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May 03, 2004

Lying. Shoot.

Just read this story about the author of Stormwatch: Team Achilles (which was recently cancelled for unrelated reasons):

http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=3613

Turns out he wasn't a Ranger* (and had insisted he was). The Washington Post apparently figured this out.

And I liked Team Achilles. Geez.

*Ranger of the Army, rather than Park, variety.

Continue reading "Lying. Shoot." »

April 03, 2005

Recent reads: Bendis, Rucka (and a Miller bit)

Thanks to kwc, I am now up to date on Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm definitely impressed by Bendis's writing on this. There is a bit of a lag in the middle, but it's still great overall. Bendis has excellent range, being able to handle a traditional Spider-Man fight scene and write a convincing teen drama that is far more plausible and engaging than anything I might see on the WB each week.

Compare this with Frank Miller. People give Frank Miller a lot of credit, but he really seems to write the same story over and over again. Read or watch Hartigan's lines from Sin City and then compare them with Batman's in Dark Knight Returns. Same character. I realized today that this explains why my favorite Frank Miller story is Give Me Liberty. A typical Frank Miller story these days centers around a hard man who does improbably violent things. By picking a young black woman as his protagonist in Give Me Liberty, Miller deviated far enough from his set patterns that he ended up with a much more interesting story.

Bendis has a much broader range. It's an admirable strength.

Greg Rucka is another author with excellent range, but I'm actually going to report on a bad Rucka experience (the first one, in fact). I recently read Batman: No Man's Land, which is Rucka's novelization of one of DC's crossover Batman events. My response to it can be cleanly divided into two parts:

1) Writing -- Excellent. Seen as a series of vignettes, Rucka's writing did keep me interested, and by and large was up to his usual standards.

2) Plot -- Terrible. The whole setup of No Man's Land is inane, and even a good author can't recover from it. I kept stalling out in reading this book because the basic plot wasn't clicking. It's unfortunate, because I could see making a workable version of this story.

The core concept of No Man's Land is the breakdown of society in an isolated Gotham. In the actual NML series, Gotham is struck by and earthquake and then officially declared no longer a part of the United States.

Let's say we accept that concept, goofy as it is (and I think it's goofy beyond mainstream DC suspension of disbelief). Why, afterward, is Gotham only defended by Batman and his cadre of friends? Batman's a member of the Justice League. He could, say, call his friend Superman.

What's sad about that is it wouldn't be a big stretch to isolate Gotham from the rest of the DC universe. Why not just have one of his many villains set off a magical McGuffin that surrounds it with a nigh-impenetrable forcefield?

Rucka's other books are all much, much better, and made him one of my favorite authors. Here are his excellent books, in publication order:

Keeper
Finder
Smoker
Shooting at Midnight
Critical Space

The first five are a series. The following two aren't part of it.

A Fistful of Rain
A Gentleman's Game (The first Queen and Country novel)

May 04, 2005

Daredevil: Born Again

I picked up the Daredevil: Born Again trade for cheap with my credit at Book Buyers last night.

Written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, it tells the simple story of what happens when Daredevil's real identity as Matt Murdoch is sold off to his arch-enemy, the Kingpin. It's quite a good read, and it shows the strength of Frank Miller's early writing, without the overuse of tropes that he will hammer repeatedly later in writing first his Dark Knight and then Sin City stories.

It's especially strong in light of being written in the mid-80s under Marvel's watchful eye, with some harsh themes of downfall and resurgence to match the title. It also works well as a complete trade, where we don't have to worry about what happens next in the Daredevil continuity, or how they'll justify returning things to the status quo afterward. If I were to make a Daredevil movie, I might base it on this trade. I'd rather make a limited Daredevil television series to really allow the scope of rise and fall that Born Again encompasses.

May 09, 2005

Missing Sandman Mystery Theatre issues

As I am not a completist in these things, I frequently forget the two comic issues I actually do still want to find, from Sandman Mystery Theatre:

18, 30

They're hardly rare and not expensive; I just can't recall which ones I don't have when I find an opportunity to pick them up.

May 12, 2005

Help me, Mister McCloud! (Manhwa, manga)

When I write comics, I do so in a very American fashion. Folks who've read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics may recall his comparison of panel-to-panel transitions in American, European and Japanese comics. To summarize very briefly, American and European comics map fairly well onto each other, but not onto Japanese comics.

That observation should just be expanded to East Asian (EA) comics generally -- it's only that McCloud wasn't able to read any Korean comics to see that the transitions in Korean comics map well onto Japanese ones, and also poorly onto American comics (and I have no idea about Chinese comics -- do they read similarly to other EA comics?).

The upshot here is that I've recently been reading more manhwa (Korean comics) and manga (Japanese comics) to see if it's a style I might conceivably stretch myself to write in. I've read other comics of this type before, including some Rumiko Takahashi (Rumic World), Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Black Magic), Myung-Jin Lee (Ragnarok) and others. I'd say that Ragnarok typifies my experience in reading through many EA comics -- I find the transitions jumpy and the story sometimes quite hard to follow. Takahashi's work, on the other hand, I found clear and easy to track.

So the recent rereading has been about going back and addressing these impressions. Have they changed? Do EA comics still read the same way to me?

The short answer is yes.

In his work, McCloud discusses how American comics emphasize action-to-action transitions. It's likely that, for example, if you're showing two people walking through a city and conversing, an American comic will show them in a progressive series of panels where the background tracks at some reasonable rate, suggesting continuous flow. On the other hand, EA comics tend to shift perspective a lot, such that the same conversation seems more like a series of still shots that evoke different moods.

The EA comics I've read tend to be a lot less talky than the American comics I read. This may also make them feel jumpy to me. Honeyfields, coming at it from a different perspective, has said that sometimes she wants American comics to just get on with it -- which I think EA comics definitely do. What feels jumpy to me and natural to someone who grew up reading, say, manhwa, is a way of writing that frequently just goes straight to the emotional or functional point of the scene.

The other factor that contributes to my difficulty in reading some EA comics is their design and layout choices. This is less of a rule across the books I've read, but some of them feel very cluttered and unclear, especially in terms of communicating what action is actually happening. This may, again, be a function of a lack of action-to-action transitions. It is, in a way, like taking a movie action sequence and arbitrarily editing out 10-second chunks every 20 seconds. It will remain mostly understandable, if jarring, but it may lose the viewer (me!) from time to time.

Note that none of this is meant to be a value judgment. Just an analysis of why I still find some manhwa and manga hard to read.

June 22, 2005

Rob Liefeld, inkers and more

A random link pointed me to the Wikipedia page on Rob Liefeld.

