Friday, December 25, 2009

Cover Review: The Rifleman #10

Oh shit, what can't you say about this cover? I mean, it speaks for itself. It's the kind of thing NAMBLA members go ape shit over. Granted, I'm sure it was an innocent mistake. The Rifleman is a wholesome comic. It was made to appeal to young boys ... and apparently work as a recruiting tool for aging homosexual cowboys. "You see, son, how that boy is holding that log? Let me show you how I want my wood handled."

Where were the concerned parents over this one? Screw EC. This stuff is scary. The only thing that could make it worse is if the kid had milkshake residue dripping down his chin and the cover blurb said, "Holding this log sure made me thirsty, but I'm satisfied now!"

And just what is this "mysterious bag" that holds a "secret"? Jesus, one guess to that one. "That, son, that's my man bag." The threat isn't the bag, either. It's the log in this kid's hands and the knowing smile from Mr. Connors. I guess if I were into young boys I'd be pretty happy about this, too.

What did kids at the time think when they saw this cover? Did pedophiles see the title and cover and think, "Finally! A comic for me!"? Did any fans of the comic question this? I've got plenty of questions myself, and I've never read the damn thing. My main question is: Whatever happened to that boy?

Yeah, this cover is a failure ... unless it was going for the creepy child molester crowd. If that is the case -- job well done, Dell.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Marvel has a real knack for fucking up characters. Whether it's exploiting Wolverine or ruining a classic character like Spider-Man, Marvel has proved time and time again that it can take a decent concept and run it through the wringer all while thinking the outcome was a great idea.

Enter Punisher.

He's been a vigilante ... and that's what he needs to stay. In DC's hands he probably would keep to his role. In Marvel's miserable, miserly mitts, however, he's been an angel, black and a Frankenstein-style creation. What. The. Fuck?

What the powers-that-ruin don't understand at Marvel is that Punisher works best when he's either in his own little world, untouched by the usual Marvel universe fodder, or he's on the outskirts of the Marvel universe. Granted, many of the stories he's been in while in vigilante mode have sucked (that taxi war storyline is a great example), but at least he's true to character. When he's donning tubes, forehead wards, or a "black" nose he's no longer Punisher. He's a cartoon creation. A roadrunner to the criminal coyote. In other words: He's a joke.

Money, obviously, drives Marvel's desire to screw with the character. What Marvel fails to remember, however, is that what really drives up sales for the long term is solid writing with a character that stays true to its roots.

Marvel has done this from time to time and has enjoyed success. It needs to stick with that plan, though. No more gimmicks (and that's all those things are). Readers see through them, and some, like myself, are resentful. Solid stories. Solid characters. No cartoons.

Save that shit for Wolverine.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not to be Sold to Minors ... Or Anyone Else

It used to be that comic books were thought as a child's medium. These days it's fortunate if you can get anyone to remember they exist. Because some comic books used to be geared to children, the entire industry was lumped into that. If it had sequential illustrations and used word balloons to convey dialogue, it was for children.

Comic book readers know that just was not the case. And these days, comics that aren't meant for children are the norm, and a child's comic is as rare as an unbiased Fox newscast.

I have no problem with comic books geared to children. I also have have no problem with comic books meant to appeal to adults. What I do have an issue with is people who think adult comics (whether or not they are porn or just have a more complex storyline) should not exist. Having worked in a few different comic book stores, I have encountered those people (often parents, not very often comic book readers).

These unenlightened souls would come into the store and pick up a comic book that looked like it appealed to them -- an adult. As soon as they saw it was for an adult (which is why they picked it up in the first place), they would put it back and say, "They shouldn't sell these things to kids or anyone else." I would have to correct them and state that we don't sell them to kids, but it would be pointless to argue. The mature-subject matter book that appealed to them because they were an adult should not be made for adults or anyone else, and that was that.

It always pained me to see those people with children. It made me wonder what they were teaching those kids.

When I worked the stores in various capacities, I was careful as to what I sold. Comic book store owners and employees often find themselves to be targets to zealots looking to burn a cross or two on the medium's lawn. I never had any incidents where angry parents came back demanding a refund because I sold their sixteen-year-old a Preacher issue, but it was always at the back of my mind.

When a person decided to get into a more in-depth discussion with me about why those comic books should not exist, I was quick to point out that there were novels meant for adults and novels meant for children, but nobody was arguing that adult novels shouldn't exist. Somehow they never got it. Comic books, they said, are different.

No. They are not.

Comic books are an equally valuable entertainment and artistic choice. They enlighten, amuse and educate. To say that comics geared to adults should not be published is akin to saying you don't want to be challenged by any sort of artistic medium. The statement is a badge of ignorance, and far too many adults wear it with pride.

And want to know the kicker? Even if a child had somehow become exposed to a comic book meant for an adult, guess what would happen? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yes, there would be questions. It's a parents job to answer those things whether or not you are ready to. But I have never seen anything in any adult comic book that would either scar a child for life or flat out destroy them.

Adults are sometimes bigger children than the children they are supposed to support. It's a frightening thought, but that was just your average day in the comic book store.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cover Review: The Elongated Man #3

What does it say about a mini-series when your title character is in the background? To me it says, "lack of confidence." The fact that the cover, like all the covers in this series, is done as a mock postcard, too, which can work every once in a while, but for all four issues? No.

The Elongated Man has always been a pointless DC character. Not much has made him stand out (though Identity Crisis made him tolerable). This cover is part of that problem. Nothing about it screams "must read" or even "fun." Yeah, it looks like it might be amusing, but also that it is instantly forgettable and not very important in the grand scheme of things. The pun, "From Bad to Wurst," is also a groaner -- again like the character.

All four issues of this series had covers that failed to catch anyone's attention. If you are one of three Elongated Man fans, you probably were overwhelmed at the possibilities of this series, and probably also really enjoyed the covers. You may also enjoy watching paint dry and old sitcoms on TV Land.

The rest of us are left wishing this character would have never been created in the first place.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This Die Hard May be Dead

As I write this, "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" is playing. You may remember the R.E.M. song. The more astute among you will remember it as something that was asked of Dan Rather before being attacked by a random thug. (Or was it more than one?) The phrase is cryptic at best. Pointless at the very least. It's much like the new Die Hard Year One comic book series.

I got the first two issues of this series for two reasons: the movies and the writer, Howard Chaykin. Both have had some misses in their respective careers, but overall tend to be entertaining.

The verdict is still out on whether this will be a hit or miss, but with two issues read so far I kind of think it will be the latter.

Spotty art, less than authentic dialogue, and a storyline that is going somewhere but taking its time getting there. Those are the first impressions of these two issues. Honestly, it doesn't even feel like Chaykin's behind the wheel, and the Bruce Willis-marine-turned-cop could be any cop. He doesn't have the feel of McClane. Granted, this is his first year as a cop, but McClane is a strong enough personality that some of that would appear in his first year in the uniform. Instead, we're given generic cops and stereotypical cops. Generic wives and stereotypical husbands. In fact, it all feels so generic and stereotypical.

