31 May 2006

On the Shelves: 6/1/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

My weekly look at select comic books being released Thursday, 6/1/06. 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]


Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3

Skyscrapers Of The Midwest #3, $5.00

If you only buy one non-superhero comic book this week/month/year, let it be Skyscrapers Of The Midwest #3. Seriously. In the first two issues Joshua W. Cotter delivered some of the most compelling, emotionally resonant work I've ever read, with or without pictures, and I'm fully confident that this issue will offer more of the same.

Aya #1, $2.95
Jalila #1, $2.95
Rakan #1, $2.95
Zein #1, $2.95

The Arabic version of Milestone (without the corporate backing) debuts with an admirable mission: "...to fill the cultural and social gap that was created over the years between the West and East, by providing essentially needed role models - in our case, Middle Eastern superheroes." Of the four, Aya is the most appealing at first glance, an intriguing variation on the Batman theme, but I'll give them all a look and probably cover them in the next Pull List Propaganda. Hopefully the comics themselves are better edited (translated?) than their Web site is, which is chock full of typos.

Artesia Besieged #1 (Of 6), $3.95
Mouse Guard #3 (Of 6), $3.50
Robotika #4 (Of 4), $3.95

One good thing leads to another, as the intriguing Robotika and the engaging Mouse Guard have me curious about Artesia Besieged. I love RPGs, so Artesia's nomination for Best RPG of the Year only adds to my curiousity.

Alan Moores Hypothetical Lizard Wraparound Cvr #4 (Of 4)(resolicited), $3.50

Finally! I don't even remember what the hell this is about anymore, but it's the last issue so Avatar wins. Ugh!

Second Wave War O/T Worlds #3, $2.99

I wasn't really feeling the first two issues of this series but I'm on BOOM!'s comp list so I've already read this one and have to say that, decompressed as it's been so far, there's a rather intriguing story starting to unfold, though it's a bit overshadowed by the loose War of the Worlds tie-in. I was also distracted by the surprise switch to B&W after the first issue, but in hindsight, it seems like it was a smart move since it fits the uneasy pyschological tone a lot better. Depending on where it all ends up, this might read a lot better in a collected edition.

52 Week #4, $2.50
Crisis Aftermath The Spectre #1 (Of, $2.99
JLA Classified #21, $2.99
Superman Cover To Cover HC, $39.99

It took only three weeks for 52 to lose me. Makes me wonder how long before the One Year Later stunt loses its lustre, too, especially considering the lameness of the most recent issue of the Batman/Detective crossover, and the overall running in place feel throughout the rest of the DCU. *** Crispus Allen was one of my favorite characters in Gotham Central, so I'm curious to see what happens to him as the Spectre, a character I've never really gotten in the past. *** The current JLA Classified arc started off fun, but the past couple of issues lost me a bit. I'll have to reread them all at once now to get a real sense of whether or not I liked it. *** I won't be buying Superman Cover to Cover, but if it's anything like the Batman edition, it's a great coffee table book for Superman fans.

D. E.
Battlestar Galactica #0, $0.25

I try every less than $1 preview I can find, and I have zero expectations going in to this particular one. There's a bit of general nostalgia for the old TV show, which I never really watched all that much, and I've been curious about the new one but still haven't seen a single episode, so the comic will have to do all of the heavy lifting to pique my interest.

Abadazad Book 1 Road To Inconceivable, $9.99
Abadazad Book 2 Dream Thief, $9.99

This is the Disney revivial of the CrossGen series, right? Might have to give it a flip-through.

Cyberforce CGC Graded 9.8 #1, $69.99
Emissary #1, $3.50
Godland #11, $2.99
Stagger Lee GN, $17.99

CGCd Cyberforce being offered direct from the publisher? That's lame. Especially coming from Image when they're starting to do such a good job of changing their image. (Chronically late-shipping titles aside, of course.) *** Despite its intriguing (if not terribly original) premise, I'm still not completely sold on The Emissary just yet, unsure about Valentino and friends' ability to tell the kind of nuanced story it would need to really work, but I'll definitely be checking it out to judge for myself. *** Similar to NextWave, my interest in Godland is starting to rapidly fade as it too suffers from a feeling of inconsequence. Eleven issues in, it's been fun, but I'm still not really feeling a connection to any of the characters. *** Rich Watson tipped me off to the real story behind "Stagger Lee", and after enjoying Bluesman so much, I'm really looking forward to it.

All New Off Handbook Marvel Universe A To Z #5, $3.99
Daughters Of The Dragon #5 (Of 6), $2.99
Halo Sampler Book, $0.99
Incredible Hulk #95, $2.99
Iron Man The Inevitable #6 (Of 6), $2.99
Son Of M #6 (Of 6), $2.99
Storm #4 (Of 6), $2.99

ANOHOTMU continues, and with each issue I [re]discover some genuine D-list gems that remind me what I most love about superhero comics. I mean, knowing someone like Gamecock exists puts everything in perspective, doesn't it? Sheer random genius at its best! *** DoD has been a fun ride so far, and I'm glad to see they'll be continuing in the new Heroes for Hire series, but I'm kind of disappointed that Khari Evans won't be doing the artwork for it. *** I've never played HALO, but I'm curious to see how it translates to comics. Would seem to be a perfect fit. *** "Planet Hulk" has done something only the TV show ever managed to do: make me interested in the green goliath. If Marvel had any sense, they'd keep him out in space and far away from Civil War. Because unless he comes back and kills Reed Richards and Tony Stark and is then permanently brought down himself, it will be a big step backwards from the storytelling potential of Hulk...in Space! *** Iron Man and Quicksilver's respective minis end this week, with one offering an enjoyable escape from the Civil War madness to come, and the other seemingly being the bridge between it and House of M for the mutants. Judged on their own merits, though, they've both been solid if uneven, reads. *** Kudos to Eric Jerome Dickey for telling a pretty good Storm story so far that makes her feel less like a cipher and more like an individual.

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

I'm guessing this is actually #5, but the Mr. Comics Web site hasn't been updated recently, so I'm not sure. Nevertheless, dollar for dollar, Revolution is one of the meatier comics on the stands, and has been a consistently entertaining read.

Kickass Girl Skeletons In The Closet TPB, $12.99

Possibly one of the best comics titles ever! I'm going to have to track it down just to see what it's actually about.

Middleman Vol 2 #4, $2.95

Fun, fun, fun, in that uniquely skewed way Viper seems to have trademarked.

30 May 2006

POLL: X-Men: The Last Stand

Between the extended Memorial Day weekend and internet buzz, everyone that cares to, should have seen X3 by now. If you haven't yet, then stop reading.

Spoilers are ahead!!

The theater I saw X3 in had a ton of energy. This was one of the few movie-going experiences where the crowd actually helped prop up a film. So my question to you is simple: Which scenes had the audience, or you in particular, most excited? Here are the top five scenes, in no particular order, that brought the cheers on at my theater. My top scene will be listed in the comments section of this post.

1. Wolverine lighting his cigar on the burning hunk of metal during the opening Danger Room scene. That was just great! The Sentinel head crashing down was cool, but Wolverine should have been riding it down on the outside of the head as it fell. That would have been awesome.

2. When Beast first appears in battle at Alcatraz. Specifically, when he leaps down, swings around a light pole, and proceeds to take out numerous Brotherhood pawns. I thought it was nice and authentic for Beast, and people went crazy in the audience.

3. When Bobby Drake finally mans up and puts the freeze on while fighting Pyro. Simply put, that was cool! I'm not too sure I like the special effect for Iceman, but it was still very cool!

4. While stuck in cement, thanks to Kitty Pryde, Juggernaut proclaims, "I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch". Then he quickly breaks free. I loved it, and the crowd roared.

5. As Magneto lectures Wolverine at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, "Don't you ever learn?", Beast leaps out of the shadows and depowers Magneto using the mutant cure. The theater went bananas!!!

