Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Random Comic Book Panel Theater 2099: Half Insect, Half Man -- All Cop

Okay, the following has little to nothing to do with the actual plot of the issue of Ghost Rider 2099 it came from, which is all about the Cyborg of Vengeance jacking into the head of his comatose girlfriend, but that's okay: I think the sequence speaks for itself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Random Comic Panel Theater 2099: Punishment Day!

Inspired by the "World Tour" storyline in Exiles, I've recently gotten my hands on a bunch of the old Marvel 2099 series. Overall, I've been pleased; Spider-Man 2099 and Doom 2099 in particular are both great series. Sure, there are some stinkers in there (Ravage 2099 and Hulk 2099 spring to mind) but I've have been pleasently surprised by a couple (Ghost Rider 2099 and X-Men 2099) . Today's Random Comic Book Panel Theater installment comes from one of the more uneven titles in the line, Punisher 2099, during that period in the series where our titular character has had a bit of a psychotic break. And really, what fun is a Punisher series without a psychotic break now and again?

And Lo, There Shall Come . . . an Indexer!

As if I didn't have enough on my plate already, I recently signed up to be an indexer for The Grand Comics Database project, which should put my skills as a librarian and my curse of borderline OCD to good use. Plus, it counts towards my "professional development" which means that, in a way, I'm finally getting paid to do comic book related work. Sure, it's not any more than I was being paid before I started indexing, and technically I'm not supposed to spend more than 5% of my time on it, but that's beside the point.

So without further ado, I give you my first indexed issue.

Please, hold your applause.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

These Random Thoughts Came From Earth-K!

As you might remember from a previous post where the Cap'n and I take responsibility for being slackers when it comes to posting, I'm starting a new business. This means that money and time are very tight and, unfortunately, comics have been the first thing to give. However, out of his great largesse, Zac Of The Great Heroes Quotes loaned me a FAT stack of books from the last few months so I'd have something to read. Naturally, they have elicited a response. I'm machine-gunning through the stack, so I'm having all kinds of thoughts that aren't worthy of a whole post BUT might turn into one later. They are as follows:

  • So Marvel is doing a crossover with Guiding Light. Frankly, the fact that this came from the most uninteresting manufactured event in comics (the totally organic, no you really should have seen it coming marriage between Black Panther and Storm) just makes it all the more fascinating to me. You can argue the finer points of cross-marketing all day if you like, but the fact is that this thing will probably work (depending on your definition) and here's why. If you take a long running super-hero comic and switch money for super powers and sex for fistfights, you've got a daytime soap. Deal with it.
  • What the high-falootin' HELL is going on with Supergirl? I understand that the original Kara we knew and loved is dead and gone forever (as much as anyone is in comics). Agree or not, I also understand that, while Peter David's Supergirl is a huge fan favorite and a tremendously well written comic, there were some who couldn't wrap their minds around an earth-bound angel mixed with a disenfranchised teenager and a glob of goo from a pocket dimension getting to wear the most famous set of super-colors in the world. But this bizarre thing we have masquerading as Kara now just floors me. She's Superman's cousin, programmed by Zor-El to kill baby Kal out of jealousy for living in Jor's shadow his whole life? And he does this while the planet is CONSUMED around him? Now that's petty on a magnificent scale. Then she goes to Kandor (which was not what I expected from the bottle city at all, did I miss a memo?) with a Supergirl we like, makes out with a guy she thinks is her cousin but who might be Ultraman from Qward or even from the original Earth 3 (since yellow sun works on him, see) and then goes home in a snit to date Captain Boomerang II. I have all the issues, I know I didn't miss one, but it sure FEELS like I missed at least two or three. This bullet will see a longer post in the future I think, because this is a giant mess.
  • Just what is Ultimate Fantastic Four up to being this damn good? This God War thing with Pasqual Ferry on pencils is just friggin' genius and the stuff before that ranged from pretty good reads to damn fine comics despite Greg Land's static art style. I've always felt like FF should work for me and I've been shocked when it hasn't. This, against all odds, is working for me.
  • I have no idea what is going on in Ultimate Power #1. Sometimes I consider this a strength in comics. The world is so weird and wild and wonderful, I SHOULD feel like I'm getting left out of the loop a bit by what's going on (see above about God War). I can't imagine me reading the rest of it even for free out of somebody else's long boxes. Bendis' typical nothing happens writing style + Land's prettiest art that doesn't seem to breathe = me being bored. The Serpent Society was sexy in a sideshow way though.
  • First the Dead Girl mini and now the Oath. Is Marvel working to make Dr. Strange an actual character we can enjoy reading about instead of a walking epiteph and exposition machine? I hope so, because I enjoyed the Oath LOTS.
  • I like Lone Ranger a lot, but it seems a little strange to take this long to retell an origin that almost everyone knows. Or maybe I'm projecting. Zac thought the bullets-as-eye-holes was a new addition to the mythos, so I might be in the minority of kowing the Lone Ranger story in such detail. The raggedy-ass mask in the cover of issue 3 looks great, though. Well done.
  • I'm still working my way through the Civil War core books. I can't say that I think its genius or even particularly good, but I am heartily amused. It's like watching two strippers wrestle in Jell-O while debating the finer points of our foreign policy. Then, in between each round of the wrestling match, they bring out some old men in military uniforms and kick them in the groin just for a change of pace. Gratuitous is the best word I can use to sum it up. Dammit, I'm still reading it, though.
I'm barely a third of the way through the stack, so I'm sure there'll be more random thoughts to come.

