Friday, March 30, 2012

The comics content in Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books

This is a neat little book, particularly for people who love books. Hell, if you saw that cover and thought, “Neat,” chances are it’s a book you’ll enjoy reading.

Editor Leah Price visits with 13 writers of some renown (including three couples in which both halves are each writers) and interviews them about books. How do they organize their libraries, what was their first book, how do they feel about books and so on. Each subject provides a top ten list of books. And then there are pages and pages of photographs of the writers’ own libraries.

These are all very nice photos, each a little work of art of its own, although the photos are doubly exciting in that not only do they show us a beautiful picture, but they also allow us to vicariously browse the shelves of the writers featured, reading the spines and seeing what they have, and in what editions, and so on.

The first person featured is one of “ours”: Alison Bechdel, the cartoonist best known for her long-running Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip and the 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home.

Price asks her about her meticulous, almost obsessive organization by subject, when she first started building her library, how “lived-in” her books are, whether she’s a packrat or not, and what she thinks the future holds for her library.

Bechdel’s answers were of great interest, at least in part because of how damn smart she comes across, and how well-read she seems. She talks about books I can remember reading, once, 15 years ago, but can’t remember anything much about them, as if she’s intimately familiar with them, as if they are books she’s read over and over.

Here’s a long-shot of part of her library:Check out that conastoga wagon thing with the electric cord and plug coming from it. What the hell is that? A crazy lamp? A plug-in Wagon Train playset? Price doesn’t ask her.

Here’s Bechdel’s top ten, which she drew the images of (the other writers’ top tens are photographed):The only comic book in there is a Tintin volume, although Edward Gorey tends to haunt an area just across the border of comics.

Of the other writers featured—Junot Diaz, Philip Pullman, Lev Grossman & Sophie Gee, et cetera—the only other one to have written comics is Jonathan Lethem, who of course wrote Omega: The Unkown for Marvel Comics in 2007-2008 (against the express wishes of Omega: The Unknown co-creator Steve Gerber), and is enough of a comics fan that you’ll see him providing the occasional blurb or introduction to a graphic novel or collection.

He doesn’t have any comics in his top ten, but scanning the photos of his shelves, I see he owns collections of Nancy and Barnaby, Joe Matt’s The Poor Bastard, Will Eisner’s A Contract With God, some James Sturm, Julia Wertz, Peter Kuper, Paul Hornschmeier and...a shrink-wrapped copy of his own Omega: The Unkown…? Are writers allowed to have copies of their own work on their shelves like that, or is it considered gauche?

Another shelf contains a half-dozen volumes of DC’s Plastic Man archives and a couple of The Spirit (which tells us Lethem is both wealthy and a man of good taste), along with a ton of Kirby and a bunch of Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts volumes.

A few other comics made it into a few other writers’ top ten lists.

Philp Pullman has another Tintin book, The Castafiore Emerald, on his. Junot Diaz has Love and Rockets #12: Poison River on his and Lev Grossman has Watchmen on his.

These were some of the comics titles that I noticed while scanning the books on the contributors’ shelves: Bride of the Water God, Wilson, Kirby Five-Oh!, Akira, The Complete Far Side, The World of Charles Addams, Peanuts: A Golden Celebration, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, Death Note, more Tintin, Y: The Last Man, Dark Horse’s Achewood collections and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.

I think everyone had some Vladimir Nabokov and C.S. Lewis on their shelves.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

I have a "Month of Wednesdays" column containing reviews of Nick Edwards' hard-to-spell but fun-to-read Dinopopolous, John "Derf" Backderf's My Friend Dahmer, Jimmy Palmiotti and Artiz Eiguren's Queen Crab, Michael Gaydos, Ande Parks and Jonathan Kellerman's Silent Partner: The Graphic Novel and Peyo's The Smurf Olympics. You can read it by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comic shop comics: March 28

Sadly, my shop did not get any copies of Corey S. Lewis' new Sharknife ZZ, the long-awaited sequel to his fantastic Sharknife Vol. 1, which is actually so old it pre-dates my blog (I did review it for the alternative weekly newspaper I used to write and edit for, but when we were bought out by an evil media conglomeration, they took down are archives, so I can't link to a review of it.)

Knowing Sharknife ZZ is out there and not in my hands at the moment kinda bums me out, but I suppose it's just as well: It's been so long since I've read the original that I barely remember it, so I wouldn't mind re-reading that first. I'd definitely recommend that volume, which Oni Press re-released as Sharknife Vol. 1: Stage First this week. I do remember how much I liked it, even if some of the exact plot details escape me, so I'd highly recommend that volume, and can't imagine the second one isn't equally awesome, if not even more awesome, than the original. ComicsAlliance has a rather generous preview of it up, emceed by Chris Sims; check it out.

In other sad new comics news, I still haven't gotten a copy of Tiny Titans #50.

These are the comics I did get at the shop this week:

Aquaman #7 (DC Comics) Black Manta is introduced to the New 52iverse, and it's the knife-y, stabby version from Brightest Day.

He's a little more evil than I like my supervillians, telling a fallen foe, "After I kill you, I will go to Tehran and I will kill your family. Your husband. Your children. I will clean them like a fish." I may just be old fashioned, but I prefer villains who think they're actually the good guys, as opposed to the out-and-out, evil and proud, Joker-wannabe types.

This issue kicks off a new story arc (and the regular art team Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are back for it after an issue off) dealing with a group of super-types Aquaman used to hang-out with, each of whom was armed with a shiny golden Atlantean artifact. Black Manta wants to get his hands on those artifacts, and is apparently going to hunt down and kill Aquaman's old running crew to get them...unless our hero can stop him in time!

My favorite guy so far is the one on the far right of the cover—"The Operative"—who is holding aloft the ancient Atlantean golden dildo of power.This issue also introduces a brand-new Iranian female superhero...who is killed seven pages after her first appearance.


Captain America and Bucky #628 (Marvel Entertainment) This is the concluding chapter of the book's second story arc, the last one dealing with Captain America and Bucky (well, a Bucky). Captain America, the android Human Torch and an old man who used to be Bucky II thwart a plot to take over America by the new version of an old evil android, and his android helpers. And that's it.

It's a pretty light read, and the book is likely to get even lighter, as next issue it turns into a Captain America team-up title, with "Hawkeye" replacing "Bucky" in the title and a new creative team. The art component of this creative team was pretty strong, and helped make an otherwise forgettable story interesting to read. That is Franceco Francavilla, apparently coloring his own art, and it's some of the best coloring I've seen on a Marvel comic. Very little of it is natural lighting—an early scene is set outside a bar at night, the last scene is set outside during sunset, the rest of the comic takes place in dark military bases lit by the Human Torch and explosions, bathing everything in reds, blues and yellow.

It's a fine-looking comic book.

Daredevil #10 (Marvel) Holy smokes, look at that cover! I can't think of the last time I've seen a comic book cover—certainly a superhero comic book cover—that I could honestly describe as beautiful, but there you have it. That is one beautiful comic book cover.

The interior art, by pencil artist Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera, is almost equally lovely.

This issue concludes the previous one's arc, in which The Mole Man had his moleoids, never creepier than they are as rendered by the Riveras, empty an entire graveyard of coffins, as he was looking for one particular corpse for...what turns out to be a rather disturbing reason, but not as disturbing as I worried it might be at one point (Maybe if this was a DC comic...).

Rivera does his usual amazing job capturing action and conjuring tricks to illustrate DD's radar senses and/or blindness, and the exotic underground setting allows for some particularly interesting images. I was pretty surprised by Mole Man's fighting prowess—something Waid does have DD himself comment on, acknowledging that something that seems off does indeed seem off—but liked the resolutions to the conflicts Waid came up with.

After this issue, Marvel will kick up their testing of Daredevil readers' patience and goodwill with an issue "#10.1" by an artist who is not Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera or Chris Samnee (and who Christopher Butcher and C.B. Cebuski didn't really get me very excited about in this pretty fascinating discussion ), and then there's a three-part crossover story which would require Dardevil readers to first purchase issues Avenging Spider-Man #6 and The Punisher in order to read teh complete story that climaxes in the next whole number issue of the series. I'm not sure why Daredevil needs a jumping-on point ".1" issue given that the new series hasn't even been around an entire year yet, but I know Marvel's done ".1" books even earlier in the runs of new books, so whatever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Mangaman

There's a pretty clever premise to this original graphic novel from prose writer Barry Lyga (Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, other stuff) and cartoonist Colleen Doran (A DIstant Soil, other stuff, one that is rather immediately apparent from a quick flip-through, even if the rather generic cover and more generic still title work to obscure it from a casual browser: Teenager Ryoko Kiyama stumbles out of an interdimensional rift and winds up in the real world; his home universe is a manga, making him a manga character trying to get buy in a Western comic book, as Lyga and Doran are telling their story as a graphic novel.

