Saturday, July 31, 2010

A couple of manga series about a couple of schools.

Animal Academy Vols. 1-4 (Tokyopop) What a great premise. Neko Fune isn’t the brightest student in the world, and due to her poor performance in school, she had a really hard time finding a high school that would accept her.

The only one that would was the mysterious Morimori High School, but when she shows up on the first day, the school tries to send her away, as there was some problem with her application—they thought that because there was a “neko” in her name that she was a cat, and not a human being.

See Morimori is a special school for animals—specifically, the magical transforming animals of Eastern lore—where they can learn all about the human world and perfect their human disguises.

The school seemingly takes pity on Fune and allows her to stay, but only provided that she keeps the fact that she’s actually a real human being a secret from all the other students, who usually appear human, but can revert back to foxes, tanuki, cats and so on in moments of stress.

The mode of manga-ka Moyamu Fujino’s work is one of a gently, youthful melodrama, realistic despite the fantastic elements, and while there is an awful lot of humor involved, it mostly arises naturally from characters showing the stereotypical traits of the animals they actually are.

Fune’s first and best friend, for example, is Miiko, a cat, who is jealous of any and all attention Fune pays to anyone but her, and constantly bats at others (particularly Kotaro, a fox who is in love with Miiko).

The human-secretly-attending-an-animal school set-up leads to two varying views, one humorous and one more serious. Firstly, Fune finally finds herself in a situation where she’s the smartest kid in school, and, in fact, has to hide what a genius she is at the human world so as not to tip off her peers. Secondly, as she faces the various challenges of growing up, particularly making and losing new friends, she laments her position as a human at a school where the curriculum is how to be human.

Being human is something everyone has to learn though, right? I’m not so sure about magical transforming animals, but human beings certainly need to learn to be human.

Animal Academy is a very charming work, and Fujino fills it with cute human characters and even cuter animal characters. Four volumes of the series are available so far, with a fifth due in August and sixth in September.


CLAMP School Defenders Duklyon Vols. 1-2 (Tokyopop) Sometime in the future, the CLAMP School Foundation has created a gigantic, privately-funded, K through graduate school educational system, which functions as an independent society.

None of that is at all important to the two-volume story that follows the two-page info dump.

What is important is that the school is defended by two sentai-style superheroes who, under the command of violent, hammer-wielding high school sophomore Eri Chusonji and a mysterious general known as The General, defend the school from the evil of The Imonoyama Shopping District Association. When the armored warriors of Duklyon aren’t saving the day, they’re high school freshman Kentaro Higashikunimaru and Takeshi Shukaid.

They’re a fairly typical odd couple pairing, with the unique twist that the wealthy, sensitive Kentaro always wants to take care of Takeshi who, it turns out, he actually wants to marry one day.

The only other member of their class with a speaking part is Kotobuki Sukiyabashi, who looks an awful lot like the leader of evil Imonoyama Shopping District Association, except he wears glasses and a school uniform instead of glam make up and gigantic spike-covered shoulder pads.

The stories of the first volume are as formulaic as can be. Kentaro and Takeshi fight, Kotobuki comments on how much he admires their friendship, Takeshi protests that their relationship is even that far along, then they’re summoned to deal with the Shopping District Association’s attempt to take over the school using a small army of henchmen and some sort of rarely ever threatening-looking Evil Beast:

Duklyon arrives, destroys the evil beat with their signature “Duklyon Final Crush” (the first and only move they ever employ), the Shopping District escapes, and the cycle begins anew.

Gradually a romance develops involving two of the supporting characters, an overarching narrative begins to form and the heroes get pushed further and further out of their own manga. It’s so repetitive that it can be a bit of a slog, but the characters are engaging enough, the new variations on the running gags are occasionally kind of inspired, and it’s short, so that by the time it becomes clear that each chapter is pretty much the same, the formula begins to change and then the story ends.

It’s certainly no classic by CLAMP standards, but not a bad way to kill an hour, particularly for fans of this creative collective or this setting, which reappears in some of their other works, like the more popular Clamp School Detectives, X/1999 and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.


Monkey High Vol. 1 (Viz) Haruna Aizawa is a gorgeous high school girl—cool, aloof and with an unwanted air of celebrity and danger that comes from the fact that her politician father was recently arrested for corruption, and she has had to transfer to a new school.

That school’s not literally called “Monkey High,” but she thinks of high school in terms of monkey society. “School life is like being on a monkey mountain,” She thinks in the very first panel. “Monkeys in the same gang constantly fight and get back together again…There may be slight differences, but it’s essentially the same anywhere you go.”

Creator Shouko Akira keeps the monkey metaphor going throughout the entire volume, and it can get awfully strained at times, with references to monkeys often feeling forced, but the important monkey reference is the fact that Macharu Yamashita reminds her of a baby monkey (That’s him on the cover. Akira gives him prominent ears, and inquisitive, mischievous eyes and expressions throughout. He’s a little wild and playful, and immature compared to the rest of his classmates, but immature in an innocent, charming way rather than in negative, character fault kind of way).

