Maybe An Assembly Line Would Help My Output
Added some more links under the Bloggers section: Elayne Riggs
(How could I
forget her? I've been reading her missives ever since I began
lurking on UseNet years ago); Johnny Bacardi
addition to doing the comics thing covers a lot of other pop culture as
(Editor-in-Chief of SLG Publishing); Shawn Fumo
(of course); and Eve Tushnet
. I think
I'd read Eve's blog once or twice before when other bloggers linked to
her comics commentary (which is very good), but for some reason her
blog didn't really stick in my mind til now. She made an
impression on me when I decided that I should follow up yesterday's
that Jim Henley had "demolished" all arguments against
same-sex marriage by actually reading
the objections Jim was
addressing. I still don't find any of Eve's arguments forceful,
but at least she writes well and avoids the all-too-common (and,
unfortunately, still all-too-accepted) homophobic gay-bashing.
I'd like to respond to some of her comments in more detail, but I think
I'll wait until she's organized her "tangled comments" (as
she puts it
) before I jump in. (Plus, the more I read her
entries, the more I realize I'm wading into an argument/discussion
that's been going on for quite some time: There are threads
spiraling outward to several other sites from Eve's blog, and they all
look interesting. I might get bogged down in "research paralysis"
and never be able to respond adequately. I wonder how all the
other participants in the ongoing conversation would feel if I just
decided to play the role of the loud, obnoxious party crasher?)
Inadvertent Insult of the Week: Augie
De Blieck Jr.
, writing about the demise of "CrossGen, The Dream"
(as opposed to the demise of "CrossGen, The Company"):
bullpen concept was a creative dynamo that glued the creative teams
together and allowed for the sort of assembly line interaction
that you don't get anywhere else in comics today." [emphasis mine]
I think I know what Augie was trying to get at—that the studio
environment of CrossGen allowed creators to feed off each other
have both addressed this point as well)—but I don't think referring to
CrossGen's setup as an "assembly line" is going to paint a cheerful
picture for anyone. More likely, it'll feed into CrossGen
critics' complaints that CG's titles were soulless "Comics by
Committee." (A criticism which may have more than a grain of
truth to it, since Mark Alessi and (recently terminated COO) Gina Villa
reportedly came up with broad story guides that all writers are
expected to follow.) I suppose the positive side of the "assembly
line" remark is remembering how (until the recent financial
difficulties) CrossGen had a (as far as I know) perfect shipping
schedule for a little over three years. In an industry where
books repeatedly miss shipping dates (and rescheduled shipping dates,
-rescheduled shipping dates, and so on), CG's long,
unbroken stretch is quite an accomplishment. And I suppose the
bullpen arrangement greatly helped CG in keeping those deadlines.
Just for the record:
Right before I was going to post, I
realized that visitors unfamiliar with my reading list might think from
the above comments that I was a "CrossGen basher." Well, maybe I
still am (I don't think I am, but I'll leave that up to the reader to
decide), but I do
read their entire line via Comics on the
. Of course, reading their comics this way means I'm
behind everyone else who gets the floppies (hey, when am I not
everyone else in terms of comics reading?), but it does let me continue
to read all their stuff for very cheap now that the Compendia are no
Blogging by Bullet Point
Wow, guess my wife was wrong when she said not much would happen while
we were on vacation for a week. Of course, she was mainly
referring to work and family & friends—how it seems as though time
remains "normal" for those stuck at home while it slows down and expands
for you on vacation (Weren't we gone for month or two?
No? Only a week?
)—not to the weird world of comic books news,
but I'll admit I didn't expect to have much to catch up on when I got
home. So I was a bit surprised to find that:
- CrossGen has stumbled rather badly, if not fallen
completely. I won't even bother linking, since the news and
speculation are everywhere. You'd have to have been in a foreign
country without Net access not to have heard this story already.
has closed down Comic Book Galaxy and his corresponding blog.
Damn. I know Alan could rub a lot of people the wrong way
(including me at times), but I always respected him for writing about
what spoke to him, and his writing was always lively. I'm sure
this won't be the last we'll hear from him, but it's still a bummer that
we can't get our regular dose of ADD.
Magazine is officially kaput, although according to this
press release on Prophecy's site, they are going ahead with the
backup plan of publishing all work completed at this point into an
anthology or two. Heck, checking the site again, I just noticed
they've even changed most of the text to refer to "Prophecy Anthology"
now. They even have a definite release date for the anthology,
and it looks like it'll be sold through traditional comic shops (unlike
Prophecy's earlier plans to bypass the direct market altogether):
"The first anthology is set for release on November 30th, 2003 and will
be distributed through the Prophecy website as well as in comics stores
internationally." I'll probably check this out if it comes out,
but I won't hold my breath. Although I may change my mind
depending on the price: The "Who We Are"
page claims that "Prophecy Anthology is available for advanced purchase
via our website for a discounted price of $25." Discounted price
of $25? I wonder how much the planned
graphic novels (featuring the work from the winners of Prophecy's "Annual
American Student Graphic Novel Contest") will run for. Based on
the samples shown on the site, I think I'll pass on the graphic novels.
