28 February 2006

On The Shelves: 3/1/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/1/06. 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]


Infinite Crisis #5 (Don't hate. At least not until you read it!)

Corporate Ninja #2, $2.95
Vaistron #4, $2.95

I think I remember Corporate Ninja #1 being a fun read, but it was a bit ago, so I'm not positive. I'll give it a flip-through, though. Vaistron continues to be the most "I never thought I'd be reading this" comic on my pull list.

Sonic X #1 (AA), $2.25
Sonic X #2 (AA), $2.25
Sonic X #3 (Of 4) (AA), $2.25

Sonic editor Mike Pellerito participated on my all-ages panel on Sunday and was a pretty cool guy with a strong handle on the industry. Between him and Tania Del Rio, there's some good energy pumping through Archie's old veins and if they ever get the digest/TPB thing figured out, it'd be huge for them.

War Of The Worlds Second Wave #1, $2.99

I have a review copy of War of the Worlds sitting on top of my overflowing to-read pile. At a glance, it looks pretty.

Soulsearchers #76, $2.50

So, how long before Claypool throws in the towel? Considering their virtually non-existent presence in the direct market, if Diamond stopped listing them, would it really matter? I mean, with Peter David writing the series, you'd think they'd be able to move at least a thousand copies via an e-commerce option. Of course, that would require them to bring their web site at least into the early 90s, if not the 21st century.

Bettie Page Sticker Bathing Suit Die Cut Sticker, $2.50
BPRD Embroidered Patch (AA), $4.99
BPRD Embroidered Patch (AA), $4.99
Classic Comic Characters Ser 1 Hellboy Statue (resolicited), $49.95
Disney Princess Figures Ser 5 Gacha Capsule Asst, AR
Emily The Strange Candy Bar Asst (AA), AR
Goon Shot Glass #2 Nortons Pub (AA), $5.99
Space Thing Figure, $17.99
Tim Burton Sticker Four Pack (AA), $5.99
Weta Venatosaur Skull, $30.00

Merchandising is a beautiful thing. And profitable, too.

Aquaman Sword Of Atlantis #40, $2.99
Batman Annual #25, $4.99
Detective Comics #817, $2.50
Ex Machina #18, $2.99
Infinite Crisis #5 (Of 7), $3.99
Jonah Hex #5, $2.99

It's One Year Later time, as Detective Comics rejoins my pull list in giddy anticipation of some newly entertaining Batman stories. After the last issue of Batman, I want to flip through the Annual to see how they handle what appears to be one of the biggest cop-outs ever. Jason Todd comes back from the dead and starts doing what Batman won't, except for when it counts, leaving the Joker alive the first time around after beating him senseless with a lead pipe a while back, but threatening to kill him here. So what does Winick do? He has Batman accidentally (?) kill Jason Todd to prevent him from killing the Joker. WTF? And no, I refuse to put a spoiler warning on that because it's crappy storytelling. You can't spoil crappy stories. The rumors around Infinite Crisis' delays are interesting, what with drastic storyline adjustments and now reports that George Perez is doing the art for #6. Certainly doesn't give one confidence in their ability to pull off 52, does it? What's the difference between this new Aquaman and the just relaunched Warlord series? Besides the whole water thing. Warlord #1 is still on my to-read pile, so I'm not sure what it's like yet.

Elsinore #4 (Of 9), $3.25
How To Self Publish Comics #1 (Of 4), $4.95

Yay, Elsinore is back! I believe there's a TPB of the first 3 or 4 issues coming out pretty quickly, too. In light of the Speakeasy fiasco -- as in complete failure, no winners, unlike the NY Comic-Con, which had both winners and losers; capiche? -- Blaylock's How-To may be a surprise sellout as many aspiring indies decide that maybe Sal Abbinanti had the right idea and attempt to emulate him. I wonder if the value of licenses and Alex Ross covers get their own chapters?

Complete Jon Sable Freelance Vol 4 TPB, $19.99
Fallen Angel Idw #3 (Of 5), $3.99

I may start picking up these Jon Sable TPBs. Something about the visuals of that series always appealed to me. And I'm guessing Fallen Angel's "(of 5)" notation is simply an indication of how it was originally solicited and not a belated decision to not make it an ongoing after all.

Ant #4, $2.99
Fear Agent #3, $2.99
Godland #8, $2.99
NYC Mech Beta Love #5 (Of 6), $2.99

I was IMing about Ant's appeal to Image publisher Erik Larsen with someone the other day, and he noted that it's probably because Ant's an homage to Larsen's Spider-Man run. I suggested it was because it is a bit of a throwback to Image's heyday. These are diplomatic interpretations of what we actually said, of course. Three cheers for Fear Agent and NYC Mech: Beta Love, two of the best series Image is publishing right now, and a pip pip for G0DLAND, which is an entertaining bit of fluff that I added to my pull list on the strength of its first TPB.

Dark Mists #3 (Of 4)(resolicited), $3.50

I started reading this when it was published by AP Comics, and I was so impressed with the Markosia team at the Con -- Harry Markos and Chuck Satterlee, primarily -- that I'm going to pick up their continuation of it. Assuming it's not already in the goody bag of comics they hooked me up with, that is. (Which, no, is not what impressed me. Damn cynics!)

Daughters Of The Dragon #2 (Of 6), $2.99
Next Wave #2, $2.99
Secret War HC, $29.99
X-Factor #4, $2.99

Whomever buys the Secret War HC is truly killing comics. That mini-series redefined "suck". Daughters of the Dragon #1 was good fun, and the Daughters of the Dragon: Deadly Hands reprint of their early adventures was nostaglia nirvana. The art's a bit over the top, but it fits the tone of the book, so I'm fine with it. Ditto NextWave and X-Factor, which were both pleasant surprises.

Beowulf #7 Altered States, $2.99

I truly feel bad for all of the people who got screwed over by the Speakeasy collapse, creators and freelancers alike. Except for Vito Delsante, who comes off as either incredibly disingenuous or incredibly naive in his interview over at the Pulse: "I had met with Adam during Toy Fair, which was literally two weeks ago, and at that time, everything was still good, as far as I knew." Is there really anyone out there who was remotely familiar with Speakeasy's circumstances over the past few months that didn't see this coming? One of the best quotes I've seen in the coverage so far came from CBR:

Regarding the partnership with Ardustry Entertainment and where it currently stands, CBR News spoke with Ardustry's Wayne Williams, who handles Business Affairs for the company, on Monday evening. Williams told CBR News, "We had an option to buy Speakeasy Comics, subject to due diligence, but we did not move forward." He noted that Ardustry did not issue any press releases about the deal.
Due diligence. It's a term more creators need to memorize and adopt as a mantra. It's one thing to say you were hoping for the best, but to be caught as off-guard by it all as Delsante seemingly was simply blows my mind. I mean, the dude accepted an editorial position and responsibilities for their non-existent PR, was all over the internet defending their controversial moves at the end of the year, and he works in one of NYC's biggest comics shops. How could he have not seen this coming?

INFO: Managing Editor Wanted

Buzzscope is almost ready to officially complete its relaunch as PopCultureShock, and I'm now looking to bring another editor onboard to assist me with copyediting and trafficking of our recurring columns. We've seriously ramped up our comics content over the past 5 months, bringing on a wide range of columnists and ongoing features, and I need someone to help manage that content while I turn my attention towards getting our reviews up and running again and, hopefully, providing some more regular content myself.

It's a great opportunity for anyone wanting to flesh out their resume and/or have a deeper connection to the industry. While there's no pay, there's a pretty good discount on comics available, and you'd be getting in on the proverbial ground floor as the site is growing steadily and we've got some great plans down the line. The ideal candidate is a good writer themselves, lives in New York City, and has a serious interest in improving the quality and tone of comics journalism on the internet.

