Funnybook Babylon

July 16, 2012

Doubleshipping Gone Good: Jeff Parker on Hulk

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 7:39 pm

<img class=”aligncenter” src=”http://funnybookbabylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/hulkchartfinal-small.jpg” alt=”hulkchartfina
As I mentioned
last week, I’ve been doing some research about Marvel’s recent headlong dive into doubleshipping many of their titles. As has been discussed elsewhere, the accelerated scheduling is most often noticed when it derails a book someone is enjoying with an inconsistent revolving door of creators. But if you’re not a regular Weekly Wednesday Shopper, it’s easy to overlook situations where everything falls into place.

Assuming no last minute derails in the production of the final two issues, Jeff Parker will have written thirty-four issues of Hulk before the title switches over to She-Hulk in October. By the time the final issues ships (scheduled for August 29) there will have been twenty-three months between the first and last issues of the run. That’s eleven extra issues above and beyond the standard monthly output.

This sort of frequency is increasingly less unusual at Marvel, but what does seem unusual is the consistency at work: every single issue has shipped with the solicited artist on board, and the changeovers between artists has occured at logical storyline endpoints. With only a few exceptions, even the inkers, colorists, and letterers have remained consistent and worked on all the same issues as their associated pencillers. And to top it off, there have only been six pencillers — Elena Casagrande, Dale Eaglesham, Gabriel Hardman, Ed McGuinness, Carlo Pagulayan, and Patrick Zircher — across nearly three dozen issues. The recently relaunched Daredevil hit that number within twelve issues, Ultimates had EIGHT artists on itsfirst dozen issues.

All of the creators and editors involved deserve kudos, and beyond simple logistics and work ethic, Hulk has continued to be an entertaining read, performing the seemingly impossible trick of taking an incredibly goofy and gimmicky Jeph Loeb “creation“/murder mystery and turning it into a compelling story I look forward to reading.

All joking aside, I am still pulling together information on the doubleshipping, and I wanted to work on my chart making. More to come!

July 12, 2012

What’s Going On With Marvel NOW!? Nine Thoughts About October 2012’s solicitations

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 6:55 am

Marvel released their October 2012 solicitations earlier this week, with numerous mysterious gaps that will presumably be filled in this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con. In the meanwhile, here are nine things about the information they did release that I apparently found interesting enough to blog about! These mostly boil down to complaints, but I tried to keep it balanced, and I am interested in reading at least half of the books I discuss. Expect a longer post about double-shipping titles after all the SDCC hoopla dies down. But for now, check out these Covers ‘N’ Comments!

UncannyAvengers 1 Cover

Uncanny Avengers #1: I’m not about to speculate on what will shake out of the Avengers vs. X-Men mega-event, nor am I going to crack wise about putting John Cassaday on a flagship monthly book — his track record shows that he’s one of the more prolific artists to get tagged with the “slow” label — but I do want to comment on one of the eight variant covers announced for the book: the “Deadpool Call Me Maybe” variant by “TBA”. I’m not the target market for variant covers or for Internet Meme Jokes, but I find it amusing that this is clearly a joke someone at Marvel came up with too close to deadline to actually commission the cover before soliciting it. (more…)

June 23, 2012

Dredd Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)

Filed under: Blurbs — Jamaal Thomas @ 10:03 am

The first trailer for Dredd.

For the uninitiated, Dredd is an adaptation of the famous British comics property created by John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra (and serialized in 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine) about a police state in a post-apocalyptic world. In this world, the varied actors/stakeholders in the criminal justice system have been reduced to a heavily armed ‘judge’ who acts as law enforcement, prosecutor, judge and fact-finder.

