Friday, April 29, 2011

Versus: Batman (DC Comics) Vs. Jack Hawksmoor (DC Comics)

Gotham City has seen plague, quake and infestation. The Joker, once again, poisons her waters. Gotham can take no more, the rivers turn red and with one last gasp, Gotham cries out for healing. Meanwhile, secluded in The Batcave, Batman, unable to stop The Joker's rampage, is hard at work on a cure. Somewhere, deep within The Bleed, a lone figure hears Gotham's plea.

He will put an end to Gotham's suffering, once and for all, no matter who he has to go through...




Second Printers, YOU DECIDE...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dissipating disappointment

Back when I was a kid buying my comics off the comics rack at the book store or lottery shop in the neighbourhood plaza, unaware of shipping schedules or even release days, it was not only common, but rather expected that I would miss an issue of some series I was reading. It was ever so frustrating, that hole left in a series run.. it would natter away at me, taunting me, a big gaping void longing to be fulfilled, subsequent issues only a bigger tease at what I might have missed. Thus the completist mentality was born, lists were made and the hunt began.

Once I discovered there were actual comic book shops, and was old enough to earn my own money and convince my mother to take me to the brick and mortar stores (aside - the only one in town for a long time was a used book store, run by a chain smoking couple and you had to walk past their dirty magazine section to get to the comics section, so I understand her reluctance. In 1991 three or four new shops opened and the cleanest one became my home away from home for a decade), I came to understand the cycles of publishing, and also made sure I would never miss anything again by having a pull-list at the shop. Every so often though, despite having the pull list, an issue would be scooped out from under me, sold out before the shop got around to filling subscription (in the heyday of the speculator boom, this often happened with guys buying multiple copies of things). Frustrating and disappointing, but now familiar with the ways of the direct market and back issue diving, few gaps in collections were ever left remaining (one I never did find, and still haven't gotten around to: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #4 of all things).

I haven't had a regular pull list since the turn of the century/millennium. I went primarily trade-only for around four years but for the past six or seven years I've been working only a block away from a comic shop and have been frequenting it every New Comic Book Day (NCBD) at lunchtime ever since (becoming a firm ritual after meeting my now-wife while she was on her own NCBD outing). In the past decade, to my knowledge, I've only missed out on smaller-press/indie titles that I was interested in but the store doesn't regularly stock or only come out sporadically and are thus harder to track. For example, I have a few gaps in my Tales Designed to Thrizzle collection and I'm behind a few issues on Big Questions and I'm still searching for the last issue of SLG's Tron series from a few years back, but missing out on any of these has caused me any real disappointment. Truth of the matter is in this day and age, you can get pretty much any mass-produced product you want with a few clicks of a button, so I know that I can start closing gaps whenever I really, really want to.

But genuine disappointment, the kind that comes after unbridled anticipation, is so rare these days. We're so used to consuming, and consuming a lot, that any disappointment is generally mild and can be supplanted by consuming something else. Like last week, for the first time in I don't know how long, neither my wife nor I were able to make it to our NCBD rendezvous. By the time I made it to the shop on Friday I discovered I had missed out on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Infinity one-shot. I was disappointed, sure, because I'm a big Johnathan Hickman fan and I enjoy the series, but I wasn't that disappointed because it's Marvel, afterall... I'll be able to find the book at another shop or when my store reorders it or whatever. It'll be around. I still had six other books I picked up last week to fill whatever void there might have been for digesting new material.

But this week... good god... this week I nearly threw a temper tantrum like the ones my almost-2-year-old has recently started throwing when I discovered the store had ordered a measly four copies of Black Dynamite: Slave Island and sold out of them in the 2 hours it had been open.

If you haven't seen Black Dynamite, you honestly don't know what you're missing. I could say it's the funniest film of the past 10 years and I'd still be underselling it. It's an absolutely genius homage to Blaxploitation and 70's kung-fu movies that rivals, if not surpasses in hilarity the early works of the Zucker Brothers parody films like Airplane and Naked Gun. I'd weaned myself off of my buy-everything-I-like-on-DVD habit for about 2 years, having gotten very good at satiating myself with renting and not owning, but after renting Black Dynamite (and watching it twice in the same evening) I knew I had to own it. I've watched it multiple times since, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone, and I'm more in awe of it every time. As much as I love it, I have a huge appetite for more, and when I found out about this one-shot comic about two months ago, I've been tracking its release ever since, patiently waiting. Seeing it in the "upcoming release" list last week has made the past 7 days excruciating, as the anticipation has been building to a boiling point where I was bouncing in my chair, counting down the minutes 'til lunchtime today, and immediately jumping down my wife's throat to head out the door the moment the clock struck noon.

Hey, I know that there's a chance that it's not going to be any good, as there are ever only a few movie-tie-in books that measure up to their source, but even in my aging objectiveness, I can still succumb to pure, unrefined geek fandom. It is so rare, however, which is what made this disappointment all the more crushing. I quite literally was ready to leave the store, trying my hardest not to take my frustration and disappointment out on the staff who I call friends. Fuck Green Lantern and X-Factor, screw Classic GI Joe volume 11, I want Black Dynamite or I want nothing at all.

