Behold, I Teach You the Wildstorm

October 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Grant Morrison and Jim Lee on Wildcats ended up being a non-starter. The first issue came out, the second didn’t, and that was the end of that. I reread it recently, though, and it is actually very good, for a number of reasons.

One of my favorite parts of Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder is the dissonance between the art and the story. Jim Lee, love him or hate him, defined superheroic art for the ’90s. Multiple artists were told to draw in his style, including Ian Churchill, and from a strictly comics perspective, he’s probably the most successful of the Image founders. Miller’s story, though, runs in direct defiance of that, dripping with pulpy narration and so over the top in its grotesque incorporation of superheroics that it seems off-kilter and wrong. Once I got it, the book clicked for me.

As in ASBAR, Jim Lee’s art is used in Wildcats as a tool above and beyond “sequential art on a page.” Lee’s style is Wildstorm. They’ve had various artists come through their doors, with an astonishing amount of great ones (Dustin Nguyen, Sean Phillips, Travis Charest, Aron Wiesenfeld, Richard Friend, Laura Martin), but Lee defined the style and still stands out in my mind as the Wildstorm artist.

And Wildcats is Grant Morrison’s take on the Wildstorm universe, but a take on a very specific time in the WSU. He’s going right after the period of time when Wildstorm was at its peak, when The Authority, Planetary, Wildcats/Wildcats 3.0, Automatic Kafka, and Sleeper reigned. It’s Grant Morrison taking what Lee, Casey, and Ellis, in particular, built and pushing it to the next level. The book begins with a bit of exposition that sets the stage: President Chrysler has just come to power, and the world is in turmoil. With a few short phrases (“from the new underwater cities to the asylum ghettoes of Europe”), he establishes this new world. It is not ours, rather, it is a comic book world. Suicide bombers don’t strap explosives and ball bearings to their chest. Now, they are radioactive supermen who lurk in outer space. Telephones are 3D and you can have your very own android for protection (“In stock now! New low price!”). And, more than anything, superheroes are everywhere and revel in their glory.

scan0013Joe Casey’s Wildcats was all about pushing superheroes to a new level. Not the next level, but one different from the one they were on. A focus relationships and business maneuvers, rather than superheroics and spectacle, was a valid description of his run, until he had to give in to market forces and jazz 3.0 up some in an attempt to avoid cancellation.

Morrison takes Joe Casey’s Hadrian, CEO of Halo and reformed superhero, and pushes him to the logical conclusion of Wildcats 3.0. Halo has revolutionized the world, providing families with personal Spartan robots, fancy telephones, and other high tech tools. It’s the end point of the Reed Richards/Tony Stark/Superhero Super Scientist character. At some point, they are either going to drastically improve the world or die as failures.
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Geoff Klock & Planetary: +3 Years

October 13th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Back in 2006, I did some linkblogging over Geoff Klock’s issues with Planetary 26 and the big end of the series. It’s still a good read, and well worth a look.

It’s kind of funny that a few weeks shy of three years later I’m linking his review of Planetary 27. It’s thorough and brutal and completely, 100% true. Just a snip, because you really must click through:

It feels to me like Ellis failed to give her anything at all to do in the first draft of this script, then writes the problem into the script as her discussion with Elijah (resolved in her future self telling her (not showing her) everything is going to be fine). But then he still wants her to have something to do visually (since a lot of the “action” in this issue is pretty hard to make visual, such as “putting more power to the pulse lamps”), so she gets to leap into action and GRAB A LAMP like a monkey.

I think the first thing I said to some comics reading friends was that the issue was, at best, a C+. It felt like Ellis was going “Wikipedia Wikipedia Wikipedia Wikipedia Wikipedia ZAP! He’s back.” Just miles and miles of clunky and jargon-laden exposition, dragging us kicking and screaming to the end of the issue.

Ellis should’ve left it in the oven longer. It feels like an anticlimax, just like 26 did. In 26, the big bad guys are dropped down a hole. That’s their end. Ellis spent issues upon issues telling us how horrible and evil they are, only giving us a few actual examples (the death of Superman/Wonder Woman/JLA, Snow being mindwiped), and then their big end is that they get dropped in a hole and die. It’s stupid and anticlimactic. Even if the series is about bigger things, you can’t end it that way. It’s lazy. At least the Emperor from Star Wars did his laser show and Satan in a Cloak thing before he got dropped in a hole.

