The Dig List 7/30/08 - Catching Up 3

Short reactions to stuff that's been read lately. Not always timely, but honest. That counts for something, right?

Justice Society of America #s 1-10 - This is the entire early 90s series by Len Stazewski and Mike Parobeck, and I had a lot of fun re-reading these over the past few nights this week. The series focused heavily on a theme of heroes from another age trying to find their place in a modern world (especially since the characters themselves had just recently returned from limbo, both in story and publishing), and in retrospect, it feels very apt. A simple, straightforward adventure book like this was a real oddity on the stands in 1992, a tough sell since it was so not "kewl" compared to what was hot at the time (I mean, there's not a pouch or arm blade to be found anywhere). It'd probably be a tough sell today, come to think of it. But it's a fun book, and the gorgeous, clean lines of the late Mr. Parobeck's artwork just sing, people. Worth checking the cheapie bins for.

Pilot Season: Twilight Guardian - I know Top Cow has worked hard the past few years to turn themselves into something other than just a purveyor of Boob War books, but this is an unusual book, even for them. The title character is a twentysomething woman who has appointed herself the official superhero for her 8 9* block stretch of neighborhood, and takes to the streets each night to patrol for wrongdoing. Where she sees potential menace everywhere, we see a couple of pretty mundane nights in Anysuburb, USA. Not a lot technically happens but it's still compelling reading as character study. I'm hoping this does well in Top Cow's August Pilot Season voting, well enough to warrant at least a follow-up mini, anyway, as I'd like to learn more about what drives her, or how she'd handle an actual emergency.

Atomic Robo Vol. 1: Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne - In my heart, I know this series is more-or-less Hellboy in robot drag. The creators spend enough time in their intros praising Mike Mignola that they realize this, too. But I've never been able to get into Hellboy, whereas I loved every second of Atomic Robo. Sentient robots fighting disembodied brains appeal to me more than smarmy apocalypse demons fighting drooling Lovecraftian horrors, I guess. And while all the scenes of two-fisted action science are certainly as exciting and well-rendered as you could possibly hope for, the flashbacks and character bits are what really push this over the top for me. Robo's letter to his friend's granddaughter was kind of touching, the glimpse of the 80s Tesladyne team is a great visual gag, and Robo's ultimate revenge against Steven Hawking is hilariously juvenile. So come for the robot beating up stuff, and stay for everything else. Easily one of the best series I've seen come down the pike in quite a long time.

Indiana Jones Adventures Vol. 1 - Slight, but fun.

You want more? Okay... it was certainly about Indiana Jones.

Seriously, that's about all I've got. It's comic book cotton candy. A decent read, but it's nothing that's gonna linger in your head for long. Probably great for the 8-12 year olds in your life, though.

* Troy Hickman says it's 9 blocks, not 8. He wrote the book. I'm gonna go with his numbers.

Vitally Important Things You Need To See NOW!

(Well, it's more attention getting than "here are two links you may enjoy," isn't it?)

I generally don't have much use for politicians - and one of the surest ways to get me angry is to engage me in any sort of political discussion, especially if you're the type who berates other simply because they disagree with you - but I like some of this dude's stances, and I certainly appreciate his approach. At least give him a chance to state his case, Kansas! (via)

Dorian is hosting Beach Party Week over at, which will either lead us all to enlightened bliss or eternal damnation, but either way, the scenery's nice, the tunes are catchy, and there's Dr. Pepper for all. Also, Don Rickles.

Sandwich Party 2: An important part of any sandwich experience.

(Make with the clicky above to visit Sandwich Party HQ)

So much like the last Sandwich Party, life conspired to keep me away from making anything truly innovative or memorable (though I did make a couple of really awesome fluffernutters the other day... got the peanut butter and fluff proportions just perfect, which is trickier than you'd think), so I figured I'd bring the chips.

Sure, it doesn't sound like much of a contribution, but I'd argue that chips play at least as important a role in the creation of a decent sandwich as the bread or any filling you can name. A sandwich without a nice little pile of chips in a supporting role is a pretty unfulfilling experience, isn't it? Sure, the sandwich may still be okay, but you can never rid yourself of the feeling that something was missing. And if you wind up with bad chips - say they're stale, or they're just a kind you don't care for - that can ruin even the best of sandwiches, too, to the point where that's probably all you'll end up remembering about your lunch.

