Sunday, January 30, 2011

Introducing the NEW New Guardians (day 5)

Welcome back to the Old People Be Hatin' blog, where we're looking at the genius/ridiculous/mad genius concept of the NHL Guardians Project, wherein each of the NHL's 30 teams has been re-invisioned as a super-hero. Each day in January a new Guardian has been unveiled, so today we present the final six. Also, I just noticed that there are extended descriptions of each hero on, which I've retroactively linked to. Some are outright hilarious (the Blue Jacket was a particular high point with his time-stopping flag).

The Florida Panther

Powers: night vision; light refraction; carbide claws; super-agility; dark matter manipulation
Remember in "52" when Booster Gold was running around with corporate logos all over his costume like a spandex version of a NASCAR racer? Well, this is just the start of things for Black Panther, as this, seriously, looks exactly like the late-90's Christopher Priest-scribed Black Panther, only more blue tinged and of course sportin' the NHL belt bling and Florida Panther's emblem on his chest like Flava Flav might a clock.

The New York Ranger

Powers: narcoleptic confusion, titanium cable, shockwave bomb, hover horse
There's a definite Judge Dredd vibe going on, although "dread" is a little too strong a word... let's call him Judge Superpro. Weak. Anyway, with exception to the fact that he looks like a character out of Rollerball (James Caan 1970's version) there's nothing all that wrong here. There's definitely worse... much, much worse.

The Anaheim Duck

Powers: innate genius level IQ; water breathing; chi; hydro pulse jet propulsion; omniscientific weapon creation
Jeebus Chrimbus, they actually did something cool with the Duck. Either they've really done a phenomenal job or I'm delusional with extreme lowered expectations, but yeah, I think this is cool. I'm not certain about the boogie board, but this guy's like a black and gold version of GI Joe's Wetsuit, with a weird metal duck bill. But yeah. Impressed. I'm also hoping that's Patrick Swayze's Bodhi under that mask.

The St. Louis Blue

Powers: mind control; dissolution; teleportation arch
At first he seems pretty cool, with his cold blue Firestorm-esque hair and his bad-ass trenchcoat, then you find out that his mind control is a result of his trusty saxophone which he keeps by his side. Oh no, heading into "Shadowman"/"Night Man" territory here, an extremely well trod landscape.

The New York Islander

Powers: Super strength; altered composition; grappling hook; oceanic manipulation
And here I was afraid that the Islander would be wearing a banana-yellow slicker and sporting a white beard, instead they delivered a mammoth, armored, anchor-sized grappling hook-toting badass who actually looks pretty cool. Both the Islanders and the Oilers sport blue and orange here and both characters are tanks, but for some reason this really works for me and the Oiler is the lamest of the bunch. They went excessive with his powers (he doesn't need oceanic manipulation) but otherwise...groovy.

The Atlanta Thrasher

Powers: flight; aeronautical empathy; ionic hand cannons; supersonic flight; cruise missiles; stealth technology
Our last Guardian doesn't mean he's the worst. As has occurred throughout this process with many other Guardians the CGI maquette and the illustrated images offer two completely different perspectives on the Thrasher, and I think the illustration is right horrible but the maquette is pretty cool.. a human steath bomber? Hey, it actually works.

And that's 30.
Tomorrow, we'll examine the big 10 minute multimedia/Stan Lee-hyperbolic reveal from the All-Star Game and later this week some special Guardians coverage... from a different perspective.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We're BAAAaaack

Has your life been feeling empty, incomplete, hollow, shallow, unfulfilled, adjective, thesaurus these past few months without your regular dose of verbose reviews from the two remaining perpetrators of this here occasiablog?

Well, now life is complete once again as THOR'S COMIC COLUMN is back @ CHUD.COM!

Introducing the NEW New Guardians (day 4)

I've been trying to figure out who the illustrator is in the pictures that I've cribbed from the Guardians' Facebook page. I originally thought it might be Phil Jimenez, but it's not quite his style or level of detail, so next I thought Ethan Van Sciver, but it's not him either upon closer inspection. Devon brought up Neil Adams in his comment to my first post, and that's left me scratching my head. Is it Adams? If so you figure they might advertise that a little louder. Or is it some work-for-hire artist who doesn't really do comic work, or someone I just can't pick up on.

The Calgary Flame

Powers: pyrokinesis, flight, heat vision, fire resistance, flaming stampede
Holy, not only do I think this design is good, it's actually quite attractive. It's a simple luchador-style get up (given Calgary's history with wrestling - the home of Bret Hart amongst others - it's not a bad nod) but it... yeah, it looks good. Wow. And his powers make sense fully, with the exception of a "flaming stampede"? Really. You were doing so good there for a moment...

The Dallas Star

Powers: flight, hydrogen blasts, EMP ripple, space travel, solar storm
Two winners in a row. This guy looks like a Masters of the Universe figure. And not a reject figure but an honest to gosh popular one... a cool one even. And unlike other armored figures in this line, this one is really quite restrained both in design and colour use (not sure about the toes though). I like him, quite a bit, actually, and a great, logical, and not at all obtuse power set.

