Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Hit it!

Y'all ready ...

Doc Samson and the Rhino have already hit the floor, but if you still need a partner I'm sure Spacebooger and the O.P.P. crew can hook you up.

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

Panel from The Incredible Hulk #218
Len Wein and Roger Stern, writers; George Tuska and Keith Pollard, artists

All right, everybody - suit up!

I don't know if this has made the rounds yet, but it's the first I've seen of it: the New York Daily News has a fun little compare-and-contrast photo feature up at their Web site comparing TV and movie depictions of superheroes to the original comic book designs.

They cheat a little bit by using multiple characters from the same movie (there's plenty of Watchmen and Spider-Man here), but the indie folks aren't left totally out in the cold, either. It's not complete (insert fanboy whine here), but it's still impressively in-depth, from the cool ...

to the omigodmakeitstop ...

What do you think? What are some of your favorite — or most hated — character costumes to hit the screen? Any love for the TV version of Flash? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reviews: A messy end for Blue Beetle

Things have been busy at work the last few days, which is why posting has slowed to a crawl lately (NOT THAT I BLOG FROM WORK). Hell, I haven't even been able to read all of the comics I got this week. I have managed to squeeze in a few though, so here are a few quick thoughts on some of this week's books:

Blue Beetle #36: This was the last issue of the now-canceled series, and instead of crossing the finish line with arms raised in triumph, it more or less staggered with a noticeable limp. You can't really fault writer Matthew Sturges, though; the obviously compacted and rushed issue blew by plot points and ideas likely meant to be explored more fully across several storylines, and it's easy to get the feeling he was trying to get as much out there as he could before the door closed on the title.

It's a shame Sturges won't be able to more fully flesh out the future of Blue Beetle as a rapidly maturing young superhero now touched by tragedy, because I think he would have some interesting stories to tell. Instead we have to be satisfied with a pretty big clue about who probably becomes the future Black Beetle and an ambiguous ending to what had been one of the better superhero comics on the rack.

Green Lantern #38: Well, it seems pretty obvious Hal's going to end up wearing a ring from every corps there is before this story is through — and I'm OK with that. It seems a little contrived (just like Carol joining the Star Sapphires ... again), but seeing Hal go through dramatic Wolf-Man-like transformations while his uniform turns into a patchwork quilt is so Silver Age goofy it's fun.

I still don't get the whole blood-rage-vomit thing (and I'm not sure how I feel about basically the same effect being used for Scar's Black Lantern tears o' death), but I'm trying to ignore it in favor of electric chair-Sinestro and flying elephant men.

Umbrella Academy #4 (vol. 2): This comic amazes me every issue with its ability to make me like it even more than I did the month before. Weird, clever and smart, Umbrella Academy is also gleefully violent and action-packed (even when nothing is really going on besides people standing in a room talking). I especially like how smart this title is, unraveling some horrible mystery you both dread and welcome because, dammit, how's it going to end?!

Say what you will about his band, but it has nothing to do with this comic; Gerard Way is writing a great book here, with characters you care about and an outcome you become fully invested in. And the art by Gabriel Ba? If I could I would eat it, it's that good. This is currently one of my favorite books, and you should be reading it. (preview)

Unknown Soldier #5: Brutal, unrelenting and a damn-near perfect war book about a war that's gone largely unnoticed by most people. Writer Joshua Dysart has updated the Unknown Soldier character by putting him in the middle of 2002 Uganda — a country that has spent years tearing itself apart with violence, corruption and atrocity — and making him a product of that battered and blood-caked nation.

It works incredibly well, and a reader can tell Dysart is using his story to both entertain and educate (his monthly background essays on Uganda's strife should be required reading). This title is mean in all the right ways. Likewise, the frenetic art by Alberto Ponticelli has that "Vertigo" style to it, but it completely suits the characters and the chaotic tone of the script. Since he's drawing a character who is fast becoming a bogeyman of war, it's appropriate that his Unknown Soldier is scary as hell.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Creators tag-team Q&A on El Gorgo

Here at the GCP head office, it should be pretty obvious that the love for El Gorgo knows no bounds. So it was nice to hear from Tom Mason, who has an interview with El Gorgo creators Mike McGee and Tamas Jakab over at Comix 411.

