Wondercon Wrap-up!

April 6th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

If you asked me to sum up my Wondercon experience in a couple of short, witty phrases, I’d just tell you that I ate six pieces of pizza over the course of two days and that I spent more on karaoke than I did on anything even remotely comic-related.

That’s not the full experience, though. It was an interesting con for me, due in no small part to the ongoing evolution in the way I approach comics, and being a fan of comics. I got no signatures, no sketches, no freebies. I paid for three books and got one for free. I spent maybe twenty-five whole dollars at the con, a drastic decrease from the usual foolishness I get down to. I’ll get to that, though.

I left work a couple hours early on Friday to hit the con and get my pass. It was painless, with less than two people in line ahead of me. Other than my pass saying “4thletter!/Popcultureshock.com” for some reason, it was easy like Sunday morning.

I figured I’d walk the length of the hall from wall to wall, but the first thing I did at the con was find Matt Maxwell, Jeff Lester, and Heidi MacDonald chit-chatting in Artist’s Alley/Small Press. I killed some time with them for a while, talking about the con and comics, and that more or less set the tone for the con.

I spent a lot of time talking to people about comics and only attended a few panels. I stopped in on the DC Nation panel because a few friends (Esther, JK Parkin, Graeme McMillan, Carla Hoffman, Laura Hudson, a couple others) were there. It was, in a word, abysmal. They completely flubbed looking like they had any idea what they were doing with digital comics, there was a lot of “Wait and see,” there were a few “Wait until San Diego” answers… it was boring. I liked when someone asked about plans for Nightwing and got a succinct “Yeah, he’s Batman” in response, and I love that Dark Knight: Boy Wonder got announced, but it was a snoozer. I had a similar experience at the Marvel panel I accidentally attended the next day, again because friends were in effect and I had an opening in my schedule. I spent most of it poring over Darwyn Cooke’s The Man With the Getaway Face.

I attended a couple panels that were cool. The Greg Rucka spotlight moderated by Laura was a trip and well worth the price of admission. It was in a huge room, for some reason. The Boom! Studios panel was also pretty good, and Ian Brill seemed genuinely excited to be writing Darkwing Duck.

There was a Disney Comics superfan in the audience, too, who kept interrupting to ask about minutiae. At the end of the panel, I went up to say hi to Ian, and as I turned to leave, the superfan was right behind me. He was mumbling something about how we should print the Disney newspaper strips in black and white and not colorize them and something something Carl Barks. I tried to tell him I wasn’t part of Boom!, that that was the other black guy in the room, but he just said, “Yes, yes, but I think that…” and kept going. I shrugged and walked away while he was talking. I’m not getting trapped in an infinite conversation ever again, and that definitely had the makings of one.

(You ever had one of those? When someone keeps going and going and you can’t find a polite way to excuse yourself because they’re so focused that all they want to do is talk about whatever? Yeah. Infinite conversations. They’re gonna be the death of somebody one day.)

I attended the Black Cartoonists as Social Commentators panel, too. It was good, but the moderator was a little too overbearing. It was clear he had a very clear and academic formula he wanted to follow, but Keith Knight and Darrin Bell are hilarious, personable, and have great anecdotes. I would’ve much preferred to see them let loose with a conversation about themselves and their work. The glimpses we got were great, though, and if you aren’t reading either, get familiar. Bell’s story about how he was getting hate mail after hate mail before Hurricane Katrina and zilch after… that was a good one. It was a good panel.

I spent most of my time walking around with friends like Lauren Davis and Ana, digging in the various half off book booths and looking for stuff to buy. I didn’t buy much, as I said before, in part because I know exactly how much stuff is sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be read. I stuck to books I knew I’d love and get to relatively soon. This means I missed out on deep discounted hardcovers, but that’s okay. I think.
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Thought-provoking Linkblogging

November 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Brendan McCarthy Spider-Man. Click or else.

-I have a hate relationship with horror movies, but this essay by Lauren Davis over on io9 about what makes great horror is excellent.

I have to confess, it’s very hard for me to watch horror movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional scare, and it’s not that I’m worried about ghosts and monsters following home (although I will confess to a mild fear of zombies). No, it’s just that when the body count starts rising, I start feeling, well, sad. I don’t come out of the theater pumping with adrenaline; I’m too distracted thinking about the people who died and the loved ones they’ve left behind.

Absolutely a must-read.

