Jun
14

The Thrilling Adventures of the Absolutist Spider-Man

Posted by on Thursday, June 14th, 2012 at 01:20:06 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 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blurbs · 18 Comments »
May
31

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for May 2012

Posted by on Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 11:06:14 PM

We’re back — at the very end of May — with another installment of 5-10-15-20, where we look at comic book history in convenient five year installments. I’ve started to figure out the workflow of digging up all this information, and I’m curious: what sort of features are people interested in seeing? Significant releases? Character debuts? Industry happenings? Births and deaths? Funny covers? Please let me know in the comments.

FIVE YEARS AGO – MAY 2007

The #1 Comic Book Five Years Ago was Fallen Son: Captain America

Fallen Son Captain America Romita

Yep, another month with Jeph Loeb’s all-star adaptation of On Death and Dying at the top of the charts! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 5-10-15-20, Articles · 4 Comments »
May
15

Jack Kirby and The Great Chain of Being (Screwed)

Posted by on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 01:20:39 PM

So in just two weeks, Marvel’s The Avengers has made a billion dollars worldwide. Over the past fourteen years, films based on Marvel superheroes have grossed over nine and a half billion dollars at the box office, and with the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Thor 2 and others, you can expect to add a couple billion more to the ledger in the next year or so. As anyone reading this probably already knows, Jack Kirby — co-creator of the characters starring in Avengers and many of these other blockbuster films — does not receive credit in the films, nor does his family receive even the smallest scrap of this massive revenue stream.

CORRECTION: Apparently Jack Kirby’s name is listed in the credits of Marvel’s The Avengers, a film I have not seen. I was under the mistaken impression that he was not credited in two films I did see recently, Thor and Captain America.

In Thor, the credit “Based on The Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby” is placed in the latter half of the end credits, in between those for Stand-Ins and Production Supervisor.

In Captain America, the credit “Based on The Marvel Comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby” is placed in the latter half of the end credits, in between those for Stand-Ins and Supervising Sound Editor.

In Marvel’s the Avengers I do not know the placement of the credit. It may also be easy to miss. A story circulated last month in which Stan Lee seemed to indicate Kirby’s name was not in the credits for the film. This was later confirmed to not be true. Having seen neither the film itself nor the corrections, I passed along this incorrect statement. Jack Kirby is credited in Marvel’s The Avengers. He just isn’t being paid for it.

Plenty of other pundits have remarked on this — Steve Bissette, Tom Spurgeon, David Brothers, our own Jamaal Thomas to name just a few — and recently Spurgeon provided a handy list of all the creators whose work led to the Avengers becoming a billion dollar movie.

That list reminded me of a comment from a few months back, in response to another good Kirby post from Brothers. RS David said:

The result of the Kirby trial changed the way I purchased comics too. Essentially, I cut out all Marvel comics focused on Kirby creations (unfortunately that included Parker’s Hulk, but still buying Thunderbolts).

On one hand, this is a perfectly rational response. Marvel’s lack of respect towards the Kirby estate is a massive, prominent thumb in the eye of treating comics creators like human beings. If you’re not prepared to go cold turkey, dropping the books most clearly built off Kirby’s unrewarded labor seems like the logical thing to do. But in practice, this is a tangled web. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Articles · 11 Comments »
May
11

Azzarello and Chiang’s Excellent Adventure

Posted by on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 01:14:59 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blurbs, Reviews · 9 Comments »
May
10

Five Years Later: The Oral History of Countdown to Final Crisis

Posted by on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 10:00:24 PM

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Countdown #51. Hopefully everyone honored the anniversary in the same way as its creators: by trying to forget that Countdown ever existed.

Indeed, what can be said about Countdown that has not already been said about the Vietnam War? It was a quagmire, an unwinnable war of attrition that even the planners could not find a graceful way to end. It left a psychic scar on the nation, and destroyed the best years of countless young men’s lives.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as Vietnam. If nothing else, Countdown provided the spark that led to me blogging about comics. And if you don’t think that’s a good thing, fine: it also provided us a near-perfect lab specimen of what an Editorially Driven Comic Book looks like. To a certain extent, everything you can say about Countdown is true of nearly every Big Two superhero comic:

  • It was published to fill a hole in the schedule
  • Non-Executive-Staff creative members were treated like interchangeable cogs, comic-producing machines
  • Plot Events (and importance to the companywide Uberplot) were privileged over what would be traditionally called “story” and “character”
  • It received constant “comics” “media” attention on the big blogs despite no one, not even the interviewers and DC employees extruding the book weekly, seemed to care in the least

