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Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Subject:FCBD 2010
Time:4:29 pm.
Mood: contemplative.
So... another first Saturday of May and another Free Comic Book Day down. When you stop to think about it, it's amazing that it's gone on for so long, I don't know how many years it's been now?

I keep thinking I'll skip this year's, but I always seem to make it down to the shops to grab a stack of freebies-- despite already having a sizeable backlog of paid-for comics I've yet to read..... but this year I tried to read as many as I could right away, and I've gone through most of them I think.

I try only to pick up titles that I think will interest me; and titles that look interesting but I wouldn't pick up normally just to see if I'll be surprised. Honestly, it hasn't really happened yet.

One comic in particular, it was called The Puppy Sister and I grabbed one on the chance that it might be nice for my nephew & 3 year old niece. The art was not awful but it definitely looked not-quite-ready-for-primetime. The story itself, what little there was, was a bit.... creepy. I dunno, it's about a dog that thinks of itself as a human sibling or something? And the FCBD version of this comic was merely a teaser so there's not much substance to it. What I didn't realize when I grabbed the comic was that it's a flip-book-- and the other half of it is Bluewater Production's Fame comic series. Specifically, A Lady Gaga comic.... I assume these are supposed to be biographical comics, but this story was... odd. It's about a guy who likes only classic rock yet he finds himself strangely compelled to Lady Gaga's music. It's a bizarre story-- almost so-bad-it's-good, but really, it's just bad.  Again it's only a teaser, but I have to admit I'm curious where this trainwreck's heading. Like what does this story have to do with Lady Gaga, is it going to be how her music changed his life or something? Or is it going to dovetail into a Lady Gaga bio, but seen through this fanboy's eyes??? I have no idea. What really bugged me was the art isn't bad--except the artist draws insanely oversized forearms on his people. It's ridiculous, if I can find a sample I'll post it, but man.

I actually threw the comic into the recycling bin, basically threw it away. I rarely, if ever, have done that before... but I don't want it. And I don't feel comfortable giving it to my niece & nephew... so what was I going to do with it?

One of the few surprises was the G.I Joe #155 1/2 comic. I believe this is a continuation of Marvel's G.I. Joe run...  which I never collected. I've never been all that big a fan of G.I. Joe, but if I had, this would be awesome. As it is, it actually looks quite cool, the art seems pretty good.

One of my big concerns about Free Comic Book Day is that it's been going on for years now. There's lots of media coverage; I heard about it on the radio a couple times, and I've seen it mentioned on the local news, etc. This year even the local public library participated; giving away free comics! (I didn't check that out though) So the media exposure has been growing steadily-- a good thing, and one of the intended goals of FCBD.

BUT..... we see crowds & crowds of people rush to the comic stores to get their free comics.... these crowds of people *only* come into the comic stores once a year, yup on Free Comic Book Day. They don't buy any comics, only pick up what's free and it's "see you next year".

The other major goal of Free Comic Book Day is to hook new readers, get people back into the comic shops and re-aquaint them with new titles or introduce comics to readers who've never been into comics before. And I suspect that FCBD is *FAILING SPECTACULARLY* at that goal. I don't know what it's like on a national or international scale, but I just don't see new comics readers coming back the next Wednesday, when the comics aren't free.

I'm not sure.... has FCBD's time passed? Should FCBD continue? Is it working? I never expected it to work right away from the first time... I'd always hoped they'd continue it every year to grow the idea & promotion gradually. They've done that, but is it enough?

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Subject:Dynamite buys Vampirella
Time:8:26 pm.
Mood: surprised.
Wow... this is a bit of a shock! Reading that publisher Dynamite Entertainment has bought the Vampirella property... not just licensing her, but outright owns her now.... interesting.

Dynamite is a more stable publisher, with a line of comics rather than centered around only Vampirella which is what Harris comics seemed to become-- though I think I remember them publishing a few unrelated titles; trying out some new properties during the '90's boom.....

The question is, what will Dynamite do with Vampi? Over the years I have bought a few Vampirella comics and tried out her various reboots but nothing has really stuck with me. Having a decent artist attached is high on my list of needs for a Vampi comic... but I'd really like an original, different & interesting take on the character & the world of Vampirella. I don't know a lot about her, but she's from another planet? A "space vampire" take sounds hokey, but exploring the sci-fi as well as the supernatural aspects of the character would set her apart from the many, many other vampire tales like Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, etc.... as long as a writer could spin it in a way that's compelling..... we'll see.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Subject:Galactica 1980
Time:1:33 pm.
Mood: impressed.
I am still slogging through my massive backlog of yet-to-be-read comics sitting on my longboxes since before and after my trip to China.

One of my most anticipated series was Galactica 1980, the 4 issue miniseries put out by Dynamite. I read #1 & #2 before I left, and was really excited to read the final 2 issues when I got back.

Galactica 1980 #1 was one of the best first issues I've read in a long time. When I first heard that there was going to be a Galactica 1980 comic, I almost couldn't believe it-- somebody's going top resurrect that idea?? How hokey! I picked it up purely for curiosity's sake.... but I have to admit I was blown away with how #1 turned out.

When I watched the TV show as a kid, there was a sequence with Cylon raiders flying over our Earth cities, blowing away buildings... and it was just such a cool teaser; seeing those images in the ads, I HAD TO WATCH THIS SHOW. But of course, none of that actually happened, it was a simulation or something, and the actual TV series was pretty lame.

I'm not spoiling things, but Galactica 1980 #1 took that cool basic idea and DID NOT wuss out like the TV show did. With all stories, I want to see change... and #1 provided that bigtime. This is NOT simply an adaptation of the TV series, it goes in some massively different directions.

But the full 4 issue miniseries is only ok. There's not a lot of development in the story, and it sort of is simply a one-trick pony, which is kind of disappointing. There are some nice ideas hinted at, and I'm not sure if they're going to come out with a "Galactica 1981" which was promised at the end of #4.... another thing I hate, miniseries that don't actually end....