29 May 2006

COMMENT: A Fanboy Returns

Yeah, I've started collecting comic books again. I mentioned it to my mom. I think she felt a little shame.

Back in the day, I collected a lot of DC and a bit of Marvel and a couple of indies. Indies are fairly easy to catch up on. Marvel is pretty okay to jump into because they are always trying to appeal to the I - don't - know - anything - about - the - comics - but - I - love - it - when - the - boy - from - oz - is - Wolverine people. I am, after all, a fanboy and therefore a purist... unless someone improves on the original idea.

And then, there's DC.

Um, I missed Infinite Crisis. So I guess I'm a year and change later. Pretty much nothing makes sense to me. And I think it's hilarious. I feel like the new kid showing up in the new high school in May. All the big stuff is done; and, now, we're getting ready for summer. 'sfuggin ridiculous. I picked up Titans and Wonder Girl is crying over Superboy? The last time I read this book, she wanted to throttle him. Then again, she also wasn't as cute. Robin looks rad as mini Batman. Actually, I really enjoyed reading this month's issue. I really appreciate Robin.

The whole supposed allure of Spider-Man is that here's this young guy with these super powers that we (or our inner child) can relate to. We are supposed to connect with him and see the world like him. But Spider-Man's a whiny brat who only started helping people after he realized violence could happen to people he cares about. But Robin? Here's a kid with no super powers. Here's a guy who understands that good should always be done for the sake of good. There's a character I want to be.

Let's see, what else am I reading... Oh, I'm kinda liking Wolverine: Origin or Origins or whatever. I don't know if Steve Dillon--while I do enjoy him--is necessarily the right artist for the book, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless. But issue two... issue two... you made me like Wolverine a little less as a human being. And yet, I like it still. I won't spoil it. I will say that I love it when a main character can be portrayed in a negative light. I think it shows a writer's boldness. And if we're talking darkness within a man's soul, Wolverine pretty much has all the other Marvel superheroes beat... though, I could be wrong on that. I'll have to re-read my issues of Foolkiller again. ;)

Oh, before I go, did Civil War #1 remind anyone else of Kingdom Come #1? I mean, seriously...

I think for next time, I'll make a whole presentation.

28 May 2006

COMMENT: NYT on Minorities in Comics

[Edited for clarity on 5/30/06]

Funny that this article in the NY Times has been referenced by others for its apparent spoiler re: Batwoman (she's not Renee Montoya, which is all I care about) instead of its main point, the increasing diversity at the Big Two. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha, of course.

Straight (and Not) Out of the Comics

But this year will be a banner one for diversity in the $500 million comic book business. At DC Comics, an effort is under way to introduce heroes who are not cut from the usual straight white male supercloth. A mix of new concepts, dusted-off code names and existing characters, the new heroes include Blue Beetle, a Mexican teenager powered by a mystical scarab; Batwoman, a lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night; and the Great Ten, a government-sponsored Chinese team.

Over at Marvel Comics, Black Panther, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, will soon marry Storm, the weather-controlling mutant and X-Man. Luke Cage, a strong-as-steel black street fighter who married his white girlfriend in April, plays a key role in "New Avengers," the company's best-selling book.

Comic books have featured minorities before, but the latest push is intended to be a sustained one, taking place in an alternate world that nevertheless reflects American society in general and comics readers in particular, in much the same way that the multicultural casts of television shows like ABC's "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" mirror their audiences...

Credit is due in part to diversity behind the scenes. Reginald Hudlin, Black Entertainment Television's president for entertainment, is writing the Black Panther series. Joe Quesada is editor in chief at Marvel, the first Hispanic to have that job.

"I do look at the universe with a different set of eyes," Mr. Quesada said, "but I don't let race enter or interfere with the story. There's nothing worse than thinking, 'We need three more black characters in the Marvel universe.'"
Overall, DC's approach to diversity is subtly cast as the less organic of the two, most tellingly via Reginald Hudlin's opinion that "very often the best writer may be the writer who best understands the culture of the character." Other than Gail Simone, I can't think of another prominent minority writer at DC, never mind on their editorial staff. (Core DC, not Vertigo.) Allan Heinberg will join her once Wonder Woman re-launches, but whom else is there?

Diversity is always best addressed from the top down, and Marvel definitely has the edge there, with Quesada and Axel Alonso leading the way, and the likes of Hudlin, Heinberg, Eric Jerome Dickey and Joss Whedon scripting some of their most prominent titles. Where they're sorely lacking is female representation, though hopefully Tania Del Rio will get more work from them, and Tamora Pierce will be only the first of several other female mainstream writers they bring in.

As Judd Winick, a writer who's been frequently criticized for injecting his own personal agendas into many of the stories he's written for DC, put it: "After a while, it doesn't look like a social agenda. This is the world we live in."

There's a great observation halfway through the article, in reference to DC's recent trend of minority characters (some new, some old) taking over established identities from white predecessors:

"But comics devotees are notorious for buying titles out of loyalty, whether from completist compulsion or from a need to be able to complain about what they don't like, and DC knows it."
Ain't that the truth? Of course, that approach hasn't really worked out with the new Firestorm, and I'm willing to bet that half of the people who bought Blue Beetle #1 weren't aware that his alter ego was now a young Mexican kid.

How long will it be before Ted Kord puts in a guest appearance, a la Ronnie Raymond? I'd say as soon as sales drop below 25k, which should be somewhere around the sixth issue.

All in all, both companies are taking positive steps here and should be applauded for not giving in to the conventional wisdom that comics featuring minority characters don't sell. Hopefully they get the other, equally important half of the equation right: telling good stories. Because while the Big Event comics can survive sloppy, convoluted storytelling, comics featuring minority characters are going to have to be a little bit better than those featuring the average white guy in a mask to have a fighting chance at success.

This is the world we live in.

27 May 2006

INFO: Welcome Back, Omar

It was right around this time three years ago, fresh off my stepping away from the poetry slam scene, that my friend Omar lured me back into reading comics. I needed a new outlet for my writing and he and another friend of ours, former CBC-contributor Stephen Maher, had come up with an idea for a fan fiction site and invited me to contribute. I thought it was a cool idea at the time, but not having read comics in years, I figured I should refamiliarize myself with Batman and Moon Knight (the two characters I was most interested in writing about) before setting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard, I guess.

One thing led to another, and though I never ended up sticking my toes into the (unbeknownst to me at the time) much derided waters of fan fiction (Bendis and Johns excepted, I guess), I did get hooked on reading comics again. The rest, as they say, is Google cached history.

Omar had a brief run here on the blog awhile back, with a series of snarky Top 5 lists, including Top 5 Most Annoying Companies/Imprints and Top 5 Superheroes Who I'd Like To Make Me A Sandwich, plus the infrequent review roundup. Because he's apparently not busy enough with being an actor these days, he's decided to get back to doing comics reviews and Dan and I are happy to have him back. The question is, will you be?

Stay tuned...

26 May 2006

HYPE: Postcards

Because there's only 24 hours in a day and too many of them are taken up with things I HAVE to do as opposed to WANT to do, I haven't been able to stay in the loop with Jason Rodriguez' very cool anthology project, POSTCARDS.

How cool is it? Hit the link and check out the production blog to find out.

25 May 2006

COMMENT: 52 Putdown

I'm done.

Week Three did nothing for me, and the numerous continuity issues already popping up in and around a series that is all about continuity is just way too distracting. Especially at $2.50 a pop. One of the bigger problems for me is the use of the weekly/daily timeline that doesn't feel the least bit organic, with scenes seemingly being spread out and arbitrarily labeled Day Two, Day Three, etc.

Side note: Did anyone else think Detective Jiang in the opening scene this week looked like a slightly tweaked Crispus Allen? AKA, the recently deceased partner of Renee Montoya (who was disappointingly absent this week), now host of the Spectre, Crispus Allen. I could be wrong, but I don't remember a Detective Jiang ever appearing in the 40-issue run of Gotham Central.

