Thursday, September 25, 2008

Links, and commentary about them

I spent a really long time looking at this site (and so should you): You probably recognize that silhouette above as that of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but do you know who drew it? Believe it or not, that’s an Eric Talbot drawing.

I used to love the Mirage-published black and white TMNT comics; in fact, they were among the comics that really got me into the reading comics regularly in the first place (along with DC/TSR’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s Batman comics).

And Talbot was one of my favorite artists working on them.

He was a frequent collaborator with Kevin Eastman, and handled inks and tones on a lot of TMNT stuff, bringing a dark, scratchy line that covered the art in a palpable layer of grit. Without consulting a long box, I remember Talbot worked on #17 and #20 of the original series, and I believe he worked on the Casey Jones story in Plastron Café, but my memory is hazy), and pin-ups and ads for things he drew were sprinkled throughout a lot of Mirage publications.

For some reason, I was pretty surprised by Talbot’s style as seen on his sketch blog. I don’t know if, in the back of my brain, I had always assumed something that was actually Eastman/Talbot was what Talbot/Talbot looked like, or if his artwork has evolved a bit in the last, oh, almost 20 years or so, or both, but it’s really great stuff, and I particularly love his big, white-eyed turtles and, especially, his pointy-nosed Splinter.

Here’s a taste:

In addition to a lot of ninja turtles and characters from their comics, you’ll also find sketches of Batman, Two-Face, Hellboy, Usagi Yojimbo, Mr. Miracle, Wolverine and a whole lot of tentacles, stitches, skeletal faces and pages and pages of silhouette sketches like this:

So go look around for a while. I’ll still be here when you get back.

The worst thing about DC’s fantasy presidential election comic DC Universe: Decisions?: Too few people read it.

I was looking forward to an Internet-wide, Ultimates 3-style drubbing of it by critics. But I suppose that was silly of me. People actually liked and looked forward to Ultimates and Ultimates 2, and were thus really looking forward to seeing what would happen when a new creative team—including known crazy person Jeph Loeb and that guy who perfected the art of missing deadlines—took over the franchise for a third volume.

But who cares which fake-ass, made-up candidate Green Arrow is endorsing in the cloud cuckoo land of the DCU (Probably some liberal guy, because as Denny O’Neil has shown us in decades past, bowhunters are the Democrats’ most reliable base), or if Lois Lane is supposed to be Republican or Libertarian based on the political beliefs she states in the story (despite the statistical unlikelihood of a big city investigative reporter being either).

Yes, who really cares about any of that nonsense, particularly since the real-world election is getting so completely insane that no writer could even make this stuff up*.

Thank God for Nina Stone of The Factual Opinion then: She at least was brave enough to take on DC Universe: Decisions #1. Go give it a read, and then join me in a prayer that she and/or Tucker Stone and/or a civilian they rope into reading comics and reporting back to them will read the next three issues as well.

And speaking of…: After twelve seconds of research—i.e. asking my local comic shop-keep if they received copies of DC Universe: Decisions along with the now-infamous All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder and the OMG Superman drinking beer maybe! issue of Action Comics—I’ve developed a theory as to why it wasn’t shipped as originally scheduled.

My shopkeep said they received issues of the swearing comic and the drinking comic, but not the “political” comic. Decisions just didn’t show up at all that week.

Perhaps then it wasn’t recalled and pulped like ASB&RtBW and Action, but was instead simply delayed a week? It was scheduled to come out on Wednesday, September 10, which, if I’m doing my math right, is only one day before September 11. Since terror attacks on presidential candidates are central to the plot, maybe DC wanted to avoid risking someone being offended if they published a comic book about that during that particular week.

If this was the case, I think they overreacted. Simply avoiding real-world politics, they’ve ensured that no one would even notice the book outside the direct market-audience for Judd Winick and Bill Willingham books, and nothing offends those readers anyway.

Too bad it’s not Chuck BB illustrating the lyrics of Chuck D: I don’t normally publish press release type info here, since so many other places on the Internet do a much better job of it, but I’ll make an exception based on how cool this particular project looks.

