Monday, December 10, 2007

Lost Woods

This reminds me:

Why isn't Pete Woods a regular Superman artist?

Not to knock Gary Frank or Renato Guedes, the current regular artists, but I think we can all agree that (one of) the best Superman stories in years was "Up, Up and Away," followed closely by "Back in Action," both of which featured the fast and sure pencils of one Pete Woods (and provided the banner at the top of the page).

Since then, Woods has knocked out of the park The Superman-Prime Sinestro Corps one shot and drew the hell out of Amazons Attack. (No matter what you think of the story, the art was great).

Woods has a clean but powerful style, and he's as good at drawing expressive characters as he is at imaginary scenes. (A great slideshow can be found at his site, with examples of both the fantastic invasion of the Amazons and Superman's back in action pose after out racing a bullet.)

And after the production delays that have plagued the Superman books for the past year, DC could use a guy who is also fast and reliable. Some of the artists had trouble getting out 22 pages every two months. A year ago, it seemed Woods was laying down full issues every two weeks.

I think it's time for the undervalued artists who are great storytellers and reliable (the Woods, Immonens, Kirks, and Kramers of the world) be rewarded for their work. I want Woods on Superman now, so that I know I'm getting good comics every month!

(I will also accept him on JLA, JSA, or Teen Titans.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Search for Legitimacy Continues...

Completely stolen from Making Light:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Team Ups I'd Like to See

So, in 1996, with a new Green Arrow, Buddhist monk Connor Hawke, and a new Green Lantern, freelance artist Kyle Rayner, Chuck Dixon and Ron Marz thought it'd be fun to do a crossover and revive the old GL/GA from the "Relevancy" period of the early '70s.

Charitably, it didn't work.

It didn't work for a number of reasons, but the biggest one, I think, is that Kyle and Connor didn't play off each other very well. What made the original stories work was that liberal hothead Oliver Queen clashed beautifully with conservative, um, conservative Hal Jordan. Neither Kyle nor Connor are particularly instigators, and attempts to make one of them the instigator comes off as off-character and childish.

It didn't help that Kyle had already found a worthy sparring partner in Wally West, a hero with years of experience taking on the legacy of his father-figure who resented Kyle as the new guy taking the job of a man Kyle never really knew. Compared to their sparks, the Kyle Conner team ups kind of fell flat.

No, the team up I want to see is the Conner Hawke-Roy Harper team up. Now there are two guys who clash.

On the one hand, you have Roy "Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow" Harper, a character dating back to 1941 when he was adopted by Green Arrow Oliver Queen, who has a checkered history of drug-abuse, fathered a child with a terrorist, and in general is presented as a horn-dog who cultivates a persona of edgy rebellion. Even his recent, inexplicable addition to the Justice League was marked mostly by his falling into bed with Hawkgirl.

On the other hand, you have Connor "Green Arrow" Hawke, a Zero Hour baby dating back to only 1994, who retroactively turned out to be Oliver Queen's abandoned son and enjoyed almost immediate promotion to role of Green Arrow himself and a spot in the Justice League (you know, under Grant Morrison, back when that actually meant something!) As a lifelong Zen Buddhist, Connor doesn't drink, doesn't eat meat, and despite being constantly hit upon, shows nearly zero interest in sex (leading to speculation he's gay).

So here are two characters who are something like brothers, with a common heritage and skill set, so team-ups make sense and occur naturally, and yet they could not act more differently. Roy would instigate, Connor would play peacemaker. Roy's experience as a government agent and Teen Titans leader makes him an excellent pre-op strategist, Connor's lifetime training in Kung Fu makes him a better in the field tactician and improviser. Roy would openly resent Connor for inheriting the title and respect Roy worked for years to earn, while Connor would (probably quietly) envy Roy for having the childhood Connor missed.

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I almost certainly am) but has anyone explored the relationship between the two men who would be the next Green Arrow? Isn't that were the story is, between the genetic son and the adopted one, nature vs. nurture, hedonist vs. celibate, experience vs. natural skill, and tradition vs. the new?

That's what I would like to see.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Setting the Time

On Lorendiac's LiveJournal, he lists the nine categories of continuity for an ongoing superhero story. It's an excellent list and very useful for understanding the context in which most stories are written.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to add an addendum to Category #3, "Continuity of Environment", which basically states that stories about particular characters need to take place in specific locations. I.e., Batman stories are set in Gotham, a major city located somewhere in the northeast United States. If Batman is out of Gotham in any particular story, you almost have to explain why he's not in Gotham.

My addendum is that, on top to continuity of a physical environment, there is also a continuity of temporal environment. Stories about a particular character are also set in a particular era, and for superheroes, that era is always "the present."

And anyone who has ever used the phrase "sliding timeline" in casual conversation immediately sees what the problem with that is.

To maintain continuity of personality (Category #2), to say that Batman is Bruce Wayne, the original Bruce Wayne who personally witnessed his parents' death and not someone else who happens to have the same name, we have to say that it's been only 12 or 13 years since he first put on the cape, instead of the 70 plus it's actually been in the real world. But to maintain continuity of setting, Batman has be operating in 2007, not 1952! But writers want their cake and eat it too, so time does pass but the character don't age, and if they won't push back the "current" date, they'll push forward the original one, indefinitely.*

Please understand that this is unusual. In any other genre or medium, the setting is either set by the original author as a specific point in the past, or at least remains the period in which it was originally written, because it is in their original setting that the characters make the most sense, and by maintaining continuity of setting we understand this to be the same character we've read about before.

For the most part, Sherlock Holmes stories are set in Victorian London, no matter when there were actually written. Tarzan stories are set in the turn of the century. Sgt. Rock stories are in World War II, Jonah Hex in the post-Civil War west. There are counter-examples to all of those cases but in every case you can feel it is the exception not of the rule. If a Sherlock Holmes movie were set in 2007, it would be called a bold updating. If a Batman story were set in 1939, it would be called an Elseworlds!

This works better for some characters than for others. Spider-Man, so far, is pretty timeless. The basics of his character, setting, and origin aren't particularly linked to the 1960s. And, sadly, the metaphors of prejudice and alienation are always going to be relevant for the X-Men.

But the Fantastic Four got their powers racing Communists into space, and the Incredible Hulk is the product of an nuclear bomb test in the Arizona desert. These are characters of their time, and to take them out of their time is to make them, to some degree, different characters! Frank Castle, Vietnam veteran, is a different character than Frank Castle, Gulf War veteran. (Or Iraq War, in a couple of years).

Maybe that's why Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier worked so well. Re-contextualizing Green Lantern, the Flash, and the Martian Manhunter as products of the late 1950s brings them to life as airmen ready to go to the stars, police using new science to make modern life better, and immigrants fearful of Red Scare xenophobia. And the Golden Age heroes, (Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman) look and act like relics of an earlier time, trying to redefine themselves for a new era.

In short, automatically setting your new story featuring an old character in "the present" without thinking of the consequences is dangerous. Some characters are going to fly through the years no problem. But, for the most part, characters just don't time travel that easy.

*An odd corollary of this is DC 1,000,000, the conceit of the crossover is we get to see the millionth issue of Detective Comics, starring a prison warden inspired by the legend of the Batman of the 20th Century. But this rings false because we know that if, miracle of miracles, DC Comics is still publishing one million months from now, the star of Detective Comics is still going to be Bruce Wayne!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Stop Me If You've Heard This One... A Superhero Walks Into a Trap..."

I want to like Dwayne McDuffie's run on Justice League of America.

