Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Fights: The way superheroes go slumming

It's Friday and that means it's time to get violent! And in this round of Spacebooger-sponsored fisticuffs we've got ... hey, who is this guy?!

Think you know the identity of this hero-in-disguise? Give me your guess in the comments!

I also want to let everyone know that with the holidays nearly upon us, the Post will be going to low-, or no-, content mode until after Jan. 2. I hope to get a post in here and there, but I can't guarantee anything. In the meantime, thanks for reading, thanks for your patience, and — Happy Holidays!

Panel from ???
Marv Wolfman, writer; John Byrne, artist; Terry Austin, inker

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Pull List (12-17-08): Wait, I'm getting Sentry and Supergirl now?

Man! A minute ago it was 11 a.m. and now it's more than five hours later! Damn this "getting work done" (not that I blog from work ... because that would be wrong). I don't know where the time goes, but I do know it's time for the list!

Getting ...

Age of the Sentry #4 (of 6): In spite of my hatred for this character, it only took one issue to make me fall in love with this ode to Silver Age silliness. Nifty, appropriately cartoony art and breezy writing make this one of the most fun books currently on the stands and leaves me feeling like that guy from the Hotels[dot]com commercial: Aagh, it's working! They got me!

Cthulhu Tales #9: Fun fact: If a book has "Cthulhu" in the title, there's an 86 percent chance I'm going to want to buy it. It doesn't hurt that this series is fairly well-done as far as anthologies go; some stories wind up being duds here and there, but the quality stuff is consistent enough to make it worth picking up.

Fall Of Cthulhu: Godwar #4: Along with Cthulhu Tales, this horror comic is consistently good, and writer Michael Alan Nelson is bringing together all the pieces he's put in place for a story that's become suddenly tense and menacing. It's a fine homage to Lovecraft while remaining neatly original.

Manhunter #37: A new storyline begins with this issue — too bad the series ends with the next one.

Supergirl #36: Generally speaking, I try to avoid getting sucked into all the crossover, here's-your-checklist-complete-with-index, "event" books ... but an interesting story that's establishing a new status quo for the Superman family has grabbed me. I credit the coordination between writers Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates for producing separate chapters that read as one cohesive story.

Maybe ...

DCU Holiday Special 2008

Thor God-Sized #1

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Down The Pub (one-shot)

Trading up ...

(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

Conan the Cimmerian #6

Ex Machina #40

Fables #79

Recommended ...

Vagabond Vol 2 (VIZBIG Edition)

Welcome To Dingburg: A Zippy Collection

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another 2 cents for The Accountants

Rob Osborne, the creator behind 1000 Steps to World Domination and the much-lamented The Nearly Infamous Zango, has been kicking ass over at Zuda, but he could still use your support.

His eight-page entry is called The Accountants, and his tale of hit men in fuzzy animal costumes is one of the oddest and funniest things I've read in a long while. The sense of humor is combined with a real grasp of the absurd, and it's all wrapped around characters you actually want to know more about — it's just really good stuff about CPAs who'll put a C-A-P in your ass.

I've been a fan of Osborne's for a few years now, and he just keeps getting better with every new story he does. Go see for yourself and then cough up a vote for The Accountants — signing up takes less than five minutes, and it's a good way to show support for independent creators.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Why Badger is a master of communication

Imagine you find yourself on a planet completely unknown to you, a world where you can't tell friend from foe, or aid from threat. And imagine you came across an alien life form, a being that could potentially help you, maybe even keep you alive in your harsh new environment — and whom you've decided is named Larry. How would you handle such a delicate situation?

Now imagine you're the Badger.

Badger's not the only one having fun — take that, Prime Directive!

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here!

Panel from Nexus #8 Mike Baron, writer; Steve Rude, artist;
Eric Shanower, inker
; John Workman, letterer; Les Dorscheid, colorist

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Monkey's kung fu just got stronger

Those of you who are into the process of creating a comic, particularly scripting and plotting, should swing by John Rogers' blog Kung Fu Monkey and check out the posts by new contributor, Mark Waid.

As many of you probably already know, Rogers is the co-creator and writer behind the first few storylines for Blue Beetle. He's also the guy behind the just-premiered cable series Leverage, and is well known for sharing writing and process advice at his blog.

Now he's added Mark Waid (writer of Kingdom Come and editor-in-chief at BOOM! Studios) and Michael Alan Nelson (who writes BOOM's Fall of Cthulhu and Hexed, and a personal favorite) to the team, and it looks like it should be some good stuff. Waid already has a couple of posts up, the latest of which is a clean and simple primer on how comic book scripts should be approached.

If you're at all interested in writing your own comics, go give it a look.

Seriously, who else wears a vest like that?

The temperature dropped like mad beats here in Austin last night, going from a high of 79 degrees to a low of 34, forcing people to give their flip-flops a rest and put on a coat instead.

This morning I saw someone wearing a fur vest, and since she was tall and thin and wearing all black under it, the first thing I thought of was this:

I think I might read too many comics.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Pull List (12-10-08): Finally, some Action for G.I. Robot

Thanks to a cold I've been fighting for the past few days, I haven't exactly been updating as much as I'd normally want. Sorry 'bout that. But I'm ratcheting things up and carpet-bombing The Ick with the strongest over-the-counter, knock-you-on-your-ass pharmaceuticals Walgreen's provides, so hopefully things will get back to normal soon.