I don’t like the back half of Planetary. Once the series turned from “Other kinds of fiction are fun!” to “The Fantastic Four are Evil, here is evidence, it is just off-screen, do you see it?” I got bored. It turned into Ellis’s trademark Good Bastard vs Evil Bastard, with all of the barked orders and hidden agendas that made Transmetropolitan unbearable. The Four are bad guys, yes, we’re told that over and over. And Snow can be bad (he’s not averse to physical torture [see: Invisible Man, William Leather], he sabotages a chance to harvest wealth of data to get rid of a villain), but he’s not as bad as them, no. And he kept time travel secret just because.

It’s not good. It’s poor writing. It’s telling, not showing. It feels tired, it feels soft, it feels weak. But really, Geoff Klock tells it better than I do.

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Black History Month ’09 #16: My Country

February 16th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

A few years back, John Ridley and Georges Jeanty wrote one of the most interesting comics to come out of Wildstorm since Wildcats 3.0 and Adam Warren’s Gen13. Its setting is simple. It is in a parallel version of our 1960s, except the American government has been manufacturing heroes and villains as part of a superheroic Cold War against communism. The Civil Defense Corps is run by the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration. Note that I said creating heroes and villains- most of the fights are staged for the public’s benefit, and the lack of the internet basically means that the public has no idea of the truth.

The hook of the book is pretty interesting. A member of the Civil Defense Corps dies in battle. The FDAA needs a replacement, and their hotshot new PR guy has a great, if controversial, idea. Hire a colored, put him in a costume, and call him The New American. To avoid public panic, put a full mask on him. Let him work for a few weeks or months, gain the public’s trust, and then, when the time is right, reveal that he’s black. One problem: he’s revealed on his very first mission and a wave of distrust and fear sweeps across the public.

One of the government’s pet villains, an insane and murderous racist, breaks from his leash. The Southern members of the CDC don’t take the revelation of their colored comrade well and essentially secede from the organization. Civil rights protestors end up dead. Heroes are revealed as regular human beings, no matter their extra-normal powers, and that human pettiness is shown to be something very damaging. And, in the middle of it all, Jason Fisher, the New American, needs to decide whether he owes more to his people or his country, despite criticism coming from all sides.

The American Way is how you do comics. Not Issues comics, though it very definitely deals with a variety of issues. Not black comics, though it is a comic starring a black male. Not even superhero comics. It’s how you do comics. The characters have depth, plenty of thought went into how the story plays out, and Georges Jeanty’s art is excellent.

Fisher being black is a large part of the book, since if he wasn’t, there’d be no conflict. How people react to his race is the interesting part. It varies from outright hatred to fear to good old fashioned exploitation. When his brother finds out that Jason’s enhanced, his first thought is that Jason needs to hit the road and start making some noise and forcing people to wake up to civil rights. Others want him to keep his head down, because he isn’t going to do anything but cause trouble.

Overall, it was just a great book. It isn’t centered 100% on race, with Keenan Ivory Wayans dropping in for “MESSAGE!” To quote Tucker Stone again,

I guess what i’m saying is: the best thing isn’t for black characters to be in some “let’s talk about being black” comic book, it’s for black characters to show up in good fucking comic books. If they want to talk about problems getting cabs, fine, but it better need to be there for the story, and not as some garish window dressing designed to make intellectual panties wet.

The American Way isn’t that book meant to make guilty liberals stop their grinnin’ and drop their linen, though I’m sure it will. It’s a well rounded look at an alternate world, interpersonal relationships, and the measure of a hero.

It’s a good comic book.

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J Scott Campbell Process Work

August 13th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I’m kind of a J Scott Campbell fan. Maybe it’s due to old school Gen13, or the fact that I can’t look at Absolute Danger Girl without wanting to buy it, but I generally dig his art. I also dig process stuff, so I really dug CBR’s THE COMMENTARY TRACK: J. Scott Campbell. I particularly found this bit fascinating:

Step 5: Using a Magic Rub eraser, I erase the entire page using a medium touch, not too much, but enough to rid the white page of any of the harsh dark lines while leaving a noticeable structured ghost image to build my final drawing from.

I’d never heard of anyone doing this before, but that’s a pretty interesting way of working.

Good read.

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Remember the Fiff-dee-tuu

November 26th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

This goes out to d00gz and the 52 worlds.

The end of 52 revealed that there are 52 earths in the DCU, each of which ripe with imagination and new ideas and wonder.

(from 52 #52)

Today, DC Comics revealed their list most of the 52 worlds over on Newsarama.

Hang on, can I start over?

