Showing posts with label comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Defense of Bizarro: Me Am Think Bizarro Is Worst Character Ever

So, I watched Monday evening's episode of Supergirl on CBS, and while heartened that the episode introduced the idea of Bizarro for a new generation, I'm also wondering what they're leaving for Superman himself at this point, or what they think Superman has been up to as they keep introducing all of his villains on the show like they've never been around before.

But, no harm no foul.  

If I took exception to the episode, it was that we had a BINO.  Bizarro In Name Only.

Good-bye!  Me am not comics version of Bizarro-Girl!

If you've unfamiliar with Superman's sometimes enemy/ sometimes pal, Bizarro, well, firstly, I pity you.  Secondly, in the original comics, Bizarro was an imperfect duplicate of Superboy and, soon, Superman.  The angular-faced misfit was a perfect fit with the bi-polar nature of Superman's Silver Age adventures.

In the wake of the Senate hearings and the installation of the Comics Code Authority - we ended Superman threatening people and hurling them around violently and the comics explored what it meant for Superman to be the Last Son of Krypton as well as a Superman with time to kill since crime was abruptly held in check.  The Man of Steel was now having a good laugh moving the Eiffel Tower around to mess with Lois one story, and in the second feature was openly weeping about the fate of his birth parents.

Equal parts clown, monster, hero, villain, misunderstood child and wreckless menace, Bizarro was the wild card in the Superman deck in an era of Superman comics littered with Robot Supermans, Supergirls, Super Cats and Dogs, King Kongs with Death Laser Eyes and routine occurrences of Superman being turned into a baby.  I haven't even gotten to Jimmy Olsen's Silver Age lifestyle and all that insanity.  And, yet, it all fit together pretty well.

Bizarro first appeared as a one-off in Superboy #68, but soon re-appeared in the mainline Superman titles where he gained his own supporting cast and planet.  Hell, yes, he did.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oh, holy @#$%. DC Comics looks to be rebooting. Again. Again. Again. Again.

Look, I don't really read any DC Comics any more.  Which, yeah...   I know, right?

And I have gotten quite tired of saying that watching DC Comics as a publisher/ company/ whatever is waaaaay more interesting than their output.

But what I do know is that for the past year or so, DC's sales have been sliding like mad, and my guess is that even the current milking of Dark Knight Returns with the inconceivably named third volume The Master Race, isn't working out quite as planned.

"I just keep failing upward!"

Anyway, rumors were a-hopping today at Bleeding Cool that a line-wide reboot was in the works.  Heidi opined on this over at Comics Beat.

Then, Didio and Lee both tweeted a kind of stupid looking image of a blue curtain with the word "Rebirth" projected onto the curtain.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Congrats to Mike Sterling on 12 years (in a row!) of Progressive Ruin (which is not an adjective-verb-combo in this case)

It probably was at least a decade ago that I first tumbled across Comics Blog Progressive Ruin.  Back in that era, I was kinda/ sorta doing a Comics Blog/ Comics-Lifestyle-Nerd-Back-When-That-Meant-Something site over at League of Melbotis.  I've quit numerous times, only to get bored and start blogging again, but for 12 years, Progressive Ruin proprietor Mike Sterling has been steadily producing content and talking comics when those of us with a lesser constitution can't remember the last time we wrote about an actual comic book.

Mike was a manager of a successful Southern California comic shop, but in recent history he took his experience and bank roll and has opened his own Southern California comics shoppe, Sterling Silver Comics.  Buy stuff from the eBay store.  It's not free, but it is easy.

In addition to a well-reasoned viewpoint I always find interesting, the site has a unique voice and some long time regular features such as End of Civilization, which details the more colorful contents of the Previews catalog.  He's also written for several other projects such as The Fake AP Style Book.

Mike's managed to retain a realistic but uncynical view of the Comics Industry, and has a long-view of comics that 99% of the folks writing about comics tend to lack.  He's been there for the up's and downs of stories, characters, industry, editorial... you name it, as reader, fan, critic and comics shoppe employee and owner.

The site features the sort of "Big Tent" approach I like, and he's got sort of a cast of characters that float around the site that we've had here from time to time.  To my complete surprise, he seems to be aware I exist, which is flattering and kind of fun.  The internet is an interesting place.

So, whether you're getting into comics, still into comics or were at one point, or you're just looking for a good read, I suggest going over there and make Progressive Ruin a regular part of your internet readings.