Boom Studios will be publishing a new version of H.P. Lovecraft’s prose poem Nyarlahotep.

Now, the only thing more boring than prose or poetry is prose poeery, but this $15, 32-page book has something going for it that most prose poetry (and prose and poetry) lacks: Full-color illustrations by Black Metal’s Chuck BB.

They look like this:

I’m not sure when the in-store date for this is exactly, but if you follow the link above, you can get the Diamond order code and bug your comic shop about ordering you a copy (and see a few more illustrations).

What is wrong with Marc Guggenheim?: A lot, apparently. On Tuesday Dorian Wright noted a particularly insane-sounding couple of paragraphs in an interview with Guggenheim that coupled the issue of gay marriage to the Spider-Man continuity reboot for…some reason.

The original interview, written up by longtime writer-about-comics Jennifer M. Contino, is a pretty basic sort of Creator Talks About His Projects type of interview, common throughout much of the comics press.

He talks about his work on the Amazing Spider-Man almost-weekly, his TV show and a superhero movie script he’s apparently working on.

And, in discussing the fact that a lot of people don’t like the new Spider-Man direction on the basis that it is really stupid, he says this:

"Here's my attitude, if anyone is upset about the marriage going away, then they must all be pro gay marriage," he continued. Because if you're pro gay marriage, you understand the distinction between a marriage and a civil union -- that a civil union is not equal to a marriage. We downgraded Mary Jane and Peter to a civil union. If that bothers you, then you're pro gay marriage."

I’m kind of disappointed that Contino didn’t take the opportunity to say, “I don’t understand what you mean. Could you explain that?” Perhaps she didn’t notice how insane it was until she sat down to transcribe the interview…?

Wright mentions some of the obvious problems with that quote that I won’t repeat here (Go read Wright’s). But there are a lot of problems with it. (Feel free to skip down to the next item if you don’t want to read about Spider-Man continuity and comic book writer dumb-assery for a few hundred words).

It’s been interesting to watch just how defensive some of the writers involved with the new Spider-Man direction have been regarding how they got there. One of the main problems with the J. Michael Straczynski/Joe Quesada “One More Day” storyline, in addition to it being poorly written, poorly drawn, over-priced and behind schedule, was that it didn’t make a lick of sense.

Repeatedly in interviews creators like Quesada and now Guggenheim have stated that nothing changed in Spider-Man’s timeline (what we mean by “continuity”) beyond the fact that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson weren’t married for the decades during which they were married. Something happened on their wedding day that prevented the consumption of their engagement, but, otherwise, everything else remained the exact same, Quesada had maintained.

This isn’t true. At all. In addition to their not ever having been married, Spidey and MA weren’t dating as of the beginning of the “Brand New Day” storyline. Aunt May was no longer on her deathbed in the hospital dying of an assassination attempt on her nephew, but was perfectly well again. Her house, which was destroyed, was now un-destroyed. The knowledge of Peter Parker’s secret identity, which was known to Aunt May and everyone else in the world, was suddenly forgotten by May and everyone else in the world. Harry Osborn was no longer dead; he was just in Europe.

Those are some pretty big changes right there, beyond the “they just weren’t married.” It gets even harder if you follow the Marvel Universe in general, not just the Spider-Man title, because Spider-Man and his family lived in Avengers Tower, all of the Avengers knew his secret identity and his family, his secret identity reveal was a pivotal part of Civil War, a storyline that defined the entire state of the Marvel Universe. Changing just the unmasking and the marriage changes all of that. And, for the hundreth time, continuity between consecutive events is the entire point of serial storytelling like that of Spider-Man comics.

So no, Guggenheim. False. That is not the only thing that changed.

By reducing the changes to a single change, Guggenheim can then go on to state that if you don’t like the post OMD/BND direction of Spider-Man, you must not like the marital statue reboot. But you could also dislike all the other reboots, or the idea of any kind of reboot at all, or the weekly format, or you could think the writing is awful, or you could hate the art. There are a lot of reasons to dislike particular comics (I’ve only read two story arcs, so I’m not endorsing any of those opinions; I loved Marcos Martin and John Romita Jr.’s art, and Dan Slott’s writing was pretty decent in those arcs).

