Grotesque Anatomy
Sunday, May 30, 2004
  But I Can't Be The Only One Who Sees It, Can I?
I guess I really have become the blogo-mart's Unintentional Porn Spotter, haven't I?

Spidey & MJ

(Link via Franklin Harris.)
Friday, May 28, 2004
  Just To Show That I'm Not Obsessed With The Sex Lives Of Marvel Characters...
Newsarama has an interview with Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá about their upcoming graphic novel Ursula from AiT/PlanetLar.  The sample images look really nice.  Looking forward to reading this one.

In other anticipation news, Matt Maxwell (not a permalink) has posted a teaser image from his upcoming comic Strangeways:

Strangeways wolf

Man, I'm sold based on that image alone.  Matt also has some good thoughts on how different (and difficult) writing comics is compared to writing for other media.

Finally, Steven Grant weighs in with what he sees as the three most important aspects of comic book art:  proportion, storytelling, and immediacy.  If I understand him correctly, what he refers to as "immediacy" I usually think of as staging or choreography.  Or maybe those would all be subsets of what Grant means by "immediacy."  Maybe another way of stating what Grant is getting at would be:  good comic art is transparent; the reader doesn't have to make a conscious effort to "read" the art but instead is sucked in to the story.

That's probably it for now (unless I find some other disturbing Marvel images).  Have a good Memorial Day weekend, everyone!
  More Creepy Sexual Situations Starring Marvel Characters
Steve Rogers picks up a hooker:

Cap picks up hooker

"Let me just dim the lights...Damn!  My work pager is going off!!"

(And before I start getting angry emails, yes, I know who that female character is supposed to be.)
Thursday, May 27, 2004
  Now That's Grotesque Anatomy
Yesterday I mentioned some of the anatomy-related search queries that show up in my referrer logs.  Today I intended to share some of the queries centered around the "grotesque" part of this blog's title, but fate had other plans, apparently.  For there in the referrer logs was a single search query that so perfectly encapsulated the essence of Grotesque Anatomy that no further examples were necessary:
Unfortunately, plugging "ROB LIEFELD CAPTAIN AMERICA NAKED" into Google's image search produces zero results.  So for now all we can do is dream of what a naked Captain America drawn by Rob Liefeld would look like:

Cap's Man-Breasts

I know I can't look at that picture without starting to mentally undress Cap.

UPDATE:  Thanks to a helpful reader, we no longer simply have to dream of a naked Rob Liefeld Captain America.  BEHOLD!  (Warning: Most definitely not work safe.)

MORE:  More fun with search queries over at Progressive Ruin and Peiratikos.  Some of my favorites: "help+i'm+trapped+in+my+sister's+body" (I think we've all been there); "comics with metaphors in them" (there've gotta be some, right?); and the juxtaposition of "freudian comics" above "ethics for kids."  ("You can learn a lot from your dreams, Timmy...")

UPDATE ONCE MORE:  Dave (Legomancer) Lartigue kindly provided these work safe (more or less) versions of ROB LIEFELD CAPTAIN AMERICA NAKED:

Cap Nekkid

Cap Nekkid 2

  Pondering Personal Preorders
First of all, if you're looking for the Vaguely Creepy Marvel Covers, click the link or scroll down (or just go here).

Secondly, it's that time of month again: time to submit my monthly preorder for comics I think I'll be interested in reading three months from now.  I've been trying to cut down on the number of books I order, due to considerations of both time and money.  Each month I try not to exceed 20 items (because going over that shifts me into the next tier of shipping rates) or $100 (because, well because $100 a month is a lot to spend on anything, really).  Here's my list for this month:
HERO #18

Looking over the list, here are some thoughts that occurred to me:
Finally, Christopher Butcher, what happened?  I thought you were going to do this month's Previews Review early, yet it never appeared!  (I know, I know:  You were busy selling manga hand over fist.  And I only kid because I love.)

EDIT: I completely forgot about NAUSICAA OF VALLEY OF WIND VOL 6 TP 2ND ED.  I'm going to have to make an adjustment to my order to fit NAUSICAA in without going over 20 items, so the stats I discussed above will change.  (I'm leaning towards cutting GOTHAM CENTRAL since I was thinking of dropping the series anyway once the current arc was over.  In fact, yes, I am dropping GOTHAM CENTRAL.  The stats have been updated to reflect this change.)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
  Yesterday's Blog Of The Day
My thanks to Tony Isabella for naming Grotesque Anatomy "Blog of the Day" for Tuesday, May 25, 2004.  If you've come here from Tony's column looking for the Vaguely Creepy Marvel Covers, just scroll down a bit (or click the link).  If you came here looking for "Anatomy Comics," "anatomy video games," "making anatomy fun," "anatomy of a wolverine," or any of the other anatomy-related topics that have been showing up in the referrer logs lately, I apologize for this blog's deceptive title.
  Manga, Manga, Manga!
As usual, lots of manga news floating around.  Here's some of the stuff that caught my eye:

Christopher Butcher reports on the overwhelming popularity of manga at Anime North, an anime fan convention in Toronto.  It's interesting reading how the table Chris was working was so swamped that Chris was literally turning people away so that he could re-stock sold out merchandise.  As Chris points out, 2004 is surely a time to stay in the manga business, not get out as some people have suggested.