In the meantime, here's a bare-bones look at what I'm planning to pick up this week:

Getting ...

Action Comics #872: I'll admit it — that "New Krypton" storyline hooked me, and it's an interesting look at what makes Kal-El a Superman, and not just a super-powered jerk like those Kandorians. Plus, the Creature Commandos!

Booster Gold #15: It hasn't had the same sense of fun as it did under original writer Geoff Johns, but it's still been fun enough to stick with. This will be the first issue written by Dan Jurgens, so we'll see what direction the title takes.

Final Crisis #5 (of 7): I'm a fan of Grant Morrison, and this story has been so high-concept so far that I can't wait to see how he winds it up. Morrison's stuff can be both challenging and frustrating, but I'm choosing to trust that — it'll all make sense in the end (please make sense in the end, Grant Morrison).

Maybe ...

Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #1 (of 7): I really enjoyed the first Phonogram limited series, but I thought it worked best in trade format. Will the stand-alone story format of The Singles Club make a difference? I probably won't be able to resist the first issue, and then I'll decide whether to pick up the monthly or wait for the trade.

Trading up ...
(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

100 Bullets #98

Blade of the Immortal Vol. 20: Demon's Lair (manga)

The Brave and The Bold Vol. 1: Lords of Luck (trade paperback)

BPRD: War on Frogs #2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1: Legacy (hardcover)

Recommended ...

Herbie Archives Vol. 2 (hardcover)

Friday, December 5, 2008

But does HYDRA have a dental plan?

So I was sitting at my desk, facing a growing stack of work that needs to be taken care of before the holidays, and I thought: Which subversive group bent on world domination is better, A.I.M. or HYDRA?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that living in the Marvel Universe gives would-be fascists, anarchists and other various nut-jobs three main options in gainful employment. And I'm talking about the full-on, global conspiracy, sleeper-agents-everywhere type of organization; gangs and groups with one specific enemy in mind don't count. I'm looking for an association with vision, man. Here are the choices:

HYDRA: HYDRA has been causing trouble in the Marvel U since the end of World War II, and was founded by fugitives from the Nazi German and Imperial Japanese governments. These guys are such bad news that S.H.I.E.L.D. was created specifically to deal with the threat they posed. Thanks to that, they have a serious hate-on for Nick Fury and Captain America, but have really mixed it up with pretty much every hero to put on spandex. Also, they have an awesome motto and a kick-ass logo! Check it out:

That Madame Hydra's not bad, either. But the breakout agent would have to be Bob, a HYDRA field operative who was kidnapped by Deadpool and then just kept hanging out.

HYDRA has credibly threatened to destroy the world or major world cities countless times, and are always a sure sign of trouble. Plus, do you know what HYDRA stands for? Nothing. It's not an acronym at all — HYDRA is just so damn evil that it always spells its name in all caps.

A.I.M.: A.I.M., on the other hand, does stand for something — Advanced Idea Mechanics — which may be the coolest and nerdiest name for a terrorist group ever. It makes sense, since A.I.M. is a splinter group that was originally the technological arm of HYDRA. Cut off from HYDRA, A.I.M. nonetheless survived on its own and went on to become the most evil R&D department ever with the goal of overthrowing the world's governments with SCIENCE! Some of its achievements include the reality-altering Cosmic Cube, the Super-Adaptoid android, and best of all, MODOK. When the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing went online it worked perfectly, killing the leader of A.I.M. and taking over the group itself. Sadly, the A.I.M. agents are little harder to take seriously thanks to their beekeeper uniforms.

But there's always one guy who can make even the silliest clothes work, and in this case that would be Karl, the most laid-back covert operative in history.

Karl is like one of those cool guys who is so relaxed you're amazed anything gets done, but Karl is Taking Care of Business. Karl's the kind of guy I want to work with, especially if things are getting conquery.

The Hand: The group known as The Hand is a little different from the first two, putting a lot more emphasis on honor, demon-worship and old-school swordplay. Essentially a super-yakuza, The Hand are both a league of assassins and organized crime outfit with roots in the 16th century. It's also more of a cult than a cartel, with a membership made up of occult ninjas who turn to dust when they're dealt mortal wounds. One thing they do share with HYDRA and A.I.M. is a tendency to fight en masse ... bad news for Daredevil, Iron Fist and mostly any hero who's ever taken a karate lesson. Their red uniforms are pretty standard, but still impressive when there are suddenly a bunch of crimson ninja swarming over rooftops.

The Hand is especially fond of suppressing individuality, but there's still one mercenary who rises above the rest. Kirigi is super-strong, an expert in all sorts of ninja weaponry and kind of a zombie who was raised from the dead.


You can see my dilemma. Still, I don't think I have the flexibility for the acrobatics of The Hand, or the fashion sense to pull off the A.I.M. uniform. Besides, I'm a sucker for a solid history and a catchy jingle, so I think I'd find myself leaning toward the boys in green and yellow.

