Sunday, January 31, 2010

Artists To Watch Out For In 2010

Like many, I discovered him on the Blue Beetle series. He immediately impressed me with how easily he was able to capture the essence of his predecessor Cully Hamner's linework while gradually working in his own. The result was a seamless transition that kept new readers while gaining new ones, bringing to my mind the transition from Steve Ditko to John Romita in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. What many didn't know that Albuquerque's previous work had a darker edge with stylish uses of darkness he'd shaved off for superhero comics. Albuquerque bounced around a bit doing cover work for Marvel and Superman/Batman at DC Comics but this spring will see him come to Vertigo as artist of the new series American Vampire written by novelists Scott Snyder and Stephen King.

Known primarily for his inking, Ryan Kelly broke out big doing full art on the Oni series, Local. Kelly rapidly became known for his lush page layouts and for his ability to create the vibrant city and landscapes in which his characters exists. 2010 sees him returning to The New York Four for Vertigo and his own creator-owned project, Funrama.

I won't lie, initially, I didn't care much for the guy's style. He was shoehorned into the darkness of the Batman stable of books and he just didn't fit. It was like reading the adventures of pin-up girls guest-starring the Bat-characters, especially the female ones.

They pouted and stood with their hands on their hips and just seemed altogether out of place. Finally, he was moved onto the Gotham City Sirens title co-featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy and then... nothing. It seemed like it would have been perfect for his style but it seemed he was struggling with the pacing of superhero comics. His layouts seemed a bit off, never quite jibing with the story being told and then it happened; Gotham City Sirens #8.

He was given the chance to plot the issue and his storytelling just opened up and began to flow, suggesting what would happen if you unleashed artist Milo Minara upon a crime comic set in a superhero universe. If this is a glimpse of what's to come, I'm more than ready.

No one should be able to add as much detail to a monthly comic and remain sane as this man does. Hell, I don't know him. He probably is insane. You'd have to be to operate at his level. As far as I'm concerned, he can be whatever he needs to be as long as he keeps cranking out this quantity of high-quality work on the monthly Green Lantern Corps. The man's layout work is spectacular, regularly twisting and turning perspective inside-out at a moment's notice while still keeping anatomy and story pacing a priority. What I think goes largely unnoticed is use of bold blacks to set a mood, suggesting a melding of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola with studio mate and Green Lantern cohort, Doug Mahnke's artistic stylings, while forging a style all his own. Month in, month out, Gleason gets the job not only done but done by an artist at the top of his game.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Devon's List of DC Characters Overdue For A Comeback


Need one even ask "why?"


With Brightest Day fast approaching, who better to represent change for the better than reinstating Hank Hall AKA Monarch as Hawk.

Turning Hawk into Monarch pretty much symbolized everything wrong about DC Comics in the 90's. In an age where they ceremoniously killed and replaced Superman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen, maimed Aquaman and crippled Batman, they also simultaneously crippled the concept of Hawk and Dove. They're characters linked in an eternal struggle against the forces of Order and Chaos and DC chose Chaos, leaving Order (Dove) to fend for herself in limbo. The final indignity was replacing them with guitar-strumming grunge rockers who talked about... something... who gives a damn?

They weren't Hawk and Dove.

If a brighter day is truly to come, who better to usher it in than the balance of Order and Chaos?


It's just time. Bring him back. The smiling, happy guy above. Bring him back. Drop the angst. Drop the healing hand schtick. Bring back Mera. Bring back AQUAMAN. Bring back the King of The Seven Seas. As ruler of 70% of the Earth, Aquaman should be it's most well-traveled hero. One issue should have him fighting sea monsters in Ireland, the next exploring the reappearance of the river Styx in Greece. Aquaman should always be in motion.

Aquaman should be a walking, talking version of The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Sea monsters? Aquaman.

Adventure? Aquaman.

Danger? Aquaman.


You're never gonna get another chance like this, ever again. Grant Morrison is writing Batman and the man known for breaking down the walls of convention is known for making the impossible, feasible. The man who gave Danny The Street to the Doom Patrol, the writer who revealed himself as a character within the Vertigo Universe he was helping create has yet to touch one of the greatest of all Bat-creations, The Bat-Mite.

Grant, please, please, PLEASE break open The Black Casebook and give us some new Bat-Mite stories. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to storytelling, you owe it to "fun," and most importantly, you owe it to Bat-Mite.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Heroic Age

Is it just me or does it seem a weird that having Captain America, Thor and Iron Man on the same team is now called an "event?"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Name Game

I was reading a reader comment on some website regarding the latest issue of "The Outsiders", where they questioned:

was that Roy before his arm got torn off? So these events are occuring after BLACKEST NIGHT, but beore CRY FOR JUSTICE? Or, was it a different Roy?