I really do.

But something just isn't clicking. I mean, the first issue of his run, the JLA Wedding Special, was really good: strong characterization, a good sense of humor, and action and the sense of a moving plot.

But three issues in and, while the humor and characters are still there, the plot has totally stalled.

The Injustice League's whole plan seems to be bait the heroes into a trap, wait for them to arrive in two and threes, beat the crap out of them quickly and then disappear with as many of them as possible. And they've successfully done this FIVE TIMES!

It makes the story repetitive and the Justice League look like morons. Which is only made worse by Superman shooting down Black Lightning's suggestion that after Batman AND Wonder Woman have been captured, it's time to call in some reinforcements, before rushing off to get captured like everyone else.

The story is basically in the same place it was at the end of the Wedding Special, in that I have no further insight into what the villains' ultimate plan is nor have the heroes done anything to reverse their misfortunes. And it's never a good feeling when you have to ask yourself why did you have to read the previous two issues.

The art's also been off. Mike McKone on the Wedding Special was alright, if not spectacular. And Ed Benes in issue #14 comes through with his usual flaws (all the men have the same over-muscled body, all the women have the same over-sexualized body, and if he can slip in an ass or panty shot, he will). But Joe Benitez on issue #13 was just awful. The women aren't just over-sexualized, they looked like poorly constructed Barbie dolls and the men, particularly back in the spotlight John Stewart (Green Lantern), had teeny tiny heads on huge bodies.

I mean, there still is a lot of stuff to like. Black Lightning, at least, is being portrayed as a competent hero and GeoForce's best feature (according to Gorilla Grodd) is a hoot, as is most of the interaction of the Injustice League. So I'll stick it out to the end of the first storyline (as I did for Meltzer) to see if he can turn it around...

But seriously, if one more supposedly brilliant hero walks willingly into an obvious trap only to get sucker punched, I quit.

Friday, October 05, 2007

On Secret Identities

Ah, the secret identity, the classic troupe of superhero stories that falls apart the moment you think too hard about it.

I mean, it's hardly going over new ground to point out that a pair of glasses is hardly a disguise, but as John Byrne and Howard Mackie pointed out in an issue of Star Brand, even with a full mask it shouldn't be THAT hard for any motivated person to figure out the identity of any sufficiently public hero.

Add to that the fact that justifications for a duel identity are often weak and maintaining a secret life leads to some pretty irresponsible behavior, and it seems like a story idea that's not worth keeping.

And yet it persists. In fact, it's one of the things almost all superheroes have in common, from Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne to Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And while it makes no sense in terms of "realism," as power fantasy it's almost necessary.

It's what allows us to both empathize with a superhero ("Hey! I'm a mild-mannered schlub who awkwardly hits on my hot co-worker!") and imagine what it's like to have inhuman abilities ("Ooh, if only she knew that I could fly in my underwear!"). It brings the fantastic into the mundane world, and lets us imagine that anyone could really be a secret superhero, they just are hiding it, for some reason.

Perhaps the purest example of this fantasy is Captain Marvel. I mean, it doesn't get any more pathetic than Billy Batson, orphaned AND homeless eight year old, but with just a magic word he can become the most powerful superhero on the earth! And not just a kid superhero, either, like Robin or Kid Flash, but an adult, sidekick to no one! There, the secret identity works perfectly. One, it's a disguise no one is just going to see through, because he actually looks different in his different identities. Two, it makes perfect sense for him to hide the fact that he's actually eight. No one would take him seriously if they knew he was just a kid, but as Captain Marvel he gets the respect reserved for adults.

And, in a way, every superhero has elements of that escapism, even for the characters themselves: their superhero identities are where they are loved, respected, and feared, no matter how mundane their "real" lives are. That if their superhero life became their ordinary life, along with the ordinary problems of paying bills, maintaining relationships, just being human, then being a superhero becomes less special.

It's interesting how, on the whole, the Marvel heroes subverted the secret identity troupe, where people are burdened by their superpowers and secret lives. Either their abilities are feared by the general public, even when used for good, like the X-Men, or their abilities out and out prevent them from having a normal life, like the Thing.

Most interesting of all in this respect is the Incredible Hulk, who is the negative side of the superhero power fantasy, the dark incarnation of Captain Marvel. Like Billy Batson, Dr. Bruce Banner becomes a physically different being when he becomes the Hulk. But, instead of just being freed from the bounds of human ability, the Hulk is also freed from the bounds of human behavior.

Captain Marvel still feels bound to protect the city and save lives. The Hulk, on the other hand, does whatever the Hulk wants, which more often than not is destroying everything he comes in contact with. The Hulk is escape not just from the physical self but also the moral self, and demonstrates the usually catastrophic results of such freedom.

The secret identity is our doorway into the world of the fantastic, the device that allows us to be both ourselves the readers in the real world and our heroes flying through a world of wonder. But it's important to remember there is a risk to this escape, a danger of losing sight of consequences, and somehow seeing our own actions as the responsibility of someone else.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Forced Isolation

How many times have you heard the following line?

"We can't go to the authorities! They'll stick you in a lab and run experiments on you for the rest of your life!"?
A dozen? A hundred? It's in Smallville, Spider-Man, Eureka, all over Heroes. It's the explanation why every superhero and pseudo-superhero throughout fiction must hide their powers and not announce to the world that "Hey, I, Clark Kent, am actually an alien and have powers above and beyond that of mortal man! Isn't that cool?"

But it's, y'know, bullshit. If you woke up one day and discovered you had mysterious, extraordinary and possibly dangerous powers, wouldn't it be a good idea to go to people who could test you, explain what's happening and then help you control or possibly remove your powers? Isn't a bad idea to let a possibly rampaging green goliath wander around the general population just because Dr. Banner's scared of needles?

The "lab rat for life" line is just as bad as the "we can't go to the cops because they'll think we did it" excuse. No, if you're a suspect for a crime you didn't commit, the last thing you should do is run from the cops. You should go TO the police and explain your story in detail, so the cops can use all the information to find the real culprit. If you're really worried, bring a lawyer.

I understand why writers want to isolate their heroes, why they limit their resources and cut them off from most of society. The whole secret identity aspect of superheroes, that the seemingly mild-mannered man next to you might be hiding fantastic abilities depends on that man having a reason for hiding his powers.

But that reason has to be something real, like a frame job that could not be beaten in court (as it was in The Fugitive) or a known societal prejudice against people with powers (as with the X-Men), not just the hero's general paranoia of authority.

It certainly doesn't help that there's plenty of examples of "the hero with bizarre powers" going public and it working out just fine. The Fantastic Four never hid what they could do and they're the best loved heroes within the Marvel Universe. (The new) Blue Beetle was terrified of the alien weapon welded to his spine, so in issue 15 he went to S.T.A.R. Labs for tests and still got to go home to fight dark gods and alien bounty hunters (and got to meet Superman for his troubles). And in the surprisingly fun Chuck, the C.I.A. and the N.S.A. know about the secrets in Chuck's brain before Chuck does, but Chuck's still working in "Buy More" in episode 2, only with two agents watching his back and trying to help him adjust to his life.

In short, if the hero refuses to ask for help because he is afraid that "they" will get him if he does, he comes across as cynical, paranoid, and in many cases, just plain dumb. On the other hand, if your hero does seek aid, and discovers that it's dangerous to do so, well then, you've done some world building, established a villain, and developed your hero all in one fell swoop! Good job!