The story is a bit thin, but it is mostly a set-up on which to riff gags off of, and, later, some all-the-world's-a-comic book observations about the true nature of reality and its relationship to the comics medium, along the lines Grant Morrison started exploring in his late-eighties Animal Man and he and other writers (notably Alan Moore in his Promethea) have often dealt with.

The gags are funny. Ryoko generally horrifies the other teenagers in the story, as he still acts as if he were in a manga. Not only is he drawn in a different style which would make him rather horrifying to behold—hie eyes alone are ten times bigger than those of a normal person's—but if he's surprised or performing some sort of action, he'll summon a cloud of speed lines, which, when the moment has passed, then crash to the ground. He similarly summons sound effects and imagery of what's going on in his head, and he will seemingly transform at random into a horrifying chibi homunculus, or get hearts for eyes and so on.Doran draws him rather shojo-esque, but references are made to several types and styles of manga and anime throughout. She is a perfect artist for the project, given the versatility of her style, and how well she draws realistic and representational human beings, more greatly contrasting the gulf between Ryoko and the others.

As for that thin story, Ryoko is kept in a military facility with an army major who serves as his guardian while also trying to build a big, crazily complicated machine to send him back home. Ryoko begins attending a local high school, where he falls for former homecoming queen-turned-fancy dress enthusiast Marissa and runs afoul of Marissa's jock ex. Ryoko and Marissa immediately fall in love with one another, forcing Ryoko to have to choose between life as a freak in the real world with a real girl he loves, or returning home and never seeing Marissa again.Oddly enough, Marissa seems the stranger of the two lead characters and, as a reader, I had a harder time believing in her than I would that a real, live manga character could enter our universe through an portal to an alternate dimension. When we first meet her, she's dressed like Indiana Jones and looking at herself in the mirror, trying to find the perfect outfit to attend a party in. Almost every time we see her, she's in a costume, which is...well, it's pretty weird.

I mean, that's the point. It's supposed to be a weird habit. But it's so weird that it always come across as a trait a writer might think to assign a character to signify weirdness, rather than the sort of weird that a real person might organically evolve on their own. In addition to the above examples, for exmaple, Marissa attends school dressed like Julie Newmar's Catwoman, Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra and a Lord of the Rings elf, fake ears and all.

In addition to my concerns about the presentation—the title, the cover design—maybe not serving the story as well as they could, I'm not sure the black and white art works as well as color would. Because the bulk of manga is presented in black and white, to embed the manga character Ryoko in a comics world that is also black and white seems like it's missing a pretty ideal and fundamental opportunity to further, more drastically contrast him with his setting, the one type of comic from the other (the vast majority of Western comics beings in color).

Concerns aside, there's some funny bits in here, and while Lyga's discussions of comic book as reality or reality as comic book aren't that radically revolutionary to anyone who's been reading the damn things for too long, I imagine they could certainly go a long way to blowing some of the younger minds who are the most-likely audience for this teen-friendly book.

Also, there's a pretty good dick joke about 3/4 of the way through.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Some thoughts on IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1: Change is Constant

This is the first trade paperback collection of publisher IDW’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, a licensed comic book they are producing on behalf of the turtles’ new owners, Nickelodeon. The title reads Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but Diamond shipping lists call it Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ongoing.

This trade collects the first four issues under the title “Change is Constant.” It is written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz, with the pair providing the story and Waltz the script, and the artwork is by Dan Duncan, atop layouts by Eastman. So essentially one of the original cartoonists responsible for creating the turtles is writing and drawing this new series, although it’s simultaneously being written and drawn by others as well.


I really like the turtles characters.

A phonebook-sized paperback collection of the first chunk of the original series and the brand-new issues from later in the first volume of that same series were among my “gateway” comics into the medium. I have enormous affection for those original comics and those original interpretations of the characters.

That said, I was very excited about this new series, in no small part because of Eastman’s involvement. It was certainly a surprise. Over the course of the previous decade or so, Eastman had been largely divorced from the franchise, and sold his share of the property to his former partner Peter Laird and Mirage Studios in 2008. Laird was the one heavily involved with Mirage Publishing during that time, and if one of the original creators was going to be involved in the creation of a new series, I would have expected it to be Laird.

I was pleased to hear that IDW would be essentially rebooting the characters and their story, rather than continuing it where Mirage had left off. Laird and company kept their last volume of their series as a continuation of those previous, and it had gotten pretty weird by the time I stopped reading it (which was a few years before they ceased publication). The turtles were at that point living in a world where mutants, superheroes and aliens were all living openly among Earth society.

I liked it okay, but eventually found myself less excited about each new issue, and figured I’d drop the monthly and catch up on trade someday (Although I’ve yet to attempt to do that).

I was interested to see what a fresh, new take would be, then, and how Eastman would approach a do-over of what has become his life’s work given the opportunity, and with the hindsight of what worked and didn’t work back then, and what has and hasn’t worked from other creators and in the turtles stories of various other media.


As much I was looking forward to reading IDW’s TMNT, I didn’t want to read it in singles.

IDW charges $3.99 for their comic books, which I think is way too much money to charge for a single issue of a comic book. It seems less evil when IDW does it than when Marvel or DC does it, given that IDW is a smaller company and they don’t have the millions and billions of a parent corporation behind them, nor do they make their “real” money in licensed merchandise and cartoons and film the way the Big Two do.

In other words, when Marvel and DC do it, they do it because they know they can, and are pretty open about the fact that they charge more money because they want more money, not because they have to.

Still, if I’m going to put four-fifths of a five-dollar bill into reading a chunk of a comic story, I’d prefer to put it toward something permanent with a spine that I can stand on a bookshelf, rather than have to add to my midden of longboxes.

Additionally, IDW’s TMNT had variant covers for these issues, and they are pretty great variant covers. In addition to covers by Eastman, which help this collection look like a good old-fashioned issue of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and covers by Duncan, they also shipped covers by such perfect-for-the-turtles artists as Fred Hembeck, Sam Kieth and Walt Simonson. Who would want to buy the singles and have to choose between, say, an Eastman and a Hembeck? The collection has them all in the back.

So that was two votes in favor of reading this series in trade, even if at $18 its slightly more expensive than reading the series in singles.


In lieu of a formal review, I have some thoughts about the book.


There are a lot of familiar names here. In addition to Splinter and the turtles, there’s a Casey Jones, an April O’Neil, a Baxter Stockman and a Krang. These names are all attached to characters who, so far at least, seem to be the same, although they’ve been reorganized pretty drastically.

Splinter (whose name choice is here justified so as to distance the mutants’ origin from that of Marvel’s Daredevil) and the four turtles are lab animals in a research facility run by Stockman. April interns there. A general named Krang has hired Stockman to deliver military applications derived from the work on the animals. Some ninjas are also interested.

Meanwhile, there’s a teenage boy named Casey Jones who is abused by his alcoholic father and blows off steam by wearing a mask and hitting purse snatchers with a baseball bat. He doesn't seem to be as insane as in the original TMNT comics.

The story opens as Eastman and Laird’s first issue of the first turtles opened, with the TMNT about to fight a gang of thugs.

What’s different here is that the human thugs are lead by Old Hob, a mutant cat created in the same accident that created Splinter and the turtles.

And instead of the four turtles, it’s Splinter, Leonard, Michelangelo and Donatello. Raphael was separated from the turtles when they were first exposed to the mutagen, and thus didn’t grow up with them.

The narrative then jumps back to recount their life in the lab and their origin story, and then back and forth between the two story threads as they progress. In the present, an amnesiac Raphael wanders the streets alone, while Splinter has the other turtles searching for their lost brother. The first flashback begins with a box reading “Eighteen Months earlier,” and, as I read on, I assumed that must have been a typo, as it then showed the turtles as actual, non-mutant turtles.

Had only eighteen months passed between the time they were normal turtles (and a normal rat…although Splinter’s brain was being expanded by science before his body mutated) and the time they are ninja masters?

Surely, they meant years and not months, right?

But later captions bear that timeline out: The teenage mutant ninja turtles have only been mutant ninja turtles for a matter of months, rather than years, which, well that doesn’t work.

Look, I realize how silly it is to get hung up on something in a comic with that particular title being “unrealistic,” but if I’m going to buy teenage mutant ninja turtles, don’t also ask me to believe it only takes a couple of months to become a ninja.

Hell, the word “teenage” is right there in the tile. It’s a component of the weirdo magic formula that makes this one-time lark work, you can’t remove that aspect and have it work the same (I think that likely explains some of the confused and irritated reaction to news that Michael Bay was considering making his turtles aliens. It’s not so much the change to what fans already know and expect so much in that if they’re aliens then they aren’t mutants, and that violates the four-word formula. That, and the fact that it’s Michael Bay doing it, of course).In the time it takes most human beings to learn to walk and just begin to talk, the turtles are…the ninja turtles already. That seems strange in and of itself, without factoring in the martial arts training and weapon proficiency they’ve developed.