The Colorado Avalanche

Powers: chryosuit, oxygen control, traveling chrystasis, chryokinesis, chrystasis,
Holy poopies. A third winner. There's something about this guy I actually really like. But to me he looks like he should be an aquatic explorer rather than working the peaks of the Rockies. He's also the first (only?) non-caucasian character (or obvious non-caucasian) or animal-based character I've seen so far. Yes, hockey is a fairly whitewashed sport, but that's been slowly changing over the past decade. But I digress... I think there's maybe even a Kirby feel to this... love it.

The Phoenix Coyote

Powers: elemental manipulation, night vision, tracking, interdimensional summoning, venomous quills
Oooooooh, Guardian Project, no. No, no, no. And you were doing so well today. What would it look like if Wolverine, Gambit and Grifter were all mashed up into one monstrously ugly superhero? This would be it. Jesus Chrimbus, this is everything wrong with the 1990's swirled up in a shit stew. Sorry Phoenix. They should have really went with a hybrid Phoenix/Coyote thing... that would have been interesting... but likely just as ugly. And that power set... so messed up. "Venomous quills"? For a coyote? I think maybe this is even worse than the Oiler. Hard to say.

The Toronto Maple Leaf

Powers: molecular elasticity, mass manipulation, chlorokinetic communication (!), regeneration, sap bombs
The "Swamp Thing" character of the group, which is all well and good. I really don't have a problem with this character conceptually. In fact I was wondering how they were going to make anything bad-ass out of a Maple Leaf, and a living maple tree is about as good as you're going to get. But really, does a living maple tree need a mask (what identity is he really protecting), or a t-shirt and shorts? If they were smart, they would have just had the Leafs and NHL logo carved into him... as is he looks a little silly. I AM GROOT!

The Ottawa Senator

Powers: power negation, channeling, mind control, gladiator skill, super agility
Okay, LA King... take a look here. This is pretty much done right. It's a flippin' gladiator, no real flourishes beyond that. Straightforward, fairly kick-ass looking, and not a hint of spandex. Not bad. I think they were trying too hard with the power set though.

Wow... that's like 4 and a half quality characters in one day. All hope may not be lost for this project after all. I look forward to finding out more about the Flame, the Star, and the Avalanche. Really.

So it all ends tomorrow (or perhaps on the weekend, I may have timed this incorrectly). The final six are The Florida Panther, The New York Ranger, The New York Islander (who I'm hoping isn't a Captain Highliner look-a-like), The St. Louis Blue, The Atlanta Thrasher, and the one I'm most curious about... The Anaheim Duck. Maybe that last one can just be Emilio Estevez... or Joshua Jackson.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Time Out: Fantastic Four, One Will Fall...

I'm not much of a Fantastic Four fan. Over my nearly 30 years of reading comics, I think I've bought a total of 14 Fantastic Four comics, and the trade paperback of Grant Morrison-scribed miniseries. They've just never been my thing. Except the Thing. I've always loved that guy. Marvel-Two-In-One, yeah, now we're talking. I found the family dynamic and more notably Reed and Sue's deathly dull relationship to be what nullifies it for me (PUN!). That's why I was actually a big fan of Dwayne McDuffie's short run on the series where Reed and Sue were off on a second honeymoon or something and Black Panther and Storm took their place. That I could get behind.

I've been reading and highly enjoying Jonathan Hickman's bi-monthly S.H.I.E.L.D. series, which explores the history of the Marvel universe and their secret society of protectors through the ages, and I recently devoured Hickman's Secret Warriors, which pits Nick Fury and his cunning coordination and espionage skills against not one, but two potentially world-dominating nefarious groups. All this great mythology building is what Hickman specializes in and based on this strong output, last week I picked up the first two trades of his Fantastic Four run. In it, he's done the impossible. He's made Reed Richards seem cool. And I'm enjoying the hell out of it. He went big...nay, huge with the first storyline in which various Reed Richards' from different dimensions have coalesced into a super-think-tank to solve not just one worlds' problems but all of the problems on all of the worlds. Fix everything. Of course it goes horribly wrong, and there are Galacti and Celestials involved, and it's all cooler than Jesus. Hickman really gets into Reed's mind and seems intent on building him as a character.

Which leads me to today.

I've been hearing about the "death in the family" story for months now, but given my lack of general interest in FF, I've not cared so much. But with my newfound enthusiasm I have cause to speculate who it could be, and what happens afterward.

So here's what I think.
It's Reed... it seems that it's just being set up to be that way. Build him up, then break him down. Reed is the man and motivation behind the FF, so what happens when you take that away. That's some meaty storytelling right there.

I thought it might be Johnny/Human Torch, since that character has been stagnant in personality and character since the 1960s, but that's the obvious choice. Reed's death might force him to grow up.

