Hey look, Bill can read!

Here's some comics-related stuff I've read recently. Gotta keep up that "comics blogger" cred up if I want to keep listing updates on the Comics Weblog Update-o-Matic, after all!

Marvel Treasury Edition 16 – The Defenders: I forgot I even owned this until I found it in a box the other week, and I don’t recall ever reading it (I think a friend gave it to me about 10 years back, and then I promptly forgot about it), so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did. This reprints some of the earlier adventures of the super-team that wasn’t, including their first story and the series introductions of Valkyrie and Nighthawk. The plots are all pretty formulaic, even by 70s Marvel standards, but it’s the basic premise of the series that makes it original and worth reading. The Defenders aren’t just the “non-team team,” you get the impression that early on, Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk really don’t even like each other all that much (not that any of them were renowned for their social graces in the first place). The Avengers, the FF and the X-Men, despite their dysfunctions, were essentially substitute family units. The Defenders were like a group of vastly different, antagonistic college students assigned to work on a project together; if they can just finish the task at hand without killing each other, they can go their separate ways and be happy again. It’s such a great, fun concept, and the next logical step of the “super-heroes with regular problems” theme Marvel established in the 60s. I need to get my hands on that Essential Defenders book now.

The Sandwalk Adventures: Erin asked me what this was about. I paused a few seconds while I thought about the best way to describe it, and took a deep breath as I was about to begin. “Oh, this is going to be weird, isn’t it? You always do that when you’re about to describe something weird.” And she’s right; it is a very weird book. It’s the story of Charles Darwin discovering that the mites living in his eyebrow follicles view him as a god, and in conversation with one of those mites, Mara, he attempts to set the record straight on life, the universe and everything by explaining his theories of evolution and natural selection. Weirder still is the fact that such a bizarrely high concept book is also cute, laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly touching, and if you’re not careful, you may just learn something before it’s done. Biology professor/cartoonist Jay Hosler delivers a book that gives us a decent “highlight reel” biography of Darwin, thorough yet easy to digest descriptions of his theories, and meditations on the natures of science and religion (how they meet, how they clash, how they manage to co-exist). At the same time, it’s extremely entertaining and appropriate for all ages. It’s a creative tightrope walk to be sure, but Hosler pulls it off brilliantly. Comics – hell, entertainment in general – rarely gets better than this.

True Story Swear To God – This One Goes To 11: Let me tell you a story about Tom Beland. When Erin and I were getting married, I decided that I wanted to get copies of the first TSSTG book, Chances Are, as gifts for the wedding party. We spent close to a year in college separated by thousands of miles while Erin studied in Austria, so we could relate to Tom and Lily’s story in some small way, and we loved the book and wanted to share it with others. Ideally, I wanted the books signed, so I contacted Tom through the Sequential Tart message boards (we were both regulars there at the time) and arranged a time to talk to him on the phone and see if we could set this up. I called him after work one night (around 11:30ish), and ended up on the phone for close to 2 hours, talking about comics, comparable life experiences, growing up with easily mispronouncable last names, all that sort of stuff. Total fanboy glee conversation for me. Anyway, he says he can handle my request no problem, maybe he’ll even sketch a little, too. A few weeks later, I get an email saying that he decided to “kick things up a notch” for me, and I’ll see what he means when I get the books. They arrive, and I open the front cover of each to find not only personal greetings for each of the people (myself and Erin included), but full color drawings as well. Just absolutely beautiful stuff. In fact, my best man (and fellow fanboy) Dan called it one of the best gifts he ever received. It's one of mine, too.
Why am I telling you this story? Because I can’t think of anything to say about this book that a million other people haven’t already said (it’s as good as you hear, and in fact, probably better), but Tom Beland is an amazingly cool guy, and I will praise the man and his work to anyone who’ll listen for the rest of my days in return for the unbelievably cool favor he did for my wife and I.

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Why yes, I did take down the "Support Rann" banner that was residing at the bottom of the sidebar! I'm not a turncoat, nor have I been a secret Thanagarian double agent all along. I simply read the first issue.

Yeah, not so good.

So I've decided to throw my support behind a new player in the field, someone I can respect, someone I can look down to, someone who can wriggle in and take over while the Rannys and the Thanagannarannalarians are too busy calling each other doodyheads to notice: Mr. Mind!

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Even Lex Luthor agrees: this worm will have his turn!

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