By changing the origin story a bit, they’ve also excised the explanation for how the team got its ninja skills. Originally Splinter was a pet rat kept by a ninja master, who learned martial arts by observing and imitating his human master. When he escaped and mutated, he was thus able to pass those skills on to his pupils, the turtles.

Here though, Splinter seems to have been born and raised in a lab and not exposed to any ninjitsu, so it’s unclear where he learned to fight (At least by issue #4). And if Splinter did know martial arts from sometime in his own past, before the lab started tinkering with his mind, he didn’t have time to pass those skills on to his students, nor would he have been able to train Raphael at all, since Raphael spent that time away from him.


The turtles are now sea turtles.

That’s a pretty small change…or is it?!

I suspect it was simply an art mistake, that Davis chose to draw them with flippers instead of feet while he was drawing the page, rather than the script specifically calling for a particular type of turtle. They’re drawn in a little aquarium with only a little pool of water: While sea turtles do breathe air and can kind of move around on dry land half-assedly, they spend the majority of their lives submerged, and only leave the sea to lay their eggs.

So what happens when a sea turtle evolves into humanoid form, as opposed to a land turtle super-evolving into a humanoid? Would the former evolve so much that they no longer need to be submerged in water? That they can live their whole lives on dry land? (Part of me here is sorely tempted to spend a few paragraphs discussing the rules for creating mutants as proposed in Palladium Games' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness and After the Bomb role-playing games, and how it would expend much more energy mutating a sea turtle than a land turtle, and how that would spend more life energy that could otherwise be spent on giving your character particular skills and proficiency, but I have to set a nerdiness limit for myself, and I think a long tangent about an RPG in the middle of a discussion about a comic book would probably be pretty far on the other side of any self-imposed nerdiness limits).

Davis’ turtles, once mutated, lack tails, but that’s the only physiological difference I can see. The turtles still have tails on Eastman’s covers, though.


(Friends and family would always comment on the ninja turtles's tails when I drew them as a teenager, thinking that they were supposed to be penises instead of tails. Rarely would anyone look over my shoulder to see me drawing a ninja turtle and fail to point to the tail between their legs and ask, "What's that supposed to be?")


Oh, the turtles don’t have pupils, either. In the original comics, they had pupils in their eyeballs when they weren’t wearing their ninja masks, but when they put their masks on their pupils disappeared, Batman-style.


I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the book being in color. The turtles are one of the very few comics that seem like they should be in black and white, as black and white comics are their original habitat. Whenever I see them in color, in those original First Comics collections, or the few color specials, or Archie Comics or wherever, something tends to feel off about it, like color is a Wizard of Oz signifier, drawing a line between the "real" (comic book) turtles and the other, "fake" (cartoon) turtles.

Again, that's maybe just me.

The coloring in this book was fine, though and much better than in IDW's Raphael #1, which was my only previous experience with their caretaking of the franchise so far (I wrote at length about it here, if you'd like a much more cogent piece of my writing about IDW's TMNT. Which isn't to say that the piece is terribly cogent, only that it's a lot less formless than this one is).


I thought it was okay, beyond the problems outlined above, and most of my difficulties with the book come down to the "That's not how I woulda done it" variety (TMNT comics are probably the only remaining comics that I still can look at with that frame of reference, I used to want to do turtle comics so badly. I would have preferred to see this series start well after the basic origin, and dwell instead on the characterization and the relationships, with plots centering around new adventures instead of a rebooted origin. But, again, that's me).

The Casey Jones bits felt pretty forced to me, and I'm not sure how he's going to end up fitting into the cast, nor do I see how Raphael is supposed to fit after having grown up apart—the others only got about 15 months worth of training, but that's still 15 months more than him, right?

I really liked how different the art was from what I might have expected a ninja turtles comic to look like, and how different it was from Eastman and Laird and Jim Lawson's (Lawson being the artist who has probably drawn more turtles pages than anyone else at this point, including work on the previous volume of the series).

I do want to see what they end up doing with the characters, and how the cast will eventually shake out. It seems like there’s a bit of a way to go before everything falls into place yet.


I’ll buy and read Volume 2.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Just a couple this week. I'm sure you're all devastated.


Early in the week The Comics Reporter linked to a post featuring early Joe Kubert work, including It made me wonder if Jack Kirby might have seen that at some point prior to creating The Black Racer, the peculiar god of death of the weird pantheon he created for his Fourth World saga who got around by cross country skiing through the air.

Abhay has a theory on how they should do Wonder Woman. After reading his post though, I wonder if maybe they shouldn't just give her a skateboard...?

(I also wonder how many little kids were horribly killed in the seventies trying to emulate Wonder Woman's skateboard mounting technique? Helmet or no helmet, it's a lot easier to get on the skateboard first, and then start making it go, rather than reversing those two stopes)


Only ten? I'm pretty confident it is actually "all the time."


Since I didn't actually read all of Justice League #7, just freaked out about what I saw between the covers, here's an actual review of Justice League #7, by Mr. Don MacPherson. He seems to confirm what I got from the stories by flipping through them.

Today at Robot 6, there's a "Chain Reactions" feature linking to several other reviews of the issue as well.


That issue, by the way, was the one that shipped with this variant coverupon which the League looks like a collection of grumpy assholes, like they're from the original incarnation of The Defenders instead of the JLA.

Justice League variant covers could be worse, though. Look at this one, which almost makes me want to run away screaming from superhero comics all by itself: There's a lot to dislike about it, from Green Arrow's costume to the sickly faux paint effects, but I'm not sure exactly what it is about it that gives me such a strong, negative reaction to it.

I'm pretty sure it has something to do with Green Lantern ring-generating an "L" to put on on his forehead to make fun of Ollie, though...


Reminder: Tucker and Abhay are still funny.

I'm glad The Comics Journal has hired Stone as a columnist, as it seems to ensure greater frequency for his "Comics of the Weak" column, which only rarely fails to make me laugh out loud at least once. As for Abhay, no one writes comics convention coverage like him.


If whoever ends up buying this combines it with parasailing, I am in.


I actually have no idea how you do Etta Candy outside of the early 1940s. I really like the character, but she doesn't lend herself to updating—any update usually comes across as an overcorrection. I didn't like the Perez version, which slimmed her down, made her older, put her in the Navy and eventually married her off to Steve Trevor, nor did I like what Gail Simone did with her in the previous volume of Wonder Woman, during which she was a sort of secret agent ally of Wondy's in the ODD, or whatever SHIELD-like superhero organization Wonder Woman's then secret identity Diana Prince worked in (I think it was Simone who introduced her to that volume; there were more than a half-dozen cooks in that particular kitchen before J. Michael Straczynski and DC burned it down; if Simone didn't introducer her, she definitely used her as Wondy's girlfriend more than any of the previous writers did).

The best post-Marston portrayal of Candy I've seen was the one in Ben Caldwell's "Wonder Woman" strip in Wednesday Comics , where she at least retained her size, much of her original characterization, and her love of candy. (I've long though Ross Campbell could do justice to Etta Candy in a modern context, too).

I guess she should remain a) a college student, b) overweight and c) really into candy, fighting and saying "woo woo," and not so much into boys. They just have to cut down on the fat jokes, maybe...?

I was rather surprised to see DC Women Kicking Ass (is there a byline on there somewhere?) embracing the "New 52" Etta Candy, who apparently appeared in last Wednesday's Justice League #7. The gist of the post seemed to be that the new Etta is a black woman instead of a white one, which adds a bit more diversity (and is apparently a nod to that Wonder Woman TV show that almost got made).

But then, this is another example of DC using the New 52 redesigns to slim down a traditionally overweight DCU character ala Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad.

It's not the exact same thing, of course. Waller was a bigger character in the DCU that existed between Crisis On Infinite Earths and the New 52boot (1987-2011) than Etta Candy was (I don't think you can say Etta Candy's been a major character in even the Wonder Woman comics since the end of the Golden Age), and they didn't just slim Waller down, but sexied her all up, too.

But it's in the same ballpark.

Maybe, like a-hold teen Billy Batson though, this is part of the hero's journey. Just as Billy is beginning as a jerk and will hopefully grow into a kid you don't want to strangle, perhaps Etta will start as a relatively slim, professional woman before discovering bon-bons and the pleasures of roughhousing...


If ever there was a comics blog that needed its own letter column, sure it is Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin.


(Yes, I know you can leave comments, but it's not the same thing shut up)

Friday, March 23, 2012

So why is Green Arrow called "Green Arrow" anyway...?

Earlier in the week ComicsAlliance ran a piece that revealed an image from the in-production CW television show based on the Green Arrow comic book character. The name of the show isn't going to follow the normal naming conventions for television shows and films based on comic book superheroes and be called Green Arrow, however, but will instead be called Arrow.

It's not clear to me if the arrow-shooting vigilante identity of protagonist Oliver Queen will still be called "Green Arrow," or if he, like the show, will go by "Arrow" or "The Arrow." That strikes me as kind of silly, akin to a Batman TV renaming the character "The Bat" or a Black Lightning show calling its star "Lightning."

Surely Green Arrow is no more than a C-list super-character in mass consciousness, but the character has been featured in cartoons like Justice League Unlimited, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and The Bold and Young Justice, in addition to being a fairly regular supporting character in the CW's own Smallville live-action superhero show. And he has been appearing in comic books off and on for a little over 70 years now. He even had a small role in The Dark Knight Returns, one of the most widely-read and discussed superhero narratives of all time— Why bother developing a show around a pre-existing, thoroughly market-tested character if you're going to go out of your way to downplay the built-in name recognition? So I got to thinking: Why is Green Arrow is named Green Arrow in the first place? Well, he wears green and he shoots arrows, so it's a pretty good name descriptively, certainly as good as Batman or Superman in that respect, but how did his creators Mort Weisinger and George Papp arrive at that name?

Colors were, of course, a go-to naming convention among the Golden Age superheroes and the pulp heros that prefigured them. Just as adding almost anything as a prefix to the word "man" could get you something that sounds like a superhero name, so too could adding just about any noun after any good, strong color, preferably black, red or blue, although even green's not that unusual choice. Green Arrow shared his color with almost a half-dozen other costumed crimefighters, all of whom were wearing it before him: Green Hornet (1936), Green Mask (1939) and Green Lantern, Green Giant and Green Lama (1940).

So it's possible young boys in the late 30s and early 40s were just nuts about the color green.

It's also possible that Weisinger could have lifted it from Edgar Wallace's 1923 novel The Green Archer, which featured a mysterious, Robin Hood-like character, or, more likely still, from the 1925 silent film serial based on that, or the popular 1940 film serial. Wherever it came from, the color half of the name might have been necessary in part to distinguish the battling bowman from the cover of More Fun Comics from his immediate predecessor, Fawcett Comics' Golden Arrow, who debuted in the same 1940 issue of Whiz Comics that Captain Marvel did. Or from the earliest comic book crimefighting archer I know of, The Arrow, from Centaur Publications' Funny Pages. I'm not an entertainment lawyer or copyright law expert (er, you didn't think I was, did you?), but as a Fawcett character, Golden Arrow should no belong to DC Comics, and thus be part of the library of characters that Warner Bros. owns. And The Arrow lapsed into public domain, with companies as various as Malibu and Dynamite attempting revivals. I'm not sure if Dynamite could do anything to stop a CW show called Arrow and/or featuring a hooded super-archer character by that name.

But all of this is just thinking in terms of why we call the character Green Arrow "Green Arrow" in the real world. In Green Arrow's world, or at least the world of the television show that would feature him, is there a reason he might go by Green Arrow instead of just Arrow...?

I'm sure Green Arrow the comics character doesn't exist in the reality of the TV show, but The Green Archer the novel and/or serials probably do, so he might be inspired to name himself after those, but, if that was the case, he could just go with Green Archer, instead of Green Arrow.

No, I can't really think of a reason why a character might name himself Green Arrow within the context of his own fictional reality. Generally, it's "the press" that comes up with the superhero's codename. Rather than thinking about such things, the hero is out there fighting crime, unconcerned with what the public thinks. They're interest lies in justice, not PR.

So, if the press were to discover a guy dressed in green, fighting crime with a bow and arrows, would they call him "Arrow" or "Green Arrow"...?

I think it's fairly safe to say they would use neither, calling him instead "a real-life Robin Hood."

I suppose we'll have to wait and see if the show ever gets made to see what name they give Queen's crimefighter identity, and what in-story rationale they come up with to justify the choice. I'm still curious about why the producers are opting for that title instead of Green Arrow though...

Say, should DC have shipped a comic starring

Mia "Speedy" Dearden
or Cissie "Arrowette" King-Jones this week...?

The world seems positively crazy for teenage girl archers all of a sudden, and they've got a couple of 'em just sitting around not doing anything.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

I have a review of some length up regarding Stan Lee's Mighty 7 #1, which was a pretty horrible comic book, but a somewhat interesting one nonetheless. You can read the piece by clicking here.

A much better read, however, is Tom Bondurant's column on some of the problems with continuity DC's 52-boot has and will cause. Bondurant focuses on the fact that it was a highly selective reboot—everything that wasn't Green Lantern or Batman was given a hard, complete reboot—and the problems that causes.

For example, the last issue of Green Lantern featured Black Hand in the thrall of the Indigo Tribe, where he was left at the end of Blackest Night, which presumably still happened, only differently than the version we all read. Then he gets to picking at the Geoff Johns run on the Green Lantern franchise, and what the reboot means: Was Hal Jordan ever The Spectre? (Remember, the Spectre's generation of superheroes never existed in current continuity). Was he ever Parallax?

It gets messier the longer you think about any of this stuff. If Hal Jordan was still Parallax (Blackest Night and Sinestro Corps War were referenced in "New 52" Green Lantern, and Kyle Rayner still exists), then did Zero Hour still happen? How could it, though, if Barbara Gordon has always been Batgirl, or if Hawk didn't kill Dove and become Monarch in Armageddon 2001 or if Damage wasn't there to restart the un-made universe, since Damage probably never existed?

If Hal Jordan was still Parallax, then presumably Coast City was still destroyed during "Reign of the Supermen," so that story presumably still happened, only it somehow happened without Steel, Superboy or Supergirl. And if "Reign" happened, then "The Death of Superman" still happened only, again, without Supergirl, or the Justice League of America at the time that appeared in it, and without Lois Lane even knowing Superman's identity.

The "easy" answer would be, of course, to not think about this stuff at all, but then, DC has to quit eating the cake it won't let us have, and continuing the GL and Batman franchises as if the rest of the DCU wasn't rebooted. The likely answer, the one DC's editors must tell themselves and their creators, is that all of those stories still happened, just not in the way we remember them, or not in the way they were originally published.

Which is, frankly, several million times more complicated than whatever the original situation was that a reboot was originally supposed to make more clear. Seriously, try to imagine just "The Death of Superman" and "Reign of the Supermen" sans the elements we now know couldn't have been a part of them. They'd be completely different stories. I don't see how suggesting that unseen, unreadable, imaginary versions of stories that already exist is in any way less confusing or complicated or in any way more "new reader" friendly than just letting the stories that exist continue to exist and within your selective fictional history.

Personally, I would have preferred a universe-wide relaunch (new #1s, new titles, new creative teams and directions with a focus on new readers and new stories) to the continuity reboot they went with, as this fix, like every attempt to fix this problem, simply exacerbates the problem.

But if DC was going to do a hard realunch, then they should have done a hard relaunch of 100% of their DCU titles, not 75% of them, because, as Abraham Lincoln once said, a superhero universe rebooted against itself cannot stand and, as Bondurant's column points toward, the "New 52" is starting to creak.

Hopefully their next big crossover event involving "Pandora" will fix things by de-rebooting things, although I'm fine if that doesn't happen for another year or two, and they just let the "New 52" run its course first.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comic shop comics: March 21

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 (DC Comics) I suppose the Jimi Hendrix allusion in the title should have tipped me off, but this wasn't really what I was hoping it would be. I believe when I first heard of this project I mentioned that I would probably better enjoy a comic book talking about the "true" story of the historical Laveau—or at least an exploration of the real-world folklore that has sprung up around the real person or people lost to history—rather than some sort of story about her fictional descendent inheriting her mantle, but I thought I'd give it a shot.

It does have a lot going for it, including gorgeous cover art by Rafael Grampá, whose continued work in that capacity I suspect will make this one of those books you're happy to see around, even if you don't read it, just because it looks so nice on the comic shop shelves (Fables is like that for me). And the interior art is from Denys Cowan, inked by John Floyd, and Denys Cowan is a hell of an artist. And I've never read anything by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds—who I find out in the "On The Ledge" column in this very issue is TV producer who has previously written two prose non-fiction books—which at least means I had no reason to avoid his work.

