Thursday, December 27, 2007


Meanwhile, in Las Vegas…: This week’s Las Vegas Weekly comics review column features two new miniseries offering up new spins on ancient myths, The Infinite Horizon and Hybrid Bastards.

Marvel vs. DC, Round 946: Quick question—What’s a common one-word term used to refer to the artist who provides pencil-only art for a comic book, to later be inked by an inker?

Okay, yes, that’s right.

Now, how do you spell it?

DC spells penciller with two l’s in their credit boxes, whereas Marvel spells penciler with one l. My spellcheck always underlines them both in red to let me know they’re spelled wrong (it also underlined “spellcheck” just now). I always assumed that it was because it was comic book jargon and not widely enough used to pop up in a spellcheck program.

But why do Marvel and DC differ on the spelling?

I’ve been finding myself writing it out as “pencil artist” so as to avoid finding a definitive answer. I haven’t pulled out my long boxes and done and exhaustive search or anything, but, just casually looking at my usual Wednesday stacks of super-comics, and now, just double-checking the past week’s, it seems Marvel and DC are purposely spelling the word differently.

Has anyone else noticed this? Does anyone know how long this has been going on? Or why this is going on?

If anyone has any further information on this matter, do let me know. It’s stuff like this that keeps me up at night.

And on the subject of spelling, is the term “the direct market” a proper noun or not? Should I capitalize the d and the m or no?

And how come so few comics bloggers capitalize the I in “internet” when referring to “the Internet?” That is a proper noun, unless it’s being used as an adjective, right?

As a comic book writer, she makes a fine prose novelist: I finally got around to reading Jodi Picoult’s entire five-issue Wonder Woman run, recently collected in a pretty thin $19.99 hardcover. (I had previously only read Picoult’s first, very disappointing issue before I decided to just wait until I could read it for free from the library, as “nothing at all” seems to be the amount of money the story would be worth).

It doesn’t get any better after that first issue, however, and it’s actually pretty surprising how bad it all is. I really can’t fathom how this all came about; did DC really think a name writer with the kind of book store/library cred as Jodi Picoult would be best applied to tap-dancing between the continuity points established by Allan Heinberg and the Amazons Attack! crossover?

It’s a really nicely designed trade, and has an introduction from Picoult herself, which Tom Spurgeon noted “feels like a defense attorney's opening statement.”

The art throughout is mostly pretty solid, although there are some badly choreographed scenes that look like they had dialogue rearranged or something the night before deadline (Note the panel on the right). But it’s a really uncomfortable amalgam of plot points culled from continuity (Max Lord’s murder, Hippolyta’s death, Circe’s history, what’s up with the Amazons post-Infinite Crisis, Amazons Attack!, who the hell is Everyman, etc.) and characterization made up wholesale by Picoult.

Her Wonder Woman as fish-out-of-water comedy, flirting with Nemesis-as-TV’s-Steve-Trevor might have made for a great original graphic novel or Elseworlds or All-Star type story, but for a relevant DCU event bridging crossovers? Come on.

Rereading her intro after the story arc itself, this part grabbed my attention:

I decided to undertake the challenge for a few reasons—because it was something I’d never done before; because I’d always been a fan of Wonder Woman (who hasn’t?); because I’d admired other writers who’d seamlessly moved between fiction and comic books (Brad Meltzer foremost); and because I would be only the second woman to write the comic book in its long history.

The fact that she chose Meltzer as an example of someone who had “moved seamlessly moved between fiction and comic books” instead of, say, Greg Rucka, is pretty telling. (Perhaps just as telling? She uses the word “fiction” instead of “prose;” “comic book” is a medium, “fiction” designates whether a work is true or not. Meltzer’s prose novels and comic book work are all works of fiction, just as Picoult’s prose novels and Wonder Woman work are fiction).

Like Meltzer, Picoult over-narrates her comic books a bit too much, although it’s worth noting she sticks with one narrator per issue, making her five comics a bit more clear and easy to read than some of Meltzer’s twenty-some comics.

She also seems to view writing serial comics as a sort of relay race, in which a writer need not resolve their own story, but simply stop at some point and hand the characters and the subplots they’ve introduced on to the next writer.