Drop me an email if you're interested, at glecharles (at) gmail.com, and include a brief bio and links to no less than 5 writing samples. Also, if you're not familiar with the site, please take a few moments to browse through our content to get a sense of what we're doing and where we're coming from.

LINK: Speakeasy Shuts Its Doors

My article is now up on PopCultureShock, a recap of recent Speakeasy-related posts here mixed with some great feedback from a few more Speakeasy creators affected by the collapse.

Speakeasy Shuts Its Doors: A Cautionary Tale
Several creators still in the dark about their fates

It's been less than 90 days since we first reported on fledgling publisher Speakeasy Comics' making waves with their announcement of a stricter policy regarding minimum thresholds for comic books they distribute, and since then, those waves have claimed several victims, but none bigger than Speakeasy Comics itself.
I was up until 3am pulling this together and am running on fumes now, still trying to catch up on sleep from the Con this weekend. As a result of this story breaking last night, I'm also another day behind on pulling together our Con coverage!


27 February 2006

COMMENT: Speakeasy Shuts Its Doors


Let the fallout begin...

Elk's Run creator/writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov, confirmed what seemed pretty inevitable earlier this afternoon over on his blog:

So, just got off the phone with Adam Fortier, President etc. of Speakeasy Comics. Speakeasy is no more. Due to some payment problems and low sales, it seems, they've had to lock up shop.
Perhaps realizing the story was about to break, Speakeasy mouthpiece Vito Delsante emailed Speakeasy cheerleader Chris Butcher, a Toronto retailer and comics blogiverse gadfly, a confirmation, which he posted about half an hour ago:

"As unofficial public relations for Speakeasy Comics, I feel it is my duty to inform everyone that as of 3:30 PM today, Speakeasy Comics has shut its doors and will not be publishing comics for, at the very least, the rest of the year. Most, if not all, creators have been contacted and informed. If I'm not mistaken, all books scheduled to ship in March will ship. April and May books are up in the air, while June books are cancelled.

Feel free to contact me regarding any questions pertaining to the above.

-Vito Delsante"
Interestingly, as I noted last week, Delsante had been curiously silent, dropping hints Saturday and earlier today that the other shoe was about to drop. He apparently knew enough to take down the site promoting his own series, The Mercury Chronicles, which was to be published by Speakeasy later this year, though not the link to it in his LiveJournal profile. [NOTE: Delsante has informed me that he is in the process of switching service providers, and the site being down was purely coincidental. My apologies on that point.]

On what the cynic in me thinks is a related note, Comic Book Resources currently has a blurb posted on their homepage about Speakeasy shill, Rich Johnston's column being delayed:

NOTE: Rich Johnston's LYING IN THE GUTTERS will be published a bit later in the day than usual on Monday.
Digging for more info, I assume, and clearing what he can and can't report with Fortier, perhaps? It'll be interesting to see how he reports it, and whether or not he'll address the issue of his own Speakeasy comic, The Flying Friar, which hit the stands a few weeks ago. Did he get paid yet? Also interested to hear if there's any truth to Fortier's skipping NY Comic-Con having to do with tax issues, aka unpaid taxes, which prevented him from leaving the country. Rumors abound that many creators have not been paid monies due, too, which I'm looking into myself for a now relevant follow-up to my original article.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Apparently while I was writing this, NEWSarama had [finally] jumped on the story, reposting Delsante's email with a bit more [unofficial?] direct clarification from him. A 9:25pm update includes comments from Fortier himself, offering an explanation that, so far, jibes with the feedback I'm getting behind the scenes. Johnston pops in on the thread to say his column is ready to go, but CBR hasn't posted it yet for reasons unknown.

UPDATE 2: So Johnston makes no mention of the Speakeasy developments in this week's column, beyond a facetious bit of self-promotion, plugging The Flying Friar as "The Book That Sank Speakeasy". Over at the NEWSarama thread, the theorem that everyone loves bad news is being true as there's more comments already than any of their PR coverage ever received. Several pros are taking the "don't speak ill of the dead approach" with Fortier, chiming in with variations on he's a nice guy who gave it a valiant effort. While I have no reason to think the guy's an outright con artist -- and by all accounts, he's attempting to make good where he can, though there seems to be as many creators who apparently now owe him money as there are those he owes -- the fact of the matter is that he's clearly not a very good business man.

Many people, myself included, openly questioned the wisdom of his sudden, rapid expansion last summer, taking on properties of varied quality and dumping them onto retailers with little promotional support and ZERO corporate branding. In the NEWSarama piece, he makes a comment that pretty much reinforces in my mind that his heralded business savvy was little more than the usual big talk, little stick smoke and mirror games too many small publishers like to play online: "Even with millions, like CrossGen, it couldn’t be done. So, if the multi-millionaires don’t have money to be able to run a company like that, what hope does anybody else have?"

What "couldn't be done", exactly? Launching an Image clone that was going to grow from ZERO to 5% market share in less than a year, on the backs of unknown properties from mostly unknown creators, in a market that is ridiculously resistant to anything new, even when it's published by Marvel or DC? Well, duh!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Speakeasy's collapse, though, is that it happened before Alias went under. Speakeasy had generally superior content and Fortier had much more goodwill in the industry than Mike S. Miller, and yet, who's still standing (if barely)?

Stay tuned...

LINK: NEWSarama on Indie Panel

A. Dave Lewis' coverage of my indie roundtable, Beyond the Capes and Spandex is up on NEWSarama now!

by A. Dave Lewis

The Sunday afternoon “Beyond the Capes and Spandex” panel, hosted by PopCultureShock.com, emphasized the overall diversity of the New York Comic-Con, featuring a wide array of creators for whom the medium and the superhero genre were by no means synonymous. Led by PopCultureShock.com’s Senior Comics Editor Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, the panelists consisted of notables from both sides of the mainstream/alternative spectrum.

Tania Del Rio (Lovesketch, MangaKa America, and Archie Comics’ Sabrina the Teenage Witch) sat in a high stool next to Fred Van Lente, known both for his Marvel work as well as his self-published hit Action Philosophers! Likewise, Sean Wang, first known for his work on The Tick but now associated with his space smuggler series Runners, was placed beside him, followed by Neil Kleid of Brownsville and 90 Candles fame. Decked out in a black fedora, Ken Lillie-Patez (Devil’s Due Elsinore, Silent Devil’s Monkey in a Wagon Vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel) took a seat next to the unassuming Jose L. Torres of The Hunger, and Jenny Gonzalez of Too Negative on the bookended the panel. (Ivan Brandon, writer of NYC Mech, ducked in late, grabbing the open stool next to Del Rio.)

LeCharles Gonzalez opened the discussion by continuing a thread from earlier panels – the status of the serial, pamphlet comic. He asked the assembled creators for their thoughts as to whether there was a “viability for the pamphlet in terms of anything other than superheroes.”
A tip of my hat to Matt Brady for the coverage, too. I take a poke at NEWSarama now and then, but like Wizard, they do what they do well, even if it's not always necessarily the way I'd do it.

NY Comic-Con Journal: Day 3

Go elsewhere if you want pointless snark-for-snark's sake or ill-informed whining from people who didn't attend the show, because while there were definitely many things that went wrong this weekend, the final result was undeniable: NY Comic-Con was a huge victory for the industry. Not just the usual suspects, either, as I believe Reed's success in tapping the mainstream side of the publishing industry -- ie: Borders, Del Rey, Harry N. Abrams, Simon & Schuster, Roaring Brooks' :01 (First Second) imprint -- plus a small army of librarians who were reportedly roaming the floors checking out many of the indie publishers who were smart enough to have a presence, leveled the playing field quite a bit.

