Archive for April, 2009

30
Apr
09

Should I read STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN?

Star Trek: CountdownIf you somehow missed the deluge of TV ads, in-theater trailers, magazine covers, action figures, cereal box giveaways, and automatic transmissions stamped with the logo, in just a week there’s going to be a new Star Trek movie. This film is intended as a “reboot” of the franchise, featuring a young Kirk, Spock, Scott and company in their earliest days with Starfleet. Apparently, this new film is somehow going to be in-continuity with the classic series, even though much of what we’ve seen so far drastically contradicts a lot of the classic series. (This is the reason that some geeks, like my good buddy Chase, have pre-emptively declared a jihad against the film pretty much from the moment the first teaser trailer was released a year ago.)

Unlike many of my Geek Brothers, I actually feel guardedly optimistic about the film. Let me explain — there are many different levels of Star Trek fans. There have been five television series, ten feature films, and a cartoon, and every one of them has its fans and its detractors. I liked the original series. I loved The Next Generation. I actually thought — and still think — Deep Space Nine was the best series in the franchise, because it successfully told a story with a long-term arc, something that’s commonplace in genre television today, but was still pretty rare then. Voyager was terrible, and Enterprise was pretty good, but never good enough for me to remember to watch it every week.

So while I like Trek, I do not (as Chase puts it) “bleed green.” I’m allowed to be interested in the movie.

IDW Comics recently released a four-issue comic series called Star Trek: Countdown, a “prequel” to the new movie. Based solely on the characters that appear on the covers, it seems clear that there’s going to be a time-travel element to both the comic and the film, which again, I’m fine with. Plus, the comic got surprisingly good reviews from reviewers whose opinions I trust. It sounds like this is a solid comic and one worth reading. But here’s the thing — I really want to go into the movie fresh. I don’t want any preconceived notions. I want to go in and absorb it for what it is and see if what it is is something I like. I want someone to diagram that last sentence, I dare you.

I have got a copy of Countdown. But as it sits in my pile of comics from this week, I cannot for the life of me decide if I should read it or not. Or rather, I can’t decide if I should read it before I see the movie, or after.

So, friends, I put the question in your hands. If you’ve read Countdown (or even if you haven’t), convince me one way or the other. Do it in a spoiler-free fashion. And by the time the movie comes out next weekend, I will either read it on Friday, before I see the film, or Sunday, after I see it. And either way, I’ll give you my thoughts on the comic and the movie.

Fair enough?

Get crackin’ in the comments.

29
Apr
09

NOLA Comic-Con 2009: Pics and Podcast!

Sometimes my quasi-rigid schedule gets the better of me. Last Saturday was the first NOLA Comic-Con, and the 2 in 1 Showcase gang was there in force. But as I’ve got regular features of sorts on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I waited until today to share some pictures of the bash with you. We also recorded a podcast that was so ginormous we had to break it up into three parts. You can download them all right now!

And now, some photos from the convention floor:

With dealers filling the middle of the room, there was plenty of shopping to be had.

With dealers filling the middle of the room, there was plenty of shopping to be had.

Rorshach asked us to take this picture again because he blinked. Chase and I were stunned to discover that Rorshach is funnier than Mike.

Rorschach asked us to take this picture again because he blinked. Chase and I were stunned to discover that Rorschach is funnier than Mike.

The guys from Mass Casualty Comics turned their fans into the Undead!

The guys from Mass Casualty Comics turned their fans into the Undead!

The first zombie Chase hasnt killed on sight!

The first zombie Chase hasn't killed on sight!

Home base of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion

Home base of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion

The guys from the Red Stick Rebellion collectors club came by for a chat.

The guys from the Red Stick Rebellion collector's club came by for a chat.

The view from the Showcase table

The view from the Showcase table

We talked to R.J. of Creeping Hemlock Press...

We talked to R.J. of Creeping Hemlock Press...

...to Kevin from Strange City Heroes...

...to Kevin from Strange City Heroes...

...and to Adventures of Superman, Robin, and Youngblood artist Derec Donovan!

...and to Adventures of Superman, Robin, and Youngblood artist Derec Donovan!

Kenny got a new doll.

Kenny got a new doll.

Organizer Ronnie Prudhomme gave a special recognition to Carl Tupper, the heart of the New Orleans comic community for decades.

Organizer Ronnie Prudhomme gave a special recognition to Carl Tupper, the heart of the New Orleans comic community for decades.

And the Showcase boys had a hell of a time!

And the Showcase boys had a hell of a time!

Did you miss attending the show in person? Did you not realize this was your chance to meet the 2 in 1 Showcase crew? Are you wasting away to nothing, aching for your chance to “Ask Chase Anything?” Or are you just wondering where I got my spiffy Blue Lantern shirt?

Well you’re in luck! This Saturday is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, and we’re going to be camped out recording a special episode at BSI Comics in Metaire, Louisiana! Come on by and see us!

28
Apr
09

Everything But Imaginary 305: FCBD 2009-A Day That Will Live in Geekfamy

In a few days, comic book fans will converge on America’s shops to get their hands on a flock of FREE comic books! You should go too. Here’s why.

Everything But Imaginary #305: FCBD 2009-A Day That Will Live in Geekfamy
Inside This Column:

27
Apr
09

Lost in Silver Chapter Seven: The Arivals

Chapter Seven

The Arrivals

Benny was understandably disappointed that the palace was not emerald at all, but rather the standard gray stone one came across in the less imaginative books he’d read. Boulders, masonry, massive beams of wood – these things probably made for good, practical architecture, but they definitely lacked the flair of a green, glittering city covered in gems. In the book, of course, the green tint of the Emerald City had turned out to be caused by the green glasses all the people were forced to wear and not due to the actual building materials at all, just one of many humbugs perpetrated on the inhabitants of the Land of Oz. In that context, Benny supposed it would be impolite of him to complain about this point.

