Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tough job!

You know, I bet that there's people in the comic industry who miss the "good old days" when all they had to do was make and publish comic books. Now editors, writers and artists spend a lot of their time giving interviews, answering questions for comic book magazines & websites, not to mention dealing with fans and critics on the endless blogs and message boards. Fans are more involved in their comics than ever before and yet it seems that the heads of the companies listen to those fans less and less despite what they claim at conventions.

Still, I can't think of any other media (except maybe music) where so much time is spent on PR and talking about the work rather than doing it. Maybe that's why FINAL CRISIS is so late all the time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's worse??


In discussing the ending of SECRET INVASION with a few comic friends, I was stunned at the heated venom one of them expressed. To him, the appointment of Norman Osborne as head of HAMMER (is that what it's called?) and the resultant "Dark Reign" storyline was the "dumbest" thing Marvel could have done.

I understand his ire. After all, if I'm not mistaken, this is still the same Norman Osborne who was revealed to be the Green Goblin by a Daily Bugle expose (unless that's been reversed, I can't remember these things anymore). So putting ol' Normie in charge of this organization would be like putting Illinois Governor Blagojavich in charge of the National Treasury. Not to mention that the 'inner circle' that Normie puts together consists of two characters who are currently supposed to be 'good'. Unless that's the wrestling definition of 'good guy' in which case it doesn't really count. Last I knew, Namor and Emma Frost were in the 'good guy' camp although Namor is drawn looking as if he just staggered out of a bar at 2 in the morning. And including Doom in any group is a mistake cuz Doom doesn't play well with others.

So I agree that it doesn't make a whole lotta sense but neither does doing another blockbuster crossover right after another. Something DC is learning the hard way. But I have to disagree on one thing. It's not the dumbest thing Marvel has done because I still reserve that distinction for the "One More Day" storyline. That did more to turn me off to Marvel comics than anything before. Even the revival of Normie and the revelation that Gwen Stacy had borne "lil Green Goblins" due to an affair with Normie didn't sour me on Marvel's entire output like "OMD" did. I still find myself looking at Marvel comics with the same distaste as I do Dean Koontz novels.

And, do you know how hard it is to find images of Normie on the internet that AREN'T of him in supervillain garb? Pretty darn hard, lemme tell you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Marvel: The House of DUMB Ideas

So the final issue of Marvel's SECRET INVASION series came out last week and I finally got a chance to sit down and read it this past weekend.

And I'm wondering what the point is.

This was Marvel's BIG event for the year, the one they'd been working on and counting down to. I admit that I was intrigued by the idea at the start. Skrulls have infiltrated the Earth and are orchestrating an invasion. Not bad. It set up a lot of possibilities for characters to return or, at the very least, to clear up a lot of confusion about why some characters have behaved as they did before. Then a Skrull ship crashes in the Savage Land, releasing all of the people who had been 'replaced' by Skrulls. Except they weren't. All of those people were Skrulls too. Then everyone runs back to New York for a final confrontation with the Skrulls.

Where the Skrull Queen, who had been impersonating Spider-Woman is killed. By Norman Osborn. With one shot from a gun.

Let's overlook the fact that she was killed by someone who SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE ANYMORE (and was never a Skrull operative) but she was taken out with about as much effort in this issue as it took to turn the page.

So, in the end, what happened in SI? Not very much. Tony Stark got his comeuppance for CIVIL WAR and his company is in ruins (again). SHIELD is no more. Norman Osborn is in charge of everything and is conspiring with other baddies to do something REALLY, REALLY BAD! The Wasp dies and another Skrull ship with the REAL captives lands so everyone is back to normal and the only significant return from the dead is Mockingbird. Mockingbird. Yup, that'll REALLY shake up the Marvel Universe! Steve Rogers missed the ship, I guess.

Well, at least Marvel did one thing that DC couldn't do... they ended the series in the title it was supposed to end in. Guess that's something at least.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Please, sir, can I have another?"


I'm reminded of the scene in ANIMAL HOUSE where the pledges are soundly paddled with a wooden board while asking to be paddled again.

Why am I reminded of this?

Because it's been announced that the TRUE ending to BATMAN R.I.P. wasn't in that issue of BATMAN that came out, lo, so many aeons ago. No, the real (honest to Morrison) ending will be in FINAL CRISIS #6... whenever that comes out.

"Please, sir, can you treat me like crap again?"
While this does solve some questions, like how Bruce Wayne/Batman could be in FINAL CRISIS when he's supposed to be dying in BATMAN R.I.P., it's a real punk-ass move. Now people who weren't interested in FC (which, apparently, is quite a few) will have to catch up on that series in order to get the actual ending that BATMAN R.I.P. was supposed to provide. Although, to be honest, there isn't that much to catch up on as Batman has been a prisoner of Darkseid for most of the series so far.

Still, it's the principle of the thing that offends most of us. It's like going to a movie you really wanted to see only to be told that the ending for YOUR movie is actually stuck in the middle of another movie you didn't want to see. Even though this cross-pollution hasn't really been a secret, it hasn't really been publicized all that much either. I doubt that any of the media who ran "BATMAN DIES!" headlines when BATMAN #681 came out knew about this little switcheroo.

I get the feeling that Didio got his Editorial Management skills as a Three Card Monty shill on the streets of New York. "Find the Batman, Find the Batman, He's here somewhere."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That's Weird

So the dvd of DARK KNIGHT came out yesterday... and I didn't rush out to buy it.

That's pretty amazing to me because DARK KNIGHT was my must-see movie of 2008. I'd been getting stoked for it since the first previews and clips showed up. I made sure I was there on opening night and I truly did enjoy the movie. I consider DARK KNIGHT to probably be the best comic to movie adaptation yet made. (There's still the possibility that WATCHMEN might beat it next year.) Heath Ledger's performance was stunning but so was Aaron Eckhardt as Harvey Dent. I was thrilled to finally see my favorite Bat-villain (Two-Face) get the serious treatment he deserved. (Tommy Lee Jones version of it made me want to beat myself unconscious so I wouldn't have to watch any more of it.) Exciting. Explosive. Blockbuster.

And yet...

I didn't buy it yesterday. I probably will at some point but, strangely enough, I'm not in a hurry to do so.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that the DARK KNIGHT is depressing. It could truly be one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen. It's certainly right up there with the movie version of Pink Floyd's THE WALL and OLD YELLER. Dent and Bruce lose everything that's important to them. Batman loses his public image. Gotham loses two heroes in D.A. Dent and Batman. I've never left a superhero movie feeling so down and beaten.

Particularly in these rough economic times, I want to leave the theatre invigorated! And, if it's a superhero movie, I want to feel that desire to become a superhero! That feeling that good can triumph over evil! That power of taking control of one's life and righting wrongs and fighting the bad guys be they crazed super-villains or Illinois Governors. I don't want to feel like the last thing I want to be is a superhero. DARK KNIGHT makes my life look like a Frank Capra movie by comparison.

I certainly don't want a return to the horrible Batman movies of Joel Schumacher which I still cannot watch to this day. But I'd like something a little more uplifting and fun. Something that I don't have to take a Prozac after watching.

I miss Tim Burton's BATMAN. Sure, Nicholson was way too much as the Joker but the movie was fun and enjoyable. Not 2+ hours of sturm & drang.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How I Kicked Myself in the Nuts

I grew up wanting to be in the comics business.

From the earliest time I can remember, that was all I wanted to do. I didn't think I had the chops to be an artist but I definitely wanted to be a writer. In fact, during a session with my High School Guidance Counselor, I told him that fact. "I want to write for comics," I said. He stared at me as if I had said that I wanted to be a naked professional bull-rider. Needless to say, he had no advice for me and ended up suggesting that I become a English or History teacher.

My older brother, whom I'll call "Bub" for the sake of this story, got me into comics. Being ten years older than me, he'd bought ALL of the Silver Age books off the stands since the beginning and let me read any of them that I wanted. It was his dream to work in comics too and, in 1972, he quit college and ran off to NYC (only about an hour away from us) to work for DC Comics. He started small as a proofreader and, at first, lived with future DC bigwig Paul Levitz who had been an early fanzine friend of Bub's. He eventually moved further up the ladder, working in different editorial capacities. Bub even got the chance to do some writing for DC. He would eventually become one of DC's busiest colorists until the switch to digital coloring and the resultant downsizing.

By 1980, I was getting ready to graduate from high school and had my eye on the prize: writing for comics. "Surely," I thought, "Bub can help". I didn't mean that he should get me a job or anything but that he could certainly introduce me to the right people and get me in the door.

Imagine my shock when Bub said he couldn't do anything to help me and that, in fact, being his brother would probably HURT me. I never knew the details about this other than the fact that there were people at DC (AND Marvel) who didn't like Bub. I mean, they REALLY didn't like Bub. To the point where he had been shut out of the creative aspect of the business because other people with more leverage had decreed that Bub's name be stricken from the active roles at comicdom. "So shall it be written, so shall it be done!"

In effect, being Bub's brother meant that any animosity directed towards him would get directed at me as well. I was guilty by association. Bub told me that he seriously doubted anyone would even look at my writing once my connection with him was known. A pen name was suggested but, Bub said, accounting would still know my real name and word gets around comicdom like the Flash with a bad case of the 'runs'.

So not only could Bub NOT help me but he had poisoned the well by getting there first. There was no one to be introduced to, no doors to open, nothing to do but think about getting that Teaching degree.

And, to my everlasting regret, I accepted that and went away.

Feeling that there was no sense in fighting a war that had already been lost, I surrendered. At first, though, I sent in a few blind submissions to both Marvel and DC. I got a polite form rejection back from Marvel but never heard anything from DC. At the time, I imagined them taking my proposal and using it for toilet paper or making it into a voodoo doll that they burned later.

(This was also during a time when the one specific name Bub told me had 'blacklisted' him was one of the major stars at DC so I fantasized that this star had crushed my comic career before it ever started. Now, I sincerely doubt if this fellow ever knew my name or even SAW my proposal.)

I never tried again.

Even after editorial departments had changed and Bub himself was no longer connected to comics in any way, I didn't try. At that point, I felt as if my time had passed. You don't break into comics at 35. You get kicked out of them by the new young bucks at 35.

And still... I wonder. What if I hadn't just accepted it all? What if I had focused every ounce of my will towards breaking in and had written in a white blaze of creativity, firing off a proposal every week? What if I had screwed up my courage and went to the offices of DC and Marvel once a month (or at all!) and kept hounding them and making connections and waiting for that breakthrough chance to come? What if that 'blacklisting' of Bub wasn't as bad as he said? Would it have worked? Would I be a famous comic writer today, looking back on 20 years of published material?

These are the questions that wake me up at 2 in the morning, sweating and staring at my ceiling.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The comic book industry is a very small community.

Everyone who works in it seems to know pretty much everyone else. But, because it's so compact, your reputation becomes very important. It's far too easy for a few people to effectively 'blacklist' someone they don't like for whatever reason. As such, it seems that comic book professionals are all very careful not to piss off certain people. Particularly in a bad economy and a shrinking industry, to do so could effectively end your current income and make sure you never get any in the future.

It's a difficult thing for those of us on the outside to comprehend. I guess we all grow up thinking that comic book publishers are all like Keebler Elf cookie companies and everything is happy and warm and people hug kittens and ride unicorns all day long. It's sad when you realize that the people who publish books featuring superheroes who fight injustice and stand up for the little guy don't always follow the same principles.

Valerie D'Orazio, who has blogged about her own struggles against sexual harassment during her time at DC Comics in her excellent blog, Occasional Superheroine, is a very brave person. She didn't set out blogging about her ordeal to be brave or to lead a crusade. Her speaking out came from a need to tell her story and hopefully save others from the same pain she suffered. Since then, she has become a spokesperson for women's rights in comics and, I am sure, a MAJOR pain in the ass to those who have reason to fear her posts.

And yet, still, she cannot tell her whole story because of:

A) Fear of reprisal against herself personally and/or professionally.
B) The difficulty in finding a publisher willing to publish such an uncensored story.
C) The fact that most major comic media news outlets would never announce, promote or even mention it.

That saddens me not because I want to read gossip about industry professionals but because such behavoir shouldn't exist today. And the only way to stop it from happening is to talk about it and bring it into the open.

I don't know anyone in the comic business. I am not going to get the call to write the next Batman mega-event or the newest Avengers incarnation. I only have one personal story to share which I'll do in my next post and, even still, it's not going to rip any tears in the fabric of the blogosphere. It will not, to use an infamous quote, "split the internet in two."

But I believe what Val has written and, worse still, I believe that such things still go on and are kept quiet by the companies and the workers themselves. Why do I believe this?

Because I've seen some myself.

I've worked in the private financial industry for nearly 20 years now and have worked for men who, though not practising sexual abuse, employed a great deal of emotional abuse. Men who thought it was perfectly acceptable to scream at their employees, call them all kinds of stupid, and even one who liked to know how much it took to make his female employees cry. But we all took it, men and women, because we considered it a cost of working at those places and we needed the money. If someone was getting it in a meeting or on the floor, we gave a sigh of relief because it wasn't us. When it was us, we'd grit our teeth and accept that it was our time on the block. But we shouldn't have taken it because it shouldn't have happened.

I'd like to believe that such things don't happen at comic book companies. I'd like to believe that the people running it are as honorable as Jack Kirby. But I can't. Because those companies are run by people and people aren't superheroes. They're flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. But the rest of us aren't publishing stories about superheroes fighting for "truth, justice and the American Way."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And Another One Bites the Dust!


The cancellation of COMIC FOUNDRY as a print magazine was announced yesterday and I seem to be the only person who isn't surprised.

I'm a comic slut. I'll read pretty much anything related to comics be they books or magazines. As such, I've seen a lot of good comic magazines come and go through the years. (I still miss AMAZING HEROES.) But as a comic magazine, COMIC FOUNDRY didn't make much of an impact on me.

Wanna know why?

Cuz I could never find a copy. And I looked, believe me, I looked.

I live in Rhode Island. The smallest freaking state in the country. Still, we're pretty fortunate in that we have a few comic stores around here. Not to mention that I am little over an hour away from stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts. So what I'm about to describe wasn't an isolated incident.

My favorite LCBS carried the first issue but never ordered another. I was told that there was no interest and that, other than me, no one bought a copy of the first issue. I then traveled around to the other stores as I am wont to do. None of them had any copies either.

Surely, I thought, my ultimate LCBS in Massachusets, the one that orders practically EVERYTHING comic book related including local small press comics, would have one. Sadly, I was mistaken. So sure was I that an issue MUST be hiding from me that I even asked the assistant manager about it only to be met with a blank stare. "Is that a magazine about comics?", he asked. I replied that it not only was but that four issues had been published. He was stunned. He had never heard of the magazine. What makes this story worse is that this assistant manager was in charge of ordering magazines and related items for the store.

Yeah, I could have gone online but I'm an old fart. I like to actually GO to a store when I buy something. I like to look around and scout out new things. Most important, I like to have what I bought IN MY HANDS when I buy it! No waiting for someone to fill the order and get around to plopping it in the mail where Cthulhu knows what Deep One is waiting to shred the thing into confetti. And I hear your other question, "Why didn't you subscribe to it at your LCBS?"

To be honest, I wasn't THAT interested in it. The first issue was nice but nothing that overwhelmed me. It seemed to me to be a weird, hermaphroditic spawn of MAXIM and WIZARD, intent upon making upscale geeks feel cool. All well and good but not going to light my 46 yr old, overweight heart on fire. Perhaps if I were a young, 20-something I might have enjoyed it more and gotten more out of the articles. As it was the issue made me feel old and, although still geeky, not anywhere near cool.

Even stranger is publisher/founder Tim Leong's announcement of the cancellation coming because "my career no longer allows enough time to do the magazine". He doesn't say it's canceled because of low sales or ad revenue. He just doesn't have the time to do it the way he thinks it deserves which is an honorable admission. But this is the guy who campaigned SO HARD when Diamond first rejected COMIC FOUNDRY as a magazine. Tim Leong convinced Diamond to accept it amidst much media hoopla and a lot of work on his part. And now, after 5 issues, he's stepping away from it. I'm sure I'm not the only person shaking their head at this turn-around.

But I feel bad anytime a comic related magazine ceases publication. And if I could have found those other issues on the stand, I would have bought them. Because I'm a comic slut and that's what I do.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Did I Miss Something?


And so BATMAN R.I.P. draws to a close and, I hope, so does all the hype about it.

With the release of BATMAN #681 last week, Grant Morrison brought his bat-saga to a close to the confusion of many. Batman meets his demise in a typically superhero fashion (very similar to that once faced by Green Arrow and you all know what happened to him after that!) and one that doesn't feel a body. In comic book jargon, "No body, no death." So, like I postulated in my last missive here, we'll see Bruce back in tights sooner or later.

But what seems to be the big bugaboo about this ending is, in fact, it's NON-ending. That is, for issue upon issue the theme of BATMAN R.I.P. has rested on the question of "WHO is the Black Glove?" Just who was this mysterious person who called himself Dr. Hurt and who was not only dedicated to destroyed the Dark Knight but knew all of Batman's secrets? Fans and critics alike played a guessing game running down a list of suspects. Was he Alfred? Tim Drake? The continuity displaced older brother, Thomas Wayne Jr.? Or Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne himself? Or maybe The Devil?

Ya got me!

Because the final issue doesn't give that answer. Dr. Hurt taunts Batman by claiming to be Thomas Wayne who faked his own death so many years ago. Bruce was supposed to die along with his mother in Crime Alley but Joe Chill botched the job. And yet the taunts ring empty and hollow. Some fans cling to that solution and use it to basically decry Morrison for defaming the Batman myth.

In the end, The Devil ends up being the most likely candidate but even this fails to satisfy. Maybe if we hadn't been treated to Marvel's version of the Devil being used so poorly in the vomit-inducing Spider-Man story, "One More Day", it wouldn't be so disappointing.

However, I'm reminded of another DC 'event' that didn't work out as planned and wonder if the same thing has happened here.

Back in 1991, DC's company wide crossover event, ARMAGEDDON 2001, was built around the secret identity of main baddie, Monarch. In this series, a survivor from the future comes back in time to warn Earth that one of its heroes will go insane, kill all the other heroes and take over the planet. Originally, Captain Atom was slated to be the hero who would become Monarch but because the secret was leaked too early, Hawk (of the superhero team Hawk & Dove) was substituted in his place. This was widely regarded as a STUPID idea (on the level of Marvel's "Spider-Clone" series) and many fans felt that DC had not played fair.

I get that feeling here. For some reason, and I have nothing to prove it, I have the impression that Morrison had always MEANT for Dr. Hurt to be Bruce's father and that was the solution he had left all the clues for. After all, Morrison had said in interviews that the identity of Dr. Hurt would be "the most shocking revelation in Batman history in 70 years." But, somewhere along the way, someone stopped and said, "Whoa, no way that's going to happen" and put the kibosh on it.

Not that I disagree. Thomas Wayne being the head of the Black Glove is an awesomely BAD idea. It doesn't add anything to Batman's myth and actually detracts a great deal from it. Thankfully, no future writers will have to spend time fixing that conceptual error.

And I still think Dr. Hurt being The Devil is a boring answer. It's certainly nowhere near "the most shocking revelation".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm a veteran, kid.


Like many fans my age, I'm a comic veteran.

We're like those grizzled soldiers in old WWII movies, giving our world weary advice to the bright-eyed private that just joined the outfit. We've seen it all and, more often than not, we've read it all before too.

Which is why the release tomorrow of the final chapter in the much touted storyline "Batman, R.I.P." fills me with a sense of "meh."

We've been down this road before, we veterans. We stood in amazement years ago when people actually thought that Superman was dead ("dead, dead, deadski") and never to return. We knew then that Superman would never REALLY die. He'd go away for a little bit but then come back. It was inevitable as Jim Carrey making a bad movie. So we watched while all the media did this little dance and the weak-minded bought copies of the black-plastic-bagged issue where Superman took his dirt nap, thinking that they had just purchased a new retirement plan.

Then Superman came back and we veterans walked away, our heads shaking because people had bought that pack of cow patties once again.

Now Batman is going to die... supposedly. To be fair, no one knows for SURE what will happen in the new issue but the general belief is that Bruce Wayne becomes worm food... or a New God... or retires... or joins an off-Broadway review. Whatever. It's all too familiar.

Not that long ago, by comic book standards, Batman had his spine snapped by Bane and was supposedly "done being Batman". What happened? Bruce got better. Within a year or so, Bruce was back to being Batman and you'd never have known that this same character had a life-shattering injury. But, hey, it's comics! What do you expect?

The cynical among us (and, after all, you don't get to be a comics veteran without being cynical) agree that Superman and Batman will never really die. Why? Because they're a brand. It's to the companies best interest to continue to promote the Clark Kent/Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman because that's what the public knows. That's what is comfortable to them. They'll go to a movie with Bruce Wayne as Batman not one with someone named Tim Drake or even Dick Grayson as Batman... or so the company fears. Doesn't matter if it's true or not, fear makes more company policies than any Board of Directors ever will.

What doesn't help is DC's recent atmosphere of flop sweat. The company is under more attacks through sales reports and gossip rumors than they've probably ever been before. Every decision Executive Editor Dan Didio makes is instantly scrutinized by the fans and generally despised. If Bruce Wayne does die, can Didio stand tall against the coming sound and fury of the fans? Or will he cave and hire some cheap creative team to come up with a lame way to bring Bruce back? ("It was my evil twin!" "It was really Alfred!" "It was a Batman from Earth-BS!")

So now Batman is shuffling off this mortal coil, joining the choir invisible, becoming (in the words of John Cleese) "an EX-Batman". And, like all good comic veterans, I can only say, "I'll believe it when he stays dead!

Monday, November 24, 2008

When did I get so old?

I've been going to comic conventions since about the mid 1970s so that means I'm old.

Even though some of them weren't the best run events in the world, I always looked forward to them with that little twinge of fan-boy glee that we all know. The mere thought of going to a place where there were dealers wall to wall with great comics and artists and writers and creators on panels and movies and parties and COMICS, COMICS, COMICS! made me weak in the knees.

But things changed somewhere and I'm not sure if it's me or the events that are different.

Evan Dorkin posted a blistering attack on the Big Apple NATIONAL show which recently went down in NYC. You can read it in all it's glory here: http://evandorkin.livejournal.com/176123.html and it made me really glad that I didn't make the four hour train ride from RI to go to that show. Just the thought of it makes me quake with fear.

Strange then that two other people whose opinions I also trust had VASTLY different experiences. Valerie D'Orazio (of Occasional Superheroine blog) actually blasted Dorkin in her blog here: http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/2008/11/stop-bashing-older-fanboys.html. While Mark Evanier seems to have had a nice time but doesn't say much beyond this very diplomatic posting here: http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2008_11_16.html. This leads me to the belief that conventions are all subjective. Some will love the show that you hate and maybe even for the same reasons you hated them.

Which brings me to my most recent convention experience.

This past weekend, I trudged up to Framingham, MA, along with the long-suffering wife to attend SUPERMEGAFEST (see flyer to the left). I've been to this show several times in the past but my enjoyment has dwindled in recent years. But I still remember the joy of getting to meet legendary artist STERANKO and talking to him about magic and his great HISTORY OF COMICS a few years back. Since then, the personality of this show has changed quite a bit. Comics have become a VERY small part of this show and pop culture seems to have taken it over. By pop culture I mean old celebrities from really old shows or movies and half-naked women that I've never heard of. I have nothing against half-naked women but the long-suffering wife doesn't particularly appreciate them. I'm kind of numb to the whole thing by now after living through about ten years of CHILLER THEATRE conventions. Sad that I've come to the day where half-naked women no longer get much of a response from me.

Anyway, I didn't have a particularly great time at this show but, I have to say, I think it was all me this time. I wanted to see several guests this time. Peter Tork was only my third fave Monkee but he was a Monkee nonetheless. I also wanted to see Leslie Nielsen who I think is one of the greatest unintentional straight-men ever to appear in movies. There were a couple other ones I wanted to see but, once I got there and actually SAW them, my desire fled from me like the clothes from all the half-naked women.

Peter Tork has gotten really old and, strangely, I'm a little angry at him for that! How dare he age like normal people? Don't they know that they are supposed to stay the same age forever? In fairness, he seemed very nice and was very friendly and appreciative towards his fans. But I didn't get an autograph. That still wasn't MY Peter Tork and all it did was remind me how old I had gotten.