-You know what’s more exciting than Marvel joining Disney or whatever it was that happened to DC? The Comics Journal reorganizing. Good interview at CBR:

Groth: I see this is an opportunity to create a true web version of “The Comics Journal,” to in effect combine the virtues of both the web and print as I understand them, which is to say, a single “place” where readers can come and expect a consistently intelligent, idiosyncratic, combative, and occasionally clashing conversation about comics and cartooning. Over the past few years I’ve noticed smarter critical commentary on the Net, but it’s scattered all over the place, buried in the usual mountain of frivolous, tepid, dimwitted, unreadable fanboy drivel. There’s no single website you can visit and anticipate a range of interesting sensibilities on an equal footing, so one of my goals is to distill the best criticism and journalism we can into a single site.

I’ve never actually read an issue of TCJ, though I’ve kinda always meant to. I expect to be alternately infuriated at and elated with the content they come up with. Don’t let me down, guys! (Also if you could make past issues, like TCJ 298 for example, available as PDFs for people who don’t really have room in their tiny San Francisco apartments, that’d be great. Muchas smooches.)

-Savage Critic doubleheader! Jog goes in to great effect on the art in the Greg Rucka/JH Williams III Detective Comics (and JHW3 is the coolest initials in comics since edex), and David Uzumeri drops some bombs on the writing.

My own feelings on ‘Tec are complicated. I like the art more than the story, which feels a little pat, so I don’t buy it monthly. However, once the hardcover drops? Ooowhee. I’ll be on Amazon like a shot.

-Tucker Stone looks at comics criticism and kicks some knowledge:

Comics doesn’t have Tastemakers, maybe they did once, but that time is gone. It’s always been a fractured landscape anyway–initial chunks of comics criticism doled out in fanzines or fan clubs, with the occasional academic polemic turned out for audiences in the low hundreds–and the Internet was able to finish the job of fracturing quicker than it’s been able to on music and film. We all do it, you, me, the guy at the store–reading only those who agree with us up until they say something we don’t like, we burn bridges, blog ourselves, trusting no one. After all, That Guy likes Guggenheim’s Blade series–what’s he know? That Girl’s favorite comic last week was some manga about dating–all the smart kids know it was the GI Joe/Cobra Special!

His point about controlling the critique that exists is a good’un.

-Keeping it in the family, Nina Stone has a beautiful slash brutal takedown of Gotham City Sirens.

Mr. Gag Reflex is apparently not over being dissed by Joker, and so the plot is about him taking his breakup feelings out on Harlequin, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend. I don’t know how this completely relates to the issue before, but maybe it means that the Joker and Harlequin aren’t actually over. To be honest, I don’t really care if I ever find out. It took too many pages of overwhelming art to tell this story. Let me explain.

Really, it’s good. Click thru.

-The Funnybook Babylonians want you to call in and leave obscene messages listener mail. Ask question, share an anecdote, and they might just play it on the show. Tell them I sent you.

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Fourcast! 06: Character Continuity Clash Comics!

July 6th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Fans of our Continuity Off, or insert your favorite term for the bit where we talk about how dumb certain comics characters are here, are gonna be super happy at us after this Fourcast.

-Theme music? 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-Special guest? Jeff Lester of Savage Critic(s)
-Characters? Green Arrow vs Hawkeye
-What’s it lead to? Marvel vs DC

This is a fun one. Talking about the two premiere archers of the Big Two ended up dovetailing nicely into a conversation about the differences between the two universes, and a few of the similarities. We even get into dorky stuff like geometry.

As an aside– the webcomic I mention at the end of the cast is The Dark Cat’s Batman and Sons. It’s fun, and since I probably sound like a jerk when I mention it, I figured I’d at least link it so you’d know what we were talking about.

Bam! Back in two weeks, folks. Apologies for the short shownotes, too. I’m in Los Angeles taking a vacation from everything.

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Fourcast! 05: You Made Me Read This!

June 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

What’s on tap for Fourcast! #5?

-A special conversation about how Jack Kirby would’ve done the Transformers
-Our theme music is still 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-Special guest podcaster, Jeff Lester of Savage Critic(s)
-We debut a new segment called You Made Me Read This! I got Esther to read the first hardcover of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s Fantastic Four. Esther didn’t like it for what, in hindsight, is a very good reason.
-Our conversation about FF leads into a conversation about the different approaches DC and Marvel take.
-And… scene.