It was a rather grand castle for all that. Larger than the largest plantation home Benny ever saw back in Louisiana, both in width and height, with grand turrets at every corner and towers reaching up into the sky like the gray fingers of a giant statue trying to grip the sun. There was a moat, of course, for there was always a moat, and within the murky water he could imagine fierce barracuda, eels and even nastier serpents he had never read about in books because the fact of their existence had been deemed far too terrifying for children.

As they approached the castle, Benny felt a strange buzzing sound in the back of his mind, like a cordless telephone picking up bits and pieces of someone else’s conversation being broadcast through the air. A few seconds later, without any sort of word or signal from Baliwick, not to mention without catching glimpse of another living soul, the castle’s drawbridge began to slowly come down.

“We’re finally here, my little friend,” Baliwick said.

Cool,” Benny whispered as the drawbridge fell. With every foot it came down, Benny’s view of the inside of the fortress got better. An iron gate was raised even as the drawbridge was being lowered, and within the stone walls Benny finally saw other people, the first since Baliwick had taken him from the park where his sister had been playing soccer. Several men and women were walking around in a vast courtyard. They, like Baliwick, had a rough sort of olive-colored skin and slick, black hair. Those that stopped what they were doing as the bridge came down smiled at Baliwick, no doubt happy to see him returning home. They all looked so much alike. Benny wondered if they were all related. He had several first cousins himself, but none of them bore such a striking resemblance to him as all of these people did to Baliwick.

When the drawbridge settled on the ground, Baliwick again took Benny’s hand and led him across the sturdy wooden planks. For fun, Benny imagined himself walking across without the drawbridge as a support beneath him. He saw his small, white tennis shoes hovering only a foot or two above the stagnant moat water, and imagined a swarm of hungry piranha swimming up beneath him, leaping from the water, hoping to grab onto his toes and bite them off for a quick snack before they moved on to the rest of him. It was a gruesome image, but Benny laughed at how absurd it was. Even in his storybooks, it was very rare to encounter anyone who could hover or fly, at least without a pair a magical shoes or wings made of palm leaves and sprinkled with a precious powder of life.

They stepped off the drawbridge and beneath the great stone arch that marked the true entrance to the fortress. “Sorry fishies,” Benny said. “Try again next time.”

“What was that, Benny?” Baliwick asked.

“Nothing.”

The black-haired man who had lowered the bridge began to turn a giant wheel, slowly bringing the bridge back up. Beside him, another man bowed ceremonially to Baliwick. “You have found him, sir,” he said.

“Of course I have, Tantris. Have you ever known me to fail? Is there any word of the traveler?”

“Some, m’lord, but nothing we did not suspect already. The old woman is readying her sons to begin their own quest. We must move quickly.”

Baliwick laughed. Benny wasn’t sure he liked it when Baliwick laughed – it seemed to rumble from some deep chamber impossibly deep within his chest and roll out of his lips like an angry fog. “Let her send the fools. We already have something she does not. We have our new friend Benny.”

“What are you talking about, Baliwick?” Benny said.

“Well, Benny, some terribly unpleasant people are searching for something very special. The same thing I am searching for, in fact. But I believe you will be able to help me find it before they do. You will help me, won’t you Benny?”

“Of course!” he said. “But… how can I help you?”

Baliwick’s acid smile returned. “Ah, dear boy, that is what makes you so wonderful. You have no idea what magnificent secrets you already possess.”

*   *   *

The entry into Evertime did not seem quite as turbulent as before to Linda. The water was still piercingly cold, the currents still rough, but the transition did not frighten her the way it had before. Perhaps she was simply growing used to it. That thought made her nervous somehow.

Nancy, of course, was the first one out of the water, pulling the kids behind her. She had two on each side, hands linked, and the chain of five came out into the world that sported no sky but more than enough trees and water to compensate for the absence.

Nancy pulled herself from the water and sat beside the pool as the kids followed her out. “Have a seat and let yourself dry off. It won’t take long – not that it matters. We’ve got all the time in the world here. Oh, that reminds me…” she rolled back the sleeve of her trenchcoat and showed her watch to Linda.

“What time does it show?”

“6:35,” Linda said.

“That’s right. And the second hand?”

“It’s not moving.”

“That’s because we entered the pool at 6:35 and…” she glanced at the watch. “And 14 seconds. We are currently somewhere between 6:35 and 14 second and 6:35 and 15 seconds, and we’re going to stay at that point until we jump into another pool somewhere.”

Gene looked at the frozen watch. “So if we had two video cameras – one on the pool we were jumping into and one on the pool we were coming out of, and we started running the tape…”

“The tapes would show you popping out of the water in the second world an instant after you went underwater in the first world.”

“Neato.”

“After a while, it kind of is,” Nancy said. “Sure wigs you out at first though, doesn’t it? Everybody dry yet?”

They all nodded and Nancy stood up and brushed herself off. “Let’s go then. Hope none of you guys were tired when you jumped in. That’s one of the more irritating side effects of standing between moments. All of your bodily functions stop. You can’t sleep here, you can’t eat, you can’t rest… Heaven help you if you jump in with a headache, because it’s just not going away.”

“So that’s why I was so winded the whole first time we were here,” Kevin said.

“What’s this place you’re taking us?” Gail asked. “The Infinity…”

“Infinity Bar and Grille,” Nancy said. “Everyone who comes through Evertime winds up there sooner or later. Better for you to see it than to try to explain it to you.”

“Why’s that?” Linda asked.

“You’ll understand when you see it,” Nancy said.

“You’re awfully good at avoiding answering questions, you know that?”

“Survival skill. Evertime rule number two is to never give anyone a straight answer unless you’re 100 percent sure what they’re planning to do with it.”

“That’s pessimistic,” Gail said.

“Maybe so, but pessimism can keep you alive sometimes, Gail.”

“What a cheerful thought,” Gene said.

*   *   *

It was another very long walk, not that there was any way to measure how long, exactly, and before it was over Linda was beginning to wonder if any two worlds in Evertime worth visiting were in proximity of each other. She tried to occupy herself by observing the odd shapes of the trees, but even the infinite variety of foliage began to grow dull after a while. Once you’ve seen something like a birch with enormous glass bulbs hanging from the boughs and the plaid mango trees, the shocks began to fade. Her attention was only really caught when she saw a distant bipedal figure that looked like a man with his fists clenched at his side, unmoving as the rest of the background. She decided it was just another tree and kept going.

