Archive for June, 2010

30
Jun
10

Classic EBI #53: Year One

In today’s Everything But Imaginary column, I take a look at the new Wonder Woman costume, debuting in today’s Wonder Woman #600, as well as a look back at other superhero costume changes over the years. You can check that out over at Comixtreme.com — EBI #357: “Wonder”Ful New Togs.

In today’s classic EBI, it’s time to look back in time at the first anniversary of Everything But Imaginary. From March 10, 2003…

Everything But Imaginary #53: Year One

Well my friends, here we are. One year ago, I took my first tentative steps out into the big world of Comixtreme and gave you your first helping of Everything But Imaginary. Okay, technically, it was one year ago on Friday, March 12, but my column comes out on Wednesdays, so we’re partying now. Wednesdays just happen to be the most eagerly-anticipated day of the week for comic fans, after all. Sure, some people say that’s because Wednesday is the day the new comics go on sale, but we here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters like to think we have a little something to do with it as well.

How long have we been here? Well, when we started, Firestorm was Ronnie Raymond, Robin was a guy and Janet was considered the relatively wholesome member of the Jackson family, right after Peter. My how times change.

The purpose of that first column, 52 whole weeks ago, was to talk about what makes good comics good, how to make bad comics better, and what it will take to make our little niche artform a mass medium again. That in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year dispensing advise, so while you guys are enjoying your cake and punch (Brandon Schatz is serving it in the corner over there), I thought I’d take a little time to look back at some of the things I’ve said and see if anyone’s bothered to take my advice.

• Way back in the very first EBI, “Love Spandex-Style,” I wrote about romance in the world of comic books. Back then I said that “It’s starting to look like the most promising love story in comics will soon be between Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf.” Well, flipping through recent issues of Fables shows us that love affair has progressed — Snow White is, in fact, pregnant with Bigby’s… child? Litter? (Help us out here, Bill Willingham.) Of course, since they were under mind-control when she actually got pregnant and now Snow White doesn’t even want to talk to Bigby, things aren’t as rosy as they once were. Still, things are better for them than Blue Boy and Red Riding Hood.

Interestingly, the second-best love story in modern comics is still underway in Dork Tower, where despite the best machinations of his friends, Matt McLimore still hasn’t come together with Gilly the Perky Goth. As silly and goofy as this title is, John Kovalic has created some real touching, heartwarming characters, and when it was revealed in Dork Tower #27 that Gilly is going to Europe for grad school, I actually shouted at the comic. This is going to be part of the newest ad campaign — “Dork Tower: It’s Scream at the Comic Book Good!”

• In June Diamond Comics president Nick Barrucci went off on the problems in the comic book industry, and his venting sent me off on a four-part rant about things that comics screw up, which frankly, I still consider some of my best work. In those four parts I dissected the state of the comic book store, story structure, public perceptions of the comic book industry and trying to get women to read comics. Out of those four categories, the only change I’ve seen is that I’ve got my friend Ronée reading comics again, and she’s writing her own column here now, so I couldn’t be prouder of that.

• On Aug. 6 I presented, “Waddling Towards Gethsemane,” my first in-depth look at Disney comic books, which was met by a resounding yawn here on the site. I guess I should have expected that, this isn’t a Disney crowd, but I maintain that stuff like Uncle Scrooge makes for a great all-ages comic book that most of you would enjoy if you could put aside the stigma of it being a “kid’s comic” and just read it. I also urged Gemstone, the company now publishing Disney comics, to shift Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories into a lower-priced format (it’s $6.95 an issue now) that kids could enjoy. Thus far, no luck, but I’ll keep trying. (2010 Note: As it turned out, it took a change of publishers to get that price point dropped.)

• Of greater interest, that same week I premiered my “Favorite of the Week” feature in EBI, where I singled out, in my opinion, the best title released that week. Since then that honor has been won the most by Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four, which won (appropriately enough) four times. Fables scored three times, JSA, Avengers and Superman/Batman won twice each, and single wins have been recorded for Flash, Ultimate Spider-Man, Sojourn, Sandman: Endless Nights, Scion, H-E-R-O, New X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Uncle Scrooge, Arrowsmith, Dork Tower, PVP, Plastic Man, Superman: Secret Identity, G.I. Joe: Cobra Reborn, My Faith in Frankie and Legion. Scott Williams gave a fifth nod to Fantastic Four the week he sat in during the Great Comixtreme Column Switch, although had I written the column that week, the winner would have been another Mark Waid title, Empire.