It's fascinating reading, tracking his ups and downs and critiquing his art and work style. Of particular interest to me:

While Liefeld's artwork, particularly in his earlier efforts, manifested a striking design sense, his shortcomings were initially covered up by strong, experienced inkers. As Liefeld was able to exercise greater control over the form in which his work appeared, those shortcomings became conspicuous, and defined the public perception of his work.

Though this makes sense, it hadn't occurred to me that inkers from the experienced Marvel pool would naturally correct his more outlandish art issues. Pencilers complain sometimes about having their work butchered by inkers, but inkers, in turn, are used to having to correct the mistakes of pencilers (there's a good spoof "So you want to be an inker" ad by Terry Austin in one of the early issues of Marvel's long-gone humor comic, What The?! that deals directly with this).

Also:

Plagiarism. Rob Liefeld created several super-heroes heavily inspired by already existing ones, such as Captain America and Avengers look-alikes. He is also accused of copying panels from other comics .

Then there's a link to this comparison page. These examples, especially the flying thing which may be a SHIELD heli-carrier, appear to be close beyond coincidence.

It brings to mind the more recent artistic misstep committed by Mike Mayhew for Marvel's House of M, in which a photo of the king of Spain was turned into a portrait of Magneto. Now the Spanish royal family is looking into the issue. Do they have more or less clout than Steranko or Lee? Probably.

As one poster in the thread I"ve linked says: Imagine what kind of Hell would open up if an artist took a photo of George W. Bush and turned it into a portrait of a terrorist to promote their Summer line. Better yet, imagine if he was an artist for an European publisher.

Oops.

September 11, 2005

Previews: comics ordered for September

Our (Honeyfields, me) order from the September Previews:

Sexy Chix -- Comics by various female creators, from Dark Horse.

Star Wars: The Comics Companion -- A complete guide to the Star Wars comics, from Dark Horse.

Fade From Grace -- "The most powerful superhero love story in years is finally collected!" Gabriel Benson and Jeff Amano.

Pizzeria Kamikaze -- The collected story of the afterlife in a Pizzeria of suicides. Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka.

Night Fisher -- "It is at once an unsentimental portrait of that most awkward period between adolescence and young adulthood and that rarest of things -- a mature depiction of immature themes." R. Kikuo Johnson.

October 24, 2005

Previews order for October

Books we've ordered from the October Previews:

Temporary by Damon Hurd and Rick Smith. The story of a temp with an imaginary friend.

Gorgeous Harbor by M. R. Clement. The story of Astrolapin, a rabbit in an astronaut uniform.

Rambam: The Story of Maimonides vol I by Berel Wein. Pretty much what it says.

Message in a Bottle One-Shot by Emi. A girl receives a message in a bottle and travels to Japan as a consequence.

Demo Collection by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Because Becky Cloonan rocks. She's amazing. Seriously.

December 12, 2005

Mass comics review

I haven't written any comics reviews in a while, so here's a series of capsule reviews of comics I've read (and possibly enjoyed) in the past few months.


Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker (writer) and Sean Phillips (artist). Ed Brubaker is a favorite of mine, and I tend to like the Wildstorm universe, so I picked up the first Sleeper trade a while ago and I liked it a lot. Sleeper tells the story of deep cover agent Holden Carver. In the preceding trade Point Blank, Holden's handler was put into a coma, leaving him stuck undercover on the side of evil with no one to attest to his innocence. Sleeper differs from most mainstream comics by being an intentionally limited series. Originally set for twelve issues, it was given a "second season" after the first did well, but the reboot is solid and the second season plays quite well. The complete story is told in four trades covering six issues each, and is very well done.

Creased by Daniel Miller. A little boy-meets-girl story that unfortunately devolves into the more self-indulgent side of slice-of-life stories. Afraid I can't recommend this one; it's fated for the used book store.

The Sandman Presents: Thessaly, Witch for Hire by Bill Willingham (writer) and Shawn McManus (artist). Featuring Thessaly, the amoral, somewhat mercenary witch from the Sandman series, this book is a pretty rote effort from Willingham. That is to say, it's a decent, solid story, but not particularly exciting, something that DC seems to admit in its use of cheaper paper and more old-school-style comic coloring. I enjoyed it, but it's not a keeper.

Baker Street: Children of the Night by Guy Davis (artist, writer) and Gary Reed (writer). I'm a big Guy Davis fan; I have been ever since I saw his work for Sandman Mystery Theatre. The Baker Street series is some of his earlier work, sort of a punk resetting of Sherlock Holmes in a world where the second World War never happened and the Victorian ethos managed to make it into the twentieth century. The protagonists are two women -- a medical studentt and a former police detective turned junkie turned private investigator of sorts. Guy Davis must have been very familiar with the British Punk scene, as it's woven through this story and its characters. The overall story is pretty good, though parts of it squicked me a little, and there are some issues with the antagonist's motivations. Still, it's early Guy Davis art, so I'm undecided about whether to send this back to the bookstore or not.

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel. Doug TenNapel is quirky in a way I truly appreciate. Tommysaurus Rex is the story of a little boy who finds himself the proud owner of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This is mixed in with a good understanding of genuine childhood and a Maurice-Sendak-like comprehension that children's stories can be heartwarming without being saccharine.

Earthboy Jacobus by Doug TenNapel. A similarly quirky book, Earthboy Jacobus tells the story of a young man sent from another world who is adopted by an ex-marine. Again, TenNapel gives us a story that is heartwarming yet not sappy or forced, and focuses on a genuine father-son relationship. So far, TenNapel is two for two in my book.

The Wizard's Tale by Kurt Busiek (writer) and David Wenzel (artist). An attempt to make a solid fantasy genre comic story, The Wizard's Tale is cute, but kind of failed for me in that it was more fairy tale than fantasy story. The world didn't feel like much of a world to me, but the book is successfully packed with cute moments, so it balances out. I can't say I'd want to see more of it, though. Borrowed from SSO, so no need to decide on recycling it.

Terra Obscura by Alan Moore (story), Peter Hogan (story, scripting) and Yannick Paquette (artist). Set in an alternate Earth the universe of Tom Strong et al, this feels like another vehicle for Alan Moore (and his team) to tell DC superheroes stories with the serial numbers filed off. It gains a solid lead on Moore's earlier work with Supreme by having genuinely good art. I enjoyed Terra Obscura, though I have to wonder at the fact that everyone seems to write Batman and Batman analogs as complete sociopaths these days. Blame Frank Miller.

Thanks to SSO for letting me borrow these as well.

