Inevitably, The Year's Best Comics

I always find these year end "Best Of" lists so difficult... when you spend most of your time immersed in the pop culture of a 3 year old, you tend to lose sight of what's going on in your own sphere and fall well behind the curve. As a result, a lot of the things I really enjoyed this year in movies, music, TV, comics, etc., were released in prior years. I probably stayed the most current in comics - which still isn't saying much - so I can list off a few things from '08 that I really enjoyed, so let's go with that.

And yes, this is as subjective as all hell.

Harvest Is When I Need You The Most - A very unofficial Star Wars mini-comic created by a group of talented creators. At times funny, sweet, surprising, and artsy, but always a lot of fun.

The Order - Probably the best Marvel ongoing series since Nextwave: Agents of HATE, and just as undeservedly cut down before its time (allegedly by writer Matt Fraction himself, but that doesn't make the loss any easier). Superheroes-as-celebrities is nothing new, but Fraction really got into these characters' heads and really gave them life.

Comic Book Comics - Not a definitive history of comics, even by the admissions of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, but solidly entertaining. A good starting point for people who want to learn more about the history of the medium, but still quite informative for the already-initiated, too.

Captain America - Look, someone had bet me 5 years ago that they'd not only bring back Bucky, but bring him back as a bad-ass cyborg Cold War-era Soviet assassin, then make him the new Captain America, and that it'd actually be a good story, well, I'd have lost that bet, and damn badly at that.

Marina: A 24 Hour Comic - Pure joy in black & white comic form. Read it for yourself. Then go buy a copy (if the website's up, anyway). It's a dollar well-spent.

All Star Superman - This is not the greatest Superman story in the world, no, this is just a tribute. Except that even in tribute, Morrison and Quitely created something so transcendent and wonderful that it sort of comes back around and actually eclipses the very work they tried to emulate. I think they were shooting for Maggin but wound up at Moore. Not that there's anything wrong with either destination, mind you. I'm rambling now. This was great. 'Nuff said.

Skyscrapers of the Midwest hardcover - Months later, and I still think of this book frequently. It's sad, it's funny, it's downright unsettling. Metaphorical as it may be, it still gets early adolescence exactly right, for better or and worse.

Herbie Archives Vol. 1 - So look... if you can find no joy in Herbie, I don't think we can be friends.

And there are honorable mentions to be sure... The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, Brand New Day Spidey, the Queen & Country Definitive Editions, and The Age of the Sentry all come to mind. But as far as what I liked best, yeah, the above is pretty much it.

The Five Doctors, Twitter-style

As it snowed Sunday morning, my son wanted to watch The Five Doctors for about the gazillionth time (I've truly created a monster). In an attempt to make it more interesting for myself, I grabbed my wife's laptop and decided to live-Twitter my reactions. Only ended up costing me one Twitter follower, so I figured either A.) what I wrote wasn't all that terrible; or B.) very few people were paying attention, most folks probably sleeping in. Well, in a desperate bid for holiday week blog fodder, I give you the highlights of my typin' frenzy.

Yeah, that's right. Highlights. These are actually the good bits.



Live-twittering The Five Doctors until I get bored. Join me, won't you?
Love the opening Hartnell moment. Probably the only Hartnell moment I enjoy at all, actually. The Eye of Orion looks like Scotland. I can see why they'd be so keen on it then! Fake First Doctor is Fake. Happiness is a 3 year old trying to repeat the 5th Doctor's line about cosmic angst - "Just a twinga gosmicgangst" The Brig looks pretty dapper in civilian clothes. And Patrick Troughton is all kinds of rad. I wish BBC hadn't destroyed most of his run Jon Pertwee's pronunciation makes me smile. "Great Ballths of Fie-ah!" Bessie is such a fantastic car. I got to sit in her when that traveling Doctor Who exhibit came to town in the 80s. Real geek out moment. Enter Oddly Whiny & Un-Hip Sarah Jane. Seriously, who decided to write and dress her so out of character for this? One of these days I'm gonna look up Owen Chadwick so I know who Doctor 4 (direct from Shada) is talking about. The most amazing thing about Lalla Ward's Romana is that she could still be cute and funny in some of the worst costumes ever. Maybe if our "mystery" villain would just try harder to adjust the time scoop tracking, he could get 4 out of that vortex. The TARDIS is paralyzed! In other news, it's Tuesday. Cue the Time Lords in funny hats! So, wait, Borusa is played by a different guy every time we see him... he blows through lives faster than the Doctor & the Master combined! "And when I say drop, drop. Understood?" Nope, please clear that up for me, Fake 1. See, fandom? Susan totally recognizes Gallifrey. She *is* a Time Lady. Look out, Sarah Jane... don't fall down that tiny inclined surface! Anyone else ever think this was all just an elaborate plot by 5 to try and ditch Tegan & Turlough? Yes, you *might* be the original Doctor, but for the fact that you're not. Susan, stop making eyes at 5... he's your GRANDFATHER!!! Ick. Pertwee: "Another regeneration?" Ainley (slyly): "Not exactly." Heh. Love their exchange. 5 and Tegan take the appearance of the Cybermen pretty calmly, considering the whole Adric thing. Don't trip over that clearly avoidable rock, Sus... oh, too late. "No, not the mind PROBE!" "Easy as Pi" Death Chessboard comes with coins and slaughtered Cybermen. Other figures & accessories sold separately. New from GalliFun! Oh, wow, I just noticed that Sarah Jane's jacket has mittens on an idiot string. As if the frills weren't bad enough? Wow, spectral Mike Yates and Liz Shaw aged terribly. Spectral Zoe is wearing tights, Ugg boots, and bubble wrap. Belted bubble wrap. Because she's from the future, see. "Tegan." "Sarah." With an introduction and a handshake, a band is born! The Cybermen's attempt to blow up the TARDIS might have been more effective if it maybe didn't take 'em 3 days to set it up. Borusa is pretty non-plused considering the Doctor just caught him in a black gown, playing with dolls. 3 just reversed the polarity of the neutron flow. If this were a drinking game, we'd all have to finish our drinks now. I'm glad they deepened Rassilon's voice for the newer editions of this... his original voice sounded like the Sentry of Emerald City. Bitchin' Rollie Fingers mustache on Rassilon, though... you've gotta give the man that. TIme for the inter-Doctor goodbyes. I love how 5 is so embarrassed by his past selves. Another thing I like about the updated version... they all go back home via time scoop pyramids, not awkward TARDIS cut-outs. More Time Lords in funny hats, woo-hoo! Weird electoral process Gallifrey has: "well, the old guy's gone, so we're just gonna make you president, Doctor. Cool?" You know, I think given the opportunity, most people would run from being president. "...after all, that's how it all started." Nice little sentiment to end on, I think. And this mix of original-theme-into-Davison-theme is one of my favorite versions. And cue the ending "THOOM!"

