Friday, October 14, 2011

Taking Issue - Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

This issue has sparked a lot of debate. I tend to side with people who have in general been a bit disappointed with DC regarding the treatment of female characters, and the seeming lack of a serious commitment to better representing women in comics, both on the creator side of things, and the character side as well. There are a couple of questions that I kept in mind while re-reading this issue the five + times I have read it so far.
1. What(if anything) is wrong with this comic
2. Is this a bad comic
3.What(if anything) is wrong with the portrayal of Starfire in this comic
4. Who would like this comic

That's not everything I kept in mind, but I have read a lot of the discussions that have been written about this issue, as well as about Catwoman #1, I understand what people have expressed about the issues seeming to scream out that the female character is less important to the creators as a character, or as a woman, than they are as an object of titillation and male fantasy.

I think there is a lot to be said for trying harder, or at all, to put out well written comics that embrace the female characters they contain as full fledged characters, and give them the same sort of respect and complexity that other characters are given, rather than having everything focus on their sexualization and their role in fan boy wet dreams. I am not anti sex or sexiness, but the mechanical cheesecake posing, or the constant focus on t&a and forced emphasis on female characters as sex objects is a problem in my opinion.

That being said(and that barely scratches the surface of my opinions of the misuse of female characters by DC and the top few publishers in general) What about this issue over all, what about this title as an ongoing?

I picked this comic because the premise sounded cool enough. I have no history with Roy Harper, I am most familiar with Red Hood from the Under the Red Hood video and some appearances in Batman and Robin when I was picking that up before the relaunch. Starfire was a favorite of mine from when I was reading the New Teen Titans as a kid, and also, from her excellent re-imagining for the Teen Titans cartoon. I have friends who warned me about Scott Lobdell as a writer, but I am not sure if I have read his work before, so that was not a negative to me, Also, the art looked like it would be pretty good, and I will say, except for the awful Starfire posing, I think the art was pretty great. Starfire is a beautiful character with no problems about showing off her body, but posing her like a stripper just comes off cheesy and a bit cheap.

As far as the comic being bad, or the title striking me as a bad one, I am not willing to say that at this point. I am not sure that I will continue getting this, but this is a relaunch where some liberties have been taken with a lot of characters in a lot of different ways, some not for the better by many estimations. Here is what the comic seems like to me.

I think this comic reads like a modern, somewhat raunchy buddy movie. It has a great deal of the smug smirkiness and kind of fist-bumping frat boy smarminess, wrapped around an initial setup that involves a kind of cool, kind of far fetched prison break and doesn't make you think too hard. I really like Starfire as the heavy hitter in the group, and the boys acceptance/dependence on that is cute. The issue introduces and interesting character named Essence, that must have featured in Red Hood's past, but I haven't seen her before. It was not a bad comic as comics go, It was not even something that would cause the average comic reader with no built in feelings for the character of Starfire, to take much notice or offense to, beyond perhaps the insistence on meaningless sex with her sex partner's buddy.

I think if that is the way that her race is now characterized, then it was necessary to show it. It is character development to play it out. Humans aren't Tamaranians though, and unless the writer takes some time to show the effects that that sort of behavior can have on close relationships and fragile male egos, then I will say it was just a cheap thing to do to excite boys.

So, in closing, This wasn't that bad of a comic. It read a bit too much like a movie, with the posing in the water and all, but it was not without some fun. There are very real issues with DC editorial being oblivious and letting some terrible ideas and attitudes just walk through to print. A lot of people could benefit from reading and learning from the opinions of the folks who took the time to intelligently document their reactions and thoughts about the issue.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More to Comics than comics

Over at my other blog, with an unfortunate name, I recently posted A Thing about some health issues and things that have been going on with me recently. Mostly it's just about finally trying to have a stake in by my own health and well being. During this same time, Comics have had a place in that mix as well, and I figure since I am not using all of the blank, potential page space I have lying around here to write some sort of scholarly take on Superman's pants and his psychological need to feel like he is wearing armor when his is on the shortest of short-lists of characters that probably don't need armor, I can put a few thoughts down about comics and people, and their intersection in my life.

My LCS - I don't love every single business move my LCS-Owner Makes. I flat out disagree with a number of notions and predispositions he has sometimes, but That guy is a top notch genuine Good guy. I can't fault him on that one bit, nor can I fault his business sense, even if I don't love it. He has navigated a store through a long tough time in a market that has eaten a lot of other stores, and he has done it by being smart and making hard decisions, but making up for the occasional bare shelf with kick ass customer service. Always err on the side of Customer service and genuine friendliness. Twice , recently when I have been trying to get by the shop and have ended up there early, they have seen me, or my Wife, and opened up the store for us. They found out I was having issues and have been asking after me. I walked in and they all came up to me and it was like returning home after an absence.