In other con news, Augie De Blieck Jr. reports on Tokyopop's presence at Wizard World East.  I'm just going to reproduce the relevant sections verbatim:

TokyoPop set up a little reading library with bean bags, chairs, and sample issues to read through.

The few times I passed by the TokyoPop booth, it [the male/female ratio] seems to be about 80/20 in favor of the women hanging around.
In my mind, this reinforces that Tokyopop is aggressively courting (1) actual readers and (2) non-traditional comic readers.  Good to hear.

Also reporting from Wizard World East, Heidi MacDonald mentions that Tokyopop (who took over CrossGen's old booth) was doing portfolio reviews and handing out samplers to "an enthusiastic but not overwhelming crowd."

Finally, Kevin Melrose points out that two of my hometown papers, the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, have both profiled Twin Citian Tania del Rio, who is handling the manga-esque revamp of Archie Comics' Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  I preordered the issue where the new direction starts and I'm looking forward to reading it.  Afterwards, I'll probably pass it along to my niece, who enjoys Shonen Jump and Alison Dare.  I'll be curious to see what she thinks of it.
Monday, May 24, 2004
  Marvel, Manga, and Moore
I loved this:  Marc Singer's hilarious (and very thorough) takedown of the bad philosophy underpinning John Byrne's old FF story, "The Trial of Reed Richards."  Some might call it overkill, but I think poor reasoning needs to be soundly trounced wherever it occurs, even if it's in "just a comic book."  In fact, allowing it to go unchallenged in popular/low culture might be particularly insidious, since the philosophical underpinnings of a story may be subconsciously accepted so long as the surface level is entertaining.

Jeff Chatlos found some Amazon listings for upcoming Essentials of 70s Marvel comics.  In addition to Essential Iron Fist, which is available for pre-order next month, it looks as though Marvel plans to release Essential Super-Villain Team-Up and Essential Defenders.  Jeff lists some other Essential series he'd like to see and I'm right on board with him:  For some reason, I like the obscure, goofy characters and comics more than the established, popular ones.

Comic Readers has its "Hundreds of Pages of Huh" features up, which offer pre-ordering recommendations for mainstream comics, manga, small press, and collectibles.  They point out several books I'd overlooked (such as Jim Woodring's Pupshaw & Pushpaw #1) but I'm trying to buy fewer comics, not more, dammit.

Also at Comic Readers:  Interviews with several winners from Tokyopop's most recent Rising Stars of Manga competition.

I thought for sure Augie De Blieck Jr. would comment on the incestuous relationship between Jeff and his sister Rexa in Smax, especially since Alan Moore has Rexa voice complaints about laws prohibiting what only comes naturally to animals.  Heck, I'm surprised I haven't seen any liberal commentators complaining that Moore's apparent defense of incest could undermine similar arguments for homosexuality.  Perhaps the lack of outrage on either side of the political spectrum simply means that not many people read this series.  Myself, I thought it was an interesting thought experiment, but I strongly doubt incest occurs as neatly in our world as it did in Jeff and Rexa's situation.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
  Vaguely Creepy Marvel Covers
I realize that these thoughts probably say more about me than the actual covers, but Marvel's latest batch of solicitations included several images that seemed strangely sexual.

I suppose if DD gets caught staring at her breasts, he can just tell her he's blind.

I've heard of guns being phallic substitutes before, but giant cigarette lighters?

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if the fact that Marvel's covers no longer tell stories is causing me to read stories into them.  For example, this team shot makes me think that if the FF is a family, it's a disturbingly incestuous one:

For shame, Ben:  She's your best friend's wife and you try to cop a feel.

And I think Reed noticed:

Maybe this will lead to a very special issue of Fantastic Four where Sue files a sexual harassment claim against Ben:  "This Man...This Monster!"
Thursday, May 20, 2004
  Demonstratively Good
The winners of the Great Demo Giveaway have been announced.  Congratulations to everyone who won.  You are all some sick, sick people and I want to know why you're not writing superhero comics.

In other Demo news, Tony Isabella is the latest reviewer to read and fall in love with the series.  I think I had an experience similar to Tony's:  After my first pass, I thought, "These are some pretty good comics."   After my second and third reads, I realized, "Wow, these are some great comics!"  Loved Tony's description of Becky Cloonan's art style as "grunge manga."

Finally, here's one more Demo review I found -- a review (in the loose sense of the word) of Demo #5 from Sequential Tart's Adrienne Rappaport.  I wasn't going to link to it at first because it doesn't really add much to discussion of the story.  But it does serve as a nice illustration of the "reaction vs. review" distinction (I'd say this piece falls strongly on the side of reaction) and it sets the stage for some of the issues I want to address in my next "Review Reaction Reflection" installment, so I'm including it as an example I might refer back to later.
  Waiting So Long
It's finally here!
Damn right it's a spotlight item!

I'm also looking forward to the third and final New X-Men hardcover.  I've actually managed to avoid spoilers for most of the issues contained in this collection, so I'm looking forward to reading it.  (If there were an X-Statix hardcover on that list, I'd probably be feeling enough love towards Marvel to qualify temporarily as a genuine Marvel fanboy.)  (Thanks to Marc-Oliver Frisch for the link.)

Meanwhile, nothing much excites me from DC's August solicitations.  The superhero titles look especially grim, what with the 25-part crossovers and multiple covers from "hot" artists.  Suddenly DC seems more Marvel than Marvel itself.

EDIT:  I take it back.  No one can out-Marvel Marvel.  They've seen DC's bid and upped the ante considerably with a "special foil-enhanced cover"; a "re-scripted" version of Ultimate Spider-Man (am I the only one who thought of What's Up, Tiger Lily?); and Rob Liefeld on interior art for a brand-new X-FORCE #1.  (Link via Graeme.)

Finally, I am still planning on writing more about reviewing.  I just want to make sure my thoughts are a little less scattered first.  (And if I never do deliver as promised, I'm going to claim it was all just a brilliant homage to Mother, Come Home.)
Monday, May 17, 2004
  Review Reaction Reflection (Part 1)

[WARNING!  Boring semantic argument hinging on suspect distinction ahead.  Don't say you weren't warned.]

Reflecting on the recent disagreement that erupted between Johanna Draper Carlson and Laura Gjovaag (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, I think pretty much in that order), James Schee wonders, "Review or Commentary?"  At issue is whether Johanna's short remarks regarding Aquaman #18 constitute an actual review.  Laura thinks they do (and that they form a bad one on top of that); Johanna thinks they don't.  My take is that it all depends on what you mean by "review."  I think the term is generally used in two ways, narrowly and broadly.  In the narrow sense, a review is a longer, more thorough examination of a work.  As The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, puts it, a review is "a report or essay giving a critical estimate of a work or performance."  Since one paragraph is hardly an essay, Johanna's comments do not constitute a review in the strict sense.

However, many people use "review" more loosely to refer to any evaluative commentary.  Consider Christopher Butcher's description of my comments on Nausicaä:
Just this week I read a good review of Nausicaa (amongst some other great books) by John Jakala at his blog. Go check it out, it’s a great review and sums up some of the elements I enjoy about the series.
Going by the strict definition of "review," my short paragraph on Nausicaä hardly passes muster:  Basically all I did was ramble on about how I was unable to pinpoint what it was I liked about Nausicaä, and when I couldn't figure out how to tie up my digressions, I cheated and tried to distract everyone with a pretty picture.  But in thanking Chris for his kind words, I myself referred to my scattered thoughts as a review.  Why?  Well, part of it probably stems from my personal philosophy of reviewing.  I think the most important function of a review is to stimulate discussion about a work.  So in that sense, if my short remarks (or Johanna's) inspire thought, then they strike me as a review.  (I'm not saying everything that provokes a reaction counts as a review.  I see it as a necessary condition but not sufficient.  Hopefully I'll be able to delineate exactly what I see as the boundaries of a review when I get around to writing my own philosophy of reviewing.)  Another part of it is, well, that's just the way people often seem to use the word.

I've been mindful of the distinction before, even if I've never written about it explicitly til now.  In trying to come up with titles for entries about my reactions to comics, I often skirt the issue by avoiding the term altogether.  Last week's entry, for example, only referred to "Spring Reading" not "Spring Reviewing."  And for posts where I quickly run down a bunch of books, I usually use some variation of the title "Quick Cuts."  (Earlier this month I slipped with the DC books and used "DCU Quick Reviews," mainly because I liked the small rhyme in the title.)  Rigorous reviews take more effort than I'm generally willing to put into my writing (plus I'm never happy with any one format for very long) so I usually take the easy way out and write less formal reactions in whatever style happens to appeal to me at the moment.  I don't mind if anyone refers to such informal writings as reviews, but I'll also understand if people think of them as hastily assembled opinions from someone too lazy to do proper reviews.

Next:  To What Should That Attribute Be Attributed?
Friday, May 14, 2004
  Spring Cleaning, Spring Reading
Another thing that spring means is spring cleaning.  Last weekend I was attempting to restore order to my office when I discovered stacks of comics that I had never gotten around to reading.  Well, as you can probably guess, cleaning the office was put on hold so that I could attend to more important matters.  So here are some of the comics I've been enjoying this week.  (Not all the comics I uncovered were treasures, but I'm feeling positive, so let's focus on the good ones for now.)

Absent Friends:  A nice collection of quiet, everyday reflections on relationships of various sorts (friends, roommates, lovers, and business associates).  Paul Grist's sparse, simple artwork perfectly complements Phil Elliott's short, simple stories, resulting in a deceptively simple book that highlights the complexities of human entanglements.

The Complete D.R. & Quinch:  Sci-fi humor from Alan Moore and Alan Davis.  The basic setup is a bit repetitive (alien teenage delinquents go to great lengths to exact revenge on anyone who looks at them the wrong way) but it's amazing how much mileage the two Alans manage to squeeze from the premise.  Davis' art is a delight in black and white -- check out some sample scans at this site.

