Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Mockingbird breaks a bad, bad habit

You know that old joke about how tough Catholic school nuns are?

Believe it.

OK, so Blackbird didn't say "bless you" after you sneezed, but shooting her in the back seems a little ... um, extreme. Couldn't she have dropped a couple of Hail Marys or ... hey, what're you doing now?! Why're you taking off your ...

HOLY MOSES! I think Mockingbird could use some help from the cross ... the double-cross!

Bahlactus likes to fight just for the hell of it.

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

Panel from Hawkeye #3 (of 4)
Mark Gruenwald, writer and artist; Danny Bulandi, inker; Christie Scheele

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Pull List (8-27-08): Plugging into the Family Dynamic

Let's pretend I said something here, and then let's pretend I said ... to the list!

(Oh, wait ...)

Family Dynamic #1: I had no intention of buying Family Dynamic #1.

For one thing, I think comics geared specifically toward younger readers is a great idea, but I'm not a regular visitor to the Marvel Adventures or Johnny DC side of the street myself. I enjoy them when I come across 'em, but I don't make a point of seeking them out.

Plus, I'd never even heard of it. That's probably my fault, but I don't think you can say DC has really been pushing Family Dynamic very hard, either. And once I did try to find out a little more, the cover art hit me as flat and really video gamey (not a pun! OK ... a little bit of a pun). I had pretty much decided I was going to pass on this one.

Sometimes I'm a dumb-ass.

After poking around a little more I found this preview on writer J. Torres' blog and, well ... I kinda dug it. The inside art is much different than the cover art, less stylized and more detailed, with a fluidity that lends itself well to bursts of action. Torres' writing, especially the dialogue, also trots along at a nice pace and does a good job of introducing what seem to be interesting, likeable characters. Not bad when you consider that preview's just four pages long.

It's too early to tell yet, but the concept seems to give off the vibe of a family-friendly Noble Causes or Dynamo 5, not to mention the super-powered fun of Blue Beetle. And I love me some Blue Beetle. Unfortunately, the title was supposed to be a six-issue mini series but was cut down to a measly three thanks to low pre-orders. That's too bad, because Family Dynamic looks like a title that deserves at least a decent shot at finding an audience — give it a try and see what you think.

The rest ...

Ambush Bug: Year None #2 (of 6)

Blue Beetle #30

Daredevil #110

Maybe ...

Guerillas #1 (of 9): Between Army @ Love and Special Forces, I've got all the war comics I need; I don't have a burning desire for another story set in the Vietnam War (unless it features crazy-ass R. Lee Ermey). But dammit — monkeys!

Immortal Iron Fist #18: I'm still on the fence about Iron Fist. The writing has been getting fair reviews, but I'm still spoiled by Fraction's work on this title. Also, the artwork in the last issue left me drowsy and slightly irritated for some reason. If I'm just being cranky and am missing out, let me know in the comments.

Reign in Hell #2: Trying to drum up enthusiasm for this so-far lackluster spook-story and it's slightly ridiculous Sam-Spade-as-a-sorcerer back-up story? Now that's hell! (Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

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

The Brave and The Bold Vol. 2: The Book of Destiny (hard cover): Fun stuff in the classic B&B style, though forking out the dough for a hard cover should depend on how much you're a fan of either writer Mark Waid or legendary artist George Perez.

Foundation Vol. 1 (trade paperback): An interesting take on the Nostradamus/Illuminati-style conspiracy angle, with solid action sequences and a plot that gets you there without making you feel like you've just been on the blunt end of a movie pitch.

Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft #3 (of 3): Adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft drawn by Richard Corben is one of those things that should be considered natural and right, like breathing and monster truck shows. I'm tempted every time I see it on the shelf but I'm trying to hold out for a collected edition.

Recommended ...

All Star Superman Vol. 1: The best Superman stories I've read in years, all being tied together in that quirky Grant Morrison way and supported by self-assured art from Frank Quitely. Get it.

Arsenic Lullaby: Pulp Edition: I cannot, in good conscience, give a general recommendation for this book. It's often disgusting, morally repugnant, and an assault on what most people would consider basic good taste. It also makes me laugh my ass off like nothing else. So if that sounds like your sort of thing, you definitely need to get this. But ... y'know ... don't blame me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cover Up: Enigma #3

Duncan Fegredo's cover to Enigma #3 always catches me off-guard with the way it manages to be both pretty and ugly at the same time.