My Wife - My Wife Doesn't hate comics, but she has no great regard for them other than knowing that comics are a thing I like a lot. She long ago vowed to never go into a comic shop, and broke that vow while I was in the hospital for a week. She sought it out, I think they opened up for her after they had closed, and since I have reduced my pull list, she worked with them to find some good stuff for me to read during my nearly week long hospital stay. I didn't ask her to do this, or expect it, but it really was a nice extra, during a week when I already felt like she was doing too much for me by staying with me nearly 8 hours a day as I just lay in bed. My friend at the shop that I talk to probably more than the owner was happy to help her pick a few he thought I should like. That really meant a lot to me.

Comic Friends: There is an older gentleman at my church that is what I hope to be someday. He's a good person, and he is also a lifelong Batman Fan. We chat in the Narthex about comic series and events, and See each other at the shop sometimes. When he heard from the guys at the LCS asking about me, and saw my name in the church bulletin, he called my wife to see how I was, and to offer to pick up my comics and bring them by for me, or anything else I might need, really.

Comic Friends, Computer edition: I have a lot of friends on Twitter. A vast minority of them I have met in person. Many of them are from a community that formed around a comics related bulletin board, and have real lasting friendships based of of the relationships formed there. I have come to regard these folks as being as real of friends as most people I have known in person for ages. Yes, I am old enough that I have to explain things like that out. It is starting to feel dumb that I still do that. These folks have given me so much advice, encouragement, hope and humour that I can't imagine how I would have gotten through things otherwise. The Relationship I have with these folks is not a comics-centric one, but a great many are exactly the same sort of geek culture, comic-appreciating type of people that I am, and it is nice to be accepted in that kind of environment by good people, wherever they may congregate.

Comics - I have had trouble focusing for a while, and motivating, and staying comfortable, and feeling like doing anything, But comics have still been there for me. I think it's easier for me to read comics when I am not feeling great, or discontent. The visual storytelling is generally easier to grab hold of than solid blocks of text that can seem daunting, or can be a bit more strain on the eyes, Also, right before getting sick I was reorganizing my shelves, and so they have been on my mind and in clearer focus to me lately, so I have gotten a lot of joy out of thinking about the series I have, and want to start, and following along with the impending DC relaunch and the new titles that will be available.

So there's that. Hopefully I can shake this fog of melancholy I've been stuck in and start writing more, again, we'll see. I just wanted to take a second and say Thanks Comics, and all the good folks who find themselves around comics in whatever capacity.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flashpoint (some spoilers)

I will state right up front that I hadn't expected to even look at Flashpoint, DC's giant summer event. It is less of a crossover than it is a giant multifaceted event made up of a core limited series and a vast number of mini's and one-shots. It evolved out of The Flash, and the Impetus of the plot is the result of a Flash Villain's diabolical plot to really just shit on Barry Allen's life in the most collossally Meta level possible.

I am not a fan of publisher's giant events. I think they are crass and abusive to the consumer, and most of the time there are scads of crossover comics , minis and one shots that contribute almost nothing important to the story. I am not saying event comics don't produce some terriffic comics, because sometimes they do, but in general I would prefer to have a story told without a lot of filler to make me spend more than I really need to.

Flashpoint drew me in with some interesting plot setups. Some fundamental things changed in the world, critical moments in time were altered just enough to produce outcomes drastically different from what we knew to be true. This creates the elseworld to end all elseworlds out of 'reality' In the new configuration Atlantis and Themyscira are at war with each other and the world. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are ruthless warmongers fighting for control of the erth. The Atlanteans have flooded Europe and The Amazons have taken Great Britain. Gorrilla Grodd has Conquered Africa in an awful and brutal campaign against humanity. Amazons, Apes and Atlanteans, the world is in the crapper without ever leaving the A's.
The main series focuses on Barry Allen in this situation, realizing that this is indeed his world, tampered with, rather than an alternate universe or anything, and the mini series' being released at the same time address a lot of what-if's and where are they nows.