I first got hooked on the Dredd books through the Eagle Comics reprint series (titled Judge Dredd) and story collections picked up at comics conventions. I’ve always viewed Dredd series of stories as a high satire of the Reagan/Thatcher era, specifically that strain of neo-conservatism that produced the so-called “broken windows” theory and the modern carceral state, but it also works as a celebration of that period. Although citizens of Mega City One don’t have many of the civil liberties that we hold dear, Wagner and Grant depict a world crippled by the kind of urban decay that could have only existed in Rudy Giuliani’s worst nightmares. In this world, the idea that the proper role of law enforcement is not to solve crime, but maintain order must be incredibly seductive. Mike Konczal explained the logic behind this ideology with the following :

There’s an important rhetorical trick that the Broken Window ideology brought to the table, one that caught progressives off-guard and brought in liberals hook-line-and-sinker. As Bernard Harcourt has noted , it transforms the idea of offensive acts into harmful acts. Public drinking and loitering aren’t harms, but they are offensive to some. Broken Windows allowed people to believe the notion that offensive behavior created (by creating the potentials for and inevitability of) legal harms. It also became backwards compatible, with people being able to think that harmful acts were obviously preceded by an offensive act; criminalize and ruthless prosecute the offensive acts, and you can prevent the real harms from taking place.

The more you read Judge Dredd stories, the more attractive his worldview becomes, especially if you alternate between the longer arcs (Apocalypse War, Block Mania, the Judge Child storyline) and the shorter stories which frequently featured Dredd punishing a citizen for some quality of life crime. Dredd faces more traditional villains in many of the longer stories, which makes it easier for the reader to start thinking of him as a heroic super cop. By the end of these stories, Dredd’s saved the lives of millions, and one would almost forget that this is the same guy who punishes people for ridiculous things. At it’s best, the series made me hate Dredd (and the system he represented) and want him to succeed. I felt drawn into a queasy complicity with a eerily familiar police state.

As a reader of long-form serialized superhero comics, the serial’s unique blend of worldbuilding, long-term plotting and (close to) real-time storytelling within the confines of a procedural also present an interesting alternative model to the Marvel/DC approach. You can have a popular quasi-superhero procedural where the characters age and the series progresses in real time.

This is the second attempt to adapt Judge Dredd as a feature film. The first (released in 1995) tried to toe the line between satire and action, but ultimately failed because the scope of the story was just too large . In the film, Dredd has to combat an existential threat to the status quo while attempting to clear his name of false murder charges. It’s an interesting premise, but the audience didn’t get enough of an opportunity to experience the status quo. Director Danny Cannon sets incredibly high stakes, but I had no investment in the outcome (other than the generalized non-specific support for the ‘good guys’). We needed to see more of Judge Dredd being Judge Dredd, not ex-Judge Dredd. It looks like Pete Travis is going to try to avoid this problem in Dredd by keeping it simple. Dredd and a rookie (Judge Anderson) take on a drug-dealing gang that’s occupied a city block. Contra Alyssa Rosenberg , I think Dredd stories are most effective when the character just does his job. If the filmmakers give the audience a look into the lives of the ordinary citizens of Mega City One, I think they’ll question the nature of the system in a more organic way.

I love that the trailer starts with the criminal (played by Lena Headey , who is an excellent ‘villain’ in the Game of Thrones series). The high stakes are set immediately. It’s a dark, post-apocalyptic world. One city. Many criminals. A strange (and illegal) reality altering drug. We need Dredd.

The trailer looks like it’s heavily influenced by Gareth Evans’ The Raid: Redemption, which was one of my favorite action movies of the last couple of years. There’s something incredibly compelling about watching someone face impossible odds.

I haven’t read the script, but I hope that the film will also prod the audience to examine their feelings about the criminal justice system, state sanctioned violence and the increasingly blurry line between counterinsurgency doctrine and domestic law enforcement. We all want to see Dredd kicking ass and taking names, but a great Dredd movie would make us question that impulse.

One other thing that I forgot to mention: although Judge Dredd stories are very dark (particularly if you have a strong commitment to civil liberties), they are frequently hilarious. I hope that the film captures some of that black humor as well.

