Monday, November 24, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Episode 2

The second episode of the new Batman team-up series has come and gone, and I must say that I enjoyed it at least as much as the first episode which I liked a lot. I this episode we get Batman teaming up with Plastic Man. They face off against the Gentleman Ghost, and later on against Gorilla Grodd and his fellow Gorillas mounted on pterodactyls. His goal, pretty much classic, which is to steal ships right out of the sea by lifting them up with ropes and plenty of flying dinosaur power. Oh, and his plan to turn all humans in a 500 mile radius into apes.

The moral dilemma in this one has to do with friendship and trust, and not betraying trust, etc. The Plastic Man origin story is altered to include Batman as a central character in it, as well as adding Kite Man as the leader of the gang that Eel was in when he was a criminal.

It's funny and fun, it's not overly preachy, and we get to see Batman kicking butt in Gorilla form while Plastic Man fires bars of gold out of his mouth (he swallowed them hoping to keep them) by whacking himself in the stomach. It's sort of refreshing and welcome to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I just finished reading the 160 screens of the comic Bayou that is available through Zuda. I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that this is the best thing I have read all year. I only wish that there was more of it available.

Bayou is set in the town of Charon on the Mississippi delta in 1933. It is not a good time to be black in the south, but Lee Wagstaff and her father are doing the best they can. The story opens with Lee diving into the bayou, rope in hand, to try and retrieve the body of a young black boy who was killed and dumped in the water after supposedly whistling at a white woman. Her father is holding the rope on the shore. She is doing it because they are paying her father a very much needed three dollars and he is just too big to get into the spot the body has settled. While she is under the water she catches a glimpse of a butterfly winged version of the dead boy that she believes to be his soul.

That is the first glimpse of the kind of place Charon Mississippi is, and the sorts of creatures living and lurking just out of sight. It is doubtful that there are creatures under and around the water that are any worse than the very real, very cruel bigots and murderers that seem to be the rule rather than the exception. As the story goes on that hypothesis proves to be false.

I actually don't want to spoil the story as I am tasking everyone who even casually glances at this to go follow that link and give it a few minutes of your time. If you aren't hooked in short order I would be surprised. What I will say, is that it doesn't take long for the story to get going and for Lee to become fully involved in a heroic quest that pits her against fantastic creatures that seem to reflect and amplify everything that is wrong in the same way that she will meet new companions that do the same for the positive characters she knows, in order to rescue her former best friend, and save her father before he is lynched by an angry mob. She embarks on this with the help of a sometimes reluctant hero in the form of a very large green swamp monster named 'Bayou' who greatly resembles her good father and is himself intent on seeing his kids again somehow.

The art is absolutely beautiful. The characters are perfect, and I am not sure that I have seen expressions and emotions conveyed so perfectly. The fantastic creatures have a real sense of 'other' to them, while at the same time being easily recognizable for what they are.

I really do see this comic as a blend of regrettable southern history, blues, Uncle Remus Stories, and southern and slave folklore(real or imagined), mixed with characters that could have been pulled right out of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's just perfect. I am a father of daughters, and the bond and the love between Lee and her father, and her determination to save him is nearly tear-inducing.

I used the word perfect more than I usually do, but I did it to keep from overusing the word AWESOME.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Popgun Bullets: Popgun Volume One, part three - The next 50 pages

Part One Part Two

  • p105 Remnants - Llarena/Sobreiro - Perhaps this is too sophisticated for me. The art is decent, but the story isn't so much a storry as it is a statement or a monologue of sorts. I guess that maybe it's a statement on religion or human nature or something, but it zips right over my head.
  • p113 The Fall Of Geometry - Coleman Engle - I love the art in this. It is bright and cute and all, but this is another story I am not sure the point of. The art is great, except that it is so light and pleasant in style that the scenes of destruction and guts being sliced open and a cat cut in half are way way harder for me to handle. I noted the references to Ender's Game, but am not sure what purpose they serve. Shapes are falling from the sky cutting things into pieces. It appears to be a defense system gone wrong, but then we mostly just get people dying and things being destroyed.
  • p129 Leed's Devil - Joe Flood - This is a pretty standard sort of story done well. It feels like the x-files and any number of private detective shows/movies. That isn't a criticism, just a comment as a frame of reference. There is a very cool looking devil/dragon creature in it, and it is written well.
  • p147 New Brighton Archeological Society - Smith/Weldon - The art for this is again amazing. The story itself is really just a bath gag, and really the sort of thing you have probably seen in Calvin & Hobbes in one form or another. As part of a larger work it would be great, but although I liked it fine and appreciate the art, I'm not doing flips over it.
  • p150 Amazing Joy Buzzards promotional piece - Dan Hipp - I still love his art. I am not sure why this is in this volume though.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Popgun Bullets: Popgun Volume One, part two - The next fifty pages

Here is a link to Part One.

  • p 51 Thrilling Ant Farm (fake ad) - Danny Hellman - One page gag. It's funny though, and describes a product every bit as lame as I always assumed the stuff in the back of comics would be.
  • p52 Pinapl - Corey Lewis - I am crazy about this. I don't know what it is about it, but every bit of it is awesome and just pops off the page to me. The color is crazy in a good way, and there is so much movement and sound. I would love to see more of this in all it's future samurai gangland action glory.
  • p67 She's Out Of Reach - Jim Mahfood - This is a very good five pages. I swear I thought it was longer than that when I read it, but it crams a good bit into the five pages. It's fun and interesting. The art is great. It certainly has the feel of a story being told by 'one of your friends' about that 'ideal match' they found, and why it didn't work. I think it's a good use of five pages and a good anthology piece.
  • p72 Motorface - Benjamin Roman - It's two pages long. The art is great, but it's not a story and not quite a gag.
  • p74 Hector Plasm In Palamon's Conundrum - Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde - This is a Hector Plasm story, and a really good one. I am a big Hector Plasm fan, but I will say that the writing is great, the art is great, and it is a great short piece for an anthology. We get to hear a tragic love story, as well as seeing the sort of empathy Hector has with the dead. You don't have to know the character to understand it, but if you do it's that much better.
  • p81 Monoluminant: The Goblin Sisters - Joe Suitor - Ok, even I am getting a little tired of how much I have liked the various pieces I have reviewed. I promise you it's because they are good, and not because I am THAT easy. This is another great story with terrific art. It's very funny and cool. I am pretty sure that this is a true story of Jimmy Page... It's got guitars and creepy creatures in it. It's another good piece.
  • p89 Sanz Pantz Ninja Platypus - Chris Moreno - I should get a thesaurus. This is a touching piece on just how far some will go for a loved one (in this case it's beer). The main character is a platypus, and looks a lot like a ninja turtle. That is just a fact of life for that sort of creature wearing that sort of mask and practicing martial arts. It's another funny story, and it's well done. Cheesy T-Shirt Slogan Clan has to be my favorite ninja clan ever.
  • p95 The Amazing Joy Buzzards in The Fearless Vampire Hunters - Mark Andrew Smith/Dan Hipp - I really like Amazing Joy Buzzards. I really like how it is written and drawn. I think there is a bit too much Smith in this volume for having been edited by him. I know there were bits by others that were cut out of the volume, but there sure does seem to be a lot of Smith in it. I think this bit is great, I'm not trying to take away from that, honest.
  • p99 Tag - Dave Crosland - This is like a gag and an editorial statement wrapped in one. I love the art, I love the color, and I love the way that this is so different from so much of what went in before it.
That brings me to page 104. I will break here and pick up with the next page range soon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Comic Book Day 11/19/08

Yesterday was a pretty great day for comics. I noted in my previous post that I also got the Fall issue of Comic Foundry magazine. I really enjoyed it.