Today, DC Comics revealed that most of the new worlds promised in 52 have been replaced with a bunch of crappy Elseworlds that no one read, less people liked, and even less people cared about.

Earth-2: Home of the original Justice Society (first appearance 52 #52 – this earth’s Superman and Power Girl are missing)
Earth-3: The Crime Society’s world (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-4: Home of the Charlton characters (a.k.a. – the Watchmen-esque world) (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-5: Home of the Fawcett (Shazam) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-8: World of Lord Havok and the Extremists – called Angor by its natives (Countdown #29)
Earth-9: Tangent Universe (upcoming in Tangent: Superman’s Reign #1)
Earth-10: Home of the Quality (Freedom Fighters, Uncle Sam, the original Ray, etc) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-11: World of reversed genders ( Arena #1 and The Search For Ray
Palmer: Superwoman/ Batwoman #1)
Earth-12: The Next Generation, beyond Batman (i.e., Batman Beyond?) (Arena #1)
Earth-13: World of dark and arcane heroes ( Arena #1)
Earth-15: World of heroes realized (Donna Troy as Wonder Woman; Jason Todd as Batman) (Countdown #30 – the earth of this universe was destroyed in Countdown #24)
Earth-16: Home of the Super-Sons ( Arena #1)
Earth-17: A post WWIII, apocalyptic universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-18: World of the Elseworld’s Justice Riders ( Arena #1)
Earth-19: World of Elseworld’s Gotham by Gaslight (The Search For Ray
Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight #1)
Earth-21: World of Elseworld’s New Frontier ( Arena #1)
Earth-22: Elseworld’s Kingdom Come Universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-26: Universe of Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew (Captain Carrot
And The Final Ark #1)
Earth-30: World of Elseworld’s Superman: Red Son (Countdown #32)
Earth-32: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Darkest Knight (Arena #1)
Earth-34: World of Elseworld’s Amazonia ( Arena #1)
Earth-37: World of Elseworld’s Thrillkiller ( Arena #1)
Earth-40: World of Elseworld’s Liberty Files ( Arena #1)
Earth-43: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Red Rain (The Search For Ray Palmer:
Red Rain #1)
Earth-48: Forerunner’s world (Countdown #46)
Earth-50: Wildstorm Universe (first seen 52 #52)

Just in case you’re keeping score at home, here are the genuinely new Earths, ones that we’ve never seen before:
Earth-15: World of heroes realized (Donna Troy as Wonder Woman; Jason Todd as Batman) (Countdown #30 – the earth of this universe was destroyed in Countdown #24)
Earth-17: A post WWIII, apocalyptic universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-48: Forerunner’s world (Countdown #46)

There are three new Earths out of 26 announced now, one of which has already been destroyed and the other I think is barren of life or populated by Forerunner’s race or something stupid like that?

Good going, DC. You have the opportunity to create a gang of new characters, settings, and stories and you go right into Fanboy Masturbation territory.

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Bits & Pieces

April 26th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Linkblogging again today! I’m off tomorrow so I can put some work in then.

– I am flying out to San Francisco on Sunday and staying until Wednesday! I’m apartment hunting for my move there in May. It’s fun trying to guess at your take-home pay without knowing how much the gov’t is going to ream you for taxes!

– I finally got the out of print Mr Majestic TPB. I now own each TPB of his two solo series, which is kind of a weird feeling. It took me a while to realize how much of a big Wildstorm fan I am. Anyway, the book collects issues 1-6 and the Wildstorm Spotlight by Alan Moore and Carlos D’Anda. I think that the series went on for eight issues total, but what we’ve got here are six done-in-ones plus a special. From the back cover copy: “Mr. Majestic rearrangest he solar system, repairs a temporal anomaly, gains a son, halts an intergalactic prison break, and meets the Ultravixens.”

Also from the back cover copy: “Remember when superheroes could move planets?”

The first Maj series is kind of a precursor to All-Star Superman in theme, if not in quality. Both stories take these wild silver age tropes and, rather than looking at them ironically (“Ha ha why do you need an invisible plane”) they just take them at face value. Majestic can move planets. Why? Because. It’s a pretty light and warm book from what I remember, and the team of Joe Kelly, Brian Holguin, and Ed McGuinness is the perfect fit for it.

Another choice line: “What the @#$# is wrong with you?! I’m a freakin’ nun!”