Anyway, like I said, I'm done. Out of morbid curiosity, I'll be following along via Fossen's clever weekly take, 52 on 52; Douglas Wolk's more thorough weekly analysis at 52 Pickup; and I'll peek in on the official Web site every now and then.

I'll also be watching the sales charts to see how dramatic the dropoff is between the first 4-6 weeks and weeks 17-20, by which time I suspect only the diehard will still be onboard. My guess is it will be something precipitous, like a 60-70% decrease from the first Week, settling in somewhere around 35-40k/issue and a slow but steady trickle downward from there.

I won't be spending another dime on it, though. The past is the past and I'm moving on.

PANEL: The American Way #4

The American Way #4
Art by Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Ray Snyder and Wildstorm FX
Written by John Ridley
May 2006, DC/Wildstorm

24 May 2006

INFO: PopCultureShock RSS Feeds

Thanks to Zilla (who's on a roll!) for pointing out Feed43.com, a cool online utility that enables you to create RSS feeds for sites that don't have them! Like, say, PopCultureShock!

It took about 10 minutes to set up the first one, as I'm completely unfamiliar with the coding involved, but liberal use of their [?] feature got me through it.

And now, for your convenience and reading pleasure:

PopCultureShock -- http://feed43.com/popcultureshock.xml
PopCultureShock :: Comics -- http://feed43.com/popcultureshock-comics.xml

And, of course, don't forget little ol' us: http://feeds.feedburner.com/loudpoet/NhfG

23 May 2006

PANEL: Batman: Year One Hundred #4

Batman: Year One Hundred #4
By Paul Pope
May 2006, DC

(Thanks to Zilla for the scan.)

On the Shelves: 5/24/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 5/24/06. 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]


Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness (Vol. 3)

Shrugged #0, $2.50

A: Shrugged; Q: What I did after reading the Fathom TPB? (Bought on deep discount last year via Mile High Comics.) Seriously, though, who's buying Aspen's stuff and why? It can't really just be about Turner's art, can it? I mean, Soulfire and Fathom took 3 spots on the Real Indie Top 10 list back in March, each selling more than 15k copies, while something like Strange Girl, a superior story with much more interesting (if not fan-friendly) artwork, barely sold 3k copies!?! You people are crazy!

Conan Book Of Thoth #3 (Of 4), $4.99
Scarface Novel, $6.99

Yay, Conan! Even my father-in-law loves Dark Horse's take on his favorite barbarian. *** Why is Dark Horse publishing a Scarface novel? (On a side note, I really despise that movie, no matter how much I love Pacino!)

52 Week #3, $2.50
American Way #4 (Of 8), $2.99
Batman #653, $2.99
Blue Beetle #3, $2.99
Supergirl And The Legion Of Super Heroes #18, $2.99
Teen Titans #36, $2.99

52 gets two more issues to impress me before I jump ship. If this issue has too much Booster Gold in it, though, or anything about Wonder Girl's stupid internet cult, I'm bailing immediately. *** American Way is one of the best comics YOU'RE currently not reading. Why do you deprive yourself so? *** I hate that 52's Montoya/Question storyline has me asking the dreaded continuity question w/r/t Harvey Dent. Nevertheless, it's Batman and he's readable again, so I shall not look a gift horse in the mouth. *** Blue Beetle's been interesting so far, but something needs to happen this issue for it to stay on my pull list. The table's set, now it's time to eat! *** You have to wonder if the rumor about Mark Waid pulling out of 52 has anything to do with Supergirl being added to his Legion series. After Bill Willingham's strong implication that an editorial screw-up led to Superman appearing in Shadowpact #1 when he should have still been depowered, it wouldn't be hard to believe her addition to the masthead was a sales-driven editorial mandate. Personally, it makes me even less interested in the series. *** I was made a little nervous by Robin's science experiment at the end of Teen Titans #34, but after 52: Week Two, I'm officially jumpy and looking for a reason to cut it from my pull list. Superman, Superboy, Supergirl: I DON'T CARE!!!

Comics Journal #276, $9.95

I believe this is the issue with Michael Dean's coverage of the Soma/Brownstein incident. Might have to pick it up to compare notes when the other shoe finally drops.

Avengers & Power Pack Assemble #2 (Of 4), $2.99
Black Panther #16, $2.99
Daredevil #85, $2.99
Fantastic Four A Death In The Family, $3.99
Nextwave Agents Of Hate #5, $2.99
Powers #18, $2.95
X-Factor #7, $2.99
X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #5 (Of 5), $2.99

Busy week at the House of Ideas! In organizing my comics this weekend, I came across the copies of Power Pack #1-24 I bought a month or so ago from the guy who often sets up a table outside the subway station in front of my building (his sister-in-law was running things that day, actually). Haven't had a chance to read through them yet, but I'm curious to see how they hold up compared to Sumerak's entertaining take on them. Last issue's Captain America team-up was the usual bit of fun I've come to expect from these minis. *** Black Panther has been fun the past few issues, with Hudlin doing a solid job of making this whole wedding thing work. Hopefully Civil War doesn't completely derail things, though it'd be kind of cool to have T'Challa and Ororo join a revamped Avengers lineup. Only if a new writer comes onboard, though. I shudder at the thought of Bendis writing those two. *** Brubaker + Lark + Daredevil = Yet another Marvel hero I've never particularly cared for becoming extremely interesting. *** Sue Richards dies in a one-shot that's not connected to Civil War? I find that hard to believe. I'm going to check it out, though, because I'm a sucker like that sometimes. *** NextWave has been fun so far, but I'm not sure how long I'll stick with it as it feels a bit inconsequential; there's no real sense of direction coming from it, unlike Fell, where Ellis is balancing the done-in-one stories with underlying sub-plots that continue to play out with each issue. *** Powers...just when I was back on the bandwagon, it's delayed and I can't really remember where things stand and why I was excited about it again. *** Peter David's been spinning several plates at once in X-Factor, but it looks like he's finally about to let a couple drop. The first six issues have been among some of the best stuff Marvel's published over the past couple of years. *** Dead Girl has piqued my interest in X-Statix and delivered a much more interesting Dr. Strange than the recent Defenders mini-series did. Pretty good for a mini-series I almost didn't pick up.

Buckaroo Banzai #1 (Of 3), $3.50

I was never a fan of the movie, but there was always something appealing about the character. The mess of a preview issue, unfortunately, did nothing for me.

Scott Pilgrim Vol 3 Infinite Sadness GN, $11.95

AWESOME!!!! I resisted the lure of Scott Pilgrim for a while, turned off by some of his more vehement fans in the comics blogiverse, but I was impressed that the first two volumes totally lived up to their hype. I'm with Knives Chau!

Black Coat Call To Arms #2 (Of 4), $2.99

This is actually being published by Ape Entertainment now, which is a good thing because it should mean that it will complete its run. Check out my review in this month's Pull List Propaganda column.

Zoom Suit #2 (Of 4), $2.95

It's a shame that all that hype was wasted on one of the cheesier looking comics I've ever flipped through! Amateurish product + aggressive marketing = embarassment for all involved.

Villains #1 (Of 4), $3.25

No idea what this is, but Viper has earned guaranteed flip-through status for everything they publish thanks to a unique sense of style that I can appreciate even when something isn't particularly up my alley.

22 May 2006

LINK: Free Robot Porn!

[NOTE: Sicko Googlers, move on. It's not what you think!]

No, not the political prisoner du jour, but genuine robot porn! FREE!

Actually, there's a lot more human-on-human violence and explosions of all kinds than there is robot porn, but if that's your thing, you'll probably enjoy Vaistron, too. It's like everything wrong with America condensed into a heartwarming tale of kidnapping, corruption and headless cult members!