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #4 - Another fantastic issue. I enjoyed it start to finish. It is a bit of a bummer that we only get one more issue in this. Hopefully we won't have to wait long for the next series. The issue is non-stop action, great art and great writing. The story is good, the banter is even better. I don't care what either of them say at the end of this issue, I think Robo and Sparrow are going to be BFFs. I really love the character Sparrow. I would read other things with her in it assuming she is written and drawn the way she is in this.

Amazing Spider-Man #578 - Great issue. It starts out funny, Spidey gets a fortune in a fortune cookie that promises he will be lucky, and then he goes through a number of situations where indeed we see that he IS quite lucky today. He gets a free train ride, meets a half naked model just itching for a photographer, and then lands smack in the middle of an attempted hit on an entire train filled with jurors in a mob trial. He even meets the father of his greatest detractor. Mark Waid does a great job with the writing here. I didn't see the Stallone movie 'Daylight' so I can't make any references to it, but this has a bit of the disaster movie vibe to it, in a pretty good way. It's nice to see the Shocker, and even nicer to see that there are still stupid villains out there.

Terra #2 - I am going to keep getting this. I am not generally a Power Girl fan. I also don't read comics for the t&a generally. The first three pages of this issue feature Terra scrambling around naked, looking for her clothes after being examined by Dr. Mid-Nite. It is extremely funny. There is an Austin Powers like series of conveniently placed word balloons and hands in the foreground that protect our heroines modesty at least a little. I say this every time I read a comic with her art in it, but I really do love Amanda Conner's art. The issue seems a bit heavy on the gratuitously sexy art, but it is funny and well written, and aside from all of the flesh we see, we are presented with an interesting main character with a ton of plot possibilities and a pretty great attitude. Hopefully when this mini is over we will get to see more of her.

Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Magog - I think I got a bit more out of this than I did from the Superman one shot, simply because we have less history with Magog and 'Lance' than we do with Superman. I still think 4 dollars is too much for this. It was perfectly in keeping with the storyline, it did give us something we hadn't seen more or less, but I think maybe this could have been inserted into a JSA issue. If we had gotten a full length JSA story and this as a backup, that would have been a reasonable giant sized issue to pay a little more for.

Tiny Titans #10 - Happy tenth issue anniversary Tiny Titans. Good job in keeping true to yourself! This issue is a bit different from previous issues, in that it is a single story and not just related bits. It is sweet as can be, and features Supergirl and Batgirl as well as Streaky and Ace. We get the cutest killer croc ever, as well as bizarro, and there is nothing but sweetness and kindness to be found. I love the simplicity of it as well as the absolutely fantastic art. This continues to be the title that makes me smile the most of any comics I get regularly.

AmbushBug: Year None #4 - This issue seems devoted specifically to making fun of Dan DiDio, and it succeeds. It is also just flat out funny in a sort of Animaniacs kind of way. I am enjoying this title a lot.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Drugs are awesome!

I have never read Comic Foundry before, but I have been dying to, since it has gotten some good reviews from people whose opinions I trust. I have been trying to get it through my LCS, but for some reason it has been harder than expected. Today my friends at my local shop came through for me, so I was excited to finally read what seemed to be a magazine that fit the bill of being exactly the type of thing I would like.

I really enjoyed the issue. There is a lot of good stuff in it, and I expect to keep picking it up. It doesn't seem to be trying too terribly hard to be hip and edgy. I understand the need to do that to some degree, and it doesn't bother me at all. That wouldn't count as a strike against them, as I realize, there is an expectation by some out there that everything needs to be snarky, and an article without some gratuitous obscenities just isn't a finished article.

This magazine has a bit on Jaime Hernandez, Minicomics, Mortal Kombat vs the DC Universe,G. Willow Wilson, Gail Simone, Obscenities Law, a variety of politically related features, it's fantastic really in it's scope. I think it is needlessly too fantastic in scope with it's inclusion of the 'Best Comics To Read High" feature.

Grab your rolling papers, these comics are dope...

It's very helpful that they have a guide like that in this magazine. Since drugs are legal in the US, I think it's a valuable service to their readership. I'm not sure why drugs need to be so pervasive. People can do what they will, and face whatever consequences there may or may not be, that isn't the issue to me.

I am looking forward to reading their lists of comics to read while committing other crimes. What do they recommend as required reading for people illegally uploading and downloading comics? What do they recommend for white collar crimes? Are there specific drugs they advocate for specific comics? I just think stuff like that is unnecessary pandering. I re-read it a few times. I guess it could be a joke. The setup paragraph reads sort of like a joke, but the reviews of the four items they present are fairly straight forward. Even if it is a joke, I think it brings the magazine down a little.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Popgun Bullets: Popgun Volume One - Part One, The first fifty pages

There are a number of reasons I decided to go back and post about popgun volume one. Some of them I will post when November is over, but some of them are: I thought of a clever title, I did volume two, and if/when a volume three is released i will do that as well, so I figured I should do the first one as well. Mostly it was the clever title thing. I am a sucker for naming things as though they are a long running feature. I plan to go and retroactively change the old posts to match this naming convention.

Any mention from me of popgun has to start with my standard comment. All the hype for the popgun line focuses on this idea that it is a 'graphic mixtape' and that somehow it is bringing together comics and music in anthology form, in a way that just has never been thought of before. It strikes me as a bit pompous and based in a sort of denial. Reading the blurb at the back of the book by Joe Keatinge takes a little of the fire out of my belly on that, as he seems really sincere. I had read little bits in the press that made it sound like it was a grand experiment for people that didn't read comics, rather than what it is, which is a fairly straight forward, seemingly theme free anthology. To me, None of that matters. If you give me an anthology filled with really awesome stuff cover to cover, then I don't need a theme or any coaxing to like it.