Markosia, in particular, was there in full force and left me rather impressed with their approach to the industry, greatly diminishing my initial skepticism for their long-term prospects. I'm going to sit down with Chuck Saterlee at some point in the near future to discuss their plans, so keep an eye out for that. A brief chat with Devil's Due's Josh Blaylock, while he and Tim Seeley were signing at our booth, gave me some confidence in their direction, too. Image made a big mistake in not being there, IMO, and if I had a project with them that included a TPB collection with any potential appeal outside of the direct market, I'd be pissed by their absence.

I'm still decompressing from the long weekend, simultaneously exhausted and reinvigorated, and have only made a brief circuit of the blogiverse, so for now I'll simply direct your attention to The Beat for Heidi's coverage of the Con.

My Establishing Shots column this week will focus on my takeaways from the Con, but I wanted to mention here that both of my panels went quite well, with the Indie Roundtable being surprisingly well-attended, and the All-Ages panel being incredibly engaging despite a predictably smaller turnout. (More on both, later this week, here on the blog.) Overall, I had a blast and am greatly looking forward to next year's event, already scheduled for February 23-25, 2007 (I think) and presumably moving upstairs to larger quarters.

PS: A. David Lewis covered the Indie Roundtable for NEWSarama, so as soon as his article posts, I'll link it here.

26 February 2006

NY Comic-Con Journal: Day 2



Lot of fun.

After-party was off the hook, exceeding my expectations.

Two panels tomorrow with no sleep. Yikes!

Sleep now...

Packed to the rafters.

PopCultureShock booth and back of Senior Games Editor Howard Brown's head.

((FREQUENCIES)) and Necromancer writer, Joshua Ortega.

Elsinore and Monkey vs. Lemur writer, Ken Lillie-Paetz

Nostalgia Rampage!

Cool Superman art from the Geppi's Entertainment Museum booth.

Tim Seeley and Josh Blaylock representing for Devil's Due
at the PopCultureShock booth.

Writer Charlie Huston representing for Moon Knight and his novels, with C.C. Banana and Howard Brown in the background, at the PopCultureShock booth.

Charlie Huston and #1 Moon Knight fan, Comic Geek Speak's Kevin Moyer.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch writer/artist, Tania Del Rio does free sketches for the fans.

The Bowery Poetry Club was packed for the PopCultureShock after-party.

NYC Mech artist Andy MacDonald (right) and friend.

NYC Mech co-writer, Ivan Brandon.

Powers artist Michael Avon Oeming (right) and friend.

Artist Celia Calle (left) and friend.

The Comic Geek Speak crew.

From right to left, Divison 18 co-creators Jeremy (The Pickytarian) Donelson
and Matt Bergin, Matt's lovely wife and, I think, Jason Rodriguez' cousin.

Former CBC contributor Stephen Maher, my lovely wife Salomé and friend Daisy.
DJ Dylan Garret in the background doing his thing.

Me and Symphonics impresario Shawn Randall celebrate a successful night.

25 February 2006

NY Comic-Con Journal: Day 1

I am exhausted.

Before I say anything else, I want to get this one thing out of the way. During the Distribution panel this afternoon, a mouse ran into the room, right past where I was sitting, and off towards the stage. It looked like the moderator, ICv2's Milton Griep, noticed it, or noticed something, but no one else did. I'm just glad I didn't let out a little yelp when I saw it. Mice don't bother me like rats do, though.

Welcome to NY!

And another side note: Javits charges some ridiculous amount to use their WiFi network. Something like $24.95/hour. So no daily updates on Buzzsc--PopCultureShock, and probably not another one here before Sunday night. I'll be posting a wrap-up on PCS on Monday or Tuesday.

I got to the Convention Center at 11:45am, running a little late for the 12:00pm panel, Is The Pamphlet Doomed?, which was moderated by The Beat's Heidi MacDonald, and included DC's Dan DiDio, retailer Brian Hibbs, and a guy from Nickelodeon magazine who's name I didn't catch. Some interesting comments regarding periodicals vs. TPBs vs. digital distribution which provided me with some good fodder for the indie roundtable I'm moderating on Sunday. Heidi only tweaked Speakeasy's Adam Fortier twice for his no-show, once bemoaning his absence because he would have been a great example of how tough it is to launch a company in the current market. From the rumors I've been hearing, it's a pretty ugly situation that's close to boiling over publicly, so maybe Rich Johnston will jump on it now that his Flying Friar is out and presumably in the clear. You'd think if your company's in danger, the one person you'd definitely take care of first is the rumormonger on your books, yes?

The "State of the Industry" panel had some potential but was hindered a bit by its one-hour limit, as things were just starting to roll when time was called. Publisher Weekly's Calvin Reid tried to get the panel. ists to get into specifics but they almost all resisted. Michael Silberkleit, Chairman/Publisher of Archie Comics had some interesting comments about the importance of reaching kids and the Archie gang's appeal to parents who remember him fondly. Not to mention their distribution in supermarkets where they serve as an impulse buy. He pointed out that Archie himself predates all but Superman which I hadn't realized. On the snarky side, somebody needed to tell TokyoPop's Stuart Levy that wearing sunglasses may still be cool in California, but in NY it makes you look like a dork.

The Distribution panel included representatives from Diamond, Baker & Taylor, Ingram and Bookazine, and I was a bit disappointed to see the room clear out the way it did after the State of the Industry panel as this was, IMO, the more compelling topic for professionals attending the Con. Every small press publisher (and wannabe) who wasn't in attendance, even if by proxy, should be cited for lack of business sense, because those four people represent the gatekeepers to larger markets for comics. I was most impressed by the three mainstream wholesalers' sincere appreciation for, and understanding of comics. It's one of the biggest growth areas in the industry, and stores are eager to tap into it, and they're not reading NEWSarama or Wizard to find out what they should be stocking. Know what I'm saying?

I'll have more on those three panels at some point next week, once I can fully digest the info I got out of them, and filter it through my indie roundtable. That'll probably be my Establishing Shots column for next week.

I also checked out the Mondo Marvel panel for shits and giggles and was most surprised by how short Bendis is. Like two inches taller than midget short! Seems like a nice enough guy, though, and paired with Oeming, who is similarly short, they might be the cutest duo in comics. Like Emmanuel Lewis / Gary Coleman, pinch their cheeks cute. Anyway, there's some interesting non-Civil War stuff coming down the road, like a 5th week series on Western one-shots; a Dr. Strange mini-series by Brian K. Vaughan that they claimed is his dream project; a White Tiger mini written by woman, Tamora Pierce, who's apparently a big YA author; and MAX push that sounded very Vertigo in its extremely vague tease. The best line went to Quesada, in answer to a question about Wolverine popping up everywhere: "You want less Wolverine, buy Nextwave. Buy Runaways." If nothing else, he definitely stays on message with his insistence that Marvel publishes what the fans say they want, not online, but via their $$$$. Which is why I dropped New Avengers. Can't complain if you don't vote.

After the panels, I hit the floor, stopping by our booth to check in with Jon, Howard and the gang, and then covering about 3/4s of the space before time ran out. The layout is tight, densely packed with narrow aisles that are about four people wide. Artist's alley runs around the perimeter, and there's an impressive mainstream turnout with Borders, Del Rey (right next to us), Harry N. Abrams and Simon & Schuster all in attendance. (NOTE: The Borders booth featured approx. 75% manga on their display tables.) It all seemed bigger to me than Wizard World Philadelphia or Baltimore Comic-Con, both in size and attendance.

