Showing posts with label creators. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creators. Show all posts

Monday, October 12, 2009

JackBart in Baltimore: Poe at Geppi Entertainment Museum

This is an official press release from Boom! Studios

October 12, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA - Come meet BOOM! Studios writer J. Barton Mitchell and artist Dean Kotz, of the horror/detective thriller POE, as they appear at Geppi's Entertainment Museum for a one-day-only signing!

"We're very pleased to host writer J. Barton Mitchell and artist Dean Kotz, creators of Boom! Studios' exciting mini-series POE, one of the most insightful and interesting takes we've ever seen on one of Baltimore's most famous residents. With Halloween fast approaching and with our city's year-long celebration of POE, it's the perfect time for our friends and patrons to come meet this talented team," said Melissa Bowersox, Executive Vice-President of GEM.

Many know Edgar Allen Poe as not only the father of modern horror, but also the creator of the detective genre. But did you know he was a detective himself? Enter the world of POE and follow the famous author of darkness as he tracks a supernatural killer ravaging the streets of Baltimore!

Geppi's Entertainment Museum
301 W. Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 625-7060

Saturday, October 17th, 2009 from 12pm - 4pm

Map: Google Maps 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kirby Family to Sue Marvel for Characters

Ohhhhh man.

This should be interesting.

You know, back when they announced the Disney/ Marvel merger, my first thought was "huh. Wonder what Kirby's family thinks of the $4 billion price tag?"

Well, wonder no more.

Jack Kirby's family is looking to regain rights to several of King Kirby's creations. Read more here.

They were probably right about this being one of the world's greatest comics this year. If you ignore the existence of Jimmy Olsen. Which I do not, and never will..

Kirby's estate could claim all sorts of stuff, from the Fantastic Four to the Hulk. Thor. Several Avengers. Galactus (yeh!). Black Panther. The Inhumans. The Eternals. You know... the X-Men. Stuff like that.

If people think DC should be shaking because of the Siegel claim on Superman, Marvel has a much, much bigger problem. But mostly only if Kirby's heirs can lay claim to the major characters. But at Marvel that can include my buddy Fin Fang Foom. (If you think I do not have a toy of Fin Fang Foom, you are wrong.)

Now, Kirby is not a co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and many other characters, and as Stan Lee is likely listed as a creator on many of these characters, I don't know how this will work. But certainly Captain America was Kirby and Simon all the way.

Such a simple, straightforward little title back then.

Now, an ample amount of the DCU was created by Kirby as well, but not quite as many high-profile DC characters (I mean, I know who Mr. Miracle is, but I'm pretty sure KareBear has no idea). And DC seems to have had a better relationship with Kirby. "Seems to" being the operative words here.

Mom, this is Mr. Miracle. He's a super escape artist.

Anyway, as interested as I've been in the Siegel/ DC case, I'll most likely be just as interested in how this shakes out for Kirby's heirs.

After a while, you get a feel for a character that absolutely must have originally been a Kirby character. Its the only way to explain characters named things like "Unus the Untouchable".

Here's a list I just found online of all of Kirby's Marvel creations.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Maxx

The Maxx that I cared about in the 1990's was not the soda shop frequented by the "Saved By The Bell" kids.

I had not read Sam Keith's comic when The Maxx debuted on MTV circa 1994. It was part of the Image onslaught of comics that my wallet couldn't handle, and too many of which focused on art over story or substance in an era when Neil Gaiman was writing Sandman, Grant Morrison was writing The Invisibles, Garth Ennis was starting to make some noise in the US, and ideas like "Kid Eternity" were a viable part of the comic landscape (and, I should mention, Marvel had just done the Clone Wars deal and was close to filing for bankruptcy).

And then, between Beastie Boys videos, I saw the ads for The Maxx.

As it happens once in a while, I was a fan of the cartoon before I was a fan of the comic. I enjoy the Hulk movies, but never get too far with the comics. Same for Iron Man. I suppose one could say I was a fan of the Superman movies and cartoons prior to my interest in the comics, so I guess it applies here, to an extent.

It would be fairly far into the episodes of The Maxx that it would become clear to me that The Maxx was never really intended to be about dimension-hopping superheroics and, instead, was much more about somebody's (I'd suggest Sam Keith's) issues with women. If Superman was the man the Clark Kents of the world wished they could be to impress their Lois, then The Maxx was somebody working out their feelings both about who they wished they could be (still oddly grotesque and sort of slow), mixed in equal parts with who they strongly suspected they appeared to be to the world (a badly dressed hobo in a box with violent tendencies).

The series didn't make it as a cartoon on MTV (and I mourn the loss of an MTV that was trying new things all the time, from The Maxx to Aeon Flux). It did run as a fairly successful creator-owned series at Image for about 35 issues, plus spin-off's and tie-ins'.

