Monday, March 31, 2008

Justice for Jerry Siegel

If you've followed comics at all, or have ever looked into the issue of creator's rights, you probably know the notorious story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Siegel and Shuster aren't as well known as their creation, but in 1938 the writer and artist saw their character, Superman, hit the streets in the pages of Action Comics #1. And like a lot of artists of the time — whether they were authors, composers or almost any other creative-type at the time — they were screwed. Losing their rights to Superman left the men with $130 bucks and a job working on a character that was no longer theirs. For a long time, they didn't even get credit for coming up with the idea at all.

Finally, that changed a bit recently when a judged ruled that Jerry Siegel's estate should be given half of the copyright to the original 1938 story. It's a little complicated, and Dirk Deppey sums it up much better than I could, but here's what I understood of it:

• The copyright given back to the estate is pretty narrow, and character developments that have happened since will still have to be hashed out, but the basic defining characteristics of the Superman character have been acknowledged as being created by Siegel and Shuster.

• Since Siegel and Shuster created Superman before taking it to Detective Comics, it doesn't come under the work-for-hire rules. In other words, DC doesn't have a right to the original character, the creators do. Whoops!

• The Shuster estate will be able to file for the same reversion rights in 2013, which if I understand this correctly means Siegel and Shuster could have full ownership of the original Superman concept (along with all things "Superman," such as Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Lex and the Daily Planet) sometime after the next five years.

As Dirk mentioned in his column (other items might be NSFW), this won't really change how DC uses Superman in their comics and merchandising. But it does mean the men who created the character — a character so iconic that just his symbol is recognized around the world — will finally get the official credit they deserve, and their estates will get a piece of the financial pie DC has fattened itself on for 70 years.

Think about that — 70 years. That's a long time to wait for what should have been yours in the first place. At the risk of being corny, I just want to say congratulations to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, wherever they are — and thanks.

Panels from Action Comics #1
Jerry Siegel, writer; Joe Shuster, artist

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Monkey riot!

The Monkey King of Flower-Fruit Mountain doesn't want much.

A deity who just wants to oversee his peaceful slice of heaven, where his followers frolic while he masters the major heavenly disciplines of kung-fu, the Monkey King is content. Until he catches wind of a dinner party that all the gods, goddesses, spirits and demons will be attending. Deciding he likes a good dinner party as much as the next simian, the Monkey King flies off to heaven, where he runs into the spiritual version of The Dude Behind The Velvet Rope. He tries to explain that he should be on the guest list, but ...

In the end, The Monkey King did what any reasonable person would do and politely lodged a complaint with the management before making his dignified exit.

Oh, wait. That's not what happened at all.

Now — who wants dessert?

Hungry for a beating? Bahlactus has a full menu!

And if you're following a link, you can read more Great Caesar's Post here!

Panel from American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang, writer/artist

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reviews! Blue Beetle soars, The Spirit slips

I flaked on doing a pull list again, so let's take a look at some of the books I read this week:

Blue Beetle #25: Hands down, the best comic I read this week. John Rogers does an outstanding job of wrapping up this hero-defining story arc, and hits all the right buttons with every single character to make an appearance. And brother, that’s a lot of characters. Just about anybody who’s made an appearance in this title shows up, and many of them make an active contribution to the plot or dialogue. Normally you’d expect that to end up being clunky, or to at least feel a little forced here and there, but the story is smooth, quick-moving and practically sparks with energy. Rafael Albuquerque’s art is top-notch, and in the same way that I picture Curt Swan’s version when I think of Superman, Albuquerque’s Blue Beetle will always be my Blue Beetle.

I’m sorry that Rogers is leaving the title (hopefully just temporarily), because between the two of them Rogers and Albuquerque have created what is damn near the perfect superhero comic.

