Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cover Review: Doctor Tom Brent -- Young Intern #2

Charlton put out a lot of comics I liked.  They weren't always good comics, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  My guess, however, is that in 1963 there wasn't a single sane person who ever uttered this phrase: "Oh boy!  It's the new issue of Doctor Tom Brent -- Young Intern!"  Not a single one.

How many things can you count wrong with this cover?  Let's start with the obvious -- the title. 

Doctor Tom Brent -- Young Intern sounds about as exciting as watching Lawrence Welk on PBS with your grandmother as she starts to nod off.  There is really nothing about the title that says, "Read me."  If your parents hated you, this is the comic they bought you.  "I know you wanted Detective Comics, but you've been a little bastard.  Read this instead."  Even Ned Flanders finds this boring.

A cover's job is to sell readers on the comic.  The artists, of course, would have no control over the title or the story inside (in this case, the yawn-fest "A Doctor Heals in Many Ways"), so they had to make the artwork engaging on some level.  They have, obviously, failed here.  Instead of drawing a cover that pulls you, they decided to come up with something even more boring than the title.  One doctor at a microscope, another one telling him that they had 12 hours to come up with some way of keeping a boy from going home to die.  Our hero, Young Intern Brent, has no clue how to do this.  Way to sell a book.  The only thing that could have made it worse was a cover blurb stating, "Now with ten MORE pages of TEXT inside!!!"  What were they thinking?  Who was the audience for this?  Who bought it?  Tom Brent probably doesn't know.

I have none of these issues in my collection, and I doubt I ever will unless someone sends me the wrong item when I win something on eBay.  This series could be the most exciting young intern series ever written for all I know.  You can't tell by the cover, however.  What you can tell is that there were probably quite a few kids who spent their twelve cents elsewhere.

Confession is Good For the Soul

I have a confession to make, one that when made before seemed to take some people by surprise.  I haven't read a single copy of the new DC relaunch, and I have really have no plans to do so at this current time.

I hear shrieks of "blasphemy" and general wonderment.  How could I, a comics fan and writers of such stuff, not have read any of the relaunch and how could I not be planning on doing so?

Easy.  I don't care.

I've been around long enough to know when a publisher is pulling off a promotional stunt or is engaged in outright desperation.  This reeks of both, and I really don't want much to do with it.

I know all the reasons behind it, and some of them are actually valid.  Discarding decades of history not only of characters but of titles is not only insulting to audiences both old and new, it's also a death blow to people who liked that sense of establishment.  I was one of those people.  With a business plan that seemed a tad more thought out than Marvel's Silent Month, DC invalidated me as a reader.  So I returned the favor.  That's not to say I'll never read any of the relaunches, but it is saying that as of right now I couldn't care less about them.

What's even more surprising is what I've heard about them.  Some are winners.  Some are losers.  That is to be expected.  In the good new titles, however, people are telling me there are good stories, but not a single one has been described as something that could only be done under the guise of a relaunch.  So not only does this move seem like a gimmick and desperate, but it also seems lazy.  Lazy in the sense that the publishers and writers (most likely just the publishers) couldn't think of any other way of bringing in new readers and having a major shake-up other than this bit of carefree nonsense.  And those readers recommending the titles?  They all tell me they think the numbering and titles will revert back to normal sometime in the near future.  (No kidding.)  So, yes, DC, not even your fans believe it, though the mainstream news medias seem to have bought it as they usually do.

DC's move to seem less isolationist has sort of ended up seeming that very thing in a sense.  Unfortunately, it has also worked, with DC dominating sales charts.  I can't picture that will be the case for much longer (and it may have already started to wane; I have yet to see current numbers for the past month).  It's a short-term fix to a long-time problem, which is: attracting new readers.  This was a half-hearted good idea.  You can attract all kinds of new readers, but if you lose the old ones, you're sunk.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wolverine and the X-Men #1

This title got added to my pull list when Uncanny X-Men looked like it was no longer going to be published.  (Yeah, that lasted long.)  I decided to keep it on the pull list ... knowing nothing about it ... because I like Wolverine, and I like the X-Men.  Plus, it added to amount of comics I needed to get to the next discount tier.

When the first issue arrived I looked at the cover and immediately thought I had made a mistake.  Hideous.  Luckily there was truth in advertising, as the story was just as stupid.

The premise is that Wolverine has taken over the job of running Professor Xavier's school.  That is a good premise, which has promise.  That said, the crux of the issue involves an inspection to make sure the school is safe for young mutants ... and it's all handled with comedy -- mostly of the slapstick variety.

Wow.  That's all I can say.  Wow.

Wolverine heading the school actually makes sense for his character, and it shows some good growth.  Handling the situation as a comedy is a huge mistake.  It really doesn't even make sense, and I doubt it will last all that long.  I hope it won't last that long.

I may have issue two by now.  (I think it's in my stack.)  I'm in no rush to read it.  I will, however, stick with it a few issues until I make the final decision on it.  I think the premise has promise, so I'm willing to give it a chance.  All it needs to do to fix the problems is get a new artist and writer team ... and keep Frank Miller away from it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this garbage.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cover Review: Doc Savage #7

I never read Marvel's Doc Savage series.  Covers like this one, to issue seven, is why.  It is bland, boring and bad.

The title logo is fine.  It reeks of savagery.  Everything else, though, just reeks. 

First there is the werewolf.  If it stood upright, it's head would be awfully tiny.  And why does it look like it should have four arms?  I do like the thick drool, however.  I am a big fan of thick drool.

Savage himself is ordinary.  If I knew nothing about the character or the title, I would know that Savage was oddly colored (bronze?), and liked to wear a vest, white pants, boots and little else.  He also had weird sideburns.  I would imagine he was some kind of werewolf hunter, based on what the werewolf is saying, and the fact that his name is Doc Savage. 

What is stranger than the werewolf or the odd coloring of the cover, is the werewolf's prints in the snow.  The footprints don't seem to resemble the werewolf's feet, they are drawn oddly, and it looks as if the werewolf was possibly hopping on one leg that those Oriental ghost vampire things.  Perhaps this was part of the story.  I have no idea.  I never read the issue, and with this cover I never would.

One last note: How the hell are the clouds behind the sun or moon?  (I can't really tell which it is.  It resembles the sun, but there is little reason why a werewolf would be out in the sun since they traditionally turn into their namesake during full moons.)  Has the moon/sun suddenly entered our atmosphere?  If so, this cover should look radically different.  Rick Butler, you've done better.  I'm not sure you've done worse.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me some cash.  This issue was not sent to me to review.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wish Fulfillment Personified -- The Punisher

Marvel's character, the Punisher, is about as basic a character you can get.  Overtly based on Mack Bolan in The Executioner series written by Don Pendleton, the Punisher, in the most basic of terms, is a man whose family is killed by bad guys and because of that he decides to kill all bad guys.

End of story.

The Punisher is a lone wolf.  He listens to no authority, lets no one stand in his way.  He rights the wrongs and does it with finality.  If you are engaged in a crime, he will kill you.  This is teenage male wish fulfillment at its finest.

The idea of doing harm to all the people who have done you wrong ... and then taking it further to make sure no wrong is ever done again is appealing.  The notion that authority, be it law enforcement, your parents or school, cannot contain you is a fantasy second only to sex in a teenage boy's mind.  When the Punisher steps into the fray he becomes symbolic of what every wronged teen boy has imagined at one time or another ... guilt-free, rampant vengeance.  It's part of why he's so popular, and since teen boys grow up to be teen men, he remains popular.

If revenge were all the character had to offer, though, he would be soon relegated to second tier status, and that's being generous.  Through the hands of various writers, however, Punisher has taken on something that goes beyond mere violent masturbation material.  (Excluding, of course, those ill-conceived detours into the realm of angels and pseudo-Frankenstein monsters.)  He has become an almost tragic figure.  A twisted Christ.  He wipes evil from the Earth, but is destined to do so alone (or with the help of a few select friends) and be alone.  He has been resurrected (again, in those horrible storylines).  He has attracted the ire of self-appointed protectors who find his methods too extreme and have punished him for it.  Is he to be worshipped?  Only by the psychotic, but there are plenty of readers who can understand and even sympathize with is actions.

There is something cathartic about ridding your world of evil.  Not just locking it away with the hopes that he or she will be reformed.  Sometimes your problems can only be solved by defenestration or massive explosions.  Were you do to those things in real life, you would be hunted and most likely caught.  You would have to hope a jury of your "peers" would understand that sometimes rapists have to be shot in the face.  And you would hope they have pity on you.  The Punisher has these concerns, but they don't matter much in the grand scheme of things.  His titles sell well enough that readers know he will never truly be reformed or cancelled.  He will live to kill another day ... once again brought back from the dead to show the world the error of its ways.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cover Review: Bachelor Father

Nothing screams fun to a young lad or lassy like a comic cover featuring John Forsythe.  If that poor misguided child remained unconvinced, this second issue of Bachelor Father, which is reminiscent of those Mother Boy dances on Arrested Development, worked in a little more sugar to lure young readers in.

First thing you may notice is the daring use of dynamic colors.  If that didn't make it jump of the rack, nothing would.  But let's say the child was color blind and not a huge fan of Forsythe, what could publisher Dell possibly put on the cover to pull this wayward reader in?  How about a creepy singing Asian man named Sammee Tong complete in some servant-type outfit?  What about the world's most exciting musical instrument, especially when on the cover of a comic book?  Done and done!  Toss in Noreen Corcoran tickling those ivories, and you have yourself a winner.  Combined, these images cause this cover to scream "fun!"

Or not ...

Photo covers using celebs is a risky gamble.  On one hand, you have a built-in sale if any reader happens to be a fan of the celeb.  On the other hand, anyone who isn't a fan isn't likely to buy the issue.  Fans of Bachelor Father, a comedy that ended up running on all three of the major networks, may have been thrilled there was a comic of their show, but I have serious doubts anyone else cared ... despite Sammee Tong (whose very name seems racist).

I've never seen the television show, and have never read the comic.  Covers like this don't make me want to experience them, either.  One thing does have me perplexed, however.  Is Tong singing ... or is he screaming for escape?  If it's the former, I'll definitely pass, but if it's the latter ... it could be an interesting issue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Falling In Love All Over Again?

Marvel and DC have a problem.  This problem is the rebooting of entire lines.  A mulligan of titles, if you will.  Both comics have done it in the past, though if you read the news about DC (covered in the mainstream press) it sounded as if this was the first time any comic book company had done any such thing.  Granted, DC did it on a huge scale, as indicated by the cover on the left, but starting established titles over at number one is no rarer than changing the numbering system back to the old one later on.

When I first started reading comics, I liked the idea that I was reading #154 of a given issue.  It gave me a sense that there was some history behind the title.  There was a secret past that I could explore at some point.  It signified stability, as well.

Action Comics started in 1938.  1938!  How many other things have been around that long?  It was a comics institution.  Starting it over at issue one is desperate.  It reeks of a gimmick to lure in new readers.  Perhaps in our world, which has been molded by MTV and action movie edits, some people were afraid to read a title that had a history.  Perhaps it was too much to absorb.  I find that unlikely, though.  Going from my own personal tastes, and from what I saw when I managed a comic book store, if you give readers a good story, they will come to the title no matter what issue number it is on.

The moves Marvel and DC have done over the past few years indicate two companies afraid of going under and/or becoming obsolete.  They've sold the movie rights to characters, so now studios can make their own stories with them as they see fit.  The things the companies have done (massive storylines, reboots, etc.) are done with the hopes of attracting a new crowd while at the same time keeping the old.  What Marvel and DC should have learned from the times these things have been done in the past is that they don't work.  There may be brief spikes in sales and some media buzz, but it doesn't last.  Compelling stories last.  Respect to the medium gathers an audience.  Pandering to a non-existent crowd does nothing more than make one look like a huckster.  If Marvel and DC wanted to be "contemporary" they would drop numbering all together and probably go straight to trade paperbacks, but I highly doubt either company would last long if that's what they did.  Why?  Because the money these companies make comes from the core comics fan, and those fans want the same things I do.  Good stories and respect.

If Marvel and DC started treating their titles like art and less like commodities, the fan base would grow.  It would grow slowly, but it would grow.  It did so in the 1980s when magazines like Rolling Stone covered Frank Miller and Alan Moore's work.  These men were creating art, and the companies (DC in this case) let them.  The industry got respect.  New readers flocked to it.  The industry grew.  It's a very simple formula, but it is one steeped in long term thinking.  If the past few years have taught us anything, though, it is that the Marvel and DC are suffering from attention deficit disorder just as much as they believe their fans to be suffering from it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Walking Dead: Superheroes, Death and Culture

I recently read Secret Avengers number 15, which is part of the "Fear Itself" storyline.  It deals with the death of Captain America (again), and a tabloid that posts a story saying he is still alive.  It's actually a fairly decent (if somewhat unsatisfying) story that tackles the issue of the death and subsequent resurrection of superheroes and what it means to the people who populate that universe.  While it is a Marvel story, no comic book company that publishes superhero comics is immune to this scenario.  For all of you who don't know the superhero paradigm, it is this: Some die and come back.

Recently I have been engaged in a series of e-mails with a female friend about this very subject, so reading this issue coming off those e-mails made me think that this is a great time to write about it.  And in starting this post I remembered a conversation I had many years ago in Comic Castle (before it became a joke at the other end of town) in Eureka, California.

I was talking to a comic reader who was explaining why he stopped reading superhero comic books.  "The heroes don't stay dead," he said.  This is a serious complaint.