• Aug. 13 brought us “Tripping the Light Fantastic,” in which I took a look at fantasy comics. More imporantly, though, this was the first column in which I specifically mentioned that I wrote a novel, the superhero-comedy Other People’s Heroes, in the body of the column instead of just the disclaimer at the end that half of you don’t read anyway. This is particularly significant because the book, the superhero-comedy Other People’s Heroes, is still very much available from fine online booksellers everywhere and I have a car note to pay off. (2010 Note: This is no longer the case. The “still available” part. But starting tomorrow, you can download the audiobook!)

• Following in the footsteps of the fantasy column, on Aug. 27 I took a look at science fiction comics with “To the Stars By Hard Ways.” The significant thing about this, of course, is that CrossGen comics took a blurb from this column and put it on the cover of their fantastic book, Negation, which was the first real evidence I had that people besides my friends, family and Doug Norris were actually reading this column on a weekly basis.

• On Nov. 12 I wrote what remains to this day the most popular column in the series, “The Best Comics I’ve Never Read.” The reason this was so popular, I think, is because I let you guys tell me what to do for once. I asked for suggestions as to some great graphic novels I haven’t read that I should pick up and I got flooded with answers. The column was so popular that I brought it back just a few weeks ago after discovering a few gems like Hellboy and The Liberty Project, and I intend to revisit the topic every few months, whenever I’ve read a few of the books on the list.

• With the new year, as happens from time to time, came the month of January, and with January I presented the first-ever Everything But Imaginary Awards, in which I and you, my slavishly devoted readers, made our selections for the best comics of 2003. I’m still amazed at some of the votes I got (particularly the person who voted for The Ultimates as best all-ages title) and I’m still heartbroken that I had to disqualify Sentinel from the category for best cancelled comic on the grounds that it hadn’t actually been cancelled yet, because clearly a lot of you really loved that book. Don’t worry, it’ll be eligible for that category next year.

So that just about brings us up to date on things here at Everything But Imaginary International Headquarters. I like to think we’ve learned a few things. I like to think we’ve made a few points. I like to think there is a silent majority of female comic book fans who read this column every week and are strategizing to meet me in a bar the next time I go to the Chicago Comicon.

Mostly, I like to think we’ve had some fun. Thanks to Doug and Jason for giving me a shot here at the first place, Craig Reade for showing me the ropes, Andrea Speed for not using those same ropes to strangle me, Ronée Garcia Bourgeois just for being her and everybody else who’s read and responded to this column over the past year. If you’ve enjoyed it, tell your friends! (If you didn’t, tell your enemies!) And come back next week, because if there’s one thing I know about the second year of a column, it’s that it almost always follows the first one.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 3, 2004

Vertigo’s side-splitting miniseries My Faith In Frankie narrowly took the prize for my favorite comic last week (just squeaking past G.I. Joe Reborn). In the third issue of this (sadly) four-issue limited series, Mike Carey and Sonny Liew continue their tale of a woman in love, the god who has always watched over her, the demonic man who is stealing her affections and the dumbfounded best friend who just wants to know what’s happening. This is a wonderful romantic comedy/fantasy, and I don’t know what I would rather see, a sequel or a trade paperback collection. I’d really like both, because I love these characters and want to see more, and because I suspect this is a book that would really find its much-deserved audience in the secondary market.

Blake M. Petit is the author of a novel, the superhero-comedy Other People’s Heroes, the stage play, The 3-D Radio Show, and a regular column in the St. Charles Herald-Guide. If you’re thinking about getting him flowers for his anniversary, he likes lilacs. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.

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 Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

29
Jun
10

What I’m Reading: Haunt Vol. 1

A couple of years ago, Robert Kirkman famously called out Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane on his lack of production of new comics in recent years. This was before Kirkman was made an Image partner himself, by the way. The end result of that confrontation was a Kirkman/McFarlane collaboration, a new series called Haunt. Being a fan of Kirkman, I immediately wanted to sample it. Not really being a fan of McFarlane, however, I was skeptical. I decided to split the difference and wait for the trade paperback of the first story arc.

In Haunt Vol. 1 we’re introduced to Daniel Kilgore, a priest who has little faith and less conviction. Daniel has a deep anger against his brother, Kurt, a special ops agent who comes to Daniel frequently to confess his many, bloody sins. When Kurt is killed in action, his ghost is anchored to Daniel, and together they begin to manifest a terrible power.