The alpha male of Haruna’s new class/monkey troupe is Atsuyuki Kido, the handsome, popular, womanizing best friend of Macharu, but Haruna is immune to his charm. She’s immune to Macharu’s at first as well, but his kindness slowly chips away at her defenses, and she finds herself falling for him, despite the difficulty she so often has in seeing him as a man instead of as a cute little baby monkey.

The first volume is filled with rather predictable start-stop, will-they-won’t-they romance, as the leads navigate typical Japanese high school manga events like a field trip and school play for the festival, but the relationship moves rather quickly—that is, there is a relationship by the end of the first volume—and if Akira’s monkey business can occasionally grate, the drama is affecting and, most importantly, feels real.

The innocence and incongruous importance of all the relationships, the class’ investment in various characters coupling off and succeeding, the way expectations and only partially understood emotions seem to drive events more than reality, reading Monkey High was a lot like being in 12-to-15 or so again, only it’s a lot more relaxing watching fictional teenagers experiencing the safety of adulthood, protected by a fourth wall.

F Yeah Tiny Titans/Little Archie!

That's the cover of the second issue of the previously discussed Tiny Titans/Little Archie crossover, featuring Tiny/Little versions of EDILW favorites Josie and The Pussycats. I was pretty excited about this project when it was first announced, but I think I just got ten times as excited as I was then.

Also, I just noticed that the Pussycats—like Betty and Veronica on the cover of the first issue have Art Baltazarized versions of the little Dan DeCarlo upturned noses, while the Tiny characters are generally nose-less. Apparently Baltazar didn't just redraw the Archie characters in his Tiny Titans style, but filtered there designs through his Tiny Titans style?

That's pretty fantastic.





(Image spotted at and swiped from Johanna Draper Carlson's post on Archie Comics news)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reminder: Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie books are great books...and great comics too

The latest book in Willems' series of early readers about a piggie named Piggie and an elephant named Gerald, June's Can I Play Too? (Hyperion), is a typically strong entry. The conflict the two encounter in this volume is entirely delineated in the title and cover image.

The pair are going to play catch—Piggie loves playing catch with friends!—when a snake slithers up to them and asks if it can play too. Which leads to some rather awkward exchanges:

The snake busts their chops for a bit, forcing them to explain why they think it can't play catch, and then they all give it a shot. Can a snake play catch with two friends who have arms? How?

The resolution is pretty amusing, and the little kids I read it too liked the snake's not-having-any-arms joke and first few attempts at playing catch, but I enjoyed the awkward humor, and, especially, all of the opportunities the uncomfortable social situation gave Willems to act through his characters.

I'm used to his amazing versatility with Piggie, Gerald and the pigeon's relatively blank, abstract faces, but what he was able to accomplish with the snake was really something, as it has even less detail to its design than all those other characters.

So, in summary, Mo Willems is still awesome, and his Elephant & Piggie series remains an awesome showcase for his particular awesomeness. If you haven't already, you should read it—and all the previous ones. They're basically hardcover comic books, with each page functions as splash-page panel.

Surely a sign that the zombies-in-comics craze must be coming to an end:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marvel's October previews reviewed

Well look who finally decided to drag themselves on to the Internet. Where have you been, Marvel October 2010 Solicitations? DC October 2010 Solicitations were here last Monday, and you usually show up the next day. That means you’re about a week late now. What’s the deal? Didn’t want to let anyone know what you had in you until after the big trade show in San Diego? Too lazy to handle a show and trotting out to be judged on the Internet in the same week? Embarrassed of how many Deadpool books you have coming out*?

Well, at least you’re here now. Let’s see what you’ve got.


Bravo, Mr. Kaare Andrews. While this doesn’t quite eclipse the genius of Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #3’s cover—what could?—this is another solidly constructed, highly imaginative, fairly insane and very distinctive cover. One looks at this and think, “Which issue of X-Men is this? Oh yes, this is the one where they fight a thousand mutant babies.” That’s so much better than the usual thoughts X-Men covers evoke, like, “Ah yes, this is that one issue where Wolverine grimaces and Cyclops’ visor glows red.”


AVENGERS VS. PET AVENGERS #1 (of 4)
Written by CHRIS ELIOPOULOS
Pencils & Cover by IG GUARA
Basic Truth: It’s very hard to protect the earth when you’ve been turned into a frog. The Pet Avengers Return! Good thing, too, cuz dragons have decided that it’s time to take over the world and oppress the silly humans once and for all!!! And since Captain America, Iron Man & Thor are all green and hopping about, here’s hoping they can get used to their new flippers in time to fight alongside Earth’s Mightiest Pets!
40 PGS./All Ages ...$3.99


This seems like a really good idea for the next Pet Avengers story, pairing them with the human (i.e. the popular) Avengers. I would totally buy this, except I decided to switch to trades of future Pet Avengers books after the first series. It was the variants that did it; there were so many cool covers I was missing out on that it only offered extra incentive to wait to read the story in the format more likely to give you all the covers.


