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Reading Comics: “Don’t Curse”

May 14th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

There’s a Louis CK bit that I like a lot. It’s about how he hates “the n-word.” He goes on to say, “Not ‘nigger,’ by the way. I mean ‘the n-word,’ literally.” It’s a great bit because it’s funny, first of all, but it’s funny because it’s all about taking responsibility for the stupid things you want to say. A wise man once said “They wanna live in the house but don’t want no grass to grow.” People want to get the impact of having a curse word in their text, but they don’t want to take responsibility for the coarseness. They want all of the benefits and none of the downsides. And that’s weak.

Basically, know your outlet and your audience. I can’t curse on ComicsAlliance. Any expletives I might care to use would be turned into —- or f*** or ****** or whatever. I care a lot about how my writing flows and looks, and that looks stupid in text. ASCII’d out or asterisked to death curses in comics drive me crazy. Especially when they spell out the cusses in ascii characters like @$$ because… dude, who are you kidding? It’s having your cake and eating it, too. You’re a writer… figure out some way around it.

There are a couple of exceptions, of course. I’ve always liked the Milestone squiggle, because they used it for… I don’t know, high cuss words? The really bad ones? It can be seen here in Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez Jr., and Trevor von Eeden’s Blood Syndicate #1:

and Adam Warren’s black bars in Empowered, this one taken from Empowered Volume 6 (Empowered Volume 7 is due out soon, get some):

The squiggles and boxes feel more like bleeps than trying to have it both ways. Maybe it’s because the squiggle is art, rather than text standing in for other text, and I read that differently.

I started reading 2000 AD recently. There’s a strip in there called Grey Area that did something cool. Here’s a page from the chapter in prog 1767, pictures and words by Karl Richardson and Dan Abnett, that shows what I mean:

And I mean, I hate fake cuss words. Legion of Superheroes comics look stupid. Or silly. Maybe both. But this right here made me laugh. I like “grawlix” as a swear, because it’s both clever and explained in the story.

Grawlix is a bit of obscure comics terminology. It was coined by Mort Walker (the Beetle Bailey guy) in the ’60s, and he used it to refer to the faked up cusses you’d see in comics. Abnett here is using grawlix as a safe curse for men and women in uniform. When they step out of line and use real curses, they’re told to “Grawlix that.” It becomes about decorum in the text, which is much, much more interesting than being polite outside of the text.

Here’s another page, this time from prog 1770. Art by Lee Carter this time:

Anyway, cuss, don’t, or be clever about it. That’s all.

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Help Me Help You Buy That New Empowered Hardcover

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

All right, listen. Lean in close. I want to let you in on a secret, okay?

I want you to buy Adam Warren’s Empowered Deluxe Edition Volume 1. It hits your local comic shop this week, but if you’d rather get it off Amazon, you’ll have to wait until 03/13. In exchange, though, it’ll cost you just 37 bucks instead of 60. The choice is yours. (edit: The HC is in-stock on Amazon as of the morning of 02/29)

That’s a steep price for a comic, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s a nice hardcover with Empowered volumes 1 through 3. For your money, you’re gonna get 712 pages of sexy superhero comedy, including 40 pages of bonus material like sketches and designs and ideas. It’s a pretty good deal, I’d argue, and I already own all these books. If the price is too steep for you, and you have some way to enjoy digital comics, give some thought to picking up digital versions of the series. They’re 7.99, which is a steal. If you don’t do digital comics, then you should buy Empowered Volume 1 in print, maybe?