Haunt’s main problem, frankly, is the lack of originality. From a power standpoint, he comes across as a mixture of Spider-Man and Spawn (the two characters McFarlane is most associated with). He’s even got a weird sort of ectoplasmic webbing that he uses the same way Peter Parker uses his own webs. Kirkman has done fine with with archetypes before — his own Invincible started off with the basic premise of what would it be like to have Superman as a father, after all. But with that book, he took a familiar starting point and went somewhere new. Everything in this book feels like it’s been cobbled together from other sources, even the “brother’s ghost” bit feels like it was cribbed from Marvel’s Brother Voodoo.

The book isn’t a total loss, fortunately. Kirkman is the writer on the project, and he’s very good at establishing and explaining his characters right away. He gives Daniel a real, legitimate motivation for hating his brother the way he does, and he’s set up a pretty extensive supporting cast in the course of five issues. There’s certainly potential here. It’s all going to depend on the direction the story goes.

The artwork, like the story, feels like a patchwork. We’ve got Greg Capullo doing layouts, Ryan Ottley doing the finished pencils, and McFarlane inking the whole thing. The assembly line process may be the only way the book is going to be released without massive delays (anybody still waiting for McFarlane to finish his parts of Image United #3?) and as the whole point of this was to get him out there creating comics again, it would be rather pointless to do the book without him.

I’m not totally sold on this series yet, but I’ll probably give volume two a try, if for no other reason than to see if Kirkman manages to get to those unusual places he so often finds a way to reach.

28
Jun
10

Why doesn’t MY dad say these things?

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of the world-famous Twitter account Sh*t My Dad Says. You may have heard of the book as well. You may even be aware of the fact that there’s a television series based on this Twitter account premiering on CBS this fall, starring William Shatner as the titular “Dad.” And I am utterly astonished.

People have been posting wacky stuff on the internet for some time now. Lots of them have even turned those wacky things into books. Many of these books are even entertaining. But I am in utter astonishment that this man’s Twitter account has been optioned and turned into a television show.

Now I don’t begrudge him this fact. Someone offered him good money for this, and he took it, and more power to him. I’m just stunned that American television is now turning to Twitter for its ideas, although I suppose that’s better than another dismal attempt at turning a British sitcom into an American one. Or even worse, 100 Questions.

I’m also a bit stunned at the property itself. The dad in question appears to be the sort of guy who has reached a certain age and has decided, “I’m old, I don’t give a damn what people think of me, I’m going to say whatever I want.” I have nothing against such a gentleman. I sincerely hope to be one of those men some day. But it also makes me wonder just what my dad says that could potentially net me a book and movie deal. Here are some examples:

“I don’t know how we didn’t kill ourselves.”

“Where’s that… that thing that changes the channel?”

“A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office with a pelican on his head. The psychiatrist says, ‘Can I help you?’ The pelican says, ‘Yeah, get this guy out from under me’.”

Let’s try harder, Dad. We can do this together.

27
Jun
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 175: The Heroic Age, Jonah Hex, and Superhero Shorts

The Showcase gang sits down at a bookstore after an eventful day for a chat on recent comic events. The guys discuss the proposed Marvel short films, the DC animated shorts, several recent Heroic Age comics, the wreck that was the Jonah Hex movie, and much more! In the picks, Mike is re-reading Fables Vol. 4 (and using the books to draw in a new comic book reader), Kenny picks Secret Avengers #1 and Blake loved Supergirl #53. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 176: The Heroic Age, Jonah Hex, and Superhero Shorts
Inside This Episode:

26
Jun
10

Observations at the Gun Show

Today, Kenny managed to convince us to accompany him to a gun and knife show. Having never attended such an event before, I of course felt the need to make observations.