It's a good interview, with McGee and Jakab talking about the inspiration behind El Gorgo, giving some insight into the teams' creative process, and dropping some hints about our favorite surf-guitar playing gorilla luchador superhero's secret origin. There's also some discussion about the strategy of offering comics for free online, the cost of distribution and what it's like to produce a comic when it's not your day job.

As I said, it's an interesting interview and Jakab and McGee come across as open, thoughtful and passionate about El Gorgo — I recommend you check it out. And while you're at it, don't forget to give El Gorgo a look (and if you like it, buy it!); more than ever, independent comics need our support.

(Holy crap! And I just saw they've now got T-shirts for sale! Holy crap!!)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Bringing a whip to a gunfight?

You know how the Punisher likes to tell criminals he's going to "turn 'em into dog food?" It's a little known fact, but in the old days Frank Castle enjoyed turning crooks into a delicious spiced ham product.

And then he'd shoot you.

One shot is all Spacebooger needs!

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

Panel from Amazing Spider-Man #135
Gerry Conway, writer; Ross Andru, artist

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Geek check: So, uh ... what're you wearing?

So far today, two people have pointed at me and said, "Hey, Green Lantern!"

The company I work for is pretty casual, and jeans and a T-shirt is the top of the dress code for most of the employees, myself included. Today that includes a Green Lantern shirt.

The funny thing is, this shirt brings that reaction in people a lot. I don't know if it's because people are familiar with the John Stewart character thanks to the JLA cartoons, if an older (*ahem*) generation remembers Hal from the Super Friends or what, but most people seem to recognize this green and white symbol.

The cool thing? Everybody who points it out is smiling.

This shirt has prompted more random conversations than I can think of, with the exception of the Aquaman T-shirt, but that was annoying at first because everyone seemed to think it was an Entourage reference instead of, y'know, an Aquaman reference.

Is it a Green Lantern thing? Leftover goodwill from Iron Man and The Dark Knight? Personally, I like to think it's mostly a fun thing — and people like to have fun, even if it's just in a brief moment of recognition, whether you're a comic fan or not.

I think it's also part of the whole Rise of the Geek thing , though we'll see how long that lasts. But for now, a comic book T-shirt may not make you cool, but it's not going to get you ostracized, either. And in some cases, it may even get you a wave and a smile from a stranger.

So what about you? Are you proudly wearing your superhero T-shirts to work? Putting your laptop in a manga themed messenger bag? Or do you have a comic character dangling from your keychain? Let your comic geek flag fly in the comments!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Horns of a dilemma

I really, really meant to post today, but thanks to a busy day I'm now faced with the choice of putting something together at the last minute or reading the comics I just picked up.

... hm.

See you tomorrow, everybody!

(Oh, OK — here's a picture of a grumpy koala.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Touch down on Planet Wifey

Some of you out there may know Clarence Smith, Jr. as Bahlactus, the creator of Friday Night Fights and funky kung fu master of comic book commentary, but now thanks to a new biweekly comic strip over at Agreeable Comics you can get to know him as ... well, Clarence.

Smith is writing Planet Wifey, a strip that will feature true stories of married life, and seriously? Freakin' ADORABLE. And with perfectly simple and expressive art by Cathy Leamy (best known as Metrokitty), this comic strip is going to be a winner. Do yourself a favor and go check out Planet Wifey.

(While you're at it, take a look at the creators' home sites — spread the love at Do You Know Clarence? and Metrokitty.)

via Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It Came from the Bible!: You gotta start somewhere ...

I have a confession to make: I'm not a very religious person.

This might come as a surprise if you were to look at my early churchin'. I was baptized twice. I went to Sunday school. My family attended a Methodist church, and then a Catholic one. But eventually I realized I was more interested in the menudo after Mass than the Mass itself, and what would eventually be a solid agnosticism took root.

