Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cruel Summer Finale: Five Underrated Bad Guys

Over the course of the last couple months in my Cruel Summer series, I’ve had a good time picking apart and analyzing some of my personal favorite comic book villains, as well as bad guys I thought called for a bit more scrutiny.

Well, all good things and all that, and with this being the last day of August, it’s kinda the end of summer in my eyes, so I thought I’d finish off with quick hits on five baddies I think get the short shrift and deserve more exposure and/or recognition.

Based on appearance alone, Ahab freaked me the heck out as a kid. I was just thumbing through back issues at a store or something, came across Days of Future Present, and this guy just looked horrifying. I gathered bits and pieces over the years and the fact that he was basically the end boss of Marvel’s nastiest dystopian future and that he could reduce heroes like Cyclops and Invisible Woman to mindless “hounds” just upped his creep factor. Having actually read the event that introduced him now, I think all the pieces are there for a really memorable X-Men villain, but also that his best stories are still to come. I also think one of the cooler things done in the waning years of Excalibur was to introduce Rory Campbell as a young idealist, then slowly and agonizingly drag him down the path to becoming Ahab that he knew was his destiny but so desperately hoped to avoid. Great-looking villain and neat personal connection that make for a character who shouldn’t be sitting on the shelf.

There are a lot of New Gods villain who are vastly underused and underrated—I’m not sure if Orion’s mother, Tigra, really counts as a “villain,” but it sure seems like making her one would be a neat way to have a short-term Darkseid stand-in—but my favorite may well be Kanto, the guy so bad ass that the ruler of Apokolips, who can pretty much kill anybody any time they feel like, employs him as the official assassin of the most evil planet in the galaxy. I also love that rather than be the typical tough-talking, scraggly-bearded cliché you expect from such a job position, Kanto is this dashing dude dressed like a fop who insists on maintaining his sense of style while running around trying to get Mister Miracle in a death trap; more of this fellow, please.

I never read much Valiant as a kid, but I did get the re-release of Harbinger a couple years back, and one of the many things that impressed me about the book is just how scary Toyo Harada is. For one thing he’s immensely powerful; for another, he truly believes he’s the good guy and that he’s saving the world by taking it into his capable hands, which always makes for more interesting villains. In many ways, Harada is a lot like Lex Luthor in his immediate post-Crisis incarnation as the beloved businessman of Metropolis only Superman and a few others really know as a scumbag, but with off-the-charts telepathic abilities rather than just money and gadgets. The thing that really got me with Harada though was how he never would tip his hat as far as exactly how much of Sting’s life he was manipulating, which just added a sinister edge; he was evil and powerful in a way only Pete truly understood since the potential for both was in him as well, and to me the burden of knowing the world’s most benevolent man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing being solely on a kid is such a perfectly terrifying scenario.

In many ways, one could see Count Vertigo as a Doctor Doom knock-off of sorts, sharing the standing as European nobility as well as the arrogance and contempt for anybody not him. On the other hand, where Doom is a self-made man who clawed his way up from poverty and sports the literal scars to prove it, Vertigo was born with the silver spoon in his mouth and never had to strive for anything until years later. The missed opportunities I see with Vertigo is that here’s a major player with extremely substantial powers and impressive pedigree who for some reason spends most of his time bugging Green Arrow and Black Canary. Sure there’s some novelty to this pampered royal being taken down by an archer and a girl in fishnets, but wouldn’t he be better served going a few rounds with Superman or The Flash? I’d hone in on the stuff that made Vertigo’s best Suicide Squad appearances, specifically his need to prove he can indeed earn things on his own, and work that into a self-loathing of his underachiever status in villains and renewed motivation to take on the big guns.

Here’s a character who not only appears pretty regularly throughout the Marvel Universe but also has a pretty solid pedigree of decent stories; and yet, he’s really only ever been a random bad guy who switches dance partners every time he shows up, where I think he’s got the potential to be a great consistent foil for some hero. Hyde’s got a brains and brawn combo gimmick that reminds me of Blockbuster during the halcyon days of Chuck Dixon’s Nightwing, but he both predates that run by far and also has a not-yet-fully-tapped elegance and depth I feel beyond his DC counterpart as well. I thought of him for this list in large part because of his recent appearance in the first two issues of Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger. If you need even more reason to check out that book (which you shouldn’t), that kick-off story is the perfect blueprint for elevating Mister Hyde to prominent status in Marvel pantheon of evil. A schemer and kingpin who can also be his own muscle as well as a character conflicted as the one he takes his name from, Hyde could do great things if given the chance.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


As obsessed as I am with CURRENT genre culture, I'm fascinated by snapshots of the culture's past - especially when it comes to magazines dedicated to the sci-fi/movie/horror/comic fandom stretching from the early '70s through today. There's a neat feeling attached to looking back and playing armchair historian to the news and features relevant to those eras' fans, so I'm gonna share some stuff I found interesting in a random issue of Starlog - issue #79 from February 1984.

This issue actually fell into my lap when Toyfare ran a scavenger hunt a few years ago. One of the items on the list was "a magazine with David Hasselhoff on the cover." We ended up with dozens and dozens of this particular issue, and as one of the scavenger hunt item processors, I was allowed to snag one. But, to my girlfriend's dismay, my collection of old fan magazines goes well beyond this, I promise.