Christmas is just 2 days away...

Have you been a good enough boy or girl to warrant a visit from Besser Claus?

He's the true spirit of Christmas, don't you know.

Splitting Sequential Hairs

So New York Comic Con has announced that Mike "Gabe" Krahulik & Jerry "Tycho" Holkins from Penny Arcade are going to be among the Guests of Honor at the con in February. The email I received that announced this bills them as the first "non-comic guests of honor." (emphasis mine)

Yeahbutwha?

Is there really such a difference between webcomics and print & staple comics, or between strips and books for that matter, that the creators of one of the most popular strips, web or print, in the world today are considered unrelated to "comics"? And yeah, they've certainly moved into other areas of endeavor... there's their video game, the annual Penny Arcade Expo, and their charity Child's Play, they still, you know, make comics. Regularly.

Not trying to make an issue out of an odd wording choice here... I'll leave that to the Newsarama trolls, thanks. But still, it is an odd wording choice.

Pretty Sketchy: Retro Space Girl

So yeah, holy crap do I think this is good.

I commissioned this from Les McClaine a few months back when he was doing his Week (and then some) of 100 Drawings. My only instructions were "Cute retro space girl, bubble helmet a must." To say this exceeded my expectations would be an understatement. Les just absolutely crushed this one. She looks like Betty Cooper... IN OUTER SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE! What's not to love here?

And he did a great job on the one I commissioned for my son, too. But I'll save that for another time.

The Dig List: 12/16/08, A.K.A. The Lightning Round Edition

Even briefer than usual reactions to things I've read recently:

Grant Morrison's Doctor Who #2 - Mining 60s stories for plot points, adding new meaning to those old stories, making wild connections between seemingly disparate elements of the mythos, an unusual look at a familiar character (as well as the revelation of his ultimate fate), all topped with a dash of metacommentary... yeah, that's more like the Grant we know.

Wolves of Odin - Takes a little too long to get to the hot viking-on-werewolf action (Hi, Googlers!), but does finally deliver exactly that with a good amount of style and flash from Grant Gould. Makes me wanna check out his Star Wars comics now.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #20 - Like the cartoon it was based upon, this book died before its time. Still, it ties up an unresolved plot-point from the series, gives us what is, for my money, the only good version of a boring villain (sort of), and the end is a nice tip of the hat to the original Legion. A rushed send-off, but still nice.

Astonishing X-Men Vols. 1-4 - I'd have probably been annoyed reading this in quasi-bimonthly bits, too, but it always read well in chunks, and it reads best of all reading the whole run in just a few days. That way, you can really see Joss Whedon's entire plan come together, and true to form, a lot of the ending is actually set up near the very beginning. Reads like one of the better Buffy seasons, and for the X-Men, that's just about right. Plus, funny Wolverine. Never enough of that.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes #1 - It's probably a stretch to include this in a Dig List post, as the story here may actually be more disjointed than in the movie. But the art by Erich Owen is nice, capturing the look of the characters without obviously photoreferencing them. So, you know, good for Erich Owen.

Queen & Country Definitive Edition Vol. 3 - Still excellent stories about truly damaged people doing terrible things for the public good, and probably the volume with the most consistently good artwork. Definitely a great read, but I'm bummed that about half the book is taken up by the scripts to the first storyarc from back in Vol. 1, which really felt like padding over content. I would have preferred it if they stuck the Q&C Declassified minis into this book instead of stringing it out to a 4th volume just to make use of another Tim Sale cover.

Thoughts on "When I Grow Up: A Memoir"

(Pilfered word-for-word from the review I wrote for this on Goodreads.com. But why write the same thing twice? And no one has yet proved that self-plagiarism leads to blindness.)

Self-esteem has never been my thing, and a girl I was dating during a particularly annoying (both to myself and others) downswing said something memorable to me: "If you keep telling me what a loser you are, eventually I'm going to start to believe it." Well, Juliana Hatfield spends a lot of When I Grow Up: A Memoir telling us that she's probably not the sort of person we'd actually like to get to know, and I'm now inclined to believe it. It's a little hard to take, given that she's been my absolute favorite musician I first saw her in concert back in 1993, and that I've harbored a crush on her for all that time as well. And while it's easy to tell from just a cursory listen to the lyrics of any given album that she's a big ol' saddo, this look into her life and psyche makes it pretty clear that even on her best days, she's probably more than a little miserable.