Meltzer’s done this with everything he’s written. “Archer’s Quest” had a pretty dramatic turn in the relationship between Oliver Queen and Connor Hawke that was introduced but left unexplored. Identity Crisis was really nothing but turns in characters and plots, few if any of which were ever resolved, and which DC writers have been working at making sense of ever since. Similarly, his four-story JLoA run was full of changes and sub-plots he had no intention of resolving; he was simply seeding the book for future writers.

Picoult’s run takes that concept to a more dramatic level, as she doesn’t even resolve the main conflict in an equivocal, open-ended way. The graphic novel ends with one character holding a knife to our heroine’s throat. Her love interest is poisoned and dying. There’s a nuclear missile pointed at the island home of the Amazons. The U.S. military and JLA are still warring with the Amazons in Washington D.C.

And that’s the end of the book.

When I’d read Spurgeon’s review a while back, he noted that it ends with “a ridiculous cliffhanger ending that asks readers to buy yet another book after dropping 20 bucks on this one,” I assumed he was simply referring to the book leaving some subplots unresolved. But no, it doesn’t resolve anything at all, and it doesn’t merely end with a “to be continued” in the last panel, but the last page is actually a full-page ad reading, “Find out what happens next in Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack.”

What a thoroughly despressing book. This had the promise of one which could help evangelize the medium, bringing new readers to comic books, and now I fear all it will accomplish is making sure any who do pick this up as their first graphic novel to simply swear them off for life.

And speaking of Spurgeon and crappy Wonder Woman stories… Spurgeon recently interviewed Catwoman writer Will Pfeifer, the man responsible for Amazons Attack!.

It’s a pretty interesting and wide-ranging interview, one which reminded me how much I liked the 1999, Jill Thompson-illustrated Vertigo mini Finals, which was apparently Pfeifer’s comics debut.

He seems pretty honest about the nature of Amazons Attack! and t he frustrations of writing books like it:

I've worked on a few crossovers before, but this is the most closely I've been involved. It was almost a year ago exactly that I went to the DC offices for a weekend. We sort of plotted out the whole six-issue series, and we talked about all the tie-ins and this and that. When you're working on a big crossover like this, a lot of the plotting is just connecting the dots in a way. This is going to happen here, we'll deal with this here, and then over in Teen Titans this will happen, and then we'll deal with this, and then we'll deal with that. Readers may not like it, and in some ways it can be a pain to write, but that's what a lot of modern comic books are. The big ones that sell and the big ones that people seem to like are the ones that have crossovers crossovers crossovers. When you're writing it, the object is to hit those plot points. As a writer you try to work in those human emotions and twists and surprises and fun and action along the way. But you have to hit point A, B, C, and D because in another book, somebody's going to be hitting it.

It’s pretty funny watching him and Spurgeon sort of make sense of it all:

I think at its most basic, people have an idea about whatever superhero or character they love and have their ideal version of that character somewhere in their head. When you go against that version, some people are going to react very strongly. Amazons Attack! is right there in the title. They kill that guy and his kid on the very first page. People were really upset about that. But it was supposed to be shocking. It was supposed to be upsetting. It wasn't supposed to be a triumphant moment for the Amazons. People who have been reading Wonder Woman for however long they've been reading Wonder Woman —and some of them have been reading for a long time —they didn't like the fact that the Amazons were attacking and were evil. They also didn't like the fact that in Amazons Attack! that there wasn't enough Wonder Woman, and that Wonder Woman wasn't driving the plot along. The reason for that is that there's another book called Wonder Woman [Spurgeon laughs] where all that was happening.

While I don’t think anyone really wants to read superhero comics about people slaughtering innocent children on the first page, I doubt that (or the lack of Wonder Woman in the story) are the reason people reacted so negatively. I think it was more the fact that the story wasn’t any good, and didn’t make any goddam sense, not only within the context of the DCU and its history, but within the pages of the series itself.

Was that Pfeiffer’s fault, or the person who asked him to hit A, B, C and D? Because, B didn’t go with A and C, and D kinda cancels out A, and you can’t have B and C in the same story at the same time and expect it to make sense.

