Grotesque Anatomy
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
  Wallowing in Marvelous Nostalgia
As a follow-up to the previous entry, here's a site that offers a summary of every single issue of Marvel Two-In-One, including #58 (although the overview probably still doesn't offer enough context to make sense of that scene).  I like that the site tracks whether or not each issue makes reference to "Clobberin' Time!" or the Thing's Aunt Petunia.  Be sure to check out the cover galleries.  And add MTIO to the list of Essentials I'd like to see in the future.  I love that the Thing was generally stuck with B- and C-list heroes as guest-stars in his book, while Spidey got all the "big name" heroes over in Marvel Team-Up.  In my mind, that only increases the appeal of MTIO.

The MTIO site led me to another fun distraction, The Unofficial Marvel Value Stamps Index.  Those who read Marvel comics in the mid-Seventies will undoubtedly remember these goofy stamps.  Whether or not you look back on these stamps fondly probably depends on how much financial damage you did to your collection by cutting up your comics.

Finally, this site has more (much, much more) than Marvel-related characters, but I particularly love the Micro-Hero versions of the Heroes for Hire characters, the Earth X interpretations, and all the What If variations.  I also like the page dedicated to Amalgam characters, but that's mainly due to my unclean love of the Amalgam concept.  (I'm probably the only comic fan out there who'd like to see a yearly Amalgam anthology.  Wasn't that an idea that was tossed around at one point, or am I just completely allowing my strange desires to distort my memories again?).
  Out-Of-Context Comic Book Theatre
Touching scene between Aquarian and Thing
From Marvel Two-In-One #58

(Special thanks to Ed Cunard.)
Monday, June 28, 2004
  Street Angel Contest Winners
Here are the winners in the Street Angel Squid Contest:

First Place (new to Street Angel division) - Scott from Polite Dissent:

Untrue Tales of Medical School:  The Squid


It was late in my fourth year of medical school, and I was three days into my mandatory cephalopod rotation.  As usual, I had drawn the short straw, so instead of working at the new hospital on the waterfront, I was stuck downtown at Captain Larry's Animal Hospital and Discount Seafood Shoppe.


There were two students on the rotation: Jesse and me.  I hadn't seen her around much before, but she seemed to know her stuff.  There was also one third-year resident and a variety of senior physicians.


Sitting in staff lounge drinking coffee, Jesse and I looked at each other and smiled.  It was shaping up to be an easy day.  We had discharged most of our patients yesterday, and only four remained in the entire hospital.  Rounds would be quick, and we might actually have an afternoon off.


The morning started simply.  We had sent the last cuttlefish home the day before, so there were no patients in the cuttlefish ward.  We moved on to the octopus ward.  There were two patients there.  The first was an unfortunate fellow who had tried to impress his girlfriend by line-dancing, tripped, and managed to tie all of his eight legs into a series of knots.  Working with a surgeon, we had managed to untie six of the legs so far.  Later this morning, we were going to work on the last two.  The surgeon was concerned as it was a complex knot consisting of a sheetbend, bowline, and taut line, with a little bit of clove hitch mixed in as well.  We had to call in the local scoutmaster for assistance.  The surgeon just kept walking around mumbling something about bowlines, and the rabbit going through the hole and around the tree then back down the hole.  I'll never understand surgeons.


The second patient was a septopus.  He was born with seven legs instead of the normal eight.  He was here for the placement of an artificial leg, as well as some much needed counseling.  He had a bad case of tentacle envy. 


After the octopus ward, we moved on to the squid ward.  The first patient there was sulking in his aquarium.  He had been admitted for some scratches he had obtained in a bar fight.  He claimed his name was Topo, and that he was a famous squid with famous friends.  He kept telling us, “Just wait ‘til Aquaman gets here!  He'll bust a cap in your ass!”   The resident just smiled, nodded and upped his antipsychotic medications.  I unwrapped his bandages and looked at his wounds.  They were healing well with no signs of infection, so I expected we'd discharge him home (or to his so-called “Aquacave”) the next day. 


The final patient was a new admission.  The Coast Guard had brought him in the previous night.  They claimed that he was SWI (Swimming While Intoxicated), or as they put it “marinated.”  He was a big squid, with a mean look in his eyes.  As soon as we walked in the room, he started gnashing his beak and thrashing his tentacles.  The resident ignored his posturing, and grabbed the chart from the side of the aquarium.  “Vitals are looking good, and labs look good, though his blood alcohol content is still off the charts. Nothing much to do but wait.”  He turned to us, and handed the clipboard to Jesse.  “He still needs his admission work-up, so why don't you two get started, then give me a call when you're done.”

Jesse handed me the clipboard, and stood back against the wall.  She had this thing about squids.  I moved up next to the aquarium.  One of his saucer-shaped eyes glared at me as I began asking questions.  He answered quickly, but tersely.  There was clearly some underlying anger there. 

I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  There was a crashing sound behind me and I spun around to see two tentacles wrapped around Jesse.  She had grabbed an IV stand and was bashing the tentacles. 


“Hose it down with some IV fluid,” she yelled at me.  I grabbed the nearest IV bag, ripped open the bag, and began spraying it on the tentacles.


“No you idiot!” she yelled at me.  “That's saline, and squids like salt water – use fresh water!”


Frantically, I looked around the room as Jesse was being pulled closer and closer to the squid.  She was fighting valiantly, lacerating the tentacles with a scalpel she had picked up.


I found some bottles of sterile water in one of the cabinets, opened them up, and began pouring it on the tentacles.  Slowly, one of the tentacles let go of Jesse.  Relieved, I didn't see another tentacle come up behind me until I was knocked sprawling across the room.  Two more tentacles grabbed Jesse, and dragged her nearer and nearer to the tank.


As she was being dragged across the floor, Jesse managed to grab the defibrillator from the Code Blue cart and switch it on.  A high-pitched whine could be heard as the paddles charged. 


“Clear!” she yelled and pressed the paddles against a tentacle.  A smell of ozone and burnt flesh filled the room as the squid yanked his still smoldering tentacle back into the tank. 


“Clear!” she yelled again, and shocked a second tentacle.  The squid pulled all his remaining tentacles back to the tank.  He glared at Jesse, and then began to pull himself out of the tank toward her.


There was a sickening thud as a heavy oxygen canister landed firmly on the squid's head.  Slowly, he settled back down into the tank.  Standing behind him, with an irritated look on his face was Captain Larry, the owner of the hospital and seafood shop.


“If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: don't piss off the squids,” he said, then stomped off to the front of his shop, his peg leg beating a staccato rhythm against the tile floor.


I never saw Jesse again after that day; I'm told she dropped out of school.  For me, the rest of the rotation went smoothly, but I was certainly glad to return to a normal hospital.  As for that giant squid, he never bothered us again.  The sign on the front of the shop the next day said it all: Calamari, $1.99/pound.

First Place (current reader of Street Angel division) - Steve Mohundro:

22 Panels of Street Angel

First Place (employee of Slave Labor Graphics division) - Jennifer de Guzman (click for larger, easier-to-read version):

Jennifer de Guzman

First Runner-Up - Matt Cash (click for slightly larger version in color):

Matt Cash

Second Runner-Up - Libby:


Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated, especially those who already owned the issues but were inspired to contribute anyway.  Winners, please email me your addresses so I can send you your prizes, and everyone else - buy Street Angel!
Friday, June 25, 2004
  Re-examining The Classics
The V reconsider some of the supposed comic book classics:
Animal Man, what a load of rubbish. "Look, a picture of a hand holding a paintbrush! SIGNIFICANT!"

What fucks me off is MIRACLEMAN! "Oooh, look at me, I'm Superman, but I'm God, too!" - oh, how fucking clever. And oo, a Nietzsche quote, fucking get you, Alan Moore.

Don't forget Sandman! What a load of old tripe! "Have you read any books? Not as many as me! Where're my Sisters of Mercy albums?"


FLEX MENTALLO - "Ooo, look at my gay knickers! And now some shit about a rock star for completely no reason!" And all the superheroes were shit! I don't want to read about Morrison's wank-fantasies!