Leslie Nielsen, on the other hand, looked GREAT for his age! I was really thinking of getting his autograph until I saw the stand on his table. $30 for an autograph. $60 for a signed movie poster (provided by him at least) and $30 for him to sign an item provided by you. I know that's probably not much these days but that was more than I wanted to spend for such an item.

Then don't get me started on how bad Richard Kiel looks or how sad I felt for him trying to maneuver his scooter into the only men's room available which was NOT handicap accessible.

The comic guest I wanted to see never showed up. And I didn't see Jonathan Frakes or Linda Blair there.

There were very few comic dealers there. I think that there were maybe four over all. Of these, only one had anything that appealed to me and, of course, they were all out of my price range. There was a dealer with a TON of old monster and b/w comic mags but, unfortunately, this was the dealer who WROTE the price guide for such publications so they were priced accordingly. I'm looking for the one shot CREEPY #144 which was published several years after the title was cancelled. He had it... for $75! Another issue I want is VAMPIRELLA #100... which he had... for $65! Notice a trend here? I picked up some $5 cheapy issues from him but that was the only thing I bought.

Every toy or figure I looked at was either over-priced or met with the thought, "what am I gonna do with that?" Not like I don't already have a ton of these things sitting in a storage unit already.

The panels they offered just didn't interest me. I wasn't particularly curious about the career of George "the Animal" Steele anymore. I might have been about 10 years ago but I lost interest in wrestling a while ago. And, let's face it, the guy who played the Silver Surfer and Abe Sapien isn't really A-list material. Give me Jessica Alba or Ron Perlman and we'll talk.

I was left with an overall feeling of 'eh'. I didn't find anything that was a great deal nor did I see anything that I just couldn't live without. I could have spend all my savings on old comics (probably would have only been able to get about 5 of them before the savings went dry) but the long-suffering one wouldn't have been very happy and would have continued to suffer.

Which makes me think I'm getting too old for this s**t. I no longer looked at the dealer's room as a treasure room waiting to be looted. The guests were no longer people I was dying to meet and the panels were about as interesting to me as deciding which skin softener to use on my feet. I resented all the people bumping into me or cutting in front of me or just standing in the middle of the freaking aisle because, after all, nothing is more important than them doing their impersonation of a freaking stone wall while debating how good Mary Ann looks after all these years! I really wanted to have the superpower of being able to push these numbnuts out of the way with total impunity. People in costumes no longer solicited awes of amazement from me but generally sighs of "could you please not hit me in the face with your blaster pack?"

Maybe I am too old. Maybe my time for such things has passed. Lots of other people at the show seemed to be having a great time. Maybe I've just gotten to the point where I no longer can justify spending lots of money on toys and comics anymore. Not with the economy failing and my potential retirement being about as rock solid as raspberry jello.

Maybe I'm growing up.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stuff happens

Something seems to be going on at DC comics these days.

By 'something', I mean chaos.

Coming off the critical and fan debacle that was COUNTDOWN, DC put a lot of it's eggs in one basket. A basket held by Grant Morrison. FINAL CRISIS was supposed to be Morrison's epic conclusion to all of his previous DC work. Instead it has produced a nearly universal 'eh' from the fans.

To make it worse, every week seems to bring up some new rumor or revelation from DC. We've got the major FINAL CRISIS artist who resigns from the book in mysterious circumstances (much blogger fodder came from this) then the announcements of more delays in the last issues of the series. Delays first because of new artists and, the most recent rumor, delays because Dan Didio didn't like the way the story ended and asked Morrison to rewrite. Now, I'm a big Morrison fan but even I'm not digging FC very much but the story is that the big M wasn't happy about having to make changes to a story that was written as it was approved.

Plus that would put not only FC behind schedule but all the comics that were to follow. The dominos are falling, folks!

Then comes word that fan favorite writer James Robinson supposedly had a big, public fight with Didio and quit the Superman books as well as DC. No one, least of all Robinson, has verified that. I find it hard to believe that DC didn't have a contract for Robinson to write X amount of issues and that they wouldn't hold him to it.

Now Didio is apparently courting Hollywood writers for his comics. The blogosphere is all agog that it's because he's alienated all of the writers and everyone refuses to work for him anymore. I didn't know that Didio was really Jim Shooter's secret identity.

I'm not a fan of Didio and still maintain that he is the worst thing to happen to DC comics since Infantino cancelled Kirby's Fourth World books. Still, the level of fecal matter hitting the fan where Didio is concerned is truly mind boggling.

All of this has done what I never thought COULD be done... I almost feel sorry for the guy.

It's hard not to have some sympathy when someone gets pounded on as much as Didio is lately. And, to his credit, he's never responded with a "oh, yeah? Well F-U!"

But it's weird to feel bad for someone whose every decision I've disagreed with. Thank God for Prez Bush! At least some part of my universe has remained normal! No way I'll feel sympathy for him anytime soon.

Strange too how we hear so little about Marvel these days. Sure, some books have been cancelled but no real stories about misbehavoir or fighting. It's like everyone's forgotten about "One More Day". But I haven't forgotten! Quesada is still as bad as ever but Didio's seems to be everyone's favorite whipping boy these days.

Comics is weird bizness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

That's the way (a-huh a-huh) I like it!

During a typical wait time for the wife, I checked out the local Barnes & Noble for new reading fare. I ended up with quite a list to give the wife to get through her inter-library loan and picked up a couple of other items. Only one of which was comic related. I was actually disappointed with B&N's comic selection. Plenty of manga, to be sure, but no SHOWCASE or ESSENTIAL volumes. There were a couple of other things that looked interesting but the one I eventually chose was ROBIN: YEAR ONE.

This is a compilation of the four issue limited series that came out EIGHT years ago! Ye gads! Where has the time gone? Anyway, like the title says, it is Robin's adventures during his first year as Batman's sidekick but immediately AFTER Robin's origin. It's written by Chuck Dixon and Scotty Beatty with artwork by Jadier Palido and Robert Campanella. I confess that I was not then, or even now, very familiar with the artists but knew the writers' names very well. I recalled enjoying this series quite a lot when it first came out and, by flipping through the pages, knew that I'd like to read it once again.

Now, THIS is what superhero comics SHOULD be today. It's exciting, thrilling, filled with great characters and evil villains, touches all the right notes of nostalgia and is a joy from cover to cover. Dixon and Beatty have a great handle on Robin's personality and it shines through in his scenes. The plucky, happy-go-lucky Robin has never made as much sense or seemed so real as he does here. Alfred is his dedicated self, playing the roles as confidant, friend and ally to the young lad and Gordon has one of his best roles in years. We see him uncomfortable with the idea of Batman taking a young boy as a partner and the fragile trust he gives Batman.

The art itself is wonderful and expressive, alternately showing Robin's joy at his superhero escapades and then the dark dangers that befall him. In some ways, the art is reminiscent of Tim Sale's work on other Bat-epics like THE LONG HALLOWEEN, but it remains uniquely its own. It harkens back to both the Silver and the Golden Age with some of the designs so much that one is never particularly sure when the story is taking place. Is it 1940's Gotham or today-15 years? It's hard to tell and, what's more, you don't care! A good story is a good story no matter where or WHEN it's set.

But, more than anything else, this story excels in it's portrayal of Batman. A supporting character, he commands every scene he is in both physically and emotionally. Here is the classic Batman. He is smart, capable, well trained and dedicated. The one thing he is NOT is fricking NUTS! I am so tired of today's writers portraying Batman as one step removed from Arkham himself. This Batman is the one who has set his life upon a path from which there can be no deviation. He is not insane and knows full well the risks that he faces himself and to which he exposes the boy. In short, this Batman is a hero. Perhaps he should be introduced to today's version so he can have a LONG talk with his wayward descendent.

This book is a wonderful example of how a superhero comic can be both modern and nostalgic. It incorporates the best of both worlds without denying either. It is concrete, absolute PROOF that you CAN produce a superhero comic that is exciting, fun AND dangerous without resorting to 'dark' and gore. It should be required reading for anyone who writes a Batman comic from now on.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a comic today!"

Comic books are expensive.

