Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Night Fights: A Way With Words

I can't say I was happy with what Howard Chaykin did to Hawkgirl when he took over the title last year (aided and abetted by writer Walter Simonson), but when the man's on, he's ON. For as much as Hawkgirl was disappointing, Chaykin's City of Tomorrow! was a revved-up, bullet-ridden romp that made no apologies for its sexy pleasure-droids or off-the-scale violence.

And as we can see here, Chaykin is no stranger to the synonym. Welcome to the City of Tomorrow - hope you brought your thesaurus!

Panels from City of Tomorrow! #6 (of 6)

Hey, as long as you're here, why don't you take a look around? And don't forget that if it's a fight you want, always bet on Bahlactus!

Who DOESN'T Want to Be a Superhero?

What with everyone off at Nerd Prom, I'm not sure how many people were able to break away to watch last night's premiere of Who Wants to be a Superhero?, but I know I'm happy to see the return of ham-bone acting and unfortunate Spandex.

I was only able to catch the last half of the show yesterday, but I was on time to see the elimination of Braid, who I guess was some sort of Medusa-style idea. From what I saw, I can't say I'm sorry to see her go, but it did make me think of something I realized during the first season. Setting aside the fact that I'm a geek and a show like this is basically candy-coated crack, I enjoy Superhero not in spite of its silliness and corniness, but because of it.

It's nice to see a reality show where the contestants are encouraged to explore the better parts of human nature. Back-stabbing, ego and selfishness are a quick way to get yourself the boot. Say what you will about the Redenbacherian levels of corn dished out by host Stan Lee, but I love hearing someone say, "Look, we can be better; we can be heroes everyday. Why don't we give it a shot?"

Schmaltzy? Sure. But I'm always amazed how much the possibility of elimination affects the contestants - a lot of times they get upset because they disappointed Stan and themselves. All these powers but they'd still couldn't save him! And I'd be lying if I said this show didn't make me and my wife misty more than once before it was through. Damn you, Lee!!!

Here's a quick look at who slipped into a bodysock this time around:

  • Braid: Eliminated!
  • Mr. Mitzvah: Kind of a jerk, right? And he lays it on kinda thick - I keep thinking of the anteater from the "Ant and the Aardvark" cartoons. At least he's in character.
  • Whip-snap: She's got a kind of Grace Jones vibe going, which I really dig. Hopefully she won't make any silly slip-ups that'll give her a too-early elimination like Monkey Woman (I was pulling for ya, MW!)
  • The Defuser: Ladies and gentlemen, my current favorite. He's a little too gung-ho, but he's a cop from Austin (represent!) and he's got a neato back-story. But dude, ratchet down the intensity - it's just changing a tire. Pretend you're playing disc golf or something. If Defuser is eliminated, though, it's all about this guy:
  • Mindset: He's chubby, bald and has a rubbery and expressive face, and it all adds up to awesome. Seriously, I can see him going all the way.
  • Hyper-strike: Huh - I didn’t know wearing a headband was a super-power.
  • Ms. Limelight: Well, she's cute, I guess. But mostly, there's a Limelight-shaped blank spot in my head. We'll see if she makes more of an impact in later episodes.
  • Basura: She’s gotta know her name is Spanish for "garbage," right? Let's see ... "turns trash into treasure and reshapes rubbish into robots." OK, creo que si.
  • Hygena: Maybe she can team up with Basura, a Fire and Ice sort of thing.
  • Parthenon: Seems like a decent enough guy, but just kinda bland. And you gotta be able to carry the skirt, and I'm not sure he can.

So, who ya got?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Pull List: 7-25-07

That thing called "work" keeps conspiring to keep me from posting as regularly as I plan, so this time around the pull list is what I actually picked up and is now sitting next to me, as expectant and goofily sweet as a puppy. Stop making those eyes at me, comics!

Awwww ... you know I can't say no to you!

