Archive for November, 2008

Cancellation Roulette and the Digital Gamble

In light of the news of the cancellation of “Blue Beetle,” a comic that he helped turn into the best comic DC published, John Rogers ponders what the future might bring:

Although I’ve gotten some outraged e-mails from fans, I have to say this isn’t unexpected. Both DC and Marvel are in a weird place right now — are they publishing companies in a dying market or IP companies in a growing one? The answers to these questions demand different strategies, neither of which are necessarily the best circumstances for the creative participants.

Time to go creator-owned, and digitally distributed. Because that’s the only solution that makes sense for our side of the equation.

Go read the whole thing, as they say in the funny pages.

Do I think he’s right? Yeah, in a lot of ways, he’s right on the money. The only comics out there that are 100% guaranteed safe from cancellation are the ones starring Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. In just the last week or so, Marvel and DC have announced the cancellations of comics about Blue Beetle, Manhunter, Robin, Nightwing, the Birds of Prey, and She-Hulk. All of those have lots of devoted fans, but they just can’t provide enough readers to make the books profitable.

And Rogers’ advice to go the creator-owned route and distribute your work digitally is something else that I think is pretty smart. If you’re an artist or writer, it’s hard to argue that your time would be better spent displaying your work online than haunting comics conventions trying to convince DiDio and Quesada to look at your portfolio. Web space can be found for cheap, if not free, and there are a lot more payment options out there, from micropayments to subscriptions to print-on-demand. Heck, I know folks who put their work online for free, just for the pleasure of getting their artwork out there for other people to enjoy.

It’s not a perfect solution. It still requires a lot of work, there’s still not a lot of chance that you’ll get Buddy-Holly-famous or Donald-Trump-rich, and the entire concept of digital distribution is still in its infancy, with lots of weird twists ahead if it’s going to mature into a seriously useful distribution model. But I still think it’s a pretty good idea.

What’s your take?

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No Gold Stars

No time for a lot of reviews today, but let’s get at least one of ’em out of the way for now…

Booster Gold #14

Booster manages to escape from the vat of Starros he’d been dumped in last issue, then manages to shoot Lady Chronos with a freeze gun, the only thing that allows her to get free from the starfish that was controlling her. He learns that Starro conquered the world by filling the Justice League’s Hall of Justice with starfish, taking over all the heroes and villains, then having most of them kill each other. After agreeing to let Lady Chronos go after everything’s over, Booster goes back in time and steals one of Mr. Freeze’s cold guns (leading to one of the few really wonderful lines of this issue: “A magic hand took my freeze-gun!”). They’re eventually able to blow up Starro and stop mind-controlled Rip Hunter from infecting the world’s heroes with starfish drones. But Rip isn’t happy that Booster had to rely on help from Lady Chronos, claiming she’s still not to be trusted.

Verdict: Thumbs down, actually. Things were a bit confusing, a bit of a muddle, and a lot boring, which is not something we’ve previously seen from this particular comic book.

I’ll try to get a few more reviews done tomorrow, or the day after that, depending on how quickly I’m able to get some important chores finished…

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Does Alex Ross belong on Lubbock’s Walk of Fame?


I’d been trying to decide for quite a while whether I really wanted to jump out on this particular limb, but I finally decided, what the heck, ya only live once. So I dropped an e-mail to the folks in charge of the West Texas Walk of Fame and suggested they add Alex Ross to their nomination list.

At this point, I guess I should explain a couple things both to local Lubbockites who read this blog and to non-Lubbockites.

For non-Lubbockites, the West Texas Walk of Fame started out in the ’70s as a tribute to Lubbock’s rock-and-roll roots, with Buddy Holly as the first inductee, followed by Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, and a bunch of other musicians. Over the years, some actors and artists have been added to the list, but Lubbock has produced a lot of musicians over the years, so the vast majority of the inductees have been from the field of music.