All Star Superman #10: Speaking of the Big Red S, Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely continue to pull off the impressive balancing act of bringing everything people love about Superman front and center while presenting it all in completely novel and imaginative ways. And when I say “imaginative ways” I mean, “freakin’ Morrison — how does he come up with this stuff?!” Combined with what’s turning out to be some of Quitely’s best work, the title is thoroughly modern without giving in to the lazy cynicism that might lead other writers to churn out more “grim-‘n’-gritty.” Morrison seems to be on track toward creating another milestone run, and for the first time in a long time, I care about what happens to Superman. Freakin’ Morrison.

Daredevil #106: Sometimes a fill-in issue really feels like a fill-in, and that’s the case with this issue of Daredevil. I know Ed Brubaker never seems to write anything that isn’t part of a bigger picture, but after the intensity of the last story arc this wound up feeling flabby and slow. The art by Paul Azaceta didn’t help, often distracting with a look that came off as unfinished and, in a few panels, flat and amateurish. Believe it or not, I don’t hate it — I just don’t think it’s a good fit for this book.

One more thing: I love the Ben Urich character and I think he’s an important part of the Daredevil family, but he and the rest of the supporting cast just came across as ineffectual and added to the sense that this issue didn’t really go anywhere. Honestly, I thought things were moving toward Matt Murdock’s friends staging some sort of intervention, and I was strangely disappointed when it didn’t happen. I don’t know if that says something about the story or me, but I ended this issue with a shrug.

Green Lantern #29: I’ve liked what writer Geoff Johns has done with Green Lantern (the book and the character), and Ivan Reis is the perfect artist for this title. But I really don’t need to read about Green Lantern’s origin. Again. I know it helps newer readers (I’m all for that) and it also helps cement the latest status quo in terms of continuity, but I almost felt like I was flipping through the book more than reading it. I’m not sure how many issues it’s going to take to rehash the origin story, but I hope it’s wrapped up lickety-split.

DROPPED! The Spirit #15: The idea was to give this title one more shot after the new team’s disappointing debut last issue, but while flipping through it in the shop I decided it was over. The art by Mike Ploog was solid enough, but not very distinctive and close enough to Will Eisner’s style that it comes across as unoriginal. The killer, though, was thumbing through the title to see if the same problems with characterization popped up again and finding Dolan smoking a bubble pipe. Which I could’ve lived with (I know how much writers Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones love their little sight gags), but then there was a whole scene where the usually stoic police commissioner is pompously giving a press conference before breaking down into vaudevillian-style bluster because The Spirit is getting the credit for a bust. That’s not Dolan, who has always treated Denny Colt as a partner and even a surrogate son, and this kind of mischaracterization is more frustrating than fun.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Now The Joker can park anywhere

If you think things between the U.S. and Iran have been tense lately, you should've seen what the diplomatic situation was like in 1988.

Click to Superham it!

But I hear the embassy parties were epic.

Panel from Batman #428
Jim Starlin, writer; Jim Aparo, artist

Monday, March 24, 2008

Emo Storm has something to say

And now, a few words from Storm, courtesy of Chris Claremont:

Man, I hope she wrote that down for open-mike night at the poetry slam later.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Hellboy, the hero of Africa!

In the mini mini-series Makoma, Hellboy has a vision of fabled Africa thanks to a mummy that only he can hear and sees himself in the role of the hero. And the story the mummy has to tell is the stuff of legends: Makoma is born with the ability to speak and names himself with a handle that means, "He who is greatest and without fear."

Then he has his mom throw him into a pool filled with crocodiles.

Which is bad news for the crocodiles, because after a day and a night they're all dead and Makoma comes out of the pool full grown and "holding in his hand an iron hammer." (I don't have to tell you this story is bad-ass, right? Hold on, it gets even better.)

After consulting with the tribal chiefs and elders, Makoma heads out to defeat the evil powers holding reign over the land.

It almost makes you feel sorry for the evil powers.

Click to mountain-size!

Oh, crap — it's on!

That, Makoma, is awesome.

You don't even want to know what "Bahlactus" means ...

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here, and take the poll!

