Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bucky Barnes Is A Bad-Ass

Remember the "happy-go-lucky" bastard who rode a bomb into the sunset and probably died with this look on his face?

Revisionist Bad-Ass Bucky: NOW with 100% more "ISWEARTOGODIWILLSHOOTYOURASS!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trading Up

Last year, I made a switch. It began with Scalped. I somehow managed to miss an issue and it began. After years of watching comics pile up all over the place and panicking over missing issues, I started to convert to reading certain things in trade paperback.

And in certain ways, my appreciation for the medium has grown like I never could have imagined.

Two weeks ago, I picked up Scalped Vol. 3 Dead Mothers and fell in love with what the comics medium can do. Unlike television, comics gives you time to consider a character and his situation. The world of lead character, Dash Bad Horse is a harsh one and you have to become hard to live within it. Where it would have taken me seven months to maybe not realize this in comics form, in trade, I knew instantly that I had in my hands something special.

Six years ago, I stopped reading Captain America. I'm glad I did.

It gave me a chance to go back and read it in trade. Having just read "The Winter Soldier" and "Red Menace" trades, I now know and am grateful for my lack of patience with it the first time around. I love, Love, LOVE this book and oddly enough it was because of a shirtless Namor.

Let me explain.

There was this scene where Cap and The WW2 Invaders were in a brutal Russian snowstorm having just battled back a small rogue uprising. There there were huddled around a Human Torch generated campfire and there he was, a shirtless Namor, just sorta hanging back.

Thanks to the realism of Michael Lark, the image was, at once, goofy and inspiring. It allowed me to realize the stark contrast between soldier and superhero and the line someone like Captain America had to tread between the two. In trade, I have come to appreciate characters I once took for granted.

In trade, I have discovered the brilliance of pairing Action Philosophers scribe Fred Van Lente with the Power Pack.

In trade, I want more and am getting it.

I have not given up on the monthly. I still love the weekly rush of walking into a shop on a Wednesday. The trade allows me to defer that rush for a rainy cold day.

That said, I'm looking for new things to read so...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Straight Talk From Second Printing

My fellow Second Printers… normally, this blog is above petty and divisive politics, but a line has been drawn, and the time has come to fight. I've fought most of the past year for you, the comic reader, and it's my sincere hope that you'll trust both my record and my steady hand on the tiller on this matter of grave importance.

We stand on the verge of great calamity. There's a man of great public prominence who poses a threat to us all, and it's high time we learned the answer to one simple question:

Had anyone even heard of this man before he emerged on the scene, supposedly 'saving' us from natural disasters, villains, and the stranding of our kittens in trees? I think not.

We now know of his dubious associations, including an unrepentant Gotham City vigilante. Other known associates include members of an inter-galactic police force, whose obvious goal is to subjugate Earth and undermine our sovereignty. Do these sound like the friends of a man who puts his country first?

But most alarming is his disdain for the free-market system that made this country a super power. A little research into his early days shows a man taking a page from the playbook of Karl Marx. Back in his so-called 'Golden Age', Superman could be found destroying depression-era tenements, fighting slumlords, and taking other radical steps to spread the wealth around. His rivalry with Lex Luthor is yet another manifestation of Superman's desire to punish the wealthy for their hard work. One of his closest friends dresses like Robin Hood and leaps around Star City enforcing his secularist socialist agenda at arrow-point… do I have to spell it out for you?

Look, this blog is fair and balanced... we're all about straight talk and no spin. And here, no question is out of bounds. So I have to ask, what's with that name? 'Kal-El'? Sounds a lot like Osama, doesn't it?

It's understandable that you find this information shocking, perhaps unbelievable. But Superman's pals in the liberal media, including the far left smear merchants at the Daily Planet, would rather spend their time defaming a good, hard-working American like Lex Luthor than uncover the truth about their so-called 'Man of Steel'. It's becoming clear that Metropolis is not the pro-America part of real-America. It's an anti-American part of the fake-America that doesn't see real-America the way we see real-America: As a place that will kick your ass, preemptively if necessary.

So just remember these thoughts next time a mugger runs off with your wallet and it's returned to you by a 'hero' who spends his off hours with a young male photographer and feels perfectly comfortable in tights and a cape. Remember these thoughts, and ask yourself… 'Who Is Superman?'

I'm Lex Luthor and I approved this message.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting to Know…Our Family Pt. 5

Here it is, Second Printers, to conclude our week of answers we come to the person whose responses inspired this whole thing - Caroline, Jon Carey's girlfriend. Hey, that almost sounds like a cheezey 1960's comic. As if Jon Carey was some sort of Johnny Quest-type adventurer and Caroline was his plucky and intrepid gal who always got him out of trouble. Anyway, Caroline was the first in with her answers, because Jon apparently quizzed her during the vice presidential debates. It’s only fitting that she gets the wrap up spot for the week. We hoped you enjoyed reading the answers. If you want to take the time and ask a non-comic reading loved one the questionnaire and then send in your answers to we will be happy to put them up.

(Jon Carey is our Hawkeye after all. Not that I am saying that Caroline is going to turn out to be a Skrull and then Carey will then go crazy ass genocidal for an alien race or anything like that.)

Q: Where do Spider-man's webs come from?

Caroline: His wrists.
Jon: How do they come out?
Caroline: They go CHOOM!
Jon: No no no, I mean, is there a machine there?
Caroline: No, it just comes out his arm. Because now he is a spider-dude.

Q:Who killed Superman?"

Caroline: I didn't even know he was dead.
Jon: He died once. Years ago.
Caroline: That green glowy shit. Krypt-tow-nite. Or that bald guy. Lex Luthor.

Q: What is Magneto the master of?"

Caroline: Magnetism.

Q: What holiday does Luke Cage think is sweet?

Caroline: Probably... Valentine's Day.
Jon: Why?
Caroline: Because it's sweet.

Q: How many Robins have there been?

Caroline: Like five. (Without missing a BEAT.)

Q:Who is Green Arrow married to?

Caroline: Ooooh, that chick in Secret Invasion who came back and he was like 'oh, shit, I thought you were dead.' Oooooh, you told me this. She's a superhero. But I don't know her name. She flies? And she got an abortion?
Jon: Okay. First off. You're talking about Hawkeye.
Caroline: YEAH!
Jon: Who isn't Green Arrow.
Caroline: Ooooooh.
Jon: Who's HIS wife?
Caroline: Mockingbird.