There was also some positive news:
- Shawn Fumo finally has
his own blog (and is already blogging circles around me, the
bastard). Welcome, Shawn!
- Fan-favorites Mark
Waid and Mike Wieringo have been restored to creative duties on FF.
The news doesn't really do anything for me since I thought everything
after the 9-cent issue was a letdown, but I know there a lot of people
who will be made very happy by this news, so I'm happy that
those comic fans are happy, at least.
- Neil Gaiman continues his whirlwind PR tour for Sandman: Endless
Nights (Dirk Deppy has a ton of links over at Journalista,
but I haven't seen anyone link to this
Salon piece yet. There's also a short article on Gaiman's
return to comics in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (with Uma
Thurman on the cover) but I didn't see it on EW's site when I checked
And then there was a lot of interesting blogging going on (which I'll
probably never properly comment on because I'm feeling so behind at the
moment, but that shouldn't stop you from checking it out):
- Bill Sherman had a number of interesting entries, including: an overview
of Iron Wok Jan (which I've also been reading and enjoying);
to ADD; and a correction
to Dirk Deppey's illness-addled attribution of my old review of Shonen
Jump #3 as a review of the current issue. Thanks, Bill, and I
hope you're feeling better, Dirk.
- Jason Kimble writes about decompression
and padding in comics (not the same thing, as he helpfully points
- Jim Henley has a couple excellent posts
demolishing all of the usual objections to same-sex marriage. Like
Jim, I just can't see any good reason for discriminating against
same-sex couples by prohibiting them from getting married. (Yeah,
it's not about comics, but same-sex marriage is a topic I've felt
strongly about for a long time.)
- And Sean
Collins just continues to entertain with everything he writes, so
I'm not going to single out a specific entry. Go read.
Oh yeah, and Marvel's
solicits for December 2003
went up while I was away. I know I
promised to sift through them and make with the snark, but there's just
nothing in these solicits that inspires me to comment. About the
best I can come up with is a variation of an old Monty Python
line: "I can't think of anything worse than calling them 'typical
Marvel Solicitations.'" They're just so awfully dull: Dull
cover images and dull copy. About the only cover image that came
close to moving me was the cover for CABLE/DEADPOOL
Liefeld will probably once again win the coveted "Grotesque Anatomy"
award based on this image), but why waste energy coming up with funny
digs about how atrocious this cover is when it's
already been done
(and is probably much cleverer than anything I
would have come up with anyway)? Once again my pull list remains
Finally, I should be getting my monthly dose of comics sometime this
week, so I'll finally be able to comment on the comics everyone else was
talking about last month. Man, no wonder I'm always feeling
Out of Office: 09/20/2003-09/28/2003
In hindsight, this probably wasn't the brightest bit of planning I've ever come up with: Launch a new blog days before I go on a week-long vacation to Paris. In my defense, I really didn't think anyone would be reading this thing, at least not until I had the BIG CONTEST
promoting the blog (more on the BIG CONTEST
when I get back). So what happens? Seasoned bloggers such as Alan David Doane
, Dirk Deppey
, and Sean Collins
all go linking to my blog. Bastards! Now I'm going to feel guilty for letting the blog go without updates for a week. Thanks a lot, guys. (Sarcasm aside, big thanks to Alan, Dirk, and Sean for linking to my blog: I've been reading their stuff for quite awhile now, and I'm touched to hear Dirk refer to my blog as "excellent." Wait til Dirk finds out Power Company
was one of my favorite comics of 2002
JLA/AVENGERS: Does Joe Blow Care?
Noticed this morning that Dirk Deppey
linked to my comments
on Michael Hutchison's comments
on the order figures for JLA/AVENGERS #1. I'd just like to clarify that I have no insider contact on the matter either; I'm just speculating away. And as reader HS emailed to tell me, my speculations may be way off: It could be we're not seeing mainstream coverage of JLA/AVENGERS simply because the mainstream media aren't interested in the "event":
I read your 200k snippet, and although your argument seems well-founded, it makes a major assumption: That all comics are interesting to mainstream media. The reason Sandman got so much mainstream coverage was likely because the writer is well-known among the mainstream/book media. The first thing editors think about when deciding what to cover is how meaningful the topic will be to their readers; in most cases these are the Average Joe. Although JLA and Avengers are familiar to us, they’re not to the average person. That puts one strike against it. If it were Superman vs. Spider-Man, it would likely be a different story. So, yes, Marvel’s old maxim—it’s the characters that matter—still holds true. These characters collectively as a team don’t matter to the people reading or writing for mainstream press. The only exception: If something groundbreaking happened in the arc, ie. A major DC or Marvel character were killed or a major character were to permanently change universes (imagine if Batman stayed in the Marvel universe).