CHAOS WAR #1 (of 5)
Written by GREG PAK & FRED VAN LENTE
Penciled by KHOI PHAM
Backup Story Penciled by REILLY BROWN
Cover by ED McGUINNESS
Sketch Variant by ED McGUINNESS
Bigger than THE INFINITY GAUNTLET! More cosmic than ANNIHILATION! Since the end of SECRET INVASION, the CHAOS KING has amassed his army of alien slave gods -- and the time to strike Earth is NOW! Only the greatest Marvel heroes can oppose him -- all led by the newly-returned god of heroes ... HERCULES! But are even his incredible new powers enough to stand against the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever seen – a mad god who seeks to destroy Reality itself?
PLUS: While thought dead, Hercules was trapped in a dangerous world that threatened his very sanity. Find out the secret of his exile in a special extra story penciled by PRINCE OF POWER’s Reilly Brown!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

CHAOS WAR #2 (of 5)
Written by GREG PAK & FRED VAN LENTE
Penciled by KHOI PHAM
Cover by BRANDON PETERSON
The premiere event of the fall continues! When the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever seen lays waste to reality and brings Earth's mightiest heroes to their knees, who you gonna call? That's right: the all-new, all-different, all-divine GOD SQUAD! The fan-favorite team from SECRET INVASION returns, led by Thor and Hercules. And check out the cosmic heavy-hitters they choose to round out their sacred strikeforce: Galactus, Silver Surfer, Venus, Sersi and Hellstorm! Plus: After the shocking death of a major Marvel character last issue, you'll never believe who the Chaos King has next on his hit list!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
.

Hmmm. Well, with Prince of Power currently selling at the $3.99-for-22-pages format and the next Pak/Va Lente Herc joint doing likewise (at least starting with the second issue), I guess I’m done with Herc comics in single-issue formats.

And Atlas is cancelled in a few issues.

Which will mean, between more and more Marvel comics crossing past my personal point-at-which-I-won’t-buy-‘em price point and my decision to read new and re-booted books I’m interested in in trade format (the Marvel Adventures stuff, the Jason Aaron stuff), for the first time in about a decade I will be reading zero (0) Marvel Comics comic books in their comic book format .


DEADPOOL TEAM-UP #888
Written by CULLEN BUNN
Penciled by TOM FOWLER
Cover by HUMBERTO RAMOS
Let me tell ya something, Ben Grimm! And when ol’ Deadpool’s yapping, you better listen and listen good! You may think you’re fantastic! But if you’re gonna walk that aisle and get in the ring, you’re better off with me than against me! I’m all about limousines, fine-looking ladies and—woo!—championship belts! By my side … under my tutelage … you might just amount to something! When it comes to clobbering time … it’s time to go to school! And you can take that to the bank, brother, because what ya gonna do … when Deapoolmania runs wild … on you!?!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$2.99


Does anyone award prizes for solicitation copy writing? Because whoever wrote this solicitation copy deserves one.

Also, Cullen Bunn is my new favorite name. If I should somehow happen to have a son born in the next few months—by which time I’ll probably hear a new name that will become my favorite—I shall name him J. Cullen Bunn Mozzocco.



Cute.


KLAWS OF THE PANTHER #1 & 2 (of 4)
Written by JONATHAN MABERRY
Pencilled by GIANLUCA GUGLIOTTA
Cover by MIKE DEL MUNDO
Variant Cover by STEPHANIE HANS
Klaw, Master of Sound, is no more dead than he is human. The killer composed of living sound is back with a new and deadly plan that will spill blood from the Savage Land to the streets of New York. Shuri, the new Black Panther, has already tried (and failed) to stop this monster –a defeat that owed as much to her own reckless rage than it does to Klaw’s power. So, Shuri turns to the person who knows more about battling inner rage than anyone. If you think you know the Black Panther –you don’t. So don’t miss this installment of NY Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry’s exciting new series.
32 PGS.(each)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (each)


Uh-oh, Marvel Solicitation Copy-Writer, it looks like you misspelled something in the title of this…oh. Oh yeah. Never mind.


I don’t know who this dude on the cover of the fourth issue of Marvel’s weird Marvelman Family’s Finest book is, but he has a pretty lame costume. A two-letter superhero sybmol look is almost impossible to pull off.

What’s so weird about this book? It’s a $4, 40-page, black-and-white anthology reprint of old, pre-80’s Marvelman stories that I can’t believe there’s a market for. And I love comics from the fifties!


Er, what’s the Eye of Agamotto staring at, exactly?