Comic books, like any artistic medium, are flawed.  You have the business aspect of them, which is often at odds with the artistic side of them.  Comic companies create these wonderful, endearing characters who become big money makers for them.  They reach icon status.  Sometimes they are killed in order to boost sales, but are brought back for the same reason.  It's the same thing that drives Coca Cola.  You can change the product, but you can't kill it off.  For the writers of these comic books, this corporate mindset creates a unique set of problems.  As a writer you typically don't own the characters you are writing.  You may want them to grow, but the comic company and a lot of the readers don't want to read that despite what they say.  If, as a writer, you take your story to its natural conclusion, it will often end in the death or retirement of a character.  The story will have finality, as is the case with most stories.  Again, this is at odds with what a comic company and its readership wants ... despite both of them saying they want progression and stories that keep up with the "times."  As a writer, it's a hard line to tow, but many do it.  Some better than others.  And any writer who kills off a character does so with the understanding that the character could be brought back at any time.

There is, however, one other aspect to consider -- cultural.  And this aspect is where the reader who stopped reading Batman and Captain America was caught.

I could understand him not wanting to continue reading the comics because characters he cared about didn't stay dead.  Their deaths meant something to him.  Bringing them back cheapened their deaths.  I think that is perfectly acceptable ... or at least it would've been if he really lived his life this way.

"Aren't you Christian?" I asked.  "Don't you believe in Jesus?  He died and came back."

"That," he explained, "is different.  Comics aren't real life."

No argument there.  I do, however, find it profoundly disturbing that one would apply rules to real life that they won't apply to fiction.  I can see someone taking the rules that apply to fiction and not applying them to real life.  That makes sense.  That's a sane and rational way to go through life.  I love the Star Wars franchise, but I don't think The Force has any bearing on real life.  If, however, I believed that people could move things with their minds but didn't like Star Wars because the concept of The Force seemed ridiculous, it would make me a hypocrite and irrational.  Yet people do this all the time and don't see an issue with it.

There are plenty of people throughout the world who believe Jesus came back to life.  Not only do they believe it, they also live their lives according to it (granted, often only when it is convenient).  Many of those believers are also comic book readers.  (Read the letters pages in back issues of Preacher if you don't believe me.)  Some of those have turned away from comics because the idea of a hero's resurrection somehow offends their sensibilities.  I can't be the only one to see a problem with this.

The opposing forces of capitalism and art are understandable and in many cases excusable.  From acts of capitalism we sometimes get great art.  From works of art there is often money to be made.  The opposing forces of morality versus fiction should be less of a problem, and can be when handled properly.  When you think a concept in fiction is unbelievable but yet live your life and establish your values under that same concept you have a serious problem.  It means you aren't making decisions based on logic, rationality or any sense of seriously defined rules.  I have no issue with people leading a life based on the concepts of religion, but when that person won't accept fiction with the same concepts because it isn't realistic it signifies to me that the person hasn't really thought about what he or she believes.  They haven't examined it, and they surely haven't figured out how it really applies to them in real life.

The idea that superheroes can die and be resurrected will never go away.  Green Arrow.  Captain America.  Bucky.  Superman.  Spider-Man.  The list is endless.  It will never go away because it generates money for publishers and readers, despite what they say, like it.  It is part of the comic book culture.  The idea of Jesus and his story will never go away, either.  It will continue to influence people into the foreseeable future.  I don't expect all followers of Jesus to be fans of comic books.  There are plenty of other viable reasons for comics to lack appeal to them.  I do, however, expect fans of comics who also believe in Jesus to either accept the fact that heroes die and are resurrected or seriously question what they believe when it comes to religion.  If you are one of those people, how do you get through life with such directly opposing views?  You either go through life thoroughly confused, or you haven't given your beliefs more than a few moments of serious thought.  I must admit that the latter is far scarier to me than the former.  Me?  I don't believe in Jesus, but I do enjoy superhero comics.  I know people don't die and get resurrected in real life, but I thoroughly understand the workings of capitalism and the idea that it can make for an engaging story.  The fact that I may have given more thought to my genre fiction than some people have given to their own values and morals scares the crap out of me ... as it should you, too.  If, of course, you're one to think of such things.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission. Making a comment attacking me as some sort of heathen will only inspire more of this kind of thing

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bondage Masked Violence

I've written about Marshal Law before.  The violent, satrical, take-no-prisoners character is a favorite of mine.  He wears a bondage mask, has barbed wire wrapped around his arm and kills people for a living.  What's not to love?  The various series he's been a part of have all been over-the-top when it comes to violence (see the panel here for an example).  It's not meant to be real or even realistic.  It's a satire.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

When the series came out in the late '80s a friend of mine thought it was pretty ghastly and had called it the "downfall of comics."  (I am reminded of this by him in a recent e-mail where he had read my original post online.)  This observation comes from a person who had recently got into the art form and had no real knowledge of comic books' history with violence (something well-documented by writers better than I), nor the shifting tastes of what a public wants in entertainment.  He made a casual observation based on his thoughts and feelings, and, as he is quick to admit, he made it without doing more than glancing at the first issue.

The world of Marshal Law is full of steroid-abusing men in tights who pummel each other until bones break from skin.  People are set on fire at random, and gun violence is as common as candy in the schoolyard.  Marshal Law is employed to take down wayward heroes, and he does it with all the violence one would expect.  The entire concept is taking the idea of superheroes to what is really the next level, as seen in books like The Authority, which came well after Law and company.  The only thing that makes Superman any different is the level of violence.  The Man of Steel punches a guy and he goes down.  His head doesn't go flying off into space.  Why wouldn't it, though?  Why wouldn't pumping an unstoppable behemoth full of bullets result in a wet mess of flesh still coming at you with a look of rage?  The creators of the Marshal Law character, Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill, asked those questions and showed the results of their findings.  They did so in a way that was so outrageous, however, that you couldn't help but notice what they were trying to accomplish.  Heavy-handed?  Perhaps, but that was really a great way to tell the story.

The various titles starring Marshal Law didn't destroy comics, and nor did it have any real noticeable impact.  It may have inspired a few creators (I hope it has), but it didn't change the art form in any way that is lasting.  It didn't need to, however.  It came onto the scene and made its point.  That is far more than many comics do these days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Series That Needs Reprinting: Atari Force

The latest issue of the Comics Buyer's Guide has a letter from someone commenting on which series they would like to see reprinted.  One of them he mentioned was Atari Force.  I couldn't agree more.

Atari Force sounds like a lame title.  I thought so when it came out in the early '80s.  It was originally shipped with Atari games in a smaller format, if memory serves me correctly, and then DC did it as a regular-sized comic book.  I stumbled across the first issue at the news rack, read a page and got hooked just about instantly.  Then I picked up every issue as they appeared, but for some reason the store stopped carrying it at issue four or five.  I have since picked up some back issues here and there, but it's obvious to me that if the rights permit it, DC should definitely reprint this fine sci-fi series ... which really had nothing to do with Atari in any noticeable way.