The other strike against it is that it’s a comic. Again, like the topic, the format isn’t something that is widely embraced by the average person. Right now, comics are considered a niche form of entertainment/publishing. Only recently has Entertainment Weekly begun reviewing comics (and video games) on a regular basis. That’s a huge step toward comics becoming an accepted form of mainstream entertainment. Yes, the occasional comic gets reviewed in something like USA Today, but they’re not dedicating ongoing space to them. Until comics make up a significant (or at least noticeable) portion of the entertainment industries enormous revenues and shake the perception that they’re read by geeks of all ages, they will continue to be the ugly stepchild who only gets to come out for the occasional debutante's ball. It’s much the problem that video games faced several years ago. No one outside the enthusiast publications wanted to cover games. However, the high-profile launches of consoles and the open endorsement from celebs like Justin Timberlake and Julia Roberts changed that, and the perception of the industry. Comics need something similar to spark media’s ongoing interest.
Finally, consider that the demographic for a publication like USA Today is women, age 25-54. Yes, CNN and Forbes are more targeted to men, but likely not the men who are reading comics. Again, the topic needs to be appealing in some way to the reader, and the people in the demographics for these publications aren’t going to care about JLA/Avengers.
So, it’s likely that Marvel/DC did try to get coverage, but they were turned away at the door by the press. It’s just not news. At least until someone famous says they’re reading it.
These are all good points, but of course I have some thoughts in response:
I don't know if my assumption was so much that all comics are interesting to mainstream media as it was that this particular comic should be interesting to mainstream media. Though perhaps even that assumption is flawed. As HS points out, the titles "JLA" and "Avengers" aren't likely to mean much to the average Joe or Jane. Although there's a cartoon version of JLA on Cartoon Network, it goes by the name "Justice League." And "Avengers" probably still brings to mind that crappy movie remake with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes. I think any mainstream coverage of JLA/AVENGERS would have to focus on the individual Big Names (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) rather than the teams. As Michael Hutchison wrote in his original piece: "The general public loves these characters, which is why their movies do so well. Superman wielding Thor's hammer and Captain America's shield is something even the public at large thinks is cool." It's still a big assumption, yes, (does the general public know who Thor is, much less what his hammer looks like?) but I figure it couldn't hurt to try.
As for comics' continued status as the ugly red-headed stepchild of entertainment, I don't know how to gauge comic books' current public perception. I'm sure the notion that "comics are for kids" is still widespread (even though most modern comics aren't for kids anymore (exception: manga)), but I also feel as though the mainstream media covers comics much more frequently than it ever has before. Perhaps my perception is due to the fact that I'm more aware of the coverage—I read the online comics sites, so I see the links to all the stories on comics. Maybe mainstream coverage of comics isn't as common or pervasive as I think.
And if HS is reading this, I'd like her to clarify one point. You wrote: "The other strike against it is that it’s a comic. Again, like the topic, the format isn’t something that is widely embraced by the average person." Were you referring to the format of the "floppy," i.e., individual issues of a comic; or were you referring to the general "format" of comics overall (i.e., comics as a medium)? If the former, what do you think about my suggestion that Marvel and DC market the collected edition of JLA/AVENGERS? Do you think casual readers will be more comfortable with a format that more closely resembles "real" books? If the latter, I guess all I could offer in response is the general trend of graphic novels being a growth market in mainstream bookstores and comic shops alike. Although I honestly don't know how much of those sales are for "capes & tights" comics. From everything I read, it seems as though manga are the real powerhouse in graphic novel sales.
I can imagine a scenario where Marvel and/or DC approached the mainstream media with this story and they said "Eh, thanks, but we'll pass. We're more interested in this Sandman book." I believe I've read accounts online where fans wondered why certain series or "events" weren't promoted in mainstream publications, and the answer given was, "We tried, but they weren't interested." However, given the fact that Marvel and DC aren't even advertising JLA/AVENGERS on their own sites, it also seems likely that they're simply not marketing it very aggressively. Perhaps because it would require a coordinated effort between the two rivals?