Countdown may have been a lightning-in-a-bottle, textbook demonstration of what you get when the entire publishing line of a company is hashed out by people who have never been hired to be creators on a dry erase board, then handed down piecemeal to people actually hired to be creators. But it isn’t the last. From countless Blackest Night tie-ins (now with free prize inside!) to Marvel’s endless series of Avengers Presents: We Need Some Movie Tie-Ins, from Avengers vs. X-Men to Before Watchmen, we are seeing a shift towards ever more editorially driven comics from “The Big Two”. All of the gradual, glacial movement towards treating superhero comics as something that might exist because a creator had a compelling story seems to be eroding. Of course, this exists in all media: just as there Has to Be an issue of Batman every month, there also has to be a few dozen episodes of CSI shows every year, an appropriate number of Star Wars Extended Universe novels, a Battleship motion picture, whether anyone has the perfect idea for it or not. But the ratio of “someone has a good idea they have pitched” to “someone in marketing decided this needs to exist” is growing more and more lopsided. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Articles, Downcounting · 14 Comments »
May
10

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

Posted by on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 03:00:24 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Articles, Blurbs · 4 Comments »
Apr
30

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for April 2012

Posted by on Monday, April 30th, 2012 at 11:41:01 PM

It’s the end of the month, so you know what time it is: 5-10-15-20 time! No one guessed the really dumb research question from last month: I read over two dozen black and white issues of Luke Cage looking for the first recorded instance of “Sweet Christmas!” That means no one gets the Luke Cage toy I have lying around for some reason. On with the history!

The #1 Comic Five Years Ago was Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America #1
336484

Last month Captain America died, and this month Jeph Loeb begins mining his core competencies — jumping onto hot properties, using his rolodex of Big Name Artists, and working the untimely death of his son — into one mega-selling mini-series. Spoiler alert: we’ll be seeing more of Fallen Son in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 5-10-15-20, Articles · 10 Comments »
Apr
26

FBBP #139 – Origin Stories with David Brothers

Posted by and on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 02:59:32 PM

Chris and David Brothers chat about how they got into comics, how they drifted away, how they came back, and lots of other digressions about their formative years.

Check out this gallery of some of the comics we end up discussing!
Plus: Bronze Age DC, the Death of Superman novelization, Marvel’s Star Wars comics, the Ultraverse, Frank Miller in Spanish, Marvel Knights, and much much more!

Coming up next: more Origin Stories, with the rest of the FBB Gang.

Posted in Podcasts · 5 Comments »
Apr
18

Frank Miller and the Fairy Tale History of Comics

Posted by on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 at 02:00:35 PM

This past weekend David Brothers brought up Frank Miller’s big 1994 speech from a Diamond Retailers seminar that got reprinted in the back of Sin City: The Big Fat Kill #5. He wrote something about it too. It’s a powerful speech, and dismaying at how much of the speech could easily be cross-applied to the industry eighteen years later with maybe 5% of the text adjusted. While I still don’t understand Miller’s hardline stance against anything resembling ratings or cover advisories, his message about creative freedom and creators’ rights still ring true. Which makes it all the more frustrating that he pushes what amounts to the Fairy Tale version of the comic book industry in 1954: He even does so in an attempt to “correct” history, saying:

This is how screwy our sense of our own history is. Most people in comics don’t realize that the Senate vindicated us. After due consideration, the United States Senate decided comics books were not a cause of juvenile delinquency. We were vindicated. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Articles · 6 Comments »
Apr
15

Before Watchmen: Marketing Tips and a Bold Prediction

Posted by on Sunday, April 15th, 2012 at 01:13:07 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… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blurbs · 12 Comments »
Mar
31

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for March 2012

Posted by on Saturday, March 31st, 2012 at 11:15:52 AM

Welcome back to 5-10-15-20, a monthly column that looks at things that happened in comics using arbitrary five year jumps! I realize this is being published in April. I had finished the post a week or so ago, but got caught up researching something really dumb and forgot I hadn’t posted this until today, when I finished the research project. What do you think I was researching? Guess in the comments! There will be a prize, probably.

This time out I made a point to include when certain characters were created X years ago this month, and mention who created them. I know I’m late to the party as Tom Spurgeon has been posting for the past month on this very topic. While there’s no doubt that all the attention given to the monumental work people like Siegel, Shuster, Lee, and Kirby contributed to the comics landscape is deserved, and their treatment by the corporate benefactors of that work has been almost universally abhorrent, it’s also important to remember that there have been hundreds if not thousands of other creators working in the trenches, putting their backs into tilling the soil upon which Marvel and DC’s fertile IP grows. They’re not getting any money for their characters showing up in movies or video games or toy lines either. The literal least we can do as Team Comics is acknowledge they did stuff that made comics we like now possible.

The #1 Comic Five Years Ago Was: Captain America#25

285623 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 5-10-15-20, Articles · 1 Comment »
Mar
16

New 52 Brand Management Musings, or what happens when the cat wakes up.

Posted by on Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 12:00:58 PM

Six months after DC’s historic line wide relaunch, it’s become clear that the artists have taken over. The four best books from the first wave — Wonder Woman, Flash, Batman and Animal Man — all have talented writers, but with all due respect to Messrs. Azzarello, Lemire and Snyder, the art is the primary appeal. It’s all about Chiang, Manapul, Capullo and Foreman.

Quick(ish) confession: I have a troubling tendency to attribute the authorship of corporate superhero books to the writer by default, particularly when the art’s mediocre. Sure, I spend time thinking about the choices made by the pencillers, inkers, colorists (and sometimes the letterers), but tend to consider them contributors to the writer’s creative vision. It’s an easy and astonishingly lazy way to read comics, but that’s the way they seem to marketed most of the time. Still… no excuse.