1. If you think the male/female ratio at a comic convention is skewed, come to one of these things.
2. Weapons with names like “Raging Bull” are specifically designed to make the male of the species feel inadequate.
3. When your booth has 3500 firearms, proper spelling on your signage is not a priority.
4. Okay, the promotional pins from the 1936 Berlin Olympics are actually pretty fascinating.
5. The concept of “Thunderwear,” however, is strangely empowering.
6. There is something incongruous about the guy with the hunting rifle wearing an Eric Clapton t-shirt.
7. Things you can purchase that are neither guns nor knives: Tom Clancy novels, nipple rings, a skateboard, frowning monkey stickers, fuzzy pink handcuffs (sorry, Erin, Kenny saw them first), Prince Albert in a can, beef jerky, and an accordion.
8. As cool as the laser pointer shaped like an assault rifle is, I probably can’t use it in my class.
9. Within ten minutes, Kenny decided he did not bring enough money. The rest of us, conversely, had too much.
10. The New Orleans Saints Superbowl commemorative pocketknife will no doubt be a hot gift this holiday season.
11. The pocketknife with “Ho! Ho! Ho!” stamped into the handle, however, merely raises questions.
12. Overheard: “This is the one I shocked myself with this morning.” And she meant it, too.
13. My one purchase: a ballpoint pen with a concealed knife. Kenny’s brother-in-law Shane: “You really don’t like those kids, do you?” (Please note: I will not be bringing this pen to school.)
14. The hand-stamp to get in just says “GUN.” There is no ambiguity here. If you’re just here to buy a knife, or an accordion, you are unfairly marked. You’re Hester Prynne.
15. At one point, I saw a sweet little granny selling Zip-Loc bags with brownies in them. Upon closer inspection, the word on the bag was BROWNING. I’m not sure what was in it, but I’m fairly sure most of the people in attendance could have used it to kill me.
16. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to convince Kenny to buy a pink taser. But you know he wanted one. Take note, friends, when you begin your Christmas shopping.
17. The mounted squirrel with the halo and angel wings is more than a little creepy.
18. At one point, Kenny refers to a rather large gun as “my wet dream.” We decide to give them some alone time.
19. I am surprised at the many types of designer ammunition available. Would you rather have your head blown off by the Reaper or the Avenger?
20. Me: “I’m telling you, Kenny, a pink, come-hither handgun, left on the coffee table, without comment.”
21. Kenny was not comfortable leaving until he bought something “stabby.”
22. Upon leaving I was dismayed to see that outside there had been a homemade fudge booth. “You got something stabby and something clubby, Kenny, but they have something CHOCOLATEY.”

25
Jun
10

Important rules for recording characters…

So I’m recording Other People’s Heroes as an audio book. You may have heard about it. I’ve been working for a few months now on developing different character voices, and while I’ll never be Mel Blanc, I think I’ve got at least enough versatility that you’ll know who is saying what when you’re listening. That in mind, I’ve learned a few rules about character voices.

1. Not everybody can do a “gravelly” voice.

2. When your default “female” voice is to just go higher, you’ve gotta find other ways to distinguish them from each other.

3. Seriously, if you can’t do “gravelly,” stop trying. There’s no shame in it and you’re just going to hurt your throat.

4. Stupid characters are really fun to record.

5. Dammit, why did you give two major characters gravelly pitch characteristics? You can’t even do one without reaching for the honey and lemon? Are you a moron?

6. If your book is in first person, it really helps if the main character just speaks with your default voice.

7. Fine, then, ruin your throat! SEE IF I CARE!

8. Theatre training in accents can be a big help.

9. At least have a bottle of water with you when you record, idiot.

24
Jun
10

Other People’s Heroes-Coming July 1, 2010 (Evercast #19)

It’s finally coming, friends! After months of planning, teasing, and promising, the next big adventure for the Evercast begins next week.

Other People’s Heroes-Coming July 1, 2010 (Evercast #19)

Now those of you who have followed my exploits for a long time will remember Other People’s Heroes. It was my first novel, and in many ways, the crux of everything I’ve written since then. I was planning for a time to serialize my book Cross-Purposes next, and while I still intend to bring you that story eventually, I realized a while back that I was doing everything in the wrong order. You have to understand something about the way I write, ladies and gentlemen. When I write a new story, I very often turn to older stories of mine for the foundation. When I’m thinking ahead to the next story, I plant seeds that will bear fruit later on down the line. Now that doesn’t mean that, in order to understand one of my stories, you’ve got to read them all. I don’t want anybody to feel like they have to read each and every thing I write. I want them to want to read each and every thing I write, but I digress.

I work very hard to make each story – unless it’s a direct sequel – something that can stand on its own. But I also love writers that build a larger universe, a larger tapestry in the stories that they tell. Stephen King is the master of this, for example. Christopher Moore has a lot of this in his work. The FDO himself, Scott Sigler, is building his Siglerverse even as we speak. I don’t want you to have to read all of my stories, but for those of you who do, I want it to pay off. I want you to see the character who shows up in The Restless Dead of Siegel City who made her first appearance in Lost in Silver and know who she is. When someone mentions a Curtis Dupré film in Opening Night of the Dead, I want you to remember him from The Beginner. I want you to be able to look back at the throwaway line in Other People’s Heroes and see how it was actually a clue to one of the core mysteries of 14 Days of Asphalt. It’s a long process, friends, I know. Trust me, it’s longer for me than it is for you. But I also think that people who stick with me will see it eventually pay off.
But I realized along the way that, for the sake of those people who do enjoy putting together the puzzle, it’s vital that I give you the pieces in the right order. Sure, if you listened to Cross-Purposes this summer, you’d get a great adventure story. But if you listen to it after you listen to Other People’s Heroes, you’ll notice bits and pieces of the world that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. If you read Opening Night of the Dead you’re going to get a zombie story unlike any you’ve ever read before, but if you remember It’s Time to Play the Music then you’ll know who the characters are and you may figure out what’s behind the curtain a little sooner than everybody else.