This one was a lot of fun, and I’m actually a little scared of which book I’m going to have to read. I’m pretty sure she mentioned this book… and goodness, have mercy! 🙁

Some Fourcast! notes–
-We’ve got one more podcast next week (07/06), also guest-starring Jeff Lester, and then we’re taking off the week of 07/13 off. We should be back in business the week of 07/20 with a pre-San Diego Comic-con show.
-Fans of the Character Continuity Clash Comics/Continuity Off/Comics Are Seriously Dumb/whatever will really like the 07/06 cast, I’m, betting. Tell your friends.
-Esther and I are both planning on attending SDCC, and we may end up doing a show from the show, so to speak.
-We’ve got real microphones! You won’t hear them on this podcast, or next week’s, but we’ll be using them going forward. I’ve got high hopes, as it’ll make everything from recording to editing much easier.
-We hit 1000 listens the other day. You guys rule.

The usual podcast stuff:
You can subscribe via podcast-specific RSS feed, site-wide RSS feed, or iTunes. Review us if you like us, review us if you hate us, and call us dumb down in the comments.

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4thletter! vs Savage Critic(s), Round 1: The Old (Red and) Blues

November 3rd, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Add “Chasing the Dragon” into that super-long title, too.

I was talking to Graeme (Savage Critic(s)/io9) McMillan over email a few weeks back and he mentioned how he wasn’t sure that being a fan and being nostalgiac were two different things. It ties into the first shock of experiencing certain things. To paraphrase and extrapolate on his point a bit, you end up chasing the dragon.

My response was in the negative– nostalgia is obviously something that old people have for old boring comics. It’s new comics being written like old comics because that’s the way it used to be. It’s Hal Jordan being Green Lantern again, Superman’s dad dying, and all that continuity cop crap. It’s strip-mining the past to tell stories today. I’m the kind of fan that likes the new hotness, not that old and busted crap that somebody’s grandpa wrote.

The long and short of it is that I’m a liar and Graeme McMillan is right.

I had this realization a few days ago. Despite working with video games all day, I’ll throw on a game I like and fool around for an hour or so to relax and chill out. One of the games I’ve been screwing around with for the past week or two is Spider-Man: Web of Shadows on Xbox 360.

Now, I’m a huge Spider-Man fan. He’s my favorite hero, even beating out the Flash, and I’ll generally try anything he’s in. Spider-Man 2 was an excellent Xbox title and easily the best movie tie-in, but the franchise has suffered since then. Ultimate Spider-Man had a great style, but the chase scenes were a lot like being forced to pull splinters– necessary and amazingly annoying. Spider-Man 3 was better than the movie, but still featured gameplay that was kind of like waking up to find Jabba the Hutt’s butt in your face.

So, for some reason, I was a little interested in Web of Shadows. It had Spidey, Venom, an interesting story, and more than a few cameos. Luke Cage, Black Widow, Wolverine, and Moon Knight all show up. I figured that I’d at least give the game a go, since they’re marketing it directly at me and all.

Turns out that I can only stand to play the game for 15-30 minutes at a time. It’s buggy, the characters are annoying, the missions are repetitive, and the tutorials are terrible. The lock-on system varies between being too sensitive (“Hey awesome I locked on a dude two blocks behind me, screwing up the camera and my current fight”) and terrible (“oh what’s this i can’t lock onto a guy directly in front of me?”). The auto-upgrade system doesn’t tell you what it upgrades or when, and the manual upgrades have clunky menus, making it a pain to get new skills. The new skills you just bought? Generic thugs will block them all day like they were some kind of kung fu master, making your brand new Maximum Spider attack or Ultimate Web Throw completely useless.

Playing it for more than around half an hour brings all of these screaming to the forefront of my brain, but I kept going back to the game this week. The animation on Spider-Man is great, and the web slinging is sublime. It’s the best it’s ever been, and I sometimes spend ten out of those fifteen-to-thirty minutes just swinging around the fake New York.

I was airing these grievances to a few of my FBB4l brethren and Pedro, always trying to one-up a Brothers, told me “Why are you playing a garbage game?” Every time Pedro reads a bad comic and complains about it, I ask him the same thing. It was a fair point, and one that made me rethink my position on the game.

Basically, WoS adds in one good gameplay mechanic (web swinging) and then layers on cameo after cameo in an attempt to keep me interested. These cameos lead to boring tutorials (“hey go beat up 15 of these guys”) which lead to boring missions (“all right go beat 20 of these same guys”) which lead to worse boss fights (“do this three minute sequence six times in a row while you fight wolverine”) which lead to the next cameo. It’s garbage. The game is weak and not even remotely worth the sixty bucks. I’d rather they just put the city and web slinging on Xbox Live Arcade and charge ten bucks for that.