I thought it might be Sue, the heart of the team, as what would happen to Reed if she were gone. Would he adopt the role as the heart of the team and single father or disappear into his own brain? But Sue is the feminine presence on the team and I don't see her being the one.

Ben? The Thing? Not going to happen. He's too popular, and an Avenger. Yes there would be shock value in it, but other than that, his death contributes nothing.

So Reed it must be, right? Plus it leads to the obvious question, who can replace him? Who has a big enough brain to take over the Fantastic Four and lead them on massive adventures through space, time and dimensions? Three answers:

1) Valeria Richards, Reed and Sue's impossibly super-genius 3-year-old daughter, who claims her intellect has already surpassed her fathers, although she definitely lacks experience and wisdom. Why she might not be? Sue wouldn't let her.

2) Nathanial Richards, Reed's father, whom Hickman has been writing in SHIELD and abandoned Reed for global-protector duty when he was a teenager. We're not sure Nathanial's fate, except that Reed hasn't seen him since that day so long ago. With Reed gone, and Hickman's obvious attraction to this character, he seems like a probable choice. Plus, he would have the imperative to try and find a way to bring Reed back.

3) Victor Von Doom. Wouldn't that be a kicker? The guy whose genius rivals Reed but has been used for his own nefarious end has a breakdown of sorts after Reed's death and then imposes himself as Reed's successor.

I'm going to try and keep myself willfully ignorant of who it actually is for the months/year to come until the trades hit and I know I'm not going to have much luck with that but I will try. It's fun to still have some surprises in life.

So within 40 minutes of writing this post I was out picking up lunch, thumbing through the local freebie daily newspaper looking for the Oscar nominations when my eyes paused on a comic book image and unconsciously read the headline which spoiled it all.

Sigh. Missed opportunities. So disappointing, all around.

Introducing the NEW New Guardians (part 3)

I was reading that the in-story origin of these new Guardians is that a hockey and comic obsessed 15-year-old is responsible for their creation/design, which, looking at most of these characters makes a lot of sense. I recall being fifteen, doing my own redesign of Batman and just loading his costume up with bat-symbols. Because, you know, having one on his chest, and one on his belt just isn't enough iconography. What is it about the teenage brain that just leads to such excess. Instead of one pouch, how about 30? Why small shoulder guards, and not obscenely huge metal ones with spikes, chains and whatnots? Instead of just a cape, what about a cape that has a 4 foot train that drags on the ground but looks sooper kewl when leaping from rooftop to rooftop?

Thing about these NHL Guardians, though, is they aren't actually designed by a 15-year-old... at least I don't think they are. They're designed by grown-ups, perhaps even professional comic book artist or graphic designers. (These are presumably the same type of grown ups that are responsible for the atrocity-to-superhero-mythology that is NBC's "The Cape"). But even if they did go with the idea of designing these through the eye of a 15-year-old, it still reads as if they're designed by me, when I was 15... in other words, the influences on these characters read early-mid 1990s and not 2010/2011. Superheroes these days seem to be designed either in the street clothes mold, or in the sleek tech mold of Batman Begins/Iron Man. Today's DC/Marvel spandex tights characters are getting tweaked to have piping and some kind of Project Runway influence put into them, giving them a more natural or textile look and feel, but these....

Today's Six:
The Boston Bruin

Powers: Precognition, brute strength, super smell, titanium claws, sonic petrification
Yes, a bruin is a bear. We got that. And your design couldn't have been more creative than making the dude a bear. The clever route would have been to make him a huge burly hairy mofo who wears the carcass of a bear as a cowl/cape. Yeah, it's grizzly but that's the point. He would be a real hero in certain segments of the gay community, and make the average Bostonian guy's guy very uncomfortable. Or not.

The Vancouver Canuck

Powers: Sonar blast, environmental empathy, echolocation, gliding, morphing, aquatic summoning
Did you ever lie awake at night wondering what Batman would have looked like if a whale crashed through Bruce Wayne's window instead of a bat?
Well... The Canuck answers that question anyway.
And, really, it's Batman-as-a-whale. Sure it's silly, but it is actually a decent interpretation of what that would look like, with the big hump fin on the back of the cowl/cape. And it's still miles (or kilometers?) better than Captain Canuck.

The Montreal Canadien

Powers:supersuit, power augmentation, power absorption, blasters, jet propulsion
Hey, an armored hero in this group that isn't a technological monstrosity. This is actually a pretty nice design. Replace the blue with gold and it would be a decent Iron Man armor circa 1998. It's more reminiscent of X-O Manowar or Hardware (or perhaps NFL Superpro?), but still this isn't all that bad..
or original...

The Washington Capital

Powers: flight, shapeshifting, satellite sight, atmospheric resistance, sonic scream
You know, just because the team has a symbol doesn't mean you have to use it. Okay, you do know, since the "Sabre" figure isn't a buffaslug (which would be a Wuzzle that was part buffalo, part slug). And the Chicago Blackhawk wasn't a Native American (although, really, I think that would be preferable to the monstrosity of techno armor that was created), but this eagle thing in the star spangled wrestling tights? Not doing it for me.