"Yeah, OK," you might be saying at this point, "but what does any of this have to do with comics?" A life in which religion played a regular (if peripheral) role tends to leave behind relics, and in my case that includes something called The Picture Bible — a version of the Catholic scripture that is essentially one giant comic book.

And that's what I want to talk about in what will hopefully be a regular feature here at the Post, asking the question; how well can comics work with such weighty, untraditional material? Of course, comics have been doing this for years, from the old Classics Illustrated to this month's issue of Comic Book Comics. And Jack Chick is infamous for bringing religion to the masses with his off-the-wall doomsday tracts.

The Picture Bible is a little different, though. First of all, it wasn't the sort of thing you could get at a comic shop or off a magazine rack; if you wanted it you had to go to your local Catholic store (today you can get it — like most things — from Amazon). And while it looks like it's been updated since the 70s, the version I have looks like a traditional Bible; a thick, hardcover book with a no-nonsense, deep red cover without any real design to speak of and no illustration.

Instead all the illustration, rendered by Andre Le Blanc, is inside and it's a lot like reading a Prince Valiant strip, with distinctly drawn characters and often impressive background detail. Le Blanc actually had his own strips, assisted Will Eisner on The Spirit and was one of the primary artists on the Brazilian line of Classics Illustrated.

The art is the obvious way the Picture Bible tries to grab younger readers, but the script by Iva Hoth helps keep them involved. Dialogue is conversational, and some detail is glossed over in favor of keeping the story rolling without sacrificing the point of the parable.

Which isn't to say I'll be preaching to anyone — I've got zero interest in that and frankly, I'm far from qualified where that's concerned. But I'm also not trying to make fun of the Bible or its teachings; it means a lot to many people, and I respect that. What I will be doing is approaching this as what, in its simplest terms, it is; a complex story presented in comics form.

And one thing to remember about the Bible, no matter what your religious background, is that it's often one hell of a story. So when I decided to take a continuing look at this 750-page comic adaptation, I wondered, "Where should I start?" And really, the answer was kind of obvious:

Next time: Nooobody listens ...

Iva Hoth, writer; Andre Le Blanc, artist

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blue Romance, part 4: Love to love you, baby

Back by popular demand (that's you, Kyle), the rest of the Beauty and the Beast story is coming at you in a wham-bam fashion — let's go!

When we last saw our lovelorn couple, Dazzler had worked herself into a nice little nervous breakdown, Beast was getting inexplicably possessive and Doctor Doom was still railing like Michael Jackson that the mysterious kid in L.A. was not his son. He may have moonwalked, but that is unconfirmed. After getting picked up by an apparent gang of hippies on the beach, Dazzler ended up at a mutant misfit halfway house called (sigh) Heartbreak Hotel, with Beast soon to follow.

What happened next? Well, there was some inappropriate touching ...

... and then, after "days pass" a couple of times, Beast finally wears Dazzler down with his teddy bear charms!

Who knew Dazzler and Beast were such sticklers for proper grammar?

Everything is copacetic until sleazy show producer Hugo Longride and smooth operator/Dazzler boyfriend Alex Flynn remind Alison that she signed a contract that they expect her to honor. Eventually she hits the "stage," which looks like a cross between the floor of the Coliseum and a Lovecraftian rumpus room. Dazzler sings, gets booed, and what the crowd is really there for is revealed — fiiiiight!!!

Afterward there's some moral debate, heavy mutants-are-outcasts discussion and a lot of angst I'm gonna skip over. Beast busts into the dressing room to rescue Dazzler again, but she starts to glow uncontrollably again, freaks out and tells Beast to hit the bricks. Which, of course, leads to more frowny-face Beast.

Later, Dazzler and Beast seem to be an item again (writer Ann Nocenti has a tendency to get loosey-goosey with the flow of time), but still debate on whether or not she should be "performing." There's some more "we're all misfits, in some way" talk (it really starts getting thick at this point), as well as more pining from Beast. And then, in preparation for her next battle, Dazzler puts on an Indian costume.

Hank decides to do some snooping and discovers that Flynn and Longride have been drugging Dazzler to make her more suggestible while also causing her to lose control of her light powers. But before he can do anything about it, he's caught and drugged himself. Now a slobbering animal, Beast is put on the gladiator floor with Dazzler and a nasty little fight breaks out pretty quick.

Faced with the embarrassing smell of burning dog hair, Beast snaps out of it and desperately shouts some sweet-nothings to Dazzler. True love wins through and the fight ends with the two hugging it out in the middle of the floor. The crowd, of course, isn't very happy about this turn of events and to calm them down, Flynn puts on a cape and talks the other fighters into killing Longride.

Meanwhile, Doom decides he's had enough and hops a doomjet for California, but still takes some time to doomslap his butler some more. Stupid butler, with his constant updates on Doom's bastard son!

Once he reaches L.A., it's revealed that Longride was really a doombot keeping an eye on the alleged doomspawn — Alexander Flynn!

While all this is going on, Beast and Dazzler have been captured and hung upside down in a basement. But this doesn't mean they can't make out a little, right?

At the same time, a couple of the Heartbreak residents decide to mount a rescue of their own, Rocker (remember the horse-faced fighter?) switches sides, Flynn monologues about how he'll be the next ruler of Latveria, and Doom lurks in the shadows while continuing to deny Flynn is his son (alright, man, we get it — gah!).

After being freed by Rocker, Dazzler and Beast confront Flynn (who's now wearing a Kirbyesqe helmet in addition to his doomcape) and his semi-mind controlled mutant gladiators! Against all odds, the duo not only hold their own, but start winning. Er, surprise?

Even more surprising is Flynn's O-face:

In his defense, that line never fail to impress da ladiez. Feeling pretty good about himself, Flynn captures one of the misfits, forcing the other one (who can actually use his telekinetic powers without pooping himself or something) to nearly kill Flynn before he's stopped by Beast and Dazzler.

Defeated and utterly humiliated after his fighters turn their backs on him, Flynn finally gets a little face-time with dear old not-dad. It goes about as well as you'd expect for him.

And this is where things really fall apart because the whole thing ends up being one big anti-climax. Dooms just sorta leaves, the fighters get revenge on Flynn by making fun of him a bit before they leave, and then — AND THEN — Dazzler and Beast come to the conclusion that maybe they should "just be friends."


Am I the only one who thinks this is just like the last scene in Singles? It just needs more Paul Westerberg. But that, finally, is the end. Heavy-handed but morbidly entertaining, the series winds up being a little frustrating because, in a sense, things just go back to the way they were when this whole thing started. And as far as I know, this Love-That-Could-Not-Be is never mentioned again. Ever. Personally, I'd love it if somehow this little bit of ancient romantic history would be brought up again, even if it was just in passing. Like a lot of past relationships, it's just too damn weird to ignore.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, artist; Kim DeMulder, inker

For more Blue Romance: Beauty and the Beast, check out parts 1, 2 and 3!

Bonus Panel!

Oh, God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blue Romance, part 3: Under the covers!

Before we get back to the inexplicable tale of romance that is Beauty and the Beast, let's take a look at one of the best things about this four-part mini-series — the covers.

I've mentioned it before, but Bill Sienkiewicz is one of my favorite artists. His artsy sensibility and ever-evolving — yet still signature — technique has a tendency to elevate whatever particular comic book he's working on. That's certainly the case with his Beauty and the Beast covers.

Each of these has that Sienkiewicz look, and while I think issues #3 and #4 are pretty standard in terms of setting and design, they've all got a certain visual energy. That said, what's up with issue #4? That one is particularly weak and looking at it is the optical equivalent of a sour note — I want to ignore it, but it's tinny and flat in a way that just bugs me. I always get the feeling Sienkiewicz phoned that last one in.

My favorite, though, is probably the cover to issue #2, just because it's such a great callback to the classic romance comic. I especially dig the way Sienkiewicz renders Dazzler's light powers; it's subtle but touches on an important characteristic while also drawing in the viewers' focus without hitting them over the head with it.

