Archive for April, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Thing vs. Hulk!

It’s the end of another rough-and-tumble week, and we all need a nice dose of the weekend to help us unwind. And what’s the best way to start the weekend? A heaping bowl of mindless violence and, as always, FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This week’s brawl comes from July 1971’s Fantastic Four #112 by Stan Lee, John Buscema, and Joe Sinnott:

If there are two poster boys for rambunctious comic violence, it’s gotta be those two brawling beauties, the Thing and the Hulk.

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OMG BUNNIES!!1!

Tiny Titans #15

As you might expect from this cover, this issue features an astounding number of bunnies.

It’s time for another meeting of the Pet Club, with Alfred laying down his ground rules to make sure that Stately Wayne Manor doesn’t filled with bubbles again. Supergirl is back, with all her super-pets, including Beppo the Super-Monkey, and Zatara, the boy magician, is back, too, bringing his pet bunny Abby. Hey, remember what happened the last time Beppo and Zatara were together? That’s right, Beppo got hold of Zatara’s magic wand and turned all the Titans into monkeys! So what happens this time?

Soooo many bunnies… Soooo much Cute Overload… And “Ka-Bunny!” may be the greatest sound effect in history.

We also get treated to Rose Wilson babysitting the Tiny Terror Titans, Li’l Disruptor, Dreadbolt, Miss Persuader (and her Atomic Toothbrush), and Copperhead. She shows the kids what’s under her eyepatch, then makes them some hot nachos. You wouldn’t think something so simple would be so good, but it is. And finally, there’s a quick epilogue where one of the bunnies reveals a completely unexpected secret.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Vast fun, made even better with a multitude of impossibly cute bunnies. Of all the all-ages books I read (and I’m still surprised that I read and enjoy so many of them), I think this is the one I always look forward to the most.

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Happy FunTime Link City!

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Ain’t feeling like doing any reviews today, so let’s see what’s in the link stash.

  • Who’s going to be mayor of New York City?!
  • Who’s teaming up with the Punisher?!
  • This seems fairly weird, ’cause I’m a big fan of this contest, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time in years that there’ve been no results announced for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Did they get no entrants this year? Did they run out of money? Did they lose interest? Who knows…
  • As far as this goes, (1) the Texas constitution doesn’t actually give the state permission to secede from the US — it says Texas can split into five all-new states, but it sure doesn’t give secession a thumbs-up. Bad enough that Rick Perry’s talking treason in an attempt to appeal to the crazies, but the poor idiot doesn’t even know his own state constitution. (2) Not that it matters. Kay Bailey is gonna kick his high-toned, hair-sprayed, uncharismatic, unbelievably desperate butt so hard, he’s gonna have to climb a ladder to put his pants on. No amount of kissing up to the crazies is gonna change that, ’cause Rick Perry is just a deeply dislikeable critter.
  • Remember the trailer I linked a while back for the new film version of “Where the Wild Things Are“? You won’t wanna miss this trailer for “Everyone Poops.”
  • Ladies and gentlemen: The NOM NOM Song.

That does it for my link stash, so I sure better have some actual content for tomorrow, right?

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Magic and Murder

Things have been a bit busy, so I’ve fallen a little behind on some of my reviews, so here are a couple I’ve had sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks.

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Madame Xanadu #9

The story finally moves into the modern world — or at least the early 20th century. Nimue has moved to America, still hoping to get her revenge on the Phantom Stranger. She’s also sleeping with John Zatara, future father of the superhero magic-user Zatanna. Nimue prepares a powerful binding spell designed to imprison the Stranger if he ever gets close to her. And in the background of all this, a cop named Jim Corrigan is making his way closer to the event that will turn him into the Spectre.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As I’ve said before, Amy Reeder Hadley’s artwork is just extraordinary. I love the background work with Jim Corrigan, and Zatara’s Italian heritage is played very nicely. Worst news about this comic? The next issue is going to be the last.

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Crossed #4

Crisis follows crisis for the small group of survivors trying to escape the Crossed, the zombiesque sadistic mass murderers who have torn society down to the ground. They lose more allies to the weird Crossed infection, they watch the Crossed as they continue to evolve into smarter and more deadly opponents, and they do everything they can to get away before they’re killed or turned.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s gross, horrific, tense, and deeply unpleasant. I still say some smart film producer is eventually going to turn this into one heck of a horror movie.

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AmazonFail

Man alive, I had actual comics to review today, but then a major corporation’s public relations department had to go and make me mad.

If you missed the news, Amazon.com got hit with a heaping dose of rotten publicity this week. Somehow, either because of a computer glitch, hackers, or something else, books with GLBT, feminist, and health themes got reclassified as “adult” and de-listed — meaning you couldn’t find them if you did a search for them on the website. So you couldn’t buy “Brokeback Mountain,” “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” biographies of Oscar Wilde or Harvey Milk, or even books about rape survivors and preventing teen suicide — but you could definitely buy “Girls Gone Wild” videos, sex toys, “Mein Kampf,” and “The Turner Diaries.”

Unsurprisingly, the online world completely blew up. Twitter went wild, Facebook went wild, the blogosphere went wild. And justifiably so, I think — Amazon is probably the largest bookseller, online or off, in the world, and lots of people buy books there that are unavailable at their local bookstores. And I do think this was either an accidental computer foul-up or a case of someone hacking the Amazon ratings system somehow — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ leftward political leanings are pretty well-known, and he’s not the kind of guy to just start censoring books he doesn’t agree with, much less books that he probably does agree with.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about how it happened, because no one really knows yet. I don’t want to talk about the fallout, because no one knows what it might be.

I used to work as a public relations guy, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

Because this was an absolutely spectacular failure.

Part of the problem is that the story broke on Easter Sunday, when just about everyone at the company was at home with their families. I cut their PR guys a little slack for that — it wasn’t like they were all in the office when people found out about it. But the thing is, this was the major topic of discussion online Sunday and Monday. Twitter’s top “trend” for the last few days has been “#amazonfail” and I can’t count the number of angry blog posts I’ve read about this. On Sunday, it was already shaping up as a major PR disaster for Amazon, something that they’d have to address as quickly as possible.

But they didn’t address it.

Sure, they talked to a few reporters. They released some statements, finally, late in the day on Monday. But the one place you never saw an explanation or statement was on Amazon.com’s website. And that’s where you need it most, because that’s where people were going to see what Amazon had to say. It looked like Amazon was going to ignore the problem and hope it would all go away. In a case like this, the embarrassment caused by admitting that your site had a problem is vastly outweighed by the need to get unhappy customers back on your good side. Having this happen, whether it’s a glitch, a hack, or on purpose, is a disaster, but taking too long to respond just makes it worse.

The idea that Amazon couldn’t get started on a PR response because of the Easter holiday doesn’t hold water. If you’re the PR manager for a company the size of Amazon, and something like this blows up, you don’t come strolling into the office Monday morning at 9:30 or 10 to start meandering your way through a response. You’re in the office on Easter Sunday or as early as you can get in on Monday morning to make sure a response is ready and uploaded onto the front page. A web-savvy company should know better than to let Twitter and the blogs spend a couple of days talking about a problem like this. It reinforces every bad thing being said about the company.

I suspect that part of the problem was that the legal department got involved and screamed “Don’t say anything! We’ll get sued!” Of course, keeping sullenly silent won’t actually stop you from getting sued if someone wants to sue you. And prompt and effective public relations responses are the types of things that turn angry customers — and angry authors and publishers — into people who understand what happened and are willing to cut you some slack while you get the problem fixed. So the correct response to the legal team would’ve been to lock ’em in a storage room and release a statement anyway.

In summary, with the recent PR screwups by Amazon and, a few weeks back, by the Sci Fi Channel, I’m almost convinced that I’m the only person who has a single clue about public relations. I guess I should send ’em a few resumes…

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Will Terrell

It’s past time for another entry in our semi-regular series on current and former Lubbockites who’ve worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. We’ve already taken a look at Dirk West, Alex Ross, and Jim Smith — and since we’re getting closer and closer to the Lubbock Comic Book Expo on May 2, let’s take a look at someone who’s currently living in Lubbock: Will Terrell.

Terrell is a comic book artist/writer and a teacher living in Lubbock.  He was the founder of the Lubbock Sketch Club and has worked as a professional comic book artist for several years.  His professional credits include colorist on Disney’s “Gargoyles” comic book series from Slave Labor graphics and “The Goblin Chronicles” from Ape Entertainment and Archon Comics.

Will got his start in comic books publishing mini-comics through his small-press company “Lucid Comics” from 1997-2003 and now works primarily as a freelance illustrator and creator. And don’t forget you can check out his website for more of his artwork.

And he’s got a new comic he’s hoping to debut for this year’s Expo! “SuperZeroes” is, as Will describes it, a “romantic-superpowers-adventure-comedy about growing up strange in an average world.” It’s about four high school pals from West Texas who discover that they have strange powers, and how that complicates their lives.

There will be a lot more West Texas and Lubbock artists at the Expo, and a ton of them, like Will, are going to have tables to sell some comics and draw some sketches. You should make plans to stop over at the Lubbock Civic Center on Saturday, May 2, to say hi.

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Dungeons and Dragons co-creator dies

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I had an unusually busy week, which meant far less time than I normally get for surfing the ‘Net. So I didn’t find out ’til this morning that Dave Arneson, the guy who co-created “Dungeons and Dragons” with Gary Gygax, died back on April 7.

David Lance Arneson, who helped trigger the global phenomenon of role-playing games as co-inventor of “Dungeons & Dragons,” has died at the age of 61.

A statement on the game’s official Web site, wizards.com, said Arneson died Tuesday evening “after waging one final battle against cancer.”

Arneson “developed many of the fundamental ideas of role playing: that each player controls just one hero, that heroes gain power through adventures, and that personality is as important as combat prowess,” the statement said.

I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t even know that Arneson was ill. Gygax died just a little over a year ago — that seems like a really short space of time to lose both of the guys who created the modern roleplaying game.

Hats off, folks.

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Friday Night Fights: America Bashed!

It’s been another crazy week — and an unusually busy one for me — so it’s time we all got to blow off some steam with some weekend relaxation — and as always, a quick dose of FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today, we’re going all the way back to October 1941 in Captain America Comics #7 (reprinted in last week’s Captain America Comics Special #1) by the great Jack “King” Kirby and the almost-equally-great Joe Simon. Here, we see Captain America planting his star-spangled fist somewhere about halfway through the skull of one of the Toad’s goons.

That’s violence that’ll get you to stand up and salute.

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Evil Wins Again!

I have lots of books I could review, but I really want to start out with the best comics of the week.

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Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #5

Linda Lee gets her secret identity as Supergirl busted again when a time-traveling Supergirl from the future accidentally reveals everything to Linda’s former best friend Lena Luthor. Meanwhile, Supergirl’s evil clone Belinda Zee gets a hand in realizing her true destiny as “Supergirl #1” by the evil principal. Belinda starts turning her schoolmates into Bizarros, Lena mind-controls the rest of the students and helps Lex Luthor break out of jail and ambush Superman. Belinda gets hold of Supergirl’s communicator that she uses to talk to her mother back on Argo, but gets a nasty surprise when the woman she recognizes as her mother doesn’t recognize her at all. And the teachers at school all reveal their secret identities.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy guacamole, was this one fun. Belinda Zee and Lena Luthor finally go full-on villain, and it’s completely hilarious. The time travel stuff was a bit out-there, but it’s a small price to pay for stuff this awesome.

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Secret Six #8

Even for a book as offbeat as “Secret Six,” this is an unusually offbeat, weird, and funny issue. Scandal goes grocery shopping and runs into a tall, gorgeous redhead named Liana — the stripper/Knockout-lookalike who she met at Jeanette’s casino. There is a great deal of chemistry there. Meanwhile, Jeanette insists that Deadpool go on a date with her, but he’s nervous about her intentions, so he wants a chaperone. Though Ragdoll is extremely eager to come along, Scandal proposes a double-date — with one caveat: Deadpool isn’t allowed to kill anyone. So there are tangles with a vengeance-seeking neo-Nazi, a bunch of arrogant fratsters dressed as the Blackhawks, and even more neo-Nazis, plus an all-girl band dressed as Power Girl, the most focused bathroom tryst ever, and much more, including the infinitely-wonderful glimpse we get into Ragdoll’s “Tiny Titan”esque dreams.

Verdict: An extremely enthusiastic thumbs up. A very funny issue, with outstanding dialogue and excellent action. “Ragdoll Dreams” is probably the standout moment, but there’s really not a single weak moment in this entire comic. My only regret is that Nicola Scott wasn’t on board to draw this issue — but even then, fill-in penciller Carlos Rodriguez does a wonderful job with the characters here. Seriously, if you didn’t pick up this comic this week, go back to the store and get one now. You won’t regret it.

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Ambush Buggin’

DC Showcase Presents Ambush Bug

I broke my personal rule designed to limit my comics spending when I saw this one in the store, partly because I was amazed that DC would put out a Showcase focusing on Ambush Bug, partly because Ambush Bug’s pseudo-adventures are very funny, and partly just because I’d always wanted my own copy of 1983’s DC Comics Presents #39, starring Superman, Ambush Bug, and the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

So what do we get here? We get Ambush Bug’s early appearances, when he was just a lunatic teleporter tormenting Superman, but these quickly give way to Keith Giffen’s wonderful and continuity-free Ambush Bug miniseries, specials, and stocking stuffers, with guest-starring roles for Cheeks the Toy Wonder, Jonni DC Continuity Cop, Argh!yle, Quantis the Koala Who Walks like a Man, Scabbard, Mitsu Bishi, the Ambush Bug from Japan, DC editor Julius Schwartz, and of course… DARKSEID.

There aren’t a whole lot of actual plotlines going on here — most of it is just an excuse for Giffen and his co-conspirators to write a bunch of funny gags about comics. They may not be in color, but this is gonna be the only place you’ll find all these old comics for so little dough.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I count 478 pages of classic Ambush Bug comics for less than 20 bucks. Go pick it up, dawg.

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