The Detroit Red Wing

Powers: mechanical technopathy (!), laser cannons, flight, all-terrain wheels
Okay, Red Wing... what's with the big tire boots. Do you transform into a Zamboni(R)? Because you're giving off that vibe. You're like part Gatchaman, part Rocket Red (circa 1987) and part Zamboni(R) ice rink maintenance machine. Technologically you look clunky as hell, and at least 20 years out of date, but you aren't all that terrible looking. You'd have made a fairly decent He-Man figure. But, aside from all terrain tires, how do you manage getting around... I mean, like, simple things, you know, like getting through a door way. Must be a pain. How do you side step with those huge tires strapped to your feet?
(Wow, I referenced Transformers, DC Comics, G-Force, and He-Man all in that one character).

The Columbus Blue Jacket

Powers: astral plasma cannons, banishment, titanium armor
Is that? No... Optimus Prime? Is it really you? My gods man, what happened to you? You're all hyper-military-industrial-complexized, but with a colonial feel. I have to be honest, it's not a good look for you. Seriously, someone went nuts with the crayons didn't they? And what's "banishment" all about. Do you banish people from Columbus? I'm sure they're grateful (sorry Columbus, cheap joke).

Still two more of these things to go... I don't know if I'm psyched or scared.
Stay tuned. Please.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introducing the NEW New Guardians (day 2)

And we're back. Feel the pain.
This whole project is a nasty bit of business, and yet, I'm kind of intrigued by it. I may even like it. I'm just not sure if it's authentic appreciation or ironic.

The Edmonton Oiler

Powers: Portable refinery, oil pump, "blinding", super strength, energy cannon, environmental empathy.
Yes, he has a portable refinery on his back, and a gun that pumps oil out in concussive force, but hey, he's environmental empathy, which I guess means he's concerned about the environment. Except that he's pumping oil out on bad guys. Brain. Hurt. Anyway, this is one ugly ass ugly character, the epitome of 90's superhero aesthetic gone wrong, like if Liefeld were asked in his heyday to design bad guys for a G.I. Joe knock-off. Wow.

The New Jersey Devil

Powers: Infrared, fire breathing, heat resistance, flight, teleportation
I don't get this guy. What kind of head is that. Why is he like some egyptian god, but all spandexed up? Why not just make him red with black stripes, like a zebra, with a NJ Devil's tattoo... that's something else about these things... I mean obviously the imperative is to get the team and NHL logo front and center, but it really hampers the design and visual creativity of these characters. I don't hate him, but he looks a little silly.

The Minnesota Wild

Powers: celestial projection, tunnelling, super strength, general mayhem
Hey, remember the late, not-so-great, not-so-lamented Vibe from the Detroit Justice League? Did you ever wonder what he'd look like as a warewolf? Well wonder no more...
What the hell does "celestial projection" mean? He can conjure up holograms of interstellar bodies, or star charts, or plans for the Death Star using his eyes?

The Tampa Bay Lightning

Powers: bolt spear, electrokinesis, lightning board, electrical teleportation, environmental empathy (again)
Hey, it's a dude with electrical powers... and he's white!!! Let's call him White Lightning! LOL. ROTFLMAO. etc. Ahem. Anyway... I actually kind of like this guy, for much the same reasons I like the Pittsburgh Penguin, the design is relatively simple... yes, in spite of the mohawk. (Really. A mohawk?) But I think Black Lightning had this costume already.

The Nashville Predator

Powers: Matter ingestion, super-speed, adamantium skeleton, titanium teeth, atomic blast
So here's a bipedal sabretooth tiger that can eat anything, run at super speed, has unbreakable bones and can fire an atomic blast from his mouth.... so his costume isn't the only thing overdesigned. He wouldn't be so bad if they didn't have to display the team colours so prominently all over everything including his face.

The San Jose Shark

Powers: water breathing, aquatic summoning, aquatic danger sense, titanium teeth, hydro boots, technopathic telekinesis
In the bipedal animal division come King Shark... err... I mean the San Jose Shark, who can summon water to his side and sense when water is about to harm him (like "spidey sense"... or is "aquatic danger sense" about knowing when water is going to be harmed?) What I want to know is does he go blind every time he gets in a fight like real sharks do when their eyelids cover over their eyes to protect them from flailing animals in their grasp. With the exception of the dorky water skis, he's actually kind of badass, but then again.. he's a shark, so it's hard not to be. He's also not wearing bright teal, which is a plus.


So that's another six down. Since it can't get much worse than The Oiler, it actually does get better (relatively) from here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Introducing The NEW New Guardians

If I haven't mentioned it enough, I'm Canadian. As you may or may not be aware, we like our hockey here. I wouldn't say it's an unpopular sport "south of the border" (one of our many great euphemisms for America) but it's certainly not part of the national fabric of the U.S. like it is in Canada. They say baseball is America's game but I see more fanaticism out of football starting at the high school level on through the NFL. That's almost like hockey in Canada, except we're born with skates on...

