Funnybook Babylon

December 28, 2007

Pull List Reviews for December 28, 2007

Filed under: Pull List Analysis,Reviews — David Uzumeri @ 3:43 pm

This was an absolutely huge week for me, so there’s a lot here.

Batman #672: If you were waiting for the part of the run where everything would go fucking insane and you’d think “Well, Jesus, NOW this is a Grant Morrison book”: It’s here. I’ve been enjoying this book a lot so far, but the main plot kicks into overdrive here and we’re headed for Batman stories the likes of which we haven’t read in decades. Anyone who had Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told as a kid and read it over and over like me will REALLY enjoy this issue.

Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood #3: The threads tying these stories together become a lot clearer, as does Montoya’s current mental state, and what Flay is up to. This is a really interesting book that a lot of people aren’t digging because it is admittedly very slow and detail-oriented — but the rewards are there if you look for them.

Death of the New Gods #4: It’s about on par with the series so far — if you’ve enjoyed it so far, you’ll like this. Unless you’re a *hardcore* Kirby fanboy to the point of rejecting anything different done with the New Gods. Because there are some odd revelations in this issue. Still, it’s fun, and casts some interesting questions about Final Crisis, but at the end of the day, it’s FC-speculator Kirby continuity porn.

Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files: The nerd’s reference guide. Huge and definitive. I haven’t read all of it yet — it’ll take quite a while — but it’s a slick package.

Legion of Super-Heroes #37: Manapul’s art works really well with this book, and Shooter’s script is strong and funny, combining old-school and new-Waid-era Legion sensibilities. He’s got a reverence to what comes before, and his writing style isn’t Claremont-dated — the dialogue is crisp, the characterization strong. It’s your dad’s Legion book, and it’s not. It’s a strong first issue. I can’t pass too much judgment yet, but I’m intrigued.

Amazing Spider-Man #545: If you think this is the end, you have absolutely no reading comprehension skills. It was easily the best issue of the arc so far, with people acting remotely reasonable for once. There are a lot of dangling plot threads, and it’s not pissing on thirty years of continuity. This isn’t the end of the story. You may not still like it, but give it a chance.

Iron Man #24: Events start fitting together. Guice’s art with White’s coloring looks fantastic, I’ll be sad to see him leave this book. It’s a mid-arc chapter, so I can’t say too much specifically, but if you’ve been enjoying this smart techno-espionage-thriller this chapter won’t disappoint.

Punisher #53: The previous few issues, amped to 11. This arc is insane.

Daredevil #103: This issue ostensibly features guest art by Paul Azaceta (Potter’s Field), but I sure couldn’t tell. It’s another strong issue of Brubaker’s run, but I really don’t know where he’s going with all this — it’s starting to feel like just another tribulation in Matt’s life. Still, Bru has the tendency to impress and surprise me. Another for the “we’ll see” pile, but fans of the book so far will want this (obviously).

Captain Marvel #2: This miniseries is shaping up to be way more interesting than its predecessor, Civil War: The Return. It seems like they aren’t planning on Mar-Vell’s return being permanent, which is interesting, and it’s doing a lot to lead towards Secret Invasion (at least, so it seems). It’s an interesting take on the character, and honestly I’d like to see more after this mini, but I just don’t see it happening. Maybe I’m wrong.

Teen Titans #54: McKeever ends his first arc on an alright note, although I’m unsure how i feel about the implications of the final scene. Still, it’s not really his book — this arc was editorially mandated — until #55, which will allow for a fuller examination of what he’s planning on doing with the title.

Ultimate Spider-Man #117: Maybe the best issue of the series so far. I don’t want to say any more, but this issue is essential.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #49: I have to admit this arc didn’t do much for me, and I didn’t think Brooks’s art fit the characters very well. That said, I’ve been enjoying Carey’s run as a whole, and next issue returns to his far more interesting Cosmic Cube main-plot. Unfortunately, I also understand it’s the last or second-to-last arc before Jeph Loeb ruins the Ultimate Universe.