The Maxx does not care to debate what the definition of what "Isz" is.

I'm not sure a literal reading of The Maxx, no matter how surreal the material and art, is what Keith had in mind. But its also difficult at times to discern exactly what he was trying to do, exactly, other than create an access point to approach certain characters and stories he wanted to work through. Were the "Isz" the ugly truth trying to drag down The Maxx? If the Outback wasn't real, and the "real world" wasn't real, then...

Anyway, it was a beautiful use of the medium as storytelling device, and the art and layout astoundingly handled, with no choice made arbitrarily.

At one point I had a fairly complete Maxx collection, but I believe it disappeared during a purge a while back. It's a fun read, but I decided to just hang on to the trade apperback collections released a few years ago and available at quality comic shops (and online) from DC.

Its been a long, long time since I read much in the way of The Maxx, but MTV has recently brought the entire cartoon series online. The cartoons are exact panels from the comics, with what I'd consider to be good voice acting. It's a bit of a trippy cartoon. But in the 1990's, when I was surprised if a comic character's costume was even the right color, seeing a comic so literally translated out of the comic format was an absolute revelation.

Click here to see the series online.

The series does touch on subject matter that has become a bit verboten in the ensuing years, at least in part because some of Julie's origin specifics became overused in less than well-handled fashion. But it was also an interesting mix of people behaving like people and a cracked out world of superheroes, wild psychic landscapes and flying whales. All fitting within a specific vision.

Keith would go on to do other series, like Zero Girl, Four Women and others, including a Batman comic series or two. I still feel, when I read his independent work, that he's working his way through something.

Years and years ago, a Maxx Christmas ornament was my first eBay purchase (and visitors to League HQ during the Holiday season can find it on the tree). And a Maxx action figure (with Isz) resides on my desk.

It may be about time I re-watched the cartoon and/ or re-read the series.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The League Watches "The Spirit" So You Don't Have To

I just finished watching the 2008 film "The Spirit" on OnDemand, and I think its safe to say... it's not very good.

Written and directed by comic superstar Frank Miller, its curious to consider how the movie wound up the way it did in the first place.

Eisner first launched The Spirit as a roughly 8 page weekly newspaper insert pre-World War II, trying to find a way to get away from the superhero fads and other things he didn't like about the conditions at many comic publishers. The strip ran for years, and attained great popularity, retaining cult status among a certain breed of comic aficionado, seeing occasional revivals and reprints.

Frank Miller (Dark Knight Returns, 300, Sin City) became friends with Will Eisner at some point, and the two put out a book of interviews and discussions, which I actually bothered to read a few years back. While Miller may idolize Eisner, the two have very different approaches to character and storytelling.

from some Spirit reprints

Following the groundbreaking success of Dark Knight Returns, Miller did some work in Hollywood, including screenplays for Robocops 2 and 3. However, the adaptation of Sin City by Robert Rodriguez, which maintained the look and panel-by-panel pacing of Miller's work, and cited Miller as a co-director, opened new doors for Miller on a much bigger scale than what modern comics affords. Paired with Zack Snyder's adaptation of Miller's original graphic novel, "300", someone in Hollywood felt that Miller could handle his own film project. And Miller, it seems, received the approval of the Eisner's to let him handle Will Eisner's most popular character for a big screen adaptation.

would have been totally cutting edge if he hadn't done this already

It should be mentioned... there was a 1987 television movie of "The Spirit". I missed it. I had a basketball game or band concert or something.

Oddly, Miller more or less abandoned the look, feel, story and everything about the comics that makes them interesting, and inserted a sort of sci-fi/ fantasy take on the events from the comics. Miller's worldview permeates the movie, with the Sin City look overwhelming Eisner's gritty but still friendly cartoonish feel to a stand-in for a North Eastern City, circa 1940ish that The Spirit seemed to perpetually inhabit.

Further, Miller doesn't bother to ever even make a nod to the kind of groundbreaking work Eisner did in page layout and as a master of his craft in managing the comic page.

The Spirit comics became often much more about the crooks and the stories around the people in the comics other than The Spirit, something in the manner of a lot of cop procedurals. The Spirit was cool, two-fisted and had a peculiar relationship with luck, but that was more or less a wink and a nod as a storytelling device. Tracking the past of Sand Serif, Wild Rice, or even a toy machine gun was much more likely to fill the pages of a Spirit story than following Denny Colt around.

The Spirit is a Peeping Tom

I do think its kind of a neat idea to include a handful of the femme fatales of the Spirit comics into the movie. After all, Eisner loved drawing women and found many-a-way to set them up as the equal to The Spirit (not entirely common in strips of the time). While I felt that the movie could have used P'Gell, I didn't get hung up on it. It would have been worth exploring, however, how and/ or why The Spirit of the movie engaged all women as sexual objects when the back story suggested the opposite.

I find it puzzling that Miller would have been such a fan of Eisner's work, routinely complained about how Batman is portrayed on the screen, and then saw fit to take Eisner's creation and manhandle it. That doesn't begin to get into the problems with pacing and story telling that Miller runs into (let alone technical issues such as camera placement and that every shot in the movie looks as if Kevin Smith were DP, selecting mid-range, static shots that don't ever seem to move). One has to assume pride or ego are the culprits here, but I have no idea. I'd have to hear more from Miller.

a good reason to watch the movie, but not good enough

Miller's sense of humor may also not jive with that of his own movie. The Looney Tunes-like fight sequence at the beginning seems less funny and more like a dip back into the post-Adam West-era of comic movie making where nobody seemed to be able to keep a straight face if they knew the source material were a comic.

Scarlett Johansson seems just happy to be there, even if she is rightfully lost as to what is actually going on. Eva Mendes is a lovely woman, but there are places where even in this mess, she seems a bit out of her depth. I do give credit to Gabriel Macht for probably being as solid a portrayal of Denny Colt as you're likely to get. And I can only hope that the set makers could keep up with all the scenery chewing Samuel L. Jackson was responsible for as The Octopus.

All in all, I'm not even sure its a renter. The look is no longer experimental, as we've seen it elsewhere to better effect. The pacing is grueling and the whole thing just feels like maybe someone should have stepped in and stopped this mess before they ever rolled video.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

JackBart makes a Comic

I don't see much of JackBart these days. He's a friend of Jason's, who I got along with pretty darn well, thanks in no small part due to a mutual love of horror and genre media.

Jack actually writes the stuff, though, as part of his career. He's sold a couple of screenplays, but I don't believe they've been produced as of yet (Jason will correct me if I'm wrong). However, he's recently sold one of his concepts to Boom! Studios, a comic company which I believe is based out of LA, and has recently employed League-favorite comic writer Mark Waid as its Editor-in-Chief.

JackBart wrote a comic about: Edgar Allen Poe. Coming in July! (so preo-order a copy of issue 1. Don't worry, Jason. I'll make sure I grab you a copy.)

Cover A

Cover B

I'm not just excited that the Poe comic is coming, I'm excited that its coming from Boom!, who I think is doing things right.

In many ways, while I may champion the characters and stories of various companies, I sort of think that they have semi-broken business models that rely on the Direct Market entirely too much, which has led to a generation of kids having no interest in comics, not just from content, but a lack of availability.

Boom licensed several kid-friendly items, from Pixar's "Cars" and "Incredibles" to "The Muppets". And I seriously love the Muppets comic so far (Nathan and Michael might want to pick that one up for the family).

The rumor is that they're looking to move out of just working in the direct market and back into other kinds of retail (bookstores, maybe at box stores, etc...). In my opinion, that doesn't hurt the Direct Market (ie: Austin Books), but strengthens it as it builds a network of comic readers to feed into the Direct Market.

Poe may not be part of that effort, but I couldn't be happier for JackBart. And while he told me online that he hasn't met Mark Waid yet, I may send my tattered copy of "Kingdom Come" with him to ComicCon this year so Waid can sign it. And maybe my FF hardcover. And "The Life Story of The Flash". Well... I guess I'll have mercy.

Just one book.

JackBart has agreed to let me do an interview in a while, about when the book comes out. In the meantime, check these things out:

Diamond talks about Poe

The Boom! Studios Blog

Friday, January 16, 2009

RIP Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth has merged with the infinite.

The picture above is called "Master Bedroom" and has followed me from bedroom to bedroom for about 12 - 13 years. And I suppose it probably always will.

I used to have a print of "Christina's World", but I have no idea what became of it. I don't think I'd had it up since 1997 or so.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Art Spiegelman in Austin

Austin readers may be interested to know that Art Spiegelman, creator of the award-winning Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers (a stunning piece of work, whether you agree with Spiegelman's politik or not), will be appearing Tuesday at Book People.

He's got a new book out and he's there for a signing. I'm not expecting a reading because, you know... comics.*

7:00 PM at Book people on the 7th.

*I once narrated an entire issue of Superman to a co-worker via closed-circuit head-sets. The funny part was when I had mercy and stopped half-way through, there was this pause, and then she asked " then what happens?" So I finished the comic and describing the pictures therein. A terribly gratifying moment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Superman Genesis not all "Gee-Whiz"?

I appreciate the folks who sent me the article on the Siegel family which ran today.

