Friday, February 29, 2008

In which I weigh in on old stories and dead memes

OK, As was brought up in the comments to my last post, my advice on "Brand New Day" may, MAY be too little too late. Personally, we've just seen that no comic story is irreversible (Hello there Bucky, hi Jason!), so keep it in mind.

However, in an attempt to try and stay current, I'm going to dislodge a few other old topics and ancient memes in rapid fire mode here. Doesn't mean I won't come back to some of these, but I do want to try and move onwards and upwards.

So, let us begin.

Really, all his designs tend to be a bit "meh" to me.

The passing of Steve Gerber only makes this sentiment MORE valid, not less so, in my opinion.

Just a note on the second one here: I was very annoyed because in the previous month they had a cover in which the Falcon ON FIRE. Marvel as a very disturbing idea of image marketing here.

My two-years too-late contribution to Dorian's old Meme. And of course, understanding means you've either read the issue or at least my review of it.

Last but not least...

Do you REALLY need me to comment on this one?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Strategy session for those who hate "Brand New Day"

A few people I talked to wished that they could do more to protest what they see as a pretty retarded decision by Marvel Editorial and wiping out Spider-Man's marriage thanks to a deal with the DEVIL. And a few people have said "Nothing we do will matter"

First, to the "It doesn't matter". Well, I half-agree with that sentiment. If there's one thing that we all should realize that by now is that "the power of the internets" is only as effective if the targets in question choose to pay attention to them. I doubt the online blograge will change Joey Q's mind or even Dan Buckley's. 2000 letters, some with returned issues, delivered to their doorstep? Might be a tad more effective. Remember that Jemas lost his job in large part over the letter writing done after the Mark Waid FF debacle. So, something to keep in mind. I'm not saying it's hopeless, but it would be a longshot. Now, that said, to the "these people are only spider-man/Marvel Fans" thing. Look, we need to save who we can here, and win over those we can, so you have to target your arguments and pitches where it will be moderately effective. With that in mind, here are just my thoughts on how you can use other books to lure Spider-Man fans away from the relaunch named after a particularly bad decade old Sting Song. The key element for those of you whom post on other threads (I really don't; my online presence is pretty much here and nowhere else) is to use good marketing tools. I recommend Scans Daily, as it pretty much has scans from bloody everything, and then putting up small chunks and teasers of the best of the last few issues to hook people in. Similarly, Motivational posters like the ones I make and post at the Parodyverse wouldn't be a bad promotional tool.

Now, here are what I think are some good titles to promote, and for whom;

For the Die-Hard Spider-Man Marvel Zombie

The Book: Spider Girl

The Line: This is now the REAL Spider-Man book. Nevermind ASM.

The Sinker:To the line "Well, it's not in continuity! It's not the REAL Peter parker!", the response is simple "Sure it is: it's the continuity JQ just washed away. Peter and MJ are together, there's even the daughter that's the best of both of them that Mephisto mentioned in OMD. Joey Q is saying that if you really cared about MJ and Pete you would be buying this book. Wouldn't you like to ram those words down his throat by dropping ASM and increasing this book's sales?"Rich Johnston and a few other Bloggers have already commented on Joey Q's comment and making him shut his yap. After all, what would he say if Spider-Girl's numbers took a spike as The-storyline-named-for-a-bad-Sting-song took a dive? Wouldn't that be a nice little egg on his face? And anyway, Spider-Girl features all the classics of the Spider-Man mythos and enough extras to be enticing. Go! now!

For the Spider-Man fan who is thinking about quitting Marvel (and maybe trying out a DC book):

The Book: Blue Beetle

The Line: This is the book Spider-Man WISHES it could be.

