Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Thursday we linkblog

—Columbus’ Vaneta Rogers interviews Columbus’ Jeff Smith. And then interviews him some more. Columbusites take note: Spring brings a cool Smith show to the OSU Cartoon Research Library.



—So the problem with Garfield is simply that Garfield is in it, then? Judging by the results of simply removing him from the strips, I’ll buy that.

Related: This is funny. A few years old, but new to me.



—Blogger Dick Hyacinth does one of those things I’m really glad someone did because it seems like a pretty useful resource but also seems like a lot of work, more than I’d ever dare personally attempt. He’s been compiling all of the “Best Of 2007” lists, and, having finally got the last big chunk of lists he was waiting on, has compiled an aggregate list that adds up to the top 100 best-reviewed books of 2007. Check it out here.

The list makes for a good reading—as does Hyacinth’s commentary throughout—and it’s a great place to see if you missed anything significant last year, or, if you work in a library or shop and are in charge of stocking the shelves, this seems like a good thing to have on hand.



Zack Smith talked to Grant Morrison about his Batman work, and Morrison once again lays out a neat way of looking at Batman comics, and his theory that essentially every single Batman story from the Golden Age on really did happen in some way.

The most interesting part was when Morrison addressed the New Gods-reborn-as-DC-heroes rumors:


That was some wee wisp of nothing that got out. When we first spoke about Final Crisis, coming out of the Seven Soldiers series, I had the New Gods cast down onto Earth, and because they’d lost their former shapes, they were cast as spirits or avatars possessing human bodies, like Voodoo gods. [as shown in Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle.

For a brief moment back in 2006, I discussed the idea that the gods could then take over the bodies of familiar DC characters - so that an appropriate hero or villain could become the new Orion or Darkseid, say, and someone equally appropriate would become the new Lightray, kind of thing.

That didn’t happen because no one wanted to mess with either Jack Kirby’s or Gerry Conway’s intellectual property by saying Lightray was now inhabiting Firestorm or something like that. Quite rightly, no-one was willing to change existing DC characters into Kirby characters, because that would immediately confuse the ownership of the character and somebody would get cheated out of equity if that character was used in a movie or TV show or whatever. It’s very much a copyright issue.

Obviously, someone heard some faint years-old echo of this discarded idea and pawned it into the notion that Bruce Wayne was going to become a New God. That was never going to happen. That’s just insane. (laughs)



Yeah, it’s crazy, but it’s really a good kind of crazy. Obviously that wouldn’t work for very long, but as a temporary, one-story kind of thing? It would be extremely cool, whether it’s something of a temporary status quo (bridging Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle and the Countdown status quo of the Fourth World, for example) or something in an Elseworlds type of story.

Beyond it’s potential for a fun story though, it would have been a great chance for some artist or artists to come up with Kirby-inspired versions of the DC heroes’ costumes. Like, what would a Mister Miracle-as-Batman costume look like, or Orion-as-Wonder Woman or whatever? Considering the mileage DC Direct has gotten out of Alex Ross’ Justice costume redesigns, or the fact that DC Direct made a freaking toy out of Batman-as-Green Lantern, a costume that lasted all of two-panels, I think a DCU-as-Fifth World could have lead to some neat visuals and some very happy DC Direct number crunchers.



—Best Shots kingpin Troy Brownfield recently interviewed Kurt Busiek about Trinity. It’s well worth a read for Busiek’s discussion of the project’s origins, and the hints he drops about its future. I’m really looking forward to it, although, I’ve got to say, I really dug Busiek’s original pitch for a shorter, cheaper weekly book too; particularly if he could make it work so that rotating back-ups could be used to push other books.

I ended up being quite enamored of John Rogers’ Blue Beetle once I finally gave it a try, for example, but it took months and months of reading positive reviews of it to get me to tryi it. Once I did, I was instantly hooked. I imagine if I ran across eight-page story by the regular creative team in the back of 52, I would have been on the bandwagon much, much earlier.



—Adam Beechen, the man responsible for one of the worst single issues DC has ever published, as well as one of the worst Batgirl stories and some of the worst Robin stories, will be writing a new Batgirl miniseries, according to a Wonder Con panel announcement.

It was Beechen who, after apparent heavy editorial prodding, took Cassandra Cain from the happy off-into-the-sunset ending that the creators of her monthly ongoing gave her and then turned her into a villain, without, apparently, having ever read a story featuring her before.

Subsequent attempts to make sense of the 180-degree turn in the character—she was jealous of Harvey Dent in World War III, she was hopped up on Terminator drugs in Teen Titans—haven’t even come close to succeeding. Will this be the series to do it?

Well, putting Beechen on the project pretty much assures us that it won’t, doesn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to say, “Hmm, the fans of this character and this book we cancelled for no reason really didn’t care for that story we made Beechen write; let’s try to fix the mess, and have Beechen do it!”

On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of Beechen doing penance. Like, he put his name on that dumb-ass story, then he should have to atone for writing it, you know?