This reader was mistaking "Roy Raymond" (aka Owlman) for Roy Harper (aka Arsenal, aka Red Arrow, aka Speedy).

A lot of superheroes have the same name (there's like five Flashes, and a couple Batmans, and a pair of Captain Americas and Black Widows and legacy characters major and minor like Clayface and Blockbuster and Icicle and on and on and on) so it's hard to keep that straight forward enough, but similar alter ego names do cause just as much confusion.

Hell, when I read earlier issues of the Outsiders I was trying to figure out how Firestorm got resurrected (I confused Roy Raymond/"Owlman" with deceased Firestorm Ronnie Raymond). Not to mention that for a time I thought Nova also had the same name as Firestorm (but it was an alliterative mistake, as he's Richard Ryder, not to be confused with Jack Ryder, aka "The Creeper").

The most recent problem in the name game has been the naming of next generational heroes with the same altar ego first name. Connor? Which Connor? Connor Kent ("Superboy") or Connor Hawke ("Green Arrow"). Cassie? Cassie Caine ("Batgirl") or Cassie Sandsmark ("Wonder Girl"). I mean, really?

Even amidst the classic heroes there can be some confusion.
Are we talking Prince or Drake?

Back in the day they would avoid any such confusion, because whenever someone would refer to someone by their "real" name, the editor would asterisk in a footnote.

"Has anyone seen Ted*? He was supposed to rendezvous back at headquarters an hour ago?"

* Ted Knight: Starman's altar ego - Ed. or
* Ted Grant: Wildcat's altar ego - Ed. or even
* Ted Kord: Blue Beetle's altar ego - Ed.

These kind of editorial interruptions are nowdays seen as part of the medium's juvenile roots and are next to obsolete. Yet, it was these sorts of footnotes that made comics accessible to a younger reader and easier to follow. It may be a bit patronizing to the regular reader but the new reader would be thankful.

Did you know that DC even had/has a second "Hal Jordan" running around? Yup he's "Air Wave II", Harold "Hal" Jordan, a cousin.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Devon's Five Fave DC Comics Costumes



How can you not like the guy? His superpower is basically tenacity. His costume tells you exactly who he is before he comes through the door. Sure, it's a basic black onesie with a cat face attached to it but when you add the taped fists, a cigar (you can still smoke those in the DC Universe and you know you're not exactly dealing with a punk here. Add to that, the costume is essentially the same as the day he first dawned it in 1942 and it just goes to show that simplicity should always be the name of the game.


Not so much a costume but a statement of elegance in design. It's so good in that the only way one could improve it would be to create a tranny version. (pause)

I just said that, didn't it?

OK, when I think of The Flash, I still revert back to my childhood. My first encounter with him was in comics, where he was a sort of bland guy who fought guys who seemed to really just want his undivided attention. In a world where I could go from an Adam West Batman to Neal Adams' Batman, The Flash always just sort of shook me. For one thing, The Flash's power was to be "the fastest man alive" but Superman always beat him or would get so distracted that he couldn't finish or he'd simply be a jerk and just throw the race, winking at you at the end of the story like a fourth wall breaking d**k we all knew he could be. When there's a guy named Superman who can do everything everyone else can do, well, it's hard to stand out.

So, no, The Flash wasn't always a favorite.

And then, Wally West became The Flash and suddenly artists seemed to find something to work with. Speed lines weren't gonna cut it anymore the costume seemed to almost come alive. Artists played up his lightning motif and did the impossible; finding ways to make "The Fastest Man Alive" look good even standing still.


It's a red leotard and leather boots and it just works. Donna Troy's costume like a Hilary Swank is so extraordinarily severe in its visage, it borders on the sexy.


From the color scheme, to the scalloped trunks to the pixie boots this has ZERO reason to work... and it really doesn't. What does work is that as a costume, designers have consistently found ways to build upon what was already there. Yes, leggings have been added, boots, as well but overall, no matter who wears it, the costume has essentially stayed the same.

What I always thought was the sheer brilliance of the robin costume was its juxtapostion with The Batman's. You instantly underestimate whoever's wearing it... that is until you're... you know... waking up from being knocked the hell out.


Look at it.


It's so sleek. Not a bit of wasted design. It's simple. It's green. It has a lantern symbol on it. From the white gloves, giving it an almost military dress feel to the perfect placement of black, it's in my opinion, the cleanest looking costume design ever created. And let's be honest, it's a sexy piece of design work.

