23 August 2006

Say What?: Morrison takes on Miller.

I'm surprised no readers of Newsarama have commented on Grant Morrison's interview posted today. This may be part of a prearranged public slugfest, but Grant Morrison does make some interesting points.

Guy will testify that I'm no fan of Morrison, but so far I like his take on Batman. And after reading the complete interview, I think I'm hooked for the run.

NRAMA: But still, looking at the larger cultural subtext you're writing this in, what makes a grim Batman not appropriate for the world we live in now? Miller's working on a Batman vs. Al Qaeda story, and it's hard to think of a time when we've seen such grimness on the news...shouldn't Batman reflect that in a way, as he did in the late '80s when he first took that turn?

GM:First off, the idea that superhero comics should reflect the news headlines is not one I tend to subscribe to. I've always preferred using my comics to talk about the world around me in the language of symbolism and metaphor and I'm more interested in telling stories about how people behave in bizarre situations than I am in commenting on current events.

Having said that, Batman will always reflect his times: the idea here is not to soften or emotionally reset Batman as an exercise in nostalgia but to make him more real and relatable, while at the same time offering some rationale for his complex multi-faceted personality I want to see a Batman that combines the cynic, the scholar, the daredevil, the businessman, the superhero, the wit, the lateral thinker, the aristocrat. He terrifies the guilty but he has great compassion for the weak and the downtrodden and will lay his life on the line for anybody who's in trouble. He's a master of yoga and meditation who has as much control over his body and his feelings as any human. He has a wider range of experiences than most people will dream of in ten lifetimes. This is not a one-note character! So, while I won't pretend we all live on Sunnybrook Farm, I don't think its appropriate - particularly in trying times - to present our fictional heroes as unsmiling vengeance machines. I'd rather Batman embodied the best that secular humanism has to offer - a sour-faced, sexually-repressed,humorless, uptight, angry, and all-round grim 'n' gritty Batman would be more likely to join the Taliban surely?

NRAMA: Er...

GM: And while we're on that subject...Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! Or how about the sinister Al Qaeda mastermind up against a hungry Hannibal Lecter! For all the good it's likely to do. Cheering on a fictional character as he beats up fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence when real terrorists are killing real people in the real world. I'd be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb 'vs' Al Qaeda.
I don't know about you, but them sound like fighting words.

22 August 2006

On the Shelves: 8/23/06

Reading is fundamental. Don't waste your time reading bad comics out of habit!

The drought continues as I am now three weeks behind in picking up my stash from Midtown Comics. Here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 8/23/06. 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]


Kraven's Last Hunt Premiere HC

Batman And The Mad Monk #1 (Of 6), $3.50
Batman And The Monster Men TPB, $14.99
Blue Beetle #6, $2.99
Jack Of Fables #2, $2.99
Justice League Of America Cover A #1, $3.99

Matt Wagner perfectly nailed the whole Batman milieu in Batman And The Monster Men, so I'm really looking forward to The Mad Monk. *** Blue Beetle is still working for me solely on the strength of its appealing cast. The story itself is unfolding achingly slow, though. *** I'm three volumes into the main Fables series and enjoying it more and more as the depth of Willingham's premise becomes clearer with each story. Jack Of Fables #1 was a solid enough read that I'll probably follow it in floppy form. *** So after the Justice League of America's over-priced zero issue's non-story, what in the world could possibly get me to pay $3.99 for #1? Not the ugly Turner cover; not Ed *master of the ass shot* Benes; and certainly not the boring lineup that does nothing for me.

Eberron Eye Of The Wolf Lie Cvr A, $4.95
Forgotten Realms Crystal Shard Seeley Cvr A #1 (Of 3), $4.95
GI Joe Declassified Manapul Cvr A #2 (Of 3), $4.95

When Eberron first debuted as D&D's newest campaign setting a few years back, I noticed the very comic book-style artwork that accompanied it and figured it would be a shoo-in for a comics adaptation at some point. Kudos to Devil's Due for taking the chance on some original work instead of simply sticking to the safer road of Salvatore and Weis adaptations, which have been amazing. *** Not sure if G.I. Joe: DeClassified is delayed or just on a bi-monthly schedule, but I can't remember anything about the first issue. Still, since the America's Elite relaunch, all of the spinoffs have been solid reads.

Action Philosophers The Peoples Choice, $2.95

Is this a new issue? I'm starting to feel really out of the loop when it comes to my indie darlings.