Thanks to HS for writing (I'm hereby starting the official campaign to get her to write her own blog), and to Dirk Deppey for linking my comments within his larger (and more interesting) entry about sales of Sandman: Endless Nights and other stuff in the direct market. If you haven't read his piece yet, do so now. It's a great read as usual, tying together a number of interesting threads in a fresh and cohesive manner.
Over at Monitor Duty
, Michael Hutchison raises some good points about the sales figures for JLA/AVENGERS #1. Although I still think
200K is an impressive number for the direct market in its current state, Michael's right that there hasn't been much mainstream attention for this series yet. Perhaps if Wonder Woman were sporting another new haircut, or different shoes or something—perhaps then
the mainstream media would have shown interest in this story. (The only mention I've seen of JLA/AVENGERS #1 in the mainstream press was a short review in the subscription-only supplement to Entertainment Weekly
, "Listen2This," where I believe it received an A-
It does make me wonder why DC and Marvel aren't doing more to promote this series. Perhaps they're waiting for the eventual collection to hit bookstores? If so, that might actually be smart. Easier to direct someone with casual interest in the series to the nearest bookstore than to get them to a local comic shop, which might not even have copies of every issue left. And the mainstream attention (USA Today, CNN, Forbes) for the Sandman: Endless Nights hardcover has been impressive, so perhaps DC and Marvel are hoping to go that route once they have something resembling an actual book in their hands. Although Kurt Busiek isn't quite the household name that Neil Gaiman is. This might be a case where Marvel's old maxim "it's the characters (not the creators) that matter" is fitting.
Shawn Fumo for President
Noticed today that blogger Sean Collins is waging a one-man campaign to get Shawn Fumo to start a blog. Check out Sean's pleas here
. I'll second Sean's call for Shawn to start his own blog. I've been running across posts from Mr. Fumo on various boards and blogs lately, and his comments are always insightful, thoughtful, and polite (a true rarity in many comic book message board circles).
Shawn Fumo: Your hobby needs you. Will you answer her call?
(And if we can convince Shawn to do a blog, we should then see how he feels about running for the Democratic party's nomination.)
GYO 1 Review
High expectations can be a curse. I came into GYO, the
latest horror manga by creator Junji Ito, expecting to be disturbed by
what I read. Ito's previous manga—UZUMAKI, TOMIE, and FLESH-COLORED
HORROR—were all genuinely unnerving. GYO, on the other hand, is
The premise of GYO—legged fish begin emerging from the sea—sounded
silly when I first read it, but then again, how scary does a
comic about a town's growing obsession with spirals (UZUMAKI) sound on
the face of it? (What, they all become obsessed with Spirograph?) Alas,
my first reaction proved to be accurate in this case: GYO just isn't
scary. Perhaps the cultural connotations are different in Japan, but
me, seeing a shark crash though someone's door is amusing rather than
frightening, since it brings to mind the old landshark skits from Saturday
Because the horror isn't as strong in GYO, the weakness of
characterization becomes more evident. Looking back at Ito's earlier
it's probably safe to say that characterization was not a strong suit
of those works either. The characters were there mainly to serve as
the events that befell them. When the events aren't very frightening,
the sparseness of characterization becomes glaring. The players in this
tale all feel like stock characters from a campy 50s horror movie: The
stalwart, stoic hero; the hysterical female; the mad scientist and his
lovely assistant. Even the visual depictions feel tired, since the
characters resemble protagonists from Ito's earlier works. The
character who receives perhaps the greatest amount of attention in this
story is the girlfriend, Kaori; much space is devoted to
depicting just how whiny and selfish she is. Unfortunately, this also
means that she becomes an entirely unlikable character. By the time misfortune struck Kaori, I found myself thinking that her boyfriend should
just leave her. Instead, Tadashi sticks with her, risking his life in the process. I felt like a cross between a Springer
audience member and an obnoxious movie-goer in a bad horror flick, mentally shouting out: "Leave her, you fool! She never treated you well, and now she's going to get you killed!!"
I've been reflecting on my different reactions to GYO and Ito's
other works, trying to figure out what makes one horror story work
while another one fails. I'm not sure I've arrived at a definitive
answer yet, but here are some of the thoughts I've come up with:
- Horror is creepier when the explanations involve vague
metaphysical forces instead of hokey pseudo-science. Towards the
end of the book, it's suggested that the legged fish may be the result
of a military experiment involving biological weapons. The mad
scientist figure (Dr. Koyanagi) reveals that his father was involved in
a project that sounds similar to the events occurring in the present
day. I won't go into the plot, but there are a couple details that made
me think more of Monty Python than Jaws. In UZUMAKI,
details are avoided by attributing events to strange supernatural
- Horrific transformations are more disturbing when they affect
humans, not fish. In UZUMAKI, characters were horribly, grotesquely
disfigured (bodies twisting; children turning into slugs; faces
spiraling inward into nothingness); but in GYO the mutations occur to
the fish. There are some scenes involving changes to humans, but they
fail to elicit shock or horror. One scene involving the professor is
telegraphed much too far in advance to be surprising; and another
involving the girlfriend has all tension sucked out of it by a couple
out-of-place panels depicting flatulence.