As I said before, one of the most fun things to browse back at are the news items of the issues; specifically the reports on films and TV about to start production. As a guy who briefly did it for Wizard a couple years ago WITH the internet as a tool, I can't even imagine what it must have been like back then to try and run a Hollywood news section in a magazine without the internet. Even without email, the task of staying in contact with studio publicists and producers and agents over the phone had to have been a headache-y time-gobbler. Good on those dudes for staying so passionate.

Here's a quick, fun sample:

(click to enlarge)

The MOST fun comes when a news item turns out to wrong due to changes in project production down the line that we know about NOW but that weren't true yet at the time of publication. Like how in the above example, Tobe Hooper was listed as the director of a project called "Return of the Dead," while Dan O'Bannon was writer. As horror fans know, Hooper left the production, it was eventually titled "Return of the LIVING Dead," and O'Bannon wrote AND directed the film. Little side note: O'Bannon and Hooper later worked on "Lifeforce" and "Invaders from Mars" together.

Other times, it's just neat to see them report on some project in a passive voice that later becomes an iconic production, like with the speedy "Ghost Busters" mention. Then there's the historically significant randomness that crops up like this:

(click to enlarge)

The birth of Pixar! Lasseter (future director of Pixar hits such as the "Toy Story" franchise and "A Bug's Life") left Disney where he'd been working on some computer-animated film (I'm not sure what this was) for a new digital initiative at ILM, which we all know became Pixar! Lasseter and Pixar went on to get an Academy Award nomination just two years later in 1986 for their first project, "Luxo Jr." And, of course, Disney and Pixar are connected at the hip now. But this little note in Starlog had no idea what it foreshadowed, and that's so awesome to me.

Also awesome to me are the random times editorial people from today's comic book world pop up randomly in other roles in these fan magazines. Like Mark Waid editing Amazing Heroes, these cameos from the past remind me that staying in comics as a career doesn't mean I have to maintain a job INSIDE comics, in the long run. Check out this news item involving editorial megaman Bob Schreck and the big announcement that Starlog and Fangoria would be starting a convention partnership with Creation Conventions, a place Schreck worked at at the time. Including a picture!

(click to enlarge)

And while I won't go into the features on "Knight Rider" or the third Doctor Who or the Q&A with Irvin Kershner right after he directed "Never Say Never Again" but well before he directed "Robocop 2," I WILL say that these features all offer fun looks at what was important THEN to the fans. Dramas between directors and writers, lists about the top films from 1983, ads for "Return of the Jedi" vinyl masks - it all played directly into the interests of the fanbase in 1984 in ways that are so easy to relate to - and so fun to revisit - 26 years later.

One last thing, though. The issue included a photo parade of the 41st Annual World Science Convention. Here are my favorites of the bunch. Click to enlarge.

Jim Henson talking about his UPCOMING film "Muppets Take Manhattan":

A woman cos-playing as Dark Phoenix (over a quarter-century ago!!!):

A kid dressed as a creepy-assed Ewok:

And remember, most conventions have at least ONE person selling old fan magazines. Please give these time capsules a try. At least flip through and see if there's anything from a year you like. My favorites to browse include Comics Scene, Fangoria, Starlog, Amazing Heroes, and issues of Wizard pre-1995, although there are many many other terrific options.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Comic Shop Stop

Promising myself to stop spending too much on comics that then clutter my apartment, I've held off getting much at the comic shop lately, which has made these posts pretty much nonexistent.

But I went to Midtown Comics a couple weeks back and then Jim Hanley's Universe this week! Fuck self-promises; here's what I snagged...

Midtown purchase list first, where I visited along with David and Darren:

BRAIN CAMP - I'm a slut for stories set at summer camps and this quirky camp story from First Second grabbed me the second I scoped that dope cover. I dig Faith Erin Hicks's art, though I'm not familiar with the writing team of Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan. I NEVER buy OGNs at cover price sight unseen. You win, First Second. Mathnet on “Square One TV.” I’m SUPER gonna marry this book.

SEEDLESS - A new OGN from Corey Lewis!!! About evil grapes?!? Ahhhh!! Comics are rarely this kinetically exuberant...

Now for my Hanley's haul. I'd actually hit the store looking for Michael DeForge's Lose #2. I got #1 at MoCCA but recently read that Sean had a copy of the new issue - so I’ve been looking for it. Even though they didn't have it, Hanley's has a stellar mini-comics section, so I knew the trip would still be worth my time. I even ran into Alejandro at the shop - New York City comics scene! I'm missing SPX this year (boooo!), so I was even more open to grabbing some new stuff to TRY (pffft) and make up for what I'll miss...

CROOKED TEETH #5 - A new issue of Nate Doyle's ongoing mini-comic series is always too sweet. And this has been done since June!! I'm slacking.

TRAFFIC & WEATHER (two issues) - It's been full YEARS since I've been able to buy a new sequential comic from Robert Ullman (since Lunch Hour Comix and Grand Gestures), so I was giddy to find two issues (!!!) of this journal comic mini. Comic book surprise!

RAMBO 3.5 - Here’s some math: Jim Rugg + Sequel to Rambo 3 = Me smiling so big I rip my lips off with sheer force of joy.

