Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The other night, I met a lovely young lady who happens to be working at The History Channel in their "hour long documentaries about shit that goes, "BOOM!" or "TWANG" division.
Guns were never really my "thing." As a former inner city black child, the only time I've ever held a gun was when I was dragged into the wilds of Virginia by strange men calling themselves, "scoutmasters." They put guns in my hand, forcing me to shoot their guns and toss around hatchets in a contest pitting me against boys my age in order to wear patches proclaiming our supposed mastery of things.
There were no women around, adding to my thoughts that something extremely suspect was afoot.
So, my only point of reference with what this woman does was either the above story or what I learned from comics.
Everything I know about guns I learned from The Punisher, specifically, Punisher Armory.
Yes, once upon a time, The Punisher was so popular that he could carry a comic where all he did was provide DVD documentary-style narration to his fucking guns.
It was sort of cool, actually.
It always went a little something like this, "Whenever I need to sweep a crackspot, I use The Mangulator K-9. It fires shit-covered bullets at a million rounds per millisecond, giving me the extra kick I need to send them all to hell. Just saying, "No," isn't an option anymore."
The look on this woman's face was absolutely priceless and one I wish I could bottle and take back to the initial pitch meeting for "Armory."
Mission accomplished, Marvel. The Punisher bridges all sorts of gaps, Racial. Gender. Philosophical. Sociological. And all with one simple truth:
Comics about comic book characters talking about guns makes girls laugh.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Where I discovered the power and inker had over a penciller.
I'd seen Jose' Luis Garcia Lopez's art before. Mostly on the sort of generic style guides where Batman was, more often than not, swooping down on nothing, gigantic grin on his face.
This type of image was beautifully inked by Dick Giordano.
Where Giordano made Garcia Lopez more accessible, inker Kevin Nowlan made him pop.
To this day, if any asks me the standard to which I hold comic art, I will show you the Dr. StrangeFate one-shot.
It had happened about a decade before when John Buscema returned to The Avengers along with inker Tom Palmer.
Buscema's figure work was flawless. His heroes strode the panels like giants. And his women...
Buscema, in my opinion, was one of comics' most underrated "good girl" artist, mainly because he'd become so well known for drawing so many bad girls and damsels-in-distress in the pages of Conan.
Buscema's women seemed to have a little extra "dip" in their hip, meaning his women looked like they had weight. Good weight. The type of weight an active woman can have. To this day, I am a fan of The Wasp simply because of the way Buscema presented her during the criminally out-of-print Avengers: Under Siege. Buscema imbued this former cipher with a bearing I'd never known possible. With the news of each fallen comrade, he had her body language go from sad, to worried, to distraught and finally, when enough was enough, from determined to triumphant.
These latter traits were usually the province afforded her male counterparts and maybe, in the right hands, attitudinally, Wonder Woman. In Buscema, body language was what it was all about.
A gesture spoke volumes. Every character seemed to have their own way of moving. With Buscema, one never had to guess. It was proven in the panel.
Buscema avoided the usual theatrics involved in drawing superheroes. Buscema drew people in fantastic situations. Buscema's Captain America looked and carried himself like a six-foot plus man and when he had him through his shield... maaaaan... you could practically imagine the velocity as it left his red-gloved hand. His inker, Palmer gave every line a classicism that enhanced Buscema's already fluid line..
One of my favorite Buscema moments was when The Wasp, just returned from the gym and clad in workout gear, is caught offguard upon realizing Starfox is on the same elevator as she. For those who know nothing of Starfox, he's a notorious flirt who also happens to have the power to, I'm not kidding you, become a walking roofie. The awkwardness with which he draws The Wasp in the one page allowed in the script is a workshop on how to draw comics.
With Buscema the simple was made always glorious.
Who were some of your favorite artist teams?
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Below are ten titles which I've continued or started to enjoy and that have excited me, and a few that are that are coming up that have most intrigued me. In no particular order:
The title has more than recovered after the maligned reunion of 90's X-Factor team of Peter David and Larry Stroman. Yes, it's currently in the midst of another dystopian mutant future, but, really, who doesn't love those. X-Factor can be enjoyed without having to pay any of the other mutant titles any mind, which I love. And what happened to Syrin and Madrox's baby... it still keeps me up at night.