Put some faces to names (Ken Lillie-Paetz and Joshua Ortega, among others), and we gave out a bunch of flyers promoting the party tomorrow night. I was pleased by the number of pros who'd already heard about it and were planning to come. Our signing schedule looks pretty good, too, with no dead space and quality creators across the board.

Comics I picked up today:

1) Springtime for Autism, by Tim Kelly
2) Last Days of the Flare, by Sean Wang
3) Crazy Paper, by Jom Dougan & Danielle Corsetto (plus, Big Fat Noon and Oscar Chavez...Machismo Monitor)
4) ((Frequencies)), by Joshua Ortega (a novel, not a comic)

Tomorrow looks like I'll be spending most of my time at the booth or walking the floor as there's not too many panels I'm interested in. Depending on the traffic, I may sneak in a couple of interviews, too.

That's all for now! Gotta get some sleep because tomorrow's going to be a looong day.

23 February 2006

Comment: Guess Who?

If this doesn't get you off your seat, you're not a fan! When Superhero Hype broke this image earlier today, the hearts of fanboys everywhere skipped a beat. Now let the flood of debate begin!

While surfing the net, I came upon a comment by Quint from Aint It Cool News. He mentions that there appears to be an image in Spider-Man's eyepiece. Well after of few minutes of tooling around with Photoshop, just follow this link and see for yourself. I don't want to comment as to what I think there is or isn't, but it's pretty clear to me.

Don't forget to stop by the NY Comic-Con if you're in the area. I'll be stopping in on Sunday to sit in (as an audience member) on Guy's panel, and signing autographs for a nominal fee.

Till next time...

NY Comic-Con Journal: Day 0

So it all begins tomorrow... :-)

Actually, it technically began about 3 hours ago as the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference for Professionals is today, a series of panels on the past, present and future of graphic novels. Something I would have loved to attend, but alas, taking off tomorrow from work is about as much as I can handle. [EDIT: Tom McLean's coverage at the link.]

The next three days promise to be a whirlwind of activity, with tomorrow probably being the most relaxed; once I get there, at least. Over the next 19 hours, I have to print some updated business cards and promo flyers for the booth; finish putting together the art showcase presentation that will be projected throughout the party Saturday night, and possibly during the indie roundtable on Sunday; prepare the agenda for both panels I'm moderating; coordinate the sparse coverage we'll have and figure out how we'll be presenting it...and I'm sure there's a few other things I'm forgetting. Like sleep, perhaps?

Tomorrow, I'm planning to attend several panels, including:

Is The Pamphlet Doomed?
Description: As sales of graphic novels soar, and comics find big audiences on the web, traditional comics periodicals are also evolving. Join us for a frank discussion of marketing strategies and new formats.

State of the Industry Panel
Description: Top comic industry leaders come together to discuss the current state of the industry and make predictions for the future. Panelists: Bill Schanes, Diamond Comic Distributors; Paul Levitz, DC Comics; Joe Quesada, Marvel Entertainment; Michael Silberkleit, Archie Comic Publications, Inc.; and Stuart Levy, TokyoPop.

Distributing: What You Really Need to Know
Description: A discussion and Q&A with the representatives with the four major distributors.

Mondo Marvel
Description: 2006 promises to be a major turning point for all things Marvel! Join Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, Marvel editors, and special guests Keith Giffen (Annihilation), Greg Pak (Planet Hulk), and more as they discuss all things Marvel!
The first three are back-to-back-to-back, and there's an hour break before the Marvel panel which I'm going to mainly because Charlie Huston's supposed to be there and I'm curious to see him interacting in that milieu.

After that, I'll swing by our booth and hit artist's alley to see what's what and who's who. Hope to put some more faces to names, always an interesting part of these things, and pick up some interesting new comics. And promote the hell out of the party, of course!

My cousin Juan is hooking me up with a wireless laptop so I should be able to stay connected throughout the show. Not sure how much we'll be updating over at PopCultureShock; we can't possibly match NEWSarama's coverage, so I figure we'll opt for using the Buzz Blog for brief panel updates and then post a wrap-up on Monday or Tuesday. We were hoping to do a few podcasts, too, but I'm thinking that might slip through the cracks this time.

I'll also be posting randomly here, of course, with the kind of stuff I tend to avoid writing under my official byline over at PopCultureShock. I try to reserve my snark and bile for the blog, while keeping things a bit more professional over there.


Shut up. I said, "I try"!

22 February 2006

COMMENT: Dawson Ditches Speakeasy

After ending 2005 with a flurry of bad press, fledgling indie publisher, Speakeasy Comics, kicked off 2006 with the first of what was presumably going to be a string of big announcements which would reposition them as a player to be reckoned with in the industry: Rosario Dawson's Occult Crimes Taskforce (O.C.T.)

"Rosario Dawson is an artist in the purest sense. She can act, sing, as well as write. She’s just an all around creative person. We are thrilled to collaborate with Rosario, David and Tony on this one of a kind project. The Rosario Dawson fans of the world are in for a treat and I’m sure many others will soon be captivated by this truly unique comic book project," said Adam Fortier, Speakeasy Comics CEO.
While somewhat underwhelming in the larger context of the troubles the publisher was facing, it did seem to offer a hint about the new direction they were heading and what affect their deal with Ardustry Industries -- an independent movie and television company, and worldwide licensor and distributor, who produce, acquire, sell and license feature films and Television content -- might have on that direction.

Except for some generally positive buzz for the Flying Friar one-shot -- much of which is due to writer Rich Johnston's admirable, if relentless, self-promotion -- things have been pretty quiet on the Speakeasy front since that announcement. Their web site is currently being overhauled; their MySpace page has no content of note on it; and their recently appointed editor/PR guy, Vito Delsante, has been curiously silent since said appointment a few weeks back, even deleting his own announcement of the appointment from his LiveJournal without any explanation. (I'd noticed a few days after he'd posted it that it still hadn't been picked up anywhere, not even by NEWSarama, but just noticed today that he'd deleted the entry. Hmmm....)

Fast-forward to today, and out of the blue comes this announcement, from Image Comics:

Rosario Dawson, David Atchison and Tony Shasteen announced today that their new comic book miniseries, the OCCULT CRIMES TASKFORCE, will now be published through Image Comics, starting this July!

"We are very excited about our new home. Image Comics and the guys at 12 Gauge are helping us make the book the best it can possibly be. The interest Speakeasy Comics showed in publishing the 'O.C.T.' was greatly appreciated. However, due to recent changes in their direction, we didn't feel our book fit with them at this time," said Shasteen.
Changes, indeed!

Atomika, one of Speakeasy's two launch titles, was the first to jump ship last August, as creator Sal Abbinanti decided self-publishing was a better option for him. O.C.T. follows the highly acclaimed Rocketo, the first Speakeasy title to move over to Image, while a slew of other titles have moved over to another fledgling indie, Markosia. And Strangeways creator Matt Maxwell chose limbo over publishing his mini-series through Speakeasy.

My interest in this story centers primarily on how it will affect the fate of Elk's Run, but equally compelling is how it might affect the industry itself if yet another ambitious, "high-profile" indie goes down in flames. It's one thing to cancel a low-selling title or five, but it's another thing entirely when something potentially high-profile like O.C.T. voluntarily jumps ship before a single issue is published! (Imagine the Speakeasy booth at any Con where Rosario Dawson is appearing.) At what point do retailers simply tune out anything new, understandably unwilling to take a risk on an unproven publisher or property? Once bitten, twice shy, thrice...intolerant? Could you blame them?