BLAMMO #5 - A new issue of Noah Van Sciver’s full-color, one-man anthology series! I love his squiggle line-work and how the panels look to meticulous until you pull back and look at a full page and see even MORE meticulousness.

THREE #1 - A story by Joey Alison Sayers urged me to flip through this new color anthology series, but the autobio feel of the other two stories and the fact that it was a new venture helped make me decide to buy it. It’s odd that Sayers’s story is the only one making FULL use of the full-color, as the other two are only green and blue-toned, respectively. Hope that extra cost with little exploration doesn’t cause any financially motivated publishing problems down the road. I wanna see more books like this do well!

EVERYTHING DIES #3 - I’ve only just started reading Box Brown’s work since MoCCA 2010, but this series exploring religion with accessible art and a thoughtful tone is really interesting. The cover’s pretty, too.

SAVAGE DRAGON #163 - I’ve got a crush on Rachel Freire’s art from FCHS (go get a copy after reading this free sample and also look here for info on Rachel!), so seeing ANYTHING she’s drawn, even if it’s the Savage Dragon characters - which I know almost nothing about - means I need to buy it in a showing of support. Sooooo clean.

And that’s it for now. What’d you get lately?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cruel Summer: Super-Skrull

The Skrulls, introduced in only the second issue of Fantastic Four way back when, exemplified one thing differentiated FF from so many of the standard super hero series to come and also made it the perfect bridge from the 50’s era of genre fiction to the true Silver Age: they were a science fiction concept that would have been right at home in Strange Tales or Tales to Astonish five years earlier, but they would end up being great foils for the tights and domino mask crowd well into the present. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby weren’t exactly riding a wave of high concept with the Skrulls as they were full-on “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” knock-offs; the types of shape-shifting sinister extraterrestrials you’d find any weekend at the local drive-in.

That, however, is what makes the Super-Skrull so cool.

Kl’rt, the Super-Skrull, made his debut in Fantastic Four #18. He was the Skrulls’ greatest warrior, and as a result, selected to undergo genetic manipulation that gifted him with all the powers of the hated FF in addition to his own natural shape-shifting abilities. In fact, not only could he do all the stuff his foes did, Skrull science made him just that much better than them in each category. This was truly a villain worthy of the World’s Greatest Comic and seemingly an unstoppable ass-kicker.

The FF still won, of course, but only after getting thrashed pretty soundly and Reed Richards basically cheating by figuring out Super-Skrull was getting his powers augmented by a low-orbiting satellite and jamming the frequency; they couldn’t beat him, but they outsmarted him and his dummy superiors.

Super-Skrull has always had a fierce look, courtesy of Kirby. The Skrulls look freakier than your run-of-the-mill bad guy aliens to begin with, but pasting one of those ugly mugs on a body that can do everything the FF does is just a no-brainer when it comes to rad designs. For all the crazy cool neo-Super-Skrull designs that Leinil Francis Yu and other churned out during Secret Invasion—and oh how fun that must have been—I think the original still stands out; there’s something about that rocky Thing arm on fire and/or stretching that’s undeniably neat (I think the biggest challenge any artist faces when drawing Super-Skrull is feeling like they need to somehow incorporate the Invisible Woman’s less visually cool powers in).

Of course after an awesome first appearance, the problem with Super-Skrull became obvious: how can a guy this cool keep losing to everybody? I mean, if the Fantastic Four themselves are one of Marvel’s premiere teams and able to thwart off such tremendous threats from Doctor Doom to Galactus, how come a guy who can do everything they can do better than them and also change shape and also has super hypnosis (by the by) loses to Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel and Iron Fist? Mister Fantastic’s ol’ “block the satellite” trick became a tired deus ex machina and a villain who should have been ferocious dropped sadly into the same category as the Rhino or Abomination in terms of being the dude heroes beat on when they needed to establish bonafides before fighting true big league baddies.

It would take 43 years before somebody came up with e idea that Super-Skrull could actually make a pretty decent hero—or at least anti-hero. Keith Giffen, Andy Schmidt and the other great minds behind the 2006 Annihilation event hit on this notion and tasked Javier Grillo-Marxuach with crafting a four-issue limited series working Kl’rt into the proceedings.

In Annihilation: Super-Skrull, Grillo-Marxuach stays quite faithful to the established characterization of Kl’rt from all his previous appearances, he just casts him on the side of angels in this particular adventure, and in the process demonstrates that he was never so much a villain in the classic sense as a proud and dedicated warrior who happened to be working for the guys fighting our heroes. Super-Skrull remains ornery and arrogant throughout the series—he alienates his key ally, a young Skrull who hero worships him, just by being a jerk, and drives him over to the bad guys’ camp—but he also possesses many qualities we’d number as virtuous, such as his determination and even selflessness when it comes time to make a huge sacrifice in order to stop Annihilus from advancing on the Skrull homeworld. Even Reed Richards himself, whom Kl’rt reluctantly turns to for help in his mission, muses on how it really is the circumstances that shape our opinion of a being like the Super-Skrull.

For his part, Kl’rt of course does not care how he’s ultimately viewed so long as the job gets done. To borrow from pro wrestling, he’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: he could care less whether or not the fans cheer him so long as he wins the World title, and in having this attitude, he just becomes more popular.

