Monday, March 31, 2008

Brief Reviews for 3/26/08 Comics

A quick rundown on some of last week's comics that I haven't discussed yet:

Black Panther #35: This comic has been terrible for quite a while, and this issue attempts to get it back on track by bringing in the ever-popular Killmonger. Is Killmonger really popular? Fans on the internet seem excited to see him. I'm not interested. This is probably the last issue of this comic I'll pick up until Hudlin leaves.

Blue Beetle #25: I reviewed this in detail for another site, but I absolutely loved this climactic issue of "The Reach War" (as it should be called when it's slapped into a fancy Absolute Edition). John Rogers knows how to write wonderful superhero comics. Andrew loves this comic too, and maybe it's something he'll start reading on his own now that he's got the comic jones.

Countdown to Adventure #8: Thankfully, it's over. And to think that I raved about the first issue! It got exponentially worse after that.

Dan Dare #5: Has anyone been reading this comic? I had a chance to read this issue via a Virgin sneak-peek, and it was really good. I like Ennis doing his war thing, and I have a fondness for the Boy's Adventure Comic aspect of Dan Dare. I will definitely buy the trade when it comes out.

Daredevil #106: I'm not sure what the point of this issue was, other than to create a calm-before-the-storm feeling, except Daredevil's life, in the hands of Bendis and now Brubaker, has been all storm, all the time. So, is it going to get even worse? Or was this issue a signal that Matt Murdoch is at his low point and now we'll start seeing him rise up? I don't know, but I liked the art by Paul Azaceta. Fun fact, Azaceta drew the first sketch in my convention sketchbook (it's a double-page illustration of his version of Superboy with a batch of flying heroes behind him).

Loveless #23: This is one of those series that, after the first nine or ten issues, I really felt that it would work better if read in a single sitting, instead of a month at a time. So I've been buying it, but I haven't read it since then. I would go back and read all the issues in a row, to see if my theory was correct, but I haven't had time to find where I put all the back issues. That's pretty silly, right? I've been spending money on this thing and I have no idea if it's any good or not. So, I actually read this issue, not having looked at it in over a year, and I'm totally baffled. It's now set in the 20th century? Is that what's happened? Does anyone read this comic? Should I hurry up and find all my issues and read 'em up?

Ms. Marvel #25: I like Brian Reed's work on this comic in general, and I like the Sal Buscema flashback sequences in theory, but this issue didn't work particularly well. Perhaps that's because it's all just set-up for next issue. I don't know. It's still a good comic, but when Aaron Stack only appears at the end, it just seems like a missed opportunity.

Power Pack Day One #1: This was really good. The science feature in the back of the comic was especially cool to see. Nice job Fred Van Lente! A great kid's comic.

Spirit #15: Paul Smith has a great style all his own, so why is he doing his best Will Eisner impression here? Editorial mandate? A sense of duty? I don't know, but it doesn't work and it just makes me think that this will be my last issue of this title. It wasn't worth $3.00.

Teen Titans #57: Sean McKeever has brought some life back to this comic, and I'm all about the villains he's showing us in this arc. The kids of supervillains vs. former teen sidekicks. It's what this comic should be about, and McKeever does it well. This comic is much, much better than any of the recent Justice League issues. Although, is that really a compliment?

Ultimate Spider-Man #120: Immonen is such a fantastic artist, and I think Bendis does his best work on this series, so I'm always happy to see a new issue of this come out. Another good comic by these guys, and, really, it's the only purpose for the Ultimate Universe to exist at this point. Although I kind of like Ultimate X-Men, too. But I wouldn't really miss it.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 4: The series reaches its end, and as Mark Evanier points out, this volume doesn't contain Kirby's best work (that would be volume 3, by Evanier's reckoning, and I heartily agree). The Mister Miracle stories drift away from the Fourth World epic, and the hasty wrap-up in the 1980s reprints (inked by the worst Kirby inker ever, D. Bruce Berry) are such a colossal drop-off from the heights of the early 1970s, that it doesn't even seem part of the same universe. Also, and this really bugs me, DC chose to include a new version of The Hunger Dogs graphic novel to complete the volume, and it's not the same as the originally published version. They included some of the original pages Kirby did BEFORE the project was expanded into an oversized graphic novel. Once that happened, Kirby reformatted the pages he already completed and then rearranged stuff and added new pages to make it into something coherent. The problem with the version DC gives us in the Omnibus, is that the "original pages" don't fit in with the Hunger Dogs pages at all! It looks terrible as you flip from one formatted-for-comic-book-size page to a page which has been shrunk to fit the proportions of this book. It's a bastardized version of Kirby's graphic novel which ruins the narrative flow and coherence of the compositions. I don't know what they were thinking, but their tinkering puts a huge blemish on an otherwise great reprint series.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bendis's Avengers Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

New Avengers #39 and Mighty Avengers #11. Two very different takes on the Avengers concept, both written by Brian Michael Bendis, both released on the same day. Perhaps by exploring those two comics, one might reach a significant understanding of the state of the artform. Perhaps Bendis might teach us all how to make the world a better place, through comics.

Chad Nevett and I discuss the two comics in a very special installment of The Splash Page as we share tales of love and laughter, Skrulls and silence.

Reading the discussion will not only make you a smarter person, it will probably cure any disease known to man. Check it out HERE. Share this heart-warming moment with us, today.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kid's Comic-Con 2008

I took my 7-year-old son, Andrew, to his first Comic-Con today, and I chose wisely: it was the Kid's Comic-Con in the Bronx. Instead of a lot of descriptions of the day's events, I'm just going to give you a visual guide of the day, starring Andrew, with a slight bit of commentary by me.

Andrew sported his new Spider-Man hat which he picked out last night at the mall, and, although you can't see it beneath his jacket, he decided to nerd it up by sporting a Flash pin he found in his room as he was getting dressed, thereby maintaining the proper Marvel/DC balance. It was a cold morning for this supposed "Spring" day. And, yes, that's snow on the ground.

Andrew wasn't much interested in the stuff at the tables. He was excited to pick up a free Sonic the Hedgehog comic, but he declined plenty of free stuff at other tables. Who declines free comics and books? Andrew, apparently. While he impatiently waited, Joe Staton drew a Wonder Woman sketch for my 4-year-old daughter (who had a day with Mom while we hit the geek trail). Andrew didn't even want a Staton sketch! He did like the vending machine, though, and here he is eating Cheez-Its in front of the Secret Identity Podcast folks, who are really cool guys who want to promote my upcoming projects, so hopefully you'll get to see or hear an interview with me on that show sometime soon. Note to parents who take their kids to conventions: bring plenty of snacks! I actually did that, but I left them in the car, and that vending machine was the only thing providing sustenance during our repeated laps around the room.