Jack Staff: Everything Used To Be Black And White:  A wonderfully fun superhero comic set in Britain by Paul Grist.  The trade paperback is a great bargain as well, collecting 12 issues and totaling just over 350 pages for only $20.  Johanna Draper Carlson has already done a fantastic job describing everything I loved about this book so I won't waste time repeating everything she's already addressed (that's her Jack Staff page I linked to above; strangely, Image's website doesn't have a page devoted to the TPB or the series, although they do have a couple previews of various issues), but I did want to reiterate how surprisingly great the book's structure is:  Although the book is titled "Jack Staff," the stories often ignore him and instead wander off to focus on other colorful characters.  It shouldn't work--the book should be frustratingly disjointed--but it does.  Somehow all the threads come together in a fitting manner.  (Well, except perhaps for the mysterious character known as the Shadow, but it looks as though that plot line is being addressed in the new color series from Image.)  Johanna cleverly describes this structure as being akin to what "channel-surfing would be if all the pieces worked synergistically to make one big show."  (Johanna's review also contains the brilliant description of Grist's non-repetitive plot recaps as "a spiral staircase, winding back over the familiar but with the reader advanced through the circuit.")  In a time when Marvel and DC are having trouble straddling the demands of conflicting audiences it's amusing to find that a creator-owned title is able to rise above the continuity quagmire and deliver such a satisfying, self-contained superhero series.

Mother, Come Home:  I didn't love this book as much as others did*, but perhaps part of my reaction was due to expectations having been set unrealistically high.  Still, I can certainly see why this book has garnered the praise that it has:  In addition to doing interesting things with the formal aspects of the medium, it's also a captivating story about a boy and a father who have lost their mother/wife.  As Time's Andrew Arnold points out in his review, Mother, Come Home is a work that rewards multiple readings due to the details one notices on subsequent passes.**  It's not a perfect work by any means--as Arnold also notes, the tone is perhaps too humorless and pretentious at times--but it's a challenging work I found myself reconsidering and reflecting on again and again, so the book merits a recommendation from me on those grounds alone.

Nausicaä of The Valley of The WindNausicaä is a difficult book for me to get a grip on.  Even after reading the first three volumes, I'm having trouble spelling out just what it is that I like about it.  The first thing that comes to mind is the art:  The art is just gorgeous--it's incredibly intricate yet it never feels over-rendered.  And the sepia tones the book is printed in (for the second edition, at least) only heighten the art's appeal, giving it an ancient, timeless look.  But I feel funny recommending a book based solely on the art (What is this? Jim Lee's Batman??), especially since that's certainly not the only reason I like Nausicaä.  I know many have focused on the environmental themes in this title (which makes sense, especially considering how creator Hiyao Miyazaki returned to those themes in films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) but that's not what really resonates with me.  I think what appeals to me most are the characters.  Even when the plot or themes don't grab me, I'm always interested in the characters and what they do.  Even the "villains" of the tale are interesting and authentic.  So that's my answer, then:  Read Nausicaä for the engaging characters.  And the art.  The art is simply amazing:


Planetes:  I'll always think of this as the comic beloved by both Alan David Doane and Augie De Blieck Jr.  Of course, many others have praised the manga besides these two.  Most recently, Johanna reviewed Planetes over at Comics Unlimited.  Johanna points out how much of the book's appeal is due to the gritty everyday feel of the stories despite the futuristic sci-fi setting.  (The book deals with garbage collectors who must round up space debris before it damages other ships.)  Another thing that makes the book stand out is its ability to juggle various moods without ever coming across as either indulgent or superficial.  It can be difficult to balance comedy with pathos, but Planetes does so without feeling jarring or schizophrenic.  Be forewarned, though:  Planetes is so good that, for some readers, it makes all other manga pale in comparison.

Hmm.  I'd meant to cover more comics, but this post has already become much longer than I had intended.  I guess I'll save some comics for next week.

* I was thinking mainly of Alan David Doane (the blog's gone but his review of Forlorn Funnies #2 can be found at Simply Comics) and Sean Collins here.  And with Sean I'm thinking specifically of his review in The Comics Journal #259, not his remarks online.  On his blog, Sean actually took ADD to task for "overselling" Mother, Come Home and complained on more than one occasion about the book's ending ("I think that towards the end Hornschemeier's desire to deliver an emotional knock-out punch forces the story off the tracks of believability a bit"; "I think it becomes a little too neat in the profundity of its tragedy by the end").  Sean was much more enthusiastic about the book and its ending in the TCJ review ("The climax that by all rights should seem ham-fisted and forced, and yet works, emerging as it does from intensely intimate (and therefore immediately understandable) details of touch and sight and (not) taste -- tiny, sensate building blocks of calamitous inevitability.  What hints of too-neat tragedy remain are torn to pieces by the book's final words, and the forward-looking eeriness of the image that accompanies them.")

** One of the things that gets richer and richer the more I think about it is the ending.  [OBVIOUSLY, SPOILERS AHEAD, AS I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING]  By never showing us the father's body,
Hornschemeier forces us to imagine the grisly scene ourselves.  In place of the actual body, Hornschemeier provides us with the symbol of the sandwich, which Thomas tells us resembles his father's broken body (although Thomas must likewise be using his imagination, for he earlier told us that he did not watch his father hit).  Finally, Thomas does not eat the remains of his father's sandwich, perhaps signifying that Thomas will not adopt the sins of the father.  (This would fit with the forward-looking title to Chapter One, "We Are All Released."  (I'm guessing David Fiore would appreciate a book that ends with such an open-ended beginning.))
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
  Blogger Ate The Issue of Night Nurse I'd Written, So You Get This Instead
It seems the esteemed Heidi MacDonald has written some things that have ruffled some feathers throughout the blogosphere.  Myself, I can't get too upset about Heidi's remarks for several reasons:
  1. I haven't actually read the article in question, so I don't want to jump to conclusions based on the few excerpts I've seen.
  2. Are we sure that wasn't a typo in that one quote?  Perhaps Heidi meant to say "a lot of [comic blogs] are really dope."
  3. Even if that wasn't a typo, obviously Heidi doesn't dislike all blogs since she still has one herself.  (Although, as a blogger whose stamina was once publicly questioned, I do have to point out that her blog hasn't been updated since April 29th.)
Besides, in a long comments thread over on Thought Balloons, Heidi clarifies her position somewhat and promises that she'll be addressing people's reactions to her CBG piece in "another venue."  So I'll wait until then to denounce her harshly.  (Kidding!)

