cover a few myself, including ELK’S RUN #4, IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE #1 and, very briefly, INFINITE CRISIS #3. Check 'em out.

Also, check out Ronée's latest column, "Well Grab My Tit and Call Me Liar!", about allegations of sexual harassment/assault that, if true, could rock one of the industry's most important organizations and, sadly, have ripple effects that would greatly endanger their mission in the short-term...at the least. The talkbacks are already getting a little heated, and I'll be curious to see if anyone else picks up on the story.

An awkward happy holidays to all!

23 December 2005

Happy Holidays from CBC!

...and best wishes for the New Year.

22 December 2005

COMMENT: You Like Drama, Yes?

That's the only way I can think of to explain why, of the two links to this blog from The Beat earlier this week, way more people clicked over to the ongoing Speakeasy drama than did my bit on the general lack of interest in comics journalism. Like five times more.

As I wrote to Tom Spurgeon, in response to his criticism of a PW Comics Week article last week, "the comics industry is simply too small and insular to support legitimate journalistic oversight - outside of independent efforts like [The Comics Reporter] and the sporadic gems that pop up across the comics blogosphere - and as long as the major comics outlets are content to serve primarily as PR platforms, that's not going to change anytime soon."

Heidi makes an interesting point in her comments on the subject: "Marvel and DC have adverse reactions when people snoop into their beeswax, meaning that outlets like Wizard and Newsarama cover comics the way Variety and the Hollywood Reporter cover the studios -- on a carefully doled out schedule of canned announcements."

I found it interesting that yesterday, NEWSarama saw fit to cover Alias' latest dustup with a bit more depth than usual, and yet, still not a word about Speakeasy. Outside of Lying in the Gutters' subtly slanted coverage - Johnston's certainly earning his keep on that one, yes? - nothing on CBR, either, as the situation is completely ignored in their interview with The Grimoire's new writer, Chris Stone, who's also been credited as Speakeasy's "Creative Director" in previous articles. (Oddly, The Grimoire section in Speakeasy's official forums has apparently been scrubbed, and there's only a single thread there now, about issue #7, Stone's first.)

While covering Alias' troubles is somewhat akin to Larry Young's "too-easy shot-across-the-bow," if Fortier was willing to talk to me, surely he'd answer Matt Brady and Jonah Weiland's questions, yes? And if not, I'm positive some of the more outspoken creators involved would appreciate the coverage. Considering their "Big Two" position in the comics internet, I want to say they practically have an obligation to cover the story.

Yeah, I know...and Wizard should cover more indies. Head, meet brick wall.

20 December 2005

On the Shelves: 12/21/05

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

There's a transit strike going on here in NYC, so who knows when I'll be able to pick up my books this week! Nevertheless, here's my weekly look at select comic books being released tomorrow, 12/21/05. The full shipping is list available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]

Actor DFE Hunter Killer Foil Cvr, $14.99
Actor Top Cow Top 5 Starter Set, $14.95
Worm 25 Creator Sgn Ed, $10.00

A.C.T.O.R.'s a great organization, so it's a real shame some of the comics they have to sell to raise money. Lemonade from lemons, I guess, yes?

David Shepherds Song Vol 1 TPB, $8.99
Hyperactives #0 (Of 5), $0.75
Lethal Instinct #5 (Of 6), $2.99
XIII #5, $2.99

Anyone think Mike S. Miller's theme song right now is "I'm Still Standing"? Oh no, wait. Elton John is gay. Never mind. I still have April 2006 in the "When will Alias collapse?" pool.

Sundown #3 (Of 3), $2.95

Nothing spectacular here, but it's been a solid read.

Sabrina Vol 2 #72, $2.25

Yay, Tania!

Jason X Sp Leather Cvr #1, $19.99
Lady Death 2005 Bikini Sp Leather Cvr, $24.99
Nightmare On Elm St Paranoid Leather Cvr #1 (Of 3), $19.99

LEATHER covers? WTF!?!

Conan #23, $2.99

I really hope Tim Truman can keep this running along at the same high level Busiek's been able to.

Batgirl #71, $2.50
Infinite Crisis #3 (Of 7), $3.99

Was IC #3 delayed? Because with the release of the One Year Later solicits, I've lost almost all interest in the setup and just want to get there already.

GI Joe Snake-Eyes Declassified #5 (Of 6), $2.95

Good fun. Shut up!

Intimidators #1, $3.50
Shadowhawk #8, $3.50

Checking out the Intimidators solely because the newly engaged Neil Kleid is writing it, though the previews I've seen haven't exactly piqued my interest. Shadowhawk's new artist/direction left me extremely underwhelmed and #7 has sunk to the bottom of my to-read pile. Did Image raise prices across the board, or is $3.50 a Shadowline thing?

Captain America #13, $2.99
Spider-Woman Origin #1 (Of 5), $2.99
X-Men Deadly Genesis #2 (Of 6), $3.50

Whatever interest I might have had in Spider-Woman, and it was minimal at best, faded thanks to the Luna Brothers' art which just doesn't work for me, especially not on straight superhero books. What's with all the X-books I'm reading lately? Does that mean House of M worked?

Elks Run #4, $2.99
Gatesville Company #2, $2.99
Grimoire #7, $2.99
Lonebow #1, $4.99
Mutation #3, $2.99
Season Of The Reaper Winter #1 (Of 3), $2.99
Shotgun Wedding #1, $2.99

Does anyone else look at this lineup and see it in a completely different light now? Three new series debuting, and several delayed issues of fledgling series finally coming out doesn't exactly inspire confidence in Speakeasy's long-term viability. I'm sticking with Elk's Run and The Grimoire, but I'm admittedly hesitant to try anything new as I have no interest in reading comic books online.

Write Now #11, $5.95

Anyone else reading this? I like it a lot.

19 December 2005

LINK: Even More on Speakeasy

Chuck Saterlee pulls the curtain back a bit further over on the Bendis Board thread that started it all. I'm quoting it in its entirety as I wouldn't be surprised if he was asked/made to delete it at some point, as it airs what could charitably be called dirty laundry.

My name is Chuck Satterlee and I have/had two books with Speakeasy. The titles are SMOKE & MIRROR and OF BITTER SOULS.

My association with Speakeasy has been decent on a personal level and disastrous on a professional level.

To start, I have never had a personal problem with Fortier or anyone else, but I am very dissapointed in the way the books were managed.

I'll just lay it all on the line.