21 February 2006

On the Shelves: 2/22/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 2/22/06. 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]


Bluesman: Vol. 1

Lions Tigers & Bears TPB, $9.99
Lullaby Wisdom Seeker Vol 1 TPB (AA), $9.99

LT&B piqued my interest when it first came out, but I never picked it up. Interesting to see that Alias didn't let the TPB go over to Image along with Vol. 2, but considering it was one of their best-reviewed series, I'm not surprised. Lullaby started off strong but faded towards the end. I suspect it might read better all in one shot, though, and for $9.99, I just may give it another try.

Atlas 123 For Superheroes HC, $5.99
Atlas ABC For Superheroes HC, $5.99
Atlas Superheroes Guide To Planets HC, $5.99

Are these kids books? The titles, and $5.99 for hardcovers would seem to suggest as much. My son loved SUPERHERO a while back, so I'll have to give these a look.

Mouse Guard #1, $3.50
Robotika #2, $3.95

Robotika #1 was pretty, and had an interesting premise, IIRC, but the annoying word balloons that printed
d l
i i
a k
l e
g t
u h
e i
totally ruined it for me. Mouse Guard also looks interesting, and has gotten some solid buzz, so I'll give it a flip-through. Archaia's earned that based on the well-done The Lone and Level Sands.

Roach #1, $2.95

Finally! Rich Watson made this his BUZZ BOOK OF THE MONTH for November, back in his first "What's A Nubian?" column, and I've been anxious to check it out ever since. Its creator, Robert Roach, is up for the Rising Star Award for Best Self-Publisher in the inaugural Glyph Awards, for outstanding achievement in black comics, taking place in May, for which I am one of the judges.

Jack The Lantern 1942 One Shot, $3.95

Sometimes a title just grabs me. Whether or not I'll remember it on Wednesday will be a test of its cover design.

American Way #1 (Of 8), $2.99
Batman #650, $2.50
JLA Classified #17, $2.99
Vigilante #6 (Of 6), $2.99
Warlord #1, $2.99

This isn't the OYL Batman, right? None of those are due until after Infinite Crisis #5 is released, yes? Three Kings is one of my favorite movies, so American Way is a must-read for me. JLA: Classified was surprisingly good, and I've been looking forward to Warlord since it was first announced.

GI Joe Sigma 6 #3, $2.95

Andrew Dabb's a versatile one, yes? The toys for this are too much, though. I'll always be a fan of the 3-3/4" action figures I used to shoplift from Caldor back in the 80s. Now those were the days!

Intimidators #3, $3.50

I missed #2, so if it's sold out tomorrow, I may have inadvertantly switched to "waiting for the trade" on this one. Sorry Neil! :-(

All New Off Handbook Marvel Universe A To Z #2, $3.99
Black Panther #13, $2.99
Black Widow 2 #6 (Of 6), $2.99
Captain America #15, $2.99
Iron Man The Inevitable #3 (Of 6), $2.99
Storm #1 (Of 6), $2.99

ANOHotMU = SUCKER! In a way, you might argue the same for both Black Panther and Storm, though I'm actually enjoying Hudlin's looser take on BP now that he's thrown almost every one of Marvel's "major" black heroes into the mix. Iron Man: The Inevitable has been great so far, and Frazier Irving is quickly becoming an artist who'll get me to check out something purely from his name being attached.

Bluesman Vol 1 GN New Ptg, $6.95

Finally! I've been wanting to read this for a while now.


Just a side note that I received my copy of Manga, TPs free promotional magazine, last week, and while I can't say it's directly led to my buying any specific manga yet, it's definitely been keeping certain titles on my radar. Image could benefit from producing a similar magazine promoting their varied slate of comics direct to potential buyers.

Comics Buyers Guide May 2006 #1616, $5.99
Previews Vol XVI #3, AR

My 3-issue, $5 trial subscription to CBG is over, and between their backstarting my order (causing me to get back-to-back issues one week apart, the previous and current month), and my completely losing interest in the bulk of their content, I think I'm officially dropping it. Internet only for me, I guess! Also, my Previews experiment is dead-in-the-water as the thought of flipping through it again is terribly unappealing. Of the million good reasons I'd never open a comic book store, I'm thinking dealing with Previews ranks in the Top 3.

19 February 2006

LINK: BOTS Article

The article I mentioned a couple of days ago, on the BOTS sketchbook, is up now: Artists, Robots Team Up to Raise Funds for Autism Research. It's a bit of personal background, Nic Carcieri talking about how the project came about, and some cool samples from the book itself.

Was pulling it together helpful to you and your family in any way? The amount of support it’s received must have been heartening.

Carcieri: It has been helpful because I’ve connected with so many other people who have gone through what we’re going through. As a parent, the last thing you ever want to hear is that something is wrong or different with your child. When something like this happens, you go through every emotion -- anger, fear, sadness, despair. It can make you feel very alone at times. But then, you gather yourself together and pick a course of action and move forward. When you start to meet other people who have been there, everything becomes a little easier.
Go, read, and then click through and order your copy.

LINK: Runners & Special Clips + Top 5 List

One of my favorite comics of 2005, Runners: Bad Goods, has made the jump to the movies! Well, kind of...


The highly-acclaimed sci-fi adventure comic Runners, by Sean Wang, is now a fully animated short! The 3-D computer-animated Runners feature from The DAVE School -- makers of the X-Men Minimates movie ”Darktide” -- is now available online.

Produced by The DAVE (Digital Animation and Visual Effects) School at Universal Studios Orlando, the 6-minute short adapts the first issue of the Runners: Bad Goods comic, in which reluctant smuggler Roka Nostaco and his ragtag alien crew must board a hostile vessel to do battle with a notorious band of pirates intent on stealing their cargo.
For a student project, it's a great piece of video, perfectly capturing the look and feel of Sean Wang's entertaining sci-fi adventure series. PIXAR or Dreamworks should snatch it up ASAP and bring it to the big screen!

Also worth a look is the trailer for Special, a movie I've never heard of but came across via Will Pfieffer's blog.

LES FRANKEN (Michael Rapaport) leads a painfully unremarkable life as a metermaid until he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing special powers and must quit his job to answer his new calling in life... Superhero.

A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else.
The trailer is appealing, suggesting a wry dramedy that plays coy with the question of whether or not Les really does have super powers...or is simply crazy. There's a quick scene, in the bodega, that reminds me of Unbreakable -- still one of my top five superhero movies ever -- and I've always liked Michael Rapaport, one of Hollywood's quintessential everyman character actors, who often steals movies with his supporting turns.

It'll be interesting to see how he pulls off a leading role, and whether its positive write-up on the Sundance web site holds true:

Michael Rapaport so fully embodies Les's desire for empowerment that he actually brings Special much closer to the spirit of early comic-book superheroes (marginalized men expressing fantasies of strength) than the studio films we see. Special is about loneliness and insecurity, and people encumbered by self-doubt. It's a subtle, philosophical comedy that gets its special powers from clever filmmaking.
Oddly enough, it doesn't appear to have been signed at Sundance as I can't find a release date listed anywhere and there's no studio attached to it in any of the reviews I've come across. If and when it does pop up, though, I plan to check it out.

Until then, I'll have to make do with a little Milla, I guess.

Milla would have improved Elektra to a 2-star movie. Le sigh...

PS: I never thought of it this way, but Fifth Element is totally a superhero comic book movie, which means it's on my top 5 list, too. In alphabetical order, that's Batman Begins, Fifth Element, The Incredibles, The Matrix and Unbreakable, only one of which is actually based directly on a comic book character. The rest take elements of superhero comics and spin them off in their own unique directions.