After what seemed like, and may literally have been, an eternity, Nancy pointed ahead and said, “There it is. We’re almost there.”

Linda looked where she was pointing. “What, that tree that looks like it has blue apples growing on it?”

“No, behind that.”

“That doesn’t look like a tree,” she said. “It looks like a…”

“A sign,” Gene whispered.

As they grew closer they learned that was exactly what they were looking at. It was the first trace of anything that could have been man-made they saw anywhere in Evertime, and it was a “doozy” (another old-fashioned word Kevin picked up from his grandfather). As they cleared the tree that was partially blocking their vision, all five of them came upon the big, blue sign. It looked like the signs that stand near exits on interstate highways, tall blue planks that say “Food and Lodging” at the top and, beneath, had symbols for McDonald’s, Cracker Barrel and the Super 8 Motel.

This sign also said “Food and Lodging,” but it had only one symbol beneath it – a wide, curving figure eight turned on its side.

“What’s that picture?” Kevin asked.

“That’s the symbol for infinity,” Gail said. “You need to read more books, Kevin.”

“I read.”

Sports Illustrated doesn’t count.”

Linda glanced back, surprised at her friend’s behavior. Gail had been growing more and more snippy towards Kevin every time he expressed a desire to go on with this insane adventure instead of turning around and going home. She wondered if his enthusiasm for this quest would be enough to kill off Gail’s recent infatuation with him. It certainly seemed that was the case.

“Gail’s right,” Nancy said, not paying attention to the fourth-grade soap opera churning around her. “This is the Infinity Bar and Grille. Pretty much everyone who goes through Evertime winds up here sooner or later. It’s sort of a neutral ground. Any species can survive in its atmosphere no matter what they breathe. Deals can be made but disputes are not tolerated, and anyone who fights gets chucked through the front door onto their butt. Assuming, of course, that they have butts. You guys ready?”

“Do we have a choice?” Gail muttered.

“Good attitude. Now, if you’ll observe before we jump in, the time is still 6:35 and 14 seconds.” She held out both of her hands and the kids took them in their own, again forming the human chain that brought them into Evertime from Lewiston. They lined up at the edge of the pool, counted to three, and jumped.

When they surfaced, Linda spat out some water that got into her mouth and wiped her eyes clean. It was hard to see. There had been some daylight left when they jumped into the Lewiston pool, but now it was pitch black. She couldn’t see anything, even the moon or stars, but there was definitely light coming from somewhere, because it was reflecting off the water around her.

“Turn around, Linda,” Nancy said, paddling away. Linda turned in the water and realized she’d been facing the wrong direction. The sky was still midnight-black, but the building that stood against it certainly was not. It was an old-fashioned, wood-sided pub with big, glass windows that had the Infinity Bar and Grille logo painted on the front. There were a couple of smokestacks tooting white vapor into the air, and through the glass there was a lot of motion, a lot of life, although she could not properly make out anyone’s face. The building was right near the edge of the pool, and there was nothing else in any direction as far as Linda could see. No parking lot. No cars. No trees. No other buildings.

Nothing.

Nancy and the kids climbed out of the water and again waited for it to drip away. As they did so, Nancy showed off her watch – it was 6:35 and 52 seconds now, and the second hand was merrily ticking away again.

Together, the five of them stepped into the establishment, and the moment they stepped through the door Linda thought she was going to be overwhelmed with sound and light. The room was set up like any pub or restaurant she’d ever been to, not that different from the diner back in Lewiston, actually, with the counter against the back wall and a row of glasses with an incredible variety of beverage containers behind it. There were tables scattered, and patrons sat at them, sipping drinks or munching on food.

Who the patrons were, however, was what blew Linda’s mind. Many of them looked human, but their costumes were outlandish. At one table was a man in heavy fur with a horned, metal helmet perched atop his flame-red hair, his long beard braided halfway down his chest. Next to him sat a woman in a glistening silver outfit, with a badge on her left breast that seemed to identify her as a member of some sort of cosmic military organization. She was indulged in a heated debate with a third person, a brown-haired man wearing a tight red, black and gold uniform with a long, floor-length cape and a cowl that obscured most of his face. Whatever they were discussing he was getting mad, and he started to fumble with a large pouch on his belt.

“Rookie! Cool it!” Nancy shouted. The man in the cape and mask looked sheepishly at her when she called to him, and he took his hand off his belt, going back to his drink.

“Friend of yours?” Kevin said.

“We work together,” Nancy replied.

There were many more people walking around the room, one dressed like a pirate, a group of three in sand-colored robes, another in a purple cloak and holding a staff, still another with flowing white hair and his body wrapped in a toga. None of these were what really grabbed Linda’s attention, though, because whatever peculiarities each of them possessed, they were each clearly human.

What really grabbed her attention were all the people that weren’t.

There was an eight-foot creature with red skin and a third eyeball in the center of his forehead. Another being stood at about three feet high with hair so long and thick that they couldn’t make out any other features of his (her? its?) body. There were large, globular creatures that looked like an amoeba blown up to human size and a pair of green pods that glided across the floor and viewed the world through one big eyeball hanging from a stalk. Hulking creatures in hard, metal carapaces shaped like insects sat at the counter, and thin gray beings with enormous black eyes seemed to be comparing various medical instruments with a tiny person in flowing blue robes with a hat so large that they couldn’t see any of his body. In one corner there were even people that looked so much like enormous, walking asparagus that Kevin shuddered.

The final spectacle came from the walls. On each side of the room there was a large opening to another room, a room that could not possibly have existed based on the view they’d gotten of the outside of the building. Each of the rooms through the doors was constructed and furnished identically to the room they now stood in, and each was filled with even more strangely dressed people and outlandish creatures. And on the other side of each of those rooms was another doorway leading to another identical room, and as far as Linda could tell, these other rooms stretched out farther and farther, all the way into eternity.