Then Guggenheim jumps to the, if you object to the reboot of the marriage, you must be pro-gay marriage bi, “Because if you're pro gay marriage, you understand the distinction between a marriage and a civil union -- that a civil union is not equal to a marriage. We downgraded Mary Jane and Peter to a civil union. If that bothers you, then you're pro gay marriage."

Wright and a few others see this as Guggenheim gay baiting; if you don’t like my comics, that makes you a fag.

I’ll give Guggenheim the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s not what he meant (although he’s a huge ass for comparing his Spider-Man comics to the gay marriage debate at all, and thus getting himself into the position where he could be accused of gay-baiting).

I’m pro gay marriage personally and understand there is a distinction between the two. This personal belief has nothing to do with Spider-Man’s love life. I’m also pro civil union. (Here in Ohio, we don’t even have civil unions. In fact, most of the country doesn’t. That seems to be step one here. Until the latter is actually commonplace, advocating the former over the latter seems a little silly in places like Ohio. Is marriage better than a civil union? Yes. Is a civil union better than nothing? Yes.)

Spider-Man and Mary Jane not being married but living together and sharing a bed doesn’t mean they suddenly have a civil union. It means they’re dating; cohabitating; “living in sin.” A civil union is something between that state of affairs and an actual marriage; did they go to the trouble of trying to get a civil union? (I don’t know the state of civil unions in New York state; is it even possible at the moment?) If so, why the fuck did they do that? Why didn’t they just get married? They’re straight people; there’s no law against them getting married! A civil union is the consolation prize for people who can’t get married. It’s the next best thing.

Finally, let’s look at that last bit one more time: “We downgraded Mary Jane and Peter to a civil union. If that bothers you, then you're pro gay marriage."

Like I said, I haven’t been reading a whole lot of ASM, but I’m pretty sure Marvel didn’t actually downgrade them to a civil union. Quesada said they just didn’t get married on their wedding day for some reason, and I don’t remember seeing any covers marked “Collector’s Item: The Civil Union Special!”

I should point out that there are many thousands of people in the U.S. who are bothered by civil unions, but definitely aren’t pro-gay marriage. They’re bothered by civil unions because they hate gay people, or are grossed out by them, or think they should always be treated as second-class citizens, or are afraid gay couples are trying to gain special rights to game the system and use tax dollars to fund gayness initiatives, or because they’re crazy coo-coo banana birds, or because they’re super-ignorant. A lot of the people who are bothered by civil unions are even more bothered by gay marriage.

So brilliant bit of anti-marketing, Mark Guggenheim! Now when I see a new comic book with the name Guggenheim on the cover, I won’t be able to think, “Oh, it’s the guy who wrote that great Blade series that was unfortunately cancelled,” but “Oh, it’s that defensive dumb-ass who said some pretty ignorant shit about civil unions and gay marriage when trying to convince people to read fucking Spider-Man comics.”

Art contests are fun: If you’re reading this, that means you read comics blogs on the Internet, and that means you probably also read Chris Sim’s The Invinicble Super-Blog which, while perhaps technically not invincible (that is, vincible), is in fact super.

If not, that means you’re probably a friend of mine who only reads this because you know me, or you’re someone who got here by accident after googling “Justice League Ice Cream” or something. Either way, you should probably be reading Chris Sim’s Invincible Super-Blog.

Especially posts like this, which featured the results of the ISB unconventional nunchuk contest (inspired by a drawing of Batman with nunchuks made out of sharks, which was in turn inspired by Sims’ own post involving Lego Batman’s sharkchuks, the only weapon capable of defeating evil wizard Shaquille O--look, I can’t explain this stuff. Just follow the link).

I pretty much laughed through the entire Batchuk results post; it’s one awesome design after another. It’s pretty remarkable how Sims-spefic so many of the designs are, using as raw materials things Sims loves, loathes or talks about all the time. The only thing missing was, as he pointed out himself, OMAChuks and, perhaps, nunchuks made out of Lucy and Lois Lane or out of John Workman-lettered KRAKK-A-DOOM! sound effects.