17 February 2006

INFO: Have You Ordered BOTS Yet?

I just ordered my copy of BOTS, the sketchbook benefitting the Autism Society of America that I mentioned a while back. Nicola Carcieri, the comics writer who organized the project, did an amazing job, pulling together 90 different artists to contribute artwork! The list of contributors is impressive by any measure, and I was happy to do my small part by buying a full-page ad on behalf of PopCultureShock to help support it.

I totally dropped the ball on providing coverage for it, though, and am scrambling this weekend to get a piece finished and posted before it debuts next weekend at MegaCon. Bad pseudo-journalist!

I also just rectified another oversight, placing my order for three (3) copies not more than 5 minutes ago! One is for myself, and the other two I'll be giving away at our After-Party next Saturday night. (Assuming they arrive in time.) Just one more reason to come hang with us after the Con.

If you haven't already ordered your copy, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so now. (scroll down at the link)

COMMENT: Valentino's Black Emissary

Jim Valentino's latest project, Emissary, sounds like it could generate some interesting message board debates that would likely become a regular feature on Fanboy Rampage...if it lasts long enough.

This May, Image’s Shadowline imprint releases a book that poses the question of how the real world we live in would react to an actual super-being. And what if he were black?

Would he have been accepted, beloved by the world at large? Or would he have been feared, rejected, even hated? Would his near omnipotence cause governments to tremble or would they attempt to use him to advance their own agendas? Would his mere existence send religious leaders into turmoil? Or renew their faith in God's master plan? Or would it do BOTH?

...Emissary will examine the effects of a super-being on politics, religion and the common man in a way never before seen in comics. Created and co-plotted by Jim Valentino and written by J. R. Rand with art by Juan E. Ferreyra and Clayton Brown, Emissary will be available for preordering from PREVIEWS in March. It will be cover-featured on the March PREVIEWS for May product with 5-page previews at www.imagecomics.com and in ShadowHawk #11 and Intimidators #5, with the first issue set to hit stores May 2006.
Considering the heated debates about race that have taken place on the Image message boards over the past six months or so, including at least one that mentioned Valentino's original ShadowHawk and drew him into the discussion, my curiousity is certainly piqued. The creative team is a big question mark for me, though, as I only know Valentino's work from his co-plotting of the current ShadowHawk series, which I recently dropped, and the intriguing but ill-fated Blacklight, which died after only 2 issues; and Rand and Ferreyra are the guys who did the well-reviewed but recently cancelled Small Gods series, of which I read the first TPB and thought was solid.

The cover for #2 worries me a bit, though, evoking unfortunate comparisons to Ex Machina, which treads similar ground, minus the minority lead character. It could be a feint, considering the open-ended questions in the Press Release, but it could also simply be lazy plotting, going for the easy emotional hook of a 9/11 reference.

Having just read Superman: Birthright for the first time (enjoyed it; B+), and still having both JLA #1 and JLA: Classified #16 fresh in mind -- each of which covered aspects of Emissary's proposed plot -- makes me wonder how deeply Valentino and company will dig into the questions they're planning to raise (and address?) with this series. I also wonder how committed Valentino is to publishing it and sticking to its stated premise, considering how many changes his relaunch of ShadowHawk has already gone through in its first year, in a vain attempt to gain traction in a market that's simply not interested in indie superheros; never mind minority superheroes.

I'll definitely check it out, though. And hopefully, once my schedule clears up a bit after NY Comic-Con, I'll have a chance to hit Valentino up for an interview before its release.

15 February 2006

COMMENT: $25 Pop Quiz

Shane (Near-Mint Heroes) Bailey threw out an interesting challenge this week: a $25 budget, this week's release list, and the question, "What would you buy?"

Winnowing my already light-for-me list this week was harder than I thought it would be thanks to Essential Moon Knight's $16.99 cover price, and really drove home the stark reality of a marketplace whose average consumer is estimated to have a $20/week budget, $16 of which is allocated to Marvel/DC titles. Even factoring in the handy discount I get, I'd still be spending more than $25 on this week's intended pulls, never mind the sampling I tend to do which adds another $6-15, depending.

It was also an interesting test of what I'm reading out of desire vs. habit, particularly in keeping the Moon Knight TPB on the list, despite the fact that I already own all but two of the issues it collects. When the inevitable day comes that I'm forced to cut back on my comics budget -- aka, when we buy a house -- I suspect I'll be surprised by what stays and what goes, and whether or not my commitment to supporting indies and B-list Big Two series withstands the adjustment.

One thing that's already changing is my slow shift to a wait-for-the-trade policy (which sometimes means never buy at all) on some of the industry mainstays and more popular indies not in monthly danger of cancellation. Makes you wonder who has the more fickle fanbase, superheroes or manga?

QUOTE: Steve Gerber, on Current Events

"I think something has happened to this country in the past 10 years or so. We've become much more willing to accept anything -- again, it's hard to escape the clichés -- Madison Avenue or the Government shoves down our throats. The truth has become unbearable to contemplate. There's a terrible apathy that's engendered a new movement back to the Self. The society seems to have accepted the notion that by simply becoming oblivious to what's happening in the world outside our skins, the horror will go away. It's not going to go away."

--Steve Gerber, The Comics Journal #41 (August 1978), reprinted in The Comics Journal Library 6: The Writers (Fantagraphics, 2006).

14 February 2006

On The Shelves: 2/15/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 2/15/06. 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]


Essential Moon Knight: Vol. 1

Alice In Wonderland #1 (Of 4), $3.50

Is Alice in Wonderland in the public domain? Because she seems to pop up in an awful lot of comic books. Certainly makes attracting attention to a particular project based on her that much more difficult.

Planetary Brigade #1, $2.99

I'm in sample mode with BOOM!, so I may pick this one up.

Blade Of The Immortal Vol 15 Trickster TPB, $16.95
Conan #25, $2.99

The end of the Busiek era countdown continues on Conan. Anyone out there reading Blade of the Immortal? 15 TPBs, somebody must be. What's the story with it?

Batgirl #73, $2.50
Batman Year One Hundred #1 (Of 4), $5.99
Firestorm #22, $2.50
Losers #32, $2.99
Sgt Rock The Prophecy #2 (Of 6), $2.99
Testament #3, $2.99

Batgirl and The Losers both wrap up this week, joining Gotham Central as three of the longest tenured titles on my pull list to go the way of the dodo. I updated my Midtown list yesterday, putting Batman, Detective and Teen Titans back on it in anticipation of One Year Later. Firestorm may end up on there, too, but I haven't decided yet. Sgt. Rock was a nice throwback, and Testament has potential, but it's on the chopping block with this issue.

GI Joe Special Missions Manhattan, $4.95
Lo Fi Jan 2006 Vol 2 #4 Cvr A, $5.95

More G.I. Joe! In Manhattan! Yes, I'm a sucker. I'm officially done with Lo-Fi, though. There's only so far potential can take you before you actually have to live up to it, and it's not even come close yet. A pity, really.

Strange Girl #6, $2.99

My new favorite Remender series has been added to my pull list. Is it on yours?

Daredevil #82, $2.99
Essential Moon Knight Vol 1 TPB, $16.99
X-Men Deadly Genesis #4 (Of 6), $3.50
X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #2 (Of 5), $2.99

The Brubaker/Lark era begins, and in light of what he pulled off with Captain America, I'm really interested in what he's going to do with Daredevil, another character I've never loved, even in his Frank Miller heyday. Deadly Genesis has been a solid read, too. And it's always good to have a monthly dose of Lark. Sight unseen, Essential Moon Knight becomes my favorite Essential, yet. Why? Because I'm a disciple of Khonshu and an uabashed nostalgist! Was totally unfamiliar with X-Statix, but Dead Girl #1 was rather interesting.