Take a look, and see what you think:

Even more than the covers themselves, my absolute favorite design element is the itty-bitty Beast and Dazzler that Sienkiewicz drew for the cornerbox. In just one little mini-scene, the artist has summed up the attempted tone of the story and all the bittersweet, clutching emotion that goes with it. It's really freakin' impressive, actually:

Awww — aren't they adorable?

Beauty and the Beast: Blue Romance week continues tomorrow! Catch up with parts 1 and 2 here!

Cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blue Romance, part 2: Stars (and garters) get in your eyes!

Jean Grey and Cyclops, Daredevil and Elektra, Spider-Man and Mary Jane — these are names that represent comicdom's fairy tales of everlasting love*. And while these well-known stories from the Marvel Universe chronicle the never-ending bliss of big-name characters, that doesn't mean the second-tier characters are left out in the cold.

Take for instance, oh ... Beauty and the Beast.

Written by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Don Perlin, this four-issue mini-series was nothing less than the classic tragedy of unrequited love as seen through the eyes of a mutant disco queen and her shaggy blue boyfriend. Yes — it is EPIC.

Now, as far as I know there was never any hint of even a smidge of attraction between Dazzler and the Beast before, and the script seems to hint they only had a passing acquaintance before this series. But drop them in a Hollywood party or a gladiator pit and it doesn't take long for them to start making goo-goo eyes at each other.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Beauty and the Beast #1 actually starts the way all stories should — with Doctor Doom.

All Doom wants — I mean, besides total power and the complete obedience of his subjects — is some alone time with his art. Can't a guy decompress a little? No! Not when the bastard son you turned your back on years ago suddenly surfaces in California, you can't.

Man, that's cold. By coincidence (*cough*), Doom isn't the only one headed for the land of sun, surf and drive-bys. The Beast is taking a vacation from the Defenders (and the X-Men and the Avengers, because he's a member of all of 'em, as he'll mention like a bajillion times), and he's decided Los Angeles is weird enough to accept a mutant covered in nothing but blue fur and a Speedo.

Think again, Hank! Even though he mentions it a few times to himself, Beast is still surprised that the anti-mutant craze sweeping the nation has come to L.A., too. In the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel, Dazzler was outed as a mutant and now the whole country hates "muties." 'Cause Dazzler betrayed her audience? Or something? I'm not sure how Dazzler became the cornerstone of mutant/human relations, but thinking about her fall from grace makes Beast get all frowny-face.

Meanwhile, Dazzler is dealing with her new image problems head-on by going to parties. She blazed a trail for Paris and Britney more than 20 years ago! As far as I know, though, Daz is still wearing underwear.

At the party Dazzler meets Alexander Flynn, and this guy is smooth. Alison speechifies about how mutants are going to have to start drinking out of separate water fountains soon — Nocenti hits the "mutants as misunderstood outsiders" thing pretty hard — and Alex gives her the ol' "yeah, yeah" before convincing her to sign a contract with slimy producer-type Hugo Longride. He's cagey about exactly what kind of show he produces, but Dazzler signs anyway, because as we'll see, she's not very smart. I mean, c'mon, Longride? Even if it's not what it sounds like, shouldn't that name itself be a red flag? It's like taking a job with Dick Stickyfloor**.

Alison doesn't have time to sweat the details, not when there are more parties to go to and a battered reputation to sabotage. But, like a lot of people who party too hearty, Alison suddenly has a problem with leaking in inappropriate places.

A week later Wonder Man (who's with the West Coast Avengers at the time) thinks a wrap party is just what Hank needs — that and a bright yellow shirt with no buttons. And hey, guess who else is there drowning her sorrows? Before he can even say, "How're YOU doin'?" Beast is defending Dazzler's dubious honor and roughing up a guy with a look that the Fall catalogs call "The Seabiscuit."