Blue Beetle #22: Excellent as always, although I’m scared the book is crawling along to its end. Its sales certainly haven’t been hopeful. With any luck, editorial approval will keep it alive a la Manhunter, since it really is one of DC’s best books.

Avengers: The Initiative #8: Holy shit, what a difference a Gage makes! The dialogue is way sharper in this issue, with a lot of Slott’s more obnoxious tendencies toned down with a lot of his sense of humor that was enjoyable in She-Hulk v1 shining through. I think it brings something to the book that it was lacking before, a kind of grounding, and I’m on for the foreseeable future because this book seems to be finding its form. It’s not Marvel’s best book by a longshot, but it’s got a huge cast of interesting characters that it’s doing cool stuff with. If you’ve been turned off by Slott’s tongue-in-cheekery, give this issue a try.

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #5: I want Giffen to take over Superman/Batman, because his version of the relationship between the two is hilarious and believable. That said, the miniseries barrels towards its final confrontation, and it continues to be a lot of fun and supporting the thesis that 52 spinoff books are the best things at DC.

Action Comics #860: The arc continues, basically. I’m not sure where it’s leading, but it’s quite a bit of fun.

Flash #235: If you love the kids, this is a great issue. If you hate the kids, it’s godawful. Totally depends on that. I love the kids, so I thought it was great, and it’s a shame Waid’s leaving although Tom Peyer is pretty hopeful as a replacement. The backup, as always, is funny and rather nicely dovetails back in with the main plot.

Green Lantern #26: Taking stock after the Sinestro Corps War, basically. This is a much slower arc about the changes going on in the Corps, and it’ll answer a lot of questions people had about what the organization is going to do with these new regulations. Sinestro especially gets some really interesting face time. The book may have slowed down, but it’s not losing its appeal or momentum.

Captain America #33: What’s great about Brubaker is that he takes stories exactly where you think they’d go, but he manages to make it incredibly entertaining anyways. His characters are consistent to the point of being predictable, and lord knows Marvel’s marketing department doesn’t help, but it never does anything to the impact or quality of his stories.

Thor #5: What the fuck, JMS? This is just bizarre, I dunno what else to say about this issue. This is a new direction but… kind of not. I dunno.

Brave and the Bold #9: B- and C-listers galore, as this issue features three different team-ups, all linked by the plot thread of the Challengers and Megistus. It’s big-action cosmic time-space-bending superhero comics at their best, much like the series so far; it revels in being old school.

X-Men #206: Man, why the fuck are the Carey chapters the only important ones of this crossover? This is a great issue, but it just seems lame that in between them I have to slog through three issues of chess pieces moving before they actually fight in the Carey issue. Maybe I’ll be wrong next month; I hope so.

December 20, 2007

FBBP #39 – Holiday Special!

Filed under: Podcasts — Funnybook Babylon @ 12:40 pm

In the spirit of Christmas, Joe has forgiven time machines everywhere for the awful time travel stories they inspire! And even if you’re locked in linear progressive time, Santa has a treat for you: a special double episode to tide you over through the holidays. Forgive the audio quality, we should have all that sorted before our planned year end spectacular.

This week we talk Sinestro Corps, Editorial Control regarding: One More Day, One Less Wife, among many many other things…enjoy.

December 19, 2007

Countdown to Extinction, Part One

Was this the beginning of the end?

Over the last several months, the comics blogosphere has been consumed with the problems of DC Comics. Impassioned posts have been written detailing the decline in both the quality of the books and market share (vis a vis Marvel). DC has significantly altered the tone of its universe in the last twenty years, transforming characters infused with the optimism of the Silver Age into ones that were superficially darker. Some say this trend began with Watchmen, others say it began with The Dark Knight Returns, but the result is a universe that fans consider ‘less fun’. Stories were inserted in the pasts of some characters, most notably in Identity Crisis, that were designed to make the characters more ‘realistic’. Many of these changes are inspired by a desire for superhero books to be more relevant to popular culture.