(After explaining that Green Arrow hangs out with Batman in a different universe, she guessed Catwoman and I let it go.)

Q: How far into the future are the Legion of Super-Heroes?

Caroline: 2583. No unit of measure given, none asked for.

Q: What is Aquaman's real name?

Caroline: Namor... I know they're two separate people. They both hang out in the water. Like it's a giant kiddy pool.
Jon: Arthur Curry.
Caroline: I would not have known that.

Q: What is Robin's real name?

Caroline: I don't know.

Q: What is The Thing made of?

Caroline: SWAMP! ...oh, no no, rocks and clay and shit.
Jon: Yeah, fine.
Caroline: And in Batman, he said he couldn't stay human for long, because it's like tensing a muscle.
Jon: ...that's Clayface.

Q: What was the name of the 'Justice' superhero team from the 1940s?

Caroline: The Justice League.
Jon: No, but it was a terribly worded question.

Q: What is the Thing's favorite 'time'?

Caroline: Like, year-round or daily?
Jon: We're just going to move on. Eh, clobberin', dear, clobberin'.
Caroline: OH! CLOBBERIN' TIME! ...that counts, right?

Q: What mood do you not want to see Bruce Banner in?

Caroline: Angry. Slash green.

Q: What animal does Mary Jane Watson like to call Peter Parker/Spider-Man?

She just named a bunch of animals. Moving on.

Q: How many claws does Wolverine have?

Caroline: Eight. Wait, I take it back. That's a trick question, because his whole body is... titanium... or uranium.
Jon: Adamantium.
Caroline: Yeah! If you DON'T count his feet, EIGHT.

Q: When Billy Batson says 'Shazam', he gains the attributes of six legendary figures. Which figures, what attributes?

I'm didn't even ask this one because I'm pretty sure I don't know the right answer offhand. Moving on.

Q: Who was the model for Captain Marvel's face?

Caroline: Your mom.

(I concur)

Q: Where do Superman's powers come from?

Caroline: The planet Krypton.

Q: What is Superman's secret identity?"

Caroline: (incredulously) Clark Kent.

Q: What city does Superman and The Batman call home?

Caroline: Batman is Gotham. Superman is... somewhere on the east coast... in the north east... near Lois Lane... near the Daily Planet... probably New York?
Jon: Metropolis.
Caroline: OOOH.

Q: What is the only thing that hurts Superman?

Caroline: Kryptonite.
Jon: There's two other things. I think we've had conversations about this.
Caroline: Green Lantern is yellow.
Jon: Yeah, good.
Caroline: Water? Fish? Aquaman?
Jon: Aquaman. Is one of the three things that hurts Superman.
Caroline: Dude, Aquaman hurts Superman SO HARD.
Jon: Magic and vampires.
Caroline: The fuck?

Q: What is the name of Superman’s girlfriend?"

Caroline: Lois Lane.

Q: Name Superman’s archenemy.

Caroline: Lex Luthor.

Q: What weekly comic does Judge Dredd regularly appear in?

There was literally no way she knew this one.

Q: What is Alfred's surname?

Caroline: Jameson. Butlerface.

Q: Who is Cable?
Caroline: The stuff that goes in the TV. No, Cable... is real strong... and he transmits telecommunications information... into YOUR BRAIN. Does he wear sweaters? Maybe he knits.

Q: Who is/was Steve Rogers?

She tried to guess by looking at my bookshelf, saw the Defenders,
Caroline: he's... a Defender?
Jon: No.
Caroline: He's... an Avenger?
Jon: Yeah. Yeah, he was an Avenger. Name some Avengers.
Caroline: Uma Thurman. Ralph Fiennes. In a Dum Dum Dugan hat.
Jon: Those are... different Avengers.
Caroline: Oh. Then I don't know.

Q: What does "THWIP" mean?

Caroline: It's when you go THWIP with a web.

Q: What is Captain America's weapon of choice?

Caroline: His star-shield.

Q: Which super-group is from the distant future: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society?

She got it right, but that only proves she was here for question seven.

Q: What is Doctor Doom's real name?

Caroline: What's he from?
Jon: Fantastic Four. He's your boy, Julian Whatshisface?
Caroline: Oh, what's the question?
Jon: What's his real name?
Caroline: The New Hotness. I don't know. Steve Sanders?
Jon: Steve Sanders changed his name to Doctor Doom?
Caroline: Wouldn't you?
Jon: Wait, wasn't Steve Sanders on 90210?"

Q: What color pants does the Hulk always wear?

Caroline: PURPLE.

Q: Do superheroes ever kill?

Caroline: No.

Q: What comes with great power?

Caroline: Responsibility.

Getting to Know...Our Family pt.4

Hello Second Printers-

Up today is Devon's nephew, Nigel. Now, I have met this kid and he is pretty awesome. He has class, he has verve, he has wit, he has - well I'll let his introduce him.

The Set-Up:

I've never seen anything like it.

I'd been trying to nail him down for nearly two weeks and it wasn't getting any easier. He's a busy and popular guy. When we walk down a street, people of all ages, color and gender come up to him and just to say, “Hello!” Why, the other day, when we were at lunch, the editor of our local “alternative” weekly, stopped by our table to simply wish him a good day. Introductions were exchanged, he returns to the business of the milkshake and questions from this boy's uncle were asked.

“How do you know her, I asked”

“Oh, that's my godmother.”

Last week, as I was set to pick him up from school I ran into a co-worker.

Co-worker: “What are you doing here? What the hell are you doing here? Coming back for a refresher course in the alphabet? HAR! HAR!

Me: “No. Picking up my nephew.”

Co-worker: “Who's your nephew?”

Me: “That little guy over there.”

Co-worker: “NO! That's your nephew? No! I know him! He and my son are best buddies. He's awesome. What happened to you?”

This is what a day with my nephew is like, full of surprises, comics not even necessary. His answers, while not always the most accurate, were consistently truthful and as always, him. I'm happy I could share one of my days with one of my favorite people with you.

Q: "Where do Spider-man's webs come from?"

Nigel: His hands. (Looks very pleased with himself.)