Monday, October 16, 2006

DC One Million and What Makes Crossovers Good

In honor of the fact that Brad Meltzer is boring the pants of anyone with sense to see it over in the self-importantly titled Justice League of America and that Marvel is apparently working double time to alienate as many readers as humanly possible with Civil War, I spent some time this weekend rereading a collection from the unarguably last truly great massive crossover event. Naturally, this event just happened to coincide with the arguably last great run of the JLA. Astute readers will have guessed that I speak of the unparalleled DC One Million.

Rather than get deep into the story and possibly ruin all the great twists and turns it takes, I want to point out the things it does RIGHT when it comes to crossovers.

First of all, it was giant, crazy, sci fi fun, like a Silver Age story seen through a Modern Age lens (not unlike All-Star Superman or Earth 2). The story felt huge and not just because it impacted every single DCU title (which it managed to do in a significant way, but I’ll come to that). It also felt big because the danger was epic, the characters were epic, the entire concept of a Justice League from 830 centuries in the future is epic, everything is simply HUGE. Not “widescreen” whatever the hell that means, but everything had import and the pace never slipped in the main miniseries. It was a breakneck pace punctuated by moments of radness that added to the overall experience but weren’t the main point of the overall experience.

Second, this wasn’t a crossover focused on “fixing things” or retcons and had nothing to do with the past at all, it was fundamentally about the FUTURE. Not only within the actual narrative, but by creating a whole slew of new concepts for writers to play with in future stories. A Superman Dynasty? Marrying into the Fifth Dimension’s royalty? Solaris, the Tyrant Sun? Although nobody has had the guts to touch Morrison’s shiny new toys, the beauty is that SOMEBODY will. They’re just sitting there, waiting. One of the best (and worst) things about comics is that we NEVER throw anything away. Bottom line, the whole crossover hung together in a clever way that didn’t feel forced at all, it was simply a story big enough to involve everyone in the DCU.

Incidentally, as a corollary to the above, there were a ton of small ideas thrown in there as well. Mentioning how long Steel’s armor survived and who wore it, the idea of some Starmen being very evil because of Jack Knight’s dalliance with the Mist and a thousand other small (in comparison) ideas that could be used in a big way.

Third, this crossover had moments for second and third stringers that didn’t involve getting their heads blown off or being struck to death with a bolt of lightning. The reason I give a crap about reading Huntress in Birds of Prey is because the JLA showed how she could save the day even though she’s kind of a tool on the streets of Gotham. Barda kicking Wonder Woman One Million all over the Watchtower showed that Barda is a warrior sometimes softened into a woman while the Amazons are women sometimes toughened into warriors. Oracle held the whole damn world together when it was going absolutely mad (which she would do AGAIN in Infinite Crisis). The Resurrection Man is the most valued member of the Justice Legion of the future, how cool is that?

Fourth, the story totally held together. The core story had about fifty characters between heroes, villains and those in between and was spread across 830 centuries and still managed to make complete sense in the end. What’s more, it managed a Shakesperean or Greco-tragic moment when the JLAs of two eras were forced into making the most difficult and costly decision they’ll ever have to make because it affected not just their own two times, but all the centuries in between.

Fifth, there were no Red Sky tie-ins. Every single DCU title gave a glimpse into the 853rd century. Granted, some were more interesting or well crafted than others, but nobody had to wonder how this issue of Supergirl or Titans or (believe it or not) Hitman tied into the overall story. Not every title was essential to understanding the bigger plot, but every issue added color and depth.

Sixth, this gigantic company-wide mega-crossover event was done in a month. One. Month. No four monthly lead-ins and 7 months (if it was on time) of core crossover or putting your entire line on hold so that the timing will work out. In four weeks, every corner of the DCU was affected by an epic storyline, we all had a great rollercoaster ride, and then it was over. No fill-in artists or host of inkers (and One Million still looked great, BTW), no glossing over backgrounds, in short, no half-assing. My socks were thoroughly rocked for a solid four weeks and then it returned to my regularly scheduled programming. Whoever thought of that ought to get a medal and a handshake from the President.

I tried to keep this mostly positive, although some stark contrasting had to happen to drive home my point. One Million was great, it deserves better treatment than a single volume printed on toilet paper that you can buy at your LCS, but if that’s all you can afford, get it. If you want, try for whole runs on ebay or go through the dusty back issue bins of every LCS you come within a five mile radius of or try and fill it in at cons. If you have adaptable ethics, there are ways to read every single issue of it on the internet. Whatever you have to do, ignore insulting do-overs of crossovers with marginal quality in ridiculously over-priced collections, ignore an attempt to apply super-heroics to “ripped from the headlines events” and go on a trip to the 853rd century. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This Quote Came from Earth-K!

Heroes isn't that bad, but after two episodes it's really starting to reek of the unearned self-importance that only big-network TV can deliver. But I'll still watch it.