Supermarket #4 (Of 4), $3.99

The first Brian Wood comic to really click for me concludes, and I'm guessing the over-the-top tone of the previous three issues will kick into overdrive here.

Daredevil #88, $2.99
Heroes For Hire #1 CW, $2.99
Spider-Man Kravens Last Hunt Premiere HC, $19.99

Ed Brubaker is officially my favorite superhero comics writer, and his Daredevil has been as entertaining a monthly read as anything on the shelves. This issue is a Foggy Nelson standalone, something he did in Captain America with Nomad to good effect. That the series is staying away from Civil War is a nice bonus. *** I enjoyed the Daughters of the Dragon mini-series a lot, but the combination of Tucci on art and a direct connection to Civil War makes me leery of Heroes for Hire. *** I picked up the original Kraven's Last Hunt hardcover on eBay a couple of months ago for $13 (including shipping) and the story holds up well nearly 20 years later. There's a great text piece that talks about the perception that the story was too mature for comics and glorified suicide, which will hopefully be included in this new release, a must-own for comics fans.

Middleman Vol 2 TPB, $9.95

Fun, fun, fun. Buy it.

20 August 2006

Why I'm Taking a Break: Exhibit C

Because celebrating your 25th birthday* takes a lot of concentration...

That's me and Dan not thinking about comics last night. Eagle-eyed readers will notice my pimping a Punks t-shirt, though, so all is not lost. Thanks to Stephanie for the pic.

* 25 + 12 = 37

18 August 2006

COMMENT: Civil War, Indies and Marketing 101

The interesting discussion over on The Engine about the potential opportunity Marvel's Civil War flub has opened up for indies misses a key point: your average Civil War reader doesn't care about non-Marvel titles, and condescendingly referring to those titles as "spandex super fights" or "Muscular Mutant Man Monthly" suggests they're not your audience anyway, no matter what's on the shelves that week.

That point aside, though, there's some good information in there, not the least of which is that few comics creators know how to approach marketing, and even the bigger names feel a bit hamstrung by an industry that puts an inordinate amount of responsibility for marketing on individual creators. As Warren Ellis notes: "But think about it. DC puts out some 200 products every month, and I think their PR team is maybe three people deep. What does that lead to?"

Among other things, it leads to a marketing plan that leaves far too many titles to sink or swim on their own, while a select few get any significant promotional push, most being hedged bets that are pretty much guaranteed to have a decent level of sales simply based on their creative teams or proximity to a major event.

The opportunity for indies isn't in this extremely narrow window opened by Civil War's delay, which very few will be in any position to exploit, but in the long-term commitment to establishing themselves as reliable purveyors of high-quality comic books the Big Two can't, or simply don't, provide. Beyond superheroes and the relatively limited scope of Vertigo's offerings, there's a wide range of genres, settings and characterizations from which a savvy independent publisher can carve themselves a niche.

15 August 2006

On the Shelves: 8/16/06

Reading is fundamental. Reading comics is supposed to be FUN, so don't waste your time reading bad ones!

Tomorrow is my 37th birthday and I'm particularly feeling it in my knees as the softball season is starting to take its toll! Plus, I'm definitely going to have to get my shoulder checked during the off-season as I'm pretty sure I tore something. Nevertheless, my mutant power has always been denial, so I'll push through it.

One thing I can't deny is that my passion for comics has been dialed down several notches recently as I again skipped my weekly visit to Midtown Comics and will be doubling up this week, if and when I make the time to get to the store. With that in mind, here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 8/16/06. 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]


Savage Brothers #1

Savage Brothers #1 (Of 3), $3.99

I wonder how much better BOOM!'s titles would be selling if more people were able to get an advance look at them? Savage Brothers wasn't on my radar at all, but thanks to my getting an advance copy, I can recommend that it be added to yours because it's good reading. Post-apocalyptic America, zombies, and a couple of hustling bounty hunters add up to an unexpectedly entertaining romp with shades of Strange Girl and Godland. Very nice art from Rafael Albuquerque, too.

Conan #31, $2.99

Consistently good read that should be on everyone's pull list. I guarantee it's better than at least one title you're buying out of habit.