Q: "Who killed Superman?"

Nigel: A villain.

Q: What is Magneto the master of?"

Nigel: Magnets.

Q: What holiday does Luke Cage think is sweet?

Nigel: Superhero Day!

Q: How many Robins have there been?

Nigel: Two. Robin and Robin.

Q:Who is Green Arrow married to?

Nigel: Who is he?

(I show him a book on Green Arrow and he points to the Green Lantern.)

Nigel: I guess I don't know then.

Q: How far into the future are the Legion of Super-Heroes?

Nigel: 1967. Why? Because they're old and people from 1967 are old.

Q: What is Aquaman's real name?

Nigel: Marcus.

Q:What is Robin's real name?

Nigel: Robin Batmanboy.

Q: What is The Thing made of?

Nigel: What thing?

Devon: The Thing.

Nigel: “No. Seriously, what Thing? (Awkward silence) The Thing is a real thing? Oh! The ROCK guy!

Q: What was the name of the 'Justice' superhero team from the 1940s?

Nigel: Legends!

Q: What is the Thing's favorite 'time'?

Nigel: He has a watch?

Q: What mood do you not want to see Bruce Banner in?

Nigel: A good mood.

Q: What animal does Mary Jane Watson like to call Peter Parker/Spider-Man?

Nigel: Spider!

Q: How many claws does Wolverine have?

Nigel : Thirteen. They come out of his gloves? No? They come out of his hands? AWKWARD! My favorite oatmeal is maple. Is this Underdog?” (Points at a picture of Krypto)
Devon: Next question!

Q: "When Billy Batson says 'Shazam', he gains the attributes of six legendary figures. Which figures, what attributes?"

Nigel: What are attributes?

(I explain to him how we receive our attributes like how we got our brown skin from our ancestors.)

Nigel: Billy Batson is black six times, right?

Q: "Where do Superman's powers come from?"

Nigel: His suit.

Q: "What is Superman's secret identity?"

Nigel: Clark Kenneth. No... no. (Sees the look on my face.) Is this almost over?

Q: "What city does Superman call home?"

Nigel: That city he fought The Joker in.

Q: "What is the only thing that hurts Superman?"

Nigel: Mary Jane? No, wait. Water, on his suit.

Q: What is the name of Spider-Man's girlfriend?"

Nigel: Mary Jane.

Q: Name Superman's archenemy. His number one bad guy.

Nigel: Joker. No. NO! He doesn't fight The Joker, does he? No, that's Robin. Is “the question guy” a villain? (Points at The Riddler)

Q: What weekly comic does Judge Dredd regularly appear in?

Nigel: Ummm... OK. The Judge!
Q: What is Alfred's surname?

Nigel: Batman has a butler? Mark, I guess. Oh, you said his LAST NAME! Kent?

Devon: Never mind.

Q: Who is Cable?

Nigel: (Incredulously) A TV.

Q: Who is/was Steve Rogers?

Nigel: A superhero.

Q: What does "THWIP" mean?

Nigel: That means Spider-Man's shooting his webs.

(I give him a pound.)

Q: What is Captain America's weapon of choice?

Nigel: His shield-thing.

Devon: That's great! How did you ever get that one?

Nigel: (Pointing) It's one your lunchbox over there.

(Starts singing some song about libraries.)
Q: Which super-group is from the distant future: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society?

Nigel: Fantastic Four. They are four minutes into the future. That's how they got their name, right?

Q:What is Doctor Doom's real name?

Nigel: Dunno but I know you do.
Q: What color pants does the Hulk always wear?
Nigel: Blue. He like jeans.

Q: Do superheros ever kill?

Nigel: NO! (Looks incredulous)

Q: What comes with great power?

Nigel: A great superhero. Do you still have some of that maple oatmeal?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Getting to Know…Our Family pt.3

So we have hit the mid-way part with the answers, I hope you are enjoying them. Up today is my lovely wife, Hannah. Now my wife is not a comic nerd or any type of nerd for that matter. However, one thing that has kept our relationship going is her never-ending tolerance for listening to me blather on about what is happening in comics. And not just comics, she spent one evening listening to me explain what every colored square on a heroclix dial meant. That is love. So we cuddled up in bed one evening last week; me with my laptop, Hannah ready to help out her husband with his blog.

That scene did not last long though. Understand this, my wife does not like being wrong. She likes to know the correct answers to things. So, while she does get many answers factually correct, most of the answers were accompanied with at least five minutes of squinting and teeth gnashing and fist shaking. At one point she stopped talking to me. So loyal, Second Printers, know I put my marriage on the line for you.

(This was the look she gave for most of the quiz)

Q: Where do Spider-man's webs come from?

(She tapped her wrist.)

Q: Who killed Superman?

Hannah: Wait, what? When did he die?
Ben: When I was ten.
Hannah: Was it Lex Luthor?
Ben: No, it was an alien named Doomsday.
Hannah: Who knows that?

Q: What is Magneto the master of?

Hannah: Metal?

What holiday does Luke Cage think is sweet?

Hannah: Halloween.
Ben: Are you only saying that because it involves candy?
Hannah: (with a smirk) Maybe.

Q: How many Robins have there been?

Hannah: Three
Ben: Well technically four.
Hannah: Who was the fourth?
Ben: Well, there was this girl.
Hannah: Right, Barbara Gordon.
Ben: That was Batgirl.
Hannah: Same thing.

Q: Who is Green Arrow married to?

Hannah: Black Canary

Q: How far into the future are the Legion of Super-Heroes?

Hannah: I am not going to say anything out loud because anything I say out loud you will put down but I need to think out loud. (Then she squinted her eyes for a bit) 500.

Q: What is Aquaman's real name?

Hannah: Oh fuck, I knew this. (Then she saw me writing that) You are a bastard.
Ben: Arthur Curry.
Hannah: O.k. I didn’t know that. But I will remember it now.
Ben: Why?
Hannah: Because Arthur was my grandfather’s name and curry is an Indian dish.
Ben: Wait, what?
Hannah: Well, you know, my grandfather was British and curry-
Ben: Oh, I get the connection between the names but what does it have to with Aquaman.
Hannah: It works in my mind.

Q: What is Robin's real name?