Boussourir and Andrew Dabb are sick, sick men, and Vaistron is one sick book, but oddly enough, it’s appealingly sick. It helps to have a strong lead character like Gabby, the mercenary daughter who, as a child, witnessed the murder of her prostitute mother, after witnessing her giving a client a "Giger Special", and setting her in a futuristic world where there’s always something more fucked up right around the corner. A perversely entertaining mix of humor, action and outright insanity –- ie: a peace-loving cult whose members cut off their own heads in order to follow their hearts –- Vaistron made me feel dirty while reading it...and made me like every second of it!

Because Dabb likes to spread his perversity far and wide, he wants YOU to have the chance to feel dirty (and like it), too, so he's giving away three sets of the complete mini-series over on his Web site:

I currently have a set (signed or unsigned) of the entire five issue mini-series to give to the 3 people who write the best ransom letter (a botched kidnapping is central to Vaistron’s plot, thus the symmetry), and post it to the comments section of this entry. What you stole, who you stole it from, and what you want for it, are all up to you. Points will be given for creativity, originality, and references to sixteenth century German philosophers.
For those of you who were too embarassed to pick it up at your local family friendly retailer, go ahead and get some FREE Vaistron. You know you want it...

COMMENT: Organizing Comics

Judging by the presence of all seven issues of Jonah Hex spread throughout, among others, it had been at least seven months since I'd filed away any comics, and the stack (as seen here) was growing out control, threatening to topple over onto our bed at any moment. The stack at the back on the left was everything I'd already read, mostly floppies, with a handful of thinner TPBs in the mix. To its right and direct front were TPBs of various dimensions, some read, some not. Finally, the stack closest to me was yet another mix of unread comics, mostly incomplete mini-series.

Like going back to the gym and getting a start on writing my Great American Novel, organizing that mess was firmly entrenched on my to-do list, and also like those aforementioned projects, the thought of finally getting to it was daunting. Nevertheless, I dove in yesterday and spent 10 hours sorting, bagging, boarding and boxing more than 300 comics -- with another 150 or so left when I gave in at midnight -- amazed at how many more comics got put into the donation pile vs. the boxes and/or eBay pile.

When I first organized my nascent collection almost two years ago, I had 4 longboxes and a couple of short boxes, and used a mostly Marvel/DC/Indie system, with one longbox for all my Batman-related comics, and a shortbox for Moon Knight. Over time, thanks to eBay, I added a longbox specifically for Epic comics and another for random stuff I'd picked up in mixed lots. Last night, because of limited storage space for the now seven longboxes and three shortboxes, I had to rethink my system and eventually settled on the following:

Long Boxes
Licenses (full)
Minority characters (full)
Marvel (full)
DC (full)
Indies (full)
Miscellaneous (full)

Short Boxes
Moon Knight (full)
Current (x2)

I added a stack of about 100 comics or so to the donation pile -- the majority were assorted DC runs that were cut short by my disinterest in the build-up to Infinite Crisis -- and set aside approx. 24 for eBay, including the Supergirl arc from Superman/Batman that I'm sure some fanboy out there will snatch up for $19.99 whenever I get around to listing it. Even among the comics I'm keeping, though, there were many that I could have easily waited for the trade on or simply skipped altogether, ie: Vigilante and Black Widow (the second mini), both of which remain unread and went into bags anyway, just to get them out of the way.

Made me realize it's time for another hard look at the pull list as space is at a premium now and I no longer feel the need to stay on top of as much as my budget might allow. I'm also shifting some $$$ over to Vs. as the Infinite Crisis expansion has me addicted, so there's that.

As for TPBs, I was taken aback by how many I've bought over the past six months and how many I haven't gotten around to reading yet, including Box Office Poison and Bluesman, among others. While they're easier to store and much more conducive to subway reading, they also take longer to read than the standard floppy, so it's not a simple call to make on switching over to waiting for the trade completely, as I've been tempted to do at times.

Next step, cataloging everything into some sort of database to better track what I'm missing so I can work on completing my runs of the likes of Micronauts, random Moon Knight appearances and the full line of Epic comics.

18 May 2006

Vs. CARD OF THE WEEK: Black Adam <> Teth Adam (DCR-123)

Black Adam <> Teth Adam (DCR-123)

I absolutely L-O-V-E the Infinite Crisis expansion for Vs. Seriously. The new teams are all cool, each with challenging mechanics and a variety of appealing cards spread throughout the curve. Also, while I'm not really the best judge of such things, I'd say the primary teams -- JSA, Villains United, Checkmate and Shadowpact -- are all strong enough to go up against any of the previous teams introduced, Marvel or DC, including those frustrating, team attacking Avengers Dan was killing me with for a while.

Our last session, featuring fledgling decks built from our haul from the Infinite Crisis preview a couple of weeks back, saw me victorious as my more straightforward JSA/Villains United hybrid proved too much for his more complicated Shadowpact/Checkmate combo. My favorite aspect of the VU team is the Vengeance mechanic, built-in little nasty surprises that usually cause some kind of damage whenever a character is stunned. Black Adam <> Teth Adam ended up making the difference as his power -- "Vengeance: Whenever Black Adam becomes stunned, target character gets -3 ATK / -3 DEF this turn." -- enabled me to pull off the victory by attacking Dan's Blue Devil <> Big Blue for a mutual stun, which then allowed me to target his more powerful defender (I forget whom) and go for a one-on-one attack w/breakthrough instead of teaming up for a straightforward stun.

When the round was done, Dan was at -9, meaning Black Adam's -3 DEF became the difference in the game as -7 or less would have allowed him to survive into the next round during the Recovery phase thanks to Blue Devil's equally cool, double-edged power: "When Blue Devil comes into play, lose 4 endurance. When Blue Devil leaves play, gain 8 endurance."

Despite this, I've decided to separate the JSA and VU into individual decks to see how they stand on their own, because the JSA in particular has a similar feel to the Avengers, with some great team-up options that seemingly work best with an undiluted deck. I don't quite have all the cards I need for an optimized deck yet, but I'm a lot closer than I'd expect to be after only 10 packs, thanks mostly to the trading Dan and I have been doing between us. One of my primary needs is 2 more copies of Huntress <> Earth 2, whose power -- "Characters you control and character cards you own in all zones gain the version Earth 2." -- has the potential to seriously turn the tables in rounds 5-8 when some of her Earth 2 counterparts join the fray.

17 May 2006

PANEL: Moon Knight #2

Moon Knight #2
Art by David Finch, Danny Miki and Frank D'Armata
Written by Charlie Huston
May 2006, Marvel

16 May 2006

ON THE WEB: Spider-Man

This is by far the best edition of On the Web. Below you'll find the first episode of the Japanese live action Spider-Man TV show. The opening credits are incredibly good. In fact it's hilarious! I have two favorite parts during the show open. The first being the amazing use of freeze frames, and the second is..... Oh I shouldn't spoil it. I beg you to be patient and download the whole show. There are many funny scenes. All you have to do is scan through the episode once it's fully downloaded. I promise you that toward the end of the episode there is the best costume change in history! If you don't have the patience, at the very least watch the show open.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, wow! Yeah, yeah, yeah, wow!

LINK: Alan Davis Lays it Down

Via this week's Lying in the Gutters:

Alan Davis presented either a cynical or realistic interpretation of the industry, where writers, needing to increase their salary after royalty payments disappeared as the norm, stretched their story ideas into multiple issue arcs, a five issue arc taking less time to write that [sic] five separate stories, so that they could write more titles. And artists demanding that editorial ask writers to give them splash and double splash pages for extra resale value. And editorially driven comics deriving from set plot points, and the writer's job nothing more than finding acceptable ways to join the dots.
I'd call that a pretty realistic interpretation of things. Corporate comics are a bottom line business, plain and simple. Why wouldn't writers and artists adopt a similar attitude, especially when it comes to work-for-hire? C.R.E.A.M.