To summarize, its an article about how its recently come to light that Superman creator Jerry Siegel's father died during a robbery at his shop prior to the creation of Superman. Armchair psychology suggests that perhaps this event was the catalyst for the creation of The Man of Steel.

Here's a link to that article.

I have no idea what Siegel and Shuster were thinking during the years when they were working on their cartoon ideas (of which there are many which survive). Most of what I know about the actual origins of Superman and Siegel and Shuster comes from the Gerard Jones book "Men of Tomorrow", which I've referenced here once or twice.

It seems that novelist AND comic writer Brad Meltzer is releasing a novel in which the events of Siegel's father's death play a central role. And as Meltzer tends to sell a heck of a lot of novels, USA today and others are picking up on the theme in his latest novel "The Book of Lies" (due next month).

I do think that making the equation of "untimely death of father + desire to see justice = birth of Superman" is a pretty gross oversimplification. But its also exactly the sort of story that the general populace would rather hear than the long held (and oft derided opinion) that Siegel and Shuster were high school losers who needed some form of escapism from their nerd-status, and so fantasized about an alter ego which would make the ladies swoon.

It's been the latter interpretation that's made the rounds in columns and lists of "dumbest superheroes" (Googling "Superman lame" brings up 1.3 million sites) that has dogged Superman in the post Dark Knight Returns era. The character was seen as a weak man's fantasy stand-in, and that somehow made character, creators and fans of the character seem dopey. How this applies to Superman, but not to any other character... I have no idea, but that's been the general consensus.

Superman deals with yet another citizen who let their tags expire

The somewhat abstract armageddon of Superman's origin hasn't held up as well as the gripping visceral and personal tragedy of Batman's origins, and for twenty years it's been fairly regularly that Superman takes a pounding for his lack of murder in his origin (always an odd one, to me. Especially with billions of dead Kryptonians, etc...). So it'll be interesting to see how or if the true tragedy of the character's creator and champion will carry any weight going forward.

Writers with a psych class or two under their belt may not be so quick to dismiss the character as a nerdy kid's fantasy for landing girls, but will now read into the character all sorts of new stuff with the information at hand. (insert tiny, unenthusiastic "hooray..." here)

All of that has always been a gross oversimplification of Superman's origin. He was the product of two kids (young men by the time Superman was finally published in its more-or-less current form) who did what most people do when creating something new: they begged, borrowed and stole from other popular science-fiction and fantasy of the day of which they'd been fans for years. Doc Savage, Amazing Stories Magazine, strong men such as Charles Atlas, and everything in between.

They were fanboys before the term was coined, trying to break into a medium that was not an atypical aspiration at the time, just as young people now all want to major in film.

What's forgotten is that Siegel also produced characters like The Spectre, who make Batman's exploits look like child's play. And, by the way, Dr. Occult, whom I once saw cited as "the first costumed hero". Siegel was also responsible for humor strips, and worked a lot of comedy into Superman from the first issue. And, he preceeded Superman with the recently revived tough-guy, Slam Bradley (derivative of Dick Tracy, etc...).

That all said:

I'm not sure Siegel created Superman out of tragedy. I'm not dismissing the idea, but I can't possibly know one way or another, and I'm not sure if its fair to believe that's the case just because it seems somewhat romantic and/ or works with our understand of psychology gleaned from seeing Dr. Phil.

I do know that Siegel never saw Superman as an avenging character from the first issue. Rather, Superman was there to stop harm from occurring, whereas Batman was the detective on the trail of clues, bringing murderers and thieves to justice after the mess was already made (but you'd have to ask Bill Finger and Bob Kane about all that).

Whatever anger might have been there was turned into a more hopeful wish fulfillment, possibly. That rather than asking someone like Batman to pick up the pieces afterward, the Man of Steel had been there to save the day.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Both kids and adults should know that heroes aren't just people who show up after the fact. Sometimes they're the guys who step in first to make sure the bad stuff either doesn't happen, or never gets too bad. Maybe Siegel's real life experience taught him that what people really want in the face of tragedy is for something to save the day. And that's something all superheroes do when they're at their best. And that's kind of the point...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Arden: The Abstract Impressionist of the Seas

A while back, Arden sent an original piece of artwork to the League of Melbotis.

I've been meaning to share since, oh, March. But I was getting a glass of water and looking at the picture as it was placed (by magnet) on our fridge. And it occured to me that I could get this thing posted.

Anyhow, here's Arden's depiction of a Blue Shark. I think its pretty good. The kid is either going to be a marine biologist or the next Monet.

Arden is, by the way, Jill and Jess's kid. He lives in Michigan, where there is a tragic lack of narwhals.