So which nutty, would-be world dominators would you hook up with? There's a survey in the right-hand column, and I'd like to hear your reasons in the comments.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Comics in the Wild: Archie and the gang go to college

When I go home to El Paso for a visit, I tend to spend a fair amount of time in the garage. I've never known the family garage to be anything but crowded with cardboard boxes, random furniture and stacks of half-assembled things that long ago outlived their usefulness.

I've contributed to the mess in the past by leaving behind a couple of boxes and a trunk filled with what I now recognize as being mostly just a bunch of crap. Still, it doesn't keep me from scrounging, looking for some half-remembered book or toy, and sometimes I come across something I'd completely forgotten about.

That's the case with this March 1989 issue of Nova Quarterly.

Back then I was starting my sophomore year at the University of Texas at El Paso, and somehow got my hands on a copy of the alumni magazine (I was already working at the school paper, so it was probably floating around). As I might have mentioned once or twice, I've been a fan of comics for a long time, and this is the only copy of the alumni magazine I've ever saved.

So how did Archie and the gang end up sweating it out in the West Texas desert? It turned out that Tom Moore, who wrote and drew Archie off and on from 1953 to 1988, had attended UTEP back in the day and had been called back into duty for a cover to go along with the profile on him featured inside.

After a little Internet poking (not as dirty as it sounds!), I found out that Moore is still working — doing freelance work and teaching computer graphic art at the El Paso Community College — and living in the Lower Valley area, which is the same neighborhood I'm from!

For those of you who might not be steeped in UTEP lore, here's some translation of what's going on in this cover:

• UTEP, of course, is the University of Texas at El Paso; is there any other university whose abbreviated name can be pronounced as a single word? Seriously, I'm curious.

• Betty may, just may, be drunk.

• "... my last trip to Bhutan!" The buildings on the UTEP campus are designed to look like Bhutanese architecture. The story goes that the wife of a past university president saw an article on Bhutan in an issue of National Geographic and was so taken with it she suggested the new campus be built in the same style. It's the only campus in the nation with this type of architecture.

• Archie's wearing a sweatshirt sporting the image of UTEP's mascot, Paydirt Pete (UTEP is home to the Miners). By the way, if the weather is warm enough for Veronica to wear a skirt, it's too damn hot in El Paso for a sweatshirt. Archie is about to combust.

• The Comics Code of the West is a neat touch; El Paso is as far west as you can go in Texas.

• Because, yes, it actually does get hot enough for the sun to radiate squiggly black lines.

• Just for the record: I'm totally a Betty man. Even if she does dress like Mork.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Like 'A Christmas Carol,' but with Hulks

So I get back from my trip and come across this:

"The holiday season is here and what better way to celebrate it than with the Incredible Hulk and Rampaging Rulk? Marvel is proud to unveil both Hulk #9 Santa Hulk Variant covers, illustrated by superstar artist Ed McGuinness, so you can celebrate with the stars of 2008’s hottest ongoing series! Written by Eisner-Winning, Emmy-Winning scribe Jeph Loeb and with art by superstars Frank Cho and Art Adams, including 50/50 variant covers from each artist, you get two incredible stories—one starring Rulk and another starring… WENDIHULK!? (or is it HULKDIGO!?)"

Congratulations, Marvel: I officially want to punch you in the balls. I know you've been calling the Red Hulk "Rulk," but you're actually planning to go with that? Seriously? I don't necessarily expect high literature from my Hulk comics, but "Rulk?!" (I just noticed the stocking — argh!)

And is it just me, or does it seem as if we're reaching a tipping point on the variant covers thing? Have we learned nothing? Am I going to end up on a beach shaking my fist at a giant statue of Ripclaw?!

... Hulkdigo ... eesh ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excuses, excuses ...

You might've heard, but there's a holiday coming up here in these United States during which we celebrate the right to eat our weight in turkey and then doze while watching parades and football games.

I'm no different than my fellow citizens and will be traveling for the rest of this week, so posting is probably going to be spotty to non-existent (but I'm going to try not to let that happen). In the meantime, why not cruise around the archives, or click on some tabs that catch your interest? Maybe there's something you missed, and I'm always interested in other people's opinions if you'd like to leave a comment.

Thanks for your patience, guys — gobble-gobble!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cover Up: The All-Star Squadron #3

Looking at the cover to my copy of All-Star Squadron #3, it's easy to see something right off — I have read the hell out of this thing.

Part of the reason is the fantastic story inside (it reads like one giant team-up brimming over with both moxie and gumption), but a big part of it is the cover itself. For some reason, even though it's not a particularly original or artistically unique effort, it just grabs me every time. I have read this comic over and over again because the cover by Rich Buckler (and a mostly uncredited Dick Giordano) always lures me in as if it were a promising new adventure.

And make no mistake — this cover has plenty of promise. The image is filled with colorful heroes racing toward the center, given some extra pop thanks to a solid black background that is really a great use of negative space. The scene almost feels claustrophobic and certainly dangerous because of the implication of what you can't see. It's also a neat call-out to Dr. Mid-Nite, who is throwing a blackout bomb into the already inky scene.