Look at Jimmy Corrigan - "Oh, woe, I'm a fat depressed bloke, isn't my life terribly meaningful?" No, and your comic's rubbish! It's all tiny boxes! If I wanted tiny boxes, I'd buy a Kellogg's Variety Pack!

The Dark Knight Returns? Ooooh - it's a guy dressed up as a fucking bat. I'm sure we're all petrified.

It's all such complete crap! "I'm Akira, look at me! I'm so fucking Japanese!" Putting a million explosions in your story instead of a story that makes sense should be illegal!
The only book that seems to hold up is that unassailable classic, ZERO HOUR:  "Comics were gash before ZERO HOUR!"
  Street Angel Squid Contest: Final Day!
Today is the last day to enter the Street Angel Squid Contest.  Entries must be submitted to me at by midnight Central time.  And to sweeten the deal, SLG's Jennifer de Guzman has graciously added a copy of Street Angel #3 (due out in September) to the prize package!  So you could win not one, not two, but three issues of the series Paul O'Brien referred to as "gloriously insane," "unmissable," and "even better [than] fantastic"!

Today's sample squid story comes from Rick Geerling:

Rick Geerling's Squid Battle

I think this must be a screenshot from the upcoming Street Angel video game.  And as Ken Lowrey pointed out, Rick managed to misspell 'luscious,' but that just makes it funnier.

Also be sure to check out Dave Lartigue's four-line tale of battle in the modern online age.  (This could be the first story that makes me feel bad for the giant squid.)

Finally, don't forget to enter!  And remember that Rick and Dave, as current readers of Street Angel, are ineligible to win, so you're not competing against them.  Now send me more squid stories, dang it!
Thursday, June 24, 2004
  A Look Back At Bargains
Reporting back on some of the bargains I mentioned two weeks ago:

Crying Freeman Perfect Collection: Portrait of a Killer - Yep.  I thought this looked like "a gonzo mix of sex and violence, all gorgeously illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami," and I was right.  The gimmick of having Hinomura Yo cry every time he assassinates someone was a bit odd, though.  Was this meant as a way of making an otherwise unlikable character sympathetic?  ("Yeah, he kills all kinds of people, but he feels really bad about it.")

Gon - Short, silly, silent strips detailing a tiny but powerful dinosaur's run-ins with other wildlife.  The stories are cute but a bit too quick, even taking into account the time that one can spend admiring Masashi Tanaka's lavish artwork.  I'm wondering how this book would go over with young children.  On the one hand, the stories are easy to follow and full of broad humor.  But on the other hand, kids might be put off by the detailed artwork, which almost seems like the antithesis of what one generally considers cartooning due to its intricate linework.

Club 9 Volume 2 - I generally think of this as a fun, lighthearted series, so re-reading the chapters collected in this volume came as somewhat of a shock:  I'd forgotten how tense the scenes dealing with a customer who attempts to force himself on Haruo are.  The book is still an upbeat one overall, but that opening sequence is as dark and suspenseful as anything Hitchcock came up with.

Chobits Volume 1 - I can see what Johanna likes about this manga, but I still think it's all dressed up in a manner too geared towards titillation.  For example, Chi, a persocom (a humanoid computer companion), is "turned on" when Hideki sticks his finger up her vagina.  Chi's arousal/activation is visually reinforced by having all her tattered garments fly off before she throws her naked body at Hideki.  Hideki lusts after Chi, which is a bit disturbing since the art and plot cast her as a young child relying on Hideki as her guardian.  Later, Hideki meets up with a little boy who surrounds himself with persocoms dressed as (and presumably serving as) personal sex slaves.  In the end, the interesting themes this book touches on are undercut by the art's pervasive pandering.

Sanctuary Volume 6 - Less annoying misogyny in this volume compared to earlier ones, although perhaps that's only because the general presence of women is almost nil:  Ishihara hardly has any scenes in this volume, and when she does appear, it's basically to fawn over Hojo.  A nice twist involving the primary antagonist of the series and the standard lovely art from Ikegami make this an enjoyable installment in this pulpy, political manga.

Berserk Volume 2 - Well, the villain in this volume was imaginatively grotesque (I was reminded of the oversized morphing flesh-babies from AKIRA combined with the slug-people from UZUMAKI) but the story still fell flat for me.  I can see how the over-the-top action is exciting in a visceral sort of way, but there's really nothing to ground the spectacle.  Yes, I know that Kenturo Miura is slowly planting the seeds for the eventual reveal of Guts' tragic past, but it's already two volumes in and I simply don't care.

Benkei in New York - The character of Benkei is definitely the best part of this book.  Pudgy and principled (he won't use a gun, because it distances one too much from the intimacy of the kill), he's definitely not your average hired killer.  But the stories themselves are somewhat unsatisfying.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Perhaps I'm having trouble reconciling the realistic art with the implausible plots.  It's not a bad book by any means, but I found it disappointing somehow.  Perhaps my expectations were just too high going in.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! - A fun but forgettable collection of strange cases wrapped up in three separate tales.  Reminded me somewhat of Paradox Press' "Big Book" series, but those were probably more successful in the end because they didn't try to force unrelated events into one narrative.

Batman: Gotham Noir - Probably one of the best Elseworlds I've read, in part because it focuses on a different character than usual (Jim Gordon instead of Batman) and does such a good job of evoking the style it's emulating.  This really did feel like a noir thriller, complete with the down-on-his-luck P.I., the dangerous dames, and the rotten underbelly of polite society.  Writer Ed Brubaker turns in some great hard-boiled dialogue, while artist Sean Phillips and colorist Dave Stewart do an outstanding job on the artistic duties.  I also thought the twist at the end worked very well.

Batman: Reign of Terror - What can I say?  It was a Batman Elseworlds.  It hit all the familiar notes, although surprisingly the Joker was not present (unless I missed him).  Instead, the villain of the piece was Harvey Dent, here playing the role of the Phantom of the Opera.  I'm not up on my French literature, so I'm sure there were references that slipped past me, but it was still a mildly fun diversion with nice José Luis García-López art.

Reaper  - Yeesh, this was awful.  Reading this I was reminded of the guy in your high school art class who spent all his time drawing muscle-bound barbarians chopping up each other, with the carnage rendered in excruciating detail.  I imagine this is the kind of comic that guy would go on to create.  Plus, it really was an amalgamation of almost every CrossGen comic ever published.  You had a brash young warrior (Ethan from SCION) who was preternaturally skilled in combat (Arwyn from SOJOURN); a viciously sadistic and seemingly unbeatable foe (Mordath from SOJOURN; Charon from NEGATION; Bron from SCION; come to think of it, pretty much any CG bad guy); a mysterious floating lady who went through all the trouble of putting on clothes, only to have her nipples perpetually showing anyway (kind of a combination of CG's "mentor" concept with the revealing wardrobe of THE FIRST); a grotesque henchmen created by the very villain he was sworn to destroy (Javi from MARK OF CHARON or any of the Negation from CRUX); a nebulously Asian setting (WAY OF THE RAT, THE PATH); horribly bloody and violent swordplay (THE PATH); and a magical MacGuffin everyone's fighting over (WAY OF THE RAT, SOJOURN).
  Only Two Days Left!
Well, two days to go in the Street Angel Squid Contest and stories continue to pour in from fans who have already read Street Angel, but so far participation is light from those yet to experience the delights of this comic.  Aren't you curious to sample a series that can inspire such creativity in its fans?  First up is a two-page mini-comic by Shawn Hoke (click for slightly larger images):

