Friday, July 31, 2009

Because a J. Bone picture is worth a thousand of my words


This is what J. Bone's Doom Patrol, who guest-star in this week's issue of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, looks like. So you might want to give that book a look.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Because (one of) you demanded (well, asked for) it!: 1,500 words about how JLoA is no damn good and what I think of those black splotches

Robert, an EDILW reader, emailed me last weekend to ask if I’d be doing a post about the semi-announced line-up of James Robinson and Mark Bagley’s upcoming run on Justice League of America, as he was wondering what I thought about it.

Because I am a jerk, I haven’t yet emailed Robert back. But, because I am also an eager-to-please jerk, I figured I would do a post about it.

This is that post.

So, if you haven’t seen the image, here it is again:

DC is using the old blacked-out characters on the cover gag, which they’ve done repeatedly with JLA line-up changes over the years, most recently with the new team that would be starring in the newly re-launched, 2006 Justice League of America.

At last week’s San Diego Comic Con, writer James Robinson confirmed that the team would include Donna Troy, Mon-El in a new Superman-esque costume (and hopefully going by the new codename SuperMon) and Batman Dick Grayson (In one of his Comics Of The Weak features, Tucker Stone asked if Dickbat was this new Batman’s clever nickname; has the Internet decided yet? I kind of like DickBats, as it is parallel to the AzBats construction used to refer to the Jean-Paul Valley-as-Batman character, and also because it sounds like a terrible venereal disease), Hal Jordan and Congorilla, who is apparently the big gorilla-shaped silhouette in the upper right hand corner.

As far as what I think, I guess my main response is that I just don’t really care anymore.

Well, I care a little (enough to devote several hundred words to the subject, and how I don’t care all that much), but not like I did in 2006. This current volume of the Justice League comic has really dulled my enthusiasm is Justice League comics, to a point I didn’t even think was possible.

A big part of that problem is just how bad Justice League of America has been.

Yesterday the thirty-fifth issue of the series was released. It was written by Len Wein, the fourth writer to work on the title in just three years (following Brad Meltzer, Dwayne McDuffie and Alan Burnett). I can’t even guess how many pencillers and inkers were involved up until this point, but, off the top of my head, the pencil artists included Ed Benes, Eric Wight, Joe Benitez, Rags Morales, Carlos Pacheco, Allan Jefferson, Shane Davis, Gene Ha, Ethan Van Sciver, Allan Goldman, CrissCross, Eddy Barrows, Adrian Syaf, Tom Derenick and Pow Rodrix. Some of those guys are really great artists, some of those guys I’m honestly surprised DC would even hire, but that is a lot of pencillers on a single book, let alone in the first three years of a book.

The direction of the book has reflected the slipshod nature of the visuals. There was a three-part crossover with Justice Society of America, a half-issue story devoted to setting up a Tangent miniseries, three and a half issues tying into Salvation Run (itself a tie-in to Countdown…a tie-in/prelude to Final Crisis), one issue devoted to tying into Final Crisis, and an eight-issue arc bringing the Milestone Universe characters into the DCU, while reacting to events in Final Crisis, the Superman books, the Batman books, Wonder Woman and Justice League: Cry for Justice, which hadn’t even been released yet.

How can anyone read a book produced in this fashion, let alone like doing so?

The other problem is that the narrative choices made by the writers and editors—granted, some of them in reaction to what was going on in other books and thus events beyond their control—reinforced the perception that Justice League of America doesn’t matter at all.

Brad Meltzer spent the first twelve issues of the book—the entirety of his run on it, and a third of it’s overall issues up to this point—telling an origin story for his line-up. Among the characters joining the team was long-time sidekick and Teen Titan Roy Harper, adopting a new codename and costume specifically to mark his “graduating” to the Justice League, and Black Lightning, another B-lister who, after decades on lower tier super team, finally made it to the big leagues. Oh, and after about a year of appearing in the title but emphatically not being on the team, Geo-Force consents to joining the team.

Then Geo-Force immediately leaves the team (in the pages of Batman and the Outsiders, not in JLoA), presumably so he can be on the Outsiders again. Roy Harper leaves unceremoniously after the events of Final Crisis, to mourn his girlfriend who died during Final Crisis in one draft of McDuffie’s script for an issue, although he later changed it when he was informed Roy’s girlfriend didn’t die after all (it was retroactively decided that she survived her suicide mission in FC, so that she could be murdered in the pages of Blackest Night). Harper has been appearing in Titans. Likewise, Black Lightning disappeared from the title, and has been appearing in Outsiders.

In all three cases, that’s an awful lot of build-up to what was presented as major events in these fictional characters’ “lives,” which were quickly and unceremoniously reversed.

Given the state of the title then, it’s hard to give a shit that Dick Grayson might be re-joining the Justice League temporarily or whatever, as who knows how long that will last, or why it might matter at all.

Long story short, I don’t really care about the Justice League any more, since DC seems to not really care about the Justice League anymore, and have been actively encouraging readers to not care either.

As it currently stands, there are two Justice League-related teams. The team in JLoA (as far as I understand) consists of Firestorm II, Dr. Light II, Vixen, Green Lantern John Stewart and Zatanna, with several other characters on some form of leave absence or sabbatical or whatever.

The team in Cry For Justice, which is of course written by the incoming writer Robinson, will consist of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, The Atom Ray Palmer, Supergirl, Batwoman, Starman Mikaal, Congorilla and whatever they’re calling Captain Marvel Jr. these days.

It’s probably safe to assume the new team will entail some combination of the two, with Supergirl, Batwoman, Captain Marvel Jr. and Starman least likely to stick around for various reasons (If SuperMon and DickBats are in for Superman and Batman, the lady versions of the characters become rather redundant. The Marvel Family needs some time out of the spotlight to let the radioactivity of Judd Winick’s attempts to rework them wear off, and as for Mikaal, having a Starman on the JSA and the JLA seems a little excessive for a character who doesn’t belong to one of the bigger character dynasties).

John Stewart is almost definitely out, since it seems unlikely Robinson would want to write two Green Lanterns on the team. (I hope I’m wrong though; giving Hal both Green Lantern and JLoA seems pretty unfair, and would make John the only of the five Lanterns without a book to call his own).

Dr. Light is almost definitely in, as Robinson has been writing her in Superman, and recently advertised a sub-plot with her continuing in JLoA.

Beyond that, I couldn’t even offer guesses, although I guess I’ll try.

The silhouettes on the Bagley cover make it pretty difficult too, as the bright white light of the background overlaps the borders of the characters, making the blacked-out ones seem less distinct and hard to see clearly.

Let’s see, he character just below DickBats is pretty obviously Starfire, whom I wouldn’t really expect to ever join the Justice League. Given that there are already at least two former Titans—Donna and Dick—adding Starfire seems like Titans overkill. Additionally, there’s the matter of the Titans. What are all these characters doing in JLoA when they’ve got a perfectly good Titans book to star in (And that book, by the way, is dedicated to the grown-up, former Teen Titans like Starfire, Dick and Donna, so filling up the roster on that book is a lot harder than it would be on, say, Teen Titans, where there are dozens of super-teens to choose from at all times).

Looking at figure behind Mon-El’s left boot. That looks a bit like Raven of the Titans, but I’m going to guess that’s Dr. Light, who wears a cape, and that perhaps explains the bright, luminous background.

Just to the left of Donna’s hip is an archer character; you can see the bottom half of the bow, and a quiver full of arrows. Both Roy “Red Arrow” Harper and Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen make equal amounts of sense. Roy was just on the team, and had just taken some time off to mourn his not-dead girlfriend, so could easily return, and he would certainly fit in with Donna, Dick and Starfire. However, Ollie is co-starring with Hal in Robinson’s Cry For Justice, and would thus make sense if this team includes Hal on it. So I’m going to guess it’s Green Arrow Ollie Queen.