Zac Beverage,
Friend of Tate and the man that made up the Nike Swoosh

Monday, October 02, 2006

This Review Came from Earth-K! V for Vendetta...the MOTION PICTURE

I finally saw V for Vendetta this weekend. I didn’t rush right out to see it in the theater or immediately rent it because the Wachowskis are, at best, hit and miss; and that’s taking into account that I’m the only person in the world, it seems, who thought the first Matrix was crap. The other reasons I didn’t see it were From Hell (the movie), LXG (and if the fact that this film was renamed LXG doesn’t tell you everything about the process of the book’s adaptation, then there is little hope for you) and the fact that Alan Moore didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

I don’t worship at Moore’s altar, but I do think he does good work most of the time. The first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a lot of his super-hero work, From Hell, Tom Strong (and the majority of the ABC line) are all really great reads that often have additional layers of either meaning or metafictional goodness, but they don’t mean he can do no wrong. Similarly, the fact that he’s done some stuff that is virtually unreadable (Promethea) and is now making forays into depicting child (and adult, to be fair) pornography as art doesn’t mean he has lost all ability and credibility. That being said, I do think it means something when an author says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with adaptations of his work. Be he prima donna who doesn’t like his vision to be futzed with or an indignant artist who feels his work is being manhandled, you make the call! Frankly, I think Moore is both…that’s how even-handed (fence-riding) I am.

The movie is watchable. I’m not willing to give it much more than that. Natalie Portman once again hands in a performance that makes me wonder what the hell she was doing when she was on screen in the Star Wars prequels. In other words, it was good to the point of amazing whereas she could have been replaced with CGI in Star Wars, and that C stand for cardboard. Hugo Welling does an AMAZING job of creating V through voice alone and left me wondering how he managed to make me think the Fawkes mask looked sad at times. The rest of the cast does their jobs well and the art direction/set design is very visually interesting.

The film wasn’t without problems, however. Moore’s book very starkly placed fascism and anarchy at two ends of the political spectrum, having the government decidedly fascist and V blatantly working towards anarchy. The movie has a totalitarian government with fascist overtones, but doesn’t really make them ideologically fascist. V, on the other hand, seems to be focused on freedom as opposed to anarchy, but the two aren’t remotely the same thing. This isn’t the only place that the movie diverges from the book, but it is by far the most problematic. I’m prepared for changes in narrative and characterization (like giving V a characterization, for one thing), but what we have here is a total transplant of ideas and concepts into a very similar story. America worships freedom as the ultimate end and the only thing we should be focused on, but that isn’t nearly the same thing as the anarchy that V espouses in the book. The ideological transplant ends up being something like a decent but noticable nose job. Each piece looks good on its own and they fit together reasonably well, but it isn’t a perfect match.

This leads to another chink in the armor. Alan Moore was a disenfranchised Englishman making political commentary about Thatcher-era England by setting his story in a dystopian UK. The Wachowskis are apparently disenfranchised Americans who don’t have the balls to do a political commentary on Bush-era America set in America, so they co-opt V for Vendetta and let the framework of the story and England do the heavy lifting. It makes the use of the phrase "Uncompromising Vision" on the above poster a little ironic and annoyed me the longer I watched. I desperately wanted them to tell me a story where America’s current situation was taken to a logical extreme and have it make an impact on AMERICA. The whole thing feels like a giant copout and I’m surprised I didn’t hear more about it when the movie first came out.

While the set dressing was very nice, there were a couple of serious disconnects for me. One was every time the Chancellor addresses his cabinet from a 70ft screen. It is a great visual, very Orwellian (a literal Big Brother), but not even remotely realistic. I mean, seriously, if I were elected President in ten years and started telling my cabinet and the Congress that I’d be addressing them only from some hidden location and instead of a serviceable big screen television, they’d have to look at a face 70ft tall, there is no way the press wouldn’t find out about it. Even a press controlled by the State wouldn’t be able to suppress fun facts like that and I would instantly be seen as a super-villain of some sort. Nobody besides world conquering megalomaniacs would relate to people this way!

My final analysis: watch the flick, but be prepared for a C movie with some A+ stuff that nets it up to C+ or B- if I’m feeling generous. The messages and themes get muddied up something fierce and nobody is really quite the same as they are in the book, but its still entertaining. In fact, if you are a lover of the graphic novel, I think you’ll probably be unhappy about the adaptation, so you should probably just save yourself the heartache. Instead, be happy that you can now buy a really nice Guy Fawkes mask from DC Direct.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

This Excuse Comes From Earth-K!

I'd like to apologize for the lack of posts, recently; there's been some interdimensional interference which has made it difficult to make the transition from Earth K to here. I'd like to go into more detail about the difficulties, but am afraid that the particulars are too complicated for those not well-versed in dimensional travel. The best metaphor I can come up with is that the interference is very much like if I had gotten a promotion at work which sucks up all of my free time, while simultaneously moving into a new place which is currently without Internet access due to the actions of a previous tenant.

For the record, Bubblegum Tate thinks that my metaphor is horribly flawed; he prefers to compare the interference to quitting a job due to an unhealthy work environmen and taking classes in order to start up your own P.I. business, right before finding out that you and your wife will soon be parents.

Potato, potahto.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Moon, Mon

I'm not sure which one of thes December solicitation covers has me more excited: the return of Mon-El to the pages of Legion

Or the return of Moonstone to the pages of Thunderbolts

Oh, who am I kidding: love Lar as I do, Thunderbolts just isn't the same without the Machiavellian Dr. Sofen.

Welcome back, Karla; here's hoping you're here to stay this time.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Be ILLin'

You know, it's really a good time to be a comic geek.

And I'm not just talking about the wide range of comics to choose from, or the high quality of writing, or even the plethora of comic related movies, TV shows, and the like, although all of those are cool. But the thing that makes me the happiest to be a comic geek at this point in time is the proliferation of comic books at public libraries.

