Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Might as well say this now

With tomorrow being Canada Day and all, now's a good a time as any to talk about this.

So, Alpha Flight.

Yeah, it's not really good. And there's reasons for that. The biggest ones being that John Byrne never really invested them with any personality to begin with, and then just about every subsequent writer just treated them as TEAM GENERIC. Sort of the no-name grocery-store brand of superteam that you intentionally gloss over, because hey, the name stuff is on the shelf just a ways over and it's not that much more expensive.

So, yeah, that's Canada's superteam, and it could use some retooling.

So, here's the basics:

1) Maybe get a Canadian to write it again? Or at least, someone who's been to Canada and actually knows things about us? Like culture, or politics? Because there are some.
2) Remember in Busiek's Avengers run, during the Kang War? How the Master had all that supercool technology he brought to the game that the Avengers ended up using? And how most of that is in the far north of Canada? That might be something to look at.
3) Take chances.

Sorry, that's the best I got.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Slog

Yeah, sorry, this is usually the time of year when my blogging frequency drops dramatically (usually to "not at all") and I'm not sure this year will be any different. It's not just because hey, it's summer and there's like, warm weather and the lake is just a short drive away, though that's part of it. The other thing is that right now, I don't find there's much I want to talk about, to be honest.

I mean, sure, I could talk about how "Three", the upcoming Fantastic Four Story arc by Hickman et. al sounds an awful lot like the "Reed Dies" storyline that dragged on for two goddamn years during the DeFalco/Ryan FF era (see above). Or I could talk about how much I'm dreading the heavy-handed social commentary coming up in the JMS Superman arc, but that's pretty well covered just by this post alone. In general, I'm finding Big Two comics to be bland to outright distasteful, what with all the child-killing, cannibalism and human sacrificing going on.

I'm at a loss here - so any ideas would be a boon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Atlas. No, the other one

I really really loved the Kurt Busiek Thunderbolts run, and for my money, it's one of the best superhero comic runs ever.

And easily my favorite character from that run was Erik Josten, the former Goliath who became Atlas. Given the characters I usually tend to relate to and talk about, this is a pretty odd choice. The thing to keep in mind is that Erik really, really, was a mess. He always made questionable choices, and most of the time, he wanted nothing more than to not have to make a choice at all. He had to struggle to develop a moral compass after a lifetime of bad choices and errors in judgement. He had to learn from the consequences of some pretty huge mistakes, to build himself a better person.
And I think that's it right now; his choices had consequences, not just for him, but for the people he cared about. Actually, more often it was others who ended up suffering for his mistakes, whether it was members of his family, or his teammates, or just other civilians. The character's struggle struck a chord with me because this was a guy who had come face to face with the wreckage left in his wake, and he had to struggle to find a way to make up for it. And it didn't come all at once either - he still made mistakes, he backslid, and progress was painstakingly slow.

But I couldn't help but root for the guy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

and now for something completely different


Light posting for the next few days - should have some content up for the weekend. Apologies.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beta Ray Stu?

Boy, if you thought yesterday was uncomfortable, that's nothing.

Disclaimer - I still haven't read the Walt Simonson Thor Saga yet (I know, I'm a bad comic fan), but I do want to ask something about Bill here.

His backstory is basically that he's an alien cyborg who is so badass that he beats Thor, and then he can use his hammer. And everyone else in Asgard thinks he's so awesome that he becomes Thor's friend and ally and Odin makes him a hammer of his own and Bill gets to date Sif and....

I'm just saying, if it were anyone else but Walt Simonson, wouldn't this backstory make him sort of a Mary Sue Character out of bad fanfic?

Just wondering.

(Please don't kill me)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Atlas Stooped

Ok, today and tomorrow I'm probably going to be killing some sacred cows here, so watch out.

Agents of Atlas is a barometer on many of the things that have gone wrong in the comic industry.

Put the pitchforks down, I can explain.

First, this is nothing against the quality of the series, which has always been decent. In fact, I think Atlas should be the minimum bar by which to measure competent quality corporate comics.

But that's exactly it - it's a minimum, not a high bar, and no praising of Jeff Parker can change that.

It's a series that depends on resurrecting long dormant properties for a new grasp at relevancy, and it's done well.

It's a concept that requires, if not a strong understanding of the fundamentals of Marvel Universe's history, then at least the capacity to care that such a history exists and is important. You have to at least understand what Atlantis is in the Marvel Universe to understand who Namora is and why she's important, and you certainly need to get that the mythological exists in order to appreciate Venus.

This leads to another handicap on the book - this is very much a book about plot, and less about characters. I ask you seriously now - after 3 limited series, one 12 issue attempt at an ongoing, and some one-shots and other tie-ins, what do you know about Jimmy Woo, about who and what he is as a character? What about Bob? Have the characters progressed at all since that first six-issue mini that re-introduced them? Because I don't.

Now granted, that's probably because since the original mini-series, the concept has been used for nothing BUT tie-ins. Whether it was the previous attempt at an ongoing series, which started out tying into "Dark Reign" or the back up stories in "Incredible Hercules" or mini-series guest-starring the X-Men and the Avengers, it'd be easy for an objective observer to believe that Marvel was making a cynical push to get these characters published by featuring them alongside the big names of the Marvel Universe.

And I think that's the real problem here; Jeff Parker has created a concept that eschews cynicism, in a marketplace that contains virtually nothing left other than jaded hardcore fans.

It'll be interesting to see how this new series turns out, but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Modern Masters Musings

Been reading some of the "Modern Masters" series of late (which is where some of thes B&W images are coming from), and here are a few random thoughts I'd like to share with you:

-A couple of interesting common denominators come out when reading the bios of a lot of artists. For one, many of them seemed to move around a lot as kids (mostly due to being Army brats) and nearly all of them have a great love and affectation for Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.
-Also, quite a few of them like dinosaurs and space exploration, which is also very cool.
-Man, reading the John Byrne interviews actually managed to make me like the man LESS. How is it possible for a guy to say that Golden and Silver Age creators don't have any creative rights because "That's how the system was back then and they knew it" and in the SAME INTERVIEW state that he feels he has to "protect" the creations of Jack Kirby? Doesn't that seem shockingly hypocritical or am I missing something?
-All of these have great sketches and pin up gallery sections, and that's just awesome.

I really enjoyed reading these and learned a lot, so I can't recommend them enough.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Your Moment of Funny

Oops! There was a mistake on this one! I think it should be corrected now

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hitting the Beach

Light posting for a bit - go enjoy the weather!

Friday, June 11, 2010


So, how are you finding "The Heroic Age" and "Brightest Day" so far? Is there even a noticable change? Thoughts?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Still Fantastic to me

Reed was one of my first inspirations to learning about science in the real world, and despite the fact that Marvel these days does an excellent job of trying to break him (mostly because noir writers don't have a clue how science works in the real world), he still remains a great character. I just dig the way the character is in love with ideas, the way that something new, something he doesn't understand, excites him and compells him to learn more and expand his horizons. It's easily the feature I most relate to.

Just wanted to say that.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Recommedations - Yours and Mine

Mishmash of things today, so I hope you enjoy;

-I normally don't recommend webcomics, because everyone has their tastes and it's such a broad field, but I'm still confident in recommending to you Jens Altmann's Made of Fail which is a nice look at the absurdities of modern life.

-I think I'm going to be travelling sometime this summer, possibly even to cities that still have comic shops, so if you have any recommendations for things that you can't get through Amazon, I'd love to hear them - particularly for more obscure, off-the-beaten path items.

-I'm having mixed feelings about this new "Marvel Adventures" style Infinity Gauntlet saga series by Atomic Robo co-creator Brian Clevinger. On one hand, I'm trying more and more to drift away from traditional corporate comics, but on the other hand, I do believe in supporting creators I like, and I get that Clevinger would like more high-paying work because it would help support getting more Robo out there. So I'm torn - your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Brave New World

You know what game I'm sick and tired of?

"Let's save the Comics Industry!"

I've seen a lot of blog posts, editorials, articles, and heard a lot of podcasts on the subject. And personally? I'm not sure any of it works. I'll just go through some of the shorthand arguments, and my thoughts on them. Follow along!


This is actually two statements - one of them is the surface argument that comics should focus on more lighthearted adventure, and the stealth statement - "Comics need to be more like they were when I started reading them!" Interestingly we've got a couple of samples of both philosophies in action.

In so far as "Lighthearted Fun" comics, we've got the Marvel Adventures line, we've got Incredible Hercules, we've got Agents of Atlas, we've got Tiny Titans, and a few other titles. None of them huge sellers in any market.

As for trying to set things back to the way they were when an earlier generation started reading comics, you've got everything Geoff Johns has done with DC, and the current state of the Spider-Man books, which is steadfastly dedicated to bring back the Spider-Man comics of 1982 or so. Again, no real success here.

In both cases, the same root problem is evident - there are no kids reading comics because the cost is so high per unit of entertainment relative to every other medium out there. $20 US for a trade paperback that will provide 1 hour of entertainment (tops) is nothing vs. a $10 DVD for 3 hours vs. $40 for a video game with over a dozen hours. Comics are always going to lose in that regard - simple as that. Bringing down the cost of a comic is a huge battle, primarily because at the end of the day, paper is expensive.

So sorry, but that line of reasoning holds no water with me.

I like this one a little better, but it's hardly a simple matter. Most informed commenters agree on this.
First, there's getting away from a purely direct market model, which in most cases means something other than Diamond Distributing. Thankfully, some publishers are already experimenting with alternative methods and I wish them luck. Of course, there are couple of significant obstacles. The lack of any successful model for a publisher outside the traditional direct market is hard to come by, and getting of the Diamond train requires retailers to be that much smarter and harder working to get your product unless such a large chunk of their market switches over that they feel they have no other choice.
Secondly, really smart and hard-working retailers are a rare beast. Consider that to be a successful retailer (in the truest sense of the term), you have to not only navigate the Diamond Distribution system and get the comics to your shop in some timely and cost-effective way, you have to plan, months in advance, for what your customers want. You have to figure out your market and audience, and find ways to reach them in your community with regularity to keep a rock solid customer base. Sadly, such advanced business skills are rare amongst shop owners, especially those in cities with smaller populations where the market for comic books is already small. This results in comics (at least in their singles format) becoming more and more of an urban feature - restricted to cities with sufficiently large populations (well over 100,000) to sustain a reliable market base. For the trades, it's the bookstores, and that creates a new set of issues.
Bookstores are already facing troubles as it is reaching to people in this digital age where people read less and less (there's a reason I'm not even addressing the issue of newstands - because even the NEWS can't make it on the newstands, never mind comics). To compound that, American comics suffer in comparison to their competition in the manga section. The Manga sections in a bookstore are very clear - there are separate sections for "young readers", "young adults", and "Adults". The series are clearly marked by volume so customers know where in the series they are, and all the books are uniform on a clear shelf. American comics are big clunky things, many of them in slightly different sizes and variations, with a byzantine continuity, multiple different versions, and no clear age distinctions. This makes them a problem for casual buyers that won't be resolved until these companies get a more disciplined act together.

Again, the problems are format and price. Sure, you could make a $0.99 download for the iPad, but first you'd have to drop $200 for an iPad to begin with (assuming the price drops down that low at some point). Publishers also feel that making comics in a format that is easy to download onto regular computers carries a risk of piracy, which is a valid feeling. Still doesn't solve the problem.

Now, despite all I just said, I'm not that bummed out about any of this. I do think that we now have a lot of options to keep comics alive. But I'll be quite happy if they aren't going to be a continuation of the system we've had for the last 30 years, because that system has been a failure that has crushed creativity and creators rights.

Here's hoping that the new system provides a few more options. Of course, the only way that'll happen is if people start talking now about the system they want, and one that can work.
Welcome to a whole new world.