We all know this but sometimes we tend to forget it or just get used to paying $2.50 or $2.95 for a colorful pamphlet. I was reminded of this when an overseas friend in Malaysia told me how much she has to pay for an American comic. It translates into $12.60 for a $2.50 comic. A trade paperback or GN can go for $120. No wonder comics don't sell as well overseas.

Luckily, we don't have to pay that much for the comics over here but, if we did, I think that a lot of people would think long and hard about shelling out that much money for the latest crossover garbage. Even still, a lot of people in this economy find themselves having to really examine their holding lists. A comic that you only marginally enjoy becomes far less important when you have to choose between it and a gallon of gas for your car. This is why comics sell so much less than they used to do.

It's a constant litany and one that everyone knows: comics cost too much and they don't last very long. Most comics can be read in a matter of minutes. I read several original GNs this weekend that took me less than a couple of hours and one of those was over 700 pages long! So we reach a concept known as "perceived value". Which basically means, "is the value I get from this comic worth the cost?" A lot of times today, it simply isn't.

But, of course, I'm spoiled. The first comics I bought were 15 cents each. I was shocked when they jumped to an astonishing 20 cents and incensed when they leaped up to 50 cents each! You should have heard the expletives when DC started doing $1 comics! Where they mad? Where did they think kids were going to get that kind of money? It's the end of comics as we know it! Lava was going to rain down from the sky at any minute!

So why were comics so cheap back then? The simple answer is that everything was cheaper. Cost of labor was a lot cheaper, the printing was cheaper, the paper used in the printing was cheaper, distribution costs were cheaper, etc. etc. etc. Old comics were printed pretty cheaply. That paper was barely a step above what your daily newspaper came out on! Comics weren't printed on fancy, slick paper because no one every believed for a minute that these stupid things were going to be worth anything! They were a dispensable, disposable form of entertainment that (like pulp and dime novels) weren't supposed to amount to anything. They were the bastard children of publishing and were just supposed to make money for their parents and not cause any trouble. The goal was to shove them out the door! No one sat there and thought, "I'm making art here! One day, they'll have exhibitions of these pages!" Most of the time they were too concerned with making their deadline or getting the pages in on time so that they could make their next mortgage payment.

Things really changed once the publishers woke up and realized that they had a captive market that would pretty much pay anything for their weekly comic fix. Comics left the newsstands and hit the direct market and suddenly comics were regularly more than a dollar... then more than two dollars. You'd think that the price would come down once the publishers eliminated most of their risk by catering to a dedicated buying public. Instead the costs continued to climb because now the comics had to be published on better paper with brighter colors and stronger covers.

As for me, I'd rather have the days when I could buy a week's worth of comics for $5 instead of needing a personal loan. Which is why I strongly believe that the future of comics rests in the small publishers who look for ways to bring their costs down. It's the comics themselves that are important, not how bright the blood on Wolverine's claws looks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is it a Wonder or a Marvel Dog?

The blogosphere went wacky over the Wonderdog controversy. What? You don't know what I mean? C'mon! Sure you do! It's been everywhere!

For those who were lucky enough to escape it until now, here's what it's all about. Not so long ago, the DC comic Teen Titans introduced their version of the old SUPERFRIENDS cartoon characters, Wendy and Marvin. This was met with virtually universal disinterest. Anyway, W & M soon found their 'Wonderdog' and, in issue #62 (still on the stands, folks! Get yours now!), Wonderdog kills and eats them.

Here's the infamous pic:

This brought a lotta bad words from lots o'bloggers. The gist of the complaints primarily being centered around the fact that the killer-dog scene appeared in what was considered an 'all-ages' book. Well, at least there was no warning label on the cover saying, "BEWARE! ONCE BELOVED CARTOON DOG KILLS OWNERS INSIDE!"

That doesn't really bother me all that much.

Because, after all, comics haven't been for kids since about the mid-80's. Once DC showed Robin and Starfire naked in bed in a Direct Market only issue of Teen Titans (Hey! There's that name again!), the cat was out of the bag. Some of you may remember the brouhaha that little panel created. DC's response was that it was ONE panel in a comic that could only be purchased through a comic store and wasn't out on the newstand, ready to pervert little minds. That was a stupid argument, of course, as any kid could walk into a comic store and buy that issue (or today's #62, still on the stands, folks!) with nary a curious eye from the shopkeeper.

But I wander.

The point is that many, many comics today aren't fit for kids to read. At least, not the kind of kids we used to be. Ah, those bright, halycon days of youth! When our fresh-faced, angelic minds weren't at risk from those nasty comic books. But for today's youth? Hell, they could probably make up worse stories on their own.

Now, of course I don't mean that the little ones should be seeing cadaver eating dogs in their comics. But, as has been stated in other places (Val D's excellent Occasional Superheroine for one), there's no middle ground between comics for little kids and adult comics. Once you tire of the Archie's and the pap that Marvel and DC try to pass off as kid's comics, you graduate right into the arena of such lovely family fare as Identity Crisis where Dr. Light rapes Elongated Man's wife in a flashback that occurs a few pages before she has a brain seizure and is burned to death.

So there's no transition period where young teens can read about superheroes who go around fighting crime and protecting innocents. So, I wonder, why is that? Is it because such comics don't sell in today's market? If that's true, why not? Have we really come to the level where the typical teenage reader WANTS to read about hungry Wonderdogs and crispy rape victims? Has the audience for comics become so de-sensitized to violence and inhumanity from the media and video games that they cannot believe that anything else could exist?

For me, I wanna know who the hell thought that the hungry Wonderdog was a good idea? I mean, c'mon! The people who would be the most put off by this are the fans of the original cartoon! If you put W & M in there to appeal to them, then why the hell do you kill them off like that? Is it just a giant F-U to those readers? Does DC picture readers sitting there and jumping out of their seat as they read that page with their fists pumping in the air yelling, "YEAH! Go, Wonderdog! Eat those jerks!"??? Is it meant to shock and stun the reader?? "OMG, if they could do that to Wendy & Marvin, than NO-ONE is safe!" What? What is the freaking logic here?? Someone please explain this to me!

I was never a big M & W fan. Even as a kid I thought that they were incredibly lame and cringed every time they came on the cartoon. But some people, I'm sure, must have liked them. And they, I am damned sure, are just waiting for the Wonder Twins to get theirs too!

It's 10 pm, do you know where your comics are?

Yesterday's post about the lack of serious news reporting in the comic field brought some very welcome comments. Sadly, it seems that pretty much all of us agree that it is a goal that will never be achieved. The simple act of being removed from retribution would appear to be the hardest factor to overcome.

Glenn Walker chided me (and rightly so) for not mentioning Rich Johnston's "Lying in the Gutters" column which appears regularly on COMIC BOOK RESOURCES. I read Mr. Johnston's column the second it appears on my viewscope and always find it to be both informative and entertaining. However, I would argue the point that Johnston's column is more akin to the old Rona Barrett type of reporting in that a great deal of his items could be classified as 'gossip'. Still, Johnston hits with those rumors far more often than he misses and both he and CBR are to be commended for reporting what news items that are often very unwelcomed by comic companies. I know of several cases where items that Johnston reported ended up causing his sources some grief but, so far as I am aware, they were not sorry for providing the information in the first place.

Kudos again to CBR for posting an article today about the Wowio implosion which can be found here. The article neatly summarizes Wowio's rise and collapse and brings in information from several sources. It is a nice piece of reporting despite the fact that it says virtually nothing new that would not have been read in any of the other comics news sites or blogs. And throwing stones at Wowio and Platinum at this late date is about as dangerous as saying something bad about Charles Manson. Still, good to have it all in one place.

So there are efforts to bring strong journalism practices to the comic industry. I fear that it can only go so far, however, while the workers keep quiet for fear of losing assignments now or in the future. Strange, sounds like just the type of thing unions are made to fight, doesn't it? I wonder what Neal Adams is up to these days?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where's the beef?


If you watched television at all in the mid 1980's, you heard the phrase, "Where's the beef?" That was the catchphrase for Wendy's TV commercials which starred Clara Peller as a little old lady who couldn't find beef in the other fast food burgers. It was meant as a dig against those other places who advertised big, beefy burgers but delivered flat, tasteless patties. It went on to become a phenomenon and you could hear "Where's the beef?" pretty much everywhere. Heck, even Walter Mondale used it in his 1984 campaign against Gary Hart. I'm sure that Donna Rice could have told Mondale 'where the beef' was.