You see what I’m getting at here, friends?

And the truth is, in the worlds that make up the Evertime Realms, Other People’s Heroes comes first.

And that means, for those of you listening to Blake M. Petit’s Evercast, Other People’s Heroes should come first.

In fact, it should come next week.

Now if you’re one of the proud, the few, who read Other People’s Heroes when it first came out – well, first of all, God bless you. Second, the podcast that I’m about to start is not going to be exactly what you read the first time. Don’t worry, I didn’t take away any of your favorite characters – the Conductor is still there, playing his music. Particle is still the smartest guy in the room, and Doctor Noble is still the man you’re going to love to hate. But there are some dated references that have been removed and some scenes added to flesh out a character that needed it, plus a little bit of a tweak to the ending that I think you’ll agree with me is very cool. If you didn’t read Other People’s Heroes, don’t worry, you’re in the majority. So here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor of something that’s going to be as cool as hell.

Imagine that you’ve lived your entire life in a world full of superheroes. Imagine that you’ve spent years worshipping the caped champions that protect your city, reviling the villains out to rule the world, and wishing that you could take your place among the guardians of justice. That’s what’s about to happen to reporter Josh Corwood. But when Josh’s dream comes true, he learns that these heroes he loves so much may be more “man” than “super,” and they may need a kid from the outside to remind them what being a hero is really about.

If you think superheroes are awesome, I agree. If you think the concept of the superhero is silly, I agree. And there’s no reason those two visions can’t fit together. It’s funny, it’s exciting, and it starts next Thursday. Come back on July 1, 2010, friends, for the first chapter of Other People’s Heroes.

Other People’s Heroes is part of Blake M. Petit’s Evercast, written and performed by the author. Theme song, “Last of the Superheroes,” by American Heartbreak, courtesy of MusicAlley.com. Cover art by Jacob Bascle, FreemindGraphx.com and VisionaryComics.com. Evercast theme by Jeff Hendricks, JeffHendricks.net. Evercast logo by Heather Petit Keller.

E-mail me at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com

Creative Commons License
Blake M. Petit’s Evercast by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.evertimerealms.com.

23
Jun
10

EBI Classic #52: Spandex and Seltzer

In this week’s new column, Everything But Imaginary #356: Where Jonah Hex Went Wrong, I take a look at the latest comic book movie to hit theaters, and one of the biggest flops the industry has ever seen… and just why it was so bad. And here at the ‘Realms it’s time for another classic EBI column. From March 3, 2004…

Spandex and Seltzer

Although this column is about comic books in general (in particular, how to improve them), it’s undeniable that superheroes are the dominant genre in American comics. So let’s think for a moment about those traits that make a good superhero: he should fight evil. Simple enough. He should have a distinctive look — I don’t necessarily mean a “uniform” or a “costume,” but this character should have a consistent appearance and manner of dress while he’s on the job. Oh, yeah, one more thing. He should be funny. Really, really funny.

Okay, stop scratching your heads, I’m going to explain that one. Sure, there are a lot of spandex types that aren’t even remotely funny. The Vision, for instance, is a typically cold, stoic character, and as good as Supreme Power typically is, it’s not a title that will conjure up a lot of laughs.

But superheroes, as much as I love ‘em, are sort of a silly concept to begin with — people who put on tights and capes and run around beating up muggers… this is not the product of a well-balanced mind. So melding superheroes with pure comedy is something that has been tried again and again over the years, frequently with very good results.

You can find examples of comedy superheroes as far back as the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel series (reprinted as Shazam! in the DC Comics Archive collection). While early adventures of this character attempted to be a bit more serious, in line with contemporaries like Superman, within a few years the writers realized how silly a concept they really had — a small boy who could say a magic word and become a grown-up superhero — and began to have fun with it. They introduced characters like Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger, and goofy villains like Mr. Mind, an alien worm that could crawl in someone’s ear and control their brain. (Kudos to Geoff Johns for resurrecting the concept in the recent JSA/Hawkman crossover, by the way.) You had looney villains like Dr. Sivana, whose every scheme seemed to include capturing Billy Batson and preventing him from saying his magic word until the gag fell away or something, then Captain Marvel would wipe the floor with him. Basically, you had some lighthearted, fun comics that are still a joy to read today.