Growing up I was always a big reader of all formats, but one of the happiest days in my young life was the day when I first memorized that magical Dewey Decimal number: 741.5 , the number for all things comic related. Granted, the pickings in the 741.5 range at the Miami* Public Library were pretty slim, comprised mostly of comic strip collections. And while these collections did introduce me to the denizens of Dogpatch and the freaky world of Charles Addams, it was the small number of volumes devoted to comic books that really grabbed my interest. The actual comic book collections was limited to some "so-and-so through the ages" style collections devoted to showing selected highlights from the 30s through the 70s of the Dark Knight, the Man of Steel, and The Big Red Cheese. Oh, and Marvel's The Superhero Women, which featured such noteworthy characters as The Cat and Shanna the She-Devil.

Now, while these minimal number of collections were nice, and did introduce me to many of the mainstays of the DC universe, it was the comic related reference books which I found myself endlessly fascinated by. Filled with references to characters I'd never heard of before (Hydro-Man? The Black Terror? Captain Triumph?), these historical records of the evolution of the comic industry were a goldmine to my comic-hungry young mind. Even better, some of them actually included reprints of full stories from the Golden Age, such as the origins of Crimebuster

the Golden Age Daredevil

and the aforementioned Hydroman

These glimpses into the past merely whetted my appetite for more, and I would spend many years grousing about the difficulty of reading every comic I wanted to read without it costing me a small fortune.

But now times, they have changed.

In the past several years there has been an explosion in the number of public libraries which regularly purchase TPBs for their collections; my own local library has a standing order for all things related to Supes, Bats, Spidey, and the Muties, plus a few other odds and ends for good measure. But even with a great source for comics at the local library level, there's an even better source.

The wonders of Inter-Library Loan.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, ILL is a process by which you can ask your local library to contact other libraries throughout the country in order to borrow something your library doesn't own. It is thanks to ILL that I was able to read the entirety of Cerebus, Bone, Castle Waiting, SpyBoy, Love Fights to name just a few. True, not everything is available through ILL, and there are many things which I'll purchase even if available through ILL just to help support the titles, but for someone who wants to read anything and everything and yet has a fairly limited budget, the power of the library is an effective tool. Plus, the more comic books get circulated, the more money libraries will be willing to spend on purchasing new collections, which, in my opinionation, can't be anything but good for the industry.

So, do yourself a favor: the next time you're curious about a title, but aren't quite ready to part with the cash, take a trip down to the local library and see what's what -- you might be surprised.

*OK, not FL, and therefore pronounced My-am-uh not My-am-ee

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Random Comic Book Panel Theater: A Rebuttal

With all due respect to Chris of Chris's Invincible Super-Blog who is, by and large, the foremost expert on what constitutes awesomness in all walks of life, I believe that his recent argument about Red Tornado being totally emo, while containing some valid points, is working on dated information. I mean, sure, in his early appearances, Reddy was little more than a walking punching bag for the rest of the League, but by the time Fury of Firestorm #4 rolled around, he had evolved into something so totally non-emo, it's frightening:

That's right: he's gone from "whiney stumble bum punching bag emo" Reddy to "quoting an SNL skit which was long dead by the time this was published" Reddy.

A vast improvement, I would say.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Random Comic Book Panel Theater: Special "Sorry We Haven't Posted More" Double Panel Post!

So, the big question is this: Random Comic Book Panel Theater -- Terse?

Or just lazy?
You make the call!

P.S. Did this sequence from Power-Man #21 come up when the Thunderbolts kicked the New Avengers' butts recently? Like, when Atlas slapped Cage around, was it accompanied by a nice "BACHOOM!" or "SPLOW!"?

If not, it should have been.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Random Comic Book Panel Theater: Why I love Hawk and Dove pt.1

Sal's theory of super-villain naming*

*even if it flies in the face of #4 on Tate's list

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Random Comic Book Panel Theater

Today's entry: When Cap'n N. first realized The Vision kicked butt.

Monday, August 14, 2006

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"Gorilla City" lyrics by master filkers Ookla the Mok from their monkey concept album "Smell No Evil"
"Infinite Monkeys Press" blurbs by the deranged mind of Cap'n Neurotic

Thursday, August 03, 2006

This Review Came From Earth-K: Daughters of the Dragon

In recent days and months much has been made of continuity, it's effect on comics in the past and present and what it's effect will be in the future. Is it a boon? Is it a doom? Is it just the way things are now? Was it the missing piece that allowed comics to grow into the form we know and love? Or the form we know and loathe? Good questions all, and I may have found an answer in the most unlikely of places. You see, I just finished reading Gray and Palmiotti’s Daughters of the Dragon…and it rocked my world.

In brief, the Daughters of the Dragon are Misty Knight and Colleen Wing.

Misty is an ex-cop who had her arm blown off while working on the bomb squad and Tony Stark offered to replace it with a bionic one with super strength. Colleen was raised by her grandfather in the Way of the Samurai and is possibly the most deadly swordswoman on earth. Together they founded Knightwing Restorations, a private investigation firm, similar to Power Man and Iron Fist’s Heroes for Hire, and bail bonding agent that will bond out super-villains. Naturally, super-villains being super-villains, this has a tendency to make Misty and Colleen into bounty hunters as well.

According to much of the prevailing wisdom, Daughters of the Dragon shouldn’t work at all. It is mired (although I would say steeped) in continuity. Let’s face facts, the bedrock buried deep beneath this story is, at best, 30 years old. The Daughters are a Blaxploitation film blended with a 70s Kung Fu movie…but in a much better way than Black Belt Jones. There is almost no way that these two characters would be paired in the way that they are today; they’re two separate fads of a bygone era put together. But unlike oil and water, these ladies go together like sweet, sweet chocolate and savory peanut butter. If this sounds familiar, it ought to. Power Man and Iron Fist hooking up as Heroes for Hire is pretty much founded in the same era and thought process.