Gail Simone has a dirty, fithly, vile mind, and bless her for it. I'm surprised DC is letting her get away with half of what she does in this title. Basically, it's like Mark Millar's best work if he could actually write good characters. I mean, Simone has actually made Bane interesting.
Captain Britain and MI 13
I don't want to read this book, I keep trying to avoid it. My wife keeps buying it, and it keeps sitting around the house, and ultimately I read it, and generally am kind of bemused by it. But this latest storyline, featuring a Dracula-led vampire assault on England, is absolute gold. But just when it's won me over... whoop, cancelled. Sigh.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers
Okay, yes, it's a flimsy plot device used to get all of the different pet sidekicks from around the Marvel universe together for a grand adventure, but, why the hell not? Frog Thor, Lockjaw, Speedball's Cat, Aunt May's dog, Falcon's Redbird, Ka-Zar's sabretooth tiger, squaring off against Devil Dinosaur, in search of all the infinity gems. If you've ever forgotten what it is exactly that first made you love superhero comics, this book will remind you, and if it doesn't, your heart is made of coal.
Batman and Robin
Grant Morrison recreates the dynamic duo, and makes it work in spite of itself. Forget the other books (Red Robin, Streets of Gotham, Batman), it's all happening right here. Can he make us forget Bruce Wayne? Ten minutes at a time, at least.
G.I. Joe/Cobra and JSA vs Kobra
From the house that Rucka and Brubaker built, here are two sides of the same coin, two books doling out meaty espionage using corporate-owned characters originally designed to appeal to children. It's like the same revelation that was Daniel Craig's James Bond after the increasingly absurd Brosnan run, taking things seriously, and filling the stories with characters instead of caricatures.
Phonogram: The Singles Club
Probably the most satisfying floppy experience on the stands, with its immaculately illustrated main story, the engrossing post-script essay, the ingenious glossary, back-up stories, letter column, and playlist, it makes the more out of its 32 pages than any other title out there. Not everyone's cup of tea, sure, but I could drink a whole pot.
For the first time in a long time, I have no idea what to expect out of a comic, and it's damn exciting. I don't have any hopes or fears for DC's sixteen-part experimental comic, I'm just excited for something absolutely different to hit the stands.
Keith Giffen doing the Doom Patrol, yes please. Plus, a Metal Men back-up feature with Kevin Maguire... can I buy a subscription?
AND FIVE OTHERS I SHOULD MENTION, IN 5 WORDS OR LESS:
The Muppet Show bang-on
Spider-Man: The Short Halloween go get it
Warlord of IO digital download only, boo
The Unwritten hook, line, and sinker
Arsenic Lullaby: Pulp Edition Omega you'll laugh, and hate yourself
So, Second Printers, what's keeping you enthused?
What are you most looking forward to?
Give us your ten...
Monday, June 22, 2009
For example, in the same issue of G.I. Joe: Cobra, you have dudes all uniformed up in those cheesy psuedu sci-fi viper costumes from the 80s cartoon, but you also have Jinx pretending to be a stripper to pass info to Chuckles, the deep-cover infiltrating Cobra. See where I'm going with this?
It's not like I'm advocating for hyper-realism in G.I. Joe. Last thing any of us need is to see Flint waterboarding Destro or a picture of Scarlett next to a hooded Crimson Twins in a naked man pile. Ok, that second one would be worth it just for the novelty... but I digress. I suppose the point is that you have to be a comic or cartoon geek to get anything out of these comics. Because who else would appreciate Chuck Dixon's precise use of all sorts of military procedural jargon in the same frame with guys screaming 'Yo Joe!' while defending their underground city of a base from robotic spiders? These comics aren't really for kids... at least not young ones. The sexual subtext, particularly in G.I. Joe: Cobra is a little too much. Besides, the old G.I. Joe effect of lots of gunfire and no fatalities is definitely not part of the most recent reboot. But they're not really for adults either... Destro's minions controlling evil robotic spiders via remote control smacks way too much of the old cartoon series. These comics are made for us... the geeks... the kind of people who want adult themes in kid content...