But don't go over there and embarrass me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Comic Collector's Corner: On the Accumulation of Things and When Your Comics Own You

One benefit of being a state employee is the accumulation of vacation days.  I basically earn enough vacation that "banking" vacation isn't really something I worry about.  Now, finding time to take days off - that's another problem.  But, way back in July or so, I asked my boss for days off in November.

I took a few days before the weekend and two more after.  I spent Day 1 (a) working, anyway, but on my sofa, and (b) realizing I was actually pretty tired, and so I just sat there.  But on Day 2, I got going on the project I was home for - dealing with my comic collection for the first time since the beginning of The Great Culling, a year-long period during which something like 20 boxes, long and short, went out the door and became dispersed into the back-issue bins of Austin Books and Comics.*

Last summer I had some long talks with Stuart about the nature of collecting, aging into a point where you realize you might not need this stuff anymore, etc... all while standing in the middle of the Hollywood Museum in Metropolis, Illinois.  Stuart's a bit ahead of the curve from me on this.  He's got stuff, but he's divested a good chunk of his comics, etc.. which I feel I've made progress on, but it's an imperfect system.

Purchasing far, far fewer comics these days than I used to certainly expedited the process this go-round, but the idea that I had fewer comics to wrangle also made me lazy and sloppy on a day-to-day basis.  I just hadn't managed the loose comics well at all.

this comic may or may not be somewhere in my pile of comics

It would be a great thing to come to comics in the modern era.  So long as Comixology exists, the money you spend means the comic you own is really a flipped bit associated with your user profile somewhere out there in the cloud, granting you access to that digital content.  No bags and boards and boxes.  No figuring out if you remembered to inventory into that online system you pay for.  Most importantly, the piles of comics you regret purchasing wouldn't wind up as something you'd feel you still had to curate and manage (and I do throw some in the recycling.  Don't think I don't.)

After all, when you're trying things out on the regular, you get a lot of detritus in the collection.

I was probably 31 before I had the conversation with my LCS manager back in Phoenix that set me thinking a lot more strategically about actually "collecting" versus hoarding.  At the time, I was most certainly just hoarding as I was in a race to try to "get" all of DC Comics and most of Marvel, buying as many comics as I could afford.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Preacher" trailer arrives from AMC

The first trailer has arrived for AMC's adaptation of the 90's Vertigo comics series, Preacher.

Here you go:

The series was written by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon for, I believe, every regular issue and most of the Preacher one-shots, back when DC had a wing that was responsible for actually doing some fairly creative things under the watchful eye of Vertigo mastermind Karen Berger.

I don't write about his work a lot, and I probably should, but sometimes I think Garth Ennis is the last of that 90's-era bunch who has managed to stick it out, continue to get better specifically at comics writing, and is the last of the generation that believed comics were on an upward climb toward telling stories that people would care about rather than churning through nostalgia, giving comics form to internet memes, and maybe becoming a respectable form of literature rather than pop-culture artifact and detritus.

Sure, he dabbles in some of that, too, but even when Ennis has written superheroes, he's written some really damn good superheroes, from his stint on Hitman (his Superman/ Tommy Monaghan interactions were pure gold), and he did some excellent work with Punisher.   I may not have found The Boys particularly my thing, but, man, any war comic he does is well worth the read.  War Stories and Battlefields are both just absolutely stellar titles, as well as his work with Enemy Ace at DC and Phantom Eagle at Marvel.

He's able to swing effortlessly between some jet black gallows humor, shocking violence and genuinely heartfelt moments, often all in the same comic.

In short - he's one of the best writers working today, and maybe ever, in comics.

To say that Preacher spoke rather well to me when it hit the stands while I was in college is a bit of an understatement.  Between Preacher and Morrison's Invisibles, I felt like I was getting made-to-order comics, or - more realistically - comics that gave me something new I didn't know I'd be interested in.

Where The Invisibles sometimes lost me in British or dated references I couldn't yet follow, Preacher - despite (or especially because it was) the fact that the creators weren't American or Texan - made a hell of a lot of sense to me.  Scenes took place all over, but the heart of the comic was in Texas, with roots in Louisiana.  Scenes took place on Congress Avenue in Austin and just outside The Alamo in San Antonio.  I, too, had out of control friends and whatnot.

In retrospect, I hate to say how much influence Preacher and The Invisibles had on my 1997-penned screenplay for Screen Writing class, The Hypothetical Elevator.  I was absolutely unaware of the influence at the time, but, boy howdy - yes.

