Thursday, September 3, 2009

Disney has Bought Marvel: Don't leap off a bridge just yet

Ok, unless you live in a cave you have probably heard that Disney has bought Marvel Comics for about 4 BILLION DOLLARS American.

I'll spare you any more jokes about Spider and Mouse related team up and instead layout a few scenarios for what this COULD and SHOULD mean to fans of Marvel Comics.

I'll start by saying that almost from birth I've self identified as a DC Comics guy. Sure some of it had to so with DC having a monster presence in my youth via The Batman TV show, Super Friends and the 24 members of the Legion of Superheroes BUT I read plenty of Marvel Comics good and bad. The important part is that I, as a kid in the 70's and 80's really did read a LOT of Marvel Comics.

I read Frank Miller's Daredevil, The Avengers story when they fought Korvac, The Dark Phoenix Saga, the Death of Captain Marvel, and The Walt Simonson era of Thor.

I read Iron Man's Demon in a Bottle story, the X-Men's God Loves; Man Kills and That Avengers story where it's revealed that Hank Pym is a spousal abuser. I even read that damn Defenders series where they fight the Six Fingered hand (right before it became unreadable).

I mention this to say that between 1979 and 1984 I was between 10 and 15 years old and I loved the stories I got in my comics. It would be some time before I got to Nexus, Grendel and American Flagg but dammit, Marvel was writing comics aimed at my age group and were kicking four color ass with those stories pretty much on a monthly basis.

If I fast forward a bit, it wouldn't be long before it began to feel like a sort of dark mid life crisis began creeping into comics. We went from having a beloved character die of cancer in a truly moving story to having cannibalistic villains, a million gun toting foul mouthed mercenary heroes and rape scenes. (yeah I know some of that wasn't Marvel)

As I got older, it's a fact that comics got older with me. If you go to any comics shop in the land, you'll probably notice that there really aren't a lot of 10-15 year olds there. I can list any number of additional factors such as retailers inability to promote, non existent casual access to comics, the popularity of Manga and it's format and monthly comic book price points but the biggest reason for this is that there just isn't a lot out there in terms of accessible comics to kids 8+, until they hit damn near college age.

Yeah, I know that there is a rating system in comics. My own store has a well stocked kids/all ages section but I'm not going to destroy store layout by shelving Fantastic Four (Rated A for all ages) on my Kids shelf next to the Archies. I CAN shelve Iron Man and the Armor Wars there but I'm taking a chance that none of my regular customers would see it.

This Iron Man title is really kind of the crux of my post. The regular Iron Man title is rated T+ (Teen until you hit Parental Advisory). I'm really at a loss for why they really need to be rated all that differently. The Armor Wars books isn't exactly a kids book but It's not as dark as IM could be if there were a Parental Advisory attached to it so thank goodness for small favors there.

I really think Disney, who has proven to be very good at marketing to kids, could actually become responsible for helping Marvel right serious comics that even kids could read. Right now I think there really isn't a middle ground. At this point in time I'm not sure that I'd advise a parent to let their kids read any comic involving Spiderman EXCEPT the book that's already in the Kid's section (Marvel Adventures) and the recently started Ultimate Comics Spiderman title.

I know Disney is going to be fairly hands off as far as content goes and this is fine, but there is no way they haven't seen the sales numbers as they relate to demographics and even if you, the 40+ year old male fan are afraid that the Mouse is gonna come stomp all over your sand castle, you need to be aware that unless you procreate quick (and this could mean even more severe lifestyle changes for some comics fans) we are approaching a point in time where none of us know any kids who read comics. My line in the sand is in about 10 years.

Since we aren't using the Comic Code Authority to police, monitor, censor, whitewash our content anymore, can we just do away with what I believe to be the utterly USELESS, MAX line of Marvel Comics. The fact that MAX exists actually speaks to what I'm talking about. If Marvel were any good doing truly Mature Themed comics, DC's Vertigo would already be a thing of the past. The Punisher could stand to go back to only having 3 comics a month (2 too many IMO).

I'm hoping that Disney (while still being hands off) can help Marvel make the Avengers, Spiderman, the X-Men, Hulk, and any number of other titles good and challenging again without the crutch of just making stories dark. At that point, there will be another generation coming to comics and staying.

This may mean less Brian Bendis and Peter David but more Jeff Parker, Rick Remender, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, Terry Moore, Eric Shanower and Gail Simone but I can totally live with that.

And for those of you out there who just don't want to give the Mouse any of your money, my next post will have options for you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


First off, thanks to all our customers and special guest star Ben Templesmith for making Third Coast Comics' first anniversary party a huge success!

But now, since DC's Wednesday Comics experiment is at the halfway point, I'm giving my midterm grades to the strips. Creators are judge on quality of story and effective use of the newspaper comics page format.

BATMAN (Azzarello & Risso): The 100 Bullets crew has done noir Batman before, and this is up to their usual high standards. They're making good use of the one-page format. This is the front page for a reason. A.

