Archive for October, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Ambush Journalism!

Alright, people, it’s finally Friday, and that means it’s time we get to the all-important maxxin’-and-relaxxin’ portion of the week. And we’re gonna start that off the way we always do with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re getting our righteous pain and whuppin’ from the greatest journalist in comics history — Spider Jerusalem. Here, from August 2000’s Transmetropolitan #35 by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, and Rodney Ramos, Spider has a few questions he wants to ask Daniel Cox, a creepy cop-approved murderer.

And he closes it all down with the perfect one-liner:

Yeah, that’s the way you conduct an interview!

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The Archie Titans?

Tiny Titans/Little Archie #1

I have been looking forward to this a heck of a lot more than is probably healthy — partly because anything that Art Baltazar and Franco do on “Tiny Titans” is awesome, and partly because Archie crossovers with superhero universes tend to be ridiculously fun.

We start this thing off by discovering that Riverdale and Sidekick City are actually pretty close together geographically — close enough that Archie Andrews’ mom and Alfred the butler both go to the same dry cleaners — and when their outfits get mixed up, Archie ends up wearing Robin’s costume, and Robin ends up with trademark sweater. Once that mix-up gets cleared up, the Titans spend most of the issue visiting the school in Riverdale. Jughead provides hamburgers to Cyborg, Kid Devil tries to play tic-tac-toe on Archie’s head, and Mr. Weatherbee catches up with Principal Slade. And there’s an absolutely brilliant sequence with Miss Grundy that actually made me laugh out loud.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I had high hopes for this one — they were met and exceeded. Go get it, people.

Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #7

Iron Man and the Black Widow investigate a report of a crashed UFO off the coast of Portugal when they get captured by an undersea base run by a woman calling herself the White Spider. She ws supposed to be the Black Widow’s replacement, but instead, she’s trying to take over the world. She keeps Iron Man unconscious while she tries to figure out how to access his armor, and she takes away Black Widow’s costume, which is full of a lot of useful gadgets. Can Natasha figure out how to stop the White Spider’s plans? Meanwhile, back at Avengers Mansion, the rest of the team accidentally uncovers some of the Black Widow’s secrets…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good fun, great dialogue, fun artwork. Nice to see a focus on the Black Widow in this one.

Green Lantern #58

Atrocitus and Sinestro try to find the rage entity as it looks for a new host, Carol Ferris accepts her new role as the queen of the Star Sapphires, and Adara, the hope entity, selects a kidnapped girl named Nicole Morrison as its new host.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but just barely. It’s a bit of a place-holder story, and the only really interesting thing happening here is the character of Nicole Morrison.

DC Comics Presents Jack Cross 100-Page Spectacular

Okay, a while back, Warren Ellis and Gary Erskine started this comic, about a hard-boiled, ruthless anti-terrorism specialist who liked to spend his off-hours organizing anti-war protests. They planned to make it an ongoing series, but it ran out of steam after the first four issues. So a couple of weeks ago, DC put out all four of those issues into this small collection, in which Jack tries to track down a conspiracy within the government that’s trying to obtain a new superweapon and use it on the American public.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The price tag on this one is eight bucks, but this may be the only way you’ll ever get to read this story — and it’s definitely more than worth the price. Jack makes a great hero, the action is pretty fantastic, and it’s great fun to read. If you can still find this one, try to get yourself a copy.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Chris Sims got to visit the offices of MAD magazine, and he brought back awesome pictures to prove it.
  • New posts from Allie Brosh are always a wonderful thing, but her latest features some of her best stuff.
  • Giga Pudding!

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The Awesomeness of the First Amendment

Liberty Annual 2010

Here’s one of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s periodic fundraiser comics, designed to both raise some money for the organization and educate readers about the continuing need to support the CBLDF and oppose censorship of comics.

We get a big variety of comics by a whole lot of creators — a Conan story from Darick Robertson, a story from Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, a Milk and Cheese comic from Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, a Megaton Man story from Don Simpson, and other stories from Garth Ennis, Scott Morse, Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, Gail Simone, Larry Marder, and a ton of pinups from Jill Thompson, Frank Miller, Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Skottie Young, Colleen Doran, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Anything to support the CBLDF, man. It’s five dollars, but it goes to a worthy cause. Pick it up.

Strange Science Fantasy #4

Scott Morse’s pulp-inspired series continues with a look at the life of Private Charlie Gantic, who gets thrust from the Pacific Theater to a global war against invading aliens. A scientific experiment gives him the ability to grow to immense size, and he takes the fight to the aliens as G.I. Gantic — but is he prepared for the mind-blowing secret the aliens have been hiding?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautifully illustrated and a great story that effortlessly jumps from one genre to the next. This entire series has been a ton of fun — we’re lucky to be getting the chance to read it.

