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.