And Dr. Mid-Nite isn't the only one on the move. There is absolutely nothing static about this image; maybe one of the things I find so compelling about this cover is the fact that it's just packed with action. Every character is doing something, and more importantly, interacting with each other. All of the heroes are converging on Solomon Grundy (amplifying the menace of one of my favorite bad guys) and you get the idea that it's because they have to; this isn't going to be a walk for the heroes, and you can see it in the expressions — this fight is a struggle. They're not winning!

A neat trick is how the artists put every character's attention on Solomon Grundy, which helps draw the reader in even more since you're then sharing the same perspective as the characters; the heroes are focused on Grundy, and so are you. I also like the over-the-shoulder point of view with Per Degaton; it's another piece of the whole that re-emphasizes the focus on the center and the closed-in feeling of the image. Plus, he's totally pulling a little Doctor Doom-style bombast, and how awesome is that?

All in all, just a solid and excitingly conceived cover that has some subtle design strength behind it. What do you think?


Just to share a little more of my love for All-Star Squadron #3, here's a page showing Plastic Man being a total bad-ass:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Fights: El Gorgo will handle the introductions, lizard-face!

When I was prepping for the latest round of Spacebooger-sponsored mayhem, I had to ask myself a serious question: Is the time right to unleash a largely unproven but totally awesome young fighter? Is the rough-and-tumble underworld of Friday Night Fights the place to help introduce a mysteriously multi-talented brawler with, shall we say, mad skillz?

Can the crowd handle the sheer mind-blowing spectacle of a gorilla luchador delivering crippling blows and smack-talk to an airborne Servant of Dagon?!?

¡Fantastico! Why don't you tell the folks a little bit about yourself, big guy?

Couldn't have said it better myself!

If you'd like to get to know El Gorgo better (and really, why wouldn't you?), you can catch up with the full first issue at the Web site, and then check out the eight-page preview of issue #2. If you decide you like the idea of a Mexican wrestler ape fighting Lovecraftian horrors on the moon of Titan wrapped up in a definite Kirby aesthetic, show your support of independent publishers and buy your own copy of the first issue.

¡Que padre!

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here!

Panels from El Gorgo #2
Mike McGee, writer; Tamas Jakab, artist

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Learning to love The Age of the Sentry

I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong.

I don't like it, but I can do it. And in the case of The Age of the Sentry — in particular issue #3, which was released this week — I have to admit that my long-standing disdain for the character has been broken. The Age of the Sentry is just ... well, really good.

With writing by personal favorite Jeff Parker, a second story by Paul Tobin, and art from both Nick Dragotta and Colleen Coover, Age of the Sentry is, in a word, charming. And it's the best kind of charm, managing to avoid being cloying or precious and instead treating readers to light-hearted adventure that isn't dumbed down. It's nice to see some writers and artists know you can be silly without being stupid, and that keeping things straightforward doesn't mean sacrificing story.

Meant as a look at the hero's early adventures, the stories in Age of the Sentry are love letters to the Golden and Silver ages of comics, with unapologetic nods to the past of both Marvel and DC. By keeping things playful, the creative teams touch on these elements without being weighed down by them; a deep knowledge of continuity is definitely not needed to enjoy the book. The scripts — covering everything from a hillbilly powerhouse, a shotgun wedding for the Sentry, wonderfully ridiculous use of superpowers, and a lovelorn Manoo getting dating advice from Millie the Model — are a pleasure to read, and reminded me of how much I love the pure fun that's unique to comics.

It's easy to tell that the creators are having fun, too. Dialogue is a perfect echo of the period in comics it's trying to evoke, but with a subtle wink at the hyperbole that was typical of the time. Scenarios are wacky in the best sense of the word, and it all just shows a lot of heart.

The styles of artists Dragotta and Coover are very different, but they share a quality of being simple without being simplistic, and both are well-suited to the stories they're telling. Coover's art, in particular, is just freakin' adorable, and both artists helped draw me in. Add to all this the little in-jokes and asides like the recurring "E.E." initials, the "Design submitted by ..." caption boxes in the Millie story, and too many others to do justice to here, and you've got a comic that will appeal to anyone with a soul.

Considering my history with the Sentry, I can't believe I'm saying this — wholeheartedly, at that — but The Age of the Sentry is a comic you shouldn't miss. Get it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Pull List (11-19-08): Eisner's Spirit and Miller's Sins

It looks as if it's going to be a light week for me, but it also looks like there's going to be some solid stuff in this Wednesday's pile.

A happy surprise is The Spirit Special #1. This is supposed to be DC's way of whipping up interest in the Frank Miller-directed movie, but it seems like a dicey gamble to me. The special is a reprint of four Will Eisner stories — "Sign of the Octopus," "Black Alley," "Sand Seref" and "Bring in Sand Seref" — and from I've seen of the previews, you couldn't find anything less like the upcoming movie. This is a good thing if you're a fan of comics since Eisner's stories are acknowledged as groundbreaking classics, and the early word on Miller's film boils down to a stylish but shallow Sin City rehash. The difference is hardly a surprise to regular comic book readers, but I think if someone picks up the comic to see what the fuss is about, and then goes to see the movie in December ... well, it's going to be a lot different than what they might be expecting.