A contemporary of the big red cheese, of course, was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, a stretchy hero with a sense of humor when he fought crime. He paved the way for wisecrackers like Spider-Man, and currently he’s being used in his own series by Kyle Baker, who is doing the best Plastic Man since Cole himself. (Although there was a late-80s miniseries by Phil Foglio and Hilary Barta that never gets enough credit.)

Superheroes then faded, then came back, then got corny, then got “relevant,” then got gritty, and at this point it seemed like people would rip the hair from their skulls at how depressing superhero comics were. Sure, there were a few exceptions like the silver age Legion of Super-Heroes. That was a pretty cutting edge title at the time, with characters actually dying and turning bad or getting kicked off the team, stuff that you didn’t see in other superhero titles, but at the same time there was still room for fun, goofy characters like Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and the Legion of Super-Pets.

Then came the 80s and two of the best humor superhero concepts ever. First was Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League. Coupled with artists like Bart Sears and the great Kevin Maguire, these teams lasted for five years on two titles that took our classic DC icons and made them funny as all get-out. They turned second-stringers like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold into Abbott and Costello for the spandex set. They made Guy Gardner a pansy with a blow to the head. They turned the Martian Manhunter into an Oreo fiend. Their ideas got goofier and goofier and worked more and more, and thank goodness they came back last year with the Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries, because we really needed it.

The other good superhero comedy of the 80s was John Byrne’s take on the formerly “savage” She-Hulk. Originally just a carbon copy of the Hulk with a supermodel figure, Byrne saw the inherent goofiness in a seven-foot green attorney/superhero and went one better. In Byrne’s title, the She-Hulk actually knew she was in a comic book, and would frequently break the fourth wall, talking to the writer, to the reader, and using gags like “Meanwhile” captions to help her travel much faster. It was incredibly funny stuff, and after Byrne’s run on the title ended, other writers tried to copy his style but it was never quite the same. If you can find back issues of either of his two runs on the title, they’re worth picking up, though.

So what have we got these days if you want superhero humor? Aside from the aforementioned Plastic Man, not much. Sure, some books like Spider-Man still crack a lot of jokes, or maybe Mark Waid will give us a particularly funny issue of Fantastic Four, but that’s not the same as a regular humor fix. Doug Miers did a great series a while back called The Generic Comic Book, which starred a Generic Man fighting generic villains and cracking up the reader in the process, but that only lasted 13 issues (although there is the promise of a Generic Mini-Series later this year).

Occasionally you’ll get a comedy miniseries like the anxiously awaited I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League or the fantastic Gus Beezer specials Gail Simone did before she went exclusive to DC. Bongo comics still does occasional issues of Radioactive Man, taking Bart Simpson’s favorite comic book and using it to poke lighthearted fun at all eras and styles of superhero comics, but the ostensibly quarterly series seems to take longer to come out with each issue.

I want more. I want to be able to laugh more at our buddies in tights. I’d like to see the Defenders return as a comedy series (because let’s face it, with a name that generic humor is an obvious ingredient). I’d like to see a sort of “buddy movie” miniseries with famous buds Wonder Man and the Beast (kind of like Roger Stern did a few years ago in his Avengers Two miniseries, but funnier).

Blast it all, I want to see the Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew meets Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham crossover classic.

So what makes you laugh about guys in spandex? What Are some good superhero comedy titles that I missed? What’s being published right now that I should know about? You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine. And if your general practitioner is Doctor Doom, you want to stay away as long as possible.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 25, 2004

Speaking of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion #30 easily took my award for best comic last week. The conclusion of the “Foundations” storyline sees the Legion along with a time-tossed Superboy and a brainwashed teenage version of Clark Kent take on Darkseid, who has kidnapped and perverted heroes from the past in his own bid to rule the universe. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have crafted an epic to rival “The Great Darkness Saga” as one of the best Legion stories ever told, and Christ Batista’s pencils have never been better. I’m sorry to see this writing team leaving the book, and whoever is coming in after their five years of stewarding these characters has a very tough act to follow.

I still miss Matter-Eater Lad, though.

