Posts Tagged ‘Green Arrow

03
Aug
13

Blake’s weekly roundup

So this week, I finished the most recent draft of my next novel, The Pyrite War. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more information about that very soon. But what else did I do this week?

22
Jul
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 271: The Ultimate Top Ten Justice Leaguers

We return for another Showcase Top Ten! This week, the boys count down their ten favorite members of the Justice League, then give the complete rankings as voted on by you. In the picks, Kenny chooses Red Hood and the Outlaws #10, Mike goes with Green Lantern #10, and Blake selects Batman: Earth One. We also announce the topic for our next Top Ten special, so get ready to make your lists! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 271: The Ultimate Top Ten Justice Leaguers

10
Aug
11

Classic EBI #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?

Everything But Imaginary #410: Marvel’s Mickey Mouse Outfit

In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.

Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.

But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).

One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.

I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.

One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.

At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.

These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.

There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.

Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.

I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.

Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.

He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.

If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?

You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.

Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005

Damn you, Geoff Johns.

I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this book.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

27
Jul
11

Classic EBI #101: Costume Party

To my surprise, part of our Maine trip last weekend included a quick trip to a small-town comic shop, prompting me to write today’s EBI about one of the greatest things in the world of a geek: the comic book Bargain Bin.

Everything But Imaginary #408: The Beauty of a Bargain Bin

Heading back to 2005, though, in the days after New Orleans’ annual Bacchanalia known as Mardi Gras, I wrote about something that I liked about Mardi Gras as a child — costumes… and about what makes a great superhero costume.

Everything But Imaginary #101: Costume Party

Yesterday, friends, was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, in the city of New Orleans, a day made up of revelry, frivolity, debauchery and lots and lots of alcohol. Not really my kind of day to be honest. Any interest I ever had in Mardi Gras died off when I was in my high school marching band, playing the trombone in parades, listening to people on the parade route shout outrageously clever things like “Only 50 more miles!”

I hated those people.

One thing I did like about Mardi Gras, once upon a time, were the costumes. People don’t dress up as much as they used to, but when I was a kid Mardi Gras was a mini-Halloween, an excuse to put on masks, wigs, capes or makeup. The best costume I ever had, in fact, was a Captain America costume my mother made, complete with a cardboard shield that I painted myself.

Thinking about this made me realize that Captain America really does, in fact, have one of the most effective superhero costumes there is. A superhero costume shouldn’t be about giant shoulder pads, whips, chains or trenchcoats. It should, instead, convey who the character is and what he does. The test of a superhero costume would be taking someone who has never seen him before and asking them to pick him out of a lineup based just on the name.

This is what makes Cap’s costume so great – it’s simple. It’s red, white and blue. It’s got your stars and your stripes, eagle’s wings, a distinct soldierly look to the design and, just in case you still haven’t picked up on it, a great big letter “A.” Anyone could be given a pin-up of the Avengers and a list of their names and immediately be able to match which one is Captain America.

Let’s compare this to one of my favorite whipping boys, Gambit. What does he wear? A purple and blue jumpsuit under a trenchcoat. It says nothing about his name, which in turn, says nothing about his powers (the ability to make stuff blow up, in case you forgot). Nobody looking at the X-Men could figure out which one was Gambit without a nametag.

Not many of the X-Men have very distinctive costumes, by that account. Iceman is covered in ice, so that’s a plus, and Archangel’s wings are a giveaway. Cyclops’ visor gives him that one-eye look. Hank McCoy definitely looks like the Beast he is, but then again, that name could also be suggested for Nightcrawler or even the Juggernaut. And what about Storm, Shadowcat, Marvel Girl, Havok or Rogue?

Wolverine does have something of a feral, animalistic look to him. His best costume ever, by this definition, was probably the brown-and-orange he wore for some time in the 80s and 90s. The other uniforms, although similar in cut, are blue and yellow, which only suggests a wolverine to a Michigan State fan.

You have these problems whenever your character has names and powers that don’t quite mesh. What does Justice do? He’s a telekinetic. Which has nothing to do with justice. So he wears a fairly generic blue and white outfit. Spawn? He has some sort of ill-defined magical powers, and a look that has absolutely nothing to do with his name. He’s a poster child for a character with a costume that the creator would just think looked cool, without any thought to functionality, practicality or recognizability.

Some characters are halfway there. The Atom has a tiny little atom symbol on his forehead, but you can’t see that from a distance, and his costume is a standard red and blue. Unless the picture of him has him standing next to something else gigantic by contrast, letting you know he’s someone who can shrink to a tiny size, you may not be able to pick it out. The Punisher wears black with a big white skull on his chest. Yeah, that could potentially signify punishment. Or it would make someone think of Deathstroke, Deathlok or Deadman. Cyborg is covered with cybernetic parts – half-man, half machine. A cyborg. Or maybe Machine Man. Or Robotman.

You see the problem here?