The "ugliness" is on purpose, combining a painted image with a stark and sketchy style that ties in directly to the characterization of Envelope Girl, the lovely psychotic featured in the smaller portrait. (Hey, we've all been there, right, guys? Amirite, huh? Huh?)

The smaller image also works as a nice contrast to the larger one of the Enigma himself, who seems particularly otherworldly compared to the almost violently physical derangement of Envelope Girl. The Enigma might be mysterious there in the shadowy background, but his nemesis is in your face and solidly anchoring the whole thing.

This theme of contrasts is carried through on all the covers, delivered by the picture-within-a-picture idea (and when I think about it, the theme of "difference" — along with identity — runs pretty strongly through this eight-issue mini-series). But while the design is consistent, it's also fluid enough to take on the tone of the overall story and that particular issue at the same time. And yeah, the postage stamp idea might seem a little obvious once you're familiar with the character, but I think the cover is still kinda clever.

Like I said, this cover — and the rest, to one degree or another — always grabs my attention with its ability to be both delicate and brutal, magical and grounded, and yeah, ugly and pretty all at the same time.

In this case, the cover reflects the story inside perfectly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Two acres!

Drunk, violent and disrespectful of both flower shows and the Church of England — is it any wonder I love Tank Girl?

Click to ... agh! Gently, gently!

If you're looking for a fight, Bahlactus always hits the mark.

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

Panels from Tank Girl 2 #2
Alan Martin, writer; Jamie Hewlett, artist

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Go, Team Sienkiewicz!

I was rummaging throughout the house last night, trying to find a box of greeting cards my wife was looking for, when I came across this:

Nice, huh? A good pal was nice enough to bring back a bagful of free swag from Comic-Con for me one year (2006? '07?), including a booklet of Adult Swim postcards. It's no surprise that my favorite of the bunch is this detail taken from a larger image done by legendary comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz for the Venture Brothers Season 1 DVD.

Sienkiewicz is one of my favorite artists, and the art is a big part of the reason I still hold on to comics like The Shadow and that Sabretooth mini drawn by Mark Texeira from — holy geez — 1993 (ooooh, die-cut!).

I should probably do some more digging when I get a chance — I'm pretty sure there's a Dark Horse cookie in there somewhere.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

WTF Wednesday: And you thought your baby was smart

All it took was the reappearance of the Shilo Norman version of Mister Miracle and a quick cameo by freakin' Frankenstein in Final Crisis, but I've been on a real Seven Soldiers kick lately.

To be specific, I'm talking about the characters Grant Morrison dug up, recreated or let spring out fresh and new from his nut-filled head in his Seven Soldiers mega-series. And even though I've been rereading it, I still can't quite put my finger on what it is that makes the series so appealing to me.

Click to Baby Brain-size


Y'know, rereading this series doesn't make it any less crazy at all.

Panel from Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian #4
Grant Morrison, writer; Cameron Stewart, artist

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Pull List (8-20-08): Bikini fight clubs and crusty bunkers

Preambles are for chumps and constitutional documents — to the list!

True Believers #2 (of 5): I have to admit, I was a little surprised by how much I liked the first issue and then after some reflection, I was surprised that I was surprised.

After all, it was written by Cary Bates, who not only gave a young Maxo a firm idea of what a Superman story should be like, but who also wrote some of the just plain craziest damn stories ever published by DC. It's easy to overlook, but Bates was like some sort of robot ninja of the high concept, and that doesn't look as if that's changed much.

The first issue introduced an underground group of super-powered muckrakers dropping the dime on bikini fight clubs; weaponized wi-fi; the "crusty bunker;" and a cliffhanger that actually made me think, "Oh man, what's Reed Richards been up to?!" It surprised me in another way, too: If you're expecting the gentle zaniness of a Silver Age Superman story, put down that Showcase and start living in the now. The True Believers are straight out of the modern Marvel Universe, so Bates' concepts are framed by BDSM gear and dialogue that includes, "The good news: I hadn't been sexually violated — at least not yet, anyway."

I'm a big boy so this doesn't bother me at all, especially since it's in service to both plot and characterization, and is part of keeping this sort-of-an-espionage story moving along. Also, it's immediately followed by, "The bad news — while I was under, someone had peeled off my clothes and dressed me in a black thong bikini. My money was on the dwarf."