The other reason it's so great is that even though it's near perfect, it can be varied and made to fit the personality of the wearer. From the battle-ready gear worn by Guy Gardner, to the goofy, unkempt look that's come to be associated with G'Nort or the overt sensuality put into Arisia's look, no matter what you do to it, it always manages to say; Green Lantern.


It says who he is before you have a chance to ask. From the bat symbol in the middle to everything north and south of it, The Batman's costume is the measure by which I hold all superhero costume. Every element has a reason, every element has a design function. Bill Finger created a design that over 70 years later is the costume everyone has been trying to re-design. Not so much because there's anything inherently wrong with it but more out of a silly belief that perfection can be improved upon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter Blahs: DC Comics edition

Blame it on Season Affective Disorder but I'm kind of depressed by what DC's offering me with their April solicitations. I think I may be repeating myself. I believe I went through a similar crisis last year around this time. But this year it actually seems worse. My enjoyment level in the DC-at-large has diminished to the point where I have a hard time maintaining interest in the geeky conversations that kick in at my comics shop. He's just not that into you.

My comics list from the big two superhero universes is dwindling. At DC, I gave all the lead in to Blackest Night a pass and the main event is on "wait for trade" order, which means all this "Brightest Day" hullaballo is lost on me. I can't even feign interest right now. I'm almost hopeful that over the next 3 months there's something in the marketing that will make me care, if only 'cause I'm grasping at straws as is.

I'm still annoyed at the "necessity" of bringing Barry Allen back, but letting it go to the point that I can now just ignore the Flash altogether since DC seems rather keen on ignoring MY Flash (fanboy logic).

"The Rise of Arsenal/The Fall of Green Arrow"? Does ANYONE really care?

Superman is sorely missing Geoff Johns already. James Robinson has not been a favourite writer of mine since mid-way through his Starman run and nothing he's done of late has restored my faith in his abilities (I'm convinced Starman was a fluke, or else heavily reliant on Tony Harris to make it good). Putting an entire event under his purview is a dangerous proposition.

The JSA got too big for its britches, and I lost interest.

I haven't even had the heart to go near Wonder Woman since its tragic relaunch.

Doom Patrol is slated for the drop from my pull list, I'm giving it one more issue to change my mind.

Criminally DC editorial have decided to pull Batwoman from headlining Detective Comics and forcing her into her own title. This is, I think, a demotion. ‘Tec is the tentpole series at DC (it’s what the company is named after, after all) and it’s a testament to the strength of this new Batwoman iteration that for seemingly the first time since Issue #27, another character other than Batman is carrying the book. Plus, it was really great having Rucka's Question as back-up, making it the most estrogen heavy comic on the stands, and the world was better for it. The two really shouldn't be separated, at least not yet. And I'm not paying $3.99 to keep reading her adventures, not that I don't think David Hine isn't a good writer, but his debut on 'Tec spins out of some other one-shots and mini-series he wrote leaving any new reader behind already. Bad move all around.

My pull list for the DCU in April (judge me as you will) consists of:
Batman and Robin #11
Nemesis: The Imposters #2
Secret Six #20
The Shield #8

I'm also now considering giving the First Wave titles a go, even though I don't have any interest in them, just to try something different.

Marvel, with their neverending event, their isolated and impenetrable X-universe, their Deadpool overkill, and now virtually pointless Ultimates universe, has alienated me as a reader for years now, with my pull list for Marvel Universe titles limited to:

Captain America #605
X-Factor #204
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashes #2 (don't you judge me)
S.H.I.E.L.D #1 (Jonathan Hickman does his thing with Marvel History)

Now, as a "DC guy", it's odd that I have a tendency to buy more Marvel in trades with Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, "Realm of Kings", Incredible Hercules, Spider-Woman, The Marvels Project, Daredevil, Secret Warriors, Astonishing X-Men, Strange and Thunderbolts all on my trade watch list, whereas it's only Greg Rucka's Action Comics and Blackest Night I'm holding out for.

But in all this mainstream dispair, I'm not actually abandoning comics, with books like Oni's Stumptown, Images' Chew and a whole bunch of Vertigo titles nicely filling some of the void.

But superheroes are truly what I love and kind of miss. I'm hopeful that with "Brightest Day" and the end of "Siege" that the big two will return to a more Four-Color world full of awe, wonder and excitement that makes their universes more accessible and more entertaining.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Second Printing: Watch This Space

I'm gonna be honest with you:

This blog ain't what it used to be.