KAMANDI, LAST BOY ON EARTH (Gibbons & Sook): Leaving aside the fact that i've been a Kamandi fan since childhood, this strip is the highlight of the Wednesday. They've hit the Prince Valiant vibe perfectly in presentation and pacing, the art is gorgeous, and the story is clear and kickass. A+.

SUPERMAN (Arcudi & Bermejo): Oh dear. Well, Lee Bermejo's art is gorgeous as ever, and the color palette makes you feel like you're in a perpetual sunset. But have we learned nothing from some less than successful Superman runs (I'm looking at you J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Casey) and Superman Returns, NOBODY wants to see a mopey self-doubting Superman. D.

DEADMAN (Bullock, Heuck, Fletcher, & Stewart): The art's an acceptable Bruce Timm/Darwyn Cooke homage, but I'm at a loss as to why this strip exists. Deadman's way out of his element here. He works as a ghost walking between bodies and solving mysteries (you'll never convince me the creator of TV's Quantum Leap wasn't a Deadman fan). A reader who'd never seen this character before would be at a loss--spirit world? Rama Kushna? What seem to be mythological figures? This reads like it was a Hellboy story dusted off and rewritten with Deadman. D.

GREEN LANTERN (Busiek & Quinones): Kurt Busiek's not really capable of a bad story (ok, ok, the 80s Red Tornado miniseries notwithstanding) and Quinones does a lovely early sixties mod design style, but this thing moves at a snail's pace. Some weeks Green Lantern is barely seen suited up. Busiek's trying for a depth of story here that isn't really suited for one page a week. C-.

METAMORPHO (Gaiman & Allred): Ok, Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred are having a lot of fun with the format, and the jokes hit more than they miss. But when they do miss, they reveal a strip that's a little too in love with its own cleverness (e.g., the 'snakes n ladders' segment in week six. A solid B.

TEEN TITANS (Berganza & Galloway): I think it took until week six to get to the point of this, and I really didn't care what was going on in weeks one through five. Sean Galloway (character designer for Spectacular Spider-Man) has decent art skills, stylized but clear. But this story doesn't have much to recommend it. And really, Blue Beetle alternating between English and Spanish every few words? You know who did that? El Dorado on Superfriends. 'Nuff said. D.

STRANGE ADVENTURES WITH ADAM STRANGE (Pope): Like the Kamandi strip, Paul Pope is evoking an old-school classic strip (Flash Gordon) in his own style. Nicely paced, well drawn, and just a little bit tongue in cheek. A.

SUPERGIRL (Palmiotti & Conner): Amusing light story about the Girl of Steel and two Super-Pets and the art is well suited for it. This would be a baseline. A midle of the road grade. However, in week six, there's a guest appearance by Aquaman apparently as portrayed by Jeremy Piven, which I find hilarious. B+.

METAL MEN (Didio, Garcia Lopez, & Knowlan): I don't much care for Dan Didio's editorial decisions the past few years, but he's turning in a well paced story here, and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's art is stunning as ever. This is a great use of the Metal Men, but loses a point for bringing up the human disguises the team used to wear in the early 70s. nobody wanted to remember that. A-.

WONDER WOMAN (Caldwell): Oh this is a mess. Ben Caldwell aims for the stars with a dense story not clearly told in the one-page format, daring layouts that are tough on the eyes, and coloring much too subtle for the printing method and newsprint paper stock to handle. None of this is working. F.

SGT. ROCK AND EASY COMPANY (Kubert & Kubert): Joe Kubert and his son Adam are legends in the field. The story and art are perfectly fine, but this is another strip that's moving too slow. The suspense and intrigue don't carry well from week to week. C-.

FLASH COMICS (Kerschl & Fletcher): Perfect use of the format! The two parallel strips are a great idea, and Flash's time travel plot is treading a fine line between comprehesible and confusing. All this and beautiful art pastiches of Mary Worth and Tarzan. A+.

THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN (Simonson & Stelfreeze): This is a teamup that came out of left field, and I'm not entirely sure it's giving a balanced exposure to both of its stars, but it is pretty entertaining. Unlike the Deadman strip, both characters are in their element, Catwoman flirting and stealing, and Etrigan leaping 20 feet in the air and speaking all Shakespearean. As a side note to anyone writing the Demon. If you can't do poetry, PLEASE don't have Etrigan speak in rhyme. There are very few writers who can pull this off, and most of them are named Alan Moore. See what Simonson is doing here? Flowery but not compelled to do a rhyming couplet in every speech balloon. Anyway, B+.

HAWKMAN (Baker): Does Kyle Baker hate Frank Miller? Judging from the first two pages of this I concluded the answer is yes. However, this strip looks great and has had some twists, turns, and an anything can happen feel to it. A-.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fear of a Black Cape

The following was most recently inspired by reading a review of the events of "the Black Panel at San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) 09, a conversation that repeats itself in my comics shop and the letter X.