“What is this place?” Linda asked.

“A place that takes you off-guard the first time you come in, that’s for sure. I could have warned you, but you wouldn’t really have believed me, would you?”

Four heads shook back and forth. Slowly.

The man in the cape, the one Nancy had called “Rookie,” stepped up to them. His cheeks, only barely visible through the hood, seemed to be blushing bright red. “He was needling me, Nance,” he said.

“I don’t care if he had you in a sewing machine, you know the rules.”

“Where’d you pick up the Lollipop Guild?”

“Hey!” Kevin shouted.

“These kids lost their way around Lewiston. Seems that Baliwick made off with this girl’s brother and she was trying to chase him down.”

“Baliwick?” the Rookie said. “Do you think she’s…”

“No, can’t be. She’s too young. But there’s got to be some connection, or Baliwick wouldn’t have risked letting us know he’s making a move.”

“Um, excuse me,” Linda said, “but would you two please stop talking like we’re a bunch of idiots? We can hear every word. What’s going on?”

Nancy and the Rookie looked at each other. He shrugged. “She’s got you there, Nance. I’m Jay, by the way.”

“I’m Lin—I’m not here to introduce myself! What’s going on?”

“Baliwick is looking for someone pretty important,” Nancy said. “Some friends of ours are looking for the same person. There’s a battle going on, and whoever finds this woman first might turn the tide.”

“Woman?” Gene said. “Then why did Baliwick want Benny?”

“Nobody knows where this woman is. Right now, information is the best weapon for both sides. If Benny knows something, he’s in a lot of trouble.”

“Then we’ve got to find him,” Linda said.

“I know. That’s why I brought you here. To introduce you to the one person who might be able to help.”

“Who’s that?” Kevin asked.

She looked in the direction of the counter, where a tall man with dark hair was wiping down the bar. His hair was cut short and he had a tiny scar near the corner of his left eye, cut in the shape of a lowercase “t”. He had big, brown eyes that looked like they had been used for a lot of smiles over the years, but he didn’t necessarily look old. He just gave that impression somehow. He wore a white shirt under black suspenders and a big red bow tie beneath his chin.

He was looking at the children.

“Welcome to the Infinity Bar and Grille, boys and girls,” he said. “My name’s Murphy. What’ll it be?”

Next: Chapter Eight-The Questions

26
Apr
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 116: 2009 Summer Movie Preview

It’s time once again for the summer movie season to kick into gear! This week, the Showcase boys run down all of the big pictures coming out this summer, giving their thoughts on each of them. Which ones do they want to see? Which ones will the pass? Which ones look like a NetFlix rental? And why might Blake wind up topless to satisfy Chase‘s rage? All the answers are inside! In the picks this week, Mike chooses Green Lantern Corps #35, Chase goes with The Walking Dead #60, and Blake picks Fables #83. This week’s graphic novel pick: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps! Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 116: 2009 Summer Movie Preview
Inside This Episode:

PLUS: With no new Lost this week, you get an episode safe for anyone to listen to for a change! The guys talk about feeling letdown by a clip show, then jump into the new stuff — the penultimate Heroes for Season Three and the new show The Unusuals. In DVD news, Chase gives his thoughts on the Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica and the just-released Spirit movie, and Blake is just happy to finally get a volume two of his beloved Tiny Toon Adventures.

Week in Geek #18: Clips, Caprica, and Cartoons

24
Apr
09

Read Ryan and Radar in Tales From the Plex #4!

Tales From the Plex #4A couple of years ago, I contributed the script for a short story to a graphic novel anthology entitled Futurius: Tales From the Plex. It was a nice little story I’m still proud of. Ryan and Radar was the story of a kid (the titular Ryan) who had a tendency to retreat into a superhero fantasy of his own making whenever he was faced with a problem. The “high concept” was that the artwork in the “real” world, Ryan’s world, would be loose and somewhat cartoon-like, while the “fantasy” world of the superhero Radar would be more like the “realistic” comics of the day. In this first story, in which Ryan has to deal with a loss that can be pretty devastating to a kid, the artwork was handled by a highly talented young artist named Matthew Weldon.

A while back, I was informed by Daniel Lundie, the head honcho of Futurius, that he was relaunching Tales From the Plex as an ongoing anthology series, and that the stories from the graphic novel would be reprinted therein. I thought it was a cool idea, and now that the first five issues are available, I wanted to clue you in on it. If you didn’t read Ryan and Radar the first time around, you can pick it up for just $2.50 in Tales From the Plex #4, available at IndyPlanet.com! And while you’re there, you can pick up the entire series to date, issues #1-5, and other cool stuff from Futurius, such as the awesome vampire series The Darkling.

I created Ryan and Radar as a response to what I saw at the time as a real dearth of quality comics for all ages. The landscape has improved considerably since then, with a lot of solid comics on the shelves that kids and their parents can read together. Now, I’d love to see Ryan and Radar join them. There’s a second story finished with a different art team, waiting for publication of another anthology that’s kind of been in limbo for a while, but there are plenty of other ideas floating around I’d love to get out there. If I had any artistic skills of my own, I’d be drawing away and looking for a home, or perhaps doing the story as a webcomic. But as it is, I need to find an artist to work with, or a publisher to back it. Neither are exactly easy, but I’m not about to call it quits either.

23
Apr
09

Toy Stories: Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before?

As I’ve mentioned in assorted Toy Stories features, I do like variant figures. What do I mean, though, by a “variant”? Well, it could mean a lot of things — different, related characters with similar designs, redesigns of an existing figure to match a different uniform or look, an “energized” version of a character with such powers… pretty much anything that’s a “real” version of the character as has appeared in the comic books or TV show. And since the last few figures I have that I haven’t shared with you guys yet all fall into this category, I thought I’d give you guys the side-by-sides of several variants in my possession.