But at least they'll have picked up a good comic. I'm glad DC went with reprints of stories that made the Spirit such an iconic character rather than releasing some Millerized movie adaptation. A sample issue like The Spirit Special #1 is a good way to introduce the curious to comics, and who knows, maybe it will even spark some new interest in the old Eisner stories. You can never have too much Spirit in your collection, and this is a good way to start.

Also getting ...

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #4

The Brave and The Bold #19

Supergirl #35 (yeeeah ... they got me with their shiny "New Krypton.")

Maybe ...

The Age of the Sentry #3: In spite of my all-consuming hatred for the Sentry, I have heard good things about this comic. A fun, Silver Age version of Marvel's Superman analogue is probably what they should have done with this character in the first place, and seriously, there's a good chance that someday I'll end up buying everything with Jeff Parker's name on it anyway. Plus, this issue features a hillbilly bad guy called Mountain Man, Manoo and Millie the Model! Sigh ... I am weak.

Crogan's Vengeance: The loose, cartoony art is strangely fitting and impressively expressive, and the promise of future chapters chronicling different branches of the Crogan family tree sounds like an interesting premise. Besides, it's hard to go wrong when you start out with pirates. Oni has a 29-page (!) preview online, so go check it out and see what you think.

Trading up ...
(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

Ambush Bug: Year None #4

Ex Machina #39

Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces (trade paperback)

So what are you picking up this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, November 17, 2008

We are experiencing technical difficulties ... please stand by ...

As you might have guessed, I wasn't able to get around to posting anything resembling real content (such as it is) today, but hopefully things will go a little more smoothly tomorrow and there'll be a shiny new Pull List released into the wild.

In the meantime, why not check out Andrew's sweet new digs? Or pitch in to help comic blog stalwarts Carla and Lance Hoffman, who are in the hospital recovering from serious burns they suffered after they were caught in one of the California fires.

Thanks for your patience; I mean, even the Human Bomb understands that sometimes you just can't get a post in, right HB?


Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Superman reinvented 'power steering'

Things have been especially busy here at GCP-HQ today, but there was still time to squeeze in the first round of the new Friday Night Fights!

And even though this post is light on content, I think it's OK because the Supermobile pretty much speaks for itself.


(I wonder if our new ringmaster Space Booger has a ride like this?)

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post right here!

Panel from Action Comics #481
Cary Bates, writer; Curt Swan, penciller; F. Chiaramonte, inker

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another verse of the low-sales blues: DC cancels Blue Beetle

Thanks to Scott over at Hero Sandwich, I just heard the news that Blue Beetle — which labored for almost three years under the burden of consistently low sales — has been canceled.

As a fan of Blue Beetle I'm disappointed, and a bit frustrated. From the beginning the title has been a comic that was critically acclaimed, but for some reason just couldn't find a larger audience. It's a shame, because Blue Beetle could be counted as a successful reboot of a legacy character, bringing in completely different aspects while maintaining (and in some cases, even strengthening) ties to what came before.

Jaime Reyes was something new, but still comfortably familiar. A young Latino from El Paso, Texas, Jaime was thrust into the DCU community of superheroes, suddenly gifted with enormous power he didn't know what to do with. Watching him struggle, then learn, then begin growing into the hero he could be, was part of the fun. I saw Blue Beetle compared to early Spider-Man more than once, and that's not far off.

Blue Beetle was also rare in that it featured a nearly fully-formed supporting cast. Best friends, eventually a cool girlfriend, and most importantly family, were essential parts of what made Jaime Reyes an interesting character. You couldn't think of this Blue Beetle without thinking of the people around him, and you ended up caring about all of them because the book was about all of them. This Blue Beetle did not stand alone.

Obviously, I'm sorry to see this title go. Like Manhunter (and Robin, Nightwing and Birds of Prey), the pieces have been put in place so the characters can be folded into other books. I'd guess Blue Beetle will make more regular appearances with the Titans somehow, and will otherwise be popping up here and there in the DCU. But it won't be the same — Blue Beetle needed its own book in order to have its own voice.

It would be easy to point an indignant finger at the big, bad corporate overlords, but I really can't blame DC for the cancellation. And you certainly can't blame the various writers and artists who have worked on the book. I blame the readers.

As a community, we always complain there aren't enough quality books out there. But when a good title deserving of our support hits the stands, we're often nowhere to be found. Actually, there is a way to find us — just look for the latest poorly thought-out crossover event or one of a dozen books whose titles start with "X-." We get the books we deserve, and we lose the ones we neglect. We can't be surprised when a comic dies after we've starved it.

No, in the case of Blue Beetle (and unlike the on-again, off-again Manhunter), DC gave the title a fair chance. It's a shame more readers couldn't do the same.

Hey Austin, I'm talking to you

Like a lot of people who end up writing comic book blogs, I was lucky enough to work in a comic shop a few years ago. Even luckier, I worked with some great people who made the fact I was surrounded by comics all day the icing on the cake.

Two of those folks, Eric and Roy, have finally made their dream come true by opening their own shop here in Austin. Tribe Comics and Games has only been open a couple of weeks and, like most new businesses, could use your support. If you live in Austin, swing by the shop and give them a try — the guys know their comics (and RPGs and board games) and they truly appreciate their customers, so you know you'll be in good hands.