As for the remaining shapes, theyre too abstract for me even to guess where one figure begins and another ends, so I got nothing. I can’t figure out what could possibly be in the lower right hand corner to fill that space (looks like a second gorilla to me, but that would be pretty crazy), or what could account for the vaguely mushroom-like shape beneath the “Trinity” characters there.

I’ll be pretty surprised if Flash Barry Allen isn’t on the team (unless Geoff Johns is doing his own Justice League book…but then wouldn’t Johns want his boyfriend Hal on his team…?), and from the few issues of JLoA I’ve read lately, I don’t see any reason why Vixen or Firestorm II would quit the team, so maybe they’re part of those blobs somehow…?

Of course, DC could have just released a somewhat doctored image, to mess with fans, like they did last time.


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This concludes my ranting and raving about a single cover image. If any of you have a topic you would like to see me rant and rave about, please feel free to suggest it in the comments section (and/or just ask questions you’d like me to answer). I can’t promise I’ll get to them in anything approaching a timely fashion (or at all if they are super-dumb or along the lines of "Why do you suck so much, Caleb?"), but next time a post falls through because I can’t get to a scanner or I’m plumb out of ideas, I’ll try and take some of ‘em or all of ‘em up.

So request and/or ask away!


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RELATED: I have a post that also spun out of that JLoA cover image above over at Blog@Newsarama today that may be of interest. It's much shorter and has more pictures. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekly Haul: July 29th

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #7 (DC Comics) I don’t really care for DC’s Super Friends comic book, although I occasionally buy it, seduced by the excellent J. Bone cover that usually hides a story that isn’t anywhere as cute or funny and art that does not look at all like what I saw on the cover. And then, when I’m done reading the adventures of those horrible homunculi, I get on the Internet and type that I wish Bone would have drawn the interiors as well.

Well guess what? Here’s a Johnny DC title with interiors by Bone! Huzzah!

Identically initialed J. Torres joins Bone for a story in which Batman teams up with Beast Boy to save the rest of the Doom Patrol (closely resembling the incarnation from the Teen Titans cartoon) from the clutches of a surprise villain (who comes as a bigger surprise since he’s neither a Batman nor a Doom Patrol villain, but is from the TT toon).

Bone’s artwork is about as loose as I’ve ever seen it, and he has a lot of fun with smiling, square-jawed Batman and Beast Boy’s constant, often-punning animal transformations. Torres’ script isn’t going to change your life or have you in stitches or anything, but it’s pleasant enough, with a few nice spotlight moments for each member of the DP and some amusing jokes.

But most importantly, he manages to work in a Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man cameo.

Having seen the preview art for the latest attempt at a Doom Patrol ongoing series and having read this, I kinda wish Bone was drawing that upcoming series. But I’ll happily settle for more Johnny DC interior work.


Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam #6 (DC) I’m actually pretty glad I don’t have my own scanner, as I have a feeling that in trying to explain what’s so great about Stephen DeStefano’s work here, I’d end up just scanning and posting half of the book and typing excitedly SEE! SEE HOW GREAT THIS PANEL IS? LOOK AT THAT LINE! OMG!!1!

If you’re not familiar with DeStefano, he is the bee’s knees. He drew the substantial framing story for Bizarro Comics, in which Mr. Mxyzptlk enlists Bizarro to help him save the Fifth Dimension from an alien invader and he drew the first and best of Paul Dini’s Jingle Belle comics for Oni. (He’s actually done quite a bit of comics work in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, but mostly before my time).

DeStefano also does a lot of work in animation, and his background in both fields in readily apparent in his work. The characters are perfectly designed, big, round, kinetic shapes given sharper, keener details to adorn their basic shapes.

This is one of those comics that will make you stop and star every few pages, to marvel at the lines on the paper, and how they can look so organic and effortless and yet so perfectly placed at the same time.

Seriously guys, this is some very, very good drawing! Look at his doll version of Mary Marvel! His hulking Captain Marvel! The way Shazam KRACKOWs into the room! The big, furry collection of round muscles that is King Kull! Look at Kull emerging from the woods to eat those hotdogs! Damn!

I do wonder if kids will like DeStefano’s art, as it is so completely different than that appearing in any of the other Johnny DC books (and it doesn’t bear very close resemblance to the work of Jeff Smith, Mike Kunkel or whoever drew the previous issue of this series). It has a very classic feel to it, something between classic children’s book illustration and classic animation, and may not actually be the best fit for this version of Captain Marvel, even if it is excellent work (and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if DeStefano hung around a while, if only so I could see his versions of all the other great Captain Marvel characters).

The story, by Art Baltazar and Franco, is done-in-one-esque, although it makes a ton of references to previous stories (probably more than necessary, really), and follows Dr. Sivana from his escape to a nefarious plot yet to be hatched, making for a bit more continuity than one usually sees in Johnny DC or Marvel Adventures books.

The bulk of it though is simply that King Kull appears and fights Captain Marvel, closely mirroring their original meeting.

(Confidential to Mark Chiarello: Imagine how cool a Stephen DeStefano strip would look in a second volume of Wednesday Comics, if there’s ever a second volume of Wednesday Comics.)


Detective Comics #855 (DC) So “new” villain Alice is essentially just a female version of the current incarnation of Batman villain The Mad Hatter? A crazy person who speaks almost exclusively in quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass?

Yes, yes she is, and she’s a fair indicator of the level of originality Greg Rucka invests the rest of the script in this issue with. Batwoman beats up some thugs, she takes their ringleader to high place and threatens to drop her, she gets hit with a chemical weapon and starts tripping balls, imagining aspects of her traumatic origin story, just like Batman does every couple of months when the Scarecrow gasses him.

The only thing really separating this particular issue from any of the scores of Batman comics in which the exact same things occur is that a) Batman is now a sexy woman and b) J. H. Williams III is such a goddam beautiful artist that he turns a collection of Batman Generic Story Element #8, #13 and #45 into a comic that at least looks like a masterpiece.

Even the Alice character looks new, fresh and exciting, given how well she’s designed, costumed and rendered, even though she’s just another Alice in Wonderland character in an adult genre comic.

If the lead story is Rucka at his least imaginative, the eight-page Question back-up is Rucka on autopilot. I kind of wish I would have waited for the eventual Batwoman trade.


Justice League of America #35 (DC) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if sales on this particular issue plummet through the floor—it’s the first part of a three-issue fill-in by Len Wein, which only exists to kill time while everyone waits for James Robinson to show up. And considering how weak the book was under it’s “regular” writer Dwayne McDuffie, who seemed to spend most of his allotted space cleaning up after Brad Meltzer and reacting to the events in other comics, you’d be forgive for thinking of this as a fill-in to a fill-in.

I only bought it all because I bothered to flip through it, and realize that the art was not by Eddy Barrows and Ruy Jose, as the solicitation still up on dccomics.com said it would be, nor is the cover by Ed Benes.

It’s actually penciled by Tom Derenick, whose work is readable (and I often like it quite a bit), and the cover is by Eddy Barrows (which, while not very good, doesn’t deeply offend my sense of aesthetics the way Benes’ current work does).

Oh, and I saw it guest-starred Plastic Man, a character I genuinely like enough (and don’t see very often) that as long as the writer and artist on the story aren’t abominable, I’ll generally give any book featuring him a shot.