Or if your hero has a reason to hide her powers other than paranoia... but that's a post for another time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Support Your Local Virgin

So... on October 18th in New York City, I'll be reading from my first short story at the In The Flesh reading series, and I'd love to see you all there!

I'll be reading from my short story "Perfect Manhattan," the story of a yuppie power couple trying to have perfect children by conceiving them at exactly the right time in exactly the right place, which leads them to the Central Park Zoo, a conference room at Goldman Sachs, and (in the excerpt I'll be reading from), the A-train at rush hour.

It's a comedy.

In The Flesh is a monthly erotica reading series (yes my story is erotic, or at least dirty) run by Rachel Kramer Bussel. She was gracious enough to ask me to read because a) she's on my trivia team and b) it's Virgin Night, specifically for first time readers (like me) and first time authors (um, also like me).

So if you like my writing, or erotica, or free cupcakes (yes FREE cupcakes!), then come one down to the Happy Ending Lounge on October 18th!

I'll see you there!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oh Snap!

For some reason, my store didn't receive Action Philosophers #9 until today, so I didn't read this gem until just now:

... I blame Leibniz. You know you have a crappy philosophy when even Hegel thinks it's stupid.
Take that, alternate inventor of calculus!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Voice Work

Chris at Mighty God King has a neat post on writing in the voice of your characters, particularly the experiment to write your character's version of the Gettysburg Address. And he does it twice, once as Brainiac 5, and another he asks us to guess.

And I am not above stealing good ideas.

So here it is, let's see if you can guess the character (It's a comics character, you know him or her).

Listen up, chumps! Years ago, the guys in charge made this country based on the idea that everyone has rights. Everyone's protected.

Now we're fighting this goddamn war to see if they were right, whether a country like ours can even survive. And we've come here to honor the boys who got killed fighting for this country and make a little monument to them. And, yeah yeah, it seems like it's the right thing to do.

But you know what? We can't do nothing these men didn't do themselves. They were the heroes, we're just jerks talking. If we really want to honor their memory, we gotta keep fighting. We gotta finish what these guys started and take the fight to those a-holes who started this. We take the fight to them and we tell 'em, "this country's going to survive, and it's going to be better than ever. And freedom, and equality, and justice? They ain't going nowhere, man. No way!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Perenials and Outliers

It's hard to imagine a day when DC Comics doesn't publish or plan to publish the following titles:

Action Comics
Superman
Detective Comics
Batman
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
The Flash
Aquaman
Justice League
Justice Society
Teen Titans
The Legion of Superheroes


Yes, I know Aquaman is cancelled, but I assure you DC is actively soliciting pitches for a relaunch, looking for any way to get one of the most famous superheroes in the world back on the stands. Similarly, Marvel will always publish:

The Amazing Spider-Man
Uncanny X-Men
Fantastic Four
The Incredible Hulk
Captain America
Iron Man
The Avengers
Daredevil
The Punisher
Ghost Rider
Thor

Thor
is an interesting example. A few years ago, Warren Ellis rather pointedly stated that you can't keep publishing Thor just because you've always published Thor if there isn't really enough interest in the character to justify sales. (also something about a horse from space) Then the title was canceled and the titular hero literally vanished from Marvel comics.

However, in July, the number one book on the stands was, well, Thor! Over 160,000 copies sold to retailers, which beats out Marvel's own much hyped World War Hulkand Death of Captain America miniseries.

Now, there's a few factors that go into that. The return of Thor was a delayed plot point from the mega-popular Civil War and Marvel put J. Michael Straczynski, one of their absolute most popular writers, on the book, so it's unlikely the book will keep half of that initial audience, still, that's an impressive number and a lot of the book's strength was based on fond memories of the character. So you can see why Marvel keeps going back to that well, even if it often runs dry.

But look at those lists again and think about what's NOT there, the outliers, the books starring new characters like Blue Beetle, the books with more diverse characters, like Black Panther the books with quirkier tones, like She-Hulk, or books with more unusual set ups, like The Brave and the Bold. Yeah, it's some of the bestselling comics on the stands right now, but it's not necessarily the innovative books or the most critically acclaimed.

The day is coming, and coming soon, when DC and Marvel make the transition from the magazine publishers they were to the book publishers they need to be. When the majority of your illustrated superhero stories will be found in novel length forms sold more in general interest book stores than increasingly exclusionary specialty shops. And when that day comes, the question is going to be, "whither the outliers?"

Take Manhunter, for example, DC critically acclaimed, fan favorite series with truly abysmal sales. DC has managed to eek out thirty issues of the series which add some great new characters to the DC universe and add some interesting depth to some old ones. And that in turn has produced three trades now which have sold well enough to kind of sort of keep the series going.

But... could DC have published the series if they didn't introduce the character in her monthly series first? Or to turn it around, would you have bought the first trade if it was sold as an original graphic novel? Would you have spent $13 to read about a totally new character taking on the identity of an old, d-list character, written by newish writer? On the other hand, would you spend $3 to try a new character out?

Yes, the move from magazines to books will be good for comics in general, both in terms of art and business, but I'm not sure it will be good for ongoing superhero comics. It feels to me that the move will limit the ability to sell new ideas to an audience already resistant to change. More expensive books sold at higher price points might discourage publishers from taking a chance on new writers, new artists, new characters, and new formats altogether when it's easier to sell books that are just like the ones the fans have already bought.

It's not like this isn't a problem already, but I worry that without the relatively cheap format of comic pamphlets to try out new creations, nothing new will come out of the "House of Ideas" and Marvel will just be feeling Thor for a long long time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Powers Do Not Equal Personality

There’s an old game fans love to play while sitting around, dreaming of the day they get to write the adventures of their favorite superheroes: “Who’s in your Justice League?” The rules are simple, create a list of roughly seven to twelve characters who you’d want to see month after month saving the world from, say, Despero.

You see different strategies employed, from the Big Seven (only characters capable of supporting their own book… oh, and the Martian Manhunter) to the Heavy Hitters (if you can’t bench-press a tank, you can’t join), to the Professionals (characters who don’t have their own book, who can devote their full time to the team) to the Personal Favorites (say it with me now, “Geo-Force?”). And you see some old arguments pop up, like whether Batman would join the team or if Aquaman is ever useful.

But there’s one team creation strategy that baffles me. The belief that a Justice League team needs to have a Flash, needs to have a Green Lantern. That Superman and Captain Marvel shouldn’t both be on the team because their powers are too similar, and Firestorm and Captain Atom can’t both join because they would “over lap”.

It’s the belief that superpowers are the definition of a superhero’s character, and that a team composed of diverse powers is interesting, and a team with similar powers is not.

That’s just ludicrous.

I mean, it certainly doesn’t make sense from a story perspective. If you’ve got four guys with omnipotent magic wishing rings, why not bring all of them? When Batman took out Brother Eye in Infinite Crisis #6, he brought Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Green Lantern John Stewart. Why? Because Batman’s not an idiot.

But more the point of literary criticism, it doesn’t make sense from a storytelling perspective either. Superheroes’ powers don’t dictate their behavior. Sure, if you’ve got claws and super healing, you’re probably cutting people and getting beat up a lot, but isn’t that why Beast is much more interesting? Because his intellectual persona runs counter to his feral appearance and abilities? So, just because two characters have the same abilities doesn’t mean they have the same personality or that they would act the same in a team dynamic.

Think how different Grant Morrison’s run on JLA would be if, instead of artist and novice superhero Kyle Rayner, Morrison had used macho jackass Guy Gardner as the Green Lantern on the team. Instead of a nice P.O.V. character in over his head and out to prove himself worthy, you’d have an argumentative jerk who’d balk at Superman’s every order and repeatedly moon Batman (I didn’t say it would be a worse book, just different).