And, yes, if you send me your kid's drawings, I will post them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A meandering post

Sorry about the lack of substantive posting. But, you know, not a whole lot to report. Jamie and I have been sticking close to the homefront, and not much has been going on.

Mer B.

Facebook is a strange and funny place. Thanks to Facebook, I think Jamie's circle of high school pals is having an impromptu reunion of some sort this fall.

But, I am not without people who once liked me.

This evening an old High School Chum called. For those of you KOHS folks, it was Meredith B., now married and still a Meredith B. Mer sounds great, and it was fantastic to catch up with her. And, yes, she'd found me on Facebook.

In high school I adored Meredith. She was smart, funny and if you were looking for someone to make spot on observational snark, she was your gal. We were in drama together, and were in plays from "The Crucible", to "All My Sons". And she a good actor, too, if I recall.

Meredith's moment of "the show must go on" took place when, in the middle of a show, she was supposed to be breaking ice with an ice pick and neatly stabbed her hand, just above the thumb. Meredith, being Meredith, just stuck her hand in the ice to slow the bleeding and then carried on the scene and then the play. Just one of many, many reasons why I tip my hat to the lady.

She's now in N. Carolina, married to a great guy and mother to three boys. My, how life marches on.

Bagging and Boarding

As for me:

I've been bagging, boarding, boxing and inventorying about 8-9 months worth of comics. Not all bad, but a little tedious. I've also set aside a stack of comics I've decided not to keep in the collection. Not bad stuff, just... it doesn't need to disappear into the closet in a polybag. I can share the wealth, if anyone wants me to send them some comics.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that I need to find a process for shedding some of the stuff I like reading, but won't ever return to. I will want to hang onto Action Comics and Superman, but the stack of Fantastic Four and Black Panther? A good read, sure... but I'm just not all that attached.

I am increasingly more pleased with my Superman comic collection, but its also true that it is a teeny, tiny fraction of the total published Superman comics over the years. There's just so much out there. And so little of it in reprint. With back-issues costing more than a new comic, my purchase of the back issues has to be managed. Lest Ryan go broke and crazy.

Still, it makes it a hobby, I suppose. If I could get my hands on all that stuff easily, what would be the fun?

Web Comics

Which makes me really, really wish Marvel and DC would get their @#$% together on the whole digital comics thing. How wasteful is it to have trees cut down and pulped, paper printed (using noxious chemicals), shipped (using fuel), and taking up space on a shelf, shoved in a plastic bag to take home, and then read in about fifteen minutes or less? And for obsessive guys like me, a ploybag and board?

Digital comics, DC and Marvel. Oh, I'll still pick up my paper copies of my collector titles (Superman, GL, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc...). And I might still pick up trade collections of series that were really good which I'd read online.

I want to love you, monthly installments, but you're killing the earth. You'd be cheaper if you had no physical form until I say you do. I do wonder what the tipping point would be for DC and Marvel before the cost of printing was high enough, and the cost of shipping impacted cost enough that retailers couldn't move the product...?

I wonder how strong web comics proponents (like Lea Hernandez) foresee the whole web-comics thing, if and when it plays out, affecting retailers?

I'm not trying to put the Direct Market out of business. That certainly seems like it would be an unintended side-effect. But I also wonder, if the cost were right, how that might affect the number of actual readers per comic.

Keep in mind, comics used to be shared and traded by kids, so the publishers saw only the profit of one purchase to something like 5-10 actual readers.

I'm just saying.

Ub Iwerks

Also watched a really good documentary on Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks I recorded off Ovation, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. If you don't know who Ub Iwerks is/ was, I highly recommend reading up on the man. His contribution to animation is incalculable, and he later turned that same genius to film technology.

The documentary is well done, but seems cleaned up by Disney to make the history fit a little better into Disney's version of things ( I believe they produced or released the doc).

Anyhow, I'm going to be looking at those DVD collections of really inexpensive cartoons to see if they have any of the Iwerks non-Disney cartoons available.

Read here
and here
and here

Completely inappropriate Superman link

Whatever you do, do not click through to read the following article. Especially you, Mom. DO NOT CLICK THROUGH. DO SO AT YOUR PERIL.

Sent, of course, by Randy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

RIP Dave Stevens

I've just seen a report that Rocketeer creator, Dave Stevens, has passed after a long battle with leukemia.

Most people will know Stevens through the movie adaptation of his creation, The Rocketeer, rather than through his phenomenal artwork. Unfortunately, its been a while since The Rocketeer has seen print.

A few months ago I picked up The Rocketeer on DVD, and wondered why I didn't own any of the comics. I noticed Stevens' website didn't seem as if it was receiving maintenance. But it was a nice reminder of the quality of Stevens' good girl art and realistic, if romantic, style of rendering. Unfortunately, it provided no clues as to further printings of The Rocketeer, nor did it suggest anything about his Stevens' health. In short, I had assumed Stevens had moved on in the art world, and was not aware of any health issues.