Pop culture has always had a schizophrenic relationship with the genre. On one hand, adaptations of the books in other media have experienced some measure of success, a development that is arguably at its current zenith with the success of the Batman, Spider Man and X-men franchises. This success has rarely translated into interest in the actual books produced by either company. However, when publishers (and fans) see broader acceptance of the concepts, they see a chance to rejoin mainstream popular culture again.
Isn't this just like real life?
As a result, almost every new development in comics, from the importation of talent from other media, the introduction of all-ages comic lines or the adaptation of popular properties into comics has been received by long term fans with an eye towards “growing the audience”.
If you build it, they will come.
Broadly speaking, when we talk about a “new audience”, we are talking about two groups of consumers. First, we are referring to the cohort of children aged six to twelve. This group was the classic audience for superhero comics throughout much of the genre’s history. This audience is particularly attractive for two reasons. One is that at this age, children are believed to be somewhat impressionable, and can not only develop an interest in super-heroes as a concept, but the comic book as a medium. Even if that interest dissipates with adolescence, graphic storytelling will still retain some legitimacy with them. The second reason is a notion (shared by a sizable portion of the blogosphere) that they are the “natural audience” for the medium. The second class of consumers is essentially composed of my cohort: people between the ages of eighteen and thirty who may have been a fan of comics as a child, but who have drifted away due to the genre’s reputation and quality. Based on which marketing theory you buy, this may also be the key ‘disposable income’ cohort.

The problem at DC (one that I believe is shared to a lesser degree by Marvel) is that strategies designed to attract either fanbase can alienate the existing one. If DC de-emphasizes or eliminates continuity, it loses the audience that cherishes it. If it makes any serious attempt to make their superhero line more mature (in the sense of encouraging character growth as a method of developing the narrative rather than using plot devices), or to make it more light-hearted (which people think the kids like), it will lose that audience as well, without any guarantee that a new audience will fully replace it.

This dilemma is exacerbated by a drought of imagination. Simply put, the “Big Two” no longer have the monopoly on talent that they used to have. Twenty years ago, comic books in America meant Marvel and DC, unless a creator was adventurous enough to go the Dave Sim/Hernandez Bros. route, or signed up with a company that was unstable.
Remember them?
Today, creators have the option of choosing from a wide range of publishers that will not only allow them to own their creations but provide them with a regular source of income.

Marvel and DC used to have a clear economic purpose in the comic marketplace. They provided their expertise in publishing, marketing and distributing books (which includes the editorial component) in exchange for the copyrights and trademarks to the characters created by writers and artists. Even when the exchange was inequitable (due to adhesive contracts and quasi-cartel behavior), the companies were indispensable. Even when Dave Sim proved that a creator could disintermediate publishers, it was still difficult to make any other choice. The advent of webcomics meant that the barriers to entry were mostly gone. The brilliant artistic minds of my generation have a broader array of choices that create a talent drain in mainstream comics.

So what’s the solution for mainstream comics publishers? Let’s first look at the youth problem. In my view, there are two main groups that advocate an increased focus on youth. The first group is composed of people who are fans of the superhero genre, and the second are those who are opposed to its perceived dominance.

Fans believe that without a youthful audience as its base, the lifespan of the genre will be limited by its predominantly aging audience. If publishers release material that is focused on the young, it will ensure the future of the superhero.

The other group wants publishers to focus on a younger audience due to their biases against the genre. Superhero comics were written (and marketed) as children’s entertainment, and any deviation from that focus degrades the genre as a whole. From this perspective, this is why imposing realistic elements in superhero comics ends badly.

It is important to note that the solutions advocated by both sides are almost identical. Both want more comics that contain elements that appeal to a youth audience, elements that both believe are present in manga and anime. Both want comics that are more ‘fun’, and are less reliant on ‘continuity’.