Panels from Hellboy: Makoma #1 (of 2)
Mike Mignola, writer; Richard Corben, artist; Dave Stewart, colors

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poll: Budgeting for comics

Work is piling up, so I just have a quick question: Is the slipping U.S. economy, rising prices for gas and food, and other pinches to the wallet having an affect on how you buy comics?

I know I have a weekly budget that I try to stay within, and for the most part things balance out by the end of the month. But I also know that if things keep going the way they are, I'm going to have to look more closely at my weekly pull list and maybe be a little choosier about what I actually go home with.

Is it just me? Or is anyone else feeling the squeeze? I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this, so I've put a poll up in the sidebar and I also encourage you to leave any comments you might want to share.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Hot, toasty mama!

You might know Rex Libris as the commando-librarian who'll do whatever it takes to keep his branch running like the shipshape, pan-dimensional source for literary adventure that it is. If you've ever been around while I'm reading it, you might even know Rex Libris as the only comic that regularly sends me to my copy of Webster's.

But do you know Rex Libris — ladies' man?

Click to check out the stacks!

You know he wants a closer look at her Dewey decimal.

(Oh, c'mon, I know I'm not the only one who thought it ... let's hear your library lines in the comments.)

Panel from Rex Libris Vol. 1: I, Librarian
James Turner, writer/artist

Monday, March 17, 2008

A view of the Emerald Isle

March 17th is St. Patrick's Day, that most holy and revered of feast days, and in honor of Ireland's patron saint we here at Great Caesar's Post are proud to present a cultural touchstone that has been passed down through generations. Symbolic and echoing with the history of a nation, please make yourself comfortable with a traditional bowl of green chips and guacamole, and enjoy this native dance as performed by Her Higness of Leprechaunia herself, the Queen of the Leprechauns!

Click to Blarney-size!

Faith and begorrah!


So ... who's feelin' lucky? Eh? She'll be here all night, people.

Panels of a table-dancing transexual leprechaun from Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse #7
Edit: Updated with better scans.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Haaww-kaaa!

World War II was a time of heroes, when ordinary men and women with a fighting spirit rose to the challenges put before them, whether it was leading a battle-hardened squad of Army joes across Europe, driving a haunted tank or shooting dinosaurs with a bazooka.

But there are few who are as legendary as the Blackhawk Squadron and none as trailblazing as Lady Blackhawk, the first female flying ace to join the team.

Which begs the question ... Greatest Generation?

You tell 'er, grandma!

Or Greatest Generation EVER?!

If you're looking for some historic battles, Bahlactus will be happy to school ya.

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

Panel from Birds of Prey #107
Gail Simone, writer; Nicola Scott, artist; Doug Hazlewood, inker

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WTF Wednesday: She's with Uncle Ben now

Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! Not a What If!

Aunt May is DEAD!
Click for a closer pew!

Hey, who's that doctor, anyway? He sure seems ... mysterious. Oh well — it's not like they'd kill off a character just to bring her back, right?

Panel from The Amazing Spider-Man #196
Marv Wolfman, writer; Al Milgrom, artist; Jim Mooney and Frank Giacoia, inkers

The Pull List (3-12-08): If you ain't got the Guts ...

Dooby dooby-dooo ... ya-ta-ta-tyaaaaa taa, mmm-mm, dooby doo — whoops!

Er ... on to the list!

Gutsville #3: I'm not sure what it is about this comic, but damn if it isn't a title that makes me squeal in delight whenever it actually comes out. (Yes, squeal. Shut up.) The art is unique, but also perfectly suited to the story it helps tell, a neat trick considering it's a story about a group of people who have lived for generations in the belly of some sort of sea monster. The art style and coloring give a combined sense of bioluminescence and a slightly unsettling mushroom trip, lending a feeling of the kind of claustrophobia you'd expect from living in a giant fish. The story itself seems well-thought out, and you can tell there's a lot of unrevealed back-story to build on. The dialogue, a blend of 19th century English and digestive tract slang, is also a highlight and the kind of detail that immerses you in the increasingly weird plot.