I'm not sure what to think of a TV series.  Of course I'll give it a shot, and I trust AMC to try to do something interesting with the ideas from the series.  I can see bits and pieces of the characters in the trailer, even if it's clear, already, that they have no intention of sticking with the comics on a page-to-screen basis.  That's fine, it's worked out okay for The Walking Dead.  And you really don't want everyone spoiling the TV series by just picking up the comics - which ran about 75 issues if you include the specials, I guess, and had a concrete conclusion.  No need to get folks deciding that they don't need to watch the show already.

Sure, I will absolutely be tuning in.  Should be colorful stuff if they do anything like the comics, but it's going to be some seriously MA-Rated TV in the process.

Friday, October 9, 2015

What About "Dark Knight Strikes Again"? - a follow up to the Frank Miller post

Someone online rightfully pointed out that in my previous post on DC Comics as a flat circle and why we should both be delighted and horrified by a new Dark Knight installment by Frank Miller, I forgot to mention the Dark Knight Strikes Again fiasco.  Their phrase, not mine, but, perhaps apt.

Let's discuss, shall we?

And, of course, that's right.  I literally forgot.  I knew what I planned to say, but I forgot to write it in there.*  So, look, here's a whole post, so I don't want to hear from any of you that I don't take feedback or get inspired by folks who do look at the site, Randy.

But, if I were to talk about Dark Knight Strikes Again, I'd have to do so in context.  So, here goes:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TL;DR: Dark Knight III, Dan Didio's DC Comes Full Circle and Being Okay with Frank Miller in 2015

To recap, the three tricks in Didio's book have been (1) to revisit already well-established and popular works in comics and (2) the universe-wide reboot.  The third (numero three) trick is one Marvel has taken a real shine to, and that's keeping one name on the marquee with replacing the character that built the brand and/ or completely changing that main character.  But I'm not getting into that one today.*

We've seen tricks numbers 1 and 2 over and over in ways I cannot believe haven't become a punchline on the internets, but the contents of the actual comics isn't really what's on the minds of the comics internets on any given day.

Bam!  Zap!  Pow!  Comics aren't just for kids!

DC Comics has been trying to plug the dam when it comes to sales since about 12 months after the New 52 reboot, the atomic bomb version of the trick #2 rebooting, revamping, universe retouching he'd been doing since Infinite Crisis led to One Year Later just over 9 years ago, and which he just revisited with Convergence and the seemingly disastrous "DC YOU".**

In the 1980's, DC's bold direction under Jeanette Kahn and Pual Levitz allowed for a creator-driven environment to produce a few seminal works of comic-dom that truly did alter the landscape and bring capes and tights comics along with the audience as they should have aged out.  Superhero comics weren't in college classrooms as assigned material in 1985, but by 1995, at least Watchmen was known worldwide, and for more than 20 years, the comic was held up in "best books of the last X number of years" lists and found mentions in magazines your parents would read when doing that sort of thing was something humans still did.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Austin Books and Comics and the Remarkable Labor Day Sale

I've been exceptionally lucky to be able to say that my Local Comic Book Shop is the astounding Austin Books and Comics.  I grew up in Austin, and Austin Books is a big part of how and why I fell in love with the medium as a kid.  For good or ill, I've now been shopping here off and on for 28 years, and I never think "well, I've done everything I can do here.  I guess I'll go collect some stamps."

I started buying my comics off the spinner-rack at the local grocery, at news stands and at convenience stores.  Then, at some point I looked at the ads in a comic book and realized there were specialty stores, and I assume some path of logic there led me to finding Austin Books.  I can't say I recall my first trip there, just that we stopped in as often as KareBear would load us in the van from North Austin and deposit us at the store.

Back then it was a big store, as comic shops went, but  nowhere near the footprint today.  That, and it was half fantasy/ sci-fi books and posters and whatnot, and half comic book shop.

I moved away in high school and had some decent shops in the Spring, Texas area (Bedrock City showed up when I was in college, but I don't recall the names of the other two shops that have since gone under).