What’s more, this story uses the Marvel Universe as a backdrop better than any company spanning mess of a crossover could hope to. The clients of the Daughters, as well as the group of guys who are the main impetus to the plot, are all z-list super-villains. Rhino is as close to the big time as any of these losers get and he goes down like the proverbial bitch from the onslaught of Misty and Colleen.

The Daughters’ assistant is the victim of a chemical accident that happened when he was working for AIM (I have to believe as a low level flunky…he seems the type). Tony Stark shows up. So does Iron Fist. So does the Punisher. So does Mole Man. So does a metric ton of Hand ninjas and AIM mooks as well as a lot of costumed, but ultimately forgettable, bad guys. The kicker is NONE OF THEM ARE EXPLAINED OR GIVEN A BACKSTORY.

The thing that rocked my socks right off my body is how amazingly well all this comes together. It’s basically a buddy movie with a little revenge motif on the side held together with two completely different sensibilities that have absolutely no place together in 2006 and a mountain of attitude . . . but none of that hurts it a bit. The plotting and use of characters is great. There’s an added layer if you know who Rhino and 8 Ball are, for instance, but it isn’t like you were going to mistake them for heroes anyway. Knowing who Tony Stark is helps, but you figure out pretty quick he’s a multi-billionaire womanizer who likes doing multi-million dollar favors for his friends and that’s all you need for this story. Everyone, including Orka and the MOLE MAN for crying out loud are seamlessly integrated into this story. If you know who they are, there’s added flavor but if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be lost a bit.

The art is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for this type of story. The villains, even the goofier ones, actually seem dangerous. The women are all beautiful, but not in a typical comic book way. The fight scenes are frenetic and well staged and the storytelling is superb. I want to see more from Khari Evans and I want it now.

Since the plot is relatively thin (and that’s perfectly okay) the book is really held together with attitude . . . much like all my favorite action movies. Bad Boys will always be better than its sequel only because of attitude. Road House is a great movie purely because of its attitude. Daughters of the Dragon works the same way in both dialogue and art. We accept that these two women work together, act the way they act, talk the way they talk and look the way they look because if we stopped for even a second to think about it, we’d be left behind. And we don’t want to be left standing on the curb! We want to be in the passenger seat, trying to decide which is more fun (and dangerous), looking at the road or at Colleen’s dangerously exposed cleavage. The women are smart, dangerous, sexy and violent. They talk tough and are just street enough to make me buy it when they front out their assistant for sounding like a wanksta. They are literally everything I want from my action movie heroines wrapped up in six short issues, including katanas and giant afros.

In summation, I absolutely loved this series. I can’t wait to read it again. I can’t wait for the trade so I can read it over and over. I’m even going to buy Heroes for Hire in floppies! (I only buy two Marvel titles currently and my wife makes me buy one of them and the other is a mini, so adding at third is a big deal) The damn thing had absolutely no right to work at all, let alone work as well as it did and for that it gets the highest praise. EVERYBODY READ DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON! EARTH-K DEMANDS IT!

PS: I just realized I got to the end of my review and never mentioned the main villainess. That doesn't means she's unimportant, she just really isn't the main issue of the book. Neither is Razorfist, although he is as completely ridiculous as his name implies. Say what you will about violence in fiction, but I liked what Coleen did to him. I mean, just look at him, he's begging to be beaten.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I've Got a Theory . . .

Y'know, I've started to suspect that there's some fundamental difference between your earth and Earth-K, sort of like during JLA/Avengers when Flash travelled to Earth-616 and discovered that there was no Speed Force. Yes, over the past few months I've become convinced that back on Earth-K Tate and I tapped into some primal force which is unaccessable here. That's right: here on your earth there is no Wordy Bastage Force.

In an attempt to combat this lack of Wordy Bastageness and make sure that our membership in the Legion of Wordy Bastages isn't revoked (yes, I know we're the only two members, but we're sticklers for the rules), I've decided to canabalize, I mean "update," some old comic-related blog posts from my Crisis of Infinite Monkeys blog to post here, thus preserving the illusion of Wordy Bastagedom.

Click here to find out where all of my money goes.

While I devote a lot of time and energy into my Movie and TV addictions, my true pop-culture passion has always been comic books. At times in the past I’ve downplayed my fanboy predilections due to a desire to avoid the “you read comic books and you’re how old?” looks, but those days are long behind me. I now embrace my comic book love whole-heartedly and even managed to work comics into at least one assignment each semester while working on my Masters degree:
  • Introduction to Information Control: created a comic book database
  • Introduction to Information and Access Retrieval: created an annotated bibliography of comic books
  • Collection Development: created a collection development budget for comics
  • Genre Fiction: wrote a 15 page (single spaced, cut down from 20) paper on the use of different genres in American comic books
  • Website Development: created the Infinite Monkeys web page
  • Electronic Databases and Information Services: forced my group members to answer reference questions about comic books
Now that I wear my comic book nature on my sleeve, I’ve discovered that most people, in an attempt to make polite conversation, ask the same question: “What comic books do you collect?”