Some of these are
What if Bruce Wayne was killed in Crime Alley and Thomas Wyne became Batman
In a world where Superman was held by the government and never became a hero, what becomes of Lois Lane
What if DeathStroke the Terminator was a pirate vying against the Warlord for control of the high seas over a newly flooded Europe.
and tons more, focusing on characters from Abin Sur and Shade the changing man, to Kid Flash and the Flying Graysons.
I think this works really well. Some of the titles are a little heavy on brutality, but especially for people who Love the characters and their histories, etc., it is fun to see who they would be changed based on tweaks in the timeline. I'm not sure where this will stand ultimately as a comics event, but it has made for some fun reading so far. It is pretty neat as a sort of exercise . It is also sort of funny that this comes just prior to the relaunch of the DC line. I think it shows hope for the future. It is possible to change and tweak popular characters and start them in a new environment without losing the things you love about those characters. Good writing is the thing that gives you a lot of leeway when it comes to trying new things. Flashpoint works way better than I had expected, an I look forward to seeing what the fall brings as well.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day

#FreeComicBookDay #FCBD - You probably aren't seeing this if you don't already pay attention to comics at least a little, but on the off chance you got here via a search, or you don't know the significance of today, here is the deal:

Free Comic Book Day is an extremely cool comics industry wide event where comic creators and publishers and shops work to get a variety of free comic book offerings out in front of the public to promote the industry and to welcome new readers, collectors, enthusiasts to the joys of comics.

Many stores participate, and some have specific rules as to how many free comics you can get, but many are happy to have you stop by and pick up what you'd like from the specific selection of free comic book day comics they have.

There are a great number cof comics in various genres, but comics for kids, and all ages are plentiful, and comics featuring characters they may recognize from movies and tv and games are also readily available, so it is a great time to introduce a young person you know to comics.

It is also a perfect opportunity as an adult to get an introduction to comics and comic shops, and to see the great variety of people who enjoy comics as well. Some stores have special sales or contests, etc., but not all.

On a local note (southern MD, Charles county-ish) I went to two stores, as I am here to visit my Mom for Mother's day tomorrow. House of Pop Culture had a great sale in addition to a take what you'd like to read FCBD policy, and a large selection of comics that are a buck apiece or 10 for $15. Comics MD had a slightly smaller selection with the same policy, a big pile of $1 trades and at least 20% off most things in the store.

If you see this, and it is still a reasonable hour on 5/7/2011, you owe it to yourself to get out and take advantage of this celebration of comics.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

This book is making it hard for me to review it. I will start with the easy part and finish with the stuff that is giving me trouble from a review standpoint. Robot Dreams by Sara Varon is a dialog free comic. I love how this book looks and feels. It is a First Second book, so I am not surprised at the quality.

I was not really familiar with Sara Varon before I brought this home from the Library. As it stands, I now have a strong desire to read everything she has done. I think I like every single panel in the book. She certainly conveys a great deal in the nearly wordless pages. She also has created a book that doesn't rely on anything overtly negative or malicious. The inhabitants of the world this takes place in are all animals, and they are all depicted without cruelty or hostility in them. The story is a simple one, and it doesn't preach or moralize. It also makes very clear that reading and libraries are two extremely important things. When the dog needs to find a beach to go to, they hit the Library first. When they need to figure out how to repair a robot, they look in the Library first. It also shows us the benefits of various transit methods like the bus or Taxis. I really like that we get panel space for those things.

Check out Sara Varon's WebPage for more about her and her works.

Ok, here's the thing. Sara Varon is a heck of a story teller, and I genuinely do like every panel of her work, I really think the art is darling and the storytelling masterful, and the feelings of her characters convey right through the illustration and are touching and charming. All that being said, I hate the story and think it's an awful story. I yelled at the book when I was done. As if it was it's fault the story was awful. Here is my take on the story:

A dog orders a build it yourself Robot, makes a friend out of it. Does really nice things for it and with it, including going to the beach. The Robot swims and ends up rusted and immobile. The dog completely abandons the robot on the beach. The dog returns maybe a day, maybe a month later and the beach is closed, so despite seeing the robot right over there.. he leaves and starts on a quest to find new friends, leaving robot to lay there alone with his fantasies, etc. with no hope for rescue. At one point while robot is scavenged from in a way grossly disproportionate to the needs of the person who scavenged off of him. Jump to the end of the book, and dog just buys and builds a new robot. Old Robot has been found by a cool guy who makes him into a walking and dancing radio of a robot. He sees his old best pal walk by with his new robot, and plays music for them to hear, but they straight up ignore him and walk by. THE END

Please also note that the dog who abandoned the robot because of rust, easily carried him when he first arrived in box before assembly, and later carried the second robot the same way. Somebody doesn't value friendship or the feeling of others over the need to never be even mildly inconvenienced I guess.

The other thing about the story that gets my attention is how the plot is summarized in different places. The creator has the best and most accurate blurb about it, and then the publisher has some misleading notions that it posts, and I saw others commenting on it referring to it in ways that make you wonder if the read it at all.