I'll summarize for you so you don't need all the background.

The "Black Panel" is an annual event at SDCC hosted by a guy named Michael Davis. The purpose/feel of the panel is to provide support/promotion for projects related to Black Culture specifically in comics.

When I put it this way, it seems pretty decent and useful but I also want to see it in it's best possible light. If you're putting a panel together with Denys Cowan and Reginald Hudlin on it I'm fine with it. Even better if you're including Jamal Ingle, Kyle Baker and Dwayne McDuffie. I'm pretty sure that you could easily honor people like Nichelle Nichols and have a high quality panel that really sets the tone for panels like it at other shows.

Of course you don't have to have a panel like this at all. If you're a person of color and into comics culture then there no end to the areas of disappointment you've had to face to either feel represented or to break into the industry. The answer, IMO is to hone your craft no matter the obstacle and get out there and do what you have to do to make it work.

Then again you could easily turn a classy panel like I described into a minstrel show full of chicken, watermelon, punctuality and laziness jokes. Then throw in some "Them" vs "Us" references, promote projects by rappers etc, and you'll have what I've seen more than once in the comics industry. I think this is a less than professional way to handle business.

If you make it to the point where you can host, organize and or moderate a panel on the state of minority affairs in the comics industry, please do me the favor of doing so as if you a) have a brain and b) have respect for the business. Panels such as these can and should be used as promotional/information sharing tools and they shouldn't be circus side shows.

Now for those conversations I keep finding myself having.

All I want are good comics. I'll be the judge of what's good though. I don't watch UPN, BET or listen to Urban Radio either. That's because they don;t offer me anything that I find useful in the least. I have no problem supporting creators of color when solid work is being done in the industry. I do not however support glorified fan fiction in my comics.

I was talking to a guy recently about how cool he thought it was that Black Panther and Storm of the X-Men were married. My position was that the whole thing made no sense to me logically and that clearly we were dealing with a case of Reginald Hudlin remembering a conversation from his youth in which he must have said, "Man If I were Black Panther, I'd get with Storm. That girl is BAD as HELL! Damn!!!" Nevermind the fact that their paths would probably never cross.

If BP were going to marry a black super personality in Marvel comics, then he'd have a better chance of meeting Monica Rambeau (Photon), a former Avenger and current member of Nextwave and the Marvel Divas comic or Misty Knight, cyborg chick detective and former GF of Iron Fist. Both spend most of their time in NYC and have Avengers ties, directly and indirectly. Storm, on the other hand is part of a team that is anything but public and she's either in Upstate NY or has moved out to the West Coast with all the other mutants, hated around the world for just being different.

Hudlin was having a Jay-Z and Beyonce moment. Storm MIGHT be Marvel's most popular female character Black America would crack the internet in half over it's collective knee if BP married a white super chick so it damn well had to be Storm but that doesn't change the fact that this is glorified fan fiction. Why couldn't Hudlin create a strong black female character whom BP could fall in love with and marry, who could become a significant character at Marvel for years to come?

I have heard arguments that the BP and Storm pairing is great considering the state of black super dudes in mainstream comics but I'm calling bullshit on complaints about the state of black characters in mainstream comics. If people were willing to actually do the leg work, they'd see that representation is out there. Something has changed though.

Hip Hop/Street culture has helped to put forth an idea that we're only being represented if black character look and act like black people act on television and in the media. A comics starring rappers who have super powers which match their music industry personas would get more notice than a long running DC super team with FOUR black characters including it's leader (JSA and Mr. Terriffic).

The only complaint I'll really allow for mainstream comics involves no male black X-Men...ever (I really don;t count Bishop since he had to come back in time from the future) and no better characters in the Legion of Superheroes than, Tyroc, Invisible Kid II and Kid Quantum II. Small potatoes to some but it's noticeable to me. I won't list all the black characters in mainstream comics BUT I will say that you have:

Luke Cage leading an Avengers team
John Stewart as a prominent Green Lantern
Black Panther himself
Jim Rohdes as that other Iron Man guy who will now be played by Don Cheadle in the next Iron Man movie (in my book this counts as 2x as black)
Steel as a big time superman supporting character as well as his niece Natasha.
Cyborg, fan favorite member of the Titans
Mr Terriffic, Jakeem Thunder, Amazing Man, and Thunder, daughter of Black Lightning
The JLA has Black Lightning, John Stewart and Vixen
The current run of Astro City (READ ASTRO CITY!) stars Charles and Royal Willams as agents infiltrating an evil spy organization (Pyramid) in order to track down the killer of their parents.
Everyone who wants to read a great sci fi comics should also read Ocean by Warren Ellis.

Like I said, not a complete list but good enough to have people only holding on to their old feelings about representation because they want to and not because it's really the case. In fact if people start mentioning characters I've left off, it would just be making my point for me.