I’m never sure how to answer that question, since the odds are that a discussion of the books I actually collect would more than likely cause my non-comic-geek audience’s eyes to glaze over in a mixture of boredom and confusion, since there isn’t a Superfriend in the bunch. That won’t be a problem here, however, since (a) if you're reading this you're probably already well-versed in comics and (b) I don’t actually have to look at your faces as you read this. So, what follows is a list of the books I’m currently buying in monthly format, instead of waiting for the trades


Birds of Prey: Only tangentially connected to the (mercifully) short-lived WB series. Originally conceived by Chuck Dixon, the book stumbled a bit -- okay, a lot -- after he left, but has regained its former glory (and, to me, even surpassed it) under the talented hands of Gail Simone. The series follows Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon and former Batgirl, who, after being paralyzed by The Joker, used her l33t haxxor skills to become the superhero world’s resident fount of information, Oracle. BoP also follows Oracle’s (primarily female) field agents, most notably Black Canary and Huntress, with the recent addition of former Justice League Detroit member Gypsy adding some fresh blood to thd group. Smart, funny, and action-packed book.

Firestorm: A revamp of one of my favorite characters as a kid. Over the years the concept of Firestorm has been tweaked in several different directions, and I have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the latest variation when I first heard about it. But, the likeable characters have won me over, and the decision to pull in elements from the Ronnie Raymond years have mollified my fears that they were just trying to throw away the past.

JLA: I'm really looking forward to the revamp by Meltzer, if for no other reason than to wash the horrible taste of "World Without a Justice League" from my mouth; man did that story arc suck.

JSA: One of the first series I got hooked on as a kid was Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron, which featured just about every Golden Age hero ownded by DC. So it’s only natural that I would be attracted to JSA, which focuses on some of those Squadron characters, as well as their successors. I'm curious about what direction the book will take with it's upcoming relaunch, but so far Geoff Johns has yet to let me down.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The one series I feel compelled to buy no matter what. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs over the years (I’m looking at you, Sneckie!), and the latest revamp, in which the Legion is more of a cultural phenomenon than a super-team, is a far cry from the Legion I grew up with, but LSH will always hold a special place in my heart.

Manhunter: Let me be the latest in a long line of bloggers to raise my voice and proclaim "Please Buy This Book!!!!!!" The recent reprieve for the series has made me a happy, happy geek. Although I wasn't happy with the way the author has retconned out the last couple of Manhunter series, I'm willing to let it slide for the sake of one of the best supporting casts in comics today. Please, ask your local comic shop to add this to your pull list, and help us break the Cameron Chase curse.

Teen Titans: Another title from Geoff “How many books is he writing?” Johns. I was a little leery of this title when Didio decided to axe Young Justice to make way for it, but once I actually read it, I was hooked. I'm looking forward to the upcoming "world tour" issues which will explore the massive Titan turnover during the One Year Gap. Oh, and special kudos to Johns for his recent Doom Patrol storyline, which managed to pay homage to pretty much every iteration of the team.

Y: The Last Man: The only Vertigo series I buy monthly instead of waiting for the trade. Why? Heck if I know.

The Atom: When I first heard they were launching a new Atom series, I couldn't have cared less; then I heard that Gail Simone was writing, and my attitude did a total 180. Only one issue in, but right now it promises to be quite a wild ride.

Blue Beetle: Although I was one of those who mourned the death of Ted Kord, I have to say that the new BB series is a great read. Do yourself a favor and give it a try.

Checkmate: I'm starting to think that Tate's plan to wait for the trades on this series was a good one; by the time I finished the first arc I felt like I needed to re-read it all to make sure I picked up on everything. At the same time, the promise of Waller reforming the Suicide Squad will keep me buying the monthly for at least a little while longer.

Secret Six: Probably my favorite book on this list; too bad it's only a mini. My new favorite writer Gail Simone writing one of my favorite characters Deadshot? How can I not love it.

52: Yes, I'm shelling out money for the biggest marketing gimmick of the year, but you know what? I'm actually enjoying it. Well, except for the "History of the DCU" back-ups, which have mercifully come to an end. Seriously, is there a single person out there who enjoyed those? Anybody? And why is it that those wastes of space took up 4 pages, but the "secret origin" inserts will only be 2? I mean, come on!


New Thunderbolts: Let me start by saying that I loved the original Thunderbolts series. Kurt Busiek took a bunch of second- and third-rate villains and turned them into three-dimensional characters who were doing their best to seek redemption. Even after Kurt left the series, I was a fan of Fabian Nicieza’s take, even if he did overdo the “twist endings” a bit. I was saddened when it was cancelled, and quite excited when its return was announced. However, this new series has not been able to recapture the magic of the original for me. There are still flashes of the book that I loved, and the flashes have increased since the end of the over-long Purple Man storyline, but until Fabian decides to restore Moonstone to her full, Machiavellian glory, this book probably won't crack my top ten.

Powers: Formerly published by Image, this recent addition to Marvel follows the adventures of a couple of police detectives who work the “powers” beat, dealing with super-powered crime. One of the benefits of a creator-owned series is that anything could happen to any character at any time, and that sort of uncertainty helps keep Powers on the cutting edge issue after issue. I would say “month after month”, but that might imply that Bendis and Oeming actually manage to put out an issue each month . . . The main reason I don't wait on the trades for this one is the often amusing letters page.

Runaways: In addition to having a great cast of characters, this book continues to throw twists and turns that I never see coming; too few books out there I can say that for.