Did I mention that there's also a decent amount of face punchery? This book practically sells itself.

The only shaky element in an otherwise solid book is the pencils by Paul Gulacy, which veer from serviceable to distractingly ugly (faces are especially hit-and-miss — and when they miss ... hoo boy). Still, it's nothing that should steer you away from what's shaping up to be an entertaining corner of the Marvel U. Check out the previews of the first and second issues and give it a try.

The rest ...

The Brave and The Bold #16

Captain America #41

Guardians of the Galaxy #4

Maybe ...

Air #1: A vigilante version of air marshals and hints of a plot involving next-generation flight technology sounds interesting, but the art is a little off-putting. What's with all the shading? We'll see if it looks any different in the shop. In the meantime, there's a preview here.

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

Conan the Cimmerian #2

Incredible Hercules #120

MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 1 (trade paperback)

Rex Libris #12

Scalped #20

Recommended ...

Herbie Archives Vol. 1 (hard cover): It's the return of the Fat Fury, and if you're a fan of the weird and sublimely silly, then this is definitely worth the hard cover treatment. Get a taste of it with this preview.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Bulleteer calls it 'The Silencer'

If you've been reading Final Crisis and wondering what the hell is going on, put down those back issues of Countdown. No, seriously, put them down, and pick up the Seven Soldiers maxi-series instead.

Also densely and somewhat confoundingly written by Grant Morrison, the events of the six different mini-series (that all tie in to make one series — see, even the set up in confusing) seem to lead directly into the latest Crisis storyline. Compellingly well-written, complex and ultimately rewarding, it's Grant Morrison at his Grant Morrisoningest in the DCU.

Also rewarding: Seeing how the Bulleteer deals with that home-wrecking Sally Sonic.

Click to SUV-size!

You'll take some personal responsibility, Sally, and like it. Because Batman might be famous for using a car battery in his assault on crime, but Alix Harrower will drop a whole engine block on ya.

And you don't even want to think about messing with the monster truck known as Bahlactus.

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

Panels from Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #4 (of 4)
Grant Morrison, writer; Yanick Paquette, penciller; Serge LaPointe, inker

San Diego Comic-Con, sexual harrasment and what's not being done

It's difficult to know which is more disappointing: The fact that sexual and general harassment can be allowed to happen at the world's largest comic and pop culture convention, or that hearing about it can elicit everything from anger to disgust, but not surprise.

John DiBello helps Bully put his always charming blog together, and recently posted about the sort of behavior that stupidly, but consistently, occurs at the San Diego Comic-Con. It's wrong and it shouldn't be tolerated on any level, which makes it shocking that there is no official Con policy to prevent or deal with harassment during the event.

As a group, as fans and supporters of the medium, we should be better than this.

To help get the word out, I'm cross-posting John's original post below. I encourage you to get it out there by posting it to your own blog, sending a link to any of the blog trackers available, or even just talking about it with your friends and fellow fans. The Con should be fun — and safe — for everyone.

Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: "These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, 'cause I wanted to see what her reaction was." This was only one example of several instances of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.

1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.

2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.

3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.

Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it's to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you're dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.

On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining "Convention Policies," which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.

Page three of the book contains a "Where Is It?" guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There's no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she's sympathetic to the situation but who doesn't have a clear answer to my question: "What's Comic-Con's policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?" She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there's little that can be done.

"I understand that," I tell them both, "but what I'm asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what's the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?" But this wasn't a question either could answer.

So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like "Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX."

The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more rep-tape loophole to hide behind.

I enjoyed Comic-Con. I'm looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I've retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn't have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.

I don't understand why there's no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.

— John DiBello

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For what it's worth

I'm not trying to jump on any bandwagon here, but I do want to say that I'm with Kevin on this one.

Originally I had a whole, long-winded post thought out on it, but it's really pretty simple: Telling people not to buy something you're trying to sell — for no reason other than it doesn't match your personal taste — is not good business.

And let's stress that particular point: If you have opened a shop with the intent of selling comics, you've opened a business. And the goal of a business, any business, is to make money. That doesn't mean you deal with your customers dishonestly, it doesn't mean you become a huckster trying to blow sunshine up people's asses, and it doesn't mean you sacrifice customer service for profit. But it also doesn't mean you preemptively discourage sales, either.