If you’re not familiar with the Judge Dredd comic, I suggest the following:

  • Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files 05, by John Wagner and Alan Grant, with art from Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra and Mike McMahon. This collects Judge Death Lives, Block Mania and the Apocalypse War.
  • Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 02, by John Wagner and Pat Mills, with art from Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Mike McMahon. This one features Cursed Earth and The Day the Law Died.
  • Judge Dredd: The Complete America, by John Wagner with art from Colin MacNeil. The first part of this story is far stronger than the second and third, but it’s a classic Dredd story.
  • Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 14, by John Wagner, with art by Carlos Ezquerra and Will Simpson. This one features the brilliant Necropolis.
  • 2000 AD #460 (“Letter From A Democrat”), 531-33 (“Revolution”) and 661 (“A Letter to Judge Dredd”). Letter From A Democrat and Revolution were written by Wagner and Grant, with art from John Higgins. A Letter to Judge Dredd was written by Wagner with art from Simpson. You can find these issues in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 09, 11 and 13.

I’d also strongly recommend reading Douglas Wolk’s Dredd Reviews blog project, where he reviews every Dredd book in chronological order. It’s a fun read and features appearances from Alyssa Rosenberg, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone, David Wolkin, Graeme McMillan and FBB4L compatriot David Brothers, among others. If you’re completely new to Dredd, or if (like me) you’re not familiar with the modern Dredd books, Wolk provides an excellent guide (along with some great commentary – the discussion with McCulloch about Ennis is fantastic stuff).

June 14, 2012

The Thrilling Adventures of the Absolutist Spider-Man

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 1:20 am

So apparently “Ends of the Earth” wrapped up in Amazing Spider-Man today, a big story about Doctor Octopus wanting to murder seven billion people so that everyone will remember him after his death as History’s Greatest Monster: “a mass murderer worse than Hitler, Pol Pot, and Genghis Khan combined!” He actually says this.

Never mind that seven billion people puts him pretty safely into the realm of “a mass murderer worse than all mass murderers ever combined”.

Never mind that I’m not sure anyone — Hitler, Pol Pot or Genghis Khan included — ever sat down and went, “This is what I’m going into the history books for, boys. Being a mass murderer!”

Never mind the nauseating “heroes don’t torture, if you pretend that torture means cold blooded murder and nothing less” scene from a few issues back.

Never mind that the entire story felt like a video game with a bunch of ‘quests’ that were immediately invalidated because Doctor Octopus had secret contingency plan after secret contingency plan.

You’ll all be glad to know that Spidey saved the day, and kept Doc Ock from turning on his Doomsday Satellite and murdering 99.992% of Earth’s population. The good guys won! But don’t try telling that to Spider-Man!

absolutist-spidey (more…)

May 11, 2012

Azzarello and Chiang’s Excellent Adventure

Filed under: Blurbs,Reviews — Tags: , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 1:14 pm

I loved everything about the first few issues of Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman. When Chiang was briefly rotated off the title, my love dimmed, even though Akins is a more than capable artist. Chiang returned to the series for the seventh issue, but I fear that it’s too late. My love has faded.

(more…)

May 10, 2012

With Two Left Feet, It’s Hard To Walk The Straight Path

Filed under: Articles,Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 3:00 pm

I. Everybody Talking About Changing the World, the World Ain’t Never Gonna Change

In the summer of 2011, I came up with a plan. I would collaborate with Chris Eckert on a post previewing DC’s relaunch of its line of superhero comics, and write a series of brief posts in subsequent months that would discuss the creative successes and failures of the initiative. I was cautiously optimistic about the initiative in the first few months, despite some early disappointments. Even a month ago, I still cared about five or six of these books. I was going to write a post on Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins’ Wonder Woman and Francis Manapul’s Flash and follow that up with a post on the two stand-out miniseries of the post-relaunch period at DC – Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Jamal Igle’s the Ray and James Robinson’s Shade.

I’m not sure that I can do that anymore without acknowledging my growing concerns about reading books from either publisher. I don’t think I can pretend that controversies about DC’s attitude towards the creators who work on the books it publishes don’t have an impact on whether I will buy (or can recommend) their books.