"How was your lunch, Bob?" a co-worker will ask, assuming your name is Bob.

"Well, Larry," you'll reply, which will be a lot less confusing if his or her name actually is Larry, "I ate just about the worst chips you could ever imagine." And Larry, having grown up in Maine and therefore knowing the misfortune awaiting in every bag of Humpty Dumpty brand Downeast Clam Dip favored potato chips, can imagine some pretty bad chips, and will nod his head knowingly in commiseration.

And I don't know how you folks live, but around my house, chips play sandwich ingredient just as often as they do sandwich sidekick. In fact, I would probably estimate that between the years of 1985 and 1992, almost every sandwich I ate had some variety of chip wedged into the middle, whether it be a fancy deli Italian* sandwich or a humble PB&J. It gives the sandwich a very satisfying crunchiness that it usually lacks; adds a little extra texture, too. It makes things a little more fun, and it's certainly efficient.** Choose your chip stuffing wisely, though, as poorly chosen chips can send a sandwich south pretty quickly. I find corn chips work really well with ham and bologna (Fritos working especially well with the balogna). Your better deli sandwiches really need good potato chips. And if you're brave enough to stuff chips into a peanut butter sandwich, also stick with potato. I always enjoyed using Cape Cod chips in peanut butter sandwiches, though I know some people who think it sounds too salty to even attempt. I recommend it, though.

(Never use Cool Ranch Doritos in a PB&J, though. If you learn nothing else from me, learn that.)

In short, there's a reason why every single sandwich joint in the world tries to sell you a bag of chips with their lunch (and why the better ones outright give you chips). If the parts of a sandwich are the Beatles, than the chips are Ringo. Not always the most visible member, nor the one known for making the greatest creative contributions, but possessing of a charm that some people really enjoy, does well on the rare occasion in the spotlight, and brings the rest of the ensemble together in a way that would be noticeably missing otherwise.

And face it, you can't have a party of any kind - especially not a sandwich party - without a big bowl of chips!

* Replace with sub, hero, hoagie, grinder, or whatever regional name you use as necessary.
** I'm pretty sure this is the thought process behind KFC Famous Bowls, too.

I continue to not be made of stone here (Sandy Eggo Part 2)

Agents of Atlas ongoing series from Marvel - 99% of the Marvel titles I read are in trade paperback format, but I loved the mini enough that I always said I'd follow an ongoing title monthly if it should happen. And I'm a man of my word. Also, I feel like I owe Marvel editorial cupcakes now.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold trailer - A Batman cartoon made after 1984 that I could actually consider watching with my son? And it guest stars my favorite new DC character of the last 20 years, Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle? Yes, please. I'll take two.

Pimpin' is actually quite easy.

I haven't advertised any eBay auctions on here in a long time, but, well, I have some eBay auctions up.

I'm currently selling the first two Complete Peanuts volumes, the first two Shadowpact trade paperbacks, Superman/Batman #s 1-6, and a loose, incomplete Transformers Gen. 1 Roadbuster toy.

Bid early, often, and honestly if at all interested, thanks!

Getting Hooked Part 6: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... wait, what is that, anyway?

The books:Superman 335-337
Bought at: I wanna say King's department store (as a Whitman 3-pack)

I already knew how to read by the time I got these comics, but I hadn't yet learned how to read Superman.

I should explain.

Obviously, reading a comic book is a much different experience than reading straight-out prose. Besides the words on the page, there's an entire visual language you need to interpret, too, like different symbols, the transition of time between the gutters... well, you know, all that stuff Scott McCloud talks about in Understanding Comics. Neither of us has the time for me to recount all that here. But there's a definite learning curve you need to master when you're picking up a comic book for the first time. But there's this whole other learning curve you need to work your way around if you're going to read Superman for the first time, too. And what makes it hard for the new reader is the same thing that makes Superman difficult for the new writer... all those damn powers.

So its safe to assume we all know what Superman can do, right? He flies, he's strong, he moves fast, he shoots heat beams out of his eyes, can freeze stuff with his breath, hears exceptionally well, see through solid objects, etc. This is all pretty easy to depict on TV or film (conceptually, anyway, ignoring all problems of technology or budget), because most of these abilities are focused around movement. Depicting Superman in a static medium, however, requires a little more creativity on the part of the creators, and a lot more open-mindedness from the imaginations of the readers.