She Hulk: Dan Slott’s take on the Jade Giantess is one of the most consistently funny and entertaining books around. I only caught the first series in TPB, and have committed to picking up the monthlies now that it's gotten a new lease on life. If only Slott's Thing had managed the same. *sigh*

Ultimate Spider-Man: This is not your father’s Spider-man. Brian Michael Bendis’s reinvention of Spidey has its champions and it detractors. Personally, this is the only one of the Ultimate series that I have found to be a consistently engaging and entertaining read. Bendis takes a lot of crap for his decompressed and dialogue-heavy storytelling style, and at times I can agree with that (especially on Daredevil), but for this series it works for me.

X-Factor: Did I mention that Peter David is another of my top 5 writers right now? I didn’t? Well, now I did. My one complaint is the artwork, which occasionally makes my eyes want to bleed. But only occasionally.

Astonishing X-Men: As a long-time fan of all things Whedon, there's no way I could pass up a chance to see him writing Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde. And to those who complain that the latest arc is just fan service, all I have to say is: what's wrong with that?

Civil War: I sort of hate myself for caving in and buying this overblown crossover machine, but I've committed myself now, and can't escape. Not as bad as I'd feared, but really not as good as some folks claim.


Hero Squared: The only place to find Giffen and DeMatteis's patented Bwah-Ha-Ha style of humor, and thus a must buy.

Fallen Angel: I'm so glad this series has found a second lease on life at IDW that I'm even willing to keep on paying their outrageous monthly cover prices . . . for now.

And that's pretty much it for my monthly books. I've reallly tempted to pick up Mystery in Space and The Omega Men since they promise to have ties to one of my all time favorite series, L.E.G.I.O.N., but the jury is currently out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

My First Year of Comics

A while back, 2 Guys Buying Comics started this "First Comic Week", creating a nice blog meme asking folks to talk about their very first comic. I wrote on it over on my other blog, but think it fits in much more nicely here at Earth K.

The biggest problem with the idea of a "first comic" is that I honestly have no clue what the first comic book that ever caught my interest was; as mentioned previously, I got hooked on my uncle's comic book collection before I can remember, so it's highly possible that my first comic was Nova #1 which I don't recall ever seeing at the time, but which my uncle says my young toddler hands destroyed. However, while narrowing down whether I was first entranced by Avengers #147 and the appearance of the Squadron Supreme or by my cousin's issue of Showcase #100 which featured practically every character to ever appear in that book is next to impossible, thanks to the beauty of the Grand Comics Database I was able to narrow down the list of suspects for the first comics I ever purchased myself. Being the sort to go overboard in all things (and, being totally overwhelmed by nostalgia by the whole process), I've decided to not just focus on my first comic, but on my first year of comic purchasing which, if my calculations are correct, began with the cover date of February, 1979. And what would that first crucial title be? Click here to find out.

Super Friends #17 Feb. 1979. Honestly, I feel embarrassed that this is the first comic book I ever purchased. Not because it was Super Friends; well, not just because it was Super Friends. No, I'm embarrassed because there's absolutely nothing about this cover that I find appealing today. Which bring up an interesting point; not a single one of my well-worn issues of Super Friends still has a cover; heck I'm not sure any of them still have all of their pages. In fact, it's been so long since I've seen any of the covers that I had to double-check that this #17 was even the issue I thought it was, since the cover left me so under-whelmed. Even the story inside isn't all that great, all things considered; the Super Friends have been separated and tossed through time and space and have to find a way to survive. Of course, this issue did serve to instruct me in a few of the basic rules of the pre-Crisis DC universe, like the idea that the whole red/yellow sun thing wasn't just a Kryptonian thing, so that if a sun suddenly turned blue or white normal humans would suddenly become like Superman.

But while this issue doesn't hold up as well under my present-day scrutiny, I'm much more forgiving of the other issues of the series I purchased. For example, there's #23, which featured the Wonder Twins squaring off against the Mirror Master; #24, featuring the Wonder Twins evil twins; the Halloween themed #28 featuring Felix Faust and faux versions of Swamp Thing, Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, and The Demon (and which is one of the earliest memories I have of buying a book solely because of the cool cover); and my favorite of my Year One purchases, #25, where the mind controlled Super Friends try to take over the world and are stopped by a wide range of international heroes including future Justice League members Green Fury (who would later become Fire) and Tasmanian Devil, as well as Wonder Woman's African counterpart, Nubia. That's right, Nubia.

Man, sometimes I miss the 70s.

Seriously, how cool would that cover be to a four year old?

One month after picking up my first issue of Super Friends I moved on to the series it was descended from with Justice League of America #164 (March, 1979). Again, the cover doesn't strike the 30-year old me as anything that would catch my eye, but the story inside had more than enough off the wall goodness to keep my young mind entertained. While the cover focuses entirely on Zatanna's search for her mother, the first half of the book is actually concerned with the League's battle with Anton Allegro and his magic synthesizer. There's a great scene where Zatanna uses her backwards spell casting to give all of her teammates magic earmuffs to block out Allegro's attack; again, I really miss the 70s. I only bought one other issue of JLA during that first year, but it was a doozy: #171 (Oct. 1979), featuring not only a JLA/JSA team-up, which helped to fuel my love for all things Earth-2 already kindled by a few of my uncle's comics, but also the death of a hero. True, it was Mr. Terrific, someone I'd never heard of before, but still a pretty significant event. Unfortunately, it would be many, many years before I would be able to track down #172 and finally find out who the culprit was.

