This Week in Panels: Week 4

October 18th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Pretty small batch this week. hermanos is busy at that APE thing, so nothing from him. Esther insisted on including the Blue Beetle back-up from Booster Gold #25. Something about the “fangirls running the asylum.”

Batgirl #3
Bryan Q. Miller and Lee Garbett

Booster Gold #25
Dan Jurgens

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The Blue Beetle: Ending With De-Friending

February 26th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Well, the series went out strong, and with its characteristic emphasis on family.  Add in a big battle won despite staggering odds against our hero, a curtain call by all the characters in the series, and an ending filled with hope and positivity and – *sniff* – I’m going to miss you, Jaime!

Alright, let me shake that off and get into a bit I can criticize.

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Son of the Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

February 11th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Now that I’m fully rested after having to endure that exhaustive weekend of New York Comic Con, now would probably be a good time to do a detailed write-up about the event. Well, that’s not going to happen.

Truth is, there isn’t too much to write about. It was your usual fare, only with tons more people than the last couple years, meaning that it was harder to walk around and even harder to get into a couple panels. One panel about self-publishing I couldn’t get into because it seemed to have been held in a room the size of an elevator and was already filled to the brim. And the DC/Marvel panels? Forget about it. I went to a couple, but I had to stand in the corner due to the amount of people there.

By the way, if anyone was at the Dark Reign panel, I was the jerkwad asking about D-Man. Yeah, that’s right. D-Man! Represent!

I got some books signed here and there. Jason Aaron, despite looking like a guy who would tear your throat out with the slightest provocation, is a really swell guy and really gracious. Van Lente, Gage, Parker, Pak and Calero were also pretty cool to talk to. My true failure of the weekend is my inability to find Larry Hama in time. I had hoped to have him sign the “Venom vs. Carnage inside the internet” issue of Carnage Unleashed and the “Rad Eddie” issue of Venom: The Hunted, but by the time I figured out where he was going to be, I was a half hour too late. Oh well. He probably would have haymakered me for it anyway.

One of the cooler moments is finding former Booster Gold co-writer Jeff Katz and Booster Gold creator/artist/writer/caterer Dan Jurgens at the DC booth. I asked Jurgens about whether or not Booster’s old secretary Trixie is Rip Hunter’s mother, which he said no, but a good guess. I began explaining my harebrained “Ted Kord is the next Batman” theory to Mr. Katz and he surprised me with the revelation that he himself has read that very article. Hell yeah! High five!

Unfortunately, he tore down any hope of Kord being the Dark Knight. Awww.

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Beetle for the Cowl

January 18th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

You ever read the Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz run of Booster Gold? It was pretty good stuff. The majority of it dealt with Booster’s personal quest to use time travel to save the life of the 2nd Blue Beetle and Booster’s 1st best friend, Ted Kord. Rip Hunter kept insisting to Booster that this was an impossibility and that it would mess up time something fierce. Booster didn’t listen and with the help of Dan Garrett, Jaime Reyes and the mysterious Black Beetle, saved Ted’s life.

Wouldn’t you know it, everything went wrong. This was all some kind of scheme by Mr. Mind and the present was reduced to Max Lord and his OMACs laying waste to almost all the superheroes. Ted saw that his death had a role in the grand scheme of things and seemingly killed himself in some kind of time travel clusterfuck with the use of Black Beetle’s scarab. Booster was broken up about it, but got over his failings with the help of Batman’s compassion.

Despite Ted’s redeath, we were given a happy ending. But wait… what’s this?

Hey! Ted’s alive after all! Johns himself said so. Good for Ted.

Not all good. What’s he going to do now? Ted Kord is supposed to be dead. Blue Beetle is supposed to be dead. He can’t go back to the blue and lighter blue. Even if you ignore there already being a Blue Beetle around (in a sadly cancelled series), an arc in Manhunter shows that Ted being alive would ruin Wonder Woman’s defense for killing Max Lord. It would make her look even worse in the public eye.

It’s a shame. A young guy like himself given a second chance. He’s rich, he’s brilliant, he’s a gadget wiz, he’s got his own secret hideout and you know he’s just raring to go back to fighting crime. Blame it on the economy, but sometimes a talented guy just can’t find a job.