Still with the Cheez-Its, as we see the lack of crowds. Surprisingly low turnout for a great little show, full of cool workshops for kids and creators doing sketches for free (or very, very low prices--like $5 or less). I saw maybe only a few kids younger than 10. Where are all the kids at the Kid's Comic-Con???

Here's Jacob Chabot (of Mighty Skullboy Army fame, which my wife loves--she bought all the minicomics at the first New York Comic-Con) and Chris Giarrusso (of Mighty Marvels fame). You can't see Andrew in the frame, but he's off camera on the right, eating Cheez-Its. He did score a cool Giarrusso Spider-Man sketch, though--the only orginal art he picked up at a place full of really cool artists. Andrew is picky, but at least he has good taste. The sketch was sweet.

Andrew, chewing Cheez-Its as we pass by the Kyle Baker table. Andrew had no interest in a free Kyle Baker sketch! Oh, well...

I didn't think he was really loving the convention experience. He kind of wanted to go home even though we drove three hours to get here, and we'd only been at the show for an hour. We grabbed a couple more free comics, (Simpsons, Archie, Lion King), Andrew made his only purchase of the day, a copy of a Magic Treehouse chapter book, for $1.00 off a 10-year-old "dealer." He went to a comic-con and buys a chapter book. Nerd. Doesn't he know the kids love the comics?

Before we left for good, I convinced him to check out one of the workshops, and the only one going on at the time was the "How to Draw Manga" thing. The kind and friendly Alex Simmons helped us find the room, and we tried not to interrupt the lesson too much as we took our seats.

We learned how to make a front-view face, Manga-Style! Awesome.

Andrew, frustrated, tried to copy what was on the chalkboard, but since he's only 7, his drawing didn't look like the one on the board. He wanted it to be perfect. It wasn't. He clearly wanted to leave, but I told him to stay until he finished his drawing, which ended up being the best face he's ever drawn in his life. He was still not happy with it, but he let me put it in the bag to bring home. He was pretty grumpy at this point from the lack of a real lunch. The Cheez-Its didn't meet his nutritional requirement, apparently.

We made the three-hour drive back to Pittsfield, and he napped most of the way home. Before we got back to the house, we stopped at the famous Daddyo's Diner, which has great food at a reasonable price. The menu is amazingly extensive--not only do they have breakfast all day (with crepes too!), but they have tons of specialty burgers and plenty of other dinner choices that are delicious. Nobody ever goes there, except our family, apparently. Andrew and I were literally the only customers in the restaurant at 5:30 on a Saturday night. Like a great comic book that nobody else seems to read, Daddyo's is doomed to failure, but I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it while it lasts. It will be a good meal, at least, after a disappointing day for Andrew.

But wait! Andrew was eager to check out his stash of free comics! He took out the Simpsons issue and read the entire thing. He's NEVER read a comic by himself before. He likes when I read them to him sometimes, and he reads chapter books for extra-credit assignments from school, but he has never read a comic book story on his own. And he read the Simpsons comic from cover-to-cover, laughing and telling me about the funny parts. Even when his nutritious dinner of chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon arrived, he ignored the food--and he hadn't eaten anything except Cheez-Its since breakfast--to finish the comic. Could the trip to the Kid's Comic-Con have been a success?

By the end of the night, Andrew had read two entire comics and said, "I want to save that drawing I did today. I want to use ink and then erase the pencil lines." (Which he had seen Joe Staton do when he drew the Wonder Woman sketch while he impatiently waited earlier). "I think my drawing is pretty good. It's a good face."

He told me he wants me to teach him how to draw other kinds of faces, and mentioned other comic books he wants to read.

I expected an excited kid who was eager to get free stuff and happy to watch artists draw cool sketches for him. That's what I thought would happen today. I didn't get that at all. What I got was a serious kid who absorbed the lessons of the comic-con and, in his own way, began to appreciate comic books.

The Kid's Comic-Con was a success, at least for this 7-year-old. You just wouldn't have known it as you watched him dismissively eat his Cheez-Its in the Bronx.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Read Countdown So You Don't Have To

In case you haven't been reading Countdown, which is very wise, I'll update you on the recent debacle. First of all, I probably don't need to remind you that I'm the guy that defended this series after the first few issues, saying, "wait, and let it unfold. I'm sure it will be good."

I was so wrong. So tragically wrong.

So after 46 issues of terrifically slow-moving and pointless character arcs (pausing, in the middle, for a full-issue recap of what you missed, which wasn't much), the last two issues of Countdown have been the equivalent of a highlight reel with a voice over narration. It's as if the team of writers (and I can't understand how a veteran like Paul Dini could have coordinated this junk) realized that they only had a few issues left and said, "ah, crap! Let's just tell 'em what happens real fast."

So we get two entire issues of Buddy Blank TELLING us what happened to lead to the Great Disaster.

Storytelling rule #1--the one you learn in 3rd grade--SHOW, DON'T TELL. Not in Countdown, my friends. Not when they only have 52 issues to tell a story. How can they possibly fit everything into a mere 1,144 pages? Obviously, they have to cut corners and throw in a bunch of caption boxes to explain what's going on, since 1,144 pages isn't enough to allow a story to unfold.

1,144 pages (at least), and they seriously had to resort to the equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan's ending to Unbreakable when the movie stops and he gives us a bunch of title cards explaining what happens next?

1,144 pages, and they couldn't tell a real story?

There's no reason why Countdown had to be a horrible waste of everyone's time and money, but that's what it turned out to be.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everything You Know is Wrong #2: The Impenetrability of the Legion of Super-Heroes

This being the second in a series of posts in which I explain why the conventional widom is wrong.

The Legion of Super-Heroes has been an overwhelming part of my life for the past 16 months, as I read every Legion story (in chronological order) and prepared and edited a book of essays on the various incarnations of the team.

Conventional wisdom, as echoed by Matt Fraction in his Foreword to the book, states that the Legion of Super-Heroes is an impenetrable tangle of characters, continuity, and reboots, making it practically impossible for a new reader to jump on board.

This piece of conventional wisdom is, of course, WRONG.

First of all, Teenagers from the Future will help make everything less impenetrable, so you should all read that as a primer, but even if you are bold enough to dive into the 31st century without dipping your toes into that book, you will not drown! The Legion is accessible for anyone who's willing to even try to read it.

Here's why: Even though it seems like the Legion has a roster of billions, it's only just a few dozen, and rarely do all the characters appear in the same stories anyway. Sure, there's more characters than your average Justice League or Avengers squad, but that's part of the Legion's appeal. Plus, the characters in the Legion are really, really easy to figure out right away. First of all, each character can only really do one thing. Unless you're talking about Superboy, Supergirl, or Mon-El (who all have the same powers as Superman) or Ultra Boy (who has the same powers as Superman but he can only use one at a time), basically each character has one power, and the power is clearly identified by name.