These two goals appear to be relatively easy to accomplish. DC already produces a line of comics that are focused towards youth, with some critical and commercial success. Why shouldn’t DC marginalize the main universe, and emphasize its All-Star, Vertigo, and the Johnny DC/Minx lines? Even though these imprints aren’t particularly successful, I would imagine that DC allocates less money to these imprints for marketing or talent acquisition. The financial success (and market share) could change if the investment was more signicant, and if it incorporated some of the more successful elements of manga. So why not do it? With the All-Star line, DC could retain the necessary legal rights over its most important intellectual property, and would have an increased ability to cross-promote when the properties are used in other media (not to mention maintain some of its adult audience, and more talented creators). With more money invested in the Vertigo line, it would gain a competitive advantage over ‘independent’ comics publishers. And the Johnny DC/Minx lines could be where DC cultivated a new audience. Although there would be a significant loss of market share to Marvel for a short period of time, it may be offset by the fact that market share is far less important than perception for DC. As a branch of a media conglomerate, it was never really directly competing with Marvel, except in the eyes of the audience and the media. If lower market share is perceived as an element of a long term strategy rather than a consequence of incompetent management, the impact could be smaller.

The only problem with this strategy is that it almost completely depends on the notion that if the ‘Big Two’ published work that was designed to appeal to youth (like manga does), kids would actually buy the comics in large enough numbers to replace the long-term fans would stop reading. But who says that youth are interested in the superhero genre as published by the ‘Big Two’ at all? Is there a need somewhere that is unfulfilled? If you’re a kid who (1) likes comics, (2) doesn’t already read Marvel or DC, and (3) is interested in tales of larger than life characters (with powers) clashing, you’re already reading manga.

One of the main fallacies in fan thinking (and I’m including myself here) is that we think that the only reason our eccentric hobbies are not in the mainstream is due to a lack of adequate publicity. We tell ourselves that only if they knew, or if we offered them the perfect comic tailored to their interest, they would become just like us. The problem is that they won’t. Sure, we all have anecdotal stories about our child/student/little brother who we introduced to comics by giving them that perfect issue of ______. But most people don’t have a passionate relationship with their entertainment. They’re not trying to find something to supplement a need that’s already being fulfilled. Sometimes companies (like Apple) can work their way around this, by creating demand where none previously existed, but those are few and far between, especially in entertainment. If DC is unable to generate this demand, changes in content may be insufficient. It would struggle to compete with publishers who have a distinct competitive advantage in the American marketplace, and who have fulfilled the demands of their consumers. In the end, DC may lose their primary audience without anyone to replace it.

If this is all true, why do I still think that it’s a good idea?

EDIT: Tune in next time, where I discuss possible strategies for expanding the adult audience and explain why I think nuking everything to get the kids isn’t the worst idea! (Thanks to Andy for pointing out that this needed clarification).

December 18, 2007

Random Bits and Pieces

They are owned by huge, creativity-deadening corporations and operated by lawyers and marketing executives who lord over the worst creative decline I have witnessed in a long time, particularly in films. In television, companies like GE view properties like NBC the way realtors view square footage. GE does not care what is on NBC. So long as the programming is relatively inoffensive, they want to earn as much per square foot as they can.
Alec Baldwin

It’s a slow, slow time in the comics blogosphere, so when I decided to take a break from writing memos and preparing for meetings, I had to write about some completely random things. Two of them are related and all are tangentially connected to the comics industry.

1. Newsarama posted the first part of a wide-ranging interview with Paul Levitz, publisher of DC Comics, about the state of the company. Some interesting quotes:

In response to Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited program:

I wish Marvel well with it. I hope they’ve figured out something that a bunch of fans like at a price that the fans find appropriate, and that it’s a workable model for them. If it is, we’ll certainly look hard at it over time.

I think we have a few different views of the area than Marvel, one is if we’re going to do something where we’re distributing our material online, then we would certainly want to have figured out how the talent was going to participate in revenues that we were going to make. And that’s an extraordinarily complicated nightmare. If you set out to say…we’ve published probably 40,000 comic books in the course of our history…so if in one extreme you sat there and said, “I’m going to put 40,000 comic books online for people to read, the prospect of sorting the rights out for that, writing checks to the talent is pretty nightmarish.