So, In closing, I certainly liked a whole lot of stuff about a book whose story is on my Nixon-Style enemies list. Also, if you close one eye and read it in a different frame of mind than perhaps I did, you could see it as a story with a number of triumphs in it, a sort of survivors story, are one of winning through patience and perseverance.Link

Small Press Expo 2011

Small Press Expo will take place on Saturday and Sunday, September 10 and 11 this year, once again at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I hope you appreciate that I am posting about this early enough for you to start saving your money. This is a show that you can enjoy without spending much. but it presents an opportunity to sample a great deal of small press and independently produced comics. It has also had some pretty great programs in the past, Including features involving cartoonists such as Jaime Hernandez, Carol Tyler, and Bryan Lee O'Malley (To name a few sessions I personally attended and enjoyed).

This years lineup of special guests includes a pretty diverse group of creators as you can see from the Flyers I have attached here from the SPXPO site. (Craig Thomson and Dustin Harbin respectively). The artwork, flyers and posters that are made for SPX are always pretty awesome, and these are no different.

Write-ups for this year's guests can be found at the Exhibitors and Guests page on the SPX site. This year they were written by volunteers. I wrote the blurbs for Jim Rugg and for Johnny Ryan. I have been a big fan of Rugg's since I picked up Street Angel from him at a Pittsburgh Comicon a number of years ago, before it was in trade paperback form. Despite loving his work, or maybe because of my love for his work, my blurb is a bit drier than I had hoped it would be, as I didn't want to break down into blathering about just what a great guy he seemed like, and how interviews done with him are some of the better comic related discussions you could want to read. Not wanting to turn a little blurb into an editorial love-fest, I went with a cut and dried approach and it is boring but respectful.

I felt a bit more comfortable being a little looser with the Blurb for Johnny Ryan. Up to the point of asking to do his writeup, I had only read one issue of Angry Youth Comix. I had wanted to become more familiar with his work, so I asked to write it and then bought at least one trade volume of each of his collected works, etc. Given the nature of his work, it made it feel a bit easier to joke while still being respectful of a cartoonist that really knows what he is doing.

It was fun being a part of this build up to the main event in the fall. SPX is a fun event to volunteer at, in addition to being one of my favorite comics related events in general. There is a large selection of wildly varied material, and behind nearly every table is someone that is genuinely excited about being a creator and getting their work in front of people. If you haven't been to it, you really should give it a shot. If you are a fan of comics and comics creators, then this is something that can really rekindle enthusiasm for those things. For the past several years I have gone and I have volunteered, and each year I leave the event having met some really awesome people at all levels of the comics experience.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

I was not familiar with Kazu Kibuishi's web comic Copper before I saw this book in the library. I knew him from the Flight Anthologies, and am a huge fan of his Amulet series, so I recognized his style on the cover before I read his name there.

I like the strips that are in here. They are single page affairs, but sometimes are connected to other pages and sometimes not. The setup for the strip is basically Calvin and Hobbes, but that analogy only goes so far. There is a boy named Copper, and he has a dog named Fred. They have adventures and hang out and play games and set themselves adrift in the world. Sometimes there exploits seem to take place in the real world, sometimes in fantastic worlds, sometimes dystopian worlds, and sometimes in dream.

Kibuishi's art is beautiful. It is stunning and colorful and shows clearly the wonders and beauty that Copper is so taken by. He sees beauty and takes time to look at it. He is a master of creating lush but bleak landscapes. I am not sure how else to describe what he does in many of the pages. There is a bleakness in some of them, mixed with a sort of beauty and detail. The strips range from clever or funny to melancholy and somewat cynical.

I enjoyed reading the book. It made me chuckle and it made me sigh. Certainly worth looking at online to make your own decision. It is on Kibuishi's website.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Castle Waiting: Volumes One and Two

I borrowed the hardcovers of Castle Waiting volume one and two from my local library. I own the paperback volume one, but reading both in hardcover was kind of nice. I had difficulty setting the books down once I started, and honestly loved both of them pretty much completely. When I was re-reading EB White's books to my kids as they were groing up, Stewart Little was my favorite, and the character stays very present in my mind, as he was an example of decency, and also kind heartedness. For being more or less a mouse in the world, he was fallable and capable of self defeat, but really, again for being what he was, embodied humanity as I could identify with it, and as I liked to think it could be. This is what Linda Medley has captured and conveys in the characters she has created in her books. Even if the characters are not all entirely human, there is a real decency and humanity in so many of them that it has the ability to just about bring tears to my eyes.