Okay, for Lubbockites, especially Lubbockites who aren’t so familiar with comics, Alex Ross is a comic book illustrator and painter. He was born in Oregon, but he grew up here in Lubbock. He’s one of the most sought-after illustrators in comics, because his painting style is amazingly photorealistic, with a strong sense of everything that makes comics into modern mythology. He’s done comics for Marvel, like “Marvels” and “Earth X.” He’s done comics for DC, including “Kingdom Come” and “Justice.” He’s done covers for “Justice Society of America,” “Astro City,” “Project Superpowers,” “Batman,” “Superman,” and many others. He’s even done artwork for album covers, for movies, even for the 2002 Oscars.

Here are a few examples of his artwork.




Nice, am I right?

I’m not going to argue that Ross is a perfect artist — he has some trouble drawing action, a lot of his work looks like it was meticulously posed, and he’s way, way, way too devoted to the Silver Age of comics in the 1950s to ’60s. But I just love looking at his artwork — his characters look like real people, with realistic muscles, fat, wrinkles. His clothing looks like actual clothing, not painted-on spandex. He’s absolutely fantastic when it comes to the use of light.

Obviously, Alex Ross is no Buddy Holly. I doubt he or any other comic artist will ever achieve Buddy’s level of global fame. But he’s done really, really well for himself. He’s probably got the most recognizable artistic style in comics, he’s probably the most famous comic creator to the mainstream public outside of Stan Lee or Jack Kirby, thousands and thousands of comic fans have his books in their bookshelves, and every comics publisher looks forward to getting to publish his artwork, because they know that his work sells.

Alex Ross learned how to draw here in Lubbock. He discovered comics here in Lubbock. I think he’d be a great addition to the West Texas Walk of Fame.

What do you think?

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Violet Violence


Green Lantern Corps #30

Guy Gardner, Sodam Yat, and Arisia, along with a few of the Guardians, travel to the planet Zamaron, home of the Star Sapphires — also known as the Violet Lanterns. This is a diplomatic mission — but also a spy mission. What are the Star Sapphires up to? Who are they going to ally with? The Star Sapphires have power rings attuned to Capital-L Love, but that doesn’t really make them good guys — they’re ruthless and obsessive and a bit creepy, which actually makes them really similar to the Guardians, come to think of it. Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner and another contingent of GLs are on the trail of a Sinestro Corps member named Kryb — she likes to kill GLs who are parents, kidnap their children, and raise them herself in the biological crib that grows out of her back. Ewww, Kryb is just about the creepiest and most unsettling Sinestro Corps member there is.

Verdict: Despite the presence of Kryb, I’m going to give this a thumbs down. The entire story is a fairly mushy muddle.


Fantastic Four: True Story #4

Nightmare has apparently triumphed — Sue Storm and Ben Grimm are dead, the concept of fiction is dead, and Nightmare controls everything. Luckily, Reed and Johnny figure out a way to use the remnants of fiction to bring Sue, Ben, and the rest of their allies back to life and to conjure up an army of modern-day movie action-heroes and celebrity cheerleaders to beat up Nightmare’s army.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Parts of it are okay and fairly amusing, but wow, this just goes rattling all over the place, seemingly at random. Too weird, too chaotic, and it definitely fails to live up to what it could’ve been.

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Friday Night Fights: The Unexpected Return!

When Bahlactus called an end to Friday Night Fights, I expected that someone would eventually bring it back, but I wasn’t expecting it to make its return so soon. But Spacebooger has already jumped forward to make sure the comics blogosphere’s greatest and most brutal tradition continues.

But enough of the preamble: Let’s get going with the All-New, All-Different FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

From Amazing Spider-Man #573 from just a few weeks ago, by Mark Waid, Patrick Olliffe, and Serge LaPointe, Spidey takes on a bank-robbing villain named the Grizzly, with running commentary from Stephen Colbert:



Bear-fighting, the Wall Crawler, and a fake TV pundit — not a bad way to bring FNF back into action…

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No Superman is an Island


Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1

Oy, DC, what’s with those mile-long titles?!