I'll stick with it to see how it plays out. I'm not expecting big things. By this point I'm not expecting anything if truth be told. I am perplexed, however. Why did anyone green light this story? Is it the Die Hard franchise or Chaykin's name that sold it? One had to do it, so why not utilize it?

As I finish this up, Scritti Politti is playing. "Perfect Way." Does anyone remember this band? Does anyone care about this song? Exactly. The Die Hard Year One comic book is bound to end up the same way if it continues on this instantly forgettable path.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Annoying Store Owner

Michael Tierney, owner of Collector's Edition in Arkansas, is a man who has always annoyed me. His Trendwatcher write-ups in the ever-shrinking Comics Buyer's Guide and letters in the same place have made him seem like a reluctant moral crusader who is out to protect children from upsetting comic books (which is, when it gets down to it, the parent's job). Granted, since parents are lazy and since comic books have a bad history when it comes to "harmful matter" and children, some may see Tierney's advice and wisdom as a blessing. I differ.

In the December 2009 issue of Comics Buyer's Guide Tierney is once again featured in the CBG Trendwatchers section. Apparently he was profiled by his "state" newspaper. This brought him all kinds of publicity, which is great for a store owner. What really filled his heart with wholesome glee, however, was the parents.

"Most gratifying were all the parents," he wrote, "who came in to thank me for my efforts to provide them better content information. I felt like The Hulk on the cover of Incredible Hulk #279, where he's carried on the shoulders of a cheering crowd." I think that swelled head makes him more like the Leader, but I'll grant him his small victory. After all, he is in Arkansas and those people probably need someone to tell them what is safe to read.

When I managed Comic Castle I often had parents asking me what was "safe" for their children. I would give recommendations, but only after saying something like, "Well, I don't know your child, or even how mature he or she is. I can recommend some titles and tell you why I recommend them, but you need to look at what I'm recommending before you buy it because you know your child better than I do."

Parents seemed to appreciate that, and I had parents turn down Uncanny X-Men but at the same time pick up The Filth. (The mother who did that said she did so because the violence in the Marvel title seemed exploitive and there for no other reason then that's what heroes did, while the Vertigo title at least had a story with substance behind it. Interesting, as I enjoyed both titles.) I didn't feel like a crusader or hero, though. I was just doing my damn job. Tierney, it seems, likes his role as a moral barometer, and based on the recommendations he often gives, I would say he's knows what's safe if only because he is very familiar with boring.

I have never stepped foot in either of the man's stores, and probably never will. If the man runs his shops like I think he does, you will find nothing all that thought provoking or even erotic. It's his store. He doesn't have to stock those kinds of titles. They exist, however, and some comic book fans like them. Again, he may stock those types of things, but I strongly suspect that Vertigo and a few indie titles are about as thought provoking as he gets. (I doubt he ever carried Skinheads in Love, for example, but I could be wrong.)

Thanks for keeping America's children safe, Mr. Tierney. All the mouth-breathing parents sure appreciate it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cover Review: Daredevil #36

I'm a huge fan of the Daredevil character. No secret there. The above issue is #36 in his original Marvel series. As you can see, twelve cents was it all it took for about twenty minutes of entertainment. My how times have changed.

This is a mediocre Daredevil cover, and this series had plenty of those. Gene Colan, an artist I've never really liked because he makes everyone look a little deformed, did the pencils and Paul Reinman went crazy on the inks. The result is a cover that could've been really good, but instead looks unkempt.

The use of the single light to spotlight the unconscious Daredevil is a great touch. Looking at the man's face who is holding him, however, gives the reader the sense this guy just came across our hero. He doesn't look like the type who could take down the Man Without Fear. In fact, he looks a little mentally disabled. If that was supposed to give readers a sense of danger, it didn't work. If it was to get us to question what was going on -- mission accomplished.

"The name of the game is ... MAYHEM!" reads the cover blurb. Is mayhem what is going on, or is it the name of the man who is holding Daredevil's limp body? Good questions again, and one can only hope the former is true because this guy looks to be light years away from Mayhem. Maybe it's that goofy outfit which makes him look like he should be a figure on a futuristic playing card from Bicycle. ("I got the Joker, and he's wild!") It leads to questions, and since I think Daredevil readers tend to demand a little more from their comic book stories, this is a good thing.

With all respect to Colan, too, this is one of his more reserved works. Nobody's collar is flying out of control, no coats are whipping around, lips aren't distorted, no hair is askew. Daredevil's limp, outstretched hand seems to be pleading for our help, too, which is a great ploy on Colan's behalf. It gives the reader a stake in the outcome of the tale. Regular readers can't help put to pick it up. First time readers may just be curious enough to see what is going on. It will not, however, attract a reader who has never had a desire to read the title before.

This isn't the worst Daredevil cover ever done. Nor is it the best. It kind of matches what often happens with this title. When it's good, it's really good. Otherwise, it just tends to sit there until a capable writer (like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis or Ed Brubaker) comes along.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Woe is Me

I recently finished Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1, which a co-worker gave me, and I can't say I'm impressed. First some thoughts on the Essentials line.

The idea behind the Essentials books is a good one. They are the size of phone books and reprint a whole lot of issues (which would usually cost a small fortune to get individually) for around $16.99. A great price for that big of a book. The only problem is that they are in black and white. I have no problem with black and white comics, but I do have a problem with reprinting comics in black and white that were originally meant to be in color. It loses something. It's like making a color movie black and white or even colorizing a black and white film.

That rant is over.

The Silver Surfer is not a character I ever really cared about. He was fine guest-starring in stories, and that '90s Ron Lim series wasn't too terrible, but overall he's always been a whiner. Shedding a tear (literally) over his lost love and the cruelty of humanity. I always looked at him as what Marvel considered to be its Jesus figure (when in reality that is my favorite hero, Daredevil). The Surfer was a mass of twisted, poorly handled contradictions (he won't steal from Reed Richards, but has no problem stealing from a bank in the same issue) when his first solo series first started, and to solidify that Jesus angle, a recurring villain was none other than Mephisto.

I've kind of like Mephisto in the Marvel Universe. Face it, he just looks cool. And his mission when it comes to Surfer is to get him to give up his soul. Pretty straightforward. Could make for engaging reading with another hero and a better writer's hands. (Oddly enough, later in the Surfer series they both end up donning the same disguise to blend in with humans: trench coat and hat.) In these first 18 issues (and on Fantastic Four annual) the red one (though you wouldn't be able to discern that from the Essentials book) makes several appearances, none of which are truly memorable (though him getting Surfer to attack SHIELD was pretty cool).