In the late 90's and early 00's, the store was purchased and began the transformation to what it is today.  I won't bore you with the details, but around 2007 they began finding new events and ways to expand.  And, in 2015, Austin Books is now a complex that includes:

  • the gigantic original store which is a huge store with a variety of graphic novels and comics that rivals literally any store I've seen in three countries and two continents.  Toys.  Back-issues.  A huge Showcase Comics selection of Golden to Modern.  
  • Guzu Gallery - which is a pop-art objects store and local artist gallery focusing on pop art
  • Outlaw Moon Games and Toys - which has a wide variety of games - role playing and board as well as vintage toys
  • one of my favorites - The Sidekick Store - where they sell unbagged back issues and discount Bronze and Silver Age comics

And, the staff is incredible.  Owner Brad has really got the business sorted out, has insisted on a professionalism that remains friendly but never falls into that "Boy's Club" thing you can get at other stores.  Day-to-day, manager Brandon somehow keeps the whole place going.  And there are loads of employees who have tremendous knowledge of comics, toys, comic history, and they can help you find something on the shelves.

The Labor Day Sale is currently on, and I've done quite well.  This year I focused on all Superman titles, as that's my current collecting focus (I'm about wrapped on Wonder Woman Vol. 2 and the remaining Enemy Ace appearances I've got are a little spendy).

For details on the sale, go here.

But I had a good bit of fun looking, and wound up with new (to me) issues of Action Comics, Superman, Superman's Pal - Jimmy Olsen and made a spike in my modest Superman's Girlfriend - Lois Lane collection.

I got to the sale on opening night, and headed straight for The Sidekick Store.  I was looking at 2-for-1 Superman issues when I sensed a disturbance in the force.  Brandon got this picture or me just before I looked up.

(all photo credits on this post go to Austin Books and Comics.  I'm assuming they won't be pissed I'm saying something nice about their store)

that's me in the red plaid shirt at The Sidekick

Thursday, August 27, 2015

TL;DR: Pondering falling DC Comics Sales, Uncle Scrooge, New Coke and Consistency

According to Heidi (and, I guess, Bleeding Cool), DC's "DC You"/ Post-Convergence line of books is not selling at needed levels, perhaps far below those levels as the just-launched DC You effort may be about to quietly go off into that good night.  TPTB at DC Comics must see some bad signs when it comes to future sales, something they have have a feeling for 3-4 months before comics hit the racks as we're all stuck in this "pre-order" culture from retailer to consumer.

Rumor is that there may be a call to retrench back to the Pre-Convergence line of thinking on the DCU line of books rather than the "Batgirlification" of the line, ie: Dan Didio doesn't know why the current Batgirl comic is selling, and so he's now just letting creators throw shit at the wall to see what sticks.

Here's where I'm going to say something that seems obvious, but isn't treated as such, so bare with me before rushing to the comments, but:  the idea that continuity doesn't matter in comics - something longtime comic fans, some of my online pals who come to this very site like to say, may very well be wrong.   Even if "Continuity", as in "nitpicking details over a forty year run on a comic" is unnecessary, I'd suggest that Consistency absolutely does matter.

And it may be DC's lack of Consistency/ Continuity that's led to the sudden death spiral for sales.

Let's Apply This to Scrooge McDuck

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bloom County Returns

Kids today will never understand a world with 3 TV networks, 1 or 2 newspapers and you all kind of know what's going on with those media outlets at all times.  Up to and including newspaper comic strips.

I was a kid who got up every morning to make enough extra time to read the funnies in their entirety.  I followed Mary Worth for years and will never understand any appeal to that strip that wasn't entirely ironic, but read it every day in order to not miss the one or two days per year where something actually happened.*  Like every other kid of the early 1980's, I liked Garfield first, and spread out to the rest of the comics page thanks to, first, stuff like Peanuts and Tumbleweeds, and later The Far Side and, of course, Calvin and Hobbes.

Back then, syndicated comic strips were big, big business.  Because strips appeared in the paper, you bought collections, the cartoonists would sell dolls, t-shirts, etc...  Maybe even cartoons, like Peanuts.  But if you did well, you could become a household name.

I don't remember exactly when I first noticed Bloom County, but I do remember my brother purchasing the first collection somewhere along the line.  He kept reading, bursting into laughter, then showing me the strip, so we wound up sitting on the floor reading it together, laughing so hard we cried.

Monday, July 6, 2015

TL;DR: Finally Reading Marvel's "Infinity", event comics and the DC-ification of the Marvel Universe

It took me a really long time to make it through Marvel's Infinity collection of Avengers stories.  There was no "Trade 2" of New Avengers, so in order to keep up, I had to buy a huge, expensive trade with a mix of Avengers comics that I wasn't reading.

Back in Arizona, I remember seeing the recipe for a "Kool-Aid Pie" and, more or less based on the name, I went ahead and decided I must try it out.