I’ve written about Emp and Warren’s work a lot. Maybe more than anyone else on comics internet? I dunno — probably, if I had to guess — but that’s mostly irrele except to point out that if you want to know about Emp, I’ve got you covered. A (surprisingly thorough) selection:

-I talked about his fantastic runs on Gen13 (you’ll not find a teen comic better, for my money, even though I guess the cast was early 20s by that point?) and Livewires. You can find his Gen13 (with a variety of artists, including a not-terrible Ed Benes!) in a couple of volumes– Gen 13: Superhuman Like You and Gen 13: Meanwhile. Livewires Vol. 1: Clockwork Thugs, Yo is kinda-sorta the type of hard sci-fi I’m not into, but Warren makes it work, and throws an ill espionage angle onto the whole works. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’re clever, they’re pretty, they’re well-plotted, and they’re just good comics. Everybody who likes “fun” in comics, whatever that means to you, should pick them up.

-I reviewed Empowered 6 for ComicsAlliance. It’s the volume that comes after the incredibly devastating emotional landmine that was volume 5, and it’s pretty good.

-I did another Empowered thing for CA, about why the sex scenes work so well in this particular cape comic and not so well in others, but it isn’t up yet. I’ll edit it in when it goes live, if that happens in the next couple days. The short version is “It’s funny and makes you care about the characters before they get down to the old in-out.”

-I typed a little about Empowered: The Wench With A Million Sighs and why it’s a good jumping-on point. You can buy it here.

-I typed at length about Adam Warren’s writing abilities, and how his work on Iron Man: Hypervelocity with Brian Denham was a brutally effective way to do an Iron Man story. It’s all about the ideas and pushing things forward using real-world cutting edge technology, rather than like… boring looking robots and smart cars. I like this bit I wrote:

Adam Warren is an idea guy in the best possible sense of the phrase. If you want to kick something into high gear, really peel back what makes it work and throw a whole bunch more stuff into the mix without breaking your character, he’s the man to come see. Hypervelocity is what Iron Man should always be like. Something fresh, something moving at Mach 8, and something that takes something from real life and makes an ill comic book concept out of it. Warren just pours ideas onto the page at a rate no other writer can match. He drops them out there into the world where they’re just aching to be explored.

Of course, the trade’s out of print and Marvel hasn’t put up the digital version. Dig this one up, though. It’s a trip.

-Remember The Dirty Pair? Warren worked on those back in the day, and I wrote about that, too. They’re a dynamic duo, masters of disaster, and a whole lot of fun to read. Good luck finding trades, but definitely check your local comic shop for the hookup. I like these a lot.

-The character of Sistah Spooky in Empowered is actually a really deft and fantastic exploration of black pathology. Hating the skin you’re in, wishing you were white (or at least not-black)… it’s all self-hatred and it’s all poisonous. And this gem is hidden in what looks like a fluffy and sexy superhero comedy. I mean… yowza, I can’t really over-state how awesome it is that Warren did this, and that it was intentional. It’s a lightning bolt out of the blue, the saddest thing in the world, and totally great, too. You want emotional resonance in your funnybooks? Spookums has so much of it that your head will spin.

-Finally, I did a 5800 word interview with Warren around the time Empowered 5 dropped about a lot of things. His process, his tools, his history, his craft… we cover a lot of ground. It’s still pretty interesting, and it’s cool to see hints of stuff that ended up being worked into the book. I’m pretty sure one thing he says hasn’t been seen in cape comics before has been seen in Emp since, but I don’t want to ruin it. It has to do with the character Mindf–k, though.

-Oh yeah. If you want to see images, click any of those posts, or check out his deviantart.

If all of that can’t convince you to buy some Empowered… I dunno, man. There’s cute girls and buff guys in it, I guess? Will that do the job?

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What I Don’t Know About Comics Art Could Fill Oceans

May 2nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I thought this fight scene from Batman Incorporated 5 was pretty straight. Art by Yanick Paquette, inks by Michel Lacombe, colors by Nathan Fairbain, words by Grant Morrison, letters by Pat Brosseau:

It’s not really as elegant as some of the stuff Quitely did in his run on Batman & Robin (digital, trade), or as visceral as Cameron Stewart (digital, trade) got when Batman and Robin visited London. Taken as a series of discrete moments, it works, and it’s pretty easy to animate this in your head. I only have trouble on page 2, panel 5 leading into panel 6, but it’s clear more time passed between those panels than it did between, say, panel 2 into panel 3. I do like how those twin rocks in 2.3 serve as reference points for how the fight moves around in space. That’s a great idea.

