31 March 2006

PANEL: Blue Beetle #1

Blue Beetle #1
Art by Cully Hamner and David Self
Written by Keith Giffen and John Rogers
March 2006, DC Comics

30 March 2006

LINK: The politics of V For Vendetta

Film critic and playwright Brian Dauth, "November 3rd Club" Editor in chief Victor D. Infante, Performance artist and film critic Matt Cornell, Libertarian Party co-founder Dave Nolan and "PopCultureShock" senior comics editor Guy LeCharles Gonzalez discuss The politics of "V For Vendetta" in the first installment of a new "November 3rd Club" Feature.

Read what they had to say, then tell us what you think in "The November 3rd Club" LJ Forum.

28 March 2006

On the Shelves: 3/29/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

Man, I was a little pissy last week, yes? Nothing a strong week of comics couldn't cure, though! American Way, Robin, Supermarket, Scatterbrain, Captain America, Iron Man: The Inevitable, Next Wave, X-Factor...it was like comics' own Best Week Ever!

Here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/29/06. 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]


Hysteria (link is for Vol. 1 Digest)

Femforce #135, $6.95

Who reads this? I don't think I've ever noticed it (or any other AC Comics titles) on the Diamond Top 300 list, and yet it's up to issue #135!??! Checked out their web site, and they strike me as targeting a very niche audience, successfully apparently.

Jovas Harvest #3 (Of 3), $3.50

Finally! The first two issues were rather intriguing, so I'm really looking forward to how it all comes together. As Arcana seems to have slowly embraced T&A-driven marketing with my first love, Ezra, I'm glad they're balancing it with titles like this. Speaking of Ezra, I never did receive the TPB I ordered a while back.

Zombie Tales The Dead #1, $6.99

Got a review copy of this sitting on the to-read pile, but at a glance, $6.99 is kind of steep for a b&w zombie anthology. (EDIT: My bad! It's not b&w, it's in color. Check ou the preview.) As for Boom!, according to the cancellation list for April, it looks like they have their first (?) casualty, as the third issue of their Steve Niles-penned mini-series, In The Blood, is noted as "Cancelled By Publisher". The 2nd issue is noted as "Lateness". This cryptic thread on Steve Niles' forum suggests there might have been a bit of behind-the-scenes trouble. Considering the difficulty new publishers face these days, and their relative high-profile, Boom! probably has one of the most unfortunate taglines I can think of: Watch Us Explode!

Blue Beetle #1, $2.99
JLA Classified #19, $2.99
Warlord #2, $2.99

While the preview didn't exactly wow me, and I've never been a fan of the character, I'll probably check Blue Beetle out because I've always been a fan of teen superheroes learning how to use their powers. Worked for me with Son of Vulcan, so hopefully this will be good, too. Of course, Giffen's track record recently hasn't been so great -- Defenders, Planetary Brigade, Jeremiah Harm -- though I am intrigued by I Luv Halloween. Am I the only one who thought Warlord #1 felt more like a #0 issue that should have only cost $0.25? Not impressed at all, Mr. Jones.

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Trilogy Vol 2 Exile TPB, $14.95

I'm lovin' it!

Or Else #4, $5.95

I've liked the little bit I've seen so far of Huizenga's work, as Or Else #1 and Ganges #1 were both solid reads. His artwork is clean and crisp, and his storytelling is subtly poetic in the way much of it is open to interpretation. That said, I'd rather read a larger collection of his work than these smaller appetizers.

Fallen Angel Idw #4 (Of 5), $3.99

Still says "(of 5)", though IDW's solicits for July include #7 and say that it's a standalone issue, which means back-to-back standalone issues after the first arc. Be interesting to see how that affects sales.

Ant Vol 1 Reality Bites TPB, $12.99
Ballad Of Sleeping Beauty TPB, $21.95
Godland #9, $2.99
Hysteria One Man Gang #2 (Of 4), $2.99
Sea Of Red Vol 2 No Quarter TPB, $11.99
Strange Girl #7, $2.99

There was an interesting announcement yesterday that Rex Mundi was moving from Image to Dark Horse this summer, after issue #18. Image Central, still plagued by late shipping, doesn't have very many titles that have broken into double-digit issues so this is a rather remarkable move, especially considering their reputation as the publisher for creator-owned work. The answer may be buried at the end of the announcement: "A Rex Mundi feature film is in the works through Dark Horse Entertainment." The siren call of Hollywood is a strong one.

More interesting Image info in the aformentioned cancellation list, as both Ant #7 and Sea of Red #11 are listed as "Cancelled by Publisher". While Sea of Red wasn't a great seller, Ant was burning up the charts, compared to most Image titles, at least, with each of the first three issues announced as "sold out". Ant #6 is noted as "Will Resolicit", and Ant #4 just came out earlier this month, four months after #3, so I wonder what's going on there.

Captain America 65th Anniversary Special, $3.99
New Avengers Illuminati Special, $3.99
Spider-Man & Arana Special, $3.99
X-Men Deadly Genesis #5 (Of 6), $3.50
X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #3 (Of 5), $2.99

Lot of one-shots and mini-series this week. Seems to be the smarter way to go for the Big Two to keep their slate full while not committing to embarassing disasters like Howling Commandos.

Horrorama Vol 3 GN, $12.90
Jenna #3 (Of 3), $3.95
Jenna And Ninja High School #1 (Of 3), $3.49

Anybody reading anything from Narwain? I've flipped through a few and bought one -- Touch, I think; lousy, too movie pitch-ish -- and haven't been impressed. Their website is terribly designed, too, with no clear way to see a list of their titles. They do have a fancy animated page listing their artists, though...but there's no links to what they're working on.

North Country GN, $13.95

Didn't North Country come out already; like, a while ago? I mean, I have a copy and I'm pretty sure I bought it myself. Solid, if unremarkable, BTW.

Last Island GN, $6.00

Hey, Alex, I did receive my copy; thanks! Solid read, not quite as good as Something So Familiar, but still a recommended read. Plan to cover it when I kick off my review column at PCS, hopefully next month.

Sharknife Vol 1 GN, $9.95

I didn't love the Free Comic Book Day preview of this last year, but our interview with Corey Lewis last week intrigued me enough to check it out. If it's got half the energy he seems to have, it should be a fun read.

Super Real #2, $3.25

Another comic that's buried in my to-review pile, it was an entertaining spin on reality TV with a lot of potential. Enough, at least, that I'll pick up the second issue.

Surrogates #5 (Of 5), $2.95

Yay! Can finally read this one straight through, as it was a bit too dense for serialization.

Middleman Vol 2 #2 Winnebago Interrogation Contingency, $2.95

First issue was fun, I'll stick with it.

*NOTE: Just an FYI that my Pick of the Week is usually made blindly, like most of my comments in this weekly post, though they're always based on something specific, whether an interview, preview or, on rare occasions, something I've actually gotten a hold of ahead of time. Caveat emptor!

27 March 2006

QUESTION: If you had $20...

Last week I hit the century mark at Midtown Comics, and have a $20 rebate coming to me. It's a personal tradition that every rebate be used toward the purchase of a trade. So what should be my next purchase? The last one I picked up was Superman: Birthright, and it was a winner. So are there any suggestions from the dedicated readers of CBC? Any Marvel or DC trade is fair game.

REVIEW: V for Vendetta

[Mild spoilers ahead.]

In the comics world, there are many sacred cows, and Alan Moore and his impressive body of work is perhaps one of the biggest in the herd. While I'm not a fan of sacred cows -- the very suggestion often taints my first impression the same way my High School required reading lists did -- I do have fond memories of Moore's ground-breaking Watchmen maxi-series, serialized back in 1986 during the peak of my first go-round as a comics fan, before a looming adulthood started offering new and more varied distractions. As a result, V for Vendetta, which began serialization a year later, never hit my radar, and I picked it up for the first time last summer in anticipation of the movie.

I'd reread Watchmen a year or so earlier and, while able to appreciate its much-deserved place in comics history for Moore's real-world spin on superheroes, felt it hadn't aged well at all. Despite Time magazine honoring it as one of their Top 100 Novels last year -- the only graphic novel on the list, BTW -- I would never suggest it to someone who's new to comics and looking for something to read. Considering I'm pretty sure that I didn't actually finish rereading it, and as I type this, can't remember any of the specifics of the story, I don't think I could wholeheartedly suggest it to modern superhero fans, either.