My only problem with Gutsville is how long it takes to get from issue to issue. This mini-series began in 2007 (May, I think) and is barely getting out issue #3? Annoying. Still, while I usually can't stand books that are this far off from anything that looks like a regular schedule, Gutsville is one of those books that seems to always be worth waiting for. Check out the (also infrequently updated) Gutsville site, where you can see some preview pages, too.

The rest ...

Atomic Robo #6

Booster Gold #7

Wonder Woman #18

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

Annihilation Conquest #5

Conan Vol. 5: Rogues in the House and Other Stories

Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse Vol. 2: It Only Hurts When I Pee

Maybe ...

Arab in America (trade paperback): This could be an interesting look at the kind of bigotry that's still alive and well in the U.S., especially given the current political climate.

Metro Survive Vol. 1: Manga that combines a subtle sense of Japanese horror with the "What would I do?" kind of question by putting a spineless man in charge of a group's survival after an earthquake strands them in the underground metro tunnels.

Serenity: Better Days #1: Aw crap. I love Firefly, but hated the last Serenity mini-series. Unless the writing gets better, this looks to continue the less-than-impressive history of Serenity comic books; check out the preview and judge for yourself.

Recommended ...

Comic Book Comics #1: Funny stuff by the guys who brought us Action Philosophers; if you consider yourself a comic book fan, pick it up. And look — a preview!

FLCL Vol. 1: I have an unhealthy love for the anime based on this manga, and the book might be even stranger than the nearly nonsensical cartoon that mashes together a coming-of-age story with an underlying sexual tension and giant robots. I'm not entirely sure this is a reprint of the original story, but if it is I'd say it's worth picking up. Wear a helmet, though, because your mind will be blown.

Monday, March 10, 2008

White Tiger saves the day

Seeing as how today's Monday and only the second day of Daylight Saving Time ... yeah, I've got nothing.

To make up for it, here's a pretty awesome splash page of White Tiger drawn by George Perez for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

I still can't believe Bendis had him shot during a failed jailbreak; a lame end for a great character that still had plenty of potential. Stop killing everyone, Bendis!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Standing eight count!

Bahlactus, that galactic head-breaker and cosmic referee of the earth-shattering brawl known as Friday Night Fights, is touring the outer quadrants of space and has called for a short intermission. In other words, no fight this week.

The hurtin' will be back for certain next Friday, but in the meantime why not take a look back at some some scenes from Great Caesar's Posts' pugilistic past?

Panel from Manhunter #30

Aah ... memories!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shopping around: Why I'll never cheat again

Last night, I was unfaithful.

I didn't set out to stray. As the cliché goes, it just happened. And like most cheaters I felt dirty and wrong from the beginning, finding myself in a strange place that felt foreign and unnatural. Worse — and predictably — I ended up unsatisfied, regretting my poor decision and realizing I already had everything I needed.

This morning, I still can't believe I went to a different comic shop.

There really isn't any excuse; it was late, my shop had already closed for the night, and I thought I could just duck into this other shop to grab what I needed. I didn't have anything exotic in mind this week, just a little mainstream stuff. It would be a quickie.

I should have known better. I've mentioned before how much I like my regular store, and every week I'm reminded that Austin Books & Comics is probably the best comic shop in the city (it's certainly the most complete, and the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful). But sometimes circumstance and my impatience are a bad combination.

My wife wasn't feeling well last night, and since it was already getting late I decided we should stick close to home. Austin Books is about three or four miles from my apartment; the Shop That Shall Not Be Named is about three or four blocks. I figured we could swing by, I'd pick up the three books I was planning to get and we'd be on our way. Normally I don't go to this shop, both out of a sense of loyalty to my shop and because the Unnamed Shop's selection sucks. It's really more of a gaming store, with just one small wall for comics; it's great when I need dice, crappy if I would ever want a book that wasn't from DC or Marvel.

