Archive for June 1st, 2011


Classic EBI #93: The Worst of 2004

So, if you’ve got any interest in the world of comic books at all, you probably heard about yesterday’s pretty big announcement. DC Comics is planning a massive, line-wide relaunch of their superhero universe. We’re still not really sure exactly what form this relaunch will take, but I’ve never let that stop me from pontificating before. My immediate thoughts and gut reaction make up this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary.

Everything But Imaginary #401: An All-New DC Universe?

But here at the ‘Realms, we stay classic. This week, we’re dipping back to December 2004, when everybody was making their “best of the year” lists. I decided to go a little different this week…

Classic EBI #93: The Worst of 2004

Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, there are two things we like more than anything else: any confectionary or pastry filled with chocolate pudding, and great comic books. Unfortunately, not every comic out there is great, and sometimes a light must shine down on the depths.

Now don’t worry, we’re going to cover the best in comics in the 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards. But since part of the EBI mission statement is to talk about how to make bad comic books better, sooner or later, that means talking about the bad.

Worst Relaunch: Challengers of the Unknown. How many people know about Challengers of the Unknown? Well, back when comics were allowed to be fun, the Challengers were a group of explorers — scientists, daredevils, etc. — who miraculously survived a near-disaster. Deciding they were now living on “borrowed time,” they banded together to push back the boundaries of the universe. It may not be the most famous property in the DC Universe, but its simple innocence has always held a lot of appeal to me.
The Challengers miniseries DC published this year, however, had none of those things. It didn’t have the characters, it didn’t take place in the DCU, and it was anything but simple and innocent. In this version, Howard Chaykin ramped up a bloated, messy conspiracy theory about a group of bland, obnoxious characters who were under attack by some horrible shadow government.

Now it’s well documented that I’m not really a fan of conspiracy stories, but I can at least recognize when one is done well. Take The Losers for instance. Not my cup of tea, but it’s well written, deep, layered, and I can understand why people enjoy it. It’s just not my thing.

Challengers, on the other hand, is completely incomprehensible to me. I like Chaykin’s work — heck his Bite Club miniseries was one of my favorite titles this year — but every page of this comic dripped with venom and bile, which was flung at any target even remotely divergent from the writer’s own political screed. The satire was the sort that not only beat you over the head, but then dropped you off a cliff just in case you didn’t get the point, none of the characters was even remotely likeable and the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I want to see the real Challengers back, DC. I hope never to see these pretenders to the throne again.

Worst Cancellation: Sentinel Now I know a lot of people are going to be ticked that I didn’t pick Captain Marvel, but to be honest, I wasn’t that sad to see the title end. I used to enjoy it, but after Genis had been insane for over a year, the book lost its luster for me and I never got into it again. I was sorry to see it go for the sake of those who did enjoy it, but personally, I didn’t feel much anymore.

Sentinel, on the other hand, floored me. I got into it late, reading the Marvel Age Digest and picking up the last six issues when I dropped by the Wizard World Texas Convention, and I was astounded at how good it was. It was a teenage comic that didn’t drift too far into the soap opera. It was a book tied to the X-Men that didn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe. It was a comic that featured a single father who wasn’t drunk, abusive or absent, but was actually a positive figure in his sons’ lives. Is that sort of thing even allowed in comics anymore?

This book had so much going for it, even a definite direction to take the characters after the series ended, and it would be a true shame if Sean McKeever never got the chance to tell us what Juston Seyfert’s final fate was.

Worst Overexposure: The X-Family. I remember not too long ago, a time when there was an effort to trim the line of X-Men related comics. Several titles were cancelled, others retooled, and the series was streamlined.

What happened?

This year saw the beginning of no less than seven new ongoing X-titles, and I’m not even counting New X-Men: Academy X (as that is a retooled New Mutants) or Excalibur (as that could theoretically be a replacement for X-Treme X-Men). But we still got Astonishing X-Men, District X, Cable & Deadpool, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler and Jubilee (which, to be fair, was retroactively turned into a miniseries as its sales began to plummet).

Now Astonishing is probably the best book in the line right now, and I don’t really mind three core titles since each features different characters (except, of course, for Wolverine). District X also gets a thumbs-up as it’s only an X-book in the sense that it’s about mutants and has Bishop as a supporting character (acting as a cop and not a superhero, and not coincidentally, becoming interesting to me for the first time ever).