Anyway, this comic marks a first for former Lubbock resident Alex Ross, who gets credited with illustrating and writing this. The plot focuses on the Kingdom Come Superman, who’s gotten trapped on Earth-1. He’s still haunted by memories of his time on his old Earth. He’s nervous because he thinks he sees the tragedy of his own world being recreated on the new one, what with the birth of Magog. He thinks he’s discovered the disaster that killed off the Daily Planet on his world, but luckily, it’s just a garden-variety trap (and an uncommonly unsuccessful one, too). He has a chat with our world’s version of Norman McCay. And he also has a chat with our version of Lois Lane about how his wife back home really died. And he worries that he’s cursed — Krypton was destroyed and his version of Earth was apparently destroyed, so is this Earth doomed as well, just from his presence?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is fine — not pure genius, but a good, solid story. The artwork is interesting for all the right reasons. We get some of Ross’s legendarily awesome paintings, but we also get treated to his somewhat more traditional pencils. He even inks his own work. And painted or pencilled, Ross still draws the best dadgummed Superman ever.


Secret Six #3

The Secret Six (well, right now, they’re the Secret Five, plus Tarantula, who’s more of a hostage) are on the run, trying to locate the mysterious card Tarantula stole. And they’re being stalked by supervillains, including Bolt and Cheetah, who want to steal the card and kill them all as messily as possible. And the insanely creepy Junior is still lurking out there.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Junior is really, really insanely creepy. Nicola Scott’s artwork is gorgeous and fun. And the secret of the card is pretty sweet — no wonder everyone’s so desperate to get it…

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Your Depressing News of the Day


DC’s outstanding “Blue Beetle” series is being cancelled.

One of the books that I’m most disappointed about in that regard is a book like Blue Beetle, which we are cancelling. That’s a book that we started with very high expectations, but it lost its audience along the way. Recently, we felt that it was standing on firmer ground, and was getting a more positive response. The problem is that the firmer ground and positive response is not enough to keep the book afloat. So unfortunately, we had to cancel that series.

This comes on the heels of DC cancelling “Robin,” “Nightwing,” “Birds of Prey,” and “Manhunter.” That’s an awful lot of prominent and well-regarded comics to toss onto the trash heap.

Of course, the problem is that DC is a business, and “Blue Beetle,” no matter how much critical acclaim it’s received, just hasn’t sold well. And with the economy on a screaming downslide and everyone worried about rising unemployment, flat wages, and everything getting more and more expensive, leisure-based businesses, like comics, gaming, electronics, etc., are cutting back.

It’s really kinda hard to fault DC here. They’ve given “Blue Beetle” lots and lots of time to find an audience, and for some reason, the audience has stayed away. I wish they could keep giving it more chances, because I love the book. I love the El Paso setting, I love the focus on Hispanic culture, I love all the awesome characters. I’ll miss the book enormously, and the comics industry as a whole will be worse off for losing it.

So read the single issues while you can, pick up the trade paperbacks while you can. DC’s best monthly comic is riding off into the sunset soon.

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Girls Who Make the Earth Move

Terra #1

Longtime DC Comics readers know Terra as the underage blonde Teen Titan who betrayed the team. Obviously, this looks to be a different character, darker hair, a more heroic attitude, but the same mineral telekinesis powers. She’s racing around the planet saving folks from underground menaces and races, who have all been stirred up by something else deep underground. And speaking of underground menaces, a wealthy engineer demonstrating a new, more powerful laser drill for the government unexpectedly gets turned into a rock-skinned super-psycho with a special talent for killing large numbers of people. Meanwhile, Terra finds herself in big trouble in Hawaii, but gets saved by Power Girl, and a later medical examination by Dr. Mid-Nite reveals some unexpected surprises in the new heroine’s DNA.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is really fine and dandy — absolutely no complaints here. But the real selling point is the artwork by the always crackerjack team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Conner’s penciling is insanely reader-friendly, expressive, action-packed, and Palmiotti’s inks complement her wonderfully. I expect I’ll get every issue of this one, just so I can enjoy the artwork.