The SPX 2005 Anthology by various. The Small Press Expo anthology for 2005 promises to be "the Future of Comics" and feature "35 new stories from the creators at the bleeding edge of comic art." It's not. This is an uneven collection that unfortunately errs on the side of poor storytelling, art and design. There are good points - "Parachute" by Federico Reggiani (w) and Angel Mosquito (a) is a neat little tale of love and worry, "Acacia" by Rina Ayayang is a fun recollection on growing up in an immigrant household, "Milliken Darby reads a book" by Scott Morse is, well, by Scott Morse, and "Sir Ernest Shackleton in Patience Camp" by N. U. Bertozzi suggests that Bertozzi would be a good pick for a future Ottaviani science history book. But four good points in thirty-five, some of which are truly terrible, made this book a painful read. I gave them a chance, but most of these folks aren't going to be the future of my comics reading.

Dorothy: Volume I by Mark Masterson (writer), Greg Mannino (director) and many others. I ran into Mannino at APE earlier this year when he had a few single issues of Dorothy sitting on his table. I promised to pick up the trade, and I'm glad I did. Mannino described himself as a frustrated filmmaker. Lacking the money to make his vision as a movie, he went ahead and made it as a comic. Dorothy is a sort of CG photonovela, featuring photos of actors mixed with a lot of comped in imagery. Overall, this works quite well; I'm glad to say that the storytelling is pretty good, too. The amount of internal monologing on the part of Dorothy seems a bit high for something done with "movie" in mind, but that's not a problem in the comic. You can check out their web site at www.dorothyofoz.com.

That's all I'm going to cover this time. In summary, yay for Doug TenNapel, Terra Obscura, Ed Brubaker, Dorothy and Guy Davis.

January 13, 2006

Comics: Star Wars Visionaries, Temporary, the Hiketiea

Some recent reads:

Star Wars Visionaries - This book, which Amazon has been relentlessly recommending to me, features Star Wars stories by the design team from Revenge of the Sith. In essence, it's a series of stories elaborating on concepts they pitched to Lucas during the design phase of the movie which did not end up in the final product. In that way, it's pretty fascinating, but it also serves to let you know that Star Wars feels the way it does because Lucas does, indeed, have a central vision. I picked this up with credit at Book Buyers, and I think that was a good call. It was okay, but I'd have been annoyed had I bought it with something other than store credit.

Wonder Woman: the Hiketeia (Greg Rucka (w)) - A woman on the run from Batman invokes the Hiketeia, an ancient Greek ritual in which the supplicant gives themselves over to the someone in exchange for complete protection. The story seems to be fundamentally about the power of custom and ritual, with Batman representing the voice of contemporary reason and Wonder Woman the concept of the unbreakable sanctity of the ritual. The story itself feels odd, as if it comes to a resolution that might mean more to me were I reading the comic. I suspect Rucka just had the idea about the ritual and then put the story together around that.

Temporary (Damon Hurd (w), Rick Smith (a)) - Envy Saint-Claire is a temp, but Temporary is not really a slice-of-life book so much as an examination of sanity. As she takes on each new temp job, Envy interacts with folks with serious mental issues while also dealing with her own. More than a little absurdist, Temporary is still a fascinating read where I'm not all that sure what the creators' intent is. I'd be inclined to pick up the second collection, when it appears.

January 17, 2006

Comics: Planetes, Ocean, Ultimate X-Men

Three more recent comic reads:

Planetes, Book 1 (Makoto Yukimura) - Kevin at our comic shop gave this to me to check out. Planetes is the story of an orbital garbage collection team. Seriously -- they remove debris from near Earth orbit. Makoto Yukimura uses this unexpected premise as a framework on which to build stories of loss, hope, inspiration and fear (and one hilarious story about one smoker having a particularly bad day). By the end of Book 1, I was really looking forward to reading more. Fortunately, it's manga -- it keeps going and going...

Ocean (Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse) - SSO says that Ellis is a frustrated would-be SF author, and he's right. Ellis has a lot of fascinating ideas, but he shoots himself in the foot by writing the same characters over and over again. Ocean is no exception, unfortunately. We have sarcastic, macho characters who will save the day while wisecracking at each other. We have a corrupt corporation that will bring about humanity's demise because, well, they're that foolishly corrupt. We have items on an inexplicably grand scale. The basic idea behind Ocean, which takes place in the seas of Europa, is a decent one, and could make for an engaging SF movie -- but they'd have to let someone else write it. As it stands, the characters make this just another Ellis story, interchangeable with all the others but for the high concept.

Ultimate X-Men Volume 11: The Most Dangerous Game (Brian K. Vaughan and Stuart Immonen) - If you're down with your literary history, you know that this story must be about hunting people. Indeed, it's a neat spin on a number of classic X-Men characters, including Mojo, Spiral, Longshot and Arcade. In fact, just listing those names makes it sound like the story's going to be much lamer than it is. Vaughan pulls it out though, developing a story that managed to change directions on me and, as always, writing his characters well. Vaughan is a counterpoint to Ellis -- his characters are much more likely to have their own voices, and even if it's a voice I dislike, I like that it's distinct (for example, the Ultimate X-Men's Charles Xavier is kind of a chore, but in a way that makes sense -- he is a true believer).

So a positive checkmark for another fine effort from Vaughan and a cool story from Yukimura.

January 25, 2006

Comics: Demo, Ultimate X-Men Volume 12, New Avengers Volume 1

Three brief reviews:

Demo (Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan) - Demo is a series of stories billed as being about young people at crossroads in their lives. This vague description does accurately describe the collection. We primarily picked this one up because littlestar is quite impressed by Becky Cloonan, especially her ability to switch between styles. I was happily surprised to find myself liking Brian Wood's writing work on this one as well, as I've found his stuff a little annoying in the past. Here he hits it pretty well, and the stories are themed enough to feel conceptually linked, but nowhere near enough to make it an obvious "stories on this topic" anthology. Becky Cloonan continues to perform very well.

Ultimate X-Men Volume 12: Hard Lessons (Bryan K. Vaughan and others) - Vaughan continues to perform well in this most recent Ultimate X-Men collection. This is more of a series of unrelated stories than the prior trades, and it includes one story that also appears in the Ultimate Annuals collection. Nothing standout exceptional here, but the quality continues and I like that Vaughan resists the temptation to "Authority-ize" his characters. Everyone can't be that ironic and macho all the time.

