Archive for April, 2010


Free Comic Book Day Tomorrow

April 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Hit your local comic shop on Saturday to pick up some free books.

If you don’t have one nearby, check out Heavy Ink. They’re running a special FCBD promotion where you can get the free comics online, instead of in-store. Click the link, read up.

iFanboy’s got the straight dope on the roster for tomorrow, along with a few previews.

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Friday Fun Linkblogging

April 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The Boondocks returns on Sunday :) I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch it live, but please believe I’m excited. On to the links!

Paul DeBenedetto and Marc-Oliver Frisch take me to task for my Death to Canon post the other day. They raise some good points. I do want to say, as a meager defense, that I don’t hate the idea of the narrative, I just hate that perfectly good tales don’t get read because they aren’t important. That’s silly to me. I think we should treat all stories with the same level of importance. That was the point of the Spider-Man Noir vs Amazing Spider-Man comparison. I should have expressed that better. You should definitely read their posts, though. They say a lot of good things.

Tucker Stone talks about comics, ads, and audiences.

Nina Stone serves up a good review of American Vampire, a series I have been enjoying much, much more than I expected to. I’m hoping Vertigo’s got another hit on its hands, because I want to see this one continue. That’s a good review there, you can see exactly what she likes about it.

-Kate Dacey’s Manga Critic turned one! Kate’s great.

-Look at this lady talking like an idiot in public! Let Obama define himself, stay up out of his business.

-Music video!

Lupe Fiasco – I’m Beaming

Pac Div’s new mixtape is heat rocks. It’s free music. Go on ahead and get that.

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The Redemption of Sean McKeever

April 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Sentinel was most likely the first Sean McKeever book I ever read. It hit in 2003, right about when I’d pretty much given up any hope of not getting back into comics. Marvel did me the favor of launching the Tsunami line around that time, with a bunch of new series built for the manga/teen reader. I picked it up, spurred on mostly by UDON’s art, and thought it was pretty good. A boy and his giant death robot out having adventures. Kinda simple, but it worked. Not great, but enjoyable. He later picked up Mystique from Brian K Vaughan and did a solid job there, too.

What really sold me on him was his writing on Mary Jane with Takeshi Miyazawa and Gravity with Mike Norton. Gravity is one of those books that played with the Marvel Universe in an interesting way. Greg Willis, a kid from the middle of nowhere, gained gravity-based powers. Now, he’s grown up in the Marvel U, where heroes have been active for about as long as he’s been alive. So, what does he do? He moves to New York City for college, with a side of superheroing. He sucks at it. And then he gets better.

Mary Jane, though, was excellent work. It was, boiled down, Spider-Man’s Girlfriend Mary Jane. McKeever scripted a high school drama from Mary Jane’s point of view that was part Saved by the Bell, part reinvention of the early era of the Spider-mythos, and part romance comic. Spider-Man figured large in the series, with Peter Parker firmly in the background. It was a good series, and managed to spinoff a sequel miniseries and then a full-blown ongoing called Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

2007: Sean McKeever moves across the street to DC Comics. He jumps into Countdown with both feet and, well, it sucked. Everyone sucked on Countdown, though, so maybe that was just the fist of editorial fiat cramping his style. He took over Teen Titans in issue 50. Twenty-one issues and a mini-series later, there were, what, a lot of dead Titans and a whole lot of comics that weren’t exactly worth reading? McKeever gave up the reins to the book, and instead scripted a back-up feature starring Ravager that run until issue 81.

In late 2009, McKeever came back to Marvel with Nomad: Girl Without A World. Nomad was Rikki Barnes, an alternate universe’s Bucky who was trapped on Earth. She had no hope of getting back home, so she was trying to make do with the life she was given. A story about a teenage girl hero trying to find where she belongs? McKeever killed on it. It was a good story, the sort of pitch-perfect teen work that I expected to see out of him when he took on the Titans. It clicked. It worked.

McKeever got an upgrade. Nomad was moved to a back-up story in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, boosting its profile and reminding Marvel fans that McKeever was back. Though the hardcore espionage tone of Captain America clashed with Nomad‘s free-wheeling teen action, the story was good. It was simple stuff, a hero having to solve a mystery and make a friend (Araña, a heroine dating from the days when Gravity debuted), but it was good. It’s what you want out of teen comics.

Later this year, McKeever and David Baldeon, the artist on Nomad, are launching Young Allies. It’s a teen team book and it sounds like it’s right up McKeever’s alley. He’s bringing in Firestar of the New Warriors, a character he recently wrote to good effect in a one-shot, Araña, Gravity, and a few new characters.

I hate to pigeon-hole the man, but it seems like teen heroes are his thing. He’s good at them, and I like reading about them under his pen. Teen Titans should have been a match made in heaven, with Marvel’s premiere teen writer paired with the only teen team that was still viable in comics at that time, but something got screwed up somewhere and the stories we got were nowhere near what McKeever is capable of. I don’t know why, though my best guess considering other high profile disappointments at DC would be “editorial handcuffs.” Who knows, though. It’ll make a good tell-all interview one day.

But, he’s back at Marvel, and he came out swinging for the fences. I think I’ve liked all of the Marvel work he’s done since he came back. He’s even done a little fill-in on Web of Spider-Man with Stephanie Buscema that I dug. I’m happy that this guy who was there with some interesting ideas back when I was getting back into comics is back to pumping out good stuff years later. Young Allies sounds dope, and I’m honestly hoping that Marvel gives Heinberg a miss and hands over the Young Avengers. McKeever would kill with those characters.

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Mr. T Comic Book Jibba Jabba: Part One

April 29th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

In less than two months, the new A-Team movie will be released in theaters. Even though I have a feeling the movie will be less than great, I’m still excited about it and have been ever since I heard about the casting. As far as I’m concerned, they were four-for-four with their choices and that gave the project a big head start. I suppose as long as it isn’t amazingly terrible, it’s good to see the movie exist because I’m just happy to see more A-Team.

It was a really good show and it hits me of why. The thing was like a Justice League made up of four characteristics that dudes find empowering: suave, slick, crazy and tough. Each guy fully encapsulated these ideals and nobody came off as the weak link. All four had something to offer. That said, the additional members pretty much sucked. By that I mean the two female reporters and that Santana guy they tossed in during the last season. I appreciate the attempt to keep the show fresh in the face of declining viewership, but I can’t remember a thing that guy had to offer. When the show lasted, you had a great foursome of heroes enduring explosions, rampant gunfire that almost never hit a single human being, episode after episode of making fools out of the government and bad guys who could be taken care of in less than an hour thanks to Hannibal being on the jazz. It was manly as hell.

Of course, the man we remember the show for most of all is Mr. T, who played the role of Bosco “B.A.” Baracus. With momentum from his role as the antagonist of Rocky III, Mr. T not only became a highly-paid star during the A-Team’s five seasons, but it practically defined his career. While George Peppard, Dick Benedict and Dwight Schultz each played characters, Mr. T was – and still is – a character in himself. Baracus was nothing more than an extension of his real life persona to the point that it’s hard to tell where Mr. T ends and B.A. begins. Even to this day, he stars in Snickers commercials where he gets so outraged at a man’s cowardice that he fires Snickers bars at him from a helicopter and warns him not to make him do this again because he hates flying.

And God bless him. I think the world of Mr. T and it’s hard to say exactly why. I guess he’s just a larger-than-life personality that accumulates nostalgia, super-strength, unique style, badass disposition, camp and a genuine heart of gold. Not only that, but he embraces what he is. Not as endearing as him kicking cancer’s ass (T-cell lymphoma, ironically), but endearing enough.

I thought I’d celebrate the lead-up to the A-Team movie by taking a look at Mr. T’s many comic book appearances from over 25 years. That’s right, over 25. Eat that, Norris!

What better way to start it off than Marvel’s A-Team miniseries? It lasted three issues, with the first one written by Jim Salicrup and drawn by Marie Severin. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you probably already know what the A-Team is about. A handful of soldiers are wanted for a crime they didn’t commit and now go from city to city, righting wrongs as soldiers of fortune. There’s the brilliant, cigar-chomping tactician Hannibal, the quick-witted ladies man Face, the insane and childlike “Howling Mad” Murdock and of course, B.A. Baracus. Oh, and there’s reporter Amy Allen, but she never did anything of importance.

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Battle for Asgard

April 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Comic fans are funny.

From the Guardian the other day, in an article about Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor movie:

His view was not shared among the more vehement of the comic books’ fans. “This PC crap has gone too far!” wailed one. “Norse deities are not of an African ethnicity! … It’s the principle of the matter. It’s about respecting the integrity of the source material, both comics and Norse mythologies.”

Fellow fans were quick to nod their horn-helmeted heads.

“At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I think this is nuts!” said another. “Asgard is home to the Norse Gods!!! Not too many un-fair complexion types roaming the frigid waste lands up there. I wouldn’t expect to see many Brad Pitt types walking around in the [first mainstream black superhero] Black Panther’s Wakanda Palace!”