Linda Medley's art is clean and thin lined and very clear and easy to follow. Her settings and architecture are perfect, and her expertise with facial expressions has her rightfully recognized as one of the all-time greats in that particular skill. I think of her in the same way I think of Jaime Hernandez and Terry Moore with regard to conveying thoughts and feelings through their character's faces.

Castle Waiting starts with a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Stories are a primary focus of this series, and it opens with a story that at least so far, gives us the main base of operations for the primary focus of the series, and it also gives us a handful of characters. If Castle Waiting is about stories, it is equally about characters, as characters are the heart of the stories. There is less traditional 'action' in Castle Waiting than you might expect for something that owes so much to Fairy Tales, and seems to have evolved out of such a great love of them, but it is replaced with character development and backstory filling up even the most seemingly still and reflective or insignificant of pages.

After the Sleeping Beauty story is told, we move focus to Jain, who we first see fleeing presumable domestic abuse and setting out on her own to seek an almost mythical sanctuary known as Castle Waiting. Jain exhibits a lot of fairy tale characteristics herself, and gets into situations that should go much worse for her, but always seem to work themselves out with kindness or storytelling, etc. She eventually makes it to Castle Waiting, which is the castle of the kingdom from the Sleeping Beauty story. Remaining there from the opening piece is a trio of Ladies in Waiting who are now very old ladies, and a small demon that always seems to be around. They people of Castle Waiting operate it as a sanctuary for anyone who needs it, and they all need it themselves to some degree.

Jain is pregnant, and has her child at the castle, and ultimately the book turns to the story of Sister Peace (Warren), a sister of a very unique order, who seems to always know what people really need. Her story is again, filled with relatively little real conflict, although there is a good bit there, the focus is on the good people trying to live their lives. The stories are very much the sorts of things that go on just off the page in fairy stories, combined with a sort of modern sensibility of feminism and human nature, and good people looking out for good people.

The Second volume contains a lot of coverage of what goes on when visitors come to the castle with ties to some of the other residents, and are inlisted in helping Jain and her baby move to different living quarters. It is slice of life, but there is more going on than just day to day. You continue to get stories, and you continue to wait for resolution to a variety of questions that have naturally come up since the story began. In my opinion that is just fine with me. I am not impatient about the lack of resolution. The word WAITING is right there in the title. This is not an action story, this is a story that celebrates the need for stories as much as the need for people to have a safe place to live, and caring people to interact with. There is a great deal of sweetness in this, but it is mixed with mischief and wonder, and a sense that if you look hard enough you will find that you aren't alone, and that you don't have to suffer for your differences as much as we are lead to believe sometimes. These books are a treasure, and I highly recommend them. There will be plenty of people who will surely hate them as much as I love them, but there are books out there for them as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural

Doctor Voodoo has always been a character that I thought was cool. I am sure I have always felt that way, but I am not sure that i ever really read anything with him in it when I formed that opinion as a kid. I was excited about this series when it started, and I am pretty sure I picked up the first issue. I don't think any subsequent issues actually made the shelf at my LCS and that was that. Fortunately for me it is available through Marvel Digital Unlimited and I got to read it recently. I wish that it was more than five issues, but it as a complete arc and has an awful lot going for it.

Rick Remender wrote the series, which involves a plot by Nightmare to undo reality, and Jefte Palo turns in an amazing job with the art. Combined with Stunning covers by Marko Djurdjevic, this comic has everything you could want. In addition to always thinking Brother Voodoo was a cool character, I absolutely LOVED Nightmare When I was a kid. The story pretty much turns into Jericho and Daniel Drumm vs. Possessed versions of everyone else in the Avengers, etc. We get good back story on the brothers, and a pretty fun main conflict. I wish I had subscribed to this title, and I wish it was still running. Even occasional mini's of it done with the same team would be welcomed.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I recently went on a multi-day online spending spree and a week or two ago got a couple boxes of trades in the mail. Ok, it was probably ten or eleven books, but they did come in multiple boxes, so I'm not exaggerating all that much. Most were highly discounted, and titles that I didn't want to miss at a really good price, but I also ordered daytripper because it was a title I had heard good things about and really wanted to read. Based on the creators I was pretty sure I would like it, and I wasn't disappointed at all.

daytripper is written and drawn by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. It is about a man and his life and his relationships. It's about being a writer, it's about being in your father's shadow, it's about being your mother's little miracle. It's about experience and dreams and family and friends. It's about mortality and what we leave behind. In the story, Every chapter covers a different important event in the life of our protagonist Bras de Olivia Domingos. The chapters are not exactly in chronological order, and every one of them ends in his death and subsequent obituary.