The art is pretty good. The characters may not be photo-likenesses, but there's a solidity to the art and it doesn't appear too rushed. Overall I was fairly happy with the series, though it could've been better.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Subject:Wonder Woman
Time:1:56 pm.
Mood: anxious.
I've always considered myself a fan of Wonder Woman... but I honestly never really collected the series much. The only Wonder Woman run I collected was way back when William Messner-Loebs was writing & newcomer Mike Deodato Jr. handled the art. The big draw for me was Deodato, but I was interested in the whole Artemis-becoming-Wonder-Woman story arc too.

So I'm more of a casual fan of Wonder Woman than a hardcore, I suppose. And yeah, you might be able to dismiss me as just "another fanboy who wants to look at a hot girl". That is true. But really... I *do* want to like Wonder Woman as a character, storyline and comic series. I've thought about trying to find the Jodi Picault story arc, 'cause she's "a big mainstream writer", maybe she'd bring something fresh to the series that would appeal to someone like me who's not familiar with all the backstory.

I've tried reading Gail Simone's Wonder Woman and her Birds of Prey, and did not enjoy either. So now she's leaving Wonder Woman and who knows what writer will be stepping in. But I hope that whoever it is, they are able to reach out to casual fans like me who don't follow her regularly. Make some compelling stories. That would be great.

Oh waitasec... the new writer for Wonder Woman has been announced as J. Micheal Stracynski .....hmmm.... that could be promising.

The question still remains.... can I be a WW reader again?

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Subject:digital comics in 2010?
Time:8:53 pm.
Mood: curious.
I'm reading this newsarama article polling editors on the future of comics in 2010 (and beyond)...

The general consensus seems to be that digital comics are a growing part of the business, and some may feel that it's a format that will ultimately take over the industry. I don't know... I personally am not all that fond of reading comics on a screen yet. But I don't rule out the possibility of a format or tool that makes it more enjoyable. Haven't come across one yet though.

I still like reading paper comics. One of the reasons is that it's a way to do something that is NOT in front of a screen.

And  the freedom that your eyes looking at physical media gives you, your hands can flip the pages back/forth, sideways, pull it closer to your face.... It's very difficult for software to replicate all these little things we do without thinking about at all. However, the same things were said about digital technology and the optical camera lense. Digital cameras couldn't compare with a physical SLR camera for a long time. And we all know how that turned out.

One thing about digital comics that I like is the idea of having content in a small portable package like an iPod Touch or PSP. We're starting to see 2 of my loves come together with the recently-introduced comic reader app for the PSP. But the comics aren't available in Canada, so I have no idea if it's a good app.... you have no idea how much it irks me to have this comics reader app staring at me on my PSPgo's XMB, yet I can't use it..... and I'm still not keen on the idea of buying digital comics content yet.

And physical comics are not all good. They take up space.... as someone with over 15 longboxes, I know that only too well. And they're fragile, I'm always worried about creasing or damaging them while carrying them around or whatever.

I've talked about digital comics before, and I don't really have much new to say about the format. I can see it growing, but it still lives alongside the physical media... unless significant steps are made, it's not ready to supplant it.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Subject:Disney buys Marvel
Time:8:00 pm.
Mood: contemplative.
I'm sure it's old news by now that Disny has purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion.

I have to admit I'm behind on the news, haven't really been around this week so when I heard I was pretty surprised. Everybody's wondering what this will mean for Marvel, for their comics, & comics in general.

Honestly, I have to say that at this point, I can't see it meaning much for Marvel comics, or the comics industry as a whole. People are speculating that with Disney's marketing clout, comics will get a much higher profile that they've never had before.

You know... I heard a few years ago that the R.C.M.P. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or "Mounties") actually pay Disney to handle their licensing & marketing. That's pretty weird.... but I suppose that shows how powerful Disney's marketing is.

But when it comes to the purchase of Marvel, I seriously think that what they were eying bigtime was the movie potential of Marvel's properties, as those have made the most $$$ for the company in the last several years.  Everything else is gravy.

In the movie industry, comics are seen as testbeds and raw materials for "products" with the ultimate goal of eventually being cultivated into movie & licensing franchises. Back before Frank Miller became part of that system, he quite honestly & accurately referred to the process as "strip-mining comics".

So I can't see Disney really caring much about the day-to-day comics part of the Marvel business... unless that part does something that could embarass Disney. THEN we'll see the Disney corporate hammer come down hard. But every big corporation is like that.

Marvel was the first comic company I collected. The first couple years of collecting, I easily fell into the category of "Marvel Zombie"; I refused to buy DC comics for some reason... and as far as I knew, there *weren't* any other companies other than DC or Marvel. Oh yeah, I knew there was "Archie", hehe.

Then I started discovering the independent comics companies, Comico, First, Eclipse, etc.... I even started reading the odd DC comic... but what really captured my interest was the non-super-hero comics, often in black & white, published by small companies & many were so, so original. 

I never gave up on Marvel comics, other than when they left Previews, pre-bankruptcy period, I call this the time they went behind the "Marvel curtain" because when they left Previews to start their own distributor I never saw/read any news about them. They were completely cut off; like a Soviet Bloc country during the Cold War. Even now, they are back with Previews, but they aren't *IN* Previews, yes I get Marvel Previews but I hardly ever look at it.

And now, I'm collecting about 2 Marvel comics. Fantastic Four-- I started that title because of Millar/Hitch's run-- but it was extremely disappointing. And Astonishing X-Men. I haven't even read that run yet, I have almost 30 issues to catch up on. 

I'm not a Marvel hater, but it just so happens I'm collecting very little from them right now. Same with DC. I still love my independents.  I do hope Marvel flourishes & can somehow recapture me as a reader.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Subject:Iron Man Armor Wars TPB
Time:11:35 pm.
Mood: grumpy.
I've been catching up on a couple of oldskool Marvel sagas lately.... I bought the TPB of the original Squadron Supreme 12-issue limited series from Curious' Block Party sale for $5.00! Pretty good deal. On the back, Marvel retails it for.... $29.99 US/$48.00 CAN. The TPB is dated 2005. FUCK YOU MARVEL. Sheesh. What a ripjob. Assholes.

The other TPB I just read, I took out from the public library: Iron Man Armor Wars. This was priced at $24.99 US/$40.00 CAN. Printed way back in... 2007. Did I mention... FUCK YOU MARVEL? FUCK YOU UP YOUR FUCKING INCOMPETENT CANADIAN PRICING ASSES.

Anyway..... oddly enough, I never read these story arcs when they came out. I remember people telling me about them, and that they were better than you'd think. I wouldn't say I scoffed at them or anything, but they didn't appear to be special in the way that Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns were obviously special. Squadron Supreme especially gets compared to Watchmen as the years go on & on. I'd say that's a stretch. I'm only halfway through the TPB, but if you're expecting the sophisticated kind of storytelling of Watchmen, Dark Knight, or V for Vendetta, you'd be quickly disappointed. I just read V for Vendetta earlier this year/last year, and though there are things in it that show its age, it is still very timeless.

Squadron Supreme definitely looks & reads like a Marvel comic from 1987, when it came out. The dialogue & plots are hokey; there's one panel where someone gets mad & yells, "You sons of fishes!".... BUT... there is an underlying subversiveness to the overall story that does transcend it's hokiness. In a way, it's a comic that was ahead of its time. You can see direct parallels to the great Ellis/Millar written issues of The Authority in the Squadron Supreme miniseries... and that was published over 10 years BEFORE The Authority.

Iron Man Armor Wars was another story arc that got a little bit of buzz. Certainly not as much as Squadron Supreme, but in the years since it came out, I'd grown more & more curious about it because of the storyline: Tony Stark finds that his technology has been stolen & used in other armored characters, both good & bad. He goes on this obsessive quest to destroy it. What intrigued me so much about this story idea is it sounds very corporate, especially with electronics tech. Reading so much on the video game industry lately, I've seen countless lawsuits & claims of patent infringement. Sony couldn't put rumble in their PS3 controllers for over a year because they lost such a suit. You wouldn't believe how many companies have come out of the woodwork to try & sue Nintendo for their motion controls, and Apple for... whatever iPod. Both have successfully defended their tech, mostly. So this idea in Iron Man sounds very plausible.

But I have to say that that's where the inventiveness of the story ends... with that general idea. Tony just goes around beating up anybody techy, and fusing whatever Stark tech they have in their suits using some doohicky. There's some mention of him using lawyers to fight it out legally as well, but all a bit oversimplistic. I don't want to read a bunch of pages of court decisions... I know this comic is about super-heroes beating up bad guys & good guys & getting all conflicted about that. But there should've been more corporate consequences to stealing Tony's tech. They kept mentioning that Justin Hammer's company is the one who sold the tech to all these villains & gov't. agencies, but NEVER does Tony confront the "dealer". He only goes after the "addicts" .

There is an oddly prescient sequence where one of Tony's experts comes up with a way to eliminate the data for the stolen tech from enemy computers. They employ what they call a "tapeworm"; a computer program that goes around to all the world's networked computers and erases any data that coforms to Tony's stolen tech (Stark's computers are password protected). It "loops around the world continously", so it never can be deleted. Remember that this is 1987, way before the Web, and I'm sure the writers didn't have any inkling of the internet either.

The final battles are with a generic armored guy called "Firepower", who was probably made up specifically for this story arc. Though his name was on an early list of possibles, they really shied away from the idea of Dr. Doom being a patent infringer. That's a bit wimpy, because that would've made a hell of a battle.  Strangely enough, though the story arc was clearly called Armor Wars (I remember it when it came out, and the TPB's called that) the title inside each issue reffers to it as "Stark Wars". Wha??? Lame.

I've said this before, I think of Tony Stark/Iron Man almost as the opposite of Batman. Why? Well, Batman is the real identirty, the playboy millionaire/billionaire(?)  Bruce Wayne is the mask, right? He only does the playboy Bruce Wayne stuff to cover for being Batman. Well, Tony Stark *IS* a playboy million/billionaire.  That's who he is. But he's also got a heroic streak in him which compells him to be Iron Man. Iron Man is a way for him to justify being Tony Stark, whereas almost the opposite is the case for Batman. Anyway, that's just what I think.

If I could write Iron Man, I'd bring more of his corporate life into the storylines, so maybe that's why I was a bit disappointed with the Armor Wars story arc. Still, Iron Man Armor Wars is not a bad read, just not worth $40.00 CAN.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Subject:Watchmen movie
Time:6:01 pm.
Mood: annoyed.
I finally got a chance to see Watchmen.... it's not a bad movie (not sure what someone who's never read the comic would make of it though)

My biggest issue is that they broke the ending. Or rather, the climax of the story.

WARNING: SPOILERS if you haven't seen the movie/read the comic...Collapse )

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Subject:Star Wars 3.75" action figs
Time:8:23 pm.

Star Wars 3.75" action figs

Last few days I've been suffering from a different kind of hand-held addiction.

I don't know why, I guess it was all that re-playing of Force Unleashed on both my Wii and PSP-- but I just got into the action figures big time! While I was looking for the battle-damaged Darth Vader fig from the game, I came across a few other really nifty ones.

There was a 2 pack with Darth Talon (pictured left) and Cade Skywalker. They are from the comicbook series Star Wars: Legacy, which I'm enjoying. It's set about 100 years after Return of the Jedi, and focuses on Cade Skywalker, Luke's grandson.

Darth Talon is an *awesome* figure. She's got all those Darth Maul-like tattoos, and is a Twi'Lek, which I really like. the Cade Skywalker figure's ok, but I bought the 2 pack just for her. She's my favourite fig of these recent aquisitions.

I also got an Obi-Wan dressed in clone trooper outfit with removable helmet. I like having him hold it rather than wear it. He's really posable, moreso than Darth Talon. Looks pretty cool.

more pics...Collapse ) I keep picking these toys up and fiddling with them... the joints are bound to get loose.... guess this is my vestigal form of playing with toys..... haven't gotten to the point where I'm re-enacting scenes + dialogue with them yet, but give it time.... sigh.....


Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Subject:Locke & Key: Headgames #1
Time:3:15 pm.
Mood: impressed.

The Locke & Key miniseries was one of, if not my favourite comic to come out last year.

It looks like it's going to be a series of miniseries, which is a good thing if it gives the top-notch creative team breathing space between minis to polish their stuff.

I had Locke & Key: Headgames #1 and #2 sitting on my comic pile for a long time.. they both seemed to come out fairly close to each other. But because I loved the series so much, I want to save it til I was ready to enjoy it.... that's just the way I work....

So I read Locke & Key: Headgames #1 just now.... oh man... this was such an EFFIN GOOD read. In just a mere 22 pages we are introduced to a never-before seen character, and get enough about him to really understand where he's coming from.... writer Joe Hill just does such a superb job of handling this story. and Gabriel Rodrieguez's art lives up to the consistant high standards he's maintained. The 2 page spread with the stage scene of The Tempest blew me away! Seriously awesome stuff.

If you like Stephen King/Dean Koontz-styled "subdued horror", you should definitely give Locke & Key a try.

Comicbook dialogue: 2 word balloons | add your thought bubbles.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Subject:new comics 2/4/2009 - Hotwire #1, No Hero #3, Crossed #3, Amazing Spider-Man Obama, Dark Ivory #4
Time:12:16 am.
Mood: content.

Seems like I've been griping a lot about recent comics purchases, whether it's art or bad story.... so it's really quite a pleasent surprise to get a big batch of comics that are pretty good--especially in the art dept.

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #1 - This comes from Radical Comics, the same publisher as Shrapnel. The big difference being, where Shrapnel is full of murky artwork, the art for Hotwire is REALLY incredible. The writing & art is done by Steve Pugh. I'm normally not a fan of his artwork, especially his pencil/ink stuff. I remember he penciled Superman vs Terminator something like 4(?) years ago, and it was not all that good.... though it was slightly better when he inked his own pencils.

With Hotwire, he's doing all painted art, and man.... this stuff just kicks ass! It's really beautiful. Think early Alex Ross, like his first Terminator: Burning Earth miniseries, but the setting is more Bladerunner-like. The concept which was based on a story by Warren Ellis, is kinda cool too: Alice Hotwire's sort of a ghostbuster detective in a world where spirit enegery is running rampant. It reminds me of a much grittier version of Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within (but without the philisophical stuff)

*read Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #1 preview*

No Hero #3 - Warren Ellis & Juan Jose Ryp's miniseries about yet another "postmodern take on super-heroes"... uh-huh.... but I'm reading this based on the strength of the creators. Still, if the story realy sucked, I would still drop it, but it's turning out to be a compelling read. I think a lot of readers don't realize one of Warren Ellis' strengths is that he can bring out the best of the artists who work with him. it's really evident here; as the first few pages of this issue are splashpages of hallucinatory nightmares, and Ryp just goes to TOWN on these pages.... you can tell Ellis knows when to just back off & let the artist do his thing, which is really awesome. Juan Jose Ryp is so influenced by Geoff Darrow, but his page output is way higher... it's really interesting to see.

Crossed #3 - I got all excited when I saw that another issue of Crossed came in, and then I thought, "what the hell's wrong with me?!" This is one sick title, I've said it before. This issue was a bit different than previous; there's less outright gore, but it still manages to be one of the most disturbing issues yet. I'm now convinced that this title is NOT simply about trying to shove as much gore in the readers face as possible, it's a serious effort to examine our darkest natures. Crossed #3 puts the horror back on the shoulders of the survivors; illustrating what people are willing to do to survive. I keep thinking, "how is this comic going to end???" It keeps being hammered into us that "there's no magic cure coming". Crossed is very much the antithesis of the Star Trek: TNG-to-Voyager storytelling; you know how at the end they'd find some convenient techno-babble way to solve the problem, or the bad guys would suddenly see the error of their ways. Not in Crossed, that ain't happening. But how WILL it end? Lord, I hope they have a good ending worked out. In the sad state of comics storytelling nowadays, it'd be amazing if they even KNOW or REMEMBER how to end a story.....

Amazing Spider-Man #583 (the Obama issue, 4th printing) - Yeah yeah, I bought it. At least I admit it. I thought, "what the hell I'll fork over the small amount of WHAT THE--$5.00 CANADIAN?!?!?!" Yeah, it's $3.99 U.S., and somehow that translates to 5 bucks. Seems a bit much for a regular comic. The Obama backup story is 5 pages, so it's 22 pages + 5 page backup. The same price I pay for Hotwire or IDW comics, but those hare printed on thick glossy paper, with high production values. This is on relatively crappy paper, with cheapo production values. But it's got Obama in it. Oh well.

Actually, I was interested in the (non-Obama) main story; I hadn't read an issue of ASM since One More Day I think? This issue was about Betty Brant's relationship to Peter. I've always liked Betty, and I never got why Peter never hooked up with her. That kinda pisses me off. The story & art was done by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson. It's not terrible, but not really standout either.

The Obama backup story was written by Zeb Wells with art by Todd Nauck. I'm a fan of Nauck's art, so I was excited for that... but...... to say this story was crap might be a bit harsh. But it was bad.

Nauck's artwork isn't bad, but he didn't really capture Obama's likeness at all. Like a lot of falings with likenesses in comics, I felt like his style got in the way of trying to depict Obama.

It was revealed in the letters column (letters columns are back?) that this story was done a week before the issue went to press, when Marvel found out that Obama is a Spidey fan. Less than 7 days to produce 5 colour comic pages..... that probably means the writer had about 10 minutes to send in his script... who knows how much time Todd Nauck had to pencil the pages, there's no inker it was printed from his pencils which is normally cool, but I felt like the colouring was overdone. So yeah, there's some justification for this story being less than it should've been, but.... maybe Marvel shouldn't be pandering tripe-meisters & just try to do GOOD comics....

Dark Ivory #4 - The final issue of the miniseries. Speaking of ending stories.... it really pisses me off how comics never really end miniseries properly anymore; they keep everything open in hope of continuing the "franchise"... at expense of the actual HERE AND NOW story. Dark Ivory leaves things very open, but for some reason I'm still satisfied with this series. The artwork by Joe Linsner is up to his usualy current standards... he's become a bit more cartoony since his heyday with the Dawn stuff, but I'm still loving his work.

Comicbook dialogue: add your thought bubbles.

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Subject:Amazing Spider-Man #583
Time:2:04 am.
Mood: surprised.
Ok, this is something I think I should note.

Amazing Spider-Man #583, which has a backup story where President Obama appears, is now in it's 5th printing.

I have to admit I don't own a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #583, and have not read it. I think that I flipped through a copy once, but I guess I wasn't quite taken with it to get it? I am considering picking up a copy though... maybe I'm just a comics sheep? Part of me wants to see what all the fuss is about. And $2.99 U.S. (or however much an issue of ASM costs) seems like a small amount even if it turns out to be fluff.

Obviously, Obama-mania is sweeping planet Earth. He is tremendously popular right now.

But I can't remember the last time I've seen comics reprinted so quickly. It was last week, maybe 2 weeks ago when I saw the 4th printing of Amazing Spider-Man #583 hit the stands. Is the demand for this issue still so strong that they need to go through 5 printings in just weeks? Wow. The only thing I can compare it to is maybe the original black & white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics back in the 80's.... or maybe the first Dark Horse Aliens comics in the 90's... but I know that the Aliens comics weren't reprinted so quickly....

What will happen if public opinion eventually turns against Obama? Say he does some really unpopular things down the road, and people start chanting, "Worst. President. EVAR!!!"... as unlikely as that may seem now, it's possible.

Then all those issues would become albatrosses around fanboys necks; a thing of shame to be forgotten by their collective consciousness. In other words, filling the 25¢ boxes everywhere.

Even if he doesn't screw up, it's still likely that this issue will be filling the 25¢ boxes... with 5 printings.... do you really think that this comic will be considered a collectors item in the future?

As much as I've laid out the cynical side of this situation, there is some positive. a LOT of (this particular) comics are being sold. Sure, such an isolated case doesn't sound good for the industry in general; it's being fed purely by mass "love" for one guy (and that guy ain't Spidey)

BUT..... a lot of comics are being sold. 5 printings must be a lot of demand (I don't know the print run of each printing though.... maybe they are small?)

What this tells me is that the mass public WILL buy a comic in droves if they REALLY want to. We can use all the excuses we want-- that news is carrying this story to non-comic readers, directing them to comic stores they don't normally know of or go to, etc. But they're going to them. They're getting in these stores that we thought they never knew of despite seeing movies made about these comic-book-things, they still ignored the source. But if they REALLY want to, they'll go get comics in comic stores.

So comics can sell in the millions, like back during the 1940's or whenever, even now during the internet age..... right? If it's the right comic, if it hits the right nerve?

I don't know how we can use this info to better the comics industry in general.... maybe we can't.... but it's really interesting to see this odd phenomenon.

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Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Subject:Orange GN
Time:2:19 am.
Mood: disappointed.
One of the hardest things about collecting comics since the 1990's really... is how to judge what's worth taking a chance on.

Previews is basically the only way to order a comic, and the listings for each comic is usually a 1" x 1" picture of the cover accompanied by a 2" x 2" block of text to describe it. That little thumbnail of cover art (if you're lucky, interior art so you can better gauge what it's ACTUALY going to look like) is about all I've had to commit to buying a comic, graphic novel, trade paperback, whatever from Previews.

20 bloody years later, and it's STILL pretty much the only thing I have to tell if a comic is going to be good or not. It's a highly imprecise way to judge a comic.

My latest throw the dart at it & see if it's a bullseye purchase based on 3 inches of info is Orange, a graphic novel from TokyoPop. This kicks off their full colour line, where they print the GNs at near to "regular" comic format rather than the smaller manga format.

Ok, first off... that cover art by writer/artist "Benjamin" blew me away. It looks awesome in Previews. The story description also had me very intrigued:

Her name is Orange. She's a young girl in high school, coming of age in the heart of the city. And she has decided she has nothing to live for. Not her shallow friends. Not her parents. Not school. Not even the empty promise of love. Her head filled with morbid fantasies of suicide, Orange finds herself standing at the edge of her rooftop when the drunken, enigmatic young man, Dashu, enters her world...changing it forever...A heartbreaking tale of a young woman desperately trying to understand the bewildering world around her, brought to life by the luscious artwork of manga icon, Benjamin, Orange is a profoundly moving story of loss and redemption.

I talked about Shrapnel's spotchy painted artwork, and much like that comic-- despite the great cover-- Orange has pretty much the same problem: splotchy, vague rendering rather than finished artwork. I like The Impressionist painters, admittedly my favourite of them is Édouard Manet, arguably one of the most illustrative of that bunch.... but I don't mind not having every detail painted out for me; I can appreciate feeling, impression and 'vibe'... but a lot of the artwork in Orange is really rough looking-- clearly Benjamin is a great artist, unfortunately I feel like I'm looking at rough sketches rather than finished work. On the positive side, it adds to a narrowing focus on the main character which echoes the introspective mood of the writing. But I still felt I needed more to flesh out the world of this story.

When I heard that this was going to be printed at the more traditional (for North American comics) size of approx. 7" x 10", I was really excited. I don't like the smaller manga format, I think it does a disservice to some really great work; like how Appleseed is now printed at that size by Dark Horse rather than the larger size I bought it at when it first came out from Eclipse comics. However, in the case of Orange, because of the splotchy artwork and there's usually only 2-3 panels per page, I suspect it would've looked MUCH better if it had been printed at the smaller traditional manga size. As I was reading it, I kept wanting to move the book as far away from me as possible, to back up from it... the big spotches of indistinct colouring made me feel like I was too zoomed in on it. Not a good feeling.

The story is clearly very personal to the author, and is meant to evoke (dark) feelings rather than focus on plot. Still.... I'm not sure I really get it. It was a fairly fast read, and I'll go over it again. I paid $17.99 Canadian for this... I've been reading a lot of graphic novels from the library, and if I could have, I'd probably have gotten this from there rather than purchase a copy for myself.

*read TokyoPop's Orange preview pages here*


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Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Time:1:16 am.
Mood: disappointed.
Last week I got Shrapnel #1. Behind the generic "action" title of Shrapnel, was a really interesting if classic sci-fi theme: In the world of Shrapnel, all(?) the planets of the solar system have been colonized, and operate as sovereign nations. But Earth has been waging war on them, conquering any planets that try to resist.

Shrapnel #1 is about the war coming to Venus. We are introduced to a mysterious woman who used to be a soldier, and her 2 male co-workers; one is a doofus, the other less so. The characters are a bit cliched-- of course there's a bar fight.... *yawn*-- but there might be some potential for them to be more interesting in future issues.

Shrapnel #1 is 48 pages, for $1.99 U.S. Twice the comic for half the price; a great deal! Radical Comics is clearly trying to get new readers to take a chance on their #1's, it's a great idea. And the heavy paper stock & full colour shows quality production values.

My big problem with the comic is the artwork. Despite these really nice looking covers, which has 2 things I love: a chick AND a power suit. It's 2 great tastes that taste great together.... but the interior art is "painted" using computer colouring techniques... which is fine.... but it's a BAD kind of "painted" art: it's all just muddy splotches of colours here & there without much definition. For the first few pages I could barely tell what I was supposed to be looking at. It got a little better when the story went into the Bladerunner-esque city. But still, despite the high production values, not all that good. Wish it could live up to that cover.

I've noticed that artwork often looks better on tv than in real life for some reason. I don't know why... but I'll see pages for a comic that I have, and when I look at those exact same pages in my hands, they don't quite pop like they do on tv. So with the focus on computer for colouring & effects, I wonder if the crew at Radical were similarly seduced or misled by looking at the pages onscreen rather than in print.

It's a shame because the concept sounds interesting, and like I said, I love the power suits idea... women in power suits even better.... if the artwork was better with the tech, i'd be collecting this for sure. As it is, I can't afford to wait around to see if it gets better.

*CBR has Shrapnel #1 preview pages here*

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Subject:Wii Eisner's The Plot
Time:7:40 pm.

Google has a big sample of the book here-- check it out

So I had a chance to read Wii Eisner's final graphic novel, The Plot - The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Whew, that's a mouthful of a title)

He completed it a month before he passed away. I haven't read much of Eisner's work, honestly-- while I love his backgrounds, and regard his overall storytelling to be the definition of comic book sequential art, I've never really warmed all that much to his cartoony rendering of people. I'm just not into too much "cartooniness", I guess. But I can't deny that his work is really amazing; if there are proper schools of comic book creation, his stuff is THE text book for those schools. I learn things from his pages every time I see them.

The Plot is about a book published some time in the early 1900's called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This book was supposed to be a manifesto of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. By 1920, it was revealed to be a complete fraud; in fact a plagerism of another book, except parts changed to make it appear Jewish in origin. The problem that drove Eisner to create a graphic novel about this is that even though the book was clearly exposed as a complete fake, it's survived and resurfaced again and again throughout history, and used as anti-semetic propaganda, sometimes by famous individuals such as Winston Churchill and Henry Ford. Eisner even discovered it on (surprise surprise) the internet.

First thing I noticed was the artwork blew me away. Eisner uses greytones, as well as pen hatching, and wow. At his ripe old age, at the end of his life, HE IS STILL THE MAN. The background details & settings were just enough to immerse me in the location, yet not overly elaborate. And while I hadn't been that big on his people, here I found them to be very nicely drawn, though on occasion he does step a little too far into melodrama with the rendering. But this is one beautifully rendered book.

Before hearing about this graphic novel, I'd never heard of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion... so refuting it & exposing its true history as a fraud doesn't have as much impact on me as someone who's familiar with it. But as a layperson, reading this GN was fairly accessible... which you wouldn't think given the dry nature of the subject matter. Eisner clearly took great pains to make this story as readable as possible.

While it can be lauded for that, the characters don't really speak all that realisitically or naturally... it really reminded me of these unauthorized rock & roll biography line of comics from the early 90's... I collected the Pink Floyd series (because I'm a huge Floyd fan) and could tell they were just regurgitated magazine interviews & stories set in a comic book setting. So some member of a band would come on panel & say, "I'm Roger Waters and I wrote 'Money'!"... err yeah. Honestly, that's how the characters also speak in The Plot.

But that's not to say it's all cheesy & overdone. Eisner chose this direction because of the dry subject & the focus on the creation of this book that's referred to as "a weapon" against the Jews, as opposed to being lost in the characters involved. If you can get over that concession, I think the story works.

The scariest thing is the theme about how a lie repeated enough times somehow becomes "the truth". I've never really understood anti-semitism.... hell, the fact that it has its own word to define it is freaky when you think about it. Hatred of Jews is so common that we need a word for it..... unfortunately, I didn't find many answers in The Plot to my question about why its so prevelent other than Eisner's explanation that it's easy to pick on a group that has been picked on before.

I'd really like to read The Spirit, but I'm also very interested in Eisner's post-Spirit work because it seems more personal, and deeper. Eisner was someone who always took the comics medium very seriously, and made efforts to try to expand it as an artform.

As I was reading it, I wondered what I'd do if I had to create something as large as The Plot... every scenario I envisioned ends with my head exploding. It's a daunting thought, that he's trying to set right a wrong, on a worldwide scale.... it's honourable & fitting that such a noble goal is encompassed in his final work.

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Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Subject:Farscape comic
Time:5:50 pm.
Mood: cold.

Read Farscape #1 preview pages here

I can't say I'm a die-hard fan of Farscape the way I am of other sci-fi franchises. I was sort of a reluctant fan... I kept hearing such glowing praise for the show & it didn't look justified. Eventually I had the opportunity to sit down & watch a bunch of episodes, and anyone who knows Farscape knows that as a big story, it really works. I definitely "got it".... but still, while I am a fan for sure, I'm not the biggest fan ever.

Still... lately I've been kind of missing it, I guess? So when I heard that the Farscape comic published by Boom! Studios was coming out, I had my local shop put a copy of #1 in my box.

I read an interview in Previews from show creator Rockne S. O'Bannon about the comic. I got excited, but was cautious to see how much actual input he'd contribute to the comic itself. And it seems like the more typical hands-off approach that unfortunately, plagues comics based on tv shows or other media, by the original creators. The story is credited to O'Bannon, but the writing seems to be by someone else. [Keith R.A. Decandido... I got off my ass and looked it up.]

It's ok.... kinda meh, really. Maybe if I was a huge Farscape fan, I'd be more into the comic. The writing is not terrible. It's just predictable, which is generally what Farscape is *NOT* known for... so you can see the problem.

The artwork by Tommy Patterson is also servicible, but not really mind-blowing. Licensed comics artists have it tough; they really need to nail the look of the show they're working from. It can be really tough. A lot of times, companies/artists go, "oh, just fuck it, we won't even try... we'll just say that this character IS who they are from the tv show, and the readers will come around"... I'm looking at you, Supernatural & Battlestar Galactica.

And then they wonder why not even a portion of that huge audience from the tv show DOESN'T chase down the comic book version. Riiight....

But I digress.... the artwork is ok, it's very stiff. I compare it to the current Wildstorm-published X-Files comic with art by Brian Denham. That artwork is stiff at times too, but he usually does a really good job of nailing the likenesses, and when I'm loking at Skinner, Mulder, Scully, even The Lone Gunmen, I feel like I'm back watching the show, which is a good thing. With Farscape, because the characters are all aliens they are usually distinctive-- Rygel is pretty recognizable even if he doesn't look spot-on from the show. But I don't have the same feeling when I'm looking at Crichton or Aeryn.

The story looks to be about Rygel returning to Hyneria, his home planent. So if you really want to know more about that, then this series may be for you. I don't think there's quite enough incentive for this casual fan to keep following this comic.


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Monday, January 5th, 2009

Subject:Doctor Who: The Forgotten
Time:10:29 pm.
Mood: surprised.
Seems like I'd gotten Doctor Who: The Forgotten #3,4,5 really close together. I've talked a bit about this comic before, I'm finding the story to be tighter & better flowing than the previous Doctor Who series from IDW.

#5 ends with quite a shocker. The last few issues in general have surprisingly tied into season 4 of the T.V. show.... luckily here in Canada season 4 wrapped up in mid-Dec., a few weeks ago. Though we still haven't gotten to see the last 2 Christmas Specials.

I'm really surprised how much this ties in; you do need to have seen to the end of season 4 to get this comic. With the twist on the last page of #5, I can't wait to see how #6 wraps things up.

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Monday, December 29th, 2008

Subject:Did CGI kill the comic book?
Time:9:42 pm.
Mood: pessimistic.
If Video Killed the Radio Star, Did CGI kill the comic book?

Throughout the 80's and 90's, the big saving grace, ace-in-the-hole for comics was there were things that could be done in comics that couldn't be done in movies/tv. Before CGI, the idea of Spider-Man being able to look as cool in a movie as he is in the comics, using practical effects, seemed both way beyond budget and not even really possible. There would have to be concessions made. And thinking of doing the more cosmic comic effects like Galactus amidst a space armada fighting Dark Phoenix in movies... well, the comics industry felt reassured that it couldn't be done. There'd always be certain types of effects that could ONLY be done in comics. Even as the popular artists became more stylized-- how could any movie depict the sweep of Spawns cape & cowl as drawn by McFarlane?

CGI changed all that. I remember being pretty blown away by the movie Spawn during a few scenes where it looked almost like a Mcfarlane drawing. And now CGI has evolved to the point where it really CAN depict pretty much anything, no matter how artistically stylized.

So where does that leave comics? Being able to have a "200 million dollar movie in every issue" is a line that can't be bandied about anymore when comparing them to movies. Even though more comic book movies are being made than ever before, with a wider range of subject matter, their mainstream appeal hasn't translated to a bigger comics reading audience. There's no real crossover except comics fans going to the movies, not the other way around.

I just got Dark Knight for xmas, and it's a really great movie. I like it a lot. But I'm wondering if maybe these movies are just symbols of a dead artform, revitalized briefly in celluloid form... only a vestige of the original soul of these properties, these comic book creations-- the movies take what they need, embellish/change the rest, it's a hit with audiences, maybe sequels are made... but ultimately, these are movie franchises. They're not the comic anymore. I get the feeling that to the movie industry, comics are like these dried-up things, which can be re-moistened and added to their projects... the best ones are waiting for them to be cherry-picked.

Super-hero comics are sometimes referred to as "adolescent power fantasies"... it's believed that teenage males gravitate towards the Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc. get some sort of vicarious thrill from reading their exploits. With the trend towards "cinematic" and "storytelling" in video games, are games now the NEW "adolescent power fantasies" instead of comics? Being able to actually interact in a game makes it much more accessible than reading a static story.

What makes comics a distinct and viable art form? In some ways they're like a video, because they tell stories pictorally... and some ways like a prose story, because they also use words on paper to tell stories. Sometimes comics are like a hybrid of the 2 artforms.

And yet, they are sometimes more. Sometimes that combination of words & pictures comes together in a way that only comics can do. It's hard for me to put my finger on it. It's more subtle than "we can have $200 million worth of special fx because all it takes is a good artist to draw it"...

But I don't know if those subtlties are, I dunno... flavourable enough to respark a huge interest in comics like past booms we've seen. So, are comics dead?

I hope not.