I had a hunch, so I got on the googling machine and found out that they were from (wait for it) The guy also hit up everyone’s favorite bastion of good taste and peaceful tolerance, Newsarama! The conversations on both sites go about how you’d expect. The usual protestations against political correctness, “what if it was a black guy being replaced by a white guy,” blah blah blah. It’s the same argument you’ve seen on every comics site ever since Elba was announced as playing the role. I’m sure you can find it on CBR, Scans Daily, and whatever forum you care to name. Sometimes people are reasonable, sometimes people fight back against affirmative action. There’s a range

But, really, Captain I’m Not A Racist BUT has a point. Heimdall is a Norse god, and specifically considered to be the whitest of the gods. Idris Elba… isn’t. It’s race-changing for no good reason, beyond having a little more color in the cast and a talented dude getting work. It’s no different than Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin in Daredevil (though he is the only actor I can think of with the physique for that role) or Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four.

But on the other hand… Marvel’s Thor is a sci-fi infused mythological remix, where gods dress like people from outer space and live in golden, gleaming spires. Asgard’s most popular non-Thor deities are a space horse, Errol Flynn, Charles Bronson cosplaying Genghis Khan, and Falstaff. Liberties have already been taken, what’s one more?

I guess what I’m really trying to say is…

sucks to be you, homey. There’s no pity in the city.

(Schadenfreude? What’s that?)

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Gavok on the Go!

April 28th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

So, it’s finally happened. After getting myself a Droid (holy shit, will you stop with the goddamn Obi-Wan joke?), I figured it’s time I do the whole Twitter thing.

So here it is.

It’s not as flashy as david’s or Esther’s… wait. Esther doesn’t have a Twitter. Um… Okay, instead of checking out Esther’s non-existent Twitter, just check out MacGruber’s. You’ll be glad you did.

Expect an actual update from me later tonight.

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Death to Canon

April 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

A large part of the appeal of superheroes is the ongoing narrative. Like soap operas, wrestling, and movie franchises, people like to drop in and see what’s going on with a character. While there are Elseworlds, What Ifs, dreams, alternate universes, and house shows, there’s a clear series of stories that are “real.” You can trace the biography of Clark Kent from 1938 to 2010, and buy books that tell that story from the beginning. Regular reinventions re-tell his origin, but with rotary phones replaced with touchtone phones, and then newspapers replaced by the internet, and then the internet replaced by newspapers again.

This has expanded from a biography into a mythology. It’s not enough to have Clark Kent from ’39 to ’10. You need to know Clark Kent’s place in the DC Universe, and how he relates to thousands of other characters. There is a narrative, whether on a small scale or a macro scale, that you can follow from A-Z. Superman died [mumble] years ago and this is how it affected Blue Beetle. Peter Parker fought Norman Osborn in college, and here is how that affects the Marvel Universe. Stories that do not fit into that narrative are either handwaved away in favor of the new interpretation of the character or deprecated and consigned to the realm of “imaginary stories.”

The idea of “real” stories is one that Marvel and DC both have wholly embraced. It is the stuff that runs in the veins of big events, and the reason why comics fans claim that they hate events but buy them anyway. “I want to know what happens! This matters!” You want that next chapter in the ongoing story, you need to know what happens to Peter Parker in Civil War, and you want to know the effects of Secret Invasion on the greater Marvel Universe. You’re invested in the narrative.

That investment leads to the immediacy that drives the direct market. You can go to the comic shop every week and get an update on whichever universe you prefer. If you don’t have that immediacy, that lust for the periodical, you have no reason to hit a comic shop and can just order the completed stories a few months down the line and read them at your leisure. DC’s recently stated wish to push back against trade waiters and emphasize the monthly comics (a move I find, frankly, idiotic and backwards) is their latest attempt to maintain their stranglehold on that market. These are the lifers, the ones who go in, buy their comics, complain, and buy them again the next month.

Series that don’t tie into the narrative sink like rocks. Barring aberrations like Deadpool’s current status, who ride a bubble of interest until it fizzles out, anecdotal knowledge says that niche books don’t sell. Recent casualties: Blade, Blue Beetle, Captain Britain & MI-13, SWORD, and Brother Voodoo. Books like Runaways and Agents of Atlas are repeatedly relaunched, repositioned, and revamped in an attempt to keep readers. Runaways in particular was changed to tie directly into the greater Marvel Universe for its second volume.