Annihilation and its sequels have done wonder for Super-Skrull as they have mostly been war stories at their heart, and Kl’rt is a soldier. He did fine as a cackling super villain for a bit, but as I mentioned, it got played out and he was being used more to put other characters over than for his own virtues. His dedication to the Skrull Empire and willingness to do whatever it takes to see it prevail plays way better in a story where they’re part of a coalition battling Annihilus or the Phalanx than it does when he’s trying to conquer Earth through Hollywood or something; it renders him a far more three-dimensional character. Likewise the war-time camaraderie he has formed with guys like Nova and Star-Lord allows him to display a more relaxed side of his persona that makes him more appealing.

For me, aside from the look and the powers and the other stuff Super-Skrull has going for him, I’ve always just enjoyed that he often seems like the sole tough guy in a room full of weasels. The Skrulls are all about subterfuge and these long-form infiltration plans like Secret Invasion; Super-Skrull is their greatest champion, yet he’d prefer to walk right up to you and punch you in the face. He could be disguised as your wife or best friend, and yes, he does use those powers on occasions, but more often than not, he’s content to be an inconspicuous green monster that can still kick your ass because he’s a bad, bad man.

If they made a movie of Annihilation or about the Skrulls, you’d need to get a guy from The Expendables to play Super-Skrull, and there’s not much higher compliment I can offer than that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kiel's "Gareb Shamus Enterprises Presents Wizard World Chicago Comic Con 2010"

OK, beyond the title of this post (which I mostly chose because, all other things aside, that name is funny) I don't have much to add to the whole "Does Wizard put on worthwhile/relevant/comics-related/cost-effective events, and are they honest/forthcoming/fair about how they run them?" debate. I just don't care to sit around playing arm chair convention critic (not to detract from folks with legitimate criticisms focused on what they look for in a comics show) as I doubt I'd be good at it or that anything I'd say would be of any value to anyone really. But you can check out Shaun Manning and I's report on the show over at CBR if you like. We tried our best to give an honest picture of what most attendees experienced at the show in between the official and non-official responses of organizers and exhibitors...or to paraphrase an evil corporate cable channel and Marvel's silliest campaign of the past 15 years: "We report, U decide."

I will say that personally, the three days of Chicago show at Rosemont I attended were a tremendous amount of fun thanks to the dudes I hung out with. Wizard's Mike Cotton and James Walker were gracious beer-buying hosts. Shaun was an A-list work cohort as always. Meeting the excellent Matthew J. Brady for the first time was everything I imagined it would be and more. And Ethan Van Sciver was pretty hilarious during his late night piano concert. Props to all around!

And on top of the radical hang out time, I also had a TON of time to buy all sorts of dopey comics at the show this year...the first such show I've been able to do so at in I don't know how long. Rickey wanted to know what it was I got, so I'ma list it in honor of him. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or energy to snap photos of all my schwag like he usually does, so you fools are going to have to cope with covers off Comics.Org. But I will categorize them for easy browsability!

1. Comics I Put At The Top Of The List To Sound Pretentious And Hip

You heard me right!

Actually, I put this kind of "Art/Indie/Harder To Categorize With Shitty Back Issues" category out front to note the fact that I went into the Rosemont show mostly looking for crazy dollar bin deals and other bargain basement style comics. I know that if you read Matthew's report, you'll see that there were a lot of art comics and the like out on sale at the show, but a lot of them fell out of my "just finished paying for three summer vacations" price range.

Still, I was FINALLY able to nab a copy of Kevin Huizenga's Ganges #2 at the show after somehow missing the issue when it hit shops in NYC years back. I liked the issue quite a bit, and it made me think about video games in a way I haven't before, but after hearing a lot about that story from friends of mine, the issue failed to hit me in the gut and brain the way #3 did. Of course, how many comics can do what Ganges #3 did?

One totally random dollar bin find I did locate was a promotional Ashcan for Paul Pope's early effort The Ballad of Doctor Richardson. Holy shit, you guys...remember Ashcans?!!?!? I kind of miss them.

Finally, I bought the "digest" trade paperback of Mike Allred's excellent sci-fi love letter to Rock N Roll Red Rocket 7. I almost never buy books in more than one form, but I bought RR7 three times now: once in single issues, a second time as a bigger album-sized trade whose glue binding eventually cracked letting most of the middle pages fall out and now as the slimmer digest. I hope this one lasts me a long time.

2. Crazy Beans Old Comics Mostly Made Before I Was Born

I've been following the ongoing, round robin series of critical essays about the 1970's Don McGregor/Rich Buckler/Others serial "Panther's Rage" in Marvel's Jungle Action (what a GREAT name for a comic!) as well as Tom Spurgeon's subsequent writing on the book and list of how it and other comics are emblematic example of the form in the '70s for the past few weeks now, and it's been enlightening and fun reading for me. For one, I was completely unfamiliar with the storyline's existence before the critical run by Tucker Stone, David Brothers and (I'm assuming) others got underway, so it was really nice to have that "here's a comic I've never heard of" experience which has become more and more rare in the past five years or so once again. For two, despite my general wankery over older comics of all types, I've steered clear of most '70s titles since I was very small for reasons I'm not even sure of. Best I can figure, my avoidance probably stems from equal parts disinterest in a decade whose aesthetic sense never meshed with my own in the slightest sense (I was one of those kids who got into swing music and rockabilly and that greaser/Darwyn Cooke bullshit in Middle School and never really looked back) and the unavailability of affordable back issues from those years throughout the "mark up everything you can" comics market of my youth. In any event, I'm making the effort now to correct that gap in my reading, starting with issues #10, 11 and 14 of that very Black Panther serial.