Surfer is such a whiner, however, that I kept wishing every villain he went up against, whether it be Yetis or the U.S. Army, would tear him in half. His constant sorrow is not only depressing, but it actually serves as a reminder that while pathos can work well for some, on Surfer it is about as appealing as it was with Kurt Cobain. One just wishes Surfer would have checked out the same way.

In these first 18 issues, humanity is shown as the beast it is. I agree with Stan Lee's depiction. What I don't agree with is how humans treat Surfer, and how Surfer reacts to that. Humanity wouldn't hate Surfer because he was different or misunderstood. It would hate him because here he is, essentially a god, and all he can do is lament. He has the Cosmic Power, which enables him to heal the sick and wounded (except when it really counts), and all he can do is think about how he wishes humans would understand him. I get the fact that he is trapped far away from the woman he loves, but he seems incapable of moving beyond that. Why even venture to Earth then? Especially after the first time humans attack him? Why not just stay in space? I know it's because the writers need to write stories, but it makes the Surfer come across as a pathetic idiot who doesn't learn from his mistakes. I would attack him, too, especially when he refused to reduce the attackers to steaming puddles of bubbling flesh.

Before reading these stories I didn't understand the Surfer's appeal. After reading them, however, I think I got it. Surfer appeals to armchair intellectuals who thought they were deep in the 1960s because they smoked pot, read some philosophy and still were into pop culture enough to read highbrow comics like Silver Surfer. They thought they were special because they could somehow misinterpret the Kronstadt rebellion and find imaginary parallels to the Surfer's plight on planet Earth. They'd drop acid and then proclaim that real revolutionaries read of the Surfer's exploits and "the Man" and his apologists stuck to capitalist drivel like Detective Comics. Every adult over 40 I've ever met who likes the Surfer has kind of fallen into that category, and they haven't changed. "Surfer is deep, man. He, like, points out all our problems and shows us what is wrong with the world ... and he surfs ... the sky!"

Silver Surfer is a baby with a bazooka. He knows not what he can do. Thank God I was only given the first volume.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marvel Zombies

I am a fan of horror movies, as anyone who has read my other blog, The Last Picture Blog, can attest to. I also like zombie films. When it comes to comics, I do enjoy the horror ones, especially EC and, of all things, Charlton's horror lines from the days of yore. I do not, however, read the current crop of horror and, most notably, zombie comics.

I don't know why I don't read these titles like Walking Dead, which has gotten all kinds of acclaim. I've never given them a chance, and I really have no desire to. It's not that I don't think they're any good. In fact, the one I did read, the first Marvel Zombies series, was actually quite enjoyable. It did not make me want to pick up the other series in that line, and nor did it get to me to explore other titles. So why the hesitation to read these?

I'm picky when it comes to new titles (not that these are new now, but if I didn't get them when they started it is doubtful I will pick them up now). I'm also very random. When the zombie books first started getting big, I was doubtful of whether or not they would last. I didn't want to start a series that would be around five months and end without a formal conclusion. Therefore, I avoided them. When it was obvious they weren't going anywhere, it was already too late. I stayed away despite my friends telling me how good these books were (and some amazing covers). The Marvel book I did read was fine, but it also came across as a novelty with no real bearing in the Marvel Universe (why this should matter is obvious -- I'm also big on continuity). It was a big What-If that made me ask, "What if it mattered?"

In the future I may pick up the back issues of various series on the cheap (when I no longer have to worry about car repairs, plane tickets and the like). There are great deals to be had on eBay, but I really have enough to read now at the moment (nine short boxes or so). Until then, I've got the films. At least I know those won't end halfway through.

Monday, September 14, 2009

DC Entertainment Marvels at Disney

First came the entire Disney buys Marvel, and now Warner Bros. has decided to tighten up control on DC Comics (to be known as DC Entertainment). And while nobody knows exactly how all this will play out, I am starting to fear the worse.

If you're reading this blog, chances are you a comic book fan. If you are a comic book fan you know that comic books just aren't selling like they used to. Disney and Warner Bros. are not ignorant to this fact. This is where things start to get sketchy.

Disney and Warner Bros. want these properties (characters) to make them money. There is money there to be made, as successful video games and movies have shown. What hasn't been making money is comic books. If I were the head of either project I would have some tough decisions to make. The people going to the movies and buying the video games aren't buying the comic books in the same numbers, which makes me wonder: Why are the comics necessary?

We fans know why we love them, but if there is money to be gained and a company can cut out something that isn't making a profit -- why not? People going to see an Avengers movie won't care if there isn't an Avengers related comic book out there (and there is plenty of material to keep in reprints). Screenwriters have shown they are more than capable of turning out a good comic book movie using only the skeleton of the comic books. So why not cut out the comic books -- the least profitable part of the chain?

A friend of mine pointed out that comic books are cheap R&D for the companies -- testing what works and doesn't. I'm not so sure I agree with that, but I can see the logic in it. And then there's the fact that comic book movies are probably going to end up more like Westerns, eventually dying out only to appear a decade or so later.

Having corporate fingers in artistic pies (and comic books still have not become total entertainment despite how it feels -- but it is close) never produces good results. Best case scenario is the comics keep going (if not being available in more outlets), and the companies do everything to turn those other fans into comic book fans. Worst case scenario the companies end that which is not making a profit and leaves it up to "better minds" to exploit these characters for all they are worth.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I don't have much hope.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cover Review: Defenders #51

For some strange reason I remember The Defenders as having plenty of "floating head" issues. As you can see, this is no exception.

I am a fan of this comic book. I've always like the title in its original form, even though I never thought the characters were the greatest. They just seemed to work well together. Hellcat is my favorite on this cover. Nighthawk, who is being tormented by the Ringer, seems weak. I don't care how many rings there are or who is causing them to float -- rings are weak, and that is not a good way to sell a superhero comic. It's also the reason the Hulk isn't pictured in the rings. (Doctor Strange may have been a good choice because he's a cowardly magician no matter how you cut it. Those gloves! That mustache! Wong!)

To someone unfamiliar with the concept of the book or the heroes therein, they may be fooled into thinking Hellcat and company are gods looking down on the Blue Falcon's brother as he is killed by an American Gladiator. Unfortunately, that is not the comic book here. This actually just screams, "Boredom!" Imagine how that conversation by the comic rack went. "Cool! Look at this issue of The Defenders!"

"Who's the villain?"

"The Ringer."


"The Ringer."

"What's he do?"

"I don't know. Control rings."

"Star Wars out yet?"

This title had far better covers and far better villains. (Elf with gun!) This cover is a failure of Hulk-like proportions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

You Can Tell a Lobo Fan by His Erection

Guy Richie directing a Lobo movie? Say it ain't so. The guy who used to fuck Madonna? (Well, who hasn't?) A movie about a character only twelve-year-old boys and Insane Clown Posse fans care about? Lobo? Really? Why not The Web or Hourman?

I know people will probably think this is a grand idea, but think about it. It's Lobo. It's Guy Richie. We'll get plenty of zooms and convoluted plot twists, but will it do anything for the character or comic books?