Guess what Matter-Eater Lad can do? Um, eat matter. Sun Boy? Heat. Lightning Lad? Lightning. Do these names seem confusing to you in any way?

Even characters with "subtle" names like Cosmic Boy or Saturn Girl have single, clearly defined powers that you'll learn after about ten seconds of reading a story in which they appear. Others, like Princess Projectra, will take 15 seconds to figure out. What does she project? Illusions. Easy. Move on.

And the continuity isn't any more dense than what you'd expect from any long-running series. First of all, nobody has read every DC comic ever published. I don't think that's humanly possible (and I'm trying to do it, so I know how ridiculous the task can be). Take Batman, for example. All of those stories that Grant Morrison references in the current run are completely forgotten by most fans. And he's only alluding to about 10 stories out of thousands of past Batman tales. You can still pick up an issue of Detective Comics and read it without knowing all those stories. It's no big deal. Same thing with the Legion. And with the reboots, none of the old continuity matters anyway, except when Geoff Johns is around, but even then, he explains everything to you through exposition.

I think the Legion developed its reputation for impenetrability during the late Bronze Age, when Levitz took over the book for his extended run. He told one long story over his 100 issues, although he had a villain pop up in practically every issue. I wrote about his use of story structure in my essay for the Teenagers book, so I'm not going to go into it here, but his type of linked, rotating-subplot structure with an emphasis on characterization basically became the template for decompressed superhero comics today. His stories were not decompressed, though, he just allowed long-running subplots to evolve over months or even years.

But, guess what? That's exactly when I jumped aboard the Legion, and I was able to figure everything out pretty quickly. I wasn't sure what Dream Girl did, exactly, other than look hot, but I soon figured out that her power was described in her name too. It ain't Ulysses, folks.

The Legion is a club of teenage superheroes in the 31st century. That's all you really need to know to get started. So dive in, enjoy the fun, and soon, you too will be naming your kids Rokk and Tasmia.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Marvel Teases Us with the Digital Love

Have you guys all read the Secret Invasion prologue? It's a pretty sneaky way to try to trick us into subscribing to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which, by the way, is totally limited, so I don't know how they get off using Unlimited anywhere in the title. I'm pretty sure that, within the next five or six years, all the major companies will have substantial online archives that we can access for a monthly fee (it might take longer than that, since these major companies move very, very, very slowly). Marvel DCU is a step in that direction, but the lack of complete runs and the crappy interface make it less than appealing right now.

HOWEVER, subscribers get a free 7-page preview of Secret Invasion this week, although I don't know how that works, since I'm not a subscriber and I just read it. Anyway, the prologue is pretty cool, and when I started reading it, I was excited because it's all about S.H.I.E.L.D. and I thought, "wait, is Bendis ballsy enough to tell Secret Invasion from the POV of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Is it a full-on S.H.I.E.L.D. comic?" The prologue is, but when you get to the end, you'll find out that the series probably won't be.

And, thus, I'm going to throw out a major SPOILER right now, although I don't even know if it qualifies as a spoiler since it's in a free preview AND marvel_b0y already leaked it a week ago.

Dum Dum Dugan is a Skrull, and he has been since the day Captain America died. That's right true believers, check your Marvel comics from the past year, and look for all the Dum Dum appearances. That dude has been a Skrull the whole time.

Man, I can't wait until they reveal that Aunt May is one of those sneaky Manhunters.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brief Reviews for 3/19/08 Comics

I've written over a dozen 500-word reviews for comics over the past couple of weeks, but I can't talk about any of those just yet. Hopefully I'll be able to link to them this weekend, so you can see what I've been up to. For now, here are my brief thoughts on some comics from last Wednesday.

Amazing Spider-Man #554: Don't know, I didn't read it because my comic shop never got the previous issue in. Diamond shorted them on it! (And I know the owner didn't get any copies at all, because even if he only gets a few, he hooks me up--hey, James!) How ridiculous is that? Basically a weekly comic, and then the guy ends up receiving no issues, and the replacements won't be there until two weeks later. Ridiculous. Anyway, I'll read the rest of the Gale run tomorrow and let you know if it's any good. I suspect not. I'm just waiting for the non-Gale crews to have their turn(s).

Brave and the Bold #11: Strangely, I enjoyed this non-George Perez issue more than all of the previous issues. Maybe it's because Waid didn't try to cram too much in this one issue, as has been the problem in the last few. I'm all about compressed storytelling, but this comic hasn't been reading too smoothly lately. It's a mish-mash and my eyes glaze over. Maybe the addition of Ultraman helped. Who doesn't love the Crime Syndicate?!? (Hint: nobody, because they are awesome.)

Captain Marvel #4: Ed McGuinness is such the wrong guy to do covers for this book. I love him, but not here, where he makes this look like a space fantasy bodybuilding adventure and it's really a relatively quiet, existential look at this bizarre time-warped hero. By the way folks, if he DOES turn out to be a Skrull, what's the point of any of this? Is there a point even if he's not a Skrull? At least the interior art by Lee Weeks is really nice.

Checkmate #24: This comic has been getting better every issue, or maybe I'm just connecting to it's vibe more and more. Also, I will absolutely be dropping it after the next issue. I have no interest in Bruce Jones's take. Aw, heck, maybe I'll stick around. I'm easy to please.

Ex Machina #35: This was an embarrassing diversion from any narrative momentum that Vaughan had built up. I know this is a comic about "issues" (as in political and social, not floppy comics), but this is one of the many instances of Vaughan trying to hard to make a social comment. It's Guess Who's Coming to the Mayor's Office. Not good.

Flash #238: I guess I'm not easy to please, because I didn't like Ex Machina and I absolutely hated Tom Peyer's debut on this comic. Terrible, terrible stuff. I did a full review of this that you'll see over the weekend (if you look carefully around the internet.)

Ghost Rider #21: Best of the week. And, as I posted on Jason Aaron's message board, my son wanted to look at the issue and I wouldn't let him because the final sequence would have given him nightmares until he is 30. This comic is so good, it makes me a better parent.

Justice League of America #19: So, is my understanding correct that James Robinson will relaunch Justice League with a new #1? Is that the plan? Because this series is going nowhere, and this issue proves it. It wasn't a terrible comic, but it was about a wild goose chase. Seems like the team is just running around accomplishing nothing, waiting for Robinson to do something.

Order #9: I really like this comic. I have decided to write Order fanfic the moment the final issue comes out. I will immediately give all the characters back their powers, have them fight Galactus and unite the alternate Earths into a single planet under their direct control. The stories will also star my new creation: MODOCTOPUS.

Programme #9: I gave up trying to read this in single issues, but I'm still buying it. Will it cohere when I read the series in one sitting? I'm not a big fan of the photo-real artwork by C.P. Smith. How about you? Do you understand what's going on right now?