This brings two things to mind. The obvious one is that I think that Levitz should hold company workshops on communicating a message to the media. He’s saying things designed to resonate with every audience. If you’re a fan, he implies (in his discussion of the administrative difficulties) that when DC figures out an online initiative, it is less likely to limit the amount of material available to the degree that Marvel has. If DC wanted to release limited portions of its archives for an online service, working out talent payments would not be particularly overwhelming. I would imagine that a publisher would be able to track the number of people who are accessing particular issues/runs, and develop some kind of pricing system. If you’re a creator, he’s telling you that DC will not take any rash actions before figuring out your compensation.

His patience and deliberation could also be seen as a positive for management/shareholders (to the extent they know that DC is part of Time Warner).

There’s no question that people are willing to read some comics online if they don’t have to pay for them. The question is: does anybody have a value proposition where a reasonable number of people are willing to pay for them? Will people ultimately want it all to be ad-supported, which seems how most online entertainment is being delivered these days? And is there an ad-supported methodology that makes sense for flat comic book pages?

Owners/managers of traditional i/p companies don’t want to hear about non-monetized technical innovation. The truth is, that on some basic level, no one knows whether online ad support is or will be sufficient to fully replace present revenue from print ads. In the end, we all know that it’ll have to, but that’s in the future. Managers want to keep their job now. Shareholders want a return in the next few months. This kind of hard-nosed skepticism is great for them.

His responses are also candy to the media:

NRAMA: Has DC done any kind of study or estimate in regards to how much money it feels it has lost due to online piracy?

PL: I haven’t a clue.

This is the kind of ‘honesty’ that makes journalists wet. If you don’t believe me, look at John McCain. Phony straight talk is like manna to the media.

But the more interesting, less obvious point made in the interview is this:

If you set out to say…we’ve published probably 40,000 comic books in the course of our history…so if in one extreme you sat there and said, “I’m going to put 40,000 comic books online for people to read, the prospect of sorting the rights out for that . . . is pretty nightmarish

I read a good article a couple of weeks ago about this, but I assumed that since Time/Warner employed so many attorneys, someone would have been working on this. It’s kind of sad.

2. Dick Hyacinth was right about the Trader Joe’s Gorgonzola Walnut Tortellini. It is really good, especially for a Lazy Man’s dinner.

3. Tom Brevoort on the Marvel Creative Retreat:

For the next 48 hours, we’ll be brainstorming on the overall direction of the future of the Marvel line, from the end of 2008 and the climax of SECRET INVASION well into 2009 and beyond. There are a bunch of ideas and plans already buzzing through the halls, but inevitably everything is going to change before our metting time is done. The only real certainty is that there’ll be some moment somewhere within the two days when I’ll change color.

Like in the past, it’ll be an interesting combination and collision of any number of creative mindsets, and virtually nobody’s storylines will escape completely unscathed–but hopefully better for having come through the experience. For myself, the two big areas of interest will be in getting to know Matt Fraction, who’s been doing some outstanding work lately, and who’s really a guy to watch, and spending some time picking the brain of Allan Heinberg, who’s one of the best guys in the business when it comes to breaking stories and making sure that character motivations and reactions remain true to the characters. This is the first Marvel summit that either of these guys has attended, so it’ll be interesting to see how they interact with the rest of the group (and how the group functions without Mark Millar or J. Michael Straczynski in the room this time, both of whom had other commitments that prevented them from attending.)

This is the moment when the future gets decided, so look for updates as things progress.

Even though I like quite a bit of what Marvel publishes, and think that the quality of the writing, art, and editing has undergone an amazing improvement since the 80’s – ’90’s, these kinds of corporate retreats kind of make me nauseous. The older I get, the more my enjoyment of comics is connected to an appreciation of the craft and creativity that goes into them (1). I really don’t care about the strategy and the coordination. When I read Bendis’ Daredevil, Brubaker’s Captain America, or Pak’s Incredible Hulk, I’m interested in their work, and not its relationship to an intricate larger universe. I guess that the shared universe aspect of the genre (at least as practiced by the Big Two) doesn’t really appeal to me anymore. Or maybe it’s just that I used to work for a big corporation, and got cheery e-mails like this for company retreats that made me want to stick pencils in my eyes.