Now, I've been following the main Annihilation: Conquest title, but not the various tie-ins (it's an experiment, I'll let you know how it goes). There is an exception though, and that exception is called Annihilation: Conquest: Star-Lord #1. Apparently I'm a whore for even half-way decent marketing, because I was hooked when the cover art was released months ago. I mean, look at it - that's bad-ass!

But then I realized Keith Giffen was writing it, and the hooks dug a little deeper. And then I saw the art from Timothy Green II and thought, "Well, that's perfect."

But it got better. It got this:

Here's what else I picked up:

Blue Beetle #17

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5

Crossing Midnight #9

Grendel: Behold the Devil #0

Immortal Iron Fist #7

Elephantmen #10

W.T.F. Wednesday: The Sub-Crusher!

In this weeks' installment from the archives of The War That Time Forgot we get to see some moves from The Sub-Crusher, a giant spiky dinosaur and three-time World Wrestling Federation champ whose ring is the waters surrounding a prehistoric Monster Island.

His opponent? Any pencil-necked sub and ship that dares to call the champ out, and they're going down! After some naval gazers come across a submarine that's been crunched and tossed aside like an empty beer can, a couple of ships are sent out to find out what secret weapon is responsible for the damage. You want to know what's responsible? These 40-inch pythons, baby, that's who!

(Gee, I almost feel sorry for the challengers and their little patrol boat ... I hope it's not too late ...)

Click to Crusher-size

Oooh! Man, they'd just better hope The Crusher shows some sweet mercy and lets them go.

Snap into a Slim-Jim!

Next week: Giant coconuts.

Panels from Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot
Originally published as "The Sub-Crusher!" in Star Spangled War Stories #97
Robert Kanigher, writer; Ross Andru, penciller; Mike Esposito, inker

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Night Fights: A Hairy Situation

Alpha Flight, Canada's answer to the X-Men, used to be a favorite of mine due in large part to an interesting mix of ... of ... oh, man ...

I'm so sorry.

SO sorry.

Panel from Alpha Flight #5

Bahlactus fights clean.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

W.T.F. Wednesday: FIRE!

Click to dino-size

Panels from Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot
Originally published as "Island of the Armored Giants!" in Star Spangled War Stories #90
Robert Kanigher, writer; Ross Andru, penciller; Mike Esposito, inker

The Pull-list: 7-18-07

Whoops! I let my schedule get away from me, so this is going to have to be kind of a quick-hit version of the pull-list for this week (which is abnormally chunky). There are a lot of titles I was happy to see on the list this week, but the one I'm probably looking forward to reading most is:

Strange Embrace #2: Only one issue into it and this book is equal parts creepy, dread-filled and somehow melancholy. And nothing's happened yet. Well, that's not really fair, but let's just say that the things that have happened feel like a set-up for something that feels like it's going to be pretty awful. I love it. Plus, the writing is as tight as a twanging nerve, with art that's perfectly suited to the story. Check the preview out for yourself at the title's site (you'll have to do some navigating: click on the front door, then the door on the left called "Story Preview." Now click on the chest of drawers - ha! Made you look! No, seriously, click on the notebook on the table and that'll bring up the preview. Whew!).

The Usual ...

Army @Love #5

The Brave and The Bold #5

Captain America #28

Conan #42

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #4

The Spirit #8

World War Hulk #2

Maybe ...

Programme #1

Super-Villain Team-up: MODOK's 11 #1

Recommended ...

Madman Gargantua (hardcover): Assuming you've got between $125 and $150; if you do, lend me your copy when you're done.

Screw Heaven, When I Die I'm Going to Mars: A collection of some of Shannon Wheeler's best work. If you liked Too Much Coffee Man, you'll dig it.

And Now, A Question:

I've been tinkering with the format of this particular feature, and I'm wondering which is more helpful to you, the reader; a pull-list that features what I plan to get and why, or a list that features what I did get and my thoughts on them (basically, reviews)?

