Archive for February, 2013



Colder #4

Nimble Jack has kidnapped Reece into the dimension of crazy, and Declan has to find a way to get her out, all while making sure his body temperature, which drops every time he uses any of his special abilities, doesn’t fall below zero, which would be the point where he dies. He hitches a ride on a passing dog-phobic nutcase to track her into the other dimension, but runs into plenty of problems, including a horde of hellhounds, gigantic monsters, and Nimble Jack himself. Can Declan find Reece? Even if he can, will either of them be able to escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brilliant imagery in this series — the design of the hellhounds is great, and the monsters formed of fingers and fangs are also magnificent. The characterization is good, too. The action is alright, but what this series does so well is weird horror and paranoia. Paul Tobin did some really interesting research on this project — check out some of it here.


Hellboy in Hell #3

Hellboy is, well, still stuck in Hell, learning more about his demonic family. He learns that his father, as punishment for creating him and giving him the Right Hand of Doom, has been frozen in a block of ice for millennia. He tangles with two of his brothers, intent on killing him, cutting off his hand, and claiming it for themselves. And he learns that he might’ve killed someone very important, and messed things up really badly.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is ominous and spooky, with Hellboy finding himself way over his head. And again, the real selling point for this one is Mike Mignola drawing Hellboy, so yeah, probably worth picking up.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off

Hope for the Future


Wearing the Cape: Villains Inc. by Marion G. Harmon

The third consecutive novel in the “Wearing the Cape” series (technically, it was written second, with the previously reviewed “Big Easy Nights” written to bridge the gap between the first novel and this one) continues the story of newbie superhero Hope “Astra” Corrigan.

Astra has now completed her training and is a more effective superhero than ever, but after the events of the first novel, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. And since her relationship with the late Atlas has been revealed, her popularity has plummeted. The Sentinels have plenty of problems of their own, too — with several of their most prominent members dead, they have to bring in new members quickly. And there’s a prediction that the team’s leader, the magic-wielding Blackstone, is going to be killed. And worst of all, Chicago is gripped by a metahuman crime wave as a group called Villains Inc. starts a war on organized crime, the Sentinels, the police, and anyone else who gets in their way.

There are also plenty of changes for two of Hope’s friends — Jacky “Artemis” Bouchard, reluctant vampire vigilante, back from New Orleans, learns what happens when a vampire gets hit by a powerful healing spell, and Shelly (Hope’s old friend from high school, who’d killed herself in an attempt to give herself superpowers and then been resurrected as an artificial intelligence — she lives inside Hope’s head and serves as her in-the-field crisis dispatcher) sees her role in the Sentinels organization develop in greater ways.

So will the Sentinels be able to track the spellcaster behind Villains Inc.? Will they be able to save Blackstone? Can they keep from getting wrecked by Villains Inc. and everyone else coming out of the woodwork to attack them? And how is Astra going to handle going toe-to-toe with a villain who’s even more powerful than she is?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve read a lot of superhero novels, and I’ve liked an awful lot of them. And I really do think Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series is the gold standard that all other superhero novels should aspire to. Seriously, it’s better than “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” which is a heck of a good novel.

I love the characters — Hope, Jacky, Shelly, the Bees, Hope’s parents, Rush, Blackstone, Detective Fisher, Lei Zi, and all the rest. I love the action — bruising, brutal, terrible, thrilling. I love the drama and suspense and the vast amounts of humor.

And I love the attention to detail and realism — there are plenty of ideas here about how superheroes and supervillains would affect laws, culture, the media, and more. And even better, all that realism doesn’t make it a grim, unappealing story, like so many other “realistic” superhero stories. It’s still enormous fun to read, and to re-read.

Seriously, the story starts with Astra fighting Godzilla — or at least a godzilla. And it just gets better from there.

It’s a great story. Go pick it up.

Comments (2)

A World Without “Superhero” Trademarks


So here’s the latest thing to irritate me about the comics biz.

There’s this little publisher called Cup O’ Java Studio Comix that’s been working on a comic called “A World Without Superheroes.” And Marvel and DC are going to take ’em to court because of their jointly-held trademark of the word “super hero.” (or superhero or super-hero or whatever variation.) They’ve done this before — a few years back, there was a comic called “Super Hero Happy Hour,” which changed its name to “Hero Happy Hour” to keep from getting sued.

I think this is all fairly silly, and I hope, since it appears that Cup o’ Java is willing to take it to court, that this is going to spell the end of the Marvel/DC trademark of “superhero.”

Ya see, the thing with trademarks is that you have to keep them protected. That means keeping track of people who may be using your trademark and getting them to stop. ‘Cause if you don’t, you run the risk of a court saying you haven’t done anything to protect your trademark, so anyone can use it. Or worse, from a business viewpoint, if your trademark gets used too often as a generic replacement for any variation of a product or service you provide, even if it’s actually offered by one of your competitors.