The Sinker: It's got the strongest supporting cast created in YEARS. It's a DC book that doesn't require you to have half the DCU entries on Wikipedia bookmarked so you can look it up and figure out what the hell is going on. The Protagonist is likable, trying to be heroic, and suffering from a lot of everyday problems (best Friend having lost her family, trying to create a future for himself, family issues) while dealing with super-issues (Alien invasion, Super-Villains, not-crapping-yourself when faced with Batman) and sometimes a problem that combines both (like his sorta long-distance girlfriend Traci Thirteen). He makes mistakes, he saves lives, he's getting mentored by someone with a mysterious and dangerous past; he's got half the super-people on earth looking at him funny because he's got the name of a dead friend of theirs. He has to be honest with his parents, and his parents have to do the hardest thing a parent can do; make ends meet while providing an upright example for their child and stay stoic in the knowledge that their son fights supervillains and monsters. And just to top it off, they have to help their son struggle with the emotional and moral challenges of something that is almost beyond comprehension. And they do it with humor, honor and integrity. Aunt May has it easy by comparison.(And a side note: the writer John Rogers has a great blog. Perhaps we can make a deal with him; if we can add a certain number of readers, he'll write a story in which Traci Thirteen and Black Alice have a catfight that Jamie has to try and break up, only to result in hijinks?

For the fan looking to get away from Marvel and DC

The Book: PS238

The Line: It's the comic you wish you read as a kid

The Sinker: It has a MODOK Analog and a a Dr. Doom Analogue (as children) fighting to see who can become evil overlord of a school full or superkids, staffed by a bunch of former superheroes with a dark secret, and the one kid who has a clue as to some of the larger mysteries of the series is the one kid without powers at the school whom is currently training with a psuedo-Batman (but with a sense of humor) and is targeted by a rival school of super-fascists. What more would you like with that? Oh, and early issues are on the book's website. So there's that accessibility thing covered.

Now, if the fan in questions wants to drop superhero comics altogether, it becomes a different story; you'll have to target specific genres (say, horror, or crime, or sci-fi, or what not) and that becomes a much broader topic.Just my thoughts.

Your Moment of Funny

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wildstorm comics: 1992-2008

(Note: I'm giving out a spoiler for an upcoming book, and I'm not even going to try and hide it, so if you actually care, you better avert your eyes NOW).

Ok, there you go. Moving on.


First, I'd like you to go to Newsrama or CBR or wherever it is you go for the latest comic soliticiations. Look up the latest batch for DC, then scroll on down to the WildStorm section and check out the cover for "The Number of the Beast". Or just look below. Take a look at the figure at the bottom of the cover.

See anyone familiar on the cover?
Yes. Yes it is.

John Cumberland. The High. The guy who became a two-mile wide stain on Skywatch's forcefield at the very height of Warren Ellis' Stormwatch run.
And so it is now that the last of Ellis' noteworthy and poignant contributions to Wildstorm has been removed. This to me is the final sign: Wildstorm is effectively dead as any kind of coherent universe; it has become a marginalized ghetto of the DC universe: Earth-50 or whatever; a tiny little place that other creators will occasionally go to do some beta-testing on their ideas before bringing them to a "real" comics imprint. Like Malibu became to Marvel. Like Impact comics and Milestone before them at DC.
Now you may ask, how did this happen? Well, honestly, the handwriting was on the wall when Wildstorm went to DC in the first place. Yes, yes, going to DC did free up Jim draw Batman every few months. Oh, and it gave them access to some DC's name talent that they might not have had otherwise. Maybe. On the other hand, it ultimately cost them Alan Moore and the entire ABC line.
However, the final nails in the coffin can be contributed to the following:

1) the Loss of Scott Dunbier: Clearly, the heart and soul of the franchise: A guy who rigidly kept track of the universe's coherence and kept it's creators striving to do their creative best. And generally, they did. But since he left, it's not hard to see the quality drop-off in titles. What little remains. Looking at the sections of Wildstorm comics in previews, you can see two patterns emerging; lots of wild grasps at using D-list characters to try and make something cohesive (which is failing) and successive apocalyptic scenarios (Let's see: we have "Wildstorm: Revelations", "Apocalypse", "Armageddon", "Number of the Beast". Lots and lots of new and old characters and rehashes of what has come before, but not a lot of it that was true to what made the Wildstorm universe UNIQUE: that the superhumans who existed in the WSU were generally not NATURAL phenomena: They were the products of conspiracies and covert government ops and secret cabals and rare things. All of this is now gone, expunged from Wildstorm cannon. It's just another super-verse where these things just sort of happen. Which brings me to my second point:
2) Everything that made the WSU "sexy" and "Daring" has since moved on to the bigger names of Marvel and DC proper. Let's go down the list, shall we?