(1): I wouldn’t say that this is a maturity issue, just a personal one. There’s nothing worse than when people link maturity to appreciation of a genre. You didn’t ‘grow out’ of it, you just stopped liking it. And there is a real difference.

December 12, 2007

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 2)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 1:44 pm

You read six Countdowns
And what do you get?
Another stress headache
And a burning regret

Last time in Downcounting, we learned:
1. That Super___ Prime gets all swoll after Sinestro Corps War and is back to being a clumsily written mockery of the “Comic Book Guy” who thinks things need to be “like they used to be”, only with significantly more genocide than the average nerd is capable of mustering.
2. That the C-List Monitor Posse is still beefin’ with each other, and trying to find Ray Palmer
3. The Monitors are talking about going to WAR, and have decided to do so! Soon! Seriously, two more long epic speeches, maximum!
4. Monarch is doing things that involve at least three completely wretched spin-off mini-series. Readers of Countdown might understandably assume that his motivations and plans are explained in these spin-off books. They would be wrong.

But those are just the most high-profile, multiversal storylines going on in Countdown! What about the little people?

December 10, 2007

This is not me…

Filed under: Blurbs — Pedro Tejeda @ 1:25 pm

How the hell is there another person of color in NYC with a Cap Shield?

and No, my shield is not missing. It’s right here.

The real Captain Second Generation America.

Thanks Beat.

December 8, 2007

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 1)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 7:36 pm

Hola, amigos. How’s your narrative spine? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but it’s hit the busy season at my job, plus as you’ve all probably noticed, it’s been an eventful six weeks! Halloween, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, inclement weather, Pakistani martial law, writers’ strikes, Wu-Tang beefin’, Chavez referendin’: you turn away for one second and a million things happen! It can be quite overwhelming; luckily we’ve got Countdown around to slow everything down, like a lazy bank holiday afternoon down the Phosphate shop. I’ve got six whole weeks of Countdown to blow through here (132 pages, $17.70 USD), so I’m going to break this down by character arc so you can see just how much happened in these six issues:

S*P in happier times1. 32 pages worth of”¦. SUPER___ PRIME! That’s right, the Countdown Crew weren’t content to spoil the fate of only one primary character out of the more successful Sinestro Corps War crossover! At the halfway point, Super__ Prime comes on the scene, apparently “swollen with power” and drawn looking like a 30s-ish man instead of a kid, which is either a clever ass-covering or the rare instance of something not being an art error in Countdown. Ol’ Super___ Prime is killing off entire planets to show what a threat/idiot he is! Over the course of two issues, Prime systematically murders everyone on Earth-15, The Earth Where Some People Take Over Costumes from Other People. I admit, it seemed like a horrible waste of an Earth when it first showed up, so if Prime had to blow up a planet, I guess this one was probably the best choice. Apparently he plans to destroy every single Earth in the Multiverse except his own, so that his planet is the best, or something.

December 6, 2007

FBBP #38 – The Ultimates Argument

Filed under: Podcasts — Funnybook Babylon @ 3:32 pm

This week we go off the cuff a bit, and just each rant a bit.

We do go after the bigger issues, as well as arguing about ultimates, and many many other comics. We talk the Zcult brouhaha, Eddie Campbell’s disparaging comments about brooklyn, and talk about what Pedro’s been reading.

Barebones production as I’m cutting this from Miami, on vacation visiting family, and I still have to work some. Well, I’m off to play golf bitches.

December 5, 2007

Pull List Reviews for December 5, 2007

Filed under: Pull List Analysis,Reviews — David Uzumeri @ 11:34 am

1969new_storyimage6697920_full.jpgUncanny X-Men #493: Brubaker still isn’t the best writer for this title, but the overall coolness of Messiah CompleX is beginning to eclipse that. This issue follows up satisfactorily on last week’s cliffhanger(s) and sets up the next issue rather well, but something still seems intangibly off about Brubaker’s handling of the characters. Still, it’s an awesome mystery set up so far that only continues to unravel in interesting ways, so B for the issue but a solid A for the event so far.