See girls, that’s exactly the reason why you should zip your tops up. Maybe your d√©colletage wouldn’t be all cut up and bloody if you were properly dressed before going in to Hell’s Kitchen to fight Hand ninja’s or Gordon Ramsay or whatever the cannon fodder in Shadowland is.



That’s a pretty swell “vampire variant” cover Amanda Conner has drawn for the sixth issue of Secret Avengers. It manages to highlight Black Widow’s breasts, making the traditional “Hey, boys! Boobs!.” While also telling a pretty effective visual joke. There’s actually a lot of visual content going on here, as the simple size disparity of a tiny, tiny vampire (I think that’s the current “Irredeemable” Ant-Man) with a full-sized human victim is an amusing image in and of itself, without Widow’s fighting back with an annoyed glance and cocked flicking finger.


SPIDER-MAN VS. VAMPIRES #1
Written by Kevin Grevioux
Penciled by Roberto Castro
Cover by Chad Hardin
VAMPIRES! You can’t trust them, even when they’re on your side. From the pages of Marvel Digital, Spider-Man’s had a long history with Blade, the Vampire hunter, but when he finds him enslaved in an underground, undead fighting league, the web-head must fight Blade for his very life – or face the curse of the Vampire! Kevin Grevioux (ADAM: LEGEND OF THE BLUE MARVEL) and Roberto Castro (NEW EXILES) bring you all the bloodsucking action!
32 PGS./ One-Shot/Rated T+ …$3.99


Well this seems completely random, particularly since it doesn’t seem to tie into the vampire-fighting story going on in the X-Folks’ corner of the Marvel Universe. Well, if you’re going to do a comic with “Vs. Vampires” in the title, I guess now’s the time…


STRANGE TALES VOL. II #1
Written by RAFAEL GRAMPA, KATE BEATON, FRANK SANTORO, DASH SHAW, SHANNON WHEELER, JILLIAN TAMAKI, JEFF LEMIRE, KEVIN HUIZENGA, JHONEN VASQUEZ, GENE YANG, NICK GUREWITCH
Penciled by RAFAEL GRAMPA, KATE BEATON, FRANK SANTORO, DASH SHAW, SHANNON WHEELER, JILLIAN TAMAKI, JEFFLEMIRE, KEVIN HUIZENGA, JHONEN VASQUEZ, GENE YANG, NICK GUREWITCH
Cover by RAFAEL GRAMPA
Marvel’s critically acclaimed indie anthology returns! The best, most exciting cartoonists working today re-imagine Marvel’s greatest characters in three giant-sized issues! And with no ads! Get excited, folks. Comics absolutely do not get more awesome than this! Don’t miss out on what’s guaranteed to be one of the best reads of the year!!!
48 PGS./Parental Advisory…$4.99


They announced this at Comic-Con, and I even posted about it, but I didn’t notice until reading the solicitation that Kate Beaton is listed under written by and penciled by. Is this the Kate Beaton Wolverine comic the world has longed for for so long?! Is Canada’s greatest web cartoonist going to tackle Canada’s greatest superhero?



Fuck yeah.


You know, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a story where Man-Thing fights ninjas. I think I’ll therefore be looking forward to the “Shadowland” tie-in issue of Thunderbolts. Daredevil should have nothing to worry about from Man-Thing, as the Man Without Fear he probably doesn’t burn at the touch of the Man-Thing.


TOMB OF TERROR #1
Written by JOE R. LANSDALE, ROB WILLIAMS, JOE PRUETT & PAUL HORNSCHEMEIER
Penciled by MARK TEXIERA, JORDAN RASKIN, PABLO PEPPINO & MORE
Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN
Marvel’s most terrifying monsters star in four tales of harrowing horror! Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night stalks a killer werewolf in the mountains while searching for a cure that will end his curse. The mal-formed Man-Thing, temporarily in possession of his mind, attempts to save a man from certain death at the hands of racist hunters. And Son of Satan battles a possessed child killer along with the murderous voices in his head. All this and much more in this all-new, all-black-and-white one-shot in the spirit of the Mighty Marvel Magazines of yore, but ALL-NOW in style!
32 PGS./Black & White/One-Shot/Parental Advisory…$3.99


The stars of all my favorite Marvel Essential volumes, in one comic! I’ll be skipping this for the obvious reason, but I’m really curious about Paul Hornschemeier’s name up there, particularly if he’s just writing and not doing any art or coloring or anything. If anything were going to get me to part with an extra dollar for 22-pages of comic (Yes, it’s likely oversized, but it’s also black-and-white), it would be a Paul Hornschemeier written and drawn Man-Thing story.