Anyway, hockey is a growing sport in America, it's numbers increasing fairly rapidly in viewership, attendance and earnings in many markets. Impressive performances at the World Juniors and Olympics by the American teams in recent years have shone a nice spotlight on the talent that's being produced. Even still, there's still a vast majority of the population of the 50 states that don't watch or even care about hockey. So what's the answer. How do you promote a fast-paced, physical sport to a disinterested population? Well, you have to start young. With so many distractions and attractions vying for their attention - movies and television and video games and other sports and internet amongst other things - how do you stand out to the youth market.

Well, for the NHL, you turn to Stan Lee.

No, I'm not kidding.

A company called "Guardian Media Entertainment", after making a failed bid to the NFL, approached the NHL about creating a new superhero for each team in the NHL based off the team's name, called The Guardian Project. But it's not about creating new mascots, as apparently there's also a massive/convoluted story structure set behind it (which fills a 400 page bible referenced here) and an entire multimedia component --including web and social networking presence (as of today there's over 16,000 people who have braved embarassment by "liking" their Facebook page, mobile gaming, comic books, animation and more. It's a brave and valiant effort (but keeping an eye out at Stan Lee's creations over the past decade (Stripperella anyone?) doesn't necessarily inspire immediate fandom, not especially from the rapidly aging base of direct-market fanboys. But then this initiative is meant for kids, and while kids are getting more savvy about being pandered and flagrantly marketed to, this does have a slim, but possible chance for success (like the Atlanta Thrashers winning the Stanley Cup).

If anything is going to handicap this initiative, it's going to be character design. I mean, sure, I like giant dragons wearing purple underwear or giant, two-horned, interstellar purple planet eaters, but I also lived through the Liefeld era of huge metal shoulder guards and pouches (oh, the pouches) So over the next five days I'll be taking a look at all of the NHL Guardians in the guise of being one of those hypercritical/dismissive d-bags who judges a book only by its cover.

The Pittsburgh Penguin

Powers: super maneuverability, glacial sled, ice missiles, and a magnetized suit...
To be honest, I like him, in spite of Cyclops visor and Iceman's powers. Design-wise, he's simple (which you'll soon see isn't a trait of most of these characters) and dynamic enough. In the video maquette he has these awesome "penguin wings" for a cape which I quite like but they're not in the illustration, oddly enough. But what the hell does "magnetized suit" mean?

The Los Angeles King

Powers: super strength, accelerated healing, force field shield and seismic shift (his sword causes earthquakes)
Well, he's all medieval-like armor and spandex which are like the cucumbers and chocolate, two great tastes that should never meet. He's over-designed, over ornate, just look at that helm or those shoulder pads.

The Carolina Hurricane

Powers: Atmospheric resistance, flight/levitation, barometric implosion, environmental empathy
So, he's Red Tornado, but with a flowing mane of red hair, like some impostor goth (impgothster? ugh, nevermind) with a hankering for Quiznos. Ditch the hair, pare back the "H" symbolism all over the costume and it's not *that* bad. And this won't be the first time you see this but what the hell is "elemental empathy"? He feels sorry for trees, because he understands what they're going through when a hurricane pummels through?

The Chicago Blackhawk

Powers: Flight, titanium armor, concussion cannons, and elemental empathy.
Well... um... ugh. This is way overthinking such a simple idea. You go literal. Make the dude a Black. Hawk. Or something like Black Condor over at DC. This whole super-bulky hyper-armor, well it's not very modern. And "elemental empathy", seriously, these things need more explanation. Moving on.

The Buffalo Sabre

Powers: electrification, molecular manipulation, hydro suit, "the falls"
Apparently this dude's comprised entirely of water, like the Spidey villain hydro man, but like Mera he can create hard water contstructs, like a sword or body, and he has a big ol bulky Mr. Freeze rejected suit which allows him to electrify himself. He's actually not that bad, once again way overdesigned though. And I gotta know what "The Falls" are (does he tap into the power of the Niagara Fall, like a hydro power station?)

The Philadelphia Flyer

Powers: binocular vision, telekinesis, mind melding, flight, durability
Durability, like tupperware. You know, some of these names, "Blackhawk", "The Penguin" obviously have been used elsewhere, but to my knowledge I've never heard of a superhero named "The Flyer". There must be one somewhere in the history books of public domain characters? "What's your name?" "The Flyer." "And what do you do." "Seriously?"
Anyway, this is godawful ugly, but then I hate the Flyers so they deserve this. Wing tattoos on the forehead. Yeah we get it, you have wings.

With all these many overdesigned characters, it's like a 15-year-old in 1995 designed these things... but that, I believe, is the story behind the Guardian Project...

More to come. Sorry.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If I Ran The Circus

I was 10 years old and spending my summer in North Carolina, being bled to death by mosquitoes. It was hot, I was hundreds of miles away from my mother and living in a house where indoor plumbing had yet to be installed. I was going in a bucket.