Now, like most little kids, I had imagination in spades. But it took a little while for me to understand that multiple images of Superman in the same panel that were all linked together by whirlwindy-looking speedlines meant that Superman was moving so quickly that he appeared to be in many places at once, and I don't know for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if at some point I asked, "Mommy, why are there lots of Supermans standing in the tornado?"

Another uniquely Superman visual cue is something Alan Moore actually mentioned in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tommorow?," the thing where Superman flies so fast that the reds and blues of his costume all sort of rush together and he looks like, to use Moore's phrase, "a violet comet." And sure enough, you'd see that in spades in Superman comics of this era... Superman's torso (sometimes not even the complete torso, maybe the top half or even just his head and shoulders), arms extended forward, followed by a big purple blur where everything below should be. It's really a brilliant technique for depicting high velocity movement in a stationary image, but again, a little confusing to a three or four year old.

But obviously, since I'm still reading these things - probably to the chagrin of my parents, my wife, and eventually my child, I'm sure - I did learn to crack the code over time, most likely thanks to a combination of asking my parents and older siblings, and my usual habit of reading and re-reading and re-re-reading these things until they fell apart. As with the more complex texts of adulthood, constant study is eventually rewarded.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the second thing I had to learn in order to effectively read Superman... you have to accept pretty early on that the Man of Steel's life, especially in this time period, is absolutely insane. I mean, when an evil cowboy from space on a flying horse is one of the easier concepts to to wrap your brain around, you know you're dealing with a real madhouse.

I'm not made of stone here. (Sandy Eggo Talk, part 1 of ?)

I can try and resist the siren call of Sandy Eggo news all I want, but when you make an announcement that you're gonna be doing comics based on Pixar movies (including an Incredibles book by Mark Waid with Darwyn Cooke covers) and finally releasing the Roger Langridge Muppets comics, well, yeah, you're gonna get my attention.

Well played, BOOM! Studios. Now let's not charge $4 a pop for these things, okay?

Lazy Tuesday YouTube Blogging - Your favorite schoolhouse...

It's a Schoolhouse Rock kinda day.

Here's my absolute favorite (one of the new ones from the 90s revival, shockingly), The Tale of Mr. Morton:

Here's one I remember seeing as a kid that I don't think they ever re-ran during the revival (c'mon, who'd object to a song about Manifest Destiny? Oh, wait...), Elbow Room:

Interplanet Janet is now inaccurate thanks to the de-planetizing of Pluto (thanks a lot, international astronomical community... way to think of the children!), but I still like it:

My last one for today is an obvious choice, but come on, we all love it:

The Dig List: 7/20/08 - Catching Up Part 2

Short (and increasingly less timely) reactions to stuff I read and liked lately:

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #13 - Superboyman makes his debut in Metropolis, and we see how his initial time with the Legion has prepared him for the event. Understandably, the Legion itself takes a back seat here, but their few appearances throughout the issue are used to good effect. The real treat is seeing not only the animated LSH continuity version of 21st century Metropolis, but the early days of Clark and Lois's respective careers. When we usually see the early days, Lois is already the star reporter and Clark the talented up-and-comer, so it's a real kick to see them both just starting out for once. It's also nice to see J. Torres avoid the "and then we all learned a lesson, didn't we?" that has marred so many otherwise good stories from the Johnny DC books in the past, so that's another plus right there. And it needs to be said - Alex Serra draws a freakin' adorable Lois Lane.

Black Panther (Vol. 2, the Christopher Priest series) #s 1-16 - I've been picking up an issue or two every few weeks since the local shop has pretty much the entire run for cheap. And I have to say, all of the positive press I've read through the years is correct. I don't think it's quite, as I heard one person say, "Marvel's Starman" (I think that title belongs to Brubaker's Captain America, if anything), but it certainly does do a phenomenal job of fleshing out the Panther's character, creating his own little niche of the Marvel universe, to the point of giving him one of those Dynastic Centerpiece Models that Scipio was always talking about. And the idea that Black Panther is often a supporting player in his own book, that we're seeing everything through his addled (and inable to tell a story in the proper order) State Department handler, the Michael J. Fox-esque K. Everett Ross, is a brilliant storytelling device. Too bad the art is so painfully uneven. Overmuscled figures, rivers of weird mouth spittle, needless crosshatching... throw in some pouches, and you'd have 90s comic art in microcosm. If you don't go blind, though, it's a fantastic read.