The money panel is page 3, panel 5. It’s the only real moment of pain in the entire fight scene, I think. The other panels were very give-and-take, this sort of playfighting kinda thing. 3.5 is crucial, though. Paquette captured that moment in time perfectly, with a painful looking awkwardness in Scorpiana’s posture and surprise in the body language of El Gaucho and The Hood. Even the shock lines–what are they actually called?–are dead-on, and Scorpiana’s helmet coming off is the icing on the cake. While the fight isn’t all the way there for me, that bit? 3.5? It makes the scene for me. The only thing I would do is swap the “Ouch” for a balloon coming from Scorpiana that’s either empty, filled with squiggles, or a breath mark. I always liked how that looked, and it’d sell the interruption of the action even more.

Okay. Here’s the thing.

I’m not an artist. Well, not any more–I spent some time in high school putting together a portfolio so I could go to art school, but then I discovered I could write, blah blah blah who cares. I’ve got no training beyond binging on books and art theory online. I don’t know near enough about comics art.

Here’s the proof.

Over on his Twitter, Adam Warren posted a link to an old DeviantArt post about how he draws Empowered (digital, trade). This is the sort of thing I eat up, because it’s the real nuts and bolts of comics art. It’s behind the behind the scenes. I was really interested for the first few paragraphs, because it’s all about format and readability. This is basic, basic stuff, but it’s the building blocks of comics. “You have a blank page. What is your first step? How does that step affect your work?”

(I think about format a lot, both in other people’s work and my own. Especially my own; I struggle with the way I use images. Ask me how pleased I am with that (digital, trade) stuff up there. No, don’t, because the answer is “it sucks and is ugly but I don’t know how else to massage that data into the post, barring an even uglier list at the end of the post.”)

It’s the fourth paragraph that blew off the top of my skull, though. Here’s the relevant bit:

Note that there’s one more step I could take to make EMPOWERED even more readable… Namely, I could use “manga gutters” on its pages. In manga, the vertical gutters between panels are very thin and the horizontal gutters are VERY thick (usually in a 1:3 vertical: horizontal ratio), in order to ensure that the reader’s eyetrack stays on a particular (horizontal) tier of panels and doesn’t stray down to an out-of-sequence panel below.

Got any manga nearby? Pick it up, flip to a random page, and look at it. That’s what I did immediately, and since I live in a fire trap, I did it a couple more times, too. If you can, find one of those pages that has three panels that take up the top half of the page–two squat panels stacked on top of each other and one tall panel beside them. Or here, look at these images I pulled from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira ages ago:

Do you see this? Isn’t it unbelievably obvious? It’s the kind of obvious that makes you feel dumb. I own a ton of manga. I almost don’t want to move because it probably weighs an actual ton, and I never noticed this. Look how huge those horizontal gutters are. The panels are swimming. It’s such a little thing, the sort of thing you’d never spot unless you were looking for it (or good at your job), and it means so much.

It got me thinking. I grabbed Barbucci and Canepa’s Skydoll: Spaceship, a collection of short stories, and flipped through. It was a mix of manga gutters, regular gutters, and gutters that were irregularly applied. Some gutters were pencil thin, while others were super chunky. I opened up one of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat volumes (specifically Krazy and Ignatz 1916-1918). The gutters there weren’t as clearly defined as in more modern work, but still obvious. Some panels were boxed off, while others were separated by an inch or so of whitespace. Vertically, it looks packed, but horizontally, it had room to breathe.

This is part of why I like writing and reading about comics. There’s so much that goes into the page, and it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. I used to have (maybe still do?) this slim Italian volume of Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. My mom got it for me after she went overseas for a bit. This was forever ago–1997? 1998? I don’t remember, but it wasn’t the Jojo series that eventually made it over here. I couldn’t read it, so instead, I just looked at it, trying to discern the story just from the art. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but I remember liking it.

Now, I do the same thing, but on purpose. Reading a book in a language that you don’t understand can be really eye-opening sometimes. I own an armful of untranslated manga that I just pull out and look at sometimes. I want to know how things are put together and what makes them tick. Analyzing makes good things better and mediocre things worse, and I’m 100% okay with that. I’m thankful every time I learn something new. It turns out that the new thing this time was something that I’ve seen thousands of times before, but never recognized. I was too busy looking at what was in the panels, instead of what was between them.

I keep kicking around this idea of doing a comparison on how we read digital comics versus print (or standard) comics. It’s a very different experience, especially if you use a guided view. There’s a zoom in Dark Horse’s digital version of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf & Cub that cracked me up. It’s straight out of a ’70s-era kung fu movie, and so appropriate to the story it’s telling. I can’t replicate it, but here are the two relevant images. Imagine a sudden and jagged zoom from the first panel to the next. If your taste in movies is at all like mine, you’ll understand.




Here, fast forward to about 0:30 and pay attention to the camera. It’s the same effect.

That type of transition doesn’t, and cannot, happen in comics. It requires real motion, and it raises a lot of questions about where digital comics are going to go from here. Are they gonna be just simple transplants, or is someone gonna take advantage of this way of reading comics to the fullest extent? That transition is something new and entirely accidental. It was inconceivable when Koike and Kojima created that page, and I doubt Dark Horse went through and set up the zooms for dramatic effect. One day somebody ill is going to dig into digital comics and leave everybody else behind in the dust. Real, raw comics with next-level storytelling, no gimmicks.

As much as I’d love to explain why the different between digital and print is interesting, I don’t have the vocabulary for it yet. I’m not Frank Santoro. Not even close. I’m just a guy who reads and likes to talk about what he read. Sometimes my reach exceeds my grasp. Sometimes I miss things.

But it’s nice to think that I could one day learn enough to be on that level. There’s so much to learn. It’s exciting, like putting together a puzzle. There’s unlimited potential. Being better than some wack writer on another site isn’t enough. I need to be better than I am right now.

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Pretty Girls Interlude: Dirty Pair

October 8th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Back in my day, which was the video rental era of anime in the mid to late ’90s, this was cutting edge animation:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Dirty Pair is about as ’80s as it gets, like Lily C.A.T., Demon City Shinjuku, and poorly thought out gratuitous shower scenes. Right Stuf is releasing the DVDs of the tv show as Dirty Pair: The Original TV Series, Pt. 1 DVD Collection. I’ve seen the OVAs and Dirty Pair Flash, but not the tv show, so I’m a little tempted. I should do a thing on the anime I watched as a kid, shouldn’t I?

Adam Warren had a great run on the DP comics, but good luck finding them.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 2: Scissors, Paper, Stone

September 21st, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Well looky here, already we’re having a change of plans. After reading Empowered vol. 6 this week the blurb at the end informed me Adam Warren had written an Elseworlds story. Given that I’d rank Empowered as my book of the week (if not for the solid month), pulling this out of the stack took precedence over the first of the Bland Bat-Batallion of stories.

Titans – Scissors, Paper, Stone
Written by: Adam Warren
Art by: Tom Simmons with Adam Warren
Focuses on: Teen Titans
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1997
Central premise: Far-future teens taking on the role of the Teen Titans to stop an immenent “gigaclysm”
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

I’m going to be entirely honest: I’m terrible with the Teen Titans. I don’t know a fucking thing about them, I’ve only read Terror Titans and a couple of issues of the latest series, and that was all for Static, baby. (Consequently, I’m not reading another issue of the damn thing, because two mistakes were enough, and I don’t like being the jilted lover. Fuck you, DC.) I picked up Tiny Titans for a bit but dropped it when my kid sister stopped reading it as well and I needed to slash the budget.