American Vampire #7

Chief McCogan and his two fed sidekicks, Agents Straw and Book, confront Mr. Smoke — better known to us as Skinner Sweet — but they get booted out of his HQ when Book can’t control her dislike for the vampire crime lord. We learn that Book and Straw both belong to a vampire-hunting organization that’s promised not to touch Sweet, and McCogan’s investigation into the grisly murder of a Vegas businessman leads to the grisly death of another Vegas businessman.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great storytelling, great characters, and lots of great stuff with rotten, loveable Skinner Sweet.

iZombie #6

Most of this story is Spot’s origin — how he lost his parents, lived with his retired-voice-actor grandfather, became a were-terrier, and met up with Gwen and Ellie. His grandfather finally dies after he and Spot (barely) reconcile — and Spot meets a new old friend at the zoo.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good story, excellent art, but what I think I enjoyed most was Spot’s pop-culture daydreams where he imagines himself as a superhero, in the “Scooby-Doo” cartoon, and in “Star Wars.” It says a lot about what kind of guy Spot is, underneath all that hair.

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Cheese and Quackers

The Amazing Spider-Man: Back in Quack

Yay! Howard the Duck!

Spider-Man runs across Mayor J. Jonah Jameson holding a press conference to promote some group called S.O.O.Ph.I., which is a very obvious evil brainwashing organization that makes all its members wear oversized smiley-face masks. And they’ve kidnapped and brainwashed Howard the Duck and his kinda-sorta-maybe girlfriend Beverly Switzer! Can Spidey break them free of the mind control? And can he use reverse psychology to stop S.O.O.Ph.I.?

Verdict: Thumbs up. What I love about this is writer Stuart Moore is almost channeling Howard’s creator, Steve Gerber, with this goofy, byzantine, gonzo plot. It’s a fun story with a lot of personality.

Avengers Academy #5

Our focus is on Striker, the electrically-powered glory how. His mom was a fame hound and has done everything she can to train him to believe that he’s nothing if he’s not famous. After he gets his powers, he falls into Norman Osborn’s clutches — but unlike his classmates, he gets coddled by Osborn. In the present day, while the Academy members are on a night on the town with Hank Pym, they all get attacked by Whirlwind. Can they stop the supervillain? And can Striker use all this to get himself some much-needed attention?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, excellent characterization, fairly good artwork.

Chaos War #1

The Japanese god of chaos and darkness, Amatsu-Mikaboshi, now calling himself the Chaos King, has already killed plenty of gods on Earth and on alien worlds, but now he’s decided to wipe out all reality so he can be the only thing left in existence. He starts out by attacking Nightmare and tearing him to pieces. Meanwhile, Hercules returns to life and returns to Earth, with enough new power to make him the most powerful being on the planet — and that’s a bit more power than even he can handle, so Amadeus Cho shows up (just before the Avengers start pounding on him) and talks Herc down. After that, uses his new power to summon all of Marvel’s heroes to Central Park, rallies them, despite their doubts about Herc’s stability, to join the fight against the Chaos King, grants them all a fraction of his power so they can follow him, and leads them into Nightmare’s realm. But is the Chaos King stronger than all of them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Greg Pak and Fred van Lente writing Hercules is guaranteed gold, every time.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Fancy Fightin’!

Friends and neighbors, it’s been one heck of a week. We’re all worn to a frazzle, and what we’re all looking for right now is a little weekend time to unwind, relax, and reconnect with our own overworked humanity. And the best way to do that is always… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

This evening’s battle comes from October 2008’s Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #27, by Paul Tobin, Jacopo Camagni, Troy Hobbs, and Norman Lee, as Captain America and Iron Man meet up with Fancy Dan and Ox of the Enforcers. Fancy Dan? Yeah, that’s what I thought. What do you think of that, Cap?

Ox takes the harder punch here, but I’ll have to declare Fancy Dan the big loser in this battle. ‘Cause when your name is Fancy Dan, you’re always going to be a loser…

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Long Lost Batman

Batman: Hidden Treasures #1

What’s this? Basically, DC found an unpublished Batman story in their archives. They’re not entirely sure why it wasn’t published, because it featured beautiful artwork by impossibly freakin’ brilliant artist Bernie Wrightson! The full story, probably created in the late 1980s or early ’90s, is told in splash pages, alongside text by Ron Marz, as Batman tracks Solomon Grundy, who has abducted a man off the street. The second story is from Swamp Thing #7 from 1973 — written by Len Wein and illustrated by Wrightson, it spotlights a confrontation between Batman and Swamp Thing as the muck monster tries to sneak through Gotham City to rescue Matt Cable and Abigail Arcane.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, it’s five dollars, but it’s worth it for this beautiful, crisp, clear artwork by Wrightson. And it’s not even like that’s all you’re getting — the classic Swamp Thing story is a fantastic bonus. If you love Wrightson’s art, or if you want to see why you should love his art, this is definitely worth picking up.

Dethklok #1

Huzzah! An ongoing series for the world’s most insanely popular death metal band! Dethklok is starting their own line of frozen vegetables. The Tribunal is wary, fearing that the world will come to rely on Dethklok for all their food. While awaiting the official unveiling of the frozen food, we get treated to Dethklok playing golf, Murderface’s complete ignorance of evolution and his rotten school life, Toki’s angst over killing his father, and Dr. Rockzo the Rock and Roll Clown (He does cocaine!) and his horrible flashbacks about bananas. Can the band assure that frozen food can be properly metal? Will their concert and the frozen food line go off without a hitch? Or with a whole lot of hitches?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The only way this could be more perfectly Metalocalypsian would be if they included actual heavy metal tracks for the concert at the end of the comic.

Secret Six #26

There are two Secret Sixes invading the underground fantasy kingdom of Skartaris — Bane’s group includes Jeannette, Giganta, King Shark, Lady Vic, and Dwarfstar, while Scandal’s team includes Deadshot, Ragdoll, Black Alice, Catman, and a government operative named Tremor. Catman tangles with an ugly water monster, Black Alice loses her powers, Spymaster lays a surprise on Amanda Waller, and Scandal and Bane’s fight comes to an unexpected conclusion.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, that monster in the lake is really creepy! Tremor is starting out as a fairly interesting character, and Black Alice gets some great moments.

Madame Xanadu #27

Our story opens in 1964 with a supermodel named Neon Blue. Impossibly wealthy, beautiful, and aloof, she’s acclaimed worldwide, dislikes everyone, and prefers not to be touched. And when she does touch someone, they tend to die horribly. But eventually, she runs across a fortune-teller who can see what she really is.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The story wasn’t all that great, and I thought Celia Calle’s art was distracting in all the wrong ways. Sorry — can’t all be winners.

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The Book of Ed

This isn’t exactly about comics, but it is about art. I was thinking a while back about when I was a kid. In school, they’d make us work on art projects, and I just wasn’t that good at it. I wasn’t a bad artist for my age, but it was pretty clear I was never going to be anything more than a simple cartoonist or doodler, at best.

But what I remember was several times when the school brought in an art teacher to show us drawing techniques, and she showed us how to draw a cup. That’s all — just a cup. And I could draw a very nice cup — in charcoal, no less — and did the shading the way I was supposed to. And in fact, I can still draw a pretty good cup. But she never showed us how to draw anything but that cup.

We didn’t have anything cool in town to help us learn art techniques, like the Lubbock Sketch Club. Instead, my parents got me and my sister and brother these drawing books by a guy named Ed Emberley. They’re pretty simple books — not “Here’s how to paint like Rembrandt” but “Here’s how to draw a man running.” But they are designed for kids, and when it comes to art, it’s better to learn how to draw a man running before you learn how to paint “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

Most of his books focus on drawing with colored pens, and all of them use simple diagrams with easy-to-draw shapes. There are a lot of stick figures in these books — which makes perfect sense, really. You learn how to draw a competent stick figure, and you’re on the road to being able to draw more advanced figures. You learn how to draw a simple giraffe, and you can start learning how to draw a real one. Learn how to draw a race car made of triangles and circles, and you’re learning the tools you need to draw a more realistic car.

Emberley does several different kinds of books, and we had a decent collection of them. He has some books about how to draw faces — which I enjoyed because I always liked drawing good facial expressions. He also has one about thumbprint drawings — using a thumbprint as your base image for drawing a picture. We didn’t use that one as much because we would’ve gotten ink-stained fingerprints all over the house.

Probably the most impressive book is his “Make a World” book, which packs instructions on how to draw a vast amount of people, animals, and items into a fairly thin book. It’s got everything from people of all kinds, to dogs and cats, lions and alligators, knights and dragons, cruise ships and jet planes, trains and skeletons and fire trucks and windmills and dinosaurs and igloos and skunks and on and on and on and on.

Emberley’s books are great for kids both artistic and non-artistic. It’ll give kids who are good at drawing an extra boost in learning how to draw things, and it’ll give the less arty kids some fun exercises to improve the artistic skills they need to expand.

Go pick ’em up.

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Clown College

Detective Comics #869

Well, Gotham City just had one heck of an awful night, thanks to the twin rampages of the Imposter Joker (and his Jokerz gang of chemically-enhanced loons) and the Imposter Batman (and his Guardian Bats gang of vigilante dorks). And a bunch of Gotham cops caught the blue flu so they could go rampage with the Guardian Bats. Things quiet down for a while, but Batman knows it’s just the calm before the storm. He meets up with Winslow Heath, a guy who caught a lungful of Joker Venom a few years back — he didn’t die, but he was disfigured with the Joker’s grin and spent years in a waking coma. Now a wealthy man, thanks to the settlement from the hospital, he’s sponsoring something called the Bartholomew Fair — and by coincidence, both the Jokerz and the Guardian Bats have been told to be ready for a party there. Can Batman prevent it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story has been plenty of fun so far, though I wish it could be a bit shorter — aren’t there any two- or three-issue storyarcs anymore?

Justice Society of America #43

This is the epilogue for the convoluted and ridiculous JSA/JLA crossover, and as expected, a lot of this makes very little sense. Green Lantern‘s Starheart is now a giant green city on the dark side of the moon, populated with thousands of magical creatures. And only GL’s concentration keeps it from falling apart. He’s hanging out with his son Obsidian and explaining how things are going to go now — specifically, he can never see his sister Jade again, or even come within a half-mile of her. If they get too close, they’ll merge into a composite being and cause the Starheart to wreck things up. GL and Dr. Fate have been trying to figure out a way they could meet, and ever scenario ends with terrific disaster. And… that’s pretty much the extent of the story.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I did enjoy some of the dialogue between Green Lantern and Obsidian, but on the whole, it was a great big bucket of yak puke.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Bane Busted!

Well now, jadies and lentlemen, I note upon the calendar that today is the first day and the first Friday of the month, meaning it’s time for all y’all Lubbockites to get ready for the latest First Friday Art Trail. But you do know that there’s other kinds of art, right? Specifically, there’s the violent and lurid art that we like to call… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes from March 1996’s Marvel vs. DC #2. This really was a deeply flawed series — sloppy plotting, a much-despised vote-for-the-winner scheme that had scrappy bone-clawed mutant Wolverine defeating Superman-level psychotic Lobo, and many, many, many missed opportunities. But it brought about the very awesome Amalgam Comics, and it had a few other points in its favor. For example, in this sequence by Peter David, Ron Marz, Claudio Castellini, and Paul Neary, we get Marvel’s Captain America taking on DC’s Bane.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any character get hit harder by Cap’s shield. I almost feel sorry for poor Baney…

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Green World

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #21

Our teaser story features Batman up against King Rex and his Dinosaur Gang. Things look grim for the Dark Knight until the Lady Blackhawks show up. Yes, a whole squad of characters based on Lady Blackhawk from “Birds of Prey” — but with jet-packs and bazookas! This, unexpectedly, is the most awesome thing in the past 10 million years.

The main story focuses on Batman and Green Lantern taking on some kind of glowing meteorite calling himself “Robert, Supreme Shaper of Worlds.” Wait, Robert? Seriously? Well, Robert has the heroes on the ropes, thanks to the army of yellow carnivorous plants he’s created. But Batman has a plan (Batman always has a plan) and decides to take Robert into a black hole. Which leaves Green Lantern all alone against a bunch of yellow monster plants that his ring can’t touch.

And finally, a reprint from a “Tiny Titans” comic. Kinda lame, but at least it’s not the two-month-old reprint from the last issue.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The reprint from “Tiny Titans” is a bit pants — come on, guys, don’t just swipe stuff from other comics! But the Dinosaur Gang, the Lady Blackhawks, and Robert’s mad rants more than make up for that.

Wonder Woman #603

Wonder Woman is still leading the Amazon refugees toward a safe haven when they come across some slaughtered Turkish soldiers, and Wondy discovers that she’s able to see the Keres, a group of demonic women harvesting the dead men’s souls. The Keres quickly overpower Wondy and drag her off to Tartarus, the Greek Underworld. Hades, the god of the dead, vanished 20 years ago, and Charon, Hell’s ferryman, now refuses to ferry any of the dead to the Underworld, which is now ruled by a multitude of demons. Wondy wants to return home — Charon warns her that she’ll have to avoid or defeat the Keres and get past Cerberus, the monstrous guardian dog of Hell. Once she makes it back to Earth, she ends up making a deal with the soldiers pursuing her to let the Amazons go in exchange for her meeting with the mastermind behind the schemes against her.

Verdict: Thumbs down. We’ve got this new status quo for Wonder Woman, no one knows what the heck’s going on with her, and so we waste a whole issue with a completely pointless trip to the Underworld. DC really needs some strong editors who’ll crack the whip on the pampered superstars like Straczynski.

Today’s Cool Links:

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