Four Color Ones and Zeroes: Comics on the iPod Touch


Nerd that I am, the first two apps I downloaded for my iPod Touch (which for now I'm calling Cerebro, but I'm not completely satisfied with that) were for comics readin', iVerse Comics and comiXology Comics to be exact. My only experiences with digital comics have been web strips, awkward PDFs, and site-specific readers that just don't work (trying to read the Clone Wars comics on StarWars.com was an infuriating experience), so I really wasn't sure what to expect. But hey, new technology beckoned, and iTunes changed their pricing standards so that these once paid apps were now freebies. And I loves me some free stuff.

And while I was skeptical, I have to admit that reading comics on the Touch or iPhone is a decent experience. They're easy to read, easily reformatted to portrait or landscape layout, and most surprisingly, I have encountered very few awkward/hard-to-read pages due to panels being resized or cut down to fit the screen. I'm sure a lot of the latter has to do with the specific titles being made available for the devices, but still. And while both apps have advantages over one another - I like the page layout and transitioning of iVerse better, but comiXology appears to have a slightly better library of available titles so far - they both get the job done well, and are the best time-killers I have available to me right now. Waiting for take-out or at the doctor's office is a lot more tolerable now.

But here's the thing: I haven't found a single comic book I'd actually pay to read this way. And that's a problem for the digital comics initiative as a whole, I'd say. Both apps have a slew of free titles available, and that number is constantly increasing. And obviously, this is a terrific way for people like me to sample books they might have otherwise missed for whatever reason. For instance, I've sampled both The Middleman and Tania Del Rio's manga-makeover version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch through comiXology, and I really enjoyed them both, enough that I want to read more of these books now. But I'm not buying them through comiXology, I'm getting the actual books. The trade of the first few issues of manga Sabrina is already on the way to me from Amazon, and the collected Middleman is definitely on my want list. It may be the old-fashioned bibliophile library boy in me, but when I want the book, I want the book, even if it costs me a little more and takes longer to find.

Am I completely opposed to buying comics in a digital-only format? No. If it's exclusive content that I want badly enough, or something that's long out of print in physical form, then yeah, I'd probably be willing to pony up the money. But convenience isn't always going to be enough to make me pass up the format that I prefer for dozens of reasons.

I think the apps are a great form of entertainment, and so far they're doing a great job of selling me comic books. But they're not yet convincing me that I should be buying my comics digitally, and I doubt I'm alone in this regard. That seems like a huge hurdle they're going to need to overcome before "the future of comics" becomes a workable now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful for your good fortune and eat yourselves silly today, my fellow Americans.

For those outside the U.S., consider at least eating some pie today.

Wieringo Wednesday - Several Swine, No Flu


To my knowledge, Mike Wieringo never drew anything Thanksgiving-related professionally. Can't find anything online, and the scanner's still busted, so going through my comics won't do me much good, either.

But while he may not have drawn any turkeys, he sure drew a fair share of hams!








Heck, he didn't even limit himself to just the most well-known comic book superhero pig!

Better Late Than Never Reviews - 11/24 Edition

Shortish reviews/reactions to recently read - though probably not recently published - comics. Gotta catch 'em all.

(Sorry. I've been playing a lot of Pokemon: Diamond lately. Anyhoo...)

Britten & Brulightly - An unusual and very European take on noir from English creator Hannah Berry. Fernandez Britten is a South American p.i. (though he prefers "researcher") working in the U.K., and has brought enough bad news to people over the years that he is often called "The Heartbreaker," much to his chagrin. The case of his latest client, a widow hoping to prove her husband was the victim in a blackmail/murder plot rather than a suicide, may do nothing to improve this, especially since there seem to be superficial ties to one of the most distressing cases of his past. Uncooperative potential suspects and a partner who would rather stare at the ladies (oh, and it's likely he's not even real) don't help matters much. Interesting and entertaining, and gorgeously illustrated, if a bit dense in the plot detail department (either read this all in one sitting or do a better job remembering details from the beginning than I did) and slowed down at points by the lettering. Still, an impressive debut and well worth your time, especially if you don't mind your detective fiction unabashedly quirky.




Elephantmen Vol. 1: Wounded Animals - I've only knew Richard Starkings' Hip Flask character from those Comicraft ads that ran in CBG in the 90s, so I didn't know what to expect out of a book populated by anthropomorphic hippos, elephants, and other animals, but good god damn was this an excellent read. The story of former living weapons awkwardly segued into mainstream society 200 years in the future, this is as good an example of world-building as I've read in comics in a very long time. An ongoing plot emerges over the course of the seven issues reprinted here at a deliberate, measured pace, but revelations come at what feel like very natural increments, the overall experience is so immersive that you won't care, anyway. Gorgeous artwork from the likes of Ladronn, Moritat, Chris Bachalo, and others, too. This is the total package, and I'm sorry I ever dismissed this in the past as "that book about a hippo even though elephants are in the title."




Empowered Vol. 1 - Even though this book has been a darling of the bloggyverse since it's debut, I was still really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's probably easy for some to dismiss it out of hand as witless fanboy stroke material - the basic premise does revolve around a clumsy superheroine who repeatedly ends up captured, half-naked, bound, and gagged, after all - but anyone who jumps to that conclusion is missing out, because Adam Warren is creating something really special here. Empowered is as fantastic, charming, and downright endearing a character as you'll ever hope to read about, and as she begins to overcome (or at least shrug off) her (perpetual) embarrassments with the help of her new, bizarre support system (ex-henchman boyfriend, female ninja best friend, imprisoned demon overlord who watches her DVDs all day), you can't help but root for her. And yeah, it doesn't hurt that Warren draws her to be sexy as hell in a style that's part manga, part Milo Manara. This is shipped to retail in shrinkwrap for a reason, people - it's not full frontal or anything (everything is strategically covered and the curse words are all blocked out), but it's pretty racy just the same. Well done, literate smut, to be certain, but still, probably not for the overly prudish. But it's also smart, funny, sweet, and it has something to say. If only more "mature" comics were this adult.

Sigh... okay, let's go over this one more time.

So the sparkly vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Froggy Went A'Courtin' And He Did Ride, Uh-Huh (okay, I may be exaggerating the title a bit) beat the opening day record previously set by The Dark Knight. Needless to say, this has Certain Types of Fans in a tizzy, because how dare something they don't like (and that girls *do*) outdo something with Batman in it?

Honestly, people, get over it. So you don't dig Twilight. You know what? Neither do I. But a lot of people do, my wife among them, so just let them get on with the business of liking what they wanna like, and you do the same, okay?

The success of Twilight in no way invalidates the stuff you enjoy, or even your life itself.

And no, the success of Twilight will not ruin a generation of teenage girls by teaching them that obsessive relationships with stalkery boys who treat them like crap is okay. Teenage girls have been getting into relationships like that for ages now. That's what makes them teenage girls.

Let them have their have their fun, okay? Besides, girls are really cute when they go all geeky over something.

And finally, here's a picture of series co-star Ashley Greene, because attractive, that's why.

Hip to be Dimensionally Transcendental?

In a short piece in the November issue of Wired, Scott Brown talks about something I've noticed with increasing frequency over the past few years: Americans are actually starting to like Doctor Who.

Now, of course, this is all due to the current series, which unlike the original, has money and decent effects and lead actors that people would like to smooch. I get that, and even as a fan of the original, I appreciate those things, too.

Doesn't stop the whole thing from seeming sort of amazing to me, though. I can remember a time when admitting to watching Doctor Who, or even just knowing enough about the show to understand the basic premise, was schoolyard suicide. Not that that ever stopped me, mind you, because I suffered from a childhood malady known as "Not Knowing When to Keep My Big Trap Shut," so I had yet another heaping helping of nerddom thrust upon me at an age when it seems like I couldn't go a day without someone reminding me of how near the bottom of the social ladder I sat.

(Could've been worse, though. I could have been the kid who wore the Tom Baker floppy hat and long scarf to school that one time. That kid didn't just sit at the bottom of the ladder, he built a cottage and lived there year round.)

But at long last, this is changing. I think part of it is the public acceptance of geeky entertainment, of course. The success of comic book and sci-fi movies and TV series both overt (The Dark Knight, Star Trek) and more subtle (Lost) have created a lot of crossover appeal for this sort of thing. Even just ten years ago, I never would have imagined seeing Aquaman or TMNT shirts in the Men's section of Target or people getting excited over a revival of Battlestar Galactica, of all things.

I have to think the growth of cable television has a lot to do with this success, too. Back in the day, Doctor Who... all British TV, for that matter... was almost entirely the domain of PBS. And in the eyes of a lot of folks, there are exactly two ages when PBS is cool: when you're young enough for Sesame Street or old enough for woodworking shows. Being a kid and admitting you watch shows on PBS, even if it's Monty Python or Fawlty Towers or even some show where you actually saw boobs because PBS didn't seem to care about that sort of thing (the miniseries of Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City was important to me for all the wrong reasons)? Again, schoolyard suicide. But now, it's on cable, along with just about every other important British series of the past few decades. Removed from the fear that it might be somehow educational or stodgy, people are really starting to embrace this stuff.

