Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
So last week was a landmark in geekdom: the end of 'Battlestar Galactica'. Personally, I wasn't pissed off by the ending. Far from it, but I've heard a wide spectrum of emotion on the subject. I won't go on about my thoughts, but I think the ending, though personally satisfying for me, was imperfect.
That's not intended as a harsh criticism. A great ending is tough to come by. From 'Watchmen' to 'Harry Potter', great stories often have endings that leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes, it sours the whole experience (see also: 'Identity Crisis').
But every so often, along comes that beautiful ending. The one that gives you that complex feeling... you know, the one where all you want is one more minute, one more panel, one more page... but at the same time you know that the story has taken you as far as it can. I call it the beautiful ending... the one that makes you want more but makes you understand why you can't have it. It's a rare thing, the beautiful ending.
How do you craft a beautiful ending? It's partly about not hanging on too long. But also about hanging on long enough... letting characters unfold themselves enough for you to care. Hell, there's no formula. You just know it when you see it. One of my favorite beautiful endings is 'Y: The Last Man'. It's funny because I thought during the penultimate arc, when they reveal the truth about what killed the men, that it was jumping the shark a bit. And then the last few issues, and the last issue in particular, were a masterpiece of wonder and heartbreak. As much as it literally brought tears to my eyes, I couldn't imagine it any other way.
So, Second Printers... I want recommendations... what are YOUR favorite beautiful endings? Try not to spoil too much in case I want to enjoy them myself :)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Not necessarily the best, but who's your favorite all-time writer and artist (or writer/artist). Sub-question: what's your favorite work they've done?
(feel free to contribute your answers in the comments)
Matt Wagner hands down. He alone is responsible for me staying in comics. In the late '90s I wasn't reading either of the Big Two and was only picking up a handful of indies. Then Mage: Hero Defined came out and the whole series blew me away. I went back and picked up the first series and it was sort of everything I needed: magic based in reality, angst, a glowing baseball bat. For a while it was the only book I collected. While there have been a great number writers and artists that I respect and whose work I love, Matt Wagner will always be my answer to this question.
Favorite writer... I guess it has to be Grant Morrison. His run on New X-Men is why I started reading comics again... but I would be lying if I said I didn't have a hardcore soft spot for Denny O'Neil... yes, I realize that's not a very cool thing to say.
Favorite artist is Mike Mignola. He's a guy that draws for the story. If more artists drew for the story instead of trying to make sure we can see the outline of Batman's asscrack, super-hero comics would be a hell of a lot more readable.
All time favorite writer?
Mind you, this is more out of gratitude than anything.
Larry Hama, the man was a true universe builder. Never mind the fact that he pretty much single-handedly created the G.I. Joe mythology but once a year, due to the rollout of new figures and toys, he had to introduce new characters and storylines while wrapping up existing ones.
He wasn't the greatest storyteller but the man was a giant when it came to world-creating.
As far as my favorite work of his? Has to be G.I. Joe #34, "Shakedown." I learned what honor amongst men truly meant in that
As far as my fave FAVORITE writer goes? Grant Morrison because even when he misses he does it spectacularly.
My favorite Morrison? JLA #6 & 7. The JLA vs. an invasion from heaven. It's just so "Grant!" Superman moves the moon using his newfound powers while the current Flash and former Teen Titan, Wally West acts as us, the reader, channeling the astonishment of seeing the heroes he grew up with going all-out. Great comics!
Writer: Keith Giffen - The most resonant comic book experience I've ever had was with the "Giffen-era" Justice League. While it was far from a solo effort on Giffen's part, with some spectacular artistic talents in Maguire, Templeton, Hughes and Sears, and two incredibly talented (and funny) writers in J.M. DeMatteis and Gerard Jones, the common link was Giffen. That era of the JL presented something that every team book strives for, but rarely ever achieves: family. Just as deconstructive of the superhero genre as Watchmen, just differently so - we see the team in their off-time, all their interpersonal quibbles, and the way their battles with "the bad guys" (in various shades of gray) affect them, and not just the fighting. That other Giffen-influenced series from Annihilation to Common Foe to Hero Squared have all have been to some degree or another damn awesome, I'm almost always ready to follow Giffen to whatever title he finds himself plugging away on. Few other writers have been able to so consistently entertain me with their ideas and their execution thereof.
Artist: Mike Parobeck - I don't know of another single artist who could produce such simplistic-looking artwork, so precisely and so effortlessly. Dozens upon dozens of other artists have come along working their hand at the "Animated" style of comic-booking, attempting to emulate the design work of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Batman/Superman cartoon series, but it was Parobeck who nailed it, did so not in their style, but his own. If you look at his work on the Impact series "The Fly" or "El Diablo", you can see the work of an artist who had complete control over every single image he drew, and in its simplicity was utter beauty. Parobeck died from diabetes related complications in 1996 at the age of 31. Like other phenomenal talents Seth Fisher and Mike Weiringo, he left us far too soon, before he created his masterwork, but then everything he laid pencil to is worth a read. While his Batman: The Animated Series will no doubt stand highest as his greatest contribution, his vibrant but short-lived Justice Society of America is my favourite.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Depends on who you ask. Right now and in the future, some writer's Avengers team is always gonna be somebody's favorite Avengers team. There will be a character someone else believes shouldn't be an Avenger, that character will be someone's favorite Avenger.
The point is, there's no true Avengers team or Avenger... or is there?
Using the old criteria of The Avengers "seven-members-to-the-roster" rule, Second Printers, name your seven member Avengers roster. It doesn't have to be the mightiest or the newest or the darkest, just yours.
Keep it to Marvel characters and you know what? I'll even throw in Jarvis, free of charge.
Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
Niko (if I had my way, formerly of The Runaways)
Saturday, March 14, 2009
When that wasn't enough, I took to the stars.
I play with fire yet it does not burn.
I have wrestled with demons and been shown a new way by an angel.
I have been lost to infinity yet I always know the time.
WHO AM I?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Oh, my bad... did you think I was talking about 'Watchmen'? I was actually talking about the 'For the Man Who Has Everything' episode of JLU... but I guess Watchmen is more topical at the moment...
I'll provide a few quick notes on the film, and then, Second Printers, I urge you to chime in with your thoughts... no self-respecting geek who is not actively serving in Iraq or Afghanistan has any excuse for not having seen 'Watchmen', so I won't bother with a SPOILER ALERT...
1. Rorschach = Awesome. Jackie Earle Haley was good in 'Little Children' and great in 'Watchmen'. Plus, he didn't have to chop his junk off this time.
2. If you'd asked me a week ago if I was mature enough to stare at an incandescent blue penis for 3 hours without giggling, I would have said 'of course!' I would've been wrong.
3. I didn't know super-hero sex could be that... awkward...
4. If Zach Snyder could direct interpersonal action as well as he directs fights, he'd win every film-making award in the biz. This, however, is not the case.
Anywho, by now lots of us have made up our mind about the movie... I want to know YOUR thoughts, Second Printers. Tell me your praises, grunts, gripes, and groans about 'Watchmen'... because for me, it was all about the blue dong.
Spawning out of Devon's totally rad tribute to the 80's, this week's question arises:
What's your favorite licensed property (movies/tv/toys etc) comic?
I loved He-Man growing up and have strong affinity for the Masters of the Universe line, but they've yet to do a decent comic with the property (although the DC Comics Presents issue which crosses over with Superman is a longstanding favourite).
I absolutely obsessed over Star Wars comics throughout the 1990's, the best it got was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. I also sampled nearly every licensed property title Dark Horse put out during the '90's.
I think of all of them, though, my all time favourite is the 2-issue continuation of John Carpenters' The Thing, taking the original film's title The Thing From Another World. Yes, it was a completely unnecessary sequel (as most movies-to-comics are) but incredibly moody, creepy and intense work from writer Chuck Pfarrer and painter John Higgins. There were two follow-up mini-series that I didn't bother with, though but occasionally think about hunting down.
Hands down, G.I. effin' JOE!
My whole world revolved around getting me a fine redheaded woman warrior, assembling the finest men and women this country had to offer and, shooting lasers, flying jetpacks and becoming a ninja.
What actually happened was more like me and and a bunch of other little fatties jumped off of shit a lot and hit each other over the head with sticks.
In retrospect, we were more like Cobra.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Even at a young age, I found archetypes very comforting and easily digestible. In addition to the simple hero / villain paradigm, TMNT more than any of its contemporaries introduced me to characters who were representations of specific personality traits, all of which I found appealing. Each turtle has his own role and own unique means of problem solving that could be channeled into success. It added a level of complexity to an overall concept, the absurdity of which my parents could never look past. In addition, we were introduced to the morally gray (Casey Jones) and side characters, such as the Rat King who could be a villain or an ally of the heroes depending on the circumstance.
I remember at one point, some friends and I were getting out the TMNT action figures to play with. A friend picked up a Usagi Yojimbo figure and said 'Dude, we're too old to be playing with ninja animal figures.' A little piece of me died that day.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Say what you will about how bad this man's writing has become or the fact that he never met an idea he wouldn't ride the coattails of (Aliens/The Brood, Star Wars/Starjammers,) but when this man was on, WE were on.
Whether it was his regular work on Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur or Wolverine, the man was a plot machine (and later, a dangling plotline machine.)
X-Men: Inferno. The Mutant Massacre. The Asgardian Wars. Rachel Gray. That one issue where Storm whups Cyclops' ass and takes over leadership of The X-Men, these were just some of the things that kept wanting to come back for more and built The X-Men into the franchise it is today.
1. G.I. JOE AND HECK, LICENSED PRODUCT COMICS, IN GENERAL
I would not be reading comic today if it weren't for G.I. Joe.
G.I. Joe was the first comics series I ever sought out and attempted to collect. Why because the tv told me to do so. For those that don't remember, before the launch of the comics series, Marvel and G.I. Joe's owner, Hasbro ran commercials announcing its publication as a comic. These commercials had a profound effect on me as to this day, I still wonder why I can't have one effin' jetpack just for me and I use the word "poppinjay" constantly in polite conversation.
Say what you will about, TV "manipulating" us but really, were we any different than the kids huddled up to the radio listening to "Little Orphan Annie" to learn how many boxtops it took to get a crappy "secret decoder?"
Yes, we were. We were part of the greatest generation.
We had ninjas in our military, dammit! We had ninjas in our comics, dammit!
We had Rom The Spaceknight. Transformers. Crystar. Sectaurs. Masters of The Universe. Thundercats. M.A.S.K. Super Powers. Team America.
And you know how they more often than not hooked us in.
Masters of the Universe were introduced in the pages of a Superman comic. Team America were introduced in the pages of Captain America. Rom's sidekick was Rick Jones, who was also sidekick to Captain America, The Hulk, Captain Mar-Vell and quite possibly any Marvel character with "The" or a vowel in their name.
They came to us because of our comics. Yes, they were oft-times crappy comics but hey, they planted the seed and we, the readers, continue to take from its tree.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Concrete, Daredevil: Born Again, the launch of Marvel's New Universe line, The 'Nam, Superman: The Man of Steel, The Punisher mini-series, Booster Gold, Legends, Maus and.... ummm....
Think that's enough?
3. SECRET WARS AND CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
Say what you will about them both (and you will,) these books were the perfect encapsulation of their respective universes.
In Secret Wars, you had the Marvel heroes doing what they do best: fight the villains, fight each others and then sort of team-up with everyone to fight the common threat and then sort start back from... uh... whence they came and put She-Hulk on someone's team and get new costumes and stuff.
With DC's Crisis, we got to see DC admit, for the first time, that they had have the deepest catalogue of characters in publishing and that their publishing history was really, really complicated.
But hell, we got some incredible art from the pairing of George Perez and Jerry Ordway and the deaths of the Golden Age Superman and Lois Lane, Barry Allen and Supergirl, moments that to this day still resonate with fans.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Before Simonson, all Thor ever was was the Avengers muscle who left The Avengers alot. Under his pen and behind his words, Thor became what he was meant to be: a god. Simonson's Thor embraced its inner Wagner and the heavens cried, the lightning came down and most importantly, Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, struck true: Thor became epic.
Thor's mythology came front and center and all the while, Simonson kept pushing forward with new stories and characters for Thor such as Beta Ray Bill and Kurse.
Under Simonson, the weirdest of things happened. Thor sort of became bigger than The Avengers. Loki became a credible threat. (I'll never forget where after being beheaded, Loki simply laughs it off and PLACES HIS OWN HEAD BACK ONTO HIS SHOULDERS!)
Under Simonson, Thor finally, finally ascended.
5. ART ADAMS
Before Art Adams, most comic artists tended to be good or simply not very good. Sure, you had your good artists like a John Romita, Jr. and you had your not very good artists like...
But, rarely did you ever see an artist the first time you saw your work, grab you by the eyeballs and take possession of them. Art Adams did that to me. When I first saw his art in the pages of Longshot, it was something unlike seeing the impossible made possible. Longshot looked like a rock star. Hell, everyone looked like a rock star! You couldn't do that!