Thor #7: Is J.M.S. writing for DC supposed to be a big deal? Has anyone read any comic that he's done that's been good for more than a few issues? I kind of like The Twelve, but there's still time for him to dull all the greatness. Anyway, this issue of Thor looks GORGEOUS. I would have bought it just for the art, and I guess I kind of did.

I also caught up on my Fourth World Omnibus reading, and I'm primed for Volume 4 tomorrow.

Plus, I've been re-reading the Kirby Captain America comics from the late 1960s, before Steranko took over. He and Stan Lee did those Cap stories right before Kirby bolted for DC and they are action-packed and surprisingly light on characterization (the Kirby dominance, and the lack of Lee evident, perhaps). Unlike other Marvel comics of the 1960s, these Cap stories almost never show him out of costume. Also, I didn't realize how significant Batroc the Leaper really was. We all laugh at him now, with his outrageous French accent, pink costume, facial hair, and kicking, but he was, without a doubt the #2 Captain America villain of the 1960s. The only villain making more appearances with the Red Skull. I think the moral of this story is that foreigners are evil and kinda dorky.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sneak Peek: Teenagers from the Future--The Cover

Are you attending the 2008 New York Comic-Con? Then make sure you stop by the Sequart booth and pick up your copy of Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes. This is a special sneak peek of the final cover design. We're all extremely happy with how the entire book turned out, and we love the faux-beat-up cover because, hell, it just looks cool. Nothing screams "future" like coffee stains and torn edges.

More details about the book will follow, but for now, start thinking about how you'll afford that trip to New York. You know you want to own this before its available in stores (which won't be until late May at the earliest).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Six Years Later

I've been buying comics ever week since I was in middle school, and unlike most fans I know, I've never taken a break from comics, and I've always had a general feeling that my comic book buying habits have been relatively consistent, although I know I spend a bit more on comics now than I used to (frankly, because I just have more money now than I used to). Earlier today I was searching for something on the CBR website and I came across a list of January 2002 releases from DC Comics. Curious about my buying habits a scant six years ago, I read through the list. Now the "Power Company" stuff messes up the data, probably (because WHO BOUGHT THAT?), but out of the 60+ comics listed, I only bought 9 of them. Nine DC Comics for the entire month of January, 2002. And most of those were for some Batman crossover that I tried out since they suckered me in with the 10-Cent Adventure. So, if it weren't for that bit of shrewd marketing on their part, I would have only bought four DC books for that entire month.

Now, in 2008, I buy about 12 DC comics per WEEK. That's like a 1000% 433.33% increase in my comics buying (Chad, I'm sure you'll check my math on this one), and I didn't think I bought THAT many more comics than I did six years ago.

Looking back on that 2002 list, the only thing I really wish I had bought was some of the Superman stuff. I totally missed that Casey/Kelly/Shultz Superman era, and I kind of wished I read it. I don't have much desire to track down the back issues, but I would have liked to have read that stuff at some point. Since 2002, I have picked up all the JSA and Giffen Suicide Squad back issues, and I have the Johns Flash stuff in trades, but, really? I only bought about four* DC comics per month back then?

Are DC comics that much better now?

I think they are, although DC hasn't done much to impress me lately, and the Countdown effect has definitely soured me toward much of their output in recent months. Still, looking at that list from 2002 didn't make me feel like that stuff back then was any good, either. Over the past few years I made a conscious decision to immerse myself in Marvel and DC's superhero universes in a way that I never had before. Before, I bought comics exclusively based on the creators. Now, I buy comics because I am immersed in the complex intertextuality of shared superhero continuity. I think that's how most fans start off. Most fans start off buying a variety of comics and then narrow it down to a few creators they follow. I started with a few creators and now I read pretty much everything. I did it backwards, I guess. But I didn't realize how little I bought just a few years ago.

How about you? Do you buy more or less comics now than you did six years ago? Why do you think that is?

*Not including the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" stuff I picked up (and I normally wouldn't have bought those titles), in January of 2002 I purchased Catwoman #3, The Dark Knight Strikes Again #2 (although did that REALLY come out that month--probably not, right?), Green Arrow #12, and Tom Strong's Terrific Tales #2. That's it.

EDITED TO ADD: Out of curiosity, I just checked the Marvel solicitations for January 2002. I bought 10 Marvel titles that month, out of 50 or so choices. Half of those were Ultimate titles or X-Men related (Morrison was doing New X-Men and Milligan and Cooke[!] were on X-Factor). Still 14 comics for the whole month--19 if you count the Batman crossover stuff, is less than what I buy in an average week now. Although this little exercise goes to show that even if I think of myself as a "DC guy," which I do, I have been buying (and enjoying) more Marvel titles than DC ones for quite a while.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Everything You Know is Wrong #1: Roy Thomas's Captain Marvel

The first installment in a new series wherein I tell you that EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG. Basically, I'll be explaining why some piece of accepted comic book-related wisdom is, actually, wrong.

Accepted Comic Book Wisdom Says, "Captain Marvel was a mediocre series until Roy Thomas and Gil Kane reimagined it by adding Rick Jones, Nega Bands, and a fancy new concept to match the fancy new costume."


Originally appearing in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967), the Kree Captain Mar-Vell, in his original Green and White space costume may have been Stan Lee's attempt at making sure nobody else used the "Marvel" name on a superhero title, but it was a pretty strong concept from the start. Lee may not have had his heart in it, but he, and later writers, including Roy Thomas (who worked on the green and white incarnation of the character before revamping him years after) created a strong series that perhaps lacked only in a strong villainous presence. The Captain Marvel concept worked great. Mar-Vell was a Kree who had to infiltrate human society in order to gather information for his superiors. Meanwhile, his superior officer, Yon-Rogg, was macking on his girlfriend. There was a lot of "macking" going on in those late days of the Silver Age. So pretty much every early story was about Captain Marvel trying to reconcile his duty to his people with his admiration for humanity while he was getting stabbed in the back by one of his Kree brothers. Stan Lee inner conflict at its finest, with some pretty sweet Gene Colan and Don Heck art.

The series amped up the conflict with new potential love interest Carol Danvers (note: the first time Danvers meets Iron Man, he beats her up. He was under the control of the Puppet Master, but still, it makes you wonder why Ms. Marvel trusts Tony Stark so implicitly these days. If someone beat me up the first time I met them, I might not always trust that person so much) and then with writers Arnold Drake (of the Doom Patrol!!!) and Gary Friedrich, it became really odd, climaxing in a strange, Tom Sutton-drawn issue involving the cosmic "Zo" and designed as an acid trip. It was apparently inspired by Stan Lee's then-current obsession with what Steranko was doing in his innovative work.

These Captain Marvel stories from the green and white space-suit days were good fun, contrary to conventional wisdom, which tends to ignore their existence in favor of...

Roy Thomas and Gil Kane's revamped Captain Marvel. Premiering in issue #17, this is the Captain Marvel most of comicdom is familiar with. Even those of us who never read a Captain Marvel comic as a kid knew about the guy with white hair and the blue and red costume and the golden bracelets. He's still the Captain Marvel that we understand. Not that guy with the fin on his head and the hip holster. But the thing is, these Roy Thomas/Gil Kane stories are pretty terrible. Sure, the Gil Kane art is as good as you'd expect, and it has a dynamism lacking from the Heck or Sutton issues, but Roy Thomas may have written some of his worst comics on these Captain Marvel issues, and if you read his introduction to the Masterworks volumes, he seems inordinately proud of these atrocities.

Thomas takes everything that worked about the Mar-Vell character--the inner turmoil and Kree guilt, the space context, the blend of space opera and domestic struggle--and tosses it out in favor of some weird amalgamation of Denny O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow and CC Beck's Golden Age Captain Marvel. All of a sudden, Thomas throws perennial Hulk and Captain America sidekick Rick Jones into the mix, contriving some way to replicate the "Shazam" effect by having Jones and Mar-Vell switch places by clanking their bracelets. It's not so bad in theory--although the addition of Rick Jones comes out of NOWHERE and feels absolutely forced--but the stories he and Kane tell are the worst kind of "socially relevant" stories of the early 1970s. Instead of fighting giant robot Kree alien monsters, newly revamped Captain Marvel fights against a dude who runs corrupt low-income housing. Seriously.

It's just not good. And don't get me started on Rick Jones's rock and roll career.

Roy Thomas and Gil Kane may have given Captain Marvel new life and their legacy may live on today, but their stories in these issues kinda suck. The conventional wisdom is wrong.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Captain America #36 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Chad Nevett and I love talking about comics, and this week we bring that love to Ed Brubaker's SHOCKING new issue of Captain America. Why is it shocking? You'll have to read THE SPLASH PAGE to find out. Don't worry, we'll spoil the hell out of the comic. You won't even have to read the issue once we're done with it.

Also, Chad drops some Raymond Chandler smackdown on comics fans, so you don't want to miss that.

This cover I've shown here once again has nothing to do with the issue we're discussing, I just happen to like it a heck of a lot more than that poorly painted thing they slapped on issue #36. Plus, is that MODOK with a torso? Man, I have to track that issue down--I bet it's even better than this Brubaker stuff anyway.

Read the newest installment of THE SPLASH PAGE: Here!

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to the handy-dandy convenience of the Cap dvd-rom collection, I did indeed get a chance to read Captain America #132 and I still don't know why MODOK has a torso on the cover--inside, he's just regular old MODOK (which is still pretty awesome). The issue probably is better than Brubaker's Cap, since #132 features not just MODOK, Bucky, and Cap, but also: The Falcon (lamenting that he can't be Cap's BFF now that the Buckster's alive), Nick Fury (chompin on a cigar and shouting stuff like "Nuts!" which he probably doesn't use as a curse word anymore), and Dr. Doom (seriously)! And, that scene on the cover isn't a metaphor, Bucky really prepares to smash Cap's head in with a rock, only it's because he's being remote-controlled (via joystick) by MODOK! Because Bucky is not really Bucky! He's a robot! All told in one issue, folks, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Comics, the way they used to be.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Is One of Those Posts Where I Talk About Me

I hate missing a couple of blogging days, but I'm working on a bunch of projects right now that needed my attention. (Plus, I had what the doctors might call the pukey-sickness all day Sunday, and that wiped away a day and a half of my life right when I really could have used the time.)

Basically, this year is a transitional one for me, and depending how much work I get done on weekends and over the summer and how things play out with my full-time job, I might be able to make a run at this whole getting-paid-to-write-stuff thing. Here's what I've been up to lately:

  • I have a couple of projects cooking with a literary agent, but I can't say much more other than that they involve me and comic books, and one is geared more toward the educational market while the other would be a more mainstream memoir-type of book. Somehow I have to find time to produce more pages for that stuff, but one of the completed proposals is ready to go out, at least.
  • I just finished an article which will appear in Back Issue Magazine, the "Mutants" issue scheduled for this summer. Michael Eury was pleased with how it turned out, so you can look for more Back Issue appearances by me in the distant future (that magazine has a tremendous lead time, so my next shot to contribute probably won't appear on the stands until next year).
  • I'm still working with Todd Casey on a fantastic graphic novel project that is also kind of top secret. But it will not only be different from what you'd expect, it will be better than you'd expect, and I know you have really high standards. It's gonna be good, trust me.
  • I'm also helping to coordinate--and this is unrelated to my writing career, but it's pretty damn cool--a family-friendly comics exhibition in my home town focusing on the work of the legendary Joe Staton. It turns out that Lawrence Klein, founder of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, lives right down the street from me, and he asked me to help him organize the whole thing. Look for more details on that this summer.
  • Also, I've been invited to spread my comic book reviewery skills elsewhere--and I can't say where and I can't say when you'll start seeing them, but my reviews will become more ubiquitous in the coming weeks. As soon as I can announce the details, I will. Until then, stay excited. Actually, take the amount of excited you are and triple it, because that's how big the news could potentially be. You never know.
  • And finally, FINALLY, I've finished proofreading the Teenagers from the Future manuscript. This book of essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes has taken far more of my time than I ever thought possible. I proposed to the Sequart guys, last New York Comic-Con, "hey, how about if I coordinate and edit a book of critical essays about the Legion? I need kind of a break after the Morrison book, and I'm not up for writing a sequel right away." Well, little did I know what I was getting myself into, but after almost a year of diligent work, the book is finally ready to go to press, the list of contributors is impressive and the essays are excellent. It's going to be the must-buy book of the 2008 NYCC, not least because where else can you read Matt Fraction writing about the Legion of Super-Heroes?!? Yes, Matt Fraction was kind enough to provide the Foreword to our little (and, by little, I mean 350 page) book and that's probably as close as you'll come to seeing Fraction writing about a DC comic for a long, long time. (I don't know if you've heard, but he's scheduled to write every Marvel book by 2009.)
  • Plus, you still get me for free here almost daily and with Chad Nevett at every Friday. What a bargain.

So wait, how am I going to have time for all of this?

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Last Defenders #1 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

"The New Jersey Defenders" need a little love, and Chad Nevett and I give it to them in the newest installment of's most eagerly-anticipated feature: The Splash Page. If you like comics, especially ones with pictures and words, then you owe it to yourself to check out our review discussion of Joe Casey, Keith Giffen, and Jim Muniz's The Last Defenders #1 HERE.

Note: This cover from Defenders #62 symbolically represents the diversity of the Defenders team and points to a little-known-fact: comic covers featuring guys with beards out-sell their non-bearded cover counterparts.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Comics Canon, As Built By Democracy


Bill Reed, over at Comics Should Be Good challenged readers to come up with 6 to 8 "great" graphic novels which would be suitable for a "Comics as Literature" college-level course. He stipulated "no superheroes" (except Watchmen), but that didn't stop superhero suggestions from rolling in.

HOWEVER, the list, which by my count (at this time) lands at 199 240 graphic novels, makes for an interesting look at what the Canon might look like, if we recognize that Canons are formed over time and not built by one guy with a list. Some of the suggestions are clearly out-of-place, but most of them would make interesting additions to a comics curriculum.

For your convenience, I've alphabetized all of the "great graphic novels" suggested by readers thus far (UPDATE: And because it is becoming a "list of everything ever, including really unbelievably mediocre stuff like Jinx and Cable & Deadpool," I've emboldened the twenty five books that I think would actually be good choices for a non-superhero focused college class on "Comics as Literature"):

100 Bullets
99 Ways to Tell a Story
A Small Killing
Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Action Philosophers
Age of Bronze
Alice in Sunderland
All-Star Superman
American Born Chinese
American Flagg!
American Splendor
American Virgin
Animal Man
Anthology of Graphic Fiction
Arkham Asylum
Astonishing X-Men
Astro City
Astronauts in Trouble
Authority, The
Ballad of Halo Jones
Ballad of the Salted Sea
Barefoot Gen
Barefoot Serpent, The
Barry Ween
Batman: Child of Dreams
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: The Long Halloween
Big Numbers
Birthday Riots, The
Black Hole
Blood Song, Eric Drooker
Blue Pills, Frederik Peeters
Books of Magic, Neil Gaiman
Boulevand of Broken Dreams
Box Office Poison
Buddha, Osamu Tezuka
Cable and Deadpool
Calvin and Hobbes
Camelot 3000
Can't Get No
Capote in Kansas
Captain America
Captain Confederacy
Chance in Hell
City of Glass
Clap Apis
Comics and Sequential Art
Complete Copybook Tales
Complete Lowlife
Contract with God
Corto Maltese
Cowboy Wally Show, The
Daredevil: Born Again
Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born
David Boring
Days Like This
Death of Captain Marvel, The
Death: The High Cost of Living
Deogratias, Jean-Phillipe Stassen
Devil Dinosaur
Dr. Strange: Into Shamballa
Dreamer, The
Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend
Dropsie Avenue
Ed the Happy Clown
Electric Girl
Ex Machina
Exit Wounds
Fantastic Four
Fate of the Artist, The
Fax from Sarajevo
Filth, The
Flex Mentallo
Four Women, Sam Keith
Frank Book, The
From Hell
Fun Home
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost World
Global Frequency
Golem's Mighty Swing, The
Goodbye, Chunky Rice
Goon, The
Heart of the Storm
History of Violence
Ice Haven
Illustrated 9/11 Commission Report
Immortal Iron Fist
In the Shadow of No Towers
Irredeemable Ant-Man
It Rhymes with Lust
It's a Bird…
Jar of Fools
Jimmy Corrigan
Killer, The
King, Ho Che Anderson
Kingdom Come
Krazy Kat
La Perdida
Le Combat Ordinaire
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Left Bank Gang, The
Lieutenant Blueberry
Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron
Little Nemo in Slumberland
Lone Wolf and Cub
Louis Riel
Love and Rockets
Lucky Luke
Master Race, Bernie Krigstein
Maxx, The
Midnight Sun, Ben Towle
Mom's Cancer
Mouse Guard
Mystery Play
Nightly News
One Hundred Demons
Pedro and Me
Poor Sailor, Sammy Harkham
Pride of Baghdad
Punisher: Born
Push Man and Other Stories, The, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Rabbi's Cat
Rex Mundi
Road to Perdition
Robert Crumb Selection
Rogan Gosh
Safe Area: Gorazde
Sandwalk Adventures
Scott Pilgrim
Seven Miles a Second, David Wojnarowicz
Sgt. Rock
Shade the Changing Man
Shock SuspenStories
Silver Surfer: Parable
Sin City
Spirit, The
Strangers in Paradise
Stray Bullets
Streetwise, Jack Kirby
Stuck Rubber Baby
Summer Blonde
Swamp Thing
Tale of One Bad Rat, The
The One
Three Paradoxes, The
Town of Evening Calm, County of Cherry Blossoms
Treasuy of Victorian Murder
True Story, Swear to God
Two-Fisted Tales
Ultra Gash Inferno
Uncle Sam
Uncle Scrooge
Understanding Comics
Usagi Yojimbo
V for Vendetta
Vampire Loves
Violent Cases
Walking Man, The
Wasteland (Oni)
Why Are You Doing This?, Jason
Why I Hate Saturn
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
Y the Last Man
You Call This Art?!: A Greg Irons Retrospective

Some completely silly suggestions in there, I think, but well over a hundred non-superhero comics and graphic novels that would make interesting texts for discussion and analysis. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Regarding Dave Stevens

For a comic book series that only totaled about 130 pages over the course of a decade and a half, The Rocketeer sure made an impact on my life--or my comic book habits, at least. I have a stack of comic books next to my computer here, and the stack hasn't really changed in the past month, ever since I came back from the Hartford Comic Book Super-Spectacular (that was the real name of the event, and it was six dealers in a small room at the Holiday Inn.) At that "Super-Spectacular" I picked up the first two issues of The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine and the first issue of Pacific Comics Presents for a few bucks total. I owned the issues already--I bought them when they first came out, or close to it--I don't know exactly when I bought them in the 1980s, but it couldn't have been too long after they premiered. I have them in a longbox somewhere in my basement, and seeing the comics at that Holiday Inn made me realize I wanted to look at some Dave Stevens art right then and there. In the midst of 1990s issues of R.E.B.E.L.S. and Darkhawk, Dave Stevens beautiful covers glowed with grace and elegance. I couldn't resist.

So those Rocketeer stories have been sitting here, next to my computer table. I flipped through the comics as soon as I got home of course, to bask in the gorgeous, classically illustrated linework, but I didn't really read the stories, and I didn't want to put the issues away. So here they've sat, Rocketeer Adventure Magazine #1 staring me in the face, saying to me every time I sit down: "you should do a blog post about the great Dave Stevens, and how he should return to comics someday." Well, today I found out that Dave Stevens passed away, after a long struggle with leukemia.

Dave Stevens challenged my adolescent notion of what comic art should be. Growing up on Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Herbe Trimpe, and George Perez, I thought I knew what made some comics look better than others, but when I saw Dave Stevens pages for the first time, I realized the medium could look different--more like the Norman Rockwell prints my parents were so fond of. More like "real art."

Not only is Dave Stevens responsible for my accelerated race to puberty--imagine seeing his Cliff Secord's beloved Betty in your pre-teen years! It has an effect, trust me!--but he's also one of the reasons I fell so deeply in love with the medium when I did, priming me for things beyond superheroes at a time when superheroes were just about to get interesting again. I didn't get nearly any of his homages or caricatures--I didn't know who Betty Page was or who the Shadow was when Cliff journeyed on a "New York Adventure" and was aided my a mysterious figure with a prominent nose--but I knew these comics were unlike anything I had ever seen.

And, looking back at them twenty years later, they still are.

Dave Stevens, probably my favorite comic book artist ever.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Keith Giffen's Blue and Gold

I haven't seen anyone else talking about this, but then again I haven't been really looking: Did you know that Keith Giffen wrote the newest issue of Justice League Unlimited (issue #43)? It came out last Wednesday, and although I occasionally pick up the comic to read to my kids (depending on how many other kids comics come out that week--usually anything Power Pack or Teen Titans Go!-related takes precedence), I totally missed this last issue because I had no idea it was something special: Keith Giffen returning to write a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold story. If you don't think that's a big deal, then you are a heartless human being.

In the story, Booster and Beetle attempt to show the Justice League how awesome they are so they can join up and, as the page here indicates, "cash in!" You really can't go wrong with Giffen on this duo, and the animated-series-style artwork fits the tone of a Giffen Justice League story perfectly. There's even a nice moment or two as Batman tries to keep Booster and Beetle's heads from swelling too much.

It's a fun comic, and you probably missed it when it first came out. I know I did.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Yeah Baby? Well, Here's Your Tip!

The credits for Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972) indicate that although Archie Goodwin wrote the comic and George Tuska drew it, they had some help from the "considerable creative contributions of: Roy Thomas and John Romita." A bit of the old internet research reveals that Thomas came up with the Luke Cage name (explained in the issue as his "new identity," because he's only known as "Lucas" in prison), which is a pretty badass name, of course, but is that enough to receive credit as a "considerable creative contribution"? And Romita apparently designed the costume, which obviously captures the rage and dignity of a righteous black man trying to make his way in a hostile world. Now, in Bendis's comics, he dresses like a longshoreman. So, yeah, I think the yellow shirt, chain-link belt, and tiara are enough to qualify as "considerable creative contributions."

The best thing about the early Hero for Hire comics is the dialogue, though, and since Bendis is known as, or thinks of himself as, a dialogue guy, it's easy to see why Luke Cage would be important to him.

Here's just a sample of the flavor of Luke Cage comics, circa 1972:

"...I'll be waitin', break ya!"

"Those love taps may muss me, but they can't break me."

"What right you jokers got to sit behind those starched shirts, passin' judgement on me?"

"If the guard don't mind waitin'...I don't mind rappin'."

"You freakin' mealymouth!"

and, of course...

"Yeah! Outfit's kind hokey...But so what? All part of the Super-Hero scene."

That kind of dialogue, and the entire tone of Hero for Hire #1 invalidates the Ryan-Callahan-theory-of-comic-books-and-cinema, which postulates that American Superhero Comic Books are seven years behind the movie trends. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft both came out only a year before the first Luke Cage issue. Marvel was on top of this trends! On top!

Of course, Black Lightning didn't premiere until five years later, so maybe the theory should be revised to say "DC Comics are seven years behind the movie trends."

Which fits quite well with the first issue of the Marv Wolfman's new Raven comic, billed as an "Emo Series." Donnie Darko came out in 2001. You do the math.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jonah Hex #29: A Digression

Have you ever seen Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch? I hope so, because it's one of the greatest American films ever, and I fell in love with it during the opening credits as I watched the pan-and-scan version on the 19-inch tv at my parent's house when I was 17 years old.

If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about, but if you haven't seen it, the movie opens with credits that combine black-and-white illustration-style freeze frames with the "heroes" riding into town. You don't know they aren't heroes at first--they're dressed in military uniforms (which are disguises, as we later learn)--and William Holden certainly embodies that type of rugged hero so popular in classic Westerns. (Of course, he is a hero by the end, in Peckinpah's own nihilistic way.) But one of the greatest, and most memorable, parts of the credits sequence is that the children they ride past are playing with something on the dusty ground. And as the camera cuts from character to character back to the children at play (all as the sharp drum report plays in the background), we see that the characters are watching a scorpion being devoured by fire ants. A horrifically symbolic image surely, but Peckinpah doesn't stop there--he then shows the children lighting the scorpion and the ants on fire.

That's what Jonah Hex #29 feels like. It feels like watching a scorpion being devoured by fire ants as they all burn in the flames of torment. And Rafa Garres, the artist on this issue (who has a Bisley-meets-Fabry grotesque-ery to his artwork, but somehow manages to make it all look beautiful--that's his work on the cover image too) is a perfect fit.

These Palmiotti and Gray Jonah Hex stories often resolve in simplistic ways, and this issue is no exception, but leading up to the climax, this is some good comics. Peckinpah, DC style.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Punisher War Journal Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

Once in a generation, a comic arrives to change the face of the industry. That comic is probably not Punisher War Journal but, you know what, two smart guys talking about Punisher comics can lead to some pretty insightful observations about graphic narrative. None of which necessarily occurs in this week's installment of THE SPLASH PAGE, but it might. You'll never know until you read it.

Check out Chad Nevett and I, as we discuss Matt Fraction, Garth Ennis, and Frank Castle here: THE SPLASH PAGE: Punisher War Journal vs. the Assembled Critics!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Logan #1: A Review

This is what I hoped Wolverine: Origins might have been like. It wasn't. But this is what they call a very good comic.

Logan is Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso's love letter to Wolverine, and it begins with a snow-covered landscape, a few ominously-treaded footprints, and a narration which begins "When you rip a guy's heart out, the blood inside stinks of hot iron and dead blossoms." That's how to begin a story about Wolverine, folks, and the issue maintains that razor-sharp attitude throughout.

Before I move on, I just want to emphasize why that opening page is so effective. (And if you're an aspiring writer, you could learn a few things about how to write comics by this single, full-page image and juxtaposed captions.) First of all, the image establishes a serene sense of quiet--with a fog-covered temple in the distance, behind the snow-covered trees. (And I know that I should have a scanned image of page 1 here for you to look at, but I don't, so use your imagination.) The contrast between that image and the vividly described sensory image in the caption (with the "stink of hot iron" and all that), demonstrates what comics can do best. They can combine words and images to new effect, in a way that the words alone or the image alone do not achieve. Read the caption away from the illustration on the page, and you do not picture tranquility. Look at the image without the caption and you do picture tranquility, except for the footprints. And the footprints are the key to the entire effect. The footprints are not vague impressions in the snow. They are deep and sharply defined, with visible boot-sole impressions. Someone is heading toward that fog-covered temple. Something with the treads of a soldier.

The entire comic book is symbolized by that opening image, and I love to see such a thing in a comic that I didn't necessarily expect much from. I've enjoyed much of what Vaughan has done before, and Risso is wonderful, of course (and it's astounding to think of the amazingly consistent, and brilliant, work he's done on 100 Bullets, without hardly any fanfare--when that series is done and he moves on to something else, I guarantee he will be recognized as a superstar within the industry--not just by other professionals), but, really? Logan? You know what we don't need? Yet another story revealing a hitherto unreported episode from Wolverine's past. Every Wolverine story over the past few years has been about some hitherto unreported episode from Wolverine's past. Wolverine and Wolverine: Origins has read like one bad episode of Lost after another, except without the promise of a merciful end in sight.

So, yeah, I certainly wasn't expecting to find something surprising in Logan #1. But I did, because good creators can remind us that's it's all about the execution. And when you have a good premise--with Wolverine in WWII Japan, before the bombs fall; a good writer, in Vaughan who plays on Wolverine's fetishes but also justifies them; and a stellar artist, in Risso, who makes every panel throb with sinister menace and yet manages to evoke grace and beauty with apparent ease, well, it just works in a way that so many Wolverine stories have not.

This is a story about loss and tragedy, or at least it will be, if the first issue is any indication, and I think you should check it out. You will like it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

New, New Gods

Grant Morrison describing Final Crisis:
The DC superheroes see the New Gods as other superheroes in the way that Orion or Barda can join the Justice League. They’ve never understood that what they really are are f---ing gods. This story’s about the first time Darkseid actually manifests on the planet. Everything we’ve ever seen before has been kind of projections from the world of the New Gods and for the first time we’re seeing them in their full power. And it’s like what would happen if a god appeared on the planet. Galactus is one god. This is a whole bunch of them—that’s how bad it is.

I think the notion that the New Gods have never been seen in their true form is much more shockingly strange than the idea that all 69 years of Batman stories have actually happened in the past 15 years of Bruce Wayne's life.

We've never actually seen Darkseid, according to Final Crisis. I guess the future Darkseid of "The Great Darkness Saga" was also a projection, and not his real form, then.

Is anyone NOT eagerly anticipating Final Crisis? (Do you think we're just setting ourselves up for disappointment?)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Little More Levitz

I finally finished my corrections the Teenagers from the Future book at 5:30 this morning. If all goes according to plan, we'll have some nice thick copies of the book--a collection of essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes--at the New York Comic-Con. The thing's going to be over 400 pages, by the looks of it. Since I'm completely wiped out, I thought I'd toss out another very brief excerpt of my Paul Levitz interview. This part regards the infamous Legion of Super-Heroes tabloid edition that drives collectors crazy (how the hell do you store something that size?), and my line of questioning didn't really go anywhere, but I did gently tease Paul about Legion reboots:

Tim Callahan: My final question is about the tabloid story [c-55]. The 64 pages with no ads--that was probably your first time working on that scale of a canvas. How did you approach that story differently than your 22 pagers?

Paul Levitz: Well, there were a couple of goals, I guess. One was that I got to work with [Mike] Grell, and Mike had been the scheduled artist when I took over the book and had been, at the time, very much a fan favorite, so it was, “how do I provide the right opportunity for Mike to do his stuff?” Second was, if this was going to be the biggest, most expensive Legion comic ever made, “what do we do that’s important enough?” And it certainly seemed that marrying Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would qualify on that basis. All of that very influenced, I think, by the 60’s Marvel Annuals. They had some--Stan in particular had just--beautiful moments in a couple of the event issues that he did there. And trying to carry that logic forward, and then adding to it by the thinking that it’s a physically giant comic book, it should have some really big, rich pictures.

TC: And then you you decided to bring the Time Trapper in because he’s someone who’s such a huge villain and...

PL: I guess. (laughs)

TC: Someone who’s a giant threat to match the giant scale of the comic.

PL: I guess. Sure. I’m not sure I remember the story at all. It’s been quite a few years since I last reread it.

TC: Well, arguably, it could be considered the first Legion reboot, since the Time Trapper reset everything and the future was totally changed when Superboy showed up, and then changed it back to the way it was.

PL: Yeah, well, I don’t know. I don’t think we were rebooting in those days.

TC: You booted back. You debooted.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Waist Deep in Legion Edits

I'd love to do a longer post today, since I'm getting a bunch of hits lately (welcome, new readers!), but I'm up to my waist in the Legion book I'm editing, trying to get a version with images ready to send on to the next stage and (cross your fingers) publication in time for the New York Comic-Con.

So, since I don't have time to write anything substantial today, I'll give you something cool, at least. Here's bit of the Paul Levitz interview I conducted last year as research for my essay on Levitz's Legion run, presented here for the first time. (Thanks, Paul!)


Tim Callahan: When you were doing your first Legion run, were you considering things like long and short-term pacing, or were you mostly working one issue at a time with sort of a vague perspective about the future?

Paul Levitz: I don’t remember enormously clearly...I certainly had a perspective of where I was going and some of the stories I wanted to do, and I usually had some idea a couple of issues out of where I was going on a subplot, but it was nowhere near as richly textured as the stuff I was doing when I came back. The JSA stuff I was doing at the same period as The Legion was probably much more carefully structured in terms of issue-to-issue character development.

TC: Just going back to the concept of threat level for a second, did you find it a problem dealing with threat level in The Legion? Because you’re dealing with so many intergalactic and global threats, it’s hard to provide much variety?

PL: No, because you’ve got a bunch of characters who, taken individually or even taken in a small group, don’t have the same kind of power. It’s one thing if you’re going to send Superboy, Ultra Boy, and Mon-El after something. It’s another thing if you’re going to send Dawnstar and Shrinking Violet. The other thing that I think it relevant in threat level is the threat level doesn’t so much come from the power of the villain as what is being threatened. And The Legion gave you excellent opportunities to do situations where individuals, personal lives, or families were what were being threatened.

TC: That makes sense. Now when you were plotting out your stories, did you try to give each Legionnaire a relatively equal amount of “screen time”? Did you say, “Cosmic Boy hasn’t appeared, so I’d better do somthing with him”? How did that work?

PL: I tried to--not so much to have everybody get equal time, but for everybody to have reasonable time. There were certainly occasions where I would go and say, “I haven’t done anything with this guy in a while, what can I do to screw up his life?”

TC: Right (laughs). And then you’d just create some sort of conflict.

PL: Uh-huh.

TC: When you approached a situation like that, would you start putting in hints, so it would sort of be the “c” or “d” storyline and have it slowly emerge?

PL: Sure. Once you make the decision, “I’m going to make Tim’s life miserable,” then you work back from that and say, “what am I going to do with Tim? Which of the plagues is he going to get? Ah, frogs! Okay. So we’re gonna start with an egg, then we’re gonna go tadpole, then we’re gonna have a frog, then we’re gonna have a whole [expletive deleted] lot of frogs.”


PL: It wouldn’t always mature as a plotline the way it started, because as you play with it you change it around, but you do your best to evolve it that way.