Or take the current line-up of the Teen Titans. Supergirl, Wonder Girl, and Miss Martian have very similar powers—super strength, speed, flight—but they don’t fulfill the same function on the team. Supergirl is trying, finally, to live up to the example of her cousin and be a role model hero. Wonder Girl, on the other hand, has developed a violent rebellious streak and become a destabilizing element. And Miss Martian tries to play peacemaker but is naïve and bumbling in her attempts.

In short, they’ve become the Power Puff Girls.* And that’s a good thing, because it’s in their personality differences that the story lies.

Superpowers are not what make characters interesting. How characters react to having superpowers is what makes them interesting. A team where everyone has a different power but they all act the same (like the Silver-Age Justice League or X-Force) is boring. A team where everyone has the same power but acts completely different is fascinating.

So the next time you’re creating your fantasy team, don’t think “I need a runner, a fighter, a magician, and a flyer” like it’s a D&D game. Think “Who’s the leader, who’s the instigator, who’s the peacemaker? Who’s new? Who’s old? Who wants to do more? Who wants to do less? Who’s proud to be there? Who’s about to quit? And who’s holding it all together?” Because it’s in how these characters are different, different as characters, that makes the team worth reading about.


*Yes, Supergirl also has heat vision and Miss Martian can shapeshift, but that’s like how Blossom has ice breath and Bubbles can speak Spanish.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Multiple Choice Question

I think it's pretty clear that I loves The Question. I even like the new Question.

It's a great character design (from Steve Ditko, who made a career of great character designs) and The Question, a.k.a., Vic Sage, is a compelling personality, a crusader for absolute truth.

And it is as a fan of the character that I'm bothered by comments like this:

Poor Question. Right when Timm, Dini, and company made you popular, DC has the foresight to kill you off and replace you.
Luke's implication that there can be no more comics featuring the Vic Sage Question is patently false, because the post he's commenting on is about a comic that came out THIS WEEK. In fact, it was in Justice League Unlimited, the comic that's specifically designed to capitalize on the success of "Timm, Dini, and Company". So he's getting exactly what he wants.

But of course he's not happy getting a new Vic Sage story. He wants a new Vic Sage story "in continuity," so that it "really happens." Well, Luke, I've got some bad news for you...

It's all fictional. The Vic Sage that died in 52 is no more real than the Vic Sage fighting space yetis on comics shelves RIGHT NOW!

And that's the wonder of these characters, they're flexible and you can tell many stories with them, AT THE SAME TIME. Don't like Judd Winick's Trials of Shazam? Try Jeff Smith's Monster Society of Evil. Don't like Richard Donner and Geoff Johns' Superman? Try Busiek's. Or Morrison's. Or...

These are not real people. They're characters and it takes a lot more than death to stop them. DC can still publish a Vic Sage Question series, and he could be Bruce Timm's paranoid theorist, or Denny O'Neil's kung fu master, OR Steve Ditko's objectivist vigilante. Take your pick, it's a wide open multiverse out there. In fact, Vic Sage wouldn't even need to fit into any previous continuity. After all, continuity isn't a real "reality" for him to fit into anyway.

I think he'd kind of like that idea.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Morning Macking: World-Wide Edition

Sorry about last week. We're back on track today.

So, if you're going to get your mack on, there are some universal guidelines you should follow. And to help me demonstrate those rules, I've enlisted the aid of someone who's actually seen the universe, Ego, the Living Planet!

... what was that? ...Oh.

I mean, Ego, the Loving Planet.

Let's get to work:

Step One: Introduce Yourself



This is undoubtedly the hardest step, but also the most important, so take notes.

First, notice that Ego doesn't launch right into the introduction. He starts by explaining himself, slipping in a flattering compliment for planet Earth.

Second, Ego keeps it simple, right to the point. No games, no reservations, doesn't hold anything back. Just a "I'm attracted to you" and a "get to know me."

Step Two: Sell Yourself



For the more modest among you, this might seem difficult. You know you have good qualities but you don't want to brag or look vain.

Again, Ego shows the way. He leads with a supposed criticism of himself, that he's a "playa", but it's strawman, there only to justify his boast of commitment. "I would never just tell you how great I am," he seems to say, "but because of those people attacking me, I need to defend myself."

Step Three: Bad Mouth the Competition



DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! You are not the only fish in the sea. Your intended has many choices out there, and you can stand out by making yourself look good, or making them look bad. Do BOTH, because, believe me my friend, they are!

Step Four: Be Understanding



Nobody you meet is going to be perfect. There's going to be some flaw. Don't let that stop you or you'll never get anywhere! If there's baggage, history, issues, or any static, just let it ride, and roll off you. It ain't no thing!

So, class, I hope you learned something, and have something to share as well.

Peace Out!



You ugly? Don't let that stop you! Even half a kisser is enough!

Know why? Because there's more to lovin' than just looks!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mom's Not Going to Like This

Sometimes, you just have to smack a dentist in the head:


All in service to Bahlactus

Justice Society of Degrassi

And now a scene from Justice Society of America #7, with added Thought Balloons!


POWER GIRL: Mmm, mmm, unbreakable man meat!

MR. TERRIFIC: God, Power Girl, it's "the National anthem." "National." What planet are you from, anyway?

DR. MID-NITE: Must... touch... mustNOTtouch... must... touch... mustNOTtouch...

CITIZEN STEEL: A fin? Why'd they have to give me a fin? I'm such a dork.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"It's Wednesday, After All!"

I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed Justice Society #7, but I guess I shouldn't have been.

Justice Society has always been Geoff Johns's best book, and this, the first issue that wasn't the kick-off "Let's get the band back together!" storyline, or the good parts of the otherwise unreadable "Lightning Saga" crossover, shows off his greatest strength, action scenes with emotional payoffs.

In this stand alone story, Johns creates the anti-Penance in the new Citizen Steel, taking an overly melodramatic character and turning him into something uplifting.

First, Johns gave Steel the absolute worst, most emo origin ever: Nate Heywood was a crippled former football star who watched his family slaughtered by Nazis and was puked on by one, which is why he is now a metal man incapable of feeling. Yowza, if you're going to go that way, why not listen to Death Cab and get a MySpace Haircut while you're at it?

But by the end of the issue, Nate is a reluctant superhero and the protector of orphaned children, something a lot closer to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's great shield slinging hero, The Guardian.* That's a hero I can get behind, that's a man I can root for.

And it doesn't hurt that his journey from whiney loser to father figure is a fun adventure involving Power Girl actually acting like a team leader (making the plan, taking lead, watching out for her team, offering encouragement when needed, Black Canary take notes), some fantastic lines ("Fists are nature's problem solvers"), and the JSA beating the crap out of a ton of Nazis ("Boo to Nazis").

However, this is almost outshone by the utterly charming Starman/Superman sequence, which just is a perfect demonstration of why we love the Big Blue. Starman's been talking up his sanitarium's Sloppy Joes since issue #1, but Superman is the first person to actually sit down and share one with him. Add to that a mental health facility shown as an actual hospital and not a 19th Century insane asylum/prison, plus hints that the Zero Hour Legion of Superheroes (and XS) are still in continuity, and you've got a sequence that just left me all smiles.