Hannah: Dick Grayson.
Ben: You said there were three, what about the other two?
Hannah: Well there was (two minutes of thinking) Hal Jordan – wait he’s a Green Lantern.
Ben: Good.
Hannah: O.k. I don’t know.
Ben: Jason Todd and Tim Drake.
Hannah: Right, one was dead and came back to life and the other was alive and died.

Q: What is The Thing made of?

Hannah: “Rock? Is that right?”

Q: What was the name of the 'Justice' superhero team from the 1940s?

Hannah: It wasn’t Justice Society?
Ben: Yep.
Hannah: Oh.

Q: What is the Thing's favorite 'time'?

Hannah: Who is the Thing? Seriously. Is he that rock guy from the Fantastic Four.

Q: What mood do you not want to see Bruce Banner in?

Hannah: Angry.

Q: What animal does Mary Jane Watson like to call Peter Parker/Spider-Man?

Hannah: She doesn’t call him Spidey?
Ben: Nope. It was an animal.
Hannah: Um…Tiger?

(Got it on the first guess)

Q: How many claws does Wolverine have?

Hannah: On each hand or total?
Ben: I don’t think the question specifies.
Hannah: Four on each. (But as I was typing she grabbed me and spoke maniacal vehemence) That’s not right he has THREE on each.
Q: When Billy Batson says 'Shazam', he gains the attributes of six legendary figures. Which figures, what attributes?

Hannah: Fuck it.

Q: Who was the model for Captain Marvel's face?

Hannah: This is something only nerds know. Wait, don’t put that. I am going to be the enemy of all nerds.

(There you go, my fellow comic readers, if ever you needed an enemy now you have one - my wife.)
Q: Where do Superman's powers come from?

Hannah: The…the..sun. Earth’s yellow sun. Is that right?”

Q: What is Superman 's secret identity? 

Hannah: Clark Kent. I can also tell you Batman’s. It is Bruce Wayne. And Spider-man’s, it’s Peter Parker. I know all three. You better put it on there that I know all three.

Q: What city does Superman (or The Batman) call home?

Hannah: Metropolis. Gotham.

Q: What is the only thing that hurts Superman?

Hannah: Kryptonite but the green kind.
Ben: What do the other kinds do to him?
Hannah: Well there is the red kind.
Ben: What does that do?
Hannah: It makes him invulnerable.
Ben: He is already invulnerable.
Hannah: (she laughed for a while) I mean I know he is ‘The Man of Steel’ but I didn’t think it was literal.
Ben: What else would it be?

Q: What is the name of Superman’s girlfriend?"

Hannah: Lois Lane
Q: Name Superman’s archenemy.

Hannah: Lex Luthor.

Q: What weekly comic does Judge Dredd regularly appear in?

Hannah: I don’t know.
Ben: It’s o.k. to guess.
Hannah: No, it’s not.
Ben: Guess.
Hannah: Stop typing. Stop! You’re a jerk.
Ben: Come on guess.
Hannah: No.
Ben: Why do you always make squinty faces when you are trying to guess?

(This is the point where she stopped talking to me for a while.)

Q: What is Alfred's surname?

A: Pennyworth.

(Good for her. I don’t think I have ever been prouder of anything my wife has done. When I told her this she said, “That’s sad.” She’s right.)

Q: Who is Cable?

Hannah: I just know it’s Cable and Deadpool.
Ben: Yeah, but who is he?
Hannah: I don’t know. Who is he?

Q: Who is/was Steve Rogers?

Hannah: Don’t know.
Ben: Guess.
Hannah: Nope.

(After the Judge Dredd interchange, I left that one alone.)

Q: What does "THWIP" mean?

Hannah: (She held her hand up, making the web shooting gesture) That’s it right? It’s the sound effect for Spidey’s webshooters.
Ben: Yep.
Hannah: I thought it was an acronym for something like These Here Webshooters but I couldn’t get farther.

Q: What is Captain America's weapon of choice?

Hannah: (There was an extra long time of looking confused for this question) Well he’s got a shield. He THROWS he shield.
Q: Which super-group is from the distant future: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society?

Hannah: The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Q: What is Doctor Doom's real name?

Hannah: Karl Marx. I was just pulling out a name. I don’t know. I feel like Bruce Banner.

Q: What color pants does the Hulk always wear?

Hannah: Brown.

Q: What comes with great power?

Hannah: Great Responsibility.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting to Know…Our Family pt. 2

Wow! The response to my little sister’s answers was amazing. You guys seemed to want more. Good thing too, because we have a whole week of this. Next up, coming to you from the Great White North is Graig, who wrote this pretty awesome opening so I will just let it stand.

The intent was these questions were supposed to be asked of our significant others in most cases, however, my wife being as great, if not greater comic geek than I (as well as an ace home player of Jeopardy and a master Trivial Pursuitist), these questions would pose no challenge for her. Instead, I decided to ask my 6-year-old stepson, JJ, who has been more than indoctrinated into superhero culture, having watched often the Batman and Superman Animated shows, Fantastic Four, X-Men (the old X-Men Evolution and the new Wolverine and the X-Men), Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited, and more. As well, he reads regularly Tiny Titans, Franklin Richards, Super Friends, and was a big fan of Teen Titans Go! and Justice League Unlimited comics. I also have found him a bunch of DC Digests from the early 80's which he doesn't enjoy nearly as much.

Stuck in his bathtub so he can't run away, my wife and I corner him and force him to "help Graig with his homework". I asked him directly the questions, while my wife, caring mother that she is, wanted to see her son succeed (and probably, as a point of geek pride, and get the answers right). She occasionally tried to lead him or clarify for him [Ben: I put her comments in orange] while some of JJ's actions are in parenthesis. At first he was acting shy, and saying I don't know a lot, but we coaxed honest answers out of him. By the end he was begging for more. He quite loved doing this.

Q: "Where do Spider-man's webs come from?"

JJ: hands

Q: "Who killed Superman?"

JJ: That famous hunter.

Q: What is Magneto the master of?"

JJ: Magic...
Mom: What are his powers?
JJ: Umm... zapping
Mom: and what does he zap?
JJ: ...and floating?

Q: "What holiday does Luke Cage think is sweet?

Mom: What's your favourite holiday?
(He rolls a toy truck around the rim of the tub.)
Mom: Use some words...
JJ: Christmas!

Q: How many Robins have there been?

(After my wife explains to him what the question means, a lightbulb flashes above his brain...)
JJ: There's the real Robin, then there's Cyborg that dressed up as Robin, then there's Beast Boy, and Starfire too.. .I seen it in the show. [he said referring to an episode of the Teen Titans cartoon]

Mom: "So four, in other words... which is technically correct" (my wife says, insisting Stephanie Brown counts a real Robin)

Q: Who is Green Arrow married to?

JJ: Green Woman?

Q: How far into the future are the Legion of Super-Heroes?

JJ: Look out the window.

Q: Moving on... 
what is Aquaman's real name?

JJ: Aqualad?

Q: "What is Robin's real name?"

JJ: Robinda?

(They don't really say his secret identity in Teen Titans)

Q:"What is The Thing made of?"

JJ: Easy, go look outside...
Mom: That's the same answer as the Legion one. What's your answer?
JJ: Look for the driveway...
Mom: He knows the answer...
JJ:Look, all of us walk on the driveway everyday. He's made out of our driveway.

Q: "What was the name of the 'Justice' superhero team from the 1940s?"

(He just rhymed off a random sequence of numbers here)

Q: What is the Thing's favorite 'time'?

(pantomimes punching... after much leading we draw out "Clobbering Time" from him.)

JJ: Why does he say that?

(we have to explain to him, yet again, what a battle cry is after having just done so at dinner the night before, when I cried out "Spoon" before tucking into my meal.)

Q: What mood do you not want to see Bruce Banner in?

JJ: (Roars) I declare this crime is not right!
Mom: What does that mean?
JJ: That's what I'll say when I get mad.

Q: What animal does Mary Jane Watson like to call Peter Parker/Spider-Man?

JJ: Spider.

Q: How many claws does Wolverine have?

JJ: Three on each hand [he says declaratively]. I watch all these programs.

Q: When Billy Batson says 'Shazam', he gains the attributes of six legendary figures. Which figures, what attributes?

(As he thinks of his answers I can hear my wife processing the question under her breath, starting with "I don't know if I can even do this”)
JJ: Um... power, strongness, protective...ness, only say the word when there's danger, and Shazam stands for turning into Captain America (at which point he and my wife have an argument over whether it's Captain Marvel or America he turns into).

Q: "Where do Superman's powers come from?"

JJ: Kryptonite!
Mom: No that's what takes his powers away.
JJ: Red Sun! Remember in the one show where all the villains join together and zap his house to the moon and there's the red sun?
Mom: Nnnooo...
JJ: Remember, and there were like those 20 wolves and he had to use just like those things on the moon, and remember that instead of flying he'd have to drive that red car, and that red car also takes his powers away, because it's red.

Q: "What is Superman's secret identity?" 

JJ: Peter Parker... oops.. that's the guy we just watched (referring to our imported from the UK DVDs of "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" of which we watched a few episodes before bathtime)... Bruce Wayne?
Mom: No, that's Batman.

Q: "What city does Superman call home?"

JJ: K... K...Karypten... kryptoton?
Mom: No, that's where he's from but where does he work
JJ: METROPOLIS! In the big building with the globe on top.

Q: What about Batman... where does he live?

JJ: I think it was... I don't remember
Mom: Starts with G.
JJ: Goat Town?

Q: "What is the only thing that hurts Superman?"

JJ: If he shrinks...
Mom: Now you're just being silly
JJ: (he starts pretending the remains of a pear he's just eaten is taking away his energy) ach! Kryptonite.

Q: What is the name of Superman (or Spider-Man)'s girlfriend?"

JJ: They work in the same building... Lois Lane! They leave work together. They go to work together. They work across the same aisle. They love each other. They go in taxis together. They love each other. I think they kiss each other. I think they hug each other and they went out on a date in one show... too much lovey stuff.

 Name Superman's archenemy. His number one badguy.

JJ: Joker!
Mom: No that's Batman, who's Uncle Brendan's cat named after?
JJ: Uncle Brendan's cat? Oh, Lex. The guy that built every single machine in town. The guy that owns all the buildings. The guy that doesn't serve himself. Lufor! Why does he have women serve him?

Q: What weekly comic does Judge Dredd regularly appear in?

JJ: A comic about Judging... what? It's got 'judge' in it.

Q: What is Alfred's surname?

JJ: Alfred? Who's Alfred?
Mom: You know, Batman's butler?
JJ: Oh... uh, Alfred Wayne?

Q: Who is Cable?

JJ: Cable? Oh, that's easy. [He does a song and dance...] "you see it outside, you see it on your tv" [and he sings way too much too fast for me to keep up, about many things plugging into many other things]

Q: Who is/was Steve Rogers?


JJ: Stephen! Stephen Harper! The guy that we're voting for!

(point of note for my American friends... Canada has just undergone a national election as well, with voting on the 14th of October. Stephen Harper is the Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister of Canada, and I'm 95% certain he's a lizard alien from "V")

Mom: Heh. No Steve Rogers is Captain America... and we're not voting for Stephen Harper.
JJ: I know who I'm going to vote for...
Mom: You're not old enough to vote.
JJ: Well I'm voting anyway... for JOHN MCCAIN!!!

(He pounds a fist in the air and jumps up and down in the tub. We explain to him that he's not old enough or American enough to vote, and he tells a long elaborate story about how he's going to go down and vote for John McCain because he says "Hi my name is John McCain" on one commercial he's seen and though was hilarious.)

Q: What does "THWIP" mean?

JJ: A whip!
Mom: No, what makes that sound?
JJ: A whip!
Mom: Fair enough

Q:"What is Captain America's weapon of choice?"

JJ: Shield!


Q: Which super-group is from the distant future: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society?"

JJ: The Super Friends? Fantastic Four.. no nonono... I mean the Justice League, I mean no. no. no. (Starts hyperventilating) LEGION of Superheroes! That really got me buggin'.

Q: What is Doctor Doom's real name?"

JJ: Dr. Doom Society Scientist

(They don't even have it right in Spider Man and His Amazing Freinds, they called him Dexter Von Doom)


"What color pants does the Hulk always wear?"

JJ: Purple, with no shirt. And he has a green belly and a green bumbum.

