Monday, November 01, 2010

Some links about some various things.

A few thoughts on rogue’s galleries: Recently one of my Blog@ co-contributors decided to spotlight the artwork of Mark Robinson in a post devoted to Robinson’s occasional “Foe Vs. Foe” sketches, in which the artist draws a Spider-Man villain engaged in combat with a Batman villain. It seemed like a fun endeavor, so I followed the links and spent some time the other day spelunking through archives to find the pieces. It turns out, they’re actually rather old drawings, and I didn’t get any indication that the project was ongoing or anything.

Still, some pretty neat drawings (the more I looked at Robinson’s sketches, the more I liked his work), and some rather unique match-ups (Like, instead of the Black Cat, Robinson has Catwoman fighting The Rhino, for example).

In the blog post, Robinson is quoted as saying, “IMO there is/are no hero/es out there with a better villain gallery than that of the Spider and the Bat.”

“IMO” means “in my opinion,” so I guess there’s no reason to argue with an opinion, but in my O, there’s Batman’s rogues gallery at the apex of rogues galleries and then, on the next level down, Spider-Man’s, tied with The Flash’s.

I’ve heard folks compare both Spidey’s and The Flash’s stable of villains to Batman’s before, but I don’t think Spider-Man’s villains really hold a candle to Batman’s.

For one thing, Spider-Man really lacks an archenemy of the Joker’s caliber (in that regard, even Superman’s rogues gallery is a bit stronger, in that it has Lex Luthor in it). You can see this in the movies especially, where they went with The Green Goblin almost as a default archenemy—they couldn’t really make his costume work at all, but they were casting about for Spider-Man’s Joker, and they settled on Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin.

You can also see it in the last ten years or so worth of Spider-Man stories, following Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man lead, in which Norman Osborn is turned into a more Lex Luthor-ish villain. Originally, he was just some asshole adult with a terrible haircut, an insane costume and some mental problems, but he was gradually reinvented into 1990’s Lex Luthor, with a voice in his head.

Don’t get me wrong, Spider-Man has a great little rogues gallery, but they are all more gimmick-focused than personality-focused. Capitalize the name of any vaguely threatening animal, add a “The” in front of it, and congratulations, you have a Spider-Man villain. Batman’s villains tend to be more well-rounded, their visual gimmick linked to an obsession of some sort that could be played either as an oddity (someone who only steals cat statuettes, commits crimes having to do with the number two, a hat-thief, etc) but easily grew to deep, scary psychological problems manifesting in weird ways.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two, though. Batman did have a good 20+ year head start, so many of his villains are among the first crop of comic book villains, and were inspired by things other than other comic book villains. They’ve also had a bit longer to gestate and evolve into what they are now.

It’s easy to imagine a Batman movie without Batman in it at all—Christian Bale’s Batman just gets in the way of Heath Ledger’s Joker movie in The Dark Knight, for example—but not so easy to imagine a Spider-Man-less Spider-Man movie. Well, I guess The Punisher started as a Spidey villain before graduating, and there’s been talk of a Venom movie before, but I have an easier time imagining movies featuring Deadshot, The Joker, Catwoman (wait, they did that one already), Man-Bat, The Riddler or even The Penguin than I do, say, The Scorpion, Electro, The Rhino, The Green Goblin, Any Other Goblin or Mysterio.

The real reason I wanted to post on this subject, however, is simply that I wanted to mention artist Mark Robinson as an excuse to post this image:That’s The Red Tornado with an unfortunate new hairstyle in the back, you probably recognize the two dudes in the capes and, on the far right is that…? No, it couldn’t be…Yes, it’s Aquaman with a handlebar mustache!

I…I’m not sure how I feel about Aquaman with a mustache. I liked bearded Aquaman a whole lot, but mustachioed Aquaman? That’s something I’m going to need to think about. In the meantime, go look at Robinson's art.

More rogues galleries: On the subject of rogues galleries, Tom Spurgeon’s last Five For Friday feature was fun: “Name Five Members Of A Rogues Gallery NOT Batman's, Dick Tracy's Or Spider-Man's And Don't Identify The Hero.” The results were pretty wide-ranging, and while some of ‘em were awfully obscure, it makes for a great list of proper names to read, even if you don’t recognize them all. (The image above, incidentally, identifies one of the heroes and two of his "rogues").