I believe one of the reasons I liked this so much was the same reason I liked Marvel's Micronauts.  It was rousing action with a science fiction twist (though Marvel's series was often based on Earth in modern times).  It read like nothing else on the stands at the time, too.  Sure, you could read about the Titans or their Marvel equivalent, but the stories of Atari Force stood out as unique.

Not every issue was a winner, however.  Why it only lasted about twenty issues is beyond me, though.  I can only think that this was a time period where everyone was so focused on superheroes that this easily fell through the cracks.  DC can rectify this slight, and bring back a piece of comic's history ... in color.  Is there a market to support it?  Hell, if people are still reading Spawn I think anything is possible.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link can earn me some cold, hard cash, yo!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Best Trade I Ever Made

I was excited when Marvel, via its Epic line, announced it would be reprinting Akira.  This would be my chance to finally read the highly-praised Japanese series.  I was picking up the issues on a regular basis, too.  The comic book store I bought them from, The Encounter in PA, had ordered enough that it was doing store-made three packs of the first three issues at a special low price.  I picked up one of these as an investment.  It's an investment that paid off quite well.

A few months later I found myself at a comic book booth at a local flea market.  The guy had some good stuff, primarily Silver Age and newer.  One of the issues on the shelf was Marvel's Conan #1.  Being a huge Conan fan, this was a find.  It was also over-priced for its condition.  He wanted something like $108 for it. That was insane.

I asked the guy who ran the booth, a man in his fifties, if he could come down any on his price, as it was way too high for its condition. He informed me that was not out of the question.  He would drop it to $100.  Still too rich for my teen blood.

We started the traditional haggling, and in doing so he revealed he was after the hottest series going right now: Akira.  Brilliant.

Yes, Akira was hot, but it wasn't hard to find, and I had the first three issues.  I asked the man what he would give for those issues.

"I'd give you that Conan."

"I'll be right back."

I raced home, fearful that at any given moment he would realize the mistake he had made, or that someone would swoop in and claim that issue for himself.  I had never seen these issue in person before, and I knew it was fairly hard to find in Eastern PA.  If the right person spotted it, and had the cash, I was out of something I wanted in the worst way.

Fortune was with me that day, and three comic books I paid between six and nine dollars for snagged me one of the more sought-after issues of that time period.  I'm fairly sure this will remain the best trade I'll ever make, too.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link could earn me a small commission.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Super Heroes Go To The Movies

Being a fan of comic books, I'm often asked if I've seen the latest super hero movie.  Inevitably, I haven't.  I haven't seen one since Iron Man, which I actually enjoyed, and I'm not rushing out to get to whatever's playing at the local theatre.

Hollywood's latest and greatest super hero movies seem to be (from what I can tell) keeping with the spirit of the source material.  When they do stray, it's not in any way that creates too much of a problem.  They seem to cram a lot in, which is a problem, but people who typically digest Hollywood entertainment are used to that sort of thing.  Hey, if one villain is good, thirty-five is even better.  There is a bigger problem with these movies, though, and that is the one that concerns me.

They aren't telling new stories.  Granted, I think the first Ultimate Avengers arc would make a great movie, as would the Born Again storyline from Daredevil, but I've read these, just like I've read about the origin of Thor and the first issues of the X-Men.  Yes, the movies changed things, but the basic stories are the same, and if I read them in a form that has no budget issues, what do I gain from seeing it on the screen?  Nothing.  That, of course, is where the dilemma lies.  If Hollywood did all new stories, it risks altering the character's history (not a big deal to people who don't read the comics), and it risks alienating the core fan base for whatever character it is doing.

This is a no-win situation for Hollywood, and it is one that has been created by those very vocal fans who cry foul the second a comic book is optioned.  Hollywood has, in turn, taken the best course of action. It takes a beloved story and creates just enough change to make it work for Hollywood audiences and offer something a little new, but not new enough to turn away the fans ... excluding me.  I can't say I blame Hollywood.  After all, nobody wants to spend millions on a film nobody will watch.

Of course, if the Avengers film is that first arc from Ultimate Avengers I will probably watch it.  The entire thing was written like a movie in the first place, and you got to admit that would be fun to watch on the big screen.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.  Yea!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Call From The Carrot ... Sort Of

It wasn't actually the Flaming Carrot who called, it was its creator, Bob Burden.  To say I was shocked is an understatement ...

It all started with this blog posting I wrote on my love of the surreal beauty of Flaming Carrot Comics.  Nothing led me to believe that over a month later on a Sunday as I updated my anti-virus software and my daughter started loading her Hello Kitty backpack that my phone would ring and it would be Burden on the other end telling me how much he liked my piece.

Usually my writing results in angry e-mails or people getting their feelings hurt and needing to tell me how they misinterpreted my writing in person.  And if it's someone of note contacting me?  Well, usually they are pretty pissed.  (To be fair, Burden did ask me to correct something in the original piece, which I did, but he was an incredibly friendly and polite man.)  To have a pleasant conversation with someone whose work I admired just about pummeled me into stupidity.

Burden and I discussed blog issues, his work on the Gumby comics, an issue he is having with Marvel involving the use of the Mystery Men (I'll be writing something about that in the future), and more.  It was a fascinating conversation, and I have to admit I have even more respect for the guy.  He didn't have to take the time to call me.  I've written praise about plenty of other artists who haven't contacted me.  Hell, I wrote Brian Michael Bendis a long letter of praise and offered to interview him for Film Threat back when he was just starting to become a big name and he didn't so much as acknowledge the request.  So now I even have more respect for the man who wrote the first comic book that made me laugh out loud.

At the end of the conversation, Burden asked me to drop him an e-mail sometime, which I will do.  I just want to wait until the shock of the initial conversation wears off so I can think of something intelligent to say.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.  Blah, blah, blah.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flaming Carrot/Bob Burden Update!

For those who enjoyed the original piece on Flaming Carrot, please click here.  I have updated it after a great phone call by Mr. Burden.  More on this later.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Between the Covers With Schwarzenegger

When Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't busy making crappy movies, running California into the ground, or knocking up the staff, characters based on his likeness have appeared in comic books and comic book movies for quite a few years.  In fact, before he took "responsibility" for a child he kept hidden for years, he was set to be the subject of a new comic book (the title of which is ridiculous and I will not give credit to here).

Conan.  Terminator.  Mr. Freeze.  He was even attached to Sgt. Rock at one point.  The only person I can think who has had more comic book appearances based on characters he's played is Harrison Ford.

I've always been a fan of Conan, both the novels and the Marvel and Dark Horse comics.  There's something very primal about a character who just screws women, eats and kills.  That said, I don't like the Conan movies starring Arnie and his Frankenstein-like skull.  He destroyed the character, and I think if Conan were real he'd probably have Arnie's misshapen skull on a pike.  Arnie is the exact opposite of Conan.  He is deceitful, cowardly and little more than a rogue.  Conan makes no apologies for what he is, and he does not lie about it.  The Terminator, on the other hand, makes far more sense.