(And speaking of stamina, this is probably a good time to warn whatever readers this blog may have that blogging will be light for the foreseeable future.  With the arrival of spring, my thoughts are turning to other hobbies, such as lawn care and ruining perfectly good meat on the grill.  I'm sure I'll continue to post every now and then, but I doubt it'll be daily.  As always, check the Totally Dope & Fly Comic Weblogs Funk-A-Tron 3000 for updates.)

UPDATE:  Heidi has updated her blog with the promised response to the blogosphere.  And I win a prize.  (But no link under the "Favorite Sites" section?  [Sob!]  I guess I'll have to settle for being included on her laundry list of love.)
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
  Who Knew It Was So Easy To Cheat Death?
Mile High Comics has a four-page preview of Seaguy #1 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart.  For some reason, I love the idea of Death as a colorblind gondolier.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
  Entertainment Weekly Loves Comics
The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (#765; May 14, 2004), is crammed with comic book coverage.  The subscribers-only supplement "Listen2This" has four reviews:
"Listen2This" also lists four upcoming comics:  Heaven, LLC; Grendel: Devil's Reign; Transmetropolitan: One More Time; and Hench.

Comics are also mentioned in several spots throughout the regular magazine:
All this comic book coverage is great, but I want to know when EW is going to feature comic books on the cover.  I want to see an issue devoted to EW's picks for the "100 Greatest Comics of All Time!"  (Yeah, list issues are kind of silly, but they always seem to sell well and generate a lot of reader response:  "How could you forget _______?"; "How could you include _______?"; and so on.)
Friday, May 07, 2004
  A Marvel U Review: Fantastic Four #512
Rounding out my review theme for the week (What? You didn't notice I was reviewing something from a different Premier publisher every day?), we come to Marvel.  I don't buy much from Marvel these days, but I was tempted to try out Fantastic Four #512 due to the guest appearance of Spider-Man.  Not because I'm a Spider-Man completist (I think the last Spider-Man comic I purchased was ASM #500) but because I've always been a sucker for Spidey & FF team-ups.  (I still have fond memories of such comics as MTU #100, the PPSSM #42 - FF #218 crossover, WHAT IF? #1, and the inspired UTOS 1996 Annual.)  I think part of the reason why these team-ups work is because each member of the FF parallels a certain aspect of Spidey's personality:  Reed, the dazzling scientific intellect; Ben, the irrepressible sense of humor in the face of overwhelming odds (with occasional lapses into self-pity); Johnny, the hotheaded, youthful impulsiveness; and Sue, the moral center, especially when it comes to matters of family.

So far in the first half of this two-part arc we only see Spider-Man interact with the Torch, so that's the aspect of Spider-Man's character that's played up the most (although there's an obvious touch of the Thing in Spidey's portrayal here considering he bickers lightheartedly with the Torch and wears one of Ben's oversized trenchcoats).  Your enjoyment of this issue will therefore depend on how entertaining you find the antagonistic friendship-slash-rivalry that exists between the two heroes.  Personally, I thought Waid had a pretty good handle on Spidey, whose jokes have always been somewhat self-consciously corny, but his take on the Torch seemed a bit off:  Yes, Johnny often acts arrogant (especially around Spidey), but I don't think he's really that self-absorbed or oblivious.  Waid's characterization of Johnny feels forced, as though it's all engineered to set-up a couple cheap gags.

The fight scene at the end was pure nostalgia:  Spider-Man and the Torch fight Hydro-Man (an obvious Sandman stand-in, thereby calling to mind MTU #1) while a certain wingless villain mastermind lurks in the shadows.  Why do I have a feeling at least two more villains will be showing up next issue?

As a surprise bonus, this issue also features a short back-up story illustrated by Paul Smith.  The story (also part one of two?) focuses on Sue's efforts to make Reed jealous so that he'll spend time with her.  It's pretty lightweight but I found it cute and charming nonetheless, especially since the couple are shown diffusing any resentment or ill will towards each other through a shared laugh.  Nice to see an optimistic depiction of marriage that isn't based on some unrealistic "happily ever after" sentiment.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
  Gumshoe Reviews: Dodge's Bullets
Dodge's BulletsDODGE'S BULLETS (Image Comics • 80 B&W Pages • $9.95)  Writer Jay Faerber serves up a nice little slice of crime fiction involving a rough-around-the-edges private investigator who (in typical P.I. fashion) takes on a case that's more than he bargained for.  There are some really nice touches in this OGN that distinguish it from standard crime comics: 
Even when it comes to familiar trappings of the genre (the P.I. meeting the client in his office; the tense rivalry between the P.I. and the police force; etc.), Faerber keeps things fresh by approaching those elements from a new angle.  For example, Dodge's "office" is a cyber-cafe -- for reasons that actually make sense, not just to make the story seem hip and modern.  I especially liked the twist Faerber took on another fixture of the P.I. genre:  the beautiful woman who suddenly shows up at the P.I.'s place.