And hey, the holidays are coming up, so what better time to do a little comic book shopping? Because, y'know, some of us like getting comics for Christmas.

Just sayin'.

So if you find yourself in the Austin area, show Tribe Comics and Games some love. Tell them Max sent ya!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Zee Superman, he ees very French, no?

One of the things I always found amusing about Silver and Bronze age Superman stories was the incredibly goofy lengths Supes and Lex Luthor would go to in order to trick each other instead of just, y'know, bopping each other in the head or something.

A good example of this is Superman #416, which has Superman disguising himself not once, not twice, but THREE times during his pursuit of an especially slippery Lex (hellooo, Google search!). In all fairness, though, I should mention Luthor only breaks out the costume kit once. On the other hand, Superman disguises himself as a bum (Lex: "Get lost, vagrant!") and a soda jerk in quick succession.

But it's his last bit of camouflage that won 'em over in Cannes, using nothing more than a beret and an accent so bad you can actually hear it. Oui! Il est Superman français!

Hey, nice nameplate, Lex!

Well, sorta.

Panels from Superman #416
Elliot S. Maggin, writer; Curt Swan and Al Williamson, artists

Monday, November 10, 2008

Work-shmork — let's wrestle!

Actually, I've got a pile of work on my desk that keeps glaring at me, so all I've got today is a picture post. Still, it's Santo pinning the Devil in a submission hold while a sexy vampire looks on, which may be the single greatest thing you see today!

Originally published as the cover to Alter Ego #43

Dave Stevens, artist

Friday, November 7, 2008

Review: Kull #1 might be the most metal thing I've ever read

OK, seriously? Kull #1 is just awesome.


Alright, now that I've gotten that out of my system, grab a flagon of your favorite beverage, put on some mood music and prepare to hold the hell on because Kull does not screw around.

Mining the Robert E. Howard library one more time, Dark Horse has now completed its sword-and-sorcery, hard-men-in-hard-worlds hat trick by adding barbarian king Kull alongside its Conan and Solomon Kane titles. And I think I can say with nearly full confidence that this new series is already shaping up to be the best of the lot.

This isn't to take away from either title — both are excellent books, and I'm especially enjoying Solomon Kane. But Kull ... holy crap! Arvid Nelson's story starts off in the middle of the siege of the Iron Fortress — where some anti-Kull holdouts have dug in — and quickly spins off into treachery, full-on battle, a demon you have to see for yourself, hints of dark secrets, and then more treachery!

This book is packed fat with action, and it all serves to move the story forward. It's not an empty plot, either, and it looks as if there will be plenty of court intrigue to go with the swordplay.

The art by Will Conrad fits in with what's been done in Solomon Kane and Conan, and helps tie in the whole Howardverse idea Dark Horse seems to be putting together. More importantly, it's just gorgeous to look at, giving as much weight to the characterization and tone as the dialogue. If there was any doubt that Kull is a bad-ass, just take a look at some of Conrad's work, especially the fantastic splash pages which include an impressively majestic two-page spread. When I went back through the issue to count the number of splash pages, I was surprised there were only two — the art (notably assisted by José Villarrubia's colors) makes that much of an impact.

Thanks to that art, and the pitch-perfect scripting, Kull #1 has already put the series high on my must-have list.

Well, I did spend all afternoon making knuckle sandwiches ...

Attention fighters:

With the blessing of Bahlactus, the battle resumes in one week in a new ring — will you be there?


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: El Diablo #3

DC has been giving new life to some of its older characters for a while now, and Western hero El Diablo is the latest to be resurrected from the four-color graveyard. These kinds of updates are notoriously hit-or-miss, but overall I've been digging the new series written by Jai Nitz (with pencils by Phil Hester and inks from Ande Parks), and this week's El Diablo #3 is no exception.

At the heart of the action is Chato, a recently cursed gang leader and the newest Diablo who is trying to get even with the former right-hand man who betrayed him. Aided by a ghostly Lazarus Lane (the original El Diablo), Chato essentially tramples and shoots his way through the L.A. underworld in search of revenge.

I think Chato has a lot of potential as a complex character, and in this issue Nitz has done a good job of laying out a lot of the groundwork for exploring that. It's worth remembering that Chato was a hardcore criminal before becoming El Diablo and he definitely is an anti-hero here, doing things mostly out of a need to satisfy his own desire for blood and killing anybody in his way. I'm curious to see what direction he's going to take after the new status quo established in this issue, especially in terms of what he plans to do with his power in the future.

As it stands, Chato is nearly a sociopath, killing without a second-thought, and that's featured pretty clearly in the opening pages of issue #3. That doesn't bother me, but I think Nitz has a choice to make here: Either Chato needs something to humanize him, or the creators should just go all the way with it and let El Diablo be an otherworldly spirit of vengeance.

Personally, I like that the creators are taking things in a thoroughly modern, non-stop and ruthless direction. And man, was there a lot of story for one issue! It almost bordered on crowded with everything that was going on, but the story moves along at a relentless clip and never feels bogged down or confused. Hester's artwork — angular and energetic — works well with the storyline and captures the intensity of the action. Add in the subplot, a nemesis and a newly introduced villain and I wonder: How the hell are they going to wrap it up in the three issues that are left?