"The Champion Bad Guy": One of the many Golden Age characters I’ve always been fascinated with, despite only having read about rather than read actual comics stories actually featuring the character, is the villain Iron Jaw. R. C. Harvey writes about Iron Jaw at some length for The Comics Journal, noting what made him such a scary, compelling customer and that in many ways he seems to have been decades ahead of his time, a villain whose ilk became common in the 1980s, but was fairly alien back in the Golden Age.

FY Sims and Bellegarde!: Invincible Super-Blogger/ally of comics Chris Sims collaborates with Hector Plasm artist Nate Bellegarde for one of Comics Alliance’s occasional “Great Comics That Never Happened,” and their issue of The Tomb of Dracula is a great Marvel + Vampires mash-up of the sort the publisher has been doing on their variant covers recently, only pushed a wee bit further. The punning name of the…vampirized characters if cool, but it’s all the little details that make the image. It’s a great cover…I just wish there was a comic book under it.

DC’s August: I didn’t notice until I read Marc-Oliver Frisch’s analysis of DC Comics’ sales chart at The Beat, but apparently Green Lantern, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman and Robin and The Flash all failed to ship.

Now, there are two other Green Lantern titles and about 18 other Batman titles, but Green Lantern is the only of the three GL books to feature the primary, movie-starring Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and the two Bat-books that didn’t ship are the two Grant Morrison-written ones, which are the flagship ones steering the good ship Batman; the other Bat-titles are more particular flavors catering to the specific tastes of Batman readers.

All in all, that’s three-fourths of the guys on that pin! And Superman’s only book at the moment may have shipped in August, but he just walked around and preached for 22 pages, right?

I’m not surprised that the two Morrison books failed to ship, but two Geoff Johns books failing to ship seems pretty unusual.

Also of note, DC’s best-selling books had Deadman and Hawkgirl on the cover; Deadman hasn’t carried his own monthly in…my lifetime? And Hawkgirl’s book, the renamed Hawkman, lasted only 16 issues before DC axed it in 2007.

I find it amusing that a book featuring those two, plus Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Firestorm—all of whom have also had titles canceled in the last decade or so (repeatedly, in Aquaman’s case)—are carrying DC’s best-selling book (And even if Johns’ GL and Morrison’s Bat-books would have shipped, Brightest Day would still be one of the company’s better-selling titles).

As with 52, is this a demonstration that creator (in this case, Geoff Johns) and perceived importance to the fictional universe (Brightest Day following up on plot points of cosmic significance from Blackest Night) trump even character in terms of selling comics?

Finally, as determined by this particular chart, if the free market chose the Justice League, and the line-up were to consist of the seven characters whose solo books move the most copies, than the JLA would feature Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Red Robin, Batgirl, Zatanna and Supergirl (More than half women!)

Marvel has a second Scarecrow…?: As I reiterated last night, I really dig DC Comics’ Batman villain The Scarecrow, and while I knew Marvel had a villain who was also called The Scarecrow and whose costume was also that of your average Scarecrow, I did not realize Marvel had two of ‘em. Not until I read this entry in Andrew Weiss’ Nobody’s Favorites series, an often fun and always occasional series profiling various comic book characters that no one really likes. Like Marvel’s Scarecrow who isn’t the contortionist one who fights Marvel superheroes now and then. He sounds pretty insane, and in a pretty awesome way, but I suppose he must not be that awesome, given the fact that I’ve never heard of him, and that Weiss counts him among Nobody’s Favorites instead of Everybody’s or even Somebody's Favorites.

Nice scarf, anyway.

I’m not sure what do about this Walking Dead TV show thing: Not that I have to, like, do anything about it at all, of course. But, as you probably know, writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard’s ongoing zombie serial Walking Dead has been adapted into a television series, which apparently debuted on AMC last night to strong ratings and positive reviews (at least in the circles I run in/blog in).

I don’t get AMC, so I won’t have to decide whether to start watching it or not until its released on DVD, but as much as I like the comic, I’m sort of reluctant to see an adaptation of it before it’s complete. The comics have such a significant head start on the TV series that it would be a long, long, long time before the show ever caught up to the comic, if that’s even possible, but I don’t know, for some reason an adaptation of an ongoing series like this makes me a little uncomfortable.

I am glad for Kirkman and his collaborators though, and I’m glad to see a comic book series being adapted to TV in live-action again, particularly one that’s not a corporate-owned superhero.

Long, long ago, nearer to the launch of The Walking Dead comic, I reviewed an early volume of the series for an altweekly that no longer exists (and which purged its online archives, to my irritation). At the time, I stated that the series was well on its way to being the greatest piece of zombiepocalypse fiction, because unlike film, the medium zombies have long been most at home in, serial comics never have to end, making The Walking Dead potentially the biggest, longest, most expansive epic of the still-burgeoning genre.