The art by James Francis is really quite pleasing.  There are times when figures look a bit off, but overall Francis' art is very strong.  When I first saw the sample artwork on Image's site, I was reminded of Jill Thompson's style.  While reading the whole story, I saw a number of other influences in Francis' work as well:  Guy Davis, John Buscema, David Mazzucchelli, David Lapham, even Gene Colan at times.  (More preview artwork from the book is available at James Francis' website.)

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.  If you're looking for a fun, modern take on the private investigator genre, I highly recommend Dodge's Bullets.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
  A Pair Of Goons
THE GOON #6:  More Eric Powell fisticuffs and funny stuff.  In this issue, an otherworldly monster breaches the fragile fabric of our dimension, only to be soundly (and quickly) defeated by the Goon.  But before the monster expires, it has another trick up its sleeve:  It ingests a nearby horned Mexican fire toad and gives birth to a second monster, one which towers over the city and breathes fire.  Luckily Dr. Alloy is on hand to lend the Goon assistance.

Not much to comment on beyond the usual:  Another hilarious issue involving the usual monsters and mayhem.  If you've been enjoying the series so far, you'll probably like this one just as much.  Most of the humor this time around comes from the easily sidetracked narrator with, uh, certain other things on his (its?) mind, and from the strange Spanish insults spewing from Lagarto Hombre's mouth.  (And for those of you looking for a translation of the monster's dialogue, Eric Powell himself has helpfully posted one on the Dark Horse message boards.)

THE GOON: ROUGH STUFF:  This trade collects some of Powell's earliest work on The Goon (issues 1-3 of the Albatross volume) and, as Powell himself admits, it's not the work of a polished artist.  But as Powell also notes, it is a revealing look at a creator refining his ideas.  In addition to the three issues collected, Powell also includes early sketches outlining the evolution of the Goon.  It's interesting to see how the concept changed over time, from a brutish young monster attending school with other children to a half-man, half-ogre monster hunter to the Goon that finally saw print.  Also interesting is seeing how Powell's art developed:  Early drawings of "Mog" are very reminiscent of Dale Keown while Powell's early paintings are very strongly influenced by Simon Bisley, yet I hardly see any traces of those influences in Powell's current work.

As for the stories themselves, well...they are pretty rough, to be honest.  They don't quite have the same comedic charm of the current Goon series.  Most of the humor is a little more obvious and a little meaner, with the end result being noticeably less amusing.  Still, I'd recommend the collection for Goon fans, if for no other reason than to see how the series has progressed.   For one thing, it's interesting to compare the Goon's origin as told here with its compressed retelling in issue #1 of the Dark Horse series.  Some nuances were lost in the straight-ahead, shorter version, but I can see why Powell decided to abridge the origin for the new series.
The fine folks at several great blogs are sponsoring a contest giving away the first five issues of Demo plus much, much more.  Go read the full details here and read Kevin Melrose's interview with Demo artist Becky Cloonan here.

In other Demo news, Sean Collins has a fine review of the series, as well as an interesting review of another AiT/PlanetLar comic I wasn't so fond of.
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
  NO! He's -- you DIDN'T! YOU-- Huh? --NO!
Marc Singer, over at a new group blog called "The All-New All-Different Howling Curmudgeons," writes an extended examination of the problems with writer Kurt Busiek's dialogue in the JLA/Avengers mini-series.  Some of my favorite bits:
Looks like a nice start to the blog so far.  And thanks for the kind words about my own JLA/Avengers review, Marc!
  DCU Quick Reviews
GOTHAM CENTRAL #18:  My first reaction was that the art looked like what happens when you squash a widescreen movie to fit a TV screen:  Everyone looked really stretched out and distorted.  My enjoyment of this story was also hindered by the fact that I'd forgotten what was going on in the previous two issues.  This is a series that I think I'll read in trades from now on, if at all.  Still, I did love the dig at Huntress' horrendous new costume.

AQUAMAN #17:  Not really interested.  Some nice art from Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy, and I liked the bit with Aquaman using the sharks to corral the disobedient children, but why would Aquaman talk to a dolphin out loud?  (I know, I know, it's a very small nitpick, but the clunkiness of that scene really threw me out of the story.)

HERO #15: Some great art from the new art team of Dale Eaglesham and Wade Von Grawbadger.  This issue, Robby Reed meets up with Jerry Feldon (the recipient of the HERO dial from the first arc).  I'll admit, I'm actually curious to see where this is going.  I can foresee about a dozen ways Robby's dark vision of the future could go wrong but so far Pfeifer has done a good job of keeping this series on track.  Loved Robby's line to Jerry about how the heroes of his time were "more imaginative" than the stuff kids today think up.

BIRDS OF PREY #66:  Hey, where'd the Alex Toth cover go?  OK, the cover by Dan Brereton and Phil Noto isn't too shabby, but I was promised a Toth cover, dammit!  Anyway, I got this issue for the Michael Golden art and it didn't disappoint.  As for the story, it's part five of six in some larger arc, but it's still relatively self-contained as it deals with a flashback case involving the original Black Canary.  There are some interesting bits about the original Black Canary being motivated to operate as a vigilante because the Gotham police department wouldn't accept a female detective, but I still felt as though I was missing a part of the bigger picture by jumping into the story so late in the game.  (Mainly because the modern-day framing sequence makes it clear the old unsolved case still has ramifications in the present, so if I ignore that, this was actually a pretty nice stand-alone tale.)