And good for them. Too bad I can't let out a good old-fashioned "I told you so," though, as I'm pretty sure it'd still result in someone giving me a wedgie.

Making the (Lego) Band & the Brave and the Big Red Cheese

Liam has been fascinated by the idea of the Lego Rock Band game. I mean, he loves Lego as it is, and has enjoyed all of the Lego Star Wars, Indy, and Batman games (even if we do a lot of the playing for him). And he loves playing Rock Band with us, too (even if we don't actually turn his instrument on most of the time). So a combination of the two is a slam dunk for him, and Erin and I are both excited to check it out, too, though we haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

So Liam took matters into his own hands and made his own Lego Rock Band. My only contributions to this were suggesting he could use a shovel and an oar as guitars. The rest was all him. My kid is the coolest person I know.

The whole short photo set can be seen here.




How do you make Batman: The Brave and the Bold even better? You put Captain Marvel on the show, that's how!

(They might make you sit through an ad first. Sorry.)



Not sure when this debuts, but oh, I'm excited.

Ketchup!

I was sick, like, 2 weeks ago, and I still feel like I'm behind on everything. Here's a big ol' post of miscellanea in an attempt to get caught up with things. Might be SPOILERY in spots, so beware.

First of all, AMC's remake of The Prisoner:



I really wanted to like it, but I barely made it through the first episode and the prospect of trying to slog through another five seemed both tiring and depressing. Like most folks, I think it missed the point of the original entirely; if you're not going to keep the central theme of the struggle to stay individual in the face of conformity - a valuable thought in this day in age, I think - then why just not make an entirely new program in the first place? I also think the folks behind this assumed everyone potentially coming into this was familiar with the original, and made little effort to actually lay out the premise satisfactorily. And as fantastic as the original is, it's the textbook definition of cult classic. Sure, Comic-Con attendees and The Simpsons writers know it, but they're hardly the typical AMC Sunday night audience. Poor, and worse still, boring.



Hey, look, Geoff Johns finally got his fondest wish.


Yeah, I know, it's a comic book death in the midst of a giant crossover that is all but promising the reversal of every DC character death ever, but still. Don't like Hal Jordan, downright hate his fans' feeling of entitlement.

Fucking H.E.A.T.

And incidentally, I was going to link to their homepage in the interest of providing some sort of reference for people lucky enough to be unfamiliar with Hal's Emerald Advancement Team, but you know what? THE SITE CRASHED MY COMPUTER. Their evil knows no bounds.

And I bet they smell funny.



R.I.P. Ken Ober, comedian, actor, host and TV producer, but probably best known to us all as "The Quiz Master of 72 Whooping Cough Lane" on MTV's Remote Control. That one was shockingly random. I loved Remote Control, and even managed to convince my parents to let me see the "Remote Control Out of the Basement" tour when it came to the University of Maine even though I was only in middle school and the show was on what they called "that awful MTV." Thanks for the entertainment, Ken, not to mention all of the TV trivia I doubtlessly picked up from you.






Hey, speaking of Remote Control, here's an old commercial for one of its frequent prizes, the MTV LeRun, "part bike, part skateboard!"



Does anyone out there know ANYONE who had one of these? Or better yet, had one themselves? Never once saw one of these in real life (judging by the video, unsurprisingly), so they've always been a mystery to me. A stupid-lookin' dorky mystery, granted, but still.

B is for Belated: Happy Birthday, Sesame Street


Sesame Street turned 40 yesterday. Meant to get around to posting about it, but pretty much forgot. Hopefully it doesn't mind a late card with a $5 bill in it.

Anyway, thanks for the many fond memories, Sesame Street, for being around long enough for me to watch with a child of my own, and for your somehow staying as entertaining for me at 33 as you were when I was 3. Maybe a little less Elmo, Baby Bear, and Abby Cadabby, though, okay? Thanks.