(more…)

April 15, 2012

Before Watchmen: Marketing Tips and a Bold Prediction

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , — Chris Eckert @ 1:13 am

Looks like Brothers mopped up the whole odious “moral high ground” statement from today’s Before Watchmen panel, so let me offer some free advice to DC Marketing and its attendant promotional arms at various big comic blogs.

Look, I’m not a fancy marketing whiz. I’ve never worked at an ad agency or anything. But I have been on the Internet for a long time, long enough to remember when Mondo 2000 was a thing and Boing Boing was just a zine and Douglas Rushkoff was still a doe-eyed optimist about the potential of CYBERIA and memes were something you would namedrop while shouting over Rave Til Dawn at that warehouse club from Hackers, not a picture of a dog talking to someone on a telephone with captions in an Impact font.

So please believe when I tell you, I don’t think you know what viral marketing is. Or maybe it’s not you. Maybe I need to address this to bloggers out there, and the “viral” wording isn’t from DC itself. But… (more…)

November 1, 2011

More Girl Talk: It Could Be Worse

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 11:33 pm

Last time I probably spent too much time rebutting Colin Smith’s review of The Ultimates and extrapolations about its creators and publisher made from a single comic book. I said people needed to look at things in context. I want to make something clear: no one can tell anyone else what to be offended by. If Smith or anyone else was bothered by the Boys’ Club atmosphere in The Ultimates, that’s their reaction and I can’t tell them not to be bothered. Recently commenters across the people across the Internet have been bothered by a plethora of things in the Superhero World: the prolific use of “bitch” in Arkham City, the New 52’s depiction of characters like Catwoman and Starfire, overall representation of women in comics, and probably several issues I’ve forgotten. People are entitled to be bothered by whatever they want, and I’m inclined to join them in their dismay at all of these things. But to the collected Internet Team Comics Blogosphere, I want to say one thing: It Could Be Worse. (more…)

September 7, 2011

Imaginary Stories

Filed under: Blurbs — Jamaal Thomas @ 6:52 pm

This is going to be a quick one.

I’ve been thinking about canon, alternate takes on Marvel/DC properties, cultural ownership and the artificial rules of storytelling in fictional storytelling over the last couple of days. I’m still working through some ideas on the latter two, but I want to spend a little time on the notion of canon and the possibilities suggested by Jon Morris’s DC Fifty-Too Project. For the unfamiliar, Jon Morris, an independent cartoonist and creator of the hilarious Jeremy: The Complete Strip Collection, among others, was inspired by DC’s relaunch of its main line of titles. DC Fifty-Too was a challenge issued by Morris to 52 cartoonists to imagine their own version of a new title using DC characters. The results were spectacular, a reminder of the potential locked in DC’s vast library of characters, possibilities that will remain unrealized due to restrictions of continuity or canon or the conservative preferences of editors and readers. It was the same sense of loss that I felt after reading Brendan McCarthy’s pitch for a post-apocalyptic Jimmy Olsen book or James Stokoe’s brilliant Spider Nam idea. I’d love to read these projects, whether as one-shots or limited series or ongoings, and it’s a shame that none of these projects will ever see the light of day.

DelinquentJimmyOlsen-WEB-796003

(more…)

July 27, 2011

Fan Service – Setting the Table

Filed under: Blurbs — Jamaal Thomas @ 11:10 am

“Writers don’t do stories specifically to piss off fans. Writers write stories about which they feel passionate and invested. As a reader, you’re entitled to one thing and one thing only: a reading experience in exchange for your purchase. And if you like that reading experience, the expectation is that you’ll come back for more. But the audience does not and should never be in control of the stories. Writers are writers because they know how to do what audiences don’t know how to do—tell stories that affect you and move you. It’s way tougher than it looks. Storytelling isn’t a democracy, you don’t get a decision in how the stories go. All you get is your one vote, with your dollars or your feet.”