Green Lantern Corps #3, $2.99
Robin #153, $2.99

The plus side of weaning myself from the weekly habit is that I'm less aware of what's shipping when and what's late. I'm pretty sure Green Lantern Corps #3 is late, though. Of course, now that I'm only reading comics I'm interested in with no regard for timeliness, I don't mind as much! *** Robin, on the other hand, has become a wait-for-the-trade candidate as a result of my shifting of priorities. I'll finish out this Captain Boomerang arc first, though.

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Trilogy Vol 3 Sojourn TPB, $14.95
GI Joe Americas Elite #14, $2.95

Two of the best licenses going right now, and that's in the context of my thinking pretty much everything Marvel and DC publish these days is a licensed comic.

Casanova #3, $1.99

Casanova #2 was fun, but not nearly as compelling as Fell or Strange Girl, two of the last Image titles I don't wait for the trade on. It's a little too self-aware, a little too busy winking at the audience, patting itself on the back for its cleverness. Similar to Godland, but more so; off-puttingly more so, I think.

Civil War X-Men #2 (Of 4), $2.99
Decimation Son Of M TPB, $13.99
Thunderbolts #105 Cw, $2.99

Civil War: X-Men #1 was a solid read, and 4 issues is a comfortable number to commit to, especially based on David Hine's unexpectedly good turn on Son of M. *** Thunderbolts remains one of my top 5 Marvel comics. Old school sensibilities, new school execution.

On The Web: Super Friends

I don't remember this show being so profane.

12 August 2006

Why I'm Taking a Break: Exhibit B

Andrew Foley, who's always been refreshingly honest about how the collapse of Speakeasy Comics a while back has affected him, reveals the latest plot twist in that sordid little saga:

Apparently, Diamond is still distributing copies of PARTING WAYS--they just aren't going to give any money to me or Scott Mooney. It turns out Adam Fortier still owes Diamond a substantial sum, and at some point, Diamond decided they were going to keep Speakeasy stock and continue to sell it to make up for their loss. Which means: if you got let off the hook and given your property back by Adam soon after Speakeasy shut down, and acted quickly, you got your books back. I know of at least two cases where this has happened (both of whom have personal distribution accounts with Diamond and therefore someone they could talk to immediately). However, if you got strung along for a couple of months and couldn't get things straightened out with Diamond quickly, you're screwed.
Wonder how many of the Fortier apologists who were offering variations on "he's a really nice guy" and "at least he didn't string people along and then file for bankruptcy" will pick up this little tidbit and finally call a spade a spade? And which sucker publisher is going to hire the so-called [former] "king of licensed comics"?

11 August 2006

Why I'm Taking a Break: Exhibit A

Wizard sucks?

The first of many weekly video blog posts is now up. In this episode I'm talking about Wizard Magazine. Hardly an interesting subject, I know, but as I was flipping through the latest issue I noticed a few things that made me cringe, made me think and made me want to throw up. Watch and I'll let you figure out which.
Yeah, and water's wet. SFW? It's like pushing the unconscious drunk off his barstool: it's easy, but it's not going to sober him up.

I've checked out Comic Foundry a couple of times and, while it was certainly better than the disappointing Lo-Fi and MillarWorld's Magazine (is that still around?), it's in no position to be throwing stones at any one else. The comments section to the linked post is entertaining for all the wrong reasons -- kudos to Leigh Walton and Jennifer de Guzman for calling a spade and a spade, though -- and reinforces the negative feelings I've had the past few weeks about the industry's peripheral players and hangers-on and the increasing sense that I've been on the verge of falling into a similar pattern here.

Really, I just want to get back to reading good stories complemented by appealing pictures and sharing my thoughts about them with anybody who stumbles across the site. More later...

PS: Just noticed Leong posted replies to some of the comments he received, including de Guzman's, to whom he offered the jaw-droppingly stupid:

As to Jennifer's note about the headless women? Well, two things. 1) It's hard enough to convince someone to pose for you WITHOUT their face showing, let alone with. 2) I prefer our "models" without heads. Unless they're somebody you're going to recognize, I think the cover loses focus because you're stuck trying to figure out if you're supposed to know who that person is. Also, I prefer the girls and the guy without heads because you get to decide what they look like in your head.
Miss the point much?

Funny thing is I'm pretty sure Leong's one of the more respected peripheral players on the scene. Or was, at least...

08 August 2006

On The Shelves: 8/9/06

Read GOOD Comics, not just the ones you're used to! Try something new EVERY month.