Shawn Hoke story pt. 1

Shawn Hoke story pt. 2

Next up is an interesting little story from Shane Bailey that adds a bit of continuity to the previously-viewed squid battles:
It began with blackness. Dark, dank blackness that spread as far as the eye can see  in all directions across the sky. The giant squid Chktlla'thukla eclipsed the sun's  rays as it spread its inky fluids across the once blue sky. Millions panicked as  the end drew near. Chktlla'thukla laughed mightily with his giant pincers and waved  a tentacle at the biggest building it could see. Just then it felt something; it felt fear. Chktlla'thukla had never felt this emotion before. It floated in the atmosphere looking  at this one solitary girl on a skateboard and it was scared...terrified. It swatted missiles  away and turned to run, but it couldn't take its eye off the girl for fear that she would  strike when it was exposed. A missile made it through and almost hit its eye due to his  concentration on the girl and as he blinked it away he lost sight of her. Chktlla'thukla  screamed in panic writhing across the sky looking around buildings and in windows.  It could find the girl nowhere. This fear was too could take no more and  turned to leave and head back to its home out in space, but it caught a flash out  of the corner of its eye as it turned. Oh No. The girl rode toward a makeshift ramp  on the rooftop closest to Chktlla'thukla. She gained more and more speed as Chktlla'thukla swung  its mighty tentacles wildly, hoping to stop what it knew was destined to happen.  The girl knew the one spot to hit to bring down the mighty god of the spaceways.  She was destined to always stop Chktlla'thukla in all of his forms. She had already  defeated his servants both in the ocean and on land in what the humans call  a "wrestling match." The girl jumped from the building on her skateboard, losing  the board as she flew through the air with a mighty kick straight at Chktlla'thukla's eye. She connected with a sickening squish as her foot entered his eye and the last thought  that entered into its mind was..."Where's Wertham when you need him."
Since both Shawn and Shane have already read Street Angel, they're not eligible for the prize.  Which means less competition for you.  So don't delay!  Enter today!!
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Over at The V, Matt Craig deciphers what Tom Derenick was getting at when he said, "I received the script for issues #5 and #6 and you'd swear to God he was channeling Alan Moore at some points."
Which means that the description for Panel One was three pages of detailed instructions on how big to draw the breasts, and how proud the nipples stood.






With scripts like this, The Absolute WorldWatch would certainly be an interesting prospect.
  "If This Be My Destiny!"
Only three days left in the Street Angel Squid Contest.  If you've heard about this great comic and are interested in a chance to win the first two issues, all you have to do is submit a story involving some sort of battle between Jesse and The Giant Squid.  (Sounds like a bizarre children's book, doesn't it?)  Here are two sample entries (non-eligible, by the way, so don't worry about having to compete against them) to inspire you:

Graeme's Kirbyesque Street Angel
Cosmic Sky-Skating Street Angel vs. The Space Squid, by Graeme McMillan
(click for larger image)

Next up is a bit of poetry from Ed Cunard:

The final battle for supremacy will not be fought with fists and tentacles, but with words. The scene: the Lyricists Lounge. A crowd hype for blood, aching for confrontation. The rules are set – each gets two chances to show the world who’s the greatest. The Giant Squid takes the coin toss, and proceeds to tear into Street Angel with some battle rhymes.


Oh, snap – what the hell is this I see?
Some scrawny street kid tryin’ to step to me?
I took you under the ocean and schooled you in the ring.
Now you’re hittin’ me up, tryin’ to bring
The battle rhymes? I own the ocean,
And I’m gonna own the streets
Check out my tentacles’ motion –
I’mma knock you right off your feets.
You’ll be needing a prosthesis
When I’m done spittin’ my thesis:
Watch your mouth, don't ever step out of line -
The Giant Squid, greatest of all time.

The crowd roars – the Squid owned. Street Angel keeps nodding her head, waits for the DJ to cue up the next beat, and just smiles.


You’re a rhyme-biter, squid – you ain’t keepin’ it real
Scouring the ocean looking for lines to steal.
I wouldn’t put it past a crustacean
To engage in a little plagiarization.
LL Cool J dropped that line in ’97,
Your tentacled ass needs to call nine-eleven
To help you come up with some rhymes of your own,
And you still won’t hit the depths of an old Zen koan.
Stick to what you know, kid, don’t bother dissin’
The one comic character to whom everyone’s listenin’ –
Reviews from Jakala, Cunard, Doane and Hoke,
And each of them know your skills are a joke.

Everyone was feeling STREET ANGEL – she’s got the home court advantage. The squid smiles as best a squid can with its funky squid mouth, because he knows she’s slipped up. From the look on Street Angel’s face, she knows it too…


Street kid, your knowledge is whack.
You best get your homeless ass back
To school, or maybe the library
To learn some knowledge contrary
To your train of thought – I ain’t no crustacean,
I’m a proud member of the United Nation
Of Cephalopods, and you only wish
You could run with my crew of Octopuses and scuttlefish.
But you wouldn’t know that, you’s a dummy,
And those dirty clothes are smellin’ real scummy.
Get back on that board, go fight some ninjas –
You won’t gain knowledge from injections from syringes.

It’s looking close – half the crowd is favoring the Squid at this point, the other backing Street Angel.


Argue definitions all you want, and you’re right -
You’re not a crustacean at the end of the night.
Crab legs are top shelf, and you’re generic –
Red Lobster Calamari ain’t very esoteric.
STREET ANGEL’s gourmet, which is why
To take from the cliché, the end is nigh.
I’d be guaranteed a win even if your style wasn’t weak.
I’ve got the title – you’re just some mutant freak.
I schooled the Incas, I rocked the ninjas of Pangea
And now I took care of you like Imodium does diarrhea.
There could be only one victor – I remain autonomic
‘Cause in the end, bro, it’s my name on the comic.

After that, the crowd realized the point is moot.

"It’s her book, man. She had to win that shit. I mean, crap, look at SPIDER-MAN – everyone that cat knows ends up dying, but he’s still always crackin’ jokes and shit. Status quo and all that."

"It wasn’t totally a foregone conclusion – we’re talking Slave Labor, not Marvel Comics. I mean, yeah, if it was Marvel, they’d try to forget about it. Clone who? Battle what?"

"True. But, damn, I got to give that squid props. I mean, for a sea creature, he rocked."

"Shit, that cat was recycling more lines than Chuck Austen. I was all ready for him to break into a line from Two Gentlemen of Verona and shit."

Street Angel gets down of the stage to throw her own two cents in.

"Kids, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who said what, who you thought was best, and how much that Squid sucks. It’s comics, guys. Arguing back and forth about it isn’t going to do a damn thing – you aren’t changing anything. I rocked the mic. I won. The end. Go home."

And at the end of the day, that was all that mattered.
See how easy--and fun--that is?  Now c'mon, don't you want to take a stab at this?
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  Details on DC's CMX Manga Imprint
UPDATE 6/23:  Well, Newsarama is now running the same press release (although interestingly they only refer to the lower "ABOUT THE LEAD TITLES AND TALENT" section as being from the press release, perhaps to give the impression that Newsarama actually interviewed individuals at DC about this?), so I guess it's safe to say this is official.

Got this in my inbox.  No idea if it's legit or not, but I figure this blog has no policy on running unsubstantiated press releases or not, so if it's a prank, it's no biggie.  If it is true, Congrats to Jake Tarbox, whom I remember fondly from his stint at Gutsoon!



forthcoming titles include THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLERs Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne AND TENJO TENGE, AS WELL AS TITLES by Tajima Sho-u (who created the character designs for the anime sequences in the FILM Kill Bill: VOLUME 1) and FUJII MIHONA’s GALS! (THE BASIS for the popular anime series SuperGals!)

Paul Levitz, President and Publisher of DC Comics (a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company) announced today that DC Comics will launch CMX, a new imprint of manga graphic novels, with the publication of three titles in October, 2004. The first three to be released are the initial volumes of MADARA (art by Tajima Sho-u and written by Otsuka Eiji from Kadokawa), Mekakushi no Kuni (illustrated and written by Tsukuba Sakura from Hakusensha), and EROIKA YORI AI WO KOMETE (illustrated and written by Aoike Yasuko from Akita Shoten.)

“There’s tremendous enthusiasm for manga in the States,” said Levitz. “New readers, particularly girls and women, have rushed to embrace new talent from abroad, which we’re excited to bring to American audiences as part of DC Comics’ commitment to publishing diverse and exciting works from around the world.”

Each of the CMX titles are Japanese manga, which are being released for the first time in the United States, and will be published in the traditional manga format—sized at 5 X 7 3/8”, with black and white interiors. Subsequent volumes of each series will be released on a quarterly schedule.