Meanwhile, in Canada, our enemy to the north, Rachelle Goguen (who, oddly enough, made a guest-appearance in one of the most random Batchuk contest entries), had a sketch contest of her own, involving entries combining two of her favorite things: superheroes and hockey.

The winner was frequent EDILW poster Sally, whose entry unsurprisingly involved both Green Lanterns and their butts.

Speaking of both Sims and Batman: Today the former has an examination of the one time the latter almost murdered The KGBeast.

I never read that story, but I remember it being referred to in the Batman: Year Three/ “A Lonely Place of Dying” era that immediately preceded the introduction of Tim Drake as a Robin-in-waiting, cited as evidence that Batman was totally losing it in the late ‘80s without a kid in a cape around to keep him from killing dudes.

KGBeast was never put to very good use again after that story though, was he? I know he showed up a lot in 90’s Batman stories, but he was always just kind of a big guy with a stump for an arm who talked funny, and I believe he’s dead now (at least the bad guys in Nightwing were recently robbing his grave of the big one-handed corpse in it…that’s usually a sure sign of a character being dead, even in super-comics). The end of the Cold War wasn’t very kind to the soviet assassin…too bad he didn’t live to see the dawn of our new Cold War, Cold War II: The En-coldening

This man liked Identity Crisis: Devan MacPherson has a pretty good review of Identity Crisis up here. And by “pretty good” I mean both the way it was written as well as the overall assessment of one of my least favorite comics of the last 2,000 years.

MacPherson notes that he’s not a member of the read-new-superhero-comics-every-Wednesday crowd, so he wasn’t too tied up in knots about any of the continuity issues (unlike some people I know), and he seems to have read it in the final, collected trade rather than in the monthly installments.

I wonder if it’s easier to like/harder to hate if originally experienced all at once rather than read chapter by chapter over the better part of a year. I know those of us who read it in seven sittings had a lot longer to puzzle over the murder mystery aspects, and thus had more time to notice holes in the story (Why did the killer bring a flamethrower with her if she didn’t mean to kill the victim? Why was she in disguise if she was going to be invisible to her victim anyway? And so on).

And, of course, if you don’t plan on seeing Green Arrow, Hawkman and Black Canary next Wednesday, do you really care how far they went to protect a friend’s loved one, or how far they went to keep a secret? If you weren’t planning on seeing Dr. Light fighting scantily clad teenage girls in the near future, would you think his being retconned into a rapist was such an inappropriate thing?

I don’t know, but I like reading well-articulated opinions that are completely different than mine, as it helps remind me that not everyone who disagrees with me is a dodo bird.

Don’t read this one if you don’t live in Columbus: Death Note II: The Last Name, the second live-action Death Note movie, will be playing in town on October 15 and 16 only. The AMC theaters at Lennox and Easton will be hosting showings, as will three other area theaters I’ve never been to and wouldn’t be able to find without a compass and Google Maps. Event info here. Make sure you read the manga first though, as it is the greatest thing ever.

Minx no more?!: Wow, I was surprised to hear that DC’s pulling the plug on their Minx line so fast. here’s a Blog@ post that includes a round-up of reactions. As usual, Tom Spurgeon and Dirk Deppey have some of the best analysis. (UPDATE: Not to mention Kevin Church).

My reaction, if anyone honestly wants it, was intense surprise followed immediabley by disappointment. I liked just about every Minx book I read (I only skipped three) on some level, and some of them quite a lot. There was a lot of criticism right out of the gate about the way Minx’s editors were talking about it (“comics for YA readers” would have sounded a lot less patronizing than “comics for girls”) and the relative lack of female voices involved, and I realized a few of the books that appealed to 31-year-old male Caleb might not appeal equally to teen girls (Josh Howard and Ross Campbell’s sexy girl art in Clubbing and Water Baby, for example) , but by and large the books were positioned to appeal to all comers: Art comics fans, YA readers, manga readers.

Was DC expecting an overnight success here? From my view, the line received an incredible amount of press coverage, overwhelmingly positive criticism (Some did receive mixed reactions, but some were pretty much universally praised) and a lot of library penetration (at least in central Ohio), but I don’t know how they were selling, how much of the (fairly incredible) amount spent on marketing them was being recouped, and how much the creators were being paid.

Obviously the people who do know all this did the math and concluded that it wasn’t worth it, but, like I said, I’m surprised. I assumed this was more of a five-year investment than a two-year investment.

So does this mean copies of Minx books are going to skyrocket in the back-issue market now?

Well, it’s about time: Marvel Comics decided to finally take advantage of the fact that a Very Famous Celebrity Who Likes Plugging Things That Have To Do With Him, the one with a half-hour show on cable television four days a week, is running for president in the Marvel Universe.

The initial press release states that Kevin Maguire will provide a variant cover (I state that he should be doing interior art too; who better to capture Colbert’s raised eyebrows?). I hope it’s a costs-the-same-as-the-standard-cover type of variant and not a costs-several-dollars-more-than-the-standard-cover type of variant…

And don’t forget, if you don’t pre-order this comic, that means you support gay marriage.

It happens to all comic book characters eventually: Has Mickey Mouse ever died and come back to life? What about Donald Duck?

*Although, to be fair, Judd Winick is no writer. Zing!


Tucker Stone said...

Well shit, really?

Okay, it'll be there, but god--do you realize what you're asking for?

Wild Goose said...

I freaking love TMNT #17. Thank you for spotlighting Mr. Talbot.

B.G. Christensen said...

They’re straight people; there’s no law against them getting married!

Actually, that's the other retcon they're not mentioning. Mary Jane is now the stage name of a drag queen whose legal name is Mark James.

And don’t forget, if you don’t pre-order this comic, that means you support gay marriage.

Score! I wasn't going to pre-order it anyway. Now I won't pre-order it twice as much.

SallyP said...

Mr. Guggenheim's comment is just so...odd. He presents this statement, as a fact, without any logic to it at all. It is a bit like saying that Stalin didn't like cheese, therefore, if YOU don't like cheese, then you're a Commie. Or something.

What made it even better, is that Steve Whacker made an appearance at CBR in the discussion of the aforesaid comment, and tried to defend Mr. Guggenheim mainly by saying we were all just hysterical fans, and should find something better to do with our time. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. As you can imagine, THAT went over well.

There is something to be said for reading a story all at once in the trade format, rather than once a month, although I am usually far too impatient to do so. For example, when I read Millenium, I laughed my ass off, instead of going insane.

Anthony Strand said...

KGBeast died in James Robinson's One Year Later arc on Batman and Detective.

googum said...

I remember reading the first six issues of Identity Crisis on my lunch break, the day the last issue came out. I wanted to see if there was some clue, something I'd missed, to the killer's identity.

Yeah, no disappointment there. I'm almost positive I've spent more on DC Comics toys, than I have on DC comics, since.

mordicai said...

CRAP those TMNT sketches rule.

malpractice said...

glad to see Eric Talbot getting a spotlight! He's an amazing artist and i am really suprised that he hasn't drawn more TMNT books. He's a really nice guy too, get a sketch from him if you see him at a convention.

Hdefined said...

I haven't seen the second Death Note movie, but I've heard that it's VERY different from the manga.

I mean, it has to be: there's a third movie just about L.

Bob Hodges said...

Two quick political points:

-Lois Lane ain't no libertarian. Being libertarian requires opposing unnecessary government and a strong military is about the most egregious example of an unnecessary (and expenisve) governemnt program.

-I am straight and I would prefer be in a civil union rather than a marriage. A civil union is a way of getting the government-granted benefits of marriage without all the religious and patriarchal baggage that comes with marriage. That being said, I understand that most homosexual couples feel that a civil union assigns them second class status.

Please excuse this political outburst and let the discussion of Batchucks resume.


Unknown said...

Would you believe that Wacker just tried to dismiss all the fan complaints as just taking things too seriously? Made it sound like he blamed everyone for being offended. Certainly didn't say anything close to "didn't mean it that way" or "sorry" or "Marc's statements don't reflect those of Marvel editorial".