  • The Allred cover is beautiful and brilliant. It features Frank Einstein in the middle, and bits from the comics in the volume are all over the room he is in.
  • We get part of a Joe Flood spread that starts in the front of the book and finishes on the inside back cover. I LOVE this guy's art. Everything I have seen from him is amazing and makes me want to own a print of it. It doesn't hurt that he seems to be just the nicest guy you could want to meet. This page has a character from the first story that appears in most of the pieces done for the book design by a variety of artists. It looks like a vampire themed tele tubby sort of.
  • Two, two page pieces by Barnaby Ward follow. Both are beautiful, and they work nicely one after the other. The first is a girl reading in an attic and wearing headphones done in muted tones, the second is a similar looking girl in space with pinks and blue and orange. The helmet to her space suit appears to be made out of giant headphones. It's a nice effect.
  • The next page we get after the table of contents is another Barnaby Ward piece. I will need to look him up when I am done typing this. I really like what is here. This one is a full page girl standing up and apparently poking Felix the cat in the eye. really nice picture.
  • p11 - Your Hand In Mine, Carlos Lerma - The art here is pretty beautiful. The story seems to be taking place in the imagination of a young cancer patient who is being taken off of life support. It's nearly wordless, and really nicely done.
  • p18 Me And The Cat Own The Lease On The Flat, Jamie S. Rich & Joelle Jones - This is a joint custody after a contentious break-up story. The kid in this case is a female cat named Jake. I like this piece, although the bad blood that is portrayed in it makes me sort of uneasy. I think that is a sign that it is pretty well written. The art is expressive and works well.
  • p23 Codename Colonel Kursk, Toby Cypress - I LOVE the style of art here. It's really cool. Unfortunately, while I can't say i don't appreciate what looks like the end of an action movie, I am not sure what the point of this is. I think it could be (and who knows, maybe is) a piece out of something fairly awesome, but It doesn't seem to be something that is complete.
  • p29 Manhunt In The Obsidian Hills Of Mars: A Futari Tale, Nick Derington - This is another piece like the one before it. First, it seems to have a title longer than the work itself, but that isn't the problem. This piece also has very solid art. It looks like something I would like, but it feels like a snippet. It's like watching trailers rather than getting complete short works.
  • p35 Frank Einstein In For The Record, Mike Allred. I like Allred, I like Madman. This is a nice little story. In it we get a sort of origin, as well as a story about Frank trying to get a special order from a record store. I don't know if this story was previously published, but it was fairly old when the anthology came out. That doesn't hurt anything, just mentioning it.
  • p43 The New Brighton Archaeological Society, Mark Andrew Smith & Matthew Weldon - I like the style here. I am not sure I love that there are three different installments of this throughout the anthology. So far it reads good and the art is great. I like Smith's writing a lot, and Matthew Weldon is a terrific artist. I'll have more opinions on the whole thing when I get to the last part.
I am going to stop here at page 50. I may or may not do larger chunks as I continue on with this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking Issue - Justice Society of America - Kingdom Come Special - Superman #1

JSA - Kingdom Come Special - Superman #1 - I was trying to avoid getting this, but I finally broke down. I really liked Kingdom Come. I started reading JSA solely because of the Kingdom Come related storyline. I have enjoyed it for the most part, even though it seems to have been going on forever. I really don't like big sweeping events, but if they are contained in a single title, then it isn't an event, it's a storyline, and I am fine with those. I was a bit upset when I saw that there were going to be these oneshots flying out of the storyline. Honestly, I hate having to buy 3 or 4 extra issues just to get the whole story. Make it take longer and just stick it all in the main title, that's ok with me.

This is a $3.99 issue, and the story is only 22 pages. It looks good, and fits right into the storyline, and gives us some character development and fleshes out some things we may not have had as much detail on, but mostly nothing happens in it.

KC Superman responds to a situation that looks exactly like how KC Lois died. This situation happened by accident. Their Kryptonite bomb went off early. Unfortunately for the Luthor-hired tech armored thugs KC superman isn't affected by our kryptonite. Regular Superman shows up and gets a super sock in the jaw, then KC Superman goes to talk to Norman McKay (not HIS Norman McKay, but sometimes ANY Norman McKay will do. He chats with the guy in his church, and eventually ends up back at JSA HQ and meets with Lois Lane and recaps what happened to his Lois.

There is a good bit more material in the issue, but none of it is what I buy comics for. I like seeing the extra, making of, stuff and things like that, but I like it better tossed into a good trade paperback to give some value added. I don't like it as filler to beef up the slight and somewhat overpriced ,for what it is, issue. It certainly isn't the worst thing, but in a time when I sort of have to cut down my comics related spending, it would be nice not to have things like this dangled out there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where do I begin

Over to the right in my blog here, there is a list of blogs that I follow. I recommend all of them, and they really do make up the bulk of what I follow regularly. I have mentioned the I Love Rob Liefeld blog a few times before. Sandy, who writes the blog posted an interesting exercise in the form of a contest of sorts. I encourage anyone who might see this here to go check out his blog and post a comment or at least think about what he is asking and maybe post the answer in your own journal or blog.

His challenge if it can be called that, is to just post the name of the comic(s) that got you hooked on comics. I think it's a worthwhile thing to think about. Is it the first comic you ever owned, or is it a specific special issue that made you reconsider the merit of a medium you had previously only considered casually, but weren't really hooked on.

I know that the first series I collected was the Human Fly from Marvel. I know that the first series that blew my mind totally was the New Teen Titans. It may be the New Teen Titans that cemented it for me, and really showed me something about what comics could be like at their best.

For me, though, I think honestly that the first comic(s) that made an impact on me, and really filled me with joy for comics in general, later fuelling my desire to read and collect those other things I mentioned when I was still pretty young, are the first ones I can recall getting my hands on.

In 1976 my family flew to Adak, Alaska to live where my Dad was stationed. In preparation for the flight, my brother and I were allowed to each get a comics book. Not just any comic, but we each got a $1.00 tabloid sized DC Limited Collector's Edition. These were about the size of an old Rolling Stone magazine, and were 50 some pages long with two stories each. The stories were reprints of much older material, but i didn't realize that until just a few minutes ago, and I never really thought to question it.

The two specific comics were a Superman/Flash footrace DC Limited Collector's Edition C-48, and Superboy/Legion of Superheroes DC Limited Collector's Edition C-49. They were huge. My brother got the Superman one, and I got the Superboy one. That makes me laugh. It seems fitting since he is 6 years older than I am. We read the heck out of those comics, in addition to doing cool things like him showing me how to fold paper airplanes in really awesome ways, etc. I am pretty sure I loved them both to no end, but that I coveted his anyway. I don't recall much from either of the issues. I remember that there are mobsters trying to have an impact on the race, and that the way they deal with the Flash is by pulling a big piece of glass across the road. Flash runs through it at high speed and is knocked out.

Everything about the issue was big to me. Superheroes weren't a new concept, but I certainly wasn't a regular reader of comics at the time. It was pretty amazing stuff to me, regardless of whether the stories were actually any good or not. They fired up that sense in me that comics were something really cool, that would grow in me until it was finally realized when I started really reading and then collecting later on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Regardless of Batman's ups and downs in comics and movies, Batman cartoons have been pretty great since Batman: The Animated Series arrived on the scene and set the bar for writing, art and voice acting in superhero cartoons. Batman: TAS delivered a true to comics experience while still having it's own style. That exact model continued to be used for several top notch super hero cartoons that followed. Superman (the animated series), Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited evolved straight from the Batman cartoon. Justice League Unlimited was the ultimate ensemble. It had a cast that could include almost anyone, and plot possibilities that allowed them to give nods to every aspect of the DC universe. The stories were solid and the voice acting and animation top notch right up to the end. It still makes me sad that I don't get to see any more new episodes of that series.