Upcoming titles include Fujii Mihona’s Gals ((GALS has been adapted as the popular anime series SuperGals!) from Shueisha), TENJO TENGE (by Oh! Great from Shueisha), 9 Banme no Musashi (by Takahashi Miyuki from Akita Shoten), Swan (by Ariyoshi Kyoko from Akita Shoten), MONSTER COLLECTION (by Sei Ito from Kadokawa Shoten), Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne by Tanemura Arina (from Shueisha), and AKUMA DE SORO (by Takanashi Mitsuba from Shueisha).

"We believe that manga readership is going to continue its rapid growth and also evolve in the US," said John Nee, Vice President of Business Development at DC Comics. "CMX is committed to publishing all genre of manga including horror, fantasy, science fiction and adventure titles and the line will be as diverse, and as author friendly, as that of DC Comics, Vertigo, and WildStorm."

Nee also announced today that DC Comics has hired Jake Tarbox as the Group Editor of the CMX imprint. Tarbox has spent the last 14 year living in Tokyo, Japan where he worked at Coamix, Inc. as the International Affairs Manager and Vice-Editor-Chief of Raijin Comics, administered the creation of the American subsidiary company Gutsoon! Entertainment, and edited the manga magazine, RAIJIN COMICS. Tarbox will handle the editorial responsibilities for the CMX imprint including overseeing the translation and printing of manga titles into English. 


MADARA Volume 1 (originally serialized in MARUKATSU FAMICOM magazine) represents the first work done together by the creators of the hit series MPD Psycho, artist Tajima Sho-u (who created the character designs for the anime sequences in the movie “Kill Bill”) and writer Otsuka Eiji. When his village is attacked by demons, Madara, a blacksmith’s apprentice, discovers that he possesses fantastic powers.

Artist Tajima Sho-u debuted as a manga artist in 1987 with the publication of Madara. He has worked on illustration and character design for computer games (including Galerians) and animation. He has illustrated MPD Psycho, Brothers Baby Baby, Madara Colors, and his current hit series Gorilla Kick.

In addition to his work with manga, writer Otsuka Eiji is a critic, essayist, and author of several successful non-fiction books on Japanese popular and “otaku” sub-cultures. In the 80s, Otsuka was editor-in-chief of MANGA BURIKKO, a leading women’s manga magazine where he pioneered research on the “otaku” sub-culture in modern Japan.

Mekakushi no Kuni Volume 1 was originally serialized in LaLa DX magazine from 1998 to 2004. In this nine volume series, creator Tsukuba Sakura tells the story of Otsuka Kanade, a high school girl who can see visions of the future. Should she act to change their fate, or sit back and wait for events to unfold?

A rising young author in the shojo manga world, Tsukuba Sakura decided to become a manga artist in high school. As she was about to graduate college, she furiously distributed her work to publishers. Her first published work was A Bright Spring Day, in LaLa magazine. She has also written and drawn Invisible World: a Dog’s Story (published in LaLa magazine) and Past Day Present (published in LaLa magazine).

Eroika yori Ai wo Komete Volume 1 was originally serialized in PRINCESS magazine from 1977 to the present. Eroika yori Ai wo Komete follows the adventures of a British aristocrat and international art thief who taunts his nemesis, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, by leaving notes behind at the scene of his crimes, signed “From Eroica with Love.” 

Aoike Yasuko’s first manga, Sayonara Nanette, was published in RIBBON magazine when she was fifteen years old. Afterwards, she garnered attention by publishing several hit stories in rapid succession, including Shojo Blend, When Roses Cry, Oh Carol, “I love you, Tetsu-sensei,” and “Hey, Young Guy.” In 1976 her sci-fi comedy Sons of Eve in PRINCESS magazine, represented a switch from pure shojo stories to a new kind of storytelling.

Debuting in 1977, Eroika yori Ai wo Komete became a huge best seller, and its sequel series is still being serialized today. The series is built on a great deal of research about European art history, and has helped to popularize many European painters in Japan as well as Japanese tours of European art museums.

Aoike Yasuko has continued a long and productive career in the pages of PRINCESS, a highly popular girl’s manga anthology magazine. But her work is so popular that she is at present concurrently publishing stories in several magazines. She is the creator of Miriam Blue's Lake, Sons of Eve, Seven Seas, Seven Skies, The Castle, Ivy Navy, Trafalgar, Z, Der Freischutz, Alcasar, The Tale of a Priest and a Doctor, The Day of Saladin, Richard, the Lion-Hearted, Brother Falco, The Temptation of Scarlet, The Carthaginian Fantasy, The Melancholy of Her Majesty, The Knight of Drachen, and Plus Ultra.

  "Lo, There Shall Come...A Manhunter!!"
Milo George wonders: "supercomics has inspired what first-rate writer[s] to create a similarly substantial body[ies] of criticism/critical journalism?"

Clearly, then, Milo is unfamiliar with the works of one Mr. John Jones, writer of the esteemed and erudite "Martian Vision" essays.  Jones (brilliantly taking his pen name from an obscure 1950s character believed by some to be the first "true" Silver Age superhero) writes at length on such refined and rarefied topics as "Superhuman Sensuality," "Metahuman Metaphysics," and "Asexual Androids."  He has also written exhaustive critical retrospectives examining specific creators' bodies of works.  Finally, Jones has even provided his readers with transcripts detailing his correspondence with fellow students of the supercomic form.

If Milo is aware of Mr. Jones' writings but believes Jones does not fit the bill, then whom would Milo accept as a "first-rate writer" with a "substantial body of [supercomic] criticism"?  Or perhaps Milo believes that Jones' occasional forays into other topics dilutes Jones' classification as a pure supercomic critic.  Or could Milo and Jones have had a falling-out, inspiring a grudge similar to the one Jones holds toward writer Kurt Busiek?  Whatever the case, it is my hope that after reading some of the afore-linked articles, others will acknowledge the unsung genius of John Jones (AKA, "Doc Nebula") even if Milo George will not.
Monday, June 21, 2004
  Howling Over Howling Curmudgeons
The comments thread for The Top Nine Comic Book Supervillains just makes my day:
Super-Gorilla Grodd.... Plus, and I can't emphasize this enough, he's a talking gorilla.

The Shark, for using an "invisible yellow force field" for protection against Green Lantern. Because Green Lantern's ring can't penetrate anything yellow, even if it's invisible. That's just plain good comics.

[On Thanos and his motivations:]  That kind of psychosexual shenanigan is just plain good comics.

Kang the Conqueror is a yutz, who has yutz written all over him, and whose DNA coils up into chromosomes that remarkably resemble the word "yutz".  ...As for Yutz the Conqueror, the fact that he also wants to show up on the list in four different kinds of drag contributes to his yutzian nature.

[On why The Anti-Monitor shouldn't make the list:]  he's only great by fiat, which is to say about as great as Doomsday or Bane (albeit much better drawn), and he's got one of the worst names in comics. (Shouldn't the Anti-Monitor just... I don't know, not watch people?)

the Red Skull is just coasting on that whole Nazi thing. It's like he doesn't even try any more.

[On why Shazam villain Mr. Mind is cool, despite literally being a tiny little worm:]  Besides, you have to give it up for a worm so evil, the state electrocutes him.
(There's also a spinoff thread where various people try to work out the parameters for what makes a Great Villain, but for my money the first thread is much more fun.)
  Monday Miscellany
Over at Broken Frontier, Shawn Hoke is running a mini-comics contest in conjunction with online mini-comics distribution Bowzizzer:  Create your own mini-comic for a chance to win mini-comics!

Added two new bloggers to the blogroll today:  Erin M. Schadt (otherwise known as the Comic Queen; thanks to Laura Gjovaag for the link) and David from Precocious Curmudgeon.  Both are relatively new, but I'm already enjoying their snark.  Here Erin offers some advice to the the artist on Birds of Prey:  "Yep, women have boobs – get over it Bennett."  David also noticed Bennett's boob fixation and how it undermined writer Gail Simone's emphasis on characterization and humor:  "Unfortunately, guest artist Joe Bennett didn’t seem to get the memo. Tits ahoy!"  (David has also discovered the joys of Sgt. Frog and is looking for other manga recommendations.  Gero gero gero!!)