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 Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

22
Jun
10

Time Travel Tuesdays: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…

I wrote this column back in 2001 about how mind-numbingly tedious and repetitive television and pop culture had become. Nine years later, most everything I wrote still applies.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…

August 25, 2001

Several days ago I made a pretty big mistake. I got home from work, I sat down and, against my better judgement, I watched an episode of the Maury Povich show.

(I know, I know, but Batman was a rerun and I was too tired to look for the remote, anyway.)

It was one of those episodes where the warm, caring Maury announces the results of paternity tests so that people can lunge at each other’s throats on national television. After only a few minutes of this, I realized that every single encounter between a mother and a prospective father went exactly the same way:

MOTHER: I know Fred is (expletive deleted) the father of my baby, but he just won’t (expletive deleted) admit it. (Sobs into the camera, Maury pretends to act concerned).

PROSPECTIVE FATHER: I’m 110 percent sure I ain’t that (expletive deleted) baby’s daddy, Maury. She’s a liar and she was with my (expletive deleted) best friend after we broke up.

MAURY: But what if it is your child, Fred?

PROSPECTIVE FATHER: Hey, if it’s my (expletive deleted) baby, I’ll step up. I’ll take care of him. I take care of my three other (expletive deleted) babies.

MAURY: (Opens envelope). Fred… you are the baby’s father.

MOTHER: I knew it! I told you, you (multiple expletives deleted and mouth blurred out so that people reading lips don’t know for sure what she’s saying even though everyone in America knows anyway).

I watched maybe three of these little scenes and I was astonished at how every one of them was the same, right down to the father being named “Fred.”

That’s when I came to the horrible conclusion that I could get a column out of this. No, wait, the horrible part was the realization that we, as Americans, have become far too willing to accept repetition in our lives.

Let’s think about it — for those of you who watch daytime talk shows, there are only three topics left. Paternity tests where mothers scream and curse at fathers, “My lover cheated on me” episodes wherein people scream and curse at each other and the heartwarming “families reunited” shows wherein mothers are allowed to see the children they gave up for adoption several years ago, who are too relieved to have parents to begin screaming and cursing and are inevitably saving it up for Thanksgiving.

It’s not just talk shows, though. Every sitcom we see these days is a blatant rip-off of either “Friends” or “Seinfeld.” If one fast-food chain comes out with some special sandwich or meal deal, every other chain is going to follow suit. And for the love of all that is good and holy, how many times can Freddie Prinze Jr. make the same movie? Am I the only one who has noticed this?

But that tirade is for another column. No, this week’s tirade is against the homogenized, repetitious, boring, repetitious structure of our lives. There’s no variety anymore, everyone wants everything the same and comfortable. But guys and gals, that’s what makes it dull.

So here’s my suggestion. Let’s proclaim today, Aug. 25, to be “Break From the Trend” Day. We should make it a national holiday, wherein everyone does exactly the opposite of what they do every other day. Here are just a few suggestions:

•Maury could have a happy family as his guests.
• Large chain movie theatres could show small, independent, good movies, and people could actually go to see them.
• Fast food restaurants could prepare each dish lovingly by hand and give you quick, dependable service.
• Teachers will be shown respect and have a decent salary.
• Congress will accomplish something productive.
• Women who claim to find a sense of humor attractive in a man will actually be attracted to men with senses of humor.
• While the odds of winning the lottery will still be greater than that of getting struck by lightning, it may be possible to arrange it that everyone who buys a ticket does get struck by lightning.

And so on. The possibilities are endless my friends. And just to make things easier, I’m going to start the trend by doing something in this column I never, ever do.

Ahem. “HI, MOM!!!”

Okay. Now let’s get started.

Blake M. Petit is going to start the breaking of the trend by not ending this column like he usually does. Go away. Stop waiting for his e-mail address. … Oh, all right, he invites anyone with comments, suggestions or a movie that Freddie Prinze Jr. wouldn’t touch with a pogo stick to contact him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com

21
Jun
10

Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day & Dark Tower

Today I’m going to give you guys my thoughts on a few recent comics, including three more Brightest Day issues, and the most recent comic in Marvel’s version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Let’s start with a book that hit the week I was in Pittsburgh…