- Threats must actually be threatening in order to get the
reader's heart pumping. GYO isn't the first horror story with a
"monster" that failed to frighten me. I never got why Hitchcock's The
Birds was supposed to be frightening either. In one sense, I can
see how nature suddenly turning against man is somewhat upsetting. But
when the threat can simply be stepped on, it loses a bit of its impact.
The threat becomes even less threatening (and even more ludicrous) when
the professor reveals that the fish are long since dead: All that
animates them are the mechanical legs attached to them. Which doesn't
explain why creatures are shown with their mouths opening and closing
in an attempt to devour victims. Although it probably does explain why
a shark, having cornered the hero in a bedroom, suddenly lunges out the
window instead of killing him.
If you've been hearing good things about Junji Ito and are looking to
try out some of his horror manga, I'd recommend passing on GYO and
checking out UZUMAKI instead.
Second Opinion: Randy
Lander from The Fourth Rail seemed to like GYO much more than I
did, giving it a 9/10 rating.
Misc. Details: Published by Viz; 200 B&W pages; $12.95 US.
Prophecy or Foreboding?
I received a surprising package yesterday: It was an oversized envelope from Prophecy Magazine. For those who don't know, Prophecy Magazine
is supposed to be a cutting-edge new sequential art magazine. I heard about Prophecy several months ago when I was looking for a new comics anthology to try out. Someone on some message board mentioned Prophecy, so I went to their website, checked out some of the sample art
, and liked what I saw enough to sign up for a special discounted promotional subscription. That was back in January 2003. Originally Prophecy was scheduled to launch in April, but that date came and passed with no launch. According to Prophecy's website, "Prophecy Magazine was set to launch in early 2003. We had originally planned the launch for April of this year. However, due to the unfortunate circumstances of the war and the ensuing social and economic instability, our executive team has decided to postpone launch until early fall of this year."
When in doubt, blame the war and/or economy. (Prophecy goes on to justify the delay in much more detail: "As you can imagine, the timing of our launch is of the utmost importance, especially as we are attempting to cross over from the direct comics market to the mainstream American public. It is essential that the social and economic climate be in our favor to capture an enthusiastic public, ready and willing to purchase a hot, new commodity. Due to the relatively unexpected decision to go to war, the U.S. economy has been highly unstable and consumer spending has reflected a volatile market environment. As such, this is a very risky time to launch an unproven, expensive, national magazine; we cannot risk coming into the market at the wrong time. It is paramount that Prophecy Magazine succeed for the good of the American comics industry." While I can sympathize with the complexities of trying to launch a new publishing venture in today's economy, the self-aggrandizing statements are a bit much. I didn't realize I was subscribing to a magazine with a savior complex, although I suppose the name 'Prophecy' could have been a warning sign.)
Anyway, I'd pretty much given up hope of ever receiving something from Prophecy, but now they had actually mailed me something. It felt a bit thin to be the magazine, though, especially when their site proclaimed that each issue would range "from 96 to 120 pages" in length. I opened the envelope, and sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard were three posters. One was a gift I received for being an early subscriber, and the others looked like ads for the magazine. There was also a letter apologizing for the delay in sending the poster(s), and for the delay in launching the magazine. No specific date was given for when the magazine will finally come out.
I'm still hopeful about Prophecy Magazine, both in terms of actually receiving it one day and in terms of its content if it does arrive, but I think they need to tone down the hype a bit. Looking over some of the quotes on their site, I actually found myself growing annoyed. I think excessive hype bothers me in general, whether from Wizard Magazine or a new publisher of "cutting edge" sequential art.
Perhaps the most grating blurbs on the site were the ones referring to Prophecy Magazine as "an award-winning collector's item!" and "a guaranteed collector's item in years to come." I see that Prophecy isn't above playing the speculation game in order to move some copies of its magazine.
JLA/AVENGERS #1 Tops 200K
is reporting that retailer orders for JLA/AVENGERS #1 broke the 200K mark. In today's market, that strikes me as a good number for a prestige-format book carrying a $5.95 price tag, but I'm also wondering how many copies of this comic have actually made it into readers' hands. Out of curiously I searched for "JLA/AVENGERS" on eBay and I got back several results for lots offering multiple copies of #1. I'm worried a lot of those numbers might be due to speculators buying copies in bulk, thinking they can sell copies at a profit. Since the first issue was printed by Marvel, perhaps there is some money to be made in gouging fans who missed a copy of #1 at their local shop. But I don't remember reading anywhere that JLA/AVENGERS #1 has sold out at the publisher level, so couldn't on-the-ball retailers still get more copies of the first issue?
DC Solicits for December 2003
DC has released its solicitations for December 2003. I'm sure you can find them several places, but I always prefer viewing them at ToonZone
: No annoying popups. No gaudy flashing banner ads. Just the solicitations, and they're even broken up into nice little sections.
Anyway, on with the snarky comments:
- The solicits are promising "an exciting new direction!" for ROBIN based on the new creative team of Bill Willingham and Rick Mays. I like Mays' art, but I'm not so sure about Willingham's writing. FABLES has started to bore me recently. Since Robin's not a character I find particularly interesting, I'll probably pass on this and maybe check it out if it ever hits the bargain bins.
- Gail Simone has a new mini-series coming out, ROSE & THORN. I was thinking of checking this out, but two things are putting me off: (1) The $2.95 price tag; and (2) judging from the cover by Adam Hughes, Thorn's costume seems to have gotten even skimpier. I'll wait to check out what reviewers have to say about this series and maybe check it out if DC collects it.
- SUPERGIRL ARCHIVES VOL. 2. Yes. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the goofy charm of the stories in the first volume, so I'll be getting this followup volume as well.
- SUPERMAN #200: It's only hitting #200 just now? It feels like decades since Byrne (who is back to contribute to #200 - nice touch) revamped the Man of Steel.
- I'm looking at the cover for SUPERMAN/BATMAN #5 and I have no idea who a couple of these characters are. Who's the robo-gal carrying a cross between Daredevil's billy club and Thor's hammer? Who's the female character in the black leotard and blue bath towel? Is that the new look for Tomorrow Woman (from Morrison's JLA)? And is that H.E.R.B.I.E. behind the new Batgirl?? Maybe it has been decades since they revamped Superman. Time for a new reboot?
- Judd Winick on the dramatic changes in store for Metamorpho in OUTSIDERS #7: "I can say with complete and absolute confidence that his life will never ever be the same." You hear that, comic creators? The gauntlet has been thrown. Time to get in line waiting for Winick to leave the book so you can invalidate all of his changes. John Byrne, I'm looking at you...
- Re: The cover to AVENGERS/JLA #4: OK, I admit it - I did have a fangasm when I saw that image.
- Love the solicitation for H-E-R-O #11: "Metropolis archaeologists find some rather unusual ancient cave art featuring what looks to be a prehistoric super-hero. Go back thousands of years to those thrilling bygone days of early man and see what happens when the H-Dial falls into the hands of a Cro-Magnon!" Captain Caveman?
- Is it just me or is WW looking a lot like Monica from Friends in this cover? Maybe it is Monica, and the guy whose eyeballs have melted out of their sockets is supposed to be Chandler.
- MASKS: TOO HOT FOR TV! could be fun: Camera crews catching superheroes in their "off" moments is a premise with possibilities. And the talent lined up (Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke ; Marc Andreyko and Richard Corben; Patton Oswalt and Amanda Conner; Jill Thompson and Tony Akins; and Judd Winick and Whilce Portacio) isn't too shabby.
- Look! It's two concepts whose appeal faded long ago together in THE AUTHORITY/LOBO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL! I'm not sure what mathematical operation I perform here to determine how much this will suck. Add? Multiply? Raise to the power of infinity?
- ASTRO CITY/ARROWSMITH: This special collects two prelude stories, one for the upcoming ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE mini, and the ARROWSMITH preview that originally appeared online. Plus "maps, behind-the-scenes sketchbook art by Ross, Anderson and Pacheco, and an interview with Busiek about the future of both series." This is actually a nice way to release extras so that fans buying the single issues don't have to pick up the trades to see the new material. I'll be getting this.
- SLEEPER: OUT IN THE COLD: This TPB collects the first six issues of the outstanding Wildstorm series. I probably won't be getting this trade since I already have the individual issues, but everyone else who hasn't read this criminally under-ordered series should definitely try the trade.
- TOM STRONG #24: This issue is written by Peter Hogan, not Alan Moore, which means I may pass. I haven't been enjoying Hogan's TERRA OBSCURA much, but maybe I'll like his work better on characters I'm already fond of. I think Hogan did the TESLA STRONG one-shot and I did enjoy that.
Snarky comments aside, I do enjoy DC's solicits much more than Marvel's. DC's covers are consistently more interesting than Marvel's, and the copy is generally more readable as well. In the interests of fairness, I'll try to pick through Marvel's next round of solicits whenever they go up.