Here's my favorite Sesame Street segment (probably yours, too), and one of the funniest bits from any TV show ever:

Better Late Than Never Reviews - Maybe Still a Touch Swiney Edition

Quickish reactions to recently read comics. *CoughHackSputterWheeze* Let's do this. *SnorfleGaspChoke*

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #s 1-5 - I was enjoying Jonathan Hickman's run on FF so much I wanted to read the Dark Reign tie-in mini he wrote preceding it (and I couldn't find the trade, so I scrounged up the issues), and yeah, it was just as good. And while I enjoyed Reed's soul-searching and Sue, Ben, & Johnny's (and their various counterparts, too) cross-dimensional hijinks, what impressed me the most was that Hickman actually did something with Franklin and Valeria. In most FF stories involving the kids, they're hostages, their powers go wonky, or else they're just shuffled off to Alicia's house before the rest of the fam heads off to the Negative Zone. But here they have they get their own adventure, and if we're all being honest with ourselves, most of the best scenes. Two kids - exceptional kids, admittedly, but still - hold off an entire HAMMER squad, and their method of pissing off Norman Osborne (particularly Franklin's method to "mess with his head") was hilarious. Plus, I think it's funny that a kid surrounded by sci-fi every day of his life like Franklin would spend the entire time dressed as a cowboy (why wouldn't his fantasies be more down to earth when his regular life is most kids' dream?). If you're enjoying Hickman's regular run on Fantastic Four but skipped/missed this, backtrack and read it. You'll be glad you did.

Fantastic Four 572 - And yeah, this is still great, too. The storyline ends a bit more abruptly than I was expecting, but I definitely get the feeling that we'll be coming back to some of these plot threads later.

Not much more to be said, really.

The Boys #1 (Dynamite edition) - I've never been a big Garth Ennis fan, but so many people whose opinions I trust have been raving about The Boys from the beginning, and this reprint of the first issue was only a buck, so I figured what the hell. And I have to say, I kinda liked it. While there's all the usual profanity, debauchery, and ultraviolence, I was legitimately shocked by Hughie's tragedy. Did not see that coming at all, and found it rather heartbreaking as a result. Well played, Garth. I'm certainly curious to see where the story progresses from here and will be tracking down the trades at some point in the near future.

Final Crisis - Finally got around to this, and as most of the rest of the inter-ma-net debated this endlessly months ago, I won't belabor the point: this was a mess, a shambling collection of ideas and happenings all banging into one another as they desperately search for a plot to hang themselves on (though they'd be better served searching for something to hang themselves with). Not so much scripted as scribbled on napkins during a 3 martini lunch. And based on how little effect it seems to have had on the DC Universe in the months since its release, I can't help but think the company didn't care for it, either. When a company sweeps a story under the rug the same year it was published, that says something.

Down with the sickness

It's been a long, rough week at Trusty Plinko Stick World HQ. We'll be back soon.

Pretty Sketchy: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine by Pat Loika

Late 80s-style Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde and Wolverine by the marker king and arguably most-connected (and certainly one of the friendliest) guys in comics, Pat Loika. Pat also did a great Captain Marvel for me a few years back.

Thanks again, Pat!

The way life should be? Yeah, not so much.

When you come from Maine, you spend a lot of time defending it to other folks because the state has a certain reputation for being ass-backwards.

And, as was proven again yesterday, the state itself does very little to change that perception.


Oh, and better still, they vote against gay marriage but for medicinal marijuana. Hate, fear, and weed... sure, Maine, nothing redneck about that at all.

Happy Birthday, Steve Ditko!

Comicdom's favorite Ayn Rand fan, "Shy" Steve Ditko, is 82 today.



For the uninitiated, Steve co-created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange for Marvel, created Captain Atom, the Question, and the Ted Kord Blue Beetle for Charlton, Mr. A for his own self, and a bunch of great sci-fi and monster stories for any number of publishers. But my favorite Ditko creation of all appeared in two back-up features that originally ran in Charlton's E-Man #s 2 and 4, a fella by the name of Killjoy.



Killjoy, like The Question and Mr. A before him, typified Ditko's strong Objectivist outlook, but whereas Q and A (now that would've been a team-up!) stories were pretty serious affairs, the Killjoy strips are wild and very tongue-in-cheek, with Ditko working in an almost Kurtzman & Elder-esque fashion (and it's fitting, too, that I first encountered this Mad imitation in an issue of Mad's greatest imitator, Cracked). Bizarre caricatures, flop sweat, wild takes, people bursting into dramatic tantrums at the drop of a hat (WAH! SOB! He's not fair!)... it's good stuff, even if you don't necessarily agree with all of the politics at the heart of it. You can read both stories here.

Happy birthday, Steve!

Lazy Monday YouTube Blogging: 1, 2, 3, 4 chickens just back from the shore

Sesame Street's attempts at turning an artist's popular song into one about letters or counting or whatever can be hit or miss. This one is just about perfect: