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Batman & Robin & The Facets of the Joker

November 15th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Earlier today I put up another edition of This Week in Panels. When I was getting the one for Batman and Robin #6, I noticed something odd. A striking similarity that didn’t poke out the first time I read it. At first I was wondering if it was a coincidence, but then I looked further into it and noticed that there were even more similarities. Being that this is Grant Morrison, I knew all of these nods had to be intentional.

One of the things about Dick Grayson as Batman is that he needs his own villain. Yes, he can fight the Joker, but it wouldn’t be the same. They wouldn’t have the magic of Bruce and the Joker as rivals. On the other hand, there’s Jason Todd. Ever since he’s been brought back to life, he’s been wasted potential. Whether he’s Red Hood, Nightwing, Red Robin or Batman with guns, he’s been in one bad story after another. And while Bruce Jones’ horrible Nightwing squandered Dick vs. Jason, the potential is still there. Dick Grayson and Jason Todd are meant to be archenemies. Todd would play off Dick far better than he would Bruce.

So if Jason Todd is Dick Grayson’s Joker, then they need to cement this. Most would consider Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Killing Joke to be the ultimate Batman vs. Joker story. It’s fitting that the first six issues of Batman and Robin have been something of a retelling of that very story. Let’s look at the two:

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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #1 is out

May 13th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Officially out, I mean. It may have come out last week, but “Diamond” and “reliable shipping” don’t exactly go hand-in-hand sometimes. I reviewed it here. I checked out the final version, and Ben Dimagmaliw’s colors look great. Very nice and moody, and I like how he makes Janni stand out in the dry, drab grays of London. There are a lot of nice touches like that, where the coloring enhances the art and genuinely adds to the experience, rather than just being window dressing.

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Todd Klein on Comic Sans

April 18th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Todd Klein, letterer extraordinaire and letterer of the upcoming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, takes on Comic Sans.

It’s a great read, as usual.

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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910 #1

April 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I fell out of love with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. I thought the first volume was strong, the second volume less so, and I don’t think I even finished The Black Dossier. I’d changed or the series changed, I’m not entirely sure. It just wasn’t my thing. The series has moved to Top Shelf now, and the beginning of the fourth volume drops in April.

I gave the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume a look. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910 #1 (of 3) is a mouthful to say and a handful to read. It’s the first third of the new LoEG story, and, as the title suggests, takes place in 1910. The story itself will take place over the course of the 20th century, but this particular tale takes what seems like a very short period of time.

There are a few principal characters in the story. Jenny, daughter of Captain Nemo, has forsaken her father and his wishes for her life and gone to live in London. Rather than a life of luxury or spent lopping the heads off pirates, she ends up washing dishes and scrabbling for a living. Life sucks, in other words.

Mina is back and she’s leading this incarnation of the League. The team (which includes Allan Quatermain Jr. [a rejuvenated Quatermain], Anthony Raffles, and Orlando) is investigating a possible apocalypse, and doing a so-so job of it. There’s some light infighting within the group, and Mina seems constantly frustrated with her team, which provides some fairly interesting tension.

Finally, there is Mac the Knife, the real Jack the Ripper, a secret cabal, and a crew of unnamed and fairly sinister London citizens.

The various stories progress separately, before coming together shortly before the end of the book. It’s a tried and true storytelling device, and one that serves to make the entire book feel like it isn’t just a few completely disconnected stories. On a higher level, it ties into the three-issue structure of Century itself, and makes me assume that we’ll get a similar payoff once it’s all done.

O’Neill’s art, even in the b&w proof I was sent, is still stellar. The same attention to detail that he’s put into his past work, including previous LoEG volumes. Evil schemers look about as they should, Mina’s almost permanent exasperation with her team comes through very clearly, and the action scenes are gory and shocking.

Todd Klein’s lettering, as well, is definitely up to par. Lettering is tough for me to critique– if the letterer does his job, as Klein has done here, it adds a lot to the book, but in an intangible, “no duh” kind of way. It’s easier to talk about a bad lettering job than it is a good one, and Klein does a good job here.

Moore’s writing still strikes me as very well-crafted and good, if not a little distant. I don’t know that I left the book truly caring about any of the characters, though I was definitely invested in their adventures. There’s just something intangible there that still doesn’t quite work for me.

One thing I enjoy about Moore and Grant Morrison is that they expect a lot out of their readers. Morrison expects you to keep up and take things in stride, and Moore expects you to know a lot. I came away feeling entertained, but a little dumb. I can get by with Morrison’s ultramodern take, but here is what I know about early 1900s British pop culture: nothing.

LoEG is stacked with references, many of them I’d never heard of. I caught the obvious ones, such as Nemo, Mina Murray, and Jack the Ripper, but Pirate Jenny and a few others caught me flat-footed. Regardless, I kept going, making the effort to put some extra thought into the book, and made a mental note to look up the names on Wikipedia once I finished.

Despite the light feeling of being a little lost, which actually added a lot to the experience of reading the book, I found LoEG: Century: 1910 a rewarding read. At its most shallow level, it’s a comic about some pretty awesome pirates and early 1900s secret agents. Of course, since it’s a book written by Alan Moore, there are a number of levels that you can enjoy the work on. It even works as a primer for British literature. If you liked reading about Orlando or Raffles, google them up and check out the old tales.

LoEG: Century: 1910 shows what happens as a group begins the long, slow spiral into oblivion (or so I assume), and clearly sets up some things for the future, as well. There are parts that made me pretty uncomfortable, particularly a certain act set to song toward the end of the book, and parts I enjoyed, such as exactly what happens when the League meets up with a secret society.