Dale Eaglesham's art is also amazing. It's easy to talk about the "acting" he puts into the characters' faces and postures, or the earth shattering fight, but I loved just the little stuff he threw in: Hawkman wearing his helmet under a welding mask, Superman quietly drinking his milk after Starman tells him it'll make his bones stronger, the way Dr. Mid-Nite's owl watches Steel at all times, even when the Doctor himself is distracted. I also love how Eaglesham models Superman on his namesake, Clark Gable (most noticeable on page 8).

It was just a fun comic, a story in and of itself, that nonetheless got me interested in reading the next issue. How cool is that?All I need to do now is wait for Rachelle "Irate Canadian Lass" Goguen to post the "It's Wednesday, After All!" panel, if only to steal it for future reviews!


*What other guy?

... And Out the Other Side

What a long strange trip that was...

Sorry about that. One long week in DC and suddenly out of posts, meaning I missed a few news stories and a few memes, including my own Monday Morning Macking (for those of you who posted in understandable expectation, I'll link to you next Monday).

For now, I'd like to talk about Action Comics #851, the Phantom Zone issue, in glorious 3-D!

Now, I'm a comics reader, not a collector, so usually gimmicks don't do it for me. But there's something about 3-D, with the goofy cardboard glasses and promises of action leaping off the page, that has a nostalgic charm for me, like something out of the '50s.

And for Action #851, it worked. It worked because they limited it to the Phantom Zone, where the disorienting effect of 3-D glasses reflected Superman's own altered state, as if we ourselves were drawn into another, twilight world. It worked because Richard Donner's phantom zone is full of planes rotating towards the reader, flat people turning in a three dimensional space, which is exactly the effect of 3-D. And it worked because after so long a wait, it was nice that the payoff had a little extra goose to it.

As for the story itself, I side with those that say, if only this book had come out on time, it would considered a Superman storyline to remember. I reread the issues leading up to this and the Annual (but not the fill-ins) and the story really moves and surprises.

Annual #10, LOTS of exposition and beautiful art, some of which ties directly into this storyline...

Issue #844, Kryptonian kid lands on Earth and Superman kidnaps him to save him from the government!

Issue #845, Superman tries to work with the government, but some underhanded dealings and a Bizarro rampage convince him to adopt the kid himself. Except he's actually the son of General Zod and Ursa!

Issue #846, Zod attacks, releasing an entire army of criminal Kryptonians and trapping Superman in the Phantom Zone!

Issue #851, While Zod's army runs roughshod over the Justice League and the kid starts fighting back, Superman has a heartbreaking encounter with a childhood friend, escapes from the Phantom Zone barely, and teams up with his deadliest enemies to take down over a thousand supermen!

That's some fun, exciting stuff. However, instead of coming out over the course of four months, it instead took almost nine. And that the next part won't be out until October at the earliest!

That's just frustrating! That's the kind of thing that drives people to the trades, where you know you're getting the end of the story the day you bought the beginning.

(For the most part.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gone the American Way

I'm off to our nation's capital for Independence Day.

I just wanted to wish all a happy Fourth of July! Light a roman candle for me, and remember to never give up the never-ending battle for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Morning Macking: Queer Eye Edition

First up, a big ole' shout out to those of you who helped out with the first Monday Morning Macking! You guys are P. I. M. P.

Secondly, those of you who didn't get your shwerve on last week needs to get in the game! Maybe it's because you're happy just punching people:


But let's face it, if you're only joy in life is smacking around the elderly, someday things are just not going to go well and you're going to end up hurting your friends and family:


What you need is a good man in your life; someone to keep you sane, keep you sober:


And then you can be happy just being yourself:


So if you want to really make the world a better place, why don't you let your readers know how to put a little love in their lives.

oh, and get. It. ON.



The Fortress Keeper teaches that love may be blind, but romancin' is right on target!


Friday, June 29, 2007

Why You Should Be Reading Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis

or: Friday Night Fights: Return of the King edition

The true warrior knows that he is never unarmed.

Though he may lack sword, and shield, and spear, a warrior always retains his hands and feet.

And teeth:




Yes, that's King Shark biting the face off of madman and consummate douchebag Black Manta.




Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't like the taste. I've always heard once you go black, you never go back.


p.s. If you enjoy starting your weekend with Friday Night Fights, you might also enjoy closing them with my own Monday Morning Macking. Make Love, AND War.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jaw Dropping

HO. LEE. CRAP.

I got some comics this week that just FLOORED me.

Okay, Amazons Attacks #3 kind of treaded water and The Boys #8 had nothing like the first page of The Boys #7. And the most shocking page of Wonder Woman #10 was the DC Nation page where Matt Idelson is still asking what to do about late books in a book that's two weeks late, edited by Matt Idelson. Nice.

But the OTHER books I got were fast moving books chock full of character and plot, that then socked me in the gut.

She-Hulk 19, the one with the amazing cover, not only has a brilliant and surprisingly action packed trial of the villainous Leader, it also features the long in the works resolution of the She-Hulk/Jen Walters duel identity issue that's been the under current since Dan Slott's first issue three years ago. But I wasn't prepared for that last page reveal, the final fate of Stu Cicero, the comic book nerd too smart for his own good. What horror!

And Blue Beetle #16 is a running battle between Eclipso and Traci 13, last seen in Azzarello and Chang's mindblowing Dr. 13 back-up, with Blue Beetle caught in the middle. From the groan inducing pun title to the surprise call back to 52 (Remember 52? The weekly series everyone liked?) to Eclipso refusing to take the blame for something its host body, Jean Loring, did, this title is a hoot and a half. So I was not prepared when Eclipso unleashed "the THE MONSTER WITHIN THE BLUE BEETLE". I just did not see that coming, yet it made so much sense.

But of course, the real shocker this week, and my hands down pick, was Green Lantern: Sinestro Corp Special. How good was this issue? Well let me put it to you this way: out of curiosity I picked it up to read in the store, and was so impressed that I felt I ought to buy it AND buy Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, which I don't usually get, just because I HAVE TO KNOW what happens next.

And you know what, that's a great feeling. Well played, DC, well played.

It's a great jumping on book. Like I said, I haven't been reading any Green Lantern title, but I didn't need to because Geoff Johns has filled the book with expository dialogue. There is literally only one important character who isn't named and explained, and even he's introduced in the backstory.

And stuff happens! More stuff happens in one issue than Brad Meltzer's entire Justice League run. Seriously, a plot is investigated, a hero is captured and tortured, an immense army is discovered, Oa is attacked, villains (plural) escape, and the big bad behind it all is revealed, and it's not who you think (unless you're Diamondrock who called it some time ago).

And then there are those shocks. Yes, it's Johns's weakness to go to sudden, bloody violence, but damn if the attack on Oa didn't get real involving real quick, and the most disturbing moment was actually the least bloody, just many rings flying away to look for new Lanterns.

And the villains. Okay, some were given away in the ads, some were extremely guessable, but one or two I just did not see coming, or rather, coming so soon! Stuff happens in the book I thought would wait until the end of Countdown, but it happens here and I just don't know what's going to happen next. I really don't know how our heroes are going to get out of this one, particularly considering that last page spread, that grouping of monsters and gods, and just who is bowing to whom.

But the most surprising moment of all?

The acorn on page 36.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Scene From A Funeral

[from the cover of Countdown #43, on sale in a week]



ROBIN: Okay, Wonder Girl, I've kept my eyes closed, what's the big surprise?

WONDER GIRL: Mmm, you smell so good.

R: I know.

WG: No, really. Really good. Strong.

R: It's Bat-Cologne. Now what's the surprise?

WG: Okay, open your eyes.