It was the most miserable summer of my young life. One of the few things I could count on was a (maybe) weekly trip to the grocery store where they had, you guessed it, comics.

Only this time around, they had no new comics. North Carolina had broken me. As I drug myself to exit, a familiar red, white and blue figure jumped out at me and I eagerly invited the action. It was a Captain America coloring book and I snapped it up as if it were $20 bill lying on an open sidewalk. I got it back to the house and colored those pages as slowly and deliberately as I could in order to make them last and then it happened... Cap was talking to this guy in an exquisite black suit wearing an eyepatch. His name was Nick. I knew this guy but he was different from the guy usually wearing the blue tights, white gloves and boots. No, this guy had class. He was casual. This guy looked like he poured black coffee on his cornflakes. This guy had a story. This guy wanted to be MY Nick Fury.

In a world where sales aren't a factor and I run the circus, this is the Nick Fury comic I'd want to read.


Written by Greg Rucka
Drawn by Gabriel Hardman

I'd read Greg Rucka before but oddly enough, he hadn't clicked with me until Wonder Woman, of all things. Rucka was the king of comics procedurals, having already tackled the likes of Batman and his own Queen & Country and here he was doing a comic based on an Amazonian princess who flies in an invisible jet. Not exactly the match most would choose but what Rucka did on WW was pure genius. Wonder Woman became this incredible comic about diplomacy between superheroes, gods and immortals and somehow, my thoughts turned to Nick Fury. I started to think, "So, this is what Nick Fury must be caught up in, dealing with The Avengers everyday." If Greg Rucka wrote Nick Fury, I'd hope for decades-spanning tales featuring hard-living diplomat, war vet and keeper of secrets within the Marvel Univese. Who better than Greg Rucka?

I haven't seen that coloring book in nearly thirty years but when I saw Gabriel Hardman at a recent convention and I asked him to draw Nick Fury. What I got was the awesome Fury I remembered from before, only with more stories and so many more secrets left to be kept.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow

I remember a time, when Superman was, well, not cool, but at least popular. Sure, he's still popular in that he's still capital-"i" Iconic, but his comics and his life in comics has been suffering, floundering, other adjective meaning kinda sucky.

It didn't seem that long ago when Superman was huge, the king of comics, carrying four tightly joined comics (Superman, Adventures of Superman, Action Comics and Man of Steel) that made it pretty much a weekly series, plus there were always his multitude of extracurricular series, from various Elseworld stories to mini-series like "Birthright". It doesn't seem that long ago, but upon further reflection, 'twas actually about a decade past. Yes, I just used 'twas.

Okay, maybe Superman wasn't exactly "king" then, he kind of shared his throne in a kids-from-Narnia kind of way with Batman and Spider-Man who seemed to have an infinite number of series and specials themselves, and of course Wolverine who was rather ubiquitous throughout the 1990's. These days, Superman is starring solo in one book, called "Superman". He's not even the star of Action Comics right now (that'd be Lex Luthor). To put in perspective, Deadpool has at least four titles all his own and is regularly guest starring in more... every month. Fucking Deadpool!

The Superman books you could say had a pretty solid and focused run (with a few exceptions) from 1986 through to approximately the "President Lex"/"Our Worlds At War" period in 2000/2001. The initial '86 post-Crisis John Byrne revamp/depowering revitalized Superman, his world, his supporting cast, (practically everything about him) for a new generation, that carried through to the Dan Jurgens-led era that culminated in the "Death of Superman" and "Reign of the Supermen" which also culminated in media hyper-exposure and the industry-wide speculator boom and bust. Following this there was the "electric Superman" era and the "Superman Red/Superman Blue" malarky, which, with the exception of recent events, is pretty much the low point of 70 years of publishing history. Throughout all of this, there was the "Superman Triangle", the unifying factor that brought the four Superman titles together, even if the writers of each individual series carried their own story for a few months at a time, eventually the titles would start running massive stories once again. However, following the Red/Blue story, DC was trying to make Superman as relevant (ie. million-copy selling) as he was in 1995, which let to a lot of experimentation with creative teams and story structure, and by 2003, the Superman Triangle was gone and one of the titles was dropped, and there really was very little exciting about the character or his titles. Creative teams fluxuated, continuity was relaxed and generally few people knew what to do with him.

Then came Geoff Johns, DC's wonderkid and lover-of-all-things-Silver-Age. His bright idea was to repower Superman to godly levels, restore his pre-Crisis continuity with the Legion of Super-Heroes and, by enlisting his old boss Richard Donner as co-writer, trying to create a loose affiliation with the 1979 Superman film. It sounds horrendous in theory, but it was a nice kick in the pants for big blue, and despite numerous momentum-crippling publishing delays, this resulted in some of the best (non-"All-Star Superman") stories in years. But they were the product of a rather singular vision, and somehow that vision just couldn't sustain itself. It certainly didn't lend itself to other perspectives and James Robinson's sibling title (Adventures of Superman now cancelled, only "Action" and "Superman" remained) was painful at times in his own resurrection of Silver Age ideas. Donner and Johns revamped the Phantom Zone, Bizarro, and Brainiac, introducing (briefly) along the way a new adopted son for Clark and Lois (a Kryptonian child from the Zone), and reintroducing Kandor to the Superman mythos. As good as the stories were, they spat in the face of everything that Byrne, Jurgens and company had built over the years. Superman, the "last son of krypton", was now just one of thousands of Kryptonian orphans. I understand the objective was to try and highlight what makes Superman unique and not just among men, but Supermen, but it had a funny way of going about it. And not funny ha-ha.