This is very much not the usual Titans story. (Or maybe it is? I’m willing to bet not though.) Rather than run through some massively-plotted concept and try and cram it into 50-60 pages, Warren just gets us into the thick of things pretty quickly and alternates explanation (mostly origins for our motley crew) and action, with small bursts of character building beyond the hero template each mimics.

Read the rest of this entry �

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Fourcast! 61: Exploitation!

September 13th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Good news!
-If you’ve ever wondered how often we can say “boobs” or “pornography” in sixty seconds, this is definitely the show for you.
-If you’ve ever wanted to hear David and Esther debate the use of exploitation in comics and media, this may be the show for you.
-I mean, what’s the difference between porn and exploitation cinema?
-(The answer is probably “narrative.”)
-Is exploitation ever okay?
-(Yes.)
-If you’ve ever wanted a show that has a debate that ends in consensus, or even a point, then you should probably listen to some other podcast.
-Fifty minutes, whoo.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
-Podcast Alley feed!
-RSS feed via Feedburner
-iTunes Store

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The Cipher 09/09/10

September 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I picked up Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge yesterweek. It’s Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins following up on the run that got me into the Flash.

Here’s something I liked from it:


Bastard cape comics are weird. On the one hand, you can watch Captain Cold in cartoons on TV. On the other, he murders people as needed. There’s such a weird disconnect there, but I think I’m done trying to reconcile it. Who cares anymore, right? Love it or leave it alone.


Amazon stuff: Not much this week. I messed around and ordered Gotham Central one and two on a whim. Went back an hour later to cancel them since I already have the trades and whoops too late, son. I ordered them because I don’t have all of the trades, so I figured the HCs would be a good pickup. Then I realized that I could just buy the trades I’m missing, which is a functional, if less handsome, solution, but c’est la guerre. The end result is that my mom’s getting more books by Greg Rucka free of charge. She likes Queen & Country, and she likes mystery/cop novels, so maybe these will float her boat. (I should start charging her for all the books I give up, this is just absurd.) But yeah: uncharacteristically light Amazon week for me.

Me: A bit of talky-talk on DC Comics, a preview of the new Charlie Huston/Shawn Martinbrough Punisher joint, and an exclusive (clue clue clue) ten-page preview of the next volume of Adam Warren’s Empowered. I’ve read it already, and I need it to come out and all of you to buy it, please. I want to talk about it with somebody. It’s great. The comments section on that post is great, too, Empowered fans rule. If your shop doesn’t carry it or you forgot to order it, check Amazon.

Not me: Kalinara reacts to something I wrote with some points I can’t really deny, Cheryl Lynn talks out her buying habits (I like seeing people talk about why they buy what they buy/don’t buy, have you noticed?), and Tucker Stone delivers the reviewing equivalent of a blunt laced with bubble kush and PCP. Go on. Get wet.


@hermanos: Amazing Spider-Man 641, Amazing Spider-Man 642, Punisher Max: Hot Rods of Death 1, Weird War Tales
@estherschmester: Definitely: Batgirl 14 Maybe: Batman #703, Batman and Robin 14, Doc Savage 6, Red Robin 16
@Gavin4l: Batman And Robin 14, Booster Gold 36, Green Lantern 57, Justice League Generation Lost 9, Welcome To Tranquility One Foot In The Grave 3, Daken Dark Wolverine 1, Deadpool Corps 6, New Avengers 4, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 2, Irredeemable 17

Anybody reading Shadowland? You want to do me a favor and quit that? You’re only hurting yourself.

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Pretty Girls Interlude: Empowered

September 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I screwed up and didn’t prep for the Pretty Girls post I wanted to do today, and then went down my schedule and whoops the next three would’ve required reading, scanning, and digging books out of boxes. So a brief skip week.

In exchange, go read this exclusive 10-page preview for Adam Warren’s Empowered 6 I wrangled at Comics Alliance. It’s really very good.

Book drops next week. Look for a review, maybe on release date????