I guess what I'm saying is that now that I've tried something new, I shouldn't have been so hard on DC and Marvel. Because the truth is, I like these G.I. Joe comics, and they struggle with the same issues I've been hard on the big two for. Maybe the publishers aren't the problem...
Friday, June 19, 2009
I know what you are thinking. Ben Hatton? Ben Hatton writing? Ben Hatton writing about a change in the creative team of the Justice League? Is it 2006? Did I go back in time? Am I Marty McFly? Don’t go grabbing those orange lifejackets yet, Second Printers. I am not remarking upon the current iteration of the Justice League with its fighting Milestone characters or facing off against Starbreaker or trickster gods. No, today I am looking forward, into the future. A future of flying skateboards, a future where vests make chicken sounds, a future where James Robinson and Mark Bagley are handling the Justice League.
Now I will admit it, I dropped Justice League of America after the Injustice League arc ended. At that point it just was not working for me. There was something about the stories, the line up, the what-have-you that just never clicked. After hearing about Dwayne McDuffie’s unfortunate firing, I went back and read his run. What is amazing is that you could tell he understood the problems with the book. He was stuck with this editorially mandated cast of characters who should not have been in the title. Yet he was exploring why it did not click. He was exploring what makes the Justice League the Justice League and not simply The Outsiders. He was a writer who was rallying against his situation and little by little he was managing to take apart Meltzer’s bull and make the league his own. It is a testament to how much bull Brad threw into the book (and how much editorial walls were put up) that McDuffie was still cleaning up his mess almost two years later. TWO YEARS! I digress. As I said – we are looking towards the future.
I am of the belief that James Robinson can do no wrong. I believe that in my heart of hearts. I think that Starman is the epitome of what comics can do. I think since he and Rucka (my other writer crush) have started steering the Super-books they have been gold. Robinson does not merely write comics, he crafts worlds and communities. He takes the flawed hero and gives him or her enough weakness, pain and subtlety into the character to really put the “human” into “superhuman.” It does not hurt that he is obviously as much of a pop culture junky as I am. So I was tentatively excited when they announced his taking over the book. I was then a little disappointed when it was relegated to the Justice League of America: Cry for Justice mini. I say disappointed but not surprised. After all can you really leave Congorilla on the Justice League for an extended period of time? I guess not.
Then yesterday The Source announces that Robinson, along with Mark Bagley, will become the new creative team. Hooray, right? I have tentative hopes; hopes that the editorial will let the team do what they need to do to make the book the jam. I say tentative hopes because the revealed sketch does not fill me with confidence.
Vixen is still there. Really? Not only is she still on the roster apparently but she is the last one standing. There is some off-panel big bad that has taken out Zatanna, Red Tornado, Plastic Man, AND a painting of the Big Three yet Vixen is only hurt (you can tell a superhero is hurt in comics when their costumes rip.)? This smacks of fingers still being deeply into pies – up to the second knuckle. I say again I have hopes though; hopes that Robinson will be able to continue the work of McDuffie and get the Justice League back where it should be. He can do it. After all he is the writer who turned a junk shop owner into one of the awesomest awesomes who ever awesomed. That’s right. I just used the word awesome as an adjective, noun AND verb. Suck it, Correct English.
P.S. Don’t you think it is weird that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman posed for a painting? Also, how do you think Superman managed to make his cape stay out like that for the whole time the painting was going on? I am just wondering.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Things I've discovered amidst the devastation:
I don't like Superman comics that aren't currently featuring Superman. On the give-away pile.
I really don't miss reading Spider-Man anymore.
Spider-Man is, forever, in the same place where you left him. Sorta like a pothead friend.
Pot would explain alot about Peter Parker.
Eddy Barrows (Action Comics, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Teen Titans) is a great artist but DC uses him as a "jobber to the stars" alot.
No matter how bad it gets, I can't give up on Teen Titans. It's like the family member you hope someday will wake up and get its shit together.
I'm becoming less enamored with the monthly comic, dropping drawn-out storylines, midway through.
I miss reading The Avengers. Well, The Avengers as I PREFER them. You know, not as fugitives or "dark."
Ed Brubaker's Daredevil run got good again with the "Lady Bullseye" storyline.