The Terminator started out in movies and then quickly moved into the realm of comics.  The story was tailor made for the art form, so there's no surprise there.  The character fits Arnie, too.  He is a programmed killing machine, which is really just a fancy euphemism for a politician.  While I enjoyed the first two films, the comic books never caught my interest.  He's kind of boring.

Blue Water Comics did an actual comic book about the man who would break California.  I have no idea what the sales were like on it, but I can't imagine it outsold many titles.  (I wonder how many kids saw the cover and thought, "Dad?")  Political comics, while covered in the press, rarely sell impressive numbers.  The story of one's political life just doesn't make for engaging comic reading.  Perhaps now that all the dirt is coming out on him, Eros can do one of its infamous "adult" comics.  I would probably buy that title.  No panels with Maria, though.  There's only so much skull monster comic porn that I can take.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teenage Girls in Hot Pants, Hitler's Boots, and a Flying Dead Dog

Surreal.  That's not often a word you hear used to describe a comic book.  There really is no other word, however, to describe Flaming Carrot ComicsSuperman sure as hell doesn't feature mice flying out of people's mouths and a pet potato bug.  Spider-Man doesn't punch someone in the teeth while yelling, "I'm not going to pay a lot for this muffler!"  It would be a totally different comic if he did.

Bob Burden created the Flaming Carrot back in 1979.  The story of how FC came to be (an origin story, for all you non-comic readers) is really quite simple.  He wasn't born with some special powers.  He didn't see his parents gunned down.  Nope.  He read thousands of comics in one sitting to win a bet and became brain damaged.  (Or he could be Jim Morrison!)

Throughout FC's stories, he has hung out with teen girls, staved off an invasion of marching Hitler boots, encountered a flying dead dog, and saved the world from aliens far too many times.  The plots aren't as important as the journey, and what a journey it is.  Strange art, strange characters, stranger storylines.  If you are a fan of the bizarre, and you haven't read this book, you haven't read bizarre.

Years ago, while talking to friend about our mutual love of Flaming Carrot, he told me about a story he had read.  Two guys had set up an interview with Burden, and they journeyed to his house early one Sunday morning.  Burden was apparently caught by surprise.  [Story is deleted, as Burden doesn't smoke cigars due to the fact they cause him headaches, has never owned a bathrobe, and would not be wearing a helmet of questionable nature.  This was actually cleared up by Mr. Burden himself in a surprise Sunday phone call.  More on that later.]

Flaming Carrot Comics have been collected in a series of trade paperbacks.  I have a few of them, along with a statue and the action figure.  I recommend them all.  Fans of the surreal will especially appreciate them.  Fans of "pure" superhero comic books will loathe them.  Their loss.

I know a teacher who is a huge fan of FC, as well.  He's actually drawn him on the kids' tests from time to time, too, and has hung posters of him the classroom.  He understands the odd appeal of the character, and while it's doubtful the teens he teach get it, I find it kind of interesting to think they are being exposed to him and maybe someday will see a book on a shelf somewhere and recognize the carrot mask, which will in turn cause them to check it out. 

Again, this isn't a comic book for everyone.  Only the most open-minded need apply.  It's not that it is offensive (you'd have to be utterly humorless to be offended by this book).  It just requires some work from the side of your brain that you rarely use.  You almost have to disengage yourself from reality in order to appreciate what is on the page.  Otherwise, there is no way you'll ever get the humor in a scene like the one where the Carrot and a woman apply temporary tattoos to each other.  FC gets Hannibal from The A-Team, while the woman gets Doc from The Love Boat.  Is the scene important to the story?  No.  Not even close.  But it is brilliant ... much like the series.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.  I did not receive any free FC material.  Horse.

Cover Review: Texas Chainsaw Massacre #4

Being a fan of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie there was really no reason for me to ever pick up the Wildstorm comic book series.  It looked horrible.  In fact, of all the covers, this is the only one that ever grabbed me.

Close-up covers usually work very well.  They force the viewer to pay attention to them.  They convey importance.  The cover to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre #4 is no exception.  It is a close-up of the upper left section of a female's face.  You see an eye, a tear and an image reflected in the eye which is causing that tear -- Leatherface holding a chainsaw.  Anyone who has seen the films know why this would cause someone to cry. 

For a cover to put across so much emotion is a rare thing, especially for a horror comic.  Subtlety does not usually sell issues.  In this case, however, the cover transcends the usual horror comic trappings and instead focuses on raw feelings.  The tear may look exaggerated, but that doesn't matter.  You understand it.  You sympathize.  You fill in the missing pieces of her face.  If every issue of this series did such a cover, it would've been worth picking up. 

On a final note, you can see that the series was suggest for "mature readers."  If a parent doesn't understand that a comic book called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which features a man holding a chainsaw on the cover isn't for mature readers, he or she should not be a parent.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.  Hell, I hope it does.  I did not receive this issue to review, either.  I chose it as an example of the only good thing in a cringe-worthy looking series.

Comic Book Cover Predicted Osama bin Laden's Downfall at Obama's Command

I am no fan of Savage Dragon, and this patriotic cover is one of the reasons why I avoid the title.  It's a variant cover for issue #145, and was available at Wondercon.  As you can see, Osama is getting a right hook from a flag-wielding president while Savage Dragon looks on. 

Seems ridiculous.  Obama vs. Osama.

I'm sure there were people who really liked this cover when it came out.  I'm sure nobody ever thought it would come true.  (And in case  you haven't heard the news, Osama bin Laden is dead.  Obama didn't kill him with his own hands, but did order the attack that brought him down.  Republicans are probably not happy, and Tea Party Parrots aren't going to believe it.  Donald Trump will most likely take credit for it.  Admittedly, when I heard there was an important announcement coming at 10:30 [it turned out to be much later] on a Sunday night, I thought Obama would be revealing that we had proof of UFOs.  I'm not actually kidding.)  It's true now, and this comic book is probably going to go up in value a bit.

The mind reels.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Donald Trump: Comic Book Villain?

I was contemplating writing a serious piece about Donald Trump and his award-winning people skills over on my other blog, Cancerous Zeitgeist, when somebody said he reminds them of a comic book villain. 

That somebody was right.

Which one, though?  He's got Dr. Doom's ego.  Red Skull's features.  Granny Goodness' hair. (Well, not really, but when is the last time you thought of her?)  But he doesn't fit those molds.  If anything, he comes across as someone you would see going after Richie Rich's money, not because he needed it, but because he wanted to crush Rich. 

When Trump isn't busy doing fake firings on his "reality" show or making birthers feel less insane, he's a capitalist through and through.  He is, for all intents and purposes, the Ugly American.