Tom Brevoort, Marvel Senior Vice President of Marvel in response to a reader question asking “why [] writers persist on doing controversial directions/stories that are disliked by fans?”

Sean Collins of Robot 6 singled this quote out as part of a growing creator backlash against ‘fan entitlement’, including some comments from Brian Lee O’Malley about George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series and some…interesting comments made by Grant Morrison in his new book Supergods. It’s a weird faux trend that gives creators, journalists and critics an opportunity to attack their favorite straw man – the entitled ‘bad fan’ who we all use to externalize our insecurities around comics fandom. There’s a lot to say about this trend, but let’s focus on a very basic point – the question above illustrates fan confusion, not entitlement.

There’s nothing particularly controversial about Brevoort’s response. He was simply stating a truism in the kind of brusque fake tough guy way familiar to long-time sports fans. I picture WFAN’s Mike Francesa putting Vinnie from the Bronx in his place.

One could imagine a more responsive, if somewhat simplified answer to the reader’s question – for the most part, writers of mainstream Marvel Comics don’t persist in writing books that most readers actively dislike. Marvel is your typical profit-seeking enterprise in the business of selling comic books that readers want to buy, which creates a disincentive to publish widely disliked comics. But I suspect that this reader knows this already. So, a more precise response – what makes the reader think that fans don’t like those ‘controversial’ stories? Which fans is he referring to?

A lot of fans assume that they know what fans want. It’s understandable. They’re fans. Who would know what a fan would want better than a fan? They assume that their views and preferences (and those of the other fans they know, whether in real life or on the internet) represent those of comics fandom. It’s a comforting lie. As readers of these books, we need to come to terms with the fact that we really don’t know anything about what other readers want. We can look at sales charts as an imperfect proxy for fan preferences or dredge up anecdotes about the people who frequent our local comics store or who we interact with on social media, but we’ll still be unable to identify reader preferences with any real precision. I don’t know what book this reader was referring to, but there’s a very real possibility that he’s talking about a book that has a widespread audience. The world is bigger than your store, your neighborhood, your friends list.

I know how it feels. I thought the end of Civil War was a cop-out, Secret Invasion a waste of an intriguing premise, and that One More Day was a solution to a non-existent problem. Many, if not most of my friends agreed with me – if I posted an incisively cutting comment about any of the above on Twitter, in an online conversation or in my local comic store, I’d get nothing but positive reinforcement. But my village is not the world. The truth – and granted, this is relying on the imperfect proxy of sales charts – is that all three of those books were immensely popular and in all likelihood, the majority of readers enjoyed them. It’s always dangerous to assume that we know more than we actually do, to universalize our limited experience – and that applies equally to creators who have bad interactions with misanthropic fans. A guy on a message board who’s unfairly critical of the last volume of the Scott Pilgrim series of books doesn’t represent anyone other than himself.

I guess that if I was in Brevoort’s shoes, I would’ve told the reader to chill out and to remember that the book they hate may be someone else’s favorite book. If he (or she) doesn’t like a particular book, there’s always another one that might be preferable. I know, I know, it’s more fun to mock people who don’t ask good questions.

One other thing – It’s tempting to conclude that those who disagree with you are the ‘bad fans’ – the marginalized ‘other’, those who buy comics out of a pathetic sense of obligation, or as a sad investment or because they’re obsessed completists. Those people are out there, but we all need to deal with the fact that reasonable people hold a broad range of opinions. There are people out there who don’t like King City, who didn’t think Asterios Polyp was a work of genius, who weren’t blown away by Mark Waid’s first issue of Daredevil. I think those people are mad. But that’s not really true. To paraphrase film critic Mark Kermode, other opinions are always available. More on the Great Strawman Witch Hunt of 2011 later.