Don't get me wrong, the book certainly has its interesting moments, since you're really getting 2 books in 1 here. Half of this is a look into the life of a journeyman, "kinda famous for a minute about 15 years ago" musician on tour. And while she may get a little too bogged down in the details sometimes (at some points recounting individual food choices), it's a unique chance to look into a life completely foreign to me. The other half of the book has the more traditional biography elements, and this is a real mixed bag. We get a lot of information about what it was like to be a female rock musician at a point in time when "girls with guitars" were The Big Thing, discussions of her influences, family life, and a surprisingly in-depth chapter on how the Telecommunications Act of 1996 changed the face of music forever, and that's all fine reading. But there are some surprising gaps, too... one chapter tells about the formation of the Blake Babies, and by the next, they've already broken up. And that's the most glaring example, but there's lots of other little seemingly important pieces missing... not as much "there" there as should be. I'm sure she had her reasons, but these are oddly glaring omissions to say the least.

In short, a decent read at times, a dull slog at others. I think the lesson here is "it's often better not to know what's going on the heads of the people you admire most." I, for one, preferred the illusion.

After finally seeing The Dark Knight, I had but one thought:


(Seriously, Heath Ledger's amazing performance as the Joker aside - and I can't believe I'm saying that, because I'm not a Joker fan, but Ledger was phenomenal - I just don't see the big deal about this movie.)

In which I attempt to go all Project Rooftop on the subject of Phoenix.

I had the X-Men on my mind the other day, partially because I had just read the entire Joss Whedon run on Astonishing X-Men a few days before, but also because that's just the sort of thing happens to me on any given Tuesday, and it occurred to me that the original Phoenix costume just might be one of the best superhero uniforms ever.

See? Even when drawn in a somewhat cartoony style (in this case, by Mike Maihack of Cowshell Graphics), it looks damn cool. A nice, uncluttered design. A simple yet still distinguishable logo. The sash that allows an artist to do all those cool little in-flight movements a cape would make without actually having to give her a cape (adding a cape to this outfit would make it look too Marvel Family... which is a great look for the Marvel Family, but not an X-Man; Storm excepted, X-Men look silly in capes).

And among female costumes, it truly stands out. Form-fitting, sure, but still beyond modest... even her neck is covered! It seems relatively practical, at least when the artist doesn't try and add heels to the boots. It's pretty much the anti-Wonder Woman uniform.

And perhaps most interesting, it shows the true iconic power of color. The green and yellow together is reassuring somehow, maybe even a bit calming, despite the power of the lady in question. But white out the eyes, add some flames, and turn that green blood red, and it's a whole new ballgame.

En francais, s'il vous plait!(En francais, s'il vous plait!)

I still say this is the only cover this collection should ever have.(I still say this is the only cover this collection should ever have.)

Even given his penchant for exposition above and beyond the call of duty, I find it funny that Chris Claremont had to go and name this incarnation Dark Phoenix, since it's so clear just looking at her that whatever's about to happen in her presence will be Not Good. And that's as much because of the costume as her demeanor or obvious power, so strong is visual cue provided by a fairly basic color change.

This is a Dave Cockrum design, yes? Even if I didn't already suspect it (given he was X-Men artist at the time of Phoenix's debut), he'd likely be my first guess. It's not only reminiscent of the designs he did for the Legion of Super-Heroes, but it has that same hallmark of his usual creations... generally basic in design though still quite snappy, has a quick symbolic summation of the character's name/power/theme (the last one was nothing new for superheroes, of course, but Diamond Dave had a real knack for it), and just about anyone can make it look really good. Sounds like a winner to me.

Why my son is the most awesome person I've ever known.

Today he used Pez dispensers and some rulers to simulate a lightsaber fight between Darth Vader and Santa Claus.

That's why.

(And yes, the Force was strong with Santa. Like there was ever any doubt.)

Music! BAT-MUSIC!!!

This scene has always made me happy to be alive:



Incidentally, King Tut is set to make his (long-overdue) comic book debut soon. May the comic Tut be even 1/8th as awesome as the Victor Buono version!

Winter Blog-cation

Taking a short break. See you on the other side.

The Dig List - 12/1/08

Okay, enough crankiness. Let's briefly talk about comics I've liked:

Uncanny X-Men #504 - I was curious to check out Matt Fraction on X-Men, but jeez, you know... Greg Land. Just not a fan. Seeing Terry and Rachel Dodson on art, though, was enough to make me impulse buy this one, and I'm glad I did. Cheesecakey, to be sure, but I enjoy well-done cheesecake from time to time, and this was it. And Fraction's voice on the book... it just sounds right for the X-Men, with the characters hitting all the right beats in situations both familiar and new (the tattoo parlor scene is priceless), and better still, he does this without just aping Claremont. So points for that. Anyway, I'm curious enough now to get over my Greg Land aversion to see what has gone on before, as well as what lies ahead.


Age of the Sentry #3 - Hillbillionaires! Harrison Oogar, Caveman Lawyer! An interstellar love triangle! The shocking secret of why background characters are sometimes colored oddly! Millie the Model! As Kirby said, don't ask, just buy it!





Simpsons Treasure Trove #1 - I never buy Simpsons comics, even though I usually end up really enjoying the Free Comic Book Day issues. But this digest-sized magazine had a spot-on Uncle Scrooge parody (complete with Homer in a pantsless sailor outfit *shudder*), a Bartman parody of those "Bajillion Costumes of Batman" stories from the 50s, and a 30s-ish Itchy and Scratchy story. I'm not made of stone here, people. Fun stuff, and something I'll be sure to keep an eye out for from now on.

Stop me if you've heard this one before... so there's this planet Krypton, right?

More DC title shake-up hoo-ha hit the intermanet while I was engrossed in my Thanksgiving Break Wii Marathon... Superman will be moving out of Action Comics (certainly temporarily, I'm sure), as will the creative team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. In the meantime, Johns and Frank will be doing a six-issue mini-series called Superman: Secret Origin, which will iron out the kinks of Superman's backstory post Identity/Infinite/Final Crisis and be considered the "definitive" Superman origin until, of course, it's not anymore.