Let’s take this slow. Some companies take trademark enforcement way too seriously — McDonald’s, for instance, sues just about anyone who has a “McDonald” in their business name. McDonald Dry Cleaning, McDonald Lawn Care, McDonald Chainsaw Repair. That’s just mean, ’cause no one is going to assume that the same company that makes Big Macs is also going to fix your chainsaw, right? Too many lawsuits for frivolous reasons just makes people mad at you and gets you a reputation as a bully.

On the other hand, you really do have to make sure you don’t let your name become too generic. Xerox has had that trouble for years, because people started using their name as a verb — “I’m going to go xerox my files” when they meant they were just going to go make some copies. Xerox has worked hard for years, usually through advertising and public relations, to remind people that Xerox is a trademark, not just another word for photocopies. Same thing with Wham-O, which is so on the ball about protecting their trademark on the Frisbee that when you search on Wikipedia for “Frisbee,” it automatically redirects you to the article for “flying disc.” I mean, as far as I can tell, there’s no Wikipedia article at all for the Frisbee product, ’cause they’re so focused on making sure people remember it’s a Frisbee(R) flying disc.

There’s a whole branch of trademark law that has to do with generic trademarks — common words that used to be trademarks, like aspirin, zipper, kerosene, escalator, yo-yo, even heroin.

And let’s be honest now — “superhero” is a completely generic term. It describes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Storm, and Iron Man. But it also describes Spawn, the Tick, the Incredibles, Danny Phantom, the Powerpuff Girls, Fantomah, and every player character in the “City of Heroes” and “Champions Online” computer games. Your kid runs around with a bath towel around his neck and a paper domino mask, and who is he? He’s a superhero. Lower-case. Commonplace. Generic.

In “The Incredibles,” Bob Parr says, “Of course I have a secret identity. I don’t know a single superhero who doesn’t.”

In “Hancock,” Mary Embrey says, “Gods, angels… Different cultures call us by different names. Now all of a sudden it’s superhero.”

In “The Greatest American Hero,” Ralph Hinkley says, “I’m not quitting my job. How am I supposed to eat? Go down to the welfare office and stand in the superhero line?”

Did Marvel and DC sue to protect their trademarks in any of these instances? ‘Cause if Xerox had to deal with a lot of movies and TV shows using their trademark so carelessly, they’d raise hell, I guarantee. Why do DC and Marvel let this stuff slide?

Have they complained over the last few years about the tagline on the “Invincible” comics?


“The Best Superhero Comic Book in the Universe!” They’re even cribbing the Fantastic Four’s tagline, and Marvel didn’t say boo about it.

The fact is, Marvel and DC only try to enforce their trademark when it’s a small publisher that doesn’t have the money to fight them in court. And while that’s a great strategy for winning court cases, it’s not a good strategy to use when you want to really protect your trademark. Because everyone else uses it so much, it’s now completely generic. They don’t try to protect it when Image or Pixar use it or even book publishers who publish books with the word “superhero” in their titles. It’s almost like they know they’ve got a phony-baloney trademark, and they don’t want to draw too much attention to it.

Letting Marvel and DC have a trademark on “superhero” is about as stupid as letting Tor have a trademark for “science fiction,” or Universal Studios have one for “movie,” or Safeway have one for “groceries.” That’s not just my fat-guy schmuckass opinion either — legal experts generally think it’s kinda loopy that Marvel and DC — two competing companies — were ever allowed to share a trademark on such a generic term anyway.

“Superhero” belongs to all of us. And DC and Marvel can’t put that genie back into the bottle.

Comments (5)

Friday Night Fights: How to Beat Fried Worms!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather ye ’round so we can get this weekend started right. It’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from November 2010’s Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #20 by Art Baltazar, Franco, and Mike Norton. The bad guys got Captain Marvel down, but it doesn’t take much to turn the tide against Mr. Mind and Dr. Sivana.





Ah, how the worm, as they say, has turned…

Comments (2)

Leviathan’s Triumph

This is gonna be a rough week for comics blogging over here — I got only one comic in the pull-list on Wednesday.


Batman Inc. #7

Batman’s been captured by Leviathan, and the rest of Batman Inc. is in disarray. The Knight is dead. Damian realizes that Talia’s lead henchman is actually his own clone, artificially aged into adulthood and augmented with extra powers. The Hood betrays everyone. Talia tries to blow up Red Robin. Leviathan’s mind-controlled allies, including Gotham City’s children, flock to her crusade. And Batman is stuck in an inescapable deathtrap. Only Damian can save the day — but he’s been ordered to stay in the Batcave. It’s not a good time to be on the side of justice in Gotham…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding work. Great action, fantastic characterization, wonderful tension, and fun, expressive art. Everyone gets some time in the spotlight, and everyone actually ends up being likeable — including Jason Todd, which I was pretty sure was a complete impossibility. And in among all the betrayals and battles and explosions, we still get some time for great quiet moments, including Damian feeding a cat and Alfred demonstrating why he’s the Bat-family’s best parent. If I’ve got a complaint, it’s that we’ve officially lost the Knight, who was an outstanding, fun, positive character. The Squire is still around, and I hope Morrison has some great moments for her coming up. This might be a good time to go track down the “Knight and Squire” series from a couple years back.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments off