Archive for February, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Friday Night Foot!

Hasn’t been too rough a week for me — heck, I’m unemployed, so that means I get to live the harsh life of sitting around the house, watching TV, trying not to overeat, and just, you know, have nightmares about money and homelessness and all that. So not too rough. But even on our easiest weeks, we still need something to get us out of our day-to-day schedule. So, the weekend’s almost here, and the best way to get stoked for the weekend is with our old pal FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re going to go for some seriously hardcore violence, so small children, squicky parents, and people who totally freak out about violence may wish to look away.

From November 2002, here’s a panel from PS238 #0 by Aaron Williams, featuring the epic battle between Bernard Brenner and his dad’s foot.

The savagery! The carnage! The limitless agonizing aaaaagony! Although you may find this panel tacked up in our friendly neighborhood podiatrist’s office. One person’s pain is another person’s Porsche…

(BTW, you can check out Aaron Williams’ awesome website right over here.)

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Last Call for the Blue and Green

Two of the comics on my pull-list had their final issues yesterday.

Blue Beetle #36

Definitely one of my favorite comics series of the last few years, and I’m really sad to see this one end. Jaime Reyes and his impossibly awesome supporting cast have been the focus of some of DC’s best stories and most engaging storytelling. And there’s not much else out there to replace it with.

We pick up where we left off last issue — the remaining alien scarabs of the Reach are fighting Jaime because he refuses to join their crusade against all oppression across the universe. But wait, how can Jaime be fighting the aliens as Blue Beetle at the same time that he’s helping evacuate his classmates from the high school gym in his civilian guise? Turns out he’s got some remote-controlled holographic projectors invented by Ted Kord that let him be in two places at once. But it still doesn’t leave any good options for beating up a bunch of bloodthirsty aliens all by himself. The Scarab says it can force a hard reboot of all the scarabs, including Jaime’s own — but that leaves Jaime with no powers, a mile or two above the Earth, with no chance of the Scarab rebooting for almost a month. Is there anything that can keep Jaime from hitting the ground hard? Nope.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A good, fun story, a bit sadder than I was expecting (I’d mostly discounted the idea that they were going to kill a member of the supporting cast), and quite a bit more exciting than I was expecting, considering some of the less-than-awesome final issues I’ve seen out there. If you still wanna see Jaime, you can find him in “Teen Titans,” but I don’t read that one anymore. He’s also going to be showing up in Cartoon Network’s “The Brave and the Bold” cartoon from time to time.

Seriously, I’m gonna miss this series so much. Awesome writing, awesome characterization, awesome dialogue. If you haven’t read this one previously, go get the trade paperbacks. You’ll love ’em.

She-Hulk #38

Niiiice cover. Hello, Tall, Green and Gorgeous!

The story inside, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the cover. Shulkie is back on top of the world, but she gets a telepathic message from her Skrull friend Jazinda, who tells her that she’s been captured by the government and she has to absolutely disavow any knowledge that she was a Skrull. She-Hulk reluctantly agrees, but is eventually summoned to a secret base where a bunch of scientists are torturing Jazinda and repeatedly killing her to watch her resurrect herself. Of course, Shulkie can’t stay quiet for long, so she moves in to save Jazinda. But then she gets attacked by the Man-Elephant (snicker), but the cavalry shows up in the form of the Lady Liberators. Is there a way for everyone to get Jazinda free? Is there a way to keep She-Hulk out of prison? Is anyone going to finally break the fourth wall?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Peter David’s run on this book has been sorta off-and-on, but he hits all the right notes in this one. The story’s fun, funny, exciting, clever. They get some nods to previous series, they get a little legal mumbo-jumbo, they get a lot of fisticuffs. I’m gonna miss this series, too — I’ve always thought She-Hulk was a cool character.

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Squeaky Clean!

Tiny Titans #13

It’s time for another meeting of the Tiny Titans Pet Club! This time, everyone shows up at Robin’s house while Alfred goes off to run errands. Unfortunately, Aqualad brings his new pet, Inky the Octopus, who promptly squirts ink all over everyone. In an attempt to clean up before Alfred gets back, everyone gets the costumes into the Bat-Washing Machine, fills it full of a bit too much detergent, and floods the house with soap. Besides that, Hotspot gets to join the Bird Scouts, and Psimon attends a Science Club meeting.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of excellent stuff from Baltazar and Franco here. Inky the Octopus really is quite funny, as are the repeated “SOAP!” sound effects, Robin’s completely nonchalant penguins, the return of Beast Boy’s pet elephant, and the Kroc Files. This here is certainly my favorite panel:

No doubt about it, I loves me some superfluous Brainiacs.

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #33

Looks like New York City has a pest problem — in this case, an infestation of dinosaurs! The Avengers are barely holding their own, and Wolverine even gets eaten, briefly, by a T-Rex. And their resident dinosaur expert, Ka-Zar of the Savage Land, is trying to learn how to drive. Who’s behind the dino invasion? It’s Stegron the Dinosaur Man, and he has a way to create super-dinosaurs that’ll let him defeat the human race! While Wolverine uses a ketchup packet to track Stegron, Spider-Man tries in vain to teach Ka-Zar how to drive a car. But when it’s time for the big fight, when Ka-Zar is the only guy who can save the day, where has he disappeared to?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was actually a little concerned about the language — because it ends up talking down to the reader. Sure, sure, this is an all-ages comic, but the best all-ages comics don’t treat their readers like babies. But other than that, there’s a lot of the stuff that makes these comics so much fun, from the crazy dinosaurs to the bizarre subplot about teaching the Jungle Lord how to drive, to the little background details. Definitely worth picking up.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Alex Ross

Time to get back on board this semi-regular series I’m working on about Lubbockites who have worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. Today, we’re going with a guy who we talk about a lot here, because he’s one of the most prominent artists in the comics biz: Alex Ross.

Alex Ross was born in 1970 in Portland, Oregon, but he was raised in Lubbock, where he was drawing pictures from out of TV commercials while he was still just a toddler. While he received art tips from his mother, a commercial artist, he picked up his beliefs on morality from his father, a minister who ran a children’s shelter, among other charitable works.

Ross’s artistic inspirations included comic artists like Berni Wrightson and George Perez, as well as “Saturday Evening Post” illustrator Norman Rockwell, whose photorealistic painting and attention to detail appealed to Ross’ artistic sensibilites.

He attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he began toying with the idea of painting comics. After graduating, Ross worked at an advertising agency and did a little work in comics on the side. His work caught the eye of writer Kurt Busiek, who suggested a collaboration.

The result was 1993’s “Marvels”, which looked at the Golden and Silver Ages of Marvel Comics through the eyes of a photojournalist named Phil Sheldon. Ross’ artwork helped make the miniseries wildly popular — he knew how to draw the human body realistically, with fat and wrinkles and non-cartoonish muscles and facial expressions; he knew light and shadow, and how different light sources would affect the appearance of something you saw; he knew how to draw clothing that wasn’t just painted-on spandex, clothing that actually wrinkled like real clothing. His characters — superheroes and normal folks alike — looked like real people. They looked like they’d stepped out of a photograph or out of a movie. His artwork helped make “Marvels” a powerful piece of storytelling, and readers bought every copy of “Marvels” they could get their hands on. It was a massive, star-making accomplishment.

Ross followed up “Marvels” with the equally-impressive “Kingdom Come” at DC, set 20 years into the future of the DC Universe. The story is told mainly through the eyes of Norman McCay, an elderly minister who is chosen by the Spectre to observe the coming disasters. McCay was also the spitting image of Ross’ father, making “Kingdom Come” a more much personal book than “Marvels” had been. And again, “Kingdom Come” was a triumph for Ross — copies of the series quickly vanished from comics stores as readers clamored both for Ross’ artwork and for visions of what the future held for DC’s characters.

Ross began working on smaller-scale projects, though he still had time to work on comics like “Uncle Sam,” “Earth X,” “Justice,” and the 60th anniversary portfolios of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman. Ross took care of character designs for Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City” and covers for a huge number of comics. He also painted a series of covers for “TV Guide” and created promotional artwork for the 2002 Academy Awards. He painted album covers for a couple of CDs by heavy metal band Anthrax. And he produced a number of illustrations which were used during the opening credits of the “Spider-Man 2” movie. He’s become one of the best-known and most popular artists in the comics industry.

His artwork is simply spectacularly beautiful, no matter whether you’re a comic fan or not. A lot of people — myself included — think he should be included on the West Texas Walk of Fame. Will he make it there? Only time will tell, though there are probably a few politicians out there who could grease the wheels…

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We’re All Going to Hell!


Comic Book Comics #3

The epic history of comics, as told by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, continues, as we hit the darkest period the comics industry has gone through. We get an abbreviated biography of Dr. Fredric Wertham and his crusade against comics in the 1950s. We get an overview of Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent,” a quick look at the anti-comics Senate hearings, the inside dope on the disastrous testimony of EC Comics’ William Gaines before the Senate committee, and the creation of the Comics Code Authority, as well as one of the few triumphs of that era — the creation of MAD Magazine. Other topics in this issue include: the Pop Art phenomenon, which owed a lot to Roy Lichtenstein’s ability to copy from comic books; the campy 1960s “Batman” TV show; Robert Crumb’s early days; the first fanzines; the birth of the Silver Age; and Jack Kirby’s not-exactly-joyful reunion with Stan Lee.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent cartooning and clever wit do a lot to lighten up the most completely rotten chunk of comics’ history. I’m also digging the reminders of how early it was that pop culture was being impacted by comic books.


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #3

Hellboy pays a visit to a woman who was once kidnapped by the Fae and replaced by a changeling. They have a meeting with Mab, former queen of the Fae, who warns them that war is coming and terrible times are on the way for Hellboy. And the world’s witches get dire punishments from a mysterious and powerful woman who plans to lead an army against the world. We also get more of the origin story of Koshchei the Deathless, mythological figure of Russian folklore. After he was killed by his treacherous wife, he was resurrected by his dragon patron. Koshchei then hides his soul (inside an egg, then inside a duck, a rabbit, a goat, and on an island beyond the edge of the world) and sets out to get revenge on his betrayers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely creepy stuff, with some good long-range suspense starting to build. What’s up with Hellboy? Is he going to become the Beast of the Apocalypse after all?

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Epic Win


Well, the big comics-related news today is that Heath Ledger won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor last night for his role in “The Dark Knight” as the Joker. What does this mean for the comics biz? Probably not a durned thing. It’s cool that comic-based performance won the award, but DC has already tried to piggyback on “The Dark Knight” and it’s gone nowhere. As it is, I’m glad Ledger received the Oscar, and it’s too bad we lost such an unbelievable actor so soon.

As for the other Oscars… I dunno. An unusually small number of surprises this year. No dark horse winners — the winners that everyone expected — “Slumdog Millionaire,” Heath Ledger, “Wall-E,” “Man on Wire” — all took home their awards. (Isn’t it weird that the actors from “Slumdog” didn’t get any acting nominations?)

I am relieved that “Benjamin Button” didn’t take Best Picture. I didn’t see that one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen trailers that bad for a high-profile movie before, and I don’t know anyone who thought it was worth a bucket of warm spit.

Although I also gotta say — I really wish they’d quit giving the Makeup and Special Effects Oscars to movies like “Benjamin Button.” I enjoy those awards more when they go to horror and sci-fi movies, the way God intended.

Any other interesting things out there? Let’s review the linkdump file…

* The Archie McPhee catalog has the world’s freakiest, coolest stuff.

* A bunch of fascinating, beautiful photographs of deserted, abandoned, and ruined places.

* Neil Gaiman’s Hugo-winning Lovecraft/Sherlock Holmes story “A Study in Emerald” — collected in convenient and entertaining PDF format.

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Friday Night Fights: Bonk!

It’s been another crazy week, and if there’s any good remedy for a crazy week, it’s a nice heapin’ dose of prolific percolatin’ pain to start your weekend. In other words, it’s time once again for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This week’s Moment of Mangling comes from Police Comics #13 from November 1942. Written and illustrated by the great Jack Cole, “The Man Who Can’t Be Harmed!” introduced Woozy Winks to the world, and included the epic battle of Plastic Man vs. a bunch of rocks.


(That’s cool, Spacebooger, you know how it is, rockin’ and rollin’ and whatnot.)

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Farewell to the Birds

Well, I was going to devote today’s blog to one of my rare sports posts so I could talk about the Mike-Leach-vs.-Texas-Tech thing. But Tech finally decided they didn’t want to deal with angry, torch-bearing mobs and gave Leach his contract. So in the absence of anything else, let’s hit some quick reviews.


Birds of Prey #127

It’s the last issue of this comic, and they don’t send it off on a high note. The Calculator has new powers that let him control any machinery, and he’s invaded the Birds’ HQ with a giant scary robot. They manage to get away, but lose their headquarters in the process. They raid the last stronghold of the Silicon Syndicate and mash ’em flat except, again, for Calculator. So Babs has a crisis of confidence and quits the team to see if she can get the use of her legs back and become Batgirl again. Wait, what?

Verdict: Thumbs down. The story was far, far too rushed. The ending was forced. Characterization was almost nonexistent. And I really don’t get DC’s new craze for rolling back their clock to the Silver Age. They brought Hal Jordan back, they brought Barry Allen back, they’re somehow going to shoehorn Babs Gordon out of her completely awesome role as Oracle the computer guru and try to turn her back into one of Batman’s dull sidekicks again. Wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they’re going to de-age Nightwing to get him back in the Robin costume next.


Justice League of America #30

The Justice League has managed to subdue the Shadow Cabinet, but they all get ambushed by the Shadow Thief, who’s managed to get a lot more powerful recently and has decided to kill both teams as a sacrifice to some unnamed god. They all have to fight shadow-versions of themselves. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Rocket shows up (Yay! Rocket!), schools Batman (Wait, what?), and reveals that the Shadow Cabinet has given Dr. Light (the female Japanese superhero, not the crazy evil barfbag villain) a new powersuit that lets her use her superpowers again. So they all manage to defeat Shadow Thief, but he has one last surprise — he’s created an evil shadow-version of the moon, and he’s going to crash it into the Earth. Superman manages to bash it to bits, but the Shadow Cabinet gets away.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I actually liked some parts of this — I still can’t get over how much I’m liking seeing the Milestone Media characters here in the DCU, some of the dialogue was quite good, and the Evil Shadow Moon was both cheesy and cool. But dangit, I just cannot take any comic seriously that tries to tell me that a halfwit dork like the Shadow Thief is a serious threat. And isn’t it about time they gave the superhero Dr. Light a new name?

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Dreadnought of Chicanery!

I got nothing of eternal lasting interest to jabber about today. (But do I ever?) So instead, here’s some panels from the origin of Bob Burden’s surrealist superhero, the Flaming Carrot:




I’ll freely admit, I often find myself pointing into a field and saying “Horse.” I thought everyone did.

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Scream, Dracula, Scream!


Captain Britain and MI13 #10

Dracula has returned to the Marvel Universe, making his plans against MI13 while the team, unaware of the Vampire King’s machinations, spend some time developing their intra-team relationships. Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom are clubbing in Soho and picking up on tourists. Spitfire and Blade (with his ridiculous, ridiculous hair) are partying and romancing near Hyde Park. The Black Knight has gone to Wakanda to get the Ebony Blade, and he and Faiza discuss their knight-steward relationship. But all the good stuff in this issue belongs to Dracula. You’ve got Dracula’s meeting with Doctor Doom, you’ve got Dracula’s magic/scientific headquarters on the moon, you’ve got Dracula launching guided vampire-missiles on London. And you just want more and more, because Dracula is sooo cool.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Every scene with Dracula in it is a solid winner, and the scenes without Dracula are still pretty good. If I’ve got any complaint, it’s that Dracula isn’t quite the arrogant, loquacious  aristocrat that he was in the classic 1970s series “The Tomb of Dracula.” Still, he hasn’t even had a chance to have a good ranting monologue yet, so maybe that’s coming in the next few issues.


Crossed #3

The maniacally homicidal Crossed don’t figure as much into this issue — they show up at the beginning, but soon disappear. The focus this time is on how bad things have become with civilization in collapse. The small group of survivors are attacked by another group of humans — a schoolteacher and her former students, who have been surviving by attacking people and eating them. After the teacher’s death, the survivors are left with a band of six children to care for. They don’t have the resources to keep everyone fed, and they don’t trust that the kids won’t, at some point, decide to go back to eating people. Is there a good solution out of this?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A somewhat less violent issue, though the moral issues involved are still plenty traumatic. We also get a bit more detail about the survivors, which is something that’s been lacking previously.

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