Tron: The Betrayal #1 (of 2)
Written by JAI NITZ
Plot courtesy STARLIGHT RUNNER ENTERTAINMENT
Penciled by ANDIE TONG
Cover by SALVADOR LARROCA
Get a first look at the world of the upcoming Tron: Legacy! Following the events of the original Tron, the year is 1983 and Kevin Flynn is now in charge of Encom. He’s built it into the largest videogame company in the world. But that’s not all Kevin has accomplished – he’s also secretly built the Grid, a digital world filled with living programs! More than a place where he can race light cycles, it’s a place where he can build and test environments only limited by his imagination. But the Grid is far more complex than even its creator realizes, and even Flynn can’t be in two places at once. As this new world develops a life of its own, Flynn is going to first need the help of an old friend, a security program named Tron. Showcasing a key time of the mythology of the Tron world, part one of THE BETRAYAL will show the early days of the Grid, and the first appearances of the heroes and villains that will be seen in Tron: Legacy.
56 Pages/$4.99/Rated A
© 2010 Disney Enterprises Inc.


As a couple of you pointed out in the comments section of my Comic-Con publishing announcement reaction post, this this is actually the first Disney comic book that Marvel will be publishing since Disney bought the comics company…when was that? Ten years ago now?

I suppose that’s pretty noteworthy.

This is one of those Not For Me comics, as I never saw anything in Tron, and my experience of it was limited to the rather weird arcade game I’d occasionally play at the roller den on Saturdays when Guantlet, Rampage and the cooler games were all taken, and the Atari home game, which I recall being pretty terrible. People seem to be looking forward to the movie remake though, and I hear the trailers went over pretty well.

The last round of Tron comics, published by SLG a few years back, didn’t exactly set the direct market charts on fire, but I suppose interest will be higher for this, due to the movie.

I wonder if this is ultimately going to be a clue of the sorts of Disney-related comics Marvel will publish. Boom’s still doing their duck and mouse comics, so maybe Marvel will be focused on boy (and middle-aged-man) properties, like Tron and, I don’t know, maybe we’ll see some Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion comics as the next installments of the movies get closer?


ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #15
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Art by SARA PICHELLI
Cover by DAVID LAFUENTE
Poor Peter Parker. All his friends hate him, his girlfriend has stopped speaking to him and to top it off, the whole world despises Spider-Man. What’s a dude to do?? How about save the world and maybe meet the new love of his life? Fan-favorite BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (NEW AVENGERS) and rising Ultimate sensation, SARA PICHELLI (RUNAWAYS) bring you a new and exciting Spider-Man story you don’t want to miss!!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Who is that old man in the lower right corner with the Red Ghost haircut, and why has cover artist David LaFuente paired him with a young, fresh-faced girl? Why is the Asian gal blowing bubbles on this cover? Is she dating those bubbles?

Also, I like Sara Pichelli’s art. Hooray for more Sara Pichelli comics.

Also, the re-booted Ultimate Spider-Man is in double-digits already? I decided to switch to trades after the original volume ended, but I’ve yet to get around to doing so yet.


ULTIMATE COMICS THOR #1 (of 4)
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Pencils & Cover by CARLOS PACHECO
Villain Variant by MIKE CHOI
Exploding from the pages of the Ultimates, comes Ultimate Thor! Don't miss the superstar team-up of JONATHAN HICKMAN and CARLOS PACHECO as they go back to the beginning and tell the origin of Thor, Loki and the rest of Asgard! Ragnorak has descended and Asgard sits at the edge of the end. What will become of Thor and the Warriors Three? And what exactly does Baron Zemo, mysterious commander for the Nazis, have to do with it all? Ultimate Comics Thor brings you the untold story of Thor’s thunderous debut!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


They probably should have done this series back before the Ultimate imprint had completely eroded the positive associations it brand once held.


UNCANNY X-FORCE #1
Written by RICK REMENDER
Pencils by JEROME OPE√ĎA
Cover by ESAD RIBIC
Blank Cover also available
Variant Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
Variant Cover by CLAYTON CRAIN
Variant Cover by ROB LIEFELD
“AGES,” PART 1
Wolverine promised Cyclops that X-Force would disband -- he lied. A secret society has resurrected En Sabah Nur, putting into motion events that will turn this age of heroes into an Age of Apocalypse! To hold them back, Wolverine and Archangel bring together Fantomex, Deadpool, and Psylocke to form The Uncanny X-Force! Stained by their history, they are the only ones capable of making the hard resolutions necessary. A band of likeminded friends and mercenaries set to one purpose, one big ugly task -- kill Apocalypse by any means.
32 PGS./Explicit Content …$3.99


It’s highly unlikely that I’ll read this—certainly not in singles for that cover price, and probably not in trade either because of my general lack of enthusiasm for the X-Men franchise—but that looks like a pretty cool line-up, and this is probably the most appealing a book with the word “X-Force” in the title has looked to me since Marvel hired Peter Milligan and Mike Allred to give the title a radical makeover about a decade ago.




*Just five, not counting his membership on the Uncanny X-Force roster and a few guest-appearances.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Chief has seen a lot of crazy stuff in his time, but spirits? That's crazy talk.






"Spirit of Osra? Please Rama Kara, you must understand how preposterous that sounds to me and my colleagues. Now if you'll excuse us, my friends Robotman, a human brain in a robot body, Negative Man, who emits and controls a semi-sentient being composed of radio waves, and Elasti-Girl, who can grow to gigantic size and shrink herself to the size of a small insect, have to go fight our archenemies, an evil disembodied brain and a talking gorilla."


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

Horribly-scanned images from the story "The Nightmare Fighters" from 1965's The Doom Patrol #94 by Arnold Drake and Bob Brown, which was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The Doom Patrol Vol. 1, which is where these horrible scans were horribly-scanned from

What's wrong with this political cartoon?

Nothing at all, in terms of Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley's drawing ability.

That is a really nice drawing of Parks and of Breitbart and of Sherrod—Bagley does a great job of making Sherrod look at once like an inanimate object of the sort one might push or roll around, yet she's just animated enough to display a surprised expression. I like the period details invested in each bus, indicating which time period each is from, and I even like the slightly messy, dashed-off look of the colors as seen above (although my hometown paper, where I saw the cartoon earlier today, ran it in black and white).

The connection between "back of the bus" and "under the bus" in terms of racial politics in America seems like a sensible kernel with which to start a political cartoon on the subject, but Bagley seems to have garbled something in the final execution.

The expression "to throw someone under the bus" means to scapegoat or blame an ally, or at least someone who can be seen as an ally or as on the same team as the person doing the throwing (or pushing or tossing). Whether the throw-ee is thrown under the bus with good reason or not, or whether the thrower was justified to be throwing them at all, doesn't really matter in the usage of the phrase. The sole requirement is that both the thrower or throw-ee were on the same bus, moving the same direction. It denotes a betrayal or abandonment of the person thrown under the bus.

So why is the man labeled "Breitbart" in this cartoon at all?

Conservative blogger Andrew Brietbart kicked off the fast-moving media storm that resulted in Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod being fired, yes. He did so by editing a March speech she gave in such a way to suggest, to Breitbart and those who, like him, are concerned that the NAACP, of which Sherrod was a member, may be for the Advancement of Colored People as their name suggests, but only at the expense of the Color-less People. That is, Sherrod, who is black, is racist against white people, and this was proven by a not-terribly-damning-even-out-of-context bit of a speech she once gave.

Long story (that you probably already know) short, the NAACP condemned Sherrod and USDA Tom Vilsack fired her, based on Breitbart's claims, which no one bothered to check out for a good 24 hours or so.

So one could say that the NAACP threw Sherrod under the bus. One could say that Vilsack through her under the bus. Or the USDA. Or the media. Or the Obama administration. Or Obama himself (assigning blame to him personally might not be accurate per se, but it would be accurate enough for a political cartoon, in which a president can symbolize his party or administration).

But Breitbart? He didn't throw Sherrod under the bus. He's just about the only person or institution mentioned in this post who didn't throw Sherrod under the bus. If he has a place in the bush-throwing-under metaphor, perhaps one could say he indirectly suggested she be thrown under the bus, but to suggest that he did the throwing himself suggests a closeness between he and Sherrod.

So despite some wonderful drawings, I think this political cartoon is "wrong"...not in the opinions it expresses (which I don't quite understand anyway), but in its reporting of the situation it uses as its basis.

Of course, that's assuming that the right half of the cartoon is meant to suggest the expression "to throw someone under the bus."

Maybe the message of the cartoon is simply that in in the past, much of white America was institutionally discriminatory against black ladies when it came to public transportation, whereas today we may have gotten past that, but Andrew Breitbart still runs around pushing down middle-aged black ladies, and the Fox News bus then tries to run them over.

If that's the case, then this political cartoon makes perfect sense.



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

The above version of Bagley's cartoon was taken from Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoonists Index. Click here to see examples of the various ways various political cartoonists approached the Sherrod/Breitbart fiasco. More than one used bus imagery, and John Darkow even used a back of the bus/under the bus formulation, only he attributed the pushing of Sherrod under the bus to Obama and the NAACP.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So I guess there was a trade show in San Diego this past weekend...

Top Shelf had a ton of cool stuff to announce, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #2: 1969, The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston, Any Empire by Nate “The Guy Who Made Swallow Me Whole” Powell (The above image is Powell's), Super Natural by Matt Kindt (Top Shelf PR notes that it stars “Amelia Earhart, Harry Houdini, and more!”), The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, Incredible Change-Bots Two by Jeffrey Brown, plus five new kids series (including one by Chris Eliopoulos), more stuff from Christian Slade, Andy Runton and work by Jess Fink, Jennifer Hayden, Ray Fawkes and Vince Locke and Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. Plus Masahiko Matsumoto’s manga Cigarette Girl.