Ah, Ladytron.

batmanrobin6cvrsm.jpgI love Jim Lee’s new Batgirl design for All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. (For color reference, see here.) It’s just all around awesome. The freckles visible under the bat-mask, the bats on the boots, and the big yellow bat-symbol work really, really well. I also love costume designs made up of just two colors for some reason, so that’s icing on the cake. I’m also really, really fond of Frank Miller’s dangly and busy way of drawing earrings. It’s funky and different. Also, is it me or is that a Daemonite head that Batgirl (who I’m assuming is Barb Gordon, if only because of the freckles and hair?) is standing on?

– 52 this week (#51, to be exact) was pretty good and paid off in all the expected ways. Buddy returning was a nice capstone to his story arc, though he now may be the most powerful thing in the DCU. I can’t imagine DC dropping the ball on that, so expect him to show up in Countdown. Also, I totally called the Mr. Mind in Skeets thing, just like 51% of the rest of the internet, but the payoff was so much better than I expected!

– Is anyone else reading and enjoying Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s Barracuda as much as I am? It is trashy and ugly and excellent. Barracuda has turned out to be a lot smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for and the series has been quite a ride so far. Be interesting to see where it goes!

– What’s it say about me when the most striking part of the first Outsiders trade is John Workman’s lettering? I love that man’s work. He’s got style and he’s unique.

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Wildcats, Pop Comics At Work

April 23rd, 2007 Posted by david brothers

This is a straight up fanboy post, so bear with me. I’ll have actual content later on, hey?

I love the Wildcats and the whole Wildstorm Universe, but no way can I explain why. It just works for me, in no small part because of the Jim Lee connection.

Joe Casey’s run on Wildcats is a personal favorite of mine, with 3.0 being tops in my book. There’s a bit in where Grifter, who was injured in an earlier battle, is training the man he wants to be his replacement. A Grifter II, if you will.

wildcats_p19.jpg Anyway, there’s a bit of a training montage, which, if you’ve ever seen an action movie, is a staple of the genre. It’s important, and kind of cool to see in a comic. He’s showing him all the basics of, superheroing and being a bad dude. “Remember, the cooler you look, the less likely it is you’ll actually have to shoot.” Check out the bottom. Wisecracking is an important part of superheroics, and of course wisecrackery is a big part of your training. I’d always thought that was a particularly clever bit of writing, with a properly corny one-liner. (I love Die Hard, pardon me.)

I picked up the first WildC.A.T.s trade on the cheap the other day (“because I am a sucker,” is what you all are thinking). Part of the way through the first chapter, I saw a familiar scene.


Oh, Grifter.

I’ll have a post with some actual content (about Superman and fathers again, if things work out right), rather than fanblatherings, later on.

(The first Wildcats trade is really kind of a so-so comic at best, to be honest. I am a sucker, though. I’d probably buy Absolute WildC.A.T.s if they put it out.)

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Reign of the Supernovas: A Real Mystery in Real Time

December 15th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

That’s a damned good question, Michael. First appearing in the pages of 52 Week 8, Supernova’s since been a mystery. Where does he come from? What exactly are his powers? What is his role in the grand scheme of things? And just who is this guy?

First, let’s take a look at Supernova’s various appearances up to this point:

Week 8: Over the course of several days, we see the first appearances of this red, white and blue stranger. On Day 3, he appears before an old woman and her grandchild, glows real bright and brings them across the street before they can be crushed by a falling monorail. The next day, he appears among firemen who are about to get crushed by falling debris. Glowing brightly once more, the new hero makes the debris vanish. The next day we get reports of him cleanly shearing a gunman’s rifle in half, as well as saving one woman’s daughter from a riptide. Booster Gold, whose image has just been destroyed a week earlier, rants about this new character in front of one Clark Kent.

Week 10: Clark Kent, having just been fired at the Daily Planet, sees Supernova flying around the city. With sudden inspiration, he hops out the window and freefalls. Supernova swiftly catches him, assures him of his safety and asks if he’s okay. Clark pulls out a tape recorder and asks for an interview. As Clark later explains to Lois, they didn’t get too far before seeing Bahdnesian terrorists stealing a military all-terrain vehicle. Supernova puts down Clark and uses his glowing power (which Clark describes as “peculiar eyebeams”) to take away the pavement under the vehicle, locking it into the ground. Supernova poses and answers a couple questions from Clark, trying hard to conceal himself. He sees a child almost walk into the hole in the ground, teleports in a bright light and appears in front of the child. The way he responds to the boy shows that he has some semblance of a personality under the mask. Clark tells Lois that he believes that Supernova’s on the level and that he has an air of experience about him. Elsewhere, Booster is growing more and more frustrated, while Skeets admits that even he doesn’t know who Supernova is from his historical files.