And my wife stood next to me, patiently, as I worked through my problems, and ultimately I did pick up the rest of this week's books but I'm still seething and they're not filling that void, that black (dynamite) hole that reminds me there's something out there I really want to read and can't, at least not right now. Amazon isn't shipping the comic until May 3rd, and I'm not certain that any other local stores (easily accessible) will have copies on hand, because, truth be told, it's a pretty niche book spawned from a still-developing-cult-status film put out by a small-press company that doesn't get a lot of traction against even the mid-sized publishers like Boom or IDW. I suppose I'll do what I have to do to make it through these difficult times, while my life is so empty outside of the love of my family, relatively secure job, good friends, and all the other good stuff I got going for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it

Second Printing presents: a quick recap of the legacy Flashpoint carries forth.

'Cause I'm old, I remember Armageddon: 2001, DC's 1991 annual event, the first to take place entirely across their Annuals rather than interrupting their monthly titles. Genius that, I say, the idea of running an event through Annuals, not necessarily the Armageddon series. Armageddon: 2001 had two bookend issues between which all the other annuals appeared, and each annual was, by and large, a stand-alone excuse to tell an out-of-continuity story set 10 years in the future about the characters and teams holding their own titles. The Plot? A character named Waverider was checking every superhero to see who would possibly become the world-conquering Monarch, and in a famous pre-internet spoiler foil, DC changed the big reveal from Captain Atom to Hawk (of "& Dove"), something which kind of pissed off a lot of people (especially after Hawk had already been ruled out in the H&D annual). Superman had three or four different futures, which just went to show that you couldn't really trust or believe anything you read in the other issues.

The Annual-based event format was great, in essence making the event its own thing, and leaving the ongoing series to do their own thing uninterrupted, keeping writers and readers happy. They repeated the annual event at DC twice more with Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines, and in 2004 had a thematic "event" whereby each Annual presented an Elseworld story (or two) of the title characters. The Elseworlds stories, like those in Armageddon: 2001 were stand-alone, which meant readers could pick and choose or go all-in with equal enjoyment (although, re-reading them, most of the stories in both series were either uninspired or hastily executed, or both).

The mid-1990's, at the apex (or perhaps just past the turning point) of the comics boom, spewed forth the Amalgam Universe, where DC and Marvel heroes smashed together in puntastic ways for two series of one-shots. Then in the late-1990s DC had the "skip-week" events. To explain, every month consists of four weeks, but every three months there's kind of an "extra" week on the schedule which DC used at the time to have self-contained mini-series or mini-events. One skip week brought forth the "Tangent Universe", a new bundle of heroes in a shared universe with familiar names and not at all else. Both the Amalgam and Tangent Universes had solid creative teams, but investment in the characters was low (since they were essentially one-off creations) and thus so was enjoyment (even though the Tangent universe has reared its head a couple times since).

It would appear that with Flashpoint what is old is new again and we, the DC readership/fanbase are getting treated to new alternate timeline versions of the DCU, with our heroes being recognizable but definitely not the same.

Would it be rude of me to yawn?

I've seen this before, multiple times, and the potential for fun is there as it always is in alternate past/future stories. But at the same time the sprawl of Flashpoint, with over 15 titles per month (Booster Gold, I might add, is the only current ongoing series tying in) means it's not going to be a cohesive story, and knowing what's the meat and what's just fat is hard to tell from the outside. Even at a "drawing the line" price of $2.99, that's still around $50 monthly to buy into the event in total, so as a fan, if you're curious, what do you do?

Do you pick and choose what you want to read? Those Cliff Chiang covers on Deadman and the Flying Graysons makes that series somewhat enticing or the appearance of Morrison's Seven Soldiers Frankenstein in Frankenstein and the Challengers of the Unknown certainly lifts an eyebrow or the sheer bizarreness of the June-solicited one-shot The Canterbury Cricket threatens to draw me in. But if you do pick and choose, will they be all that interesting on their own, or even as a part of the whole?

Flashpoint is a rather sizable gamble on DC's part, though I did notice they're leaving the bulk of their titles alone, so it's an event that's not a mandatory event. I can keep picking up Detective Comics or Secret Six without having to worry about picking up additional cross-over issues, or, quite frankly even care what's happening in Flashpoint.

But then the question is raised, if Flashpoint isn't affecting the DC Universe titles in any significant way, then what is the point of doling out 15-20 additional books per month, and building such a massive alternate reality for a short-term event? Is Flashpoint the birth of an "Ultimates" style universe, or is it a flash-in-the-pan? (PUN!)

I should also mention that I've been avoiding the Flash since the return of Barry Allen so I've had zero build-up to this event, and I have to wonder if this event is catering to anyone outside of the Flash readership. Obviously it is trying to considering the diversity of characters and titles involved, but will any reader who hasn't been keeping up with the Flash have a vested interest in the series especially if they can keep reading their regular monthlies without interruption?

As you may be able to tell, I'm a little undecided about how I feel about Flashpoint. I'm grateful for it staying out of books like Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans in the same way that the old Annuals events used to, but also puzzled by why I should otherwise care. Curiosity is seeping in a little, mostly on the strength of a few cover images and that old nostalgic feeling I have for Elseworlds tales, but I suspect I'm going to pass on the event in total.