I do hope he’s read some Batgirl stories since that “Boy Wanted” arc in preparation for this miniseries. And, if he’s looking for ideas, he can have this one: The Cassandra Cain we’ve seen since the end of Batgirl is actually the Earth-3 Cassandra Cain, marooned on “New Earth” during all the Multiverse-making shenanigans of Alexander Luthor. The real one has simply been off-panel, or trapped on Earth-3.



—Does it make me a bad person that I really enjoy watching Heidi “The Beat” MacDonald and Dirk “Journalista!” Deppey fight?

Lately they’ve had differences of opinion regarding the BookScan numbers or, to be more precise, Brian Hibbs’ analysis of them, and what, exactly, they mean.

Personally, I don’t know enough about book publishing to care one way or the other, but I’ve been reading all the analysis anyway. Everyone seems to have some level of vested interest in publishing among the folks participating in the dialogue—Hibbs runs a Direct Market shop, MacDonald’s paycheck comes from an institution which covers publishing houses with an emphasis on book-books, Deppey’s comes from a graphic novel publishing house—and all of them know a hell of a lot more about all this than I do. (The extent of my relationship with book publishing? I sometimes read but hardly ever buy books; I often read a lot of graphic novels, and buy too many of ‘em).

Anyway, has the BookScan debate—most of which seems centered in the comments section here— renewed their timeless arch-rivalry?

Perhaps.

Tuesday Deppey made an amusing observation about Marvel's decision to rename all of their Marvel Universe Spider-titles Amazing Spider-Man just a few months before a cartoon series entitled The Spectacular Spider-Man made its Saturday morning debut (Although it’s not like they just cancelled the one called Spectacular Spider-Man, which would have been even funnier; that one’s been gone for a few years now, and the two they renamed were actually Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man. But Deppey’s point that wouldn’t it be smart for Marvel to tie-in a bit through branding still stands, and his “Face it Tiger, you just dodged the jackpot!” gag is still funny).

On The Beat, MacDonald sets Deppey up with “Oh this is so easy. Dirk:” and then quotes his paragraph about Marvel branding their Marvel Universe comics differently then their new cartoon.

Then she follows with the word “Fact.” which links back to a solicitation for an issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man which…also has a different name than Spectacular Spider-Man….?

After MacDonald’s post, Deppey’s point still stands, and his joke is still funny, and while her point is somewhat muddy, I assume she means that Marvel does have a kid-friendly book on the stands for fans of the new Spider-Man cartoon to pick up. (Will they? I don’t know; Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends was my first real intro to Marvel characters, and back then all of Marvel’s comics were appropriate for a reader my age).

Stylistically, MA Spider-Man seems pretty different than what little I’ve seen of the cartoon, with the character designs at least being rather different, and I imagine the status quo will be pretty different between the two as well.

But both will be about a kid who dresses in a Spider-Man costume and shoots webs at people, so I'm sure it's close enough for horseshoes.

Maybe Marvel should retitle MA Spider-Man Spectacular Spider-Man though, if they’re not using the name anyway. Of their various Spider-Men—Marvel Adventures, Ultimate, "616", the retired dad in theSpider-Girliverse—that's the one that will most likely most strongly resemble the cartoon.

The words “Marvel Adventures” is essentially meaningless anyway, translating roughly into, “Hey assholes, these are for kids—you want the bleaker stuff with the devil and the photo-reference art and the continuity the next shelf over.”

I’ve also heard it suggested that the MA titles just drop the MA, since most of the 616 titles use adjectives, while the movies of the same characters don’t (For example, the Spider-Man movies are just Spider-Man, not Amazing Spider-Man, like the comics; The Avengers books are either New or Mighty, but there’s no just plain The Avengers, and so on).



—Speaking of the Marvel Adventures line, this sounds awesome.





—So, how does Hercsrkrulles shave around those chin grooves?




—I wonder what Ed Benes’ page rate is for his work on JLoA. I’m sure he must be doing pretty well financially if royalties are included, it just strikes me as insane that someone like, say, George Perez, will draw this on just part of a page,



And that Benes can spend an entire page of a comic book just drawing Wonder Woman’s butt.


That’s 1/22nd of the entire book there. And that’s part of a two-page splash spread, making it 1/11th of the overall book. Since it’s only $2.99, consumers are paying about 13-and-a-half cents for that particular page. That might not sound like too much, but if you read an issue of JLoA and an issue of Brave and the Bold in the same month, the Justice League book sure seems like a rip-off.

Kind of unfortunate placement of the work “Sanctuary” so close to Wonder Woman’s woman parts too…

See, this is why I can’t read JLoA; just looking at the previews posted on Newsarama makes me feel skeevy!



—Spurred on by the particularly Alias-like last issue of New Avengers, Don MacPherson thinks back on Brian Michael Bendis’ prolific career, and wonders what exactly happened to that guy who did Torso, Jinx and Fortune and Glory that he became the guy who does Mighty Avengers. Give it a read.