This was a very moving book. The art is beautiful, and it is populated with realistic people and realistic events. Despite having the main character repeatedly die and seemingly keep right on living, this is not played off as fantasy. There are dream elements in this, but conveying the dream is less of the point than conveying the reality.

To me, the art and the setting for this story are so intimately done, that despite it being a pretty exotic locale for me (Brazil), it comes across as beautiful, but very realistically portrayed. It's the protagonists home. The locations are what they are because that is where he lived, that is where he traveled to.

Excellent book. It has a very literary feel to it. It seems like it is another good example of comics that really elevate the medium. It feels like a foreign film to me. What you see is universal, and makes you think, but it is in a way that doesn't skew so much to the mainstream, doesn't deliver what you are expecting.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marvel Digital, Thor, and Devil Dinosaur

Not too long ago I renewed my subscription to Marvel Digital Online . I had subscribed to it a while back and then under-utilized it. There was a decent percentage off for a year subscription that made me feel I should give it a chance again. Really, despite its shortcomings, the fact that I didn't take advantage of it previously was completely on me. That, and the fact that I saw a number of runs I was interested in reading, or reading again as is the case with Thor, made it easy enough to jump back in. I have access to a lot of good comics for just over the cost of most Marvel single issues. Yes, this is basically a countdown until I lose interest again, but my intentions are always the best in the beginning.

The Mighty Thor
I started with Thor this time. I was very interested in re-reading More of Walt Simonson's historic and acclaimed run on the title, and revisiting Beta Ray Bill, a character that I was very much on the fence about when I was reading the series originally around my freshman year in High School. I added a LOT of Mighty Thor to my 'Must Read' list, and started with issue 337. In this Issue, Thor is called upon by Nick Fury to investigate an alien spaceship on its way toward Earth. When Thor gets there, he finds his near match in the form of the ships guardian. Due to misunderstandings regarding motives, they end up fighting as enemies. Thor accidentally turns into Donald Blake and loses, losing Mjolnir in the process. Even worse, due to the Hammer's loophole about worthiness, and Beta Ray Bill's character, we end up with an Alien Thor. In this re-reading, I get it a lot more than I did as a kid. It's a pretty great twist, and it's really well written, and the art is great. I am looking forward to reading a lot more of Simonson's Thor.

Devil Dinosaur 1-9 - Written and drawn by Jack Kirby
I have this thing about Jack Kirby. I have a lot of respect for the man. Growing up, I didn't think I liked him, while at the same time (I now realize) absolutely loving a great deal of his work. This has made me reluctant to say too much about Kirby here. I decided that I wanted to start getting a better feel for the stuff of his I didn't think I liked, by actually reading a good bit of it. Hopefully I will eventually bring myself up to the level of the average person who has ever liked a comic, in regard to my regard for him. His distinctive style was never my favorite, and I didn't understand his having things that looked really similar in concept at both Marvel and DC, and I really got my strongest feelings for comics reading and collecting New Teen Titans and a number of very clean, more realistically drawn comics I guess, so it took me a long time to be able to really get art that had stylized elements, etc.

I know this goes back to when I was little, and I have mostly broken free from it. I can judge different styles based on their differences, their effect, and all sorts of things that can be conveyed in any number of wildly different ways through comics. Really, what I am saying here, is that I am not 10 anymore. I am over thirty years, not ten. This shouldn't be so difficult for me, right?

I searched Kirby, I wanted something I had very little experience with, and so I went with Devil Dinosaur, which came out around 1978. I am not sure I saw this comic when I was little. This may have been one I would have loved. In 9 issues, you get a red T-Rex, which is decidedly more bad ass than even the most bad ass of his non-red peers. You also get Moon Boy, who serves as our creepy little furry everyman, and who would be easy to identify with as a kid. I sort of hate him, but there is some necessity for him that would be hard to get around without making the dinosaur at least think, or become the bad guy in the book. You get alien robots, giants, giant ants, lots of dinosaurs, small folk, killer folk, a witch, time travel, everything you could ever want from a comic. The art is furious, the color is vibrant and lovely. The dinosaurs are fearsome and danger and peril is conveyed in every line. It was a more enjoyable and entertaining comic than it was a particularly good one. I think that is a fair enough exchange.

Moon Boy and Devil bond and grow up as brothers. He reminds me a bit too much of Chaka from Land of the Lost, so I have trouble liking him. He is brave though, and cares about his 'Brother". Devil is fearsome and very smart. The scenarios we are given are not just bad guy rolls into town and the dinosaur fights him, motivations vary, a few other heroic characters pop up, etc. It is a fun read if you enoy feeling like a kid when you read comics.