To start, I (as a creator) helped to pay for a Speakeasy Comics Party in San Diego. I paid $750.00 for that. I was the person responsible for actually getting them some banners through my friends who had the abilility to make them. You see, one of the first things that pissed me off about Speakeasy was their unprofessional presence in San Diego. The booth was a hodge podge of organization and without MY banner, they would not have even had a Speakeasy logo...IN SAN DIEGO!!!!!!!!!!! Also, I worked with the people who produce the television show Entourage on HBO to get a huge Speakeasy banner (made by my friends) shown in the episode where the Entourage guys go to Comic-Con. Adam had nothing to do with that past signing a release. Let's move on to Chicago. They used the banners from the Entourage shoot and they still do. I also tirelessly stated in interviews that I was happy and I pushed Speakeasy and Speakeasy titles.

Also, my group was a well oiled machine. We turned in projects on time but that just didn't seem to matter. The books still found a way to come out late. That is damn frustrating and I never received a acceptable answer for the delays. One time, when I spoke to a senior management person at Speakeasy, he told me that SMOKE & MIRROR #2 had "fallen off a truck"...yeah...he really said that. In San Diego, another senior managemnet member of the Speakeasy team told me to keep a look-out because he was expecting "Harvey Weinstein" of Miramax fame...really. Since that, I have taken everything they say with a grain of salt and never let on that I had frustrations. I simply started to look for another publisher.

Also, I am still trying to figure out what we get for our fees.

We have to spend a certain amount on a fee. Then we are also charged for printing and another amount for the ad in Previews (which nobody reads anyway for the most part). The fee is my biggest question mark.

I did the following:

I marketed my books at my expense.
I procured all of my own interviews (except one for silverbulletcomics).
I paid my own talent. (artists, etc...)
I had my book pre-pressed
I paid my own travel expenses
I paid for Speakeasy ( a good percentage) parties
I procured banners for them
I delivered my books on time

Let me also explain another point...

I also allowed them to print ads for their company owned books in the back of my books. I say allowed because, if I am paying for printing...which I am...then ALL of the content is my discretion. So...I allowed them to print ads for their books in my books. I must state that I have absolutely no problem with other creator owned books in my books, but the company owned stuff I have a problem with. They purposefully print larger ads for their books in Previews and I have my suspicions about who pays for that. But since I can not prove anything, I will not state who I think is paying for it.

Here is what I got for the fee

Late shipments

Almost non-existent accounting (even after several requests)

No marketing support

Almost non-existent communication (at one point, I had a serious question and I had to wait for almost three weeks for a call back....now I am a little slow, but if I am doing two books per month, that adds up to $3500 per month in feees. That would make me a client. That would qualify me for a call back I would think in a more timely manner...say...two weeks.)

No proofs or blue-lines (I have never seen a bok before it was printed. I said I trusted them before and when I was naieve. However, after issue 1 of Smoke & Mirror came out with the credits on the inside back cover and an ad on the inside front cover, I got a little pissed off. I thought we could at least count on them to look at a proof, look at the original file and make a f'ing determination if it looked the same. I was dead wrong. I can not tell you how many printing errors there have beeen in Speakeasy books. It ius a major reason for late shipments. Rocketo #2 had an upside down back cover and a senior member of the staff told him that "nobody would notice" but Frank insisted on the reprinting.

All of this said, I have had financing problems but I fixed them now. I have been shopping for another publisher and I found one. In fact, I am very happy at my new place and I am not the only Speakeasy creator to jump. I can tell you that I know of four to five others who are planning to jump to other publishers. I can not say who I am jumping to yet, but I will after it is safer to do so.

I will add that, while Norm Breyfogle is not a gigantic name anymore, he is still a household name in this industry. He is the quintessential Batman artists for a lot of guys and gals. A good bunch of us came up reading Breyfogle and GRant's Bat stories. Norm is my partner for Of Bitter Souls. They had a household name and they did nothing to make that work to their advantage.

Their contract, which I am not allowed to divuldge due to a NDA I signed, has many stated duties that they are supposed to do as a explanation for their fee. They have, at last count, been in breach (IMO) of almost 11 of these duties.

I beleieve in my heart that Speakeasy management is not made up of bad people. I also believe that the problems that have arisen in Speakeasy have made Speakeasy management a bit on the desperate side and good...or bad...desperity can bring out the worst in some people.

My books will go on. I am happy about that. I will be leaving Speakeasy with a wealth of wisdom I did not have prior to our time together. For that, I am thankful. I do wish that nothing would have gone wrong and I would have been publishing with them for a long time, but maybe the education is worth the trouble. The books have also afforded me the ability to get ntoiced by other editors at the big two.

When I shopped my books around, I did stop by IMage where they were flattly rejected by Erik Larsen. He was not shy about his rejection either. I just want to close with something.

A lot of people knock Erik Larsen. I don't. He personally did not like my books and he told me so. He didn't say I could never pitch again. He simply did not like the books I offered at the time. I must say that he is at the very least...an honest guy. A creator knows where he stands with an Erik Larsen. I feel as if I have been less fortunate in that department with Speakeasy. I just can honestly say I have no idea what they are ever up to.

In closing, let me also say that I never found Marshall Dillon at Speakeasy to be anything other than an honest, hard working guy. Again, I do not think that the Speakeasy upper management were born bad, I just think the circumstances have created some desperity.

Oh yeah, they sent me extra books to sell, which I intend to pay for, once everything is settled.
I can't imagine Adam Fortier is thrilled with the amount of attention this story is getting, as everybody seems to be blogging about it, and several creators have come out expressing various levels of displeasure with the new policy, as well as their overall experiences with the fledgling publisher. Satterlee, though, is the most damning so far, getting as specific as I've ever seen someone get in a public forum, seemingly inching right up to the line of what might violate his NDA.

For my article, I asked Fortier a few questions about their Creator Services, as posted on their web site, but due to space considerations, was only able to fit one of them in, about their direct and mass-market penetration. Here's the other two, plus one about how he feels they compare to Image:

ME: Let's break down some of the statements you make in your "Creator Services", as presented on your web site.

"Through our Printer contacts and relationships, signing on with Speakeasy can save you incredible and quantifiable amounts of money on printing and pre-press, allowing you a bigger and better return on your project."

Define "quantifiable" for me. ie: If I self-publish a 32-page, full-color comic and print 5,000 copies for, say, $1.50/copy, how much are you going to save me? How has your ability to save money on printing been affected by the unexpected developments with Lamppost that delayed several of your titles? Are you getting as good a deal with Quebecor? Did the switch have anything to do with the new cutoff policy?

FORTIER: It's not a hard and fast number, it will change from month to month, based upon the last prices charged, etc. I'll save different amounts for different people, depending upon what they were last charged. That's not to say we guarantee anything, simply that we strive for it, and we believe that we can, on average, save people money. For Lamppost and Quebecor, it's had an effect on our schedule, but these aren't the only printers that we talk to , nor the only ones that we use. It's about always being on the lookout for a new opportunity, but recognizing when reliability means something as well. Printing was an issue in regards to cutoff policy, as printers in general were requesting larger minimum print runs as a result of dwindling profits.

One thing to note in regards to printers, especially Canadian (as a number of comic book printers are) is that in the last two years (or maybe three) the the US dollar went from being worth 1.60 Canadian dollars to recently 1.15 Canadian dollars. This has a serious detrimental effect on profits, and means that many printers can no longer look at publishing comic books in the same light.

ME: "From the writing of the product solicitation, to securing contests promoting the creators and the project (both online and in print), interviews promoting the creators and the project (both online and in print), creating awareness and support at the retail level, and more, Speakeasy is with you every step of the way, developing your brand, and insuring success."

Give me three examples of specific marketing efforts Speakeasy has successfully undertaken on behalf of a creator-owned project. Were the costs for these efforts included in Speakeasy's fee, or is this an optional service for additional cost?

FORTIER: The costs for these are included in the fee, not additional. As for examples, we make calls to numerous retailers (and I mean literally hundreds) to discuss upcoming projects, we talk to online sources for interviews, set up online advertising, promotions through diamond, etc. We try to do as much as we can with each book, but also note to the creator that it's important they spread the good word themselves as well.

Also, we simply cannot guarantee coverage. I can't guarantee that you'll do an interview at a certain time with a certain creator, it's ultimately up to you. Same thing with contests, and ultimately ordering. The goal with publishing is to try to do as much as possible so that some of it goes through. You cross your fingers and hope that the guys on the other end of the e-mail dig things as much as you do.

ME: Besides their premier publisher status, if a creator has the opportunity to publish a project with Speakeasy and Image, why should they go with Speakeasy?

FORTIER: It mostly comes down to individual taste. I will freely admit that there are things you get from Image that you can't get from us, but we handle projects differently than they do, and sometimes that matters more than the other things. By and large we're different from Image, and there aren't a whole lot of comparisons to make either way. If you want to know why people go with who they do, it's most likely best to ask them yourself. I'm a salesman, so I'm always going to want people to sign with me, so I just might be a little biased.
Speaking of biased, Rich Johnston, who "broke" the original story last week in his rumor column, has been hitting a few of the message boards and blogs where the situation is being discussed, seemingly running interference for Speakeasy, defending the change in policy and continuing to put a postive spin on the whole situation. He's also solicited "hard questions" to put to Fortier in the aforementioned Bendis thread, so it'll be interesting to see what his follow-up is this week as he certainly can't ignore the story now.

In the end, he's slyly wrung a bit of promotion for his own Speakeasy project, The Flying Friar, a one-shot graphic novella that won't have to worry about subsequent issues going the online-only route. Be interested to know what his pre-order numbers were/are and whether or not he'll have to front the printing costs for it, or if his pitchman duties balance the books.

Stay tuned...

Buzzscope Reviews: 12/14/05

This week, I go the capsule/quickee route on AMELIA RULES! #16, DMZ #2, SON OF M #1 and X-FACTOR #1, while others take on MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #21, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ONE PAGE FILLER MAN and more. Check it out.

Also, be sure to check out Ronée's interview with Chris Moreno, up-and-coming artist of Dracula vs. King Arthur and, one of my favorites, Monkey In A Wagon Vs. Lemur On A Big Wheel.

Finally, keep in mind that we're adding comics content almost every day, so be sure to hit the Comics section when you visit, not just the main page, so you don't miss out on any of the goodies we're doling out.

16 December 2005

COMMENT: Who Cares About Journalism?

If I wasn't such a cynical bastard, and better at taking compliments, this post might've been something more self-congratulatory, talking about how well-received yesterday's Speakeasy article has been, with the word "journalism" being thrown around by many.

But I am a cynical bastard, and I'd much rather poke than preen, so man the battle stations, because I'm about to bitch a little bit here in an attempt to flush some ideas out of my head and, hopefully, generate a little discussion with some of you reading along.

The Comics Journal recently conducted something of an unscientific survey, to put it kindly, of several comics-related web sites, judging them on their journalistic merits, or lack thereof. It was somewhat self-prophetically titled "Online Comics journalism: Does It Exist?", perhaps tipping their hand on the expected answer which, of course, was more or less no, it doesn't. (Not sure if the lower case "j"ournalism was a typo or subtle snark, but considering the source, I'd lean towards the latter.)

The survey itself is incredibly flawed, examining the content of seven different comics-oriented web sites - Comicon.com's Rick Veitch, The Pulse's Jen Contino, Lying in the Gutters' Rich Johnston, The Comics Reporter (and The Pulse)'s Tom Spurgeon, The Beat's Heidi MacDonald, ICv2's Milton Griepp, Newsarama's Matt Brady and The Comic Wire's Jonah Weiland - over the course of a mere two-month period (2 Aug - 2 Oct 2005), and concluding that, out of 2,233 total articles, only THREE qualified as journalism.

Here's what we asked of a story in order to be considered journalism on our chart: 1) It should be about a newsworthy topic or issue -- not just selling a product or promoting a company. 2) The reporter should have asked questions of people, getting multiple perspectives on the story. 3) The sources of the story's perspectives and information should be identified. 4) The story should consider the context and implications of the information being reported and reflect the reporter's research into the story's background. Minimum standards, one would think, but after two months of scouring the Web for instances that qualified, the sad results are before us.
Despite the obvious bias going into the survey, and ignoring the fact that none of those surveyed personally lay claim to the role of "journalist", the summary makes some excellent, if occasionally, "no, duh!", points. It doesn't take long for anyone who's ever read a newspaper, or Time magazine, or watched 60 Minutes, to realize that most (all?) comics sites fall into two categories, promotional and fanzine, with the former dominated by breathless press releases and PR-style interviews with creators, the latter by reviews and commentary by wannabe-creators with below-average non-fiction writing skills.

And yes, before you ask, I do consider Buzzscope to have one foot in each of those categories, for the most part, along with most of the usual suspects TCJ surveyed. The lone exception, IMO, is Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter, the closest thing to comics journalism that I'm aware of on the internet. If he had the advertising support NEWSarama has, and another equally talented contributor or two, TCR could easily be comics' NY Times.

The response to yesterday's article reminds me a bit of how minorities often tend to be more accepting of a lesser quality product made by one of their own, simply happy to have something they can relate to. (ie: UPN comedies, Wayans brothers' movies, Hudlin's Black Panther, etc.) Because there's such a lack of real journalism in the comics industry, anything resembling it becomes worthy of praise. Not to diminish the effort I put into the article, nor the contributions of those who spoke with me for it, but if there was more of that type of reporting on NEWSarama, CBR and The Pulse, it would have been one of several posted, definitely not the first, and likely nowhere near the best one.

Thing is, no one really wants comics journalism. (Same way no one really wants comics kids can read.) Sure, there's a passionate minority that calls for these things on a pretty regular basis, but most of those people have their own blogs where they write the very things they're looking to read, and, most importantly, they do it on their own schedule, for their own pleasure and they're doing it for free.

That Speakeasy article took me, roughly, 4 hours to write, plus another 30 minutes or so to draft the questions I emailed each of the people who contributed to it. Add another 2-3 hours of research, and you've got a full workday. An unpaid workday at that. All for one 4,200-word article!

And therein lies the problem.

Journalism - real, legitimate journalism - takes work. Hard work. And I already have a full-time job, plus a wife and two kids. I'm guessing the majority of the people writing about comics online these days are in similar circumstances, and few of them are getting paid for their extracurricular writing. In my case, the few paying outlets for comics writing (print or online, if there are, in fact, any such places) don't interest me in the least, so I do what I do purely out of passion. (Hear that, Lar?)

To be honest, the Speakeasy thing struck a nerve because I'm a huge fan of Elk's Run, and had thought Speakeasy was the most likely new indie to succeed, so when I saw the Bendis Board thread I referred to in the article, I knew I had to write something about it because I suspected no one else would. None of the major sites, at least. And even then, not until after Adam Fortier sent out a press release, and whatever additional coverage it received, if any, would have likely been only from his perspective.

Interestingly, I didn't feel the same passion when Alias was imploding, content to post a few snarky comments on various message boards and blogs, and be glad that my two favorite series of theirs had found new homes. Even when one of our contributors at Buzzscope hinted she might have a story on them, and someone to speak on the record, I pooh-poohed the story as not being newsworthy.

And that is definitely not journalism. (Theoretically speaking. In the real world, stories like that are killed all the time.)

So what the hell is my point here, now that I've rambled on and forgotten where I was intending to go with this?

Someone, whom I'll let identify himself if he so wishes, suggested in response to the Speakeasy article: "This is the future of Buzzscope under your reign of terror I think, make enemies until you make friends, and be honest about it. There are plenty of review sites out there, but comic journalism is a joke, and you have the power to make it not (aside from the few who we know do a good job otherwise) so you should take the rare advantage of this that you can."

This, on the heels of Warren Ellis' comment on The Engine: "That's a strong piece. If nothing else, I'm hoping that this leads to a more muscular journalism from Buzzscope."

While I totally agree with both of them, I'm not sure that Buzzscope is the place for what they're looking for. I'm definitely making every effort to develop more varied content for the site, with columnists who are doing more than just pimping their next book, offering unique perspectives on the industry and their own experience; and features that avoid simply offering a PR platform to whomever's willing to use it. I'm trying to enlarge our tent and draw more indie fans and more discerning superhero fans into it, with the hope of, at some point, developing a critical mass where Buzzscope (PopCultureShock) becomes a respected outlet for real news and community, able to shine a spotlight on areas of the industry most of the other sites either ignore completely or throw the occasional crumb.

I don't want Buzzscope to be like NEWSarama or CBR or any of the other sites. I'm aiming higher than that.

But journalism? As much as I wish we could run at least one article a week like the Speakeasy piece, a) I don't think there's a significant audience for it, and b) I don't think the industry has the kind of depth necessary to justify such coverage on a regular basis. Of course, those are two things I would be ecstatic to be wrong about!

If I were starting a site from scratch, as opposed to revamping one while respecting its origins and existing audience, I think I could really pull off the kind of Wizard/TCJ hybrid many people have claimed they'd like to see. Hell, I believe I could pull it off in print, if Lo-Fi hasn't already killed the interest in and viability of such a thing! The writers capable of writing the types of features and reviews needed for it are out there, but to get them to do it on a regular basis requires the one thing I don't have: $$$$$

That's my two cents. What do you think?

15 December 2005

Buzzscope: Speakeasy Shakes Things Up

In the Scope: Speakeasy Shakes Things Up
Diamond’s stricter policy on pre-orders causing ripples throughout the industry

"The independent comic books are just not selling well right now (look at many peoples’ sales)," [Speakeasy publisher, Adam] Fortier conceded. "Printers are changing their policies, Diamond is changing their policies; it means we have to think outside the box and offer alternatives."
Second only to my Charlie Huston interview and tagging Rich Watson for a column as my favorite contribution to Buzzscope to-date, though it may be a tad bit rambly as it all came together really late last night and it's self-edited, rarely a good thing. Let me know what you think, here and/or there.

14 December 2005

COMMENT: One Year Later Changes

DC's full slate of "One Year Later" changes has been announced, and there's a few series that might have a shot at getting back on my pull list.

BATMAN #651 New creative team! Written by James Robinson Art by Don Kramer & Keith Champagne Cover by Simone Bianchi
DETECTIVE COMICS #817 New creative team! Written by James Robinson Art by Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke Cover by Simone Bianchi
This might get me back, especially if it's Jason Todd under the cowl!

ROBIN #148 New creative team! Written by Adam Beechen Art by Karl Kerschl Cover by Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
This became unreadable after War Games, so I'm hoping to be able to add it back to my pull list.

TEEN TITANS #34 New roster of heroes! Written by Geoff Johns Art and cover by Tony Daniel & Sandra Hope Variant cover by Ed Benes
Looking forward to reading this again, too, though I was hoping Johns would move on and let someone else take it over. Scott Beatty would be perfect on this, I think. Hopefully Son of Vulcan joins the team, as hinted at in his grossly underrated mini-series.

Pull List Review: December 2005 (Part II)

Here's what I'm currently buying on a regular basis, and, in some cases, why. (Part I of this roundup is here, and here's where things stood back in June.) "+" / "-" / "*" equal the change, if any, in my opinion since then.

Johnny Raygun Quarterly
Teen Titans with a Green Lantern Corps sping, as done by guys actually having fun with the concept. They have a big Savage Dragon crossover coming up, which doesn't excite me in the least, but will hopefully raise its profile a bit.

Jonah Hex
I apparently am a closet Western fan. Two issues in, though, and I'm already on the fence.

Jova's Harvest

An odd but unexpectedly intriguing title. It's a provocative spin on the war between heaven and hell, told completely in rhyme and with an interesting sense of humor.

This might actually be off the list as of later today, when #2 decides if Wood's angsty white liberal hipster vibe is too much for me to stomach.

Only two issues left. :-(

Monkey In A Wagon Vs. Lemure On A Big Wheel
One of the most pure fun comics I've read this year, it lands at its new home (Silent Devil) sometime early next year, I believe.

Nat Turner
#1 was one of the most powerful single issues I've ever read, and #2 was similarly provocative. The collected edition of this will surely rank as one of the best graphic novels ever. Baker has outdone himself.

New Thunderbolts
Move over New Avengers, this is a team book that remembers how its done!

NYC Mech: Beta Love
Love story, crime drama, straight-up brass knuckle noir – NYC Mech packs it all into one of the most visually appealing comics I’ve ever seen.

The Pact
This was a fun little Image Team-Up mini-series, but it's been so long since an issue came out, I tend to forget it's on my pull list.

The Perhapanauts
Men in Black meets The Munsters? Kinda sorta. First issue was fun, and the art's purty.

Powers Vol 2
I think I still like this series, but I'm not positive anymore. Either way, I'm pretty sure I'm about to switch it to wait for the trade mode.

I like the Jenkins/Ramos combo, but I'm losing interest in this. I'll finish buying it and then read them straight through.


Added purely on Rich Watson's recommendation.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch
In support of, and curiosity about, Tania Del Rio.

Season Of The Witch
Nitz' Heaven's Devils was the first Image title I picked up in years (quite possibly ever, since by the time they launched, I was pretty much out of comics) and it was a solid read. This series is, so far, a lot better.

Secret Voice
Even when I haven't liked something from AdHouse, I've usually appreciated it. Quirky and unique as this is, I realy liked it.

Secret War
Shut up. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I have completist tendencies.

She-Hulk Vol 2
Sampling here, but I may stick around for a while as I like the light-heartedness of it.

Silent Dragon
Andy Diggle rocks my world.

Not particularly loving this one, but it's only three issues long, so what the hell?

Super Crazy TNT Blast
This was surprisingly fun, though I suspect it will shortly be online only, or at another publisher.

The Surrogates

Got off to a nice start, but I think I'm going to wait til the end to actually read it all.


Sick, but in a good way. (Good meaning entertaining, really.) Anything that includes a cult whose members cut off their heads to follow their hearts has to be good! And, of course, there's the robot porn.

I loved the Madrox mini-series, and this is effectively its 6th issue.

X-Men And Power Pack
Who just cringed here? Cynical bastards. This is a fun mini-series. Fun. Remember that feeling?

Young Avengers
I admit I was one of those making the Teen Titans jokes, negative comparisons and generally trashing the OC when this was first announced, but Heinberg has totally won me over here. Still not watching the OC, though.

13 December 2005

On The Shelves: 12/14/05

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

It's the home stretch for 2005! My weekly look at select comic books being released tomorrow, 12/14/05. The full shipping is list available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]


Where the hell is the next 15 Minutes?!?!

Elvira #151, $2.50

Soon to be direct order only? Considering they're about to get dumped by Diamond, you'd think they'd invest some money into their web site and bring it into the 21st Century. At least the e-commerce portion, which presently makes it ridiculously difficult to place an order. Also, almost none of their comics are available in trade form!

Batman Gotham County Line #3 (Of 3), $5.99
DMZ #2, $2.99

That's not a good sign when my DC pulls only include two comics that I'm buying reluctantly.

GI Joe Sigma 6 #1, $2.95

Bought this a week or two ago, and reviewed it in the roundup. Fun stuff!

Fear Agent #2, $2.99
Grounded #4 (Of 6), $2.99

This is the correctly printed Fear Agent #2, which I won't be exchanging my misprint of. Let someone new discover this fun new series.

New Thunderbolts #16, $2.99
Omega The Unknown Classic TPB, $29.99
Secret War Book Five (Of 5), $3.99
Son Of M #1 (Of 6), $2.99
X-Factor #1, $2.99

New Thunderbolts is officially added to my pull list, replacing New Avengers. Read advance copies of Son of M and X-Factor, both of which were pretty good; the former, unexpectedly so, and a nice alternative for Spider-Man fans who aren't feeling "The Other" and its apparent skipping over of Peter's little House of M experience. I don't really care about the conclusion to Secret War, but it's a 5-issue mini and I can't not be a completist there. Omega goes on the wish list as I vaguely remember enjoying it as a kid and I'm curious. Not $30 worth of curious, though.

Free Fall #1 (Of 3), $3.99
Horrorama Vol 1 GN, $13.90
Jenna #1 (Of 3), $3.95
Narwain Preview David Mack Cvr, $2.49
Narwain Preview Jay Anacleto Cvr, $2.49
Power And Glory Vol 1 GN (Of 3), $7.49
Rash #1 (Of 2), $3.95
Wall After Wall GN, $6.49

"Hey, Alias' multiple title launch went so well earlier this year, let's try the same approach!" Are these on time, at least?

Local #2 (Of 12), $2.99

Do or die issue, as I liked the first one, but the overall concept, in Brian Wood's hands, concerns me. I'm thinking I simply don't like his voice, that angsty white hipster liberal thing that's always irked me. Between that, and his didactic political themes, why do I continue to pick his stuff up? Because the internet tells me to!

Amelia Rules #16, $2.95

Amelia truly does rule! And after last issue's cliffhanger, this goes straight to the top of my read pile tonight. Hell, I might even read it right in the store.

Atomika #5 (Of 12), $2.99

Hunh? Speakeasy? Not Mercury? WTF? I'm so confused about the status of this series.

Town O Crazies Vol 3 #1, $6.95

Best Title of the Week!

Enslaved By The Dragon Vol 1 GN, $12.95

Isn't "yaoi" the term for the boy on boy manga genre? Is so, this might share best title of the week!

12 December 2005

Buzzscope Reviews: 12/7/05

This week, I go the capsule/quickee route on GOTHAM CENTRAL #38, NYC MECH: BETA LOVE #4 and VAISTRON #2 (with a shout-out to NAT TURNER #2), plus others take on MARVEL ZOMBIES #1, OPTIC NERVE #10 and more. Check it out.

Also, be sure to check out our GEEK GIFTS 2005 feature, where we spotlight some of "the best holiday treats for you, or the geek you love." It's not just comics.

Finally, keep in mind that we're adding comics content almost every day, so be sure to hit the Comics section when you visit, not just the main page, so you don't miss out on any of the goodies we're doling out.

11 December 2005

Pull List Review: December 2005 (Part I)

Here's what I'm currently buying on a regular basis, and, in some cases, why. (And here's where things stood back in June.) "+" / "-" / "*" equal the change, if any, in my opinion since then.

100 Girls *
Only a couple of issues since June but pulled off a wire-to-wire run on my Top 10 for 2005.

15 Minutes *
Haven't seen another issue since I first discovered the series back in April, but unlike, say, Secret War, I'm still looking forward to it.

Action Philosophers! *
Always fun, but I suspect it doesn't have terribly long legs. I give it another 3 issues before it exhausts the concept and is, hopefully, put to bed while it's still on top.

Adventures Of Bioboy +
A new addition to the list, silly four-color fun with lovely, pre-NYC Mech Andy MacDonald art.

All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder *
It's "the goddamn Batman!", and despite how ridiculously over-the-top it's been, I'm still hopeful that Miller has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Amelia Rules: Superheroes +
I looooove Amelia! Few comics have ever brought a sincere tear to my eye, and this all-ages wonder has done it several times. Another Top 10 for 2005 series. Someone at Image needs to take notice and publish the TPBs for this.

Astro City: The Dark Age *
Kurt Busiek's throwback world of superheroes in 70s has been an entertaining read.

The Atheist -
This series has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it's ridiculously slow to publish. And Image wonders why they can't escape their old, um, image.

Atomika -
Where, oh where, has Atomika gone? I realized a few weeks back that I'm still reading this only because Dabb's a pretty cool guy, but by the time the next issue ships, that might not be enough to keep my attention.

Batgirl -
It's still my second favorite Bat-book, but considering I've dropped all of the others and am desperately hoping One Year Later gives me a reason to care again, that's not saying much.

Batman And The Monster Men +
If Matt Wagner were a bigger fan favorite, this could have been the kickoff arc for All Star Batman.

Batman: Gotham County Line -
Batman in a jetpack became more and more ridiculous every time I thought about it.

Black Heart Irregulars +
For all of its amatuerish faults, this Losers-lite indie has a lot of potential.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her -
Not nearly as strong as the first mini, with more Daredevil than I'm interested in.

Captain America *
Can't believe I'm still enjoying a Captain America comic book. But I am.

Conan And The Demons Of Khitai
I'm grouping these purely because I've become a fan of the character and will now pick up all of the spinoffs. Consistently entertaining.

Corporate Ninja *
As I recall, the first issue was silly fun. I don't recall much, though, so that's not a good sign.

Daredevil *
To be honest, I only stuck around for this arc (after checking it out for the first time with the lame-ending Decalogue arc) because I wanted to know where things stood when Brubaker/Lark take over, at which point I expect to really like it.

Defenders -
Still on the list only because it's a mini and I'm curious enough to see how it ends, but the Giffen/DeMatteis schtick is tired.

First issue left me unimpressed but mildly intrigued. We'll see if it's still on the list next June.

El Gato Negro City -
First issue was fun, but there's been nothing since... Not good.

Elk's Run +
Another Top 10 for 2005 series, it's been a little delayed, too. Trend or mirage?

Elsinore -
Has this found a home yet? Because while I like it, another month or two without at least hearing someone's picked it up might kill my enthusiasm for it.

Ex Machina *
Settled into an unremarkable groove that's still entertaining, but rather unremarkable.

The Expatriate +
Another late-shipping series, this one still has me wondering "WTF?" In a good way.

Fear Agent +
This caught me by surprise, but the first two issues have been great fun.

Fell +
Ellis and Templesmith are doing something special here. Fossen breaks it down nicely.

G.I. Joe: America's Elite
G.I. Joe: Sigma 6
G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes: Declassified
If I'm killing comics, so be it. These are extremely entertaining comics. Haters!

Gotham Central -
The more I think about it, the more I'm glad they're putting this one down. It's the kind of thing that tends to go bad quickly, and the plot-hammered beginning of this final arc looks like it may have been that moment.

The Grimoire *
Who'da thunk this would still rank as one of Speakeasy's best series? 'cause it is.

Grounded -
Still reads a little choppily, but what's good about it is very good. Curious to see how it reads straight through.

Hero @ Large -
Love the art, but the story hasn't really grabbed me yet, and now it seems like it's cancelled as of #4.

Alan Moore's Hypothetical Lizard Wraparound Cover -
Going the "do-it-yourself" wait for the trade route, stockpiling the issues until the mini is complete because it's a dense read and I never remember what's happening month-to-month. Assuming it actually came out on a monthly basis, that is.

Infinite Crisis George Perez Cover -
Mainly reading this because I "have to", as it's by-the-numbers feel leaves me hot and cold.

Part II coming another time, as I'm getting antsy over how big this damn list is and am ready to get out the axe. Here's what's coming up:

Johnny Raygun Quarterly
Jonah Hex
Jova's Harvest
Monkey In A Wagon Vs. Lemure On A Big Wheel
Nat Turner
New Thunderbolts
NYC Mech: Beta Love
Powers Vol 2
Sabrina The Teenage Witch
Season Of The Witch
Secret Voice
Secret War
She-Hulk Vol 2
Shonen Jump
Silent Dragon
Super Crazy TNT Blast
X-Men And Power Pack
Young Avengers

09 December 2005

LINK: YACB's Second Annual CBLDF Fund Drive

David Carter of Yet Another Comics Blog (and the YACB Fantasy League where my Moon Knights have had a more pathetic season than my NY Jets) is holding his Second Annual CBLDF Fund Drive. In short: "For the period between now and December 24, if 10 people join as [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund] members at the $25 level (or higher) I will donate $250 to CBLDF."

It's a great organization, and this year, he's not even requiring that you be a new member, which I was last year when I joined during his inaugural Fund Drive.

$25 to a worthy cause? That's two Marvel/DC TPBs you were waiting for that you've probably lost interest in by now. Do the right thing!

08 December 2005

LINK: Iron Chef! WS vs Aspen, Main Event!!!

From the Wildstorm blog, Sun of Gelatometti:

That's right guys it's on, and going down [today], Thursday, December 8th, at 2:00pm pst! The one you guys have all been waiting for, JIM LEE vs MICHAEL TURNER! The battles up until have been hot and heated, here are the past results!

Round 1 - Alé Garza vs Marcus To
Winner: Garza!

Round 2 - Carlos D'anda vs Koi Turnbull
Winner: Turnbull!

Round 3 - Richard Friend vs Micah Gunell
Winner: Friend!

Wildstorm goes into the final round with a slight edge, but with the strength of tomorrows two competitors it could go either way! STAY TUNED!!!
No word yet on what they're drawing, but my money's on Jim Lee.

06 December 2005

On the Shelves: 12/7/05

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

It's the home stretch for 2005! My weekly look at select comic books being released tomorrow, 12/7/05. The full shipping is list available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]

Demo Collection TPB, $19.95

Not to beat a dead horse but... [kick]

Vaistron #2, $2.95

Andrew Dabb is a very sick man, but the first issue, which I was sure wasn't going to be up my alley, was kind of intriguing, so I'm not sure what that says about me...