That guy must spend a fortune on toothpaste. Soon Dazzler is breaking up the fight after squinting at the furry blue dude and saying, "Hey, you look familiar," then skedaddling when her unpredictable light show freaks her right out. Luckily, Wonder Man is there to be the voice of optimism.

Wonder Man: Ultimate Douche. Anyway, Dazzler proceeds to lose it a little more, and Beast convinces himself that Alison needs some sweet, sweet rescuin' while he cranks up the pining from "wistful" to "stalkery."

Yikes. Dial it down,Hank — it just isn't attractive. But what's a lovelorn Beast to do? How does he save his Beauty from a nebulously defined fate-worse-than death? Well, tracking down and beating up a guy with a horse face is a start. While all this is going on, Dazzler has emo'ed herself all the way to the beach. She gets out another, "I am the light," before a gang of beach bums with a cart pick her up and carry her away.

Yeah, seriously.

At the same time, Beast has pinned the horse-faced Rocker (I know, I know) in a half-gelding and forces him to call his boss so he can find out where Dazzler has gone. Somehow Beast was right to guess Longride would have her followed, and with an address in hand he throws himself out a closed window and hotfoots it across town.

The address turns out to be an old hotel and — even though he's supposed to be the thoughtful intellectual — Beast immediately busts in the door and starts making demands of the old lady and the kid who are just kind of hanging out. They make a half-hearted try at hiding Dazzler, but she's easy to find since her light power is really out of control now. Dazzler figures glowing a lot makes you grotesque, but Hank is there to handle damage control.

Hank. Dude, seriously.

Beauty and the Beast week continues tomorrow with a trip to ... the Heartbreak Hotel!

* This might be sarcasm.

** I'm so, so sorry.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, penciler; Kim DeMulder, inker

Missed the beginning? Here's Blue Romance: Part 1

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blue Romance: Beauty and the Beast Week begins!

Hey, remember that time Dazzler and the Beast fell in love while on the run from anti-mutant hysteria and ended up joining an underground gladiatorial fight club in Hollywood that was controlled by the illegitimate son of Doctor Doom?


Beauty and the Beast week continues tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Pull List (2-4-09): The Universe is gonna get its ass kicked

It might be late in the day, but it's never too late for comics! Here's what I'm picking up this week:

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe (trade paperback):


OK, a little more detail: Scott Pilgrim is, without a doubt, one of the best series out there. Joyously silly with a relentlessly real undercurrent of what it's like to become that thing called a "grown-up," Scott Pilgrim is the story of the best fighter/slacker in Canada; his mysterious space-warping girlfriend and her Seven Evil Exes; and his lovably snarky gang of friends. Blending video game call-outs with the often awkward befuddlement that can come with a developing relationship, the series walks a line between goofy and deep with nearly perfect balance.

Plus, it's just a lot of fun. Download a sample comic and give it a try.

Also getting ...

Adventure Comics #0

Agents of Atlas #1

Cthulhu Tales #11

Fall of Cthulhu: Apocalypse #3

Kull #4

Maybe ...

Bang Tango #1

Jersey Gods #1

Magic Touch Vol. 1

The Mighty #1

Otomen Vol. 1

Soul Kiss #1

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

Age of the Sentry #5

Comic Book Comics #3

El Diablo #6

Tiny Titans Vol. 1: Welcome to the Treehouse (TPB)

Recommended ...

MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 2 (TPB)

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book 1 (hardcover)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cover up: Hawkeye #4

No deep analysis of this cover — and no offense to the Hawkeye fans out there — but I've never really warmed up to the Marvel archer, so this just makes me laugh and laugh:

I especially like the way Reed and Sue couldn't be bothered to show up for the funeral; "Eh, just send Johnny, that'll be good. Make Ben take 'im." And what's with the women, with the exception of Black Widow, covering their faces? Are they weeping while the men-folk stand around stoically looking constipated?

Now that I think about it, that's pretty much what I'd expect to see at Hawkeye's funeral. (Oh, relax — it doesn't really happen; Green Arrow, on the other hand, actually died. Oh, wait ...)

Hawkeye #4 (of 4)
Cover art by Mark Gruenwald