Plus the old school flowery language in it is kind of funny
And Thus Endeth The Chronicle

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SPX Revisited: Kevin Days a Week

My goal is always to get something written about an event, within a week or so of the event. With the Small Press Expo, I would love to get a nice report written, mention what I got and my general feelings about the event and who I met, etc. within a few weeks of the event. I did some of that, sort of on schedule. I kept putting this review off because of general anxiety based procrastination and the fact the the book is so chunky I wasn't getting through it very quickly. A lot of things I picked up last year were a bit longer than standard mini comic fare. SPX is not exclusively a mini comic expo, but I do sometimes define it that way when thinking about it.

I picked up Kevin Days a Week: Book 3, 2008 -2009 from Kevin Burkhalter. Burkhalter has a journal comic posted online at kevinsjournalcomic . It is a very nicely done Journal comic. Each day gets 4 panels. This translates beautifully into fat little square volumes filled with a year worth of daily goings on. I picked up the third volume as my introduction to the comic as I learned at SPX that an artists most recent project is usually their favorite. I often ask people to recommend a volume, or let me know what they think their best work is, etc. When the nature of the comic doesn't require you to start at a #1 to get it or enjoy it.

I recommend checking out the online comic. Start at the earliest stuff, but be sure to click through it and watch Burkhalter's progress as an artist. I don't know that everyone shares my enthusiasm for Journal comics, but I love them. There are certainly things out there that have been overdone, but as long as there is honesty and insight in the comic, I am probably going to like it. I tend to feel like an outsider, and seeing other people's lives and idiosyncrasies is helpful and enjoyable to me. I also think, that if done right, you end up with things that can be more unique than even the most original 'new idea' for a super hero comic, or detective story, etc.

A ton of people are featured in the daily happenings, and in pretty much every instance they are identified. I get excited when I see people in the panels that I have met at SPX. I also like that in addition to so much of the journal being in and around SCAD, there is also a lot of 'action' taking place in Virginia, which gives me more things to identify with.

Burkhalter is a pretty terrific cartoonist, and it really is interesting to see just how much a style can change and refine after years of doing daily journal comics. His earliest panels that are posted are very good, and work just fine, but following those through to the most recent postings is really just incredible. Check out his work and enjoy

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cape (TV Show - Spoiler Warning)

We watched the premiere 2 hours of The Cape on NBC last night.It was less of a 2 hour premiere than it was a one hour premiere and first episode shown back to back, in that the story in the first hour wraps up, and a new plot line comes up for the second hour. There is continuity of course, and it worked just fine for me as I like getting 2 hours of a new thing right up front. This way we got the origin, and some development as well.

The Cape, as far as I know, is an original TV property, which is good, as it allows for none of the fan ranting that a character is being portrayed wrong, etc. that you get from properties that were comics first, or otherwise have an established run of some sort. It is VERY much in the style of superhero comics, and fortunately it has a sincere golden age vibe to it without being a deconstruction or a camp heavy send-up of the genre. It has a sincerity to it and also a good amount of humor and fun in its execution and character personalities and their interactions with one another. What was good about this show is very similar to what I find appealing in the Fox show Human Target. There is action and adventure, but there a compelling characters, and decent character interaction, etc., without coming off as too heavy or dark, but also not too light or campy. It is a nice balance.

Here are the basics:
The show takes place in the fictional 'Palm City'. Good cop, former soldier Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is our hero. He is on a police force that not only has a good bit of corruption, but one that is also on the verge of being privatized by a giant security firm called ARK, which is run by billionaire Peter Fleming (James Frain). At the beginning of the show, a new, good police commissioner is being sworn in/introduced, whatever, and he is killed with a new sort of explosive device right under everyone's nose, and with Faraday overseeing the security detail on the commissioner. The crime was committed by the masked murderer known as Chess. Later, Faraday's friend on the force suggests he join ARK prior to the firm taking over the police, and that way he can be in a good position, etc. Faraday gets a message from mysterious covert blogger Orwell, who routinely exposes corruption in the police and government. The message points him in a direction to uncover the truth about Chess and the explosive used to kill the police chief(or whatever he was). Faraday goes all good cop and pokes around, finding out that ARK is smuggling the explosives in other products. His friend betrays him, and Fleming, who of course is also Chess, sets up Faraday as being Chess. Faraday flees and seemingly gets killed in an explosion, but is actually taken into custody by a group of circus folk and performers who rob banks as The Circus of Crime.