It was updated on a semi-regular basis and with very good material from four very good writers.

When the blog first began, it was myself, Ben, Jon and Mike and we all did this for one simple reason; we loved comics. Still do.

Later, we added Graig for the very same reason.

As time went on, we all, somewhere along the line became a bit less enthralled with the weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, whenever-the-artist-finishes hype of the comic book. Series we loved and championed were canceled or came to their natural ending.

Also in that time, well...

We kind of grew up on you.

We all sort of went "all-in" on the lives we're leading outside of comics and I know for a fact that at least two of us haven't picked up an actual comic in months so that sorta hampers the production of a comics blog.

No one to blame, really. That's where the blog comes in:

I've gotta look at hard truths.

Comics just don't hold the sway it used to for most of us.

Not to say we don't care or we're done but the truth is I have no idea how much or how often you're going to see new posts on Second Printing from myself or anyone else.

When we can, we'll try. Some of them will probably be bad to good to very good. Even more importantly, I hope they'll be something worth the visit and the time it took to read them.

So, as always, watch this space.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Siege Perilous

Yesterday, Marvel Comics, finger on the pulse of the Jemas era, decided that retailers had ordered too many copies of DC comic books.

To backtrack a bit, DC Comics, in order to draw attention to certain books, included an incentive to retailers, that if they ordered a specific amount of comics, they'd become eligible to order multi-colored sets of rings specific to their latest crossover, Blackest Night.

And many happily took them up on the offer. Some, not so much, either begrudgingly did so or simply opted out.

What happened was some shops simply gave the rings away with purchase of the corresponding comic or bundled them in bags, selling them as a set of seven or simply, did not order them.

And like what happens in most business when you order something heavily, you have a few copies left unsold.

Enter Marvel on a white horse.

For those retailers who may have unsold copies of DC's Blackest Night tie-ins waiting to be sold or added to back issue bins, Marvel gives them the opportunity to shred the covers off, send them to Marvel and upon doing so, they are eligible to receive one free very hard to find copy of a Siege #3 Deadpool variant.

What. The. Fuck. Marvel.


Instead of doing the best work you can and trying to place your books back in the Top Ten of the retail sales charts, this what you come up with; a promotion highlighting the competition's two month old promotion?

This just so preposterously wrongheaded on so many levels that I find it hard to believe it made it out of the meeting stage.

It's up there with tugging on Superman's cape...

Oh, I guess you did. And you know what happens when you tug on his cape, right?

Well, here's why I hope it fails, any supposed "loyalty," to either, be damned.

One: in order to receive a Seige #3 Deadpool variant, a retailer has to be willing to shred up to 50 copies of Marvel-approved DC Comics titles, with those titles being:

Adventure Comics #4
Booster Gold #26
Doom Patrol #4
Justice League Of America #39
Outsiders #24.
R.E.B.E.L.S #10

What many don't is that many of the comics listed are not returnable to the distributor and the only way to recoup the cost of them is to actually sell them. Not tear them up and send them to Marvel.

Two: Any retailer who does so is asking for a loss. What happens is that comics are ordered with predetermined discounts to the retailer and if the retailer willing destroys his product, even with the discount factored in, is being asked by Marvel to eat a loss. In return, for eating the loss of 50 comics, the retailer's rewarded with ONE comic book.

So, for example, if a retailer ordered fifty copies of something at a discount of 54% of $3.99, he gets the book at a cost of $1.83. So, if he shreds that fifty times, he's being asked to eat almost $92 worth of product. Add in the cost of shipping the product to Marvel and he's easily looking at having to sell one Seige variant at well over $100 to recoup his losses to DC Comics AND Marvel.

Third: What the hell does Deadpool have to do with Siege, anyway?

Fourth: If a retailer chose to order too many in order to qualify he has no one to blame but himself and Marvel providing anyone an out is simply rewarding bad business acumen.

So, I say this to my fellow comics retailers; while it may sound like "fun" watching Marvel stick it to the competition, what's actually happening is that your small business is being asked to choose sides stuck in a pissing match between Disney Comics and Time-Warner Comics.

So, beware; what may look like a white horse could eventually become a dead one with which to flog or worse, a Trojan and we all know how that one turned out.

P.S. Now, if they had real balls, they'd ask retailers to send in unsold copies of Blackest Night but that'd take, you know...


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prove Me Wrong.

Gail Simone returns to Birds of Prey. Great!

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis on Booster Gold. Great!

Brightest Day. OK.

