Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where have we been?

Crikey, two months can pass pretty quickly these days.

I'm trying to figure out the future direction of this site, in the last few months it started to feel a bit arbitrary. I know what I don't want the site to be. I don't want the site to be a comic-book news site, I don't want it to become a review site, I don't want it to be solely a soap-box site and I don't want it to become a glorified advert for stuff I sell in store.
There are hundreds of comic blogs out there which are called blogs, but could just as easily be entrys on a comic forum.

So, while I ponder the future of www.acrossthecounter.co.uk, I leave you with a comic strip of Scott Pilgrim that you probably wouldn't have found otherwise.


(Click to enlarge obviously, if any one of you leaves a comment saying it was too small to read, then may Matt Fraction turn up at your house and rewrite all the dialogue in your favourite comics in his recently acquired - yet already tired - faux-Ellis style)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Return to Oz

Most of this weeks comic reading time has been spent re-reading Preacher. This has always been one of my all time favourite titles, and re-reading it has been an excellent experience as I have noticed so many new things about it. I have changed so much as a person since the last time I read it, it almost reads like a different book in places. Whether it's reading the Bill Hicks tribute which was completely lost on me the first time round, or learning how to read "arse-speak" so I can tell what Arseface is singing (Wonderwall by Oasis incidentally, then later Breakfast at Tiffanys), the book has kept me just as interested - if not even more so - than when I was reading it in monthlies all 5-6 years ago.

So I figured, if I've had this much fun revisiting an old favourite, why not do it with more. Here's how my list is looking.

Grant Morrisons New X-Men - to call it anything less wouldn't do it justice. I wasn't a fan of this when it was coming out, but I have a feeling I am really going to like it second time through as I am less bothered about "what X-Men should be" and more interested in reading a good story.

Transmetroplitan - Because I have only read it the once, shockingly.

Sandman - The new Absolute edition is just around the corner and re-coloured. I don't think I ever finished this series first run through so they'll be some new stuff for me too.

Ennis' Hellblazer - The definitive Contantine to my mind, and Ennis at his absolute finest. Even better than Preacher, but not as accessable to the new reader.

Y The Last Man - only five issues left. When I have the entire run, time to do it all.

Fables - About time I returned to Fables Town, probably the first four Tpbs or so.

Dark Knight Returns - See if I have warmed to it yet, I've never been overly impressed with this groundbreaking series.

Batman No Mans Land - The Tpb exorcised the gumph from this epic series, boiling it down to the essential storylines.

Bendis' Daredevil - Because it was just so, so good.

We3 - Stupid amounts of fun.

So there we have it, what about you people - what have you been meaning to go back to and re-read?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Norwich, my current home of comics

Sorry about this coming up later in the week, no one told me how much actual work there is to do at University

Now I’m in Norwich, actually a lot of you probably don’t know who I am, I mean Sid’s the guy you see most days, I was the dirty brown haired teenager you might have seen hanging around.
So now I’m studying Film and English and I’ve left Comic Connections behind (you better be keeping up with my pull list Sid), and I thought that would generally mean the majority of my comic access would be left behind.

Except that’s by far not the case it seems.

Firstly my Campus has a Waterstones, and this shop is filled with a fairly decent variety of trades, from Marvel Zombies to Sandman to Maus to the Acme Novelty Library and a sprinkling of Manga.

Secondly the actual Library of Norwich has a fairly decent variety of trades available.

Thirdly, and while this isn’t actual comics, one of my film lecturers and seminar readers is a big comic/anime fan. I was talking to her when I saw in her office, not only is her room decorated in Studio Ghibli posters, but also Spider man, Paul Dini’s animated Batman, and a big Michael Turner, she even said “He can’t draw feet”. She wrote her Docerterate-? On Princess Mononko.

So from that you could easily come out thinking that Norwich is a fairly decent town to keep up my comic love, and yeah, in those aspects it is I guess, but then this place also has a Local Comic Shop

I really need to get you pictures of this place so you can see what I mean about this place.
I mean there must be like a list of rules a comic shop should abide by
For example
1. The guy working there shouldn’t have that body smell lingering around his counter
2. Make it as bright and accessible as you can
3. Make it inviting, make the issues easy to get at
4. If your going to have back issues, keep your boxes clean and your sections well labelled
5. The guy behind the counter should be friendly, even if it’s just as going as far to say hey when you come in, then if you look a bit lost or out of your depth they should offer some conversation and help.
Ect
Thankfully this shop didn’t break all of these conventions but it didn’t go far.

Abstract Sprocket

Ok so until I can manage to get a few pictures let me set the scene for you, this place is on street level, it’s bright outside, I walk in and the room in essentially a rectangle, but hey it’s not the size of your shop, its what you do with it right?

So the store is set out like a rectangle, you know, with stuff running along side the wall, and an island in the middle, one side had monthly comics on racks along with more recent trades on the wall along with a fairly decent setup on clear plastic shelving for the stores manga. The back wall then had a selection of trades, but then you look down towards the floor, yeah that’s it, ragged brown boxes holding old issues of independent magazines and over sized comics like 2000AD. Then lining the third wall we have the back issues, a fairly decent size, with pegged back issues hanging along the wall, and guess what? That includes one of every issue of 52 so far, sure it looked nice, but isn’t there a better way to use your space, I mean really. And the back issue boxes themselves were a bit damaged, the section dividers must have been written a while back because the black pen was fading. Plus when you run out of issue in the section, why keep a blank section there?
Oh and that island in the middle of the shop? A good portion of it was made with stacked long boxes, classy.

So I glanced around a bit, the selection wasn’t that bad, a nice spread of trades and graphic novels, but by no means the same as CC, but then that’s not the shops fault, I mean if they don’t get enough customers to sell that many there’s no reason to carry that many right? SO I give up looking at some of the trades and back issues and move along to the monthlies just to see what sort of variety they had, I mean I’m not going to buy them, mine are hopefully sat in a pull box under the counter. But guess what, while there is a fairly decent array of comics, they’re all bagged up. That’s really inviting to outside readers that. I mean this shop is shaped like a rectangle for gods sake, you can see everything from the counter (or at least you should) but here’s the big problem with the shop.

The counter, and for a number of reasons too.
First of all, you only have one natural source of light in your shop, what do you do? Well apparently you build your counter in front of it. Not only that put it’s a pretty high counter, Its coming in at chest height, that alone isn’t a bad think really, I mean CC has a high counter, but if someone’s sat behind it they’re sat on a stool, not for this comic shop, as I look around the guy is sat on a chair typing on a computer, he sure as hell can’t see me very well from there.
So I buy a copy of Wizard, yes toilet reading I know, but at least it’s some form of comic stuff to read as I have lunch.

Kulture Shock

As I walk up the street to see where I can get lunch I spot another shop, this time with a just as ‘wacky’ title, Kulture Shock. Now while the place doesn’t deal in monthlies, it does sell a lot of trades, manga, anime and books. And you know what? It’s a fantastic set up for the shop, the whole place has giant windows along one side, and the counter is by no means in the way. There is a clean feel with a nice clean wooden floor, spin racks and universal shelves. Hell I looked in the Neil Gaiman section, not only was there a selection of his comics, but his CD’s too, not just the latest music one, but recordings of his readings. The staff was friendly and chatty and best of all the shop had plenty of space to walk around in.

Borders

And guess what I found today, a very nice book shop, goes by the name of Borders, not only do they have a whole shelving row dedicated to graphic novels, about 2 thirds of the variety of what’s in Comic Connections (A lot less Vertigo complete series runs), they also had spin racks full of the latest monthlies, and while they were bagged and boarded, the top hadn’t been taped down and the guy working there said it was fine to take them out and give them a bit of a read. They had some great variety, they stocked a lot of manga, but then everything from Pyongyang to Runaways digests, to Scott Pilgrim, to Judge Dredd.
Now this is the sort of shop setup that you really hope can attract some readers. Plus as a student, today I got 20% off, I could have bought more, but there are plenty of monthlies I’ll need to pick up when I come back to Banbury for a little bit.
So I walked out with a book of 500 Comic Book Villains and the pocket essential guide to Alan Moore, along with a ton of English literature books.

My conclusion has been drawn I guess, Norwich is certainly not a comic dead end, just stay away from the local comic shop, trust me, just head down to boarders, it’s cheaper, brighter, more accessible, the people working there are a lot more attractive and its a lot more inviting. And most importantly, you can buy your monthlies on the Thursday, just like anywhere else.

I guess I should have been fighting for the little guy, but the little guy dug himself into a hole, the chain store really is the better option.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why V would never work.

Because if you have 163 other channels of sitcom static or sports, who's going to notice the truth being said.



If it is the truth. That's for you to decide, don't spam my blog with pro-Bush or anti-Bush sentiment.
I am merely using life as a metaphor for comic books, no-one should do the opposite (besides, comics are for kids).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The WSU.

Do you remember the rebirth of the Wildstorm Universe?

Although nearly everyone missed it when it started, people soon began to take notice of The Authority and Planetary by the (then) still fairly obscure, yet industry-wide respected Warren Ellis (because as a Time survey revealed this week, who you drink with is more likely to advance your career than anything else).
Although neither book hit the crazed inflated sales heights of title's like WildCATs and Gen 13 from the original Wildstorm / Image launch, both books grabbed a load of attention, kicking Ellis' career off to even greater heights, re-establishing Bryan Hitch as an A-list creator and putting John Cassady, Mark Millar and Frank Quietly on the map. So much so that I really don't need to tell you what they've work on since you probably know.
Both book's have re-established the super-hero industry. Some people will disagree with this; but they did. Authority caught everyone's attention, and as Millar says during his bow-out: "even the people who didn't like what we were doing followed suit".
All good things must come to an end. Due to some poor executive decisions, Authority eventually faded away into poor sales and obscurity, although along the way it spawned the succesfull albeit hollow "Kev" spin-off series (how this one-joke, piss-take turned out to be the best thing about the Authority over the last years is anyone's guess).
Planetary of course is still going on, produced by on semi-irregular schedule by it's original creator's, and as we speak is rapidly heading towards it's conclusion. In many ways the title is a victim of it's own success, as both creators became such important players in the industry that they weren't able to produce the book on a regular basis, which in turns has affected sales. Thankfully the integrity of the book has never suffered, and I am sure will be considered one of the classic Tpb collections in the years to come, alongside Preacher and Transmet.

Over the years I have been a massive fan of Wildstorm. Gen 13 was the first non-Star Wars comic I put on my pull list, and both Authority and Planetary pulled my attention back away from the big two, during a period where I was pretty much only reading Marvel and DC it was a breath of fresh air. So it's nice to see the big Worldstorm launch treating the properties the way they should be respected, with some heavy A-list creators coming on board.

The initial line up consists of several titles, these are the ones I've found most interesting.

WildCATS
Jim Lee makes his triumphant return to Wildcats, and he's bringing along an impressive new collaborator: superstar writer Grant Morrison! The man who redefined the JLA and Superman — and created groundbreaking works The Invisibles and WE3 — now brings his considerable talents to the Wildcats.

Authority

The WorldStorm rollout continues with the return of the most dangerous super-group on the planet! Grant Morrison, the universally acclaimed writer of All Star Superman, Seven Soldiers and Wildcats brings his talents to the new bimonthly series THE AUTHORITY, featuring art by Eisner Award-winner Gene Ha (TOP 10)!

Midnighter

Garth Ennis presents The Midnighter, returning from a mission in war-torn Afghanistan, is accosted as he enters the Carrier. Something is terribly wrong; these unseen assailants take him down too easily and then drag him though the teleportation door to an unknown location. After regaining consciousness he is given a cryptic choice: either kill a mass murderer or die! Art by Chris Sprouse.

Not to mention Gen 13, Stormwatch and Deathblow, which all hold varying degree's of interest and at least one selling point each.

So all in all, excellent talent and three books to definitely check out. It looks like someone has really taken the time to make sure this Worldstorm relaunch event is going to be big business, and something that will catch the attention of the entire industry.

With the financial backing and support of DC and Warner Bros, what could go wrong? All they need is a killer title to launch the series, something to hit the ground running and build momentum for the entire line, show people that thing's are going to be done properly this time around, and look at the killer titles above, any of the top 3 could launch this universe and show people what to expect.

Instead, the line was launched this week, with the following:

Wetworks
Fan-favorite artist Whilce Portacio's legendary special forces team returns in classic fashion, aided and abetted by acclaimed writer Mike Carey (HELLBLAZER, LUCIFER)!

This is not a bash on Mike Carey (although I have never been the biggest fan of his work, I know a lot of people are). Just because I don't like a guy, doesn't mean no-one else should.
I've never been a big fan of Whilce Portacio, I remember him doing weird thing's with peoples necks (in his art, not like, in the street), and something about him going mental. He also did fill in's on some of the Heroes Reborn stuff which left me less than enamored. Still, he was one of the early Wildstorm guys, so it's only right that he should be here.
I've never read Wetworks before. Until now:

Reading this was the comic book equivalent of a shrug.
I'm not going to just do a review because there are a million sites and blogs out there who do reviews and I like to think this site is a little more than that. The writing and art were solid enough and the story made sense to a complete novice like me - without having a forced patronising run down of all the characters and their powers - yet was still not enough to warrant be caring enough to pick up issue 2.
To summarise, the comic is alright. You know what though? Marvel Team-Up was alright. Robin is alright. Birds of Prey is alright. The first issue of an entire Universe reboot needs to be a little more than alright.

And thus my point still stands: Why this book? Out of the titles available they decide to start with this? Personally, I would have started the launch with a bang with WildCATs - you can't really get a bigger selling point than those two creators, and from that people might have decided to check out the rest of the line, which is exactly what books like this and Stormwatch need if they are going to break the 30k mark.
I can't see anyone picking this up and thinking "I must get the entire line", I guess most will flick through it at the comic shop and just decide to wait 'till WildCATs.

Anyone have any ideas why this came first?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Frank Miller's 300 Trailer

300 Trailer
Edit- Original trailer deleted due to action by Warner Bros, new host. I wonder who let this slip out?


I need to get around to reading this before it comes out, but from the looks of it, this is going to be fantastic. It's been shot again with the 'digital backlot' technique, same as Sin City.

It's a film that is giving life to a fantastic mythology based on History.

Bring on the Spartans

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"There were other casualties too"

Got to make this quick today, otherwise none of you lot get any comics in November.
Yeah, it's paperwork day.

Morrison on Batman

Sorry Ryan, looks like he is off fairly soon, the Previews for December show Ostranger on the book for at least 4 issues.

Lost Girls
16 chapters out of 30 done and dusted, I only picked this book up yesterday and only meant to flick through it last night, but before I knew what was happening I was engrossed, and not just because there were tits on the page.
I've been really looking forward to this book, it became apparent to me a few weeks ago that the 10 copies we ordered for the store were not going to ship to us. so I paid ACTUAL cash - full price too - out of my pocket. Haven't done that for a while I can tell you.
Glad I did though, as we are already on a third printing of this book with no sign of a UK release, it's always good to have first printings if possible.
So far, it's been an excellent read, albeit one that I won't be able to share with many of my housemates or my friends because 1) it's just porn and 2) there are male gay bit's in it, shock horror (funny how most guy's I know don't consider two women going down on each other to be gay)!
Lot's of things have already been written about this book by people much more eloquent than I, but I would like to comment on the format of the book as it is so interesting, and controls the pace of the story nicely. 30 chapters comprising of 8 pages each, broken down into 10 chapters per hardcover, all collected into one nice big slipcase. A very interesting format which must have been at times bitterly constraining, however it has oft been said that writing within self-imposed boundaries sometimes leads imaginative and freeing writing.
Just a great read.

Pride of Baghdad

Another book I would have quite happily paid full price for (the perks of working for a comic shop mean I didn't have to, but it also means my take home wage is shite, rough with the smooth and all that).
This is definately a book I am going to lend out time and time again, until it comes back to me broken and battered, but loved by all.
I must get this out of the way, when I first started reading I was feeling large levels of parralels to The Lion King, and not just because there are Lions in it either. The cub in the story is drawn so much like Simba on the first few pages it's untrue, and then in a flashback to the jungle we see a character who has remarkable similarities to Scar, down to the fact you could almost hear Jeremy Irons.
However, these fears are unfounded, as all the characters find their own voices before the book is done to become much more whole, complex characters than the two-dimensional morality pawns that Disney created.

Dead Rising
I know, not a comic.
But you know what, this is my site and I have to piss and moan and vent somewhere, today: this is my soapbox.
For a while I couldn't make up my mind whether this was a great game with really shit bits, or a shit game with really shit bits.
After struggling through the entire game, AND overtime mode to get the true ending (shit cut scene where the main character seemingly give's up, followed by white text on a black screen saying "actually, he did get out") I have come to the following conclusion:
This is a shit game with some really shit bits.
Don't get me wrong, there are some great moments, but they are few and far between and you have to face an increasingly more frustrating save system and annoying as fuck boss battles.
The first thing you need to realsie, the threatening army of the un-dead drop like flies. You can dispatch a zombie with a quick smack round the head by a 2" by 4", or a couple of stabs with a knife, one slice of the katana ar by running them over with a trolley.
Any human you encounter in the game though, can survive multiple bullet head shots, a couple of chainsaw slices and several stab wounds before dropping. And I thought zombies were supposed to be the threat.
Case in point: The SWAT team, I shot one in the head 12 times with a sniper rifle befor he dropped. 12. That's amazing. It actually takes less punchs to kill one. In fact, the big end of game boss you have no weapons for and have to dispatch with jumping kicks, which is probably a blessing in disguise, had I had, weapons I know doubt would have shot him oop-side the head 15 times without causing any damage and not known why.

There are some good points to the game, but remember I am telling you these now to ease the blow of the save system which I will recount for you in a paragraph or so's time.

The sheer scale of the game is amazing, I have seen upwards of 150 zombies on screen at the same time. The game has pushed towards 200 zombies at times and I have noticed a bit of slowdown which is discouraging for a next-generation console, but fuck it - the 360 is out now and the PS3 seems to be a fable doomed never to come into fruition.
The other thing to love about the game is "moments", every person playing this game will have a different experience, or will take a certain boss down a different way, or will have a story about saving one of the 64 survivors which is unique. GTA3 was a game built around peoples "moments", it's these non-linear differential's that make the game worth talking about in public.
A great moment for me was when I was fighting Cletus, the psychopath holding the fort at the gun store. As you can imagine, the gunstore is quite a strategic place to have access to, so disopatching Cletus is well worth doing. It took me about 8-9 attempts to kill him; learning his attack pattern, the best way to wear him down, how many times to shoot him etc...etc...
It was becoming quite annoying, and after using 30 sniper bullets I had the guy down to his last bit of energy, coincidentally I was also down to my last piece of energy thanks to his uncanny ability to make his bullets bend around solid objects. Realising I was out of bullets, I picked up the store display I had been hiding behind, ran at Cletus and swung wildly (I may have screamed at the tele too) as a last ditch attempt to kill the fucker. It worked, and saved my cordless pad from flying through the TV in frustration.

Incidentally, the wireless pad is an odd piece of kit. I kind of prefer a wire, and have quite a few times moved the pad in such a way as to free the wire which isn't there from a trapping that didn't hold it.

The game is silly fun, and most things you can use to kill a zombie, golf balls, skateboards, coat hangers, The Golden Axe (good enough for Death-Adder, good enough for you) and footballs. the first time you drive a car through a thpusand odd zombies is gauranteed to make you smile.
If you make it that far.

The main quest is determined by being in certain places at certain times, but thanks to the incredibly simple minded and non-play tested save feature, this can become a chore. It is wholly possible to save your game mid-mission, finish the mission and then be told that you have failed the next mission (it doesn't tell you why, but it's because you weren't in the right palce to activate it at the right time, cheer's Capcom). When this happens, the only option is to start again from the beginning, I know this, because it happened to me.
You only have one save file through the entire game, no staggered saves, no mission selction when you have completed the game, and the saves come few and far between. The amount of times I scraped through a boss battle only to be finished off by a simple, lone zombie.
The simply addition of save's post mission / boss, or even a second save file would have made all the difference in this game.

If you love Zombies and you own a 360, then go for it. If you are thinking or buying a 360 just for this game like I did. Don't.
Hell, at least I am ready for Halo 3.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pull Spring Clean – (Or at least that’s what I set out to do)

So a few weeks ago Sid wrote about how many comics he had, that his crisis was about the amount of issues his house holds. Well I don’t have that many issues; I own two long boxes and one short. One long box is filled with main Marvel and DC titles, whilst the second is filled with cheap, damaged or free issues I’ve picked up. Theshort box is filled with more independent stuff, from the more mainstream Vertigo to Matt Boyce’s latest mini comic. I don’t have a crisis about what to do with the issues I buy; my latest problem was what to keep on my pull list. It’s not down to space or not loving comics any more, it’s down to the simplest factor of comic buying, money.

I’m off to University next week, everything’s slowly getting packed, and everything’s nearly sorted. I’m going to be away a bit over a month at a time; I’ve got to be back every 5-6 weeks or so to see the dentist and importantly to pick up my comics. I could change my shop to one up there, but what’s the point in that? I’ve got great service at Comic Connections, Sid knows my pull list inside out, and I like the shop. What I have done over the past few weeks or so is look over my pull list and see what I’m reading, what can be cut and what I’m reading that I’ve not got around to adding to my pull.

I’ve bought a lot of different comics since I started reading, I started off on videogame and Darkness comics thanks to a friend, then I went through a very much exclusive Superhero phase, where I read and caught up with quite a bit of classic Batman and X-Men, then I hit my ‘I’m so cool and indie phase’ – and if I could I would have a bit of a word with that 15 year old me and tell him to get a grip, I mean I read stuff like factor paradox, have you even heard of that? It wasn’t even any good.
Then I kind of regained myself and I now exist as the reader that followed, my indie taste spread to stuff that was a bit more mainstream and actually good, whilst I kept on reading the superhero titles I liked. That’s the way it should be, read a bit of everything, and don’t confine yourself to a box. So anyway what I was trying to say was that the comics I read have changed a lot over 4 years, that the titles I read now have been reached through a period of deliberation, which has resulted in one final conclusion.

I haven’t got anything I want to cut.

My pull is quite concise really, in comparison to a lot of other readers I’ve seen pick up their books in store. The only removal change to stuff on my pull is dependent on the creative team such as the All Star books, but even then these books are taking that long to come out, it will be a good year or more before they will even come off by the current plans (Actually while I think about it, I have two more to add too my list when I come in next as well).
The changes to my pull were additions, I know, I’m going to be a skint student, but these books are some of the ones I’m enjoying most, some are ‘dirt’ cheap, Fell and Casanova, and some are just a mini series like The Escapist. So I thought I might just do a brief run down of what I’ve now got on my pull and why. Whilst this list hasn’t been reached through a barrage of chops and changes, it’s been reached by subtle changes, additions and the odd removal every now and then over the course of the last year by me, I guess these are the back bone of my comics, the ones I can’t wait for trade on, that I want to read monthly.

DC

52
It really is the must buy DC title for me at the moment, I’ve only been reading comics for a few years now, and as much as I can power through and enjoy a lot of finite stuff, the full scope of the on goings that are the DC and Marvel main Universes have always remained a bit of a mystery to me, I mean there is only so much I can buy and read, but this has introduced me to so many characters. I have to come out and say that I wouldn’t buy an ongoing solos from the main characters after this, the big reason I’m buying this is because it’s giving me a much needed overview of the DCU. As a weekly comic it’s also a very different monster to that of a monthly, making it a bit of a must read just for its difference to the majority of everything else coming out

Batman
Over my time reading I’ve picked up and dropped Batman time and time again, I loved Hush, hated the following arc from Azzarello. I bought some of Winick’s, but then avoided it every time it was just a tie in to the crisis, (which I did enjoy, just that the seemingly random issue tie ins always seemed a bit pointless). Now it has the writer to keep me on board, Grant Morrison, I loved his New X-Men (even if Marvel has seemingly erased all of it from continuity by now), I love the Invisibles and I’m really enjoying the bits of his Doom Patrol and Animal Man I’m picking up. He’s left so many hints of what he’s going to touch on I can’t miss it, and just like all the best creator runs, he isn’t on for just a couple of issues, from the way he’s talked in interviews he seems to want to stay on this for a couple of years (at least)

Detective Comics

Never read it before Dini, now I’m loving it. Done in ones that are really exploring the detective side of Batman, what more is there to say? It’s the other side of the spectrum to the ongoing side of the Batman comic; they balance each other out perfectly. Plus I personally think each of the issues so far have clearly shown how to write done in one superhero comics in the modern state of comics.

Teen Titans
The best book that Geoff Johns is writing in my opinion, it’s been a consistently great look at the teen characters of DC since it rebooted a couple of years back. Now we’ve got a new team with lots of characters to explore in the up coming arc, so again it’s something I’m really enjoying and finding out about lots of characters. It was from a couple of recent issues that I got interested in the Doom Patrol.

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
In all likelihood I won’t get a new issue of this while I’m away for the first term, the book is that poorly on a schedule. But this is a beautiful car wreck, you can’t not want to read it, you just want to see what happens next. Plus I love Jim Lee on Batman

All Star Superman
The best Superman I’ve ever read, put Morrison on a book and you pique my interest. Issues that stand alone but tie into a whole, a great format for the book. Plus the art holds so many little clues for those paying attention.

Vertigo

Fables
If I was only buying a comic a month, I think this would be it. I came into this late, but picked up and read everything I could as fast as I could once I read my first issue (37 I think). I’m was a fable fan before this, sitting down and trying to figure out who all the characters are and rereading their fables adds so many layers to this. You can really tell Bill loves this book.

Jack of Fables
Fables got a spin off, now usually this could be seen as a cash in step, and I guess to a certain extent it is, but it has a different feel and largely different fables, plus it’s following one of the most charismatic characters. So far it’s felt like early Fables, an experiment within genre, whilst Fables had the mystery, the revolution and heist, this is the prison break.
(Are me and Sid the only one’s reading this monthly? Well did anyone else catch the St. Ives reference, or the Humpty Dumpy change showing the power of Mr. Revise through just two words last issue?

Exterminators
I’ve reviewed it, I can’t stop singing its praises, and it’s got a Preacher esc feel. Why aren’t you reading it? In the last monthly the grand scheme of things were somewhat laid out, perhaps a little prematurely, but the road it looks to be heading looks to be a fantastic journey. I hate the bugs, I love the characters, it stays like this and I’m with it to the end.

American Virgin

Not actually mine, but Jess’s, but it’s on my pull for her. If she wasn’t buying it I would. I’m not sure where this will head in the future, but it’s not about the story really, it’s about an idea and the characters. And these characters are getting more and more fleshed out with each issue

Marvel

Astonishing X-Men

I love the X-Men, but this is pretty much their only monthly that I’ve been enjoying. Whedon has made this his own. I personally feel to much has happened in the X-Men comics to claim it happened in just 10 years, but this has a strange feel to it, its in continuity but not, and as a third X-Men title its really over kill, but it’s the title that is tackling the core team, the only one I want to read.

Ultimate X-Men
Another of Jess’s, the best think about this book is not the art, nor the current writer (though Kirkman has got better) but that even though the comics are written within ‘arcs’ the stories have existed as more like the old Claremont era, lots of story threads created, left for a bit and then picked up. Making it fun and rewarding to read in issues rather than a block in a collected trade each 6 months or so.

Civil War
I’m not big and buying in all the tie ins, but I’m reading it to keep up to date with the Marvel universe, it even goes in a section in my long box as ‘Main Marvel’, along with stuff like House of M. I like it for its concept, though I wish they would have scheduled it once they had a bit more lead in time

Image

Fell

The best Ellis book of the moment and it’s started the ‘Fell format’. I love my done in ones or stand alones, but unlike others this is very much the stand alone, we’re what 6 issues in and we still know about the same as we did in the first about the characters. But that’s not the thing with fell, the stories are fantastically well written, and while it’s not as regular as I would like, it’s a fantastic book.

Casanova
The second book to use the ‘Fell format’, differently to a lot of people I actually prefer this to Fell. Whilst the end deconstruction and commentary on the book isn’t as good at times, I feel it’s done more with the format, each issue is stand alone, but they all advance the story, and yet you can pick up any issue and start there, thanks to a great introduction catch-up on the inside page. I love my parallel universe and spy stuff, this is a great book, you can read it again and again and each time you get and understand the story more.

Dark Horse

The Escapist
A comic about a group publishing a comic of an old superhero, and they are raising interest in it by getting one of them to dress up as the Escapist and foil some basic crimes. I think this is some of BKV’s best work, well along with Y the last man, and maybe Pride of Baghdad (it kills me that I don’t have the money to read it, hopefully I can find a good paying part time job at uni). I love when we see the comic they are creating within it, especially in the latest issue where the speech of the characters was that of the group talking and inking it, yet it fits wonderfully with the art

Oni Press

Local
Brian Wood, last issue was perhaps better than the best of DEMO, everyone should be reading this. It’s about the character Megan McKeenan, each issue we find her a year later in her life, some times she’s the main character, other times she’ll be in it for a page or less, we are following her grow up and face being an adult. At the issue 6 mark it looks like she has taken her biggest turn ‘This is the last time’. I love Ryan Kelly’s art on the book, just as fitting as Becky Cloonan on DEMO.

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So I guess that’s about it, I guess it does good to have a look at your pull every now and then, give it a spring clean. I mean what’s the point in buying something if you’re not enjoying it? And why forget to add that title that you’re really enjoying?
So unless any thing major happens with these titles, this is pretty much everything I plan on reading, though I’m sure a lot more will come up in the mean time.

Contact with comic creators

So I'm nearly done with my actual post I'm working on at the moment, but I woke up this morning to find a nice pm in my newsarama inbox.

thanks for the support

I lurk the forums here, posting once in a blue moon. I've noticed you frequently talking up The Exterminators, and i just wanted to let you know that i seriously appreciate the support. We're having a blast making this book, so i'm glad that you find it so enjoyable.

thanks, again.
-T
__________________
Tony Moore Illustration:
Don't let the smooth taste fool you.

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And before you say it, that is Tony, it came from the user name he writes under and occasionally posts under in the forums. One of the greatest things about comics on the Internet it the connecting you can actually have with creators, I've argued with Brian Wood about him not strictly being an indie creator any more, Warren Ellis has told me he wishes I develop arse cancer and die, and Rich Johnson has read the blog, or a post at least.

But this was the first time I just got a message out of the blue, just a nice thing. Doesn't require much from the creator, but it shows the appreciation they have for their fans.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Free Comics

Kinda.

Three Vertigo debut issues - DMZ #1, LOVELESS #1 and AMERICAN VIRGIN #1 - are available now as free downloads from here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Random Comic News and Reviews

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (shamelessly yoinked from Lying in the Gutters, blatantly):
"I am GLAD this asshole is dead. Sorry for his wife and kids, but relieved they are in no further danger from his lunacy!" - John Byrne on the death of Steve Irwin.

How would Bryne like it if I said I wish he'd die so he'd stop making crappy comics? Well there you go, I just said it. No more Blood of the Demon or Atom, and my X-Men / F4 collection might increase in value. I can't see a downside (other than wishing someone was dead). Can anyone?

Anyway, comic goodness.

Thor - confirmed series written by JMS. Obviously I am going to think this is a good thing as I am a JMS whore? Thoughts, people? Artist is yet to be announced, expect to see a return of Don blake and the rebuilding of Asgard after the events of Thor Dissassembled.

Supermarket - Excellent read, Brian Wood does good yet again. For those of you who skipped on Couriers and Cous-cous Express, this is what you were waiting for. More defined and with a stronger protagonist, not to mention a healthy dose of Wood social commentary. Check this out when the Tpb arrives.

Nightwing - Thank christ that was the last issue by Bruce Jones. I know DC originally planned to kill Nightwing during Infinite Crisis, maybe that would have been a mercy killing compared to what we've had instead. Hopefully Marv Wolfman coming onto the book will help lift the character back to where he should be.


Exterminators - Just to reiterate on a review Ryan wrote a month or so back. Exterminators is a fantastic comic, and all fan's of good quality comics (especially Vertigo) should consider this a must have, this means all you Preacher fans.

Grounded - After having heard a few good things about this Image series, I decided to check out the Tpb. Although it wasn't bad I got half way through, and haven't had the drive to pick it up and finish it. The story consists of a kid, whose parents are massive superheroes, being sent of to a school for superheroes in training, but he is the only kid at the school who has no powers.
I'm sure I saw this when it was a Disney flick?!?

Damon Lindeloff / Ult. Wolverine Hulk - Had a lot of people ask about this one lately. No, you haven't missed issue #3, it still hasn't shipped.
However, Marvel and Damon released a press release today explaining and apologising for the delay, but it came with the threat "THE FOLLOWING LETTER IS FOR RETAILERS! ONLY IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE POSTED ON THE INTERNET. Anyone found doing so will be removed from receiving the Marvel Mailer."
Thanks a lot guys, you give us an explanation but we're not allowed to pass it on to the fans, the people who actually make both us and you money.
(The Marvel Mailer is a newsletter where we find out about schedule changes and ordering information for rush release variants and second prints - obviously being excluded from that would not only fuck us over, it would mean you guys miss stuff too).
To summarise, there is no real reason for the book being late other than the writer hasn't done his job yet. Which isn't a massive shock when you think about the track record of people who predominantly work outside the comic industry.
Although he does manage to compare his miniseries to Watchmen. Hmm.

I Might Stick with Runaways a Bit Longer.

Might. Might?

Joss Whedon??? - Thank you very much Marvel.

Should be a new number 1 really, but as long as it doesn't take six months between issues as happened with Fray and Astonishing X-Men I will be a happy man, we all know Whedon can work to a tight schedule after his work on Roseanne, Buffy and Angel, so let's hope this monthly series remains a monthly series.

I'd better reorder the digests so all the Serenity crowd can get up to date.

Art by Michael Ryan, presumably not the UK-based mass murderer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Big Runaways creative shake up

We’ve had characters die, sexual preferences revealed and above all a second series when a lot of people were afraid it had finished for good. But now it’s hit its biggest shake up yet. The creator and writer is leaving
along with it's artist
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After working together on the series for more than four years, Adrian Alphona and I will be leaving Runaways with Issue #24.

And no, this is absolutely not because of creative differences. I love editor Nick Lowe like a kid brother, and Joe Quesada and everyone at Marvel have obviously been nothing short of insanely supportive of our little book since the first page of the first issue.

This was entirely my idea. While Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina have planned endings, I've always said that I hoped Runaways would last forever, long after I left the series. I never wanted Runaways to become a vanity book that was dependent on its original creators' involvement; I wanted our kids to be able to eventually run away from us, and find new life apart from their "parents."

I can say with a great deal of confidence that these next five issues are the pinnacle of the series, and Adrian and I decided that the best thing for the Runaways would be to hand them off to new creators on this high note, rather than risk overstaying our welcome until we ran ourselves--and the book--into the ground.

I love these characters more than you can possibly imagine, and I swear I wouldn't abandon them unless I knew for a fact that they were going to end up with the very best creative team possible. Marvel will be announcing that new team in about a week, and to say that you guys will be thrilled is probably an understatement.

As for Adrian and me, we've already started talking about possible new projects to work on together. I'd really like to take time to give birth to a few more creator-owned books, and I hope you Runners will follow us wherever we end up next.

No one thought Runaways would last six months, but after nearly forty issues and a few Eisner nominations, our sales are still going up (especially with the digest collections in bookstores), making our series one of the most successful comics starring all-new characters to be launched by any major company in recent memory. I'm extremely proud of the entire Runaways team, some of whom will definitely be sticking with our kids, and I'm so grateful to all the undyingly loyal readers out there, the best group of friends a comic book could hope for.

Keep running,
BKV
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This series has been exceptional in places, the first 18 issue series alone tells a fantastic contained story (well minus the vampire). This is sad news; I’ve been picking this up in digest form, which has really helped the series, so I guess I only have two volumes to go till its all change.

I’m not sure if I want it to continue straight of the bat with an issue twenty five, I think it would be much more in suit to the series to give this chapter of the story an ending, not definitive, just something like we got with the first 18. Then let a new team pick it up in 6 months or so, give it time to breath. I mean sooner or later you have to face what you’re running away from

I mean don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the book should die when it’s creators leave, just let it carry on a little while after. Let the current team go out on top. Then start it all up again as the third series.

Now as for the new team? Well there’s a certain Mark Bagley finishing with Ultimate Spider man soon, matching him up with a writer like Sean McKeever or even Zeb Wells. I think Joss Weadon would be a good writing fit, and he’s gone on record saying he loves the characters and series, but this books reputation really doesn’t need a writer who’ll get it out bi monthly. The digests for this have done so well, they were even in my old sixth forms library. It needs a creative team who can keep the ball rolling, and for art Bagley is certainly a good fit.

Guess I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the new creative team reveal.

And in case you missed it, I want Bagley to draw it

I just don't Carey.

Wow, just wow! What a comic. I am talking about last week's All-star Superman, utterly fantastic.
I am slowly crawling through last weeks comics after spending the weekend at a party, wherin I got to talk to Liam Sharp about when he met Stan Lee and other geeky things like that. Lot's of fun and I found out lot's of juicy thing's about the industry and people working in it that I can't repeat here because, well, I'm not Rich Johnston. But I am falling dangerously behind on my comics, which hasn't been helped by the fact after reading ASS (hah! ass.) #5 I feel like leaving it a few hours because whatever I read next will invariably feel shit.

And it did.

Luckily it was probably always going to feel poo because it's written by Mike Carey.
I am talking about ult. F4 #33 (? I think?)
I know that may be generalising a little, but I am strugling to think of a Mike Carey project I have enjoyed.
Hellblazer = better than Azzarello, but still weak.
Ult. F4 / X-Men = I couldn't be arsed to finish reading.
Lucifer = didn't read.
Ult DD / Elektra = arse, where was greg Ruck? Damn exclusivity contracts.

Am I missing soemthing? Because Marvel are treating him like royalty using him to take over from Mark Millar on Ult. F4, after a truly excellent and very underated run on the title.

What title was the break-out work for Mike Carey? What title of his do I absolutely HAVE to read? Does anyone know? There has to be a reason for him to be so high up that he can join the elite of Bendis, Millar and Ellis on the Ultimate titles.

Does anyone have the answer?

Also, has anyone out there read Losers? As it's one of the few vertigo comic's I haven't read.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

When did you read Kingdom Come?

There are a number of ‘Superhero’ comics that people have placed on the pedestal as ‘classic reading’, and I usually pride myself on the fact that I have read these and can offer my opinion in a conversation. I read Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight Returns and loved them, but there is a forth that is usually placed in this categories that I have avoided for a long time, and it’s Kingdom Come.

What do you mean how could I have not read it?

It’s not due to the writing I can tell you that, I love me some Mark Waid, I’m a lover of his Impulse, I enjoyed all of his fantastic four run that have filtered through to me over the years. It’s not down to the writer that I avoided it; it’s been down to Alex Ross. I know a lot of people out there love him, but to me I have always seen his art as a lot of lifeless wax work models

I mean I see no difference between this, and this


















Note: That’s a wax work of Williams there, that was not a general statement about my opinion of his music, thought in that respect it wasn’t far off

I know I shouldn’t let it, but Ross’s art has put me off reading a few comics. But it really is about time I sat and read Kingdom Come; I mean the medium may be a joint work but a generalised look at an artists work shouldn’t put me off reading a ‘must read’. And it’s got that fact that this is supposed to be some of Ross’s best work going for it too; maybe the art’s better in this than the bits I’ve seen so far.

As of right now I know nothing about what its really about except for the vague fact that it was an Elseworld set in the future of the DC universe.

-------

And three hours later (with time used for snacking and making notes) after I started I’m done.
So what did I think of it?

I’m not completely sure, bear with me and I’ll try to explain as best I can, there’s a lot of thoughts swimming around my head about it.

I really should have gotten around to reading this sooner you know, not that this is ‘so fantastic how could I not of read it?’, but that in this story Ross’s art isn’t that bad. There I said it. It fits the story, this higher concept story with its religious imagery and parallels. In that respect it’s just like Arkham Asylum, the style of the images enhances the content.

And I do have a couple of favourite scenes due to Ross’s art, but these fall in two categories, scenes in the dinner, where we see that superhero costumes really don’t work, hardly anyone can wear a lycra suit and make it work, and the scenes in the Batcave –who doesn’t want to see a painted Batcave?

The layout of the pages? Now they were fantastic, with lots of ironic moments with its juxtaposition against the words. I mean we have the sentence ‘They are after all our protectors’ Placed between a superhero with nipple piercings connected to chains, and a crying child. This comic is fantastic in places, just looking back through pages you pick up visual references you missed.

On the whole the piece is well dialogued, we have plenty of hooks for you to try and figure out before we are told explicitly, and I really enjoyed that. Like the death of Lois and trying to figure out how it had happened, then never being told but hinted at through the Joker’s murderous killings of 92 men and 1 woman at the daily planet.

As for the story? Well I think I could possibly have appreciated this more if I had known all the characters, sure I’m a big DC fan, but I’m learning all the time, how the hell do I know who most of these people are. And due to the style and changes in costumes I often got characters confused, but then I guess a few years down the line I’ll come back and a lot of these characters will click. The first time I read the Dark Knight Returns I didn’t know who the Green Arrow was, no doubt when I come back to read this again in a few years, which I plan on doing, some of it will make a lot more sense.

In the story itself we have this whole Superman making up for the damage his self imposed exile had done thing going on, and that was great. Hell the thing was so good that it’s being done again at the moment in sorts by Black Adam in 52 ( hopefully it turns out better this time. I mean Black Adam’s jumped up to step 5, no prison for the remedial violent super folks for him, just a good tearing in half) I can follow that, this whole thing is supposed to be about the Super folks who’ve either over stepped the mark, or abandoned what they should have been enforcing.



And I know I probably wasn’t supposed to, but I spent my time siding with Luther in the whole scale of this. I mean when you think about it he really was fighting the human fight, the classic superheroes had failed people for 10 years. And now they come back and try to put everything right in a matter of days? Humanity really was depicted as being too reliant on these ‘gods’.

In fact the only character I was on side totally with was Batman, this guy stayed to fight the good fight, and sure Gotham was blown up, but it got rebuilt, and in its rebuilding Batman has become the protector he always should have been. I really wanted Batman and Luther to win. I guess they did in sorts, but certainly not the way I wanted. I really wanted to see the end of the superhero, is it to cynical to think that the whole thing was written with a sequel in mind?

But then we get Luther’s big evil reveal, but I was still with him on it, maybe not through his actions but through his intentions. It may be because I don’t like Captain Marvel that much, he’s never clicked with me, but his superhero form left him as a grown man child. I think without Luther’s help he would have become resentful of Superman. This man could fly with the gods, but now it’s been taken away due to big blue’s cowardice at a changing humanity. Luther was an idiot, I think he could have done what he did without putting Yeerks in Captain Marvels ear, or did I miss interpret that?

I hated the point where Batman double crossed him, but at least Waid made me care, even though I seemed to be caring for the wrong side. And that’s the most important think with reading this, it made me want to read on, the first time I felt like that in a while with a Superhero comic.

I can understand why this is seen as a classic story, I mean we have your background imagery, along with your whole host of characters fitted into the weaving plot and on top of this we have some high concept religious ideas but I don’t know, it’s probably due to the age I am and where I came into reading comics.

When this came out it could possibly have been this whole new spin on an idea, Superman isn’t infallible. Yet with any good idea it’s imitated and its aspects are found in the many stories that come after. I mean this came out in the mid nineties, and placed in that context this is a miraculous story, and if I had read it then this would probably be one of my favourite team stories. I mean place this alongside the X-Men titles of the time and this was a gift from up on high.
I read this 10 years later though. I can recognise it for the originality it must have had, but the ideas are not as fresh to me due to it. This shaped the modern status of DC’s superheroes and was present even a year and a half ago, we had a Superman who wimped out on his responsibility to man kind, a bit of a paranoid asshole of a Batman and a violent Wonder woman willing to take the fight that extra step, the characterisations found in a lot of the build up in the first 3 parts became the main aspects of characters in stories I was only reading a year and a bit ago.

Kingdom Come is a good comic, I have no issues with that, it’s the origin of the genre change over the past 10 years. But I think I would have appreciated it so much more if I had read it then first hand, this wasn’t a breath of fresh air to me, it just showed the origin of the changes that it introduced.
When did you read it?

But at least now I can say, Alex Ross was alright on Kingdom Come, but I find that in the main, he draws lifeless wax work models, well maybe until I get around to reading Marvels.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Long live the King.



Confession time - I have never been a huge Jack Kirby fan. I guess mainly because when I got into comics, the King was dead, and like most things the work that impresses most is the first work you come across.
Heck, I have always been a bigger follower of writer's than artist's, there are only a handfull of artist's whose work I follow religously. Mike Weiringo, Gary Frank, Humberto Ramos, JrJr, and Steve Dillon to count a few. It's a different industry now, people are reluctant to follow artists after the whole Image / McFarlane / Cliffhanger debacle of the '90's.
But I digress, I've never been a fan of the Kirby. The picture above however, has somewhat changed my opinion. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A crisis of faith.

So here's the thing...
I need to cut down my comic collection.
I don't HAVE to, and I suppose I don't really NEED to, but I should.
I am NOT getting married, I DON'T have a nuerotic bitch girlfriend forcing me to sell, I DON'T have a kid on the way or any of the usual crap that comes with people cutting down on their comic collection. Nor is this a knee-jerk reaction to a Marvel and DC publicity stunt. Let me try and explain.
I love my comics, I really do, maybe a little too much. No, really, it's gotten crazy and I'm trying to cage the beast, the problem is the beast has been free for too long.
But the question I ask myself is; Do I really need 3 copies of Kingdom Come or The Authority? Do I really need a full set of Preacher first prints when I have access to my Tpbs, not to mention my girlfriends copies of said Tpbs? Not to mention the the fact that I can always read shop stock.
What's doing it is that my weekly comic bill has reached the £50-£60 retail mark, obviously I get stuff wholesale, but still, we're talking £2,500 a year of stuff that could sell in the store. But I could live with that bill if it wasn't for the fact that so much of the stuff I buy is superfluous, I mean I have at least 5 Absolute edition HC's coming in the next six months, and all but one of them are stuff I already own in one format or another.
It's hardly like I'm talking about stopping comics, they are a huge part of my life and will always be, but christ I have 2 BOXES of Iron Man comics - that's not sane.
You may have noticed this is very much train of thought ranting, indeed at this point I have no idea if this is a ramble to myself or something that I intend to post on the site - after all, I don't want to come across really negative and put people off buying comics as that's a Gerald Ratner approach to business (you're all too young for that obscure reference).

I am more split over what to do with this than Spidey is in civil War (see, always the geek).

The other thing which is contributing to this is the sheer volume of variant covers I have dropped into the bad habit of buying again. No matter what I will always buy Spider-man variants as that is my mainstay superhero (most of the old breed of comic collectors have a mainstay, whether it be Daredevil, Superman or Batman, that they stay with through thick and thin, it's an oldskool way of thinking but one I have always loved. Bear in mind 10-20 years ago very few people followed creators), but I have to get out of the habit of buying HC reprints as well.
Those of you have seen my tattoo's know I love The Transformers (they're more than meets the eye you know), but this latest IDW run has really killed it for me. Thankfully they've calmed it with the variants now, but some of the comics I have 8 different variant covers for, ranging from £2.20 up to £100 in some cases. Very few comics in my collection are worth £100 to me except early Spidey's, and to be fair I'd rather have the cash than every cover of Prime looking pretty much the same as he always does.

More cases for the prosecution:
*I just bought the variant cover box set for Gen 13 Issue #1 (10 years old!!!! Shit) for the bargain price of £21 - but do I really need another 14 Gen 13 comics.
Fucking Michael Turner Civil War covers, I don't even like him anyway so why have I got them???
*I like Fables. I want to re-read Fables. I want to lend Fables to my comic buddies but I can't, because they are all buried in coffin boxes trapped behind a mountain of plastic robots in my toy room. If I sold the originals I could buy the tpbs, and probably have a bit left over.
*Street Fighter? Why the fuck do I buy Street Fighter? Sure, it's a well done title and a lot of fun, but I'm not really that big a fan of Street Fighter to warrant buying it every month.
*It's not like I am going to cut down on my reading, I have access to everything I want through the store, so why not buy the things I really want and get rid of the things I am NEVER going to re-read (like electric-era Superman for example).
*I can't move in my house anymore. I have 24 boxes in my toy room, 20 boxes in my attic, 8 boxes waiting to be sorted and another 3 boxes waiting to be read. It's long past the point where I've worried over the structural integrity of the house under the weight of all the comics. I've only been collecting 10 years, imagine what my house will be like in another ten if I don't do something about it now.

Cases for the defence:
*What if the comics rocket through the roof in price and I regret selling them? The Iron Man movie might make my 2 boxes of comics hot shit (yeah, right). What if HBO get a Preacher series and the first prints go through the roof? But it's not like I was buying the comics for speculative reasons was it? Well, no, but there has always been a part of me that has considered my comics a retirement plan, but over the years they have bcome more of a ball and chain than anything else.
*Get real man, no-one will want to buy your electric-era Superman comics, they were shite. Might as well keep them for all the money you'd get.
*eBay is a pain, takes ages and you have to pay a percentage.

Gah!!!

I don't know what to do, obviously it makes more reason to streamline than to keep going like I am. Hell, if I keep going like this I am going to end up resenting the comics I love.

Advice people, I need your two cents here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

CIVIL WAR DELAYED

In information released to comic book retailers Tuesday {I never fucking got anything}, Marvel has {surely that should be have?} announced that issue #4 and 5 of their hugely successful Civil War series are being delayed.

Civil War #4, originally scheduled to be released tomorrow, is now scheduled for September 20th. Issue #5 and all its variants, originally scheduled for next month, is now scheduled for November 15th.

And because of the nature of the storyline, the delays in the main series will affect the related and tie-in titles, like Civil War: Front Line.

In the announcement, Marvel wrote:

“Over the next few weeks, the Civil War proper title and a few of the tie in books that are closely related to the story in the main book will be shipping later than originally planned. In an attempt to accommodate the creative team of Millar and McNiven and keep the artistic integrity and high standards of the event, we will be shifting the following titles:
CLICK HERE
“The need for these shifts came about as the September [for November shipping product] Marvel Previews #37 was going to press and we were not able to make adjustments,” reads Marvel’s explanation to retailers. “The December Marvel Previews will reflect the changes and additions. At this point we do not anticipate further changes to the schedule. We apologize for the inconvenience but feel that this is in the best interest of the quality of the event and for retailers to continue to realize the immense sales for these books. We are announcing these shifts early enough in the hopes that retailers can adjust their buying patterns for the next few months. Also, we hope the addition of a few more key Civil War titles will make up for any lost sales that result from these moves.”

Look for more information regarding these changes as it becomes available.

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From a retailers point of view.

I'm just glad we got so many people into DC and Tpb's over the last two years, a few years back we were depending on Marvel solely and this kind of mess could have put us under, thankfully our customers have broadened their outlooks and we sell as many copies of Scott Pilgrim and Fables Tpbs as we do most Marvel titles.

But...we are still going to feel the sting on this big time, we had 104 copies of Civil War #3 in total, which is the most we have every ordered on a Marvel title, a lot of people have been reticent to add the newer titles like Moonknight, Ms Marvel, Martian Manhunter, Creeper etc... because all their comic money is going into Civil War.
And I don't even mind waiting for Civil War if we HAVE to, but its how this is going to affect the Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-man titles which is going to piss me off the most, these titles are our bread and butter titles.
But what really pisses me off is that I have to find out about this through Newsarama, no e-mail sent via Diamond explaining the situation. If I was an internet retard I would have no idea about this, I'm sure many retailers are hearing about this through there younger internet going customers. How do you think that makes them feel Marvel? Like idiots maybe?

And how does it make you, the consumer feel?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls


"In countries like the U.S. and Great Britain, we exist in a wholly sexualized culture, where everything from cars to snack food are sold with a healthy slathering of sex to make them more commercially appealing. But if you're using sex to sell sneakers, then you're not just selling sneakers, you're selling sex as well, and you're contributing to the sexual temperature of society. You're going to get people who, unsurprisingly, become overheated in that kind of sexual environment, and if they attempt to assuage their desires by resorting to the widely available medium of pornography, they're going to have their moment of gratification, and then they're going to have a much longer period of self-loathing, disgust, shame and embarrassment. It's almost like a kind of a reverse Skinner-box experiment, where once the rat has pushed the lever and successfully received the food, then he gets the electric shock." - Alan Moore

God damnit I am really looking forward to the Lost Girls HC. In the last year I have become a real big fan of Alan Moore, this weekend I (finally) read the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen SC's and was very impressed by the quality of the work, all of the characters have real fucking character and serve a real purpose to the story. I can see the LOEG joining the hallowed ranks of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Promethea as books I always come back to.

Obviously, an awful lot has already been said on the subject of Lost Girls, and I am not going to add to it until I have sat down and read said title, instead I will point to a few places that cover it quite well.

HERE

AND HERE


MORE HERE

AND FINALLY HERE

Monday, August 14, 2006

Teenagers From Mars

Not the Misfits song
Not a piece of Science Fiction
And definitely not those teenagers from Dawson’s Creek/OC/One Tree Hill

It’s about the essentials, youth, rebellion, free expression and anti-commercialist anarchy.

Any interest?



We want, we need it, we’ll take it, baby

There are a number of comics out there that readers consider to be perfect books to introduce a girlfriend or non superhero fan. Among them we’ve got Fables (Possibly the most consistently intelligent and entertaining title Vertigo is publishing, and as Sid pointed out a number of months back, smells great), Scott Pilgrim (The best humour comic of the moment, containing so many imaginative pop culture references along with an expressive yet simple original sudo manga style), and to this list I think that Teenagers From Mars is a natural addition.

It’s not that these comics contain some miraculous ingredient missing in other titles; they just show that comics can be original, intelligent, and down right funny but also that the world of comics doesn’t stop with the Superhero genre.



The story concerns the town of Mars, Macon Blair is an 18 year old slacker with punk sensibilities in his blood, ending his work at the local Mallmart with a black eye from his boss, he takes on the town with the help of Madison and his almost sidekick Max. Leaving the tag of the then imaginary CBLA ( Comic Book Liberation Army) he unwittingly starts an uprising in the town, but he has his own revolution in mind to answer to this. He’s going to stop at nothing to get back his comic so that it can be finished and he can carry on with the girl Madison in peace. The character of Macon is so fleshed out that his story is almost guarantied to hook and pull you in.
And there’s a group of younger teens, including the character of Max, who are grave robbing to find bits to sell to fund their purchase of the rare comic ‘Beyond Adventure #75’, this is far from that early Simpson’s episode. But beyond these two major points telling you anymore about the book would ruin your reading, so rather than revealing more certain plot points I thought I would compile a list of things that the comics includes.
Here goes

Rebellion
Zombie House Party
Grave Robbing
Punks
Violence
Indecent exposure
Piercings
The Comic Book Liberation Army
Fast Cars
Over Bearing Parents
True Teenage Language and Expressive Art – As simple as this sounds, they work fantastically together. The characters aren’t over wordy and true emotion and feeling is shown brilliantly through the art, leaving us with panels where the art is allowed to breath. Rick Spears and Rob G are a pair of fantastic collaborators.

Rob G’s art really does lift the book to great heights, often fitting 8 and even 9 panels to a page in a similar style to Fell, but with his pen and brush style showing so much more detail in the panels. Looking back through you can read the titles of the comics and videos on the shelves, along with t-shirt designs that most pop culture fans will recognise ( thankfully no Franki Say Relax to be seen though).



He’s given room to really show himself on a number of full pages too, giving us crowds and intimate scenes which really do show off how perfect his style was. Another important note is that he often blurs the background to draw attention to an aspect of a panel, sure it has been done before, but here it looks natural, often working to give a very real depiction of how we often look at real life scenes.
While I’m talking about style I think it’s important to include the fact that thought balloons are only used twice in the whole story. In the same panel no less, this comic doesn’t want you to follow inner thoughts, you're there to follow and judge the characters on their actions. It’s all about what you do people, not what you contemplate doing.



Teenagers from Mars almost didn’t happen, due to bad timing this title was almost destroyed under the weight of a bad shipping schedule after 9/11, thankfully through some very good reviews word spread and the 8 issues sold as well as any true indie comic book can.

It’s film like in its structure, not a bad aspect as this comic really does present its ideas with imagination and intelligence with a climaxing story, its hard to see it as separate comics now, when reading through there are no end of issue bangs, the story works through them, infact if they were never published in the back along with a couple of extras you would swear it was an original graphic novel. It’s a complete story, no other arcs or issues needed to read here.
If you read it and enjoy it, just hold onto the hope that they get around to producing the 2 and 3 parts that Rick Spears has mentioned off hand ever since it was first published.

Give it a chance, you almost certainly won’t regret it, and if you do, well there’s always a comments section for you to give your 2 cents in, or next time I’m in the shop.



So you get in fights a lot?

Yeah.

You always get your ass kicked?

Yeah.

Aren’t you ever afraid?

No.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ASTRO CITY

ASTRO CITY - there's a book that not enough people read. The premise sounds done to death: A city filled with super-heroes and super-villains playing out power fantasies and morality tails. Hardly original is it?
Well thats because we are just looking at the surface of the book, if we scratch a little deeper we will see the real purpose of the book, and the pitch becomes this: Imagine you are Kurt Busiek, life-time comicbook fan and succesful longterm creator. For all your earnt respect in the industry, you are not going to get the chance to write long, defining runs on EVERY comic-book character (the way he did with Avengers for example), and even if you could pick and choose a different title every month there are some stories that the powers-that-be wouldn't - or should I say couldn't - let you do.

The solution? Create your own 'verse.

"Astro City is set in a world where superheroes have existed since at least the 19th century: the first public hero, Air Ace, appeared during World War I. Busiek, Anderson and Ross have crafted a complex world with a huge cast of characters, many of whom have extensive backstories sketched out which are revealed as the series progresses. Some characters somewhat resemble characters from DC Comics or Marvel Comics universes, though the link tends to be inspirational only, revisiting archetypes common to many characters from comics, pulp fiction and myth, rather than any one-to-one correspondence.

The series is an anthology that focuses on different characters living within Astro City and the stories are usually narrated from a first person perspective from the story's protagonist. Some issues of the series are one- or two-part stories, while others run as many as seven issues in an extended arc.

The essential hook of Astro City is that it explores the reactions that people - both ordinary people and the heroes and villains themselves - have to living in their world. For example, in the first story, the character Samaritan (who resembles Superman) reflects on his life during a typical day, in which he spends almost all of his waking hours flying around the world to help people, and never has any time to enjoy the sheer physical sensation of flight. Other stories involve a date between two high-profile heroes, the initiation of a "kid sidekick" hero, the efforts of a reformed supervillain to find a life outside of prison, a superhero being driven away from Earth by his "love's" attempts to expose him, and the life of an innocent bystander in the days after having been held hostage by a supervillain." (sourced from Wiki for expediency)

Through this universe, Kurt Busiek has an outlet for all the loose story ideas that just wouldn't fit into a Marvel or DC universe. Sometimes focusing on the big boys of the superhero universe, who are little more than metaphors of existing characters (First Family = Fantastic Four), and sometimes focusing on how the big cosmic events affect the little people (you imagien being a shop-keeper in the middle of Infinite Crisis).

Time was, this title was a multiple Harvey and Eisner award winner, so why don't we hear high praise about the title anymore?

Is the book still relevant? Is the book still needed? I sat down to read the latest 5 issues to find out (and to catch up, boy am I behind on some of my reading).

Astro city: The Dark Age Vol. 1 # 1-4

The Dark Age is a 12 or 16 issue Maxi series (Sue me, I can't remember), split up into three (or four) 4 issue arc's, purely to give the creators chance to get all the issues out on time with a regular artist and without intermitent shipping - two things that destroyed Rising Stars and stopped it being heralded a classic.
The first volume of "The Dark Ages" focuses on two brothers (racist!) who have both grown up to resent super-heroes, but while one has turned to a life of petty crime, the other one has the opposing view of "we don't need them" and has joined law enforcement as a police officer.
The story is nicely paced - with lovely art by regular artist Brent Anderson - with plenty of twists and revelations to keep the reader turning one page to the next, the cameos by established Astro City regulars help keep the story grounded and an interesting sub-plot add's to the history of the First Family, but seen through the eyes of regular folk.
The way the story is constructed in this first arc is fairly reminiscent of "Marvels", which I'm sure many of you remembered was written by Kurt Busiek. All in all this was good, solid story-telling, but didn't really show us anything we haven't seen before.

Astro city Special: Samaritan

A complete juxtapose for "The Dark Ages", this completely self-contained interlude / special focuses on two men: Superman allegory "Samaritan" and his arch-nemesis "Infidel", which is slightly akin to you or I renaming ourselves "Fucking Wanker" but roll's of the tongue better and contains a dose of irony.
Infidel hit's all the major cliff notes of being a major super villain: Self made millionaire, off the chart intelligence, a somewhat cavalier approach to life and has grown accustomed to a somewhat debonair lifestyle. And of course he wants to rule the world or destroy it, delete as appropriate.
What is unusual avbout this book is the hero and the villain have stopped fighting. After their cross purpose fighting had played out across all of time, space and reality causing the end of the world and beyond, the two realise a stalemate has been met and set about recreating the universe together (otherwise, what the hell are they fighting for).
As the story is told, the stalemate is still in place and the two characters meet up once a year to check in and keep an eye on each other, as each one hopes to convert the other to their way of thinking, so together they can change the world the way they see fit.
Intelligent, fun, crazed superheroic goodness, this is the kind of story I have come to expect from Astro City.