(I also talked about DC Entertainment being in transition, but Empowered > biz talk, sorry y’all.)

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6 Writers: Adam Warren

July 15th, 2010 Posted by david brothers


You ever hear someone talk about how certain writers are “idea guys?” Essentially, what that means is that some people consistently have good ideas but somehow manage to be poor writers. Maybe they don’t stick the landing, maybe they layer on too many ideas and don’t bother with execution, I don’t know. I don’t know that I buy the premise, to be perfectly honest. Most people I would think of as idea guys, people who come up with stuff that’s original and interesting, also tend to be good at the rest of the writing.

Take Adam Warren for example. He’s got a distinctive take on dialogue, which ranges from clipped to wordy to self-aware to self-conscious. The dialogue is clearly his work, but it isn’t completely obvious in the way that say, Warren Ellis or Brian Bendis’s tics are obvious. He’s good at characterization, too, knowing how to toss in the right mix of humor and pathos and outright absurdity to keep you interested. His pacing tends to be off the chain, with stories that begin at high speed and then just keep ratcheting up higher and higher. And hey, he’s a cartoonist, and his art is dope. I mean, that’s the total package, right?

What I might like most about Warren are his ideas, though. Cape comics tend to dabble in science fiction by having characters declare that they are futurists shortly before engaging in the same boring old ideas and technology that they had years ago. Tony Stark fights guys in bulky robot suits or corrupt businessmen. Reed Richards innovates endlessly with no visible effect on anything ever. Lex Luthor is a supergenius who apparently keeps all his inventions to himself. We’re told how smart people are, but rarely ever get to see it in action.

Remember when Chuck Dixon brought a distinctly Guns’n’Ammo flavor to Punisher and Batman? Suddenly everything was Kevlar nomex weave this and terminal velocity that and, coincidentally, a whole lot more interesting. Dixon brought it just close enough to how things might actually work in real life to give the books a boost.

If Chuck Dixon brought Guns’n’Ammo to Punisher, Adam Warren is the guy who brings Scientific American and a fat folder of esoteric technology-related Wikipedia bookmarks to the superset. Iron Man: Hypervelocity is honestly probably the only Iron Man comic you need to read if you want an Iron Man story that fully engages with the character and the world he theoretically lives in.

Iron Man is theoretically a high tech hero, but his high tech is usually limited to what, a new kind of laser beam and an uglier suit? Warren and Brian Denham created an Iron Man story that actually used real-life technology to enhance Stark’s fake comic book tech. Repulsors are all well and good, but at the end of the day, they’re just a laser beam. Rockets in your shoes aren’t high tech, and neither is on-board radar.

Normal Iron Man putters around on his jet boots and sometimes uses his hands to adjust his trajectory. He’s essentially your generic airplane, or maybe an arrow. In Warren’s hands, though, Iron Man gained a new tool: high-speed thrust vectoring. It’s not a new technique by any means, but it is a fantastic visual and interesting to see. Boiled down, thrust vectoring is the act of changing the direction of your propulsion, Iron Man’s rocket boots, to instantly adjust his trajectory. When combined with propulsion from Iron Man’s palms, you suddenly have an Iron Man who doesn’t maneuver like a man at all. He’s infinitely more maneuverable and isn’t stuck on just a horizontal or vertical plane. The sky is his playground. Rapid fire direction adjustments means that dogfights suddenly aren’t just about your on-board computer screaming about some guy on your six.

Or say Iron Man goes underwater. In the past, he’d have a special underwater suit. You know the type. It’d look a lot like a diving bell, or like something Jacques Costeau would use. Not in Hypervelocity, no. Function doesn’t have to battle form. Warren introduced another simple idea, supercavitation, and suddenly you’ve got an Iron Man who can travel underwater at disgusting speeds.