Hmm.  When we were catsitting a couple months ago, Olive never seemed to show much interest in my comics.  Maybe she just waited until I went to sleep and snuck into my office to read them.

I think I'm going to recommend this for ADLO's next round of critical analysis.  If there's any undiscovered genius in Austen's work, I'm sure ADLO can find it.  (I wonder if a publisher or creator would ever send someone a comic for mocking?  "No, I don't want to review your comic.  I just want to mock it mercilessly.")  Thanks to Graeme for spotting this.

Got some more comic bargains yesterday, including the Dark Knight Strikes Again hardcover for only $6.  After reading it, I wish I'd spent that money on something trashy and fun, like the first three volumes of Wounded Man, which were on clearance for $2 apiece.  I was thinking of writing more about my reactions to DKSA, but I really don't want to set off another round of You Just Don't Get The Joke.  Besides, I think ADD addressed pretty much everything I would have tried to cover.  And Chris Allen summed up my feelings about the "But Miller Was Doing Something Different and Non-Reverential" defense with this line about Miller's art in DKSA:  "[No] matter how admirable it is that he chose not to repeat himself, the art here is just flat-out ugly a lot of the time."  Add plot, pacing, characterization, dialogue, attempts at humor and political satire, and everything else to that assessment and I think that about does it.

Finally, to end on a positive note, Newsarama has a blurb that Dark Horse will be reprinting Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus as a series of trade paperbacks.  No news on what exactly will be reprinted, but I'd love to have any of this classic series collected and sitting on my bookshelf.

Fantastic and Fascistic!
  All Naked Rob Liefeld Captain America, All The Time
Courtesy of Elena Berges, those of us unable to read Spanish can finally enjoy ADLO's analysis (warning: progressively work-unsafe) of Rob Liefeld's unique take on Captain America:

(Page 1)
(Image: Rob Liefeld's Captain America)

Greetings, true believers! Before you, *ADLO*! sets itself to distill the true essence of *genius*, the *peak* to which few artists (*Leonardo da Vinci* and *Mr Bean*, to quote two examples) have achieved thanks to the tip of their... *fingers*, and in which our spiritual leader *ROB!* moves like rice paper on the light table.

We all know this *great work* in which the artist par excellence presents the American symbol par excellence, *Coca Cola*.. erm, sorry, *Captain America!* in a version that not only took the best from the creations of *Joe Simon*, *Jack Kirby* and *Ana Rosa Quintana*[1], but raised it to the altar of geniality.

But *Genius* does not only come from innate *talent*. True *genius* digs below the mere drawing to reach the *essence* of the character. Just like *Picasso* rejected 50 sketches of the *Demoiselles d'Avignon*, to tell something about some chicks I haven't really understood, the great artist *ROB!*, who doesn't need so much sketching, dived into the character of *Captain America* to show us a deep portrait of American society.

Before all of us, *ROB!* shows the ideal American, multiracial, who speaks with an universal language to mankind; the shield, ready to protect, the chin mighty, firm chest, offering it to the enemy like a brave man, and a stance that makes us think not only of two pectorals, but of four.

[1] Ana Rosa Quintana is the Spanish Oprah, and famous for a case of plagiarism. This is why she's the muse of ADLO!

(Page 2)
(Image: Same drawing, but without the shield)

However, behind that apparent invulnerability, the great artist reflects a more complex reality, and a hidden message only for intelligent eyes. But, *Alas!*, the genius of the artist's mind is far above ours, mere talentless mortals.

Be grateful that I, after a *revelation*, in which I saw Babylon burn, a goat with twelve horns and in each horn a name, and in each name a city, and in each city a... ehem, sorry, I mean, we've accessed the *Hidden Files* of *ROB!* to show us, readers, what hides *ROB!'s Captain America*.

Analyzing with spectrographies, chromatographies and X rays generously handed over by a *Kryptonian* we observe that divesting Captain America of his shield, the likeness, the strength of the character remain plain to see, but it's also made patent by the shape of his buttocks, his pressed abdominals (maybe a *girdle*?) and his swollen mammaries, that we are not only in front of a watchful *fatherly* figure, but also a *motherly* one, who waits lovingly for her children.

With this simple picture, we are offered a likeness of *America* as father - mother of her inhabitants. But, in the manner of *Chinese boxes*, where one revelation leads to another, lie in this work more *hidden messages*, that only with a risky communion of hi-tech and mystical expectation can we guess.

(Page 3)
(Image: Captain America has been stripped off his clothes below the neckline and has a tiny tiny penis)

The *Father - Mother* duality of the symbolism inherent in the character, true believers, is strengthened in a deeper inspection.

Stripping *Captain America* of his clothes the *hermaphroditism* fades away. Despite the Captain's testicular ostentation, his *member* does not correlate to his mammary capacity.

What do we have here, then? He's no longer a *perfect* hermaphrodite, no longer the ideal *father - mother*. Now he is a father that tries to be a mother, because his authority, his *virile potency*, is reduced.

In a few lines, the *supreme artist* gives us an acute and critical reflection about the North-American society *Captain America* represents. From a father watchful for his children (the Army) to a loving mother (the Motherland) to a being of mere appearance. The sociologic criticism in a work of such symbolism, hidden to the majority, could only be made by a peerless genius.

(Page 4)
(Image: Same as above, but the tiny tiny penis is erect)

But the surprises and the *message* that this *genius* has offered the world don't end in a mere criticism. If we *investigate* even further, if we *observe* more with the heart than the eyes, we will be witnesses of a *revelation*.

YES! Although we all could think that the *member* of the character was dead weight, *ROB!* shows us that it's *operational*. Ready to *penetrate*, to *conquer*, to face the adversities.

This is what makes a *hero*, rising above his *defects* to achieve what others do effortlessly and yet, surpassing them. *ROB!* hasn't made a mere portrait of a *superhero*, or a mere critic of a *nation*; no, true believers. *ROB!* has portrayed the whole of *mankind*. A portrait full of tenderness and love for humankind, which sees us as *heroes* fighting against ourselves.

We must be aware of the *messages* hidden in the work of the artist. And neither can we dwell on mere superficial analysis. The simple act of brushing the *work* of this author, of this *genius*, draws us to inspect ourselves, to peel off our layers of knowledge like the peels of an onion. We must *unlearn* our patterns of thinking. Only this way will we be able, if anything, to take a peek at what happens in the mind of a *genius*.

Truly thought-provoking stuff, but I'm still trying to work out how it all fits in with the ongoing "Are superheroes fascistic?" debate.  (So Cap's tiny penis means he's not a fascist?  Or does it make him [and, by analogy, the U.S.] more fascistic as he tries to overcompensate for his, ahem, shortcomings?)  In the meantime, be sure to browse the rest of ADLO's site for further critical commentary, such as a page-by-page analysis of Liefeld's "Heroes Reborn" version of Captain America; an appreciation of the perfect Liefeldian female form; an examination of the symbolism behind Cap's size-changing shield; a comparative study of the many cases of plagiarism supposedly committed by Liefeld; and much, much more.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
  Sundry Sunday Linkblogging
More updates to Friday's Rob Liefeld Captain America entry.  I'm still waiting for the English language edition of ADLO's analysis of Rob's Cap, but in the meantime, Elena has a nice summary of the whole lost-in-translation spectacle so far.

CrossGen files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  (Comic World News originally broke the story, but their site's been down all morning.)

Matt Maxwell (not a permalink) covers covers.  And while he may just be kidding about wanting to know what's going on with the cover to IRON FIST #1, I'm being completely sincere when I say that I'm looking forward to finding out why Iron Man and Iron Fist got into a fight with each other.  Perhaps Tony Stark felt a hero with the name "Iron Fist" would weaken the strength of his own superheroic brand?

Johanna, responding to Carl Henderson's complaints, explains why she digs manga and why she thinks detractors are missing the point.

Johanna also reviews the new manga version of Sabrina.  (I pre-ordered this and am looking forward to reading it before I pass it along to my niece.)

Speaking of Archie comics, I find this interesting because (for me at least) it demonstrates how a creator's later work (or the work you're most familiar with) can forever color your perceptions of his other work.  I simply can't look at these earlier girlie pin-ups by Dan DeCarlo without thinking of Betty, Veronica, or any of the other "wholesome" gals from Riverdale.  Which results in a weird case of cognitive dissonance for me, since I'm a fan of vintage pin-up art, but I'm creeped out by what my brain perceives as "dirty Archie comics."

I know this is an old one, but I just got around to reading it finally:  Jason Kimble provides an interesting analysis of the divide between the extraordinary and the gentlemanly in League of Extraordinary Gentleman.  His thesis inspires thoughtful responses from Marc Singer and Jess Nevins.

Finally, don't forget to enter the Street Angel Squid Contest, which ends Friday, June 25th!
Friday, June 18, 2004
  Because Fans Forget What A Rack Romita's MJ Had
In a vein similar to the snippets of the Paul Galacy interview Fanboy Rampage excerpted today, here's a choice quote from Newsarama's interview with Frank Cho:
NRAMA: While artistic renditions of Spider-Man stay fairly consistent, over the years different artists have depicted Mary Jane in a number of different ways… and this clearly makes sense. After all, she's a fashion model and should reflect the fashion of the times. So, considering this, what should fans expect from your stylistic rendering of Peter Parker's main-squeeze?

FC: A big rack.
(Cho goes on to say that he's only kidding, but looking at his sample art for Spider-Man so far it doesn't seem as though he's kidding.  And I say that as someone who likes Cho's art, even his same-woman-every-time women.)
  The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Just when you thought you'd finally purged all traces of NAKED ROB LIEFELD CAPTAIN AMERICA from your brain, along comes this (translation via Babel Fish):
Days ago, one of my contacts warned to me that in one of the posteos of weblog call Grotesque Anatomy it was being spoken of Captain America de Rob Liefeld . Author, John Jakala, is not indeed fan of ROB! , but not even the greater detractors of the Teacher can escape to the influence of their magic: the dream of John was to see America Captain of ROB! so and as Diso it brought it to the world. But their searches in Google ("ROB LIEFELD CAPTAIN AMERICA NAKED") were unfruitful... how it was going to know he who that single material was available in Spanish, ADLO courtesy!

The case is that I have never resisted to make a boy happy, so I connected the page at issue in comments of his weblog (for general rejoicing of its visitors). And he is peculiar to verify how, once last the initial impact, to the Americans gave them to do one of the things that better know to do...

... to censure the image
Even more interesting were some of the remarks in the comments thread about this "censored" image:

Cap & Starfish

"I believe that they have taken a step further on in search of gallant sex: the Captain practicing zoofilia with a starfish."  (Again, translation courtesy Babel Fish.)

Dear lord.  Dave Lartigue has unintentionally added to Cap's humiliation by depicting him as a...lover of starfish.  (I'm reminded of that Simpsons episode with Troy McClure's "fish fetish":  "What I have is a romantic abnormality--one so unbelievable that it must be hidden from the public at all costs.")  I don't even want to know what, by extension, that logic implies about this picture:

Cap & Rob

(There's more of interest at the Adlo blog, including this entry about the weird disconnect between Marvel's different imprints and the level of sexualization in the covers for each respective imprint.  Or at least that's what I get out of the post as rendered by Babel Fish, but I admit that lines such as "Gentlemen of Marvel: Adult line = cover sow. Asexual classic line = carried." make me question the quality of the translation.)

UPDATE:  As expected, ADLO noticed that I'd spotted their entry, so the original comments thread is growing.  (Click here for the garbled English translation via Babel Fish.)  Only problem is, Babel Fish is choking on some of the words, so I'm missing part of what's being said.  Any readers who are fluent in Spanish want to help me out here?

In the meantime, I liked this as an alternate theory of why we Yanks covered up Cap's naughty bits:
What happens is that yankis has discovered the GREAT secret of the Captain. And sure something so humiliating is a slap for its patriotism.  For that reason they try to hide the reality, but they do not count whereupon for ADLO! xDDDDD does not exist the censorship
Why do I feel as though my very country has just been shamefully emasculated?

MORE:  Elena has a nice recap of "The Story So Far..."
  Street Angel: Squid Contest*
Following up on Wednesday's love letter to Street Angel #2, I've decided (with the permission of creator Jim Rugg) to post the squid battle scenes from the first two issues of Street Angel.  Behold and enjoy!

Squiddy #1
Squid Battle #1 (Scuba-Gear Street Angel sold separately)

Squiddy #2
Squid Battle #2 (Wrestling-Action Street Angel comes with devastating Overhead Hammer Blow!)

I wasn't going to post these images, partly because I thought that if anyone wanted to see them they should buy the books, but I worried that people might not know what I was talking about.  Anyway, the images are scaled down considerably, so if you want the full effect you should buy the comics--or enter the first ever Street Angel Squid Contest*.  Since I'm going through squid fight withdrawal (and Rugg only made it worse by taunting me with this enigmatic teaser:  "rest assured, you will be surprised by issue 3's, ahem, competition") I figured you readers could help me out by chronicling some of Jesse's undocumented battles against the giant squid.  The person who composes the best "untold tale" will win the first two issues of Street Angel--FREE!  I'll even cover shipping (in the U.S. only; but if you're outside the U.S. and don't mind paying international shipping, feel free to enter the contest).

Street Angel #1
Street Angel #2

To enter, simply send me your squid story at with the header "Street Angel Squid Contest."  I'll pick my favorite entry and you'll win the comics!  You'll finally be able to see what all the hoopla for this great comic is about, and I'll be able to satisfy my squid skirmish jones.  It's a win-win situation!!  (Well, except for those participants who don't win anything, but at least I'll get to read your squid stories.)  Deadline is Friday, June 25, midnight Central time.  I'll post the winning story (and some of the better runner-ups) sometime the following week.  (I'd let the contest run longer than a week, but I need those stories, man!)

UPDATE:  To encourage the submission of as many squid stories as possible, I'll also throw in a special to-be-determined BONUS PRIZE in the event that someone sends in a stunningly brilliant squid story but they already happen to own the first two issues of Street Angel.  I want the Street Angel comics to go to someone who hasn't yet read them, but I also want as many squid stories as I can get my hands on, so hopefully this will encourage participation from everyone.  So if you already have the Street Angel comics, please let me know in your entry.  (Special ADDITIONAL BONUS PRIZE to Ed Cunard for inspiring this addendum to the context.)

* Contest not affiliated in any way with The Squiddies, The Squiddy Awards, or Suicide Squid.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
  But Superman Is So Powerful!
The Superhero Question of the Day is:  Are superheroes an essentially fascistic idea?

As usual, the answer is:  it depends.  What do we mean by "fascistic" anyway?  If by that we simply mean "violent," then, yes, I can see how superheroes are supposed to be fascistic since most of them solve problems by beating up bad guys.  If, however, by "fascistic" we mean  (as Tim O'Neil apparently does) "characteristic of a system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism," then, no, I don't think superheroes are essentially fascistic.  Yeah, I know there have been superhero stories that explicitly play up the superheroes as (political) fascists angle (Squadron Supreme, Miracleman, the upcoming Superman/Batman arc), but isn't a more common complaint about corporate superhero comics that the heroes almost never intervene in the political affairs of humanity?  (I'm thinking of the Dini/Ross oversized tabloid books especially.)

Furthermore, many superheroes (especially those in the 60s Marvel mold) seem to struggle regularly with doubts about the rightness of their actions.  Spider-Man in particular strikes me as a character who wrestled frequently with bouts of self-doubt or second-guessing himself.  Of course one could point out that the quality of such self-examination was often more indulgent than illuminating, but at least the characters were shown engaging in something approximating critical reflection.  Such tendencies toward checking one's behavior and beliefs seem foreign to the mindset of the fascist.  For the fascist, isn't everything permitted in the pursuit of one's goals?

I guess I've never thought that superhero comics were about "[u]ncritical acceptance of powerful authority figures."  In fact, superhero comics were never about my perspective toward heroes, but about trying to understand the perspective of the heroes.  So for me, superhero comics were generally about certain morals:  Try to do the right thing even when it's inconvenient or costly for oneself.  Use one's abilities to help others.  When you meet another hero, attempt to resolve any misunderstanding that might spring up by punching first and asking questions later.  (Just kidding about that last one, but it did seem to be a common theme in many superhero comics from my childhood.  I think the important point was that the heroes always resolved their misunderstandings before anyone was seriously injured.  Perhaps the whole cliché of heroes mistaking each other for villains was meant as a metaphor for how in life there will be people you butt heads with at first but come to regard amicably in the end, but I admit I may be stretching here.)  Then again, I was only a little kid when I thought I'd figured this stuff out, so maybe I was just being a simplistic moron.
  Getting What You Wish For
Howdya like that for gratitude?  I complain about having to wait an extra month to read Demo #6, Larry Young hears my plight and graciously sends me a copy, and then I never write about it.  Really, it just goes to show how easily I get distracted.  I meant to write about the issue much earlier--I even took notes on my immediate reactions as I read the story through the first time (notes I can no longer find, natch, and the only thing I recall from memory was that the opening page reminded me of Alec Stevens)--but I got caught up in reading everyone else's thoughts on the story and surrounding topics, and then lost my motivation to jot down my own thoughts.

So what are my thoughts on "What You Wish For"?  Well, one of the nice things about coming into the conversation so late in the game is that I can simply piggyback off what others have already said, taking a little from Column A, a little from Column B.  Several people have complained about the gap between events in the framing sequence and Ken's past, wondering how Ken got from point A (child with supernatural powers and repressed anger) to point B (seemingly well-adjusted adult groom).  That didn't bother me much.  For one thing (as I think others noted) we have no guarantees that Ken really is well-adjusted as a grown-up.  Presumably he could snap again at any moment, especially if something were to happen to his lovely bride or his beloved dog (again).  And I didn't have a problem with Ken's supposed passivity, or his lashing out, or his "getting away with it."  (I mean, other than the sense that I'd have a problem with these events were they to happen in real life.)  As Sean Collins remarked, "a one-two punch of institutional racism and animal abuse" seems like an understandable motivation for mass murder, even if it's still not excusable.

The part I did have a problem with was the scene where Ken suddenly reined in his end-of-the-world, dogs-and-cats-living-together wrath with a meek "OK."  I'm not sure why, but that scene made me laugh (in much the same way that most of The Day After Tomorrow made me laugh), which I doubt was the intent of Wood or Cloonan.  I think it was the abrupt shift in tone.  Or perhaps it was the feeling I got that Ken so looked up to this nameless Asian (?) gardener, simply because they physically resembled each other in some way, that Ken would have done anything the gardener demanded.  "Hey, kid, what can you do about raising my wife from the dead?  No, wait--scratch that.  Bring me the animated remains of...Linda Lin Dai!"

Another part that bugged me was that Ken somehow got his dog back.  It's bad enough that this simply happens with no explanation or internal logic (if Ken's powers allow him not only to reanimate the dead but also to bring them back to life, why doesn't he resurrect all the people he's just killed?), but it also undermines the very lesson Ken's supposedly learned.  At the end Ken implies that the sight of his dog keeps him from going over the edge again because there's a constant reminder of what happened "staring [him] right in the face."  Actually, isn't what's staring him right in the face a reminder that he gets what he wants when he loses his temper?

In general, I didn't really feel frightened or unnerved or even grabbed by this story.  (I blame Junji Ito for spoiling all other horror comics for me.)  Plus, the art seemed more uneven than in previous issues.  Check out the dad on page...wait, that's right--there are no page numbers.  Well, that's OK because the dad looks off in pretty much every scene in which he appears.  (On a positive note, I agree with Sean Collins that Cloonan makes Ken's bride both attractive and authentic:  "the protagonist's bonnie new bride, for example, is refreshingly human and real, a woman you could quite conceivably fall in love with as opposed to the usual Brechtian device connoting 'PRETTINESS.'")

As for the debate about what's missing from the story (and the series overall), I'm still not sure I understand Johnny B's specific complaint (the complaint that launched a thousand blog entries).  Perhaps, as he suggests, part of it is due to being conditioned by years of reading mainstream superhero comics to expect some grand scheme (retroactively inserted by John Byrne, no less) that will tie everything together.  Would he (and by "he" I mean anyone who feels this way about Demo) have the same expectation if he were reading a collection/series/anthology of short stories about everyday non-super-powered individuals?  Would he dismiss stand-alone short stories by the same author as "trivial and inconsequential somehow" if they didn't all hang together?

And on that note, we now return you to your regularly-scheduled discussion of Demo #7 (which will take place on this blog approximately one to two weeks after everyone else has started analyzing Demo #8).
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  Lovestruck Ramblings: Street Angel #2
STREET ANGEL #2Street Angel #2 (Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics • 24 B&W Pages • $2.95) - Lord, I love this comic.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the front cover (which Ray Tate referred to as "ghastly," although I'm not sure why; then again my blog is named "Grotesque Anatomy") and found that what I had assumed was a throwaway image in issue #1 was in fact an ongoing story continued in this issue's inside front cover.  Yes, Jesse's war with the giant squid rages on.  Whereas last issue the squid seemed to have the upper hand(s) -- after all, they were fighting in his element -- somehow Jesse survived to fight another day.  This time, the setting seems to favor Jesse, although perhaps some clarification regarding the venue is required.  It's definitely on land this time, but Jesse seems to think it's a wrestling ring while the squid came prepared for a boxing match.  Perhaps Jesse purposely misled the squid so that he'd be at a disadvantage.  Still, how will Jesse prevail?  She's shown in mid-leap, descending upon the squid in a wrestling move of questionable validity, but the squid already has four arms up ready to pummel our heroine!

After a cliffhanger thrill like that, it was hard to focus on the "main" story.  Thankfully Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca packed a whole lot of entertaining distractions into the following twenty-four pages:  hip-hop Incan sun gods; time-travelling Conquistador pirates; Australian-accented, rocket-propelled Irish astronauts; slacker ninjas; and, of course, the titular Street Angel herself.  After a while, I began to lose myself in the humorous tale and the wonderful artwork.  I even thought I detected a subtle improvement over last issue's already excellent art, as the line weight seemed more confident and varied this time around.

Alas, all too soon the engaging diversion was over and my thoughts returned to the eternal struggle between Jesse and her arch-nemesis, the giant squid.  Somehow I knew that the battle had ended without a clear victor.  Both combatants probably got in some good blows, yet both probably took some serious licks as well.  Where, I wondered, would their next encounter take place?  Some volcanic wasteland?  The snow-capped Himalayas?  The deepest, darkest jungles of the Amazon rainforest?  A deserted parking ramp?  Some alien planet, with strange and possibly dangerous animal and plant life covering the landscape?  Whatever the setting, one thing is certain:  I'll be there, eager for more.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
  Stooge Reviews: Hench
Hench (AiT/Planet Lar • 80 B&W Pages • $12.95) tells the tale of, well, a henchman.  You know, one of the nameless grunts employed as cannon fodder by the big supervillains.  Only in this book we get a name as well as a story to go along with the muscle.  Mike Fulton is a down-on-his-luck ex-football player trying to make enough money to support his family, and trying to find a substitute for the thrills of the game.  He thinks he's found an answer to both of his needs when an old friend approaches him with an offer:  Henching.

Of course, as anyone who's read superhero comics knows, henching isn't a very glamorous gig.  More often than not, it's a path to prison or the infirmary, not easy street.  Still, unsure of what else to do, Fulton continues to take his lumps, which gives us a chance to see the varied villains writer Adam Beechen and artist Manny Bello have come up with.  But beyond the riffs on classic bad guys, Beechen and Bello have crafted an engaging character in Fulton:  He's not always likable--heck, midway through the story he's downright despicable--but he still manages to hold our sympathy for the most part.

The obvious comparison for such a character-driven examination of the superhero genre is Kurt Busiek's Astro City.  And although Hench is a bit darker in content and tone than Astro City, the story of Mike Fulton is one I could easily imagine Busiek working into his series.  Not because Hench is derivative of Astro City or any other comic, but because Hench shares a certain approach--a certain spirit--with that series.  Reading Hench, you get the sense that Beechen has a genuine love for superhero comics, as well as an overactive imagination that couldn't stop wondering about the parts of the story we never got to see.