On the Shelves: 5/17/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 5/17/06. 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]


Comics Creators on X-Men

Jeremiah Harm #3, $3.99
Jeremiah Harm 2nd Prtg #1, $3.99
Talent #1 (Of 4), $3.99

Talent is really good. Jeremiah Harm, not so much. I reviewed both in my latest Pull List Propaganda column.

Bettie Page Poker Set (AA), $74.99
Conan #28, $2.99

Holy cow! Dark Horse comes up with some of the most random merchandise! *** A week that includes an issue of Conan is always a good one.

52 Week #2, $2.50
All Star Batman And Robin Variant Cover #4, $2.99
Batman Year One Hundred #4 (Of 4), $5.99
Man-Bat #2 (Of 5), $2.99
Robin #150, $2.99
Shadowpact #1, $2.99

Despite my unenthusiastic review of the first issue, I'll probably give 52 another couple of weeks before I drop it. I want it to be good, I just don't have the confidence that they can pull it off. *** Finally, another issue of ASBARTBW! If not for that "I'm the goddamn Batman!" line in the second issue, this would have probably fallen off my radar by now. As it is, I barely remember what's going on with the story. *** I resisted Paul Pope's Year One Hundred mini at first, as much because of the price as an aversion to the hype surrounding him and it. It's been a entertaining read so far, though not anywhere near the WOW!! project some have claimed it to be. *** What the hell is wrong with Bruce Jones? He seemed like a nice enough guy when I saw him on a panel at Wizard World Philadelphia last year. But after flipping through his first couple of issues of Nightwing, and being rather bored with Man-Bat #1, I have to wonder if he's blackmailing somebody over at DC. Blech! *** Robin OYL saw a nice little bump in sales, but as much as I like Adam Beechen's work so far, it's kind of hard to see how much he'll be able to do with the character considering his significant presence in Teen Titans and the current Batman/Detective Comics crossover. Figure he has to clear any major plot points through Geoff Johns first, and will likely have to address his little science experiment at some point, which doesn't bode well. Of course, I'd be happy if he went with a Tim Drake, Detective angle and simply avoided any direct references to current DCU continuity. *** Three things have me interested in Shadowpact: an intriguing cast; Fables; and their presence in the latest Vs. expansion. Guess which one was the most influential?

Fallen Angel IDW #5 (Of 5), $3.99

The first IDW arc wraps up and finds me officially a fan. If DC ever collects the first volume, or lets IDW do it, I'll definitely pick it up.

Fear Agent #4, $2.99
Fell #5, $1.99

Finally! I still find it amusing how some people over at Image got offended by my referencing their history of late-shipping titles in a review a while back, complaining that the past shouldn't be held against them. What about the present then?

Captain America #18, $2.99
Haunt Of Horror Edgar Allan Poe #1 (Of 3), $3.99
Moon Knight #2, $2.99

A light week from the House of Ideas, but a good one with Ed Brubaker's Captain America looking like a potential pick of the week. He's had the Midas touch since he joined Marvel, even making the X-Men interesting for me with his just completed Deadly Genesis mini. I still think his best work is on more grounded characters like Cap and Daredevil, though, and am not anticipating adding another X-title to my pull list anytime soon. *** Speaking of grounded, Charlie Huston's take on Moon Knight is shaping up to be even rougher and grittier than his novels, which is a bit of a surprise. Originally slated as a Marvel Knights mini-series, now that it's an ongoing in the mainstream MU, I wonder if he'll have to pull up on the reins a bit? I hope not. *** The Poe mini completely slipped under my radar, but the solicit for it sounds really interesting. I'm guessing this is ultimately destined for a trade collection and mainstream bookstores, but I think I'll be jumping on it now!

Comic Creators On X Men SC, $17.95

Titan has published some really good interview books in the past, and this one looks like another winner, featuring Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson and Grant Morrison, among others, musing about everyone's favorite group of mutants.

15 May 2006

Review: Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
By J. P. Stassen, translated by Alexis Siegel ($16.95; First Second)

First Second, the latest mainstream publisher's attempt to push the graphic novel format into the mainstream, made its much-anticipated debut this month with six graphic novels that have been welcomed with the kind of almost-uniformly positive buzz that illustrates the difference having an actual marketing budget, and knowing how to use it, can make. While the long-term sales figures will determine their ultimate success or failure, they're certainly off to a strong start in the first impression department with superior production values and a wider range of material than their corporate positioning as an imprint of Henry Holt's Roaring Brook Press children's division might suggest. Deogratias, in particular, an emotionally harrowing tale of the Rwandan genocide in the mid-90s told from the perspective of the titular Hutu, is as far from a children's book as you can get.

Leading off with a brief but informative essay about the horrific genocide of nearly one million Tutsi, Rwanda's minority ethnic group, by the Hutus, the majority, while the superpowers of the world stood by and effectively did nothing, translator Alexis Siegel puts the events into historical context and provides a sturdy foundation for J.P. Stassen's gut-wrenching tale. Deogratias is a teenage boy with a teenaged boy's interests, amongst them a fondness for Tutsi girls and Urwagwa (a local banana beer), but when we first meet him, he's a disheveled drifter who's been pushed to the edge of madness by what he's seen and experienced. Stassen takes a risk with the unusual structure of his story, eschewing a linear narrative in favor of switching back-and-forth in time, before and after the massacres, with the only visual cue being the condition of Deogratias' white clothing. As a result, it's not immediately clear where the story is going or what's actually happened that changed him from a happy-go-lucky teen to a delusional drifter who thirsts for Urwagwa and sometimes imagines he's a dog. While the non-linear structure is confusing at times (a second reading is almost mandatory to fully appreciate it), when it all starts to come together towards the end, it offers the kind of slow reveal gut-punch that sticks with you for days.

Stassen's visual storytelling is especially strong throughout, and while he avoids focusing on the actual massacres themselves, the couple of key graphic moments he does show will be seared into your brain and effectively punctuate Deogratias' madness. Beyond those two moments, though, it is his expressive faces and coloring that brings each of his characters to life, from the innocence and determination of Apollinaria and Benina, the Tutsi sisters whose lives are central to Deogratias' fate, to the culpability of fellow missionaries, Brothers Stanislas and Philip, whose hands are as covered in blood as those of the leaders of the countries who ignored what was happening in Rwanda.

Deogratias proves that graphic novels do not have to simply be escapist entertainment, joining the likes of Maus, Palestine and Persepolis as representatives of more than just great graphic novels, but also as powerful, thought-provoking literature, too. (5 out of 5 Eisners)

[Review originally published by PopCultureShock, 5/15/06]

LINK: Pull List Propaganda

Go check out my latest batch of reviews, including:

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda (TPB)
By J. P. Stassen, translated by Alexis Siegel ($16.95; First Second)

Deogratias proves that graphic novels do not have to simply be escapist entertainment, joining the likes of Maus, Palestine and Persepolis as representatives of more than just great graphic novels, but also as powerful, thought-provoking literature, too. (5 out of 5 Eisners)
Also in the mix this month are 52: Week One, Civil War #1, American Way #1-3, The Black Coat #1, Tron #1, Werewolves: Call of the Wild #1 (of 3), Talent #1 – ADVANCE REVIEW, Jeremiah Harm #1-3, and 7 Days to Fame #1-3.

12 May 2006

COMMENT: A Lesson for Comics?

The current issue of Time magazine has an interesting article about the upcoming Nintendo Wii that makes a few good points that I think can also be applied to the comics industry.

A Game For All Ages

Video games are an unusual medium in that they carry a heavy stigma among nongamers. Not everybody likes ballet, but most nonballet fans don't accuse ballet of leading to violent crime and mental backwardness. Video games aren't so lucky. There's a sharp divide between gamers and nongamers, and the result is a market that, while large and devoted--last year video-game software and hardware brought in $27 billion--is also deeply stagnant. Its borders are sharply defined, and they're not expanding.

And even within that core market, the industry is deeply troubled. Fewer innovative games are being published, and gamers are getting bored. Games have become so expensive to create that companies won't risk money on fresh ideas, and the result is a plague of sequels and movie spin-offs...

But the name Wii not wii-thstanding, Nintendo has grasped two important notions that have eluded its competitors. The first is, Don't listen to your customers. The hard-core gaming community is extremely vocal--they blog a lot--but if Nintendo kept listening to them, hard-core gamers would be the only audience it ever had. "[Wii] was unimaginable for them," Iwata says. "And because it was unimaginable, they could not say that they wanted it. If you are simply listening to requests from the customer, you can satisfy their needs, but you can never surprise them. Sony and Microsoft make daily-necessity kinds of things. They have to listen to the needs of the customers and try to comply with their requests. That kind of approach has been deeply ingrained in their minds."
First, let's make it clear that the comics and gaming industries are very different when it comes to raw numbers. The article estimates the gaming industry to be a $27 BILLION market, but according to the NPD Group, it's actually only $10.5 billion, with another $1 billion coming from PC gaming.

On the other hand, according to Comics Buyer's Guide's John Jackson Miller, the estimated OVERALL U.S. Comics Market ("including estimates for newsstand comics and bookstore TPB sales, not counting manga") was $400-450 million in 2005. Publisher's Weekly noted manga sales in 2005 as being $140 million through bookstores and $67 million through comics shops, for another $207 million, or an approximate total of $650 million.

$11.5 billion vs. $650 million does not make for an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, but considering the average price points of videogames vs. comic books, you can make a solid case for their being some clear parallels between the opportunities and pitfalls both industries face.

In particular, Grossman's points about the stigma around gaming and its sharply defined borders, the general lack of innovation, and, perhaps most importantly, the idea that a company should not listen to its customers are all things that apply equally to the comics industry. The fact that an established company like Nintendo is willing to take the kinds of risks they do should be an example to, if not Marvel and DC, then certainly Image, which experienced a similar fall from grace. While they certainly put out a good bit of "risky" material, I've never gotten the sense that they have any real plan to reach beyond the direct market, to bring that material to audiences who might be more inclined to check it out. Instead, they seem content to be little more than a subsidy press and distributor for up-and-coming creators with the financial wherewithal to take the risks themselves, choosing the safe business model over the innovative one, and that's a real shame.

LINK: X3 Trailer

It's a nice long one with a few key scenes, including several "power" shots. I'm officially stoked!

My wild guess... X3 pulls in $250m, while Superman Returns "only" scores $180m.

11 May 2006

PANEL: Firestorm #25

Firestorm #25
Art by Jamal Igle, Keith Champagne and David Baron
Written by Stuart Moore
May 2006, DC

10 May 2006

LINK: Hellboy Vs. Gotham Knights?


CARLSBAD, Ca. -- May 10, 2006 -- The comic industry's "Greatest Paranormal Investigator" makes his trading card game debut as Upper Deck Entertainment (UDE) -- in association with Dark Horse Comics -- today announces plans to add Hellboy to UDE's Vs. System superhero portfolio. Based on Mike Mignola's ("Gotham by Gaslight") best-selling comic book mini-series "Hellboy," the set will premiere as the first release of UDE's new Essential Collection, which features highly competitive decks themed around some of today's most notable comic icons.

The new Hellboy-themed Essential Collection will be available on store shelves in Spring 2007.
Very interesting. With Legion of Superheroes and Marvel's cosmic characters coming up next, UDE's going to have to dip into the indie world to keep things fresh. Wonder what other non-Big Two characters could be added to the Vs. lineup, though? There aren't too many properties out there that are both popular enough and have large enough casts of characters to stand with the big boys while not so large that they could theoretically support their own system, like the upcoming Conan CCG and the apparently defunct G.I. Joe TCG.

Imagine Scott Pilgrim and friends going toe-to-toe with the Villains United squad?

LINK: Civil War Banners

Damn you, Fossen! Both for the link to the MillarWorld thread and for your choosing to side with the forces of evil. ;-)

My favorites are...

Colin SS

(Author unknown.)

Nick Thompson

Mindy Owens

And my own contribution...

09 May 2006

On the Shelves: 5/10/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 5/10/06. 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]


Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda

Vaistron #5, $2.95

Andrew Dabb's twisted alter ego, Andrew Dabb, wraps up his opus maxiwackymus, and I can't wait to see how it all comes together. As unexpected guilty pleasures go, this has been one of the guiltiest!

Koni Waves #1 (Of 3), $3.00

I can't help but feel like Arcana's lost a bit of steam lately, what with Jova's Harvest now completed, 100 Girls on hiatus, and, worst of all, Ezra's upcoming crossover with Alias' 10th Muse and their lost-me-at-hello model search that accompanied it. (The winner of which, BTW, looks nothing like Ezra!) I need to track down their Free Comic Book Day offering to see if I can recharge my enthusiasm.

Lady Death ad infinitum...


Blurred Vision Vol 1 GN, $14.95

Jenny Gonzalez' review of this made it sound interesting in an offbeat, not really my cup of tea kind of way.

52 Week #1, $2.50
American Virgin #3, $2.99
Ex Machina #20, $2.99
Fables #49, $2.99
Firestorm The Nuclear Man #25, $2.99
Jonah Hex #7, $2.99

Will I or won't I? I must admit that I'm tempted by 52, as much for Renée Montoya's storyline as for the potential for witnessing firsthand what might be the biggest train wreck in comics history. The fact that it should be wholly self-contained is appealing, and the dedicated web site is a nice touch. The prospect of spending $10/month for a regular dose of plot-hammered storytelling-by-committee, though, and having the ridiculous Booster Gold forced upon me, are significantly less appealing. (Side Note: Since when is Bruce Wayne the CEO of the Daily Planet? That's almost as stupid as President Luthor!) *** I recently read the first two Fables TPBs and was pleased to find them to be quite enjoyable. They're far from the "best comic ever" some have claimed it to be, and I won't be adding it to my pull list, but it's definitely a series I'll check in on now and then via the trade collections. *** Jonah Hex is delivering the entertaning, done-in-one goods on a surprisingly consistent basis, so why am I vaguely dissatisfied with it?

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Sojourn Seeley Cvr A #2 (Of 3), $4.95
GI Joe Americas Elite #11, $2.95
GI Joe Sigma 6 #6, $2.95

The "Hunt for Cobra Commmander" $0.25 preview was a solid reintroduction to one of my favorite bad guys (visually speaking, at least), so I'm really looking forward to that story arc kicking off in a couple of months, especially since it seems like Paul Jenkins' excellent Cobra: Reborn reboot from a while back is still in continuity. (Did I really just reference continuity in a positive manner?) The current Snake Eyes arc has been surprisingly entertaining considering there was never a doubt that he wouldn't stay dead, as Joe Casey's tightly plotted big picture has played out wonderfully so far. *** Andrew Dabb's wholesome alter ego counters his evil counterpart with the final issue of his Saturday morning grinfest, Sigma 6.

Deogratias Tale Of Rwanda GN, $16.95

First Second's been getting a lot of bloglove recently, but Deogratias is the only title that's really stood out for me so far, thanks to Rich Watson's always insightful commentary.

Nyx Volume 1 Wannabe TPB, $19.99
Thunderbolts #102, $2.99
X-Men Deadly Genesis #6 (Of 6), $3.50

Light week from the House of Ideas, but if the NYX TPB collects all 7 issues, I just might pick it up.

Shadowmancer Delgado Cvr A #5 (Of 10), $3.50
Shadowmancer Miranda Cvr B #5 (Of 10), $3.50

Interesting news about Markosia over at CBR, as Chuck Satterlee wisely attempts to stay ahead of the story before the rumor mill rips them apart. Who are these mysterious investors who seemingly keep dipping into comics, gassing up the heads of starry-eyed creators and wannabe publishers, before disappearing into the middle of the night? Hopefully this plays out smoother than the Speakeasy debacle did.

Goodbye Chunky Rice Pantheon Ed, $12.95

I have a copy of the Top Shelf edition that I still haven't gotten around to reading. Gotta suck a bit for them seeing Pantheon's version on the shelves now.

ON THE WEB: Super Friends

This one goes out to CBC's #1 fan, MW. We still love ya, baby!!

04 May 2006

LINK: It's Good to Have Influential Friends

When the wagons start circling, they don't waste any time in firing up the Howitzer, do they? Heidi MacDonald, a highly respected blogger who's known Charles Brownstein since he was 15 years old, has now set her sights on Buzzscope and me:

The buzz on BUZZSCOPE

Folks, I think it's time to cut Buzzscope loose. I really do. They're in the cornfield. If Gonzalez had an insight into actual journalistic ethics, he wouldn't be going around making these jaw dropping statements that are digging him deeper and deeper into the hole he seemingly can't see through his smug-colored glasses of sophisticated higher purpose. And the saddest thing of all? The person most hurt by all of this is the person they were purportedly trying to help.
The best part of her little screed, though, is her unsourced claim that I was starting "a whisper campaign" against Brownstein, a claim she clarified via email with a link to a comment I made on CBR last month, before Brownstein was outed, attempting to quell the rampant speculation over his identity:

I'd caution everyone from speculating about his identity as that road leads to innocent bystanders' names being dragged through the mud. The full truth will come out one day, and in the meantime, trust that he knows his name is already being whispered by those who either knew his reputation or heard of this specific situation when Taki pressed charges. He knows he's being watched, and for now, that's as close to justice as we're able to get. But his time is coming.
It's a little weird that she didn't include this link in her collection of other "jaw dropping" statements I've made.

Ironically, what she interpreted as me starting a whisper campaign -- who the hell do I know that matters to whisper his name to? -- was in fact me referring to people like herself and Jim Valentino, among others, those in the industry who were already aware of the accused's identity.

Good thing I've never really been interested in breaking into the industry because it certainly sounds to me like the beginning of a blackballing, yes?

03 May 2006

COMMENT: Infinite Endings, Civil Beginnings

It's been a little while since I couldn't wait until I got home to read a specific comic book, just HAVING to read it on the train ride back to work from Midtown Comics. Today, I read two: Infinite Crisis #7 and Civil War #1.

I actually started reading the former while waiting on the ridiculously long line to pay, which stretched all the way to the back of the store and up the stairs to the second floor, as the place was packed more than I've ever seen it, thanks in large part to these two HUGE event books dropping on the same day. (May's sales analysis should be very interesting.) After an initial reading of each, I'm not too surprised that IC's conclusion left me unimpressed, but I am absolutely shocked that I liked Civil War as much as I did.

Geoff Johns has been too busy looking to the past for cues, delivering some big fanboy moments but forgetting that Marv Wolfman's success with the original Crisis came from writing a much tighter, mostly self-contained story that had some actual emotional resonance. I didn't care about Supergirl back then, or Superboy now, but I felt her death a lot more than I did Connor's -- no matter how many characters Johns used to try to convince me otherwise -- and the over-the-top raging of Superboy Prime didn't connect with me at all since he wasn't fleshed out enough for his change to be the stunner it needed to be. He flipped out because Johns required him to flip out to tell the story he wanted to tell. That way too many key moments took place in other books, increasing the emotional disconnection, didn't help either.

Mark Millar, on the other hand, pulls off a first issue unlike anything I was expecting from him. While not particularly subtle, he wasn't anywhere near as hamfisted about making connections to current events as I expected him to be. And there's even a bit of nuance to the whole thing that makes debating "Whose Side Are You On?" a legitimate discussion. The story moves along at a surprisingly steady clip, and by the end of the issue, sides are clearly being drawn and the disagreements between the various heroes over the Registration Act feel mostly genuine. (Not sure how in-character they are, but nothing felt glaringly off and I've long stopped caring about continuity on that level because Marvel cleary has stopped caring.) The most important thing, though, is that unlike Infinite Crisis #1, almost anyone could pick up Civil War #1 and find it completely accessible. They might not recognize every single character, but the story stands on its own, requiring no knowledge of current events in the MU, an important thing considering the amount of mainstream attention the mini-series is receiving.

More thoughts on both of these issues in my next Pull List Propaganda, as well as a look back at the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.

COMMENT: More on Taki Soma


Originally Posted by GODDARD
But to just make a few small points; the majority of Taki's reluctance to name Brownstien came from her reluctance to harm the CBLDF's reputation, a group that she has nothing but respect and appreciation for. While she knew that they were conducting an internal investigation, she did not know that funds from donations to protect comic's first amendment rights were used.
That is correct.

It was one of the biggest things we debated when she decided to come forward publicly, and while I understood both her and Ken's reluctance to involve the CBLDF -- especially since the Gordon Lee trial was about to start the Monday the column was slated to apper -- the fact of the matter is that there was no way around it, which is why she only revealed her own identity and not Brownstein's when she ultimately did come forward. Unfortunately, what's ended up happening is someone else called Brownstein out -- a point everyone should keep in mind; Michael Dean and TCJ outed him, not Taki -- and now her not pressing charges and approaching the CBLDF directly instead is being looked at suspiciously.

I'll be addressing the situation on Buzzscope (PopCultureShock) later this week [EDIT: Posted 6/5/06], as soon as my own investigation is completed, but until then, three things:

1) I would urge everyone to think twice about withdrawing their support, financial and otherwise, from the CBLDF. I am, and will remain, a member and value greatly the work they do on behalf of the First Amendment and the comics industry. While Taki may have not been satisfied with their handling of the situation, they are not the ones at fault in this situation, Brownstein is.

2) As some have alleged, Buzzscope (PopCultureShock) bears no ill will towards Brownstein or any of his well-intentioned, level-headed supporters. While Ronée has definitely been extremely passionate in her coverage of this story, to the point of inadvertently causing a few innocent bystanders to have fingers pointed in their direction (for which I, on behalf of PCS, apologized directly to the one party I'm aware of who contacted us about it**), she has been no more or less irresponsible than the average TV or newspaper pundit with an op-ed platform. Debate the quality of her writing until you're blue in the face, but don't let the message get lost because you don't like the messenger or how they delivered it. Unlike the TCJ article and, presumably, this one, her coverage was never represented as news and those who say there's no difference are either being naive or disingenuous. Mostly the latter, in my opinion.

3) Those who lost interest in this case because Brownstein wasn't the industry heavyweight everyone thought he was based on Ronée's original column should really be ashamed of themselves. Besides the the power and influence of someone in his position being subject to debate and perspective, the fact of the matter is if he were Joe Schmo at Random Indie Comics, Inc., this story would never have been touched by NEWSarama or TCJ. That in itself is a testament to his standing in the industry, if for no other reason than the position he holds within it. The fact that many people in the industry knew who he was and what had happened, even before Taki came forward publicly -- as Jim Valentino's awkward defense shows -- is just one example of the many obstacles Taki faced in trying to get her grievance addressed to her satisfaction.

**PS: As to references to Ronée and potential libel, that was looked into by both sides and, while her wording was unfortunate in its vague specificity, it wasn't libelous.

02 May 2006

LINK: New Superman Returns Trailer

"Don't make me angry.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
Click on my bald head to see for yourself."


Ohh that Lex! He's so funny when he screams. It made me laugh in agony.

You on the other hand may have a different reaction. Perhaps you'll slouch in your chair after watching this trailer. While the first one released months ago left me wanting more, this latest effort deflated my expectations.

Trailers can make shitty movies seem like good ones, and good movies seem great. So what do you have when you see a shitty trailer? I guess we'll have to wait till June 30th.

On The Shelves: 5/3/06

Support GOOD Comics! Try something new EVERY month.

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 5/3/06. 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]


Mouse Guard #2

Liberality For All #1 (Of 8)(AA), $2.99

Why are they reoffering this, and why isn't it noted as a reprint? I mean, with all the mainstream press they got, you're telling me they didn't sell out of their initial print run?

Mouse Guard #2, $3.50
Robotika #3, $3.95

ASP is publishing some really good comics right now, yes? And doing it the right way, with a small slate that they're putting some promotional muscle behind. Kudos to them!

Soulsearchers #77, $2.50

So Claypool outlasted Speakeasy. Who'da thunk it?

Archenemies #2 (Of 4), $2.99

Hero and villian are, unbeknownst to each other, Odd Couple-style roommates. The first issue was entertaining enough that I'll check out the second.

Detective Comics #819, $2.99
Gotham Central Vol 3 Unresolved Targets TPB, $14.99
Infinite Crisis #7 (Of 7), $3.99
Teen Titans #35, $2.50

I'm really liking OYL Batman and Detective, featuring some solid character development and a resetting of the Gotham City landscape that's just fine with me. Harvey Dent as the Punisher is a potentially fun concept, too, though I'm curious to see how the Question's 52 storyline fits into the bigger picture. Not enough to actually buy 52, mind you, but I'll be following the reviews of it closely. *** Finally, a third TPB for Gotham Central! If they'd turned these things around a little bit quicker, maybe the series could have built a bigger audience. *** Having reread the original Crisis a couple of weeks ago and finding that it mostly holds up 20 years later, my expectations for the end of Infinite Crisis delivering the goods are now that much lower. *** OYL Teen Titans got off to a good start, and other than Robin's idiotic secret project that will hopefully be derailed by legal wrangling over you-know-who's copyright, I'm looking forward to seeing if Johns can get his groove back.

Dragonlance Chronicles Vol 1 Dragons Of Autumn Twilight TPB, $17.95
Elsinore #5 (Of 9)(resolicited), $3.25
GI Joe Americas Elite The Hunt For Cobra Commander, $0.25
GI Joe Sigma 6 #1 (AA), $2.95

I didn't buy the Dragonlance floppies because I've never played in that setting nor read any of its novels, but I'll pick up the TPB out of curiousity because I love a good D&D story. *** Considering the themes Elsinore delves into, I'm actually surprised Alias ever agreed to publish it, but I'm glad it's with Devil's Due now because they need a few strong non-licensed properties in their stable. *** G.I. Joe owns my wallet!

Season Of The Witch #4 (Of 4), $3.50
Strange Girl #8, $2.99

Two of the better titles Image is publishing right now, both featuring well-written female leads.

Civil War #1 (Of 7), $3.99
Hulk Visionaries Peter David Vol 3 TPB, $19.99

Ugh. I really want to skip Civil War, as I'm not a Millar fan and I've had my fill of plot-hammered mega-events, but at the same time, I feel obligated to check it out. I hate myself! *** "Planet Hulk" has me interested in the green galoot for the first time, and I understand David's run is highly regarded, so I might pick up Vol.1 one of these days.

Atomika #7 (Of 12), $2.99

Still buying this, but it's in the DIY trade category now. I'll read it once all of the issues are out.

Revolution On The Planet Of The Apes #4 (Of 6), $3.95

Still enjoying this, and it's got some of the best extras of any comic being published. Meaty stuff that fleshes out the larger storyline, no fluff, justifying the higher cover price. IDW should take note.

Middleman Vol 2 #3 Sino-Mexican Revelation, $2.95

Silly fun, Viper's another indie who's doing things the right way.

LINK: TCJ Breaks Taki Soma Story

Sex Scandal Involving CBLDF's Charles Brownstein Leads to Women's Empowerment Fund

Some the Journal spoke with referred to the multiple perspectives on the events of the evening in question as a kind of Rashomon scenario, but in fact, the accounts the Journal has heard are much more compatible with one another than they are divergent.
Honestly, I'm glad the Journal dug into the story and came forward with names, and don't begrudge them the "scoop" in the least. I've said in the past that PCS isn't really a news site and have felt that our reporting on this story exclusively, especially via an opinion column, wasn't going to really help Taki's case.

Oddly enough, Brownstein chooses to offer his side of the story via Rich Johnston's latest Lying in the Gutters:

At one point, very late in the evening, I was sitting in the Jacuzzi with her and Ken, and I feigned to lift up her shirt. It was a stupid, drunken prank, of which I'm ashamed. It was something I'd never done before, nor anything I'd do since. I did not, at any point, grab, fondle, or expose her breast, nor was that ever my intention.
Predictably, that last bit differs greatly from Taki and Ken's version of the events, which I'm more inclined to believe, particularly because Ken was so conflicted about the potential harm this situation might cause the CBLDF that there's no way he'd embellish the scenario in Taki's favor. Some might keep that point in mind as they're criticizing Taki's decision to not press charges, especially those who've found themselves in similar situations without support because the person doing the harrassing was higher on the industry food chain than they were.

IMO, the CBLDF needs to, at a minimum, publicly censure and suspend Brownstein for a reasonable period of time, and let their new deputy director take over as the public face of the organization. Any less is saying, "no big deal, carry on."

01 May 2006

Vs. CARD OF THE WEEK: Bart Allen <> The Flash (DCR-173)

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.

Bart Allen <> The Flash (DCR-173)

It's been a while since Dan and I have been able to get a game in, so yesterday we went for the full monty, heading downtown to Neutral Ground for Day 2 of the Infinite Crisis preview. Dan's a veteran of these things, but it was my first time and, despite losing the two matches I played to kids whose brains were working much faster than mine (one even had a scientific calculator handy, pre-programmed to keep a simultaneous tally of both of our scores), I had a lot of fun. Snagged a cool Alex Ross/Captain Marvel playmat as a door prize, too, so it was worth the $25 tournament fee.

The whole event ran ridiculously late, finally kicking off after a 90-minute delay with each player being given 5 packs to open, sort, register and return, at which point they were redistributed amongst us and we proceeded to build our 30-card (minimum) decks and the tournament finally began. Oddly enough, I ended up getting Dan's set, heavy on JSA and Villains United which ended up being the setup I happily went with for my two matches, the first of which I narrowly lost before getting blown out in record time in the second match. Both teams have some great cards and interesting mechanics, most of which I didn't fully grasp until later that night as Dan and I traded to maximize our take from the event, with him focusing on Checkmate and Shadowpact, two of the more complicated but potentially kickass teams.

I selected our Card of the Week this week not for its gameplay value as neither Dan nor I came across it yesterday in-game, but for its seemingly spoilerific info revealing Bart Allen as the Flash. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure he's only been Impulse and Kid Flash previously, yes? Also curious are his team affiliations, Speed Force and Teen Titans. The former is new to the game, and would seem to suggest Infinite Crisis #7 or the new Flash series will include its return; the latter could either simply be UDE throwing a bone to one of DC's original killer decks, or it could mean Bart will be rejoining the newly configured, One Year Later Teen Titans.

Unlike the X-Men expansion and its botched Starter Deck that temporarily killed our interest in the game, the Infinite Crisis expansion looks amazing, adding some great new cards and mechanics to the mix and perfectly tying in to the current DCU. It almost made me want to read a couple of the lead-in IC mini-series that I skipped, and it definitely piqued my interest in the new Checkmate and Shadowpact series that I was originally planning to pass on. The JSA cards also made me wonder if we're going to be seeing the return of Earth-2 this Wednesday, and whether or not a reinvigorated JSA ongoing might be in the works.

Kudos to UDE and DC on a job well done! The official release is today and Dan and I are finally going to go half on that box we've been considering since late last year. Here's some more cards from the new set that Dan highlighted. Note the "Vengeance" mechanic that's been added, mostly to Villains United cards, a nice little bonus that'll make opponents have to think twice about who to target.

Superman Mr. Freeze

Deathstroke The Phantom Stranger