I don't hate Lobo. I just think he's overrated (or was and still is in some minds). I also don't hate Richie. The two together, though, leaves plenty to be desired.

Lobo? Really?

How is this possible? How did Lobo rank a movie? How did anyone think this was a good idea?

I rally about the stupidity of Hollywood on my other blog, The Last Picture Blog. I get how Hollywood works. I understand it. Anything that can make money should. Blah, blah, blah. But Lobo? Is Richie a Lobo fan? Is he fucking some other Hollywood senior citizen? What is going on?

Hate mail can be directed at me. I'll take it. I stand behind my initial shock, though. Who knows? It could be a great movie. I doubt it, though. I like Richie's movies enough, but he is not suited to this role. Want to give him something he may be able to pull off? 100 Bullets.

You fuckers know I'm right.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

Celebrity Watchdog George Anthony Watson traced me to my home. The phone call coming from official government lines. This was news. Big news. Disney bought Marvel to the tune of $4 billion and stocks.

Punisher vs. Donald Duck. Spider-Man teaming up with Mickey. Pluto and Lockjaw fight Magneto and that turncoat Pooh. Oh, the humanity.

What this means is that Disney will now be bringing all those wonderful Marvel characters you know and love like Squirrel Girl and Speedball to its theme parks, television networks and its new line of marital aids. What this means for the tone of Marvel's books is uncertain, but Marvel was never cutting edge like Vertigo or a host of other independent publishers anyway, so I doubt it will have much impact on storylines. It could mean more comic book exposure, or even the demise of a publishing empire -- with Disney instead focusing on established characters and licensing. (Seems doubtful, but you never know.)

Marvel has been an enigma to me for many years. I don't understand some of the moves it makes, and it often seemed very anti-retailer. There is huge potential there, however, for more stuff like the Iron Man movie. Disney, which has had the market on the young girl demographic almost completely now, saw its potential and has now put itself in position to grab the male audience before it turns to Maxim. Or so it thinks. Most Marvel readers, though, are men over the age of 20, so what good this will do Disney is yet unknown, but knowing the company it saw dollar signs and little else.

The coming months should prove to be interesting, though I don't know what this means for the comics world because any major blow to one of the big two could spell disaster for the entire art form.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Red Haired Sex Goddess With A Sword

As a young man who liked Conan, Marvel's Red Sonja was, well, mind blowing. She was basically Conan with long red hair, breasts and a vagina. It's easy to see why she appealed to male comic book readers. But why, in this era of bad ass female heroes and villains, does she still have appeal?

There are Red Sonja books still being published. I haven't read any of the new ones, and I haven't even read many of the Marvel ones. I don't think the Marvel series was a huge seller when it came out, but I could be wrong. I do know, however, that the character remains popular because of what she represents.

Red Sonja is sex holding a sword. Her armor, what little of it there is, protects those parts of her body that make her female and nothing else. The rest is bare skin. The fact that she isn't covered in scars says she's not only good offensively in a fight, but defensively as well. The parts of her body armored against attacks from blades tells readers that her femininity is firmly in place, but the rest says she's all male. Even her name evokes masculinity. Red is primarily a male's name, despite it being used to describe her hair here.

There is a theory out there that says much of genre fiction aimed at young males just experiencing their first sexual desires often features a female in the lead role that has a masculine role. She's still a woman, but is seen in a traditional male light. This, the theory goes, is to let young boys who are starting to get interested in the opposite sex get those desires while at the same time appealing to the latent homosexuality in many males and/or the "girls are yucky" remnants. A perfect example of this is Jamie Lee Curtis' character in Halloween.

Red Sonja's exaggerated sexuality is matched only by the exaggerated violence. It lets boys take interest in a female without seeming "gay" to their friends (though if you believe the theory, it is almost the exact opposite). She is "safe" reading for boys who just discovered masturbation.

Today's fans of Red have far more characters to choose from. They don't have to read her adventures. So what makes her special? Dominance, perhaps. Being unique in her genre may be another reason. She's been around for decades, and she's maintained her name in a genre not exactly none for strong female leads. It could be that, deep down, these readers subconsciously respect the power of the female.

Or they could just be waiting for her top to fall off. Either way, she's still around and probably will be thirty years from now. As long as the stories don't get old, she should be just fine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Google Gets In On The Act

The more astute among you may have noticed that Google now offers comic themes for its website. You can choose from things like Vertigo, the Incredible Hulk and Daniel Clowes (which I use). It's nice to see something as big as Google (I know a few people who use the search engine) acknowledge the world of comic books. The themes themselves are fairly unobtrusive, too, which makes the idea all the more pleasant.

The themes listed are kind of across the board, too, which shows that someone somewhere knows what he or she is doing. There are the ones you would expect (mainstream heroes) and then there is stuff like Jim Woodring. Oddly enough, Spider-Woman is also one of them (no complaints here, either).

My hat is off to Google on this one. It's important to note when the mainstream does comic books right, and this is one time where the respect for the medium is obvious and done so well that you can't help but want to see all the themes. (I think I'll be changing to that Spider-Woman one soon.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cover Review: Domination Factor -- Fantastic Four #2.3

Wow. Just the awkward title of this issue makes me want to stay away from it. (And what the hell is up with the numbering system? Decimal points do not make for a fun comic book experience.) Why would I want to read it? Maybe because I'm a fan of the Fantastic Four? Maybe because I was collecting this series? Well, if I wasn't collecting it, I wouldn't want to buy it. If I was, however, a fan of the FF, the fact that the Human Torch was turning tail would not do wonders to my excitement factor. It just seems unlikely, so that's not fooling anyone.

The cover itself looks to be one of those that was inspired by Jack Kirby. Mr. Fantastic is wrapped around the monster so much that it actually looks like he is its outfit. That's just creepy, and the art just isn't dynamic. What is the Thing actually doing? Is he going to pummel someone? It looks as if he isn't even trying.

I will say that I like the word balloon, though. I miss those on covers. I just wish this said something better, something more believable. Perhaps, "Take off, Johnny, and bring back reinforcements! We can't take this beast down alone!" That would at least seem plausible.

Truly a crappy title and cover. What was Marvel thinking?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Modern Gods

You can kind of guess that anyone who would devote a blog to comic books has some kind of love of the medium. I'm not a late comer to the art form. In fact, I've been reading comic books since I was old enough to remember. I used to store them in a huge box that I would pull out from under my bed and spend rainy summer days laying out on the floor and reading. Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Justice League of America, Batman, Uncanny X-Men, Star Wars, Amazing Spider-Man, Beyond the Grave, Scary Tales, and many more. Some of the ones still in my collection still have the spine rolls to prove it.

As a kid, my favorite titles were in the superhero and horror genres. I still enjoy those. To me, superheroes are our modern mythology. The Greeks had their gods. We have Superman, Wolverine and Nova. But even more than being mythology, they teach us lessons.