As it turns out, the artwork in this book is pretty terrible, which I’m sure has more than a little something to do with the fact that Derenick shares pencil credit with a Pow Rodrix (who apparently contriburted the three down-right grotesque pages set on the Watchtower) and there are four, count ‘em four inkers on this thing.

The storyline is the Justice League (Vixen, Firestorm II, Dr. Light II, Red Tornado and Plas) vs. (sigh) The Royal Fucking Flush Gang, with the latter holding a Vegas casino hostage. But there’s more than meets the eye going on here, as two mystery villains (spoiled in the solicit for the next issue) are playing a game with the Justice League.

It’s decent enough, as long as you don’t mind putting up with poor artwork (and if you’ve made it all the way to #35 of Justice League of America, you can surely deal with this).


Superman #690 (DC) Superman’s not currently starring (appearing, cameo-ing or being referenced to) in either of the Superman books, not even the one which is simply titled with his name. This has been going on for a while now, and, when all it said and done, he’ll have been absent for a whole year.

That’s fine, I’ve gotten used to that, and am still enjoying Superman. The art has been consistently good and writer James Robinson has been treating the book as a sort of sprawling soap opera, following a dozen or so characters and a handful of criss-crossing plotlines.

This issue is really weird though, as not only is Robinson checking in on many of those plots and moving them a few pages forward, but almost every one of them ends with a little box in the lower corner saying “Continued in [fill in the blank with another comic book title].”

The end result is, after an 11-page fight scene between Atlas and Steel (pages nine and ten of which are really well executed), Robinson treats the second half of the book as a collection of trailers to other comic books, rather than scenes in the ongoing story he’s been telling.

There’s two pages of the Metropolis Science Police which will be continued in Superman: Secret Files 2009, there’s a page of The Guardian and Dr. Light II flirting that will be continued in Superman (Er, no shit, little white box) and Justice League of America, and Tellus and Ion chat bout Mon-El in a story that will be continued in Superman Annual #14.

There’s also a scene in which Zatara II encounters an old, obscure magical-type DC character, but that scene doesn’t end with a box. So maybe it will never continue anywhere…? I mean, if it were to continue in Superman, why didn’t a box tell us that, as it told us with the Dr. Light/Guardian scene…?


Wednesday Comics #4 (DC)

Batman: Bruce Wayne seduces a lady, by doing little more than saying, “I’m Bruce Wayne, and I wouldn’t mind having sex with you.” Four installments in, and I’ve really taken to the pacing of Azzarello and Risso’s Batman story. It actually reads like a mystery story, which is much rarer than you’d think in Batman comics.

Kamandi: So, so pretty...

Superman: Lee Bermejo’s art is so detailed and so interested in realism that he even draws the dog’s butthole in the first panel. That’s dedication.

Deadman: In most any other project, the art on this would impress the hell out of me and I’d have a hard time thinking of new adjectives to communicate that it’s not only good, but pretty much my ideal idea of comic art. But in Wednesday Comics, it’s not even in the top three of the best-looking strips.

Green Lantern: God I hate Hal Jordan.

Metamorpho: Hey, after two weeks of taking it easy with fucking splash pages, Gaiman and Allred get serious again with a multi-panel page, with both Elemant Girl and Sapphire joining the adventure. You know what’s weird? Because Gaiman wrote Element Girl in an issue of his Sandman, I bet more people have read a comic featuring Element Girl than have read a comic featuring Metamorpho. Allred gives Stagg a really cool outfit, by the way. That dude is dapper.

Teen Titans: Okay I know that Sean Galloway works in animation, and that Eddie Berganza is a long-time comics editor, who’s been working for DC at least as long as I’ve been reading comics, and neither are technically amateurs. But this strip? Complete amateur hour. Where are these people? Who are these characters? Why is it such a challenge to figure out who is who, who is where and where where is each week? Galloway can obviously draw, but he can’t draw a comic.

Strange Adventures: This is an all Alanna strip, and it is a thing of beauty. Just look at that first panel, showing the interior of the store room she’s being kept prisoner in. Wow.

Supergirl: I like Krypto and Streaky, the DC Universe’s greatest villains.

Metal Men: “My name is Doc Magnus, and you had no idea of knowing that you would come across
the most sophisticated set of robots ever created.” Er, shouldn’t that be “no way of knowing?” This script needs edited! Who wrote this thing? What’s that? DC’s top editor. Oh. Er, nevermind then.

Wonder Woman: I like and dislike the same things about this that I liked and disliked about the previous ones; after reading a comic featuring the regular, DCU version of Wonder Woman this week though, this seems much, much, much better than it does if read without another modern Wonder Woman comics story to compare it against.

Sgt. Rock: Part of me things that using the unique format of this project to tell a story in nine-panel grids is sort of a waste, but then I got to panel seven, a lose up of a woman’s face as she delivers a line of dialogue, and got an eyeful of Kubert’s lines in such a big space and, fuck it, this is an amazing way to read Kubert’s art. The next one could be a full-page splash and I wouldn’t mind.

Flash Comics: This is getting a little nuts; of all the stories in this project, I think this is the one that will bear rereading all 12 installments again back-to-back, once all is said and done. Not necessarily because it’s too confusing to follow as is, but because it involves time travel, and the two versions of the same Flash are now revisiting strips from earlier issues.

Catwoman/The Demon: I just ain’t got no time for a Demon that won’t rhyme.

Hawkman: Kyle Baker is a better writer than Jimmy Palmiotti. My evidence? In both the Supergirl and this Hawkman story, passenger planes plummet out of the sky, necessitating the heroes to swoop into action.

In the last panel of her story, Palmiotti has Supergirl say, “Great…just great!”

In the last panel of the Hawkman story, however, Baker has the hero say, “I have a plane to catch.”

This installment makes it clear that this Hawkman is from the Satellite Era Justice League, as Hawkgirl and Batman each cameo, and we see the satellite HQ. Oh, and Aquaman is mentioned, which means this awesome strip is only going to get more awesome in the near future.


Wonder Woman #34 (DC) The start of a new, two-part story arc guest-starring Black Canary, whom writer Gail Simone obviously got to know really well on her long and mostly enjoyable Birds of Prey run made this issue seem like a good one to check in on the title and see if it’s improved any since the last time I tried reading it.

Wonder Woman, like the JLA, seems to be a franchise that got broken near the end of Infinite Crisis. Continuity was somewhat arbitrarily re-booted, and then a writer from outside of comics came in to develop a new status quo for the franchise over the course of a single story arc, and then promptly split, leaving DC to try and figure out how best to clean up the mess. Allen Heinberg’s arc—at least before the delay—sold well, but that didn’t last, so, like Justice League of America, DC got a few months of strong sales followed by months of dropping sales and terrible stories.

Long-term planning, people!

Wonder Woman was in much worse shape when Heinberg left, as the franchise is a lot more fragile than the Justice League, in which a lot of chaos is sort of built in to the book, and one boneheaded move followed another (Having Jodi Picoult write a continuity-heavy fill-in arc instead of doing her own thing elsewhere, Amazons Attack).

I was relieved when Gail Simone was named the new writer, but I bailed after about eight issues. The Heinberg changes hamstrung the franchise in a way that made it enormously unappealing to me, but, more importantly, Simone’s run was—quite surprisingly— boring. If there’s one thing a story about Wonder Woman teaming up with Beowulf and Claw the Unconquered to fight the devil shouldn’t be, it’s boring.

So, long story short, I don’t like this comic book at all anymore, but this issue looked like it might have potential. At the very least, it looked like an interesting place to stick my head back into the world of Wonder Woman and take a look around.

Well it turns out Wonder Woman still isn’t very good.

The scenes featuring Black Canary and Wonder Woman aren’t all that bad; Canary is talks constantly and speaks in a very self-consciously witty way that is sort of irritating, but it works with Simone’s remote, reserved version of Wonder Woman, in an odd couple sort of way.

The two team-up to go undercover in the world of underground cage-fighting. Superhero cage-fighting is the sort of thing that I’ve seen too many times to find remotely interesting (Wonder Woman and Black Canary were both in that Justice League Unlimited episode with Roulette, Roulette’s schtick in the comic books is pitting superheroes against each other in gladiatorial combat, there was that whole “Dark Side Club” business in McKeever’s various Titans etc).

But at any rate, the Canary/Wondy interactions only account for about half a third of the book. The rest of it involves dealing with fall-out from whatever stories have happened since I last read (I guess Wondy’s having some trouble with Zeus again? And a dude is made king of the Amazons? And she’s still living with those fucking gorillas, which artist Aaron Lopresti draws as some kind of Yetis?).

If you’re looking for not-incompetent superhero comics, and your flavor of choice is Wonder Woman, then I suppose Wonder Woman will fill that need, but if you’re looking for anything else at all, well, check back next year, maybe…?

Oddly enough, the part I found most galling was a few sentence of dialogue from classic Justice League villain T.O. Morrow, which was a nice crystallization of everything I think is wrong with most superhero universe comics today.

After talking with Wonder Woman about a robot named Genocide, Morrow asks if she knows his name:

My real name. Tomke Ovadya Morah. My family was from Nasielsk, a little town outside Warsaw. I can’t be part o f anything called Genocide, Wonder Woman. I beg you. Destroy that aberration.


This Flash and Justice League villain from the ‘60s, a mad scientist-type whose main invention was a special TV screen that could see into the future, and a sort of time-traveling fishing rod that could pluck technology and weapons from the future and reel them back for T.O. Morrow (“Tomorrow,” get it?) to use in his quest to rob banks and/or rule the world, is Jewish…and from Poland…and thus can’t abide by a killer robot named Genocide.

Come on, you’re not going to make DC say “the holocaust” are you? Because they will!

I understand Simone didn’t give Morrow this name or backstory, but she’s using it in a story in which Wonder Woman has talking gorilla roommates, talks to polar bears when she’s sad and listens to Black Canary prattle on about how Wonder Woman’s bosom isn’t as popular as Power Girl’s on the Internet.

Can’t goofy Silver Age villains just be goofy Silver Age villains? Making them the children of Holocaust survivors or whatever doesn’t make them edgier or more relevant, it just draws unwanted attention to how ultimately meaningless your stupid superhero comics are.

If you’re writing a story that calls for a Jewish and/or Polish android-expert mad scientist whose family was killed in the Holocaust or something, hey, just make up one of your own, instead of forever trying to retroactively serious-up the Silver Age.

I was pretty irritated to see that there, although admittedly my irritation with this impulse is cumulative. Like, in isolation, this would still be a sort of crass connection that makes Morrow a less interesting character, but when read after years of things like Dr. Light being retroactively made a rapist (whose brain was magically addled to retroactively explain why he was demoted from a JLA villain to a Teen Titans villain, no less) or Geoff Johns’ turning various Flash villains into monsters, drug addicts and psychopaths and so on, it’s particularly tiresome.

It’s basically what Frank Miller, Alan Moore and others were doing with DC superhero characters, but twenty years after they did it. And that shit’s awfully tired twenty years later.

Superheroes have been thoroughly deconstructed. How about more comics putting them back together and new and interesting ways, instead of just moving around the broken pieces like innovators were doing a couple decades ago?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PSA: This is a Comic Book at Mahan Gallery August 1-28

(Above: Image by Lee Mei Yan; more examples of iamges from the show are available here)

Hey comics fans! Do you live in or within driving distance of Columbus, Ohio? If so, you're going to want to make sure you visit The Mahan Gallery in the Short North this month to check out their new show, This is a Comic Book.

The show surveys "new perspectives in comics and the varying implications of displaying them in a gallery setting," according to the official gallery PR. "This is a Comic Book intends to inform the public while encouraging investigation from even the most knowledgeable comic book reader by removing the work from its usual method of interaction and directing a microscopic lens on the works as both illustration and creative writing."

In practical terms, this means Mahan's walls will host work form fourteen excellent comics creators, many of whom you've no doubt heard of:

Anders Nilsen (Dogs and Water, Monologues for the Coming Plague, Monologues for Calculating the Destiny of Black Holes)

Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole)

Lauren Weinstein (The Goddess of War, Girl Stories, Inside Vineyland)

John Porcellino (King-Cat, Thoreau at Walden, Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man)

Ron Rege Jr (Against Pain, Yeast Hoist)

Matt Furie (Boy's Club)

Phonzie Davis (Left-Handed Sophie)

Mickey Zacchilli

Cole Johnson

Panayiotis Terzis

—Dorothy Gambrell

—Lee Mei Yan

—Mike Taylor

—Closed Caption Comics

Sounds like a pretty awesome show, right? But wait, there's more!

At the show you can also purchase an inexpensive-ish catalog/zine which will feature a selection of images from the show, artist bios, interviews with Phonzie Davis and Lee Mei Yan, a curators' note from Jimi Payne and Colleen Grennan, an essay by former Comics Journal editor Anne Elizabeth Moore about recent comics history, another essay by Wexner Center for the Arts film and video curator Dave Filipi about some of the challenges he experienced showing comics in a gallery setting when he oc-curated last spring's Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond and a third essay by comics blogger, critic and know-it-all loudmouth J. Caleb Mozzocco about how the only way to really experience comic books is to read the damn things. Yes that's right, for a couple of dollars you can get the same sort of content you get from me here all the time for free, only on paper! And not-free!

Seriously though, my questionable contribution aside, it sounds like a really cool package, and it will be pretty small-run, so get yours while you can.

You can find Mahan's contact info and address here if you need to know their hours of operation or to look up directions or anything like that. I'd recommend stopping by this Saturday between 6 and 10 p.m. if you don't mind crowds; that's the opening reception, and it's also the night of Gallery Hop, so there should be plenty of activity and people watching opportunities in the neighborhood.


********************

On the subject of gallery shows in the Short North in the month of August, you may also want to check out Rivet Gallery's We'll Be Right Back...After These Messages..., a show featuring art inspired by '80s cartoons.

Here's something Rainbow Brite-y by Charlie Owens that the gallery's using to promote the show...



And here's a Masters of the Universe-related piece on a flyer for the show...

Uh-oh. Is this what the average Marvel Comics week is going to look like from now on...?

I go through the Diamond shipping lists pretty thoroughly every Monday while assembling my 'Twas the Night Before Wednesday... feature for Blog@, and, once I'm done with that, I go back through and make my own little shopping list for that Wednesday (in part to make sure I have enough cash for everything I want to get that week, and in part because that's the kind of persnickety, anal retentive person I am).

When putting together that little shopping list, my general parameters are simply to keep it under $30, usually spent on books I'd rather read in single-issue chunks instead of later in trade. (If you're wondering, that's why my Weekly Haul features here on EDILW are almost always exclusively DC and Marvel super-comics; literary and/or non-super-comics stuff is what I usually try to get review copies of, or buy online to take advantage of discounts—sorry, local comics shop!—or borrow from a library).

This week I noticed that every single comic on my list was a DC comic. I don't think that happens very often. I went back to check the shipping list to see why there wasn't a single Marvel comic on it. Surely they were publishing something I wanted to read, right? They couldn't all be $3.99 books now, could they? (As I've noted here so many times I'm sure everyone's sick of hearing it, $2.99's as much as I'm willing to pay for 22-pages worth of DC or Marvel super-comic; which disqualifies a bunch of Marvel comics I might otherwise be interested in checking out).

If you don't want to follow the link over to Diamond's shipping list for this week, here's what the Marvel portion of it looks like:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #598 2ND PTG SIQUEIRA VAR (PP #875) $2.99
CIVIL WAR HEROES FOR HIRE TP $13.99
CIVIL WAR PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL TP $14.99
DARK REIGN GOBLIN LEGACY DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN HAWKEYE #4 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN HOOD #3 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN LETHAL LEGION #2 (OF 3) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #1 (OF 4) 2ND PTG VAR $3.99
DARK REIGN SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #2 (OF 4) DKR $3.99
DARK REIGN YOUNG AVENGERS #3 (OF 5) DKR $3.99
DARK TOWER THE FALL OF GILEAD #3 (OF 6) $3.99
DARK X-MEN BEGINNING #2 (OF 3) DAX $3.99
ESSENTIAL PARKER SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN TP VOL 4 $19.99
FANTASTIC FOUR #569 $3.99
GHOST RIDER TP LAST STAND $16.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN PREM HC VOL 02 WORLDS MOST WANTED $19.99
KID COLT #1 $3.99
MARVEL ZOMBIES 4 #4 (OF 4) $3.99
MMW X-MEN TP VOL 02 $24.99
MMW X-MEN TP VOL 02 DM VAR ED 07 $24.99
NEW AVENGERS #54 2ND PTG TAN VAR (PP #875) $3.99
NEW AVENGERS #55 DKR $3.99
SCOURGE OF GODS PREM HC VOL 01 (MR) $24.99
SECRET WARRIORS #6 DKR $2.99
SON OF HULK #13 $2.99
SPIDER-GIRL TP VOL 11 MARKED FOR DEATH DIGEST $12.99
THOR #602 2ND PTG DJURDJEVIC VAR (PP #875) $3.99
THUNDERBOLTS #134 DKR $2.99
ULTIMATUM #5 (OF 5) $3.99
ULTIMATUM #5 (OF 5) FINCH GATEFOLD VAR $3.99
ULTIMATUM SPIDER-MAN REQUIEM #2 (OF 2) $3.99
WAR OF KINGS ASCENSION #4 (OF 4) $3.99
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT TP IN THE BLOOD (MR) $16.99
WOLVERINE NOIR #4 (OF 4) $3.99
WOLVERINE NOIR #4 (OF 4) CALERO VAR $3.99
X-MEN FOREVER #2 2ND PTG GRUMMETT VAR (PP #875) $3.99
X-MEN FOREVER #4 $3.99
X-MEN LEGACY #225 2ND PTG ACUNA VAR (PP #875) $2.99

That's 38 new releases, 28 of which are comics books, and the remainder of which are either hardcover or trade paperback collections of comics. Is that a lot for a single week? Well, for comparison's sake, DC Comics has 23 new releases this week, 19 of which are comic books, and thus four of which are trades. Dark Horse and Image, meanwhile, have five and eight releases, respectively.

Of Marvel's 28 new comics, only four are at the $2.99 price point—X-Men Legacy, Secret Warriors, Son of Hulk and Thunderbolts— which works out to a mere one-seventh of Marvel's books being released this week.

Additionally, there are eight comics that are explicitly branded with a "Dark Reign" or a "Dark" in the title.

In one week.

I don't normally bother counting, so I don't know if this is an unusual week or not, but I have noticed that, in general, Marvel seems to be pumping out a ton of product each week, especially compared to their nearest rival DC, and that some of those weeks a lot of that is due to "Dark Reign" miniseries and one-shots (In fact, look closely at that list and you'll see relatively few of those 28 comics are actual ongoing monthly series; so even if Marvel insists few of their ongoings are actually selling at the $3.99-for-22 pages price, almost all of their miniseries and one-shots now sell at that price point, and that's the majority of what they're selling these days).

It may also be worth noting that this Wednesday is the fifth of this particular month, so this is apparently what a "fifth week" shipping list looks like in 2009. In the past, when monthly comic books came out like clockwork on a regular schedule, fifth week's often necessitated some sort of special event or book from the Big Two to fill the gap, since nothing was scheduled to come out on the fifth week of a month. Obviously comics aren't published anything like that these days, and a fifth week can actually turn out to be a pretty giant week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The biggest news of Comic Con International in San Diego was revealed moments ago and jaws are still on the floor"


So the biggest superhero news to come out of this year's San Diego Comic Con International was, what, that Joe Quesada drew a crappy picture of Marvelman that some colorists finised on a computer for him, and he's unlikely to get sued by Todd McFarlane or Neil Gaiman or anyone for doing so?

When I first saw the headlines about the announcement, I caught my breath, as the legal tangle surrounding Marvelman was so tangled I assumed I wouldn't ever be able to read those damn books...or at least not until I was a very old man. Had Marvel somehow managed to untangle it all, and to have done so on the down-low to the extent that no one even noticed until their announcement?

And then I read the actual press release, which actually doesn't say much of anything about anything. Only that Marvel bought the rights to the character from creator Mick Anglo. But then, last I knew, he's only one of the people claiming the rights to various Marvelman comics stories, and he wasn't even the most likely victor in the struggle for "the good stuff" (i.e. the superhero deconstructionist stuff by Alan Moore and Gaiman, the stuff people talk about when they talk about Marvelman).

Other than that, the only news in the initial announcement was that Marvel was "talking to" Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, and that more news would follow at some point in the future.

It's hard to get too excited about the announcement that there might be an exciting announcement at some point in the future.

For now then, the "big news" regarding Marvel and Marvelman is simply that the company is selling that ugly Quesada image as a 24-by-36 inch, $9 poster, and that they are selling Marvelman logo T shirts for $20 through their website.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So which ones are the good Transformers comics?

Like many millions of Americans, I paid actual cash money to go see a movie called Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last month. And then I went home, curled myself into a little ball in the back corner of a dark room, and rocked back and forth, weeping for our world.

I don’t really want to talk about the film, as the wounds it inflicted on my mind and on my soul are still too fresh. Seeing it did send me on a bit of a Transformers jag though, and I re-watched the admittedly not-very-good 1986 Transformers: The Movie



(although, credit where credit’s due, the opening two-minute scene, in which Unicron floats between the red and blue suns to devour a planet full of robots, is a better bit of film-making than anything in either of the two live-action flicks), and I then turned to my longboxes to re-read some of the Transformers comics I had acquired during the toy-turned-multimedia franchise’s early 21st century resurgence in popularity.

To my (mild) surprise, these comics weren’t very good.

By “these comics” I’m referring to the Dreamwave Productions ones, some of which I really liked when they first came out. These consisted of two “G1” miniseries, followed by a short-lived G1 ongoing. There were others that I had bought and read—a miniseries sub-titled The War Within and the Armada series based on the terrible cartoon with an extremely cool line of toys—but I didn’t care for them the first time around, so I had no desire to reread them.

Actually, all of the Dreamwave books were apparently pretty bad. The ongoing and second mini were deathly dull, full of far too many panels like this. The first series wasn’t great or anything, but it held up okay. Of course, it was powered exclusively by nostalgia—it was all the toys I grew up playing with, all the robots I spent the half-hour before G.I.Joe came on at 4:30 p.m. watching after my grade school day had ended, back and appearing in a medium I now prefer to toy or cartoon. The premise of the book was even that the Transformer robots from the ‘80s, having long lain dormant and assumed destroyed and lost, had returned to renew their war.

I knew that IDW had since acquired the license for the comics, but I hadn’t been reading their books at all (In addition to having gotten my fill via Dreamwave’s books, IDW’s were too highly-priced for me). I had read their initial Infiltration miniseries in a black-and-white digest while sitting in a bookstore a few years back, and liked that well enough. I sought out what was available at the library, and got another IDW collection, this one entitled Transformers: Stormbringer. It was by Simon Furman and Don Figueroa, and dealt with the origins of the Transformers race war, and how they came to planet earth in this new, IDW continuity.

I suppose it was an okay read, but it really struck me how weird it was that it was basically just a sci-fi, space opera type of story that just so happened to be branded as a Transformers series. The characters were all robots, and they shared the (often super-silly) names with the various toys, and, on occasion, a few of them did transform, but, for the most part, there was nothing in the story that necessitated it being about transforming robots.

Maybe that sort of seriousness is what some people liked about it—I understand that Furman and Figueroa are pretty popular among Transfans—but it struck me as kind of pointless. If you’ve got the Transformers license and are telling stories about giant robots defined by their ability to transform into vehicles, and your story could just as easily be told with a cast of humans or talking space baboons or fungus people instead, well, you’re not really making the most of things, are you?

I’m open to reading more IDW Transformer comics (provided I don’t have to pay for ‘em), but I was pretty disappointed that while they were a bit better than the Dreamwave ones (and thousands of times better than the live action movies), they still weren’t very good.

So what are the good Transformers comics? Surely there must be some, right? I mean, they’ve been publishing them for over 20 years now, they can’t all be bad, right?

I naturally assumed that the best Transformers comics must be the original Marvel ones then. That would explain why the comics license has remained active; the originals must have been so good that they left fond memories with a whole generation of readers, still eager to continue the experience.

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t really read comics growing up, usually only when relatives brought some home from the drugstore along with a filled prescription when I was home from school sick or something. I had only read one Marvel Transformer comic before, #17, of which all I really remembered was that the cover was pretty terrifying and that it was set on Cybertron and featured Blaster, the lame, Autobot version of Soundwave (I don’t know if it was just me or what, but with the exception of the Dinobots, I kind of hated all the Autobots—none of them were really anywhere nearly as cool as their Decepticon enemies, either in their designs, or voices or characters).

I was thus very excited to find a handful of old, battered, yellowed Marvel Transformer comics in the large comics collection recently bequeathed to me. Now I would discover whether Marvel’s were indeed the good stuff or not (Although recent evidence has emerged on the Internet that they probably weren't).

Well, six issues later, I’ve discovered that these comics aren’t very good either. I daresay they may be better than the other ones I’ve read though, at least in so much as that they were mostly done-in-one, easy-ish to follow and many of them at least had something to with the Transformers being unique lifeforms and/or revolve around Transformers issues of race wars, civil war and being unwelcome visitors on planet earth. The bulk of the Dreamwave and IDW comics I recently read, on the other hand, dealt with religious cults among the Transformers for some reason.

This has, by the way, all been an incredibly long-winded way of saying that I’m going to spend some time over the next few weeks or months taking a closer look at Marvel’s Transformers via these back issues, since I might as well try to make some use out of them.

So, first up is 1986’s Transformers #44, which contains “The Cosmic Carnival” by writer Bob Budiansky, penciler Frank Springer and inker Danny Bulanadi.
The cover certainly looks promising, containing as it does a robot beast fighting a reptilian monster on top a speeding semi truck while a robot on a motorcycle speeds straight into the truck’s grill. Also, explosions.

It opens with a splash page of a long, serpentine space ship, with beams of light shooting from its length at random intervals. Budiansky’s narration is actually pretty cool, so long as you remember to read it in the voice of the narrator of Transformers: The Movie, you know, the voice that says “It is the year 2005…” in the clip I linked to above:

From somewhere in deepest space it comes—A rippling serpent of cold, pitted steel. Its origin is unknown…its destination unclear. Only pinprick shafts of light disturb the dark monotony of its patchwork-plate skin…revealing nothing of their true purpose…or their sources.


It’s pretty purple, but no more purple than your average superhero comic of today that still employs narration.

“In a nearby sector, a far more familiar spacecraft continues its journey,” says the narrator on the next page, in a panel showing a spacecraft completely unfamiliar to me. Apparently, it is the Autobot starcruiser Steelhaven, traveling between Nebulos and Earth (Nebulos, by the way, was the name of the planet that the title character in IDW’s Stormbringer tried to destroy, I think).

Aboard the ship are Optimus Prime, Goldbug (who is apparently Bumblebee 2.0), some Autobots that don’t play any part in the story, and some humanoid natives of Nebulos, who underwent “the Powermaster process.”

One of them was actually named Lube. Oh, to be nine-years-old and not find the word “lube” completely hilarious!
Optimus is putting on a little holographic light show for the Nebulans about the sad state of affairs of the Transformers, while high-collared Nebulan HI Q gets in on the exposition game, when suddenly another holographic light show intrudes upon the ship.

It is an ad for a space circus (that’s what those lights from the ship on the first page were, ads being beamed from a space circus train), and the circus looks completely insane:

Seriously, take a good, long, hard look at some of the featured attractions. For example, one of them is an octopus riding a unicycle while balancing a gigantic dragon on a super long crutch/pole.

The Autobots are all WTF until they spot the Autobot Sky Lynx near the tail end of the ad. That’s him, the thing that looks like a cross between a pterodactyl and a space shuttle. He’s named Sky Lynx, even though space shuttles fly in space rather than the sky, and he doesn’t look anything remotely like a Lynx. You can tell he’s not a G1 Transformer based solely on his name.

Optimus decides to figure out what one of his warriors is doing performing in a circus when it should be working towards his ultimate goal of Decepticon genocide, so he and Goldbug pay the steep admission needed to investigate.

Among the cages and displays at the sideshow, they make an unexpected discovery:
When the children refuse to perform tricks for the crowd, their human keeper and carnival barker type Berko shoos the crowd away and scolds the children. The ‘bots try to free them, only to discover their cell is electrified.

Optimus demands to spake to the manager, so Berko introduces them to Mr. Big Top…

…seen here smoking a cigar that looks to be about the size of Optimus. Note the giant ashtray in the foreground.

Mr. Big Top informs them that the kids and Sky Lynx have all signed a contract and are here voluntarily as performers, and gives them passes for the show.

Optimus is still suspicious:
In fact, he thinks there’s “More than meets the eye” to the goings on at the circus.

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before…
Oh, right.

Mr. Big Top slithers into the spotlight in the center ring to introduce “the star of our show—that metallic master of aeral acrobatics—Sky Lynx!”

In pterodactyl form, S.L. swoops o ut of cage, and, in a very confusing panel, transforms into a weird, bestial form (a lynx, I guess?), jumps around a bit on some high platforms, and then dives toward the ground in lynx mode, only to transform into a space shuttle and glide safely to the ground.

Backstage, Optimus and Goldbug talk to S.L. and learn how he came to be here. He was apparently flying the children through space when they saw the ad for the circus and went to check it out. When Berko discovered that they had no money to pay admission, he struck a deal with them, wherein they exchange their services for admission.

But as long as they’ve been there, they haven’t been able to work off their debt, and the children are trapped in an electrified cage that will blow up if anyone but Berko tries to open it.

This is a comic book with an important moral for children: Never sign a contract until after you’ve read the fine print. Also, you might want to have your lawyer look it over first.

When Berko comes to break up all the chatting, Optimus and Goldbug ask him to release Sky Lynx and the children, and, unprompted, Berko launches into a flashback of his own, telling how he went from being a common earth hobo to Mr. Big Top’s right tentacle man:
Optimus Prime, master negotiator, manages to sway Berko with a simple one-sentence offer to give him a ride back to Earth:
They launch a plan. While Berko releases the children using his special electronic key and they all pile into Goldbug, Optimus turns into a semi and he and Sky Lynx have a page-long fight with the other circus performers:

The audience loves it!
Mr. Big Top isn’t about to let his star attraction drive away in a Volkswagen, however, and kicks Goldbug’s ass, and pulls the humans out of him.

I love how he holds the teddy bear in one of his tentacles too, as if he thinks it is one of his foes.

While Big Top is threatening his former employee, Goldbug puts himself in reverse and WHOMP, Mr. Big Top gets locked in the cage.
Together the Autobots, children and Berko return to the Autobot starship and they all head for earth, where the Autobots will resume their mission to exterminate the Decepticons, the children to reunite with their parents, and Berko to resume being a hobo, albeit now one in a spiffy purple costume.


********************

Speaking of giant transforming robots, were you aware of the existence of these two films?





Suddenly the Go-Bots don't seem so bad anymore, do they?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

BATMAN

isn't so sure about the script for the next issue of Batman Confidential.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I know you'll find this hard to believe, but I've never worked on a publicity campaign for a major motion picture.

Almost two weeks ago, one of the Google News alerts I have set up to help me trawl for comics-related links offered up this short article from The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Flock’ takes flight with producers: Don Murphy, John Wells option novel.”

The Flock is a prose novel, not a graphic novel, although the fact that it got picked up sure made for an interesting little story, thanks to the manner in which the book came to the attention of producer Murphy.

Apparently writer James Robert Smith was trash-talking the Murphy-produced aesthetic crime From Hell, the awful movie nominally based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel, on Campbell’s blog. This lead to Murphy looking into who this James Robert Smith character was, which lead to Murphy ordering a copy of Smith’s The Flock, which lead to him ending up loving it and then apparently pursuing the film option.

Pretty neat little anecdote, huh?

The role Campbell’s blog played wasn’t the only comic connection in the story. Smith has apparently also written comics before. According to the back flap of The Flock, Smith “has had his comic scripts published by Marvel Comics, Kitchen Sink, Spyderbabies Grafix, and others.” According to the hardly omniscient comics.org, these comics include Clive Barker’s Hellraiser for Marvel, and some small press stuff, including Taboo.

I was personally pretty excited to hear that announcement for the simple fact that The Flock was a book I had actually read, which was statistically improbable.

While I do read an awful lot, very little of it is fiction. Film and comics have long filled my escapism quota, and when it comes to prose I tend toward nonfiction for the simple fact that I have a harder time enjoying fiction. It’s difficult for me to read it without reading it like a critic, which isn’t really a fun way to read fiction, if that makes sense.

But I picked up 2006 book The Flock as an impulse library borrow on the strength of the cover: Look, it’s a big game hunter being stalked by giant-ass prehistoric killer birds! That looks like a good subject for a work of literary fiction, right?

The book was pretty different than what I initially expected. Based on the look of the dude on the cover and the blurry background, I kind of assumed it was about hunters or soldiers discovering a relict population of Terror Birds in some sort of lost world/valley/island/plateau kind of situation.

Not so.

The birds are a relic population, but they live in Florida, not all that far away from humanity, although in a very specific, very undisturbed hunting ground, which allowed them to survive and continue to evolve from being the apex predators of their heyday to now being pretty much super ultra killer invincible ninja birds.

Our hero is the heroically named Ron Riggs, a Fish & Wildlife officer and pretty much normal joe. He is called in to investigate some missing pets near Salutations, Florida, one of those fake planned community places owned by off-brand Disney-like movie studio Berg Brothers.

That community is encroaching on the land that the flock of killer birds have managed to hold for their thousands upon thousands (millions?) of years now. In addition to Berg Brothers and the people building and managing Salutations, other players in the area include an eccentric retired Marine colonel who owns land nearby and eventually wages war on the flock with his personal mercenary squad, and a billionaire ecologist and his staff of environmentalists who want to preserve and study the birds.

Riggs and his ex-girlfriend pick their way through these various conflicts through about 360 super-fast moving pages. I wouldn’t call The Flock great literature or anything, but it was definitely good enough to attract a picky, reluctant prose reader like myself (one who generally turns his nose up and anything that even suggests science fiction), and keep me engaged and reading through a few marathon, don’t-want-to-stop-even-though-it’s-2 a.m.-and-I-should-really-get-to-bed sessions.

It occurred to me while reading the book a few years ago that the way it was structured and written, and the fact that it revolved around these awesome killer birds, that it would make a great movie. The birds themselves reminded me quite a bit of the raptors in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel (I used to read a lot more fiction when I was a teenager, especially sci-fi and fantasy), only they were, you know, giant birds. Their presence and the several colorful, scenery-chomping characters made it easy to imagine someone recruiting a couple of great character actors, two sexy leads, and some special effects people to turn out a decent action monster movie (Personally, I was thinking more Anaconda than Jurassic Park, but then, I was also thinking of the birds themselves as something between a Skekis and a velociraptor, and how cool they’d look in stop-motion or as Muppets; this is why I am a comics blogger and not a Hollywood producer).



While Smith’s particular killer birds have just now been optioned for film, we have seen such birds, or close relatives of theirs, make it into film already, and the results of been pretty cool, at least in my book.

The specific type of bird in The Flock is Titanis walleri, “a predatory ground bird of saurian form.” They’re par of a group of giant flightless birds called Phorusrhacidae that existed in the Americas between five to two million years ago, although some have suggested they might have lasted up until around 15,000 years ago, around the time modern man was starting to populate the continents (give or take five centuries).

The name comes from the dude who discovered this particular Phorusrhacid, Benjamin I. Waller, and the word “titan,” as it was a pretty big bird—about eight fee tall and over 300 pounds. According to this little size chart on the Wikipedia entry for Phorushracids, T.W. was actually smaller than two other types of the monster birds.


The 2001 BBC series Walking With Prehistoric Beasts (i.e. one of my favorite DVDs ever) prominently feature Terror Birds in the fifth episode, “Sabre-tooth World” (At the moment, you can see the first part of that episode right here. After the theme, they show some Terror Birds trying to chase down and eat an adorable little sabret-toothed cub). These are simply referred to as phorusrachs, and seem a little larger than Titanis, being ten feet tall, but seem pretty closely related, if a different species.

They look different than the birds on the cover of The Flock, anyway. (An earlier relative of Titanis appears in an earlier episode, “New Dawn”—the slower but similarly scary gastornis.)

The 2008 Roland Emmerich movie 10,000 B.C. prominently features Terror Birds of some sort in probably the best few minutes of that interesting but wildly uneven film. Making their way through the jungle, the heroic Mammoth hunters and their captors are stalked by a small group of giant but stealthy killer birds, that end up tearing most of ‘em to pieces.

Apparently, the same sort of Terror Birds that were in Walking appear in a third-season episode of Primeval as well, but I haven’t seen past the second season of it yet.

At any rate, Walking and 10,000 B.C. certainly suggest that giant carnivorous land birds running around on film looks pretty good, so there’s some hope that a Flock movie might turn out pretty good.

Better than From Hell anyway.

********************


The best part of the possibility of a film adaptation of The Flock, particularly as a summer tent-pole would-be blockbuster type of film? Well, provided they’re allowed to keep the title (there’s a 2007 Lau Wai-Keung movie with the same name), there are some very exciting tagline and marketing possibilities!

So excited that I spent some time the other night drawing various Terror Birds, and ultimately broke out the index cards and colored pencils to imagine what the movie posters for a Flock movie, should it ever get made, might look like.

There’s the obvious tagline:
Of which there are many variations, and is so tempting a pun that you just know some film critic somewhere will end up calling the movie “A flocking good monster movie” or writing “This movie is flocking awesome,” perfect for blurbs in newspaper ads!

And of course, the studio could build up anticipation in the winter and spring before release with a tagline like this:
They would want to avoid actually playing that song during the trailer or TV spots of course, as it might make the movie appear too ridiculous. Save it to play over the ending credits.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 22nd's Weekly Haul addendum

Despite my complaining about Diamond not shipping Wednesday Comics #3 to my shop yesterday, and the fact that I said I would probably just have to pick up #3 the following week along with #4, I actually made a special trip back to the shop today to get it—and a couple other books I forgot to get.

It was my day off today, and I was in the neighborhood of my shop today, and I didn’t have much to do (other than attempt to write maybe the dumbest Blog@ post I could think of) anyway, so I spent a second afternoon in a row reading and then writing about comic books. So here’s your bonus Weekly Haul feature. Enjoy!


Leave It To PET Vol. 2 (Viz) This is a couple of weeks old, but I left it on the shelf the first few Wednesdays on account of not having enough scratch to add it to my pile. Since I was in the shop on an off-day though, it seemed like a good time to pick it up.

This volume is only slightly less delightful than the first, in large part because this time I went in expecting the delight which came as such a surprise the first time I read a PET collection. Well that and the fact that since so many other super-robot servants made from recyclables to aid the person who recycled them were introduced throughout the course of the first book, manga-ka Kenji Sonishi has a larger pool of characters to work with here, but none of them are quite as engaging as PET himself.

This $8 digest (so…cheap!!) offers 18 more stories of young student Noboru Yamada getting into trouble and then turning to PET to help get him out of it, only to be disappointed when PET makes it much worse through his forgetfulness, clumsiness or general uselessness.

The highlight in this one for me was probably “I’ll Form The Head!,” a story in which PET and his sister Alu (a super-robot made out of a recycled aluminum can) combine to form new super-robots that are just slightly taller than their individual forms. Adding the length of an aluminum can to a super-robot with a plastic bottle for a body doesn’t really improve the functionality of the plastic bottle-based robot, you see.


Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers #3 (Marvel Comics) I think this one may actually be two or three weeks old, as I've forgotten to pick it up more than once. This is the Bo Obama guest-starring issue, although the First Dog plays a rather minor role, with most of the issue devoted to the Pets seeking two Infinity Gems underwater, awfully close to a slumbering Giganto. I only know that’s what those giant whales with arms and legs are called thanks to the Marvel Pets Handbook, which taught me more about the history and biology of the Gigantos than I will probably ever need to know. But if the subject comes up at a cocktail party, and I happen to be at that cocktail party, I’m ready!

Next issue they fight Thanos. My money’s on the pets, since they have a giant bulldog and a sabre-toothed tiger* on their team, and Thanos is just a big purple guy in a funny costume. Well, he probably has some super space-guy powers too, but man, I just re-watched Walking With Prehistoric Beasts again recently, and the sabre-toothed cats are fucking badass! Look out, Thanos!


Runaways #12 (Marvel) So I guess I took this off my pull-list during the Terry Moore run, and despite liking #10 and #11 a lot never put it back on, so when it came out yesterday it wasn’t placed in my hand by an employee of my local comic shop, which often leads to me forgetting a particular book is supposed to come out that week and neglecting to purchase it.

This is the second full issue of the all-new, all-female creative team of Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli, and it’s an intensely character-focused on. Last issue some sort of mix-up with a Predator drone-looking plane or missile crashed their house and killed their coolest member, and their newest member, Clara, used her plant powers to encase all of the rubble in vines, trapping the team within.

The majority of this issue deals with the kids stuck in the ruined house, trying to figure out what just happened and what to do next, while bickering in such a way as to reveal various conflicts between one another. And then an adult family member enters the picture, which is never a good sign in Runaways.

Immonen cooked up a crackerjack cliffhanger, and the intense character-work was very well executed, with the perfect amount of melodrama (these are teenagers, after all). Artist Sara Pichelli proves herself quite gifted here, managing to make almost an entire issue of a super-comic devoted to talky-talky still feel dyamic, dramatic and engaging.

Runaways is now back on my pull-list, so I won’t neglect to buy it the next time it’s released.


(DC doesn't put the covers of individual issues of Wednesday Comics online, so here's a picture of Cuddle Pillow Batman, who has fallen on hard times, wrapped in a discarded issue of Wednesday Comics in a vain attempt to keep warm.)

Wednesday Comics #3 (DC)

Batman: I like when Batman hangs upside down, like a bat.

Kamandi: Still gorgeous, and getting gorgeous-er. Which is a word I just made up meaning “like more gorgeous, but more so.”

Superman: Superman continues to have a sad. Man up, Superman!

Deadman: So, so, so pretty. Part of this installment looked a bit like the opening credit sequence from a really cool movie from the ‘60s.

Green Lantern: Hal Jordan was planning on making a romantic dinner of lemon-dill marinated steaks for Carol Ferris tonight when he suddenly realized he was missing one of the key ingredients—

Metamorpho: Well this feature sure slowed down after the first installment.

Teen Titans: Yikes. I had to read the last three panels repeatedly to figure out what the hell was happening. I think Trident is either shooting water or an energy beam at the side of the flying submarine hospital ship, maybe? I thought he was piloting his own sub and ramming the other vehicle the first few times through.

Strange Adventures: The first two panels of this, showing the different ways in which the space baboon-men guard their two prisoners? Brilliant.

Supergirl: I can’t decide which horrifies me more, the concept of a dog with Superman’s powers, or a cat with Superman’s powers. The dog is bigger and stronger, but, at the same time, I think cats are nastier.

Metal Men: At this point, this is probably the most straightforward superhero story in the book, I think. It’s really great-looking, and its completely devoid of acts of cannibalism or sex crimes. Maybe this Dan DiDio character is unfairly maligned on the Internet…?

Wonder Woman: Okay, Ben Caldwell does lose some readability in this thing, particularly in panels seven through nine, where his dialogue bubbles blend into one big one, despite two people taking turns talking within the same bubble. I can forgive it given the experimental nature of the strip (and the project in general). That and the fact that this reads like one of the better Wonder Woman stories I’ve read that wasn’t collected in a hardcover Archives edition. The coloring’s pretty poor though, at least for this format and the size of these panels.

Sgt. Rock: This is Joe Kubert drawing things, which is really the only thing you need to know about it.

Flash Comics: This strip really hit its stride this week. Ha ha ha! It’s stride! ‘Cause Flash runs! That’s his power! Ha ha ha!

The Demon/Catwoman: Hey, speaking of sabre-toothed cats…

Hawkman: It turns out Hakwman isn’t just brutally fighting terrorists (check out the blood on his mourning star…that’s what should happen when your hero fights crime with a heavy metal ball covered in spikes), he’s brutally fighting aliens disguised as terrorists. If they did another round of Wednesday Comics next summer, you wouldn’t hear any complaints out of me if it consisted of fifteen strips all by Kyle Baker.



*So apparently you’re not supposed to call ‘em sabre-toothed tigers anymore, since they’re not tigers. The narrator kept calling ‘em sabre-toothed cats, which is more accurate, but is gonna take some getting used to.

Well I didn't expect to see this when I went to check the weather:

There's another reason to love Plastic Man. Sure, I suppose Superman could have lifted a giant "O" or "E" over his head, but Plas can become the "O" and "E" and still be recognizably Plas.

Anyway, pretty neat logo today, Google.