Archive for September, 2010


Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 3: Two Faces

September 30th, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Probably the biggest sin the Elseworlds line committed is that for every breakout hit or disaster the line produced, there were two or three bland piles of tripe released. Batman got the most Elseworlds, so he got the most dull stories- it’s simple probability. Today we’re going to start peering at those.

Batman: Two Faces
Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Anthony Williams & Tom Palmer
Focuses on: Batman
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1998
Central premise: Stretches the “duality of criminals/vigilantes” metaphor to its limit via the use of Two-Face, while Batman is also the Joker (oh like you couldn’t guess that from the cover)
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

To be honest, I think the framing device for this story is a bit clever: inside the Iceberg Lounge, a gentleman’s club in late Victorian Era Gotham, Peregrine White and James Gordon swap tales of the bizarre and exciting from their lines of work, sworn to secrecy within the club’s walls. This evening, it’s Gordon’s turn to tell the tale, and he fills in the details on a case that was “the talk of every broadsheet in America” at the time.

There’s a recurring theme in a lot of Elseworlds of putting Batman a) in a Victorian-ish time period (fun note: this story takes place three years before the similarly-timed Gotham by Gaslight, the ur-Elseworld), and b) making him some sort of psychologist or similar skillset. Here he’s a criminologist “and amateur sleuth” of some renown. It doesn’t really have much to do with this story aside from his wanting to help cure the schizophrenia of Harvey Dent, but I just thought I’d point it out, being that this is the first we’re getting to that touches on those themes.

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Gamble A Stamp 01: It’s Only Like Heaven

September 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I think that if you are a fan of superhero comics, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo should be your holy book. It caused a seismic shift in my enjoyment and understanding of superheroes after I read it, simultaneously deepening my enjoyment of the good stuff and my willingness to ignore the terrible. It’s a story, it’s comics journalism, it’s a history lesson, it’s evergreen, and it is auto-critique in pamphlet form. It’s about comics, you see, and if you haven’t read it, you should. This is part of a series of posts relating to the book.

At one point in the book, Sage says, “Because listen! When it all comes down to it, how could you love ANYBODY the way you loved THUNDERGIRL? You try and it’s like Heaven. But it’s only LIKE Heaven. It’s NOT Heaven, is it?” It’s one of those points that stuck with me after reading, kind of like “Sometimes her cigarette smoke smells like flowers” from Brandon Graham’s King City carved out a space in my skull.

A teen in the throes of puberty and wishing for a Mary Jane Watson of his very own isn’t wishing for a real girlfriend. He’s looking for someone who resembles the stories and beliefs that he has built up around Mary Jane. Maybe she likes his favorite kind of music, has a certain cup size, or will do all those nasty things in bed that he’s been curious about.

What can compare to that? The only possible end point of that is disappointment. No matter how much you love someone, no matter how heads over heels they are–they’ll never be Mary Jane Watson, tiger. You can’t build a lover out of ideas. And yes, on the very next page: “What’s like Heaven? Shit. Oh shit. They fuck you up, those comics. They really fuck you up…”

Just like romance movies, fairy tales, sitcoms, and every other thing that tells us how life is before we get to experience it ourselves, superheroes sell us a reality that only works with archetypes. Every romance is an atom bomb of passion or strife. Lovers embrace against all odds and damn the consequences. No one gets to settle for someone they didn’t want or to be content with somebody who is just okay. Love triangles aren’t a ball of stress and drama so much as an entertaining diversion. No one comes home, hugs their wife, and goes to bed early. Everything is larger than life. Superheroes go hard or go home. There is no in-between.

At the same time, this is the strength of superheroes. Superheroes exist as archetypes that have been drawn from the same collective unconscious that has been creating stories about heroes for thousands of years. They represent abstract or unquantifiable values–responsibility, vengeance, altruism, guilt–and work out our insecurities and fears on the comics page. Spider-Man insists on a world where people take responsibility according to their ability, no matter how marginal. Batman is about emerging from darkness, away from your baser instincts, and into the light. Superman is a father figure, there to protect us from all possible harm and guide us on our way.

One of the points of Flex Mentallo is that superheroes exist to save us from ourselves. They provide an example for us to follow and embody the best aspects of human nature. They represent the hole that’s present in reality, the thing that’s missing that resulted in the world being in the shape it’s in. They’re the memory of a better time.

Flex provides a reason for comics to traffic in the stories that they do. The superheroes exist outside of the comic books, having escaped from their doomed reality by becoming fictional in ours, and live in our imagination. The comics are an attempt by the superheroes to show us what things could be like, if only we tried a little harder.