As Barenaked Ladies once sang, It's All Been Done Before. Woo hoo hoo.

And yes, I realize that they're not going to be changing the basics, just fiddling with the in-between details the way comic book creators are wont to do from time to time, I still have to wonder how many more times you can strip mine that particular story - easily the most recognizable superhero origin ever, and probably more famous than the story Siegel and Shuster clearly borrowed from, that of Moses - without boring everyone. And I say this as the sort of person that's actually glad to see them restoring Superboy to the Legion of Super-Heroes... I don't need a whole story about it, just say "okay, that happened again, let's move on."

Come next year, I'll have seen Superman's origin officially "redefined" three times in my lifetime - Man of Steel, Birthright, and this thing. And considering the original version of the story went largely untouched from 1938 to 1986, that seems a bit much to me. Even if you don't read comic books, you know this story, or at least the basics. Hell, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely were able to sum it up in 8 words and 4 panels:

Do you really need any more than that?

This, more than anything, is what's bugging me about corporate comics these days. Stop dwelling on the old and give me something new.

Pretty Sketchy: Scuba Frog

Scuba Frog, Agent of T.O.A.D., by Ben Wiede. Scuba Frog appears as a back-up in Zack Kruse's book The Contingent, and this sketch was a DCBS incentive to try out the first issue.

Some things I'm thankful for.

The wife and the kiddo.

The rest of my family and friends.

Safe, reliable childcare.

A roof over my head and food on the table.

The kiddo's pre-school experience, which has led him to just about explode with awesomeness quicker and more completely than I could have ever dreamed.

30 Rock.

Spike's Junkyard Dogs.

Mario Kart Wii.

Late 80s / Early 90s Boston-area alt-rock.

Restaurants that serve breakfast all day.

Lukewarm Chinese take-out.

Lego.

Pie.

Those damned funnybooks.

...I could go on all day, but there's pie to be eaten. Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Stuff and nonsense on the comics internet

So all the big comic book news last week? I can't be bothered to care that much.

Sure, I'm bummed that DC is canceling my favorite super-hero book, but considering that the first two and a half years or so were pretty excellent, and that I have all those in convenient trade paperbacks that I can take off the shelf and re-read any time I like, well, I can't get too worked up about it. For one thing, as others have pointed out, it lasted longer than some other great series have through the years, so I'm thankful I got that much good story out of it. And I guess I'd rather have it go out sort of still on top (in my head, anyway), then see it begin the long descent into mediocre shelf-filler that so many of these things inevitably become. So there's that.

And the rest of the DC kills/reshuffles don't really have much effect on me, either, since I don't read any of those books in the first place. Well, Legion of Super-Heroes, but like the Legion ever really disappears for good, and it's already been more or less confirmed that they'll be part of the new Adventure Comics. So there's that. At this point, my only real complaint with The Powers That Be at DC is that they steadfastly refuse to give me the Sugar & Spike collections I so richly deserve. And yeah, dick move, but hardly reason to call for Dan DiDio's head upon a pike.

(I do have to wonder, though, how Joe Quesada feels about all the usual fan entitlement outrage being directed at DiDio and therefore, for the moment, away from him. Relieved? Jealous?)

And as for the steady march to $3.99 comic books... well, I've been on the way to reading my Marvel and DC books in trade only for a while now. Four dollar funny books will be the thing that officially pushes me that direction across the board. I don't know a lot about business, but even I know four clams for 5-15 minutes of reading is a crap return on investment.

And yes, I do realize that has floppy prices increase, so will the prices of the inevitable trade paperback and/or hardcover collections, due to both general inflation and the need to recoup losses from the drop in periodical sales as more people switch formats. But even so, a collected Marvel or DC story gives you more bang for the buck than the monthlies these days, so that's my format of choice.

All that being said, I can still see buying periodical comics from the smaller publishers, though. Indy books have always been pricier, but thanks to economies of scale and all that, their production costs are going to be higher, and they need to charge a little more to make any of that money back. But so long as the product is good, I don't mind paying a little extra for the little guys, the same way I don't mind paying a buck or two more for a CD at a local record store or for tomatoes from a farmer's market.

Mmm... farmer's market tomatoes.

Even Lazier Sunday YouTube Blogging: Prime Time TV, Sesame Street style

Has it really been a week since I posted anything? Yikes. Sorry, America. Well here's something. It's just another YouTube video, but still... something.

30 Rocks:


Law & Order: Special Letters Unit (chung chung!)


Maybe the voices aren't spot on, but they certainly nail the look and feel! Still more proof that the best jokes on Sesame Street are intended for the parents.

Lazy Sunday YouTube Blogging: Docteur Qui

Bill Bailey ponders the Doctor Who theme and Belgian jazz:

The Dig List - The Quarter Box Edition

I bought some books from a quarter bin sale at a local shop last week, and by gum, you're gonna read what I thought about 'em. You know, if you like.

Claw the Unconquered #1 - I've never been a big fan of barbarian/sword & sorcery comics, since far too many of them read like someone's high school D&D campaign. And storywise, this isn't too different from any of those. The art though... wow, Ernie Chua/Chan just drew the living hell out of this. Dark, moody, a little bit of sex, and a little bit of gore... handled with equally gorgeous aplomb. I may pick up the rest of the series for art alone.

Star Brand #1 - This is, to my knowledge, the first of Marvel's New Universe books that I've ever read. And... I really didn't miss much. Maybe it gets better, but I liked "average shmoe becomes kinda/sorta Green Lantern" better back when it was called Nova. Fantastic artwork by John Romita, Jr., though, in the final years before his figures all became super-blocky.