In this case, I thought I'd be able to get my books pretty easily since they were all mainstream titles from the Big Two. Instead, I found one. So like a cheating spouse who realizes how good he's got it at home, I'll go slinking back to my usual shop tonight, feeling guilty and begging for forgiveness.

It's a question that gets tossed around, but I'll ask it again: What makes a comic shop a good comic shop? And why does it seem to be something that's so hard to achieve? Why does finding a good shop have to be like trying to find a retail version of a unicorn?

I know I'm lucky to have an excellent shop in my city (my old hometown doesn't have a single decent shop). And if I wasn't going to Austin Books I'd be going to Rogues Gallery, another very good shop with a superior staff that's just a little too far out to be convenient for me (still, it'd be worth the extra drive time). Rogues Gallery used to be part of the local chain of shops I once worked for, and the guys who now own the shop really knows their stuff. (They used to be fellow employees, so yeah, they're living the dream.)

But again, there's that other side of the coin to deal with. Of course I used to go to the shop I worked for, but for a variety of reasons I don't anymore (which is a shame, because I used to love that place). And there was another local string of shops that, one day and without warning, apparently just closed. The scuttlebutt is that customers weren't told in advance, and there was no explanation afterward — from one day to the next all the shops were closed except one, and the only thing customers could do was peer in through darkened windows and wonder what the hell happened.

Often, it seems so easy to point at something and say, "Well, that's not good." I don't claim to know much about the business side of things beyond what I picked up while working at a shop that was fairly large, well-stocked, well-organized and successful in a competitive market. I do know, however, what I look for as a customer.

So why did I stray, especially knowing it wouldn't be what I was looking for? Laziness, circumstance and the illusion of convenience all combined to lead me to a brief tryst with another comic shop. Regret will keep me from going back.

Photo swiped from Justin Davis' Flickr site
Note: The photo is about two years old, and shows about a quarter of the shop; Austin Books is currently in the middle of a renovation, so the layout is likely to change.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Zango has food ... for thought!

Scholars around the world agree that most of the machinations and secret plots of the legendary super-villain Lord Zango are — at best — shrouded in mystery. Indeed, it's common wisdom that, "You only know what Zango wants you to know."

However, there is one thing Zango has made very clear:

Glad we got that cleared up.

If you have yet to be introduced to the world's laziest super-villain, do yourself a favor and pick up The Nearly Infamous Zango #1, a quick-paced and quick-witted funny book about family, recapturing past glory and a cyborg gorilla assassin. Writer/artist Rob Osborne brings the funny in all the right ways with this title, poking fun at classic scenery-chewing villains with dialogue that breezes from overwrought to petulant, and artwork that combines a classic visual like a killer gorilla with a skinny would-be overlord in bunny slippers.

And while there are genuine laugh-out-loud moments in the book, it does it without slipping into flat-out farce; there's an actual story building here. Reading Zango, it's pretty obvious Osborne was enjoying himself when he put this together, and why wouldn't he — it's funny stuff. Hopefully, the plot and character development will keep pace with the jokes and help the title avoid becoming a one-note story.

I had a chance to talk to Osborne briefly at the Staple! expo, and he said one of the things that draws him to humor comics (he also did the endearingly silly 1000 Steps to World Domination) is the fact that there just aren't many humor comics out there. The Nearly Infamous Zango should help fill the gap.

And if you thought I was kidding about that cyborg gorilla assassin, check out the preview (there's a preview of the second issue, too!).

Panel from The Nearly Infamous Zango #1
Rob Osborne, writer/artist

Monday, March 3, 2008

A brief glimpse at Staple! (and Ryan Yount)

I'm working on a more in-depth post on this weekend's Staple! expo, but it was definitely a lot of fun with plenty of interesting and friendly writers, artists and other participants. The new and larger venue was an improvement, and things were laid-back and organized — it all really makes me look forward to next year.

Best of all, though, was the fact that an age-old comic industry question was finally answered: Scurvy Dogs' Ryan Yount does indeed like to party.

Click to see the evidence

Unfortunately, the riddle of where he likes to party remains unanswered.