In perhaps the biggest miscalculation since the "electric Superman" days a decade before, the remaining two Superman titles went Superman-free. Hey, it worked for "Reign of the Supermen", but that's because Superman was dead, not because he decided to go to another planet (the Kandorians created another planet called "New Krypton"). It was as if DC had no confidence that their premiere character could hold two monthlies and a maxi-series because of the storytelling circumstances they put him in. Johns crafted a rather intriguing idea but abandoned it to other writers (to focus on revamping, yet again, Superman's origin story) and it went off the rails.

I have to be honest, I didn't read any of the "New Krypton" stuff. I loathed James Robinson's work on Superman and wasn't willing to continue with a story that he was now taking the reigns of. Greg Rucka, a favourite writer of mine, took over Action Comics however, but I didn't want to get suckered into having to read other books to follow along, so I abandoned Superman altogether. Until this past week. The trade paperback of "Nightwing and Flamebird" came out and I figured I should give Rucka the benefit of the doubt and see what he did with the situation. The result: none of it's good.

Whether by choice or mandate, the collection (which is four issues plus an annual) is saddled with far too much Kryptonian/Kandorian backstory to be genuinely interesting, and it recalls Christopher Kent (Lois and Clark's briefly adopted son from the Donner story last seen over two years ago and kind of forgotten), now rapidly aging and thrust into the hero role alongside a new character who is implausibly tied to Supergirl, not to mention bringing Lois' father back from the dead and Zod and his cronies from the Phantom Zone as the big bad, and it's all just a spiralling, overwraught, ridiculous mess. Each one of these elements could have made for multiple issues worth of storytelling if Clark or even Lois were the story focus. But Nightwing and Flamebird are two not-ready-for-primetime players put in the lead of DC's longest-running series (even if they were in their own spinoff it would be unappealing reading).

I remember at the beginning of 2010 Dan Didio and other DC hypemen trying to push the "War of the Supermen", the big culmination of the New Krypton saga, as one of the big events of the year. But it seems that, like me, most readers just decided to wait it out and see what the next status quo would be... which unfortunately is currently the "Superman Gump" storyline that even J. Michael Straczynski must be bored with, as he's abandoning it mid-stream. The only "news" on the monthly Superman front is that "Superman's Back In Action" in Action Comics #900 which really isn't news at all, except to say that the character who normally appears in that title will now be normally appearing in it again after an unceremonious two-plus year hiatus.

Bluntly put, Superman is a mess.
So, Second Printers, who do you think could fix him?
Give me a creative team each for Superman and Action Comics.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If I Ran The Circus

Introducing a (hopefully) continuing feature to Second Printing simply titled, "If I Ran The Circus," where we simply tell you the characters we'd like to see done by some of our favorite creators. In our dream world, where unicorns grow opposable thumbs to fistfight dragons and sales are never a factor, awesome things like these would be happening every day.


Written by Kathryn Immonen
Drawn by Chris Samnee

I simply fell in love with Kathryn Immonen's all-too-brief run on Marvel's Runaways. After years of misguided but well-intentioned runs by Strangers In Paradise's Terry Moore and Buffy's Joss Whedon, it very much looked like writer Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways were very much a singular creation, done properly under his guidance. That is until Kathryn Immonen. Under her stewardship, The Runaways were reignited with the righteous indignation that made them fan favorites in the first place. The title looked to be one it's way to its former glory but by then, the damage had been done and Runaways was put on hiatus. Immonen has a brilliant way of just making every word count and frankly, this EXACTLY the thing you'd want from someone writing The DC Universe's greatest reporter, Lois Lane.

I first discovered artist Chris Samnee on writer Greg Rucka's series, Queen & Country. The first thing that struck me was Samnees's brilliant uses of black to set mood. Coming off the somewhat WB Animation-influenced art of past story arcs, Samnee's style seemed to elevate the art more to a level more in tune with the story. More work from Samnee followed including a noir-ish tale featuring Truman Capote. Then, I'd pegged him as the noir guy. That was until I'd viewed his blog where he'd post warm up sketches that showed the man could draw practically anything he damned well pleased. Then in a stroke of brilliance, Marvel assigned him to Thor: The Mighty Avenger where he showcased a a freer, looser line and showed he was also a master of facial expression and page composition. What's more, the true treat of Thor: TMA was his gorgeous rendering of Jane Foster, where she said just as much with her facial expressions and body language as she did in her dialogue. The whole time, making me wish some one would make Samnee's wanting to work on a Lois Lane book, a reality.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

December Pull in Review

I've lost the handle on "Definitely Not Reviews" for the past few weeks due to the holidays and a debilitating flu, but it should be back, perhaps next week (because with only two books, there's not much worth talking about this week).