8505_400×600.jpgRobin #169: Okay, this event has officially lost me. This story is requiring me to accept that Tim Drake is a complete fucking idiot, and I’m just finding it way too difficult to believe. This is still the best Bat-event since Officer Down, but that’s pretty damn sad company, and I really hope this issue stands out as a fluke much like Milligan’s last issue of this did. Perhaps a different writer could have sold me on this turn of events, I don’t know, but Milligan completely failed and it sinks not just the issue but almost the whole story. A sad C-. Competently enough told, I guess, but I just can’t accept the plot.

8340_400×600.jpgJustice League of America #15: It’s a big dumb fight issue. McDuffie knows it’s a big dumb fight issue, he knows there’s no way characters this intelligent would participate in this — it’s part of the story. So it’s a smart, self-aware big dumb fight issue, but it is what it is, and that’s frankly a disappointing start to McDuffie’s run on DC’s flagship book. I’ve been given to understand McDuffie originally pitched a Black Canary story for his first arc, but it got vetoed because she’d be preoccupied with the wedding, which I guess is fair enough, but it still doesn’t feel like a story McDuffie was dying to tell. Ed Benes’s pin-up ass-shot-filled crap on every page certainly doesn’t help – superhero comics simply can’t look more generic than this. I certainly haven’t given up on this run yet, but after a stellar first issue this is really weak. C+

8448_400×600.jpgJustice Society of America #11: This arc has been top-class Johns-style superhero work each month, and the trend continues. This arc has gone a long way in my eyes towards selling me not only on the concept of Kingdom Come Superman on New Earth, but also that the new multiverse can lead to really great stories that illuminate the regular cast as long as it’s used correctly (which, well, it mostly isn’t). It’s not the best issue of this book so far, but it keeps up the book’s quality and that’s enough. B+

8521_400×600.jpgSupergirl #24: Okay, now I get it. Last issue really was just that simple – while this one is way more complex, using a very dialogue-light script to tell what’s actually a pretty damn emotional story that finally starts treating the relationship between Kara and Kal, well, like it should be treated — both in the present and in the past. Guest co-artist Lee Ferguson’s renditions of Krypton work well in contrast to Drew Johnson’s present-day, with a number of very amusing moments. This is fixing Supergirl. Thank God. A-

wwhasmash.jpgWorld War Hulk: Aftersmash: Hey, kids! More comics to buy! Also, the war took a little while to end but now it’s over and shit. I was hoping due to Pak’s involvement it’d be something different, but this is really the same catchall cleanup crap we saw in 2005’s Decimation one-shot and the Bendis/Silvestri Civil War: The Initiative. Recommended for completists, I guess, and it’s certainly a lot of pages, but I don’t really know if it’s all that much story. C+

December 4, 2007

We ain’t all Oscar Wao

Filed under: Articles,Blurbs — Pedro Tejeda @ 10:42 am

Two, much to my annoyance, reading superhero comics still carries the stench of loser. The ghost of Comic Book Guy haunts many…

But that guy with the stack of DC and Marvel comics? Well, he’s an unattractive social outcast in his thirties with dodgy views on women and minorities who sweats profusely and writes long-winded essays on how Marvel and DC have raped his childhood. But that’s only when he’s not busy harassing women online. – Cheryl Lynn

I read this post last night and there are a several things I don’t agree with in it. (Orange Box is an anomaly, Cheryl. It’s 5 games in one box. That’s some insane shit.) The thing that stood out to me was the continued stereotyping of super hero comic readers as the great unwashed virgins who habitat the lower basement of their parent’s home.

Seriously? It always seems to be based on some sort of anecdotal experience with that mythical comic guy I have never seen but always heard rumors of. I seen it used by a slightly embarrassed comic reader to non-readers to defend themselves, “Oh I’m not like those dudes. Those dudes are weird. I’m just like you. I got a girlfriend.”

