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.

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