Week 15: The big one. Booster takes on a giant sea monster in the middle of Metropolis. He fails pretty badly, including a bit where he causes a massive power outage. Supernova flies in, soars to the monster and with a bright blast, zaps him away. Supernova offers his hand to Booster and makes a comment about Booster not caring about the people he saves. Noticeable frown under the mask. Booster snaps and tackles Supernova. The two brawl, showing that Supernova is at least strong enough to trade fists with Booster. Supernova’s only use of powers are to momentarily blind Booster. Supernova highly disapproves of Booster, saying he’s too pathetic to be considered a joke. Skeets mentions a radiation leakage. Supernova wants to stop it, but Booster sucker-punches him and tries to stop it himself. Beaming at his return to greatness, Booster saves everyone, but is engulfed in an explosion. Supernova, shocked, flies upwards and catches Booster’s body. To the horror of Clark and the noticeable surprise of Skeets, Booster Gold is just a skeleton in futuristic tights.

It’s worth noting that there were two alternate endings to this issue. In one ending, Booster turns to dust upon landing in Supernova’s arms. In the other, there is no radiation leakage. Supernova tries to teleport Booster back a few feet. At the same time, Booster turns on his force field. The result causes Booster to be cut in half. A horrified Supernova swears he didn’t mean for it to happen and Clark Kent believes him. Supernova covers one half of Booster with his cape while Clark uses his jacket on the other half.

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Round Up

October 28th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

It’s been a minute! Let’s chat.

-Did I tell you guys I’ve got One Volume Bone? I’ve got the first four colorized volumes, and I may continue to buy them, but I’ve got the big phone book now. I’m waiting before I start to read it, though I’m not entirely sure why. Anticipation?

I also scored Doom Patrol v4: Musclebound. Volume 5 is being solicited in January, and I’m hoping that Flex Mentallo trade is right around the corner!

Gavok still wants artists! Show us your funny bone and art skills!

-Stephanie Brown died in War Games, the Crossover That Blew. Her treatment was pretty shameful, and some would like to see a Robin memorial case dedicated to her. I’ve thought hard about this issue (no lie, i think about things sometimes!) and I just can’t agree. My argument, boiled down to its basics, is that “Steph wasn’t ever really Robin and she doesn’t need a Robin case.” That’s selling myself short, however.

Johanna Draper Carlson made a post on this subject a couple days ago and I ended up responding. I make an appearance in the comments thread and try to articulate why I feel that way. I really do have (what I think is) a well-thought out and reasoned point, so give it a look. I wonder if I could expand it into a better-edited post for here…

-Anyone else playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance on 360? If you’re not a jerk, add hermanos to your friends list and we can get our game on. The cast list is spectacular, Sue Storm is ridiculously good, and Deadpool is hilarious. Solid game all around and I wish I could’ve reviewed it in the magazine.

gtahgm.jpg-Speaking of the mag! HGM17 is out and about and ready for downloadin’. Our site is at Hardcore Gamer and here is the direct link to our magazine download page. Want to pay money for a print copy? Check out our subscribe page!

Go forth, my children, and make me rich read my magazine. We’ve got a dope Grand Theft Auto: Vice City cover story (complete with foil cover, no lie), a gaggle of galloping previews, some great reviews of video games due out soon, and a couple of sweet features. I think the Lost in VR feature ran this month, which dealt with VR in games. Check it out!

-More content later! I’ve got a Wildstorm post half done for you and those guest articles I promised before my business life exploded. Stay tuned, true believers!

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4thletter is for… dumb criminals.

September 29th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

So, I’ve been asked certain questions more than once. “What’s your phone number?” is one. “What does ‘4thletter’ mean?” is another. “What’s it stand for?”

It gets kind of embarassing to go “Well, uh, my first name is David, which starts with D, the fourth letter, and I was feeling really uncreative when I need to come up with a gmail account, and then the web address just kind of followed, and I’m a hopeless narcissist who doesn’t want to give Gavok credit for anything, so…” all the time, so here we go!

Explanations! Collect them all, because this is definitely a series.

Fun fact for our readers: we are probably going to come in just 200 megs short of my bandwidth limit tomorrow, despite having less than half a gig of actual files stored on the site! Pretty impressive. Traffic is higher than it’s ever been, as well, so we’ll see how this goes in October.

Good times. Gavok’s got more What If coming for ya, and I’ll hopefully have a review of the recently-concluded The American Way out of Wildstorm. It did some interesting things with race and politics and was overall one of the best minis of the year.

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