V for Vendetta, on the other hand -- while similarly dated and liberally incorporating elements familiar to any fan of the vengeance seeking, flush with resources anti-hero -- holds up remarkably well all these years later. It's a flawed story, mind you, as Moore slips back and forth between compelling melodramatic fiction and ham-fisted polemic (similar in some ways to Fahrenheit 911), but the overall result is that of an incredibly engaging tale -- part revenge thriller, part political potboiler, part police procedural -- that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride before ending on a somber, if obliquely hopeful, note. Moore ably juggles a large cast of reasonably fleshed-out characters, some moreso than others, and multiple intertwining subplots, and the sum is, without question, greater than its individual parts.

The underlying theme throughout is that of individual choice, and how the choices we make, or don't make, affect the world around us. Set in 1997, in a post-apocalypse, fascist England that would make George Orwell smirk, V explains, during a take-over of the state-run television network:

"We've had a string of embezzlers, frauds, liars and lunatics making a string of catastrophic decisions. This is plain fact. But who elected them? … You have encouraged these malicious incompetents, who have made your working life a shambles. You have accepted without question their senseless orders."
Reading that particular passage, I pictured the Wachowski Brothers' eyes lighting up, recalling the red pill/blue pill scene in The Matrix, and the tickle in the back of my own head the first time I saw it, wistfully contemplating the philosophy behind the idea. At that point, I was pretty sure they'd do a good job with the movie, and, for the most part, they did, despite Moore's furious objections that ultimately led to his removing his name from the credits (both of the movie and future printings of the book, I believe) and signing over all royalties to his collaborator, the artist David Lloyd, who did a stellar job bringing his story to life the first time around.

The movie is an adaptation in the most literal definition, "a composition rewritten into a new form," and anyone looking for a panel-by-panel, Sin City-style production is going to be sorely disappointed with it. If anything, whereas the book fits the proverbial "whole is greater than the sum of its parts," the movie is the opposite, featuring several great parts that come together in a satisfying, if not stellar, whole.

The Wachowskis, necessarily so, have flattened Moore's story, jettisoning many of the subplots and streamlining the story's two primary threads -- V's vengeance and Evey Hammond's enlightenment. They've also revamped most of the characters; updated the setting into the 21st century and incorporated several overt (and, at times, ham-fisted) references to a world led into ruin by the United States of America and its War on Terror™; and completely rewritten the final act. The latter point is, perhaps, the most contentious, as it strays from Moore's embracing of anarchy as a solution and posits a vague democracy via agitprop scenario that a more cynical person might point out is simply an ill-fated frying pan to the fryer choice. Of course, some might say the same about choosing anarchy, so in my mind, it's a minor quibble.

The larger flaw, however, lies in their unnecessary addition of an overt romantic link between V and Evey, and the shift to making V's beef with the government a much more personal one than it is the book. Both additions serve to weaken the ending somewhat, with Moore's being stronger despite the road to getting there being infinitely more implausible. (Brother Eye, anyone?) Overall, though, most of their tweaks actually improve upon the story, not the least of which is adding a much-needed bit of a sense of humor to the proceedings, as with an early scene featuring V cooking breakfast in a floral print apron.

Natalie Portman pretty much carries the movie on her slim shoulders, though she is assisted by several spot-on supporting performances, especially Hugo Weaving's, who deserves some recognition for pulling off what must be one of the most difficult challenges for an actor, completely hidden beneath a mask that gives no hint of the man underneath. It's all body language (and camera angles), and though at times I kept hearing Agent Smith in the back of my head, I think he did a great job. Stephen Rea, as Chief Inspector Finch, does a wonderful job, too, as the detective who keeps on digging despite knowing he might not like what he turns up: "If our own government was responsible for the deaths of a hundred thousand people... would you really want to know?"

Portman, though, was a revelation, shaking off the horrid Star Wars trilogy in a way Hayden Christiansen can only dream of. Of particular note is the scene where she is being tortured for information about V and does most of her acting with her eyes. It's a powerful scene in the book, perhaps the most powerful, and the Wachowskis transfer it to the screen pretty much intact. If I were her agent, I'd be cutting that scene onto a DVD and sending it out to every voting member of the Academy next Winter.

V for Vendetta is, at its heart, a solidly constructed popcorn thriller, nothing more, nothing less. While it uses political themes primarily as window dressing for telling a good yarn -- the movie moreso than the book, though Moore's take on it wasn't really that much deeper, simply more focused -- it is definitely more agit-prop than legitimate political statement, akin to my getting on stage and reading an angry poem about life under Bush, or Howard Dean's opportunistic anti-war stance during the Democratic primaries back in 2004. It may be preaching to the choir at some level, but as has been pointed out many times over the past six years, "The choir ain't singing!"

V for Vendetta is about ideas more than solutions, and V himself is an idea, a symbol, a metaphor writ large. "Ideas are bulletproof," explains V in the book.

His identity remains a mystery, in both the book and the movie, and that is purposeful (though in the book, it's made clear in Dr. Delia Surridge's journal that V is a man, and not Evey's father, and IIRC that's carried over to the movie, too). There's a sequence at the end of the book that's not used in the movie, where Evey debates removing V's mask, and it repeats four times with four different results, the final scenario revealing her own face. The movie does something similar with Inspector Finch's character, whose transformation is the most relatable to the general audience, as he goes from loyal party man to skeptic to, in the end, siding with V (in spirit, at least).

That is ultimately the message I took from the story, that each of us has a choice -- the blue pill or the red pill, if you will -- that any one of us, no matter where we start, can become V (or Guy Fawkes, or Nat Turner, or José Marti) if we make the choice to do so. It's agit-prop for the summer blockbuster crowd; too simplistic, perhaps, for the more politically savvy, but at just the right level for the average audience member more focused on making ends meet and putting food on the table than dissecting the nuances of political ideologies. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Considering the timelessness of Moore's original story, despite being written in the same era as Watchmen, if I had a vote, I'd substitute V for Vendetta on Time's Best 100 Novels list. It's more intricate, more engaging, and, in many ways, more accessible, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's not turned off by sequential art as a form. (ie: My wife won't be reading it.)

As for the movie, recognizing it for the densely layered popcorn action thriller it is, it gets two thumbs up from me, as well as a suggestion to not read the book first if you haven't already. Judging from my wife's confused reaction to it, I feel like there might have been some information that I caught because I'd read the book the day before. Nevertheless, it's as entertaining a 2+ hour movie experience as I've had recently, and I'll definitely be buying the inevitable special edition DVD whenever it comes out.

NOTE: This review was edited from my comments in an email roundtable on V for Vendetta, put together by the November 3rd Club, and may seem slighty disjointed as a result. The full discussion should be posted sometime later this week, and I'll add the link to it when I get it.

26 March 2006

PANEL: Supermarket #2

Supermarket #2
Art by Kristian
Written by Brian Wood
March 2006, IDW

PANEL: Daughters of the Dragon #3

Daughters of the Dragon #3 (of 6)
Art by Khari Evans, Jimmy Palmiotti and Christina Strain
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
March 2006, Marvel Comics

Zilla and the Comics Junkies has been one of my favorite blogs since I first came across it, as much for its great content as for its excellent visual design. If I ever get around to redesigning CBC, I'll be stealing their template! One of my favorite things Zilla posts is the panel scans, especially the standalone posts, a la this one from Wolverine #32.

Last night, while heading to Pathmark for our weekly grocery shopping, my wife remembered she had a lot of printing to do for an appointment today and our trusty old laser printer was low on toner. Because it's so old -- I've had it since 1997! -- we can only get the toner online, so I ended up running into PC Richard and buying a new printer. Part of me thinks it was a set up as she's wanted to get a new printer for a while now, and not having the luxury of doing some research to find the best deal, I ended up going with a brand I trust, getting the HP Photosmart 2575 All-in-One, which includes, finally, a scanner! Not thrilled about the paper feed problems several reviewers on Amazon.com are complaining about as that was always an issue with the previous printer, but my wife printed out a bunch of stuff last night so, so far so good.

With the ability to post scans, I feel like I'm officially a real comics blogger now! Maybe I'll start my own webcomic? Ha!

LINK: Free Atomika Comics!

Still on break, but that doesn't mean I'm letting my Bloglines account get backed up!

Andrew Dabb, versatile writer of such disparate comics as G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 and Vaistron, is giving away three complete[-to-date] sets of Atomika over on his web site. If you've been intrigued by this oddball maxi-series but reluctant (or unable) to pick it up so far, here's a great chance to sample it for free and get caught up on the first half of the story.