On the other hand, post-One More Day Spider-Man is exactly what I want out of Spider-Man comics. It isn’t perfect, but it’s easily the best Spider-Man has been since Kraven’s Last Hunt, which was back when Peter and MJ first got married. Mephisto getting rid of the marriage is a sticking point, I guess, but it’s been blown out of proportion. I think that if the stories are going to be this good, then losing a marriage that had stagnated? Net gain.

Moving all of that to the side– the stories are much better than they have been before now. I wasn’t a Dan Slott fan before his run on Amazing Spider-Man. His first go at She-Hulk was okay, until he got bogged down in continuity cop and fanboyisms. But Spider-Man? For some reason, Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is a lot of fun.

That’s a theme that’s run throughout Brand New Day and onward. “Spider-Man is fun.” He’s young, he makes mistakes, and he’s down to earth. He’s clearly experienced enough to hold his own, he’s smart enough to improvise solutions to weird problems, and he enjoys his life, despite the Parker Luck. He’s comfortable in his own skin.

He’s got a strong supporting cast again, including Harry Osborn, the best character who isn’t named J Jonah Jameson. Peter’s got a best friend again, which gives him something to bounce off of, and he’s got girl trouble. We’ve got more than just Aunt May and MJ, though both of them are present in one way or another.

The art is amazing. I don’t think I have to say more. If you don’t like John Romita Jr, Marcos Martin, Chris Bachalo, Barry Kitson, or the other cats who have put pen to paper (or stylus to Wacom), something is wrong with your brain.

Finally, the pace is excellent. Shipping three times a month gives the book an entirely different feel. Story lines pop up and end within a month. Subplots percolate in the background, old school style, and there are a lot of them. Despite all of this, the book is very manageable. You won’t miss out on a reference because you missed an issue six months ago. It keeps you in the information you need.

The first few months were dedicated to creating new villains, rather than reusing old ones over and over again. This resulted in both having an interesting new series of characters for Spidey to interact with, but also making the return of the old villains in New Ways to Die a blockbuster occasion.

After the latest issue, where we get this scene:

Amazing Spider-Man is pretty much everything I want out of a Spider-Man comic. It’s a great mix of funny, fun, and action. Spider-Man looks amazing. We get expressive eye lenses and half spidey masks, a couple of personal favorites, Ben Urich, an Aunt May who isn’t just an old lady, and by the way, did I mention the amazing art?

You want to know the difference between why I pushed and played Web of Shadows long after I was tired of it (two hours, for the record) and why I love reading Amazing Spider-Man these days?

Nothing. I’m a fan of Spider-Man, and it makes me happy to see that this character who introduced me to comics is once again receiving the quality I think he deserves. It’s nostalgia. It’s being a fan. I am a fan of Spider-Man because I was once a fan of Spider-Man.

That has waxed and waned over the years. I quit JMS’s run after JRjr left, which turned out to be a great idea, since the next two years were pretty much crap. The Clone Saga helped chase me away from comics when it was getting going. For a while, I liked X-Men more than Spidey, but quickly came back around when the art got better. Save for Paul Jenkins and early JMS, the majority of Spider-Man books printed between say, 1994 and 2008 are not worth your time. There are a few exceptions– Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo had a fun run, for example. However, you aren’t missing much if you don’t buy that Spider-Man trade collecting, say, Maximum Carnage or anything Howard Mackie ever had a hand in.

Now, though, it’s back in full force. I look forward to picking up Amazing Spider-Man three weeks out of the month. I know I’l get a treat that pleases me and the me from however long ago I started reading comics.

What’s kinda funny is that Tucker Stone wrote about this same thing on Wednesday, though I found it on Sunday morning.

The moral of the story is that Graeme McMillan and Joe Quesada are both right.

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Jog on the End of the Punisher

August 18th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

The Savage Critic(s): A History of Punishment for Adults: Jog reaches the last, black page on 8/13

And so, here we are at the spectacularly-titled Valley Forge, Valley Forge: The Slaughter of a U.S. Marine Garrison and the Birth of the Punisher, Vol. 10, the last. Like I mentioned, Frank’s story reached a sort of ‘ending’ in Vol. 9, so this one is a little different. It’s the only one of Ennis’ MAX stories missing the title character’s famous narration; here, he’s observed, puzzled over. We never once climb inside him, for what more needs be said? The action is often interrupted by text and ‘photos’ taken from a book written by the brother of a dead character from Born, and the chapters we read touch on prior themes of the series, though with a special emphasis on warfare waged on questionable grounds.

This is an amazing review, is all. I hope to have a wrap-up on it soon, too.

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