To Conclude:

Is Astro city still cutting edge and relevant? Yes and no.
The thing is, when Astro city was first printed, comics were in a bad way. The speculator craze had super-inflated the industry putting valiant and Image in an elevated position of power and Marvel and DC were lagging behind. Variant covers, foil embossing, re-launchs and hot artwork were the emphasis for the entire industry, and as supply and demand has it marvel and Dc tried to match suit with the latest stupid gimmick or headline grabbing idea. Spider-man was a clone, Captain America got a metal costume, Batman was replaced by Azrael, Superman died, wolverine went feral and all the while story-telling and chaaarcter values dropped to one side, out of view of comic book professionals.
So it's no wonder when Astro City (curiously printed by Image) came along, and did what everyone else USED to do, only better and intelligently, it's no surprise that industry professionals stood up and took notice, garnering the attention of Wizard magazne and the various award commitees.
Fast forward to present day. Thanks to books like Astro city, Planetary and Authority paving the way, super-hero comics are better than they have ever been, with even the most basic super-hero premise being re-invigorated with fresh ideas and ground-breaking storylines. The emphasis in the industry - for the first time I've ever known it to be - is on the writer.

So while Astro City is no longer the cutting edge book it used to be, the final statement is simply: "Astro City, your work here is done...but feel free to stick around and enjoy the party".

Friday, August 04, 2006

"When too much of a good thing is a bad thing" or "How I learnt to stop worrying and love multiple genres."

If Hollywood is the barometer of success for the western world then super-heroes couldn't be much hotter. Comic books, despite selling in much less quantity then in previous years is still near enough a 400 million dollar industry, and that's not counting the movie / DVD side of things. Super-heroes are hot right now, it's a fact.
Unfortunately, with that simple truth comes another one: supply and demand. If people think they can turn a buck by simply copying the current trend rather than trying to do something new and original, they will - of course - follow the path of least resistance. That's why 1977-1985 saw lot's of Sci-fi flicks like "Flight of the navigator" and "Last Starfighter", and why "American Pie" triggered a slew of like-minded clones.

Case in point: "Sky High" and "My Super Ex-girlfriend".
All films like this do is dilute the pond as they try to grasp onto the succesfull "formula" of comic book movies.
Let's be fair, for every Spider-man, Batman Begins or Ghost World there is a Catwoman, Elektra or Man-thing. Our soda is being watered down but we are expected to keep drinking it.

As long as money is being made, our comic films will keep getting made. But like the 1987-1995 Batman film franchise proved, it can all go wrong far too quickly. We are only ever one "Waterworld" comic book equivalent away from it all going to shit.

Unless...
...is it possible? Could Hollywood have stopped looking at comic book movies as genre pieces? Surely by now Spider-man and the Batman Begins movie franchises are judged by there own merits and not just lumped into the same stock as The Hulk? Sam Raimi and Chris Nolan are both making intelligent, thoughtful movies that the mainstream AND comic puritans can both appreciate, rather than the smash / crash / pow affair of Schumachers campy Bat-romps.
We all know Cronenbergs ignorance about the existence of "A History of Violence", and I find it hard to believe that "Constantine" was green-lighted because Spider-man 2 took £200 million on its opening week.

When you look at the great comic book movies of the last decade, you have your Blade Trilogy, Road to Perdition, Mystery Men, V for Vendetta, Oldboy, Men in Black, X-Men, Battle Royale, and Superman. Over the next few years we have Iron Man, Sin City 2, 30 Days of Night, Torso, Spidey and Bat's sequels, Scott Pilgrim, and Ghost Rider all to look forward to.
The only discernible pattern is that people in Hollywood are paying attention to the old funny-books, judging each one by it's own merits regardless of genre or subject matter, publisher or country of origin, language or creator.

So if Hollywood - with one of the most inbred, blinkered, backward looking, keeping-up-with-the-Jonesses, pathetic money grabbing viewpoints of anyplace, anywhere on the planet - can judge comics individually...

...why can't most comic fans?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's all about Scott.

I post this at the risk of us looking like a comic movie site.

Scott Pilgrim: The Movie?

And of course, if you haven't read SP yet, then why not?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Heath Ledger is The Joker.


Official Press Release

BURBANK, CA, 31 July 2006 - As a follow up to last year's blockbuster Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan is set to direct Warner Bros. Pictures' The Dark Knight, written by Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer. The film will be produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan. Additionally, Christian Bale will resume his role as Bruce Wayne and Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger has been cast as The Joker. The announcements were made today by Jeff Robinov, President of Production, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Christopher Nolan revamped the Batman franchise in 2005 with the immensely successful Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale in the title role, which chronicled the early years of the superhero. Nolan first garnered attention from critics and fans in 2000 with the groundbreaking drama Memento, which he wrote and directed. He went on to direct the thriller Insomnia, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, and recently wrapped production on The Prestige, with Hugh Jackman and Bale.

Bale was most recently seen in the ensemble cast of Terrence Malick's The New World. His other credits include Little Women, Portrait of a Lady, Metroland, American Psycho, Laurel Canyon and Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, which was his first starring role.

Ledger most recently earned Oscar Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Award nominations and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in the award-winning drama Brokeback Mountain. His other credits include Casanova, Monster's Ball, Lords of Dogtown, The Brothers Grimm and The Patriot.

"Chris' unique vision is what made Batman Begins such an outstanding film and we could not imagine anyone else at the helm of The Dark Knight," said Robinov. "We also can't wait to see two such formidable actors as Christian and Heath face off with each other as Batman and The Joker."

"I'm excited to continue the story we started with Batman Begins," added Nolan. "Our challenge in casting The Joker was to find an actor who is not just extraordinarily talented but fearless. Watching Heath Ledger's interpretation of this iconic character taking on Christian Bale's Batman is going to be incredible."

Production is set to begin on The Dark Knight in early 2007.

Nolan and Ledger are represented by CAA.

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Comments and thoughts people?
My thinking is simply that I have faith in Nolan and the production team, and the best thing we can do is wait and see. Having said that, Heath Ledger doesn't seem the most obvious choice.
But neither did Reeve, Rourke, Routh or Keaton for there respective comic movie roles, as long as Heath doesn't have Cesar Romero's fucking moustache I will be happy.

-------------

Ryan - Just thought I would add this from the Newsarama Blog, gotta love Photoshop

Thursday, July 27, 2006

American Splendor – The Film

“You might as well know right off the bat, I had a vasectomy”



I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have a mental list of stuff that people consider great, recommendations I’ve been given, things I want to get round to reading, listening to or seeing at some point. And this list never seems to get any shorter, it took me nigh on four years to get around to reading Arkham Asylum after first venturing into comics and being recommended it – sure it got heavy in its religious imagery, but it was certainly a worthwhile read that I wish I had gotten to sooner.

I picked up American Splendor for less than a fiver in the wonder that is HMV last week, it’s a film I had been meaning to watch for a long time, but no one will ever get me to pay £20 for a film, so how could I resist when it was reduced by that much?
And sure I didn’t get around to watching it right away, it’s taken me a week, but today I finally found the time to slip it into the DVD player.

What can I say about it? This film is fantastic, possibly one of my most favourite films I’ve seen this year.

For those not in the know, American Splendor was a comic series written by Harvey Pekar, who wrote about his life, depressing at times as it was, about being an obsessive-compulsive collector, jazz lover, hospital clerk and friend of Robert Crumb among other things – Robert Crumb? You know the underground comic extraordinaire? Created Fritz the Cat? Look him up on a wiki if your still in the dark.



It’s kind of like Ghost World in a respect, in that it’s based on the original comics, but is so much more when stitched together, this isn’t the filmed adaptation of the comics, but rather a look at Pekar, a comment on what he thought his life was then and what it is to him now.

The format of the film is unique, it involves your basic film plot narrative, this adapted from the American Splendor comics and his wife’s ‘Our Cancer Year’ these are the foundation of the film. Yet on top of this we have the inter-cut ‘white room’ interview and conversations with the real Pekar, with him providing the narrative voice over the whole thing. Producing such wonderful dialogue as...

If you think reading comics about your life seems strange, try watching a play about it. God only knows how I'll feel when I see this movie.




And it’s not just Pekar, we see his wife and friends, not just as actors, but in the real people who were them, and I’m telling you some of these actors are so close to the actual people it’s unreal.

Then woven through this are not only the comics he wrote, with us seeing important panels and sequences but also the old recorded interviews of Pekar when he was trying to promote his comic on the talk show circuit.
This postmodernist style really sets up American Splendor epitomising its originality and holding the narrative and commentary together into a very worthwhile film. The filmed footage itself is even blurred into that of a typical Pekar comic, often using captions to set the scene and the time it takes place in, along with depicting Joyce’s uncertainty of what Pekar looks like through the many different artistic representations of him present in the comics.

Reading this through you could perhaps see this as sounding pretentious, and if it does that’s my own fault, it’s not a quality found in a film which simply works so well.

It’s not like the film never received awards either, with it being nominated for an Oscar, winning 27 awards – ranging from characters performances, adapted screen play, director and best feature. It won awards in Cannes, Edinbrough and Sundance.

Don’t be like me, don’t wait on this film, go out and buy it, it really is that good, it’s fresh, touching, tragic and unique. I only got to it three years late this time.

I’ll be buying and reading the comic once I have the money to, but as of right now, I have a cheaply bought DVD that gave me one of the most entertaining film experiences of the year. So the collections on the list, and I’m certainly not waiting 3 years to buy that.



Joyce Brabner: I find most American cities to be depressing in the same way.

Harvey Pekar: And you're OK with the vasectomy thing?