And as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like this New West thing going on in the DCU. Between El Diablo, Blue Beetle and Manhunter (still can't believe that was canceled), some new avenues for stories with a different spin have been opened up. I like the idea that El Diablo — a tortured, Latino, paraplegic hero from L.A. — could be a part of that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Get to know 'The Phantom Stranger'

In other breaking news, Rob over at The Aquaman Shrine has revealed himself to be a tireless cyborg or something, because he recently launched a new blog called I Am The Phantom Stranger.

As you might've guessed, it's dedicated to one of the most well-known unknown guys in the DC Universe (I wonder if he ever hangs out with the Unknown Soldier?), and it's already shaping up to be a lot of fun. Go check it out, why don'cha?

There's a new sheriff in town ...

... and his name is President Barack Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Pull List (11-04-08): Robert E. Howard keeps taking my money

I am mightily distracted today, so this week's pull list is going to be short and sweet. "Yeah, yeah," you say. "So what's new?"

Er ... look, comics!

Kull #1: The folks at Dark Horse seem determined to sack and pillage my wallet by reviving almost everything Robert E. Howard ever wrote. It's a strategy I can't find fault with, honestly, and I salute their shrewdness. I'm looking forward to reading a comic based on the exile from Atlantis and self-made king, and it doesn't hurt that it's written by Arvid Nelson — the person behind Rex Mundi. It's even got artwork that seems to fit with what I can't help but think of as Dark Horse's "Conan-style." I haven't decided whether that feeling of sameness (even though this, Conan and Solomon Kane are all done by different artists) bugs me or not, but I guess it helps pull all the Howard-based books together visually. Either way, the preview hooked me, and the title character isn't even featured; that's a good sign, so check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Also getting ...

Army @ Love: The Art of War #4

El Diablo #3

Maybe ...

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1: This could be interesting, or it could be more of what we first got with the Sentry. And nobody wants that.

Adventure Comics Special Featuring Guardian #1: I'm going to get suckered into all of these "New Krypton" books, aren't I? Dammit.

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1 (of 6):
I'm a sucker for the sarge, and this one manages to be based on actual events and features both Johnny Cloud and the Haunted Tank. And there's no denying writer and artist Billy Tucci is a talented creator — I just don't know if I can wrap my mind around a good-lookin' Sgt. Rock. I'm sure I'll get over it, though — Joe Kubert can't draw the character all the time, right?

Trading up ...
(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

Booster Gold Vol. 2: Blue and Gold (hardcover): Worth getting if you're a hardcore Booster or Ted Kord/Blue Beetle fan, especially since this has been good ol' fashioned superhero fun — but don't feel bad if you want to wait for the softcover.

Recommended ...

E.C. Segar's Popeye Vol. 3: Let's You and Him Fight (hardcover): This is the third in a series of six, and I dream of having the complete set on my bookshelf someday. Beautifully designed over-sized books give you page after page of daily and Sunday Popeye newspaper strips from when it was still Thimble Theater, and it's great stuff. If you think you know Popeye from the cartoons, you deserve to get these books; if you consider yourself a fan of the brawling sailor-man, you need to get these books. As a bonus, this volume also has two weeks worth of extra-large strips from Popeye and Wimpy's 1933 trip to the Chicago World's Fair. Funny, odd and somehow timeless, these collections are a rediscovery of an iconic character. To get a better look at the book itself, check out the preview video.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cover up: Prez #1

Just 'cause, y'know, there's something going on tomorrow that you might want to be involved in.

Besides, I'm not sure there's anything in an issue of Prez — which chronicles the administration of the DCU's 18-year-old U.S. president — that's any crazier than what we've seen in the last two years of campaigning. (Or the last eight years with our very own Boss Smiley, for that matter.) Hell, take a look at this cover for Prez #1 by Jerry Grandenetti! Just glancing at it I see a Native American dude, a hippy troubadour, a monkey and ... who's driving, a Visigoth?! I'd swear one of the candidates had the same lineup of speakers during the primaries.

Anyway, if you're unhappy with the way your government has been handling things, head to your polling place on Tuesday and clobber them where it hurts most — in the ballot box! Do it for Prez Rickard!

Friday, October 31, 2008

13 for Halloween: Giving Mnemovore a piece of your mind

Mnemovore deserves a lot more credit than it gets.

The 2005, six-issue limited series has a well-paced script loaded with dread, combining seamlessly with art that skates between cartoony and otherworldly — yet is always dark, moody and menacing. Together the creative team tell a story I never get tired of reading (and which I credit for kick-starting the current wave in mainstream horror comics).

Especially effective is the use of design as a storytelling technique. Fading type, word balloons and eventually whole pages reinforce a sense of mental haziness and a gradual wearing away of what we perceive as real. The loss that the characters are experiencing is brought out to readers, making them an active part of the story. It's clever, and provides both a nice "a-ha!" moment and a disorienting sense of displacement, a brief literary vertigo. You actually find yourself asking, "Wait — what's going on?" ... just like the characters. It's something that could easily come off as gimmicky, but works like a charm in Mnemovore.