At no point so far in the show are you winked at. Yes, if you over scrutinize, some of this will seem ridiculous, but it is done in a way that lets you stay immersed, and doesn't take you out of the story so much that you start nitpicking or worrying over those things. Circus of Crime is a pretty awesome thing, and certainly a well used device. I get a golden age feel to it as you have these sort of exotic mentors and a well trained hero that is based firmly in good. He works with the circus, and helps them commit crimes, but they establish that their crimes will be against ARK and Fleming, so it works with Faraday's need to avenge himself because of him.

Max Malini (Keith David) Is a standout in this as a master illusionist and sort of curator of the craft who has turned to crime, but not abandoned showmanship in the least. Once he signs on to help Faraday, he provides him with a special one of a kind pure spider silk cape with a weighted hem, etc. and overseas his training in all of the great super hero friendly circus disciplines. He arranges a regimen of instruction in fighting styles that favor a cape, as well as cape based disappearing illusions and hypnosis, etc. Some of these at the hands of other circus folk. There is no sense of time in the training montage, but at the end of it all he becomes The Cape, a shadowy figure who uses stealth, escape, and a cape that acts like a whip in many ways to thwart crime and get at The man who separated him from his wife and son (since he is considered dead, but would put them in jeopardy if anyone discovered he was alive.)

Comics, in particular a comic called The Cape, are important in this story. He gets the idea from the comic book that his son likes, and that he shares a special bond with his son over. They covertly read the comic together at night when the mom is out of the room, etc. I thought that was a nice nostalgic element there too. The idea of a parent and child bonding over comics is a pretty nice on to me. My daughters share an appreciation of comics with me, and when I was little, before I started getting comics with adult themes and art in them (Love and Rockets) My dad used to pick up my comics and enjoy reading them as well. I like that it is shown here, and that a primary part of his using the comic character persona is to show his son who he can't be with, that one person can make a difference.

As if I needed more to like about this show, Orwell(played by fan favorite Summer Glau... I saw it written that way somewhere, so I had to use that line myself) is like Watchtower from Smallville, rolled up with Eyes Only from Dark Angel. Very very similar to both in the tech and media/ exposing corruption angle, and the ability to do anything with computers, etc.) Her character is pretty good, but may be a slightly weaker point of the whole setup. We will have to see how it develops.

I am pretty sure I will continue watching this for a while. I really do like all the elements that are brought together. It has so many things in it that are comic tropes without seeming stupid. You see something, or hear a reference Like the secret criminal society the Tarot (which sounds like The Fraternity(from Wanted) and all the other shady organizations named after tarot or chess, etc.) and it makes you smile and nod. It hits a lot of notes, and does it in an authentic seeming way, what I was calling sincere earlier.

The pilot is available online, and I think will air again tonight. It is worth giving a watch if you like super heroes in my opinion.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What I took away from X3 The Last Stand, This time

I rewatched X3 again today with my daughters. My reasons for this are my own, but I took away two things from this rewatching that I hadn't previously.

1.) I was able to do MST3K running commentary through the entire thing, and it certainly enhanced my enjoyment of the movie (My daughters were able to join in to some degree, and a good time was had by all.)

2.) This is a spoiler if you haven't watched the movie, so you've been warned... At the battle on Alcatraz at the end, as Wolverine is fighting his way toward Jean, this revelation stood out, and once again, my Hugh Jackman loving 16 year old daughter pointed this out... Wolverine has magic pants. His skin, his shirt, everything, is being shredded. His skin is being peeled off, his clothes are gone, except his pants. His pants are there, and mostly unharmed. I for one am glad this was the case, and I am going to assume for the purposes of not accepting any other answer that my daughter is glad they stayed on as well, but they sure did survive, and at point blank range, while the woman was vaporizing everything else around her, his magic pants stayed on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Resolution Is This

In 2011 I will kick all kinds of comic blogging ass.

Or I will post at least once, whichever actually happens. Since my last post I have picked up a number of good comics and some comics I assume will be good. I have, but haven't read, Carol Tyler's second book in the 'You'll Never Know' series. It looks great and I have read some of it. It continues the interesting mix of biography / autobiography / project diary, etc. That the first book had, and i am pretty certain I will have some things to say when I finally get to reading it.

I picked up Locke and Key volume 2 and have already read and thoroughly enjoyed it.

My youngest used some of her gift certificate to buy the hardback of Beasts of Burden by Dorkin and Thompson. As beautiful as the comics were, this thing really just glows as a hardback. It is absolutely beautiful, even when depicting gore and grossness. I need to read all the extra material I never had a chance to read as I was picking up the issues.

Happy New Year friends.