-Graphic Violence? CHECK
-"Widescreen Action"? CHECK
-Warren Ellis (who remember, was in the Wildstorm ghetto for a long time)? CHECK.
-Jim Lee? CHECK.
-Provocative, Sexy Superheroine costumes? CHECK.
-Grim, gritty, realpolitik superheroics? CHECK.
-Superhumans that are under the control of government operations or large corporate interests? CHECK.

I could go on, but I think my point is made: There's nothing left that's truly singular to Wildstorm anymore. Except massive delays on flagship titles (The Authority, Wildcats).
And so it is, that I do make this declartion. To be fair, some of Wildstorm's satelite titles that aren't tied to the "Wildstorm Universe" will probably still be published for a long time to come. Ex Machina, Kurt Busiek's Astro City, the World of Warcraft comics, to name a few. But I feel very confident in saying that come 2010, you shouldn't be expecting to see any new issues of "Stormwatch" on the stands.

Unless a miracle happens.

I'm not holding my breath for one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Great moments in Comics: Cap lays down the beats

Confession right up: I’m Canadian, and a proud and I like to think patriotic citizen. I would not want to live anywhere else on earth.

That said, I have a deep affection for Captain America that transcends all rational thought. I just love the character, the idealism, the “man out of time aspect” and the fact that he combines this with his unending quest to beat the holy hell out of Nazis, mad gods, and other evil crooks in costumes. Now, if only there were a single comic that encapsulated all of this…

Oh wait, there is!

Captain America, Vol. 1, issue 350. Written by the late, great Mark Gruenwald, with art by Kieron Dwyer.

First, a bit of background: The Commission on Superhuman Activities had told Steve Rogers that since the government created Captain America, he should work for them. Steve thinks that might not be such a good idea, as he thinks the government might try to force him do something that goes against his conscience, like conscript fellow super humans into government service. But that’s crazy, right?

Anyway, he decides to give up the Captain America identity altogether, and instead rebuilds himself and takes on a new identity as “The Captain”, wearing the stylish black uniform on the cover here. In the meantime, the Commission bring on John Walker, a guy whose physical power far exceeds that of Rogers to be the new Captain America. However, he’s well, I believe the technical term is TOTALLY FUCKING PSYCHO. For about a year and a half previous they’ve had parallel storylines, but it all comes to a head here. Now, this issue begins with a man who looks like Steve Rogers, and what’s he up to?

As we learn in the issue's back up feature (1988 SPOILER ALERT) this in fact the Red Skull, wearing a clone body of Steve's, clone bodies being the height of fashion in the late 80s and early 90s (see also: Luthor, Lex). So, what does he do with a physically perfect body?

He hires mercenaries to dress up as Cap and kills five of them every morning. BEFORE BREAKFAST.

Folks, that's super-villainy work-ethic right there. I mean, when you go out of your way to hire people to cosplay as the guy you hate and you kill a nearly a half dozen of them before your morning cup o'joe, that shows dedication to the whole "Arch-Nemesis" thing. I mean, come on, the Joker might knock off an IHOP occasionally, but he probably orders first and even then, he doesn't do it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

The scene changes, and we look in on our hero in his new(ish) identity. As the distinguished Professor Sims has noted (here and here), no true Marvel Anniversary is complete without a scene of baby endangerment. In this case, the peril is the form of an out of control newspaper delivery truck. Now, not one to be one-upped by that rich frat boy Tony Stark, our hero surpasses him.

He saves the pie


Truly, they were the Greatest Generation.

This gives Cap the confidence to finally go and talk to the Commission about the raw deal they gave him. He starts with the head of the commission, who we learn is a corrupt flunky of the Red Skull's, and well...

...apparently Washington has some really shitty telephone companies. And you think AT&T sucks NOW.

Meanwhile, what of Johnny Walker, the replacement psycho Cap? Well, he's busy.

Murdering a bunch of flunkies organized by the Skull to give him a warm up while the Skull sets up the fight we've all been waiting for...

And it's on!

Sweep the leg!

As Cap says, he's in it to win it!

and a vicious elbow strike to win Round one! But wait! What's going on here?

Apparently Cap frowns on setting helpless prisoners on fire. Go figure.

Now, Cap says he had to "harden himself to regain his fighting edge" Now, you may be wondering what his training method was. Well, in this exact order, it went

-Fought a Bear
-Defeated Viper and the deadly Serpent Society
-Slugging U.S. President Ronald Reagan

which I think says something about the Gipper that Cap had to warm up for that by fighting a bear and then taking on the deadliest snake based terrorist organization this side of COBRA.

I have no commentary that can truly capture the glory of what comes next, so I'll just give you the highlights.

I just want to say what a louse Walker is here: he whines that Cap has a unfair advantage because he's using the shield, but then he goes and tries to garrote Cap the first chance he gets. However, cheaters never prosper.

And it's over folks! Well, the Skull comes out to gloat about how clever he is, but really, how clever could he be if he left some of that skullifying dust of his in cigarette holder? I mean really, if you do something that stupid... deserve what happens to you.

And so, The Skull gets a permanent makeover, The Commission decides that Steve is simply too badass, and give him back the title, and all is well.

This was one of my favorite comics as a kid, and it holds up pretty well, Gruenwald established Cap as a principled fighter who never lost his cool and never betrayed his ideals; basically, a hero's hero who you could look up to. And seriously, we need more of that.

As a final note, I'm adding this poster; The original picture is here (and thanks to this guy). Special thanks also goes out to Chris Sims for being an inspiration and not beating me to this. I hope you've enjoyed.

In my Perfect Comic Universe...

Alright, for those of you whom have been paying attention, you can see that I have a lot of strong opinions on comics, especially the ones getting put out these days by the so-called "Big Two" of Marvel and DC. Now, some of you may think I'm being overly cynical and just an angry crack. Well, there's a reason for that. See, I've spent a lot of time looking over the comic blogosphere, and I had an epiphany: we'd all be much better off if Marvel and DC's characters were public domain. Now, here me out, yes, we'd also have a lot of crap out there by the likes of Millar, Miller, Loeb and...wait a minute, isn't that exactly what we have NOW? So yeah, maybe it would be better if we handed off some of these properties to rabid fans who could do it right.

Here is just a sampling of the comics that would exist if the universe were in any way, shape or form just:

-Christopher Bird’s Legion of Superheroes

-Chris Sims Iron Fist and the Punisher beat the crap out of everyone

-Dave Campbell’s Totally Awesome X-Men

-Mike Sterling’s Swamp Thing

-Dwayne McDuffie's Justice League book with half decent fucking art and not perpetually tied down into crossovers no one gives a shit about!

-Bully the Little Stuffed Bull's P.G. Wodehouse tales staring The Thing!

-Dorian Wright’s Wildcat All-Leather Spectacular

-George Perez's I'm going to draw Superheroines and lots of detailed backgrounds and you are going to LOVE IT!

-Jeff Parker's Agents of Atlas

-Scott’s Hawk and Dove, featuring Dr. Mid-Nite!
-Ragnell’s Green Lantern Corps Swimsuit spectacular starring Kyle Rayner’s butt

What would you like to see in YOUR perfect comic universe? Go ahead and put it in the comments.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Because there's no such thing as too much love for the King

Kirby that is. Enjoy this shiny wacky meme and see if you can spread it on!

You Might be a Jack Kirby Character if....

-you part your hair on the right.
-you own a bulletproof shield.

-you've ever destroyed a city
-your eyebrows are pencil thin and upswept, or look like saw blades attached to your forehead
-you are still fighting Nazis….in 2005
-your beard stubble grows in perfect vertical lines
-you constantly refer to yourself in the third person

-you have oversized hands with big, blocky fingers
-you tend to be surrounded by orphaned street kids whom you have to constantly keep out of trouble
-you are from a secret kingdom located in a hidden valley

-your friends are asking you to take a joyride on untested military equipment
-you were experimenting with radiation during the 1960s when everyone else was experimenting with drugs
-a haze of energy and big black dots constantly surrounds you

-your name is immediately followed with a dramatic title or simile (i.e. “THE SENTINEL OF SECURITY!” or “THE HORROR THAT WALKS LIKE A MAN!”)

-you find yourself performing amazing gymnastic feats during everyday life (i.e. you do cartwheels while grocery shopping, or you do a flying somersault into your car).
-you can give dissertations on ethics and good citizenship while performing amazing gymnastic feats.
-you mock your opponent’s technique and strategy WHILE you are handing them a beating.

-you’re a cigar-chomping tough guy with a heart of gold from the Bronx.