Regardless, this is one of those instances where it’s hard to feel too sorry for a comic book writer who wrote some shitty comics and then said it wasn’t entirely his fault (like JMS recently did with One More Day). Nobody makes you write these comics, and accepting the embarrassment that comes from writing bad ones—whoever’s bad ideas are ultimately fueling them—is part of the process. The writer’s name appears on the cover of the book, just like it does on the paycheck.

The cardinal is the state bird, the Pekar is the state curmudgeon: My fellow Ohioans, have you seen this political cartoon collaboration by Harvey Pekar and Nick Bertozzi yet? No? Then go read it. I love the use of the shape of the state as a lay-out, and I’ll be damned if Bertozzi doesn’t draw the scariest Pekar I’ve ever seen (I really like that Pekar is a lot like Batman; every artist finds a slightly different facet of the character). I would totally buy a set of postcards based on the “Greetings From Ohio” part, with the weird close-ups of a glaring Pekar in each letter…

This has very, very little to do with comics: Chris Ware designed the logo and poster for writer/director Tamara Jenkins’ latest movie, The Savages .

It doesn’t have anything to do with comics beyond the fact that Ware designed these, however. (The aesthetic of the film, and its melancholic sense of humor, sort of aligns with that seen in Ware’s work, though). It opened in Columbus on Christmas; if you’re so inclined, you can read my review of it here.

The other movie that opened in Columbus this week that’s well worth a trip to the theater? Juno, in which J. Jonah Jameson’s teenage daughter Kitty Pryde gets pregnant, and decides to have the baby and give it up to Elektra for adoption. That’s reviewed here.

Fanboys For Pele: I love comic books. And I love the music of Tori Amos. So the announcement of a an Image Comics-published anthology of short comics stories based on or inspired by her work should be something I’m really pumped about.

And while I can’t wait to read it, I’m not going to get my hopes too high at this point. Image’s Put the Book Back on the Shelf, which did the same with the songs of Belle and Sebastian, another favorite, was a pretty mixed bag—some stories were great, some were interesting, some were godawful. Since Amos’ work seems to be much less narrative than Belle and Sebastian’s, I’m really curious to see how it will translate to adaptation—it should definitely give creators a bit more leeway.

Thinking back, I can recall relatively little about the Belle and Sebastian anthology, with only the very best stories and the very worst sticking in my head. I do recall it being a really fun reading experience though, as I broke out all the Belle and Sebastian CDs and read the stories while listening to the songs. I look forward to doing the same with the Tori Amos anthology.

As with any anthology, the contributors will make or break it more than the concept. News of who’s involved is still trickling out, but at the very least, it will include work from Hope Larson, Colleen Doran, Lea Hernandez, Chris Arrant and Star St. Germain, and Columbus’ own Tom Williams.

One of the first places I saw the project announced was at The Beat, and man, there are times when I have no idea what Heidi MacDonald is talking about:

Amos is one of early adapters in the comics/media crossover trend, due to her friendship with Neil Gaiman (the two were introduced by Hoseley) resulting in many lyrical and comical mentions of one another over the years.

What exactly is “the comics/media crossover trend?” Comics is a medium. Is she referring to Amos’ music as “media” and comics as “comics?” And regardless, I don’t understand the implication that Amos is “one of the early adapters.” Amos has never written or drawn any comics, and these are the first comics stories based on her music. She read comics and was friends with Neil Gaiman, who is rumored to have based Delerium’s final look and personality on Amos, but does that make one an “earl adapter?”

Sometimes I get a real “Biff! Bam! Pow! Holy Watchmen Batman, Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!” vibe from The Beat, which is odd, given that it’s a comics-specific blog, you know?

And speaking of Tori Amos and comics… I’ve been enjoying the hell out of Nathan Rabin’s “My Year of Flops” series at The Onion AV Club. It’s exactly what I think criticism should be—so well-written and entertaining to read, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen or plan to see the film being discussed, because the review itself has great value in and of itself. Anyway, Rabin gets around to one of the worst comic book adaptations of all time, Howard the Duck.

