Pretty Sketchy: Spider-Friends... go for it!

I've shown time and again throughout the history of the Pretty Sketchy feature that I'm a big ol' fanboy for the work of Mr. Andrew Charipar, and when he consistently turns out artwork that looks like the above (or this Justice League #1-styled depiction of all 11 Doctors Who, or this White Rabbit, to name but two more), I think it's pretty easy to see why.

Oh, and this, too, was picked up at Comic Geek Speak Super Show 2010. Man, that was a great show for sketches.

In the days when comic book creators were hobos.

(The nice, if perplexing, send-off for Bill Mantlo on the back cover of Micronauts (vol. 1) #58)

I can't help but picture Jim Shooter seeing them off at the railyards, handing them a pocketful of hobo nickels and a contract for a mini-series under the Epic imprint.

You'll never get that nerd smell out of a convention hall, no matter the size.

Even the world's least impressive pop culture gathering has to come to an end sometime. So whether you actually did throw a tiny living room convention for yourself or just headed off to the lake with friends for the weekend like I did, I hope you enjoyed this year's Comic-Non International, and sincerely thank you for playing along. Maybe it wasn't as exciting as the real thing, but there were bargains to be had (missed out on a cheap 2nd Doctor figure - damn eBay sniping! - but I did find that overpriced Uncanny X-Men: Manifest Destiny trade I've been wanting for just $5 at Fearless Readers Online). Also, fewer stabbings, so there's that.

Hulk Save Box Tops!

This puny Banner size now. Click to Hulk size it.

Hulk prefers Cookie Crisp wizard to domino masked robber and dog combo that came later. But then again, Hulk never really enjoy Keystone Kops or pastiches thereof, either. Hulk say to each his own.

Comic-Non International Isn't as Embarrassed as It Should Be to Present The 2010 Bessers

Though we here at Comic-Non International pride ourselves on being the least impressive pop culture gathering of the year, we do recognize the need for a certain amount of pomp and circumstance at these sort of events, and so if you'll all take your seats while I make my way to the dais, we can begin presenting...

The Bessers, of course, are named for Joe Besser, comedic second banana par excellence, the third Third Stooge, and patron saint of this very blog, and they recognize the best in comics that were read, though not necessarily published, in the last year or two, as based on old Better Late Than Never Review/The List posts. The categories are stolen from based on those of that other comics award presentation scheduled this week, and the winners will receive exactly two things: Jack and Shit (and Jack just left town). But a.) their work gave a thirtysomething fanboy enjoyment, so that should count for something, and b.) it's not like any of those people read this little cow town puppet blog (not to be confused with that well-known puppet town cow blog), anyway.

So let's get on to the winners.

Best Short Story - Supergirl by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner in Wednesday Comics. It wasn't the flashiest or most high concept strip in the project, but the one I consistently enjoyed the most every week.

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot) - The Unwritten #5: "How the Whale Became," by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. It gave a lot of needed background and depth to the ongoing plot of the series early on, and the old English major in me appreciated the involvement of folks like Kipling and Wilde.

Best Continuing Series - Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, by Art Baltazar, Franco, and Mike Norton. Like I said the other day, it's the best the Marvel Family has been treated by DC in years, or possibly ever, and is the only superhero book out there that I still buy monthly. They're foolish to bring this to an end.

Best Should-Still-Be-Continuing-But-Isn't Series - S.W.O.R.D. by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders. I loved this book for continuing the adventures of one of my favorite X-related concepts of the last decade, for the interplay between Abigail Brand and the Beast, and for how seamlessly it tied in the ongoing Earth-based events with cosmic-level ones. Plus, Lockheed, and the real Death's Head was back. Why did a book with that much awesome get kneecapped after just 5 issues?

Best Limited Series or Story Arc - Batman Confidential #s 26-28, "The Curse of King Tut." Now that's how you update a character concept, my friends. This new King Tut was just reminiscent enough of Victor Buono's TV villain, and respectful of the concept, too, while still seeming like a credible threat for the modern Batman. Plus, awesome interplay between Bats and the Riddler.

Best New Series - S.W.O.R.D. Seriously, guys, even at a paltry five issues, it was so much fun.

Best Publication for Kids - Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost. Most cartooning books get all hung up on tools and technique. This one ignores ability and equipment and just teaches kids the basics of how to make comics. The difference is huge, and I imagine rather empowering. I would've loved to have had this book as a kid.

Most Amazingly Accurate Adaptation - The Muppet Show Comic Book by Roger Langridge. Logically, it shouldn't work as well as it does. I couldn't imagine The Muppet Show without sound, much less puppets, and yet, this is truly The Muppet Show on paper. I am astounding by its very existence.

Best Digital Comic - Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques. This has truly grown beyond its indie rock-based humor strip origins and is a genuinely compelling comedy soap opera full of full, rich, bizarre characters that I absolutely need to follow every single day. This must have been how my grandmother felt about her "stories."

Best New Graphic Novel/Album/Trade Paperback/Whatever - Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley. There are several big "prestige" projects out there that got a lot of well-deserved press and attention, but I just found the fifth Scott Pilgrim book more fun than any of those. Also, it didn't hurt that it brought the plot to interesting places and finally asked some much needed questions. Also also, more Kim Pine.

Best Reprint Collection - Johnny Hiro Vol. 1 by Fred Chao. In this book, Chao creates not just likable characters and an interesting plot, but also a fully-formed world at once alike and vastly different from our own. Young people struggle with jobs, relationships, and finding their way in the world, while also dealing with monsters, samurai, Food Network personalities, and the occasional drop-in by a hip hop star. Plus, the book is an amazing presentation in that it gives as much all-new material as it does reprinted stuff.

Best Writer - Paul Cornell. Captain Britain and MI13 was good enough that I'll be checking out pretty much any comics work he does from now on. I may not buy it off the stands, and it may take me a while to get to some of it, but I will indeed be checking it out. That upcoming Knight & Squire mini, though... that one I'll likely be picking up as it comes out.

Best Writer/Artist - Darwyn Cooke, because even if I don't always enjoy crime/noir stuff, you can bet I'll still be checking out each of the Parker books just to see how gorgeously he draws and writes them.

Best Art-Type Person/Folks - J.H. Williams III. I mean, you saw those Batwoman stories in Detective Comics, right?

Best Cover Artist - Niko Henrichon, if only for this cover from Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #19. A better, more kick-ass depiction of Sue Storm you'd be hard-pressed to find.

Best Coloring - Dave Stewart. I mean, you saw those Batwoman stories in Detective Comics, right?

Best Lettering - Tom Orzechowski, because I believe Tom should letter pretty much every comic book ever.

Best Back Issue/Cheap Bin Find of the Year - While it's tempting to say that issue of Spidey Super Stories where Spidey and HellCat fight Thanos and his helicopter, it has to be Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #9, in which Luke travels to Latveria to collect the 200 clams Dr. Doom owes him.

70s Marvel Comics - nay, comic books in general! - don't get any better than that.

Friday Favorites / Comic-Non Media Presentation: When I Say Run, Run: A Short Tribute to Patrick Troughton

I'm such a fanboy for Doctor Who that I legitimately have a hard time deciding which Doctor is my favorite. Sure, I can come out and give you a name if you ask, but I can guarantee that whomever I name isn't necessarily my very favorite, but instead the one I dig the most in that particular moment. I think I can maybe narrow it down to a group of 3 on the Favorite Plateau, though, and they're forever locked in combat to see who will be the ultimate victor. I can, however, tell you with some certainty that Patrick Troughton is on that plateau.

(Troughton image by Brandon Schaefer, whose amazing Flickr stream is something you should really be checking out often. Get on that. Right now. I'm serious.)

Though I've always hated the "Chaplin-esque cosmic hobo" description of this incarnation of the Doctor, the character himself has appealed to me ever since I saw him for the first time in The Five Doctors when I was a kid. Alternately childlike and world-weary, innocent and deadly serious, your staunchest ally and someone you did not want to cross, he instantly became the quintessential depiction of the Doctor in my eyes, and very obviously in the eyes of just about everyone that followed him in the TARDIS, too. William Hartnell originated the role, of course, but I think it's fair to argue that Troughton defined it.

So, of course, it was a crushing disappointment to discover that so few of his stories remained intact. Stupid BBC. Still, thanks to VHS, DVD, and audio releases, as well as the wonderful world of the bootleg, over time it became easier to experience what still did exist, however incomplete it may be, and sure enough, Troughton was always a lot of fun. Even when the stories themselves are not. I mean, honestly, how many bases are there to siege, anyway, and how did he manage to find EVERY SINGLE ONE?

But I digress. Here are a few of my favorite Troughton moments:

A trailer for The Web of Fear, reconstructed using animation and the audio track:

Messing up Jamie in The Mind Robber:

Sharing a sweet moment with Victoria in The Tomb of the Cybermen:

Jamie and Zoe's sad goodbye in The War Games:

Problems comics retailers face: higher costs, dwindling audiences, and now, cars!

Thanks to what has to be one of the all-time great parallel parking failures, one of the local comic shops I used to frequent back in my hometown of Bangor, ME, found itself with a car parked inside of it Thursday morning.

I've read the story several times and I still can't quite figure out how this happened. My favorite bit of the story, though, is from the Bangor PD sergeant and master of understatement who was on the scene: "'It appears to be operator error,' the sergeant said."

Pretty Sketchy: Comic-Non International Edition

Even though Comic-Non (the world's least impressive pop culture gathering) doesn't require leaving the house, I was still able to get this great sketch of Batman and Robin in the Batcave from my favorite up-and-coming young artist.

His work doesn't come cheaply, though. This'll end up costing me thousands and thousands of dollars in the long run, and that's before sending him to college. At least he doesn't eat much.

Lightning strikes for the last time in October.

Oh, man was I bummed to read this in the DC October solicitations:

Art and cover by MIKE NORTON
Black Adam has become the most powerful he’s ever been. It’ll take everything Captain Marvel has if he wants to defeat him. Will the combined might of the Wizard, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior and Captain Marvel be enough to overcome Black Adam’s power? Find out in the action-packed series conclusion!
FINAL ISSUE • On sale OCTOBER 20 • 32 pg, FC $2.99 US
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since most of the series I've loved over the past few years have met their ends far too soon, but it's still extremely disappointing. The book got off to a rocky start due to Mike Kunkel's scheduling issues and some, uh, let's say uneven artwork after Kunkel left, but it has been great storywise since the beginning, and got even better once Art Baltazar and Franco came on board as writers. Then when Mike Norton joined the book as the regular artist, it really started firing on all cylinders.

I think all but the Marvel Family diehards pretty much ignored the book, thinking that it must have been strictly for kids since it was a Johnny DC title, or that it "didn't count" because it wasn't in regular continuity. And that's too bad, because not only did folks miss out on a legitimately all ages-friendly super hero book, but also one that treated the characters with a lot more respect than they were getting over in the "real" DC Universe. Of course, DC has usually had a hard time making the Marvels work ever since they brought them back, but this series was one of the rare times when they really got it right. Hell, it may have been their best attempt at a Captain Marvel book, even better than The Power of Shazam was at its zenith.

But I get it. Comics is a business, sales maybe weren't where they needed to be, or maybe they wanted to get Johnny DC out of the super hero business altogether, what with Super Friends ending last week and the Batman: The Brave and the Bold tie-in book getting the axe, too. But whatever the reason, I'm still sad to see my current favorite monthly super hero book - the only one I do still follow monthly, in fact - come to an end. But thanks to Mike Kunkel, Art Baltazar, Franco, Mike Norton, and everyone else who worked on Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam over the last few years. It was a fun ride while it lasted.

Left home for Nerd Prom again? No problem!

Not going to San Diego this week? Yeah, me neither. Again. Oh, well, looks like it's time once again for...

Yes, it's Comic-Non International, the least impressive pop culture gathering of the year. Go buy some comics. Schedule some screenings of your favorite nerd shows and movies and then talk about them. Express your love or distaste for the modern vampire franchise of your choice. Look at pictures of people dressed up as Leia in the bikini (remember: pictures don't mind if you leer). Dress up yourself, if you want. Or don't. Who's going to know? This is what you make of it, so if you want to make it the least impressive pantsless pop culture gathering of the year, hey, go for it (just don't feel the need to share that with me, okay?). Comic-Non is the con you're guaranteed to enjoy because you program it yourself, so go wild. Or not.

Pretty Sketchy: The Third Doctor by Dave Dwonch

Sketch card rendering of the third incarnation of Doctor Who, as portrayed by the late Job Pertwee, drawn for me for Comic Geek Speak Super Show 2010 by Dave Dwonch, creator of Special Education, Gnome, and the webcomic Space-Time Condominium.

Dave told me that when he was drawing this for me from the reference pics of Pertwee that I provided, he "couldn't get over how much he looks like that guy from Whitesnake." As a result, I can't look at this Doctor now without thinking of David Coverdale, and then, inevitably, Tawny Kitaen doing splits on the roof of the TARDIS.

Hey, if I can't un-see it, then neither can you.

Better Late Than Never Reviews: 7/19/10

Quick reactions to recently read, though not always recently published, comics. Maybe some spoilers, so read carefully.

Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers (assorted issues, don't ask me to remember) - Got a whole mess of Avengers comics and related stuff from Phillyradiogeek a few weeks back, and this was pretty much the first stuff I read, because I've heard good things and I did enjoy the first issue when I got to read it a while back. And while I've never been the biggest Avengers fan in the world, oh my damn these were good. I always like the team best when it's an oddball assortment of characters, and this is a very grab bag kind of line-up, which is great. Most impressively, though, Slott made me care about, and even enjoy, Hank Pym. The guy's been the bitch of the 616 for pretty much his entire career, and Slott uses that history to good effect, reinventing him as a driven, if unhinged, genius out to prove the world is wrong about him, and he doesn't care who or what he has to take down to do it. It doesn't hurt that there's more than a little Doctor Who in this characterization of Hank, either. Scientist Supreme, indeed. I'm annoyed that this had to fall by the wayside for the franchise relaunch, but oh well, it's now that much easier to grab the rest of the run.

Terra TPB - I enjoyed the character in the first Power Girl trade a little while back, so I figured I'd give her earlier solo turn a try. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's story doesn't really do anything you haven't seen before, but it's pleasant, and they certainly make the new Terra likable enough. But as to be expected, it's Amanda Conner's artwork that's the real showpiece here, once again elevating a decent story to a good one with her chops for storytelling, timing, and the best, most expressive faces in comics today.

The Pro - Followed up Terra with the latest edition of this other Amanda Conner-drawn book from several years back, though it's about as far removed storywise from Terra as you can get thanks to Garth Ennis. I've never been the biggest Ennis fan, but I liked what he did here, turning what could easily have been a one-note joke (hooker gets powers and joins the JLA) into some well-placed commentary on superhero comics and life in general. It's foul as all hell, but it's smart.

Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark
- With a title like that, I was hoping for dumb fun, but no, this was just dumb. I couldn't even be bothered to finish it. I generally enjoy the work of both Ryan Ottley and Jason Howard, too, but this just failed to deliver for me on every level.

Friday Favorites: Patsy Walker, Hellcat

I suppose Patsy Walker has always been a little unusual, character-wise. Going from wholesome, teen model, Archie Comics imitator to superheroine who at various points has been an Avenger, a Defender, wife of a guy named The Son of Satan, dead, and then not dead will do that. But I never paid much attention to her in the past because, well, Marvel obviously didn't know what to do with her, so why invest the time?

Kathryn Immonen, though, she got it. First in a three-part serial in the brief Marvel Comics Presents revival, and then in a 5 issue mini-series, she got to the heart of Patsy, weaved all of those continuity threads into something that made sense, and then imbued her with so much charm, personality, and heart that you have no choice but to love her. It's "Gidget Goes Super," if you like.

I would have loved to see more of Immonen's take on Patsy trying to make do as Alaska's one-woman superteam, but it just wasn't in the cards. Luckily, she's been handled similarly well since, by the likes of Paul Tobin in Models, Inc., Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa in Marvel Divas (horrible title, fun series), and by Immonen again in the recent Heralds. Given how dour superhero comics have tended to be in the last several years, it's refreshing to read about a hero who faces her obstacles with a smile, a wink, and a smart, snarky put-down or two. Hell, not just refreshing, downright endearing.

Inevitable Green Lantern Image Reaction Post

I'm not one of those people who gets all bent out of shape when they change a superhero's costume for a movie, I understand that what works on a comic book page doesn't always work on screen. This, though... I don't like this. Hard to tell from a partial picture and all, and maybe it'll look better on the big screen and, inevitably, in 3D, but yeah, I'm not a fan. And if you're one of those people who got all bent out of shape about Wonder Woman's jacket last week and you like this, well, I worry a little. Everything okay there? You maybe need a nap, maybe some cookies? It'll be okay.

So long, Harvey.

Harvey Pekar died. I'm admittedly under read when it comes to Harvey Pekar's comics. I've read a few American Splendor stories, but most of what I know about Harvey comes from the excellent American Splendor film from a few years back, as well as documentaries like Comic Book Confidential. I kept meaning to get around to more, but, well, you know how that goes. I always appreciated what I have seen of his talent, though, especially his ability to interestingly capture the mundane. In his own words, "ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." Few people could prove that the way he did.

Pretty Sketchy: Ms. Marvel by Erica Hesse

Ms. Marvel as rendered for me in sketch card form by Erica Hesse for Comic Geek Speak Super Show 2010. Erica does a lot of illustration and pin-up work, as well as her comic book The Key. Check out her site here for more info.

And now a word from a toy based on the likeness of the original patriotic superhero on this, America's birthday.

Hi, I'm The Shield, an action figure from the 1984 Mighty Crusaders toy line from Remco, based on the Archie Comics superhero group of the same name.

Yeah, I know, I'm pretty shoddily made, and a weird amalgam of the worst action features of both the contemporaneous Super Powers and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars lines. But, you know... Remco. What are you gonna do, right? I mean, that shield there, it's a whistle. Seriously. So, you know, if you're bringing me to a soccer game or some masher tries to put his grubby mitts on ya, I guess that'll come in handy. But, come on, I don't need to carry a shield, I am the Shield. Bulletproof costume and everything!

(Or was that my dad? Wait, which Shield am I, anyway? There were like 3 or 4 of me even back before DC got involved. Well, I'm clearly not the Lancelot Strong version. Because it's not like I would've liked to have been created by Simon and Kirby or anything. No, really, it's alright. I didn't need to be even at least kind of a little bit awesome. I'm fine. Honestly. Life. Don't talk to me about life.)

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, right, am the Shield, don't need a shield. Unlike some flag-wearing also-rans I COULD MENTION. I came first, dammit! ME! That guy with the funny wings on his head, he gets all the press and the credit and the TV movies where he wears a helmet and rides a motorcycle on a wall and fights Christopher Lee and travels cross-country in a sweet 70s conversion van, sure, but I came first. Me, baby. Me.

Assuming I'm my dad, anyway. It's really confusing. Have you ever actually read any of those Mighty Crusaders comics? There's like two of us running around at one point, both father and son, and there's all this faux-Stan Lee narration, and it's got a certain kitschy charm, I guess, but honestly, in comparison? This toy line ain't that bad.

Anyway, the point of all this - and there actually is a point to this, I swear - is to come out here and wish everyone a Safe and Happy Fourth of July. Don't blow yourself up with fireworks. You're probably not invulnerable like me.

Again, assuming that I am.

Wow, do I suck at this.