Ironically the only other medium that could really match the serial nature of comics is that of television.

As is often the case, Tom Spurgeon says it better than I do. In his “Random Comics News Story Round-Up” for today, Spurgeon talks up two of the comic’s virtues, including both it’s wide-open serial narrative, and the fact that unlike most of the potentially endless comic book serials we know of, it’s creator-owned and likely to end at some point, whereas Spider-Man and The Flash will just move on under different creators.

Spurgeon included it as an item in a post of several items, so I’m going to have to quote him at length here, but I encourage you to go read it on his site (As I encourage you to go read his site every day. I do!):
One key element from my perspective -- for those of you who have dabbled and felt that they were missing something, or haven't read it at all -- is that Kirkman tweaks two pop culture concepts to great effect. The first is that as an ongoing comics series the dread and horror of a zombie-devastated world increases as the comic keeps going, and thus the format helps Walking Dead avoid the pitfall that zombie movies have where a reasonably quick resolution or at least a stopping point is required and played against. The second is that as an independent comic book, Kirkman is free to take the story in whatever direction he wants, which may not be a big thing to you and me as grizzled veterans of such works but if this is the first comic book series you've read outside of the cape and cowl corner of the field, or the first piece of zombie fiction you've experienced outside of watching a lot of largely formulaic genre movies, that freedom from acting as a corporate property caretaker must seem ruthless, inspired and slightly unhinged.

Old news that's new news to me department: Did you know that cartoonist Tom Neely made a sweet video for The Muffs back in 2005 for the song “Don’t Pick On Me”…? Well, he did.

Aw, I want a paper version to “read” to my nieces: I forget the first place I saw this to properly credit the linker, but I saw it linked-to in multiple places over Halloween weekend. I’m going to link to this long, wordless Punkin & Boo storyline by Matthew Sundstrom too, on account of how great it is.

Lucy Knisley, Renaissance Woman: We can all agree that Lucy Knisley is an awesome cartoonist and artist right? Right. But does she have any other talents? Like, say, costume design? Sea-creature eyeball creation? Squid costume model? I think this Flickr stream-y thing she linked to from her blog thing answers that.

A brief commercial message: Last week, commenter “Kid Kyoto” said I should make a point of plugging my work elsewhere on EDILW more often. I generally link to any formal reviews or pieces appearing in unusual places here, but I only rarely link to Blog@Newsarama, since I have something up there pretty much ever (week)day. To review though, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays mornings I post Linkarama@Newsarama, which is straight-up linkblogging along the lines of, um, this very post, only with generally shorter, less self-reflective links. Every Tuesday around 4:30ish I post an installment of Twas the Night Before Wednesday…, a here’s what’s coming out this week and what I think about it sort of column, with a colored pencil-on-index card cartoon (unless The Sandman gets me before I draw it the preceding night). And on Thursday mid-afternoons I either post reviews of recent graphic novels or something miscellaneous, depending on whether or not I have anything to say about anything…or a dumb joke about something to share.

And on the subject of reading things I created, I still have lots of copies of my self-published comic My Pet Halfling (Oh so very many copies…!) left to sell you. It’s just like a blog post…that you have to pay for…and that you can’t make go away by turning off your computer.


A Hero said...

"Spider-Man really lacks an archenemy of the Joker’s caliber"

As you mentioned at the start of this post, it is all a matter of opinion. At the very least this guy would disagree with you about Norman Osborn's worthiness as an archenemy.

Personally, I too prefer the Joker to the Green Goblin, but I don't think the Goblin is a poor enemy. In fact, I think the main difference between the two is the difference between the two companies.

DC's characters tend to be more iconic, so the archenemies (e.g., Batman/Joker Superman/Luthor) tend to be a clash of ideals. The Joker and Luthor represent the exact opposite of what their respective heroes do.

In the case of Spider-Man/Green Goblin the clash is more personal. They are archenemies because of the things they have done to each other over the years. The Green Goblin emerged as an archenemy because of Peter's relationship with Harry and of course because he killed Gwen Stacy.

Of course I have been a Spider-Man fan since before I could even read the comics and only started reading DC during my college years (a.k.a. the early 90s). So I am far from unbiased.

Eyz said...

Good for Brightest day!

tomorrowboy 2.7 said...

I love this image:

That Batman has so many strong bad guys that you can mash them up and still have seven is pretty impressive. I don't know if I can even name seven Superman badguys.