Morals, values and mores are learned through various sources. You've got family, church, school and popular culture (which probably makes quite a few people uncomfortable). Comic books -- especially superhero comics -- teach those things. Superman teaches us about truth. Batman teaches determination. Wolverine teaches rugged individualism (an American quality). Spider-Man teaches responsibility. Or at least they used to. Some of the core lessons are now absent from these books, and that's okay. As their readership changed (and it has), the stories had to keep up with it (and they have). Frank Miller's take on Batman couldn't have happened in the Sixties. The Watchmen may have been based on older characters, but the story was quite modern for the time. The medium has evolved with the times and readership, and I wouldn't have it any other way ... despite its potential isolation of younger readers.

Books like the late great 100 Bullets or Preacher had their own value systems. Readers could easily see the sometimes time end road of revenge or revisit with the importance of truth and the value of friendship, or they could just read some really cool stories and never touch upon their deeper meanings. That's the beauty of how this medium, which is a bridge between books and movies, has evolved. No longer just the realm of children and teens, this art now appeals to adults and the stories prove it.

There are, however, readers who wish the medium would return to the past with simpler stories that were much more black and white. I think there is a place for both nostalgic type tales and more modern ones, but the former's audience is bound to be smaller. It's also highly doubtful that those stories would bring in any new readers, and that is a problem.

For years, people have been questioning the viability of the comic book medium. Some say it is here to stay. Others say trade paperbacks will be all you can get. Still others say both will be gone. I tend to think the future will be much like it is now, with both the traditional comic book and trade paperbacks co-existing. It's obvious that the comic book format is a feeder to trade paperbacks (and that is also somewhat annoying), but I don't think that's worth worrying about.

I'd like to think that twenty years from now some kid will be pulling a big box out from under his bed and start paging through a 22 page “booklet” featuring his favorite hero teaming up with the Hulk. The rain will be falling outside, some old sitcom playing on the television in the background. He won't hear it, though, because he'll be absorbed in the adventure he's reading. That's how I was, and that memory, along with a love of comic books, has stayed with me to this day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Most Under Used Character: Wolverine

Most of you probably detected the sarcasm in this blog post title. Wolverine, simply put, is the most exploited character Marvel's got. It wasn't always this way.

Those of you old enough to remember recall a time when Wolverine wasn't associated with every fucking book Marvel published. You remember when he was just a funny-looking, short guy with a bad costume that made no sense. He started out in the Incredible Hulk book, and then continued in the Uncanny X-Men.
He wasn't the star of his own solo series. He did not co-star in every single book on the planet. There was one X title, and he was in it. There were no origin stories.

Simpler times.

There was a mini-series that came out. It was pretty decent and fairly well received. That series, which featured a great scene with a bear, was not the start of the overkill. I think, however, the excellent Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series was ground zero for Marvel's merry mutant. It was the moment the light bulb went off and Marvel fully realized what a cash cow it had.

The mini-series was good. It came out of an era when the mini-series meant something. The character of Kitty Pryde changed forever. Wolverine went on to co-star/cameo in any new series, any series that needed a sales boost, and any series with a mutant in it. This, of course, led to his own series which had bad ideas (Madripoor) and brilliant ones (like when he was an enemy of the state). He became a member of the Fantastic Four along with Punisher and Ghost Rider. (Someone should have been shot over that one.) He was the image Marvel used when money was needed and was needed quickly. All of this only served to take a hero who was once mysterious and interesting and make him pedestrian and a bit of a joke.

Wolverine isn't my favorite X-Men. That would be Nightcrawler. I do think, however, that he has plenty of potential in him. I wish the origin would have never had been written, but I can understand the mindset behind it. I know he draws readers in, and I know many of them have been disappointed with the stories. Marvel would do well by relegating him back onto co-star status, though. Make him mysterious again. Make him a character worth reading instead of the joke he has become.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Okay, not really stolen, but borrowed. A friend of mine has gotten a gig with The Press Democrat and is doing a comic blog there called "Four Colors." He liked my name and did his own take on it. (I'm far more negative them him.) I'm proud of the guy, and it's good to see comic books get exposure on more mainstream sites.

Way to go Trevor.

You can all find the link to the side of the posts in The Batcave.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cover Review: Uncanny X-Men #258 Marvel Legends Reprint

I imagine if you're already buying a Marvel Legends toy you are familiar with the X-Men. This cover would not make me a fan, however.

Psylocke is featured. You either love her or hate her. This image doesn't really portray her as the bad ass she can be. Instead, it's a little overly sexualized (which is something she always was), but also makes the comic seem like it's meant to appeal either to boys who haven't had the courage to talk to girls yet, or girls with power fantasies. Nothing wrong with either, but it doesn't represent the X-Men.

The background images fade into the background and if you stop looking at the cover for more than sixty seconds you end up forgetting about them. You do remember that "Not for Resale" blurb, as it breaks up the overall theme of the piece, but is apparently necessary (and often ignored).

Uncanny X-Men
have had some terrific covers. Many are iconic and are featured on many top cover lists. This will never make those lists as it is as forgettable as it is boring.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Marvel's Star Wars

If you were a Star Wars fan and a comic book fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, you knew of and most likely read Marvel's Star Wars comic. Three annuals, 107 issues and the four-issue adaptation of Return of the Jedi, Marvel's series was the only fix fans had outside the movies and lame television specials. There were the novelizations, three Han Solo novels, three Lando Calrissian novels, and Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye (later adapted by Dark Horse), but the comic books felt right (even when they were oh-so-wrong).

Marvel gets some jabs now for the series. Jabba the Hutt in those early issues? Hideous. Jax? What were they thinking? But there were some great moments, too, like Boba Fett surviving his fate ... the first time. The hunt for Han Solo. The new Sith Lord. For me, the comic books kept the movies alive. Hell, it was one of two titles I first subscribed to. (And I never got that last issue, and it took me years to find. Thanks, Marvel, you bastard.) Getting it every month in the mail was just about as exciting as seeing The Empire Strikes Back. I never knew what I'd expect, but I knew it would be enjoyable.

I still read some of the Dark Horse titles today, but they don't feel the same. Sure, I like them, but that sense of wonder is gone. Perhaps its due to all the novels and video games. Maybe it's because the new films took some of that joy away. Looking back at my old Marvel comics, though, brings those old feelings right back. There are some great covers, stories, characters. Jo Duffy was my favorite writer. Solo my favorite character. Even Luke was a pleasure to read.

Purists balk at much of the comic's content, rightly claiming that the Dark Horse series is canon and maintains a much more even interpretation of the mythos. That's fairly true. After all, are there any fans who want to see those little furry creatures called Lahsbees show up in novel after novel, but who among us didn't thrill to see Solo try to save Boba Fett?