Marvel Age Annual #3 - Okay, I didn't really need coming attractions for Marvel's 1987/1988 comics, but I've always had a soft spot for the Marvel Age Annuals and the 1-2 page preview strips the various creative teams would do for their books. This one had a couple of really fun ones, including a Hulk/X-Factor story summary drawn by Todd McFarlane and a quick review of the previous year's Thor storylines as told to Asgardian children by Volstagg in the form of an inappropriate bedtime story. Plus, the whole thing is presented in a special Fred Hembeck Show framing sequence (spoiler alert: Wolvering sings). Worth a quarter for the nostalgia factor alone.

Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #1 - Spidey, Hulk, and Iron Man, hanging out together for no real reason other than that they all had movies in the past 2 years and Marvel wanted to capitalize, get hoodwinked into dogsitting for Hercules, and the dogs end up being Cerberus and Orthus, guard dogs of the Underworld. Sitcommy antics ensue. Probably not everyone's cuppa, being sort of like The Monkees with super powers, but I really enjoyed it. After all the darkness in superhero comics the past few years, it's refreshing to read something so unashamedly goofy with these characters. Paul Tobin continues to do no wrong in my eyes.

Criminal Macabre: Feat of Clay - Horror comics aren't usually my thing, but there's enough dark - often downright twisted - humor in here to keep things interesting, and I enjoy that it's as much a P.I. story as a scary one. Still a little more gruesome than I tend to prefer, but I could be persuaded to check out more.

Battle Classics #1 - Johnny Cloud, The Haunted Tank, Sgt. Rock, and Mlle. Marie all team up in a story written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Joe Kubert. So why the hell is this so painfully boring? At least the art's nice, I guess.

Love and Rockets #s 29 & 30 - Even though I already have the giant Locas book, like I'm gonna pass up classic L&R for a quarter apiece? As I expected, I liked the Jaime stories in these issues more than the Beto ones. Checking in on Maggie, Hopey, and their assorted hangers-on is always like dropping in on a long-running TV drama that you always enjoy, even if you don't always follow it closely. Familiar, but still interesting. The Palomar stuff, though... while I certainly enjoy Beto's work from a technical standpoint, his stories are usually much too grim for me.

Alas, poor Jaime.

Among other bits of wisdom information we learn in this interview with DC executive editor Dan DiDio comes the news that Blue Beetle, my favorite mainline DC Universe title of the past few years, is getting the ax.

Yes, just days before the character is set to make his animated debut on Cartoon Network's new Batman: The Brave and the Bold series.

I get that sales numbers are way, way, way down past the point of probably no return, but still, seems like shit timing to me.

Oh well. It was a great book while it lasted - better under John Rogers than anyone else, but still - and I'll be sad to see it go, but with the end of this and Legion of Super-Heroes (killed during the team's 50th anniversary year, I remind you), that about wraps it up for the remaining DC monthly books I buy. So I suppose I could thank them for hastening me into the land of Waiting for the Trade, though I doubt I will.

I just hope the current creative team knew they'd be out of a job before they read the interview. Because if not... awkward.

Finally, something about pirates that's actually kinda cool.

I've never understood the fanatical infatuation people have had for all things piratey the past few years (I mean, yeah, I like a good "naval battles & swordfights" movie as much as the next guy, but Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't really good enough to spawn an entire annoying lifestyle choice, was it?), but this animated short is pretty awesome... or I suppose that'd be l'awesome, seeing as this is from France.

(Reasonably safe for work, but there's some violence, and the lady pirate, though covered throughout, does tend to jiggle, so judge accordingly.)



Didja catch the Wilhelm scream in there?

Sadly, the single greatest free-form Lego creation I have made in over 32 years of life.

It's not much, but I'm proud of it.

Of course, now that Liam seems to be obsessed with Lego, I suppose I have no choice but to get better now, huh?

Happy Veterans Day

If you have served - or currently serve - in the military, thank you.

Pretty Sketchy - Supergirl by Alex Robinson

Haven't done a Pretty Sketchy post in awhile, mostly because I had to go back and fix the images on all of the old ones. But I finally found the chance to go back and make with the maintenance, so now we can press ahead.

Anyway, I may have actually posted this here at some point in the distant past, but I'm way too lazy to look, and it's not like it would've been an official part of this series, anyway. So, risk of repetition be damned, this is Supergirl by Alex "Box Office Posion, Tricked, Too Cool To Be Forgotten" Robinson, and was acquired as a "thank you" premium for joining the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund while Alex and his wife were at the CBLDF table at the first and only Wizard World Boston show back in '05. He was taking requests, but had a few others that he'd finished in advance, and this one really caught my eye. It's just so atypical of the usual depictions of Supergirl you see, and I really dug that. Still do, in fact.

The Dig List - 11/9/08

You know the drill - brief(ish) reactions to stuff I've read and at least marginally enjoyed lately.

Madame Mirage #s 1-6 - I appreciate how Top Cow continues to turn itself around and actually include some story with their cheesecake. A quick glance of the artwork here might lead you to believe it's yet another Boob War (tm David Campbell) book, but what you really get is a tale of revenge and redemption a la Kill Bill with superpowers. The story by Batman: The Animated Series producer Paul Dini doesn't tread much new ground, and I predicted the title character's true identity pretty early on, but there's a swerve in there I didn't see, so the "how" of the situation sorta made up for any predictability in the "who" and "why." And let's be honest, it's the art of Kenneth Rocafort that's the real star here. The man can draw himself some purty pictures, that's for sure (though his storytelling could use a bit more work). Overall, I might not have been blown away by the story in Madame Mirage, but it was enjoyable enough, especially considering I paid about 50 cents an issue, so I definitely got my money's worth. And as "turning the writer's wife into a superhero" stories go, this is probably one of the better ones you'll read.


Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty and Half a Life - I've been racking my brain to say something about this that everyone hasn't already, and I come up blank. It's honestly as good as everyone as said, and even just two storylines in, I think it's a damn shame this series didn't last longer, since the idea of a doing a 10 p.m. police drama series in comic book form, set in the Batman mythos, was a brilliant idea. But what I considered one of the book's greatest strengths - the limited interactions with the Bat himself, keeping him a presence but never going so far as to make him a full character - was probably the major drawback for people who wanted more Batman in it. Too bad, because if you like really well-written cop shows and are at least partially amenable to the idea of Batman, there's a lot here to enjoy.


Grant Morrison's Doctor Who #1 - Much as I love watching Doctor Who on television, I've never really warmed up to the comics. The bad ones that I've read just seemed hastily scrapped together for a buck, and the (few) good ones I've read don't seem to really matter one way or another, all sort of ending on a "well, that happened" kind of note. These 6th and 7th Doctor stories by His Almighty Morrisonness fall in that latter category... good, but inessential. But on the plus side, the 6th Doctor story features Frobisher, the shape-shifting companion who mostly spends his time as a penguin, who I've always had an odd fondness for (mostly because of the penguin thing), and Peri is a lot more tolerable when you don't have to listen to the ever-shifting accent of Nicola Bryant. The most Morrison-y story here is the 7th Doctor story, featuring his interactions with a race based in the bloodstream of a sick animal. Short, but interesting. So yeah, by Doctor Who comic standards, these are pretty top notch, but that's sadly not a lot to brag about.


The Age of the Sentry #2 - So here's the thing: the Sentry may very well be my least favorite Marvel character ever. He's a Superman pastiche crippled by his own fears and dementias that he's almost unable to do anything, and proof of why a Supermanesque character can't work well within the confines of the (regular) Marvel Universe. Alright. I get it. Even as the endgame of World War Hulk, I just can't ever buy into him. But use the Sentry as the main character in Silver Age Superman homage/parody stories, though, and it's a whole new ballgame. The Age of the Sentry is a fantastic book, easily the most fun comic Marvel has put out since maybe Nextwave, and I sincerely hope Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin are made kings of something - anything - as a result. I mean, c'mon... a super-powered Russian bear in a tutu! Truman Capote writing for the Daily Bugle! Heroes being standoffish to each other! Honestly, humanity, what's not to love?

Sunday Morning YouTubing - Catchy Songs My Son is Obsessed With

A little something upbeat to kick off your Sunday. First, here's "Friends of P." by the Rentals:




Next, here's a video from a live radio station performance of "Fort Hood" by Mike Doughty. The actual music video is available on YouTube, too, but can't be embedded. So settle for this, and if your curious, go check out the official version.



And no, we're not related. Always kinda wish we were, though... I bet he'd be interesting to talk to at Thanksgiving. But the man pronounces his name "Doe-tee," not "Dow-tee" like my family does. Must be sad for him, walking through his whole life mispronouncing his own name like that.

It's... wait, let me check... late afternoon in America.

I woke up this morning feeling optimistic about my country. It was a cautious optimism - guarded, even - but optimism all the same. After 8 years of daily, bile-driven cynicism, I really wasn't used to that, but it felt nice.

Now, I'm not one of those people who think that the fortunes of the U.S. of A. are going to suddenly turn on a dime and it'll be all puppy dogs, rainbows, and unlimited pudding for the foreseeable future. I mean, honestly, now is when the hard part begins. A change was needed, desperately at that, and come January, I sincerely hope Mr. Obama and his staff hit the ground running, because it's going to take a whole hell of a lot of work to achieve even sporadic pudding, folks.

But congratulations on your victory, Barack Obama. Bask in the afterglow of the moment, but quickly turn your gaze to maybe bringing about even a tenth of the Awesome you promised, okay?

And to John McCain... you know, dude, I really liked the you of 8 years ago. If that guy showed up for this election, I'd have probably voted for him. Lord knows I wanted to back then. But still, congratulations on your attempt, sir, thank you for your service to our country both in the military and in Congress, and enjoy whatever comes next.

Vote.

And now a message from Deee-Lite all the way from 1992 via the magic of time travel (and YouTube):



I'm not gonna tell you who or what I think you should vote for (unless you live in California, in which case you really need to vote No on Proposition 8, because that shit's just hateful), but just make sure you get out to the polls Tuesday, okay? Don't let Lady Miss Kier from 16 years ago down, okay?

(And Florida, if you mess this one up again - and I don't mean by voting for the wrong candidate, I mean truly misunderstanding the basic mechanics of voting itself - I'm gonna drive down there, saw you off at the border like Bugs Bunny did that time, and kick your whole state off to sea. Just see if I don't!)

How about one where Doc Savage meets Tarzan, and they *both* look like Ron Ely?

Johnny Bacardi linked to this a week or so back, but in case you somehow missed the unfettered awesomeness of it, I'm linking it, too.



Fantasy Doc Savage pop culture mash-up crossover novel covers designed by Keith Wilson from Blog from the Monsterverse, combining the original Bantam Doc Savage cover designs of James Bama and, well, a whole lot of other stuff.

I read a bunch of Doc Savage stories in high school. And yeah, I really, really wish these were real.

Be sure to click on the book spines at the top of the page to read the back cover copy on some of these, too. As if the covers aren't enough to make you wish these books were real, the plots all sound terrific.

A little hucksterism...

Haven't talked about any eBay auctions here in a while, but... I'm running some eBay auctions right now. I'm selling:

  • Blue Beetle (current) 1-4, 6, 15-19 (starting price of a buck, people!)
  • JLA Vol. 1: New World Order (also starting price of a buck)
  • The Flash: The Complete TV Series DVD set
  • Terry Gilliam's Brazil - the 3 disc Criterion Collection set from 1999

Click on through to bid early, often, and honestly. Thanks!

That's really super, Supergirl. For a change.


You know what? I absolutely *loved* Supergirl #34.