Another big deal in superhero animation was the Teen Titans cartoon. It went with an anime influence and a youthful vibe about it that while not being exactly what you ever got from the comics, was a perfect look and feel for a team with the word TEEN right there in it's name. The Legion of Super Heroes cartoon was a sort of blend of Justice League and Teen Titans in it's look and feel. It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but it was still a decent super hero cartoon.

The Batman cartoon series that ran from 2004 to 2008 was a different thing as well. It's animation style was different again, but not bad by any means. It parted ways with the comics and with previous animated versions in it's portrayal of existing Batman villains in different ways than we were used to. Despite that, it was still a very good Batman cartoon. Batman was what you expected him to be, and the supporting characters were pretty great. It took me a while to warm up to it, but I like it a lot.

The original Batman caricature, the 1960's Live action TV show, was my favorite thing in the world when I was very little. I got older and came to resent it for how it was all people who weren't into comics could imagine that comics were. It wasn't MY Batman. It wasn't a dark avenging detective of a Batman. It was more 'cartoonish' than any of the batman cartoons we would later get. It wasn't all bad, and I enjoy it on some level now, but I think the uninitiated should have to sit through some sort of lecture on Batman and comics before they are allowed to watch one bif bam pow episode(I am mostly kidding there.)

So now I get to Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This series promises us a new Batman team up every week, with nary a Bruce Wayne in sight. The premier was last night, with a repeat this morning at 10:30 eastern. The episode started with Batman and an old-school clean shaved Green Arrow tied up and awaiting their fate at the hands of the Clock-King. Clock-King's goons are Tick and Tock, and you know it because it is printed on their thug shirts. Our heroes are going to die an acidy death, and you know it because there is a big clear vat labeled 'ACID' right there. We are treated to some awesome dialog between the two heroes before they orchestrate their escape, and then we are treated to some Batman voice-over action, which may be a theme with the series. This episode has nothing to do with the Green Arrow. The team up in this one is with the new(er) Blue Beetle. The intro has some relevance because it is about how even though GA gets into some spots due to his own carelessness sometimes, there is no-one Batman would rather team with. The Blue Beetle story starts with Batman stating in voice over that he chose Jaime for the specific mission in order to test him out some as a partner.

The show's theme is like a mixture of the Neal Hefti Batman theme, and the theme to the cartoon series of The Tick. It definitely sets a tone, as does the character design. The characters aren't exactly what you get in the comics, but are also evocative of the 70's (early 80's?) era superheroes shows. The voice acting was good in my opinion, and the overall look and feel was slightly campy but reverent and at the same time fun.

I loved this episode. I love the promise of the show. It's a kids cartoon that can be appreciated by grown-ups and fan-people of all ages. It seems to give a conscious wink to us, but it should be possible to appreciate it even if you don't have 30 years of being a superhero-loving comics consumer under your belt.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Rest assured, once a train has pulled fully out of the station I will be right there and ready to get on.

Zuda is DC Comics' Webcomics division. I have really only read a few things there in the past, and never previously voted in their competitions or rated comics there, etc. I have been following the comic The Night Owls there, and it is great. The art and writing both are terrific. I also read Paul Maybury's very cute Adventure's of Maxy J. Millionaire, which I liked a lot.

I went back to read more recently, and am going to try to give this thing a spin for a while. There is a competition going on right now, and after having read all of the offerings I have to say that this one is my current favorite:
Planet X

I am going to admit, that this site has a fairly steep learning curve for someone like me who is slow to embrace new things sometimes. It took me some fiddling around and trial and error, but I mostly got the hang of it.

The voting/rating/commenting aspect of the site is interesting to me. I don't have a great sense of what it really all amounts to, but it is still kind of fun, and for the most part I have seen constructive criticism presented in a fairly civil way. If it gives me a free source of new comics to browse and read at will, I am inclined to like it. Like most things where you have a wide variety of creators, not all of the offerings are great, but some really are. You can rest assured that I will report on what I read there in the future.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kick Drum Comix #2

Kick Drum Comix #2 - Jim Mahfood (Image, $5.95) - I'm not sure what has happened since I did my mini review of the first issue of this two part series. In that review I mentioned that I loved Grrl Scouts, but was sort of uncertain about my feelings for the whole scene that Mahfood's stuff seems to embody. Since that time I attended the Small Press Expo and opened up my mind even more about what I think makes good comics and what I like from an art standpoint as well. This is all a journey, right?

I loved this issue like crazy. I don't know if I have just grown into his art or if it has just gotten increasingly cool, but it just explodes for me now.  The comic is again slightly larger in all dimensions than a regular comic, and the cover is a satin finish that looks and feels great, but that just drinks any oils out of my hands when I touch it. It contains two stories, one is about 26 pages, and the other is 21 or so. 47 large pages of cool stuff with 2 self contained stories for 6 bucks. It is slightly expensive, but a pretty good value, compared to some 4 dollar 22 page stories that are out there.

The first story is Brian & Rod: Battle of the bands, Battle of the hearts: Other than ending with vandalism, which generally makes me sad, even when committed against country clubs, I really liked this. The art is great, the coloring is brilliant it burns itself into your eyes in a good way. This is comic book art. It isn't realistic comic book art, but it has a definite style to it that like I said earlier has just snuck up on me and made me love it even though i resisted at first. Jim Mahfood is about 6 years younger than I am, but I swear I have known some of the characters he writes and draws. I am pretty sure I knew skaters just like these guys. I am not an artist, but I have a character I have drawn since 1986 or so, based on a sort of spiritual twin to Brian that I went to school with. Skating, Bands, and minor acts of property damage while trying to score chicks. It wasn't me, but I am pretty sure I was in art class in High School with those guys.

The second story is Echo Chambers: Bombastic Avenging Disco Space Goddess - It's pretty great as well, and not just because it has gratuitous nudity. Every panel, even ones that are just close ups of an eye and a nose, seems to have a LOT going on. The main character, Echo, Comes across to me as a sort of hip and sexy Mia Wallace(Pulp Fiction) meets the Bride from Kill Bill by way of... I don't know, someone sexy and blue who isn't a smurf... not that I find smurfs sexy or anything... I just find them blue. There is very little to the story, but there is more there than it looks like. It is a very good introduction to the character, and could be used to launch in to a series of stories featuring that character. You get a sense of her personality, as well as the general setting, etc. It's mostly a shower scene and a fight scene, but there is a sense of fun there that I like.

I recommend picking this and the first issue up if you haven't already. It's different and it's fun

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TV Comics, the current trend

I just finished reading True Blood, The Great Revelation on the HBO site. A week or so ago I borrowed the Heroes hardback that has the collected comics from that show in it.  A few weeks ago I bought the first issue of Fringe, which is related to the TV series on Fox.

I have stopped watching Fringe, so I will just let that one go. I actively watch Heroes and True Blood, so I figured I should have a look at their comic offerings. 

The heroes book just didn't draw me in. It was like a comic version of deleted scenes in a lot of ways. Little snippets that relate to things that were on the air, but that don't really give you a lot more of anything you are probably hoping for in a comic related to a series. It's like with the show Lost. All I want is some hints and spoilers and answered questions, but all I can ever find is just supplementary stuff that doesn't answer any of the hard questions.

Reading the latest Heroes installment online, and reading the True Blood Great Revelation online made me see that if there is a unifying theme in online comics relating to currently running TV shows, it is that they all have really awful reader interfaces. Both sites seemed slow and hard to navigate in a readable manner to me. The art is decent on both, but the stories strike me as irrelevant. I guess something could come up in True Blood that makes the scene we were shown mean something. In the latest installment for Heroes, we get some background on two characters I believe we have been seeing on the show. It's ok, but it doesn't enhance my enjoyment of the show, nor does it come across as being something that stands on it's own. I appreciate the use of comics, but I am not sure they are being used to best effect.

True Blood is a show that is set in a Louisiana backwater town during a time after the creation of a synthetic blood substitute that can be used by vampires for nourishment. Vampires have come out and revealed themselves, and in the US there is a Vampire Rights act that will be coming up for a vote soon. Not everyone is embracing this concept. The show is based on a series of modern vampire romance novels and isn't bad. I have said recently that I don't think it is particularly well acted, but I can't stop watching it. It's like the Sopranos, or the L Word, but with Vampires. It is a show with a lot of compelling characters with a lot of plot opportunities and multiple story lines. It makes for a show you want to keep watching to see how things come out.

The comic takes place earlier that the show, around the time of the Great Revelation when the Vamps officially came out.  It is an account of the Vampire 'King' of California and his trip to japan to meet with the Japanese interest responsible for Tru Blood, the commercial brand for the synthetic blood. It could be interesting if anything happened, but as it was, it read like a story about a guy going to a business meeting, with a bit of interesting background about that character himself, but not much more.

I'm not sure how I really feel about these sorts of things. They come across as more of a straight commercial than a comic I would want to read. I also think they are a sort of pandering. It's like... Geeks like comics, and our s is a geek demographic... lets give them comics, then they will love us.  Any thoughts on this are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lions, tigers and bears

My youngest daughter had picked up volume 2 of Lions, tigers and bears at our local public library a month or so ago. I didn't read it at that point. We saw volume 1 last week and picked it up. She really liked the books, so I figured I should give volume 1 a read before it had to be returned.

Lions, tigers and bears Volume 1 - Mike Bullock & Jack Lawrence ($12.95, Image): This is a great comic for kids, and is also perfect for adults who enjoy adventure stories about imagination with a strong sense of good and bad in them. There is very little in this book that would be considered 100% new, I know I always say things like that. I don't mean them as a back-handed compliment. I feel compelled to point it out, but what I really mean to say is that I feel the author has taken some things that have been used in various forms, and has spun them into something unique and different. That is good storytelling. The art is pretty terrific animation quality art. It has a very familiar feel to it for the sort of story being told.  The characters, especially the animals are just awesome.

The main character is a young boy who lives with his Mom, next door to his Grandmother, and down the street from his best friends. He has had some trouble in the past being spooked at bedtime, and worrying about beasties, so his Grandmother reads to him every night and makes sure that he is safe and protected against the beasties that invariably are lurking around in the shadows, the closet, the usual places.

His Mom has to move to take a better job, and this is causing the boy, Joey, a great deal of worry. His Grandmother gives him a gift to take with him, it is a boxed set of 'Night Pride' Stuffed animals. There are four very cool looking 'great cat' stuffed animals, each with their own name and designation, like Ares, warrior of the night, etc. There are instructions on the box that suggest that stuffed animals are an extension of the tradition of guardians of children that have been carrying out that duty since time began. It states that one pride member should be set at each corner of the bed. It doesn't take long for that to get tested, and for Joey to learn just how real his new friends are.

This is a story heavy on imagination as a powerful force that can be harnessed and used by those young enough to still believe in such fanciful things. It isn't too heavy handed. It avoids overdoing it in a number of places, and reads as a fast paced  adventure about friends and heroism and imagination. I won't spoil the rest of the story, but this is good, fun, all ages stuff. If you have kids, pick it up,  at least check the library for it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore?

I have had a nagging thought in my head for a while now. I think it may have resurfaced particularly loud for me prior to the release of the Dark Knight movie. I will go back and look at my review about the recent hardcover The Joker, as I don't recall what I may have said there.

I might hate the Joker. I really may not see whatever it is everyone else seems to see. I am greatly questioning my previous belief that The Killing Joke is a masterpiece. I don't think Batman would go to the Joker just to babble philosophically at him. I don't think Batman would laugh at the end at all.

I Hated the Tim Burton Batman movie BECAUSE of the Joker. Take away the Joker and there isn't even a scrap that could be salvaged.

I have liked the two most recent Bat-Movies a great deal. I think the tone is more like what I expect from Batman. The Joker in The Dark Knight, and the one in the Joker Graphic novel are ones that speak to me. They aren't the same guy, really, but they are both some pretty scary, compelling and real seeming Clown Princes of Crime. I will try to flesh this out more in the next week or so, but feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or comments relating to the Joker. If you'd prefer to email, that's great too -

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Good Neighbors

The Good Neighbors, book one: Kin - Holly Black & Ted Naifeh (Graphix, $16.95) - This is another book put out by the Scholastic imprint Graphix. I would say that this book falls into the Teen and up category. It is written by Holly Black, Author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and is her first foray into Graphic Novels. Ted Naifeh, who has given us the Courtney Crumrin books, as well as Polly and the Pirates, provides the excellent art for this book. I am quite a fan of Naifeh's work, and have loved everything of his I have read.

The combination of Black & Naifeh works amazingly well. This book could easily be an extension of the world of Courtney Crumrin. Hopefully anyone reading that understands that it is high praise. It is more than just the art that gives that feeling. Black seems to have similar sensibilities in her writing to Naifeh, which I think gives his illustration even greater impact.

The story centers on Rue Silver, a cool teen with cool friends that break into abandoned buildings, don masks and take pictures. That isn't a huge part of the story, but it's part of the story, and makes me smile in it's similarity to the art attacks in the P.L.A.I.N. Janes. There is no negative there, but it is similar. Rue's Mom is gone, and in short order her dad is suspected of murdering her Mother, as well as a female student from the University he is a professor at.

There is a lot here, which is a very good thing to say about something billed as book one. We have Rue's discovery that Faerie (the titular 'Good Neighbors') exist, and that she is one by way of her mother. There is her ordinary world love life and friends, as well as the introduction of her Grandfather on her Mother's side and his less than noble intentions. Her father also hangs out there in the balance, having been a wreck since his wife left.

There are a ton of options open here. Her Grandfather has heard that only someone of his blood can stop him, he assumes this is Rue. He is planning to return faerie to the old days when humans lived in fear of them. There is a human student at her father's school that has been taking sinister advantage of a brother and sister faerie who will need to be dealt with. There is the mystery of the straw 'changeling' that was sent to masquerade and die in the form of her mother. There is a whole layer in Rue's world that was previously unseen.

Naifeh seems uniquely qualified to draw faerie and similar creatures. His Faerie have a great beauty too them, but also such an 'other-ness' about them as to seem wild and dangerous and even scary. It is the perfect scary-beautiful, or ugly-beautiful.

This is a really good book. I borrowed it from my awesome public library, but I am certainly looking forward to more in the series, and plan to buy the books for myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Incredible JERK is more like it...

AAFES #6 - Stuart Woods & Cliff Richards - This is the sixth issue of the free Marvel comics created for, and distributed through, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. It is not for resale. My mom picks them up when she sees them at the exchange when she goes shopping.

This one is called Fireline, and has the New Avengers logo on the front, as well as Spider-Man, Hulk and Iron Man on the cover. The sort of strange thing is that Spider-Man is the only New Avenger in it, and in the story, there is nothing to do with the New Avengers. Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, and Human Torch are all in this, but none of them are there as part of any team really.

It isn't the worst thing I have read. It is really pretty good considering my opinion about these sorts of comics. I am always suspicious of comics that seem too much like a recruiting tool or mindless propaganda. This doesn't really come off too strongly as either. It isn't terrible, and it showcases the resources used in the modern day fighting of forest fires, and centers on the National Guard. I have nothing against it.

What this really shows us, above all else is that the Hulk may be the #1 jerk in the Marvel Universe, with Tony Stark coming in at #2.

Here is how the comic goes: Some national guard guys are walking through the woods tracking something that might be big foot. It turns out to be the Hulk. For someone who wants to be left alone, he is clueless about how not to be found. He gets cranky at them and they say... You know what... You aren't hurting anyone, we'll leave you alone. Have a nice day Mr. Hulk... Hulks says.. Oh yeah... Like you could do anything to me if you wanted to... and then knocks down some power lines just to show he hates the National Guard. Everyone leaves. Oh, that power line... it sparks up and starts a forest fire that will devour San Diego if left unchecked.

Fortunately Tony Stark is nearby, touting his new civilian model armor line, and Peter Parker is there taking pictures of it. OMG Forest fire!!! Pete and Tony run off to change clothes and go fight the fire. Sadly, there is no hilarious scene where they get their costumes mixed up. There is a panel or two where Tony says 'They don't want your outlaw help' and Peter says ' Let's hear what they say' and National Guard guys say... 'Your darn right we don't!! I would rather see little kids burned to death than rescued by the likes of you!' (That dialog my not exactly reflect what is actually in the comic).

So, Hulk started the fire, and is apparently hiding IN THE FIRE, right next to the house of an old guy who will die in the fire without his help. A guardsman shows up and has to work to persuade the jerk to rescue the old guy. The good news is that Spider-Man has the human Torch on speed dial and Johnny pops right on over to help create a fire line as only he is qualified.

It's a little silly, but not the worst thing. I sometimes wonder who the audience for this sort of thing really is. I assume it is at least partly for the kids of people serving their country in the military, in which case I have no pithy comment, and think that's a pretty decent thing for them to do.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Man Who Loved Breasts

The Man Who Loved Breasts - Robert Goodin (Top Shelf, 32p $4)
This comic contains three stories, all written and drawn by Robert Goodin.  The book gets its title from the first of the three pieces. There is no better way to get a sense of the look and feel than a six page preview on the publisher's site

The Man Who Loved Breasts tells us about Stanley, a man who works in an unfulfilling, repetitious and dead-end job for years. He decides that he needs a change, and that he should be doing something he is passionate about, but there is nothing that he is actually passionate about, or so he thinks at first. After a bit of consideration it comes to him... Breasts. He is passionate about breasts. He loves them all equally. 

A number of things are sort of funny about this. Other than a giant phallic nose, there really doesn't seem to be much of anything overly sexual about his desire to see and touch and be around bare breasts as much as possible. He's a guy who wants to handle boobs, which seems pretty sexual, but it is more like it fills a need in him than that it arouses him. The vocation he finds to satisfy his need is that of custom bra salesman. In that job, he actually helps people. I am not a lady, mind you, but even my mother laments the days when there were people who helped you find the exact right fit for a bra. Yeah, the idea of it being a guy seems a bit creepy, but I dunno... So this dream of his is going great until the new feminism of the late 60's comes along burning bras in it's wake and putting him out of business. Fortunately for him, the boob gods don't seem to condemn suicide. I enjoyed it and thought it was fairly clever.

George Olavatia: Amputee Fetishist - This is a strange one too. A strange man is in a clinic, about to give a semen sample for testing. The whole thing is his trying to communicate that he can't get aroused by anything short of an amputee. It is another sort of interesting study of people's desires not being easily explained to others.

A 21st Century Cartoonist in King Arthur's Court - This one made me laugh a lot. It is a pretty straight forward gag. It kind of underlines the fact that although we are awash in miracles and innovations, how many of us know even to a basic degree just how any of it works. 

I enjoyed this. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles- Frank Cammuso  This is a great comic book for kids. It is put out by the graphix imprint of Scholastic. It is very well written and illustrated by Frank Cammusso. I have always been a big fan of myths and legends, and it isn't uncommon to see them used in various ways as backdrops for other stories. This book takes bits and pieces of Arthurian legend and mixes them together with a lot of standard kid story elements. 

The main character, Artie, is called wart by his sister Morgan. He moves from Cornwall and attends Camelot Middle School. Mr. Merlin is a guidance counselor who helps Artie along in his journey. Artie meets Percy and Wayne who become his friends. He meets Gwen Lee, who also joins with them later. He shows that his destiny is to be a King among students (aside from his last name being King) by opening the unopenable locker #001XCL. He learns of a fearsome beast living in tunnels below ground. He is challenged to a great conflict by the Horde, a gang of bullies and dodgeball champions sanctioned by Mrs. Dagger, the evil principal and 'queen of the school'. In order to defeat the horde, they seek out the help of a 'Savage Scott', or at least the help of the king of the Arcadia Land of Fun Arcade named Scott Savage. Before they can meet this barbarian king they have to defeat his champion Angus in Mortal Kombat... or Savage Blades as the game in the book is called. 

It's really good stuff. It's fun and although it crams a lot of legend and what I assume is sort of pseudo legend into one slim volume, it does it in a whimsical way. It doesn't seem heavy, or overburdened at all. It is light and quick moving. There are perhaps some lessons in there as well, but it isn't preachy and it comes across beautifully. I would certainly put this book in the same class as what I have seen so far from the  Toon Books imprint. I think things like this are a good sign, and certainly a good start. Comic books, Graphic Novels, what have you, kids deserve quality titles written for them, I would put this title in that category. As an old guy who loves fun well written comics for any age, I enjoyed this a lot, and there were some levels built in there that I probably appreciated more than most kids reading it who don't even realize yet that there is source material.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Comic Book Day 11/05/2008

Terra #1 - Palmiotti, Gray & Conner - I didn't plan on getting this, but my LCS had it in my pulls for some reason, and the art is Amanda Conner, so I figured it wouldn't hurt too much to get it. I was pleasantly enough surprised. I am not sure I will continue to get this, but I thought it was ok. It had humor, I like Conner's art, and I have some old school nostalgia for the original Terra. In this comic Terra is all about heroism and righting wrongs and such. She seems to act as a sort of protector of subterranian cultures.  Power Girl shows up and saves her as she is in over her head, and takes Terra to Dr. Midnite to be patched up. I have no idea how this Power Girl relates to the ones that are in the Latest issue of Justice Society, but it isn't a big concern of mine at the moment. This mini has the potential of being decent, but it doesn't really have anything to make me want to keep getting it. I guess it depends upon what else is on the shelf when issue 2 comes out.

Justice Society #20 - This issue takes us away from the Gog Magog stuff of the last many issues, and gives us some Power Girl on Pwer Girl action. I am not the biggest fan of this. I would really like to get to a point in time where we stopped having every DC plot be about multiple worlds and such. I guess JSA is an appropriate title for such stuff, but I don't love it. It gives me the same headache that time travel gives me. This issue is ok I guess.  I think it could be skipped without missing anything. I was sort of alarmed at the end of the book by what seems to be an announcement for 3 different #1s relating to the Gog/Magog/Kingdom Come Superman thing. I was enjoying that this storyline was staying mostly neatly inside of one title. I don't want to have to buy more than one title just to keep up with something that I have been strung along this far with in one title.

Vixen: Return of the Lion #2 - G. Willow Wilson, Cafu - I said in my review of the first issue of this that it had me for at least another issue. I will say that thanks to the strength of this issue I will definitely see this through.  The art continues to be pretty beautiful. There are one or two pages in the whole thing that I don't love, but it's really good, and the color is really nice as well. The story advances a little bit, but we get to spend more time with Mari as she is cast out of her village and makes her way across the plains. This issue ends with her meeting what I assume is a sort of mentor of some sort. Her mother serves as a spirit guide, the message is that she needs to connect with the land and in doing so she will realize the truth of her powers and such. It isn't exactly new ground in storytelling, but I am a bit of a sucker for this sort of thing.

The Amazing Spider-Man #576 - This issue completes Spider-Man's first run in with the new terminator style Hammerhead. It's not just a long fight scene, although it is mostly a long fight scene... Two long fight scenes, I guess. I enjoyed them quite a bit. There is something nostalgic about Spidey taking a ridiculous beating, only to rebound and somehow pull out the win. I think the art is half brilliant. I still don't love how Peter is drawn. If you see this issue, pick it up and flip to the very end. I swear to you... A young Pete Townsend is apparently subbing for Peter Parker for several panels. it's sort of weird.

Sandman, The Dream Hunters #1 - Gaiman and Russell -  I have never read the illustrated book of this story. P. Craig Russell's adaptation of it into comic form, and his art for it are pretty awesome on their own, though. The story is like a Japanese fairy tale, only according to it's afterward by Gaiman, it isn't one, and isnt really based on a specific one either. It has the feel of one, and the art and story work beautifully together. It is a Sandman style story, and there is a joy to getting a new one of those to read (new to me, not new obviously).

Pretty good stuff this week. It was an overall good day for reading comics today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Deogratias: A Tale Of Rwanda - Jean-Phillipe Stassen, translated, and with an introduction by Alexis Siegel

This book is a tough one. It takes place in Rwanda, around the time of the horrific genocide in 1994-95. 800,000 people were killed in that time period. I can't fathom things that horrible, on that scale, and yet I was an adult at that time, and a new parent to boot. I swear that until now I had no real knowledge of what had gone on there. You hear it mentioned, and you heard it mentioned then, but I don't think it got the HOLY SHIT, OH MY GOD reaction from the world that it deserved, and continues to deserve, like any such tragedy of human weakness and cruelty.

The story jumps back and forth in time. We see the titular character as a young man in a crisp white t-shirt on one page, and as a red-eyed zombie of his former self in the same shirt, only tattered and worn in the next. In the first flashbacks he is just a young man looking for female companionship, and later we see him as a shell-shocked wreck living from beer to beer with the horrors of his own actions playing always in his head.

This translation comes with an introduction written by the translator. I found it invaluable to a greater understanding of the setting, but not necessary to appreciate or be moved by the story itself. It's an ugly thing, but it is told perfectly. The illustration works well for the story, and the writing is pretty tight and effective. I recommend this book, but it certainly doesn't leave you feeling good about people in general. The awful situation that occurred and continued to occur, and still happens elsewhere, was created by an awful lot of people, and allowed or ignored by a lot more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Joker

The Joker - Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo: I don't automatically like everything with the Joker in it. I loved the Killing Joke when it first came out, but now I wonder about it's greatness.  I didn't like Tim Burton's Batman for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones was that it focused too much on the Joker, and on a version of the Joker that I thought was kind of awful. I thought the Dark Knight was good, and I thought the Joker in it was pretty brilliantly written and acted. I can't say that this version of the Joker existed before the Dark Knight, This is the ugly, dirty, chaotic Joker. He's like a wild tiger in any room he's in. There is no telling what he will do, and there isn't a person there that's going to lose track of where he is.

The story begins with five time loser Jonny Frost picking up the Joker outside of Arkham. He doesn't know why the guy is out, but he is. Jonny becomes the everycrook, riding along with the force of nature. We see things through his perspective. This is the Street-level, real world of Batman villains.  They seem a bit more rooted in reality than we usually see them. I like the facelifts that some of these folks got. I like the feeling that this is almost any mob movie. The old boss, the mad-dog loose cannon is out of the can. He's feeling a little bit forgotten. It seems that his people forgot him. The tributes dried up over time, people moved on. He's back to reclaim what's his. Not just money and territory, but respect and fear. There is no route too grisly for him to take to get those things back.

The Joker in this is the slouching monkey armed wild animal with the carved on smile. He looks like he could jump at any time, always bent at the knees, never locked in place. He's wild eyed and crazy, but not stupid. The art in this is really good. It's ugly, and in places it is grotesque, but it seems very consciously so. It gives everything a very real feel without looking like photoreference paintings. We don't even have a hint that Batman exists until the very end of this thing. For telling a story that we've seen in one form or another before, it seems very fresh with the Joker in it. This treatment makes good sense for that character.  There are a lot of Joker related books out there. I think this is one worth having.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taking Issue - Nightwing #149

When Nightwing #149 came out not long ago, there seemed to be a whirlwind of outrage about just how violent and bloody it was, and how it went too far, etc. I read the issue. I re-read it, and I have just finished re-re-reading it. I am not someone who regularly reads Nightwing, so I can't speak to how this compares to the 148 issues that preceded it. I did read 148 to try and get some sense of context, and I think that helps. Thanks to Issue 149 of Nightwing, the expression 'torture porn' got a great deal of use. There are some comics that have come out that I have been disappointed in how unnecessarily violent they were, or how grisly, etc. These are ones where it just seemed gratuitous and didn't seem to serve any justifiable purpose. There was that Titans East Special where you are introduced to a group and then they are all killed, as well as Teen Titans v3 #62 where Wendy and Marvin, yeah, that Wendy and That Marvin, bring home a stray and it gets named Wonderdog, just like in the Super Friends show... and then it turns into a monster and kills Marvin and mauls Wendy... Teen Fun Comics!!

I mention those two comics because I think they sort of should be the subject of outrage, but they don't seem to have received the same scope of outrage that Nightwing did. Maybe it is all a perception issue on my part. Perhaps the scope is limited to the relatively small world of the blogs I follow, which is fine, but it has lead me to this post either way.

The Questions I had in my head as I gave this issue my third reading is this: "Is this too much? Does this comic step into the realm of so-called 'torture porn'? Is the violence in this issue so out of keeping with the tone of the book, the character, the story, etc. as to have only been done to shock or make some sort of a statement to the reader outside of the context of the story itself? Was it just a really bad issue?

Issue 148 has Nightwing(having been shot) rescuing a lady and getting her to safety before going back to the batcave on autopilot. Alfred is there to save him and remove bullets. A lot of this is about Alfred taking care of him, their relationship, his similarities to Bruce, who may be 'gone for good' this time, etc. It's a decent issue for character development, although it has a feel of having been done before, but I considered it a good issue. Dick leaves the cave and zooms off to be heroic again. It ends with him popping into a room filled with almost all of the Batman villains you think of when you think of Batman villains. The bullets Dick was shot with had Scarecrow's fear toxin on them, and apparently it is just starting to kick in.

Issue 149 has a big fight scene between Nightwing and the aforementioned Bat-baddies. They are waste deep in blood, and the woman he is trying to save is being sort of sequentially murdered by each of them. Nightwing REALIZES he is under the effect of the toxin. He even analyzes the significance of some of the things he's seeing. He even realizes that the people he is fighting are NOT the actual villains he is seeing them as. When he first takes on the Penguin, he consciously decides to just knock his teeth out instead of doing anything that might be worse. As he continues on in the fight, he understands his fears to mean that the threat is more immediate and drastic, and that he can't afford to pull punches. He trades some pretty stupid dialog with the villains he is imagining, but maybe that is a fear of his too. Whatever is going on, he knows that it isn't what it looks like, but that a life he needs to protect is on the line.

Apparently Harvey Dent, Two-face as you all know, likes this person named Carol. He does not want Carol to get hurt, but I guess that he has taken on a contract to kill her. His way of dealing with this is to have fully involved Nightwing for her protection from himself. Two-Face wants to kill the woman, but he also wants Nightwing to stop him. I think it is a pretty great idea, and it really seems like something a guy with his issues would do. Actually, I may think it's a brilliant idea. In all the bloodshed and all the seemingly grisly ways Nightwing is dispatching his half imagined, but very real foes, the intent is that Dick will save Carol from Harvey. Unfortunately, Harvey Kills Carol, and then I believe goes and kills the guy who contracted him to kill Carol.

Is this an issue filled with gratuitous, and often imaginary blood? Yes. Is this an issue where we see a woman getting killed/maimed over and over in an imaginary sense before finally being shot and killed by a man who cares about her enough to try and organize an effort to save her? Yes. Is there too great of a reliance in comics on the killing/maiming/putting in jeopardy/of women? Probably, but I am not sure that this issue is the one to exemplify that, or to make an example of about those things. I think if you read it, it makes sense and does a decent job of getting it's point across and showing us an interesting enough take on a hero and a villain.

It's my opinion that Nightwing 149 received a bit more alarm than it deserved.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

741.5 ... It's the geek four-twenty

I have wanted to do a post like this for a while. Previously I have posted bits and pieces that refer to the fact that the public library system is a resource that no serious comic lover should overlook. I have probably mentioned it before, but here is a great post on comics in libraries. I was thinking of trying to wait until National Library Week, but that is so far off and I am incapable of waiting for anything.

I try to get to the library every week or so, and I try to get to a second branch that is just a bit farther away, but has a different selection than the one closest to me. Something i have found in my local library system is that you can't just walk in and hope to stumble into the place with the comics. Some amount of effort is required to truly make the most of your experience. I can't think of another interest that really requires you to work as much as comics do, in order to see the full extent of the libraries collection.

Here are some reasons for that: 
1. Comics are a medium, and not a genre unto themselves.
2. Lots of different VOLUNTEERS shelve books in a library
3. Many folks don't realize item 1. in my list.
4. 741.5 exists in three different places in the library(as most classifications do). People often assume the target age of specific comics incorrectly
5. Lots of good comics that would be of interest to readers of all ages may be in the children's section, or young adult section, or the 'adult' non-fiction section, or all three (see #2 in this list)

When I go into the library now I look in probably 6 different places. They are as follows:
1. Two sides of a column next to the children's section. This is where Card Captor Sakura is, as well as a lot of Marvel Age single issues in hardcover, Baby Mouse, Owly, Asterix and Some Tin Tin.
2. Spinner racks not far away, between the young reader section and the children's non-fiction. The bulk of the manga is here. Fruits Basket, Sgt Frog, Prince of Tennis, Ranma 1/2, etc.
3. A separate 'end cap' shelf unit near the spinner racks, but closer to the Young Adult section. This is where the 4 or five Minx titles I have checked out were shelved, Age of Bronze, ElfQuest, Chiggers, Castle Waiting, Invincible, and a ton of other good stuff that ranges from children to Adult, but is mostly appropriate for a YA section.
4. The Young Adult section itself. More items are shelved here. It isn't all overflow, I think some people just didn't get the memo. If you don't check here, you may miss titles, or volumes from titles found elsewhere.
5. 'Adult' Non-fiction 741.5. This is where The Buddha Manga series was, as well as I shall destroy all civilised planets, Shadow of No Towers, Marvels, Planet Hulk, Heroes, as well as collections of comic strips from throughout the ages, and most books about the industry, or the medium and the art. Eisner is here, McCloud, Ten Cent Plague, etc.
6. Maybe it was just 5, but I strongly recommend doing a full recon mission on all the sections and displays in your local library.

If you aren't already familiar with all the libraries within twenty minutes or so of where you live, you should be. There is a vast amount of stuff out there. No-one is hurt by being well read. If you can't find something in your library, you should look it up and consider asking a Librarian about doing an interlibrary loan for it. Even if it isn't in your system, they may have privileges with local universities, or other systems outside of your immediate area. Libraries are buying graphic novels and books on comics, the industry, and creating comics. Let them know how much you appreciate their awesomeness by borrowing this stuff from them (and returning it on time... be responsible, people).