Revolution On The Planet Of The Apes #2 (Of 6), $3.98

The first issue was an unexpected treat. Hopefully it sells well enough to complete its run and be judged as a whole because, in the right hands, the Apes license has a ton of storytelling potential.

Butternut Squash #1, $3.99

Six months ago, the internet buzz on this would have had me sampling it. Today, that's highly unlikely. And that's a shame.

LINK: Speculation Returns

From the Business section of today's NY Daily News:

Marvel-ous investments
A "Marvel Comics" No. 1 dating back to 1939 just went for $201,250. A "Captain America" from 1941 featuring the stars-and-stripes clad superhero knocking out Hitler and his thugs, roped in $96,686.
While there's one voice of reason quoted -- "I would not suggest putting significant amounts of money in comic books," said New York-based accountant Alan Straus. He said no more than 5% to 10% of your investment should go into any type of collectibles. -- he appears 14 paragraphs into the article, surrounded by fluffy commentary from collectors; an overly rosy picture of the industry's "soaring sales" since the collapse in the 90s; and, most depressingly, references to Wizard's price guide and the statement that, "Popular new titles, costing about $2.99, can double or triple in value in a matter of weeks."

Is that light at the end of the tunnel, or a train heading straight for us?

13 February 2006

CBC Quickees: DMZ, G0DLAND, X-Factor and more

Snatching a handful of comics from the top of my most-recently read stack, in no particular order...

Teen Titans #32: Why do I torture myself? I picked up the Captain Carrot/Kid Eternity arc and was sorely disappointed, and this alternate angles/extended scenes edition of Infinite Crisis #4 was like a self-inflicted kick in the nuts. Here's hoping One Year Later returns this series back to the strong character-driven stories of its first 18 issues, as Johns has claimed he'll be doing.

DMZ #3: What do you do with a series that you really want to like, but find yourself continually disappointed with after each issue? You drop it. Period. Part of the problem, as with Local, is that I simply don't like the lead character, Matty Roth. If I were a character in DMZ, I'd shoot him.

New Thunderbolts #18: A consistently entertaining read, Fabian Nicieza has such a handle on his characters that it allows me to ignore the fact that I'm unfaimilar with a lot of the series' backstory. Lines like Nighthawk's, "Y'know, even the weirdest day I spent with the Defenders was sane compared to you people..." make my inner fanboy smile. In a just world, New Thunderbolts would be outselling New Avengers.

G.I. Joe: America's Elite! #8: Hate on 80s licenses all you want, but Joe Casey's spin on the toys I used to shoplift from Caldor as a pre-teen is like cotton candy on the tongue. And I really like Stefano Caselli's exaggerated faces.

X-Factor #3: You really have to wonder if Bendis had any clue what would become of his House of M deus ex machina, Layla Miller, if in fact he had any plans for her at all. Call me a hater, but I have trouble believing David isn't simply making lemonade out of lemons here, as opposed to following some grand plan that was hashed out at one of those infamous retreats of theirs that begat Disassembled and Civil War. In one sequence at the end of this issue, David makes Layla the second most interesting character in this series, behind only Madrox. Good stuff!

Captain America #14: Good writers can take on flawed plots and turn out good stories by focusing on the characters' reactions to said plots and making them feel genuine. Brubaker does exactly that here in his climax to the "Winter Soldier" storyline, making it less about Bucky's return and more about the emotional toll it takes on Steve Rogers and, equally impressively, Bucky himself. Now, it'll be interesting to see where he goes next, especially as he ventures into Geoff Johns territory, tackling an insane number of comics at once.

Son of M #3: After the first issue tease, where it seemed this mini-series would be as much about Peter Parker's reactions to the events of House of M as it was about Pietro's, that particular plot thread seems to have officially been cut as Quicksilver's attempts to regain his powers through illicit means takes center stage. Unfortunately, while it's solid storytelling, it's much less interesting than Peter's story would be. I'll grudgingly see this one through to the end, but my enthusiasm for it has diminished greatly.

Young Avengers #10: My favorite Marvel ongoing series right now, Heinberg and Cheung continue to make magic. Like the New Thunderbolts, it's the characterization that lifts this series above the crowd.

100 Girls #7: And so the first arc ends, with neither a bang nor a whimper, but rather a whisper of much more to come. Well-played, I hope Gallardo and Demong come back to this story sooner rather than later.

The Flying Friar: Taken on its own merits, ignoring questions of what's truth and what's fiction, Rich Johnston spins an engaging tale of Superman in 17th Century Italy. Effectively. It's a bit rushed, perhaps, but it's a satisying read, nevertheless.

Batman & the Monster Men #4: A pitch-perfect Batman story, Matt Wagner nails the character and his milieu like few creators ever have. The TPB will be a must-own, and I'd much rather see Christopher Nolan use this story for his third go-round on the big screen than the precarious mish-mash Raimi seems to be going for with Spider-Man.

JLA: Classified #16: Finally, I get to read some Gail Simone, teamed up with an artist I don't mind - excepting Lea Hernandez, the appealing half of the lame Killer Princesses - and not in connection with a crossover I have no interest in. And she knocks it out of the park with this first issue, ably assisted by the excellent (and odd) duo of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Klaus Janson, two of my favorite artists. I can't help but compare this to Grant Morrison's JLA #1, which I read for the first time a month ago, and opine that Simone handles DC's super team much better than Morrison did. Genuinely entertaining, with some excellent character beats, I especially liked her breaking down of the League into its military analogues.

Powers #16: It seems like I'm ready to drop this series every third issue or so, and then Bendis pulls off a great issue that reels me back in. This is one of those issues, as his spin on the Green Lantern Corps is entertaining in its own right, and compelling for the different angles he might explore moving forward. Oeming goes to town on the art here, too. I think dropping New Avengers will increase my appreciation for this series.

G0DLAND TPB: Talk about serendipity! Midtown sold out of the TPB the first day it came in, and didn't get any the following week, but I bumped into The Pickytarian in the subway and he happened to have his copy with him, having just finished reading it, and loaned it to me. While I didn't love it nearly as much as some others have, I did enjoy it immensely. It made me smile, it made me laugh, and now and then, it even made me groan a little bit. Similar to the Austin Powers movies, it's the bad guys who are the most interesting, and as long as Basil Cronus and Friedrich Nickelhead share some of the spotlight (see picture above), G0DLAND's a keeper. I'll be buying my own copy and adding the series to my pull list.

LINK: JLA Parody

Putting the bwa-hahaha back into the JLA: Fly On The Wall, Vol. I: JLA. From 2 Guys Buying Comics, one of the better comics blogs on my radar these days.

Coupled with Neil Kleid's INFINITE PATIENCE: The Blog of Alexander Luthor, the DCU hasn't been this much fun in years!

12 February 2006

Vs. CARD OF THE WEEK: Lady Vic (DOR-134)

Take two friends who love comics. Add a superhero-themed collectible card game. Sprinkle a dash of competitiveness, and a lump of testosterone. The result? Weekly matches that turn friends into nemeses.

This is not your typical "card of the week" column. Every web site dedicated to CCGs has been there and done that. This column is all about our competition, though. Dan and I usually play two games of Vs. a week, and every Sunday, we'll feature the card that we think most influenced the outcome of the matches we played the preceding week, and the metagaming lessons we learned in the process.

I hate Vs.!