Monorail Mickey and Vinylmation Fireworks

Monorail Mickey and Vinylmation Fireworks

The entire point of Urban Vinyl figures is to use different designs on the same body mold, so I guess technically any of these fits the criteria. Here we see the Vinylmation “Monorail Mickey” next to the “Fireworks” mouse I showed you guys a couple of weeks ago. Side-by-site, you can really tell that the figures themselves are identical, and it’s just the paint job that’s different.

Let’s go to a far more extreme example, shall we?

Alex Luthor and Lex Luthor: Together Again

Alex Luthor and Lex Luthor: Together Again

If you recognize either of this pair, it’s probably the bald guy in the green armor with major overcompensation issues going on with his shoulder pads. This is Lex Luthor, arch-enemy of Superman, and (in the DC Universe, at least) former President of the United States. To his left, in the gold with the red hair, is Alex Luthor, sole survivor of the alternate universe called Earth-3. On Alex’s world, the heroes were villains, and the only superhero left was his father, Lex Luthor. So Alex is kinda Lex’s son from another dimension. If you’re a comic book geek like me, you have no problem understanding that.

Animated Wonder Woman vs. Comic Book Wonder Woman

Animated Wonder Woman vs. Comic Book Wonder Woman

On the left here is the Wonder Woman figure that came with the recent direct-to-DVD movie in which she starred, and designed to look like that version. On the right is the basic Infinite Heroes Wonder Woman figure, based on a more iconic comic book version. The body molds of these two figures is exactly the same, but the faces and hair are drastically different. Personally, I prefer the animated version. The lines on the comic version’s W-symbol are too heavy, and actually look more like a “cartoon” than the one that’s actually based on a cartoon. Plus, for some reason she has an expression that makes her look like she’s sniffing something vaguely unpleasant.

Flash Legacy: Wally West, Jay Garrick, and Zoom

Flash Legacy: Wally West, Jay Garrick, and Zoom

Next up we’ve got three different, related characters. In the center is Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash who’s been kicking butt and taking names since World War II. I was particularly happy to find this guy in a single pack, because for a while there the only place I saw him was as a variant figure in the Flash three-pack I’d already got, and I really don’t need extras of Mirror Master or Weather Wizard. Plus he’s just a great character. To the left, the gentleman in red is Wally West, Flash III and the guy many of us reading comics today grew up with as THE Flash. On the left is his former friend Hunter Zolomon, alias Zoom, now a particularly interesting madman who believes that the way to make the Flash a better superhero is by causing great tragedies in his life to overcome. Now that the second Flash, Barry Allen, has returned from the dead, I rather hope that means we’ll have two new figures coming soon — one of Barry, and one of Wally in the new costume that’s supposedly being designed by artist Ethan Van Sciver.

Now for a few figures that didn’t require much modification at all…

Pardon me, Im here to drop my brothers off for repairs.

"Pardon me, I'm here to drop my brothers off for repairs."

Billions of years ago, the Guardians of the Universe created a legion of robotic agents to protect innocent sentients from the evil one of their number unleashed. The Manhunters turned out to be psycho, though, so they canned them and got some living agents, the Green Lantern Corps. The Manhunters have never been really happy about this arrangement, though, and lately have been known to hang around with members of the Sinestro Corps. The guy in the middle came in a single pack, but the two fellas flanking him were a third of a Green Lantern Corps six-pack. They’re in serious need of some Turtle Wax.

Speaking of Green Lantern…

Green Lantern 2814.1 reporting for duty! Twice!

"Green Lantern 2814.1 reporting for duty! Twice!"

Hal Jordan is one of two Green Lanterns of Space Sector 2814. The second figure in this picture isn’t his partner, John Stewart, it’s an “energized” version of Hal. While the basic Hal figure came in a three-pack with his pals Green Arrow and Black Canary, the energy version was part of the same six-pack that included the two Manhunters, plus John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and a Qwardian Weaponer. Very few of the Infinite Heroes toys have come with accessories, and Hal is one that really should have one. Why have none of the various Green Lanterns who’ve got figures in this line come with a Power Battery?

FLAME OFF! FLAME ON!

"FLAME OFF!" "FLAME ON!"

Last, but not least, we’ve got the two renditions of Johnny Storm, alias the Human Torch, courtesy of the Marvel Universe line. One is Johnny with a little bit a fire atop his noggin. The other is Johnny in full “Flame on!” mode. Can you guess which is which?

I’ve showed you guys a couple of other side-by-sides before, so just for the sake of completeness, I’m going to show those pictures to you here too. Click on each picture to go to the corresponding article:

Stealth Iron Man and Daywear Iron Man. This is what the inside of Tony Starks closet looks like.

Stealth Iron Man and Daywear Iron Man. This is what the inside of Tony Stark's closet looks like.

Kingdom Come Superman and Classic Superman

Kingdom Come Superman and Classic Superman

And that’s all the toys I’ve got, folks. So this may be the last Toy Stories for a while, unless this weekend’s Nola Comic-Con brings me across some swag I’ve been looking for. Don’t worry, it’ll be back, I just don’t know when. In the meantime, in-between time, how about reading and commenting on Lost in Silver? Or the various reviews and other blogs I post here almost daily? I thrive on feedback, folks, so let’s hear some! Take it easy.

22
Apr
09

What I’m Reading: The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 & 1971-1972

The Complete Peanuts: 1969 to 1970For a few years now, I’ve been waiting patiently every six months for the latest installment of Fantagraphics’ beautiful hardcover editions of The Complete Peanuts. The set, which will ultimately collect every comic strip Charles Schulz created in the 50-year lifespan of the comic strip, will eventually encompass 25 volumes and take 12 years to complete. Although I’ve gotten every book in the series faithfully, I’ve fallen a little behind in actually reading them, so with the time off last week, I sat down and read the 10th volume in the series, which came out last fall, and now I’m going through volume 11, which just hit stores.

Volume 10 collects the strips from the years 1969 and 1970. Although there weren’t any major upheavalsto the world of Charlie Brown and friends in these two years, there are a lot of classic strips. We get Peppermint Patty’s first skirmish against her school dress code, a storyline that would become more prevalent in later years. Snoopy returns home to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, only to find himself caught up in a riot. We finally learn the name of the little yellow bird who hangs around Snoopy’s house all the time, and Linus’s special blend of sports drink fails to make Charlie Brown’s baseball teams champions.