He marries young, "beautiful" (by average standards) foreign women, he takes credit for work he doesn't do, he tries to dictate to other countries how they should run their affairs, he is afraid of black people, he loves money, and is totally blind to his own faults.  Ugly American cares not for what other people think or feel.  All that matters is the numbers in his bank account, his name, and the ruby red lips wrapped around his ... well, you know.  He produces Mini Me versions of his badness to continue Ugly American's reign once he is defeated by the ultimate hero -- Death.  (I always prayed/hope/fantasized about Ugly American's demise coming at the end of a partially chewed hot dog lodged in his throat.  Eyes bulging, he reaches for his Blackberry, but has no idea how to use it because his minions do all his dialing for him.)

By all definitions, Ugly American makes the Kingpin look rational.  Seriously.

I may still do my other piece on Ugly American because I realize a comic book blog has a very limited readership.  When it comes down to it, though, Ugly American (Trump, for those not keeping track) is a comic book character of the worst, must stereotypical sort.  He's missing that handlebar moustache to twirl, but the hair on his head more than makes up for it. 

How long until we see the Marvel crossover event?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Speculating Hordes

If you've been into comics for a while, you've dealt with speculators.  Speculators are those people who may or may not be collectors (the ones who are collectors make out better in the long run) who buy comic books with the sole goal of making money off them.  You typically see the ones who don't collect coming in to comic book stores after an article on a major comic event (the death of Robin, for instance) appears in the newspaper or on CNN.  The speculators who collect comics know this is rarely where the long term money lies, and buy those highlighted issues for very short term gains.  There's not a lot of difference between the two, but there is enough for me to say that education of the field you are speculating in makes a world of difference.

I've witnessed speculators going nuts on three separate occasions.  The death of Robin, the death of Superman, and the first issue of Spider-Man by that baseball collecting moron.  I was in Pennsylvania for the first two, and New Jersey for the final one.  In every cases people acted the same -- horde mentality, greed and a robust knowledge that the books they held in their hands was going to make them rich.  Anyone who has paid attention to the price of those comic books knows that never happened.

The death of Robin got a lot of coverage.  The idea, for those who don't know, was a bad one.  Comic readers could call a special phone number and vote whether or not they wanted to see Robin die.  It was a gimmick, and it took the storyline out of the hands of the writers for the most part, but it gained a lot of media attention.  Most of this attention was incorrect, and because of that people thought the original Robin was the one who was passing away.  As I heard one speculator say, "Burt Ward must be really unhappy about this."  The speculators I saw hording these issues (one guy buying the last five on the shelf) were all doing it to "hold onto" and sell twenty years down the line so they could retire.  Well, Robin came back, and none of those guys retired off those issues.

The death of Superman was equally insane.  Honestly, it was even worse than the death of Robin.  Only speculators who had no knowledge of comic books thought he was going to stay dead, but far too many people picked up multiple issues.  The news covered it.  Your grandmother knew about it.  It was huge.  It was also a publicity stunt, and DC published tons of issues, speculating on the speculators.  It paid off for DC and left speculators with a comic that is, at best, a footnote.

Spider-Man didn't get as much coverage, but collectors knew it was coming.  While in a shop in New Jersey, I witnessed the crowds eagerly anticipating the opening of the boxes.  (I believe it was 1,000,000 Comics, but I can't be sure.)  The store owner asked my friend and I if we wanted to join the masses to ensure we got ours, which were be limited to three per customer.  We declined.

The box was cut open and people immediately began clamoring for it.  The price being paid per issue out of the box?  $20.  Unheard of at the time for a new book.  This was not even for the variant covers.  $20 for a standard issue.  Unbelievable.  That said, some people made some very good money off the variants in the short and long term, and that shows the difference between speculators who know the industry and those who don't.  Those who understand it know what will make them money and when to sell, those who don't are living off dreams.  There's nothing wrong with that, really, unless you are playing a sucker, and that's what I witnessed far too many times.

Do I speculate?  Rarely, but I do engage in that on occasion.  For the most part I buy what I enjoy reading and hope that someday it will be worth money.  So far so good, but then again I wasn't buying forty copies of the death of Robin.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: If you click on one of my affiliate links (or any link), I could earn a small commission.  It should be noted that this will be the final column, too, as covered by CNN's own Clark Howard.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mighty Bored

"I don't like him.  He has hair like a girl."  That's my daughter's take on Thor.  I don't like him, either, but for totally different reasons.  The chief reason being, The Mighty Thor always bored me.  The character works fine as part of an assembly of heroes, but solo?  I'd much rather dig into my Alf back issues.

Marvel tried.  Much like it tried with the Silver Surfer, another character who annoys me.  Marvel tried to make Thor seem god-like and otherworldly through the use to stilted dialogue (verily).  The powers that be gave him a striking costume and good origin.  His supporting characters were interesting.  His lot in life led to stories that could almost write themselves.  At the end of the day, however, he was still Thor, and he still bored me. 

Superman.  A character who, if taken at face value, is pretty damn tough to beat.  Because of that, writers were constantly having to come up with ways to beat him that didn't seem contrived.  They didn't often succeed.  Thor faces the same problem.  While not nearly as undefeatable as Superman, he's still a freakin' god.  Sometimes his rogues gallery represents that (Loki, for instance).  Other times ... not so much (Cobra and Mister Hyde come to mind -- Daredevil villains).  That actually wouldn't be the downfall it is if Thor were just more interesting.  Even the Ultimate Avengers version leaves much to be desired.

The upcoming movie, which looks about as exciting as the comics, will not be causing me to give the character another shot.  I actually have no plans of seeing the film, though I'm sure if Loki somehow tricked me into it I would not be disappointed because I would have such low expectations going in.  This, it should be said, is not the fault of the character, but with the writers who have tried to breathe life into him.

I haven't read every writers' run on Goldilocks, but I have kept my eye on the reviews.  There have been writers who have been giving good critiques (J. Michael whatshisface is one), but not even the reviews of the series they did have sparked my interest.  The stories sound stale and almost as if they try to hard.  Honestly, this really is a character who should be able to stand on his own.  I don't understand what the problem is with him where writers seem cursed to make him as pedestrian as possible.

I know fans of the Thunder God will be upset at me, but it's not my fault.  I'm actually saying he has the potential to be a good character.  No writer has made him that appealing yet, though.  Maybe some day, but I'm not holding my breath.  Instead, I'll be thankful my daughter has no desire to see the film.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: If thoust clicketh on a linketh, I may maketh some cash.  Verily!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Planet of the Apes Fans Rejoice!

Boom! Studios has published a five page preview of its new Planet of the Apes series due out 4/27/11.  As if the comic book wasn't enough, Exhumed Films is running a marathon showing of the five Planet of the Apes films 7/31/11.