MacPherson mentions that Bendis seems to perhaps simply be spread thin, and dude does have a huge-ass work load. He’s currently scripting Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers, and Mighty Avengers monthly, with Powers and Halo whenever-ly, and spear-heading Secret Invasion, right? Am I missing anything?

I’ve noticed that much of Bendis’ Avengers work has seemed to be inspired by the writer’s own struggle against boredom. The use of thought clouds, the odd narrative structures of stories being told as flashback or conversations between characters recounting the events, the interlocking storylines, Iron Man’s armor narrating—Bendis seems to try new things constantly not because they necessarily serve his story, but simply to try something new.

As to why so much of his Marvel Universe output seems to fall somewhere on a range between pretty decent and pretty terrible, and never really reach the heights of his earlier work, I think a lot of it might have to do with Bendis being a victim of his own success, with nothing left to prove.

And it might have something to do with Bendis transitioning into just a writer instead of a writer/artist. A lot of his best work is the work he did as both a writer and an artist. My own personal experience with comics writing and comics writing and drawing is obviously extremely limited, but I’ve noticed when you sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and start putting that script into panels, you immediately begin editing in your mind, and stay in that editing mode throughout. If you’re leaving it to an artist you trust implicitly, like Mark Bagley or Frank Cho or whoever, not only are you less likely to worry about how challenging something is, but you’re constantly thinking about every panel of the story, because you’re concentrating on it as you draw it.

In short, scripting an issue of Mighty Avengers may just be the work of a few hours in front of the computer and an hour’s conversation with Bagley on the phone, whereas if Bendis were drawing it too, it would be a month (or months) spent at the drawing board, scrutinizing every line of dialogue, narration and art.

Anyway, that’s just a theory.

Personally, I’d like to see Bendis give up the Avengers book and spend that creative energy on a second book of Ultimate Spider-Man’s quality. For about eight years now, it’s been one of the very best super-books; I’d like to see one masterpiece, or two great super-books, more than one great book and a half dozen decent ones.

But it’s all moot, really. Even Bendis’ worst work (that last issue of MA is one of ‘em) is no worse than average, and I’m sure he’s making money hand over fist…a lot more than he could possibly make writing and drawing crime dramas or humor work.



—Don’t forget, this week is SPACE, which, in addition to the usual availability of a lot of great small press and mini-comics and the presence of Dave Sim, will also see the debut of his top-secret project Secret Project #1.

The secret of the project started getting widely disseminated on Tuesday, and chances are you’ve already heard all about, but I’m still gonna keep it secret here anyway. You can find out more here at the project’s home site.

Because it’s a weekend in which something super-exciting is going down here in Columbus, I naturally will have to spend much of it at work. But if you see me during the hour or two I might get to visit SPACE, please feel free to give me your comic books and I’ll review them here or in Las Vegas Weekly or on Best Shots @ Newsarama.com, depending on which readership it seems most likely to appeal to. (Or, if you’re planning on coming to SPACE to sell your books, please feel free to mail ‘em to me at the address in the upper right-hand corner and say, “Here, you cheap bastard; here’s the comic I was selling at SPACE” or something along those lines).

Also this weekend are the two SPACE launch parties. The info on those again follows:

Friday, February 29th
8 to 11 p.m.
Monkey's Retreat
1202 North High Street
(near the corner of High and 5th Ave in the Short North)

Saturday, March 1st
8 p.m. until ???
Momo2
2885 Olentangy River Road

And here’s another Tom Williams flier for the events:

4 comments:

Brant said...

RE: "Garfield Minus Garfield", there's another meme that began quite some time ago called "Arbuckle", in which people re-draw old Garfield strips without Garfield's thought bubbles, resulting in a very similar (and I think superior) comedic effect. Check it out at www.tailsteak.com/arbuckle

mordicai said...

I really like Bendis, but yeah. He's been writing like, 6 books? for like, the last three years? I know I'm tired of it. Tired of "fight issues" where there are like, three lines of dialogue, for instance. I think-- fuck this dual Avengers stuff, fuck all this mess. One mainstream capes (Avengers?), One fringe capes (Pulse?), some sidelines (Powers?) & then, go.

Malpractice said...

Caleb, I usually agree with you on most things but Adam Beechin Robin isn't one of them. I think if you just got over the fact of the whole Cassandra Cain Batgirl thing at the beginning of his first arc, you would probably enjoy the rest of his issues. Robin was a consistently fun book under the Beechen/Williams team and was one of my favorite reads for the year or so they were on the book. I also thought it was one of the best runs on Robin period.

On a different note, i can't wait to read Dave Sim's Secret Project Number One.

veghead said...

I did a daily comic strip for the Lantern for two years in the early 90s and didn't get paid a cent. I wonder if Smith is remembering that correctly. The Lantern doesn't seem to be the kind of publication that would have any money around to pay anybody.

Also, I spent a few hours at the Cartoon Graphic Library at the Wex reading Thorn and I remember enjoying it. It is interesting to see where Bone came from.