Now I know plenty of people that want to see more African mythology and Black Historical allegories used in comics and because they don't see these things, many mainstream comics fans become indie comics creators and make these comics themselves. This is perfectly fine and I'll validate the hell out of it. To a point. Please don't tell me that this is the only outlet out there for blacks and creators of color because the mainstream won't let us in.

a) I'm having a hard time separating this "original material" I'm seeing from people disenfranchised by the industry from the material it's derived from.

If you are pissed that your voice isn't wanted by "The Man" then why do you try so hard to repackage the same stories "The Man" has spent decades selling us but with a black twist?

b) Please master the craft that you are trying so hard to display. There are a lot of talented people of color working in mainstream comics and these are not people who took a negative portfolio critique or maybe even several rejection letters or unreturned phone calls as a message that there was no place for them. They, as near as I can tell, just kept at it.

Comics is not a business for everyone. The 15 largest publishers in the business can only have some many people under it's employ so you will have to compete. Becoming bitter and not honing your skills to a true professional level of story telling is not the answer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

All Hail Ben Templesmith!

Hello All,

First I'd like to say that this week marks the official one year anniversary of Third Coast Comics! The official celebration will take place next week on Saturday, August 15th.

To Help us Celebrate we are bringing in famed Gothic Comics artist, Ben Templesmith to sign everything from his own highly acclaimed work (30 Days of Night, Fell, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Welcome to Hoxford, Groom Lake and the upcoming Choker), to anything you happen to put in front of him.

He's up for sketching slightly odd versions of all of your favorite characters and will spill all sorts of industry insider information with his Australian accent to boot.

Ben is Signing from 2:00pm to 6:00pm after which he's joining us for our Comic Book Meetup session in our Courtyard.

I don't know about you all but I'm pretty damn excited about all of this.

This year has beaten my previously chosen potential occupations of astronaut, pro wrestler or heavy metal drummer.

Nasa said they didn't need a masked percussionist so I'm bringing you Ben Templesmith instead!

Come by and meet him on August 15th at 2:00pm

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Hate Anime..well not exactly...

I end up in conversations sometimes with what I can only think of as the lonely step children of geekdom, Anime Fandom, in which folks ask me about how I feel about Anime.

I tend to, in order to stop the conversation going to places where I'll just get stared at with looks of incomprehension, just say that I hate anime.


I end up having to explain (because I am always told that I've never seen good Anime) that I've see lots of Anime. I'm older than people expect. Not so old that I was there when Astro Boy was created but old enough to have seen Ultraman (yesn not Anime but I'm making a point) when it was aired on what is now an all Spanish speaking channel in Chicago.

I was an 80's kid and that means that I was there for the Anime that is spoken about in hushed whispers and the non Anime that was pretty damn influenced by it and that 20 somethings today all seem to love with the same reverance that my generation had for Speed Racer and Captain Harlock.

I've decided that the only responsible thing to do (since my Netflix TV show queue has pooped the bed on me) is to list the Anime I really liked and challenge Anime fandom to stop Cosplaying for a minute and to get their hands out of their big baggy pants and suggest things like these things.

After we're done, you can put your little wings back on and continue watching that stuff with the swords that look like boat oars and such.

Here's the list:



Baki the Grappler

The Big O

Bubblegum Crisis

Cardcaptor Sakura (yeah I can't explain this either)

Crying Freeman

Dagger of Kamui

Fist of the Northstar

Ghost in the Shell (all)


Golgo 13

Lupin III

Macross (whichever one came 1st)

Megazone 23

Ninja Scroll (again, the 1st one)


Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (This is my favorite!!!!)

Space Battleship Yamato

Vampire Hunter D

Note: I got the titles from this list from some website and I know it's not complete because there are titles I've seen that it didn;t mention. That shit is annoying. Grown ass men shouldn't be out searching web for lists of anime but if we are you should be completist about it. You're making anime fandom look bad.

Now then, I want folks to suggest ohter things I might like BUT I need to be able to find it or trust you enough to meet you in public where you will trade movies for beer.

Got it?

Also, I know Fist of the Northstar is on the list as is Grappler Baki but that does not mean suggest the bloodiest shit you know of. Keep in mind that I have watched me some Sailor Moon. Tuxedo Mask was my boy so I understand what STORY and DRAMA are, you freaks.

I also included the Big O because I like me some Giant Robots. You'll do well to note that there is no Gundam or Escaflowne. That's because I need to be able to tell my big robot characters apart. Just because I like big robts doesn't mean I want 20 of them on my screen moving at 2 million frames per second.

As a rule, I'm gonna say, no singing or cooking. I was scarred by a bad Minmay experience. If you suggest something with singing and/or cooking, I'll send my boy Baby Seal to fix your little red wagon and you DO NOT want that.

I didn't include Cowboy Beebop either, because it was ass.

Now I'm going to say something CONTREVERSIAL:

I want to avoit Anime with talking animals if possible or where people have cat ears or fox whiskers or where men tun into women if they have to wash. I'll avoid it and you should too.

