Thursday, April 03, 2008

Here are some links:

(Get it? There’s more than one Link in that picture? Ha ha!)

—I thought this was funny. Hell, I’d buy a comic about that guy.

—Why are people complaining about Dr. Doom calling Ms. Marvel a whore in the pages of Mighty Avengers?

He didn’t say she was a whore; he just said that she had a whore’s heart. That’s totally different.

—I don’t like Mary Marvel’s new costume design. The black lightning symbol on the white field reminds me of Little Debbie’s Zebra Cakes. And that makes me hungry.

Adam Kubert’s demonstrates his nuanced understanding of drapery on the human figure:

A still-life oil painting of a Little Debbie Zebra Cake:

Incidentally, you can see more still-life oil paintings of Little Debbie snack cakes here. And why the hell is Kubert drawing covers that anyone with a naked Barbie doll for reference could draw? Shouldn’t he be putting the finishing touches on that Superman story from a few years ago he still hasn’t finished yet?

—Speaking of the Marvel family, 17 months after it launched, monthly 12-part series The Trials of Shazam finally wrapped up yesterday. The result? In an effort to clear up the confusion of why books starring Captain Marvel can’t be called Captain Marvel but instead must have the word “Shazam” in the title, writer Judd Winick and his editorial enablers decided the best course of action would be to rename Captain Marvel “Marvel” and have him look more like Shazam and rename Captain Marvel Jr. “Shazam” and have him look more like Captain Marvel. Clear?

—And speaking of DC super-comics I picked up and flipped through in the store without buying yesterday, I came this close to buying my first issue of Supergirl in like forever yesterday, when I saw who that special guest-star who looks like it’s The Phantom Stranger on the cover but whom the blurb said that “you’ll never guess who this is!” is. It was certainly an out-of-left-field guest star…at least until I realized that his old, cancelled comic did crossover with the old, cancelled Supergirl comic. It caused me a lot of angst back in the day, because I wasn’t sure if I should file the issue with my copies of his comic, or with my Superman spin-off comics.

Rich Johnston’s latest Lying in the Gutters col at included a scan of an afterword to a collection of the “One More Day” storyline by Stan Lee.

Guess what? You may not believe this, but the man who co-created most of the Marvel Universe (or at least the lucrative parts of it), the man who still collects hefty checks from Marvel, said he…get this… liked it!

Of course, reading Lee’s couple paragraphs on the subject, I get the distinct impression that he never actually read “One More Day.”

“Sometimes readers forget that a series can’t continue going down the same road forever,” Lee writes. “Think about it. In real life, people may make friends, lose friends, stay single, get married, get divorced, get sick, die, whatever. All the Bullpen is brilliantly doing is giving you characters whose lives are as full of surprises as your own.”

Yes, but the Bullpen didn’t brilliantly have the characters get divorced or one of them die, as happens in real life; they had them do a deal with the devil to magically, randomly alter their lives.

And speaking of CBR, make sure you check out their new and improved design, as well as their new and improved comics critic.

—Check out Matthew J. Brady’s review of Adam Warren’s Empowered. I always find it incredibly challenging to put my finger on what precisely Warren is doing that makes his super-comics so much better than just about everyone else’s (aside from the obvious of drawing them so well or making them so funny), but Brady really rather nicely sums up a large part of that particular book’s appeal. It’s something that’s run through Warren’s previous work on the Gen 13 property and some of his Dirty Pair work too.

—I really like the term “punch-a-bunch,” as Abhay Khosla uses it in his quite excellent review of Secret Invasion #1, which is about twenty times better written than Secret Invasion #1 and about a thousand times more fun to read. I also like that he refers to the Mighty Avengers as the “Badly Written Avengers,” and that he boils the Marvel Universe vs. the Skrulls plot down to a ham-fisted analogy about Marvel vs. Islam.

That didn’t occur to me while reading—I was too busy sighing at that title page quoting a Skrull holy book to make the connection—but I guess it’s all there if you want to see it, right down to the Skrull acts of terrorism being “blowback” from the Marvels attack on them in New Avengers: Illuminati.

I was already looking forward to Hercules vs. the Skrull deities in the pages of The Incredible Hercules but, viewed through the lens as dumb-ass fantasy world metaphor for the dumb-ass real world “My God is bigger than your God” bullshit, it could take on a whole new level of meaning.

—Do DC superheroes benefit from some kind of affirmative action type plan?

I only ask because if you look at Marc-Oliver Frisch’s breakdown of DC’s February sales, you’ll note that Shadowpact has dipped down to the low 15K mark and has already been cancelled, while Blue Beetle and The All-New Atom are selling even worse (14,378 and 13,560 on this chart), and neither of them have been cancelled yet.

Shadowpact stars a bunch of white characters (although Zauriel’s kinda grayish, I guess) and a chimpanzee, while Blue Beetle stars DC’s only Hispanic character with his own book and Atom stars DC’s only character of Asian descent with his own book.

Okay, I’m just being silly, at least about Shadowpact being kept down due to their whiteness, but I am genuinely surprised that those other two aren’t cancelled yet, and I do wonder if a concern with diversity plays a role. As poorly as they’re selling, after all, I expect them to start selling even more poorly soon.

Blue Beetle is getting a new writer to replace John Rogers. Rogers isn’t exactly a marquee name at the moment, but he is the guy responsible for making it such a great comic, and I imagine a lot of those few thousand people are going to miss him. His replacement is Will Pfeifer, who also isn’t a marquee name, and will be dragging the chains of Amazon Attacks behind him like the ghost of Jacob Marley for a while yet.

Likewise, Atom’s new writer Rick Remender is pretty talented, but as far as I can tell, he’s less beloved among super-comics fans than Gail Simone, and as vocal as her fans are, her books don’t tend to sell all that great either. And with the Atom II returning, will fans of shrinky DC superheroes need this title for their fix, or will they just find it over in James Robinson’s new Justice League book?

It seems like Blue Beetle III and The Atom III are about ready to join Aquaman II, Firestorm II and Flash IV in Failed Attempt At Legacy Character Land…

On the subject of DC sales charts, how insane is it that a Booster freaking Gold series is currently outselling The Flash, Supergirl, Robin, Nightwing, Legion of Super-Heroes, a Green Arrow book and two Batman books (Confidential and Gotham Undergound, but still)? Do people just love the Geoff Johns or what?

—Over on his blog, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort deftly and gracefully sidesteps a question that amounts to “Hey, how shitty do you think it is that this shitty piece of Greg Land art is so shitty?”

Before he goes back and answers it anyway:

The history of comics is cluttered with artists who'd swipe their way to fame and glory. Now, today, the technology makes it all the easier to pull from all sorts of other sources as well--photographs or 3-D models or digital images or whatever. But it's really all in how you use it. I wouldn't hire a guy I didn't think could draw the story effectively, but if the guy can do it, then he can do it. A buddy of mine from my art school days had a saying about art that I still use today: "If it looks good, then it IS good." There's more to what a guy like Greg Land brings to his page than his scrap, and that's evidenced by the sales of the projects he draws--if the readership unilaterally decided to turn on him because of the way he uses sources in his artwork, then he'd probably have to approach things another way. But that hasn't happened--there's a tempest-in-a-teapot among a small group of people online, but that's about it.

There’s some discussion about it there, and at

I find it hard to believe that a guy as smart as Brevoort who’s been in comics as long as he has actually believes that Greg Land must be a good artist simply because of “the sales of the projects he draws.” Avoiding the temptation of getting into film, television, popular music and politics for a few thousand counterexamples of the implied “popularity proves quality” statement here, surely Brevoort knows that the best-selling comics aren’t always, usually or ever the best comics period.

In his random comics news story round-up today, Tom Spurgeon links to Brevoort’s blog entry and notes an important element Brevoort’s (hopefully just off-the-cuff) comment overlooks:

[C]onsumers of comic books don't suddenly buy or decide not to buy based on single elements. Both comic book buying generally and series comic book buying specifically are habitual practices that tend to stop when enough dissatisfying elements accrue that it no longer seems worth the investment of time and money. We always talk about the straw that broke the camel's back, but that doesn't mean how all the rest of that straw got on that back isn't just as important.

So Marvel Comics readers aren’t going to “turn on him because of the way he uses sources in his artwork,” because Land’s artwork is a single element in the comics he’s assigned.

His last series for Marvel was Ultimate Power, which was written by very popular writer Jeph Loeb and featured the very popular Ultimates characters in a heavily-promoted cross-over with the cast of Supreme Power.

Before that, he worked on Ultimate Fantastic Four with Mark Millar, probably Marvel’s most popular writer, and an Ultimate book back when the line still had a degree of heat (It was this run that introduced the concept of the Marvel Zombies as a throwaway idea in one arc, to give you an idea of how popular/influential it was at the time).

His next project is going to be one of the flagship X-Men titles.

In all three cases, these are books pretty much guaranteed to sell really well. Put Land on She-Hulk or Amazing Spider-Girl or Black Panther or even Iron Man, or on a creator owned project and see how it does if you really want to gauge his sales-power.

As Spurgeon pointed out, there are a lot of considerations that go into the purchase of a comic book than who the artist is, particularly with these sorts of corporate super-comics with a fanbase that’s followed them for years. Who’s the writer? Who’s the character? What’s the direction of the book? Is the story in-continuity, and will it impact another two-to-twenty comics I’m reading?

The other odd thing about Brevoort’s statement is his statement, “I wouldn't hire a guy I didn't think could draw the story effectively, but if the guy can do it, then he can do it.”

Sooo, did someone else hire Land or what? Because whether you think its ethical to use celebrity likenesses and/or other people’s photos and drawings as “scrap” or not, I think it’s pretty indisputable that Land can’t draw sequential stories effectively (Or, if not can’t, then certainly won’t).

I muddled through his UFF run, but it got increasingly difficult to do so, because the characters were so inconsistent from panel to panel that it was often difficult to tell them apart—they would change facial structure, build and height from panel to panel, depending on the “scrap” being used—and Land is probably the worst “actor” of any comics artist I could think of. Since the reference dictates the emotion he draws in his characters’ expressions and postures, they seem to overact like mimes or silent movie stars, with every panel offering an explosive emotion, because the photo reference being used is from single images meant to convey a single, exaggerated emotion. This is why so many of his characters have what the Internet calls “porn face” or come hither expressions or melodramatic rage.

So, just to reiterate, Greg Land's art isn't very good. But it does lend itself to hilarious, if not quite safe for work, re-dialogue-ing, as Christopher Bird has so ably demonstrated.


Evie said...

Hey man, thanks for the love for my sad, sad time wasting :).

Also, cheers to Kevin Church's Secret Invasion review. I wrote a (much shorter, not nearly as good) review that was similarly nonsensical and simile-laden, which demonstrates some point about something about Secret Invasion.

MrCynical said...

Actually, speaking of metaphors, maybe it's unintentional, but I can't help but think that the whole "Superman vs. Absorbancy Lad" thing in Geoff Johns' Action arc is a slapdown of Peter Petrelli from "Heroes" who has a similar powerset. But maybe I'm seeing more than is there.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Hey, thanks for the link, Caleb! I was having trouble mustering the enthusiasm for one of my usual "scan 'n discuss" reviews on the latest volume of Empowered, so I took a different tack and tried to examine what was so unique and fascinating about Warren's writing and the world he created. I find it fun to think through that stuff and articulate why I find it effective. Maybe I can get blurbed on the next volume...

Scott said...

What's the deal with everyone calling Carol Danvers fat? She's got the same big ass and big breasts(with six-pack abs) that every other female character in comics has, but for some reason every supervillian she meets seems to call her fat. Is there some essential Ms Marvel storyline that I've missed?

John Foley said...

I thought that the "fat" epithets from Dr. Doom were incredibly clever. It just goes to show
A. That even an evil genius can reach the end of his rope and resort to childish name-calling.
B. That he knows you can still make a beautiful woman like Ms. Marvel feel bad if you insult her body.

And for anyone who thinks that was sexist, they should hear some of the things my female friends say about other women. It would curl their hair.
Really, it's supposed to somehow be shocking that a vicious mass-murderer like Victor Von Doom has a mean streak in him?

Regault said...

He interpreted Secret Invasion as the Skrulls being Islamic? I thought Bendis was putting forward a deeply controversial stand on the Israeli occupation of Palestine, what with the "Take over place we don't live in with terrorist bombings and claims its a holy land."

Also, the MA issue, aside from being terrible overall, had the first effective use of Bendis thought-balloons, with Doom drastically overthinking the issue while giving a short introductory speech.

David page said...

shadowpact has been cancelled it ends its run in two months

David page said...

and I just noticed you mentioned that sorry....

Kevin Huxford said...

Mighty Avengers has effective use of thought balloons? And Dr. Doom is the prime example? Ugh.

Forgetting for a second how muddied the whole situation gets when you have the protagonists and antagonists THINKING back and forth at each other, it just gives that many more chances for the writer to get the character wrong.

Bendis overuses thought balloons. There isn't a justification for much of his use of them. In fact, I think it makes him lazy at times. He doesn't seem to try to be as efficient with his words as he should be (and would have to be without the bubbles).

Tony said...

What constitutes a "successful" character? Jaime Reyes is up to, what, 26 issues? I think Ted Kord's longest run as a soloist was 24.

(I'm not sure about these numbers; I just got them off of a quick web search.)

Kevin Huxford said...

At the risk of sounding like one of those Jaime bashing Kord fans (which I'm not), they had different standards for what was worth producing back then. This Blue Beetle is still being produced for editorial reasons and strong TPB sales (the last one is according to the writer).