But if you just opened a shop to build yourself a clubhouse where you can immerse yourself in your hobby ... well, good luck to you. Hopefully your membership will be large enough to support your business.

For future reference, though; taking a product you eventually want to sell and telling potential customers to "Not Buy" it makes no sense.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Pull List (8-13-08): Letter from the underground

Do you have any idea how hard it is to post a blog update when your boss has been in and out of your work area all day?

Not that I blog from work. Because that would be wrong.

Um ... to the list!

(No time for commentary this time around, but feel free to discuss any of this week's comics in the comments.)

Getting ...

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1

Batman #679

Booster Gold #11

Cthulhu Tales #4

Fall of Cthulhu: Godwar #1

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #2

Wonder Woman #23

Maybe ...

Blade of the Warrior Kshatriya #1

Golly #1

Welcome to Hoxford #1

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

BPRD: The Warning #2

Firebreather #2

Green Lantern Corps #27

The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability (trade paperback)

Recommended ...

The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard (trade paperback)

Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt (trade paperback): Yes, really.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Pleased as punch!

With all the hype that surrounded the Death of Superman — some of which still floats around the story like a slowly fading fart today — it's easy to forget Superman didn't fight Doomsday all by himself. Actually, the Justice League did a lot of the early heavy lifting and paid the price by getting the living crap beat out of them.

Well, all of them except for Maxima, who just wants to help Doomsday out.

Say what you want, but you can never accuse Maxima of being impolite.

Bahlactus, on the other hand ... that dude can barge in whenever he wants.

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

Panels from The Death of Superman, Vol. 1
Jerry Ordway, writer; Tom Grummett, penciller; Doug Hazlewood, inker

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Contest: Who needs the Olympics? We have a winner!

After crunching some numbers, getting in touch with our spirit animal and conferring with the Shadowy Council of Shadowy Men, a winner of the Batman: The Movie contest has been revealed:

Congratulations, T. Rakei! Send me an e-mail with your mailing information (the address is in my profile) and I'll send Batman: The Movie winging your way. And thanks to everyone who participated — you guys are swell. Even Robin thinks so!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Poll: Bends, folds and other comic crimes

If you were to walk through any room in my home and poke around a little bit, it's practically guaranteed that you would find a comic book floating around.

There are literally comics all over my house; hidden in drawers, stacked on shelves and teetering in piles in bathroom cabinets. And except for what I consider concessions to re-readability more than a fanboyish urge for everlasting preservation — not putting them where they can get wet or where one of the cats can get to them — I don't really take very good care of my comics.

Once upon a time I used to bag and board 'em all before stowing them in a longbox, being careful to make sure they were packed well enough to stand up straight but not so tight that they couldn't "breathe." But now longboxes are mostly a way to contain comic-creep. Somewhere along the way the bags-and-boards became just bags, and now my comics run wild and naked like little free-range chickens.

I've always been more of a reader than a collector, but I know this is probably horrifying to some of you out there. And I won't lie — the books tend to get dinged. Sometimes they get outright donged. I feel a little guilty about it sometimes, but I get over it pretty quick. It's always in in the back of my mind that my monthlies will get replaced by trades eventually, and besides, I've got fond memories of reading and treasuring old comics that were worn tissue-thin by being read over and over again. Buying a comic just to hermetically seal it in a plastic slab seems criminal.

Of course if you bend and fold the spine back, I will kill you. Kill you dead.

But that's just me — how do you store your comics? Bags and boards? Slabs? Climate-controlled room or in a steadily curving pile in the magazine rack? Answer the survey, why don'cha, and remember to leave your comments!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

... and boy, are my arms tired

Aaaaannnd ... we're back!

Well, "back" might be stretching it. While the vacation is over and I'm back at HQ, things are still a little fuzzy around the edges; I'm trying to gear things back up to something like the normal rhythm around here, so keep hope alive.

As long as I'm doing some housekeeping, let's go ahead and say the deadline for that Batman: The Movie contest is, oh, midnight tonight. If you haven't already entered, do it now! And if you have, thanks for playing — and good luck!

Huh. I feel as if I should be leaving you with more, but it's like I'm under the unblinking gaze of ...