She-Hulk #34

She-Hulk teams up with an informal team called the Lady Liberators that includes the Invisible Woman, Valkyrie, and Thundra. They’re planning on providing earthquake relief for a region where a corrupt government is hoarding all relief supplies for itself. And while initial relief efforts go well — the government may be rotten to the core, but they don’t have anything capable of shooing off a bunch of angry superheroines — the good times can’t last forever.

Verdict: Another thumbs up. The patter here amongst the Liberators while sitting around Shulkie’s trailer is just awesome.

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Cop Rock


Top 10: Season Two #2

The officers of Precinct 10 are wearing standard-issue uniforms and carrying standard-issue weaponry. While this does make them look very spiffy, it also leaves many of them at a disadvantage without their super-science weapons. Irma Wornow is excited to learn that the late Sung Li has apparently returned from the dead — but no, it’s Li’s latest vat-grown clone, called “Girl Two,” and she has no memories of Irma. Duane Bodine and Pete Cheney go looking for illegal magic users, while the rest of the officers head to the site of an unusual hostage situation — a sentient apartment building is holding some of its tenants hostage. Irma gets frustrated by the situation, digs a bazooka out of the back of her squad car, and shoots the building, which doesn’t harm it much, but allows new officer Slipstream Phoenix to again nab credit for a bust. Of course, Irma gets suspended.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still loving the characters, loving the developing plotlines. Hating the new police commissioner and not real fond of Slipstream Phoenix, but I think that’s by design.


Gemini #3

Been a while since we’ve seen this one. Dan Johnson has no idea he’s a superhero until his former government handler shows up and tells him the truth — the government has conditioned him to respond to various code phrases to take a new identity and fight crime. Dan and Regan, his former handler, go on the run, fighting off a bunch of armored troops, and take a trip out of town ’til the heat’s off. Unfortunately, the government has found out where they’re going, so they call ahead for some superhero backup.

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs up, but not by much. The fighting is good, the intrigue is good. The artwork is really stylized and is starting to get on my nerves.

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Is Barack Obama a Geek?

I stumbled onto this interview with Barack Obama a few days back, where Entertainment Weekly quizzed him on his pop culture preferences. One of the questions was:

Last question, and the fate of the Republic hangs on your answer: If you could be any superhero, which superhero would you be?

I was always into the Spider-Man/Batman model. The guys who have too many powers, like Superman, that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy. Whereas Spider-Man and Batman, they have some inner turmoil. They get knocked around a little bit.

So, naturally for me, I wondered if this was the answer that proved that Obama was a great big geek. Initially, I nixed the idea — if you’re asking someone who their favorite superheroes are, there’s a really good chance you’re going to get Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man name-dropped, just because they’re the most popular and best-known characters out there. That answer doesn’t prove you’re a geek — it proves you have a very general awareness of American pop culture.

On the other hand, there’s also the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, in which Obama and McCain both gave humorous, self-deprecatory speeches. Part of Obama’s speech included this line:

Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth.

Proof of geekdom? Well, it’s proof that one of his speechwriters is a geek, but is there anything that indicates that the President-Elect is a current or former comic reader?

Hey, what’s this I see in this list of “50 Things You May Not Know about Obama”?

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics

Whoa. By Crom, that appears to be confirmation!

Does this mean we’re going to start seeing Washington’s power players, politicos, and pundits reading Grant Morrison’s comics and Robert E. Howard books to get insights into the new president’s personality and outlook? Could potentially lead to a bit too much rigid good-vs.-evil thinking, which is always a problem in Washington, but it might be cool to see a little more mainstreaming of comics culture…

And on top of being a comic reader, Obama is also a Trekkie, according to Leonard Nimoy…

About a year and a half ago I was at a political event and one of our current campaigners for the office of President of the United States saw me, approached, and he gave me the Vulcan signal… it was not John McCain.

On top of that, the article notes that he namedrops “dilithium crystals” in casual conversation. Dude, that’s nerrrrdy.

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