Mnemovore is the story of Kaley Markowic, a competitive snowboarder who has lost chunks of her memory following an accident on the slopes. Back at home, Kaley is starting the frustrating process of putting her life back together with the help of friends and family who are essentially strangers to her now. Worse, she starts suffering blackouts and wakes up to find oily black creatures that are all tentacles, eyes and teeth reaching into her head. And then they start attaching themselves to the people around her.

At the same time, Mike is having a nervous breakdown. After winning an award for advertising and marketing, he gives the weirdest speech ever and rails on about media saturation and information overload. Thought, he says, is overpopulated — and overpopulation is a precondition of plague. Mike is an alcoholic, though, and everyone assumes he's just drunk and politely usher him off stage.

Soon the stories of these two characters merge and are tied together by something they have in common; brain damage. With gaps in their memories and misfiring synapses, the mnemovores don't have much to hold onto. Mike quickly becomes a puppet who longs to forget, but Kaley is able to fight it off and sets out to rescue her grandma, ironically enough one of the only people who still remembers her thanks to Alzheimer's. It's not long, though, before Kaley finds herself armed only with ...


Panels from Mnemovore #5, #6
Hans Rodionoff and Ray Fawkes, writers; Mike Huddleston, artist

Click here to see more 13 for Halloween!

And with that, the ghosts and monsters are wrapped up until next year. Oh, and I almost forgot! HAPPY HALLOWE

Friday Night Fights: Wildcat, Bahlactus and the final bell!

It's a bittersweet day in the squared circle, fight-fans; with this final round in the Ladies Night match, our intergalactic master of funk and fisticuffs will be ringing the bell for the last time. With this, Bahlactus will fight no more. Or at least, he won't oversee the battles himself anymore — can you ever truly keep a brawler out of the ring?

Keeping all this in mind, I wanted to do something to give props to the big man, something to let him know I appreciate all his hard work and mad rhymin' skillz on Friday Night Fights. Thanks to Bahlactus, I've come across a lot of blogs I might not have seen otherwise, and I like to think I've even made some new friends. That's a hell of a thing.

So I decided to do some kind of shout-out to his own original FNF post, the very first punch thrown in the name of four-color mayhem. But ... his first fighter was WILDCAT. A dude! Ladies Night calls for women warriors only — no men allowed (unless they were on the business end of a lady's tooth-loosening scorn).

Luckily there's a way around that, right, Yolanda?

Thanks, B — this one's for you: Ding! Ding!! Ding!!!

Panels and panel detail from Infinity Inc. Special #1
Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas, writers; Vince Argondezzi, artist

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here!

Hey, you got your Muerto in my Baldo!

I meant to mention this a couple of days ago, but when I was reading through my local paper's funny pages, guess who made an appearance in Baldo? None other than El Muerto!

It's a neat little bit of crossover between two Latino characters, and hopefully the exposure will help El Muerto creator Javier Hernandez get some new readers.

OK, some background on who I'm talking about: Baldo is a daily newspaper comic strip following the everyday trials of a teenage Mexican-American kid named Baldo (spoiler alert!) and his close-knit family. Baldo is a typical teen, and really, really wants to own a custom lowrider someday (which, seriously, reminds me a lot of the neighborhood I grew up in). Just for the record, I have never in my life heard of anyone actually named Baldo. I did, however, know a Smiley.

El Muerto used to be a guy named Diego who was on his way to a Dia de los Muertos festival when he was snatched by Aztec gods, who promptly sacrificed him. Now those gods of death and destiny use him as their agent on Earth in the form of — this is awesome — an Aztec zombie! Also, he dresses as a mariachi. (And as an aside, Dia de los Muertos is not the same as Halloween. Thank you.)

El Muerto's sudden appearance in Baldo's barrio starts here, and you can find out more about the characters and their creators at their respective Web sites. Orale — que mas quieres?!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

13 for Halloween: When the abyss stares back

It's probably not much of a shock to find out I'm a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos he inspired.

Not only did Lovecraft's work set the groundwork for modern horror, it also touches on perhaps the most terrifying idea of all: The universe doesn't care. What's worse, something you've always suspected about the cold, vast and incomprehensible emptiness is true — when the universe does notice you, it's out to get you (oh, and there's nothing you can do about it).

Another thing I like about Lovecraft's writing (as well as a lot of the stuff written by those following in his trudging footsteps) is the whole idea of the unseen. It's not uncommon for the horror that falls on the protagonists to be kind of ... peripheral. A lot of times, the heroes (or more often, the victims) never see the actual monster itself. Awful, terrible things are happening to people, and it's not even the worst of it because what's coming out of the darkness has only brushed past them like a tunnel breeze pushed ahead by the oncoming freight train.

Cthulhu Tales, which started out as an anthology series and recently went monthly, gets it. A mix of funny, scary, modern and period stories, the series usually has at least one story told in the heebie-jeebie inducing Lovecraft tradition. A good example was published in the very first issue of Cthulhu Tales (available in its entirety online!) and is still the first story I think of when talking about the series. So hold on to your program and pray for intermission; the curtain is rising on ...


Panels from Cthulhu Tales #1
John Rogers, writer; Andy Kuhn, artist

Click here to see more 13 for Halloween!