It would be a nice move for Image or Darkhorse to ensure that Stevens' work saw print again in order to preserve his memory and legacy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dropping Comics vs. Busiek on Superman


One of the niceties of ending my period of comic blogging is that I can now drop comics that are bugging me without worrying about failing my own mission statement for Comic Fodder.

Focused on how much ass and whose ass is getting kicked, comic reviews usually offer very little insight into the narrative successes and failures of a single issue, let alone the how the single 22 page comic fits into the grand scheme of a larger shared universe. What this basically translates to reviewers who try to comment upon action and events in stories which they aren't following, and too often assume they're up to speed on through impressions and generalizations.

While reviewing for Comic Fodder, when an event would occur such as the ill-conceived "Amazons Attack" in the pages of Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Supergirl and the titular limited series, the scope of the event was as such that I felt that I had to read every issue of the series and the cross-overs to assure myself and my readership that I had a good understanding of DC's editorial direction. Of course, nobody was paying for all the comics which I was buying and not really enjoying.

So, now that I'm no longer comic blogging, I'm looking to unburden myself with a lot of the chaff of the current output of the DCU. And, yes, DCU puts out stuff I am not necessarily going to defend. Occasionally, those books even guest star Superman, so the excess is especially vexing. With the mega-event of Countdown to Final Crisis on the playing field, DC has tried to milk me dry with tertiary one-shots and seemingly meaningless mini-series (did I really need a Lord Havok miniseries? And if it is important... can I not just wait for the trade?).

Drop: Wonder Girl Limited Series

But the series which I am planning to drop immediately aren't the Countdown spin-offs, which I hope to just not pick up again. The first issue of the Wonder Girl mini-series continues on the trajectory of insisting that Wonder Girl must be more annoying than the recent incarnation of Supergirl. Wonder Girl has always been ill-defined, but has come to represent the acme of what boys, by the age of 17, come to call a "headcase".

By the age of 18, most guys realize that a headcase is best ignored and avoided. So, why DC would decide to turn two of their most potentially lucrative teen properties into such grating characters for an audience mostly comprised of males, 20 and older, is sort of mystifying. Only, not really... DC keeps trying to find ways to reach teen girls who read Manga, and one might think that with the cartoony art-style, they're trying for some cross-over appeal. Unfortunately, they've tied their cross-over hopes to a miserably unlikable event and counted upon readers having followed Cassandra Sandsmark since Infinite Crisis.

I've lost count of how many times Supergirl and Wonder Girl have flown away in a huff or in a teary huff after a badly written seen in which they seemed to insult other, better established characters. Why the writers believe readers are looking for comics about teenage pity-parties is a mystery perhaps only Dan Didio can solve. Or maybe Jann Jones. But, man...

Anyhow, one issue was enough. I'm done with it. And am growing closer to being done with Teen Titans lest someone figures out how to re-jigger the title into something readable.

Drop: Batman Confidential

The other title I am disappointed to be dropping is the current "Batman Confidential" storyline. I'm not sure if this was originally intended as someone's screenplay for a Batman film, or what the story is, but writer Michael Green tells his version of the origin of The Joker, while blending in other elements, such as a pre-Scarecrow Jonathan Crane being responsible for the development of Arkham. Not too surprising he can't leave things well enough without feeling he can improve them as he's a TV writer/ producer (yes, he works on "Heroes").

Particularly depressing as the art is by Denys Cowan.

I'm all for various versions from different ages of comics as to how things came to be, but... honestly, does DC think that this Green guy is writing a better story than either Moore and Bolland's The Killing Joke (or its red-headed step child sequel, The Man Who Laughs, or the follow up to that story in Gotham Knights: Pushback?), or Morrison's amazing early 90's take on the origins of Arkham Asylum in "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth"?

Perhaps Didio and the editors of Batman Confidential are a bit more on the concrete side of the fence when it comes to thinking. Surely they didn't lighten up on the why's and wherefore's as this new take on the Joker's origin is more bloody, in its way. Perhaps less traumatic a read, but... it takes the murder spree of the pre-Jokerized "Jack" as casually as the hitman himself.

And, honestly, the failed, tragic comedian of The Killing Joke was a far more chilling origin than a bored sociopath, anyway.

At any rate, these are two books I'm dropping. Along with Criminal, but that's just because I think it will read and collect better as trades.

I'll also be picking and choosing my Countdown tie-ins a bit more carefully moving forward.