Hurry Up, Order, and Wait
I buy my comics online. To cut down on costs, I have them shipped once a month, which means I get my "new" comics in big batches, and a couple weeks after everyone else has already discussed them thoroughly. It also means that I order my books sight unseen out of Previews months in advance. Because of my arrangement, I've really come to appreciate columnists who scour through Previews to find the good stuff. Often others catch things that I passed over too quickly, and I've found some really good books by trying out others' recommendations. Here are the places I usually look to for advice:
- Augie De Blieck Jr. discusses what catches his eye in his Pipeline Previews column. Like Augie, I'm interested in the 25-cent CONAN preview. And I'll probably be getting the JLA: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE special by Paul Dini and Alex Ross. It seems as though lately there's been a critical backlash against Ross' painted artwork, but I still enjoy it. I might also give Image's CLOUDFALL (by Robert Kirkman and E.J. Su) a try.
- The Fourth Rail splits its Preview Review into two segments: The Premier Publishers and everyone else. Still haven't decided if I'm going to get the MATRIX COMICS TPB. I'll probably wait to check it out in the store. I'm also waffling on whether to get THE BLOODY STREETS OF PARIS (I-Books). I am ordering BOMBABY: THE SCREEN GODDESS (Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics), though.
- Johanna Draper Carlson also does Previews Reviews, with the added bonus of "Snarky Comments" on the side. The only thing Johanna's excited about this month that appeals to me is SHUCK UNMASKED.
- Ninth Art has its Things To Come. They're also intrigued by BOMBABY: THE SCREEN GODDESS based on the sample art. And their description of THE BLOODY STREETS OF PARIS is pushing that book closer to the "buy" category on my list. Finally, another thumbs up for SHUCK.
- In addition to doing some of the best comic book reviews online, Chris Allen over at Movie Poop Shoot's Breakdowns occasionally sifts through Previews as well, but I don't think he's done anything covering the most recent Previews.
- Finally, there's the site Previews Review, dedicated to, well, reviewing Previews, but their updates can be a bit sporadic. According to a message on the home page, the site is currently being retooled and should be back up tomorrow.
Aside from the books mentioned by others above, the only other new items to catch my eye in this month's Previews were:
DETECTIVE 27, a hardcover OGN featuring yet another Elseworlds take on Batman, except this one doesn't seem to involve any costumes, at least not based on the sample pages shown in Previews. I'm not sure if I've ever read anything by Michael Uslan. The Fourth Rail mentioned that he wrote some backup stories for the Just Imagine Stan Lee... series, which is almost enough to scare me away, but I'm more interested in this for the art by Peter Snejbjerg anyway.
BACK ISSUE #1: The blurb on the TwoMorrows site exclaims that "BACK ISSUE celebrates comic books of the 1970s, 1980s, and today through a variety of recurring (and rotating) departments." The first issue features the timely theme of DC vs. Marvel and includes "an examination of the original JLA/Avengers crossover, revealing why it never happened and featuring unpublished George Perez pages—plus a spotlight on the new JLA/Avengers mini-series!" This speaks to the same inner fanboy that broke down and ordered JLA/AVENGERS despite my original plans to wait for the inevitable collected edition.
RISING STARS OF MANGA VOL 2 GN: I got the first volume from Tokyopop and thought it was interesting in a "Comic Book Idol" kind of way: Before each story, the editors took a couple lines to discuss why each submission was picked for publication. There were definitely some entries that were rougher than others, but it was an interesting experiment overall, so I'll check out the second collection as well.
I was thinking about checking out FULL METAL PANIC and AZUMANGA DAIOH—the first two series from new manga publisher ADV Manga—but I can't find any info about the books on their site, so I'll probably just wait to look at them when they come out.
That's it for this month. Only a little time left before I have to submit my order. I often wonder if I'm really saving money by ordering online, since I probably end up buying more than if I were just going into the store every week. Oh well, at least I get to try out some new stuff at a discount.
Broken Frontier columnist Matt Maxwell
has an article up recommending The Goon
by Eric Powell. I'd second that recommendation. I preordered The Goon
on a whim (I think the art caught my eye), and I've really been enjoying it so far. The book, which comes out bi-monthly from Dark Horse, isn't deep by any means. But as Matt mentions, it's nice to read a comic that is actually funny. I'd suggest getting the first two issues of the new Dark Horse series. DH also put out a TPB collecting earlier Goon stories from Albatross Publishing, but the new series is much better in my opinion.