Maybe it’s my point of view and experience that colors this, but this stereotype of the comic reader seems to be the exception instead of the rule. I’ll have to say almost everyone I have met through and shared this hobby with seems to be a “functional, reasonably laid, stop living with his parents, and got a job” motherfucker or at least 3 out of 4, which is pretty good considering the Bush economy. It seems to be on par with my friends who are into sports or music fanatically. Even the ones who do fill some or all the stereotype (David Brothers, I’m looking at you) are still valid interesting people with other things going on in there life. But all I’m doing is really using my personal anecdotal evidence to support my theory. Does it make it any less or more valid than anyone else prepared to group comic fans in a negative or positive way? It makes it just as valid, which is the problem.

We are all trying to take a group of reasonably diverse people and turn them into one group. No one can reasonably prove that comic fans are like this or like that. The characterization of the fans as one group of people who act the same, fuck the same, and mooch off their parents the same is what hurts the comics industry. This constant drive to sell to this one group drowns out multiple voices. We need a market that tries to serve just more than one type of customer and stereotypes help stifle that market.

Jamaal said the thing that saddens him the most about the Marvel Initiative is that it makes the comic world smaller. A writer can’t go off in their own direction and tell whatever stories they want to because Tony Starks needs to show up and force the story to meet the general Marvel narrative.

I feel that we all do this generalization to an extent on some level and by doing so, we just make the audience smaller than it really is.

December 3, 2007

Brian Wood Comics get off at 116th Street/Columbia : Tale of Two New Yorks

Filed under: Blurbs — Pedro Tejeda @ 2:19 pm

It depends on how well-informed the discussion is. I liking hearing how my work is perceived by readers and how they would categorize my “style,” but too often its a sweeping observation based on just one book, or one type of lead character. I grow very weary of snark, and just today someone pointed me at a review that said every single one of my characters was “privileged and white,” which is, purely looking at the facts, just not true. But getting too upset about that is the path to madness, as is trying to correct people’s ignorance. – Brian Wood

Jamaal shot me this over AIM since I have in the past made note that I can’t go through a single Brian Wood book without feeling like it’s lacking a bit of color. Demo was full of white people except for the Asian guy who flips out. Reading DMZ, I quickly realized this book was not going to go uptown past 125th street. The characters in Channel Zero seem for the most part to be “exotic” instead of ethnic in that Ling Bai kind of way that seems to a proxy for character depiction.

There are a lot of comic books by many other writers out there that have even less melanin going on. So why am I singling out Brian Wood? Compared to industry standards, he’s miles ahead of many books. The answer to this is that Brian Wood’s depiction of New York always bothered me because it never felt like the city I grew up in. It was a New York City missing the neighborhoods that I had messed around during adolescence. All the parts of Nueva York that made me such a proud citizen are not to be found and instead Wood’s New York follows a very close history of gentrification that started about the time Wood first came to the city.

Channel Zero, Wood’s response to the “awesome” years of Giuliani New York, seems to be more interested in free speech and the oppression of artists than in the human rights of the city’s minorities who had a less that pleasant time dealing with cops. Considering that Wood was knee deep within illustration school, why should he not have a different view? There been tons of reactions from the second point of view in Rap music and Spike Lee Movies, so why should Wood not tell his?

The truth is that Wood’s work is still quality and he deserves to tell his stories in his voice. I’m just coming to realization that I just have no interest in that voice. I’m one of those guys who really loves the comic medium, and I really wish there was a different voice out there using the it to tell those stories that tell the other side of New York. It’s one of the reasons I dug the shit out of Sentences. Jamaal thinks part of it is the general marginalization of the industry and I really can’t disagree with him on this front. There was a point and time when even Wood’s voice could not exist. Hopefully I won’t have too long to get the New York I am looking for when comic’s version Junot Diaz comes along.

Downcounting Presents: APOLOGY FOR LATENESS!

Filed under: Blurbs,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 12:55 am

We’re coming back soon, I promise!So much has happened in the past month — lucky for you, the plot developments in Countdown continue to move at a pace that puts DMV employees in dumb stand-up comedy jokes to shame! I seem to have been caught up in that (or possibly my job), but I assure you, more Downcounting is imminent! Stay tuned, true believers!

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