I've always leaned toward the "upcoming" format just because I thought it'd be more helpful in terms of providing a heads-up before people buy their comics, but I'd like your input on whether that's true. Of course, if I go with the "upcoming" type of list I'll make more of an effort to get it out early in the week (probably Tuesdays).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

W.T.F. Wednesday: That's a lot of dinosaurs

Welcome to a new feature here at the Post, in which once a week I'll share a panel or two from the Showcase Presents collection of The War That Time Forgot (the butchered "W.T.F." up in the title there). Believe me, the WTF is appropriate because seriously - WTF?!? Released a couple of months ago, The War That Time Forgot is prime Robert Kanigher nuttiness, answering the age-old question: What if soldiers during World War II had to fight dinosaurs, which have been freed from suspended animation deep below the surface of the Earth?

Just typing that out makes me grin like an idiot.

You know what else makes me happy? This:

Click to dino-size


Man, Radio Shacks always look a little dumpy, don't they?

Panels from Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot
Originally published as "Last Battle of the Dinosaur Age!" in Star Spangled War Stories #92
Robert Kanigher, writer; Ross Andru, penciller; Mike Esposito, inker

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Pull-list: 7-11-07

Is it just me, or does it drive you crazy knowing that the week's comics are usually already sitting in your favorite shop on Tuesday night - hot, fresh and ready to go - but you still have to wait one more day? Oh, well - I guess we'll have to satisfy ourselves by looking at the menu instead: On to the list!

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1: No matter what political stripe you may be, I think we can all agree Stephen Colbert is not only a really funny guy, but he's also an enormous geek. He makes regular Lord of the Rings references, asssigns D&D stats to various situations and has a Captain America shield on his wall of honor. Normally I worry when celebrities decide to indulge in vanity projects, but in this case I think it'll all be in good hands. Colbert is a guy who knows comics and he knows how to make fun of himself; I've got unreasonably high expectations, Colbert!

The Usual ...

BPRD: Garden of Souls #5

Green Lantern#21

Justice Society of America #7

Madman Atomic Comics #3

Maybe ...

Green Arrow: Year One #1: Honestly, I'm a little burned out on retellings of rebooted origin stories ... but I did think the first arc of Losers was fairly awesome. And the art looks preeeetty.

I Hate You More Than Anyone, Vol. 1: Based almost on the title alone. Also, Love Hina has given me a soft spot for light romance manga. Shut up.

Martha Washington Dies - One Shot: Here's the dilemma; the original Martha Washington stories were great and the art on this is fantastic, but I still don't know whether Frank Miller is an insane genius or just insane.

Samurai Commando Mission 1549, Vol. 1: The description somehow manages to be just as awesome as the name.

Recommended ...

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (trade): I liked this mini-series more than I probably should have, but in spite of often ham-handed dialogue and sometimes muddy plotting it turned out to be solid superhero fun. And Black Condor? Total bad-ass.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Mature content: Can older readers equal new comic book fans?

It’s a common topic of discussion in the comics community: How do we – fans, booksellers, creators and publishers – bring new readers into comics?

When it comes to younger readers, we think we’ve got a good idea of how to go about it. Age-appropriate storylines, tie-ins with popular cartoons and titles that can act as a bridge between kiddy books and the regular lines (titles like Runaways, for instance) are common wisdom. And it makes sense – getting new readers when they’re young should help keep the medium fresh and creative, and from a business perspective it helps lay the foundation for future sales.

But what about adult readers? How do you take the average person who might wander into a typical comic book store after watching the latest superhero movie and turn them into ongoing comic readers?

There are some hurdles that can be tough to overcome, not least of which is, ironically, that well-known stigma of comics being “just for kids.” But I think it’s mostly a problem of familiarity – most people just don’t think of comics as “reading,” and even people who do read comics aren’t necessarily knowledgeable of all the various genres that are out there.