Speaking of my general love of comics much, much older than I, I nabbed a copy of the second and final issue of Eclipse's (I'm assuming) largely forgotten Siegel & Shuster: Dateline 1930s comic. The reprint book presented early science fiction efforts by the eventual creators of Superman. The comics and stories within are surely crude even compared to those rough-yet-compelling early Superman strips, but the further I get into my own career in the comics game, the more the story of those two men resonates and affects me in weird ways. This is the point in the paragraph where I'll promise a more complete post unpacking that last thought down the road on the CKT, but we both know the chances of me getting to write that post are slim to none. I suck, right?

I also got to scratch my "buy everything Jack Kirby did at DC in the '70s" itch (hey! an exception to prove my earlier rule!) by picking up two issues of the DC First Issue Special series I needed (the "Dingbats of Danger Street" and "Manhunter" issues to be precise). Also on the Kirby beat, I picked up a few issues of the '90s Secret City Saga books from Topps, egged on by another event from this weekend that I'll keep under my hat for now (watch CBR soon!).

On that same front, I snatched up the first issue of DC's original Justice, Inc. comic with the Joe Kubert art because I've already got the Kirby #2 and 3, so why the hell not?

3. Random Marvel Shit

I'll admit it: I can't stop buying Force Works comics out of dollar bins these days. I don't know. It started as a goofy nostalgia itch the week "Iron Man 2" came out and I saw some episodes of the mostly awful in retrospect '90s Iron Man cartoon on cable, but since then I've had a post percolating for the blog about how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning dropped a superhero team book that presaged a lot of what we're now calling "Comics Clichés of the 2000s." Anyway, amongst the random issues I picked up this time was the Century: Distant Sons one-shot by DnA and Jim Calafiore which I've been looking after for a while now. As their only original creation from that book and a weird alien to boot, I'm kind of surprised DnA haven't used Century in one of their cosmic events somewhere yet. Am I alone in that thought?

On the modern Marvel front, I picked up a copy of that silly Who Won't Wield The Shield? one-shot despite my general distaste for superhero industry in-joke projects as well as the handbook-like Marvelman Classic Primer because, again, I like weird old shit of all stripes and have been a junior Miracleman buff since doing that Wizard profile on the rights issues back in the day.

One of the few "Five Dollar Trades" (LOVE that that's catching on, by the by) I picked up at the show was the Immortal Iron Fist: Escape From The Eighth City trade by Duane Swierczynski and Travel Foreman. Seriously, those guys STEPPED UP after the departure of Fraction and Brubaker from that title, and it's a crying shame not enough people bought it after that point. Actually, it's a crying shame that not enough people bought it throughout the whole run. What in the hell is wrong with people, man?

Oh, and I also bought the first issue of Solo Avengers Featuring Hawkeye And... because despite Jim McCann's effusive promotion of the pair, I'd still never read a Hawkeye/Mockingbird story of any kind and this issue had some early Jim Lee art, which the 12-year-old in me will always be a sucker for.

4. Random DC Shit

For those of you still reading and keeping track of the random claims I make here: yes, the issue of Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman that I bought because both the cover and interior art made me giggle should probably go up in the "Crazy Beans Old" section, but I bought less modern DC stuff this show and wanted to show off this cover in addition to the Black Panther stuff. So here's where she be.

Beyond that, I bought a random handful of Tony Daniel Batman issues for a buck that I needed. I don't really feel like launching into an appraisal of Daniel's work right now, and me talking about my buying of Batman in general is a whole 'nother blog let alone another post, so let's just say I was glad to get them and move on.

Last but not least, I broke my "never buy it twice" rule a second time and snapped up the trade of Morrison and Millar's Aztek The Ultimate Man on the cheap cheap. Holy Lord, has it really been back to college since I last read this book?

5. Random Everything Else Shit

I have so many terrible Mighty Crusaders comics from Rich Buckler's 1980s relaunch of the franchise that I doubt I'll ever need to buy another without even considering the fact that I've probably bought a few of these issues multiple times. Still, when I saw the above cover to Steel Sterling #5, I almost choked I laughed so hard. What in the hell is the story solution to that fucking cover? "Steel Sterling, thank you for teaching us that a democratic society shouldn't endow its citizens with the right to operate automobiles!" It kills me. I think I got #6 too?

Hey, I also bought Starslayer #2 and 3 – the first two appearances of Dave Stevens' Rocketeer. I buy those comics every time I find them in a dollar bin and then give them to someone I know who hasn't read them yet. If that description fits you, post in the comment thread, and I'll mail you both books free of charge.

Got the sixth issue of SLG's Gargoyles comic, which I NEEDED.

Also for no good reason I can think of, I bought my second ever NOW Comics issue of Green Hornet. I think it was actually this one? I don't know. It just kind of shocks me how that series from a kind of forgettable publisher has come to define EVERYTHING that's being done with that franchise today in print and on screen. Why does the NOW legacy version of the character have so much influence?

Finally, I bought an issue of this awful-looking comic called Shuriken on a lark to round up an order at a $0.50 booth and regretted it almost immediately after.

Comics...you know I love you, but sometimes I fucking hate you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

San Diego 2010 Novarama Sketchfest

Once again the sketch gods smiled upon me again at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. I already showed off the new additions to Megan's Miss Martian collection, so now here's the dynamic duo I was fortunate enough to snag for my Nova Sketchbook.

In addition to being the son of the legendary Neal Adams, Josh Adams is a dang fine artist in his own right and a swell dude as well. I met him at a Ring of Honor show a couple months ago via our mutual friend Christopher Daniels and I gingerly mentioned I'd be tracking him down sooner rather than later for a sketch. At San Diego, neither of us forgot this pact and Josh was more than happy to take some time and do this neat piece for me. Josh went the Magneto helmet route on Nova's headgear, but not in a way that renders him unrecognizable, so I actually dig that his sketch stands out in that way. I also always love when somebody throws in an extra touch like lettering or a gag, and Josh did both; I may not totally understand the Dr. Seuss allusions because I'm, y'know, uncultured, but I certainly appreciate it nonetheless.

For my second piece of the con, I was wandering Artist's Alley and got super-psyched when I saw that Jacob Chabot was in the house. I first got to see Jacob's work when Rickey recommended Skullboy my way and then flipped my lid when he did X-Babies and drew every friggin' X-Men character ever as a baby (it was a thing of beauty)! I worked with Jacob a few times on Marvel.com to promote X-Babies and in fact a series of sketches he did for us ended up being variant covers for the series. I had a nice talk with Jacob and his buddy and X-Babies collaborator Gregg Schigiel about the book and other stuff and was of course overjoyed to get a sketch in the bargain. This sucker is everything I love about Chabot's style, particularly his ability to find the fun in a super hero piece without making it goofy; that's a Nova who knows how to party but is also ready to kick some ass. Factor in an awesome pose and great background and you've got one of my favorite sketches I've gotten in some time.

Thanks guys!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Five Comics Worth Reading - August 2010

By the nature of the character and his history, it’s not uncommon for most writers to just do big smash-‘em-up action stories when it comes to The Hulk, and a lot of them are pretty fun, but I love when folks go outside the framework and cast him in sagas with uncharacteristic depths. I’ve made no secret that Peter David’s Hulk run is one of my favorite extended comic works by virtue of the psychological edge he brought and the use of humor. Over the last several years, Greg Pak has brought his own unique take to the Hulk mythos while also providing no shortage of epic fights from Planet Hulk to World War Hulk. Since the creation of Bruce Banner’s son, Skaar, Pak has introduced a new element not really explored in Hulk history: the notion of family. With Incredible Hulk #611, the wrap to Pak’s end of World War Hulks as well as a major climax for the Skaar saga, he really stepped it up a notch further with an issue packed with both an amazing battle between gamma goliaths as well as an emotional punch provided by the mining of Banner’s own childhood and how it has affected him even more than we knew. It’s smart, it’s raw and it balances intensity and fun with intellectualism; it’s great work from a great writer not to mention possibly career-best stuff from artist Paul Pelletier, who has had a heck of a career, so I don’t put that lightly. I’ve been fortunate enough to scan the first issue of this book’s new incarnation, Incredible Hulks (yes, plural) and the hits are going to keep coming in a “team” book that fills a niche I don’t think we’ve fully seen.

Justice League International was a seminal work and a wholly unique one for the time it came out in, casting super hero teams—indeed THE super hero team—in a more down-to-earth and humorous light. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis did an incredible job sustaining what could have been a quick burnout concept for years and elevating characters like Booster Gold, Fire and Ice to places they never would have been. Unfortunately, once the title did run its course, the characters seemed to flounder and lose their place save for the occasional fun reunion mini; they were a group people had a lot of affection for, but that seemed to have had a definitive expiration date. Kudos then to Judd Winick—the the initial aid of Giffen—for finally bringing the old crew back together and making them work in a more serious context that doesn’t chuck the fun wholesale and incorporates all the characters’ continuity. Generation Lost has been a neat ride thus far that has some weight to it with the threat posed by Max Lord feeling large in scale and a cool underdog vibe to how the JLI crew is viewed both by others and themselves. I like the way Winick has cast Booster and company as underachievers determined to prove the world wrong but not entirely confident they can; it feels organic. I’m also amazed I didn’t see the Kingdom Come connection coming, so more props for that.

I’ll admit that, particularly as a Roy Harper fan, Justice League: Cry For Justice was a tough sell for me, but I’ve also got to say I’ve really been digging what James Robinson has been doing with Justice League of America since taking over in earnest and getting his first few issues out of the way. I like that he has made it the one-stop-shop for all DC characters and continuity; a nexus of the DC Universe with dozens of cameos and allusions to past stories every issue. In some ways it feels like if Starman was a love letter to a certain type of fiction and era of nostalgia, Robinson’s JLA is that on a grander scale to DC as a whole, and I can dig that. I’m still not 100% sold on Congorilla—I don’t subscribe to the “he’s cool because he’s a talking gorilla” deal that I know is enough for some people—or Supergirl in the big leagues, but I like Robinson’s take on Dick Grayson-as-Batman and he seems to have a decent shot at figuring out the formula for ciphers like Donna Troy and Jade. Seeing Mark Bagley get to draw so many characters is a nice perk and the current crossover with Justice Society of America is popcorn action done pretty entertainingly, so no complaints here.

Jonathan Maberry has very quickly and suddenly emerged as a promising new voice in the Marvel stable of writers. I found his DoomWar event to be a well-plotted, well-paced story with plenty of action and an old school super hero dynamic that didn’t feel dated; Maberry is a successful novelist who clearly has an excellent grasp of his tools as a writer and a comic book fan who has been able to translate his skills to this medium. Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher allows Maberry to flex different muscles in a post-apocalyptic tale that resembles I Am Legend done Marvel-style but also stands on its own just fine. Frank Castle fits nicely into the role of archetypal of the grumpy, jaded loner looking to stay alive and refusing to acknowledge his own heroism. Maberry’s take on Marvel characters seized by a 28 Days Later-like rage virus is both scary and fun, with little jokes and flourishes only a guy who knows his stuff could make. Goran Parlov is really clever with his art as well, incorporating in gags like bird-themed characters being among the first scavengers to pick apart a homeless shelter (apparently I have a more twisted sense of humor than I thought). This is only a four-issue limited series that’s already half-way done, so I urge you to get your hands on it ASAP.

I let the first two issues of this series sit at the bottom of my pile of comps from Marvel for weeks and am now very much regretting it. It’s real cool the way Roger Langridge is completely re-imagining the Thor saga as a total “stranger in a strange land” story; the characters of Thor, Jane Foster, et al. feel familiar yet new and you’re really not sure what’s going to happen next. Thus far Langridge has done a great job of capturing what it would feel like if a world as fantastic as Thor’s subtly infringed on our relatively mundane one, a story I’ve seen before but rarely done so well. I also like the way the layers are being slowly peeled back to introduce teases of Asgard and the super heroic into Jane’s life and we get to see it through her eyes; I’m on the edge of my seat thinking how rad it’s going to be when we actually see Odin and the rest, so I hope it continues to be built to a little bit at a time. In addition to a great new take on Jane that casts her as more than just a Silver Age love interest, Langridge really explores some intriguing sides of Thor, not just focusing on the proud warrior but also the homesick traveler and perhaps most engaging the lost orphan missing his family and chasing their love. Chris Samnee is one of comics’ best kept secrets and he’s really breaking out here. Can’t wait to see where this goes and if the goal is to get people psyched for the movie, I daresay this book should be a nice success.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Linko! LVI

* There've been a TON of fun interviews showing up online this week to celebrate the finale of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris' WildStorm series Ex Machina (which I still haven't read because I'm lame and behind). I'll start by pointing out CBR's own two-part interview with BKV conducted by novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer: PART 1, PART 2. Props to CBR staffer Jeffrey Renaud for making that one happen. On the other side of the street, the esteemed Zack Smith has a great series of his own up at Newsarama with the entire series creative team: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3. Matt Adler also has a nice overview chat with BKV up at iFanboy right now.

And if you haven't seen it yet, James Simes' "Ex Machina: Deconstructing The Machine" process site with Tony Harris is all kinds of radical. Explained here. Experienced here.

* The other real piece of interview fireworks to check out this week is the latest installment of cartoonist Austin English's "20 Questions With Cartoonists" blog with Brandon Graham. There's a difference in mindset when an artist speaks with another artist as opposed to a member of the press. I'm not even sure its a conscious thing, but questions on process, theory and other "higher order concerns" of comics making come out so strong in interviews like English's, and with a subject like Graham, that's a great thing to watch. (Via)

* Kai-Ming Cha's PW Comics Week interview with AX editor Michael Wilson (one of a half dozen or so that I'm sure have gotten out there since San Diego) is a really nice primer on gekiga manga, which it looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of in the months ahead, amongst other things.

* I had a lot of links set aside last week that I didn't get to include, so here we go...

I was actually on the phone with Mark Millar when this NY Times story about a labor dispute involving the workers at a nuclear plant in Metropolis, IL, and when I told him about it, Mark exclaimed, "Holy shit! This is it! This is when he's going to come and save us all for real!"

* Remember when I linked to that story about Golden Age artist Lily Renée Phillips two weeks back? Of course you do! Well, some creative Googling led me to a sample story of Phillips' "Werewolf Hunter" series from Fiction House over on the great Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine.

* Fact: lists of things are very popular online. Additional Fact: very rarely do you find a list you agree with 100% or even like 30%. Still, I enjoyed reading this List of 25 Famous Movie Geeks, all in all. While I'm no big proponent of the idea that there's some shared geek culture, I can honestly say that as a kid I identified with a lot of the characters in the article, and it was nice to see them compiled in one place. (Related: this List of Music Geeks was less fun but not all bad).

* My pal (and former DC Comics editor) Michael Wright is constantly sharing fun links on Facebook since he got a gig as editor of Gibson Guitar's website, but I hadn't been compelled to share one until this interview with Ben Kweller. New album in 2010! SCORE!

* There's no way this story is as awesome as the images its headline conjures in my mind, but it's still pretty awesome.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Random Thoughts on The Expendables' Body Counts

I have unfortunately not gotten a chance to see The Expendables yet, but rest assured this situation will be rectified ASAP. I'm extremely proud this film out-did Eat Pray Love at the box office this past weekend and proved America still runs on testosterone (international readers, please let me know if your respective nations also use similar fuel).

This morning, Ryan sent me a link to Screen Rant's rad chart tallying up the body count notched by each Expendables principal in their prior roles (click this link and/or see below).

Some random thoughts after the pretty picture of manhood...

-I can't express how much I love that Dolph Lundgren's list starts with one kill from Rocky IV and that yes, it's that kill.

-Lundgren obviously scored a lot off his made-for-DVD movies most likely on his way to the top, but did he seriously off 41 people in Masters of the Universe? Far more than in two Universal Soldier flicks combined? Wow, no wonder I walked out of that movie scared as a kid (because apparently I was a little girl).

-Only Dolph Lundgren could still manage to kill two people in a movie called Jill The Ripper.

-Stallone killed somebody in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot? AMAZING!

-In the first Rambo, Sly killed one person. In the next two, he slaughtered 151 people. Rambo IV is also far and away the top single deadliest movie of anybody on the list with 81 kills. And despite this, he still barely gets half of Lundgren's total. He really did break him.

-Ryan and I were both impressed that Jet Li got third with comparatively so few movies, but also a bit surprised that the list was so short given how long he's been around. What we reckon is in a lot of movies he just didn't kill anybody because, as Ryan put it: "He just likes to hurt."

-Bruce Willis killed more people in Cop Out than in Pulp Fiction. Just let that marinate.

-John Cerilli on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: "I'm surprised his career isn't on that list after The Condemned." (I never saw The Condemned myself, but having moderated a panel with SCSA and Vinnie Jones on it to promote the movie in Wizard World L.A. a few years back and nearly having my hand broken by a fist bump from Mr. Austin's giant smoking skull ring, I would never call it anything but a modern classic)

-I'm sure if they included Old Spice commercials, Terry Crews could do better.

-Randy Couture is obviously a huge p*ssy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bullseye, Hawkeye & Nick Fury in S.W.A.T.

Everybody remembers that time Nick Fury got hired to head up the L.A.P.D. division that Bullseye was a part of and they went up against the rogue group led by Clint Barton, right? Of course you do...

...but for real, I would watch the crap out of a big screen Hawkeye vs Bullseye flick starring Jeremy Renner and Colin Farrell, and I have a feeling a lot of other people would too.

Check it: Bullseye is on a rampage Samuel L. Jackson's Fury gets tasked with bringing him in so he puts his own top marksman, Hawkeye, on the case, and we get nearly two hours of real life pals Renner and Farrell beating the crap out of each other, setting up and escaping elaborate death traps, engaging in Bourne-esque rad chase scenes and generally being charming and bad ass as all get out. Have Samuel L. pop up now and again and you just up the testosterone-tastic manliness of it all.

Honestly, I do think this could work and be something of a break from the mainstream super hero movies we're seeing; it would be almost a Marvel Knights series off to the side you produce on the relative cheap, give a shorter run time and just have fun with. Years before Dark Reign was a glimmer in Brian Bendis' eye, we always wanted to see these characters go at it, and who better to make it happen than Renner and Farrell? It could be a lot of fun.

Heck, cast LL Cool J as Luke Cage and go for the full-on S.W.A.T. reunion! Has anybody actually seen that movie and could it be a conceivable prequel here?

Regardless, as long as I get to see Farrell's Bullseye again, I'm on board.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Art Attack: November 2010's coolest covers

Feels like it was only yesterday--or 16 days ago--I did the last one of these, but solicitations wait for no man!

We're almost at Thanksgiving in comic preview terms, and while the current big events like Shadowland and Return of Bruce Wayne will be tapering off, a lot of quality books keep on rolling and they've got some very pretty covers--here are 25...

BATWOMAN #0 by J.H. Williams III
BRIGHTEST DAY #13 by David Finch
DEADPOOL #29 by Dave Johnson
DEADPOOL TEAM-UP #887 by Humberto Ramos
DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #4 by Michael Komarck
FIRST WAVE #5 by J.G. Jones
GREEN LANTERN #60 variant by Frank Quitely
IRON MAN: THE RAPTURE #1 by Tim Bradstreet
iZOMBIE #7 by Mike Allred
PUNISHER: IN THE BLOOD #1 by Francesco Mattina
SECRET SIX #27 by Daniel Luvisi
STRANGE TALES VOL. 2 #2 by Jaime Hernandez
SUPERBOY #1 by Rafael Albuquerque
UNCANNY X-FORCE #2 by Esad Ribic
UNCANNY X-MEN #530 by Greg Land
WOLVERINE #3 by Jae Lee
YOUNG ALLIES #6 by Takeshi Miyazawa
-Hooray for the full-on return of Esad Ribic!

-I haven't been buying iZombie, but it looks so gorgeous, I may need to scope that trade.

-Amazing Jaime Hernandez piece for Strange Tales; I see what the fuss is about!

-I've got mixed emotions and expectations for the new Superboy series (happens when you love a character that much, of course), but that's one helluva way to start with that cover.

-That Young Allies cover makes me happy nostalgic for this.