After nearly some twenty-five years, my crush on She-Hulk was finally eclipsed by mediocre writing and even more mediocre art and an inexplicable reboot/legacy character.
I am willing to give away an entire run of the current Justice League of America or throw it at someone I hate.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Superman has SUPER-strength because he tells you and then shows you.
If you're in trouble, a monkey carrying a bucket will come to your rescue.
When you learn a lesson, laugh.
We missed out on some epic Black-on-Black violence with Black Vulcan vs. Black Manta never happening.
Being evil looks like a lot of work.
Japanese: Kaze no Yō ni Hayaku!
Plane-pooling's for chumps. If there's trouble, take The Invisible Jet AND The Bat-Jet.
Superman never teamed up with minorities.
All problems can be solved in 22 minutes.
Native Americans can talk to monsters and hang out in the forest.
Beware the forest.
Wonder Woman probably has the keys to your house and will make you do crafts.
It takes Superman and Green Lantern to stop a rampaging elephant.
An elephant weighs 10,000 lbs.
Batman and Robin count as one.
Dr. Natas has one hell of a story that's not being told.
The opening sequence of The Superfriends where Aquaman surfs on top of two dolphins while waving just may have been his greatest moment ever.
If you scream like a little girl while in danger, The Superfriends will not judge you.
If Kryptonite's around, Superman will leave your ass out to dry.
Did YOU learn anything from watching The Super Friends?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Previously, in Second Printing: Devon writes about "reboots"
(seriously, just scroll down...)
To me it's funny that Devon wrote that post because I'm about 2/3rds of the way through the grandaddy of all FUBAR'd reboots: HAWKWORLD.
I received a full run of the series last year and have just started making my way through it in the past week. For some reason I've never read the originating Tim Truman HAWKWORLD mini-series that was a pretty hyped piece of work back in the late-80's/early-90's. But with the ongoing series, I'm quite amazed at how Truman and Ostrander managed to avoid tackling DCU Continuity head-on for much of the series, with only the occasional reference to the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
While I didn't receive the first Annual in amongst the pile, I've been reading the reader response to it (jesus do I miss letter columns in DC Comics) and how upset the hawk-fans were with how it tried to explain the many continuity gaffs caused by Truman's reboot.
As most of you probably know, after Crisis (the first one), a few of DC's heavy hitters were heavily rebooted. Superman and Wonder Woman, most notably, went back to square-one, while Wally West became the Flash, and Captain Marvel, the Charlton heroes (Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, etc) and others were integrated into the new DCU by way of an all-new Justice League. By the time Truman rebooted the silver age Hawkman into HAWKWORLD, the silver age Carter and Shiera had already been visibly traipsing around the DCU, and this needed to be explained away somehow. A 15 year headache ensued.
While I'm sure fans wish it to be addressed at some point, do you think that not addressing it would have validated the series any more or only further alienated fans? As one fan wrote, could HAWKWORLD have not existed out of continuity just fine?
I wonder, should continuity always be addressed when rebooting?
(Geoff Johns is making a career out of explaining continuity errors it seems, or making continuity errors where none exist so that he can explain them away).
Anywho, HAWKWORLD is an interesting ride, and I would submit it as, to answer Devon's question, a good reboot.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I am a fan of reboots, actually, especially when done right.
For instance, Aquaman is one those characters who always seems to be in the middle of a reboot. Usually, the only time they get it right is when someone finally realizes that all you need is this: orange fishscale shirt, green tights, swims underwater, ruler of the Seven Seas, Justice League/Super Friends, giant seahorse with saddle: optional.
Some folks like Matt Fraction get the utter absurdity of a billionaire white guy from a mythological Asian city who also possesses the ability to harness his chi into a mystical iron fist only after defeating a dragon and ripping out its heart.
And then, we get pirate queens.
That's a reboot and a great one at that.
It seems to me the reboot goes one of two ways: honor what came before and build upon it or simply throw out what you know and build anew.
Neil Gaiman's Sandman did a bit of both, as did Grant Morrison's Animal Man or Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.
Those reboots weren't so terrible, I guess.
Nowadays, reboots seem to come about out the blue. Not because, "You Demanded It" or "Back By Popular Demand," more because well... because.
For every Thor reboot, where a writer artist/team actually has something to say about the character and his surroundings, we get multiple inexplicable reboots.
Such as the recently relaunched Marvel reboots of Black Panther, The All-New Savage She-Hulk and Exiles. All three had been unceremoniosly cancelled over the last six months. Were they brought back "Because You Demanded It" or was it more, "Heck, people buy issue ones?"
It's my opinion that a reboot should add to the mythology of a character and area surrounding it. It's my opinion that if a company is even going to bother with bringing a character under the glare of the reboot spotlight, they'd best make it worth doing.
Y:The Last Man and Runaways creator Brian K. Vaughan did a Swamp Thing series a few years back featuring the daughter of The Swamp Thing and Abby Holland. It was cancelled. Vaughan rightly know he could never duplicate the zeitgeist of of an Alan Moore Swamp Thing but in being a writer, he asked of himself, what could he bring to the character's overall story.
You could see him writing the sort of comic that would appeal to him.
It was a reboot. Was it the one we all expected? No but it was one that was fairly considered.
In today's reboot crazy world, does anyone ask themselves, "Would I bother showing this comic to someone who'd rebooted a book that I admired, such as a Sandman, an Animal Man, a Swamp Thing or even an Iron Fist?"
If the answer is, "No," then, why bother?
So, I ask you, what, for you, makes for a good reboot?
Monday, June 8, 2009
And now that same over-emotional, snotty kid IS Batman's sidekick, he's Robin as of Batman and Robin #1. But suddenly he no longer annoys me. His character has mellowed (if only slightly) in the 3 years since first appearing, and he's got a place in the legacy now that Bruce Wayne is "dead", as the "real" son amidst Bruce's adopted orphans. Typically Batman's the serious one and Robin's the lighter half, but the tables are switched, and it's Batman who has to teach his Robin to lighten up a little. I'm sure people don't like Damian and I don't think we were supposed to at first, or even now (his treatment of "Pennyworth" raising more than a few hackles, I'm sure), but it would appear that Morrison likes this character he invented (writers love difficult characters because they're fun to write, even if fans don't respond to them well) and is going to spend some time building him into someone stronger, less selfish, more heroic. If the "preview" images of the upcoming year in B&R are any indication, Damian's going to be humbled after a severe gang beatdown, and be at odds with Dick on more than one occasion. So even if Damian is the annoying prat right now, will he still be a few years down the road?
Although, I think the question that really needs to be asked is:
Who is the most annoying character in the DC Universe?
While we're at it: Who is the most annoying character in the Marvel U?
This isn't those characters you love to hate, but rather characters who are so poorly conceived or so poorly written that you can't stand the very sight of them. Every word balloon pointing to their lips makes you wince in pain, their very presence makes you want to either tear out the pages in the comic or your hair.
In the DCU, it's hands down "Superboy Prime". Geoff Johns seems to love him, but he's a whiny little bitch with nearly unlimited power, which I can see would make for a good one-off super-villain, except that he's already had his one story line (Infinite Crisis) and his schtick has gotten kind of tired since then ("Sinestro Corps War", "Legion of 3 Worlds": good stories with one big flaw). His motivation for his actions always seem suspect, as if Johns himself has a hard time justifying the character. I think every really good villain you're supposed to like a little, and there's absolutely nothing likable about him.
I've never been a big Marvel reader so I don't wind up hanging around a series if its characters annoy me (whereas as a lifelong DC fan I'm willing to give a little latitude to annoying characters). But I'd have to say that it's probably Jean Grey who annoys me the most whenever I see her around (as long as she's not played by Famke Janssen that is) back from the dead once more, trying to control the Phoenix inside her, ruining emo Scott Sommers' pathetic little life with her yo-yo dead/not-dead routine.
Who is the most annoying character in comics?
Friday, June 5, 2009
Where were you when Batman first broke on the scene in Detective Comics #27, 1938? Not alive most likely. Do you remember your first ever exposure to Batman, or is he now so ubiquitous that you can't even remember your last exposure to Batman because he's so bloody everywhere. Cartoons, bed sheets, live action movies, posters, action figures, lunch pails, sneakers, pyjamas, t-shirts, berets, backpacks... in a hundred thousand different visual flavours, from Frank Miller to Christopher Nolan, Adam West to Jim Aparo. Even if you're not a comics junkie, you've still been completely unable to escape from the shadow of the bat, and you probably have your perceptions, and possibly favourite interpretations, of who Batman is, exactly. Well, Grant Morrison doesn't care what you think or know... Batman and Robin is about as fresh a start as you're ever going to see on the printed page.
Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne under the cowl. Robin is no longer Dick Grayson (or Jason Todd, or even Tim Drake). No, Bruce Wayne is "dead". Dick Grayson is Batman, and Bruce's estranged son, Damian Al Ghul-Wayne (no, not Damon Wayans, he's "Blankman" remember) is Robin. And it feels so brand new, like discovering Batman and Robin for the first time. Dick has closed up shop on the Batcave, instead moving to the underground lair of Wayne Enterprises' headquarters. They no longer drive a Batmobile or fly a Batplane, but instead a hybrid between the two, an intimidating looking beast that can sneak up from all directions. Dick isn't as grim a Batman as you may be used to, and Damian is hardly as chipper a Robin as you're used to either. Flipping the tables is a nice start.
Morrison has put wonder back into the Batman. He's long stated how fascinated he was with the psychedelic 60's Batman, where he would wind up on Mars or in an alternate dimension and often have a smile on his face. Batman's rogues have always been monsters of some sort, hearkening back to Universal Studios pictures camp-free but fully implausible science-gone-wrong horrors. Here Morrison introduces some new creatures, the stuff of fantasy and nightmares, grimm fairy tales for our new, unfamiliar dynamic duo to face off against. It was a comic that had me reading with eyes wide and a teeth-baring grin on my face.
Did I love it? Damn skippy.
Did you love it? Let us know.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
It largely went unnoticed but to a loyal few, it signaled what could be interpreted as a resurrection.
To those of us of a... certain age, ROM: Spaceknight was the be all end all of licensed properties comics and today, I'm here to announce...
Ain't a damned thing changed. Get back to reading those Rom comics you payed too much for on eBay, suckas!
What great and truly wonderful thing that did happen was the return of one of my all-time favorite (and utterly 80's) toy/comics characters to the Marvel Universe.
A comic that, perhaps, begot the greatest comic book panel of all time.
Ladies and gentle, Marvel Comics blesses your eyes with the sensation that is and forever will be...
Crystar, The Crystal Warrior, dancing behind Dazzler and a Lionel Richie-afroed Captain Marvel on the cover of a comic entitled Marvel Zombies to what one can only assume is Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Is there any joy 80's Marvel can't bring?
Monday, June 1, 2009
The Wrath of The Spectre.
Last week, I had the pleasure of interacting with my follow blogger, Jon Carey. The two of these happening led to the question I've been asking myself alot:
"As The Spectre, how would I off Jon Carey?"
The mind just reels.
So MANY ways...
Now... don't get me wrong, I ADORE me some J. Carey. A more funny, generous human being one would be hard pressed to find. Still, I would not hesitate for one second to bring the wrath of God down on his bearded ass.
I just wanna go all "Spectre" on him because if anyone could appreciate the irony of his demise it would be one, Jon Carey.
Like, you know, if I were The Spectre, I'd turn his ass into a bottle of single malt and leave him on a frat house doorstep. He'd at first think, "This is so effed up," but as the last frat boy puts his blistered lips up to the lip of a "Bottle O' Jon Carey," I'm pretty sure he, of all people, would respect the technique, even as Maroon 5 croons softly in the background.
Or maybe I could at the last minute turn him into a well and leave a lifetime supply of hot dogs near and help others learn metaphor. Letting his last act be one that would benefit others and all.
Of course, I'd bring him back to life 'cause that's what Spectres do for their friends. He'd be like my Oliver Queen and then, I'd tell him to, "Shut up, Ollie!"
Sure, he'd be mad but he'd get over it, I mean, he's alive again, after all.
And because I could, I'd literally turn his ass into jelly donuts and tender beef and strand him alone on a deserted island.
I'm sure Jon would have wanted it that way.