The next month I branched out to my first solo title with The Flash #272 (April 1979). Now, as goofy as the cover might seem (homicidal clown using a super-calliope to paralyze The Flash), I can see why it would have appealed to almost-4-year-old Cap'n Neurotic. Like a lot of titles at the time, the cover story only took up the first part of the book, while the second half set up a couple of mysteries which would consume the next several months of the series, primarily the creation of a character who I'm sure almost nobody else remembers, but who holds a special place in my comic geek heart: Clive Yorkin, crazed emotional vampire who for a time was the primary suspect in the death of The Flash's wife. Yorkin would play a big part of the next issue I bought, #278 (Oct. 1979), which also introduced me to perennial Flash villains Captain Boomerang and Heatwave; the scene where Flash kicks Boomer's butt was one of my favorite sequences of any book back then. It was rivaled only by the fight with Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, a few issues later in #281 (Jan. 1980). Surprisingly enough, the Zoom-splits-in-half thing promised by that eye-catching cover actually happens in the book itself.

That same month I picked up my first Flash I also picked up the Superman team-up title DC Comics Presents #8 (April 1979). Again, not sure exactly what possessed young Cap'n N. to pick this title up, although I have a vague thought that this one was purchased for me, not necessarily by me; I could be wrong. Anyway, the comic itself is filled with all sorts of freaky scenes, like Swamp Thing having his arm ripped off and then slowly growing a new one, or him accidentally creating an army of Solomon Grundys, all of which probably added to the appeal. This is also the first comic I have a really strong recollection of making my dad sit down and listen to me read out loud. I also picked up #16 (Dec. 1979( guest-starring Black Lightning; this issue confused the heck out of me at the time, as it featured a character who jumped all over the evolutionary ladder, a concept that I wasn't quite up to speed with at the time. Plus, the whole "Black Lightning puts on an afro wig as part of his costume" thing didn't quite make sense to me at the time.

The next month I continued my exploration of the DC universe with Green Lantern/Green Arrow #116 (May 1979). This is another case of "I don't remember ever seeing that cover before in my life!" Also, this issue features an obscure villain that always springs to my mind when I think of GL, but which probably only a handful of other comic geeks know exists: The Crumbler. I always liked the visual effects of his power, for some reason, which is probably one of the reasons he's stuck out in my mind for so long. For once, I actually bought the subsequent issue, #117 (June, 1979) which featured the first time Guy Gardner donned the power ring; I just re-read this last night, and it's really odd to see a hesitant, unsure Guy, as opposed to the loony toons versions of Guy which would dominate during Giffen's run on the Justice League titles in the 90s.

My next new title to purchase was Superman #337 (July 1979). I've never been a big Superman fan, and would buy very few issues of this series over the years; in fact, the next issue I wound up buying years later was a direct result of my early love of this issue. The premise of the issue is that Superman is having a horrible day, as he's attacked by one super-villain after another, from the well-known (Brainiac, Bizarro), to the moderately well-known (Metallo, Toy Man), to the "who the heck is that cowboy, and why does his horse have wings?" (Terra Man). This issue would color my perceptions of each of these villains for years, even though they all turned out to be imposters . . . but perhaps I've said too much. Anyway, the character of Terra Man was just oddball enough for me to pick up any other book I saw with him on the cover, hence the later issues purchased.

Look, an actual Marvel title! Will wonders never cease? That's right, it took me around 8 months to finally join the ranks of Marvel consumers with my purchase of The Invaders #41 (Sept 1979). Another book whose cover has been gone forever, but as soon as I saw the scan on GCD I thought "that's it!" From what I can tell, this was actually the last issue of the series, and it’s pretty much non-stop action. Don't know for sure when I figured out that the series was set during WWII; I do know that the character of U-Man was directly responsible for me learning what a U-boat was.

Once the Marvel floodgates were open, they just didn't stop: next up was Micronauts #9 (Sept 1979). I had already been exposed to the Micronauts thanks to my cousin having a couple of issues, but this was a world of difference. His issues were set on Earth, where the heroes were the size of toys; this issue was set in the Microverse (yes, the Microverse) and introduced the warrior world of Sparta (a name which meant nothing to me at the time, but which now makes me roll my eyes). Even though I had a great love for the Micronauts at the time, the series was hard to find in my neck of the woods, and it would be many years before I would be able to expand my collection.

Next up I made a return to DC with the anthology title Adventure Comics #465 (Sept/Oct 1979) which featured four different stories: a Flash story where he talks to dolphins; an Aquaman story where he deals with underwater villains in Arctic waters; a Deadman story which boggled my young mind because I didn't realize that the reason nobody was reacting to his speeches was that nobody could see Boston at all; and, last but definitely not least, a Justice Society of America story which introduced me to The Huntress and prepared me for the JLA/JSA team-up that was to come out a month later.

Finally, we finish up my first year of comic buying with the reprint series Marvel Super Action #15 (Jan 1980), which featured an early adventure of the Avengers where they traveled back in time and witnessed the death of Captain America's sidekick, Bucky, a pretty pivotal event in the Marvel Universe. My grasp of the Avengers was pretty weird at this point in time, since I had gorged myself on all of my uncle's Avengers comics, which spanned a huge amount of time, from the first line-up, to the first big line-up change, to the days of the Serpent Crown saga. I had no clue how it all fit together chronologically, and yet it didn't matter; all that mattered was that they were all really, really cool, and I couldn't wait to read more.

And thus ends a brief (well, briefer than it could have been) run-down of my first year of comic buying as best as I can recollect; if I were to extend it just a mere two months, you would get to hear about the first issue of Uncanny X-men I ever got, smack dab in the middle of the Dark Phoenix Saga, but that's a story for another time.