Q: Do superheros ever kill?

JJ: They kill 20 days. In my life that's a horrible word. They should get sent to court. Don't ask any more questions with that word in it or guns. No killing or guns questions again.

Q: What comes with great power?

Mom: Ravis?
JJ: Ravis.
Mom: Ravis? Is that what you said?
JJ: Yeah. [pause] What's a Ravis?
Mom: [Laughs]
JJ: What's a Ravis? What is it?
Mom: A word you just made up.
JJ: No, it's a word.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting to…Our Family Pt. 1

Hello Second Printers-

Here they are because you demanded them – well, more like we asked and then helped us out – the answers to “What have you learned through comic osmosis. Now originally we were going to just spend a day on the answers, having chosen the best of the best. Problem is a lot of the answers were amazing. So each day this week one of our loved ones is going to get a moment to shine in all their comic knowledge glory.

We are starting the week off with a stand-in. It would seem that Mike P’s. girlfriend would not let him remove the ballgag he wears at home long enough to ask the questions. So, standing in is my little sister, Emma. She has spent the last twenty-two years living in a family of not one, not two, but THREE comic readers. If there is anyone out there who has had the time to absorb comic nonsense it is she. So here we go.

1. "Where do Spider-man's webs come from?"

Emma: From right underneath his wrist. Isn’t he a scientist? Aren’t they part of his suit and not from his wrist like in the movie? Do they come out of the top of his hand? I am trying to make the hand gesture.
2. "Who killed Superman?"

Emma: I don’t know I didn’t read that one. Wasn’t it Lex Luthor?

3. What is Magneto the master of?"

Emma: Magnetic Fields – maybe. I think so. He can use his hands to make metal do stuff.

4. What holiday does Luke Cage think is sweet?

Emma: I don’t even know who that superhero is. I gonna go with the 4th of July because superheroes are patriotic and they love America. I am going to assume he is from America, unless he from Europe or some shit.

5. How many Robins have there been?

Emma: Three. One of them died, one of them went to college, one of them decided to stay young forever – something like that.

6. Who is Green Arrow married to?

Emma: I don’t know. I just know he has a pointy beard and Kevin Smith wrote the comics. In the comics she has red hair, unless she had brown hair. He’s the one with the pointy beard, right?

7. How far into the future are the Legion of Super-Heroes?

Emma: Not that far. Somewhere in the 2000s, like 2045 or something.

What is Aquaman's real name?

Emma: I don’t know, Benjamin. Harry Stanton.

(As a side note, my sister is the only person in the world who still calls me Benjamin on a regular basis.)

9. "What is Robin's real name?"

Emma: I know this! No, I don’t.

10. "What is The Thing made of?"

Emma: Goo. Radiation goo. Because everything in comic books is because of radiation.

11. "What was the name of the 'Justice' superhero team from the 1940s?"

Emma: I don’t know. I am telling you I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

12. What is the Thing's favorite 'time'?

Emma: Of the year? When he gets to take that chick that he hangs out with into the swamp.

13. What mood do you not want to see Bruce Banner in?

Emma: Well Bruce Banner is the one who…he’s not the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that what’s his name works in – you know Spider-Man?

Ben: That is J. Jonah Jameson.

Emma: I don’t know…wait he’s the Incredible Hulk. You don’t want to see him mad.

14. What animal does Mary Jane Watson like to call Peter Parker/Spider-Man?

Emma: Tiger.

15. How many claws does Wolverine have?

Emma: Three.

Ben: See you are nailing these now.

Emma: Yeah, but these are like what number is this.

16. "When Billy Batson says 'Shazam', he gains the attributes of six legendary figures. Which figures, what attributes?"

Emma: God, I have no idea.

Ben: Are you going to guess?

Emma: Let’s say he gets…hmm…don’t they have something to do with mythology? Let me think about it – who were people that were cool in mythology? Zeus and his power would be being king. God, I wish I had paid more attention into Latin class. Odysseus. Hercules and his power would obviously being strong. Mercury and his power would be being fast. Doesn’t it have to do with being acronym for his name?

Ben: Yes

Emma: How do I know so much about this guy? So A is for Achilles and his power is breaking his ankle…no being brave. That is his power.

Ben: One left.

Emma: S for Samson and his power is being vain.

Ben: Close. But you know because you said Odysseus his name would be Shozam.

(At which point my sister started going Show-ZAM!)

17. "Who was the model for Captain Marvel's face?"

Emma: His face? Like the drawing of it? What time did he come out?

Ben: Like the 40’s

Emma: I would say (thirty seconds go by) God people in the 40’s…Cary Grant.

18. "Where do Superman's powers come from?"

Emma: His planet of Krypton…wait, no, it’s the sun. He gets his powers from the sun. I remember that from Mallrats.

19. "What is Superman 's secret identity?" 

Emma: Clark Kent.

20. "What city does Superman and Batman call home?"

Emma: Metropolis. Gotham.

21. "What is the only thing that hurts Superman?"


Emma: Kryptonite.

22. What is the name of Superman’s girlfriend?"

Emma: Lois Lane, no, that red headed chick.

Ben: What?

Emma: I take it back. Lois Lane. Who is that red-headed chick?

"Name Superman’s archenemy."

Emma: Lex Luthor.

24. What weekly comic does Judge Dredd regularly appear in?

Emma: Ummmmmmm…that name sounds really familiar. I don’t think it is Superman. It might be Spider-Man, but that is not my final answer. Wasn’t there a movie with Sylvester Stallone called Judge Dredd?

Ben: Yes

Emma: Is that the same character?

Ben: Yes

Emma: Then I don’t know

25. What is Alfred's surname?

Emma: Do we ever find out his surname?

Ben: Yep.

Emma: Well it has to be something British. Something British. I am going to go with…(laughs)…the only thing that comes to mind is MacGuff so I am going to go with that. Alfred MacGuff. But I really know it’s something like Pennywhistle. Wait is that right?

26. Who is Cable?

Emma: Well he’s a superhero and he is one that carries a big gun and has cables in his hand. He can shoot lasers.

Ben: “That’s not too far off.

27. Who is/was Steve Rogers?

Emma: He is a (groan) detective.