That’s…that’s a lot of great sounding stuff right there.


Fantagraphics is apparently going to begin collecting and reprinting Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic strips, in cooperation with Disney. That is great news. I’ve seen very little of these strips, but what I have seen was incredible, and I wouldn’t hesitate to seek out more, if more were readily available.


As expected, DC announced another brand-new Batman ongoing monthly as the place where Grant Morrison will continue the Batman saga he started scripting about four years ago now.

It’s going to be called Batman Inc. and it’s going to be drawn by Yanick Paquette, who recently illustrated the third, pirate-themed issue of Morrison’s Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, and had previously collaborated on the 2006 Seven Soldiers miniseries The Bulleteer.

From Comic Book Resources coverage:
"All I'm going to tell you up front is basically it's almost a team book," explained Morrison. "I was looking at the Brave and the Bold cartoon which I love and I wanted to do that kind of thing—Batman with other people. We're come up with a structure that lets us do kind of a team book."

"This is why the book was called 'The Return of Bruce Wayne,'" he added. "This is what happens when Bruce is more in the equation and what he does with the Batman idea and turns it into a franchise."
I suspect the Club of Heroes will play a big role in this, based on the fact that Batman and his surrogates already more or less run all of DC’s major super-teams (save for the JSA), and that Morrison was quoted saying something about Silver Age Kate Kane having had an affair with Bruce Wayne and El Gaucho simultaneously in someone’s panel coverage that I can’t find now.

If that is the case, I think Batman: Club of Heroes is a better-sounding title than Batman Inc., but then Morrison seems to know what he’s doing.

Speaking of Batman and The Club of Heroes characters, I think I like the sound of this Knight and Squire book the more I hear about it:

Cornell joked that he plans on introducing at least 100 new villains in the "Knight & Squire" series. "We managed 50 in the first issue alone. This is a plot to kill the editors of DC through sheer hard work," he laughed. He added that his first arc featured Richard III brought back to life as a clone with an army of monarchs who try to re-conquer the world through Facebook. "That's what I'm doing right now."



And here’s another quote from Cornell:
The cover to "Action Comics" came on the screen and Cornell discussed the image. "This is Gorilla Grodd attacking Lex Luthor with his No. 1 attacking spoon," joked Cornell. He decided "Action Comics" with Lex Luthor as a "Super-villain punch up. It's Lex Luthor versus one of the DC Universe's biggest villains every month." The writer listed upcoming character appearances, including Mr. Mind, Deathstroke, Gorilla Grodd, and Neil Gaiman's Death—who the writer said isn't a super villain but "the personification of a natural force that's actually very lovely." He also said a crossover with the Secret Six will be forthcoming.
Damn, Mr. Mind too? I’m kinda regretting deciding to trade-wait this Action Comics arc of Cornell’s now…


This seems like a really good idea. The presence of Rocket Raccoon and Groot alone got me to buy the first issues of Annihilation: Conquest—Star-Lord and Guardians of the Galaxy (the quality of those first issues got me to buy subsequent ones in each series). This then looks a lot like a Let’s Just Give The People What They Really Want sort of comic.

And hey, nice Mike Mignola cover! I wonder if that alone will sell the book to Hellboy readers? Because just glancing at the image, it sure looks like something set in the Hellboy-iverse, due perhaps to combination of the leads not being household names (that is, a Mignola-drawn Spider-Man/Captain America cover would still look like a Marvel comic, Mignola or no) as well as Mignola’s signature style and cover composition.


This is an intriguing idea too, falling into the trying something slightly different category, which I was hoping to see a lot more of from DC after the executive/editorial rejiggeration (I think the last time DC tried a monster-as-hero character out it was Sam Kieth’s Scratch, and it didn’t work out well—but then, Kieth is hardly the most commercial talent, and that story seemed to have less to do with monsters and superheroes than it did with emotions and drama).

“Garbage Man” is a good name for a superhero, and the design is kind of cool in an ugly way, which is appropriate for a character with that name.



If John Romita Jr. ever needs a month off, they oughta get Rafael Grampa to draw Avengers for him. His image of Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Spidey and Wolverine, some of them in re-designed costumes—is fantastic. Robot 6 ran it above an announcement of Strange Tales II, a second round of Marvel’s indie/alt/arty comics artists do stories featuring the regular Marvel super-characters anthology.

I still haven’t read the first one, but the trade is oon my To Buy list, and this line-up of creators sounds every bit as impressive as the first round.

The collection must have done very well in shops and bookstores if a second series has been green-lit, because the single-issues of the original were waaaaaaay down the monthly sales charts, around what’s usually considered cancellation level for Marvel.


I’m not a video game guy, but I thought the trailers for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and DC Universe Online are both pretty awesome-looking.