Most of the really iconic superheroes have really iconic costume designs. Look at the Flash – although several characters have used that name, they’ve all worn red and sported a good old-fashioned lightning bolt motif. Lightning, of course, denotes speed, and red is a very fast color. Green Lantern works too – any Green Lantern costume. They all feature the only two things you need for that costume design to work: green is a main color and there’s an image of a lantern. Bam. That simple. Even the golden age Green Lantern, whose costume has a lot of red and purple in it, has a drawing of a green lantern on his chest – a much more lifelife drawing, by the way, than the later GLs had.

Color is a bonus for a lot of characters. Green Arrow? Well, if the Robin Hood motif wasn’t enough to tip you off, the color green would do it. Blue Beetle wears a blue costume with patterns and big golden eyes that suggest an insect. Simple. Red Tornado wears all red, plus he’s got a great big “T” on his chest.

Initials, of course, are another time-honored method of identification, particularly for characters with less distinctive powers. Superman and Wonder Woman are two of the most recognized comic book characters in the world, but their powers don’t really have anything to do with their names – strength, speed, flight, durability, etc. Basically, they can both do it all, which is what makes them super and wonderful, respectively. But since it’s hard to design a costume that says “this dude can do anything,” they wear costumes that look bold, proud and majestic. Bright colors, inspiring, classic designs… and on their chests, an “S” and a “W.” So if you’re looking at the lineup of the Justice League, you’ll guess Superman is the guy wearing the “S” and Wonder Woman is the one with the “W” – although she should be easier to pick out since she’s frequently the only active female member of the team.

The initials also help out Daredevil, but he doesn’t need them as badly as Clark and Diana. Aside from the “DD” symbol, he wears all red, just like a devil, and even has two little horns. He’s had other costumes – a yellow one and one that was mostly black – but neither of them worked nearly as well as the classic red.

Then of course, you’ve got the best costumes of all, the ones for heroes with a definite gimmick and a definite look to go along with it. Batman, for instance. He doesn’t have any powers, but he dresses up like a giant bat to scare crooks. So he has a dark costume with pointed ears and a giant, sweeping cape that comes to points like the wings of a bat – plus a picture of a bat on his chest. He looks like a bat-man. It’s an incredibly simple design, and it works perfectly.

And this finally brings us to what many people say is the best costume in comics, and I wouldn’t be inclined to argue – Spider-Man. How did he get his powers? Bitten by a radioactive spider. What does he do? Well, according to the song, “whatever a spider can.” So he wears a big spider on his chest, a bigger one on his back and covers the rest of the ensemble in spiderwebs. Magnifico.

All of the major characters – at least the ones known to the general public – have those kinds of simple designs, the ones that grab you, the ones that let you know at a glance what the character does. So comic creators and fans take note – if you want your superheroes to hit the big time some day, keep these rules in mind. Play it smart.

Leave the chains at home.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 2, 2005

This isn’t the first time I’ve given a “Favorite of the Week” nod to DC Comics’ The Monolith, but I’m sad to say it looks like it’ll be the last. Issue #12, which came out last week, was the final issue of this fantastic comic book about a young girl who inherits a house with a secret in the basement – a giant stone golem. This last issue doesn’t end the story of Alice, her best friend Tilt and the mystical protector they found, but it does bring it to a great resting point. The last line of the issue is one of the most profoundly heartfelt of the series. If you never read this title, go out and find the back issues, then write to DC and make your voice heard. Runaways got a new lease on life due to fan response – there’s no reason it couldn’t happen for this incredibly worthy series as well.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

20
Jul
11

Classic EBI #99: The Makings of a Universe

For years now, I’ve maintained a steadfast and unbroken tradition of not being at San Diego Comic-Con. This is not for lack of desire. So today, I take a look at the stuff happening in San Diego this year I wish I could be a part of…

Everything But Imaginary #407: What I’ll Miss in San Diego

But moving back in time, it’s January 25, 2005 and I’m taking a look at just how tight the continuity of the DC Universe has become in the last year or two. I’ll leave you guys to decide in this counts as irony or not.

Everything But Imaginary #99: The Makings of a Universe

I believe in credit where credit is due, so you’ve really got to give Stan Lee props for really creating our current concept of a superhero “universe.” Oh, superheroes had met before. All of the top National (later DC) Comics heroes had come together as the Justice Society of America in the 40s. Superman and Batman frequently appeared together in World’s Finest Comics. Even Atlas (later Marvel) had their collections of World War II-era characters like the Invaders and the All-Winner’s Squad.

But it was Stan the Man, writing approximately umpteen billion Marvel comics every month (this record would be held until Brian Michael Bendis broke into the business) that really started to forge a world with his creations. The adventures of the JSA didn’t impact the characters in their own titles, nor did the various team-ups that had happened. What Stan did, and did so well, was begin to mix events from various comics. If the Thing lost his powers in Fantastic Four, then he’d be powerless if the team happened to appear in Avengers that month. If Spider-Man was on the run from the law (in other words, if it was a day of the week ending in “y”), Foggy Nelson may have mentioned it in Daredevil. This was nowhere more evident than when Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — villainous foes of Iron Man and the X-Men, reformed and joined the Avengers.

These days, though, Marvel has sort of lost its cohesion as a universe. Each of Spider-Man’s three titles seem to exist in their own pocket world and barely connect. Nearly two years have passed in Daredevil during Bendis’s run, while other Marvel titles have only progressed a few months. Why, Magneto took over the entire city of New York at the end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and not a single other title even made reference to it. Except for comments in various titles about the events of Avengers Disassembled and the gloriously continuity-heavy She-Hulk title, it’s hard to feel like there’s a Marvel “universe” anymore.

But man, DC is trying to make up for it.

As Marvel’s titles have grown looser and looser, DC’s are getting tighter. And I’m going to warn you right now, this column is about to get spoiler-heavy for half of the books in the DC line, so if you see a title bolded you don’t want to know about, you may wanna skip ahead.

It’s easy to point to Identity Crisis as the genesis of this transformation. Like the ending or hate it, it was a huge storyline that has had an astronomical impact on the DC Universe. Just a month after the story’s conclusion, we’ve already seen fallout everywhere: the death of Robin’s father has impacted his own series, which in turn has impacted the other Batman-family books. It’s also being dealt with in Teen Titans, and dealt with extremely well. The Titans are also dealing with Lex Luthor’s battle armor, lost during that miniseries.

The apparent death of Ronnie Raymond is the very catalyst for the new Firestorm series. As if that weren’t enough, it’s sparked a storyline in Manhunter, as DC’s newest vigilante is trying to hunt the murderous Shadow Thief.

In Flash, Wally West has to cope with the fact that his uncle, the paragon of virtue Barry Allen, was one of a subset of the Justice League that agreed to tamper with the minds of their enemies — and what’s worse, has to deal with restoring an enemy who, in turn, is threatening to turn many of his reformed colleagues like Trickster, Heat Wave and the Pied Piper back to their old dark ways. In Adventures of Superman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are struggling with the same revelation.

And that’s just the stuff directly from Identity Crisis.What other links are appearing among the many titles of the DC Universe lately?

• After the events of “War Games,” the Birds of Prey have recruited a new member and left Gotham City, impacting every Batman title, particularly Nightwing — because he’s still in love with Oracle. Plus, the cops of Gotham Central are even more hostile towards the caped crusader than ever.

• Speaking of Nightwing, Starfire has quit the Teen Titans to join his team, the Outsiders, to try to help him cope with all the trauma in his life as of late.

• Speaking of the Titans, they’ve linked up with two other titles. Green Arrow’s sidekick, the new Speedy, has joined the team. A few months ago, the young heroes got caught up in a time-travel adventure that wound up restarting the entire universe for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and writer Mark Waid has promised that he and Barry Kitson are doing the new Legion as the official future of the DCU — it’s up to the other writers to get them there.

• In Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman title, we met the all-new (yet all-classic) Supergirl, who’s about to get her own title. There’s also a rumor that she may check in with the Teen Titans herself. Plus, Loeb is currently milking DC properties as diverse as Kamandi, Cinnamon, Jonah Hex and the Freedom Fighters for the current arc in that title. He’s brought back characters that haven’t been seen in years.

• In Wonder Woman’s title, she’s gone blind after a battle with Medusa. When she guest-appeared in Adventures of Superman, not only was she still blind, but she was wearing the same blindfold. Not too hard a trick, of course, since the two books share a writer, but it’ll be more impressive in a couple of months during a promised crossover with Flash.

• Speaking of crossovers and books with the same writer, Bloodhound wound up merged with Firestorm (both books by Dan Jolley) and the Monolith lent a hand against Solomon Grundy to Hawkman and Hawkgirl (two books by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray).

“Okay, Blake,” you’re saying, “We get your point. There are a lot of crossovers. So what?” My, you can be rude sometimes, did you know that?

Here’s the point of all this.

A few months ago a group of five writers, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb, conducted an interview where they promsied that they were building the future of the DC Universe. And if you look at the books I’ve mentioned, you see their names all over the place, along with other talented writers like Devin Grayson, Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko, Bill Willingham and others I will feel bad later for leaving out.

Clearly, this is going to be a monumental task, even looking ahead to promised events such as DC Countdown and the enigmatic Crisis 2.

Those stories are going to be the framework of the DC Universe of the future.

What we’re seeing now, across the entire line, is the foundation. We’re seeing the hints, the clues, the groundwork. And knowing that this is what we’re seeing, we get to have all the fun of watching as everything is put together.

Some people, I understand, don’t like continuity that tight. I know that. But for those of us who do, watching as it is created before our eyes is something really really incredible. Something amazing.

Something I once may have even called Marvelous.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 19, 2005

While we’re on the subject of those truly remarkable books, I have to give credit again to Geoff Johns for turning out the best comic book of the week, Teen Titans #20. Since the murder of his father and the death of his girlfriend in agonizingly short succession, Robin has tried to repress his emotions in an effort to prevent from becoming more like Batman (which was nice and ironic, since repressing his emotions only made him more like Batman). This issue dances around some action, but at its core is a heartfelt examination of a son’s grief and his desperate attempt to continue forging his own future, and not let it be determined for him.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

 

03
Jul
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 228: Rampant Speculation

It’s a busy July 4th Weekend, so Blake fires off this quickie, answering some listener e-mail regarding the works of Kevin Smith and DC’s all-ages content, then moving on to a new segment on the show: RAMPANT SPECULATION! Each week, Blake and the crew will select a solicit for an upcoming book and try to figure out what it’ll be about, beginning with September’s Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1. And in the picks, Blake digs FF #5. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 228: Rampant Speculation


05
Jun
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 224: The New DC

This week, DC Comics made an announcement that rocked the world of comics. This Sunday, the Showcase boys get together to talk about it. What’s the difference between a “reboot” and a “relaunch”? Will same-day digital change our reading habits? Which new books are we looking forward to, and what are some announcements we hope get made before all is said and done? In the picks, Mike likes Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade, Kenny chooses Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #1 and Blake goes with 50 Girls 50 #1. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 224: The New DC

13
Apr
11

Classic EBI #85: Deconstruction and Glory

With tax season upon us, we’re all going to look for less expensive entertainment. In the interests of helping us all with that dilemma, I’ve taken it upon myself to sift through Amazon for a few graphic novels that — at least as I write this — can be had for under ten bucks a pop.

Everything But Imaginary #394: Eight Under Ten

In the classic EBI from this week, we go back to Oct. 20, 2004, when I look at the two extremes of the superhero genre…

Everything But Imaginary #85: Deconstruction and Glory

There are many types of comic book fans — the geeks, the fanboys, the gaming crossovers, the alts, but there are only two types of fans that really get on my nerves. First are their ones who only read superhero comics. The ones who refuse to come out of the narrow little shell and experience all of the wild, diverse realms of storytelling that comic books have to offer. Second, the ones that refuse to read superhero comics, the ones who think they’re too cool for that and anyone who enjoys a superhero comic is intellectually beneath them and that by picking up this week’s Amazing Spider-Man you are contributing to the downfall of western civilization. (You are actually doing this by picking up Action Comics.) [2011 Note: I wrote this during Chuck Austen's run on Action Comics. I stand by this statement.]

Smart comic fans, I think, should fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Nobody should ever read any comic they don’t like (save your money and buy something good), but it’s even more important not to close yourself off to a great story just because of the genre it is written in.

Just as comic book fans have divided themselves into these camps, however, superhero comics to a very large degree have divided themselves as well, and although there are some exceptions, almost all mainstream superhero titles these days play more to one side of the spectrum or the other — they deconstruct the heroes, or they glorify them.

“Deconstruction,” of course, is nothing new — one could argue that it goes back as far as Green Arrow’s discovery of his sidekick Speedy’s heroin addiction. There are lots of kinds of deconstructive stories — those that show the heroes has having all-too-human flaws or feet of clay, or those that simply show them failing, or achieving victory but at too high a price. The darker threats, the mass murders, the terrorist actions. These are the “deconstructive” comics.

Pretty much every title under the Marvel Knights banner fits this description — Daredevil is a great example. He was, in his early days, a brighter character, akin to Spider-Man, but as time went on he got darker and darker. Now his comic is the epitome of gritty, showing hard crime and real consequences. Matt Murdock’s world is not a nice place to live. Brian Michael Bendis, of course, is one of the tops in this realm of comics — along with guys like Grant Morrison and Bruce Jones, and perennial favorites like Frank Miller and Neal Adams. These are often the only comics the “too cool for school” crowd will touch, mainly because it’s so “grim” and “edgy” and helps to shatter the ideals of the spandex-clad warriors they sneer at the rest of the time.

Then we have the flip side of superhero comics — those that take the traditions and standards of the genre and raise them up, glorify them, and make them seem fresh and new again. Take a look at Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four for a primary example of this. While the “Unthinkable” and “Authoritative Action” storylines he told last year did get pretty dark, he stayed with what made the characters the heroes they were rather than pull them down, and he closed off that chapter of their lives in the “Afterlife” story by bringing back the Thing (killed in “Authoritative Action,”) with a little help from a certain Man Upstairs who looked an awful lot like Jack Kirby. Some readers balked at the unabashed sentimentality. I thought it was brilliant.

Geoff Johns has also proven himself quite adept at the glorification of superheroes, and he does it in a way that Waid often does too — he mines their pasts, digging into classic stories from the golden, silver and bronze ages, and uses them to craft something totally new. A lot of his Teen Titans series up to this point has been about bringing together threads left by the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the property, but updating it to fit in the new members of the team. In Flash, he keeps taking old villains and remaking them into more serious threats (as he did with the likes of Mirror Master and Captain Cold) or introducing new threats that tie into the past of the character (like Murmur and the new Zoom).

Johns may just save his best storyweaving skills for JSA, however, and it’s no wonder. This is the first superhero team in the history of comic books, and several of the oldest characters in industry are still members. What’s more, they have progeny and proteges that are carring on in their names. Johns has brought together the legacies of the Star-Spangled Kid and Starman stogether in Stargirl, restored Hawkman to a characterization that actually makes sense and even made a character with the goofy Golden Age moniker Mr. Teriffic a deep, interesting character.

But man, the stuff he’s done with Hourman is even better. The original Hourman, Rex Tyler, died fighting Extant during DC’s Zero Hour miniseries. There are two other Hourmen walking around, though, Rex’s son Rick, and an android from the future with time-travel powers. In JSA we learn that the android plucked Rex from the timestream just before his death and gave him one hour to spend with his son, who could break up that hour into increments anytime he needed to talk to his father. When Rick was almost killed fighting Black Adam, though, he and Rex switched places, with Rex back in the “regular” timestream and Rick trapped in time. Johns wrapped up that storyline in last week’s JSA #66 with an ending that showed off everything that made these characters heroes.

If we’re talking about glorifying superheroes, though, one need look no further than Astro City. Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross have created a real lush, wonderful world that pays a brilliant tribute to everything that superhero comics have to offer, and they look at it from every angle. If you haven’t read this comic, you haven’t read superheroes right.

Here’s the thing — while excellent stories have been told in both the deconstruction and glorification subgenres of superheroes, not all characters are suited for both. Superman and Captain America, for instance, never really work in deconstructed stories. When you start making Superman grim or edgy, you lose what it is that makes him Superman.

This was the big problem I had with Mark Millar’s Ultimates series, and the reason I’m not getting Ultimates 2. Millar recreated regular Marvel characters and made it a point that they were not the same as the ones we were used to. However, the new characters he whipped up seemed to me to be nothing more than the original character’s worst traits magnified to the extreme. Giant-Man was nothing more than a wife-beater. Iron Man was nothing more than a drunken philanderer. Captain America was nothing more than an arrogant nationalist.

On the other hand, characters like the Punisher just don’t hold up if you try to glorify them. Even when you go lighthearted, as Garth Ennis did in the Marvel Knights incarnation of the character, it has to be dark humor, with an undertone of madness that belies the character’s situation in life.

Then there are those rare characters that work if you’re deconstructing or glorifying superheroes. I think the X-Men are probably the best example of this. During New X-Men, writer Grant Morrison dissected these characters, brought their faults to the forefront and made them face down threats — both from without and within — that tore the team apart. Much of his story was a satire of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the characters (Magneto’s tendency to get resurrected no matter what the circumstances of his death were, for instance, or the egocentric notion that the “X” in Weapon X was a letter and not a Roman numeral). He took the X-Men apart and pieced them into something new, then he put the chairs on the tables, wiped down the counter and left.

Then he leaves and what happens? Joss Whedon comes in with Astonishing X-Men and, using many of the same characters, puts them back into costumes and sends ‘em out to be superheroes. And it works, just as well. Meanwhile, Nunzio DeFillips and Christina Weir remake their New Mutants series into New X-Men: Academy X, a book about — what else? — teen superheroes. These are kids learning to one day become X-Men, and as such, the book has several elements that both glorify superheroes (the code names, the “squads”) and break them down (how Wither accidentally killed his father with his powers, for instance).

There are many, many different things that can be done with superhero comics, and a great many of them are being done right now, done very well. There’s an old saying in some parts of the country that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. With comic books, if you don’t like one, just take a step or two further down the rack. Even if you’re looking at a rack of superheroes, you won’t have far to go to find something totally different.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 6, 2004

Welcome back, Bill Willingham, you have been too long absent from this list, but last week’s Fables #30 bolted you right back to the front of the pack. I’ve been a fan of this title since the first issue, friends, and issue #30 is possibly the best yet. This is the answer to “decompressed” storytelling here, everything happens at once. The Fables are reconstructing their home after a battle, the election for the mayor of Fabletown is going off, Snow White is in labor (and Bigby Wolf is the father) — there are three major storylines in this issue, a half-dozen (if not more) minor storylines, and there’s still room in there for a few surprises. If you haven’t tried out Fables, this may just be a great place to start.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

 

19
Jan
11

Classic EBI #73: A Boy and His Monster… Or Robot… Or Teddy… Or a Girl…

In this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary, I take a look at the current run of “DC Icons” covers that you no doubt have seen in the comic shops, then dive back and look at previous cover “theme months” from the big two. These things can be a lot of fun, when done right.

Everything But Imaginary #383: Cover Stock

In this week’s Classic EBI, we go back to July 28, 2004, when I took a look at an interesting trend in comics for kids… specifically those tales of a child and a big, powerful buddy that we’d all like to have around.

A Boy and His Monster… or Robot… or Teddy… or a Girl…

Whether it is as a reader or a writer, one thing that absolutely fascinates me about fiction is seeing patterns develop. Recurring themes that show up again and again throughout history — different writers, different cultures, different eras, but the same basic idea. The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, the Harry Potter books, Abadazad — what do these all have in common? They’re all about a child (or group of children) being whisked away from a normal, mundane world to a place of magic, fancy and imagination. That sort of thing is my meat.

Another such common theme, and one that has appeared in comic books time and again over the years, is the idea of “a boy and his monster.” Now technically, it doesn’t have to be a boy and it doesn’t have to be a monster for it to fit into the pattern, but the basic idea is of a person — typically young, usually innocent — gaining some sort of incredibly powerful protector, their own personal guardian angel with fangs or transistors. Brad Bird’s brilliant film The Iron Giant is one of my all-time favorite animated features just because it captures that theme so wonderfully.

The idea appeals to children because, let’s face it, there were times in everyone’s life where you felt like the world was crashing down on you, like the bullies would never leave you alone, like the grown-ups would never understand, that you don’t have a friend in the world. These fantasies solved all of those problems — someone who loved you unconditionally, someone who knew your pains, and someone who could stand up and fight for you. That’s why kids love this story, and that’s why it works so often in comic books.

Not so long ago there was a comic that got a very devoted cult following using this very theme — Sean McKeever’s Sentinel. Juston Seyfert, our teenage protagonist, came across a massive robot in his family’s salvage yard. It was one of those giant killer robots that had tried to wipe out mutants in the X-Men titles a while back, but this one somehow became a protector for Juston. I have to admit, I never read this series, although I intend to hunt for the Marvel Age digest editions, just to see what all the fuss was about.

Juston was far from the first comic character to gain one of these protectors, of course. As far back as the Silver Age, DC fans thrilled to the exploits of Stanley and His Monster. Stanley Dover was a typical five-year-old boy, but he had no siblings and no friends to play with, until the day a big, friendly purple monster arrived in his life. Naming the creature Spot, the two of them had many adventures together, even as his parents thought the monster was just their son’s imaginary friend.

This was a fun, silly little title first introduced in 1965 as a simple humor comic, a “kiddie’ book in the true sense of the word, beginning as a back-up feature in Fox and Crow #95 and rapidly taking over the book. It was renamed with issue #109. The kid’s life wasn’t that bad, he was just lonely and he needed a friend, and that’s what he got It wasn’t until years later that the tale of Stanley popped into the real DC Universe. Spot, as it turned out, was actually a demon with no name, cast from Hell for being too nice, and Stanley’s grandfather was a serial killer hoping to gain control of the beast by repeating the ritual that had caused Morpheus, the Sandman, to be trapped on Earth for decades. Grampa’s plot was conveniently foiled by Green Arrow during Kevin Smith’s “Quiver” storyline in 2001, and since gramps was too dangerous to let simply run around, the monster ate him. If that ain’t kid-power to the extreme, I don’t know what is.

On a more lighthearted note, thanks to our own Craig Reade, I recently discovered Herobear and the Kid by Mike Kunkel. I fell in love with this book in about half an instant. The idea is simple, and fits into this pattern perfectly — Tyler’s grandfather has just died. His parents inherited the kindly old man’s huge home and they’re moving in — meaning he has to cope with the loss of his grandfather and moving to a new school, trying to make new friends, getting picked on by bullies and getting frustrated by his little sister. What’s more, the only thing he inherited from his grandfather was an old, white teddy bear and a broken pocketwatch, neither of which come in particularly handy when the schoolyard jerks are pounding him into the sandbox.

This is where the book takes its turn into pure magic — the teddy bear comes to life and turns into a ten-foot-tall polar bear with a bright red cape — Herobear. This feeds into that classic kid fantasy perfectly. A protector, a friend, and more than that, a superhero that wants to take you on adventures with him. Even more than that, Kunkel has a beautiful art style — he doesn’t erase his early pencil lines, giving the whole comic book a look that feels like you’re reading the storyboard for a movie. And if there’s nobody thinking of making a movie out of this comic yet, than there is no hope left for Hollywood.

What’s even better is the ultimate origin of Herobear, the truth about where he came from. It’s a neat little twist that is more magical than anything else.

Gail Simone tried a little twist on this theme last year with her Gus Beezer stories. In a series of four one-shots, she introduced us to a young boy who lived in the Marvel Universe and loved the Marvel superheroes. Gus faces the same challenges kids like Stanley and Tyler did, but he never had his own “monster,” strictly speaking. Instead, he encountered heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk, all of whom got a chance to fill that role. He was even made an honorary X-Man by Wolverine and got to hang out with his cousin Peter Parker. I loved these charming little books, and as good as Simone’s work on Birds of Prey and Legion is shaping up to be, I hope that once her DC exclusive contract runs out she finds time to go back to Gus.

The last book I’m going to talk about here, while strictly adhering to the basic format, is probably farthest from the others in spirit. Most “boy and his monster” stories are about the child learning and growing because of his protector’s presence, but DC Comics’ The Monolith is as much about change for the monster. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, this story is about Alice Cohen, a young woman who inherits her grandmother’s house with a few conditions — she get a job, she not sell the house, and she gets cleaned up from the drugs she’s been on. (This, clearly, is not a version of the story for children.)

In her grandmother’s home, however, Alice finds a Golem trapped in the basement. This legendary creature from Hebrew myth was created decades ago by her grandmother and others out of clay and given life with the blood of a man she had loved. The creature was supposed to be a protector, but had no sense of proportion, meting out brutal punishments for even the mildest of offenses. When Alice had to free the creature to save her life, she couldn’t get it back in, and now she finds herself trying to teach it about the world, and learning to become a hero herself in the process.

I really dig this title — it’s a new take on a classic theme, which is what most of the best fiction is these days — and because of its very nature it doesn’t flinch from ideas of faith. This is that classic “best book you’re not reading.” If you’re still smarting from Sentinel’s cancellation, you really should check this comic out.

Myth is a powerful thing, and I love to take the time to see how the same myth can be retold again and again. I’m sure there are plenty of “boy and his monster” stories out there that I’ve missed. And I’m sure you’ll let me know about them. And I’m sure you’ll yell at me because I haven’t read Sentinel yet.

But in the end, if a story can get someone talking, that’s a story that has done its job.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: July 21, 2004

As much as I enjoy the Devil’s Due Comics G.I. Joe series, it is rare for an issue to simply blow me away. Issue #32 did. With Destro in custody, Cobra Commander planned a daring raid to spring him and deliver him into his own “tender mercies.” One of the great things about the G.I. Joe comic (as opposed to the TV show) is that, once you put the superheroish action movie qualities aside, it’s pretty realistic compared to most comics. Actions have consequences. Things change. And people die suddenly, and without warning. My jaw was on the floor at the end of this issue. Well done. Brandon Jerwa. Keep writing ‘em like this.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

02
Jul
10

Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day with extra Green

Okay, gang, how about another roundup of recent comic book releases. I’ll give you my usual slate of Brightest Day comics, then tomorrow I’ll get into some other recent books, including a few Heroic Age comics and the big Wonder Woman #600 that all the kids are talking about. Let’s get to it.

Green Lantern Corps #49: In part two of “Revolt of the Alpha-Lanterns,” Boodikka and John Stewart undertake a mission to planet Grenda, home of the robot Lantern Stel, who has gone incommunicado. Shortly after his arrival, though, John finds himself under attack by an unexpected source, and Kyle Rayner, Ganthet, and Soranik Natu go out to rescue the rescue mission. We also get a glimpse of the fallout from Deadman’s battle with the Anti-Monitor in Brightest Day #3, as it seems to be playing into this storyline. Ever since the Alpha-Lanterns were introduced, there’s been something distinctly creepy about them, and this issue seems to be pulling the curtain back a bit on them. We’re getting to see some of what they’re really up to, and while we still may not quite know why they’re behaving this way, the fact that they are is disturbing enough. Tony Bedard does still have room for character beats, though. The recent return of Kyle’s late ex-girlfriend, Jade, is causing trouble in his current relationship with Soranik. We also really get to see what makes John Stewart tick in this issue. I’m very happy that he’s joined the cast of this book full-time, as in just two issues he’s gotten more exposure than he did in the past 25 issues of the core Green Lantern title. Ardian Syaf gets to play with a lot of redesigns this issue, and he does a fine job. He’s rapidly rising up the ranks of DC’s bests artists, and this is one of DC’s best comics.

Rating: 8/10

Green Arrow #1: Hey, look, it’s a Green Arrow #1! It must be at least two, three months since we had one of those. At the beginning of Brightest Day, the devastated Star City became the site of an enormous star-shaped forest. Oliver Queen, now unmasked and disgraced as Green Arrow due to his murder of Prometheus (in Justice League: Cry For Justice), has taken to living in the forest, where he has become far more literal a modern Robin Hood than ever before. Not surprisingly, this issue is a lot of set-up. We find out where Ollie has been and what he’s been doing  since we last saw him, and we see what’s been happening to the power structure in what’s left of Star City. At the end of the issue, we see once again just how this title seems to be keyed in to Brightest Day, with a nice little reveal. While I’m still not sold that this revamp of the character justified yet another first issue for Green Arrow, I really do like what J.T. Krul is doing with him. He’s got a very good feel for Ollie, for who he is, for what he’s doing. Diogenes Neves’ artwork is strong, and interestingly enough seems to work better in the forest than in the city. Mauro Cascioli does a flat-out fantastic cover, one that really knocks my socks off. It’s not a knockout first issue, but it’s a strong one.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League: Generation Lost #4

The four JLI members who remember Max Lord, along with the new Blue Beetle, find themselves in Russia, unwillingly drawn into a conflict between a rogue Rocket Red and an entire squad of the armored Russian warriors. The new Rocket Red, a terrorist dedicated to the restoration of the Socialist rule, finds an unexpected ally in the former Justice League, and it’s Booster Gold of all people who starts to piece together what’s going on. Like many of the characters who returned from the dead, this issue we start to see that Maxwell Lord’s powers aren’t exactly like they were before his death. I find this particular mystery very interesting, and I’ve very much enjoyed watching it play out in several of the Brightest Day-branded titles. The reluctance of this group to form a team is also a really interesting way to play things. Judd Winick’s Power Girl last week didn’t impress me much, but his collaboration with Keith Giffen has been quite strong since this book launched. I’m enjoying the story, the mystery, and seeing these characters together again, which is what you want whenever this particular band is brought back together.

Rating: 7/10

Green Lantern #55: Lobo is back, and he’s on Earth to collect the bounty on Atrocitus. As the White Lantern still seems to want Atrocitus around, Hal Jordan finds himself in the odd position of defending the Red Lantern, along with Carol Ferris and Sinestro, from the last Czarnian. There’s a ton of action this issue, and Doug Mahnke does a great job of laying it out. The inks on this issue, though, are a little looser than I would like. Aside from the fight scenes, Geoff Johns also delves into the mystery of the strange being that seems determined to capture the Entities that embody the seven Corps. This has been a very strong element in this title, once that’s helped to propel the story forward since Brightest Day began. We also get a back-up story illustrated by Shawn Davis, the origin of the Red Lantern Dex-Starr. What exactly could take a cat from Earth and turn him into a brutal member of the rage-filled Red Lantern Corps? It’s a sad story, no surprise, and the last panel will break the heart of pretty much any cat-lover. Despite myself, I can’t help but hope that Johns returns to this story at some point and gives Dex-Starr the chance for a little payback.

Rating: 8/10

The Flash #3: Another Geoff Johns comic (the guy writes a lot of them, doesn’t he?) returns to the resurrected Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is back in prison, where he’s been given the “assignment” to break out before his fellow Rogues will consider accepting him back into the fold. Barry Allen, meanwhile, is being pursued by the Renegades – Rogue-based cops from the 25th century – who are accusing him of the murder of one of their own… a murder that hasn’t happened yet. This is a damn ominous issue. Not only is Captain Boomerang shaping up to be much more of a threat than he’s been in the past, but Johns briefly brushes up against just why Barry could be driven to kill Mirror Monarch. Here’s a hint. Barry has killed before. Anybody remember what it was that drove him to it the first time? Two more things to love about this issue. First, Johns has brought back the old-school “Flash Facts,” with the help of artist Scott Kolins, giving us both actual science (how a Boomerang works) and some “Secret Files”-style in-world info, in this case about Captain Boomerang himself. The other thing to love is the art of Francis Manapul. I don’t know if it’s an improvement in his style or the colors of Brian Buccellato (or a combination of the two), but his style on this book is so far ahead of his work on Legion of Super-Heroes just a few years ago that you couldn’t tell it was the same artist. It’s fantastic.

Rating: 9/10

Justice League of America #46: After a two-issue prologue, the JLA/JSA crossover “The Dark Things” begins in earnest this issue. The Starheart has taken over Green Lantern Alan Scott, and the power is spreading across the Earth, causing magic- or elemental-based heroes and villains to lose control and wreak havoc on the world. The Justice League and Justice Society spring into action to shut down the elementals, while the newly-returned Jade tries to use her altered powers to try to figure out what’s happened to her absent father and brother. James Robinson does good work balancing the two groups of characters and exploring some of the new relationships that this team is afforded – Congorilla and Jesse Quick, Nightwing and Supergirl… characters that we haven’t seen together very much, but work well together. Mark Bagley juggles a ton of characters this issue and he’s got a good feel for most of them. The young League looks great, the older JSA not as much, and that’s just a consequence of his style. He’s always done young characters very well. In the back-up story, Pow Rodrix illustrates the tale of two JLA members that don’t appear to be on the current team. Cyborg has helped develop a new technology that may prevent Red Tornado from ever having his body destroyed again, but when Red Tornado loses control, that’s a pretty big problem. The story isn’t clear as to whether Tornado’s loss of control is related to the Starheart in the main story, but I rather hope it is, as it will give the second story a bit more weight.

Rating: 7/10

Tomorrow, some comics that have nothing to do with Brightest Day.




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