28. What does "THWIP" mean?

Emma: Like as an acronym? What are you saying? Are you saying swift? Oh, THWIP? That has something to do with Spider-Man right? I am going to say that it is the sound that his spider webs make.

Ben: Hooray. You got it right.

Emma: Is it really?

29. "What is Captain America's weapon of choice?”

Emma: A big sword and shield. Or his fist. I know he has a shield. Or his brains…you know logic. He has a shield though, right?

30. Which super-group is from the distant future: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society?"

Emma: Well it’s not the Avengers and it’s not the Fantastic Four. What were the other two?”

Ben: Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice Society.

Emma: The third one.

31. What is Doctor Doom's real name?"

Emma: His name has Doom in it right?

Ben: Yep.

Emma: It’s something von Doom. I am going to say Wendell von Doom.

(She then went on for a bit saying Wendell von Doom in a deep voice.)


"What color pants does the Hulk always wear?"

Emma: Purple.

33. What comes with great power?

Emma: Great responsibility.

34. Do superheroes kill.

Emma: No. They just put them in jail so they can think about what they’ve done. Or psychiatric wards so they can be crazy in private.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The $2.99 Second Printing Challenge

When I was a kid I'd go to the local smoke shop or bookstore and pick my comic books from the spinner rack, either that or I'd buy random books in 3/$1 baggies at the local department store. I'd pick up a comic at nearly every gas station we'd stop at on long road trips with my folks. As a result, my pre-pubescent collection was a patchwork of titles, from The Mighty Crusaders to Rom, Flash Gordon to DC Comics Presents. This was a time before I knew there were specialty stores, and shipping dates, and publishing schedules. I was probably 11 or 12 before I realized that comic books came out monthly, (and I thought the invention of the "Superman Triangle" - which tracked where each issue of Action, Adventures of and Superman fell in line - was a stroke of genius).

Those random comics, though, hold a lot of special meaning. They were mostly books I picked myself as an ignorant, innocent little kid, books I read from cover to cover dozens of times, books which, decades later haunt (and delight) the recesses of my brain with imagery from Jim Aparao, George Tuska, Gil Kane and Al Williamson, amongst others. Even though I was missing sometimes huge chunks of a story, I loved reading those books, filling in the details of what came before and after in my mind. The acquisition of a subsequent issue of a title, perhaps a dozen or two issues later in the run, would leave a whole plethora of stories and character moments to think about, to always wonder what happened, to ponder "how did we get here?"

That was special, but I don't think it happens anymore today. As a major comic book reader, I find I won't jump onto most series mid-run unless I've read the trades or there's a drastic switch in story/creative teams I know about. I will rarely try out a random issue off a book just for the sake of trying it out. Is this something I've trained myself to do or is this a result of how the mainstream has positioned itself?

I've been wading through a lot of 1980's comics lately, and one of the interesting things I've noticed is how much exposition is included in each issue. Something like the Paul Levitz Legion or Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron will make mention of a character's power or a past event via expository dialogue (or through editor's footnotes) for the sole purpose of filling a reader in on the necessary information they need to know. Even a four issue mini-series like Hercules: Prince of Power gives you enough information each issue that you could jump in on issue #3 and still enjoy the book. Given the way comics were primarily distributed (on the newsstands), even regular readers would wind up missing an issue here or there, and so every issue would have to allow you to catch up with the regular events in some small way. Sure, the exposition could stunt the flow of a story, even bringing it to a dead halt, but compared to the books of the '60's, which at times could insult the observational intelligence of a 5-year-old (where the writer's so often felt the need to describe in dialogue the actions occurring in a panel) books of the '80's were positively intuitive.

Today, it seems writers expect the reader to know everything. They expect that you've been following along, and if you've just jumped on board that you're going to go out and buy the trade or back issues and catch up. There's not much lenience for a new reader, not much of a welcome. The "made for trade" structure is not the sole culprit, but is also not helping. Writers want their work to be, in a sense, poetic, to have flow. They trust their artists to convey the message they're trying to get across, they trust their reader's intelligence to understand the nuances of language.

While I certainly respect that trust, I have to wonder if this makes for a healthy comic book environment. There's always talk about how comics aren't for kids anymore (practically DC's slogan throughout the 1980's), and I'd have to agree. The maturity level of most modern comic books, with overt violence and grotesquerie (where once these would be shadowed, off panel, or merely hinted at) is to a point where most any comic is meant for mid-to-late teenagers at youngest. The disappearance of the comics code in the '90's has made language and titillation a mainstay of superhero genre (flaunted heavily in the '90's, moderately scaled-back this decade) and most mothers wouldn't want little Billy going anywhere near All-Star Batman and Robin or, well, anything with the name Mark Miller on it. It's as if the Big Two hope that any new readers will have already had a life full of twisted anime, R-rated slasher movies, and more than two Spike TV CSI marathons under their belt before they come looking for some juvenile, escapist, four-color action.

I don't really have much of a problem with comics filled with elements meant for older readers (as long as there's still books for the young ones) but even still, is the average comic ready for a new reader, any new reader - even big-time/lifelong readers like us Second Printers - to just jump on board? I want to conduct a little experiment. It's The Second Printing $2.99 challenge. What we're going to do is:

1) Go to the comic rack and pick a title we're not familiar with (on the condition that it's an ongoing series over a year and a half old with more than 18 issues under its belt)

2) Assess the accessibility of that comic based on the following criteria:

a) could a non-comics reader pick this up and enjoy it?

b) what age group would it be appropriate for?

c) are there any aspects that don't make sense to the reader (or, conversely, are there any that do?)

d) what is the overall perceived quality (could the quality be perceived differently if read long term?)

e) overall enjoyment of the single issue?

This isn't about reviewing the book for it's content so much as looking at it solely for its accessibility.

In two weeks, upwards of five of us Second Printers will be back with the results.

We invite you to join us in The $2.99 Second Printing Challenge on your own blog (drop us a note in the comments where we can find your post).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On NOT Writing...

As we stared out onto the horizon preparing the battlements for the oncoming battle against the Evil Were-Zombies of The Nefarious Planet ZoOom, Ben, Mike and I looked at each other, knowing full well what was happening.

My sidekicks are to the right. ---->

(Or as it really happened, Ben drank club soda, while Mike and I kept jumping up to go and fiddle with the jukebox.)

There were words of encouragement. There was no talk of battle cry. Where there should have been cacophony, there was silence and we had heard its like before...

Despite the unique circumstance offered upon this late noon, we had...


We admit it. We're just sort of bored right now. We could comment on what everyone else is commenting on.

"OMG, they killed Pa Kent! Those bastards! Ma Kent's gonna have to learn to use the tractor now!"

We could comment on the state of the industry but I think not writing anything really says more about the state of things more than anything we say actually could.

We're just sorta bored. Sorry.

I know that a lot of our readers happen to have blogs and God love you, you update them almost daily.

So, my question to you is this:

"Where do you find inspiration when the idea of fending off Evil Were-Zombies of The Nefarious Planet ZoOom ain't necessarily doing it for you right now or I guess, you could say, what do you do when your comics aren't really inspiring you right now?"

Fear not though, we've been working on a little something telling and I think, utterly hilarious.

We're still here and we're not going anywhere any time soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Smashy Smashy

The wife received both the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk trade paperbacks for her birthday recently, both of which we had been keeping an eye out for at our LCS, but either they weren't carrying them, or more likely they would repeatedly sell out of them as they would come in.  It's easy to see why, as they're if not the best, then certainly the most prominent Hulk comics to come out in... well, ever.  Seriously... name another major Hulk story...  

Future Imperfect maybe? 

Hulk: Gray possibly, but unlikely?  

Really though, there are milestones in the Hulk's life, but specific storylines rarely stand out.  Most of these milestones deal with shifts in the Bruce Banner/Hulk split-personality dynamic.  Mr. Fixit, The Maestro, the Professor ("smart Hulk"), Savage Hulk, Hulk Red, but aren't in themselves specific storylines that you could point anyone to, but different manifestations of the character that last over an extended period of issues.

I'm not a regular Hulk reader, and hardly what you'd call a Hulk fan.  I find the Jeckyll and Hyde dynamic fascinating, but in a limited dose, and the cathartic "Hulk Smash" is equally entertaining but in equally limited doses.  That Banner fights his monster, his inner demon so to speak, is the core of the character, and to triumph would be the character's end, so as long-form storytelling, the Hulk will get repetitive and stale, or, as it has, lead to numerous shifts in the dynamic between Banner's controlled emotions and intellect, and the Hulk's primal nature. 

If you haven't read Planet Hulk or World War Hulk, but intend to, I should note that you can skip the Prelude To Planet Hulk trade paperback, which collects the four issues prior to the Planet Hulk series and the Hulk files from the Official Handbook To The Marvel Universe.  It's more a Nick Fury story than a Hulk story and a thin one at that.  The opening pages of Planet Hulk reduce the Prelude chapters to a few panels and that's really all it needs.  It reiterates the point that a successful Hulk story should always deal with the human/humanity side of the character more than the Hulk Smash.

Planet Hulk is interesting in that yet again an intellectual transference between Banner and Hulk takes place, and for a new/returning reader like myself, I found it confusing at first.  Hulk in the story is obviously not just a dim, primal creature, but capable of at times incredibly intelligent and tactical thought.  Writer Greg Pak took aspects of gladiator movies (like Spartacus and Gladiator) and transferred them into a sci-fi/superhero setting and it's in this level that the story succeeds so incredibly, but the Hulk vs. Banner element is unfortunately almost negligible.  There's only a few brief moments that relate to that struggle, otherwise a semi-intelligent, rage-prone Hulk is the story's figurehead, but it's the supporting cast who rotate through the spotlight. 

World War Hulk secedes Planet Hulk as a direct sequel better than a stand-alone event, although it is little more than a gratuitous 200 page fight sequence that squares the hero of Planet Hulk off against the rest of the Marvel 616... yet it still smartly forces the question whether the reader should be rooting for the Hulk or every other hero.  Again, the battle between Banner and Hulk is left behind, although there are a few instances of the Marvel heroes attempting to appeal to the punier side of the green machine.  But again, it's less a Hulk story per-se, than a Iron Man/ Reed Richards/ Dr. Strange/ Sentry story.

To me, and I know I'm in the minority, the Ang Lee Hulk film expertly captured the character best overall, understanding why Bruce Banner is so repressed emotionally and then drawing out the uncontrollable beast inside him, leading to some interesting but not overblown action sequences.  People dislike Eric Bana's performance as Banner, calling him uncharismatic, but I think that's entirely the point, he's burying everything.   Ed Norton captures the Banner in the Louis Leterrier Incredible Hulk redux differently, less repressed, and struggling more with his inner issues, rather than ignoring them altogether as Bana's Banner did.  I did like Norton's Banner a lot, especially the aspect of taking pleasure in letting the monster loose.  A s an homage to the TV show, it was incredibly (*groan*) fun, up to a point, as I found the Hulk sequences less appealing, with the green goliath looking more plastic, and the final collision with the Abomination tedious and visually boring (a narrow corridor of Toronto decorated as Harlem in which only the street but not the buildings on either side of it are impacted by the fight... yawn.  They should have take a page from Cloverfield on how to properly damage a city).

The TV show, for all it's 70's eau du fromage, broke down the character to the essential man versus self conflict, and parsing it through the "running man" formula of episodic
 programming.  It worked for a time but after a few years the same realization crept forth as it did in the comics, Banner can't win in his struggle or there'd be nothing left.  Those stories of emotional turmoil get stale since the character never grows, never moves beyond his singular mission.   

A recent BBC mini-series called Jekyll dealt delightfully with the modern notion of the monster split-personality myth in a much different way, with it's Banner, Dr. Jackman accepting his altar ego and cutting a deal to let him loose from time-to-time.  This surprisingly revitalized the Jeckyll and Hyde myth in the same way the Hulk did in the 1960's... but does that make the Hulk now irrelevant? 

My recent venture into the Hulk leads me to wonder why the character seems to have played second fiddle in his own series for so long (even now having been usurped by Hercules).  Is it because, in the comics, they've stalemated the conflict between Bruce and his other form?  Is there anywhere left for Banner to go with his green rage other than either a) accepting him or b) destroying him (as happened when the TV Hulk came to an end).  Is the Hulk a better supporting player as a misunderstood hero/villain than central figure overall?