Although the book is light on big moments, there are great ones — most of them revolving around Snoopy himself. The sequences where his overactive imagination casts him in the role of a grocery store checkout clerk are even funnier than the earlier series where he becomes the first beagle on the moon. His efforts at being the new Head Beagle meet with amusing disaster, and Charlie Brown again finds himself heartbroken in his pursuit of the Little Red-Haired Girl.

The Complete Peanuts: 1971 to 1972Volume 11, 1971 to 1972, is full of major moments that I remember vividly. When I was a kid, my local library had a few books of Peanuts comic strips that I checked out and read over and over again. Clearly, the strips must have originated in these two years, because some of the comics and stories I remember most fondly are to be found in this volume: for example, Peppermint Patty going to “court” over the dress code that tells her she has to wear a skirt. The summer camp where we first met the bespectacled girl who would become Peppermint Patty’s sidekick, Marcie. Snoopy’s adventures as “Joe Cool” and his infatuation with Miss Helen Sweetstory, author of such obviously brilliant novels as The Six Bunny-Wunnies and Their Layover in Anderson, Indiana. To the writer in me, this last bit appeals greatly. It’s just hysterical stuff.

For the romantic in me, though, I’m even more mesmerized by the continued evolution of Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown in this edition of the series. Peanuts has always been a comic strip about unrequited love: Charlie Brown is in love with the Little Red-Haired Girl, Lucy is in love with Schroeder, Sally is in love with Linus, Linus is in love with his teacher Miss Othmar, and so forth. In each of these cases, you have one character hopelessly pining away for another, fully aware of the situation and therefore able to wallow in the hopelessness of it.

In this volume, however, we see how Charles Schulz created a subtly different dynamic. Although she doesn’t admit it, although she doesn’t even realize it, this is the volume where it becomes undeniable that tough, rough-and-tumble Peppermint Patty is actually in love with bland, wishy-washy Charlie Brown. When she begins to suspect he has a crush on her, she writes him a letter to “let him down easy,” only to act almost violently offended when she realizes he wasn’t thinking about her at all. She later invites him to the carnival (he wasn’t her first choice, but that is likely due to rationalization on her part), and runs off hurt when he mentions the ubiquitous Little Red-Haired Girl. When Marcie dares to suggest she likes ol’ Chuck, her reaction is so over-the-top that it’s his turn to run off, wounded, while she’s left feeling guilty. Schulz himself once wrote that if anything were ever to come between Peppermint Patty and Marcie, it would be the fact that they’re both secretly in love with Charlie Brown. This book really lays that out wonderfully.

Both books are wonderful, and quite literally a must-buy for Peanuts fans. This series really has been all it was advertised to be.

21
Apr
09

Everything But Imaginary #304: Comics ARE the Social Media

Over on my Twitter account, I follow a lot of comic book creators. A LOT of them. And I love reading what they’re up to and what they have to say. But it’s not that surprising to find so many of them using the service. After all, comics were a social media long before the term had been coined.

Everything But Imaginary #304: Comics ARE the Social Media
Inside This Column:

20
Apr
09

Lost in Silver Chapter Six: The Walk

Chapter Six

The Walk

Benny and Baliwick had been walking for quite some time now, and although it was not quite as exciting as walking through Evertime, here was still a touch of magic about the place. There were houses along the way, a few of them, and they all looked like they had been recently splashed with blue paint. The job was only half-done, though. The paint was splotchy and hastily applied. Brown wood showed through in many places, and on most of the houses the doors and roofs had not been painted at all. It was like the yellow not-quite-brick road he was marching along. Someone had tried to make it the way it was in all of the wonderful books he had read, but had not quite succeeded. In his mind’s eye he saw the same houses with a perfect coat of blue paint on the sides, the roof, the windowsills, the doors, the fences. He saw little, smiling people in bright blue clothes dancing around them as they walked, barely taller than Benny himself. He imagined the blue slowly giving way to green, instead of being just an accent on vast green fields with enormous gray mountains in the distance.

“Where are all the people, Baliwick?” Benny asked. “I haven’t seen anyone since we got here.”

Baliwick’s voice grew very soft, as though he were ashamed of what he was saying, although the tone of his voice suggested no such thing. “No, Benny, I’m afraid you haven’t. The people who live here are all elsewhere at the moment. They are nomadic, you see.”

“Nomadic?” Benny asked.

“That means they do not live in any one place. They travel. They journey from country to country, usually following the work that the seasons bring. At this time of year, they leave their homes and go to more hospitable climates.”

“Oh,” Benny said, trying to return his attention to the walk ahead of him. He couldn’t quite do it, though. Something about what Baliwick was saying simply did not ring true.

“Baliwick,” he said, “if people journey looking for work, why did they leave this place? The orchards are still full. They stopped in the middle of their harvest.”

“Benny…”

“And the weather is wonderful here, too.”

“Benjamin,” Baliwick said. His voice was growing stern.

“And if they’re gone, who painted the road? Why didn’t they finish the houses? Why–”

Benny!” Baliwick snapped. He placed one hand on Benny’s shoulder and squeezed, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to enforce that he was the one in charge. “Benny, I want you to look out at those mountains. Do you see them?”

Benny didn’t have much of a choice about seeing the mountains. Baliwick used his grasp on his shoulder to tilt Benny in that direction. The mountains were very far away, massive clusters of stone. Here and there he thought he saw sparks along the mountains, the mouths of caves perhaps, and in each of them was light, dancing reds and yellows, mingling into a third color just as the red and yellow finger paints he used in art class, mingling, creating—

Flash.

For a split-second there was light behind Benny’s eyes, a brilliant flash of orange, and when it was over he felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. He felt safe smiling again.

“Benny?” Baliwick hissed.

“Yes.”

“What were you asking?”

“Nothing, Baliwick.”