June 24, 2011

I Am Pretty Sure Marvel Mislabeled Fear Itself: Immortal Weapons #2 as Iron Man 2.0 #6

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 7:22 pm

Iron Man 2.0 #6 came out this week, the second part of the book’s tie-in to Fear Itself. And by tying into Fear Itself, I mean that Nick Spencer really wanted to write an Iron Fist/Immortal Weapons series, and I guess all of the editors were so busy coordinating a summer crossover that he snuck it into a book ostensibly about James Rhodes/War Machine/Iron Man 2.0. If you’re looking for some Rhodey action, you should probably look elsewhere! Not to spoil things, but here’s the sum total of his dialogue in this issue:

“The middle of Beijing, it looks like.”

“Didn’t work. Where are these reinforcements you were telling me about?”

“We all did.”

“I figure I’m clear either way.”

“What the hell is she talking about? That’s not the Titania I’ve dealt with before–”

(more…)

June 9, 2011

FBB EXCLUSIVE: WATERMARKED IMAGES OF UPCOMING DC RELAUNCH COVERS!

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 1:03 pm

It’s Thursday morning and DC is still parceling out its Big Relaunch News, with 48 of 52 books officially announced. I’ve been keeping track of them in a Google Spreadsheet! The only books left unannounced as those in the Superman Family, which is obviously being saved for tomorrow. Given their weird press junket (USA Today, Ain’t It Cool News, Entertainment Weekly Popwatch, IGN) I fully expect the exclusive “Superman Is No Longer Married” interview to be with either Jezebel, Big Hollywood, or Suicidegirls.

But not everyone at DC got the memo about holding off on Superbook info until Friday — someone at DC’s Source Blog uploaded some of the Super #1 covers this morning. They were at these addresses, and presumably will be again in 24 hours or so:

http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/files/2011/06/sm_cv1.jpg

http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/files/2011/06/sg_cv1.jpg

http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/files/2011/06/sb_cv1.jpg

Enterprising fans quickly discovered these images, and within minutes they were all over Twitter, tumblr, message boards, etc. Within a few more minutes, someone at DC realized their error. An hour or so later, these images appeared watermarked as part of a certain site’s EXCLUSIVE SCOOP!

Well shucks, why should one guy get to have all that fun?

(more…)

June 6, 2011

DC Editors Say the Darndest Things

Filed under: Blurbs — Chris Eckert @ 2:20 pm

DC has been issuing press releases left and right lately, hyping up their Big Overhaul in September. I’m sure their press department is working like mad, but some really goofy things have slipped out as a result. For instance!

On the subject of the oft-delayed Batwoman #1:

It’s very important in several different ways […] this is also the first time that we have a superhero title from a major publisher that features a lesbian protagonist.

You know, except for this lesbian Batwoman being the star of Detective Comics in 2009-2010. Or Rene Montoya being a main protagonist in Gotham Central, 52, The Crime Bible, and Final Crisis Revelations from 2003-2010. Or Holly Robinson taking the title role in Catwoman in 2006. Or Maggie Sawyer taking center stage in the 1994 mini-series Metropolis S.C.U. That’s not even counting team books: X-Men Legacy, Darkhold, Young Heroes in Love, Runaways, New Mutants, Dark Avengers, Shadow Cabinet, Heroes, Blood Syndicate, Legion of Super Heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy all featured (or feature currently) lesbians in their ensemble. (more…)

February 8, 2011

Offered With Minimal Comment: Marvel Premiere #1

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , — Chris Eckert @ 11:29 pm

marvel-premiere-001

Marvel Premiere #1 - Roy Thomas & Gil Kane - Marvel Comics, April 1972

Comic Book Hippies were really getting it from all sides, weren’t they?

February 5, 2011

Offered With Minimal Comment: Brother Power the Geek #2

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , — Chris Eckert @ 12:43 am

Brother Power the Geek #2 - Joe Simon and Al Bare - DC Comics, 1968

Brother Power the Geek #2 - Joe Simon and Al Bare - DC Comics, 1968

I’ve been in hardcore research mode for some upcoming BHM posts, and wanted to share this panel I came across.

It illustrates an overlooked cost of corporate monoculture: modern labor protesters have only giant inflatable rats to rent. What happened to the Peace Missiles?

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