I am also not going to make this a life mission. I'm just killing time so more cool ass TV shows can be released on DVD and then I'm going back to my cave with my whisky and Foreman grilled meat.

Ok ready? Go!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Favorite Things

I get asked this sometimes and my answers don;t really change all that much so I thought it'd be a good idea if I committed them to website.

These are ALMOST in order so if you want to yell at me for where I place things, go ahead. Yes, I meant to put The Great Darkness Saga ahead of everything else. Deal with it.

My Favorite Comics stories are:

Legion of Superheroes: The Great Darkness Saga
The Avengers: The Korvac Saga
The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Sandman: Seasons of Mists
Thor: The Walt Simonson Era
The Uncanny X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Bratpack by Rick Veitch
Ronin by Frank Miller
Uncanny X-Men: God Loves; Man Kills

My Favorite Series Ever are:

Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
American Virgin by Steven Seagle and Becky Cloonan
Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris
Queen and Country by Greg Rucka
Global Frequency by Warren Ellis
Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse by Ben Templesmith
Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

My Favorite Ongoing Series are:

Secret Six by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott
Justice Society of America formerly by Geoff Johns
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
Incognito by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Madman by Mike Allred
Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross
Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
Rasl by Jeff Smith
Zombies That Ate the World by Guy Davis and Jerry Frisson
REBELS by Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin

Yes, there are some omissions just because there always are. For instance, Miracleman isn't on my list anywhere. The reasoning is because most comics fans are never going to read/own it and I'm tired of giving it lip service.

Searching for it now will give you more info about why you'll never see fit again that about the story itself. I'm over it and more than willing to promote stories you can find...well...except for the Great Darkness Saga, which is out of print :)

Miracleman is now the perfect example to comics geek, pop culture "one-up-manship".

It's like, "You never read Miracleman???? You poor doomed soul. You should have been there!"

In music, it's the equivalent of Woodstock and if you're from Chicago, it's fucking Riverview. I'm willing to let it go...or I can rant all day about it because it's worth mentioning.

Go buy the stories I did mention and read good shit!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two Steps Forward Three Steps Back

Yeahhh...about that characters evolving and passing the torch to the next generation. I remember when I believed that, years and years ago.

Hal Jordan was dead, and the Last Ring was taken up by Kyle Rayner. "You will surpass him," the King of Dreams told Kyle, in Morrison's JLA.

Oliver Queen was dead, and the mantle of Green Arrow was taken up by his lost son Connor Hawke.

Barry Allen was dead, and Kid Flash had to live up to his legacy.

Jason Todd was dead, and Tim Drake was determined to prove himself a better partner for the Batman.

Superman was dead (briefly) and it took 4 people to fill in for him. I could go on.

Where are they now?

Kyle Rayner, off in space somewhere, while Hal Jordan, back from the dead, is the focal point of the GL mythos again.

Connor Hawke, no longer able to shoot an arrow but now gifted with a healing factor he got from being spliced with DNA from Plastic Man. Meanwhile, Oliver Queen, back from the grave, married the girlfriend he had in the 70s and is the one true Green Arrow.

Wally West, aka Kid Flash, had his book cancelled, was replaced by Bart Allen, who died, replaced by Wally again only to have his book cancelled a second time. Barry Allen, back from Speedster Heaven, is the one true Flash back in Central City.

Tim Drake was replaced by his girlfriend who was capriciously killed and later unkilled. Jason Todd, who was capriciously killed in the 80s, is now unkilled.

John Henry Irons spends less time as a superhero and more time as a replacement for Professor Emil Hamilton. Kon-El Kent was killed off and thanks to a lawsuit couldn't even be called Superboy when it happened, the Eradicator only shows up on Kryptonian High Holy Days, and the Cyborg Superman, something happened to him in the Sinestro Corps War but I can't be bothered to remember what.

I could bring up Thunderstrike, Ben Reilly, Danny Ketch, whatever the hell Rhodey is now, The Manhattan Guardian, the v3 and v4 Legions, and whichever Doom Patrol is in continuity this year, but it's late.

The shared universe of Marvel and DC have gotten very good at the illusion of change, but in the end it all boils down to what the writer liked reading when he was 12. Because that's what you're going to get on the page. Marvel's brought back every 70s character from Angar the Screamer to Zzaxx, and all the Superfriends killed off in the 80s and 90s are running around again. I can see the 90s revival coming on the horizon--Darkhawk has had TWO #1 issues this year and it's only April.

Darkhawk. Sheesh.

The "growth" you're talking about is nice while it lasts, but it doesn't stick. Only Dick Grayson seems immune, but the year's not over yet.

Meanwhile I eagerly await Charles McNider/Vic Sage/Karate Kid/Ted Kord: Rebirth, The Kraven Clone Saga, and the All New All Deadly Brother Power the Geek.