Baliwick’s thin smile returned, like a fracture spreading across a mirror. “Wonderful, Benny,” he said. “I’m so very glad to hear that.”

*   *   *

The children followed the woman in the trenchcoat out of the diner. She was still smiling, a fact which served only to frustrate Linda. “Look, I don’t mean to seem ungrateful,” she said. “but what do you know about us?”

“That you aren’t from around here,” the woman said. “And that you haven’t learned where to have conversations yet. Are you planning to go back to the woods?”

The children glanced at each other. It was Gene who finally shrugged and said, “We haven’t planned at all, really.”

The woman sighed. “Then I also know you need more help than I thought. Meet me down the road in an hour, I’ve got to take care of something.”

She turned and started to walk off in the direction of The Black Cauldron.

“Hey,” Kevin said, “who are you, anyway?”

“Call me Nancy,” the woman said. “If you’re lucky, that’s all you’ll need.”

She turned again, walked, and vanished into the other shop.

“Well that was helpful,” Kevin said.

“Are you sure we should trust that woman, Linda?” Gail asked. “We don’t know anything about her.”

“We know she bought us lunch.”

“That doesn’t mean she won’t just wind up leading us to her gingerbread house in the middle of the woods.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Kevin said. “I could use some dessert.”

“Let’s not panic,” Linda said. “If she wanted to do us any harm – soon, anyway – should could have taken us out to the woods and tricked us into her oven right now. All I really want is to find Benny and find the way home, and she’s the only person we know here.”

“But we don’t really know her at all,” Gail said.

“I know, but we’ve got to start somewhere. Let’s just listen to what she has to say. Between the four of us, I think we’re smart enough not to get tricked.

“Do you trust her, Linda?” Gene asked.

Linda thought. “Yes,” she said, surprising all of them, including herself. “I think I do. I’m not sure why – there’s just something familiar about her.” Kevin and Gail both looked at her strangely, but Gene was nodding. He seemed to understand.

“So we’ve got an hour,” Gene said. (“Not that we’ve got watches,” Kevin added.) “What do we do until then?”

“I wouldn’t mind getting a better look around this place,” Kevin said. “Let’s check out that bookstore. Maybe it can tell us a few things.”

All of them, even Gail agreed to this. They walked down the sidewalk to the bookstore. It looked normal enough inside. None of the books were walking around or moving or even changing color. Linda let out a relieved sigh. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s take a look around.”

Linda wandered over to the children’s books, the way she’d done hundreds of times with Benny in one bookstore or another. She started to glance around at some of the titles. A lot of them were familiar – The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. These were all books she’d read – or at least heard of – in her own world. But they were also all old. When she began looking at more recent books, things changed. There was an entire shelf of books by Isaac and Jan Asimov titled Norby the Mixed-Up Robomancer. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were still there, but instead of titles like The Smuggler’s Cave and the sort that she remembered, they were called things like The Wizard’s Cove or The Spectral Caper. Among the most recent bestsellers was a book called Ender’s Game by an Orson Scott Card, which by the cover seemed to be about a young boy in a spacesuit hurling fireballs at other children in spacesuits. She made a note of these, intending to look up the titles if (when! When, not if!) they got home.

Kevin was in the section of sports books, flipping through statistics. The games he was reading about seemed fundamentally the same, but as they progressed through time actual records seemed to change. Around 1950, for instance, baseball players began recording a statistic for “base captures,” of which the all-time record holder was a man named Walt Buchanan of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1963. In the football records, statistics became seriously inflated around 1962 or so. The all-time record holder for a field goal was Bill Baxter of the Green Bay Packers, nailing an 85-yard kick in 1969. Two years later, the numbers began to drop again and there was a footnote saying that, beginning in 1971, “Exomantic enhancements” were banned from the game.

Gail was looking at the magazines. All of her favorites were still there – Seventeen, Teen Cosmo, that sort of thing, but she didn’t recognize any of the people in them. The most recent Tiger Beat had a photo feature on a sandy-haired boy who was the star of some TV show called Eddie Mancer, E.X.C. She read a few paragraphs and gleaned the fact that, on the show, he played a “teenage magic specialist.”

“Magic?” she said. She shouldn’t have been quite that surprised, she supposed, but seeing the word printed there so clearly was quite a surprise.

Gene, as usual, was the one proving to be most helpful. He came up to Linda in the children’s books with a hefty volume he’d found in the history section called Spells Over the Pacific, about World War II.

“Linda, you’ve got to see this,” he said.

“What is it?”

“I’ve been looking over this book – it says that World War II ended in 1939.”

“That’s not right,” she said. She wasn’t a history expert by any means, but she knew that date was a good five years too early.

“No, listen to this,” he said. “Six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a group of ‘exomancers’ that had been operating a ‘secret conclave’ in London made themselves public for the first time and stopped the Japanese army dead in the Pacific. This says there were only about 50 of them, and they stopped the whole Japanese army! Then a group of American exomancers charged France and ended the war in Europe. By the end of the year peace accords were signed all over the world.” He closed the book. “That’s like the word we saw in the newspaper – what’s an exomancer?”

“I know one way to find out,” Linda said. She led Gene over to the reference books and picked up a copy of Webster’s Dictionary.

“Duh,” Gene said, laughing at himself.

Linda flipped open to the “e”s. “Here it is,” she said. “‘Exomancer: one who practices exomancy.’ Well that’s helpful… here. ‘Exomancy: magic from without’.”

“‘Magic from without’?” Gene repeated.

“That’s what it says,” she said. “Whatever’s going on in this world, it’s a lot different than anything back home.”

*   *   *

“You’re late,” Nancy said. She was standing on the sidewalk at the edge of town, near the woods that had brought the children to this strange world in the first place.

“Hmph. Like you’re never late,” Gail grunted.

“Not for a long time,” Nancy said. “Don’t you kids have watches?”

“We used to,” Gene said, looking down at his naked wrist.

“When you’re going through Evertime, have a watch,” she said. “It’s real easy to lose track of time out there.”

“Ever-who?” Linda said.

“You mean you don’t even know the name? How did you kids wind up here in the first place?”