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Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Subject:Fanboy Trifecta: Bettie Page, Forrest Ackerman, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry
Time:4:24 pm.
Mood: sad.

Normally, weakcut does these Trifecta things... I just spent way too long trying to look up some of his past ones, with no luck. But basically, they are 3 deaths in a short period of time, with a loose common theme of some sort.

This past little while has served up a sad 3some of the fanboy variety, and I can't let it go by without note.

Bettie Page - 50's sex symbol icon, most noted for her bondage & racy photospreads that influenced a generation of artists after her.

Forrest J Ackerman - One of the first sci-fi "fanboys", arguably the one to coin the term sci-fi, noted collector & sci-fi/genre historian, his famed "Ackermansion" was loaded with great stuff like props from famous movies. He also published Famous Monsters magazine.

When I was at Comic-Con 2006, there was a panel with Forrey Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Ray Harryhausen (!!!) and for some reason I missed it on the schedule, and there was some other panel that I "had" to go to. I remember running across that Sails part of the convention center to try to get to Ballroom 20 in time to get in... alas, I was too late, the room was packed. I saw only a glimpse of what must've been an awesome panel with 3 sci-fi greats reminiscing. Sad for me.

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry - Remembered for playing blonde Nurse Chapel in the original Star Trek tv show, but she originally played the Enterprise's first officer in the original Star Trek pilot. That captain, Captain Pike even called her "Number One" if I recall... She & Mr. Spock were the only 2 to survive the 2 versions of the show, though she was recast. She also did all the Starfleet computer voices on Star Trek TNG/DS9/Voyager, as well as playing Lwaxana Troi. Just a few days before her passing, it was announced that she was doing the computer voice in the latest Star Trek movie.

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Subject:comics 12/21/2008
Time:12:35 am.
Mood: cold.
It's been waay too long since I posted here, aside from the sad Bettie Page news that is.

I had some problems with viruses awhile back, and I was very untrusting of IE, which is what I use to post to this LJ. So I waited a long time to see if it looked ok....

A lot has changed in the Canadian comics scene in the last couple months, most of it related to the U.S. economic meltdown.

One of the many unforseen consequences of it was to cause the Canadian dollar to drop like a stone. Go figure-- the U.S. economy is seen as being in shambles, while Canada's economy is seen as one of the strongest in the world, but everyone STILL plunges their $$$ into U.S. greenbacks. I dunno.... it makes me want to kick something just thinking about how screwed up world economics is.

Anyway, the Canadian dollar dropped over 10-15¢ like in a couple weeks. The price of comics for me went up about 25% overnight. It really *REALLY* sucks. I knew that the dreamstate of the high Canadian dollar & paying U.S. cover prices (sometimes even less) couldn't last. But I'm coming down hard on this one. I've been cutting back on my new comics buying. I was collecting a bunch of limited series that have wrapped up their runs, and I haven't been replacing them with new titles. There've been a bunch of comics series that I might've taken a chance on that I just skip if it doesn't look like an essential read.

Weeks have gone by where I didn't have even one comic in my box, which is a bit strange. But even having 4 titles, it costs me $15.00 instead of $10.00-12.00... and it pisses me off.

There are some good ones I'm still/just getting into though...

Crossed - I've posted about #0, and it was so brief I wasn't sure where this title was going. I've read up to #2 now, and I have a much better idea. The comic is about some sort of infection(maybe?) that strips civility out of people and turns them into the worst that humanity is capable of. They get this cross-like scar on their face. This is a zombie/survival story, but it's much more gruesome than the traditional Night of the Living Dead zombie tales. What sets Crossed apart from those is how the infected are not simply hungry (for human flesh), they are TRULY deeply vile and EVIL. They do the nastiest things humans can do to each other, it's really disturbing. yes, they'll hunt people down, rape them while they're eating them, that sort of thing. And they're not entirely mindless either, so there are some really scary possibilities being explored with this comic. It's like the worst kind of mob mentality imaginable.

I'm not into torture porn, I don't get off on seeing gore & such. But I think it can be neccessary for some types of stories, and I don't think it's being gratuitous or sensationalistic just for shock value, otherwise I'd drop this comic. Crossed is a different take on a well-trod genre. It used to be that Vampires were the over-exposed monster du jour: they were everywhere for some reason (maybe they still are) but now it seems like everyone is jumping on the zombie bandwagon, especially in comics. I collected The Walking Dead for awhile, I liked it but grew tired of the slow pacing & repetitive storylines. The "crossed" really scare me. It's hard to make a scary comic book because the medium is much more passive than movies or tv, so the intensity needs to be cranked up... which is why the same amount of gore done in comics comes off as MUCH more intense done in a movie.

I have to admit, I really anticipate each new issue of Crossed. I keep checking the schedules to see when it's coming out. I don't know what that says about me, but I'm really eager to see where this series is going.

Air - I've read up to #4 (still have #5 to read) and wow... this is turning into one of my fave reads. It's quite a contrast to something like Crossed. When I read the Air preview pages, and read #1, it looked like it was one kind of story; a "post 9/11" terrorist type of story. But it quickly morphed into something else, which is a nice surprise for a reader. I think it's more of a whimsical fantasy, which worries me a bit because I could see a lot of potential readers being turned off by the misleading "post 9/11" look that this book started off with.

I have to admit, I'm falling in love with the main character, Blythe. She's a stewerdess with a fear of heights.... I find airline jets don't really give you that sense of being up like many imagine, but it still gives her problems. So why is she a stewerdess? Hmmm.... anyway, she meets a shady character, and gets caught up in a weird conspiracy about a country that doesn't exist... anymore. Air is just a cool read if you're willing to go with it.

I Hate Gallant Girl #1-2 is a 3 issue miniseries about a tryout for a super-hero position, "Gallant Girl". There's this one girl who is totally qualified in all ways except one.... looks. So she's shut out, her dream of being the next Gallant Girl crushed. It's not bad so far, only 1 more issue to go.

My power's threatening to go out on me so I'll leave it here for now. Gotta hit POST quick!

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