Conan & The Demons Of Khitai #3 (Of 4), $2.99
Penny Arcade 1X 25 Cents, $0.25

I've heard good things about this Penny Arcade, but know nothing about it. $0.25 issues are smart marketing.

Batman And The Monster Men #2 (Of 6), $2.99
Gotham Central #38, $2.50
Jonah Hex #2, $2.99
Team Zero #1 (Of 6), $2.99
Vimanarama TPB, $12.99

After buying Batman #647 last week only for the Vs. card inserted in it, and finding the story therein to be a decent read (relative to my extremely low expectations), I must balance the scales by recommending Batman And The Monster Men #2 to all who are reading this. #1 was everything All Star Bat... should have been, if it were actually about Batman and not Robin. No idea what this Team Zero is, but Vinamarama was an entertaining read -- the first Morrison I really liked -- and probably works better in trade format.

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Exile Seeley Cvr A #2 (Of 3), $4.95
GI Joe Americas Elite #6, $4.50

Licenses I love.

Karney Vol 1 TPB, $19.99

I won't do the $3.99 floppies (actually, another problem I have with IDW's comics is they're NOT floppy; I hate those stiff covers of theirs) but I'd consider a trade and saw some decent writeups on this one. Anyone out there read it?

Fell 2nd Prtg #1, $1.99
Fell 2nd Prtg #2, $1.99

Looking Glass Wars Hatter M #1 (Of 4), $3.99
Nyc Mech Beta Love #4, $2.99
Spawn #151, $2.95
Walking Dead Script Book #1, $3.99

If you're not reading Fell, you're wrong. Pick up the reprints of the first two issues and get onboard. I had a review copy of Hatter M #1, which I found moderately entertaining, but The Pickytarian, who reviewed it for Buzzscope when I couldn't get to it, was less impressed with it. Spawn #150 was a nonsensical mess with some of the ugliest, indecipherable art this side of Wolverine: The End, so I'm off that bandwagon pretty quickly. Kirkman's really milking his 15 minutes, isn't he? Good for him!

Nat Turner #2 (Of 4), $3.00

Thought I'd missed this, and went through my pile of recent comics looking for it, trying to decide whether or not it should make my Best of 2005 list. I have no doubt that the collected edition will land it on my 2006 list.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3, $2.99
Powers #15, $2.95
Spider-Man Black Cat Evil That Men Do #4 (Of 6), $2.99

Despite Dan's bringing me up to speed last week with his coverage of the Clone Saga and speculation on its tie-in to "The Other: Evolve or Die", I'm still not interested. And I still think this was a really dumb way to launch his third ongoing series, one I might have checked out otherwise. Kevin Smith returns to comics, finally, and I still find it funny that when I first started buying comics again, back in 2003, I picked up the first three issues thinking they were new. Silly rabbit.

Caveman Robot #1, $2.50

Best Title of the Week. I might even give this one a look out of curiousity.

Surrogates #3 (Of 5), $2.95

I liked the first issue a lot, but #2 is buried somewhere under my to-read pile. Have a feeling I just might wait until it's done and read them all straight through. Do-it-yourself trades!

Street Fighter II #1 Alvin Lee Cvr A, $3.95
Street Fighter II #1 Ed Mcguinness Cvr B, $3.95

Considering the amount of GI Joe on my pull list, I'm probably a hypocrite for saying this, but why is this being published? Who buys it?

Shonen Jump Jan 06 #37, $4.99

NOTE TO SELF: Buy the damn thing this week!

Inquest Gamer #129, $4.99

I caved last week, and bought a copy of the last issue because of a comment that said Scrye was a bit too focused on collecting cards vs. playing them. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it the way I used to enjoy Wizard, before I knew better. Does the gaming scene have a similar split in it, with fans of, say, Lunch Money, hating on Inquest Gamer for covering too much Magic, Pokémon and Vs.?

05 December 2005

Buzzscope Reviews: 11/30/05

We're still playing with the format, but the switch to a combination of full and capsule reviews for the weekly roundup is already paying off with coverage of a few deserving comics that might not have been reviewed otherwise. This week, I go the capsule/quickee route on BLACK PANTHER #10, FEAR AGENT #2, FELL #3, G.I.JOE: SIGMA 6 #1, and X-MEN AND POWER PACK #2, while three different reviewers tee off on the lame NEW AVENGERS #13 which wraps up the over-hyped "Ronin" arc. Check it out.

02 December 2005

COMMENT: The Clone Saga & The Other - Part 3

vitsmHere is the final installment of The Clone Saga & The Other. [Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first, if you haven't already.] It's time to finally reveal my harebrained scheme as to how these two story arcs could tie into each other. At the end of this post, you'll find links to all the web sites I used to gather information for this three-part series.

Over the last 2 years, the traditional Marvel Universe has been shaken up and some of its bigger characters have been relaunched. The Avengers were disassembled, then reassembled into a new team. Scarlet Witch suddenly became the most powerful mutant in the world. The X-Men are always in flux, but it seems like even more so recently. Wolverine has his memory back. Captain America's sidekick Bucky was revived and is now a badass cyborg assasin. Spider-Man has more of a mystical origin, in addition to organic web shooters. And the aftermath of House Of M has shaken up the entire Marvel U. and cut down their massive set of mutant characters.

All the shakeups, all the deaths...yet Spider-Man still seems to be mostly the same. Thanks to J. Michael Straczynski, we have a new mystical angle to explore, but it's still the same old Spidey while things have really changed for so many of the other characters. Well, I think The Other: Evolve or Die will really do a number on Spider-Man.

Currently, our favorite wallcrawler is halfway through the 12-part story arc that's crossing over all three monthly Spider-Man titles, and it's clear that something really big is going to happen to good old Pete. If you've been following the series, you know nothing really happened in the first 5 issues. Issue #6, though, is another story, and may be helpful to my theory. No spoilers here, but lets just say Pete's gonna have a hard time renewing his drivers license, if he even has one!

fdnhsm003-colOver the years, I've read a handful of articles saying that a story the big shots at Marvel would like to tighten up and "fix" is The Clone Saga. I'm paraphrasing but, I remember Quesada recently commenting how the idea of The Clone Saga was good, but not executed properly. Seeing as how the Marvel U. is in upheavel right now, isn't this as good a time as any? Spider-Man must evolve or die, and the Marvel U. is in the process of a total redo. Getting a little clone action in the mix doesn't seem all that implausible at this point, does it?

I'd just like to emphasize thatI've read no previews for The Other, or have searched the online rumor mill. This theory is 100% certifiable Dan.