New Avengers Volume 1: Breakout (Brian Michael Bendis and others) - I am not a regular Avengers reader, but I gather that they broke up sometime in the recent past. This book (briefly nicked from kwc's shelves) tells the story of a new set of Avengers coming together after the precipitating event of a super-jailbreak. This book was merely lukewarm for me for a couple reasons. Having Spider-man and Wolverine as Avengers isn't very compelling, nor is the idea that SHIELD's super-prison can be cracked open by Electro. As Spider-man says, he's a Spider-man villain and is, as such, pretty second rate. I just wasn't inspired to read more after the first trade.

Continue reading "Comics: Demo, Ultimate X-Men Volume 12, New Avengers Volume 1" »

March 12, 2006

Ed Brubaker redeems the Authority

I just finished reading The Authority: Revolution - Book 2, which is the follow-up to The Authority: Revolution - Book 1. This two parter, written by Ed Brubaker with pencils by Dustin Nguyen, tells the story of the Authority deciding to make the world better by taking over the United States, then consequently screwing up royally and eventually trying to recover.

The Authority is a hard book to write. Warren Ellis in his original run basically tried to make a closed series and had a very simple theme of "big action," topping out with the "killing the planet-deity" arc. Millar had a so-so mix; his first arc started with the promising premise of toppling violent regimes and then became a traditional superfolks versus superfolks story. His Earth Inferno story successfully competed in the "big action" theme by pitting the Authority against the Earth. The concept of Under New Management -- the powers-that-be attempting to replace the Authority -- was reasonably good, too -- and a nice switch from the "big action" idea.

Robbie Morrison put me off the Authority after this, with what unfortunately felt like retreads of the earlier "big action" concepts and fairly flat use of the "ultimate badasses" personality tics of the Authority.

I'm a big Brubaker fan, though. When I saw his name on an Authority book, I gave it another chance. I like how he took the "overthrowing a government" idea and ran with it -- with the natural consequence that the Wildstorm universe changed even more. By the end of the book, it's really, definitely not our world with superheroes tacked on, and I appreciate that. I also think Brubaker did a solid job with giving actual personalities to the Authority, letting them show doubt and many other emotions that aren't "sarcastic self confidence."

I don't know if I believe in a successful follow up to this series, but this was a good, just-different-enough take on the Authority. I'd recommend it.

May 13, 2006

Comics: Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, Rambam

The comics reading has been a little slow of late. Two recent tiles:

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty (Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne)

From the writer of Fade From Grave, which I forgot to review, this is a retelling of the story of sleeping beauty set in the old west. It's engaging, even if the story structure confused me a touch at times, as did the visual storytelling. It also feels as if it was perhaps a little ambitious, covering a lot of ground in very little space. Still, I enjoyed it, and a supernatural western is a welcome break from the typical wall full of superhero comics (that said, Benson's previous book was a superhero book, but a very good one).

Rambam - The Story of Maimonides (Robert J. Avrech, Svetlana Pekarovsky, Vladimir Solop and others)

I'm a sucker for historical comics -- fortunately, that's not a very large part of the market right now, so I'm not broke. Rambam tells the story of the famous rabbi, doctor and philospher, Maimonides. It's ambitious, covering his entire life in a thin, hardcover, full-color book of only 64 pages. As a consequence, it's naturally a little rushed, though it does a decent job of slowing down for the important parts -- the pacing isn't a big problem. I do have one complaint about it, though -- it's great as a review for someone of the faith, but it's not as accessible if you aren't already Jewish. It really would have benefitted from definitions for Hebrew terms, and could reach a wider audience that way. I already know some of them, and can figure others out from context, but this could potentially be offputting for a casual reader who picked up an otherwise lovely little hardcover in a bookstore.

Incidentally, there appears to be a DVD from the publisher on the same topic.

August 28, 2006

Reviews: Action Philosphers, Red Son, War Machine, Outsiders

Some recent reads:

Action Philosophers Giant Size Thing vol 1 (Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey) - Like the work of G.T. Labs, Action Philosphers exemplifies the way sequential art can distill complex topics into an accessible, understandable form without any substantial loss in content. In this first collection, Van Lente and Dunlavey cover the lives and philosophies of Plato, Bodhidharma, Saint Augustine, Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Freud, Jung, Thomas Jefferson and Jospeh Campbell -- note the liberal use of the term "philosopher" here, which I appreciate. Both entertaining and conveying a great love for the subject matter, Action Philosophers is definitely going on my "giftable book" list, right next to the other fine works of sequential nonfiction from G.T. Labs and Jay Hosler.

Superman: Red Son (Mark Millar, Dave Johnson) - The premise of this Elseworlds book is "what if Superman landed in a farming collective in the Ukraine," but Millar uses it as a playground for quite a few other ideas. Superman is a malleable character. Sometimes, he's the modern Justice League Superman - fast, strong, pretty smart, but always beatable by a highly motivated mortal (e.g. Batman). Sometimes, he's the good-at-everything Superman - hyperfast, stronger than anything, hyperintelligent and more diety than superhero. Millar puts Superman in the latter role for this book, then dumps him in the Soviet system and pits him against the genius of American scientist Lex Luthor. Though I do not follow Millar's work avidly, he continues to impress me with his ideas and storytelling -- enough that I can forgive his Warren Ellis-esque tendency to have characters that are not only over-the-top in their superior skills, but prone to talking about that status all over the place. Red Son is a good book that seemed to me to be, at its heart, about the war between cynicism and idealism, and how one can drift into the other.

War Machine (Dave Gibbons, Will Simpson) - A prequel to the Rogue Trooper stories from 2000 AD, War Machine tells the story of the biologically engineered soldier, Friday, and his personal journey of death, destruction and growing self awareness. An interesting, very fast read. The edition I picked up is a hardcover that I'd previously balked at paying any large amount of money for, but found on sale for five dollars at the Heavy Metal booth at the con. For that price, a good read (I'd recommend it up to $10-12; but not for the original price of the hardcover).

Outsiders: Looking for Trouble and Sum of All Evil (Judd Winick et al) - A fairly recent restructuring changed Young Justice into a new Teen Titans, and promoted the former Titans into the Outsiders (named after an old team that worked with Batman). In the intro to the first volume, Judd Winick says that their goal was a traditional superhero comic, with folks in bright costumes and all the rest. I think the actual product says a lot about why it can be difficult to sell superhero books to general audiences. Overall, I liked many things about the book -- the characters are engaging and diverse (a Winick hallmark), the stories are good, the idea that they are a team that proactively identifies and halts evil plots rather than springing into action when the city is threatened is a nice turn. However, the book is incredibly violent and grotesque. People are regularly killed, and the violence and death are explictly shown. This puts the book into that narrow, narrow niche of readers who are willing to read a "traditional superhero story" while also being cool with watching innocent people get torched casually to start off a story -- let's call it comic fans who are also CSI viewers. I think Winnick and collaborators are missing a key point of "traditional" superhero stories in attempting to ground things in reality in that way. We shouldn't need to see a busfull of people torched to know the bad guys are bad and need to be stopped; we know they're bad because they're in the evil-looking costumes and are monologing about their nefarious goals. The brutality detracts from the stories more than anything else, and for this reason I think Outsiders misses its mark. I liked many parts of the book, but I'd look somewhere else for a good, traditional superhero book if someone asked me for a recommendation.

September 10, 2006

Comics: Apocalypse Meow, Justice League Adventures

Apocalypse Meow (Motofumi Kobayashi) - A complete series in three volumes (one, two, three), Apocalypse Meow is a curious manga that tells the story of a recon unit in Vietnam -- using anthropomorphic animals. The author never discusses why he used animals, though his first attempt at a Vietnam story used humans and didn't go as far, so I wonder if it was simply a "tactical" decision to make the story stand out from other war stories. Having made the decision to use animals, Kobayashi does get some value out of the choice -- different types of animals are used to represent different nationalities, much as Art Spiegelman uses them in Maus. In Maus, Spiegelman represents the balance of power by casting the Nazis as cats and the Jews as Mice. In Meow, some of the linkages are clear -- the Chinese are Pandas, the Russians are bears, Australians are kangaroos. Others are less so: Americans (rabbits), British (mice), various Southeast Asians (cats), Koreans (dogs) and Japanese (monkeys).

The story primarily follows the Americans, and features a series of missions that highlight different parts of the Vietnamese experience. One gets the impression that Kobayashi comes at his story very much from the "military geek" side of things, though he does have a lot of the social elements of Vietnam at the time down as well. He seems a bit too credulous about things that he pulled from message boards (e.g. thinking that fuel-air explosives cause an electromagnetic pulse). Overall, I enjoyed the work, and it has the advantage of being complete in three quick-reading volumes.

Justice League Adventures (Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Fabien Nicieza, Josh Siegal, Christopher Sequeira, Min Ku, John Delaney, Chris Jones) - In a previous review I mentioned that Outsiders missed the mark of being a "traditional superhero book" by using brutality and gruesomeness as a way of attempting to ground the story in reality. In contrast, Justice League Adventures really does do a good job of being a traditional superhero comic while still bringing up some good real-world thought questions -- for example, the story "Cold War" asks the question "If villains take over a destitute nation and make it prosperous, should you stop them?" and "The Moment" is a very mature, touching take on moving on from a moment of tragedy. These are solid, interesting stories that are geared to all ages without dumbing themselves down. They are mature in the good, rather than negative, sense of the word. For traditional superhero stories that are touching and compelling, I'd have to pick books like this rather than Outsiders.

September 15, 2006

Comics: Socom: Seal Team 7 vol I

Socom: Seal Team 7 vol I (M. Zachary Sherman and Roberto De La Torre) - I should start this review by saying that I really enjoyed talking with Sherman at the San Diego con, but I wasn't able to make it through this book. Sherman was a nice guy, but I'm afraid the book just didn't work for me. It's too bad, because the one sentence pitch "SEALS versus Atlantis" had me really looking forward to a good, solid adventure story. Instead, it's another one of those stories that hinges on a ridiculously large and effective government conspiracy -- and it even has more than one. There are some worlds where I accept conspiracies (e.g. the Wildstorm universe) but there's just something silly about a setting that has large conspiracies that nonetheless have lackies who know big chunks of the whole story and will talk when they're threatened by our protagonists. It just makes me sigh.

Maybe someone else will enjoy this more than I did, but given my backlog of other things I could be reading, I just didn't feel like plowing through silly conspiracies that were meant to be taken seriously.

November 15, 2006

Big, bad comics review roundup - Tag & Bink, Tales of the Vampires, The Authority: Human on the Inside, The Middle Man, Harley & Ivy: Love on the Lam, Emma Frost (vol 2), Arrowsmith.

As the subject line says, it's time for another round o' comics reviews. It's been a while since I did one, so there's a bit of a backlog. Titles include: Tag & Bink, Tales of the Vampires, The Authority: Human on the Inside, The Middle Man, Harley & Ivy: Love on the Lam, Emma Frost (vol 2), Arrowsmith.

Reviews are in the extended.

Continue reading "Big, bad comics review roundup - Tag & Bink, Tales of the Vampires, The Authority: Human on the Inside, The Middle Man, Harley & Ivy: Love on the Lam, Emma Frost (vol 2), Arrowsmith." »

January 23, 2007

American Born Chinese wins big

Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, on which I can claim "indie cred" for having read and reviewed the minicomics version, has won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, in addition to being nominated for a National Book Award for excellence in Young People’s Literature in 2006 (it's the first graphic novel to receive a National Book Award nomination).

I'll add that my linked review above is outdated, because the whole body of ABC, as represented in the published book, comes together very, very well, such that I'm no longer as confused or put off by the third of it that confused me before. I heartily recommend ABC. It's a solid work.

May 22, 2007

Girls aren't reading comics, you say?

There's been a lot of anger in the last week or two over the continuing message that the two major comics American comics companies, Marvel and DC, just don't get it when it comes to,well, women -- at any age.

Things were touched off by this charming statue of Mary Jane Watson, long-time love interest of Peter Parker:

sadMJ.jpg

In an odd confluence of bad, she's busting out of her shirt, wearing her thong, and doing her man's laundry. The bonus hurt on this one comes from the fact that Mary Jane is the flagship character on Marvel's push into the Shoujo market that aims itself at young girls. It also runs counter to the long-standing image of Mary Jane as, well, something other than pure eye candy. But that's just one of the Marvel young girl titles. What about their other effort, Emma Frost, which follows the early life of later supervillain-turned-superhero Emma, before she becomes the White Queen and then leads the X-Men? A young woman with immense psychic powers making her way in the world sounds like a cool book for little girls.

Or not:

emmafrost1.jpg

Although the inside of the Emma Frost book is fine, that's the kind of cover many of the issues had. Is Greg Horn using something other than porn as his model here?

So maybe Marvel's learning something from all this?

Again, not so much. Check out the cover for an upcoming issue of Heroes for Hire:

HFH13.jpg

Honestly, I expect this one to be porn, and if I had to shelve it just based on the cover, it'd go off in the adult section of a store.

These covers all scream "Girls, don't read me!" They're incredibly off-putting, and not the kind of image I'd want hitting an audience of young girl readers, anyway. After all, why teach little girls to be porny captives when they could be learning to be badass Shinigami like Rukia here?

Rukia.jpg

Sad to say, there's a paucity of female characters in superhero comics to whom I'd happily direct female readers, especially young ones. Here's one of them:

Jenny_Sparks.jpg

I think Jenny Sparks would be just as antagonized as I am by this crap. I'm going to guess that her creator, Warren Ellis, already was when he wrote her.

Edit: I certainly had this problem in mind when I created the lead character for my comic, Inhabit. Say hello to Nancy (and one of the Drones she Pilots as she leads her team):

Nancy.jpg

You can read more Inhabit by clicking here.

August 16, 2007

Comics: Evenfall, by Pete Stathis

A while back, I saw the ad for issue 1 of a comic called Evenfall in Previews. I ordered it, then never managed to read it or pick up any subsequent issues, as I moved right after and then stopped by single issues of things.

At the San Diego Comic Con this year, I was wandering through the small press region of the Exhibit Hall when I saw Evenfall sitting on the table in front of its creator, Pete Stathis. He had volume II for sale, and despite never having actually read volume I, I decided to follow through on my initial instinct and pick it up. I'm glad I did, too.

Evenfall volume II (subtitled Soul to Keep) follows the continuing story of Phoebe Shankar, who finds herself more or less dead at the bottom of a deep canyon. She steps out of her body and into a story that very much reminded me of "The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath," but with less abject creepiness and a lot more heart. Stathis takes a concept that can be cheesy -- person transported to another world -- and makes it work quite well. His storytelling is across-the-board sound, and his art is very good as well.

I'm going to go back and buy the first trade now, too. It's available from Amazon or directly from his website. I'm also looking forward to volume III, which will be the last in the series (so no indefinite milking of the story until it collapses after being stretched too thin). I spoke with Pete at the con. When I mentioned that I've stopped buying single issues, he said that he stopped making single issues, and he agreed that a trade is just a nicer format to work with as a reader. I imagine it also frees his storytelling up some, since things no longer have to fit into 22-page increments.

Also, if you like the Stathis visual style, you can have him make a custom comic for you, featuring you, your friends, your family, or whomever.

I don't know what initially caught my eye about it, but Evenfall volume II was definitely a good "gamble" of ten bucks.

February 07, 2008

The shadowy specter of continuity

Continuity is both a threat and promise in continuing media. It promises you an engaging story that you can keep track of for episodes, or issues, or months, or years, and that will pay you off over and over again for sticking with it. Conversely, it threatens you with being unable to get into the story half way through its run, or worse, with a story that collapses under the weight of too much continuity -- especially if that continuity is in conflict with a desire for the characters to remain comfortably static.

When your favorite story jumps the shark, it's often because it should simply have ended already, or at the very least changed to become unrecognizable. It's that moment when you're watching Star Trek: Nemesis and you realize the Enterprise is top-heavy with senior officers who in any kind of real system would have been moved on to other commands many times over already. It's when you watch the Marvel universe fumble with the idea that the Fantastic Four always gained their powers "ten years ago," while trying to shoehorn decades of continuity into that space.

Comics, in particular American superhero comics, really labor under the weight of continuity. I grew up reading X-Men, but these days I couldn't possibly explain, without significant research, what's going on in any modern X-title (and there are rather a few more of them than there were when I read them). Similarly, I have no idea what's supposed to be happening right now in Batman's universe, either. The last two Bat-related comics I read? A recent all-ages Batman Adventures mini-trade and the most recent Gotham Central collection.

Recently, the big talk of continuity down has been the massive retconning of Spider-Man. To summarize very, very briefly:

Spider-Man has been married for about two decades now. Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada has always believed this is a bad idea and limits storytelling, and wanted to get rid of that whole "wife" deal.

In recent years, Spider-Man has had his identify revealed to his Aunt May (who took it better than he expected, thank you), and, more critically, revealed his identity to the whole world. Oops. This led to the nigh-inevitable shooting of Aunt May, and then Peter and Mary Jane made a deal with the devil to get her back, in exchange for their marriage.

Say what?

Yeah. Here's a bit of what Tales from the Longbox has to say about it:

They took a mature and growing character twenty years backwards because Joe Quesada didn't think he was "relatable" to his readers (who at this point are mostly adults) anymore. They've done everything short of having him back in diapers in their effort to make him seem younger again. But it's actually just pathetic that he's now a thirty-something guy who's never moved out of his aunt's house (although maybe that does make him relatable to many readers).

The problem with that argument is that for eight years now you've had Ultimate Spider-Man for your young, unmarried Peter fix. Alternate continuity, teenage, unmarried Peter Parker. Not to mention Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, aimed at younger readers and girls, respectively, and feature a younger, unmarried Peter Parker. The nice thing about the "core" universe book was that it was actually different by having a married, more mature Peter. But now that's gone, and all we have left are heaping servings of the same old shit, no matter which "flavor" you go for.

Quesada also didn't want Peter to get a divorce because that wouldn't be a good example for the children. IN WHAT FUCKING WAY IS MAKING A DEAL WITH THE GODDAMNED DEVIL MORE ACCEPTABLE?? Not only that, but pretty much every character along the way told Peter that altering reality was a bad move and pointed out the precious nature of true love. So now our "hero" Peter comes off as not only immoral, but a complete fucking moron for making what everyone else could plainly see was a horrible decision.

Good stuff. It also leads us to an important point:

This is not how you fix your continuity.

I was totally pleased when I saw the unfortunately named "Ultimate" line, as it allowed classic characters to be walked through the paces again without the weight of continuity, much like Batman: the Animated Series allowed for the Batman mythos. Similarly, the shoujo-market-targeted Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane lets us toss forty years of continuity and just enjoy the basic idea of Mary Jane and Peter Parker in their classic, teen form.

So given that, why try to collapse the "core" books, when these offspring are healthy and let you tell the classic, Parker-as-downtrodden-single-guy stories?

Well, because you make poor decisions.

Since I'm second-guessing Marvel editorial here, what would I do in their place?

I'd take my cue from how Japanese media companies treat many of their properties. Take Gundam, for example. Mobile Suit Gundam aired in 1979 and is, I'm told, a gripping tale of people in a war-torn world, carrying with it a constant message that war is, fundamentally, tragic. Mobile Suit Gundam was incredibly popular, and naturally there was a desire to revisit the ideas, the visuals, and other elements of the property in a sequel of some kind.

And there were sequels, but there were also other things. Offshoots, basically. Stories that used the best elements of Gundam, but did not attempt to fit in with those other stories, or try to shoehorn in years of continuity. Instead, these were "alternate universe" stories that had the same giant robots of Gundam, and perhaps elements of the setting, but that fundamentally didn't happen in the same world.