Before I take my first look at this week's list and write a single comment, I should point out the extreme level of disinterest I'm feeling towards comics these days. Like the cynical old man on the porch who hasn't heard a good song in decades, here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 8/9/06. 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]


Incredible Hulk #97

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

This is a good comic book.

10th Muse Ezra #1, $3.95

What do you do when a character you like teams up with one you have no interest in? I skipped the Blacklight/Bomb Queen team-up over the same dilemma.

Conan & The Songs Of The Dead #2 (Of 5), $2.99

Conan always treats me well.

Firestorm The Nuclear Man #28, $2.99
Martian Manhunter #1 (Of 8), $2.99

Firestorm is the little comic that could. Nothing flashy; simply gets the job done. Which, of course, is a death wish in the direct market these days. *** Apparently DC hit off some prominent bloggers with review copies of Martian Manhunter #1, presumably to counter the negative buzz from his ugly redesign and not-so-hot Brave New World preview. Optimists take it as a sign of DC taking the blogiverse seriously. I say it's a sign of desperation. Unless, of course, it was one of the creators behind it, then I at least applaud the willingness to stump for a work-for-hire project. Desperation still, but laudable.

Incredible Hulk #97, $2.99

Yay, "Planet Hulk"! Fun comics rule.

07 August 2006

Time For Another Break...

Posting's been light round these parts recently as the real world's been busier than usual, to the point where I even fell behind on my weekly pickup and am still slogging through the backlog. Too many decent but not great comics, too much non-news coming out of San Diego and Chicago, too many bloggers talking about the same boring subjects -- it all adds up to my being more interested in playing softball (we beat Martha Stewart last week, and the playoffs start tomorrow!) and Knights of the Old Republic (A.D.D.I.C.T.E.D.) than reading and writing about comics.

It's break time, methinks.

I'll still post my On the Shelves each week since ComicList syndicates it, but unless Dan and/or Omar decide to pick up the slack, things'll be pretty quiet here until after Labor Day.

Go Mets!

06 August 2006

COMMENT: Sesame Street Has a Lesson for Comics

When the question of diversity comes up in comics, it's always interesting to watch the likes of Joe Quesada, Dan DiDio, et al stumble over themselves to not put their foots in their mouths as they cautiously dance around the subject. The New York Times has an interesting article today about Sesame Street's newest female muppet, Abby Cadabby, that has some direct relevance to the comics industry.

A Girly-Girl Joins the 'Sesame' Boys

LIZ NEALON, executive vice president and creative director of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street," wasn't sure exactly what she wanted in a new Muppet for the show's 37th season, which starts on Aug. 14. But she did have one major goal: She wanted the creative team, at long last, to come up with a female Muppet star...

Even bastions of liberal creativity like "Sesame Street" are apparently vulnerable to the realities of show business, including a disproportionately high ratio of male to female puppeteers, said Rosemary Truglio, executive vice president for education and research at Sesame Workshop. (Miss Piggy has always been played by male puppeteers, starting with Frank Oz.) And a show as politically sensitive as this one has an added challenge: finding female characters that make kids laugh, but not laugh at them as female stereotypes.

"If Cookie Monster was a female character," said Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of the show, "she'd be accused of being anorexic or bulimic. There are a lot of things that come attached to female characters." For example, said Deborah Aubert, associate director of national programs and training services at Girls, Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group. "It would be hard to have a female character with Elmo's whimsy who didn't also seem ditzy."

But it's not just a high-minded interest in gender equality that drove the search for a strong female character. The success of "Dora the Explorer," a show built around a strong female lead, has not gone unnoticed by its competitors at "Sesame Street." " ‘Sesame Street' is living in an increasingly competitive market," Ms. Nealon said. "We used to be the only game in town, and now we're having more conversations about where are all the points of appeal of our cast. We're trying to be as absolutely broad-based as we can be."
The competition, of course, is much more limited in comics than it is in children's television, and neither Marvel nor DC ever really push the envelope (on anything significant, at least) in a way that might force the other side to step up their game. The status quo works for both of them pretty well and none of their nominal competitors -- Image, Dark Horse or any of the myriad indie publishers who depend on the direct market for survival -- are in a position to challenge them. Not in the direct market, at least.

Particularly interesting was the noted difficulty in conceiving a viable character who could transcend the societal baggage that's attached to virtually every minority group, a significant hurdle in forums where minority characters are few and far between to begin with, resulting in every new character bearing the full burden of representation. As the article notes, Sesame Street is somewhat ahead of the curve thanks to the presence of several female muppets in supporting roles -- as well as a history of prominent female human cast members -- so Abby Cadabra won't have to bear that extra burden.

Despite a variety of sometimes well-intentioned, ofttimes ill-conceived attempts at creating diverse characters, minorities in the Marvel and DC universes haven't quite gotten to that point yet, especially in the hands of writers who grew up primarily reading comics and see the inclusion of minority characters as either a personal mission or editorial mandate, as opposed to simply reflecting the world beyond their limited scope. And, of course, it wouldn't hurt if Marvel and DC had more minorities of all types actually writing and/or editing for them, the first real step towards broadening their fictional worldviews.

01 August 2006

On The Shelves: 8/2/06

Read GOOD Comics, not just the ones you're used to! Try something new EVERY month.

For the first time in nearly three years, I didn't make my weekly pilgrimage to Midtown Comics and...life went on! Who knew? As a result, though, I've had to avoid most of the comics internerd to avoid spoiling any of the stories that await me when I finally catch up on Thursday. (Hopefully.) Coincidentally, perhaps, I feel like my snark-o-meter is revving pretty low today.

Nevertheless, here's my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 8/2/06. 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]


Artesia: Beseiged #2

Power Of 6 Twisted Apples Part 1, $4.95

No idea what this is, and I'm too lazy to Google anything today, but it's a great title! If the cover is similarly catchy, I might pick it up.

Artesia Besieged #2 (Of 6), $3.95
Mouse Guard #4 (Of 6), $3.50

Archaia has rapidly jumped onto my Top 5 Publisher list on the strength of some really distinctive, original work -- of which Artesia and Mouse Guard are two of the strongest -- and I am looking forward to checking out all of the new titles they recently announced.

More Than Sparrows GN, $4.95

Another interesting title I know nothing about, if the cover catches my eye, I'll give it a looksee.

Deadbeats #78, $2.50
Elvira #159, $2.50

The end is near, and it will come, predictably, not with a bang, but a whimper.

All New Atom #2, $2.99
Creeper #1 (Of 6), $2.99
Detective Comics #822, $2.99
Jonah Hex #10, $2.99

A relatively quiet week from the Distinguished Competition, as I'm pretty sure I'm dropping the All New Atom from my pull list. The Brave New World preview was intriguing, but the first issue had vague hints of going in a direction I have no interest in, and Simone's overuse of quotes to underscore scenes came off like an amateur composer trying to over-compensate for a tepid film. *** While the Atom was a disappointment, Uncle Sam was an unexpected treat, so I'm hoping The Creeper lives up to the potential of its Brave New World preview. *** Paul Dini got off to a pretty good start with his first Detective story, and since I've decided to wait-for-the-trade with Morrison's take on Batman, I'm hoping he can keep up the good work over the long haul. *** Jonah Hex has become something of a habit, sort of like smoking while drinking. I want to drop it, but it keeps popping up in slowish weeks and I tell myself "maybe next issue."

Fallen Angel Idw #7, $3.99

I keep forgetting to pick up the TPB from the first DC story arc, which I had originally skipped in floppy form because I was turned off by the possibility of the Angel actually being SuperGirl, which was the rumor at the time.

Scatterbrain #3 (Of 4), $3.50

This is one those comics that was clearly conceived as a movie property, and as a result, the second issue felt a little choppy at times. Still, it's a solid read, and I'm curious to see where it goes.

Moon Knight #4, $2.99

Wow...that's all for me from the House of Ideas? Good for my wallet, not so good for my overall perception. Fortunately, it's Moon Knight, which has been a great read so far and I'm guessing/hoping Huston cranks the plot development up a notch now that he's introduced all of the players and established the mood.

Last Sin Of Mark Grimm #2 (Of 4), $2.95

I kind of liked the first issue of Mark Grimm, and have been intending to review it at some point, but I have the vaguest memory of something not quite working for me enough to pick up the second issue. Might have to pull it out tonight and give it another read.

Villains #3 (Of 4), $3.25

Viper is another publisher that has leapt up my favorites list recently, not yet into the Top 5, but firmly in the Top 10. The first two issues of Villains were very well done, and I'm looking forward to not just the final two issues, but future volumes exploring the intriguing world Cogan and Cody have concocted.