When I was working in a comic shop I prided myself on being able to guide people to titles they might not have given a chance otherwise. Best of all was introducing customers to books they never would have thought of but ended up really enjoying. But I had an advantage – they were already coming into the store looking for comics.

It’s a different story outside of the shop. Talking to people who don’t normally read comics is a much tougher sell, and my batting average has only been … well, average. A few people have become regular readers of one or two titles, but more often I’ve gotten polite disinterest and a promise to “catch up with the collections.” A lot of times it’s just the disinterest.

Take, for instance, my wife. In the years that we’ve been together, I’ve rarely been able to entice her into reading comics. My wife is very into history, world cultures and complex storytelling (Russian literature is her favorite), so I thought Neil Gaiman’s Sandman would be a no-brainer. It turned out to be a non-starter, and I was stumped.

Later, she enthusiastically plowed through Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and later still she did the same with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series. Now I think I have a better idea of what kind of comics my wife would be interested in, but I don’t force it (just because it’s my hobby doesn’t mean I expect it to be everybody’s). As it is, it took a while to figure out what kind of books she might like, and I know her better than any random customer.

I wonder why it was so tricky, and it makes me wonder about the market at large. Is it a problem of culture? Other countries don’t seem to have the problem of comics being considered an immature hobby, or as something you’re supposed to outgrow.

Is it a problem of format? People in general seem to expect more magazine for their three bucks (and I can’t really blame them for that), and it might be why there’s a trend toward “waiting for the trade.” But how many of those people actually pick up a trade that comes out months after a comic initially grabbed their attention? And there’s also a learning curve, because it sometimes takes a while for new readers to realize that there are a number of writers and artists and combinations of the two, some of which they’ll like and others they’ll just hate, and it take some patience to navigate all that. How do you convince people it's worth the effort?

Or is it a matter of content? It isn’t fair to expect new readers to be knowledgeable about every genre out there, particularly the independent titles that often escape the notice of even dedicated comic fans. That mostly leaves comics that really are meant for kids or mainstream books that seem to be relying more on cartoony violence and gore, along with a helping of adolescent attempts at titillation.

This isn’t meant to be a knock on those kinds of books (look at my pull-list and you’ll see I have no room to judge), but it doesn’t exactly do anything to dispel the immature image the comics community is trying to fight off.

Which brings me back to my original question: How do we - fans, booksellers, creators and publishers – bring new adult readers into comics? And once we do, how do we keep them there?

Or should concentration stay on younger readers, with the hope that they'll continue to be fans after they've grown up?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Come one, come all!

Guy Gardner, giant green fists and off-panel snark? Welcome to the JLI, suckas!

Bahlactus: Not exactly a proponent of peaceful coexistence.

Panels from Justice League International Special #1


And now, a look into the special friendship (and wardrobe) of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

There's gonna be fireworks

On this most beloved of American holidays, thoughts naturally turn toward those partriots and freedom fighters, those statesmen and political philosophers, who laid the foundation for what this great country has become today.

I'm talking, of course, about time-traveling Abraham Lincoln.

Wait! A little background first: In Tales From the Bully Pulpit (excellent, pick it up), rough-ridin' Teddy Roosevelt has stolen H.G. Wells' time machine and come to the present to recruit the ghost of Thomas Edison. That's like maybe the first five pages of this slim graphic novel - it only gets crazier from there.

How much crazier, you ask? Muy loco, carnales. It turns out the menace Roosevelt and Edison have to face are Mars-based South American nazis and a descendent of Hitler himself.

I'll let that sink in.

Things come to a head and Jorge Hitler brings in a gang of despots and alternate universe dictators (Chairman Meow, anyone?) to bring down our heroes. So what can our boys do? They bring in the big guns, that's what.

It's no wonder Abe was considered a master of debate. And it's not just an empty threat, either. Reminiscent of his historic Gettysburg Address, Lincoln puts his fist where your mouth is:

And that, to me, is America. Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Tales From the Bully Pulpit: Writer, Benito Cereno; artist, Graeme MacDonald