HAWKMAN #27:  Speaking of fill-in issues for series I don't normally get, I picked up this "Past Lives" installment of Hawkman because of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  The story is basically more of the creepy "fated love across intertwined lives" mumbo jumbo that drove me away from the series in the first place, but here it's dressed up in noir trappings and served up stylishly by Phillips' moody art.  So:  great art but entirely passable story.

WONDER WOMAN #203:  I think just a couple months ago I was mocking those who complained that nothing ever happened in Rucka's WW series, but now I'm starting to feel the same way.  I mean, come on:  We already knew Stheno and Euryle were attempting to revive Medousa; we don't need to see every little detail of Circe's spell along the way.  And I really didn't need to listen to Batman lecture on and on about different bullet types in order to understand that he's an expert at this kind of stuff.  I think I'll be dropping this one.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #627:  One of the revamped Superman titles.  I haven't been following the Superman books for years so I wasn't sure I'd be up to speed on what's going on, but it seems that the line has regressed back to the concepts I remember from when I was a kid:  Superman playing Clark Kent as a bumbling, insecure persona; Jimmy Olsen complaining that he's not treated like a "real" reporter; even Clark Kent falling out of helicopters so that he can change into Superman (although now he actually lands in a dumpster before he changes rather than making the change via superspeed in midair (à la Curt Swan)).  I'm not sure who the bad guy Replikon is (why do I want to guess that he's from the 90s and Dan Jurgens is responsible?) but I actually liked the image of a grotesquely deformed conglomerate Justice League fighting Superman.  (The mangled Hawkman wings were an especially nice touch.)
Monday, May 03, 2004
  But Weren't There Two Endings To King Kong vs. Godzilla?
Also over at Newsarama, Troy Brownfield examines several recent "manga in the news" events and offers this analogy to sum up manga's position in the comic book industry:
Many moves have gone down in the past few days and weeks that serve as a shining indicator that Japan is the mad scientist, manga is the monster, and the comic book industry just might be one big row of buildings.
Troy also adds that he doesn't necessarily see this as a bad thing, writing, "The comics industry has looked around for a long time to see what would be its shot in the arm, or frankly, its kick in the ass."
  Monday Must Mean More Manga Mainstream Marketing
Newsarama has a press release from Del Rey announcing that the company will be promoting Free Comic Book Day in its its regular newsletter, which, according to Del Rey, "reaches more than 40,000 dedicated readers."  More in the full press release.
  Superhero Scandal Shocker!
The Micah Wright scandal causes the V Forum to disclose a few other revelations:

"My name is Wolverine, and I'm the best there is at what I do. Except it's all been a lie - I'm really NOT the best there is at what I do..."

Punisher in "it was all a lie! I spent the Vietnam years smoking dope in Ontario" Shocker!



  It's The Fanboy Circus Underneath The Big GL Tent
It's to the point where I can't tell if this is a real Newsarama thread or an Onion spoof:  Newsarama posters discuss whether there's room for both Kyle Rayner fans and Hal Jordan fans in the "big GL tent."

First off, poster James Meeley (who I'm assuming is a big Kyle Rayner fan since he refers to himself as "The real life Kyle Rayner") explains why H.E.A.T. is more an evil force than a sad group of comic book fans:
H.E.A.T.'s constant attempts to paint themselves as martyrs and just a group of fans who only wanted what was best, is a fallacy of the highest order. And now that Jordan is coming back, it becomes very dangerous to let people think H.E.A.T. somehow masterminded this, and that all the bad blood they have created is now being rewarded. That is a bad belief to allow to run rampant. It opens the door for fans of other characters to think doing the things H.E.A.T. memebers have done (be it good or bad) is accpetable, as you will get what you wantin the end. That's wrong. That's untrue. And people must be told such.
H.E.A.T. member "MaestroJMK," however, wants to move beyond the sins of the past and let the time of healing begin:
The simple truth now is that if DC is doing what I think they're doing, they are allowing Green Lantern fans the chance to unite for the first time in over 10 years. I and the vast majority of HEAT want ALL GL fans to be happy after all this is over....  We're willing to put an end to all this animosity and join with all Green Lantern fans to make this book the one with the best fanbase in comics.
But "The real life Kyle Rayner" isn't convinced.  In fact, the whole thing brings up painful high school memories:
In fact, all I've really seen, aside from the happiness for Hal's return, is a lot of "there's room for everyone" type stuff. But don't you think that a bit premature, considering that some of those for whom H.E.A.T. is declaring room are folks they've insulted and berated for YEARS? I mean, imagine the high school bully suddenly inviting you over to his home for his birthday after he tormaneted you day after day for YEARS. Would you feel inclinded to go to his party? I know I wouldn't. I know that there are many here who feel the same. It just seems so totally naive on your group's part to expect everyone to join in a group hug after all that some members of your group have done to and towards them for such a long time.
"The real life Kyle Rayner" also makes it clear that he has a firm grip on the difference between reality and fiction (or not):
I know you are smart enough to know that some of things some H.E.A.T. members have done in the name of your cause were worse then the wrong you felt done to a fictional character, if for no other reason, because what they did and said were done to REAL people. And unlike Hal Jordan, the strokes of a writer's keyboard cannot easily fix this. Personally, I don't know if I will ever fully be able to let go of my poisoned feelings towards Hal Jordan. The bad blood runs pretty deep.
"MaestroJMK" tries once again to focus on the positive present rather than the unpleasant past, but there are some wounds that even he can't forget:
I think the ultimate goal in HEAT right now is to make as wide a tent as possible so that ALL GL fans can join together to celebrate the return of the Green Lantern books to the legacy that had been put into the background the last 10 years.