And there are a couple of cancellations on the horizon too — Mystique and Emma Frost. X-Statix ended, but that barely counted as an X-book, and Weapon X got the axe only for us to learn it will return as a series of mini-series.

And speaking of miniseries, how about Wolverine: The End, Sabretooth, Wolverine and the Punisher, X-Men: The End, Wolverine and Captain America, Madrox, Wolverine and Richard Simmons, X-Force etc. Oh, and how about X-Force? Anyone remember the days when stilted artwork and big guns and shoulder pads sold comics instead of plot? Happy days are here again.

We get it, Marvel. People like the X-Men. The X-Men sell a lot of comic books. I don’t even really blame Marvel, they’re a business and they’ve got to make money. I blame the fans who keep turning over their pockets for the same old thing again and again while great comics like She-Hulk, The Monolith and H-E-R-O languish in the shallow end of the sales charts. There’s a lot more out there, folks.

Worst Marketing Capitulation: Organic Webshooters. For the record, I was not one of the people totally incensed when Spider-Man, in the movie, had organic webshooters growing in his arms rather than building them himself. I thought it lost a chance to display Peter Parker’s intellect, but overall, it was a minor thing and the spirit of the character is the same. But I have to draw the line when a little tweak from the movie is crammed into the comic books with a crowbar, especially as it was in as bad a story as this Spectacular Spider-Man story arc. So Peter turns into a giant spider and, when he turns back, has organic webshooters and can talk to insects. I’ll let somebody else argue that spiders aren’t insects, we all know that already, but really Marvel. Are you that worried that a kid who saw the movie will read a comic only to see Spider-Man with a little metal thingie on his wrist and then run away in horror? I don’t mind change, folks, but I do mind when story is sacrificed for something so clearly a marketing concern.

(I have similar misgivings about Wolverine being crammed into New Avengers, but I’ll withhold my ravings about that until he actually appears in the title, that I may make a more informed rant.)

Worst Treatment of a Character that Deserves Better: Action Comics. You had to know this is coming. I have not missed an issue of a Superman comic book in 15 years. If I weren’t reviewing it every month with the DC Comics advance books, I would have dropped Action Comics at least six months ago.

Superman is supposed to be the top, the pinnacle, the greatest superhero in the world. So somebody please explain to me why Chuck Austen insists on writing him as (alternately) a stupid frat boy, an arrogant jerk or a brow-beaten weenie? What’s even more frustrating is the fact that, as evidenced in JLA #101, Austen is capable of writing Superman in-character. He just doesn’t.

Even the treatment of Clark Kent isn’t as appalling as how the supporting characters are treated, though. Lois Lane is cold and stoic and Lana Lang has no other characterization other than an urge to jump into bed with Clark Kent, dredging up a story that was over and resolved over ten years ago. If a woman in real life were this obsessed with her high school sweetheart in her mid-30s, she’d be called a stalker. We actually had a pivotal plot point revolve around Lois finding a pair of Lana’s underwear. It was like reading a Days of Our Lives comic book. Then of course there are brilliant villains like Repo-Man and Sodom and Gomorrah, and our old buddy Preus, whose characterization involves picking his favorite “lowly, disgusting” human females and having sex with them until they are dead.

This is Superman. I don’t know on what planet storylines like this are supposed to be appropriate for this title, but I can’t imagine it’s Earth or Krypton. This is worse than bad, it’s nauseating, and it has to stop.

The good news from all this, friends, is that 2004 is almost over. 2005 is a brand-new year, and a new chance to turn things around and get things right. And while there are a lot of difficult problems in comics, the ones I’ve outlined in this column are all pretty easy to fix. We just need comic publishers with the guts and the foresight to do what anyone reading the comics knows is right all along.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 15, 2004

Anyone remember Bullpen Bits? Anyone remember Spidey and the Mini-Marvels? Not enough of you do, that’s for sure, or else they’d still be doing them. But Chris Giarrusso is back with his own creation, G-Man, in a one-shot from Image comics. Giarusso has a lot of fun with this book about a kid who wants to be a superhero in a strange world where such things seem to be pretty commonplace. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s sharp enough for adults to like it and it’s clean enough to share it with your kids. If you want to have fun with a comic book, look no further. I hope there’s more G-Man in the future.

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 and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.



June 2011

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