For one thing, it features, however briefly, the Silver Banshee. She's a lesser Superman villain, to be sure, but she's a favorite of mine. She was in the first of the "rebooted" Superman issues I ever read, Superman #17, so there's some nostalgia there. Also, she's from an island in-between Scotland and Ireland, and I therefore appreciate the way she represents both sides of my family's heritage. British Isle mutts represent!

But more importantly, it gives this oft-troubled version of good ol' Kara Zor-El something she's lacked ever since she was introduced (reintroduced?) - a distinct direction.

From her Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner beginnings in the Superman/Batman book, the current Supergirl seemed to have had one directive: make the fanboys hot. So she dressed in a belly shirt, went bad and leathered up, got a back tattoo, made out with a couple of different guys (one of whom I'm told was a doppelganger of cousin Kal, right? Ewww...), was supposed to have been sent to Earth with a dark secret agenda (though they'll never admit, a lot of guys fall for emo tendencies, too), and I think even smoked for an issue or so. And while this was nominally supposed to be her trying to find her way in the world while living under the expectations of both Superman and the world, I guess, most of it (certainly the bits I read) just came off as fan service.

(To be fair, her stint in the Mark Waid-penned Legion of Super-Heroes was largely free of this sort of thing, but she was largely free of personality in those issues, too, which takes things too far in the other direction.)

The Supergirl that writer Sterling Gates gives us in this issue, though, is a breath of fresh air, but without completely revising everything that has come before. All those other stories still happened - Supergirl has made plenty of mistakes, and as we see, public opinion is not in favor as a result. She's trashed by Cat Grant on the front page of the Daily Planet. Folks at the baseball stadium are mad that her fight with Silver Banshee interrupted a tight 1-1 ballgame, and one of 'em lobs his soda at her head in anger. She wants to help, and she's certainly trying, but it's really not going well. So for the rest of the issue - the bulk of it, in fact - she talks with her family and friends about the best way to start fresh, and for once maybe join and better understand humanity instead of rushing headlong into situations she still can't quite grasp.

And this where the issue really sings, all these quiet moments - Superman bringing her coffee (complete with the little cardboard carrying tray), talking with the Titans, and having a heart-to-heart with Wonder Woman while helping her fight a gryphon (fun Harry Potter joke in that scene), and a long walk in the fields with Lana Lang, another character looking for a way to begin the next act of her life. In those pages, I think we get a better understanding of this character and her attempts to make her way in the world than we have in all of the past several years' worth of stories combined, and that Gates does so without negating any of them makes the feat all the more impressive. The man has taken lemons and made some truly outstanding lemonade here.

Artist Jamal Igle's contribution can't be downplayed, either. It's no secret that the Navel-Bearer of Steel has been subjected to some fairly... let's say To Catch a Predator-esque depictions in the past. Igle's Supergirl, however, is a lot more respectful, both to the character and the sensibilities of humankind. Kara's still idealized, to be certain - I mean, come on, she's Supergirl, she's supposed to be the picture of perfection - but a bit more realistic. She's not so waifish, doesn't have a weirdly extended torso, and is refreshingly unjailbaity. And the other characters come off well, too, each with the own unique looks, expressions, body language, and sense of style. No cookie-cutter folks here... looks like Igle's been doing his homework, and it pays off.

So, in short, Supergirl #34... maybe not the perfect comic book, but a damn good one, and if this wasn't proceeding directly into a crossover, I'd likely stick around. But who knows, maybe I will anyway.

An empty Pod is a sad Pod.

My iPod, Douglas (yes, named for late author and all-things-Apple enthusiast Douglas Adams), is about 3 years old (making it well-past retirement age in hardware years), and had a brush with certain doom the other day. It dropped to the floor, bounced off said floor, flew out of the protective case I had him in, and then bounced off said floor again. He then liked to alternate between showing the Sad iPod Icon, the Battery Icon, and the Folder Icon, and made a fun (read: not at all fun) clicking, whirring noise when I plugged into the computer. And iTunes wouldn't recognize it, so it suggested I try to restore factory settings, essentially wiping everything clean. It was painful, but I did it... and it didn't work.

Long story short (too late), I took it to the Apple Store, and the dude at the Genius Bar was able to get Douglas back up and running again - thankfully it was a cable that had come loose inside, and not the hard drive dying, since a new hard drive for a 4th gen iPod Photo is actually more expensive than a brand new iPod Touch these days. Ouchie.

So he works again. At least for now. Which is good. But he's now completely empty. Which is painful. I mean, yeah, I can just reload everything, and with so much stuff I rarely listened to, it was probably the housecleaning I needed, but still... an completely empty iPod to refill is as scary (well, not scary, maybe annoying?) a proposition as it is am exciting one.

Plus, there's all those songs I need to re-find, buried on CDRs burned back when we were transferring files from the old computer, long-since packed away before the move and not seen since. Yeah, that's gonna be a pain in the ass.

The Final Awesome Frontier

Dude. No, really, dude. I'm not even a big Trek fan, nor a big J.J. Abrams fan for that matter, but even I'm getting fan palpitations (the good kind) over the images from the new Star Trek movie.

And if you're the sort of person going online specifically to bash this because it looks (GASP!) different than the original, be aware that everyone on Earth knows that you are lying - lying to yourself, and lying to the world - just as we all know you'll be there for the midnight showing (having camped out in line several days beforehand), and will immediately run home afterward to hop on your computer to tell the world how excellent you always knew it would be, despite the prodigious trail of evidence you've left behind in which you've been stating the contrary since the minute the project was announced.

The Dig List (10/14/08) will kill you with bullets!

All together now: short reactions to stuff I've read and enjoyed lately.