And he points out that Tori Amos was up for the part of Beverly.

Which means this could have been Tori Amos:

Or, worse yet, this:

Rabin also spends some verbiage belittling Y Kant Tori Read, Amos' pre-solo career rock band that really wasn’t so bad. I kind of liked that album! In fact, I liked more songs on it than on Scarlet’s Walk. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Well, I’m a little ashamed, but not so ashamed that I won’t admit it anyway.

Dear Dan DiDio.... Last week’s “DC Nation” column saw Dan DiDio in teasing mode, presenting an annotated Christmas list from various DC characters.

Let’s parse it at exhausting length, shall we?

Superman— A new place to call home.

Lately it seems like Superman goes through Fortresses of Solitude like water, but since Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek so recently gave him his latest (basically the one from Johns’ sometimes co-writer Richard Donner’s Superman movies), I’m going to guess he’s keeping those digs for a while.

And I doubt he’ll be moving out of Metropolis any time soon, as Busiek’s done a lot of work building the city up, with new geography and city services and such like.

So, I’m going to guess this refers to some sort of New Krypton, as the two Superman writers seem very interested in new Kryptonian history.

Superman Prime— A time to call my own.

I don’t care. Sorry.

Batman— More time.

I’m assuming this is just a joke about how busy Batman is, and if it’s a tease of some kind, it’s pretty vague. I mean, at any point in his fictional career Batman could have asked Santa and/or Paul Levitz for the exact same thing.

Robin— A memorial for Stephanie Brown

This is the one that has clearly set the most tongues a-wagging, or at least fingers a-typing. The request is of course scratched out, with the words “Can’t Do!” atop of it. For someone who claims not to pay too much attention to the messageboards and blogosphere, DiDio sure knows how to tweak the online fans, doesn’t he? Assuming he’s not just being a dick, this seems to be another strong indicator that Spoiler’s on her way back to life.

Does that mean the godawful costume the girl going by the name “Violet” in upcoming Robin solicits is a resurrect Spoiler? Ugh. If that’s what she’s going to be wearing, maybe she should stay dead.

Come on Mr. DiDio, didn’t you see Project Rooftop’s redesign Stephanie Brown thing a few months back? Particularly Dean Trippe’s wonderful design?

Anyway, I’m more interested in the fate of Spoiler as an observer than a fan at this point. I never much cared for her outside the pages of Batgirl. The fact that she died at all, or that Batman never gave her a monument never really upset me, certainly not as much as I was upset by the fact that she died in a terrible story that didn’t make a lick of sense, and that she died from being tortured within an inch of her life and then from having Bruce Wayne’s lifelong friend and pacifist Doctor Leslie Thompkins deny her care to teach Bruce a lesson.


I like the idea of Robin asking for a memorial for his dead ex-girlfriend for Christmas from Dan DiDio, though. If Tim Drake wants a memorial to Stephanie, then it’s easy to imagine some pretty uncomfortable conversations around the table at Wayne Manor, with Tim being all like, “Sooooo, have you given any more thought to erecting that memorial to Stephanie yet?” and Bruce being, “Oh look, it’s the Bat-signal! Gotta go! We’ll talk later!”

Batgirl— My very own mini-series

This one made me laugh. Assuming they’re talking about the current Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, she had her own monthly ongoing series which was selling adequately (not great, but not any worse than much of DC’s DCU line) but it was cancelled to…I forget the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of streamlining the Bat-books (Apparently by just two titles; Batgirl and Gotham Knights).

So a new miniseries featuring a character who, just a few short years ago, was strong enough to carry her own title, seems like an odd move. After all, DC spent the last few years chasing away her relatively few fans and sabotaging the character as much as possible*, and now they’re looking to capitalize on the severely diminished returns for 4-6 months?

Red Tornado— A new body and a family to call my own

As Patrick pointed out in the comments section the week I reviewed JLoA #15 (the issue in which Red Tornado’s body was destroyed), his body is supposedly indestructible.

And that’s not, like, some obscure trivia from mentioned in a single issue of the pre-Crisis volume of Justice League of America or anything, but it was, like, the whole point of Brad Meltzer’s first arc on this very series, “The Tornado’s Path.” The new, smart Solomon Grundy wanted to put his brain into Red Tornado’s immortal android body precisely because it couldn’t be destroyed, and thus Grundy would never have to die and return to life again.

I find it almost as amusing as it is irritating that not only did Dwayne McDuffie, the JLoA writer who followed Meltzer, not really read Meltzer’s stuff too closely, but neither, apparently, did DiDio.

Not sure what to make of the “a family to call my own” comment. Does that mean in addition to Red Tornado’s wife and daughter, who also appeared throughout “The Tornado’s Path?” That story was just last year. It was the best-selling thing DC published. Surely DiDio read it, right?

Green Arrow— My son back

Black Canary— My husband’s son back

Man, this list of teases is terrible for my blood pressure!

Here’s hoping that having the stars of Green Arrow/Black Canary ask for Green Arrow’s son Green Arrow back means that Connor Hawke isn’t really dead, and/or that these items tease a story about bringing him back and are not, in fact, intimating that the next few months of Green Arrow/Black Canary will be devoted to mourning his death.

Whether he’s dead-dead or just temporarily dead, in either case it shows writer Judd Winick’s lack of imagination. When Connor Hawke was shockingly killed at the end of the last issue, he either seemed to die but will be back soon (like Oliver Queen in the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special of a few months ago), or he actually died, like all those characters in Judd Winick’s Titans East Special #1 from a few weeks back.

Darkseid— The Fifth World

Don’t care to the point in which this is part of Countdown, but may start caring if this is an element of Final Crisis, as the writer of the latter, Grant Morrison, mentioned the coming of the Fifth World back during the climax of his JLA run.

The Rogues— Revenge!! (A sentiment shared by all the villains in SALVATION RUN)

Revenge? For what? Instead of giving them the death penalty or putting them in jail for life for the murder of Bart Allen (in addition to any and/all other crimes they might have committed), The Rogues were handed their favorite clothes, their very powerful weapons, and then sent to a planet free of superheroes to do whatever the hell they want until one of the many super-brilliant mad scientists there figures a way to spring them all. I really fail to see the drama—or logic—in Salvation Run.

Mongul— A ring collection

The last issue of Green Lantern Corps ended with Mongul getting a Sinestro Corps ring, and I imagine he’ll therefore be fighting some ring-slinging Green Lanterns soon.

DiDio’s end of the year interview with Matt Brady at Newsarama was illustrated by a piece of art depicting Mongul with three different colored rings.

The rings in the image all have the Green Lantern symbol, rather than the various pictograms the new rings are supposed to bear. Because of that, it reminded me of the Mark Waid masterminded epic The Silver Age from a few years back, in which Lex Luthor and his villainous allies created their own special power-rings, which looked and worked like Green Lantern rings, but were different colors.

I’m really surprised that event hasn’t been collected into trade yet, given how many great/popular writers and artists were involved, and that so much of recent DC history has been driven by the characters it featured (The Silver Age League including Green Arrow and Black Canary, Elongated Man, The Secret Society of Supervillains and so on, plus a one-off iteration of the Seven Soldiers of Victory).

(An aside: I’m apparently not the only one who noticed the similarity between Geoff Johns’ rainbow corps and Waid’s Silver Age story, or the fact that the later is overdue for trade collection. I am, however, the slower to post about it one).

Geo-Force— Rock samples from another planet

Don’t really care at all, but I wonder if this will have anything to do with GF’s mysterious power problems Meltzer introduced but never resolved in JLoA.

The Question— A visit from an old friend

The real Question coming back to life? Nah, probably just Batwoman appearing in one of the issues of the Crime Bible series…

Speaking of which, I don’t see Batwoman requesting her series starting any time soon. Or Manhunter requesting her series resuming any time soon, either.

Booster Gold— The Blue and Gold back in action


Looks like that’s what we’ll be getting in the next few issues of Booster Gold, March’s issue of JLU and March’s issue of Blue Beetle.