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? - I'm not following Secret Invasion at all (or Final Crisis, for that matter), but there was an Agents of Atlas story in it, so I felt the need to get it in the hopes that Marvel someday lets Jeff Parker do a follow-up to the awesome original mini-series. And the story here brought the goods... strong enough to stand on its own, even if you haven't read the original Agents series or any of Secret Invasion books, but moves the plot along for both concepts pretty well. Worth a read for that. The rest was scattershot. The Agent Brand story was fun, and interesting enough to make me curious about what happens next to her. The Beast/Wonder Man story had a couple of fun moments, but since one or both of them may be a Skrull, it didn't feel like it ultimately *meant* anything. And the Captain Marvel and Marvel Boy stories were both pretty dumb. But still, more Agents of Atlas, so yay.

What If This Was the Fantastic Four: A Tribute to Mike Wieringo - Kinda weak storywise, but that's not why any of us bought this, is it? It was great that 'Ringo's final finished pages got to see the light of day - strong work from him, as always - and the rest of the art chores were handled ably by a who's who of his friends and admirers, and their styles all blended well, without any jarring transitions, which was nice. And yeah, the tributes in the back from Mike's brother, Mark Waid, Todd Dezago and others may have left me a little sniffly. One bit of weirdness, though... I thought it was funny that they said that many of the contributors waived the normal fees, most working for just $1 a page. Makes you wonder who the douchebags still charging full price were, huh?

The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus - Haven't actually read this giant brick of a book yet, but I've read at least some of the material in the past, so I know it'll be awesome and I'm glad it's finally here. I'm just sayin'. Here's hoping this does well enough that the powers that be at Marvel and DC release compendia of his works for those companies, too.

Here's a good compromise...

So San Diego hates taking comic fans' money so much that they'll force themselves to just take more of it in order to make the experience a less bitter pill to swallow? Glad I'm staying home and keeping my money in my own wallet, then... saves both of us the trouble.

Remember kids, even if comics are becoming more acceptable to a wider audience, comics fans are still pretty much in the shitter.

Two bits of bloggy business.

Set that panini press to "toasty" - you know, if you have one - because Sandwich Party 2 will soon be here! To hell with Comic-Con (you aren't getting in if you didn't buy your tix already, anyway)... the real party on July 25 through 27 is the Sandwich Party.

(Here's my submission from the December par-tay.)

All of us here at Trusty Plinko Stick World Headquarters want to wish a hearty congratulations to the pride of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Living Between Wednesdays' Rachelle Goguen, on her recent marriage. And thankfully, no lives were lost in the ensuing super-villain melee that usually accompanies these comic book weddings.

The Dig List: 7/15/08 - Catching Up Part 1

Marina by Emily Block - After reading this when Kevin posted a link to the online version a few weeks back, I fell instantly in love and needed to own a physical copy, if such a thing existed, to re-read to my heart's content. A quick visit to her website showed that it did, and I tell ya, it's the best dollar I've spent in quite a long time. The short, wordless story conveys the wonder of flight better than anything this side of a Miyazaki movie, and it's a ripping little yarn of adventure and familial love besides. If this is the sort of thing Block can make for 24 Hour Comic Day, I look forward to seeing what she can do when she can take her time.

Harvest Is When I Need You The Most - The conventional wisdom for the last 10 years or so is that some of the best Star Wars related projects have the least involvement from George Lucas. So with that frame of mind, you might conclude that this completely unauthorized mini is the best Star Wars comic book ever published... and it just may be. Created by a stable of indie talents, the stories range from parody to quieter moments that could very well take place in between the scenes of the original trilogy, but it's clear that everyone involved has nothing but love in their hearts for Star Wars (the originals, anyway). By all accounts, this book was the hit of MOCCA, and it's easy to see why. I'm very glad they made this available for sale online. Get yours before King George decides to get litigious.

Pretty Sketchy: Gnomelactus hungers!

Regular blogging will hopefully resume this week. This was one of those years where vacation seemed to take more recovery time than the various life events that led up to needing a vacation in the first place. Damn, I'm getting old. Anyway...

Fear the primal force known as... GNOMELACTUS!

I talked about Dave Dwonch's one-shot Gnome before. It's a fun read, and you should check it out when time and finance allow. Anyway, as a special promotion, he offered free sketches to anyone who ordered the book through DCBS. So you could get a sketch of the titular gnome, or any comic other comic character you wanted. As a gnome. And I have to say, I'm super happy with the result of my request here. That's a gnome I'd be proud to have in my garden. I'd probably keep him away from the veggies, though.

Doctor Who and the Ten from Target

Not long after discovering Doctor Who on television, I stumbled across the novelizations that were published by Target in the 70s and 80s, and I was instantly hooked. Mostly straight adaptations of the original televised stories (along with a few that adapted radio scripts, unproduced episodes, and an original story or two focusing on specific companions), they were a great way to experience stories I hadn't seen yet, wouldn't see again for a long time to come*, or maybe even wouldn't see at all, thanks to Auntie Beeb trashing so many First and Second Doctor stories to "save space" in their vaults. And while they weren't always good in the classic sense of the word, they usually made for fun, junky reading, especially in the summers. And like any good junk reading series - your romances, your true crime, your men's adventure, what have you - a lot of the books had some great, memorable covers**. Here are ten of my favorites, rediscovered with the help of this awesome website***.

Admittedly, this one is pretty bland, but I love the look of the old school Cyberman here, and the cover promises exactly what's in the book... Cybermen attacking a space station. And that's what I'm the market for most days, so sold.

I've never been the biggest fan of William Hartnell's tenure as the Doctor. Sure, I understand his significance, him being the original Doctor and all, but still, I always found his stories kinda boring. That said, Cowboy William Hartnell looks surprisingly bad ass here.

I hate that the McCoy era logo cuts off the cover image, since the artwork here is particularly great, and a fantastic summation of everything you need to know about the story to draw you in... there's the Doctor, there are Daleks, and they're fighting over a bizarre, coffin-like artifact. Too bad it spoils the eventual Davros reveal, though.

Love the imagery created by the mirror image TARDISes in flight. Love that a usually silly-looking Sontaran actually seems kinda menacing. Love that they resisted the urge to include the Androgum DNA-enhanced Patrick Troughton, since damn, that part of the story is just plain dumb.

Another plain cover, but as a little kid, I found Samurai Ray Gun Turtle Man here quite transfixing.

Maybe it's because the middle act of E.T. scared the hell out of me at an early age, but menacing dudes in space suit-type gear still give me the chills****, so this one sticks with me, even if Jon Pertwee does look disturbingly like Bea Arthur here.

Two of the earlier Target covers, I think, and I lump them together because I love the B-movie poster aspect of them both. I'd love to have either of these as posters, in fact, so if someone knows of a way to make that happen, hook me up!

And this cover actually was made into a poster, IIRC. It's a simple enough concept, really - Dalek head go splodey - but the execution is very eye-catching.

The novelization of The Five Doctors originally had a reflective silver cover, which is why it looks so dark here (that sort of thing never scans well), and I've yet to see a copy since (or, come to think of it, even at the time), that wasn't scuffed from people just looking at it the wrong way. But even with that limitation, it certainly stood out on the shelf, and the design manages to capture both the feel of the history of the show and some of the more fun aspects of the story itself. The mostly-silhouetted profiles are a fantastic visual, too, and I especially dig the little half-wisp of a profile just beyond Peter Davison that gives a hint of Doctors to come.

* The PBS station in Bangor tended to re-run Who in order (unless new episodes came in, which they always rushed to air, thankfully), so if you wanted to see, say, a Peter Davison episode and they were still in early William Hartnell, you had a very long wait ahead of you.

** At least until Target reissued the line in the late 80s / early 90s with new covers and a uniform trade dress. I can understand the practical business reasons for doing this, but the later editions always looked so bland to me.

*** Just the Target books on that site, though... none of the reissues that were published by, I think, Pinnacle Books.

**** When I used to work in a video store, I always had to hurry past our copy of George Romero's The Crazies, as the dude on the cover in the radiation suit freaked me right the hell out.