It’s strange to see the Spider-Man from the Spider-Man: Noir minis so prominently featured in the game alongside more long-lived and popular versions of the character. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of more people will end up playing a video game with that version of Spider-Man in it then actually bought and read those comics? (I also wonder if Jeff Parker and Ramon Rosanas' frilly collar-ed 1602 Spider-Man is an unlockable character in this, or if they’re saving him for the sequel).

As for the DCU game, most of the characters, costumes and powers looked both accurate and cool, which I found sort of impressive, given the fact that GL and Flash seem so difficult to make move in a way that is realistic. Hal Jordan looks a lot better here than he does on that EW cover too, although maybe that live-action movie version of GL will look better in motion? Even Lex Luthor’s big dumb transformer suit doesn’t look so bad in that video game trailer (I guess the dust and dents instead of vibrant purple and green help a bit).


Kiel Phegley covered a "DC Nation" panel in this this article for Comic Book Resources, in which the snuffy Rise of Arsenal book came up, and several DC writers and editors defended it in a variety of ways:
The "Rise of Arsenal" issue by Krul that rocketed around the comics blogosphere with a largely negative reaction was brought up by a fan wondering if editorial interference was the cause of the story not connecting with fans. Didio took the question first, saying, "Every book isn't going to please everybody...that's why we sit in this room like this. You're not going to find two people with the same reaction to any book." He added, "We think that was the right tone and the right voice for what was going on there. You may disagree, and that's okay...The fact that we're talking about an Arsenal book is something that would never have happened [before this story.]"



Didio noted that most of the people that reacted positively to this story had small children of their own, meaning the writers "touched a real nerve" which was a good job and not a bad job.

Later, the issue came up again in terms of why writers would make such awful things happen to a character like that, and Krul said, "It's tricky to find a character you can take these chances with....you can do stuff with Roy Harper that you can't do with Green Arrow." He then joked that they weren't going to cut off Green Arrow's arm...until issue #7.

Robinson chimed in on the hero. "If you look at the character and get a little zen about it, he's a self-sabotager," he said. "Even in the Titans back in the day, he was the bad boy...you want to make him interesting and see what you can do with him."
Eh, it all sounds like bullshit to me. I think Krul had the best answer, in making a joke about it.

I think DiDio’s “fact that we’re talking about an Arsenal book” comment reveals a rather depressing attitude. Is there really no way to imagine anyone at a con ever talking about an Arsenal book if that book didn't have plot points like the killing off of his five-year-old daughter, the loss of his arm, his getting re-hooked on heroin and so on?

Wonder Woman changed clothes and people couldn’t shut up about it. Superman stopped flying and started visiting real cities and people talked about it. There are a lot of various “stunts” that can be pulled to get people talking about an Arsenal/Red Arrow/Speedy/Roy Harper comic book that don’t involve killing toddlers (repeatedly, thanks to flashbacks!) and suchlike, from finding celebrities and popular novelists to write his comics to media coverage-baiting plot events.

And then they could always just make a really great Aresenal comic, with brilliant writing and gorgeous art.


ALSO:


This headline made me think that J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon were collaborating on a major motion picture inspired by the 1980’s toy line/cartoon series “Visionaries.” That is not the case.


—I'm not sure what to make of the Marvel-has-Crossgen announcement. I only read literally a handful of Crossgen titles long after they were published—a couple of issues of Ruse, a couple issues of Way of the Rat, something in which George Perez illustrated a sea battle—and while I liked the first two of those just fine, it seems to me that Crossgen’s weird way of making comics and the incredible talent they managed to secure for an upstart company, were a lot more noteworthy than any of the characters or concepts.

That is, I think they were popular because of Mark Waid and Chuck Dixon and Greg Land and whoever were popular, not because Sigil was the new Wolverine or anything. (Sigil was a character’s name, right?)

Additionally, past announcement of Big Two companies acquiring the rights/deciding to publish the super-characters of other, defunct companies recently have come to naught—or, at least, naught-ing noteworthy—so I’m not sure this is anything for anyone to do cartwheels over.

That said, I’d probably read a Ruse trade paperback collection.


—I'll probably read this in trade, but I will read it.


—Is the announcement that Marvel will be producing Epic Mickey comics the very first Marvel comics project using Disney characters? If so, that seems pretty noteworthy.


—I like the way this manga looks, but I like the way that sweater looks slightly more.


—I was disappointed that DC's "DC Kids: Aww Yeah!" panel didn't include anything solid regarding the future of their kids line, as it sure looked like it was being canceled (of the four kids comics with DC super-characters in them, three of them have either shipped their final issue or will shortly).

As far as I can tell, they will be rebooting the books with new numbering, but there weren't any details regarding titles and creators and so on. So maybe nothing's changing, other than the numbers...? The rest of the panel consisted of the usual vagaries about wanting to appeal to kids more, trying to find good ways to make kid-friendly Supergirl and Wonder Woman comics, etc.

The way the timing had worked out, I was really expecting more than a "stay tuned" this weekend.