Here's a review of The Goon #1 I did for Mailordercomics:
Who is the Goon, you ask? Well, everything you need to know about him is contained within the pages of this comic. Basically, he's a big bruiser who fights monsters. Oh, sure, he's got an origin story and everything (beautifully rendered in sketchy sepia tones), but you don't really need to worry about that. All you really need to know is that the Goon is a big guy. And he fights monsters. Zombies, to be particular (or "Slack Jaws" as they're referred to in the story). Oh, and cannibal hoboes. How do the spontaneously-combusting orangutans fit into this story? Ah, heck, just go buy this book. If you like goofy humor mixed with not-so-serious horror, this is the book for you.
I had a lot of fun reading this book. The story is simple, drawing you right in, but it's all the little side details that enrich the comic. Details like the aforementioned orangutans. And the hobo leader, who bears a striking resemblance to a famous folk musician. Even the legal copy on the inside front cover is worth reading. And make sure to stick around for the final page, which contains testimonials by several noted "Comic Icons." Writer/artist Eric Powell is adept at both writing genuinely funny lines and illustrating humorous scenes. And he does the colors for the book as well, although I'm not sure if the colors were truly "funny," so I don't think I can pronounce Powell a true comedic "triple threat."
Trying to place this book on a continuum for the purposes of issuing one of those "if you liked X, you might also enjoy Y"-type recommendations is tough. The Goon reminded me a lot of similar "funny horror books" I've enjoyed recently (such as Steven Weissman's "Yikes" books and Richard Sala's Peculia), although Goon is definitely done in a style more familiar to mainstream readers. The book design, layouts, and art are all more like a traditional superhero comic than the other books mentioned. Goon is also reminiscent of Alan Moore's humor work, such as "The Bojeffries Saga" or the strips in Tomorrow Stories (although comic icon "Alan Moore" does appear at the end of the book to disparage Powell's grasp of the English language, in a nice bit of self-deprecation on Powell's part). If you've enjoyed any of these books, chances are you'll get plenty of amusement out of The Goon.
also made Entertainment Weekly
's "Must List" back in July, and the first issue received an A
from one of EW's reviewers.
For more info on The Goon, check out the Dark Horse site or Eric Powell's site.
You Get What You Pay For
First of all, I just want to say up front that I love Newsarama.
If it weren't for Newsarama, how would I get my daily fix of comic book
news, previews, press releases, etc.? But is it just me or are
Newsarama's articles becoming more and more unreadable? Case in
recent article analyzing order numbers for August 2003 books
Look at some of these snippets I've chosen to nitpick out of context:
- But is that demand “real?” That
is, had the entire overprint not been sucked up by a large order, would
the puzzler be able to supply all the retailers who needed reorders from
their initial overprint? ("The puzzler"? Is
that Riddler's long-lost cousin? I'm assuming they meant
"publisher," not "puzzler.")
- Since he/she is not buying the
comic with their normal discount from Diamond, the issue’s price has to
be market up at the store. (Assuming that should be "marked up.")
- If the comic is pants, that is,
to be of dubious quality, then sooner or later, readers will stop buying
it.... (Newsarama's now including lessons in British
slang? This feels like a forced effort to be "hip" or "edgy.")
- While the title is consistently
the highest selling “Sigilverse” title for CrossGen, it’s numbers got a
serious boost from it’s $1.00 cover price. (The its/it's
distinction remains a perennial problem for Newsarama.)
- The OGN Batman: Hong Kong,
illustrated by renown Hong Kong artist, Tony Wong.
(What? What did the OGN Batman:
Hong Kong—illustrated by renown [renowned?]
Hong Kong artist, Tony Wong—do? Where's the verb?)
- Again, as noted previously,
CrossGen’s printing problems and two weeks of not shipping books caused
the publisher rank at #5 in dollars and #5 in units. (I
think they meant "caused the publisher to rank." Again, as noted
previously, remember, moreover, that I'm being nitpicky here,
- Ultiamtes #12 (Obviously a
cheap knock-off of the popular Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch series.)
- Way of the Ratt (I've
heard good things about Way of the Ratt, but I'm waiting for CrossGen's
big crossover event, THE GWAR.)
Anyway, I'm going to chalk this up to me being cranky. I really
do appreciate that Newsarama is doing more and more of these analysis
pieces (as opposed to just throwing up press releases on the site), but
I think the articles would have more impact if they weren't marred
by typos and other errors. (Cue embarrassing errors of my
Manga Marches On
is reporting that Tokyopop is once again expanding its mainstream presence, signing deals to appear in the Books-a-Million chain, Target stores, and airports (through W.H. Smith). Wow. Manga really is going to take over the world isn't it? Or at least the mainstream market for graphic novels.
The Fantastic Kurt Busiek
Kurt Busiek talks about Arrowsmith and his upcoming Conan series over at CBR.
Hello World. (Lame, I know, but it's what I remember from programming classes.)
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