So in lieu, I present below this "State of Affairs" on the titles I'm picking up monthly, using December as benchmark.

FAVE - one of my favourite reads every month
EVEN - I like it and will keep reading it
BUBBLE - I want to like it, but I'm not sure I actually do
DROP - It just didn't cut my mustard

Doom Patrol - It took roughly 16 issues but I've started to enjoy the ride. FAVE

Secret Six - I used to love it but the last couple storylines (and art) have left me cold on it. BUBBLE

Red Robin and Batgirl - Two of the wife's books. She buys 'em so I can read it or not, but they're quite fun, so why not (plus I dropped Birds of Prey this month so Batgirl is a good sub). EVEN

Booster Gold - I'm wondering if it's only the nostalgia of Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League that is sustaining my interest, and if that's enough. BUBBLE

Justice League: Generation Lost - well, there are some moments I'm absolutely loving and other typical Winick-ian moments that are not so lovable. I can stick this through for another 8 issues I think... although I don't want it to spin out into its own thing which is kind of telling, no? EVEN

Superboy - Just dropped it this week. I like Jeff Lemire and what he does, it just works better for me in larger formats, so like Sweet Tooth, I'm going to trade wait. DROP

THUNDER Agents - I'm not certain what its narrative thrust is, but it looks pretty, and it'll be $2.99 soon enough so I'll stick with it through the first "arc" (not that there's any semblance of one now), before swearing any long-term allegiances. BUBBLE

Tiny Titans - These were for the kidling (and they're pretty entertaining on their own) but I'm just worried my 9-year old needs to move on to something a bit older. EVEN

Green Lantern - Y'know, I don't really give a crap about whatever story Johns is trying to weave here, I really don't (and I'm not reading either of the other Green Lantern books so when the big crossover happens in the coming months I may drop this anyway). But I'm so infatuated with Doug Mahnke's art I can't look away. BUBBLE

G.I. Joe/Cobra - I'm kind of becoming a bigtime G.I. Joe (I never was much as a kid) and this is the best there is and ever has been so I don't mind the $4 a month for it. I really don't. FAVE

Captain America and Captain America: Man Out Of Time - Two more of the wife's titles, but the former has been mandatory reading for years now, and the latter is fantastic on its own. FAVE

X-Factor - Continually a high quality book. FAVE

Unwritten - I'm now 8 issues behind on reading... it's the old Vertigo curse where floppies pile up and I just wished I'd bought em in trade instead. EVEN

Batman and Robin - the current post-Morrison arc has been a tad crap, so I'll give Tomasi/Gleason's run an issue or two before this hits the drop pile. BUBBLE

Mighty Samson - Just don't think I'm interested enough. DROP

Batman Incorporated - I'm Morrison's bitch so I'll get anything he does as long as he's doing it... which reminds me when's the Joe the Barbarian tpb coming out? FAVE

Legion of Super-Heroes - I went Legion crazy back in 2008, reading literally hundreds of issues of Legion material from over the decades. The fever hasn't stopped, though it's slowed enough that I'm not buying Adventure Comics (and don't seem to be missing out). EVEN

Chew - Some people don't like this book. I don't understand those people. I'm not a fanatic, but I think it's top three most entertaining books month in and out. FAVE

Sixth Gun - I'm not certain where this is going after the end of the first arc, but it's one of the best books of 2010. FAVE

Warlord of Mars - Alright, I'm bored. I think I'll just read the book now. DROP

SHIELD Bi-monthly and always a surprise when it shows up. I (heart) Jonathan Hickman. FAVE

Detective Comics - As great as Batman Inc. is, this is the best bat-book on the stand. Can Snyder and Jock sustain this level of quality? FAVE

Teen Titans - a recent addition, but this is the best Titans I've read since...hmmm the Titans have been crap for so long I don't recall when last I actually enjoyed it. EVEN


So I count roughly 2 dozen monthly titles I pulled in December. Of which 3 are mini-series ending in the next 3-4 months, 2 are already dropped, and 5 are on the bubble (and three minis that just ended - Mighty Crusaders, Tiny Titans/Little Archie, Strange Tales II)

I pick up only a few series in trades - Incredible Hercules (which has ended leading into Chaos War which I'm hesitant about), Marvel Cosmic (Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova, leading into the Thanos Imperative), and Johnathan Hickman books (Fantastic Four, Secret Warriors), so...

I'm wondering Second Printers... be honest with me... what are you buying that are your favourites, on the bubble and what have you just dropped?
Any recommendations for me on books I should be reading. Looks like I'm freeing up some space in my roster so I'll have some testing room.