There were a lot of little details that I loved about this book:  the full-page homages to classic comic book covers (and the little arrows pointing out Mike in each of them); the discussions about the different villains and why you did or didn't want to work for them; the story structure, which shifts back and forth between present and past very effectively, thereby heightening the tension of the situation Fulton finds himself in.  Only one story element didn't ring true for me--the scene where a hero loses control and everything is covered up by the media.  Given the way that the press goes after celebrities and politicians, I find it hard to believe that a superhero causing so much destruction would be given a free pass.

As for the art, it's definitely the weakest part of Hench.  Bello's work is unpolished and, in many cases, seems unfinished.  Many panels look like rough layouts rather than finished pencils, and there's much too much empty space throughout the book.  There are moments where you get a sense of the promise Beechen and publisher Larry Young refer to in this CBR interview ("'the bastard child of Brian Bolland and Paul Grist"?  I don't see it, although I would like to see Bello on Man-Thing based on this sample page), but most of the time the artwork feels sloppy and rushed.  (And perhaps much of the artwork was rushed:  According to this Comic Pimp column, Bello was hurrying to meet his deadline.)  Here's an example of a page that felt particularly slapdash (taken from CBR; the narrative captions are missing, but otherwise this art looks exactly the same as what appears in the printed graphic novel):

Hench page

Notice how the structure of the pavilion changes from the first to the last panel (where did that extra level of columns come from?)  Notice the crude, half-rendered outlines meant to suggest security guards in the third panel.  Notice the bizarre, amateurish anatomy throughout.  This is not the work of an accomplished professional.  There are occasional instances where Bello rises above such clumsy, inconsistent art (mainly in the detailed texturing he lavishes on the Batman analogue the Still of the Night), but the overall effort is one that mars the book.

Complaints about the quality of the art aside, Hench is still a worthwhile, enjoyable book.  I'd recommend it based on the strength of the story alone, but be sure to click through some of the links above to see if the art is a deal-breaker for you or not.
  Who'd Win?
The V are at it again:

Ogami Itto vs. Akira:
SFX: gara gara gara gara

Akira: ...

Ogami Itto: Hrrng!




Peasants: Lordy!

Ogami Itto vs. Batman:

WRONG! Your logic is based on a flawed premise. Ogami Itto is not Japanese 19th Century Batman, he's LONE WOLF. He's SIMILAR to Batman, but he's not Batman. Easily shown via this simple logical conundrum:

Who wins out of Ogami Itto and Batman? Answer: DINNA DINNA DINNA DINNA DINNA DINNA DINNA DINNA BATMAN!


Ogami Itto is Batman's great great great great great grandfather, according to V Super-Continuity:
"To avenge you, my wife... I shall become.... a wolf"

"Ninjas are a cowardly and superstitious lot... "
Batman vs. Batman from THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS:
Old Batman also has his own private army, and prepubescent totty to distract Young Batman: 'Quick, Robin! Flash him your knickers! Good soldier."
Now I want to know how Batman from THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS would be able to defeat Akira.  (Really, Kaneda since Kaneda "defeats" Akira at the end of AKIRA.) (Or how TDKR Batman would be able to defeat Kaneda, since Kaneda survives every outlandish threat that's thrown at him through sheer stubbornness.)
  Fun With Marvel's Solicits
Graeme's found an early copy of Marvel's September solicits over on Millarworld.  I, for one, was disappointed to see that they've splintered the awesome GENERATION X-PACK concept into solo titles such as MADROX, JUBILEE, and WARLOCK, but there's still plenty to pick on in the remaining solicits:
Written by Bruce Jones
Cardstock Cover & Pencils by Jae Lee
Bruce Jones and superstar artist Jae Lee bring you the ultimate Hulk/Thing battle! Think you know everything about the unique relationship between Marvel’s two most powerful sluggers? Guess again.

What "unique relationship"?  They just pound on each other.  This isn't rocket science, folks.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by Alex Maleev & Friends
Cover by Greg land
Daredevil headlines this special, oversized issue celebrating both the 40th anniversary of the character AND the 5th anniversary of the groundbreaking Marvel Knights imprint! The Eisner-winning team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev invite some of the greatest comic artists who have never before drawn Daredevil to answer the question: How has the public revelation of Daredevil’s secret identity affected the rest of the Marvel Universe? This once-in-a-lifetime gathering of super heroes and superstar talent includes Spider-Man, Captain America, The Punisher, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Elektra, and many more. Artists include Maleev and a band of stars including Chris Bachalo, Michael Golden, Greg Horn, Jae Lee, Mike Mayhew, Frank Quitely, and P. Craig Russell (at least)!

Does that "at least" qualifier read as "we don't want to risk making this returnable by naming too many specific artists" to anyone else?
A: The surest evidence yet that Robert Kirkman has some damn good dirt on someone at Marvel.
NYX #6
Written by Joe Quesada
Penciled by Robert Teranishi
Cover by Joshua Middleton
What if you could become anyone in the world for a day? What would you do? Who would you be? Captain America fighting alongside the Avengers? Bono during a concert in Wembley Stadium? Meet a young mutant who doesn't have to wonder. His powers let him be anyone he wants, and he isn't shy about using them.

What is this?  Like the sixth or seventh time this has been cancelled and resolicited?
Written by mike carey
Cover & Pencils by Salvador Larroca
"DEVIL’S DUE" Part 2 (of 5)
A slam-bang second issue! Ultimate Kingpin enters the life of the young warrior, Elektra, and he’s joined by a mystery killer who’s right on target! What does that mean for Matt Murdock?

Why stop at appending "Ultimate" in front of "Kingpin"?  Wouldn't this solicit read much better if it were: "Ultimate Kingpin enters the life of the ultimate young warrior, Ultimate Elektra, and he’s joined by an ultimate mystery killer who’s right on ultimate target! What does that mean for Ultimate Matt Murdock?"?
X-MEN #161 & #162
Written by Chuck Austen
Cover & Pencils by Salvador Larroca
"HEROES AND VILLIANS" Parts 1 & 2 (OF 4)
Brand-new story arc! The Brotherhood of Mutants is back with Nocturne from the Exiles, and a surprise shocker of a member!

Wow, that is quite a member!  (Sorry, but I am the blogosphere's Unintentional Porn Spotter after all.)
Written by Tony Bedard
Penciled by James Calafiore
Cover by Mizuki Sakakibara
The Exiles must stop the Avengers and Doctor Doom before they destroy the Earth! And did someone say Ego, The Living Planet? You bet they did!

My doctor said, "Ego, The Living Planet."
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils & Cover by MiKE Wieringo
"FOURTITUDE" Part 2 (of 3)
With public opinion of the FF at an all-time low and with all of Manhattan endangered by a mysterious alien overlord, which member of the team will make a decision that will radically change the Fantastic Four for some time to come?

At least they've given up trying to pretend that someone "will make a decision that will radically change the Fantastic Four...forever!!"
Written by Matt Cherniss & Peter Johnson
Penciled by Michael Gaydos
With great power must come great responsibility… but when the entire Marvel Universe is recast as a world that is powerless… are our heroes still noble? Was it the radioactive spider bite that made Peter Parker a hero and Norman Osborn a villain? Or was it destiny?

I've lost track due to all the rejiggering Marvel does with its characters' origin stories:  So now one spider bite created both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin?  Was John Byrne and his sense of "streamlining coincidences" responsible for this?

And just to show that it's not all about mockery, I am looking forward to this:
Cover by GIL KANE
The line between hero and villain can be very thin, but rarely as thin as in a book this big! The giants of the field collaborate on a war epic stretching from the towers of Doctor Doom's Latveria to the depths of Namor's Atlantis – with the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the Champions caught in the middle! Attuma! The Red Skull! Magneto! The world is at stake, and you are there!

Hee hee hee!  Good lord, that sounds wonderfully goofy!!  But what's up with the missing SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #15?  (OK, wait, just answered my own question:  It looks like SVTU #15 reprinted bits from ASTONISHING TALES #4 & #5, which are already included in the Essential.)


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