I hadn't ever done much baking, or made a pie, but I bought the ingredients, all of which looked like ingredients I should probably have for a pie.  A crust. Sugar.  Dehydrated milk, I think.  Then I got out the mixer and whatnot, and maybe 1/3rd of the way through the process of making the pie, I re-read the recipe and realized - "oh, I'm just whipping up sugar and Kool-Aid and putting it in a pie-crust".  It was literally an inedible pie.  It would have looked neat and cool sitting there all purple, but there was nothing really there.  No pie in my pie, just- purpleish whipped sugar.  Not even the basics of an actual pie, just something you would throw in a movie, I guess.

That's kind of Marvel's Infinity.  It seems like it should be a story.  It seems like it's going somewhere, but it was sort of a hand-waving illusion to get you to next, more expensive event, and all of this was some laborious and unnecessary Kool-Aid pie.

oh, yeeeeaahhhhhhh....!!!!

To be blunt -

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Superman 41 and giving up on The Man of Tomorrow

I just read issue #41 of the post Flashpoint/ New 52/ DC You Superman series, and...  I mean...  Okay.

There's some decent Superman-action, and I like the Jimmy and Clark pairing well enough.  I think the idea of "Superman's Pal" actually knowing his identity is worth exploring if Jimmy's his peer.  It substitutes the 90's and 00's problem of Superman not having anyone to talk to in his own titles which the Lois-marriage resolved.

But we know where this storyline is headed, right?  I mean, all of the other titles and solicitations tell us Lois will blow Superman's cover.  He gets a haircut.  He goes back to the t-shirt and jeans.  But we already have the broad strokes for how this will play out.  There's not a lot of places for this story to go, it seems.  Or, at least, if we know the effect, any surprises in how we got there seem a little moot at best.

After finishing the issues, I am sorry to say that I think I'm done reading any Superman comics for a while.  Which kind of kills me.  But I feel like I'm spending money on something that isn't what I signed up for or what the name of the comic is selling me.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Slowly making my way through DC's "Convergence"

Last week DC released the final issue of their Convergence mini-series, the two-month stop gap from DC Comics that was originally advertised as something editorial was doing while they took a break from publishing to move from DC's traditional home of NYC to sunny LA.

Of course, well in advance, it became clear that Convergence was going to be more than just a hiccup in DC's publishing schedule.  After the initial skyrocketing sales for The New 52, units moved have fallen off, and time and again, DC has wound up canceling a huge number of their initial offering of 52 books and the successors of same, all while keeping up appearances by maintaining a publishing line of 52 books (which always felt like something dreamed up by an actuary somewhere, so why it was part of their public marketing, I will never know).

"Welcome to... The Honeycomb Hide-Out!"

The first hint that we could count on major changes, post-Convergence, was that DC decided to follow their award-winning, best-selling Wonder Woman run by well-known comic writer Brian Azzarrello by hiring the previously-unpublished wife of popular comic artist David Finch (an artist with whom cheesecake was pretty much an inevitability) to pen the series.  It was a signal to anyone who has followed the industry for the past two decades that DC was basically putting New 52 Wonder Woman in a holding pattern for a while, but if you absolutely need a Wonder Woman comic - here's one to read (and, please, do not notice that Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman '77 are both fantastic and not technically part of the main stable of DC's titles managed by their core comics people).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Let's Finally Talk Marvel's "Daredevil"

I'm not a rabid fan of The Man Without Fear, but on and off over the years, I've enjoyed reading comics about Marvel's foremost punching bag, Daredevil.  Of all of Marvel's staple characters, since the 1980's at least, Daredevil has been like a weird superhero/ noir/ gangland epic soap opera that mostly lost it's way when it veered too far into the rest of Marvel's superheroing and was at it's best when it kept even the costumed heroes and villains a bit more grounded and spent a lot of time with Murdock out of costume.*

If I were to recommend runs, I'd really recommend the Frank Miller era (the man's work just keeps bearing fruit) and the unbelievable Brian Michael Bendis era that had tremendous impact not just on Daredevil - forever changing the character while making him, somehow, even more Dardevil - but on the concept of dual identities in comics.  

So when I saw the initial previews of the Netflix-direct Daredevil show, I was a little shocked to see how much it looked exactly like a mix of Miller, Romita Jr., Mazzucchelli and Klaus Janson's work on the book and the Bendis-era Maleev tones and compositions.  And while Miller's story took place with Daredevil well established in the Marvel U, it certainly harkens back to his work.