Consider also the Final Fantasy series of games. I'll borrow a sentence from the Wikipedia entry here:

Most Final Fantasy installments are independent stories; however, they feature common elements that define the franchise.

That is to say that if you look at one of the games, you know it's a Final Fantasy story on sight, but almost none of them have anything to do with each other, or are meant to happen in the same world or continuity. Just like you know that Ultimate Spider-Man is a Spider-Man story even without seeing the title (or even without seeing Peter in his costume), but it doesn't have to live in the same world as The Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, or any of the other "core" titles.

So what would I do? I'd keep moving the core title forward until it hit a natural conclusion (Peter marries and settles down, perhaps). Then I'd reboot the concept and give it another try. And so on, over and over again. Perhaps even in parallel. Rather than having four Spider-Man (or Superman, or Batman) titles that live uncomfortably side-by-side, ostensibly happening to the same character in the same world yet written by different people and only loosely connected, you could have four different takes on Batman in different worlds happening at the same time. m suggested the very neat idea of having era-oriented Batman titles, such that you'd have a 30s Batman, a 60s Batman, an 80s Batman, and a contemporary Batman all in their own titles.

Of course, this all wrecks the heck out of continuity. It requires an audience that, like many manga readers, can accept a story that actually ends after four, or six, or twelve volumes. I'll gladly be a part of that audience, though. I'm hoping that the continued presence, pressure, and influence of manga leads to more of a move in that direction. Rather than being put off by four X-Men titles that interact uncertainly and stagger under the weight of decades of continuity, I'd love to have one "full continuity" title shelved next to three exciting variant takes on the fundamentally sound X-Men concept.

Do that, and you'll have me spending a lot more money on comics again.

March 03, 2008

Continuity, again

Remember how much of a problem continuity is?

In a recent post on his blog "Again with the Comics," Brian Hughes talks about how he fell off the X-Men bandwagon. His disillusionment came partially through the milking of the X-Men line, and partly through the inevitable, stupid weight of continuity.

Not coincidentally, that's also what finally put me off X-Men. Change your model, people! Series reboots are much healthier than each character having a backstory that literally takes an impossibly long time.

April 14, 2008

2008 Eisner nominations are out

The 2008 Eisner nominations have been announced. You can see them all here on The Beat. This year has an especially large number of things I haven't read, but I can call out two people I'd like to see win:

Ed Brubaker, for Best Writer

Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr., for Best Penciller/Inker Team

I'm a fan of Pia (nose around my site to see how I first met up with her), and I think Ed Brubaker should be encouraged to write more excellent crime comics (or really, anything else he wants to, but I always pick up his crime stuff). So I recommend both of them, but am otherwise Eisner-agnostic.

April 22, 2008

Don't buy this book

Over on his blog, Luc Latulippe tells us about a book that was generated by scraping Darren Di Lieto's artist interviews and related artwork from the Little Chimp Society website. This book, titled "Colorful Illustrations 93°C" is both plagiarized and copyright infringing, and was made by stealing the work of Darren Di Lieto and the many artists he interviewed.

Here's Darren's original post on this crime.

We're being encouraged to spread the word, so do feel free to post about it yourself.

May 20, 2008

Amazing Fantasy to the LoC

An anonymous donor recently donated the original Steve Ditko artwork for Amazing Fantasy #15 to the Library of Congress. This is the issue featuring the origin story of Spider-Man.

"The donation of these wonderful drawings is a treasured gift to the American people. The opportunity to see the original art behind the published stories will benefit comic-book readers as well as popular-culture scholars," said Sara W. Duke, curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Library's Prints and Photographs Division. "Looking at the drawings inspires a new appreciation for the artist's skill and design choices and also deepens our understanding of how a superhero created to attract a teenage audience became a cultural icon with mass appeal."

For comic-book scholars and fans, this donation is a fantasy-come-true. Those who have heard the news of the survival of these drawings and their future availability at the Library of Congress have already expressed great excitement.

You can see some sample pictures of the original art pages here at the LoC blog.

Library of Congress press release

July 31, 2008

Apparently, Jim Davis is pretty laid back

Heidi MacDonald reports in The Beat today that the Garfield-minus-Garfield strip, which has been living in my RSS reader for a while, is coming out in book form.

If you haven't seen it, Garfield Minus Garfield is Dan Walsh's remix of Jim Davis's comic that removes the strip's namesake from the strip (as well as Odie and almost everyone else), leaving simply Jon Arbuckle and his lonely observations about life. Here's the NYT quote:

[the strips] “create a new, even lonelier atmosphere for Jon Arbuckle…Jon’s observations seem to teeter between existential crisis and deep despair.”

Naturally, this is a huge copyright violation, but apparently Jim Davis also thinks it's pretty funny, so Random House -- the publisher of normal Garfield books -- will publish a book showing in parallel a series of G-m-G strips and their unmodified sources.

Pretty cool. We'll give Jim Davis the final word:

Garfield creator Jim Davis was intrigued by—and pleased with—the concept. “I think it’s an inspired thing to do,” Davis said. “I want to thank Dan for enabling me to see another side of Garfield. Some of the strips he chose were slappers: ‘Oh, I could have left that out.’ It would have been funnier.”

September 17, 2008

Crisis on Infinite Final Fantasies

One of the hallmarks of Final-Fantasy-style computer RPGs, as far as I'm concerned, is convoluted plots that lose my interest along the way.

I don't play FF-style games, mind you. I watch littlestar play them, lose track of what's going on as I wander into and out of contact with the game, then read summaries and find the plots just plain old goofy.

I just read Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It was sitting there in the used book store, where I have a giant pile of credit. I picked up Crisis and American Virgin as I was curious about both.

When Crisis rolled around initially, I wasn't really a reader of DC comics. I was pretty firmly stuck in with the X-Men and G.I. Joe, and read nothing else. My closest contact with Crisis was when I picked up issue 12 of Secret Wars. That's pretty tangential, since Secret Wars was, I've been told, Marvel's attempt to have a similar cross-cutting, all-encompassing comic event in the vein of Crisis.

The goal behind Crisis was pretty solid. DC found itself with a messy complex of older and more recent continuities. While I'm a strong advocate for simply pressing the giant reset button rather than trying to find and "in story" way to fix continuity issues, at the time the idea of actually making it a grand event was reasonably novel and decent. It gave you time to pay proper attention to fans of some of the continuities you'd be removing, effectively "honoring" the characters they loved by writing their removal into the story.

That said, and without meaning any disrespect to Marv Wolfman because it was 1985 and comics were written that way, the overall story reminded me every step of the way of those overly convoluted, hard to follow, hard to swallow plots from Final Fantasy and its computer RPG brethren. Much like the various FF games, the core concept is solid, but the final execution is needlessly labyrinthine. In both cases, I find myself saying, "Really?" rather more often than I'd really like.

It also doesn't help that DC of the time was rife with goofy names. Monitor? Good name. The world-destroying, event-causing enemy being the Anti-Monitor? No. Psycho Pirate?

Psycho Pirate?

So, I didn't find the story all that engaging overall. Some of that comes down to writing that fits its era -- much like the Chris Claremont X-Men dialogue that I loved as a kid but can barely read now -- but a lot of it also comes down to a plot that was oddly overdone for the key story elements it was trying to hit.

Of course, if I were a long-time DC comics fan in 1985, I might well have been completely rapt.

November 25, 2008

Recommended reading: Gotham Central

When I first heard about Gotham Central, it seemed like a sort of "dream team" book for me, almost as if I'd been given the choice of who to place on the creative team. With Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka as co-writers and the talented Michael Lark covering the pencils, it was three of my favorite creators all in one place.

Of course, if they were doing some random DC hero I'd never heard of, I don't know if that would be enough to keep me reading. I'm not a big reader of super hero comics in general, and my understanding of DC comics in particular is filtered heavily through the WB animated Batman, Superman, and Justice League series. As a consequence, I was really pleased to see that Gotham Central was slated to be a police procedural set in, well, Gotham. I'm a big fan of the larger comics companies spreading into a broader range of mainstream genres, and even a title that is nominally set in the DC universe has a lot of room to have its own identity.

Gotham Central tells the story of Gotham's Major Crimes Unit, a sort of "homicide, kidnapping, and other bad stuff" unit that is distinct in Gotham's police force by dint of being largely noncorrupt (this is one of the major problem areas you already hit in portraying police in Gotham -- in some Batman titles, they are nearly universally corrupt, and in other conceptions, they are entirely ethical -- I think GC hits a nice middle ground here). Their stories do dip heavily into the realm of supervillains and how a police force interacts with a super-vigilante on their turf, so it's not strict police procedural by any means, but at the same time, the series has a nice, real-world verisimilitude going on, and I end up buying into the protagonists' responses to what's going on around them. The characterization and storytelling are both quite strong, which is what I've come to expect from both Brubaker and Rucka.

At the same time, GC suffers from being placed in Batman's world. In particular, the series faces the same problem that Batman and other super-titles face in general -- the good guys are forced to be truly stupid from time to time. This isn't Dark Knight where supervillains and novel and no one's dealt with the Joker before. When a cop in GC decides to roll up his sleeves and "teach the Joker a lesson" I instantly checked out of the story. Of course the Joker is going to overpower him. Of course the Joker is going to grab the cop's gun and kill a lot of people. It's the unwelcome heroic parallel to easily-escaped supervillain death traps. The other major related issue is being stuck with "big events." Stupid Gotham earthquake storyline? Check. Stupid "final night" storyline? Check. And so forth. I just try to read around these things (and for the most part, that works well enough).

On the whole, I recommend the five available Gotham Central volumes. They are:

Volume 1: In the Line of Duty
Volume 2: Half a Life
Volume 3: Unresolved Targets
Volume 4: The Quick and the Dead
Volume 5: Dead Robin

March 03, 2009

My moderate interest in Watchmen

I've had a number of friends who share my interest in comics ask me just how excited I am about the upcoming movie version of Watchmen. My answer has tended to be a (surprising) "enh." I'm just not as onboard with the excitement as I was with, say, Dark Knight.

My lack of excitement reflects my lack of excitement with Watchmen as a book. It's not that it's bad; Watchmen features Alan Moore's expected excellence in storytelling and the consistent quality of Dave Gibbons for art, and I have nothing but recommendations for it as a story. However, in its celebrated role as a deconstruction of superheroes (side by side with The Dark Knight Returns), it's just not so great.

Which is to say, in a deconstruction of superheroes, I'd like there to be more than one and a half superheroes in the book.

So Watchmen is an excellent story that has a lot to say about how people are, which is the fundamental basis of good storytelling, but the deep disjunction between what it's hyped for and what it is leads me to appreciate it as a story but not as a special event.

By way of offering a positive counterpoint here, I have two Alan Moore recommendations:

The Ballad of Halo Jones - Originally published in 1984 in venerable UK SF/F magazine 2000 AD, Ballad shows that Alan was able to use his storytelling prowess even in aid of potentially "lighter" stories that people don't commonly credit with much depth.

Promethea - Published from 1999 onward and complete in five volumes, Promethea uses the quirky, "America's Best Comics" world developed by Moore for Wildstorm as a setting in which to explore concepts of meaning and storytelling. It's sort of a confluence of great storytelling, an exploration of storytelling, semiotics, and Moore's significant store of anthropological knowledge.

Incidentally, I'm not sure if either of these would work well as movies, although Ballad might have easily become a BBC TV show, with appropriately low-budget effects.

March 05, 2009

NYT graphic bestsellers

The New York Times announced today that they're going to have three graphic novel bestseller lists, covering hardcovers, softcovers, and the amorphous "manga," which may actually mean comics from Japan, but could also mean the broader category of "I know it when I see it" manga and similar items, including manhwa and American comics told in a shojo or shonen style (which, intriguingly, might batch the fantastic Blue Monday into that group).

Here's the first trio of lists. As George Gustines reminds us, we're going to see a lot of Alan Moore for a while (with Watchmen at number three on the hardcover list and number one on the softcover list). Not at all surprisingly, Naruto dominates the manga list, taking all but the fifth and tenth positions.

April 17, 2009

A PSA and a trailer

May 29, 2009

Long Beach Comic Con

The first-ever (and hopefully, first annual) Long Beach Comic Con was just announced, for October 2-4 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Here's the mission statement:

LBCC wants to do one thing - make you love comic books more than you did when you first set foot on our show floor.

Not just the exclusives and toy deals.

Not just autographs and sketches.

Not just the teaser trailers and game demos.

We love everything about the medium and the message - from Silver Age bottle cities, to indy mini-comics based on poetry. We want you to experience it all. That's why we're lining up more than the trendy guests and sneak peeks that Hollywood wants you to see (though we've got that, too!).

The greater Los Angeles area has been oddly devoid of a big, once-a-year-style comic convention, so I'm looking forward to seeing how Long Beach works out in the next couple years. It's far enough away from San Diego, time-wise, that I might try to actually attend, too. I hope to hear good things about it (and maybe see them first hand) come October.

About Comics

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to parakkum in the Comics category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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