Judd Winick and Giffen on Generation Lost (Justice League International) depends very much on which Judd we get. The guy who wrote The Outsiders, Green Arrow/Black Canary or the guy who brought us Barry Ween, Boy Genius.

I'm gonna say the guy who writes the fair-to-middlin' or "who-the-f***-who-let-you-in" superhero comics.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong but the man who brought comics The Scarebeast hasn't done so in a very long while.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ah, Sugar!

What are we, 11 days into the new year? Well, let's just call it.

In a year where the big deals are Captain America and Batman are alive, after Blackest Night comes Brightest Day and the eventual return of The Big Three of Cap, Thor and Iron Man to The Avengers; America's Oldest Teenager making out with a woman of color on the cover of an Archie comic is certainly the biggest surprise I'll see this year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sweeps Week

So over at Newsarama, there were polls and across the board, DC Comics walked away the clear leader with most of their competition not even registering in the second round of voting.

So this led me to wondering; is this a simple taking of the pulse of the comics fan or is it a signal to the comics industry that DC Comics, with its current crop of storylines and creators, are giving the people more of what they want or is it something more?

Now, I've made no secret that I believe that the Big Two of Marvel AND DC haven't been floating my boat with numerous crossovers and tie-ins that do nothing but squeeze your wallet and stymie the sensibilities.

So far, Blackest Night has done neither. For example, I didn't want to read Blackest Night: Titans so I didn't and was quickly brought up to date in the pages of Blackest Night.

It's choice and in the Newsarama poll, the readers chose and the overwhelming response was that they like what DC's doing.

So, my question is this: Was DC's sweep a simple case of "what's good" or was this a referendum to the comics industry that what DC is currently doing is simply better than what everyone else is producing?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Prove Me Wrong: The Doom Patrol (2009)

The New Year is here and with that comes change. Out with the old, in with the new and all that.

No one believes in this more than DC Comics. (Or is it "Universe," now?)

Each year seems to bring out a new crop of hopefuls ready to rock the universe down to its foundations, promising the "All-NEW, All-DIFFERENT!" Unfortunately, the hyperbole is usually built upon the detritus of an old fave, each time hoping from the breaking down of old shit, something new will take hold and bloom.

The last decade saw not one but THREE Doom Patrol re-launches and two Doom Patrol cancellations. In 2009, we saw the last and final re-launch of the decade with writer Keith Giffen's shot at avoiding the mistakes of the previous.

Has he succeeded. Only time and sales numbers will tell but if you could get by on "f**k it" alone, this book would and could be a top-seller.

This is, and this is only my opinion, one of the more interesting books of 2009 and that saying a lot when books like Blackest Night, The Unwritten and Scott Pilgrim Versus The Universe were out there. In it you find the three main founding members, Rita Farr, Elasti-Girl Robotman and Negative Man, all harboring defeatist complexes, banding together, not so much out of heroism but an understanding of one another's isolation. Add to this, one Dr. Niles Caulder, Machiavellian founder of the team and they've one more reason to want to stay; someone needs to keep an eye on this guy and with every opportunity, he proves them right.

It's the little touches of pure "Why, Keith, why" moments that keep this book on the top of my "must read" pile; from the revelation that Robotman nonchalantly keeps a graveyard of his "dead" bodies in the back of the DP headquarters, to Giffen's not particularly wanting to deal with and unceremoniously dismissing John Byrne's DP cast, (Giffen simply has one member run off into the forest, never to be seen again,) to the sick and twisted way in which Niles Caulder continues to manipulate Rita Farr, a woman who can physically grow but is emotionally stunted, you have one of the more intriguing books on the stands on any given month.

And let's not forget the brilliance of adding Challengers of The Unknown's Rocky Davis, now priest as spiritual advisor/Job to a team of broken spirits who pay him no mind and it all becomes just that much more awesome.

And that is why it may not see the end of 2010. It is an intriguing book with little to no connection to Superman, Batman, The Justice League or Geoff Johns and that nowadays is what keeps a book at the top of the "must read" and sales pile.

Adding the eventual loss of critically lauded Metal Men feature by The Justice League team of Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire and the climb seems just that much more uphill for the future of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is truly is one of the wittier books out there, sharing a sensibility with Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy and their recently cancelled Captain Britain and MI-13 series that fans of either may enjoy.

Much like CBMI13, which relied on pacing and storytelling, it just may be too clever for its own good or better yet, the greater comics reading public. It is my sincere hope The Doom Patrol finds the audience (you) it deserves but I have little hope in its being able to do so.

But you could always prove me wrong...