R: Oh. Oh god. Is, is that the Flash?

WG: Yes. Robin-- Tim. Bart is dead.

R: I know. They called me.

WG: They called you?

R: Well, ye--

WG: And they didn't call me?

R: You were busy. Fighting the Amazons. Or on the side of the Amazons. We weren't sure. How is that going, by the way?

WG: Don't change the subject. You knew?

R: Cassie, it happened two weeks ago. Jeez, look what they did to him. Burned and frozen and fried.

BEAST BOY: Yeah, but it was all the kicking that did it.

R: Oh hey Gar. Did you arrange this?

BB: Yeah...

R: Couldn't you have given him a closed casket funeral?

BB: ...

WG: Oh Tim! Another one of us is dead.

R: I know.

WG: First Superb--

BB: Shhh!

WG: I mean, Conner. Now Bart. Oh, why me?

R: Hey, I lost them too--

WG: But I loved them!

R: Are we really going to play this game?

WG: What game?

R: Whose life sucks more?

WG: You can't understand what I'm going through!

R: Are you sh**ing me? In the last few years, I've lost Bart, and Conner, and my FATHER, and my STEP-MOTHER, and my GIRLFRIEND, and my OTHER girlfriend, not to mention a whole CITY! What have you lost? You're a daughter of Zeus and a Wonder Woman-in-training: what do you care about us mortals?

BB: Tim, I understand. I lost my mother a few years ago...

R: Yeah? So did I, b****, but yours came back, didn't she?

BB: ..she might be crazy...

SPEEDY: I have A.I.D.S.

WG: Yes, we know.

S: No, guys, I mean, I have A.I.D.S. I'm dying. I'm going to be next.

R: Oh jeez, thanks. Like I wasn't depressed enough.

[Pause]

WG: Oh, I have an idea!

R: No.

WG: You didn't even let me tell you--

R: You want to bring Bart back from the dead.

WG: Well, why not?

BB: Because last time you tried to do that, you were brainwashed by a cult for a year and then later fell for a homicidal bizarro clone.

WG: But this time is different. THIS time we'll... we'll all hold up lighting rods! Yeah, and when the lightning hits our rods the energy will flow through us and give Bart back his life!

[Pause]

BB: Cassie, that is the f***ing stupidest idea I have ever heard.

WG: Can I help it if I want to do something? I'm losing friends left and right. Who will I lose next? What if it's Anita, or Greta? Oh my god, what if it's Cissie? Oh, how could I ever replace Arrowette?

S: Hey!

WG: Or when... A.I.D.S.-Lass here finally buys it, are we just going to let that happen too?

R: Cass, calm down.

WG: No, I will NOT calm down. You're right. I'm a goddess.

BB: Demi-goddess.

WG: I've been to Hell. I've punched Hades in the face. I have the power to do something about this and I WILL!

[WONDER GIRL flies away]

CYBORG'S CROTCH: That's not going to end well. Should we say something?

RAVEN'S CROTCH: Shhh! If we keep quiet, maybe they won't notice us.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday Morning Macking

In the grand tradition of Friday Night Fights and Thursday Night Thinking, the Roar of Comics is proud to present:

MONDAY MORNING MACKING

We know you know how to lay out a beating. We know you know how to lay out a scheme. But how are you at laying out... the charm?

Do you come across too weak?



Do you come on too strong?



Superheroes can help! For over seventy years, men and women in tights have been teaching young Americans the ancient art of seduction,* and I'm looking to YOU, my readers, to post the best panels of your heroes getting the girl, getting the guy, getting jiggy, and most importantly, getting. It. ON.

And just to prove that there is hope for everyone, let's say you are, I don't know, a hideous rock monster who was once a man.

Are you doomed to be forever shunned by gentle companionship due to your deformed nature?

NO!

Even you, Ben Grimm, you ugly Thing you, can get.

It.

ON.

If this couch is a rockin', don't come a'knockin'!


So come one, come all! Don't Playa' Hate!

PARTICIPATE!




Filby shows how a real pimp takes control and makes LOVE, not war!

Johnny Zito remembers that if you can't be with the one you want, there are other fish in the sea!

The Fortress Keeper doubles your pleasure, doubles your fun and reminds you they call him MISTER Fantastic!



*What do you mean, "That's not what Seduction of the Innocent is about"?

Friday, June 22, 2007

RUMBLE!

Bahlactus calls. We answer. He wants the very best in superhero violence, I give him battle to rock the cosmos!

In this corner, a man whose heartbeat is a thousand Hiroshimas, whose blood is the universal solvent, whose very stare drives all but the purest mad, the King Angel of the Bull Host of Heaven, ASMODEL!


And in this corner, he's faster than a speeding bullet, he's more powerful than a locomotive, he looks great in a tight blue suit. You know him. You love him, It's the Metropolis Kid, the Man of Tomorrow, the Real Steel Deal, SUPERMAN!




Ladies and Gentlemen,

LET'S GET READY TO

RUMBLE!




And the crowd goes wild!





Characters I'd Like to See in Dwayne McDuffie's New Justice League

Superman

Batman

Wonder Woman

Green Lantern (John Stewart, of course)

The Flash (Wally West, I guess...)

The Martian Manhunter (old look, please)

Hawkgirl (I'm a JLU fan, so sue me)

plus...

Aquaman (the new one, actually, He's a fun character)

Firestorm

The All-New Atom

Static (52 Universes. You telling me he's not in one of them?)

Black Canary

Fire and Ice

Green Lantern (Guy Gardner. Seriously, he adds personality to the team)

Plastic Man (see above)

Zatanna

Mr. Miracle (Shilo Norman)

Shining Knight (Ystin)

(oh screw it,)

Manhattan Guardian, Klarion, Bulleteer, and FRANKENSTEIN! too

The ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dibny

The Blue Beetle (though he should turn them down, considering they left him in space for a year!)

Zauriel

Red Tornado (shut up. I like him)

Oracle

Prince (Yes, Prince. Seriously, he's like Batman, but short and purple)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Live Fast...

There's not much to say about today's "big news" beyond what Graeme McMillan says at the Savage Critics, but there was one thing I wanted to add. But even I think that talking about the "shocking" events in a comics that came out today deserves a SPOILERS warning and jump cut, so here it is:

SPOILERS!







Flash: the Fastest Man Alive #13 features the death of Bart Allen, a.k.a. the Flash, a.k.a. Impulse, and it's pretty unenjoyable, for all the reasons Graeme mentions: all the announcements this weekend about fake-out solicitations and relaunching the book made it pretty clear that Bart was not making it to the end of this book, making his death feel inevitable rather than surprising, and ending with his death makes the 12 previous issues seem pretty pointless.

All I wanted to add is that killing Impulse, of all characters, demonstrates that some people at DC just aren't interested in fun. Impulse was one of the more fun characters DC had. Thanks to a couple of accelerated bouts of aging, Bart may have looked like a teenager, but he was actually, roughly, six, and acted like it:

He saw the world in black and white morality, he thought in images not words, he wasn't that interested in girls, he had an incredibly short attention span, but he also truly loved his friends and family, when he wasn't annoying the hell out of them, and wanted to be a hero like his grandfather more than anything.

He could make you laugh, he could make you cry, and, occasionally, he could make you do both and save the universe at the same time. (Seriously, pick up Bart Saves the Universe for one of the cleverest and heart breaking time travel stories ever.)