Busiek on Superman: Worth Reading

On a different note: If you aren't reading Kurt Busiek's "Superman", you should be. I haven't focused on the title nearly enough either here or when I was reviewing at Comic Fodder. I re-read the most recent issue yesterday during my vacation day, and happened to read a jumbled review of the comic at the Superman Homepage.

Anyhow, one thing led to another and I e-mailed writer Busiek directly to confirm that he's got a fan out there who is really digging his work on Superman. Gracious guy that he is, Mr. Busiek wrote back.

Pretty shortly the whole "Camelot Falls" storyline will be collected in two volumes. When it is, I highly recommend you pick them up. Also, pick up "Back in Action", which was a storyline over in "Action Comics". Of course, you should also read "Up, Up and Away" which was a great Superman v. Lex storyline. For something just terrific, I recommend Superman: Secret Identity, which is just a great stand alone story.

Other Busiek books I'd suggest:
Arrowsmith: So Smart in their Fine Uniforms
Astro City
JLA/ Avengers

Of course, Kurt has been in the game for a few years, and this is just stuff published at DC. If you guys do a quick Google search, there's a lot more out there.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mike Wieringo, RIP

The comic fan community was rocked today by the news that Mike Wieringo, age 44, has apparently died of a heart attack.

Wieringo's work has appeared for the last several years in DC and Marvel comics in titles such as Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Flash and many others.

Thanks to the DC title, "Impulse" and several issues of Adventures of Superman, I was familiar with Wieringo's work prior to his run on Fantastic Four (with Mark Waid writing), but that was when I grew to really appreciate his work. I loved his depiction of the the Richards clan, and his Von Doom.

You can read more here.

I'm really going to miss Wieringo's art and the spirit it brought to any title.

Thanks, Mike. You'll be missed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Comic Creator Kookiness: Vaughan and Cooke

Every once in a while I get into a little tizzy about this comic or that. The League reads a big stack of comics every week, and so it's always a pleasure to read something, and then really want to pick it up again and read it all over.

But at 22 pages, usually that's not like a huge time investment or anything.

Since Siegel and Shuster were canned by National Comics and no longer were making dime one off Superman (a post for another day, or go read the heart-breaking Men of Tomorrow), comics have struggled with the business side of keeping a franchise alive without the original creators, vs. producing and nurturing new talent and new ideas.

The DC or Marvel Comics' universes wouldn't exist as a concept if, when Steve Ditko put down his pencil and walked away from Marvel, Marvel had shuttered "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic. Nor would DC (National then) have lasted too long had they decided only Siegel and Shuster had what it took to tell a Superman story.

However, dozens, if not hundreds, of new comics hit the shelf every year between the big publishers, international reprints, and small press. Very few ideas take off beyond the first issue or six. A few dedicated folks continue to put out their independent comics which lose money, or move them online. But these days, even Mickey Mouse can't get a break. Gemstone is cancelling four of their Disney titles (once the best selling comics in the US) as, somehow, the Mickey comics aren't doing it anymore.

A lot of folks have read the Pulitzer prize winning novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" (and if you haven't, go read it. No, seriously. Now. Then come back). The book was released a few years ago to much critical acclaim, but, as these things tend to do, that didn't translate much into the way of comic sales. Mostly because there had never been an actual comic called "The Escapist", just as Kavalier and Clay were fictional characters in the novel.

A few years after the novel was released, the novel's author, Michael Chabon, worked out a deal with Dark Horse comics to publish "The Escapist" comics. Unfortunately, the comics-reading world and the book-reading world once again failed to intersect, and sales suggested that "Kavalier and Clay" had been largely ignored by the comic reading audience (anecdotal evidence would suggest it was, as I think I've spoken to one other person in a comic shop who had actually read the novel. And didn't think much of it. But all of the Star Wars universe books? Boy, howdy... no problem finding folks who've read those...).

Long story short, despite Dark Horse putting nothing but all-star talent on the "Escapist" comics, sales that probably weren't any better or worse than any other Dark Horse title, not to mention a running gag of the stories presented being being reprints (with the gag only understandable if one read the novel...), and other gags that required one know a bit about the publishing history of comics, "The Escapist" didn't stay in print all that long. Fortunately, several issues were collected by Dark Horse.

However, with the final issue, the last story in the anthology was not aout the Escapist, Luna Moth or Mr. Machinegun, but a young guy in Cleveland who inherits a large sum of money and uses it to buy the rights to the dormant Escapist franchise. The story was spun off into a 6-issue limited series entitled "The Escapists".

And thus, one of my two spotlighted creators.

Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man) weaves a great tale of young, starry-eyed ambition, corporate greed, surprising derring-do, unlikely friendships and the creative impulse. It's not enough that Vaughn is writing Ex Machina (surely one of the smartest comics you're not reading, JimD), he also manages to work with multiple artists to tell a wonderful story that perfectly fits the medium and works in a self-reflexive mode that I haven't seen done that well ever before.

Today saw the release of the final issue of "The Escapists", and has been the case in the previous five issues, the story failed to conform to many of the comic (and, indeed, American pop-media) norms.

This evening's Creator Kookiness is a two part doozy as the final pages of "The Escapists" #6 seem to be a plea to the comics community itself to generate new and better ideas, and an indictment of corporate control and hegemony on the comic page. A worthy goal, and one that Vaughan, in his own career, has ably championed with deeds rather than words.

But then along comes Darwyn Cooke, laying two comics on me that, in anyone else's hands but Cooke or Miller, I doubt I would have given the time of day.

I am, of course, referring to DC Comic's incredibly gutsy revival of "The Spirit".

The Spirit was a never a comic book. Or, at least, it mostly was never a comic book. The title existed mostly as a newspaper insert for several years, beginning during the WWII era, and extending for decades. Each insert was usually a self-contained short story, featuring the title character, a former policeman who, after crooks believed him dead, decided to put on a domino mask and fight the weird, Dick Tracy-like criminals of Central City. The strip had several repeating characters, but is known within comic circles not just for wit of The Spirit's sometimes ham-handed attempts at justice, but also for being the playground for Will Eisner's medium-bending innovations in the sequential arts.

And if you have anything bad to say about Will Eisner, you and I shall go to pistols.

For decades The Spirit was associated with a single creative force in Mr. Eisner (some strips like "Garfield" have reportedly not been done by their original creators in quite some time). And so, any revival SHOULD be looked upon with no small amount of skepticism.

Before his passing, "The Spirit" had been collected by DC in it's high-end "Archives" format, which pretty much put it out of my price range at around $45 a collection (I believe there are 20 archive collections). DC's dedication to Eisner's legacy had also made them the publisher of reprints of Eisner's other works, such as "A Contract with God", "The Building" and "Invisible People".

At some point, Eisner must have known his legacy could continue beyond his semi-retirement, even as he was still publishing new work fairly regularly until the time of his death.

I can't be sure it was Darwyn Cooke's work on "New Frontier", that earned him the assignment, but in the last month Cooke has released two Spirit comics that I can't help but recommend.

The first is last month's "Batman/ The Spirit", which featured an imaginary meeting by Batman and The Spirit as their rogues' galleries decide to cause trouble in a neutral location. Jeph Loeb teams with Cooke on writing chores, and his knack for big, big ideas works pretty darn well in the context of such a momentous occasion.

Cooke's take on The Spirit maintains Eisner's "skin-of-his-teeth" luck and chipper attitude that made what little "The Spirit" work I've lucked into reading such a pleasure. (I am familair with eisner by way of some of his Graphic Novels, such as "The Building" and "A Contract with God").

Further, when possible, Cooke is able to pull off some of the same visual trickery of Eisner's work.

Whether he is able to make the stories of the citizens of The Spirit's world the key to the success of the newly debuted "The Spirit" title as Eisner was able to do is still out for the jury to decide. But, I think the first issue, which hit stands on Dec. 13th, is a pretty good sign that as long as Cooke sticks with the title, The Spirit is in good hands.

Circling back to my point, Vaughn may have been 100% correct in asking the comic community to honor the work that had gone before by creating new ideas. Jack Kirby asked, pretty specifically, that be how his fans honor him not by endlessly repeating the stories he'd set before (and God knows Jack was never shy that he was going to do HIS own thing), but by coming up with their own, original ideas and remaining true to them.

It is true that most attempts at a revival of a series do not hold the same fire as the original concept, and I think "The Escapists" tragically and accurately illustrates this point. Many "franchise" characters go through some difficult periods as creative teams come aboard that simply are not up to the task. (ie: anything Elektra without Miller's by-line).

And, had you asked me should anyone attempt to bring back The Spirit, I think I probably would have laughed.

Surely there will be The Spirit purists out there who will never accept Cooke's work, and, honestly, I don't blame them. He isn't Eisner. His work WILL be different. But I enjoyed the first two glimpses of his Spirit more than enough to see how long he can stay on before DC can't keep him there anymore.

Or until Frank Miller gets his hands on it. Then God help us all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More on Dave Cockrum

I hope I have some Superman jammies when it's my turn to merge with the infinite...

heck, I think I'd like some now...


Monday, November 27, 2006

Dave Cockrum Passes

Dave Cockrum, former X-Men and Legion of Superheroes artist, has passed away after a lengthy illness.

RIP, Dave.

more here

for a gallery of Dave's outstanding work, go here