Actually, I love the game, but I hate the Avengers expansion set that's dramatically tilted the tables in Dan's favor, with its broken team attacking benefits that have enabled him to pull off a couple of 30+ point 6th round knockouts. From almost everybody having flight, range and Leader abilities, to the ridiculously imbalanced cards like the brutal 6-drop Hercules card he profiled a few weeks back, or the curve-defying 2-drop Natasha Romanoff ◊ Black Widow -- who gets an extra automatic stun whenever she's team attacking -- the Avengers are forcing me to upgrade my current deck in order to stay competitive. Which, of course, is the point, but damn if it doesn't burn me that most of my Gotham Knights cards have been depowered so dramatically, so soon after I'd constructed a deck that had us on a pretty level playing field.

Card of the Week:
Lady Vic DOR-134

My current deck -- Gotham Knights / JLI / Unaffiliated -- was a desperate attempt to work in as many of the new mechanics that have been added to the game since its launch, because my original GK / Arkham Inmates deck simply couldn't hang against Dan's more up-to-date Spider-Friends and Marvel Knights decks. Handicapped by my preference for the Dark Knight and company, and my unwillingness to repeat my Pokémon experience and go crazy buying multiple packs, it's a compromised build that was able to hold its own until the Avengers came along.

Lady Vic was worked into my pre-JLI build, but never made it into a game until after I'd fully revamped the deck, removing the underpowered Arkham Inmates in favor of the more up-to-date JLI. With her power to KO a stunned character "unless its controller pays 3 endurance" and her 2 DEF, she was a strong 1-drop who often survived into the later rounds if I was able to quickly equip her with Twin Firearms, making her a formidable 5/2 and an easy sacrifice to a mutual stun to take out a stronger character. Throw in a Counterstrike or Trial by Sword plot twist, and Dan quickly learned that she wasn't an easy target to take lightly.

As a 1-drop in need of equipment, though, she's been a tricky play, helping as often as hurting me when I've had to decide whether or not to recover her or a higher drop character; and Unaffiliated characters' inability to team up has definitely hurt me a couple of times. As I'm about to revamp my deck yet again -- faced with the reality of having to cycle out Gotham Knights in favor of either JLA, Secret Society or Injustice Gang -- I hope to keep her in the mix, but I can't risk playing favorites over strategy and continuing to handicap myself the way I have by sticking with Gotham Knights up to this point.

In the meantime, I really hate the Avengers!

PS: When I say things like "broken" and "ridiculously imbalanced," I'm speaking purely out of bitterness and jealousy in reference to cards that have directly caused me to lose a match. To my knowledge, there's only one or two cards that are universally viewed as actually being broken.

11 February 2006

COMMENT: Moon Knight Hype; WonderCon News

Joe Quesada's hyping the new Moon Knight series, and while he's been on point lately - at least with the examples he gives here - I have to admit to cringing a little bit whenever he goes in to spin mode in connection to anything I'm looking forward to.

NRAMA: "Scribe" - If you had to pick ONE new ongoing title coming out sometime this year as your own "One to Watch", which would it be and why?

JQ: That book is simply called, Moon Knight! It is everyone's favorite new title up here at Marvel. Charlie [Huston] and David [Finch] are rocking on this book. I said it with Young Avengers, I said it with Nextwave, I'm saying it again, do not miss out on the first issue of this series!

Many of you have seen the preview and that's just a small taste of what's happening in the first issue and story arc. This title is hardcore and Marc Specter is going to be a major player in the Marvel Universe in short order.

I also have to admit to not being thrilled with David Finch's artwork that's been previewed so far. A little too 90s Image / Stephen Platt for me, especially the Batman as gargoyle knockoff for #2's cover. The hyper-steroidal look is really disappointing, as is the weird texture of the cowl. I don't hate it, but as a fan of Bill Sienkiewicz' take on the character, I don't love it, either. I have faith in Charlie Huston's ability to tell a strong enough story to make it work for me, though.

In other news, it's been announced at WonderCon this weekend that the universe is playing a cruel joke on me as none other than Grant Morrison will be taking over Batman:

Morrison said that he's already plotted 15 issues, and in his first issue alone, he has 15 ninja man-bats as well as Talia, and the story is called "Batman & Son". Morrison said Batman coming out of 52 OYL will be a more of a "fun guy, more healthy", more like the "Neal Adams, hairy-chested, love-god" version of Batman.
So I guess Morrison gets one more chance to impress me after all, because I'm really hoping to add some ongoing Batman stories back to my list after Infinite Crisis is done cleaning the slate. There's a good chance I might get the Teen Titans of the first 15-18 issues back as it was reported that, "Robin and Wonder Girl will on the new team roster come OYL as has been made obvious by the covers, but [Johns is] going to take a new approach in how he writes the book and make it more character-driven." Amen to Johns putting away the plot hammer and getting back to the characters. My fingers are crossed that Son of Vulcan joins the team before the end of 2006.

Finally, Brian K. Vaughan's Pride Of Baghdad was officially announced, a Vertigo OGN coming out in September that tells the story of "an escaped pride of lions in war-torn Iraq." Word from the inside is that it's being eyed for a big mainstream push, and Vaughan's shown a knack for tackling political issues with a relatively steady hand, so that's one I'll be keeping an eye on.

10 February 2006

LINK: The X-Men (Vs.) Sneak Preview


The boys over at Metagame have an article up with pictures of the swag available at this weekend's preview tournament. Everyone gets a side-by-side stacker of Colossus and Wolverine doing the fastball special. Playmats, deck tins, and T-Shirts are random door prizes. The extended art Snikt! card is for top players in the tournaments.

stackcolossus stackwolverine

I've been to three sneak previews and each one was better than the previous. It's a great place to refine your knowledge of the game. You get 5 packs to build a 30-card deck, and you're on your way! Generally, seasoned players are really helpful to newbies, so don't be intimidated and just go!

09 February 2006

COMMENT: Code Black

Damn you, ABC!

From America's Funniest Home Videos to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to Desperate Housewives, ABC slowly but surely took possession of my Sunday nights last season, to the point where our entire night is now structured around watching as much of those shows as we can. We eat during AHV, bathe the kids during EM, iron clothes during DW...and always turn the TV off before we can be tempted into Grey's Anatomy.

Then the Super Bowl came, and two little words kept me in front of the TV when the game was finished: Code Black.

The commercials for the Super Bowl episode of Grey's Anatomy had piqued my interest, largely thanks to the mystery of Code Black, and whether or not it meant there was a patient with a bomb. Turns out that's exactly what it meant, as a WWII aficionado accidentally shoots himself with some homemade ordnance which plants itself inside his chest...unexploded.

It's a tense, well-directed episode (by Peter Horton of thirtysomething fame!) that ends on the kind of cliffhanger that not only happily forces you back next week, but hooks you for the long-term, too. Prior to Sunday, I'd never watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy, only very loosely familiar with it from the commercials that run during the shows preceding it. Now, I'm hooked, and am going to check into whether a Season One DVD exists!

The episode didn't simply rely on its "Code Black" plot point, instead delivering a compelling cast of characters and giving each one just enough of the spotlight to get a sense of who's who without any awkward exposition. It's a perfect lesson in constructing the mythical "jump on point", something the average comic book writer seems to know little about these days.

I unexpectedly caught the repeat this evening and watched the whole thing again, this time making my wife watch, too. Sundays are officially shot to hell now!

See how that works?

Fabian Nicieza's New Thunderbolts immediately springs to mind as a recent example of a series I checked out mid-run for a plot hook - the New Avengers crossover - and stuck with because of his knack for strong characterization and his ability to make each issue accessible enough to pique my interest in what came before. As a result, I went back and bought both TPBs and added the series to my pull list.

It can be done.