That work's not bad, of course, but the book didn't really grab me. Throughout I mostly just felt strange about it, alternately thinking, "Wow, this really reads like an old-school, first-generation Vertigo book," whenever I read a narration box of poetic-like phrases talking up elements of the New Orleans setting or commenting ironically on the events in Cowan's panels, and thinking, "Wow, this reads like one of those high-concept TV/movie pitch books that I'm more used to seeing from Boom or Radical or Virgin or Dynamite or Whoever" when a new plot element introduced itself. Parts of it—quite a few, really—almost read like a superhero book, complete with the splashpage, cliffhanger ending of a guy in a bit coat and a gun introducing himselfand the novice hero discovering her new powers in a moment of deadly stress. It was when I got to the third panel on the ninth page that I realized that this book most definitely wasn't for me. That's where a voodoo practicioner who might also be a priest exposits to himself that "One hundred years of hard-won peace. The days of blood between Loa, loup garou, vampire, witch hunter and houngan long behind us."

So supernatural factions, including werewolves and vampires, fighting each other in New Orleans? Yeah, I can do without that, thanks.


Okay, I'm currently reading Joe Nickell's Tracking The Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies and More (Prometheus Books; 2011) and, odd coincidence, the last book of his I read happened to feature a chapter on Leaveau (that one was The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files), and he has a chapter entitled "On the Trail of the Loup-Garou" which features an awesome detail I have heard elsewhere before, and now think of every time I see or hear about a Loup-Garou (there's one in this comic, above).

Here's Nickell quoting Lyle Saxon and Robert Tallant's 1945 Gumbo Va-Va:
"Loup-garous" have bats as bit as airplanes to carry them where they want to go. They make these bats drop them down your chimney, and they stand by your bed and say, "I got you now, me!" Then they bite you and suck your blood and that makes you "loup-garou."
They are also apparently terrified of frogs.

But every time I happen to read about loup garous in Louisiana in a comic book, they're always presented as just plain old werewolves. Lame. I wanna see a comic with werewolves wearing scarves and flight goggles like Snoopy on his doghouse, flying on the backs of giant bats that barrel roll them precisely into chimneys.

Loup garou, I learned from Nickell's book, is pronounced "Roo-Ga-Roo" in Louisiana. I always just pronounced it "loop-garoo" in my head, because I am American and say every word, no matter its origin, as if it were an English word.

Anyway, Voodoo Child: Nice cover, nice art, okay story, but not really my cup of tea. Maybe yours?

If I was gonna try out a new #1 this week, I shoulda made it Ragemoor #1, but I didn't realize Richard Corben was drawing a comic about a monstrous living castle until I read Jog's column after getting home from the shop...

Stan Lee's Mighty 7 (Archie Comics) This is a terrible comic book, remarkably so in terms of art and production value, but it's also an engagingly weird comic, and a self-aware comic, so I think to some extent some of it's terribleness is intentional. I intend to talk about this at greater length elsewhere in the near future, but for our purposes here I would just like to note that it is not very good, despite some very good, highly-inspired moments, but is maybe worth keeping an eye on anyway. It's quite possible kids will like it, but then, I can think of dozens of better kids comics, super and not.

The above scan, by the way, is from the interesting one of the two story threads in the first issue. Based on how specific some of the character designs in that panel are, i have to assume most of those folks are actual Archie Comics employees. But if that's the case, who's the lady on the far fright, exploding out of V-neck sweater? And is she happy about being drawn like that in this comic book?

Wonder Woman #7 (DC) The latest issue introduces two more members of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's 2012 Olympian pantheon, golden gun-toting Eros and beastly, shaven gorilla Hepaestus/The Smith, whose design in particular is filligreed with multiple evocative little details to notice on rereading (like the old-school, polio-like leg braces). The plot hardly matters, so strong is the world-building the pair are doing, but basically it flows from the opening story arc, in which Wonder Woman learns about her "true" origins and gets involved in the ongoing turf wars of Greek Pantheon, of which she is now more or less a part.

There's also a reveal about the mating rituals and reproductive practices of the Amazons which, like a lot of this current take on the character, seemed off and wrong to me, but moreso in the "That's not the way I would have done it, or would have liked to seen it done" sort than the "My God, this is shockingly offensive to my aesthetic sensibilities!" sort. It works okay in this standalone take on Wonder Woman, but doesn't really mesh with what came before and, like a lot of the "New 52" I've seen, seems destined to last only as long as this particular run by these particular creators do on the character.One thing that struck me while reading this issue was, as much as I've really enjoyed the previous seven issues, relatively little of that had to do with it being a Wonder Woman book, so much as an Azzarello and Chiang do Olympians in modern society book. Wonder Woman is still the star, the perspective character, and the one who defeats a monster and faces a hard truth, but she's but one of a half-dozen colorful characters, and probably the least relevant of them. Relevant to the story, that is. It's not hard to imagine a very similar story, with many of the same pleasures, having been written and drawn without her, and appearing in some other comic with a different title.Another thing I noticed this issue, perhaps because it was one in which I was so impressed by the care with which one of the new characters was designed, was that Wonder Woman's new costume seems to be working less and less for me, rather than being something I've gradually gotten used to. It's not a specatcular design in general—I don't care for the echoing Ws on her throat and breast, any more than I like when Batman or Sueprman have their symbols on their beltbuckles as well as their chests—but because the W on the choker doesn't move with her neck, instead always facing forward, sometimes when Chiang draws her with her head turned it looks like her head is swiveling around owl-like, or possessed girl-like, rather than moving naturally. I don't know, maybe that's how choker's really work on half-divine superheroines, but the visual effect is that her head swivels around her neck like the cap on a bottle.

This was probably my favorite panel. Apparently (read: "spoiler"), the Amazons are not immortal asexuals or immortal lesbians, but reproduce by boarding sailing ships every 33 years and four months, naked, sex up all the sailors, kill all the sailors they just sexed up, and then go back to Paradise Island to have babies, trading the boys for weapons. Forget all the obvious questions that raises about what makes Wonder Woman so special then and doesn't that make her seem kind of dumb for not knowing this about the closed society she spent her whole life growing up in for a second, and just look at Chiang's drawing that accompanies the "boarding sailing ships" part of the story:I love the little surprise lines emanating from the sailor's head in the foreground, upon seeing angry naked ladies storming his ship. Little surprise lines like that improve almost any drawing.

Quick New Comic Book Day afternoon check-in:

Aw, no! My shop sold out of Tiny Titans #50! The last issue, ever! Aaargh!

Well, I guess I can wait a week...

While I was at the shop, I flipped through the long-awaited (by me) Justice League #7, which revealed Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's highly-anticipated (by me) new, "New 52" reboot of Captain Marvel-although-they're-calling-him-"Shazam"-now (By the way, why don't you go read the long-ass story at this link, or at least click on the link so I get your page-views).

And by "flipped through", I mean I actually flipped through the Justice League portion of the book—Jeez, did it look Bendisy this month, or what? The first six issues were half splash pages, and this issue had a good 2-6 pages of nothing but talking head panels as Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor Skype one another?—and looked at all the pages of the "Curse of Shazam" back-up, only reading fractions of the dialogue to make sure the characters were who I thought they were supposed to be.

Did you guys see it yet? Did you read it? Is that guy called Sivana really supposed to be Sivana?! Really?!

He's a giant. He looks like the kind of thug the real Sivana would have hired to fight the real Captain Marvel for him. If you haven't, um, apparently the formerly four-foot-tall, elderly bald guy with impenetrably thick glasses who only changes out of his lab coat in order to effect a disguise is now a thirtsysomething bodybuilder in a skintight white turtleneck...? Like, a slightly beefier Lex Luthor, with glasses...?

What does the "New 52" Penguin look like? Is he 6'5, well-built and handsome?

And Geoff Johns' new take on Billy Batson's character is, apparently—surprise!—to make him an asshole. I am really sorta shocked by this, despite the fact that Johns' approach to revitalizing stale, direct market-rejected DC superheroes is to begin by making them totally unlikeable assholes (See his Hawkman, Green Lantern and Aquaman). I guess that's the hero's journey, to start out as a loathsome asshole and become less of one, but I don't know—Hal Jordan's only, like, 1% less of an asshole than he was when Johns started writing him in 2005 or so. I thought Billy Batson might avoid this characterization, by being a kid, as Johns has written teenagers and old people as not-assholes in his past writing —Stars and STRIPE, JSA—but here we've got another a-hole with superpowers to root against, er, for.

Anyway, just checking in to say "Aargh!" and "Aaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! Why, God? Why?!"

Reviews of books I actually paid money to read in the comfort of my own home, and which I read every word of—promise!—to follow later tonight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Marvel's June previews, an important update on my health!

Hi there, readers! How are you? I am in a fine mood, because I am not dead, and I was pretty sure I was dead or dying at various points this weekend, as I had a fever of 100 and a billion and threw up every ounce of water I drank...sometimes within minutes of drinking it! Yes, I was a sick as I can ever remember being, and spent all of Saturday night and parts of the last few days alternately pacing my apartment, curled up in the fetal position and seeking out new places to sleep that might be more comfortable than my bed (The corner of the bathroom? The bathtub? This threshold here?).