Anyway, it's become known as a way of questioning a statement that, for the most part, is just full of hot air. Statements could be from politicians, government agencies, entertainers, newscasters and, especially, those numb nuts on cable TV who want everyone to think they way they do.

My question this morning, to comics reporting, is "where's the beef?"

Where is the 'tell it like it is', 'balls to the wall', consumer reports type of comics reporting? Where's the investigative journalism, laying bare the backroom deals and dirty secrets of the comics industry past and present? Why, when I log into comic news sites, am I flooded with nothing but press releases and advertising all gussied up to look like news? Here's a newsflash: advertisements are not NEWS, they are ads! No matter how you dress up the pig, in the end, it's still just a pig in a dress.

Look at the two biggest and most well known comics news website: NEWSARAMA and COMIC BOOK RESOURCES. This morning, NEWSARAMA's big headlines are about Barak Obama's appearance in an upcoming SAVAGE DRAGON comic; Cartoon Network announcing the date CLONE WARS will premiere on TV; and an announcement about novelist Brad Meltzer's campaign to restore the original house of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. That's pretty much just three press releases right there. I'm surprised that they actually put by-lines on these.

And what does CBR have this morning? The crack team at CBR offer; the same news about Siegel's house; updates on comic to film projects; and a fluff piece on Meltzer's new book which has comic book connections. Wow, CBR, way to bring me info I can't get in any of a HUNDRED OTHER BLOGS OR NEWS SITES!

Print is no better with the only two regular comic magazines still being published being WIZARD and COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE. I'm not even going to consider COMIC FOUNDRY as that is about as hard hitting in the news department as the latest issue of MAXIM. CBG has seen its core purpose vanish over the years as most people buy their old comics online at either store sites or through that big virtual yard sale, eBay. Still, CBG does have it's uses in the columns they include as well as some usually interesting articles about older comics. Most of those articles are about as hard hitting as the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man in the Sahara desert but at least they remember that there were comics before 1980. As for WIZARD... well, I'd best describe them as a word that rhymes with "bore" and leave it at that. In fact, I blame WIZARD for the trend of empty comics news. Their initial success led others to just go with flashy press releases and previews of 'hot comics.

So I'm asking you, dear reader, "Where's the beef?" Where is a source for good, hard-hitting comics news? A place that doesn't cater or kow tow to the big companies and is used as a ventriloquist's dummy to sprout the latest company rhetoric about how STUPENDOUS the next SUPER SECRET CRISIS is going to be. One that says that the Emperor has no clothes and points how out how stupid the Emperor was to think we wouldn't notice that in the first place! A place that isn't dependent upon advertising revenue from the big companies and isn't afraid to ask the tough questions in the interviews. And don't say COMICS JOURNAL because, as better as their reporting often is, their bias against mainstream comics and shilling for their own publications cancels that out.

What this industry needs is a good gadfly. It's too bad that Harlan Ellison isn't available.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wicked Dreams

I'm in a bad mood today.

It's just been one of those days were everything has been off kilter and piling on new levels of crankiness. Being at work just adds a whole new dimension to it. For those of you who don't know, I'm an accountant at a small private school which, when all is said and done, is a job that should only be held by those cranky goblins from the Harry Potter movies.

Which reminds me that this is not the job I'd like to be doing and certainly not the job I thought I'd be doing 20 years ago. All of which leads me to think about dreams and how they can really screw you up.

A few days ago, Valerie D'Orazio posted a message in her always excellent blog, Occasional Superheroine, which was basically a response to some messages artist Colleen Doran posted in her blog about a particularly odious fellow who'd been stalking her and her family for quite a few years. Val's post didn't excuse the guy's bad behavior but gave some more details about who he was and what his life was like. Apparently he's a guy who's been hanging on the fringe of the comic business for a lotta years, hoping for his big break and dreaming of making it in comics.

And that made me think.

I certainly don't condone his stalking and consider it inexcusable but there was something in Val's description that hit a bell with me. So I started to wonder. How many people are out there, yearning for a career in comics and making that basically the entire focus of their lives? These are people who forgo opportunities in life because they might interfere with that possible comic career. They hang onto the outskirts of the industry, trying desperately to break in but forever hopeful because comics is their "first, best destiny". Such people pass up chances for life, love and happiness because that's not what they were born to do. They were put on this earth to make comics, if only someone would give them the chance to do so.

These are the types of people (generally male) who end up alone in apartments full of their collections that are often fire hazards but which they cannot part with. In many cases, these people are getting older now and that comic career hasn't happened and probably will NEVER happen. How many people break into comics when they're middle-aged? It's a youth market, now more than ever. To be older than 30 in comics is to have that black crystal from LOGAN'S RUN blinking in your palm. But they hold onto the dream. Partly because they've invested too much in it already to back off but also because they're afraid of what it would mean to abandon that dream.

For the most part, these will be people who will end up being unemployable except in the most limited sense because they didn't get the skills or training or a diploma to do anything other than working in comics. They have little to no savings. Health insurance will be virtually nonexistent.

We have, in effect, created a new sociological group: The Forgotten Comicists. It's one that never existed before but their numbers have been growing since about the mid 1970's. Before that time, we didn't have the hundreds of people who grew up wanting only to make comics and, if they couldn't do that then they wouldn't do anything. Back in the 1950's and 60's, if you wanted to do that and couldn't (for whatever reason), you went and did something else because you still had to feed and clothe yourself. Not today. We are now seeing an alarming amount of people who refuse to do anything else because this is their dream and who are we to tell them that they can't live their dream? Soon, I expect the American Psychiatric Association to declare this a legitimate mental disorder.

Funny thing is that this isn't all that unusual for creative people and their obsessions. How many times do we hear of actors and actresses who keep trying to land that elusive part that will make their career while they're waiting tables or parking cars? Or that painter who does his 'real' work at night in his studio waiting for that downtown gallery to realize he's a genius and give him that one-man show he deserves? Or the writer chipping away at that Great American Novel because that's his purpose in life even though no one wants to read it?

Truth is that it's not as easy to be a creative person in this world anymore and JUST be creative. There are no more patrons and grants are drying up faster than an ice cold Pepsi in the Sahara. And here's the really hard, painful truth for all of us... there isn't much need for so many creative people. There will always be really successful creative people at the top end. Those actors/writers/painters who make lots of money and live the life. But most of us are going to end up in that middle ground. The one filled with people who might be really good, but just aren't good enough. The place where no matter how hard you work or how many networking connections you make, that role, that gallery show, that book tour, that big time comic assignment, isn't going to happen.

Maturity, I think, lies in the ability to reach that point of understanding. To objectively look at your work and determine if it should remain the sole focus of your life. No one is saying you should abandon it completely; just the dream of that being your livelihood.

Americans love to say, "Never give up on your dreams." Funny, it's always the ones who succeed that say that. It's not the ones who have failed for the umpteenth time and they don't have the money for rent and the car needs repairs and there's no food in the house. The universe only needs and creates so many Walt Disneys or Henry Fords or even Stan Lees. Most of us will end up being Vince Colletta or, even worse, Ed Wood Jr.

We come to comics or acting or dance or music or writing or art because we love it, because it inspires us to be creative. But, in the end, only so many will go to the show. The rest of us will play out our days in the farm teams of A, AA or (if we're very good) AAA ball. And we'll be let go to try and make our ways the best we can because there's a shiny new crop of youngsters coming off the bus all the time, endlessly feeding the machine.

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, The Fool."
"Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." T.S. Eliot

Sorry I wasn't more entertaining today. I'll try better tomorrow.















Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inter-Fan Convention


Here's the latest flyer for a great convention that I wish I could go to! Run by great people with fun guests. What MORE could you ask for?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Teflon Dan Strikes Again!

Dan Didio truly amazes me.

How he can say and do the things he does and still keep his job is an acrobatic act truly worthy of the Flying Wallandas.

Last weekend, at the Fan Expo in Canada, Didio talked about several interesting things including the fact that the reboots of old characters (like Blue Beetle) hadn't really caught on. No surprise there that readers didn't embrace unimaginative rehashes of old concepts.

What caught my eye was a report where Didio talked about the return of Barry Allen to the DCU. In a talk with Comic Book Resources, Didio says how he "loves that Barry Allen is back" and that he "...was a big Barry Allen fan from Day One.”

That's interesting to me because, for years now, Didio has always been the one to say that Barry wasn't coming back, no way, no how. As recently as September 2007 at Baltimore Comic-Con, Didio said, "No Barry Allen plans, he's not coming back. It's the first time I can say that without screwing it up."

So either there were no plans at that time or Didio was simply b.s.ing. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that there were no plans for Barry's return then... but, in the words of my hero, Lewis Black, "I have doubts."

In a 6/9/08 interview with Newsarama, Grant Morrison had this to say about his blockbuster DC series, FINAL CRISIS:

"GM: Well, the way it worked out was that I started writing Final Crisis #1 in early 2006, around the same time as the 52 series was starting to come out, so Final Crisis was more a continuation of plot threads from Seven Soldiers and 52 than anything else. Final Crisis was partly-written and broken down into rough issue-by-issue plots before Countdown was even conceived, let alone written. And J.G. was already working on designs and early layouts by the time Countdown started. There wasn’t really much opportunity, or desire, to modify our content at that stage."

Now, I'm not a math professor or anything. I'm just some dumb nerd that reads comics but, unless I'm mistaken, 2006 was BEFORE 2007! That means that FINAL CRISIS was well under way when Didio said there were no plans to bring Barry back. But bringing Barry back is a MAJOR factor of the plot of FC. So, did no one TELL Didio? Was he left out of the loop so he could have plausible deniability in 2007? Did Morrison have WMD and, if so, when did Didio find out and how much did he know when he found out? What did he know and did he know what he knew when he knew it?

No wonder I have a headache.

Didio is quickly becoming the George W. Bush of comics which means you can't trust a word he says. Unless he "crosses his heart and swears to die" first. Or pinky-swears. That might work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

THAT'S how you do it!


The mark of a really good writer is when they take something that you've known for a long time and add a new twist to it that makes you go, "yeah, that makes perfect sense."


That's the kind of writer Geoff Johns is with the newest Final Crisis tie in, LEGION OF 3 WORLDS.


Current DC Comics overused villain Superboy-Prime is brought into the future by the Legion of Super-Heroes old nemesis, the Time Trapper. Once there, he goes on a rampage of destruction in the Superman museum and, once he learns that the Legion of Super-Villains is being held on the prison planet Takron-Galtos, rushes there to commit a planetary prison break.


When he liberates the key trio of the Legion of Super-VILLAINS (Saturn Queen, Lighting Lord and Cosmic King) they reveal that, just as the Legion of Super-Heroes were inspired by Superboy, the bad guys were inspired by Superboy-PRIME.


It's a great "of course" moment of retconning that works amazingly well.


And that's why Geoff Johns is my favorite comic writer today and why this particular Final Crisis tie-in just might not suck after all.

The stupidity of executives

My brain hurts.

Unless you've been living under a rock, or trying to access the internet from Beijing, you know that BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT is making all kinds of crazy money for Warner Brothers and breaking records. Quite the contrast from the nearly universal indifference which greeted SUPERMAN RETURNS, isn't it?

That difference hasn't gone unnoticed by WB. They announced late last week in an article in the WALL ST. JOURNAL that Superman would be rebooted. The last film would be considered "out of continuity", which pretty much means, "it'd didn't make us a ton of money so forget that it ever existed."

What the brain trust at WB has decided to do with Superman is to try and copy B:TDK. President of Warner Brothers Picture Group puts it this way:

" 'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," Robinov said of Singer's movie, which made just $215 million domestically. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned," he continued. "Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009, but now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman. We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the character allows it."

They're going to try and dark up Superman. This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard since, oh... I don't know, someone said, "Hey! Let's get Joel Schumacher to direct the next Batman movie! He REALLY understands those characters!"

You can't 'dark up' Superman. You just can't because it DOESN'T WORK! The most you can do is maybe darken up the villains but, even then, you're working against type because Superman's villains aren't NEARLY as dark as Batman's. Superman is about hope. He stands for truth, justice and the ever-changing 'American Way'. He's not about 'taking the fight to the streets'. He's about doing the right thing no matter how painful it might be or what it costs you personally.

It's a shame that the President of Warner Brothers Picture Group doesn't understand that about a character his company OWNS. I guess he didn't have the time to read any of the several THOUSAND Superman comics that his company published. I'm sure he has assistants working on that right now and they'll write up a one paragraph synopsis of the character for him to read while he's enjoying 'quiet time' on the toilet.

And even if he doesn't have time to read all of that paragraph, I'm sure Schumacher is available.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movie Comics!

My mind works in mysterious ways.

I had a dentist appointment this morning which, naturally, made me think of the classic 1996 horror film, THE DENTIST, starring Corbin Bernsen. This wonderful piece of cinema was a story basically about Corbin finding out his wife was cheating on him and then going out and killing a bunch of people. Said killings had a dental theme, natch.

Not that I thought my dentist was going to kill me as I laid in the chair (although there were a few moments that it seemed possible), but it made me think of comic book adaptations. So far as I know, no company made a comic version of THE DENTIST which led me to wonder, “What happened to the movie comics?”

You know the ones I’m talking about. Not the comics that took a movie as inspiration like the TERMINATOR comics but ones that pretty much just plopped down on paper what had been up on the screen. Used to be that pretty much every movie would get the comic book treatment and, if it was a kid’s movie or from Disney, that was pretty much guaranteed.

Dell and Gold Key were big publishers of these comics when I was growing up and I can remember buying adaptations of my favorite movies. Most were fair but some really captured the flavor or magic of their movie.

Then, suddenly, no one made them anymore. Oh, sure, Marvel or DC might do a one shot adaptation of a really big movie (particularly if it was based on their characters) but you didn’t see a TOP GUN comic or a BREAKFAST CLUB comic or even an UNCLE BUCK comic. Why was that? What had happened to wipe out the movie adaptation comic virtually overnight? Was it a dinosaur-killing comet? No, my friends, it was video tape killed the movie comic.

I’m sure that the primary reason was money. After all, if a BLUES BROTHERS comic sold millions of copies, publishers would be fools to ignore that opportunity. They stopped making them because people and kids stopped buying them. But why?

The answer to that lies in the reason that they used to be bought in the first place!

When you bought a comic adaptation of a movie, it was usually because you had liked the movie when you saw it in the theater. You had liked it so much that you wanted to relive that fun or excitement or that great line of dialogue. But, back in those far olden days, you had no WAY to relive it. There were no DVD players. There weren’t even VCRs back then. Cable basically didn’t exist and certainly not the way it does today. You didn’t get 100+ channels on your TV. You were lucky if you got 5 or 6 channels and a couple of those were crappy UHF channels that you could only see if you contorted your antenna to look like some Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My point being that you couldn’t just pop something into a machine every time you had a hankering to watch DIE HARD I, II and/or III. You had to WAIT until it came on TV and, back then, not only could that take a long time but you never knew WHEN it would show up. It could be at 3am on channel 64 and if you missed it, you missed it. No VCRs, remember?

So, if you wanted to relive that great movie, you had to buy the comic (or the novelization which is another dying trend). But once those VCRs starting popping up all over the place and now you could get that great movie on tape and watch it ANY TIME YOU WANTED, there was little need for a plain adaptation. Why READ when you can just sit on the couch and watch the REAL thing?

Before you knew it, movie comics were gone the way of Romance and Western comics, never to return. Which is a shame because some of those comics were quite good.

So let’s all take a minute today and remember our fallen comrade, the movie comic. Let’s say thank you to Dell and Gold Key and even DC and Marvel (Marvel, remember, did the first comic adaptation of STAR WARS) for remembering and reminding us what it was like to be a little kid in a big movie house and how magical it all seemed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where?


Where are the Olympics comics?


It seems strange to me that no one has cashed in on this market. Imagine a comic all about Michael Phelps or the woman's beach volleyball teams! It would make a ton o' money?


Then again, maybe not. Marvel's comic about the Pope didn't sell very well, IIRC.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Comic Summer

Well, coming as no surprise to most comic fans, this summer has been one comic book movie blockbuster after another. Starting with IRON MAN and then HULK and lastly, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT, comics have ruled the cinemas.

So why don't I feel happier about that?

B:TDK will most likely become the biggest grossing movie of all time or give that celluoid disaster TITANIC a run for the title. And yet I, a self-professed Batman fan have only seen the movie once.

I saw IRON MAN three times.

But BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT? Just once.

I think it's because B:TDK may be many things but it's not fun. It's action packed, dramatic and full of tragedy and sacrifice.

But it's not fun.

In the end, when the credits came up, I simply felt bad. I felt bad for all the characters, bad for the city of Gotham, bad for the future, just bad all around. I felt as if I'd gone through the ringer and came out wet, depressed and flat.

IRON MAN, however, was exhilarating and just flat out superhero fun.

Strange that a company identified with putting their characters through emotional turmoil should produce a movie that was entertaining and uplifting. While the other company, which for many years did optimistic stories until they proved to not sell as well as angst, would make a movie that was so down-beat.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Economic Idiots!

I generally tend to take most things from Newsarama or CBR with a grain of salt. I know that this is not the place to go for hard-hitting comics reporting. No, you go to Newsarama for the same reason you read Wizard magazine: PR puff pieces masquerading as news.

Most of the time I let it go. After all, I know it's all PR so what else do you expect? But, every once in a while, they put up something that just defies explanation.

This article, The Economics of Publishing, is such a thing.

In this article, 6 publishers talk about how the RECESSION will affect their companies. (I put RECESSION in big letters in case anyone is still denying that we're in one.) First off, Marvel and DC aren't part of the round table discussion. Second, only two are publishers with any sort of lasting power (Dark Horse and TokyoPop) but at least I recognize Top Cow and BOOM! whereas I've never heard of the other two.

Anyway, this brain trust goes on to say that, basically, everything is just hunky-dory with them. Couldn't be better. The roads are just PAVED with gold. I'm being sarcastic, of course, but this is the kind of spin action I usually only see connected with presidential elections. The point being that they don't think that the RECESSION (oh dear, he said that word again!) will affect their sales. One publisher even recalls the halcyon days of his own youth when he gladly foregoed eating in order to buy his favorite comic.

Lemme spell it out to you, sunshine, your comics aren't worth skipping food for! Sure, back in the 70's I used to hold off on that bottle of pop to buy the newest Neal Adams BATMAN comic. But those were helluva great comics and, here's the thing they all seem to forget, they only cost a freakin' quarter!!!!

It's a lot different when the comic cost $3 bucks! Unfortunately, that $3 comic doesn't even pay for a gallon of gas anymore. So acting like "of course, people will sacrifice to read our comics" is just plain dumb. If people are going to sacrifice for comics, it's not likely to be comics from this bunch. Maybe TokyoPop and DH but I can't see someone going without food for the latest issue of CTHULHU TALES or whatever the hell it is that Top Cow publishes. No, for most comic readers, the sacrifices will be made to buy more Marvel and DC comics. A fact that should put these publishers into a cold flop sweat. Not here though. "Life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in the white coats..."

But I should know better. This is Newsarama after all and hardly anything that shows up on Newsarama can be considered to be NEWS.

Friday, April 25, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT!

I am please to announce that I will be providing some reviews, articles and hopefully the DC FOCUS column for Sequart.com! This is a website devoted to the study of sequential art and I am please to be able to contribute.

My first review is already on the site. It's on COUNTDOWN #1 and I encourage everyone to go read it. Check it out here.

I hope to have more stuff appearing there soon. They actually had a table at the last NYCC and were selling proofs of a soon to be released volume of essays about... THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES! Sorry I missed that one. Hopefully the final, edited version will be published soon.

So go and check out the site and leave me some comments! Who knows? If enough of you do that, they might even invite me to their booth at NEXT year's NYCC! LOL

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thank Darkeid THAT'S over!


Yesterday saw the release of COUNTDOWN #1 which, thankfully, ends that painfully pointless series. I'll be having more to say about that in another post (along with some news about that post) hopefully soon. Suffice it to say that this was an incredibly disappointing series that kept the characters (and the readers) jumping from place to place with no real interest. I wonder how much of it was plotted out beforehand and how much was simply made up as the writers went along. Anyway, it's over and hopefully now all we DC fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief and starting putting back our comic reading lives.



Next week brings DC UNIVERSE #0 which is supposed to lead right into Grant Morrison's magnum opus, FINAL CRISIS. You did know Grant Morrison is writing that, yes? I mean, how could you possibly NOT know he was writing it? Basically every single freaking comic blog and website has been falling all over themselves to tell you about Grant Morrison and FINAL CRISIS and BATMAN R.I.P. So I guess that DC isn't planning on publishing anything else while those titles are on... Now, I love Grant Morrison. I think that he is one of the most imaginative and creative writers in comics today but I am so sick of this PR spin-doctoring that is going on that I'm getting afraid that this series might even be worse than COUNTDOWN (as if that is possible). Not to mention the growing rumors that there is already some problem with the scheduling and grumbles in-house. I long for the days when comic companies just shut the hell up and put out comics. The editors, creators, writers and artists spend so much damn time at conventions and panels and on-line that I wonder when they get any work done? They probably have to schedule their lives around the conventions instead of the other way around. Could this be why DiDio keeps making so many lousy editorial decisions? He's suffering from too much jet lag?

I'm old school. I admit that and you know it by now. My comic book heroes were Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, STERANKO, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson. If I went to a convention, that's who I went to see. Not some pencil neck editor-in-chief who thinks he's somekind of a comic/rock star. My heroes were the CREATORS. The people who actually WROTE and DREW the comics. They didn't spend all their time going to conventions and giving interviews about how great the comics they have coming out next month (why is it always next month? why not this month? it's like 'new and improved' in marketing which makes you think of your old stuff as 'old and crappy') are going to be. They were making those kick-ass comics!

The best thing I can think of to say to today's comic editors and 'talent' is this: Shut the hell up and show me how great your comic is instead of selling it first.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A NEW FRONTIER arrives!


Yesterday saw the release of one of the most eagerly awaited animatedsuperhero movies in quite some time; JUSTICE LEAGUE, THE NEW FRONTIER.Adapted from the award winning mini-series by Darwyn Cooke, it portrays the beginning of the Justice League of America against thebackdrop of the late 1950's.


Making the series into a brief 75 minute movie was no easy task. Because of this, many parts of Cooke's narrative were excised to barethe plot down to it's pure concept. Something called 'The Centre' is about to wage war on humanity and only the heroes can defeat it. Unfortunately, we lose parts of the story that (although marginal to the pure concept) provided some of the most poignant and emotional scenes. The death of the WWII group The Losers (as well as virtually the entire first volume of the mini-series) is cut as well as the creation of the Challengers of the Unknown and the side story of John Henry (a black man fighting racism in the deep South) is only briefly mentioned in passing.


But the movie is not a celebration of what was excised as much as what was retained. Many of the best scenes were perfectly rendered such as Superman's confrontation with Wonder Woman about the Korean women prisoners and Hal Jordan's ascent into greatness.Overall, Cooke's series was about heroism. Not only what makes a hero but what made THESE characters heroic. This is carried over into the film with such passion and joy that it made this old Silver Age fan misty eyed on more than one occasion. I challenge any true comic fan to not feel a catch in their throat when Flash overcomes his insecurity to save the day or when Jordan's ring flashes a bright green from within the Centre itself. It is scenes like this that made us love comics all those years ago.


The voice casting is nearly flawless and is so good that it is barely noticed. Kyle McLaughlin makes a perfect Superman whose voice drips with self-confidence and belief in what is right. Neil Patrick Harris brings the right amount of boyish enthusiasm to the Flash and David Boreanz is pure Hal Jordan.The art direction takes it's cue from Cooke's own art and is like watching the comic come to life. This production bodes very well for DC's continuing animation line. In fact, with this film, DC's animation has already out paced their live action movies!


Of particular note in the extras was a 40 minute documentary on the history of the Justice League. It is an interesting look at this concept that has survived for nearly 50 years although I would have liked hearing from more of the artists involved. Special kudos to the documentary for not ignoring the infamous 'Detroit period' of the group which has been roundly reviled by many.


In the end, JUSTICE LEAGUE NEW FRONTIER was not only worth the wait but a worthwhile companion to the original graphic series. It not only adapts but enhances the original source material and can one really ask for anything more?