I don’t think that it’s perfect, but it does give me the feeling I remember getting back when I read the first LoEG book. It feels new, in equal parts due to the fact that I’m not very experienced with the characters introduced in this volume and because there is a very interesting story being slowly unfolded. I’m very curious to see where Moore and O’Neill take it next, both on a story and a “spot the reference” level.

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Who Wins the Watchmen?

April 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Couple days late, totally my fault, etc etc. Here’s the names of the winners!

-Dave, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 2
-Steven Marsh, Brief Lives
-LtKenFrankenstein, From Hell
-Matt Ampersand, Watchmen
-Justin, Tygers
-Scott, From Hell

All of the entries were good, but I felt like these did the best job of both selling me on the books (note the presence of From Hell twice, a book which I have consistently quit reading about four pages in) and explaining why they’re so good.

This was pretty fun. I think I may try to do this kind of thing more often.

Fellas, look for an email tonight/tomorrow morning so I can get your addresses!

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Watchmen Contest Update

April 2nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I don’t know if you noticed, but I posted the winners 35 minutes ago.

Psyche.

Sorry all. We moved offices at work and I’ve spent today, yesterday, and the day before buried in networking issues and cables of all sorts. Look for it tomorrow at lunch.

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2 Days for Free Watchmen Books!

March 30th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Remember this? You’ve got today, tomorrow, and maybe early Wednesday morning before time’s up! If you’re thinking of trying to get some free books, now’s the time.

I’ll likely post the winners after lunch on Wednesday, along with my review of the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book!

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Who Wants Free Watchmen Books?

March 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

These three books are sitting on my desk right now:

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For reference, they are Watchmen: Portraits, Watchmen: The Film Companion, and Watchmen: The Art of the Film.

They’re part of the Watchmen merch that came out prior to or at the same time as the film. I can attest to the fact that they’re awesome, particularly the portraits book. They’re enormous single page portraits of the cast and crew, and even a few props.

Anyway, I have these books, sent to me courtesy of Katherine at Titan Books, and I thought to myself… I should give these away. In fact, I can double it. I have two of each book. That’s six books total. I’m going to give away all six.

Here’s what you have to do. In the comments below, I want you to tell me what your favorite Alan Moore story is. Preferably, it will be a book that we can all pick up on Amazon or at our local book store. If it’s a single issue, tell us what collection it’s in. Here’s the rub, however: you need to tell me, over the course of around a paragraph, two if you’re really into it, why you love it so much.

Just for clarification, we’re talking books here. “Tom Strong” isn’t an answer, but “Tom Strong volume 1″ is, as long as you back it up. “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1″ isn’t an answer, but “LoEG v1, which includes #1,” is. Make sense?

I’m going to close off submissions on Wednesday, unless the thread dies off before then, and then I’m going to go through with my crack team of comics criticism scientists (read: me, myself, and I) and pick out the six best. Those six will get an email from me so that I can get their addresses and then I’m going to mail them a book. I get to pick the book, but all three are about equally awesome.

How’s that sound? Have at it.

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Who Will Be Shocked By The Watchmen?

August 27th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Watchmen will be coming out in March and, no doubt, the first few screenings will be almost entirely packed with comic book fans. The book, to comics fans, has a status somewhere between The Catcher in the Rye and the moon landing. It not only changed their lives, it marked a turning point for comics in general, taking a more critical and nuanced look not only at superhero characters, but at the concept of superheroes in general. Alan Moore presented a deeply cynical vision at the way the world would look if it had to interact with a group of dangerously powerful people with big egos and flexible morals. The book made every fan who ever fantasized about the fourth wall dissolving consider that it might turn the world darker and more dangerous rather than more exciting and fun. Watchmen wasn’t a book, it was an event, and so I’m guessing that the first few screenings will alternate between awed silence and wild cheering.

What about the screening after that? If the movie had come out a year or two after the novel’s publication, it would have knocked the socks off of people whose standard for superhero movies was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, but will today’s audiences be aware of it as anything more than another film that is ‘based on a graphic novel?’

The color scheme is from The Dark Knight and 300. The sense of the alienation of powerful beings from everyday people is from Superman Returns. The idea of a superhero as something the public is afraid of is in movies from Hancock to The Hulk.

As for the public being right to fear superheroes, even Peter Parker turned to the dark side for a while, and he was played by Tobey Maguire. From outright immoral supers, like the ones in Wanted, to the heroes of Sin City, who had the welfare of the downtrodden at heart, but whose skills tended towards being able to quickly dispose of bodies, to the neurotics of superheroes being milked for comedic value in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, to Batman, one of the most straight laced of superheroes, being tangentially involved in the deaths of super villains, it’s more difficult to find a superhero movie in which the superheroes are unquestionably good than it is to find one that looks at them through more jaundiced eyes.

I’m not saying that Watchmen shouldn’t be made or that it has nothing to contribute. That would be like arguing against the filming of an Elmore Leonard story because the world already has enough heist movies. If anything Watchmen deserves more acclaim for originality, since it was one of the books that pioneered the more skeptical view of superheroes that has become the standard.

However, there is no denying that that view has become the standard. It’s odd that the innovation and influence of Watchmen in the medium of comics will probably lessen its impact when it becomes a film. Success has a price.

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Time’s Top 10 Graphic Novels

December 10th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Top 10 Graphic Novels – 50 Top 10 Lists of 2007 – TIME

Chris Onstad’s Achewood beat out a bunch of other comics for top graphic novel, including Alan Moore’s Black Dossier and Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman.

My favorite Achewood strip:

A non-favorite strip, but one I love nonetheless:

Congrats, Onstad. You deserve it.

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