Legion of Super-Heroes (current) #s 37-42 - I was trade waiting on these, but with the announcement that this was ending at #50, I figured I'd catch up with the issues instead. And so far, it's really good. Good enough, in fact, that it's a shame it'll be ending so soon. Jim Shooter may have made his share of enemies through the years, but for my money the man can still write a damn fine Legion yarn, and one that's an interesting mix of styles at that. The whole Wild in the Streets-ish "teen movement" backdrop of the Waid and Bedard runs is still there in the background, but there's a swing back to a more traditional type of LSH storytelling here, too... one that I've missed a lot more than I might have initially thought. And there's some very subtle retconning going on here, too... suddenly Colossal Boy is back to being from Earth, and the Flight Rings are back to being co-developed by Invisible Kid. Doesn't seem like editorial oversight, either. Hmm... Anyway, Shooter is writing this well, and the Francis Manapul artwork is just gorgeous, so it's too bad to see DC pull the plug. I'll enjoy it as long as it lasts, I suppose.


Tales from the Bully Pulpit Vol. 1 - Okay, so I'm four years late in picking this up, mostly because I didn't want to pay the initial $6.99 cover price, and then because I could never actually find a copy later on. But I did - and at a significant discount to boot - and I'm happy to say it was totally worth the wait. And you know, it may have actually been worth the 7 clams, too. I mean, I'm glad I got it for less, but still. As for the story, dig it: Teddy Roosevelt and the ghost of Thomas Edison use H.G. Wells' time machine to save Mars from the descendant of Adolph Hitler. Honestly, if that concept isn't something you want - nay, need - to read, then I don't think we can be internet friends anymore. Benito Cereno and Graeme MacDonald are allegedly working on a second volume, "Legend of the Black Maria," and honestly, it can't happen soon enough.


Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 - I haven't been reading Final Crisis or any of the tie-ins (though I'm anxiously awaiting the collected edition of Legion of Three Worlds), but a book where Grant Morrison waxes meta about Superman with gorgeous Doug Mahnke art in 3D? Yeah, look, I'm not made of stone here, people. And while I don't think it worked 100% - the ideas in Morrison's head weren't translated to the page in as clear a manner as they could have been, a fault in both the story and the art - it was still lots of fun. Come on, Supermen of many worlds, including Captain Marvel and a Captain Atom by way of Dr. Manhattan (who was by way of Captain Atom to begin with) travelling The Bleed in, essentially, the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, which we view through glasses that we're told are made from Superman's "four dimensional" armor? What part of that doesn't ooze awesome, people? Just sit back and enjoy the ride.


The Corps #0 - Now, while I haven't read much of Rick Remender's work, I do hold a grudge against him for bleeding all of the joy out of All New Atom and killing my interest in it but good in the space of a single issue (and I couldn't have been the only one, since the book itself died about 5 or so issues later). I keep being told that I need to check out Fear Agent, but I've been hesitant because of my grudgliness. But I think it speaks well of the man's talent that he was able to fashion a story around one of the most memorably lame G.I. Joe knock-off toylines of all time and not only make it readable, but actually kinda fun (and, as Sims said, there's some dialogue in this thing that just spills over with fantastically silly greatness). Short on story, true, but it's only 99 cents, so it's not like you're out a lot of dough, and seeing the layout roughs in the back is a nice, unusual touch for this sort of thing. I have to admit, I'm actually kinda curious to see how (and/or if) the ongoing is going to work. Well-played, Remender. Maybe I'll be giving Fear Agent a shot after all.

By luring that creature to its death, he's sealed his own doom!

So to sum up: jodhpur-wearing gent trips bumpy, writhing monster into a pit of multicolored flame while Fuzzy Zoeller and Karnov look on. Awesome thing, or awesomest thing?

Jim Purdue wouldn't accept this poor performance from any of his poultry.

You know the famous Twitter Fail Whale, right?


Well, I got this when Facebook's Superpoke App temporarily seized on me tonight:



FAIL. CHICKEN.

Clearly failure is not limited to the world's largest mammals. I find that kind of reassuring somehow.

The (Shorter) Dig List: 10/7/08

Short reactions to stuff I've read and enjoyed lately. Here we go.


Spider-Man: Brand New Day Vol. 1 - At this point, I don't think anyone will disagree that the way Marvel unmarried Spider-Man was just about the most hamfisted reboot in comics history*. But the end result of that convoluted mess? Honestly kind of worth it. Seriously, people, these are some of the best Spider-Man comics to come down the pike in years; certainly since the high points of the early/mid 80s, if not before even then.

Marvel's fabled Spider-Man writing & editorial braintrust might not be writing anything particularly new or innovative (you've definitely seen a lot of the basics of these stories before, be it Peter Parker's money troubles, Spidey's problems with the law, mysterious new villains, etc.). And sometimes they try a little too hard to up the drama content - honestly, the travails of Peter Parker, both in and out of costume, in these six issues push him past being the Charlie Brown of the Marvel Universe and into being its Badluck Shleprock. But as the comic book equivalent of comfort food or that favorite sweatshirt, the sorts of things you go back to because you know exactly what you're gonna get and you know you'll like it, it's aces. The trade paperback of the second collection is already on my October Previews order.


Herbie Archives Vol. 1 - Honestly, I don't know what else I can say about this insane, wonderful book without repeating what just about every other comics blogger has said already (hell, Sims talked about it some more just yesterday). I just hope that these books from Dark Horse find the wide audience they deserve, so that as many people as possible can enjoy the insane genius that Ogden Whitney and Richard "Shane O'Shea" Hughes put down on just about every page. With any luck, these guys will be this year's Fletcher Hanks, a rediscovered comics sensation that people just can't stop thinking about (though as opposed to Hanks' work, the humor found in Whitney and O'Shea's work is intentional, which I think gives 'em a leg up).





* And considering some of the stuff DC has pulled with the Legion of Super-Heroes and Hawkman, to name two prominent examples, that's saying something.