I'm not the biggest Apes fan.  The "re-imaging" was not a highlight of cinema, and I'm not sure I understand the sudden resurgence in the franchise, but I will admit that the concept always seemed right for a comic book.  DC knew apes sold comics, which is why there is a period of time where almost every DC comic had an ape on the cover.  Boom! Studios, which houses a lot of licensed products, is onto something here, as is Exhumed (which makes me regret leaving the East Coast). 

If you're an Apes fan I'd love to know what you think about all this, and I want to hear why it appeals to you.  If you don't read comics, will you be reading this series?  I have no affiliation with it, but I think any book that can bring more readers to the fold is a good thing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Captain America Gets Me Banned!

My posting on Captain America got me banned from the "comicbooks" section of Reddit.com.  (Or maybe it was my X-Men piece.  I wasn't told why, really.  I'm assuming it was the Captain America piece, as that is the one that got negative comments, and the X-Men one got a favorable comment I couldn't comment on because by then I was banned.)  Yes, I find it  very ironic that my piece on a hero representing America (home of free speech, y'all) got me banned.  I find it more alarming, however, that this does often seem to be how a certain segment of comic book fans react.

Having collected comics since the '70s and working in a couple different comic book stores in positions from clerk to manager, I have seen this type of reaction time and time again.  Say something negative and feel the wrath of fanboys.  They can't debate points, but they can pout and shout.  They can't argue effectively, but they can take their ball and go home.  It's hard to take someone seriously when that is the reaction you get.

My Captain America piece was written to inspire debate and raise questions.  What happened was that people went off half-cocked.  If you read the comments you see that someone thought I called America a dictatorship or some such nonsense.  I actually wrote that America backs dictatorships, something that I thought was beyond debate.  I guess not everyone watches the news.  In fact, my entire piece was pretty tame.  I called out reasons why Captain America as a character doesn't work for me, and why he is hard to write.  I don't think I made any wild claims, but oddly enough, I am banned.  (If it was the X-Men piece, I am even more puzzled because feedback I got on that were all positive.)

Other comments said that I was trying to stir up trouble.  Again, what is with people thinking that voicing an opinion is trying to cause problems.  Have we become so far removed from debate and opinion that we can't see them when they occur?  This is not just a problem with comic book fans.  I've heard this from other people, too.  Expressing a "negative" opinion is "stirring the pot," and "making people feel bad."  (Or even "pretentious," my personal favorite because I've been called that for writing positive pieces, too.)  I review films for Film Threat.  Sometimes, like my current Joy Ride 2 piece, they are negative reviews.  If I only reviewed stuff I liked, I wouldn't be doing my job.  I'm not trying to make people cry.  I'm expressing an opinion.  If I can't write about what I don't like, it gives zero weight to the things I do enjoy.

Perhaps this will get me banned from the "comics" section, but I hope not.  I would have to resort to posting pieces on cute kitten pictures and other things that offer no debate and contribute little to the culture other than making someone smile (which is fine in and of itself, but I think as a society we deserve more).  I am a fan of comic books.  I believe they are a tremendous art form that gets little respect in the world.  When stuff like this ban happens, I can see why.  A great majority of the world treats them like "kid's stuff," and when people act like children you can't blame them. 

Go read the original Captain America piece and seriously ask yourself if I wrote anything that was worth getting banned over.  See if I wrote anything that was even that controversial.  Of course, if having an opinion -- any opinion -- is controversial and ban-worthy, then I'm guilty ... and proud to be so.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Captain America: The Lame Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is due out soon.  Comic fans are, of course, excited.  The rest of the world?  Most likely a collective shoulder shrug, as Captain America doesn't click with people the same way as Spider-Man, Batman or Superman.  Even his very name says nothing but boredom.

Cap originated in 1941, and was soon kicking Nazi ass.  Symbolically, this image was what America wanted the world to see, and it was echoed in other comic books, and in movies.  America kicking Nazi ass.  As time progressed, so did the country.  Captain America, however, always seemed to remain a few steps back.  While never appearing quite as naive or as out of touch as Superman, he nonetheless always felt behind the times, even when writers tried to give him a current spin.  Even Captain America's archenemy, the Red Skull, was a throwback to the Nazi age, something readers painfully remembered every time he made a Modern Age appearance.

I was never a huge Captain America fan, though I enjoyed the comic when he teamed up with The Falcon.  (I'm sure the writers thought they were being topical as The Falcon was black.)  The reasons he never resonated with me are the exact reasons why I think he fails to resonate with non-comic readers.  A man who dresses in a red, white and blue costume and whose name is as subtle as a herpes sore?  No thanks.  America's values have no place in the America we know.

As a team member, such as in the Avengers, Captain America is tolerable.  He provides a good balance to whatever team he is on.  As a stand-alone character, though, he is, well, as American as apple pie and as boring as sliced bread. 

Back in the 1940s, things could be black and white.  Nazis were bad.  America was good.  Of course, history shows it wasn't that clear cut, but culturally that is the message that got through and was generally accepted.  These days, when America backs dictatorships and routinely tortures prisoners, it's a bit harder to sink your teeth into a character who is supposed to epitomize America.  After all, just what does he stand for?  Whose America?  What America?  Chances are, whatever you would like America to be like, Captain America, rightly or wrongly, represents the exact opposite.  Sort of like liberals saying the news networks are too conservative and vice versa. 

The upcoming movie will probably do well.  New superhero movies tend to do okay from the gate.  I don't think it will click with viewers like other superhero films have, and the fact that it is set in World War II doesn't help that any.  Like the beginnings of Captain America, his ideals will be clear and concrete, or so I think, and that will help viewers at least determine if he is the character for them.  When the Avengers movie comes around, however, things will be far less clear.  We expect quaint values from characters in quainter times, but when we transport them to the modern era with those same ideals intact, we risk making them seem silly and out of place.  If we change them, however, we often lose the character.  That is the dilemma of Captain America.  What will you get, and how will you like it?  If the comics are any indication, the character is in for a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

iZombie: Dead to the World

The first iZombie trade paperback, iZombie: Dead to the World, is due out 3/22/11.  I have not received a copy  yet, but have read the issues this one covers, and I got to say that between the writing of Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's art, this is one great series.

With a cast that features zombies, vampire vamps, werewolves, vampire hunters, ghosts and whatnot who mainly sit around playing role playing games, dating and drinking coffee, this won't appeal to those whose comic book reading comprises mostly of men in tights battling it out over the skies of New York.  That's not to say the comic has no action -- it does.  It's just not the main focus of the story.  This is a book where characters actually talk about their problems and turn to fists last (except in the case of the monster hunters). 