All we've heard for the last 6 issues of The Other is that Spider-Man is sick and going to die. In fact, we don't even know exactly what's wrong with him. The only clue we've recieved is that it's a radiation-based illness. The covers released by Marvel for upcoming issues of The Other do give us some clues. A few of them show Spidey severely beaten, and a couple show a person coming out of a pod.

[Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler]

Issue #6 of The Other contains one of the most shocking moments of the year. Mourlon rips out and eats one of Spider-Man's eyeballs. Seems like Spidey's gonna need some serious work done on him.

[End Spoiler End Spoiler End Spoiler End Spoiler]

I believe that all of these events are clearing the path for Ben Reilly to come in and save the day, and here is how it's gonna go down:

The cause of Spider-Man's illness has not been determined, but I'm guessing it happened after pre-Ben Reilly clone saga. Maybe it has something to do with the metamorphsis that gave Spider-Man organic shooters; I don't know. But if indeed it was after the pre-BR clone saga, then the only way to genetically repair Spider-Man would be to use his healthy genes. And his healthy genes could be gathered from the remains of Ben Reilly. If these genes are somehow collected, they can be used to cure his illness and repair any injuries he has. In the process, Ben Reilly could be brought back to the Marvel U.

comver 1I really do think Ben Reilly is coming out of the pod here, not Parker. If this were to happen, Marvel could have Spider-Man and Ben Reilly coexist without the fans going crazy. It would also put a good light on the whole Clone Saga, because ultimately, it saved Spider-Man's life. And think about this for a second, just about all major super-heroes have sidekicks or "mini" versions of themselves. Superman has Connor Kent; Batman has Nightwing, Robin etc..; and Wonder Woman has Donna Troy. Who does Spider-Man have?

This would be a great move for Marvel to extend the Spider-Man franchise. Though I don't believe Ben would be Spider-Man's sidekick or stand-in. Remember, even though Ben is a clone, he lived his own life for five years. He has a perspective on life and events that Parker doesn't have. I'm not talking about a big brother type of relationship going on, I see it as being more like colleagues that understand each other. Each person offering something to the other that they lack. People didn't hate Ben Reilly, all the accounts I've read indicate the fans really liked the character on many different levels.

Lets not forget Mourlon. He is practically unstoppable, but if both Spider-Men are in play, who knows what can happen.

Well there you have it. What do you think? Is it a load of crap, or maybe, just maybe, we have a resurfacing of Ben Reilly? As I stated before, I don't know. Heck, the outcome of The Other may have leaked out already, I don't know. But if by chance The Other ends up as I predicted it, there will be at least one really happy fanboy out there.

References for The Clone Saga

: If you've never used this online encyclpedia, you're missing out. It's just fun to surf around in there and see what comes up.

2. Inro To Philosophy - The Clone Saga: This site was a great help. It has dozens of scanned pages of the major events in the saga. Let me warn you, though, you may spend long time going through all of it. The web site seems to slow down my computer, but it's worth it.

3. Clone Saga Timeline: This is probably your quickest and easiest way to get a more detailed overview of the saga. It's all broken down, issue by issue.

4. GrayHaven Magazine - Life of Reilly: Here you'll find a very comprehensive look at The Clone Saga. There are 35 articles to sift through and they include commentary by former Marvel writer and editor, Glenn Greenberg.

Moon Knight -- A New Ongoing Series Coming April 2006?

I believe this might be my first "scoop"!

Moon Knight -- A New Ongoing Series Coming April 2006?

Announced with much fanfare at last summer's San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel's revival of cult superhero Moon Knight in a limited series subtitled "The Bottom", by novelist Charlie Huston and fan favorite artist David Finch, has been switched to an ongoing series, with the first issue's release pushed back to April 2006. The publisher tipped their hand in this week's Marvel Pulse Newsletter with the release of a new "First Look" Wallpaper featuring Finch's pinup that first appeared in Wizard magazine back in August.

The tagline to the image says: "Moon Knight – A New Ongoing Series Coming April 2006."

Buzzscope checked in with writer Charlie Huston for confirmation of the switch to an ongoing, clarification on the change in release date, and whether or not David Finch was on schedule with the series' artwork.

"Yes, Moon Knight will be an ongoing," Huston confirmed. "The release date has been pushed back so they can promote it as such, not because of any blown deadlines anywhere in the pipeline. Finch is right on top of it and his work is amazing."
More at the link. As a Moon Knight fan, I'm even more excited! :-)

UPDATE: While I may have beaten Newsarama to getting this out, they got the preview pages from Finch as part of their weekly Q&A with Quesada. Don't love his Platt-style artwork, but if the story is half as good as I'm expecting it to be, this will be a rare case of the art not ruining a book for me.

Buzzscope: Read This Way #0

Introducing Buzzscope's latest addition to the Bullpen: Tania Del Rio!


Welcome to my new column! Now, since it’s my first one, I’m expected to give a bit of an introduction to who I am, and I how I became the writer and artist for Archie Comics’ Sabrina the Teenage Witch. But regular autobiographies can be dull and tedious, so instead, I’ll tell my tale in the form of a shoujo manga story:

Meet Tania. She is the bespectacled, gawky heroine who has a wealth of dreams and yet doesn’t know how she’ll ever achieve them. She thinks that because she is shy and awkward, she’ll never get with the coolest guy in class. You know the one. He’s the rogue, bishonen bad-boy; the one that your parents warned you to stay away from; the one that rots your brain.

That’s right…Comics! Tania doesn’t think she stands a chance – especially considering the rumors. You know, the ones about Comics not liking girls; that he’s strictly a boys’ boy...
Things are really heating up over there now! Click on over and check her out, and leave a welcome in the talkbacks.

I'm loving this!

01 December 2005

Buzzscope: One Year Later

My latest "Establishing Shots" column is up, a mix of reflections and resolutions. Is it my last one for Buzzscope?

No, I’m not talking about DC’s universe-changing event coming up next March, but rather our own “One Year Later” story here at Buzzscope...

The way I see it, our mission is to focus on the comic books, the people who create them, and the fans who buy them. Putting a spotlight on the good, calling out the bad, and creating a welcoming space to discuss and debate it all. The industry itself needs to figure out how to reach its full potential – though we’ll happily offer suggestions from time to time! – and when it does, we’ll be here to welcome that new audience with the best comics-related content and the best online community around.
I also reveal my Top 10 for 2005 list, which won't be a surprise for regular readers of this blog - all 10 of you! - pimp our new Book of the Month Club, and give a shoutout to my new favorite blogger: Mark Fossen.

Check it out, leave comments, tell your friends!