Those books get cancelled because retailers know that readers want important stories, so they order accordingly. Who cares what happened in Runaways? Is Spider-Man even in that? And The Mighty? Who is that? Is Green Lantern ever gonna guest star? “Save ______” campaigns, barring the amazing dedication of Spider-Girl fans, rarely work. The books get resurrected, retailers order a couple extra copies at best, since the last series failed, and then we’re left right back where we started: “Save ______.”

Simple question: why? Why are the books that are “real” considered more “real” than the others? In the end, the only thing you get out of reading a “real” story is a different set of fake information about a fake character. Both results are equally fake. You think somebody who only ever watched The Dark Knight cares that Batman once fought a dude with eyeballs where his fingertips go? Or that Spider-Man getting married matters more than that time Venom drove a truck in the Spider-Man cartoon? No, because here is the truth: all stories are fake stories. Granted, there is a certain amount of pleasure in following a character’s ongoing adventures, but let’s be real: all stories are fake stories. Being part of a string of fake stories doesn’t make it any more real than the other fake story.

So, why is Amazing Spider-Man more real than Spider-Man Noir? Easy: Marvel says so. Or DC says so. Or whoever. They have a vested interest in keeping their captive audience, for lack of a better phrase, so they maintain something approaching a canon, a group of stories that are “real.” Those other stories, Elseworlds and What Ifs and whatever, are fake, and you don’t need them to know what’s going on. If you buy them, that’s great, but look–Siege is what you need. Buy Green Lantern because it’s important.

My least favorite question in comics is “Is this in continuity?” That’s a frustrating question, especially when recommending a book to someone. There is the implication that stories that are in continuity matter more than ones that don’t, when that is undeniably false. I read Spider-Man comics for a few years without ever picking up Amazing Spider-Man.

Nowadays, I think the thrice-weekly Amazing Spider-Man is a great book, one of the most consistently good cape books on the stands. It has had its low points, its dips in quality, but the overall package is good. Last January, it was moving about sixty thousand units.

Spider-Man Noir is honestly one of my favorite Spider-Man stories. The writing was on point, the art was excellent, and it all came together very well. As far as Spidey stories go, it hits all the notes to make it a classic. It shipped thirty-one thousand copies.

Why the discrepancy? One is real, the other is not.

The problem with this system is that quality does not matter. Avengers Disassembled and Ultimatum were deck-clearing exercises. Everyone hated Spider-Man: One More Day, but it sold 150k. Identity Crisis was a terrible mystery and Blackest Night ended when a ghost popped up in the last issue and told everyone how to beat the bad guy. But, since these books are important, they sold gangbusters. Add a logo or a banner to a low-selling comic, script a tie-in to the important event, and watch the sales jump while people see what’s going on with the greater continuity. And then watch them fall once the continuity cop stuff is over.

Death to canon.

I hate the way it’s used in comics. Rather than having stories that matter, treat every story like it matters, Elseworlds or no. You can still do the ground-shaking status quo events, you can do sequels, and you can do long-running series. In fact, the way Marvel collects its events already does this. If you go to the store to buy Annihilation, you have Annihilation Book One, Annihilation Book Two, and Annihilation Book Three. They contain several stories from a variety of writers, but all tell the story of the Annihilation Wave. House of M has been collected into several softcovers. And in the bookstore, these books do not have any primacy over Spider-Man Noir or Agents of Atlas.

What’s important is the story and the creators. Not the canon, not the format, not the wrapper, not the company that made it. The story and the people who created it are the only ones that matter in this equation. By removing that fixation on the canon from the situation, comics fans can find themselves dozens of new books that are just as good, and sometimes better, than the canon-centric titles they buy in droves and talk about online.

We get the comics industry we deserve. By focusing only on the Universes, you miss the good stuff. I shifted my perception and found a wealth of books I would’ve otherwise ignored that rocked my socks off. I’m a firm believer in liking what you like, but at the same time, if I ruled the world? Comics would be a whole lot different than they are now. Fake stories are fake stories, no matter what anyone says. Once I started treating them like that, I started liking comics a whole lot more than I did already.

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Deathstroke and Morrison

April 27th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I’m ambivalent about the Batman and Robin run so far.  There are some great characters and the stories have all the lurid pulp appeal that a Batman fan could want.  At the same time, there are places in which Morrison heaps on needless complications that detract from the overall story.  (What was the point of making Jason Todd a redhead with a gray streak?)

But I’m intrigued by the fact that Deathstroke popped up in the last issue.  The character has basically been used out in the last few years.  He’s come to be a generic villain, which is a shame given the unusual character he started out as.  Morrison, however, does not do generic villains.  I’m willing to bet that Deathstroke is in there for a reason.