Anyway, that is why I did not post Saturday, or Sunday or Monday. Oh wait, I did post on Sunday? Jeez, I could barely think on Sunday, what the hell did I write? Was it all bargaining with God, and feverish rantings at hallucinations and requests for someone, anyone, to just bring me some goddam apple juice?


Oh, no, it looks like it was just my usual links post. You know what that means? Either I am such a professional writer that I was able to comport myself and deliver a post of my usual quality despite the fact that I was pretty much completely insane with fever while writing, or I am such a poor writer it hardly matters if I am in my right mind when I write or not, as it all just comes out as the verbal vomit of a sickened brain.

Or it could just mean that I write the bulk of those link posts earlier throughout the week, and so I was thus able to simply polish a few of 'em up and post them all on Sunday and then flee my laptop to collapse weeping on the bathroom floor again.

It certainly means at least one of those three things.

Anyway, I'm going to ease back into post-illness blogging with an easy one: The regularly-scheduled monthly looksee at Marvel's solicitations. You can read them at ComicsAlliance if you like, or Comic Book Resources. I don't care.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all to wash your hands like, a million times a days. And never touch one another. Ever. For any reason. And to make sure you always have lots of fluids and, I don't know, take vitamins and drink orange juice or something? Because this flu was hell—either a more powerful strain than usual, or else I haven't had the flu in so long I forgot what it feels like and am just being a big baby.

And speaking of me being a big baby, let's see what Marvel has for me to whine about this month...


Avx: Vs #3 (of 6)
• All fights, All the time!
• Black Widow vs. Magik!
• Colossus vs. Thing!

Magik. Thing.

See, these fights all seem easy to call. Of course, I thought Spidey would take out Colossus...y in the previous issue, so what do I know?

Say, does anyone call Colossus "Juglossus" when he's got his Juggernaut's hat on...?

• With the events of AVX raging around them, an Avenger betrays the team!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Let me it Marvel Boy/Captain Marvel/The Protector?

• Captain America and Iron Man head to Madripoor for a technology expo! What could possibly go wrong? Everything! That’s what!
• Especially when Batroc’s Brigade shows up and a technological nightmare threatens to brings the world to its knees!
32 PGS./Rated T …$2.99

I'll have dropped this title by the time this issue ships—I'm gonna try the first issue of it as Captain America And Hawkeye since it involves the fighting of dinosaurs—but I have to admit I am attracted to the phrase "Batroc's Brigade."

DARK AVENGERS #175 & 176
Jeff Parker (w)
Declan Shalvey (a) (#175)
Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey (a) (#176)
Covers by Mike Deodato (#175) & John Tyler Christopher (#176)
ASM IN MOTION VARIANT also available (#175)
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99 (EACH)

The bad thing about trade-waiting certain runs of certain Marvel comics is they change titles so frequently, and the numbering so randomly, that once you go away for a year or more, it can be pretty hard to figure out how to even go about reading a particular run on a particular title/franchise by particular creators.

Like, I want to eventually finish reading the Pak/Van Lente Hercules comics, but I'm not sure where that story went after the Incredible Hercules title got canceled (into at least three miniseries and a new ongoing, I think) or how they eventually get collected. I similarly want to someday read all of Parker's Hulk and Thunderbolts books but...Marvel doesn't make it easy. I hope Parker has a handy checklist on his website or something when he ends his run on those titles...

The last line of defense against the forces of the unknown! Spinning out of the stunning ending of FEAR ITSELF, the final member of the Worthy is on a global rampage, and everyone’s favorite Marvel misfits must band together to solve a mysterious conspiracy deep at the heart of the Marvel Universe! What is the secret of Wundagore Mountain? Matt Fraction (FEAR ITSELF, THE MIGHTY THOR, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN) reteams with UNCANNY X-MEN cohort Terry Dodson (SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN) to relaunch Marvel’s mightiest non-team: the all-new, all-different, all-dynamic Defenders! Collecting DEFENDERS (2012) #1-6, and material from FEAR ITSELF #7 and POINT ONE.
160 PGS./Rated T+ …$19.99

Is this series good? Will I want to read it? Will I want to buy it to read it, or just borrow it?

Cover by Art Adams
Variant covers by GIL KANE & KEVIN NOWLAN
• What is the mystery behind the “Screenplay of the Living Dead Man”?
• The story no one thought existed!!!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I'll be trade-waiting this, due to both the price— that right? No ads, but still 32 pages for $3.99? Or is it 22 pages of story and "bonus content" means house ads disguised as content?—and the fact that it has at least two really nice covers, and I'd hate to choose between Kane's and Adams' Man-Things.

Anyway, just wanted to draw attention to this, a good-looking comic book. I hope the bonus content, or an introduction in the eventual trade, explains why marvel had this script for so long but didn't have it published as a comic until now. This is a comic I have questions about.

The smash-hit Marvel Zombies saga is collected in one meaty, macabre tome! The dead walk — and leap, fly and climb walls — when Marvel’s mightiest are transformed into flesh-eating monsters! After devouring every single person on Earth, the ravenous once-heroes set their sights higher — taking on Galactus, spreading into space, and breaking into new and delicious dimensions…including our own! Lock your doors, and board up your windows — the Marvel Zombies are coming for you! Collecting MARVEL ZOMBIES: DEAD DAYS, MARVEL APES: PRIME EIGHT, MARVEL ZOMBIES: EVIL EVOLUTION, ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #21-23 and #30-32, MARVEL ZOMBIES #1-5, BLACK PANTHER (2005) #28-30, MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #1-5, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN #1-5, MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 #1-5, MARVEL ZOMBIES 4 #1-4, MARVEL ZOMBIES 5 #1-5, and MARVEL ZOMBIES SUPREME #1-5.
1200 PGS./Parental Advisory …$125.00

That is a funny title.

• Hope Summers journeys to the magical city of K’un L’un, home of the Iron Fist, to uncover her destiny!
• But will she conquer her future…or be consumed by it?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

I may be alone in this, but I hope Hope Summers' destiny is to plunge her fist into the Phoenix Force and henceforth go by the codename Phoenix Fist.

SPIDER-MEN #1 & 2 (of 5)
Issue #1
Issue #2
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

Uh...that's it? There's not even a cover image; that is literally all of the information Marvel released regarding this book. So all I know is that it's written by a talented writer whose work I sort of loathe at this point in my reading-his-comics life, it's drawn by an incredibly talented artist I really like, it's overpriced, it will have lots of variants and it will probably be pretty Spider-Man related...?

Good luck ordering this one, comic shop owners!

• The book everyone is talking about!
• Kaine goes from hunter to hunted as the daughter of KRAVEN THE HUNTER takes on the Scarlet Spider!
• From the pages of SPIDER-ISLAND, Madame Web crashes into Kaine’s life – with dark visions of his road ahead!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

I'm not trying to be contrary or anything, but I have not actually heard anyone talk about this book anywhere.

I don't necessarily care for all the designs, but I really like this Tony Moore cover for Venom #19. I especially like the limbs of the Pumpkin Goblin or Hemoglobin or Jackogoblin or whatever that guy's name is.

Speaking of Spider-Man villain's I'm obviously not terribly familiar with, who is that mouthless Lizard-like guy? Are Venom's villains all the knock-off versions of Spidey villains?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Just in case Marvel is scanning the Internet for comments on the subject as a sort of informal survey (and they're totally not), I woulda bought the new Defenders series if it were $3 a pop.


I hope this doesn't mean Tom Batiuk is going to start musing on aging and mortality in his comic strips.


I really enjoyed DC's Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier. It's such a simple concept. They—"they" being Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert—took readymade character name, gave their hero a bandaged-up mummy face and master of disguise skills, never revealing what his face actually looked like under those bandages (Rather, they'd always show people reacting to his true face, leaving it to the reader's imagination how horribly scarred he must be).

I kinda liked Garth Ennis and Kilian Plunkett's four-issue Vertigo miniseries starring the character too, and Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli's recently canceled 2008-2011 Vertigo ongoing was a pretty strong comic, although it really seemed to have wandered away from the initial master-of-disguise concept.

Now, we get our first look at the new "New 52" Unknown Soldier and it's... well, I read these new design reveal posts on DC's Source blog and I wonder if more thought isn't put into the character designs than the stories featuring those characters sometimes.

This one, for example, has three hash marks on his head, where he can't see it, and on his shoulder, where he can't see it without difficulty. They are there, artist Dan Panosian says, to remind him that he lost his wife, his son and his daughter. In case he forgets, I guess...?

No word on whether this newest version is master of disguise, or a reinvention of the reinvented invention of 1966.


In the midst of reviewing Avengers Assemble #1, Don MacPherson noted some wonky credits, which credit Bryan Hitch for designing the new Hawkeye costume...even though no one else gets credited for any of the other costumes appearing in the book...or for creating the characters wearing them.

Let's rectify that for them, shall we?

The Avengers and The Hulk were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Thor was created by Lee, Kirby and Larry Lieber

Iron Man was created by Lee, Kirby, Lieber and Don Heck

Captain America was created by Kirby and Joe Simon

The Black Widow was created by Lee, Heck and Don Rico

Hawkeye was created by Lee and Heck

(I knew all of those off the top of my head, give or take a Heck or Lieber, but I had no idea where Black Widow and Hawkeye came from)


Aw, this is sad: Josie DeCarlo, the widow of the late Dan DeCarlo and the inspiration behind the lead character his Josie and The Pussycats strips, has passed away.


I learned a new word in this post: "Fatbeard." It's not strictly defined, but I think I can make the meaning out okay via context. (Via Comics Reporter)


Yes, let's have a change of pace in the sorts of questions we ask in Alan Moore interviews, shall we?


I enjoyed this piece by Kevin Melrose on Robot 6: "Scientific-minded Stan Lee finds flying Superman 'frustrating'".

I may have misread the reprints of the first Thor appearances, but didn't he basically just throw his hammer, and then hang on to it, in order to fly...?

Also, Stan Lee did have his own chance to explain how a Superman might fly, when he recreated Superman for his 2001 Just Imagine Stan Lee... series of books for DC. Did that Superman fly? Were his abilities to do so explained?I've honestly forgotten (I've honestly forgotten everything about that particular character from Lee's series of reinventions with top-tier artists...relatively little of the series was all that memorable, beyond the novelty of it, but his Superman one seemed like the least memorable. At least based on my memory.


I like Carol Danvers' new hairdo...


...but I do not like Colossus'. Is that why he's been wearing that dumb Juggernaut hat? To cover up the ill-considered shaving of his head?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Mothman:

ComicsAlliance regularly highlights the work of particular artists by posting galleries of their work, and this week Caleb "The Other Caleb" Goellner featured the work of Dave Stokes. Among his pieces was the above, a commission of the X-Files' Mulder and Scully encountering The Mothman.

The wings are a little too mothy, but Stokes' design of the creature's head, with an apparent lack of neck, looks pretty true to the reported sightings and resultant sketches of the "real" Mothman.

By the way, Mothman never appeared in The X-Files itself, but in the 1997 fifth season episode "Detour," the agents encounter an invisible, red-eyed killer creature in the woods of Western Florida. The creature reminds Mulder of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and in a couple lines of dialogue he cites the Mothman and its hometown by name ("I've got an X-file dated back to 1952 on it"). Apart from having red eyes, the creatures don't really resemble the Mothman in either appearance or behavior.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I have a little more on Saucer Country #1 at Robot6 this afternoon, if you'd like to read it, and I also have a short piece up at ComicsAlliance about Warner Bros. pursuing a Mandrake the Magician movie, if that's something you might be interested in reading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Comic shop comics: March 14 (I do get to the reviews eventually, and if that's all you wanna read, prepare to scroll down 15 paragraphs)

(Pictured above: My actual comic book shop, in Hell)

Can I start this post with something petty, and of interest to perhaps no one other than myself? Ha ha, of course I can! It’s my blog! (And “petty’ and “of interest to perhaps no one other than myself” are pretty much the defining characteristics of my blog!)

I was really excited to get comic books today, more excited than I’ve been in a good long while, because there were more comics that I was interested in getting being released today than there have been in pretty much forever. In fact, there were so many comics coming out today I wanted to get, that I made a llittle list on a corner of an envelope to stick in my pocket.

It looked like this:

—Orc Stain
—Green Lantern
—Saucer Country
—Smurf Olympics
—Black Bat

The first one refers to Orc Stain #7, which was actually released two or three weeks ago. The shop I usually go to forgot to order me a copy, even though it was one of the only seven or so books on my pull-file list. It didn’t seem a big deal at the time, since creator James Stokoe and publisher Image Comics had gone months and months since they shipped #6; in fact, I think they’ve only shipped one issue of Orc Stain in the months that I’ve had a pull-file at this particular shop. The shopkeep apologized at the time, and said he’d reorder me a copy.

Saga and Saucer Country are two new sieres, from Image and Veritgo/DC respectively, which I was hoping to buy off the rack, preferring to look at brand-new comics series before I buy them. Smurf Olypmics? Papercutz’s eleventh volume of translated reprints of the venerable Eruopean comics property/worldwide merchandising juggernaut. And Black Bat was a bit of a gamble (in that I wasn’t sure I’d like it, and I wasn’t sure the shop would have it), a $9 Moonstone graphic novel featuring the pulp hero that inspired both Batman and Marvel’s Daredevil.

So guess how many of those books were in the shop this Wednesday?

If you guessed “just Green Lantern,” you were correct.

I was pretty irritated that Orc Stain still hadn't shown up, particularly when the shopkeep looked it up on the computer to check and said that it looks like they forgot to order it...after having already forgotten to order it the first time and my reminding them to reorder it.

And I was pretty surprised that they didn't order any copies of either Saga or Saucer Country. They weren't sold out, mind you, they didn't order any copies of either series. At all. No one with a subscription list that shops at the store special-ordered either series, and they didn't order a single copy of either for the rack.

When I expressed this surprise, I was told that they can't order everything, and that "something special like that," something "from an independent publisher," I should always special order through my pull-file, as they probably won't have rack copies. I thought to myself, "Well, you can't sell it if you don't stock it," and said I was planning to flip through them before buying them, so I didn't want to special order them (Like, what if Saga #1 was nothing but 22-pages of breast-feeding? Or if Saucer Country was Bendis-style talking heads? )

It's still bugging me a few hours later. Mostly that DC's mature reader imprint is considered an independent publisher—this series is even written by one of their "New 52" superhero guys!—and that Image Comics, the third or fourth largest publisher in the industry, is considered independent. Basically, "independent" is here being defined as "Not Marvel or DC's superhero universes."

And I don't think Saga is a particularly obscure offering from Image, either. It's written by Brian K. Vaughan, who may not be doing cartwheels for the comics media and any mainstream media outlet willing to pay attention the way some popular modern comics writers are happy to do, but I would think the first new series in a long time from the guy who wrote Ex Machina, Y The Last Man, Runaways and who even worked on that Lost show a lot of people used to like would earn at least a single rack copy. (And comics readers loved Lost, didn't they? Most of what I know of that show is what I've overheard people in The Laughing Ogre in Columbus talking about it on Wednesday aftrenoons).

Now this comic book shop is in a mall in the city I work in, a city of about 50,000 people, a half hour from Cleveland, Ohio. I've never been crazy about it, but I work about five minutes away, so it was always the most convenient place to shop for me and, hey, it's a comic shop. I lived almost two years in a city where the nearest shop was a 45 minute drive away, so comic book shopping became a special occasion sort of thing rather than a weekly habit, and that sucked. I walked in ready to spend $28 on comics from 5 different publishers, but walked out having spent only $3 on a DC super-comic, because that was all they were prepared to sell me.

I complain about comics all the damn time here, and I think a lot of publishers and even a lot of creators seem hell-bent on pushing away their most loyal readers—I think comic book-style comic books are on the decline, in danger of eventual, maybe inevitable extinction, and a lot of their purveyors seem to be only making moves that hasten that extinction, rather than delay it (Exhibit A: The $3.99/20-page, decompressed Marvel Comic book that isn't very well-written or drawn, and is colored so as to make one nauseous).

A lot of us online blowhard types rarely if ever single out shop owners and employees, save for the most vile examples, and focus our venom instead on the big corporate publishes. It makes sense, really—the shop owners are small business men, most of whom got into their small business because of their great love for the same thing we love so much. But it should be said that some of them just aren't very good at selling comic books to people, and they can be a force pushing people away from comics, if not Comics comics, than certainly comic book comics.

If this was my only option for a shop, for example, I would have had to read Saucer Country and Saga via trade collections that their publishers would release six months to a year from now. I would either get these for free from a library, or I would buy them online from Amazon. I was reading Orc Stain in singles, because I love Orc Stain and I love singles, but now I've missed an issue. If I can't find #7 before #8 comes out, what do I do? Quit reading the series in singles and wait for the next six issues to be collected in trade?


Anyway, there's another comic shop in my area. It's a little more out of the way—maybe 15-20 minutes round trip—but when I went there today, I found all of the above (Save The Black Bat, and the now weeks-old "new" issue of Orc Stain). They had a dozen issues of Saga on the rack (Yes, I counted) at 4 p.m., after the Wednesday lunch hour rush, but before the after-work rush. They had a half-dozen issues of Saucer Country on the rack.

It's going to be my new shop. I'm glad I now live in a city where I have options for which comic shop I can patronize, and feel a little worried for all those potential comics readers in cities where there are no comic shops, or comic shops where all they can read are Marvel and DC super-comics, and whatever they want to special order/whatever of their special orders their shopkeeps remember to order.


Green Lantern #7 (DC Comics) Geoff Johns is still wasting precious story-space—they took two whole pages outta each issue!—on double-page splashes of incredibly insignificant story moments. In this issue, it's a giant, two-page panel of Hal Jordan punching Sinestro. Hal Jordan? Punching someone?! How shocking and dramatic! That's only been his defining characteristic for the seven years that Johns has been writing him now!

I suppose the actual reason Johns provides such splashes is that it makes life a little easier on pencil artist Doug Mahnke, who has trouble keeping to a monthly schedule, even with two fewer pages to draw a month (trouble evidenced by the ever-shifting number of inkers required per issue; this time it's only three). Here's a time-saving idea! Perhaps Jim Lee didn't need to draw those extra lines on Hal Jordan's Green Lantern costume? Those seem to be the only noticeable change in his costume post-"New 52", and many lines make much work. (I think that's how the saying goes.)

So, in this issue, Sinestro attempts to recruit Hal Jordan to aid him in a space quest (just as he did at the beginning of the previous arc) and after a seven-page fight (two of which are devoted to that one punch), The Indigo Tribe (the "Purple Lanterns," to those who don't follow GL closely) arrives to abduct Sinestro and subject him to the same weird brainwashing program they previously used on Black Hand. They also capture Hal Jordan and strip him down to his boxers, for Sally, and Carol Ferris puts on her Star Sapphire ("Pink Lantern") ring in order to rescue her boyfriend.

While the "New 52" brought a less revealing Star Sapphire costume for the one flying around in Green Lantern: New Guardians, Carol's still rocking the one with the cut-out center:Carol's been doing a lot of crunches, and she wants to show off her abs. Go for it, girl!

I heart Mahnke's work. I think he's one of the best that DC's got drawing these things these days, and I love his designs and depictions of the various alien races that appear in the series. This issue we see the return of my favorite Purple Lantern, the One Who Is Basically Just a Giant Bat (I'm sure he has a name, but I don't know/remember it), and Green Lantern Voz, who is basically an angry bear with no snout: Green Lantern is still Green Lantern; it's not all that great, but compared to some of Johns' other recent superhero work (Justice League), it's goddamned Shakespeare. Only with better art. Shakespeare couldn't draw a snoutless space anger bear for shit.

Saga #1 (Image Comics) My main complaint with this comic—my only one, thus far—is the generic title, which makes me think of Weird Al's Star Wars song*, which has been stuck in my head off and on for about a month now, since George Lucas brought Phantom Menace back into theaters, with an added third dimension.

The format is of the Fuck You, Big Two variety—44 full-color, ad-free pages for $2.99, so you can suck it Marvel Entertainment—and there's more than just the title that makes me think of Star Wars. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples engage quite a bit of Lucas-like world-building, with basic, familiar-but-freshened-up backstory and set-up, and various races and imaginative alien creatures inhabiting a galaxy not unlike our own.

These races include horn-headed humanoids from a moon, winged people from the planet that moon orbits, monitor-headed robot people, a giant talking lie detector cat, an even more giant fire-breathing thingee and an even more giant than that war tortoise.

The story is this: The folks on the cover are from two different warring races, who have Romeo and Juliet-ed, and produced a baby in the process. Everyone therefore wants them dead, and some specialists are hired to do the killing. Can they follow the dubious treasure map they have to the Rocketship Forest before the robot, horn and wing people catch them?

The dialogue is sharp and funny, the designs are inspired, evocative of European comics and the vigorous mashing of elements from the covers of paperbacks from both the sci-fi and fantasy sections of your local bookstore (okay, library, since you may not have a local bookstore anymore). "It reminds me of Star Wars" is probably regarded as more of an insult than praise at this point in the lifespan of Lucas' epic filmmaking story-universe, so let me try to super-qualify it: It reminds me a bit of a Star Wars with a more modest, limited budget, from an alternate universe where George Lucas had actually heard how real people talked and was able to replicate it, in the mid-eighties, before CGI."

Also, it has this:That is Baron Robot. The XXIII.

That is the best thing ever.

I endorse this product, and I hope your shop had the good sense to order a copy or twelve for their racks.

Saucer Country #1 (DC Comics) I'm maybe not the best person to tell you if this is a good comic book or not, as three areas of interest to me include 1) comic books, 2) UFOlogy as folklore and 3) politics, and it is a comic book about UFOlogy and politics. Not many other media products are so specifically designed to the very-narrow Caleb Mozzocco demographic: This might as well be a manga series about dinosaurs, or an hour-long TV drama about beautiful British girls fighting dinosaurs, or, I don't know, a foreign film featuring wire-heavy kung fu and based on the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan.

I'll be talking about this elsewhere, but it's from writer Paul Cornell, freed of the expectations and restrictions that come with writing corporate superheroes, and the very good artist Ryan Kelly.

It's about a Democratic, female, divorced, Hispanic governor of New Mexico deciding to run for president of the United States. She has a skeleton in her closet in that her ex-husband was an alcoholic who abused her, but just as she's about to announce her candidacy, she realizes the memories of what she assumes was the most recent abuse were actually false memories created to cover up an alien abduction.

Is she crazy? Will she and her campaign staff be able to run a successful campaign while hiding this fact from everyone, whether it's true or not? I have to assume it is true, as this is a Vertigo book, and also because there's another character also suspected of being crazy who sees aliens, although he sees a different type all together.

I noticed on Robot 6 today that Cornell is at least jokingly trying to drum up interest for the new series by noting the nudity, sex and profanity in it, and hoping the seven One Million Moms who "boycotted" Archie Comics, which they didn't read anyway, might also boycott his book, and thus help sell it for him. (For what it's worth, he oversells the nudity, sex and profanity, and this is a mature readers title instead of an all-ages one like Archie's comics...and the half-dozen One Million Moms didn't object to anything about that Archie comic other than the fact that it acknowledged the existence of gay people. I didn't notice any gay people in this issue). The closest it comes to a strong political statement likely to irritate OMM is when the Republican strategist character notes that "the party of which I am a member is courting nutjobs who poll 15% with middle America."

To be fair, Mitt Romney isn't an actual nutjob; he's just pretending to be one in order to win Republican votes in the primary.

Actually, there's a bit more political content in this issue, but it's more suggestive, and I think I'll save blabbing about that for an essay elsewhere.

In the mean time, let me just say that I recommend this one, too. It's supposedly The West Wing meets The X-FIles; I've only seen about a half-dozen episodes of The X-Files, and I've never seen so much as a commercial for The West Wing, so I don't know if that's accurate or not. It's engaging though, and very well-drawn. I plan on reading #2 next month.

The Smurf Olympics (Papercutz) Did you know there is a smurf named Weakling Smurf? His defining characteristic, the one he is named for, is that he's a weakling? That...that sucks for him, doesn't it? And what does that say about Smurf society in general, that they gave him that name?

Anyway, the main story in this volume is dedicated to the tale of the Smurf games that Hefty Smurf organizes. He's the only smurf in smurf village who cares for sports, which makes him sad, so he decides to get the rest of his lazy, shiftless, weakling village into sports by cajoling them into a huge track-and-field event. They divide into three teams—the red team, the yellow team, an Weakling Smurf—and train. Weakling trains super-hard, but as the competition nears, he fears he will live up to his name, and goes to Papa Smurf for some sort of magical steroid. That is the actual story.

It's followed by sports-themed gag strips, most of which involve archery.

In the lead story, Brainy Smurf is both struck in the head with a hammer and thrown a great distance, for being annoying. The fact that both happened in this story made me realize that while I remember Brainy often being thrown out of the village for being annoying, in the comics he's almost always hit on the head with a hammer. I wonder if the animators decided to soften up the violence by replacing hammer-hitting with the more cartoony smurf-tossing, lest kids get the idea that it's okay to hit their friends, neighbors and sibling in the head, so long as the victim is a know-it-all, tattletale or just talks too much...?

*Okay, I actually don't mind all that much. I really like that song, and am mildly astonished by how Yankovic is able to so perfectly summarize the events of the entire film, with very little editorializing—"We all fought in that epic war/and it wasn't long at all before/Little hotshot flew his plane and saved the day"—and to do it all to the tune of The Day The Music Died . I like the Sith Lord rocking out on the piano, and the costuming and alien designs in the cantina are pretty incredible in the way they evoke Star Wars-like aliens without actually being representatives to any of those crazy alien races in "the Saga."

I love this guy on the right, with the paper mache/squash-looking faceAnd the handmaiden on the left of Bjork here, who has such a nice smile I want to marry her.They should make action figures of all these guys.