I thought having him "grow up" in Teen Titans was a mistake that took away Bart's most charming feature, that he actually had difficulty taking superheroing seriously. Artificially aging him (again) into a whiny adult made him even less fun and further unrecognizable, and this made it all the more pointless. I mean, why seemingly kill Bart Allen in issue #4 of Infinite Crisis, only to bring him back in issue #7, if they just kill him again a little more than a year later? Couldn't he have stayed dead the first time?

Instead of just seeing Bart go out like a champ, taking out a monstrously powerful opponent, surrounded by his friends and family, we have to watch all the fun sucked out of him for a year before witnessing yet another member of Young Justice beaten to death for saving the world (Empress better watch her back, all I'm saying).

It's like they* weren't killing Bart Allen but the concept of fun itself: like the point of the story is that superheroes can't be kids pretending to be adults, saving the world with a laugh and occasionally learning lessons. No, superheroes have to be humorless mopes who are afraid of their own powers. And then they die.


*Not that I know who "they" are. I doubt it was issue scribe Mark Guggenheim, who was only recently added to the title. Dan Didio's interviews indicates that DC Editorial had planned on killing Bart Allen for a year now, so whose idea was it back then to have a humorless mini-series ending in Bart's death? Geoff Johns, who aged Bart and made Wally disappear? (apparently not) Mark Waid, who knew he was returning to The Flash, but for some reason didn't want to write Bart Allen, his own creation? or Dan "Enemy of Fun" Didio, who personally wants to ruin your childhood?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Don't I Know You From Somewhere?

John from Cincinnati, HBO's replacement series for The Sopranos, from Deadwood creator David Milch, is about an enigmatic, detached stranger (who claims "the end is near") and the family of surfers he joins.

But, who is John, asks the show. Is he an alien? Is he Jesus? Is he both?

I mean, is he... this guy?



Monday, June 18, 2007

Slashy Goodness

52 made official what Captian Atom: Armageddon implied: the Wildstorm Universe is now an official component of the DC Multiverse, similar to the Charlton Universe (the Question and Blue Beetle), the Quality Universe (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters) and the Whiz Universe (SHAZAM!).

And our first exploration of that idea comes in September, in COUNTDOWN PRESENTS THE SEARCH FOR RAY PALMER: WILDSTORM #1, with a cover that gives me no end of glee:


I don't know if you can tell from the sketchy cover, but that's DC Comics heroes Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy, and Jason Todd standing over reflections of Wildstorm heroes Apollo, Engineer, and Midnighter. Which reminds me a lot of this cover for JLA: Earth 2:


In the Earth 2 cover, the reflections are not merely other heroes but literally alternate versions of the same character, (i.e. Superman is standing over Ultraman, who IS Superman, but evil). And that almost works for the CPSRP:W cover as well (gosh, that's a long title).

Jason Todd is a homicidal, nigh-immortal version of Batman, and if anyone is an overpowered pretty boy doofus, it's Kyle.*

I think most people see where this is going, but let me take it to its natural conclusion.

Arthur Adams, the cover artist, could have picked other characters to reflect Jason and Kyle, perhaps someone from Gen 13 or W.I.L.D.Cats, but he didn't. No, he picked the two characters who are totally gay for each other.

Does this mean what I think it could mean? Could Kyle finally give in to the love that dare not speak his name? Is it time for him to have a boyfriend who cannot be killed, no matter how many fans call in asking for him to die?

And would they move to Boston?


*Donna Troy to Engineer is a lot weaker, unless the Engineer has trouble reading history books without crying as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Boys from Burbank

Dwayne McDuffie to take over Justice League of America.

About goddamn time.

After the snoozefest that has been Brad Meltzer's run on the title, it will be good to have a writer who understands serialized plotting, how to do character bits and plot bits at the same time, and that the Justice League is a team of experienced world-savers, not the cool kids hanging out in the clubhouse.

I'm really excited about this, as McDuffie's run on JLA has the potential to be remembered with Morrison's. McDuffie just knows how to write superheroes, and since taking over Fantastic Four for Marvel, has shown how to make superheroes both relatable and yet still amazing.

I'm willing to believe that it's his time spent as a writer for Warner Bros. animation. Not that he wasn't a great writer before (Static was Milestone Comics's best book), but from 2000 to 2006 he was a writer for Static Shock then Justice League Unlimited, perhaps the best interpretation of the Justice League I have ever seen, and he seems to have brought some of that fun and excitement (and skill!) back with him to comics.

Come to think of it, so has Paul Dini on Detective Comics and Darwyn Cooke on The Spirit. Guys who were good enough to be paid animation money for their work also seem to have gone through a superhero writing boot camp and come out sharper, brighter, and more entertaining for their time in Burbank.

Since Warner Bros. has shuttered their main animation studio in favor of cheaper product, it might be time for Didio and Quesada to just raid raid raid their roster of writers and artists and get them to bring their "A" game to comics.

I mean, in general I think ongoing comics are closer to TV shows than they are to novels, and it would be great to have writers who understand that an issue is an episode, not a chapter.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why Don't They Just Put ME In Charge?

Matt Idelson takes over the back page of every DC comic this week to ask the million dollar question, "what should an editor do when he runs into production delays?" He doesn't give the answer, of course, he just gives three options—delay the book, call-in a "guest" writer/artist, or drop in an inventory story—and leaves it up to "You, the Reader" to say what you'd prefer. Which feels A LOT like a post I did last September on the exact same topic.

While the response was hardly unanimous, there was a general consensus that fill-in issues were fine, as long as they happened between arcs, and a guest writer/penciler/inker was preferable to no comic at all. But the real problem was a lack of transparency, that fans would be better able to handle delays if they could just be told the why's and wherefore's of the delay.

Idelson, for the sake of context, is the editor on Wonder Woman, Superman and Action Comics, all of which were plagued with production delays for the past year. Based on the response I got, if I were in his shoes, I would have said that as beautiful as Carlos Pacheco's art is, people would rather not wait for it, and better to bring in a penciler who can hit deadlines than wow the crowd.

Which is the decision editor Peter Tomasi made on Detective Comics, where "regular penciler" J.H. Williams was off the book after one issue and Don Kramer's been knocking issues out month after month. And the sales numbers seem to back that up, where Detective has lost only 9% of its sales from the OYL boost, whereas Superman has lost 25%.

(Wonder Woman, which was even MORE delayed, has lost over 50% of its initial sales. There, the problem was apparently the writer, not the artist, which suggests Allen Heinberg should have been dropped sooner and another writer brought in to finish the arc. But, it should be pointed out, Wonder Woman is still selling twice as much now as it averaged during the Greg Rucka run.)

Meanwhile, across town, remember that that shocking revelation that will rock the Marvel Universe to its core?" Turns out it's Skrulls.

Yup, Marvel's shape changing alien conquerors are back, and if this is supposed to be as important as the hype tells us it is, then it means Skrulls are behind superhero on superhero violence of Civil War, and probably World War Hulk as well, which, as I said it would be, is neither shocking nor new: just another Psycho Changer being used to explain why Iron Man is suddenly such a dick.

So, instead of evolving Marvel comics, changing what their superheroes stories are or could be, they are apparently just going down the same road they always have, in which all the bad things in the world are the result of evil alien interference. Good job!

(Ironically, had they not HYPED the last page as a shocker, or said it was important, the fact that "Elektra" turns out to be a Skrull honestly would have been surprising and might, MIGHT have led to speculation that it had import outside of the New Avengers. But Marvel can't seem to let their surprises actually be surprises.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

GUNTHERFEST '07

(Video not exactly safe for work)







The Roar of Comics is a proud participant of Güntherfest '07
Champagne, Glamour, Sex, Respect!