Wait a minute… Wasn’t there a job opening this week?

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Joy To The World: The DC Universe Holiday Special

December 23rd, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell
Shaggyman echoes a sentiment shared by all humanity during the holiday season.

Shaggyman echoes a sentiment shared by all humanity during the holiday season.

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“Why you feelin’ sorry for him? He asked for it…”

November 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Listen y’all, here go the moral of the story.

Bonny Blue Beetle is dead and gone. He’s joined the ranks of Firestorm (35 issues), Spider-Girl (130ish issues), Checkmate (31 issues), Manhunter (30-odd issues), Catwoman (82 issues), The Order (10 issues), Blade (12 issues), and dozens of other critically acclaimed victims of the direct market. All of these, excepting I think Catwoman, fell prey to the doom of all comics: low sales. Sales spike every once and a while, but comics generally sell less each month.

Now, the question isn’t whether or not these comics are dead. That’s obvious– they are, and they aren’t coming back. And if they do come back, they’ll just pull a Manhunter and bite it again six issues later.

No, the question is who killed Blue Beetle, and when?

Most people would say DC Comics killed it. They didn’t market it right, they didn’t give it enough of a chance, maybe they should have eaten their losses, maybe so-and-so (Blue Beetle) can join one of the worst written books in the line (Teen Titans), and so on. If only DC Comics had done their job, things would be okay!

I think the answer is a bit more obvious than that. Who killed Blue Beetle? Comic fans did.

Looking at the top 300 books for September 08 tells me one thing. There are exactly two books in the top 20 that fall into the critically acclaimed column– All-Star Batman and All-Star Superman. Those don’t count, though, since they have big names attached and are tentpole titles. I had to drop down to #41 to find another one of those books (Incredible Hercules), #61 for the next (Nova), #69 for another (Captain Britain), and it stays dire after that. Blue Beetle came in at #161, with around twelve thousand sales.

The “Blame DC” model tends to work in the “If you build it, they will come” model. However, DC built Blue Beetle. They made it easy to get into and it tied into a few of their big events (Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps, and Countdown). It was fun and funny. They did their job. Why didn’t it work out and go on for 800 issues? (My question is ‘why should it?’ but that’s another post entirely.)

It didn’t work because of comics fans.

Comics publishers push a certain subset of their books as being very Important and Essential and Vital to Understanding the Future of the ______ Universe. “This is the story you need to read,” they tell you. “This is the story I need to read!” you respond.

And that’s how Ultimates 3, a book that I have yet to see one person say was worth the 2.99 online or in real life, sells ten times as many comics as Blue Beetle, a book that everyone supposedly loves.

Every time a new event is announced, comic fans grumble. “Ugh, I have to read all these books to know about the Marvel Universe?” I was in the room at New York Comic-con ’07 when World War Hulk was announced… two days after Civil War #7 shipped. The room didn’t cheer. There were no excited “WHOO!”s going on. There were some polite claps. Everyone was tired of events. “Event fatigue.”

World War Hulk came and went and was a big success. Big surprise there. Event fatigue must be a myth, because people grumble every time one is announced and then it goes on to become a sales juggernaut.

Comics companies have learned that if you say that something will change everything forever, or feature a character death, or kickstart a new and important story, comics fans will eat it up.

Blue Beetle, despite its original positioning, was not Important. It was about a kid from El Paso who was wrestling with a hero’s life. Catwoman was about a morally gray woman who wanted to look out for herself and her child while pulling off some cool heists. Spider-Girl was the last vestige of ’90s Marvel.

They are separate from the main continuity. New Krypton has no ties to Jaime Reyes down in Texas. Selina Kyle doesn’t even know Black Lanterns exist. Spider-Girl can’t factor into Secret Invasion. So, these books are unimportant. You can get the whole story by reading the Important books, why should you bother with these stories that don’t have nothing to do with nothing?

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Companies realized that comic fans will eat up that continuity porn garbage rather than read an irrelevant story, no matter how good. People would rather see a halfway decent Batman story than a great one featuring anyone else.

New Krypton has so far resurrected a couple of Golden Age heroes (one of them over Grant Morrison’s wonderful Manhattan Guardian), killed Pa Kent, shipped two specials, re-introduced Nightwing and Flamebird (don’t ask who they are, you mean you don’t know already?) and gotten down to tying all of the Superman books together into one tightly packed ball of continuity.

Geoff Johns’s JSA has been talking about Kingdom Come for what feels like eight years already, but that’s impossible because the series hasn’t even been around for two years yet. Final Crisis is setting up some big new status quo that we don’t even know the details of yet, and Secret Invasion is getting us ready for Dark Reign, where Norman Osborn runs SHIELD and Iron Man is on the run.

Green Lantern is busy turning space cats into murderous vomit fetishists and naming villains things like Atrocitus and Kryb and Spacehitlersiegheil so as to set up Blackest Night, where a bunch of dead characters will come back and have their own space laser rings so they can shoot the people with other space laser rings of other colors until Hal Jordan gets one of each ring and becomes the White Lantern, the greatest of them all, and we will all learn a very valuable lesson about controlling our emotions, but not being afraid to feel, at the end of the day.

And all of these stories will sell 100k copies a month while other series die on the vine.

Basically, us comics fans got the comics industry we deserve. Why? Because we care about important books.

This is the industry we’ve built.

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Ultimate Edit Week 5: Day Six

October 2nd, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Home stretch time.

In the last installment, Ant Man said something really unbearably stupid. Let’s move on as the Ultimates confront Magneto, not with actions, but with words.

So, yeah, if you were wondering where I was going with that inner dialogue about Iron Man’s spine, there you go.

Thanks to writing partner ManiacClown for coming up with too much usable dialogue so that I had to make the text all scrunched up and awkward looking to fit in some word bubbles. Thanks a lot, jerk!

Tomorrow is the big conclusion. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Day Seven!

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Infinite Crisis: The Graphic Audio

August 31st, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Can you believe Infinite Crisis only ended a little over two years ago? It feels so much longer. At the time, it was an exciting time to read DC. A lot was going down, 52 was on the horizon, One Year Later was starting up, among other things. The miniseries did come off as a letdown, but considering how hyped it was, how could it be anything but? By the time the seventh issue landed, with its rushed art to meet the deadline, I couldn’t be happier to be done with this whole storyline.

Sometime after, author Greg Cox wrote a novelization of Infinite Crisis. Such an odd concept, isn’t it? A novelization of a comic book? It’s like the literary version of hearing a country singer covering a rock group’s hit song. I guess I shouldn’t talk, since years back, before I was even into comics in the first place, I read the novelization of Knightfall. Plus there’s the whole movie novelization thing I do for the sake of getting site hits.

I didn’t read Cox’s take on Infinite Crisis, but through chance, I discovered an interesting piece relating to it. A company called Graphic Audio had done a book on CD version of his take. That’s right, an audio book based on a book based on a graphic novel. What an insane concept. Too curious, I ordered the two sets and spent a couple weeks listening through them. Yes, weeks. The entire story is told with twelve discs over the course of thirteen hours. Thirteen hours to tell the story of seven issues.

Well, that’s not fair. It’s more than just the seven issues. Cox chose to cherry-pick tie-in issues to help pad out the story to differing success. This includes the end of Crisis of Conscience where Superboy Prime attacks Martian Manhunter, the Spectre vs. Shazam fight from the end of Day of Vengeance, the part of Gotham Central where Crispus Allen got killed, an issue of Aquaman and parts of the Rann/Thanagar War Special.

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Five Artists Who Make Me Love Comics

August 26th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Esther is a real life friend of mine who I regularly talk comics with. I’ve been bugging her to write something for me, ’cause I think she has a great POV, and I finally have proof that peer pressure and pestering works! She sent over a list of five things she likes about comics. Read on, and hopefully she’ll be back for more.

1. Rafael Albuquerque
The most recent example of Albuquerque’s art is in Superman/Batman #51. It’s an appropriate book for him, because Albuquerque is one of those always-underappreciated artists who can differentiate between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent without going directly for the glasses and the spit curl. Clark Kent has a sunny expression, a chin that could only work on Superman or John Travolta, and the thick neck of a guy who is always the most muscular person in the room. Bruce Wayne has a scowl that blots out daylight and permanent lines of concentration over his eyes. Albuquerque has a talent for using subtle differences in facial features and musculature to give each character a different face and a different body. Too often, in comics, the reader is unable to tell characters apart until the colorist gets to them. It’s something special to be able to make two of DC’s most similar looking heroes unique.

2. Kevin Maguire
No one can finish a book drawn by Kevin Maguire without checking the cover to find out who the artist is. No one who has read one book drawn by Kevin Maguire can fail to recognize his style if they see it again, even if it were only a doodle on a cocktail napkin. I can’t think of another artist who is that skilled and that willing to be so gloriously silly. Kevin Maguire’s characters have faces made out of putty with the kind of expressions you might see if you hit the pause button during a Jim Carrey movie or an old Warner Brothers cartoon. Take any mildly funny scene and Kevin Maguire’s art will put it over the top. What’s more, instead of limiting Maguire to comedy, this style makes tragic moments even more poignant, because character’s face twist with recognizable pain instead being stuck in a stock pose. A lot of people think Maguire’s style isn’t pretty, and often they’re right, but I’m glad there is an artist who will sacrifice prettiness in order to let the characters express as much emotion as they are supposed to feel.

3. Roger Robinson
Which isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate prettiness. Have you seen Robinson’s work in Gotham Knights? The man draws cheekbones that can cut glass. And I haven’t seen that many moodily lit abdominal muscles since the movie 300. All that, and he doesn’t sacrifice expression or context. His subjects are beautiful, but they are subjects in a story, not objects in a pin-up. That’s impressive.

4. Amanda Connor
The Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special really played to Amanda Conner’s strength, and not because of the subject matter. Playing to Amanda Conner’s strength means giving her a huge panel, the bigger the better, and filling it with people. Conner’s style is clean enough to keep the page from looking cluttered and she plans well enough to place little visual jokes that lead the reader from one part of the page to the next. Every character is looking, talking, or reacting to at least one other character. As a result, huge group scenes stop looking like a flat jumble of bodies and faces and become a number of little action panels, depending on which part of the page the reader is focusing on.

5. J.H. Williams III
A lot of artists have a style. J.H. Williams III has every style, including his own. In Batman #667-669 Williams draws a large group of characters, each of them penciled and shaded differently. And he’s not shy about throwing in pages that show a massive black fist superimposed over an exploding plane, or pages in which the panels form a huge pair of bat wings. Instead of distracting from the story, William’s art makes the arc into something both surreal and self-contained. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and something that should be shown to anyone who doesn’t consider comics ‘art.’

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My God, It’s Full of Stars!

July 28th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

A couple weeks back, Johns and Katz finished off their spectacular run of Booster Gold, bringing us some closure, while opening several new plot threads. A lot happened in there that I enjoyed, including the scene with Booster and Batman. Yes, sure, you can complain about how Batman remained completely silent about finding photos of a beaten and tortured Booster when he found Joker’s camera circa Killing Joke, but I dug it. Not only because Batman, the big superhero cynic, was giving Booster the well-deserved props, but because it went both ways.

Fact is, Booster hated Batman more than any other superhero. That’s a damn lot. What’s that you say? Hal Jordan? No, Hal Jordan didn’t really hate Batman. He was more submissive to what Batman had to say against him and was at most irritated. Superman? More disappointed than anything else. Red Hood? Just confused in a frustrated way. Booster Gold, on the other hand, outright tried to MURDER Batman!

I still remember when Countdown to Infinite Crisis happened and people were frothing at the mouth to see how Booster would react towards Batman. Ah, that was a fun scene.

So anyway, the new issue of Booster Gold finally had Booster and Batman bury the hatchet. That’s cool.

But another big moment involved Rip Hunter’s reveal that he brought back Booster’s sister Goldstar. Now, I understand that only a handful of comic readers have read anything with Booster in it outside his Justice League/Blue Beetle team-up stuff, so I’m sure there’s quite a few of you wondering who this is. It’s a logical thing to wonder, since other than an earlier flashback, she hasn’t been seen for about twenty years.

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