Look at your average comic book military figure. He’s just a dude, usually cast in the Sgt Rock mold, who has to keep track of several different moving parts in an operation. At the heart of it all… he’s just a man. Warren pulled another idea from real life, this time smart drugs, and threw a little sauce on it. Meet wardrugs. Take them and you get enhanced processing power, focus, artificial emotional stability, and a host of other benefits. Call it Sgt Rock Plus.

Marvel books in particular have indulged in established characters having killer robots specifically designed to kill them. Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, and I’m pretty sure even Captain America have run into them, whether they were LMDs or Spider Slayers. Why not apply that to something other than killer robots? Hunter/killer drones piloted remotely by flight sim nerds back at the base. Give them a high bandwidth link to the field and suddenly your Xbox 360 is a training device. Ever done an escort mission in a Star Wars game? Then you’re qualified to work for SHIELD.

Or hey! You know what Iron Man needed? You want to know an easy way to instantly build character in a comic? Give him an on-board music player and fill it with character-specific tunes. Oh wait, Warren already did that. Too late, suckers. Just 9,000 songs on the playlist, though, so I’m sure you can do 9,001 and call it a night.

Artificially intelligent personal subroutines that run subconscious threat assessment, resource allocation, and repair functions. Backups of your personality for emergency situations. A mecha underground, where all the forgotten and ruined robots go to play and create their own subculture. LMDs created for custom wetworks. Fire and forget assassins, ready for any situation and self-sustaining. Capekilling units that employ weapons specifically designed to puncture superhardened targets. Creating a concrete-hard wall of sound underwater that becomes a crippling shockwave–literally, music as a weapon. Technotaku specifically tasked with predicting the future based on known data. The speed of the human brain being a “cognitive clockspeed barrier” for artificial intelligences–robots can only think as fast as humans can without some kind of new technology. Microdrones meant to paint a target for further engagement by a variety of compatible hardware. A SHIELD helicarrier that doubles as a deathtrap for invading forces. Autonomous repulsor target acquisition and elimination. Mollywire. Fuel-air suicide bombs.

This book was six issues. The final issue was time-synched to Iggy and the Stooges’s “Search and Destroy” because the issue took place over around three and a half minutes. It’s filled with fresh ideas. And yet, for some reason, the most Tony Stark has done in the past few years is stand around naked in some fake virtual reality room, talk about how his armor is in his bones now, and fly around like he always has.

Innovation isn’t Tony Stark fighting a a giant robot. Innovation is Tony Stark taking real life and making it doper. Innovation is Tony Stark pirating software from evil organizations because they thought of something he didn’t, but he thought of a way to make it better. Innovation is a Tony Stark who doesn’t just run through the same old stories again and again, with hardware that’s barely any different from 1963 or 1999.

I mean, the military has a pain ray. It shoots a microwave beam that cooks people from nearly a kilometer out. You can control it with a joystick and a screen if you need to, which turns a war zone into Duck Hunt. That’s way more hype than simple lasers and a shoulder-mounted gatling gun.

Adam Warren is an idea guy in the best possible sense of the phrase. If you want to kick something into high gear, really peel back what makes it work and throw a whole bunch more stuff into the mix without breaking your character, he’s the man to come see. Hypervelocity is what Iron Man should always be like. Something fresh, something moving at Mach 8, and something that takes something from real life and makes an ill comic book concept out of it. Warren just pours ideas onto the page at a rate no other writer can match. He drops them out there into the world where they’re just aching to be explored.

Anything he writes, man. I’m there, sight unseen. His main series right now is Empowered, his “sexy superhero comedy” that manages to have its cake and eat it, too, with regards to commentary on superheroes. He had a killer run on Gen 13, the kind of run that Teen Titans has been begging for lately.

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My Year in Comics: 2009

December 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I keep trying to do a top ten list, but I keep getting bored and wandering off partway through. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s just that everyone has done it, and I wouldn’t be bringing anything new to the table. Sure, my list of ten books would be different from someone else’s list, and I’d probably inadvertently end up pissing off fans of Geoff Johns/Brian Michael Bendis/JMS again. What’s vastly more interesting, is looking at 2009 in terms of how my approach to comics changed. I stopped chasing the dragon this year, but that’s just half of it. I started, or re-started, a lot of things, too.