Oh shit they did that one.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another Step in the right direction

This week DC released the second issue of Batman: Battle for the Cowl and reading it, I was reminded of why it is I thought this three issue mini series had such potential. For years many of us have been reading comics and trying to find ways to continually identify with the characters that brought us to the dance.

It doesn’t matter if it was Superman’s quest for Truth and Justice or Spiderman’s embodiment of the “Everyman Hero” to Captain America’s Man out of Time or Batman’s mission to eliminate injustice making him an iconic creature of the night.

The classic comic book characters of the Silver Age of comics contained something either significantly tragic or stunningly brilliant that attracted people like myself when I got into comic collecting.

Then one day, and I can almost pin point the day, something changed and possibly not for the better. Part of it was publishers missing the boat on opportunities to have their characters evolve and some other part was that I evolved enough to want to really be able to accept and want change.

I cheered when Tony Stark was deemed too drunk to be an effective Iron Man, passing his armor to his loyal buddy, James Rohdes. I was thrilled when Hal Jordan moved on (I won’t discuss how so Jordan’s fans can sit on their hands and keep reading) and his ring was passed to a much more contemporary Kyle Raynor. My favorite evolution of a character may be undone soon but with Barry Allen’s death back in the 80’s, the mantle of Scarlet Speedster was passed on to his nephew, Wally West, the former Kid Flash.

The beauty of these changes for me was that the new players had a chance to not just fill big shoes but to walk in directions that more established characters like Stark, Jordan and West really couldn’t because of who they were and the era they represented (Hence the freak out of Jordan fans when he…well…nevermind all that).

Currently the big deal is that Bruce Wayne is dead (or just not around anymore) and Gotham needs a protector against the likes of that which has threatened it like evil clowns, reptiles, thieves, former DAs, acts of God, and bus loads of crazy people. FINALLY, his cowl will not only be picked up by Dick Grayson, the first Robin, but it looks like the mantle of Robin will be handed down to Damien, Wayne’s loose cannon of a son (long story).

Now I’m not really looking at this as just another costume change or something like that. I’m looking at this as a way to actually see Batman grow for a change. Grayson has long avoided the issue of someday becoming Batman but let’s face it. It’s his job to take over the family business and if this is done right, this can be some of the best comics work since Jack Knight reluctantly became Starman back in the 90’s. The reluctant heir to the thrown can be a great vehicle as long as there isn’t too much whining. It’s not like Grayson is a rookie or anything but no one can really what it’s like to be Batman until they’ve worn the suit and tried to do what Batman did. We’ll also have the benefit of watching Grayson grow into the role as opposed to reading Batman for the past 10 years and have the realization that no matter who or what the obstacle was, Batman was well prepared and all the stuff between preamble and conclusion is just a formality.

I’m hoping that I get a change that makes me feel like I felt when I no longer had to watch Pierce Brosnan’s 007 and could enjoy the flawed but deeply emotional and dangerous Daniel Craig’s 007.

If you want to read something else like it then I recommend the Current run of Captain America by Ed Brubaker, in which former sidekick Bucky Barnes is found to be alive, (again long story) and has now taken over for the assassinated Steve Rogers. Essentially you get a real sense of just how heavy that shield is when carried by Barnes, who has to overcome his own programming and a personal agenda that may at times get in the way or representing the same ideals Rogers did.

I still call these changes, steps in the right direction. If comics readership is getting older then it’s a safe bet that we have seen all we need to really see of whatever fit is the Silver Age was taking us on a tour of. If there is a younger comics audience to tap and indoctrinate then writers and publishers may need to find ways to make older concepts new and not just by changing the characters outfits and methods. We can see right through that. Sometimes the best thing to do is put someone else in the driver’s seat and let him take the wheel and keep it for a long time.

This isn’t really a new idea and it’s the way life is supposed to work anyway. You had your living at home for cheap and listening to the bullshit your parent tossed your way because you were living under their roof yadda yadda yadda right? Then you moved out, got some cool roommates, learned that they sucked and either were too neat or were pigs and moved out again, borrowing money from the bullshit parent to do it or working that extra gig for the cash to make rent or to pay those loans back.

Now you have you shit together (or close enough not to be like that sibling or friend from high school or college who still hasn’t leaned shit) and WOW, you may now even be a shit talking parent or are headed that way.

This is just how it goes for many of us and I’m still reading comics and wondering about how now that I don’t really need to see my own angst and rebellion reflected in my favorite characters, how can I see the growth that I notice in myself and my peers reflected in my favorite concepts?

Well I’ve been enjoying the hell out of watching Bucky Barnes go through it as Captain America and I’m hoping I get the same from Dick Grayson and crazy little Damien as Batman and Robin.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vertigo gets it!

I've been saying for some time when asked about whether I thought floppy monthly would ever go the way of the 8 track tape (no) and cellphones that don't do anything but make calls (yes).

There are a tone of comic book titles out there and many do well by today's standards. When I hear someone lamenting modern sales compared to the sales of bygone eras, I snicker. We aren't guaranteed to always make the money we made in the past and IMO publishers spent a good amount of effort giving us substandard product to make that money and retailers should have known it.