Marvel, as mentioned earlier, takes some good-natured ribbing over the series, but all of that criticism is also tempered with love. Any fan old enough to have read that series loved it. It was all we had, and we ate it up. We can joke about some of the strange and utterly crappy alien races the creators wrote stories around, but we didn't care then. We accepted it and had a good time reading it. It, like the movies, was fun ... and isn't that what you want out of a comic book series?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sarah Palin -- Comic Book Hero

Few female politicians have been honored with a comic book. Now, I haven't read this one and see no real reason to, as I am not a fan of the woman, but I imagine it's a toss-off job that reads exactly as one would expect it to. What I have discovered is that Palin (the real one, not the one competently drawn on this cover) is actually a composite of female heroes and villains.

First and foremost, Palin is as nutty as one of my favorite female characters -- Scarlet Witch. In fact, I can easily picture her whispering, "No more democrats." Poof! All but a handful are left. (If that every becomes the case, I hope the Kennedy Klan is not Left Behind.)

Palin's glasses also bring to mind Oracle. Put Palin in a wheelchair (please!), give her a headset and a Macbook Pro, and that bitch be laying down some important info to Limbaugh.

Overall, Palin's demeanor reminds me of the Goblin Queen. Can't you see her with a chalice ordering people (most likely her neighbors the Russians) captured and brought to her realm? I can, and it scares me.

I cannot prove any of this, but I think her dropping out of politics has everything to do with her wanting to put on tights (beware the camel toe, guvner) so she can fight crime in style. I picture her in some overpriced, yet modest get up (think Power Girl without the circle exposing her cleavage) that features yellow as its primary color with a red cape and thigh-high black boots. "She's dropping jaws and criminals! She's Alaskan Avenger! Defender of truth and pipelines. Advocate for victims and special needs children. She not only proves that crime doesn't pay, but that it can be painful. She's Alaskan Avenger! Friend to the downtrodden. Pal to the poor. And if you mention you vote democrat ... well, she'll help you, too! Heck, you may need even more help from ... the Alaskan Avenger!"

Either that or she is possibly the target of a much-needed criminal investigation.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Than Meets The Senses

I never played with the toys, and I haven't seen either movie, but Marvel's Transformers comic was something I read from time to time. I didn't pick it up monthly like I did with Star Wars, and I didn't enjoy it as much as G.I. Joe, but the book had some sort of appeal to me. I suspect, however, if I cracked open one of my back issues after reading this I would be less than impressed.

I never understood the fanatics when it comes to this franchise. I know a lot of people who love the movies without having been exposed to anything else. I also know plenty of people who can quote episodes of the cartoon. The Transformers comic book, though, seemed different. When talking about the Marvel series, giant robot fans don't seem to get excited about it, though they all agree they were fond of it when they were reading. (I also suspect those people, if honest, would have a different view of it if they read those back issues now). If memory serves me correctly, it was supposed to be a limited series that grew into a series because of a large fan base.

A few years ago comics reintroduced the transforming money makers and comic fans responded kindly. This led to many discussions of the old Marvel series, though I don't recall anyone referencing any storyline, and I realized I couldn't remember one, either.

So what is it about these robots that invokes such passion?

Giant robots that destroy things are cool. Giant anythings that destroy things are cool. But these robots are treated like Godzilla in some circles. They are sacrosanct. (I remember one fan being upset that I wouldn't read his Transformers fan fiction. Jesus, why would I do that?) I suppose the Transformers are our Gundam, which also has a feverish fan following in Japan. To me, however, the whole franchise seems kind of lackluster and -- get out the boards and nails -- silly.

I don't begrudge anyone their love of this juggernaut. I like a lot of things that society would deem less than worthy. I'm just saying I don't see the hype. Maybe I'll go dig up some of my old issues and see if I change my mind.

I have my doubts, though.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Whatever Happened to Comic Castle?

Every once in a while I run into a person I haven't seen in years, someone I remember from my days managing Comic Castle (Eureka, CA), and they want to know what happened to their favorite comic book store. The truth of the matter is that it was sold to the competitor, who has a less-than-stellar reputation. It's also a real basic story. Business wasn't doing well (I had a new job before the store was actually sold), and the owner had to get rid of it fairly fast. The only person he knew who had the money to buy it so quickly was the competition, which now runs it out of his role-playing game store. By all accounts it's just not the same.

I ran into one of those people this weekend. I don't remember his name, but he remembered me, and he asked about the store. He knew it was running out of a new location, but since he refuses to enter that store, he didn't know what had happened. When I explained it to him the best I could (and I do my best to not let my feelings into it), he said he was sad it had to happen, but wished it could've been anyone else who bought it. After it closed, he said, he stopped buying comics.

I mentioned to him that I go through SciFi Genre for my comic needs, as well as eBay, and that there were some pretty cool things happening these days. I mentioned Secret Invasion, the end of 100 Bullets, the Final Crisis, new Conan series and so on. He seemed interested and expressed that his only connection with comic books these days were his back issues and whatever Hollywood was dishing out. Still, he would not go to Comic Castle's new location because it was a matter of trust.

I totally understand that. It's the same reason I and several others won't go there. Some longstanding customers have decided to give the new owner their business, and that's fine, too (though I hear several complaints from them and have to wonder why they continue to give him their hard-earned dough). When it comes to comic books, there is loyalty and there is addiction. Sometimes it's hard to find a balance.

I don't think I'll ever step foot in the new location. My greatest fear is that I'll need supplies and won't be able to get them through my usual channels or whatever reason. So far, however, that has not been an issue.

Before the old customer and I parted ways he asked, "Do you think we'll ever get another store?"

There had been talk of that. I don't think anything ever came of it. "I don't know," I said, "but if you ever decide to do it, look me up. I'll be happy to lend my knowledge to it."

Then we were done. I hope another store comes into the area some day. Competition is a good thing, and I actually miss going into a store and seeing what new items are out. If I had the money, I'd do it. In the meantime there's still SciFi Genre.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts On The Punisher

9/11. New York. Punisher's stomping ground. Under the Marvel Knights imprint, The Punisher issue six was to see light around two months after 9/11, a fact noted by the comic's writer, Garth Ennis. Ennis and artist Steve Dillon (who also teamed up on the incredible Preacher series, one of the best stories of all time) made this issue an examination of the Big Apple's spirit, and since it was written well before 9/11, it does not focus on that event.

In this issue the Punisher is hunting a man he knows, a man he served with in Vietnam, a man who has killed his own family. Punisher wants him before the cops get him, and we all know why. Throughout this, though, the character of the city, its nature, its mores are ruminated on. It seems like the City That Never Sleeps is also the City That Doesn't Care, a fact brought home in the issue's final panel. Frank Castle, the Punisher, as we expect, gets his guy. That was never in doubt. What was in doubt was his reaction to it and his reasoning beyond the norm. Yeah, Punisher kills the guilty, but here he shows heart (though some may say I'm being morbid about that).

Marvel Knights stories were supposed to be grittier than the standard Marvel fare, and they were for the most part. This issue is no different. What is different that the people involved in it decided that since 9/11 was still in everyone's minds (and would not be gone for some time), they would have to comment on it on the text page. They realize they do a comic filled with over-the-top violence, and now America has experienced that up close. What do you do? Apologize for it? Brush the comic off as mere entertainment? Ignore it? No. You do what they did here. You write about it. You don't apologize for a violent comic book (the comic book did not cause 9/11 or even the mentality behind it). As artists, which is what comic creators are, their job is to create, comment, and examine. Ennis and Dillon do that here. What they didn't know when they created the story is that their take on New York would somehow become even more meaningful (or damning, depending on your worldview) in light of the terrorist attacks.

The Punisher has never been known as a subtle character, this tale being an exception. Those who haven't ever read his adventures, however, probably will never understand his appeal. His fans know that he is justice without apology, swift and sure. It is something a lot of people wish would happen more in this world. They also understand why it can't. This tale, which opens with a tragic homeless man begging for money as people do their best to pretend he doesn't exist, shows why Punisher fans are right in claiming him as their own. Those who don't get it, won't have their minds changed by it, though. There is nothing in it that will turn on that bulb in their heads. The end, however meaningful it is, will be seen as nothing but violence.

That, too, mirrors the outcome of 9/11, in a way that could have never been predicted. Violence meets violence. One act not really understood at anything other than a base level. The other done for what is looked at as humane reasons. Terrorist attack. War. Unlike the end of this tale, however, the war that ensued has not reached any kind of emotional conclusion. There hasn't been a moment that brings the story full circle. The war hasn't end, but the tale has. My guess is that by the time this war does end, the conclusion of this Punisher story will be far more heartfelt and honest than anything that could possibly transpire overseas.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cover Review: Blowjob #10

This cover is one of the better Blowjob covers. While the comic series was full of hit or miss moments,the covers were mostly misses. This one, however, stands out, and it does so because of what it doesn't show.

Most comic book stores would not put this comic out in the open, so the covers weren't necessarily used to draw readers, and the publisher, Eros, had to know that. Therefore the covers should have been artistic. Most of them were just plain bad and weren't all that graphic. (It was almost as if the publisher was afraid to be graphic on the cover.) While they weren't graphic, they were suggestive. This one is suggestive in all the right ways.

First of all, this cover puts the viewer in the role of the guy getting the hummer. That's always a good position to be in no matter what you are doing. And while the thong is tasteful, I could do without the blond hair (just my personal preference). The cover says a lot. Any guy would know what is going on without seeing the comic's title. The title, however, when mixed with the cover art lets the reader know exactly what kind of stories they are going to get.

Other covers in the comic series had females with milk splashed on them, glory hole shots (which was one of the most terrifying covers on a comic I have ever seen), and generally juvenile moments. This one stands out because it is tasteful, subtle (for the series) and erotic. In fact, I'd bet most females wouldn't have a problem with this cover, either, as it is erotically done.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beware The Architects!

The Doctor 13 trade paperback Architecture & Morality was loaned to me by a friend who thought I might enjoy it. His taste in comics, while not the same as mine, is close enough for me to take what he says seriously. I thought the concept (obscure DC characters meet Doctor 13 who makes normal skeptics seem too accepting) sounded interesting. When he gave me the book and I saw that Brian Azzarello was the writer, I figured I was in for something good.

Azzarello does one of my favorite comic series, 100 Bullets. I'll admit it can be confusing at times, but I love the characters (especially Lono), and the story keeps me interested. His name on a book is a plus for me. Then there's the artist.

The artwork is by Cliff Chiang. I don't really care for his work one way or another (he seems like a poor man's Mike Allred), but here it really fits the story, and in hindsight may be the best part of the book.

If you couldn't guess by that last paragraph, I wasn't super impressed. It's not that I hated it. I was just expecting more. The concept is sound. The characters obscure enough to make it interesting, and the final act was a clever take on what has been going on not only in the DC universe, but comics as a whole. Azzarello is making a statement here (one I can't really give away without ruining things), and it is a bold one, but his message is tempered by a story that doesn't quite live up to what he's trying to say. Yes, it was cool to see Infectious Lass, but Doctor 13 bothered the hell out of me.

When you get to the end of the story and you realize what Azzarello is trying to say, you will either agree with him or disagree. Your stance kind of mirrors what you think about comics today. Are you a purist, a realist, or just along for the ride? Azzarello makes you question that, and for that I applaud him. I just wish it would've been ... better.

Ironically, considering the story, I think Grant Morrison could've pulled this off better. Azzarello, as proven with 100 Bullets, is at his best when he is doing something gritty, violent and vile. This book is none of those things. He's holding back and that feels forced, which is usually the opposite complaint when it comes to writers.

I like this book's art, message and the attempt to actually make a statement with it. I respect that and appreciate it. In the end, however, I think the effort kind of falls flat. The points it raises are fine and worthy of debate, the way they are raised fails to impress, and that's an assertion even Doctor 13 could believe in.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Supernatural Is Embararssing

A woman with whom I work had a secret. She tried to hide it. Made remarks that I'd think she was "weird." (I really like this woman, and there are few things she could do to make me say that.) She slipped something into her desk and said, "You'd make fun of me for my comic books."

This woman had no idea I liked comics.

After I assured her that was not the case, I asked to see what she had. She produced two Supernatural trade paperbacks from Wildstorm.

I'm not a fan of the show. Have never seen it, actually. I do know it has a large fan base, and this woman was one of them. She explained, as if I had no concept of a trade paperback, that the books were originally single issues of comics, but these books collected them.

I actually found it pretty neat.

This woman is a bit older than me (I'm 38), and she was kind of proud of what she was reading, despite the fact that she hid it from me.

I wish American culture was more like Japanese culture insomuch that comic books were not objects of shame, but widely accepted forms of entertainment and literature. That's starting to change somewhat and probably will be the norm in another ten to twenty years, but I wish it were now. I wish adults could read something like Preacher in public without having to explain. Granted, there are those who would say their special little books were no longer so special since everyone liked them, but it's not punk rock -- it's fucking comic books! They're meant to appeal to the masses. Hence the popularity of Supernatural and its translation to comic book form.

When I read the Lady Snowblood books in public I often had to explain. The cover color scheme had people asking me if it had anything to do with Kill Bill, and that leads to more explanation. I don't hide my entertainment/artistic choices in shame, however. I feel like it's my duty to be ambassador for things I like. If I don't do it, who will?

The woman was pretty damn excited about her purchases. She was going to take them home and devour them, most likely in one sitting. And I hope she caught an ad or two in the back of the book for other books that looked intriguing ... though it's Wildstorm, so you can't get your hopes too high.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cover Review: Alpha Flight #110

One word comes to mind when looking at this 1992 cover: typical. Typical bland art and typical bland team shot. Everyone has a glint of evil, which is fine, but all the evil comes out in their eyes because all the eyes pretty much look the same.

I dislike boring covers. This cover would never get me to pick up the book. Alpha Flight was never a favorite of mine, and this cover would not have changed anything. Did anyone pick up this book because of the cover? Does it tell you anything about what is going on inside? What makes it stand out on the stand? Nothing. The colors are unappealing, the characters generic. And in 1992 every other cover had the same vibe, same art style. While it house an excellent story, the art tells potential readers to stay away unless they want more of the same.

Back when this series first started, the covers were something that were talked about. Remember the one that was almost all white? The one with all the rods? The one with Wolverine about to go nuts? Those were good covers, exciting covers. They were covers that made you want to at least look inside the issue. This cover does the exact opposite. By all accounts, the series was horrible at this time, and this cover presents no hope for the story inside. Pat Broderick was the artist behind it. The art lover in me says he should be shot. The comic fan in me thinks he should have been banned from ever doing another cover. The human in me wishes he would have picked another career. I wonder what he is doing now?

I hope it's not working on any new covers.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Moonstone. When I first came across her she was fighting the Hulk. I don't remember much more than that, and I haven't kept up on her adventures with the Thunderbolts, but I've always been interested in the character.

First there's this costume. I can't put my finger on why it works, but it does. Especially with the hair. If the hair were any other color it wouldn't work. The entire thing looks almost alien. Kree, perhaps?

I don't remember much about her powers or origin. Actually, I'm not even sure I ever knew her origin. All I remember is that she looked cool, gave the Hulk a run for his money, and had something about her that has stuck with me all these years.

Of course, Moonstone could be a lot like my "love" of the TV show "Get A Life." I remember thinking that show was great, and then years after it went off the air I ended up getting home copies of every episode from a guy. You know what? The show sucked. I couldn't figure out what I liked about it in the first place, and maybe that's why I haven't been too keen to read much with Moonstone in it. I know Daredevil will always be good, and so will Batman. Those characters change, but the core is solid. Moonstone? I didn't know her that well in the first place, so maturity may have tarnished my decidedly sketchy memories.

Either way, the costume's still cool.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Scary Tales#18 -- A Cover Review

Forgive me, Lord, but I have a soft spot for Charlton Comics, and while Scary Tales was not one of my favorite series, it was sometimes enjoyable.

This cover, however, is not.

Comic book covers have to catch your eye. They have to grab you and not let go. To stand out from the other comics on the rack/shelf, they have to be something special. The cover pictured here is so fucking far from special that I had to wonder what someone was thinking.

Not a single thing about this cover says, "Buy me!" Especially not to some kid. You got some chap telling these weird looking people that this moment wasn't in the script. I don't have this issue of the comic, so I can't even tell you if this is in the comic script, but I would hope not.

At what point does this cover say it may be scary? Because the four misfits are advancing in a semi-threatening manner? Because they look funny? Because there is a weird, out-of-time pop art feel to part of it? Beats the holy hell out of me. If I was a kid enountering this issue I would have stayed the hell away.

Charlton was never known for quality, but this is substandard even by that company's ... well, standards. Honestly, it feels like the publisher didn't want anyone buying this issue. "Let's make the cover as bland as humanly possible. It's the choice between this one and the black cover. Black says too 'arty.' Let's go with this one."

Come to think of it, the first issue's cover wasn't much better, either.

Monday, May 4, 2009


My friend and I have this common fondness for archer superheroes. We both are fans of Hawkeye and Green Arrow. I don't know where his love of these characters came from, but I think I've pinpointed mine.

I used to use a bow to hunt. Due to that, I had to do a lot of target practice with the weapon. There is something methodical and primitive about pulling back the string, aiming, holding steady and then letting go. I never killed anything with the bow, and I have long since given up hunting, but that bloodlust remains.

These archer characters have something a lot of other heroes lack: realism. Superman could never happen. Wolverine is a myth. But Hawkeye and Green Arrow are (essentially) guys with bows fighting crime. Granted, they do some amazing things, and well know most of those trick arrows would never fly straight, but at their core these are just guys in suits with a weapon that is by all standards fairly archaic. (How many armies use bows and arrows these days? None. They all died.) Going into a fight against Ultron with only a bow and superhuman aim takes guts. That is why these characters appeal to me.

Hawkeye, in my opinion, was at his best leading the West Coast Avengers. For some reason I thought he always worked better as a team player, even though he always felt like an outsider there. I think of Green Arrow in the exact opposite way. In a team he tends to get overshadowed by just about everyone else. His solo series from Kevin Smith, who later left it, was pretty damn good despite some art that took a little getting used to.

I never cared too much about characters with big guns. I am more attracted to the ones who seem more honest, more real. Daredevil, Batman, Hawkeye, Green Arrow, Silver Surfer (that one is a joke). Their characters, when written properly, give the story something a Cyclops story can never have. A feeling of realistic urgency. Yes, comic books are largely about escape, but an escape based in reality is a far more therapeutic escape than one based in fantasy. And that works for me any day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Discovering Nightcrawler

I don't even think I have this issue of Amazing Spider-Man anymore, but this is the one that made me appreciate Nightcrawler. I don't remember much about the story, either, other than the Punisher was involved and someone on that rollercoaster got shot (and of course there were a few fights along the way). If I had an issue of Uncanny X-Men with the fuzzy elf in it, I don't remember, as it was this story that made him my favorite X-Man.

I don't have a deep answer as to why Nightcrawler is my favorite mutant. It's not that he's a great, interesting character, and nor are his powers that impressive. No, my reasons were much more base.

I just really liked the way he looked.

Nightcrawler is a hero, yet he looks kind of evil. Sharp teeth. Blue, fuzzy skin. A tail. Three fingers and toes. Those eyes. He looks like a demon, which is often mentioned when people reference him.

The second X-Men film got his powers down pretty good, but thoroughly fucked up the look with that scarification. He no longer looked all that scary to me. Instead, he looked kind of goofy, though I know a lot of people liked his character. I can't complain about anything other than the look when it comes to his movie character, though, because most everything else was done right.

Later on, as I read more storylines showcasing him, I became more appreciative of the character's flaws, inner-strength and faith. My focus shifted from looks to actual character, and I ended up liking him even more. Of all the X-Men he is probably the most actualized.

The first Nightcrawler limited series was a bust. His solo series that came out a few years ago wasn't garbage, but it wasn't so hot, either. He remains, however, far more interesting than Wolverine, Cyclops, Emma Frost or Deadpool. Or at least that's my opinion. Wolverine may get all the attention, but Nightcrawler will always be the number one mutant to me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Intoductions ...

All right, this is like blog number five or so that I'm doing, and this one will be dedicated to comic books/graphic novels and the like. I'm a fan of almost all the comic book publishers (even Image, though that wasn't always the case) and like everything from superheroes to indie stuff. Enjoy.