I’m wondering what reason, though.  Deathstroke, in every iteration, seems extremely unlike a typical Morrison character.  Morrison’s characters, although they vary considerably, all share a febrile, hallucinatory energy.  Deathstroke has always been the grizzled, plain-spoken mercenary/soldier.  It’s an incongruous match, and I’m interested to see how the writer and the character match up.


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The Adventures of Bobby Ray

April 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

B.o.B./Bobby Ray is pretty great. I’ve been following his career since… 2008? He’s dropped a few mixtapes I really dug, had some 5-star guest appearances, and I basically told myself I’d buy his album after hearing his “Who The Fuck Is B.o.B.?” mixtape for the first time. His new album, B.o.B. Presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray is out, and I just copped it. Eight bucks on Amazon? Not even a question.

Bobby Ray is a child of the Dungeon Family, just like most of the better artists out of Georgia. Goodie MOb and OutKast are in his DNA, but not in a copycatting sort of way. There’s just a clear influence there, but he is clearly his own artist. He has the ability to put a deeply weird song next to some old school funk next to some skinny jeans rap next to something pimp tight and not have it clash.

(That’s another post-Dungeon thing. Andre 3000 has a rep for being the conscious poet, the weird half of OutKast, but he’s still the dude who spit “I got up in them hoes and I told ’em “Bye bye!”/ About two weeks later, she called me with some bullshit/ Talkin’ ’bout her period late… Guess what I did:/ *Click*.” It’s not cognitive dissonance so much as recognizing and embracing the fact that people go deeper than one word labels. It’s the same thing that puts Talib Kweli on a handful of songs with Pimp C. Put differently: “Is every nigga with dreads for the cause? Is every nigga with golds for the fall?”)

What I like about Bobby Ray is how he walks that fine line. He’s open about how he used to try to rap in a more radio-friendly style on “Generation Lost,” a track from The Adventures of B.o.B. He has talked about playing B.o.B. like its a role, and how he eventually had to learn to be comfortable being Bobby Ray and be okay with playing guitars or pianos on a track. He had to learn how to be him, and being him sometimes involves a song like “Grip Ur Body” or “Nigger” or “Haterz Everywhere.” There’s a spectrum of experience there.

It’s a lot there that I can personally relate to, is what I’m saying.

Him, Killer Mike, Pill, Jay Electronica, Yelawolf- they’re keeping southern rap interesting. I love Jeezy, but he doesn’t have the same range these cats do. Maybe it’s because they aren’t fully mainstreamed, I don’t know, but Yelawolf’s Trunk Muzik is crazy good, Pill spits fire on every verse, Jay ElecHanukkah is dope, if a bit MIA currently, and Bobby Ray and Killer Mike are the two finest heirs to OutKast’s legacy I can imagine.

Youtubes below. Listen to them, and if you dig it, pick up the record. “Nothin On You” is on the album, the rest are older tracks of varying ages. It’s black future music, baby.

(The “I’ll Be In the Sky” video vaguely suggests continuity between Bobby Ray and OutKast. Consider the video for “Elevators (Me & You)” from forever ago. You can even draw a line from the content of “I’ll Be In the Sky” to “Elevators.” Pay attention.)

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Lex Luthor is Back

April 26th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

And I like it. 

Lex Luthor has always been one of my favorite villains.  Well, any character can be my favorite or least favorite depending on how they’re written, but I like the concept behind Lex a lot better than I do most villains.

For one thing, businessman Lex is not the kind of villain who will kill everyone in the room.  The Jokers, the Deathstrokes, and the Prometheii made me pretty sick of that.  Luthor is the type to slowly, surely, brilliantly grab for more and more power.  He undertakes plans with a specific and productive end and doesn’t just go for off-the-charts death and destruction.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t emotion and insanity in there.  Luthor’s main motivation has always been more clear and – for me – more understandable than the motivations of other villains.  When he got a Lantern Corps ring, his motivation was Avarice, but for me, he’s always been ruled by envy. 

This is a guy who prides himself on being the master of the universe, and all of a sudden a bigger, stronger, more powerful, and more popular guy shows up.  In his city.  And that guy isn’t even of Luthor’s own species.  I can just feel him burning with frustrated rage and jealousy, and twisting it around in his head until he has the moral high ground. 

And when you put him in a business suit, he has to keep himself restrained enough to keep that moral high ground, at least in his own head.  It makes for a great drama, great stories, and great, stable, continuity.

At least in theory.


Maybe that cover’s just a fantasy sequence.

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