Sage’s feeling about Thundergirl and love–it’s not just about love. It’s deeper than that. It’s about archetypes, period. Your father may make you angry and let you down. Your friends may betray you. But, when you get down to it, Spider-Man will fight to the death to save you. Superman will always be there with a kind word when you need it. His stories and his reasons for being don’t change.

This is the power of superheroes. They touch on something deep inside us, whether as adults or children, and show us something we need to see. This is one of several messages in Flex Mentallo, and it’s one that places superheroes on a direct level with every other story. They represent something bigger than themselves and better than us.

How could you trust anybody the way you trust Superman?

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The Cipher 09/29/10

September 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

said the shotgun to the head
-Maybe this is unfair (it isn’t), but if you only ever talk about what’s wrong with race in comics, and never what’s good, I don’t care about anything you have to say. It’s like–congrats, man, you can recognize something so obvious that children can see it. I’m not gonna congratulate you for doing something you should be doing anyway. I’m tired of reading or being linked to know-nothing junior varsity scrubs armed with an at best theoretical understanding of racial politics that they got from some college or the rest of the internet. Real talk beats jargon any day. Do better.

-Brian Michael Bendis was talking greasy about comics journalism last week. I felt some kind of way about it and responded on Twitter more than I should have, when what I really should have said was this:

Twinkletoes, you’re breaking my heart!

-Did you guys see that X-Men: Curse of the Mutants Saga came out on ComiXology’s digital comics service this week? For two bucks? That comic was free in stores. C’mon, son. That’s just clown shoes.

-Greg Burgas reviewed Top Cow’s First Look over at Comics Should Be Good!. I liked the Genius story in there and honestly have yet to read the rest. That’s beside the point, though. Burgas makes a reference to Top Cow’s checkered past (specifically: “Mysterious Ways is the third story in the collection, and it’s really what you think of when you think of a stereotypical “Top Cow” comic.”) and manages to piss off both Ron Marz and Atom!, who is Top Cow’s new “Direct Market Liason” guy.

They pop up to explain that, hey, that isn’t Top Cow, you’re working from old data, and things just devolve from there. I figured I’d do us all the favor of pulling some covers from the recent past, including Artifacts, one of the books that Marz and Atom! are telling us we shouldn’t be judging.

I’m not even being disingenuous and cherrypicking here–these are the covers to some fairly high profile series starring Boobs Goesfast, Razor Cleavage, Nightgown Lass, Thinly Disguised Alien Guy, and… I don’t have any dismissive and/or clever supranyms ((c) Adam Warren) for Aphrodite IX and the angel chick with the massive wings (Sexy Seraphim?) but they look like the same old Top Cow crap we used to eat up back before the internet existed.

Look–Top Cow is better than it was ten years ago. That’s obvious. Witchblade wears more clothes, for one thing, and what I’ve read of Phil Hester’s The Darkness was pretty swift. But- Witchblade Takeru still exists and this sort of thing still happens:

It’s cool you changed or whatever, but if you’re the guy who gets blackout drunk and turns into a douchebag every time he goes out, and you’re that guy for years, don’t be surprised if people go “Whoa whoa whoa, did that guy just behave himself?” when you go out, behave yourself, cover the tip, and bid a nice lady a chaste goodnight. That’s your bad. You earned that rep.

If Top Cow spent the past decade and a half pumping out critically acclaimed books, and then suddenly started producing crap, the response would be equally as confused. If Donna Troy suddenly magically lost her ability to put me right to sleep, I’d react with surprise, just like Burgas did.

-In the interest of semi-fairness, this cover for the aborted Joe Casey/Chriscross Velocity is super dope.

the inevitable rise and liberation of niggy tardust
-Comics Alliance stuff: video game censorship, why Wildstorm/Zuda/CMX bit it, a Hetalia image gallery, and an interview with all-star colorist Dave Stewart.

-Amazon stuff: Saving money as I come into the orbit of NYCC, so all I got was Shanna, the She-Devil: Survival of the Fittest (for Khari Evans), Love and Rockets: New Stories because everyone says it’s the best, and Die Hard Collection because if you don’t like Bruce Willis, you’re no friend of mine.

-I read Bulletproof Coffin #1 and caught up on Chew on ComiXology. Both are really solid works, especially BC.

the dead emcee scrolls
Fear Not Of David: Amazing Spider-Man 644, Atlas 05
Esther Says: Definite: Action Comics 893 Maybe: The Brave and the Bold 21, Detective Comics 869, First Wave 4
Know Gavin: Time Masters: Vanishing Point 03, Atlas 05, Captain America 610, Franken-Castle 21, Namor, Secret Warriors 20

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The Commish

September 29th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

So Commissioner Gordon is getting a back-up in Detective Comics.  I think the art, by Francesco Francovilla, looks great.  And I’m excited to see the finished book.

One minor quibble with the picture, I really doubt that Gordon would have anything that reminds him of the Joker on the wall of his bedroom.  We’re talking about the guy who tortured his daughter and killed his wife.

Commissioner Gordon is one of the characters I’ve always wanted to see more of.  The trouble is, I don’t really know what that ‘more’ should consist of.  Jim’s position involves management of a lot of intersecting cases, but at the same time he shouldn’t get involved in any of them.  And it would be hard for his character to do stuff that didn’t involve getting sucked into some past traumatic memory.  I think this would have been cooler if he were still a retiree and went around solving cases like Matlock.

Still, this is something that I think will really set Detective Comics apart from the . . . eleventy hundred (?) other Batman books out there.  (Not that I’m opposed to that.  I’m a Batperson.  If anything there should be more books.)  Any ideas for what kind of stories would work for Jim?

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Wrong Movie, Wrong Subtitles

September 28th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

A week ago, a guy calling himself thatasianguy started a Photoshop thread at Something Awful called “Wrong Movie, Wrong Subtitles!” The concept is that a still from a movie has subtitles from another movie, causing hilarity to ensue. I was drawn to the concept, since it was a fun exercise in creativity to take part in. I came up with a lot of different concepts and enough of it worked.

Yesterday, Something Awful used the threat for one of their Comedy Goldmine articles (titled Mixed-Up Movie Titles 2) and wouldn’t you know it, they used seven of my images. Not only that, but they used them as bookends for the entire set. I’d say that kicks ass. Definitely check out the link at least for 2xSlick and his Pee-Wee/Terminator mash-up.

That said, I thought it would be a good waste of a post to showcase all the images I made, including the many that didn’t make the cut. Apologies for the overly obscure ones. Especially the Kevin Nash image from Longest Yard.

(Some of these are bigger when clicked)

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I Bought Thor 615 For John Workman

September 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Not a joke! Not a snarky dismissal! I’m buying the Matt Fraction/Pasqual Ferry Thor because John Workman is lettering it.

That’s the pithy summary, anyway, but it’s no less true. Fraction is an okay writer who has done a few things I like (Casanova, Immortal Iron Fist) and a few things I don’t (Invincible Iron Man, Punisher War Journal) and Pasqual Ferry is a tremendous artist as far as I’m concerned, with great work done on everything from Superboy to Adam Strange to Ultimate Fantastic Four. Together, though, they aren’t quite enough to get me to read about Thor. I was going to give it a miss until I heard that Workman was lettering the book.

As far as I can tell, the only Thor you really have to read is Walt Simonson’s run on The Mighty Thor from the ’80s. The Kirby stuff never really clicked with me beyond the art, and the ’90s-era Thor was a tangled, knotted mess of a bunch of things I couldn’t have possibly cared about, no matter how hard I tried. Dan Jurgens and John Romita, Jr gave it a worthy try and told some good stories, but it never felt essential. J Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor had pretty pictures from Olivier Coipel and the same brand of overwrought moralizing that has infected JMS’s amazingly awful DC Comics work. Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito came closest to making great Thor comics with Avengers Disassembled: Thor, which wore its Simonson influence on both of its sleeves and down the seam of its pants.

No, if you want Thor, you gotta go to Walter Simonson. With the aid of letterer Workman and colorists Christie Scheele (who I think also colored the Miller/Romita Man Without Fear, maybe?) and George Roussos, Simonson crafted a genuinely epic story. He took Thor high and low, introduced new members of the cast, took the traditional cast in new directions, and turned Thor into his book the way Miller did with Daredevil.

I only had a few random issues of his run as a kid, being focused mainly on Spider and X-related titles. I liked what I had, though, and I remembered my uncle being a big fan of his work, so I sought out the trades once I grew up. One thing I learned from them is that lettering matters. It is undeniably an integral part of the art. If you’ve ever read a comic where word balloons overlap and crowd out the art, you know exactly what I mean. Placement, type, and yes, even spelling, matter. Marvel’s flirted with lettering experimentation lately, probably most notably in Incredible Herc, but the majority of their books are more or less lettered identically. You never look at an issue of Avengers and go, “Whoa, that lettering looks great!”, you know?