I don't know how the series is selling.  I have long since stopped paying attention to those sort of things.  I do know I've enjoyed it, though I won't be picking up the trade because I already have the issues.  (There are few comics where I have the story in both formats, Preacher being one.)  I will recommend it to certain readers, however. 

iZombie is never going to displace any of the superhero books as a top seller.  It could easily lend itself to a movie or a television series, but I think its fanbase may be too small to make it profitable.  That says nothing to the quality of the work.  If you, like myself, don't live in a world where everything is quick edits and explosions, then you may enjoy taking the time to read a story where the characters actually develop and seem real ... despite being monsters.  (There are humans in the book, too.)  Then again, you may just want to stick to something which doesn't require too much attention on your part.  If so, there are plenty of books out there for you.  They're all about the same, too, so it really doesn't matter which one you pick.

*In an attempt to comply with stupid FTC "laws," the following post has affiliate links, which means if you click on them and order the item, I will earn a comission.  I did not receive any copies of iZombie for free, and nor did I receive the trade paperback for free. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Problem With Grading Comics

If you collect, sell or read comic books, you've heard of the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).  It is the name when it comes to grading comics.  A comic book is submitted to it, examined by trained professionals, placed in a special holder and then the collector and buyer can use this generally accepted grade in order to ascertain a value.

Comics graded by the CGC often sell for more than those that are not graded.  That works out well for sellers, and buyers tend to agree that the everyone can understand and accept the grade.  If you want to read the issue, you have to break open the holder, which negates the grade. 

The pros and cons of grading have been discussed since the company became known, and while there was initially a lot of speculation and backlash, the company has earned its respect.  Heck, even I accepted it, though I have never bought a graded comic or submitted one for grading.  Reading issue #1675 of the Comics Buyer's Guide, however, made me start to wonder about the company again.

In the "CBG Trendwatcher" section there is a piece by Steve Mortenson of Colossus Comics.  In his piece he writes about people buying CGC graded comics at conventions with the hopes of resubmitting a book to the company for "a possible higher grade."  Wouldn't that mean the initial grade was faulty, and doesn't that negate the trust and respect the company has earned?  Even if you would agree that the company can make a mistake and that would be the nature of the beast, doesn't it also say the general comics public doesn't trust the company as much?  After all, if the company were totally trusted, the grade wouldn't change.  So essentially all these people are submitting comics and buying comics at higher prices from a company where the grade isn't all that trusted.

That seems to be foolish.

Knowing that collectors, speculators and dealers are doing this forces me to take this into consideration for any price I would pay for a graded comic, and it means I won't be paying full price for one.  Not even close.  I haven't bought a graded one yet, but I haven't ruled it out for the future, but I do know if I do, the dealer is not going to get his asking price unless it's already well below what I would be willing to pay. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Charlton Comics

As a kid I had a fascination with Charlton Comics.  I mainly devoured the horror titles and The Six Million Dollar Man.  Crappy printing and often crappy art (to sometimes match equally crappy stories) could not keep me away ... and still hasn't to this day.

Charlton books always felt kind of forbidden.  I don't know if that was due to the printing process (which I recall had a real problem with colors), or if it were due to the weird '70s ads it ran.  Reading one of the publisher's comics was almost like sneaking a peek at your father's Swedish porn.  Undecipherable.  Secret.  Dirty.  Of course, the comics weren't porn, but that didn't stop them from feeling that way.  Scary Tales.  Ghostly Haunts.  The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves. E-Man.  What's not to love?

The war titles didn't do too much for me.  I had a few titles, but they were always afterthoughts.  The stuff I bought after everything else I wanted was gone from the rack.  The small store where I purchased them usually had a smattering of the war comics left over.  They were always badly bent. Attack! was a great name for a series, though it hardly lived up to its name.

The mid 1980s saw the end of Charlton.  Gone were the badly printed comics and the reprints that were keeping the company breathing.  To be honest, I barely noticed.  The publisher's circulation had dropped to where I barely noticed the titles anymore.  These days I buy them when I come across them on eBay.  They still feel kind of dirty ... and I think that's why I still like them.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Our Sheriff Lobo

I hope the Omega Men cover is here.  I had a hell of a time getting it to load.  It was a huge pain in the ass, which is much the same way I feel about the cover star, Lobo.  As you can, the DC star who used to be as popular as Wolverine wasn't always a leather jacket wearing psycho with wild hair.  He used to wear a purple and orange leotard.

I've written about Lobo before and my lack of understanding when it comes to his appeal.  When he first started getting popular, however, I will admit to snatching up this back issue (#3, in case the image is not showing up) since it was his first appearance and I figured I would at some point cash in on it.  The store that had it had no idea it was his first appearance.  The back issue was priced at something like $2.00 in Near Mint condition.  It seemed like a good idea.

I never read the issue, though I paged through it.  Quite honestly, his hair freaked me out a bit.  I promptly put the issue back in its sleeve and filed it away.  The series wasn't one I was interested in, and Lobo's appearance in it wasn't enough to get me to read it. 

Characters sometimes have some really strange beginnings.  Wolverine was decent right from the gate.  Batman, too.  Lobo's first appearance isn't anywhere near as bad as Squirrel Girl's, but it's fairly close.  It goes to show that first appearances can be turned around and made into something that falls just short of a phenomenon ... no matter how big of a pain in the ass it is.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Namor the Asshole

What Marvel character is arrogant, has tiny wings and smells like fish?  If you guessed Namor, you got it right.  (If you guessed Captain America, give yourself some laugh points.)  The first mutant, Namor is every bit the badass Aquaman wishes he could be all without Aqua's better personality.  He's fought everyone from Daredevil to Wolverine, along with a host of various villains (he's been portrayed as both hero and villain), and he's spent a good part of his life trying to get a peek at Sue Storm's vagina.

I thoroughly dislike the character.

I don't loathe him because he's an asshole.  There are plenty of characters who are assholes that I like (Batman comes to mind).  It has everything to do with how he is portrayed.  Granted, he's among some of Marvel's most three dimensional characters who is as complex as he is wet.  I just have problems with whiny people in power. 

Anakin Skywalker started out as an innocent kid who became a whiny teen.  This whiny teen (who acted as all teens do, and had every reason to turn against the Jedi) became one of cinema's most loved villains who, it so happens, left the whining behind.  Namor has power, prestige and the ability to actually put his plans in place, but his arrogance usually fouls him up somehow, and then he starts whining about it.  He also doesn't learn from his mistakes.  The "surface dwellers" have screwed him over roughly two billion times, yet he still deals with them instead of handing them their heads.

This can be looked at as complex writing in the hand of Marvel's creators, and normally I'd agree with that.  I see it as kind of lazy, though.  It seems as if the writers are afraid to really make this guy grow in any substantial way.  Yes, his character has had marginal changes throughout the decades, but they aren't significant enough.  Such is the nature of comics, I suppose, but that shouldn't stop someone from complaining about it especially when you see how other characters have changed (Guy Gardner, Daredevil, and Steve Rogers come to mind).

I understand that Namor's fans will have issue with a lot of this, and I accept that.  I will contend, however, that the character will be so much better if the writers would really cut loose with him, and that's something I don't think anyone will argue against.