Personally this period in comics is the most diverse the market has seen in a long time and if retailers do their job and attract the appropriate market while publishers listen to that same market, then the medium with survive and thrive.

Vertigo gets it.

In August they are releasing 2 new titles under the banner of Vertigo Crime but instead of making 2 new monthly titles which will enjoy healthy 1st issue sales that will have dropped off like a major league split finger fastball, they are releasing them both as Graphic Novels and bypassing monthlies altogether.

Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos isn't about a character fans already have a measure of loyalty to and loyalty is one thing that helps sales of monthlies as well as well known creators. I have no doubt that I could move this comic if it were a monthly but I'm kinda glad I don't have to. Instead I can devote that one spot on my shelf to some indie title that needs the exposure more than a DC/Vertigo title. In this case, I could make space (hypothetically) for a title like Four Eyes (Once upon a Time in America with Dragons). Instead of making shelf space for Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'edera, I can give that space (Hypothetically) to Terry Moore's Echo, which is simply a well done Terry Moore property with an interesting female lead but with super powers (unlike Strangers in Paradise which had well developed characters and more drama than day time TV).

The main point is that major publishers would do well to consider introducing new properties in GN format for a while and save the monthly comics for that which already works. It could prevent them from having to cancel a series by issue #32 even when the title, characters and creators are well regarded.

I think a lot of indie creators pushing new titles could benefit from this too. I've only got so much space in my shop and I am pretty picky about what mothlies I'll add to the rotation based on what I perceive to be the tastes of my clientele and my abilty to sustain interest in it.

One doesn't have to be overly picky in order to consider the strain on their comics budget put there largely by Marvel and DC comics. Many of my customers will avoid unknown properties in order to still afford the old stand by titles but would support a well done indie original graphic novel in a heartbeat.

A step in the right direction by DC.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


In case you needed another reason to love Michael Rapaport.

Into my queue it goes!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Boo Hoo, You Had Me then You Lost Me

Dear Christos Gage,

I've been enjoying the heck out of that X-Men/Spider-Man miniseries you've got going, and I see in your last issue you've come up with a new villain.

I quite like him. Nice look, lots of potential. Good gimmick (mutant hunter created by Mr. Sinister from the DNA of Kraven and the original X-Men), nice powers (derr, Kraven and the original X-Men). Doing fine so far.

And then you go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like

"XRAVEN." You're really gonna go with that, huh? Wow. Oh gosh, is that the time? I have to go be anywhere else now. Bye.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Open Letter to Marvel

Ok so this was written by Robert at Brainstorm in response to the announcement that Marvel is going to raise prices on select titles.

The upshot is that this sparked a decent discussion on a comics board out there.

I'm reprinting it and also posting my response:

Hello to Joe Quesada and whoever else may be inclined to listen,

My name is Robert and I own Brainstorm Movies Comics and Gaming in Chicago. I am sending this to you in response to the recent price increase of more and more books going up to 3.99.

First of all, I realize that times change and everything goes up eventually. And I have told my customers that have expressed concern about the recent price increases that we should wait and see what happens. My argument was that if the page count goes from 32 to 40, then I could justify spending that on a GOOD book. I would even be willing to forgive it if the 32 page books kicked butt, like Dark Avengers #1.

The latest Previews has a line that seems to repeat itself and it is causing some rumbling. Namely that line is “Plus 8 pages of Director’s Cut Extras!” This is like a slap in the face as one customer put it…right before he had me take all Marvel titles off his list.

Oh, I know, you maybe smiled at that one. Oooo, there goes someone else threatening not to buy our books anymore. Oh what will Marvel Comics do if we don’t sell those 15 or 20 books a month to that one guy in Chicago? I imagine it wouldn’t be that big a deal…except this isn’t the first one this month.

I’m not so much worried about Marvel. I’m worried about Brainstorm. This was someone who has been a customer since the day he walked in. He has stuck it out through thick and thin, and he would probably even be willing to give the price increase a fair chance…UNDER THE ASSUMPTION THERE WOULD BE MORE STORY! Plus 8 pages of Director’s Cut Extras does NOT justify a price increase. Eight pages of story would be an easier sell.

If the price increases are due to budgetary reasons, then may I suggest that Marvel stop putting out things like Marvel: Your Universe or any of the Chronicles. I stopped ordering these with Hulk Chronicles, because that’s when my customers stopped buying them. And when they see this in Previews and then all these 3.99 books they ask me what gives. I don’t know what to tell them. Repacking material that has already come out in trades is like poking a wet cat…it does nothing but make the cat madder.

If you have some insight, I would appreciate it. But I’m pretty certain that this won’t get any response and if I do it will probably be something about how exciting the future of comics is and that the price increases are needed for this or that.

Regardless of whether you answer this or not, keep in mind that there are people out here who have invested everything they have into their stores. The same stores that rely upon people being able to afford the books they’re interested in reading. Because I have found that no matter how good a book is, if people have to make a choice between necessity and Wolverine, they will and have been lately, choose the necessity.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t raise the prices of your books. You’re going to do that anyway. I’ve seen the writing on that wall for a while now. I’m just asking that whoever makes these decisions please keep in mind that if you want more from us, we’re going to want more from you. And Director’s Cut Extras are not going to cut it.

Robert Kimmons
Brainstorm Movies, Comics and Gaming
1648 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Here's my comments:

I’m a retailer in Chicago as well as a fan of comics and the industry so I’m going to start by just saying that Robert at Brainstorm is essentially correct.

Marvel is going to raise prices no matter what and I don;t think it will be long before Dc follows suit when the backlash blows over. This is the way it works. Everything costs and suckas gotta pay.

Now here’s why Robert is right:

Director’s Cuts/extra inserts do not equate quality of product. All Robert is saying is that if you want to raise the price to $3.99 then give the fans 8 more pages of actual story and make that 8 pages count.

That way, the fan walks up and drops an extra buck and goes home happy and our expense on that book is also justified.

Here’s where it falls apart:

1. Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis cannot write ever book Marvel produces. We all know which books are good and we know why. Quality goes in and quality comes out. I can sell Captain America to blind people at $4.50 a shot because my customers can trust that Marvel is bringing the fire with that book almost every month.

Robert is talking about an issue of risk, which we as retailer have to assume before any customer does.

Examples from Feb 09 Marvel Previews:

New Avengers: The Reunion #2 - I don’t remember the comics world asking for Mockingbird back and I’m not sure that it’s worth an extra buck to see she and Clint Barton catch up.

All New Savage She Hulk #1 - Really…

Franklin Richards: April Fools - Guys, I have a decent and well regard kids section but parents of these kids look at price like no one else…

Marvel Asst-sized spectacular #1 & #2 - Not at $3.99

Exiles #1 - I love Jeff Parker’s work but $3.99 for a property that has never really burned itself in the minds of a wide audience.

The Destroyer #1 - Love Kirkman but this solicit is Frank Castle with leukemia and customers will know it too.

There are other examples but like I said, it comes down to risk. As a retailer, I have to weigh this and I’m going to decide (as I have been doing) not shelve a good chunk of the Marvel Offerings (though I’ll order any requested by Pulls).

The real issue Marvel is making us decide is one that is actually worse than the price increase. Marvel can put out as many books as it wants but honestly, I only have so much room for this stuff and like Marvel, I’m all about the Market share. I know that ordering Marvel Triple Action and The Index to the Marvel Universe at $5.99 and $3.99 respectively, are going to impact my ability to shelve product by publishers not named Marvel or DC. I have one of those shops where it’s just not worth it to me at all to give up shelf space to books like Dead Irons, Rasl, 3 Geeks or Echo just so Marvel can pat iotself on the back about stuff it’s already published.

Lee, you are also correct. Fans will bitch. Fans bitched when comics went from .20 to .25 cents. It’s written in the fan code. Fans will also decide to not take a chance on She Hulk the Barbarian and wait instead for the tpb which is fine for a shop like mine with my business model but harder for Robert, who is really just asking for more of a vote of confidence from the publisher but allowing him to return a certain number of copies when the inevitable happens and his customers decide to stick with what they know and avoid paying for SOME of the increased prices of books like New Avengers, which is NOT a $3.99 comic no mattter what anyone tries to tell me.


Terry Gant
Third Coast Comics

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crisis on Infinite Kamen Riders

Ok so you think DC has cornered the market on Legacy characters? Then you may need a crash course in how Japan gets down. See ove here we get all excited when someone remembers that Batman had a son with this hot but really evil and conflicted woman during a hot night in the desert.

Japan never wants to have to remember that. They take Batman out in the desert and spay him down til there's nothing left but ears, belt and motorcycle then they trot him back out to kick ass all over again.

Kamen Rider is the equivalent of a Batman to the world of Sentai and this year is the Kamen Rider 10th anniversary. What are they doing to commemorate said event?

The Kamen Rider producers are dusting off ALL THE OTHER Kamen Riders for a big masked moto meltdown!!!

How cool is that???

Dig it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Anther greatest thing ever

If you're not watching BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD, you've missed Batsy and Green Arrow doing their best Tango & Cash imitation, Red Tornado learning about Christmas, a jailbreak of 60's TV Bat-Villains, Grodd shooting Batman with an ape-ray, the origin of Plastic Man, Wildcat telling the Outsiders to get off his lawn, Guy Gardner being...Guy Gardner, and Blue Beetle worshipped by alien slime people.

This week on BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD: Deadman! The Gentleman Ghost! KAMANDI!!!

Speaking of Batman and Kamandi--Now I take you to Chris' Invincible Super-Blog, and proof that Bob Haney was one of the greatest human beings in the history of the world.