(For those of you who are confused, I give you this link. Not that it's going to relieve your confusion, but actually add to it).

(real post coming soon)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Man with the Plan

Sometimes, you need to fight.

But, if you're smart, you can avoid the fight altogether. And so, Diamondrock has decided to celebrate the thinking man, the intellectual, the schemer. The Man with a Plan.

A no man has a better plan than... uh... this guy:



That's just evil.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kandor City Blues


What's up with Kandor these days? Does anyone know?

It used to be simple*. Kandor was a Kryptonian city, shrunk down and collected by Brainiac before Krypton blew up, which Superman rescued and, unable to return its citizens to their rightful size, stored in his high tech Fortress of Solitude. Then came John Byrne, who, in a quest to make sure Kal-El was the last survivor of Krypton, dammit!, erased Kandor from continuity, along with Supergirl, Krypto, and others.

But, during the 1990s, as old ideas crept back in in new forms, Kandor was reintroduced as a bottle city full of supermen from diverse planets, none Kryptonian, collected by an alien wizard as weapons to use against his enemies. Again, Superman rescued the city and saved it in his fortress, but couldn't restore the city to its proper size. And that was alright.

And then came "Godfall". Or rather, Superman #200, where Superman falls into a different timeline, effectively erasing Byrne's continuity. (Hey, live by the reboot, die by the reboot.) Or rather, a slightly different timeline, so that some stories, like Doomsday, were still in continuity, but some, like apparently the mullet he wore for three years after he came back, are not.

And the first sign of this was "Godfall," which took place in a bottled city of Kandor that had Kryptonians, AND non-Kryptonians, AND had been shrunk by Brainiac, AND worshipped Superman as a savior who had possibly abandoned them. What?! How did that happen? The Supergirl storyline where she becomes the protector of Kandor didn't clear anything up either!

Here's the thing: I don't care that one version of Kandor's history has been replaced with another ("Forget it, Jake. It's Hypertime.") I just don't like the fact that writers continue to use Kandor as a place we're supposed recognize (as recently as 52) and yet it's clearly not the place we were introduced to in Action Comics 242 nor the one we met in Action Comics 725. It has the same name and shares major features, but it has a history that is completely unknown. It just lacks exposition, and that's frustrating.

And why I care is because Kandor is a really interesting playground. Bottle cities are amazing bits of fantasy (and if you don't agree, watch The Matrix again). The idea that you can live your entire life in a city, full of people with complicated lives, yet really be trapped, is an amazing bit of metaphor. I like the irony that Brainiac was in some way right to preserve a city, saving a major chuck of Kryptonian science and culture, not to mention Kryptonians, from the annihilation of their planet. And of course, tiny Supermen is just cool.

Not that there aren't problems with the concept. As the plot of "Godfall" is predicated on, Kandor tends to get forgotten. Despite the fact that his inability to restore Kandor is supposed to prey on Superman's mind, he doesn't actually spend that much time trying to fix the problem, leaving a bunch of tiny aliens to rot. And it's hard to believe that, on a planet with Ray Palmer, Professor Zuel, and occasionally Brainiac himself (or his morally upstanding descendent, 12th level intellect Brainiac 5), it's actually that hard a problem to solve.

Nevertheless, Kandor is fun, and I think could be used to better effect if we just knew what the hell it really was.


*Okay, relatively simple.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Blue Superman


I could not, would not, in JLA.




I will not, will not, with the Ray.




I will not read him in a plane.




I will not read him with Bruce Wayne.




Not with giants!




Not very small!




Not as a chick!




No not at all!



I do not like him fighting Lex.




I do not like him, nor his specs.




I will not read him in the sky.




I do not like him with... this guy.




I do not like him red and blue.




I do not like him. WHY WOULD YOU?!



I do not like Blue Superman!




I do not like him, Sam-I-am.


(with a hat tip to Shane Bailey and apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Monday, June 04, 2007

It Had to be Said #6

Authorial intent is meaningless.

It really doesn't matter what a writer or artist (or editor) intended to say with any given piece of art (or, in our case, comic). What matters is what they actually say, and that is determined by the audience.

Lobo's a good example. He was intended as a satire of the ultra-violent superhero (Wolverine, specifically) but was read by an audience that took him totally seriously, to the point where he written seriously and became that which he was meant to mock.

And going in the reverse direction, All-Star Batman and Robin may be intended to be taken seriously, but is so gloriously over-the-top that many people love it as a parody (perhaps of itself, but a parody nonetheless).

This is complicated by the fact that art does not exist in a vacuum nor is "the audience" a monolithic entity. "The audience" is thousands of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and contexts for understanding. So each person interprets a work differently, and the meaning of a piece is fluid across people. Something I read as a celebration of female power, another might read as a dismissal of a woman's worth. And neither of us are necessarily wrong.

And a work's meaning changes over time, too, as new events reshape interpretations. The first issues of Watchmen, for example, were published before the Iran-Contra scandal broke. So while Moore and Gibbons' story of abused, hubristic authority could not have been intended to comment on the (then) current administration's illegal activities, by the twelfth issue it most certainly did! (Especially since the Tower Commission opened their report with "quis custodiet ipsos custodes," i.e. "who watches the watchmen?")

Which is a long way of saying, you can't defend your art by saying "This is what I meant to say" or "I didn't mean to offend anyone". Once your art is out among the public, you are just one more interpreter, and have no more or less authority than anyone else. If someone says your work is offensive, then it IS offensive, at least to them, and you cannot just say they are wrong. All you can do is decide whether or not you care.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Tragedy...

...of Robin-on-Robin violence.



All in service to Bahlactus.

The Many Faces of Batman

One of the many things I love about superheroes is how versatile they are. They are multifaceted, slipping easily from one story type to another while retaining their inner core. Just look at the many faces of Batman.

Batman the Detective: Sherlock Holmes in a funnier hat, Batman can be the genius detective Commissioner Gordon calls in when the crime is too brilliant or bizarre for the average investigators on the police. This is the Batman that loves gathering mud at crime scenes and running it under a microscope.

Batman the Vigilante: Batman can also be the untouchable crusader who takes on the criminals the cops won't investigate, the powerful, the connected, the rich. This Batman threatens corrupt politicians in their very bedrooms.

Batman the Spy: James Bond in a cape, Batman uses his stealth, disguises, and sophisticated gadgets to sneak high security bases and sabotage weapons of mass destruction. This Batman gets his kicks hijacking enemy communication technology to his advantage.

Batman the Adventurer: Batman travels the globe, charges in to right wrongs and saves damsels in distress. And there's nothing he loves more than swinging in on his bat-rope.

Batman the Horror: Batman sometimes scares the hell out of his enemies. He stalks them like the killer in a slasher film, striking from the shadows and picking them off, one by one. Greatest pleasure: leaving one behind, knocked out and tied up, for the rest of his enemies to find.

Batman the Asskicker: And sometimes he drops all subterfuge and just beats the holy hell out of the bad guys. Whether using Asian martial arts, old fashioned fisticuffs, or hitting criminals with other criminals, sometimes Batman is just about hurting people.

and finally,

Batman the Superhero: The Batman in the Justice League, who fights colorful, gimmicky supervillains, trains apprentices, occasionally goes to other planets and fights aliens and dinosaurs and robots and shape shifting mud puddles, THAT Batman isn't any of the ones above, and yet he's all of them.

Which is what's so great. You can tell almost any story with Batman, and still he remains, at his core, Batman.