Adams smashed the rules of comics art. His art was like the superhero cartoons I envisioned in my mind. It was like Jack Kirby meets The Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends meets Star Blazers.
I'd never seen anything like it. It was dynamic, pulling from all over the place to create something new and vital.
From the moment I first saw his work, I had to have it all. Every X-Men Annual. Every New Mutants Special. That random Spider-Man Annual and that one Action Comics Annual. That one Cloak and Dagger issue. I had to have them all. He was that good. To this day, I break these comics out and Adams' art still holds up to this day, To me, Art Adams was and still is a revelation.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Love him or hate him, he helped put DC Comics back on the map with his 80's series The New Teen Titans, helping put DC back on map.
Was it a Marvel wolf in DC sheep's clothing?
And that exactly what DC needed to do, at the time.
What it did was bring new and old readers to DC's comics with something sorely missing that they'd originated and had done better than anyone else.
It originated in DC's Legion of Super-Heroes and took hold in the pages of Marvel's X-Men.
Now remember, at the time of The Titans debut, The Legion had been "growed up" and tried to become more adult to, in the greatest bit of irony, more resemble the latest incarnation of The X-Men.
Enter Wolfman and his version of The Titans to fill the void.
Wolfman's Titans were unlike anything at DC, at the time, mixing DC's past (Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Changeling (Beast Boy) with its hoped-for future (Cyborg, Starfire and Raven)
It's a formula that worked and is one that, for good or bad, DC is trying to recreate a third time with its title featuring, you guessed it, The Titans of "The Wolfman Era."
7. NO INTERNET
Before the internet, if you wanted to know what was going to happen in a comic you had to wait a whole month for the next issue.
A WHOLE MONTH!!!
There were no monthly solicitations for you to read through 3 months in advance. No Diamond Previews and hence no spoilers to ruin what otherwise could have been an epic-in-the-making.
Or to learn what lame hero The Thing was teaming up with in next month's Marvel Two-In-One. I swear, I'm a fan of Triton for that random reason.
Could you imagine what "The Dark Phoenix Saga" would have been if in the Age of Livejournal?
"OMG! gene gray totly lust her shit this month Im putting scans up right now"
"omg. she killed a bunch of ailiens and tehn she was cumn 4 us next. wolverene was going to kill her with his nives"
"seriosly? did he do it"
no. he coldnt do it. he luvd her 2 much"
"logan is a p*****. i wood have dun it. i wold have killed her. teh universe is at steak and luv is not a optoin in times of crisus like a intraglactick war. plus he has kitty pride. New but!"
"i forgot about that! dude u r so rad."
Monday, March 2, 2009
Few things brought me as much comfort as seeing his name in the "CREDITS" box. When you saw this man's name, you knew you were going to get legibility. Now matter how much dialogue writer Chris Claremont threw his way, he would make it seamlessly fit onto the page.
No matter the artist, Jim Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, Barry Windsor-Smith, or John Romita, Jr., Orzechowski helped ease the transition by keeping his lettering simplistic and consistent. On a personal note, the Golden Age of The X-Men franchise sort of ended when his name quietly disappeared from the credits.
I simply wouldn't be as big a fan of comics as I am without these books. For anyone old enugh to know, do you remember how great it felt to wave your copy of The Official Handbook in someone's face and let me put emphasis on the "OFFICIAL" part, and let them know there was no way in HECK The Thing was stronger than The Hulk, because it said so...
Right there. (Points.)
On. The. PAGE!!!! (sticks out tongue)
And you wonder why I'm the comics smart-aleck I am today.
As for DC's Who's Who, it cemented why I am a DC Comics fan to this day. I'll never forget how awesome it was that DC had the brilliance and foresight to match a character up with the creator most associated with a character.
Golden Age Superman went to Golden Age artist Wayne Boring while Modern Superman went to Modern Day re-creator John Byrne. As my mom used to say, "It was too much like making sense."
To this day, Catwoman, Dolphin and Phantom Lady hold a special place in my heart for being rendered by the late Dave Stevens. Clear and concise, this series gave the DC Universe a sense of vast scope and interconnectivity. Both, to a kid just simply trying to become a fan, hit exactly at the perfect time. Now, if we only had some way back then to tell if The Hulk was stronger than Superman....