“We were chasing somebody,” Linda said.

“I figured that. You’re looking for something.”

“How do you know?”

“Everybody in Evertime is looking for something. But if you aren’t careful, something you don’t want can find you. Always wear a watch – that’s rule number one. The rest of the rules you’ll pick up along the way, if you last that long.”

“Boy, that sounds encouraging,” Gene said.

“Glad to hear it. Now, based on that money you were flashing around, I’m guessing you guys are either from Kane Forest or Siegel City.”

“Um… Kane Forest,” Linda said. “I’ve never even heard of Siegel City.”

“Evertime again. There are a lot of worlds out there – one per pool. A lot of them are a lot like your world, and a lot of them are a lot different. But there’s one place that’s unique to each universe, and that’s where the Evertime pool always is. Your world is the only one that has a Kane Forest. Or a Timberton Parish, for that matter.”

“How special for us,” Gail said.

“Where are you from?” Gene asked.

“Boston,” Nancy said, smiling. “But I got here through Siegel City. Come on. We can walk and talk at the same time.”

She turned and started off into the forest. The kids looked at each other, then started after her – Linda first, then Kevin, then Gene and Gail.

“So again,” Nancy said, “How did you guys get here?”

“Why should we tell you?” Gail said.

“Because it’ll help me figure out what to do with you guys.”

Linda glanced back at Gail to indicate she should keep quiet, then explained how they had chased the man in the black coat through Kane Forest, losing him and Benny both in the pool. Nancy stopped her there before the story moved on to their own plunge into Evertime.

“A guy in a black coat?” she said. “Tall? Thin build? Long, black hair, looks like he wrung out a snake over his head and greased it down with the oil?”

“Yeah, I guess that sounds like him,” Linda said.

“Baliwick,” Nancy said. “That ain’t good.”

Linda was surprised to hear the woman use that word her mother always told her not to use, but she was more surprised that their quarry suddenly had a name. “Who’s Baliwick?” she asked.

“The boogeyman, the Headless Horseman and the Gunk all rolled into one.”

“The Gunk?” Kevin asked.

“Sorry. I forget these cultural references aren’t the same in every world. He’s a nasty guy, and like everyone else in Evertime, he’s looking for something. If he’s taken your brother, then Benny either knows something Baliwick wants to know or Baliwick thinks he does.”

“Must be the second one,” Linda said. “Benny doesn’t know anything he didn’t read in a book.”

“You got something against books?” Nancy asked.

“Not exactly. It’s just that Benny spends more time with them than he does in real life.”

Nancy shrugged. “Real life is overrated. It got you here, didn’t it? So after you saw Baliwick go into the pool, how did you get there?”

“Linda and I stopped at the edge,” Gene said. “Then those two knocked us all in.”

“It’s a good thing they did. If you’d have gone in separately things would have been a lot worse. When you go into Evertime, time stops flowing. If any of you guys had watches, you would have noticed the hands don’t move while you’re there. Remember that, any time you’re going into Evertime, make sure everyone in your group is in contact – holding hands or tied together or something.”

“Oh goody,” Kevin said. “Touchy-feely stuff. I can’t wait until we get to do some more of that.”

“Seriously?” Gail asked.

“No.”

“Anyway, we wandered around the pools and finally we wound up here.”

“You just came in blind, Linda? You didn’t know where you were going or what we were doing?”

“We didn’t feel like we had much of a choice.”

“Well, you lucked out, finding me. I don’t know Evertime as well as some people I’ve met, but I can get you back to your world.”

“You can?” Gail said.

“No!” Linda shouted. “We can’t go back yet! We’ve got to find Benny!”

“Linda, I promise, I’ll do anything I can to find your brother and bring him back, but I can’t let you go wandering around Evertime by yourselves. I told you that you were lucky to find me – believe me, you have no idea how lucky. There are a lot of good people out there, but there are an awful lot of nasty people, too. Baliwick doesn’t work alone.”

“He didn’t seem that scary.”

“That’s because he didn’t want you. And bad people aren’t the only dangers, either. Remember the trees you saw in Evertime? Remember how strange some of them looked? If you hadn’t had the sense to jump in a pool with a tree that looked like it could grow on your own world you might have ended up some place with a methane atmosphere or 20,000 leagues underwater or someplace even worse. I’m not trying to scare you, Linda, I’m just telling you the truth. If you aren’t careful when you pick which Evertime pool you go into you could be dead in seconds. Dead. And you’re no good to Benny if that happens, are you?”

Linda could almost feel her friends’ resolve start to crumble around her, but she was standing her ground. “Okay, then, we know what trees to look for now. Thanks for the warning.”

“You’re pretty stubborn, aren’t you?”

“Sometimes you’ve got to be. My brother is out there somewhere. I’m not going home without him.”

“Hmm,” Nancy said, this time looking a lot harder at Linda. She wasn’t certain, but Linda thought for a moment she almost saw the trace wrinkles of a smile begin to form at the corners of Nancy’s mouth.

“It never fails,” Nancy said. “It’s always the spitfires.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Look here.” Nancy pushed past a bush and stepped out onto the edge of the Evertime pool that had delivered them all to the world of Lewiston and the color-changing money and the Nazi-Busting Exomancers in the first place. “Come on, kids. Join hands.”

“I told you, we’re not going home yet!” Linda shouted. She was nearly jumping with anger now, and her shoe landed in a blotchy patch of mud beneath a tree. She grumbled and tried to wipe the mud off on the bark.

“I heard you, kid,” Nancy said. “And I’m not asking you to anymore. If I dropped you off at home you’re just stubborn enough to jump back into the pool and start this whole mess over again. I don’t have time to babysit you there, either.”

“No?” Gail said. “What are you doing that’s so important?”

“I’m looking for something,” Nancy said. “Same as everybody else in Evertime.”

“Where are you taking us, then?” Gene said.

“To someone who can probably help you find Linda’s brother better than I can anyway. We’re going to pay a little visit to the Infinity Bar and Grille.”

Next: Chapter Seven-The Arrivals




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