I get the feeling Ted Kord won’t actually be coming back for real at the end of this upcoming Booster Gold story, but, as I’ve said before, I hope he does because it’s only a matter of time before someone brings him back to life, so better to have it happen through the agency of a time-travelling Booster Gold than via something silly like, I don’t know, magic herbs, as in colleague Ice’s recent silly resurrection.

Lord Satanus— Control of Hell

Neron— Control of Hell

DiDio’s notation has arrows pointing to their requests, with the words “Uh-oh, this could be a problem.”

Sounds like this refers to Keith Giffen’s upcoming limited series about a war for control of hell, which he discussed with fellow Columbusite and Newsaramite Vaneta Rogers during an interview posted the other day.

Giffen’s an experienced storyteller, but man, I’d kinda hate to have an assignment like this. After all, stories of power struggles in DC’s Hell have been previously told by the likes of Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

*Batgirl appearances since the end of her own series, but before this month’s Outsiders #2?Robin: Boy Wanted written by Adam Beechen, who left the title shortly afterwards; “Titans East” by Geoff Johns and Beechen, the conclusion of which (by Beechen alone) is in the running for the worst DC story ever published (I think it’s a tie with JLoA #10, the conclusion of “The Lighting Saga”), a few pages of World War III by Keith Champagne and/or John Ostrander and/or whoever gave those poor bastards a set of plot points and said, “Here, make a script of some kind out of this, would ya?”, and the issue of Supergirl in which this happens:


Sean McGurr said...

Merriam-Webster online ( lists only penciller in the dictionary ( Not sure about the reasons for the difference, but I'd be interested in hearing why if you find out. I'm going to wonder about it too.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Caleb - I'm pretty excited for the Tori Amos tribute - sounds like a lot of fun (maybe we'll even get a new Gaiman Tori story out of it too)! YKTR was pretty good actually! I remember hearing it around '96 when Pele came out and thinking 'not bad'! Tori still sings some of those songs in concert, so she must have fond memories of them too!
About Picoult's WW. I recently re-read the story and thought it was actually a pretty good jumping on point for new readers. Simone's WW isn't so different from Picoult's that they'd be confused, though I agree - they should've had Picoult write a one off story vs. an AA tie in but oh well.

snell said...

You weren't slow to post about Silver Age/Rainbow Corps, Caleb. I just happened to have read the Silver Age arc for the first time that day, went "hey!" and traipsed over to the scanner...

Anonymous said...

So, just what the hell is going on in that Batgirl/Supergirl picture?

Caleb said...

So, just what the hell is going on in that Batgirl/Supergirl picture?

Obviously Batgirl was trying to kill Supergirl with her laser-katana from behind, but was impales on Supergirl's kill crystal skeleton spikes, causing them both to collapse to the ground like two little kids playing train. Why, it's as clear as day.

Honestly I have no idea. I didn't read that comic.

Dean Trippe said...

Hey thanks for the name drop. (I'm also drawing a story for the Tori Amos book!) :D

Anonymous said...

You'll care about the Superman Prime time of his own when it happens.

ShadZ said...

The Rogues— Revenge!! (A sentiment shared by all the villains in SALVATION RUN)

Revenge? For what? Instead of giving them the death penalty or putting them in jail for life for the murder of Bart Allen (in addition to any and/all other crimes they might have committed), The Rogues were handed their favorite clothes, their very powerful weapons, and then sent to a planet free of superheroes to do whatever the hell they want until one of the many super-brilliant mad scientists there figures a way to spring them all.

I read Salvation Run #1, and it is made pretty clear that the planet is a death trap, but Amanda Waller & Rick Flagg did not know that because it is a death trap controlled by Desaad on Apokolips, and when Waller/Flag/Checkmate were studying the place Desaad shut the death traps off so they wouldn't know...

So I suppose the Rogues (et. al.) will figure this out and want revenge on Desaad (and Darksied, if he is the one who asked Desaad to do all this). Which is funny, because what are the Rogues going to be able to do to Darksied? I'm not interested in Salvation Run right now, but if it ends with a group of motley super-villains attacking Apokolips and getting their buts handed to them, that sounds interesting...