Workman is the guy who gives your book personality. His style is distinct and instantly recognizable. Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon’s Winter Men benefitted greatly from his work. He lettered Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100 (in concert with Pope and Jared K Fletcher) and 100%. His balloons have tons of white space, more than they probably need, and long, crooked tails. His sound effects fill entire panels, and are as much a part of the art as Simonson’s pencils or Scheele/Roussos’s colors. The style of Simonson’s Thor is inextricably linked to Workman’s letters.

I mean, seriously. The foreshadowing of Surtur wouldn’t have been half as awesome without Workman’s letters, and the bit where Surtur cuts a “DOOM!” in half with Twilight? Fantastic. Pencils, inks, colors, and letters all working in concert to tell one story. That’s how comics should be.

Everyone who comes onto Thor is sitting in Simonson’s shadow. He’s the guy to beat. Most people who end up working with Thor are honest about it in interviews (JMS, Fraction, Ferry, Simone Bianchi, for example) or it reflects in the work (Oeming). Fraction and Ferry have been very open about loving Simonson’s run, which is cool, but plenty of people have said that and then produced crap. How many people have talked about Grant Morrison when taking over one of his characters, ideas, or former series and then delivered nothing worth reading? Talk is cheap.

The presence of Workman on the book, though, is the difference. I hadn’t realized it, but Workman’s letters are how Thor is supposed to talk. The sound effects, the balloons, the letters, all of that is undeniably Thor to me. Similar to how Spawn needs Tom Orzechowski or seeing a realistically rendered Patsy “Hellcat” Walker looks wrong, Thor without Workman just isn’t Thor. Going off and getting Workman speaks to the kind of story that they’re trying to tell. It’s an effort that I can respect, and moved me enough to grab the first issue of the Fraction/Ferry run.

Verdict? Four dollars for a 22-page comic is entirely too high, but Ferry’s art is off the meter, Hollingsworth’s colors are real good, and Fraction’s got a great handle on everyone involved. The plot is looking good, just that sublime mix of sci-fi and magic that makes Marvel’s Thor what he is, and the enemies are appropriately fearsome. Workman absolutely kills on the lettering, particularly on the last balloon in the book, “I think I tasted blood,” the creepy black balloons, and Heimdall’s scream. The fact that there are ten double page spreads, all dedicated to non-Earth locales, is interesting. I think it’s too soon to call, but my best guess is that Fraction and Ferry are doing that to show the larger than life nature of the gods and the other of the nine worlds. There are three pages set in Asgard that aren’t spreads, and all the Earth pages are singles. I’m definitely going to be watching to see how that develops.

You should be reading it.

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Bob Harras named Editor in Chief of DC Comics

September 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

From DC’s The Source blog:

New York, NY, September 27—Robert Harras has been named Editor-in-Chief, VP, DC Comics, it was announced today by DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio. Harras will oversee editorial for DC Comics, DC Universe, MAD Magazine and Vertigo and will be based in New York City, reporting directly to the Co-Publishers. Harras becomes the company’s first Editor-in-Chief in nearly 10 years since the position was held by Jenette Kahn from 1981 to 2002.

“Bob Harras’ personal and creative integrity is respected and renowned throughout the comic book industry,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “As an editor, he provides invaluable insight into storytelling and character.”

“We could not be more excited to make this announcement,” said Dan DiDio, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “Bob is a tremendous evaluator of talent, character and story. He is a proven leader who brings a keen understanding of the marketplace to the position.”

Prior to being named Editor-in-Chief, Harras was the Group Editor, Collected Editions at DC Comics.

Before joining DC Comics, Harras was the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics from 1995 to 2000.


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Fourcast! 63: Hellboy: Whom Gods Destroy

September 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-You Made Me Read This!
-David made Esther read Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Vol. 3: The Chained Coffin and Others.
-It was good. A nice mix of creepy and funny, and Esther digs the character of Hellboy, too.
-Esther made David read Chris Claremont, Dusty Abell, and Drew Geraci’s Superman/Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy.
-David made it two and a half issues in before tapping out.
-It may not be unreadable (there are a lot of word balloons to read), but it is unbearable.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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This Week in Panels: Week 53

September 26th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to another week of This Week. Not as many comics from my end as usual, but I have David tossing me a couple, as well as contributors Was Taters and Space Jawa. As I start these off in alphabetical order, I find myself asking: what tracks does Emma Frost have in her earrings?

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #3
Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews

Avengers #5
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

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Pretty Girls: Barbara Canepa (and Alessandro Barbucci)

September 24th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

There’s boobs in this one, cap’n, so you get to see one of the rare times I ever use a cut. Read the rest of this entry �

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