Justice League: Generation Lost #3

Continuing the story of the four Justice Leaguers who remember the truth about Maxwell Lord. As we’ve learned through Booster Gold’s little robot sidekick Skeets, though, computer intelligences also remember Maxwell Lord and all the nasty things he did — and that includes the scarab that gives power to the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Jaime’s family is targeted by a group of Max’s OMACs, and he joins up Booster Gold to help hunt down the man who murdered his predecessor. It’s really nice to see Jaime having a place in this group, and what’s more, writers Keith Giffen and Judd Winick spread out and cover a lot more of the DC Universe here as well. Fire’s confrontation with her former associates in the Checkmate organization is very strong, and the return of another former JLI member at the end bodes poorly for our heroes. The tone of this book, of course, is drastically different from the old “Bwa-ha-ha” comedy of the original JLI run, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t work. the story is very solid and the characters feel like they’ve evolved since the old days, Booster especially. I also really love Tony Harris‘s cover, featuring Jaime and Ted Kord. It’s just a great cover, really. Three issues in, I’ve really been impressed with this maxi-series. I just hope that the writers can keep up this quality for the next 11 months.

Rating: 7/10

Brightest Day #4

In the fourth chapter of the core Brightest Day series, the Hawks find an arch built from the bones of their many, many former incarnations. There’s a trap that’s been laid for them, something that’s been calling to them for a very long time. Deadman, meanwhile, finally gets a chance to rest, only to find himself throwing down with Hawk and Dove, an oasis in the New Mexico desert mysteriously dries up, and Ronnie Raymond starts to have some nasty dreams about what he did while he was a Black Lantern. There’s definite plot progression here, although some of it is incremental. The Deadman story, however, moves forward quite a bit. This, I think, is the way to best handle a book like this one. With such a large cast, coming out every other week, each issue should progress all of the stories a little bit and one of them a lot. That makes for a satisfying read, and it seems like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have figured that out. What happens at the end of this issue is really cool — it’s one of those instances where the characters come to the sort of conclusion that the readers did two or three issues ago, and they start to act on it. One of the most interesting things about Brightest Day thus far has been the strange new powers that Deadman is exhibiting. If the cliffhanger here is any indication, next issue we may actually get an examination of how those powers work, and that’s something we’re all interested in seeing. It’s also nice to bring in the Hawk and Dove story, which hasn’t played much a part in this main title yet (they’ve been featured more prominently in Birds of Prey). Solid issue.

Rating: 7/10

Birds of Prey #2

Speaking of the Birds of Prey, Gail Simone and Ed Benes‘s return to this title has been magnificent. Black Canary and Huntress find themselves facing a strange woman called the White Canary. As they go into battle their teammates — Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk — arrive on the scene just in time to find themselves targeted… not by the villains, but by the Gotham City Police Department. While the characters feel familiar — and wonderfully familiar — the book has a different dynamic than it did in its previous incarnation. There’s a different status quo, a different feeling, and that’s all to the good. We’ve actually got the Birds here trying to escape the GCPD and protect the Penguin, and the way it comes about doesn’t feel forced and it doesn’t make anyone seem out of character. The book is exciting, the fight scenes are fantastic, and the last few pages really makes Oracle out to be the bad-ass she actually is. Forget the fact that she’s in a wheelchair, forget the fact that she doesn’t have any super powers. Barbara Gordon’s mind and skill can make her one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, and Gail Simone gets that more than anybody else. The book doesn’t really seem to have a direct tie to Brightest Day, other than the inclusion of Hawk and Dove, but that’s no problem. You can read the title by itself or as part of the larger story, and either way, you’ve got a great comic.

Rating: 9/10

And as a little change of pace, let’s look at something that doesn’t have anything to do with Brightest Day, but is cool nonetheless…

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Journey Begins #2

Despite having perhaps the most unwieldy title of any comic book published this year, this miniseries has really turned out to be strong. The first cycle of Dark Tower comics ended with the previous miniseries, The Battle of Jericho Hill. Although this miniseries has begun the adaptation of the first Dark Tower novel, we’re still filling in backstory, showing how Roland, the last gunslinger, went from the massacre at Jericho Hill to the point we find him at the beginning of Stephen King‘s masterwork. Here we see Roland’s final journey to his destroyed homeland, the introduction of a creature whose family will turn out to be very important to him later in the series, a terrible sight and a bloody battle, and some haunted happenings back home. Robin Furth, King’s longtime assistant, is doing great work developing the story. All of her additions and alterations come with King’s approval, which makes it easier to accept, but even if he wasn’t involved the things we see here work very well with the world he established. Peter David‘s script, and the artwork of Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove come together to make a really magnificent comic book. I’ve been reading the Dark Tower comics ever since Marvel began publishing them a few years ago, but it’s been some time since I was so impressed by an issue that I felt compelled to talk about it. King fans, check this out. It’s great stuff.




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