All you have to do is leave him an interesting comment (on his site) explaining why you want them and what you'll do with them. There's a bunch of comments already, and I suspect at least one frontrunner:

What will I do with these comics once I get them? I will read them, I will enjoy them, and I will share them. Share them so that everyone can come to know the strange joy that is Atomika and comics in general, and go out and buy comics, thus ensuring your continued income. Share them so that people will stop making fun of comics. Share them so that my plan to rule the world can be brought into fruition. And then I will tie a red towel around my neck and run around shouting “Whoosh!” and “God is Red!”
That's going to be a hard one to beat...but that's why he's giving away THREE sets!

22 March 2006

Taking a Little Break

Why do bloggers always feel the need to make a post about taking some time off from blogging?

I don't know, but that's exactly what I'm doing now. I need to get some PopCultureShock affairs in order, not to mention some real world concerns that need to be addressed, and as much as it pains my ego to think of the hit my little SiteMeter is going to take, I'll be taking a break from this blog for at least a week or so. Also need to catch up on reading, respond to a ton of emails, and, the big one, reassess my involvement in all thing comics-related.

Hopefully when I return, it'll be in a better mood. Because Jason's right, when it comes right down to it, it is just comics, though I take comics rather seriously -- too much so, perhaps? -- so it's a qualified "just".

Hit the archives down below and customize your own repeat programming while I'm gone!

21 March 2006

On The Shelves: 3/22/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month...or not. Who cares?

Between Blogger and Gmail's sporadic outages the past week or so, and some behind-the-scenes dustups that are really testing my patience for this labor of love shit, I'm feeling rather jaded and cynical these days. That's a bad combination, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, so I still have my fingers crossed.

Anyway, here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/22/06. 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]



Nightmarist GN, $14.99
Strange Embrace TPB, $14.95

I normally skip entries like this one, with a publisher and titles I've never heard of, but today I'm debating whether the glass is half full or half empty. When I browse the shelves at a regular bookstore -- say the Mystery section, looking for the next Lawrence Block -- do I get annoyed by the number of publishers and titles I've never heard of? Or, do I appreciate the broad selection that increases the likelihood that I'll find something interesting every time I'm in there, no matter what mood I'm in? This, in contrast to a comic book shop, even one like Midtown, where there's a pretty good chance that if I miss something the week it comes out, I may never come across it again. Comics are a unique animal whose distribution caters to the fanatic and I'm realizing more and more that I'm simply not the fanatic I thought I was. I just want to read good comics.

Atomik Mike #1, $3.50
Hyperactives #1 (Of 5), $3.50
Sixgun Samurai #4, $2.99

So, is the Christian market keeping Alias afloat, or is there a more interesting story behind this perceived train wreck-in-waiting's survival?

Family Secret Vol 1 GN, $17.95

I had to Google this one:

A Family Secret
Illustrated by Eric Heuvel
Story by Eric Heuvel, Menno Metselaar, Ruud van der Rol, Hans Groeneweg

A young boy goes to his grandmother's attic to find old things to sell at a flea market and makes an amazing discovery. The family secret is revealed by the grandmother and so introduces the reader to the Holocaust as it affected one Dutch family and their neighbors during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The authors and illustrator succinctly focus on collaborators, resisters, by-standers, helpers and victims through a compelling story line and age appropriate illustrations. This is a great educational tool to introduce middle-and-high school students to the history of the times; this book will dovetail readily with classroom curriculum.

Anne Frank House/Resistance Museum Friesland
English Language Edition
Illustrated soft cover: 60 pages (item #212)

Price: $17.95
Very interesting. Worth looking into further, maybe. At $17.95 for 60 pages, though, it's clearly not targeted to the direct market. Or mainstream bookstores, for that matter.

Jeremiah Harm #2, $3.99

The first issue was solid, if somewhat uninspired; yet another take on the "it takes a criminal to catch a criminal" genre, in this case with the standard Star Wars sci-fi trappings. More than anything, it made my desire to see a Chronicles of Riddick adaptation that much stronger.

American Way #2 (Of 8), $2.99
Batman #651, $2.50
Testament #4, $2.99
Top 10 The Forty Niners SC, $17.99

OYL and it's still DC's imprints that are getting most of my money, though Testament has dropped to flip-through status as three issues in, it's still just potentially good. American Way #1 was a good read, one of those high concepts that have been in the back of my mind for years, solidly executed by John Ridley, Georges Jeanty and Karl Story.

D. E.
Red Sonja #8, $2.99
Red Sonja Vs Thulsa Doom High End Foil Ed #2 (Of 4), AR

I have to admit to being pleased by the plunging sales figures for this misbegotten license. Its success would have meant there was some merit to targeting the collector's market with multiple variants in order to boost sales, but that boost's been thankfully short-lived.

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Sojourn Seeley Cvr A #1 (Of 3), $4.95

For all the knocks on licensed comics, and I've thrown a few of those jabs myself, Devil's Due does a good job with the D&D and G.I. Joe stuff. A really good job. Because seriously, when you think about it, isn't that all most of Marvel and DC's superhero titles are these days, licensed comics?

Supermarket #2 (Of 4), $3.99

I didn't hate the first issue, which for me and a Brian Wood scripted comic, is a great start. The combination of artist Kristian's coloring and the paperstock really worked for me, too, making the $3.99 price tag a little easier to swallow. I still wish IDW would use at least a page or two of the "extras" in the back for things related to the specific comic, though.


Like Marvel last week, nothing, and it's a bit disappointing.

Abiding Perdition Vol 1 TPB, $17.00
Lexian Chronicles Full Circle Vol 1 TPB (resolicited), $15.00
Scatterbrain Kudranski Cvr A #1

I picked up all three of these at NY Comic-Con, thanks to Harry Markos' generosity, and enjoyed Scatterbrain a lot. At first glance, it's a much darker Gotham Central, with a Batman/Scarecrow mash-up "hero", as drawn by Ben Templesmith, but better. And I understand the artist is some 19-year old kid, which is impressive. (Sorry, he’s got to draw more than a single issue before I compare him to Bill Sienkiewicz.) I've only flipped through the other two so far, but at a glance, they look nice. It's clear that production quality isn't really an issue for most of the bigger small publishers out there, but I have to wonder at what cost to their bottom line? Apparently one of the reasons for Speakeasy's initial stumbles was due to their printer, Lamppost -- owned by Alias' publisher, Brett Burner -- shafting them out of left field and forcing them to move to a more expensive printer, which drove up their bottom line. Bad enough there's only one national distributor for comics, but when your printing options are limited, too, it really is a sign that, as democratic as comics may seen, not just anybody can, or should, publish them.

All New Off Handbook Marvel Universe A To Z #3, $3.99
Black Panther #14, $2.99
Captain America #16, $2.99
Daredevil #83, $2.99
Daughters Of The Dragon #3 (Of 6), $2.99
Incredible Hulk #93, $2.99
Incredible Hulk 2nd Ptg Hitch Var #92, $2.99
Iron Man The Inevitable #4 (Of 6), $2.99
Nextwave Agents Of Hate #3, $2.99
Storm #2 (Of 6), $2.99
X-Factor #5, $2.99

Holy cow, that's a big week! If I were to institute my final pull list crackdown right now, only Iron Man, Next Wave and X-Factor would make the cut, while the Hulk would slip in as a sampler because Greg Pak sold me on the story idea and his plans to execute it.

Convention Confessional #2, $3.95

I met these guys back at Wizard World Philly last year, and thought their first issue was a little too insiderish for my tastes, but entertaining, nonetheless. Feeling a bit too insiderish myself these days, I'm curious to see how it affects my reading of this one.

Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me GN, $8.00

No idea what this is, but it sounds like my life from about 19-27 years old! My wife, of course, is the end-all, be-all, a completely different matter altogether!

Comic Shop News #979, AR
Comics Buyers Guide June 2006 #1617, $5.99

Whenever I get a bug up my ass about the comics industry and its less-than-stellar journalistic efforts, I fantasize about starting up my own magazine. Then I think about how difficult it is to manage a free web site, and how badly Lo-Fi turned out, not to mention how unforgiving consumer publishing is these days...and I laugh off the temporary insanity.

16 March 2006

COMMENT: Pull List Massacre, Part I

Just lopped a bunch of titles from my Midtown Comics pull list, and what's left appears below. The titles in bold are pretty safe from the axe, for now, while the italicized titles are on the chopping block, either outright or via wait-for-the-trade. I feel like there's a few titles missing, too, probably stuff I pick up on sight but haven't added to my pull list yet.

Dark Horse
Conan: Book Of Thoth

All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder
American Virgin
American Way
Astro City: The Dark Age
Batman And The Monster Men
Detective Comics
Ex Machina
Infinite Crisis (George Perez Cover)
JLA: Classified
Jonah Hex
Teen Titans

IDW Publishing
Fallen Angel

Bomb Queen
Fear Agent
NYC Mech: Beta Love
Season Of The Witch
Strange Girl

All-New Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe A-Z
Black Panther
Captain America
Daughters Of The Dragon
Iron Man: The Inevitable
Moon Knight
New Avengers: Illuminati One-Shot
New Thunderbolts
Next Wave
Powers Vol 2
Son Of M
Spider-Man & Arana Special
X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl
Young Avengers

100 Girls
Action Philosophers!
Alan Moore's Hypothetical Lizard (Wraparound Cover)
Amelia Rules
Elk's Run
Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy
G.I. Joe: America's Elite
G.I. Joe: Sigma 6
Johnny Raygun Quarterly
Jova's Harvest
Monkey In A Wagon Vs. Lemure On A Big Wheel
Mouse Guard
Nat Turner
Revolution On The Planet Of The Apes
Secret Voice

All in all, it's the first step towards emphasizing comfort over experimentation, and there's several mini-series in there that will come off the list naturally and bring the total down to more a comfortable monthly tally. Ideally, I'm thinking I'd like to cap it around 25 comics per month (approx. $75), including mini-series, and start focusing more on TPBs and OGNs, especially older classics that I missed the first time around, like Preacher, Transmetropolitan, and many of Burgas' recommendations.

I'm sure I'll still do some sampling of new titles that catch my eye, but it's going to take something special to get on the pull list from now on, and it just may come down to an either/or decision with something else getting cut in order to make room.

15 March 2006

COMMENT: Buying Habits...and How to Change Them

First, read Ed Cunard's post criticizing the Independents' Day campaign (read the comments, too), then read my intro to yesterday's On the Shelves. Both got me thinking about the comics I currently buy and enjoy, how they compare to what I was buying and enjoying this time last year, and offered a bit of insight into why my to-read pile is growing out of control.

In the comments to Cunard's post, I mention a conversation I had the other night:

...about the cyclical nature of comics buying, how some of us move from nostalgia/habit to experimentation to comfort, while others get locked into a particular mode, by choice or lack of awareness. Where I think I've been shifting into comfort mode recently, only buying comics I enjoy regardless of what genre or publisher, this Independents' Day is a great idea for those stuck in nostalgia/habit mode.
Ed and others have issues with the Independents' Day idea, some valid, some overly nitpicky. In the end, though, I'm a believer in taking action, and if there's a group of fan/creators who see the ID campaign as a rallying point that will inspire them to taking action, more power to them. IMO, it's similar to The Hive, except the ID campaign focuses on the Direct Market while The Hive is attempting to look beyond it. Both are valid concepts with great intentions, and you could nitpick either of them to death if you have nothing better to do, but they can really only be judged by their end results.

Anyway, the buying habits thing jumped out at me in the midst of all of this as I'm on the verge of drastically overhauling my pull list. Again.

When I started this blog, I was on the fringes of "nostalgia" mode, enjoying some of the stuff I remembered from my youth, but starting to seek out new things to read. Overwhelmed by the variety of comics on the racks every Wednesday, I did what I do in mainstream bookstores when I'm looking for something new: I browse until I find something that strikes my fancy. Sometimes it's the author; sometimes it's the back cover copy or a blurb from a writer I like; sometimes it's the cover image itself (though that's more often a turnoff than an inspiration, especially with genre fiction). It's certainly never the publisher. In fact, of my favorite writers -- Larwence Block, Matt Ruff, Carl Hiaasen -- I have no idea who publishes their work, nor do I care.

While I'm browsing the shelves, comic or otherwise, I'll sometimes come across a title or author I've seen mentioned in a magazine, or online somewhere -- a review, an interview, possibly even an ad -- and that ding of familiarity will combine with something about the book itself, as mentioned above, and I'll do the flip test, randomly turning to a page and reading what's there. If I like it, I buy it; assuming, of course, that it fits into whatever budget I've alloted for the purchase. There have been many instances where one book was left on the shelf in favor of another more interesting one, and when it comes to comics, such a decision often leads to a pull list adjustment, an occurrence I'd wager is way more common than not.

Over the past year or so, as I've made my way through the aforementioned cycle, the balance of my reading for pleasure has shifted drastically, from approx. 65/35 books/comics to the current 10/90 books/comics. Because comics are cheaper (by the unit) and quicker to read, and as I started writing more and more about them, my appetite grew voraciously, to the point where if I come home with less than 15 comics on a Wednesday nowadays, it qualifies as a "light week" and I probably picked up a TPB or two to make up the difference. As a result, the pile of comics I've yet to read is daunting -- especially when you add in the stack I picked up at the Con -- growing larger every week and sapping a bit of the pleasure from the experience as I feel obligated to plow through them as quickly as possible, despite not having the time to do so.

Back to the cycle -- nostalgia/habit to experimentation to comfort -- and I stress that it's a cycle, and probably should include abstinence, which many of us have dealt with at least once and can occur at any point in the cycle. The experimentation mode has lasted over a year for me, spurred partly by my not wanting to get bored with this blog by reviewing the same 10-15 comics every month, and later, feeling an obligation to be familiar with as much of what was out there as possible. Over that time, I've also started to receive more and more review copies of books which I feel obligated to, you know, review at some point, but simply don't have the time.

While I enjoyed the early stages of the experimentation phase, the exhilarating sense of discovery every time I stumbled across a Skyscrapers of the Midwest or Elk's Run or Runners, it's gotten to the point where it's just not as exciting as it used to be.

TANGENT: I don't know why exactly, but I'm suddenly reminded of something I read a couple of years ago, about Christopher Columbus' final days, in Eduardo Galeano's MEMORY OF FIRE: I. Genesis:

The ocean will not be called the Sea of Columbus; nor will the new world bear his name, but that of this Florentine friend Amerigo Vespucci, navigator and pilot master. But it was Columbus who found dazzling color that didn't exist in the European rainbow. Blind, he dies without seeing it.
Not sure where that fits in, and I'm certainly not comparing myself to Columbus, but it came to me so clearly just now that I had to throw it out there.


My favorite part of Ed's post, and the part I most agree with, is this:

Maybe it's getting older. Maybe it's losing passion. Maybe it's my slow slide towards cynical entropy. Maybe Tom Spurgeon, bad influence that he is, helped me decide that I don't have to support a comic book just because it is self-published or from a small press when he wrote about the "Team Comics" mentality in The Comics Journal #250.

Or, taking it more in the glass half-full way, maybe it's because I am seeing success stories--books like Black Hole doing well in the bookstore trade and at certain comics shops; NPR features on Persepolis, R. Crumb and Dan Clowes; seeing First Second ads in almost every Publisher's Weekly newsletter I get (and not just the comics-related ones); films like A History of Violence and the upcoming Art School Confidential that show others are getting hip to the idea that "comics" doesn't necessarily mean "superheroes," even if the vox populi of online fandom doesn't voice it; manga and graphic novels becoming a major force in mainstream publishing (even if some still maintain that manga isn't comics, for whatever reason).
Familiarity really does breed contempt, sometimes, and I've found, particularly in the comics blogiverse, that the longer one's been writing about comics, the more likely they are to come off as cynical, sometimes even contemptuous of...well, everything. It's one of the main reasons I got out of the poetry scene: I'd become so cynical that I couldn't even find much joy in the things I liked. (And no, I'm not saying that's where Ed is.)

So, nostalgia/habit to experimentation to comfort. I'm making the shift into comfort over the next couple of months and, as a result, I'm sharpening up the pull list axe. Who lives? Who dies? Who gets pushed to trade only? Find out next month!

Seriously, though, if you've read this far, all four of you, where are you in the cycle?

14 March 2006

On the Shelves: 3/15/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

Check out the Independents' Day Campaign, a rallying cry for comics fans to...you guessed it -- TRY SOMETHING NEW: "This coming New Comics Day, give up your copy of Teen Titans and New X-Men and consider instead Femforce, Hero Squared, GI Joe America's Elite or Starship Troopers Blaze Of Glory."

Ironically, I feel like I've hit the wall with my own sampling, much more likely to pick up an OGN or TPB than I am a new floppy these days. I have no interest in subsidizing the industry and its broken business model that effectively eats its young. I've also stopped feeling guilty about waiting for the trade, the same way I don't feel any guilt over waiting for the DVD. I've realized recently that I'm not really the Direct Market's target customer anyway, and I'm less and less inclined to support "comics" like some misguided cause célèbre (minus the célèbre), preferring to focus on buying things that catch my fancy, same as I do with books without pictures.

Of course, that means publishers and creators are going to have to think outside of the Direct Market box in order to get my attention and, more importantly, my hard-won dollars. I think it's time for some Pull List spring cleaning.

With that in mind, my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/15/06. 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]


Back Issue

Giant Monster #1 (AA), $6.99
Planetary Brigade #2, $2.99

BOOM! Studios has been receiving a lot praise recently for their approach to publishing comics -- including being named "Best New Publisher" by Wizard -- featuring a reasonable number of titles, and a mix of established creators working in relatively safe genres. I've only picked up a couple so far, and flipped through a couple more, and they seem to be solid, if unremarkable comics. It'll be interesting to see how this JLA parody sells, as it's primarily dependent on one's appreciation for Keith Giffen's bwahahaha scripting that seemed really threadbare in his recent Defenders mini-series. In some ways, it's like the opposite of Speakeasy's approach, which took a gamble on lesser-known creators doing off-kilter work and lost big. You have to wonder what kind of market there is out there for non-Marvel/DC superheroes and zombie stories, which makes up almost half of BOOM!'s current line. That said, I'm intrigued by Talent.

Conan #26, $2.99
Conan Book Of Thoth #1 (Of 4), $4.99
Perhapanauts #4 (Of 4), $2.99

A double dose of Conan makes me happy! Perhapanauts #3 was surprisingly uneven -- with, IIRC, two short stories and the first part of a longer story -- as if they weren't actually expecting to get a third issue out. Still a fun read, but if it were an ongoing, I'd likely be jumping off now.

Batman Year One Hundred #2 (Of 4), $5.99
JLA Classified #18, $2.99
Teen Titans Annual #1, $4.99

A surprisingly light week, something I wasn't expecting to see once One Year Later kicked in. Batman and Teen Titans are huge maybes, as I still haven't read the first issue of Pope's mini and I'm not sure what's in the Annual.

GI Joe Sigma 6 #4, $2.95

G.I. Joe, Conan, Planet of the Apes...can someone PLEASE pick up the Riddick license and give me the comic book I really want!?!?!

Angel Old Friends #4 (Of 5), $3.99
Spike Vs Dracula #1 (Of 5), $3.99

Spike vs. Dracula?!?! Really? I wonder if these Buffy comics have an audience outside of the Direct Market?

Atheist #3 (resolicited), $3.50
Grounded #5 (Of 6), $2.99
Mora Vol 1 All Beasts Will Show Their Teeth TPB, $12.99

Finally with Atheist!! And Grounded seems like its late, too. I have the Mora floppies, but never read past #2 as it felt like it should have been an OGN. If there's some extras in the TPB, I might pick it up.


Um...wow. Nothing this week of interest? That's not cool.

Voltron Collectors Set, $9.95

Collector's set of what? I used to love the Voltron cartoon, but never picked up any of the comics. For $9.95, though, I might take a chance on a TPB.

Back Issue #15, $6.95

It's the "Weird Heroes" issue, featuring Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, The Demon, Deadman, 'Mazing Man, and Ragman, whom I've always been curious about. Plus, some great Gene Colan art!

13 March 2006

LINK: Jason Todd Spoiled?

NEWSarama has the DC solicits for June up, and this one caught my eye:

Written by Bruce Jones
Art by Paco Diaz & Bit
Cover by Jock
Nightwing's been captured, and the only man who can save him is...Nightwing? When Jason Todd's life is on the line, will Dick Grayson be ready and willing to save him? After Jason's actions in this issue, he may not!
On sale June 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
I was right!

COMMENT: Friends & Enemies in the Digital Age

In the midst of the whole Speakeasy dustup two weeks ago, Ed Cunard made an interesting point that I wanted to address on the front end of the blog.

Of course, Guy, you're also friends and coworkers at Pop Culture Shock with some creators that got screwed by Speakeasy.

Just saying--it seems like everyone talking about this story has some horse in the race, or at least a pony or something else small and horse-like that runs.
He's referring to the Elk's Run gang there -- Josh and Jason, in particular -- both of whom I wouldn't hesitate to consider friends, but with an asterisk, perhaps, realizing that I've never actually met Josh in person, and Jason only twice.

Out here on the still-wild frontier of the world wide web, the definition of a "friend" is often different from its definition in the realphysical world. More appropriately, I'd say Josh and Jason are professional acquaintances with whom I've developed the beginnings of a friendship, largely based upon some common interests and similar ideas about the comics industry. By that definition, though, I have many "friends" in the industry, aka horse-like critters in the race, the vast majority of whom wouldn't recognize me if I kicked them in the nuts at a convention. Hell, I bet most of them don't even know how to pronounce my name, as evidenced by the several blank stares I received at the NY Comic-Con, until repeating the more common pronounciation most people assume upon seeing it written first. (For the record, it's Guy, like guillotine, not Guy, like guide.)

In the little over a year since I started writing about comics, I've been in touch with a slew of creators, either letting them know of a review -- as long as it was relatively positive; the negative ones can be discovered via Google! -- or for interviews or articles I was writing, and very few of them would I presume to call friends. Or "small and horse-like" for that matter. ;-)

That's not to say I haven't met several great people whom I'd like to see succeed, some of whom I'd even love to share a beer with and shoot the shit, but it's certainly not my goal in writing about comics. In fact, generally speaking, I'd rather not make friends in the industry because it can make writing about them and/or reviewing their work difficult. ie: Charlie Huston and I have struck up enough of a casual friendship since our interview last summer that I feel like I can't properly review his upcoming Moon Knight series, not without a bit of bias creeping in, at least. I want to like it because I like him and think he's a good writer and a nice guy, and as a result, I'm sure I would overlook certain things that I'd take others to task for. (That said, I've read the first issue, and while you can tell it was written as the first chapter of a mini-series, it's a great [re]introduction to the character. Huston nails the tone, and David Finch, not one of my favorite artists, really steps up and knocks it out of the park. An easy B+ in PDF, possibly better in print.)

Thinking about "friends" leads me to thinking about "enemies", as there are some who would suggest that I may have made a few in my short time covering this insular world of comics.

When I first started contributing to PopCultureShock last April, I had a couple of electronic run-ins with another contributor over our conflicting views of what the site should represent. At one point, he suggested a Hottest Female Comics Creators piece that I threw a flag on, feeling it, a) was cheesy and stereotypical, and b) might serve to alienate any female readership we might have had at the time. He threw a hissy fit, the first of several, claimed I was "too conservative" and threatened to take the article elsewhere. To my knowledge, it never ran anywhere else, and in October, when I took over as Senior Comics Editor, he quit, popped up briefly on another site a month or so later, and by the end of the year had pretty much disappeared. His last email to me included a vague threat about hoping to not see me at a future convention, to which I reminded him that I'd met him in person already and wasn't impressed.

There's a certain publisher with whom I've had a few public and backchannel run-ins, who's seemingly convinced I have an axe to grind with him because of my negative opinion of his self-aggrandizing, Stan Lee-lite online persona. Our last go-round ended with me writing him off completely, and left such a foul taste in my mouth that I can't even bring myself to pick up anything he publishes anymore. While unfair to the individual creators, perhaps, it's akin to my dislike for Madonna or Eminem, whereby anyone associated with them is tainted; initially, at least. I have to admit, though, that the idea of putting any money in his pocket is a huge turnoff.

Having written this post at two different times, in two different moods, over the course of a week, I'm not even sure what my original point was. While Cunard's aforementioned comment was the impetus, and the negative reactions to Heidi MacDonald's coverage of the NY Comic-Con certainly were in the mix, I'm guessing there's some subconcious assessment of what I'm doing and why playing into this, too. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately and treading dangerously close to the more-obligation-than-fun line that ultimately frustrated me out of the poetry scene, so it's probably a good thing that I'm meeting with two managing editor candidates this week.

I guess if there was any point to all of this, it would the rather simple, "I don't really care what people think of me, per se." Ask anyone from the slam poetry scene who knows me, and they'll tell you that I've never been one to be overly concerned about who likes and doesn't like me. I do what I do out of passion, and always stand firmly behind my beliefs, letting the chips fall where they may. While I don't intentionally set out to piss people off, I know I can be an abrasive, cantankerous fucker who steps on toes; sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. That said, I don't want to be like the aforementioned publisher, where I become an obstacle, or a deterrent, to someone else enjoying the subjects of my writing.

I'd like to think I've built up a solid body of work to-date via which my likes and dislikes can be properly weighed, and my potential biases can be clarified and measured. Beyond that, as the song goes, "I just gotta be me!"

Or, "F**k the world, don't ask me for s**t
And everything you get ya gotta work hard for it"

11 March 2006

LINK: Project Rooftop


Project Rooftop is where cartoonists and illustrators bring their costume design skills to task in tribute to the superheroes and villains we’ve grown up with. This site is intended to promote positive costume design as well as foster continued interest for these amazing characters.

This site was inspired by a lot of different things, including the recent Batgirl Meme, and AdHouse Books‘ Project: Superior, the television program Project Runway, the videogame tribute site Lifemeter, the introduction of the superhero fashion designer Edna Mode in The Incredibles, and the growing number of indie comics artists, especially on LiveJournal, where superhero redesigns have become something of a trend...

Indie comics artist Dean Trippe and comics journalist Chris Arrant put this project together as a way to showcase this art in tribute to classic superheroes, and as a catalyst to improve costume design in the industry.

In the aftermath of the internet-sweeping , redesigned superhero costumes have reached a boiling point. They’re cluttering up the blogs and homepages of artists across the world, fans and pros alike. It’s time for Project Rooftop.
This looks like it could be a lot fun once it gets rolling. So far, there's two revamps posted, Iron Man and The Falcon, the former a dramatic but interesting overhaul; the latter, subtler but equally effective. In the Falcon's review, Chris Arrant makes a point about the mask that I never realized -- that weird gold thingee is a freakin' beak?!?!

Of the two, only The Falcon's seems to adhere to Brian Cronin's Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design, which states: "All costume designs must be done so that, if Ron Frenz were to draw it, it would look normal/cool."

Here's an example of Frenz' work to set the bar (image via CatskillComics.com, where you can purchase original pin-ups or commissions):

Check them out and judge for yourself.

10 March 2006

LINK: Why Batman Annual #25 Sucked

Don't take my word for it, since I've hated the Jason Todd returns angle from the very beginning and was extremely biased going into this issue, which I read in the store and then put right back on the shelf, eyes completely glazed over and, for the first time ever, looking forward to reading a Grant Morrison story.

Instead, take One Guy's (no relation) word for it, as posted on Four Color Meat & Fish:

Is This the End of Zombie Jason?

I had been against the idea of Jason Todd’s return from the start... But Judd [Winick] went and did something that I never expected… he made it work. I found myself excited to read the latest chapter of the Jason Todd saga. He won me over by building on what had come before, rather than ignoring it. I realized I should have been less reactionary at first, and given the stories a chance before I spoke out against them. I was eating my words.


As we got closer to the final reveal of "how Jason returned" in the Batman Annual, I was confident that Judd would wow us with his explanation and cap off one of the most exciting years of Batman comics in memory.

I was dead wrong.

Judd has long stated that he was more interested in the "what effect would it have on Batman if Jason were alive" aspect of the story vs. the "how did it happen" details, and that is clearly evidenced in the muddled and badly executed explanation laid out for us in Batman Annual #25.
One Guy goes on to offer eight specific reasons "why it sucks", my favorite of which was #3...

3) The sensors Batman planted around the coffin to let him know if Jason's coffin was tampered with did not go off because THEY WERE ONLY SET TO GO OFF IF SOMEONE WAS BREAKING IN, NOT OUT.

I'm going to let that one sit with you as well. What kinds of sensors might those be, that don't pick up movement in and around the coffin? Hinge sensors? Nope... Motion detectors? Nope. Plot-hole bandaids? Getting closer.
I forget at which point in the issue this comes up, so I'm not sure if it was the final straw for me or not, but it definitely was one of the more amazingly stupid moments in an issue chock-full of them.

Grant Morrison will really have to go out of his way to not be hailed as the best thing to happen to Batman in years, following such "stellar" turns by the likes of Jeph Loeb, Brian Azzarello and Mr. Winick.

And by stellar, of course, I mean sucky.

LINK: Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3 First Look

The Isotope, San Francisco's ultra-hip comics retailer, has an exclusive First Look at Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3, Joshua Cotter's award-winning series published by AdHouse Books:

"Without a doubt, Josh Cotter is one of those comic creators whose work the Isotope looks forward to the most. Sure, we've got a special place in our heart for the guy as we were first introduced to him when he won our Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics back in 2004. But even if we'd discovered his books through Diamond or Cold Cut, we'd still just love Cotter's comics!"

Skyscrapers of the Midwest by Joshua W. Cotter
56 Black & White Pages for $5.00
From AdHouse Books
Shipping this June.

Download and enjoy a first-look 8 page preview here.
Skyscrapers was named Best New Series in Buzzscope / PopCultureShock's Best of 2005 list on the strength of its first two issues -- which I reviewed here and here (the latter includes an interview w/Cotter) -- and I can't wait for #3 to hit the stands. Check out the preview and let your LCBS know you want to pre-order your copy ASAP.

09 March 2006

PROPS: Gingko Press

I've still not gotten around to doing a New York Comic-Con wrapup, here or at PopCultureShock -- my week-late Establishing Shots column may get written in time for next week, if I'm lucky -- as there's several comics I picked up that I want to read first, but I wanted to give props to one book in particular:

Alphabet City: Out on the Streets, by Michael De Feo. It's an ABC board book with a twist, as De Feo opts for presenting a mix of typical and offbeat words in unusual locations. ie: "F" is represented by a simple, hand-drawn flower on white paper, pasted to the base of an NYC lamp post. The photo is taken from a knee-level perspective, with the front of a car in the immediate background, and a busy side street behind it. The silver paint on the lamp post is chipped in several places, and a few promotional stickers are visible. Several other pictures include paintings of beach balls, hot dogs and quail against the side of a dumpster and faded, graffiti-covered walls. In all of them, the gritty personality of the city comes through, and from a visual perspective, are far more interesting and relevant to my kids than Dr. Seuss' made-up words. Not dissing the great Dr., mind you; just saying De Feo's presentation is more appealing for those in an urban environment.

Anyway, it was a totally random discovery at the Gingko Press booth, a publisher I was unfamiliar with that I came across while strolling the exhibition floor on Sunday. Gingko was one of several exhibitors who stood out to me for not being one of the usual suspects, and for putting the many indie-wannabes displaying their superhero-derivatives to shame.

I also picked up S. A. Harkham's Poor Sailor there, another title that I knew nothing about but was impressed by its superior production values and simple but beautiful artwork as I flipped through it. Small and square, each page contains a single panel, most without any dialogue or narration, and is currently sitting at the top of my to-read pile that I'm hoping to tackle this weekend.

COMMENT: Riddick Comics?

from Comingsoon.net (x-posted to Buzz Blog):

"It took me five years to make 'The Chronicles of Riddick,'" says Vin Diesel, "and [I'm] very precious about it. It went through many, many, many writers. Hopefully it won't take five years for the next one. But when I was in the process of creating this mythology for 'Chronicles of Riddick,' the idea was to create a story, a trilogy, that would start at the end of 'Pitch Black' in the same way that 'Lord of the Rings' is a trilogy that starts at the end, essentially, of 'The Hobbit.' So I wanted 'The Hobbit'... I wanted 'Pitch Black' to be 'The Hobbit' to 'The Chronicles of Riddick.' I wrote a storyline, essentially, that covered three pictures, so where Riddick goes in the next two pictures is already mapped out. It's not in script form, but it is being all developed, and it is going to surface when you least expect it."
Considering the first Chronicles was a relative bomb at the box office, having a sequel show up at all would be an unexpected but welcome surprise. It's kind of odd, though, that Diesel refers to "many, many, many writers" being involved when director David Twohy is the sole writer credited on Chronicles.

Knowing Diesel's geek cred, I'm surprised there hasn't been a comic book version of the series yet. Both Pitch Black and Chronicles made more money than Joss Whedon's Serenity, and Diesel would certainly be able to get a comic book some mainstream exposure...

Perhaps this is a project for The Hive?

08 March 2006

LINK: Elsewhere, in the Comics Blogiverse

Traffic's been up in these parts over the past couple of months, making me feel the need to post something relatively substantial every day, but the 9-to-5 hasn't been letting up and I've been attempting to get to bed before midnight on a regular basis, especially since the Con. Started on a post about making friends and enemies in comics that quickly devolved into snark and sarcasm, so I saved it to revisit with a clearer head at a later date, if at all. Instead, I'll spread some love...

The blog links in the left column have been pruned and updated, as has my Bloglines account. I'd hit information overload, a lot of it redundant and/or pointless, and I realized that I don't really need to know what EVERYBODY is saying. Deleted more than 25 blogs all together!

A random sampling of a few of my faves follows, but you can't go wrong with any of the links over there. (FYI: Several of the creator links are blogs, too, so if a former link is missing, it might have been moved down there.)

2 Guys Buying Comics
Chris, Randy and Jake -- yeah, it's three guys; I dunno -- have quickly become one of my favorite reads in the ever-expanding comics blogiverse. Chris' take on Superman is a recent highlight, but they're pretty consistently posting good stuff, so stop in daily.

Funnybook Musings
Ryan Murray started his blog right around the same time I did, and was one of the first bloggers I ever interacted with. He took a break for a bit, and has returned with brief reviews of mostly Marvel/DC stuff -- though he's recently started picking up more indies, too -- and his recommended reading links are a great resource for a spontaneous Amazon purchase.

The Johnny Bacardi Show
Johnny Bacardi's one of the few Comic Book Galaxy contributors I enjoyed reading, when I realized he wasn't writing for them anymore, I snatched him up for PopCultureShock. He covers more than comics on his blog, and is, generally speaking, an engaging writer. And not just because of the Bacardi angle! ;-)

Second Suitor
Dorian Peace's second go-round has gotten off to a promising start, as his mission to embrace "the spirit of trying new things" and "highlight good books that [he feels] are worth reading" is an admirable one. There's more than enough snark out here, so kudos to him for taking the positive approach.

andrew6's Journal
I came to "know" Andrew Foley through my coverage of the Speakeasy story, and have been impressed with how open and honest he is about...well, everything, really. He's also compiled a ridiculous amount of Speakeasy-related information, from articles to blogs to message boards, and isn't bashful about offering his own take on things, though always diplomatically. I bought Parting Ways purely on the basis of my online interactions with him, so hopefully it's good!

07 March 2006

On The Shelves: 3/8/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/8/06. 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]



Moms Cancer HC, $12.95

No idea what this is, but it's a catchy title that would certainly get me to pick it up and give it a flip-through. That it's published by Abrams amps the curiosity level, too. [EDIT: Former webcomic hits it big.]

Liberality For All #2 (Of 8), $2.99

Certainly took them a long time to get this second issue out. You'd think with all of the "mainstream" coverage it received, they'd have wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Months later, it doesn't even have the curiosity angle going for it anymore.

Batman And The Monster Men #5 (Of 6), $2.99
Firestorm The Nuclear Man #23, $2.50
Teen Titans #33, $2.50

Matt Wagner is rocking my Batman world right now, though Robinson's OYL Detective last week gave me hope that it won't be mini-series only for my Batfix anymore. OYL also earns Firestorm and Teen Titans a chance to return to my pull list.

GI Joe Americas Elite #9, $2.95
GI Joe Vs Transformers Vol 3 Art Of War Cvr A #1 (Of 5), $2.95

Since America's Elite! launched, I've bought every G.I. Joe spinoff so far, but this ...Vs. Transformers thing holds zero appeal for me. I never got into the robots as a kid, and none of their various comics incarnations over the years have managed to engage me.

Bomb Queen #2 (Of 4), $3.50
Fell #4, $1.99
Hysteria One Man Gang #1, $2.99
Rocketo Vol 1 Journey To The Hidden Sea TPB, $19.99

Bomb Queen #1 was...interesting. I like Jimmie Robinson, though, so I'm going to keep the faith and stick with it. I loved the Hysteria Free Comic Book Day sampler, and the GN I picked up last summer in Philly was a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to this new series. The Fell experiment continues, and so far, so good. Rocketo is a big maybe, as the first issue rapidly sank to the bottom of my to-read pile, partly due to the landscape format which I'm not a fan of, and partly due to the first few pages not reeling me in. I'll flip through it, though.

Incredible Hulk Planet Hulk Prelude TPB, $13.99
Powers #17, $2.95
Son Of M #4 (Of 6), $2.99
Thunderbolts #100, $3.99

Hearing Greg Pak talk about "Planet Hulk" on the NYCC Mondo Marvel panel last week, and then talking to him while he signed at our booth the next day, my interest was piqued. Not sure what this Prelude entails, and whether or not it's essential reading, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to pick up the main story. The power of personal interaction! Son of M has hit flip-through status, and I just may drop it mid-run, something I don't usually do with mini-series after committing to three issues. It's not bad, but it's not exactly essential reading, either. Powers picked up nicely with the Green Lantern Corps spin Bendis threw in last issue, so I'm back onboard for another few issues. Thunderbolts is one of my Top 5 Marvel comics these days, up there with Young Avengers, X-Factor, Captain America and, believe it or not, the surprisingly fun Black Panther.

Brownsville HC, $18.95

Meant to pick this up at NYCC last weekend and simply never got around to it, despite having Kleid signing them at our booth on Sunday! Will rectify that this week, though.

La Perdida GN, $19.95

I've heard a lot of good things about this one, and Pantheon earned my trust with Black Hole. I believe they're the ones who snatched up Flight from Image, too, yes? [EDIT: Nope! It was Ballantine. See comments...]

Godchild Vol 1 TPB, $8.99

I've read a handful of manga to-date, but nothing from Viz as of yet. (Not counting an issue of Shonen Jump I flipped through.) If it's there on Wednesday, this will be my totally random selection for the week.

06 March 2006

Buzzscope / PopCultureShock Update

NOTE: We're slowly making the no-longer-secret shift back to PopCultureShock official, so please update your links and bookmarks accordingly: www.popcultureshock.com/comics.

Finally dug out from under the NY Comic-Con/Speakeasy-induced backlog last night and, excepting Comics You Should Own (which will be back on track this Friday), we're all caught up. A quick recap for those of you who don't regularly check in over there:

Discord #2: NY Comic-Con
NYC Mech's Ivan Brandon returns almost a year later, with the second installment of his Discord column, his take on the NY Comic-Con, along with some great pictures, including a few from our after-party.

(Also, check out the Buzz Blog for our coverage of various panels and events at the Con.)

Charlie Huston Talks Ultimates, Moon Knight
Violating my no-fluff rule for interviews just a bit, I check in with Charlie Huston, who was announced at NYCC as the writer of this year's Ultimates Annual, featuring Captain America and the Falcon on a road trip, beating up the KKK! How could I resist?

Comics by the Numbers: January 2006
I love numbers, which is why I recruited Kurt Addams for his monthly analysis of comics' sales figures. Not nearly as comprehensive as the Pulse's sales analysis columns, by design, it's also not as dry as those, making for much more interesting reading for the casual fan.

Fangirl Rampage #4: Kristine Pereira
Lauren Perry's semi-monthly interviews with female comics fans has been a big hit for us, routinely in the top 5 for most viewed articles every month. Always an interesting read.

Johnny Bacardi’s New Comics Revue: March 2006
It's been interesting how reviews went from representing a significant percentage of our content most of last year, to being virtually non-existent so far in 2006. Bringing Johnny Bacardi onboard is the first step towards rectifying that situation.

Read This Way #3: The Otaku Scene at NY Comic-Con
Most of the coverage of NYCC I've seen has focused on western comics, so I'm thrilled that we have Tania Del Rio in the mix, taking a look at how well manga was represented at the show, and offering her own perspective on how things went down.

Peripheral Images #2: Kupperman's Thrizzle
Our resident "underground" columnist, Jenny Gonzalez, checks in with an interview with Michael Kupperman of Tales Designed to Thrizzle fame. Funny to note how, despite the "underground" label, Kupperman's got a higher profile than most of the so-called fan favorites, with his work appearing in The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and the NY Press.

03 March 2006

COMMENT: Upper Deck's X-Men Blunder

The latest expansion for the Upper Deck Vs. TCG, X-Men, has been out for about a week now. I've been on the fence about putting any money down for it since day one, mainly due to the fact that I'm not a huge fan of X-Men. I have to admit, though, I could have been persuaded; easily persuaded.

When Upper Deck revealed the Mutant Trait addition to the character cards, that really piqued my interest. If it weren't for the Blizzard of 2006, I would have been at the Sneak Preview Tournament a few weeks back, but it wasn't meant to be.

I have to admit that the build-up to the release had me leaning toward buying in. I read up on as much info on the set as I could, keeping up-to-date as much as possible. I really got excited when I saw that Multiple Man: Jaime Madrox was included in the set, by far my favorite mutant character. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down when I read the following article.

On Feburary 16th, an article was posted on Metagame.com by Patrick Sullivan. In it, he explains how Starter Decks are built, from an R&D perspective. As I'm reading along, I'm getting sucked into the whole X-Men vibe...and then I reached the end of the article:

As a final note, none of the characters in the starter deck are Mutant stamped. This was a conscious decision on our part, and we here at R&D debated it for quite a while. The decision was finally made for two reasons. First, we wanted to keep the cards as simple as possible, and our starter decks are already filled with words that have no meaning for starter-level purposes. For example, versions are never mentioned, and team affiliations could easily be removed from cards and replaced with rules in the starter deck regarding team attacking and reinforcement. Adding information on cards that doesn't need to be there only increases the odds of confusing a new player. Furthermore, having some content that is expansion only adds some excitement for a player who goes out and buys a booster for the first time.

Second, we didn't want our Marvel Modern players to have to go out and buy four starters to compete at the Pro Circuit or in the PCQ season, and adding Mutant traits could have created that result. While we would like our players to purchase the new starter decks, and we feel that there is a reasonable amount of tournament-level content in them, we don't want to force you to buy them just to stay competitive. Isn't that sweet of us?
The first word that popped into my head was bullshit.

Starter Decks are not only great for beginners learning how to play, but also for the casual player like me. You know, ME! I'm the Average Joe player who doesn't f#*%ing play in Pro Circuit Tournaments. I don't have the numbers, but isn't that like 90% of Vs. players, if not more!?!

Starter Decks have been the base of just about every Vs. deck I've made. The idea is, you get hooked with the starter, and then add on and build a real deck from booster pack purchases. Traditionally, it's a great way to test the waters with new expansions, as $10 buys you a 2-player Starter Deck. [To-date, six different Starter Decks are available for purchase. A 7th deck, based on Superman, should be out around the movie release date.] You get 60 cards (30 for each player), and two sets of rulebooks. One is for a quick start, for first-time players; the other, the advanced rule book.

In the quick start rulebook, the third page identifies, explains, and dissects the make-up of character cards. In regards to the Text Box located under the character art, it currently states:

Text Box: This is where you find a character's special power. For now, play the game as though the text boxes on your character cards were blank. You'll learn how to use them in the advanced starter rules.
Couldn't the following be added to the above for new X-Men decks?

Mutant: This is where you find a character's Mutant Trait. For now, play the game as though the Mutant Trait boxes on your character cards were blank. You'll learn how to use them in the advanced starter rules.
What's the problem Upper Deck? Was that too complicated? Does the Mutant Trait box take up to much space?

This reeks of $$$GREED$$$!

Upper Deck releases a new expantion set, and an accompanying Starter Deck for X-Men. Average Joe sees this and buys that cool Starter Deck with a foil of Charles Xaiver prominently displayed on the cover. While making the purchase, he also notices booster packs sitting beside the Starter Deck. Joe, not being an idiot, realizes that booster packs enhance the cards he already owns, so he puts down another $10 for 3 packs.

Once at home, Joe quickly realizes there is a problem. Some Plot Twists he got in his booster packs refer to Mutant Traits, but most of his charactor cards don't have any. After a quick internet search he finds the aformentioned article, and the first word out of his mouth is, "Bullshit!"

Average Joe just got screwed out of $10, buying a Starter Deck that doesn't fully integrate with the expansion set that it was released for.

Am I the only one that sees this as being totally f#*$ed up!?!

Now, Joe has a decision to make. Does he:

  • Assemble a deck anyway and play through it?
  • Go out and buy enough booster packs to build a deck; maybe even buy a booster box?
  • Get pissed and refuse to put another cent into this game?

I don't know for sure what Average Joe is gonna do, but I can tell you what I am doing:

  • Write this article, and hope people think twice before buying into the X-Men expansion.
  • Not spend a cent on any booster packs or Starter Decks from this set.

This whole deal just blows my mind. Go back and read the explanations given in the article above. It stinks of condescension. Look at the last two sentences of each paragraph I quoted. Upper Deck should be ashamed at this money grab disguised as an R&D decision.

02 March 2006

LINK: The Beat on NY Comic-Con

"The catastrophic success"

I like that.

I don't always agree with Heidi's take on things, but even when I don't, I respect her industry experience and insight. In this case, I think she nails both the good and bad of this past weekend's convention, while deftly shutting down those who questioned her potential bias due to her connections to Reed and Publisher's Weekly, and any further writings on the Convention should strictly focus on personal experiences. Enough with the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes already!

Kudos, Heidi.

Open letter to Vito Delsante (incogvito)

[Since you have your comments screened, I'm guessing you probably won't release this one... UPDATE: He's since unscreened my comment.]

Dude, your violin really needs a tuneup. If I was stalking you, I wouldn't have friended you, I simply would have checked in periodically, or subscribed to your feed.

If you didn't want people reading your PUBLIC journal, you should have taken advantage of LJ's private posting feature BEFORE you started running around the internet denying the sky was blue a couple of months ago. I didn't know who the hell you were until you took on Speakeasy's PR, doing a lousy job of spin control while the company was circling the drain.

Maybe your first friends-only post should be one apologizing to any creators you may have misled about Speakeasy's health while Fortier was taking advantage of your eagerness to see your own project finally published.

He got it all. And made me look like an idiot in the process.

Actually, other than your retracted press release prematurely announcing your PR/editor duties and vague teases about upcoming "big" announcements, I didn't get anything from your journal. As for making you look like an idiot, that was all your and Fortier's doing. You want to get mad at someone, look north, and then look in the mirror.

01 March 2006

COMMENT: Men of Tomorrow, Today?

I've had Gerard Jones' enthralling must-read, MEN OF TOMORROW, on my mind a lot the past few days, thanks as much to the Speakeasy fiasco as my general feelings about the comics industry lately. So much of what I see happening with seemingly naive creators getting screwed over by inept publishers with big plans and little common sense -- and even in the corporate comics world, what with hastily revised plotlines resulting in lackluster stories potentially killing fledgling careers, etc. -- reminds me of the Donenfelds, Liebowitz', Siegels, Schusters, Fingers, et al, of the early days of the industry.

Back then, it was a perfect storm of opportunists, dreamers and fanatics, and it's not much different today, with far more pyrrhic victories than outright successes. Only the terms of the contracts have changed.

I want to extend both my condolences and apologies, in particular, to Vito Delsante, about whom I suspect I've been unnecessarily pointed in my assessment of his role in the Speakeasy collapse. I know what it's like to want to something so bad you'll overlook pretty much everything negative as long as there's even the slightest glimmer of hope on the horizon. I don't envy the position Delsante found himself in, and can't honestly say I'd have done things differently if I were in his position.

That said, as I mentioned previously...due diligence. I know too many people in the poetry world who got screwed over by jumping at a book contract from some random fly-by-night publisher with no distribution plan and zero connections beyond a good deal with a printer. Or signing on with an agent who had no connections beyond access to the same types of venues one could approach on their own. When Def Poetry came along, the slam poetry scene was flooded by wannabes who thought they were going to become famous overnight, that all they had to do was hit as many open mics as possible until the next round of auditions were announced. Little thought was given to craft, to improvement, to developing their skills to a point where it was more than simply appealing to a drunken bar crowd caught up in the moment, only to be forgotten the next day. Instead, they focused more on marketing, on building a name for themselves, all based around work that a year later they'd often be embarassed to be reminded of having written.

The comics industry is ridiculously similar.

I don't know the specifics of anybody's contracts out there, but I do know that some are clearly better than others, and that any contract that holds a creator liable for losses needs to be shredded upon presentation. Plain and simple.

Legitimate publishers take on the risk of publishing a particular work. In an industry as segregated as comics, if you're not working with the Big 4 and getting that front of Previews exposure, the gap between self-publishing and signing on with a 3rd tier publisher is a narrow one. Either way, you're going to have to bust your ass promoting your work -- at the indie roundtable on Sunday, the minimum estimate each creator gave for time spent marketing their work themselves was 25% -- so why not reap the full benefits of doing so, and avoid the possibility of losing momentum when your subsidy or vanity publisher decides to cut you because you're losing them money?

If it's a question of not being able to afford to self-publish, there are affordable options out there like POD, ashcans (we called them chapbooks in the poetry scene) or webcomics. Self-distribution takes work, but anything worth doing takes some work. It can be done, it's just a question of how hungry you are, and how realistic you are about the marketplace. Diamond and the direct market are not the end-all be-all of comics.

More later, maybe...