The writing has only been interesting to the extent that it serves the needs of the story that the artists are telling. Batman‘s entertaining because of the contrast between Capullo’s post post Bronze Age art and Snyder’s horror/thriller inspired writing. Animal Man is great because of how Lemire’s absurdist gothic horror prose complements Travel Foreman’s body horror. I love Wonder Woman and like Brian Azzarello, but without Cliff Chiang’s spare, expressive art, the story loses some of its meaning: it goes from a gripping tale of a warrior struggling with family and identity to a pretty standard superhero book. Chiang strips the book of the artifice that’s bogged down earlier volumes while retaining the iconic quality that’s central to Wonder Woman. His action scenes are plausibly staged and brutally efficient in a way that grounds a story steeped in Greek mythology. Tony Akins does a nice job and all, but it’s an entirely different book in his hands.

The other books I’ve sampled from the first relaunch wave have been maddeningly inconsistent. The first few issues of Action Comics and Batwoman were pretty good, but painfully slow pacing, reduced page counts and questionable storytelling choices have wasted much of that early promise. Williams is growing as a writer, and Morrison still shows some flashes of brilliance, but there’s something missing from both books.

So, some thoughts on the new 52 books:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Articles · 6 Comments »
Feb
21

5-10-15-20: Comic Book History for February 2012

Posted by on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 09:58:12 PM

In the interest of making everyone feel old, inspired by Scientific American, and because I spend too much time digging through old comic book material anyway, here’s what will hopefully be a new monthly feature: 5-10-15-20, a look back at goings-on in the funnybook field in half-decade increments. Yesterday should’ve been the fiftieth birthday of Dwayne McDuffie, but instead today marks the first anniversary of his passing. If you’d rather go read one of his books or watch something he show-ran, I understand.

feb5271881

The #1 Comic Five Years Ago Was: Civil War #7

Has it really only been five years since Civil War? On one hand, it seems like there have been at least a dozen events and big status quo shifts since All The Union Employees Stood Up to Tell Cap to Give Up. On the other hand, the very first FBB podcast was recorded in the immediate aftermath of said Civil War. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been doing this for five years, but here we are. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 5-10-15-20, Articles · 3 Comments »
Jan
24

FBBP #138 – Daredevil Discourse with David Brothers

Posted by , and on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at 10:00:02 AM

We’re joined this episode by David Brothers, and he brought with him a classic Marvel run: Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. on Daredevil!

This isn’t the gritty noir Daredevil modern readers have grown to expect:

It contains a critique of factory farming!
dd-pigs

Philosophical (and physical) fights about feminism! (And DD joking!)
dd-feminism

The Inhumans! (And philosophical fights about societal ethos!)
dd-gorgon

Ultron!! (And fights about the notion of free will and perfection!)
dd-ultron

And that’s before everyone literally Goes to Hell.
dd-demons

It’s an awesome read, though the issues we dug up to discuss (DD #270-282) are largely out of print. That shouldn’t stop you from seeking them out of the back issue bins, or reading the earlier part of this epic run collected in Typhoid Mary and Lone Stranger. A decent portion of the run is also up on Marvel’s Digital Store.

This is a long one, but chock full of things to discuss: we drifted off into conversations about the heady topics hinted at above, the terrible implications of Inhuman society, why Quicksilver is better as a turbo-dick, Alan Moore’s Supreme, recent issues of Secret Avengers, and Nocenti’s upcoming run on Green Arrow.

Coming up: more podcasts! Got something (or someone) you think we should have on the show? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Podcasts · 6 Comments »
Jan
9

An Aperitif

Posted by on Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 01:00:41 PM

I’ve been meaning to write about comics for about two months, but life got in the way. Family, work, holidays… you know the spiel.

I haven’t stopped reading comics (as evidenced by my Twitter feed), but between the controversies about salaries and work conditions at Marvel Comics, the Kirby (and Ghost Rider) litigations, diversity in mainstream superhero books and day and date digital comics, I’ve found it easier to simply disengage from the debate for a bit. I think we’ve been having the same conversations about the comics industry for the last twenty years, and nothing really changes. We’re still asking Marvel and DC to improve working conditions for creators and to respect their creative rights. We’re hoping that they treat the writers, artists and editors who were responsible for creating their most valuable intellectual property with kindness, respect and honor. We want them to realize that attracting a workforce with diverse backgrounds and experiences will foster innovation and lead to more interesting and original stories. We want them to learn how to effectively market and sell their product to a wider audience, many of whom will never set foot in a comic store.

I feel like I’ve been trying to balance my love of some Marvel/DC books with my disdain for the management of both publishers for most of my life. They’re never going to change. Neither am I. That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to rail against their unjust and/or shortsighted business practices, but… I guess I just need a break sometimes. Maybe it’s holiday malaise, even though this might have been the best holiday season since I was eight years old.

Quick comics update: Read the rest of this entry »

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