From our side, the bullying has come more from the people who have taunted us, told us to "Get Over It", or have reveled in the fact that it's a Green Lantern title devoid of Hal Jordan. It's like in the old days when you'd see in the shop windows "Irish need not apply". You've been able to enjoy your Green Lantern while we were left in the cold. I have never seen the fairness in that.

Finally, "The real life Kyle Rayner" gives us our fanboy "Taxi Driver" moment of the day:
Oh, I have plans for Alex Ross and many other pros who've berated Kyle and Marz over the years. Trust me on that.
It's so nice to see that -- contrary to the unfair stereotypes --  comic book fans are able to keep things like the return of a comic book character in perspective.
  He's So Grim He Makes Me Look Upbeat
Graeme McMillan (not a permalink) isn't convinced that Tokyopop's upcoming cable TV ad campaign is going to do much good.  Heck, I'm not convinced it'll do much good either, but I'm still much more optimistic than Graeme is.  For one thing, unlike Graeme, I don't think TV advertising for comics has ever been done in exactly the same way before.  Sure, I remember the TV ads for the G.I. Joe comics (ads which I believe were successful in driving up sales of the comics, so it's a strange example for Graeme to be using in support of his pessimistic position) but those were so long ago I'm not sure they have much relevance to today's market.  Tokyopop isn't selling single-issue floppies at newsstands or comic specialty shops.  They're selling digest-sized paperbacks in mass-market stores such as Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart (as well as at your finer comic specialty shops).

I agree that publicity won't necessarily translate automatically into sales, but I also think that publicity needs time to work.  The example Graeme cites of a couple of DC's new "Focus" titles receiving mention in Entertainment Weekly yet still selling abysmally is a odd one.  For one thing, I'm fairly certain that only one "Focus" book, Hard Time, has made EW's "Must List" (or been mentioned in any way in EW), not both Hard Time and Touch as Graeme suggests.  Secondly, the "Must List" recommendation of Hard Time was only a couple of weeks ago (4/23, #761), so there's no way that publicity could have had any measurable impact on sales yet.  The only sales numbers we have for Hard Time so far are for the first two issues, which both came out before the mention from EW.  And again, there's the whole apples-vs-oranges thing -- single issues sold only at comic specialty stores vs. 200-page books sold, well, pretty much everywhere.  (In fact, as Tokyopop's Vice President of Marketing John Powers revealed in an interview with Franklin Harris, Tokyopop sells their books at so many diverse locations that their ads will refer generically to their books as being sold at "Book, Comic, Video and Music Stores" so as to not slight any retailer or market.)

As for Graeme's concern that money for these ads would have been better spent trying to attract people unfamiliar with manga rather than people who may have heard about manga but aren't actually reading any, I think he addresses his own concern when he writes:
Maybe that’s the point, mind you; to pick up the people who have heard of manga but don’t know much about it and say “Hey, you know that manga thing that’s getting some buzz? Well, we make it, this is what our stuff looks like and here’s where you get it.”
I'm guessing it's probably easier to win over those people who are already familiar with (and receptive to) your product than it is to educate people who have never heard of it.  (Of course, if the ads are done well, they could probably make the uninitiated curious as well.)  Further, as Ed Cunard points out in his column on this topic, the cable TV channels Tokyopop plans to run its ads on all have (as Ed puts it) "the geek demographic that’s already inclined to sequential art storytelling."  (Franklin Harris was more diplomatic in his phrasing, referring rather to "the young, technologically savvy audience that is Tokyopop's target demographic.")

Finally, in response to Graeme's worry that print media in general haven't ever really successfully utilized TV advertising I'm just going to quote Tokyopop's John Powers' answer to a question from Franklin Harris:
Q: What was the primary motivation for Tokyopop deciding to buy television advertising, given that TV ads are a rarity even in the prose book publishing world and especially considering that this is an area from which other comics publishers, like DC and Marvel, have traditionally shied away?

A: We saw an enormous untapped potential audience begging to be reached through television advertising. Considering how naturally manga lends itself to animation, we were able to bring pages of these great stories to life through visually creative graphics that just about leap from the TV screen. We also found this a great way to "introduce" manga to those who have never seen it before.

If publishers have traditionally shied away from TV advertising, perhaps it's their methodology that should be questioned, rather than the medium.
Of course, we'll all have to wait to see how Tokyopop's ad campaign actually plays out.  For all of Tokyopop's bravado now, this could still flop spectacularly.  The talk of "bring[ing] pages of these great stories to life through visually creative graphics that just about leap from the TV screen" could end up being as cheesy as those comics on DVD.  But for now I'm just enjoying the novelty of a comic book publisher trying something other than bringing back a old character or relaunching with a new first issue or cranking out umpteen alternate covers or all the other stale old tricks to increase sales.


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