Amazon makes this easy. I can look at the 46 orders I placed in 2009 (which is completely ridiculous) and see what I bought and when I bought it. On 02/16, I ordered three books from Amazon. Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C., Black Panther by Jack Kirby Vol. 2, and Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Vol. 1. I was very high on Kirby after picking up the first two Fourth World omnibuses, so that explains the two Kirby books. The outlier is Pluto. I hadn’t picked up any manga in some time before then, having stopped reading Monster when I moved to SF and already having a complete set of Dragon Ball. I’ve had a box full of manga chilling in my place for two and a half years now, with everything from Battle Vixens to Shaman King to The Ring waiting to be pulled out and reread, only for that to never happen.

The catalyst was Pluto, though. I’ve been watching anime since I was a kid, reading manga since I was a teenager. I remember picking up Super Manga Blast to read What’s Michael. Two days after reading Pluto 1, I ordered Monster 9-12, inadvertently giving myself two copies of volume 9. By February 24th, I had volumes 14 through 18, completing the series. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Monster, and reading the end of the series in a sprint like that was a blessing.

I live about six blocks from Kinokuniya, which is easily one of the best places to buy manga in the city. Large selection, decent back stock, and they’re on top of new releases. They’ve got an enormous selection of Japanese books, too. I visited it maybe twice my first year and a half here. Now, it’s more like monthly.

Pluto led to 20th Century Boys, which in turn led to Viz Signature. Other than a brief dip into and out of Black Lagoon (Nah, y’all can keep that one), Viz Signature has turned into my favorite imprint in any comics company. I’ve picked up Dogs, Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Jormungand, solanin, What A Wonderful World! and Vagabond, and enjoyed all of them. I’m looking forward to reading GoGo Monster (which is a very handsomely designed book), Real, not simple, and maybe Tsutomu Nihei’s Biomega.

Viz Signature led to SIG IKKI, which led to Shonen Sunday. I rediscovered Yotsuba&!, which led to Yen Press, which has a few titles I need to try out. A friend’s recommendation led to Mushishi, from Del Rey, and a few titles out of that imprint, too.

I started paying attention to manga blogs, mainly via Brigid Alverson’s Manga Blog and Kate Dacey’s Manga Critic. That spiraled out into half a dozen other blogs, which led to more books. I started writing about manga more often, though nowhere near as often as I actually read it.

While all this was going on, I was growing out of slavishly following superhero books. David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp fell in my lap like a bomb, I fell in love with Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, and scored several other books. I grabbed a used copy of Usagi Yojimbo: Grasscutter II on a whim and remembered how much I dig that series. Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai coming out a few weeks later was perfect timing, leaving me ripe for more. While the special edition by Fantagraphics collecting the first chunk of stories was pushed back to September 2010, I’m paying attention to Stan Sakai again and wondering why I ever stopped.

Dark Horse’s Noir and David Lapham’s Young Liars reminded me of Stray Bullets again, Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s Unknown Soldier rocked. I finally read Creepy, Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair, and a gang of other books.

I read Ganges #2, my first Ganges, after some goading from Tucker. I loved it, now I’m looking out for that, too. I can count the number of books by Fantagraphics I owned before picking up Ganges on zero hands. Now, I’m keeping my eyes open.

That was 2009 for me. I found a lot of new things, I learned more about my own tastes, and I started fitting my buying habits around that. I try more things, I’m open to more kinds of books, and it’s been fun discovering things that I should’ve known about all along.

2009 was a good year for comics. At this point, I’m reading American books of all types, a few Eurocomics thanks to Marvel’s partnership with Soleil, a lot of manga, a little manhwa… is there a word for that? Omnivorous? “Comics reader?” Either way, I feel better about comics than I have in a long while.

2010 is going to be a good year.

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