Archive for November, 2011


Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

Christmas is quickly approaching, friends, and that means it’s time for one of my favorite Everything But Imaginary columns of the year. Today, I look at some of the cool stuff that’s available to buy for the geek on your list. It’s the 2011 Geek Gift Guide!

Everything But Imaginary #425: The 2011 Geek Gift Guide

Like many of my columns, though, this one has evolved over time. Let’s look back at an early one, from 2005.

Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

It’s December already, friends! Time to deck those halls, jingle those bells, and get out those credit cards, because you’re rapidly running out of time to get your Christmas shopping done. Now as longtime readers of this column know, I love Christmas. If I’d been born in Whoville, I would have fit in perfectly.

More important, for the purposes of today’s discussion, it’s time once again for the Everything But Imaginary Guide to Shopping For Your Geek. If you’re lucky enough to be a Comic Book Geek who has a Comic Book Geek to shop for, well, this column is most definitely for you. But if you’re a Geek who just hopes to get cool stuff this year – well, clearly you’re going to have to resort to drastic measures, such as “accidentally” mailing the link to this column to everybody you know, printing it out and slipping it into your girlfriend’s magazines, taping it to the steering wheel of your mother’s car and other such time-honored holiday traditions. So take a look at what we’ve got lined up and have this column with you when you visit Santa – you don’t want him to forget either, do you?

Now the first thing to consider for that special Geek, of course, is going to come from the DVD aisle. Geeks of all stripes have always loved movies, but since the advent of DVD and their full-season boxed sets, commentaries, outtakes, behind-the-scenes documentaries and other special features, it’s been a Geek paradise. And it’s been a heck of a year for Geek DVDs. First up, there was the phenomenal motion picture Batman Begins – hands-down the best Batman movie since… well, since the invention of celluloid. You’ll want to be careful getting this movie for your Geek, though, as Warner Brothers released it in both a single-disc barebones edition and a spiffy two-disc set full of keen extras, including a mini-comic reprinting the first Batman story from Detective Comics #27, a Dennis O’Neil classic and the first issue of Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Then, of course, there is the eternal struggle between widescreen and fullscreen, but if you need me to explain to you why widescreen is infinitely superior then you, my friend, are not a true Geek.

Then there are all the other great Geek DVDs that hit this year. To coincide with the release of Batman Begins, Warner Brothers released two-disc “special editions” of the four previous Batman films, and the first two of those would sit proudly on any Geek’s DVD shelf. (Anyone who has a copy of Batman and Robin on his shelf must immediately explain that his Great-Aunt Sophie, who doesn’t know any better, is the one who gave it to him, and that the only reason he hasn’t burned it is because she’ll want to see it on the shelf when she comes over to visit.) 2005 saw the beginning of the sets featuring the classic Adventures of Superman television show starring George Reeves, two volumes of which are now available. Two more seasons of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series came out, as did DVDs featuring Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Lois and Clark, plus Smallville is up to season four on DVD. And what Geek collection would be complete without the new releases of The Greatest American Hero?

Now I should caution you, when buying DVDs for the Geek in your life, you’re going to want to be careful not to duplicate anything already in his collection. Be sure to scout out their DVD shelf and take careful inventory of what he already has and what he is missing. If you don’t live with your Geek and don’t have ready access to his collection, you may have to employ agents such as a spouse, sibling or parent to scout out the collection on your behalf. Don’t be ashamed to ask these people for assistance: they have a Geek in their lives as well, remember, so they understand. Geeks – try to make it easier on the people in your life. I know it will be difficult to resist the urge, but stop buying DVDs for yourself between now and Christmas. They’ll still be there when the after-Christmas sales begin. Keep the shelf as it is now. Except, of course, when Serenity is released on Dec. 20 – I don’t expect anyone with taste to be able to resist that.

DVDs, of course, are not the only item on your favorite Geek’s Christmas list. He or she most certainly wants a buttload of toys as well. If you have been paying attention to what your Geek is a fan of, then you should know what to look for. The DC Direct line has had dozens of new releases this year. From Green Lantern Corps and Crisis on Infinite Earths figures to extentions of their Silver Age Superman and Batman lines, there’s something for everybody.

Marvel has also upped the ante on their Marvel Select and Marvel Legends lines, including sets of figures that include parts you can put together to build Galactus or a Sentinel. They’ve also introduced their new action figure game, Super Hero Showdown, which includes some really cool figures of their classic heroes and which any Geek will enjoy. Getting a Geek any sort of game, of course, is another danger zone. If you don’t want to play the game with him yourself (although you should), make sure he has someone to play with, or else you, as the person who gave the gift, will be recruited.

The great thing about toys is that they have a lot of cross-gender appeal – the female Geeks out there dig them too. Things like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures are quite popular, as well as some of the really nice statues and dioramas that are available. My own girlfriend, Erin, has continually expressed her desire for the Harley Quinn maquette that was available all-too briefly at the Warner Brothers stores (and if anyone out there knows where I can acquire one at a price I can afford before I land my million-dollar book contract, I would be forever in your debt). It’s just a matter of knowing your Geek, knowing what they like, and making sure it winds up under that tree before the 25th.

And finally, of course, there are books. Books books books books books. Did I mention books? Novels, graphic novels, movie scripts, behind-the-scenes books. This was a golden year for Star Wars fans, with a billion books that came out to celebrate the final film in that franchise. There’s the novel of Episode III, the graphic novel adaptation, the junior novel, the “Art of” book, the “Visual Dictionary,” the “Making Of” book, the Star Wars Visionaries special and lord only knows what else I may be leaving out.

Your Geek’s tastes may vary, of course. They may be into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series or David Mack’s Kabuki. They may be looking for the hardcover collections of Superman/Batman or Ultimate Spider-Man. They may be into Stephen King, Clive Barker, Orson Scott Card or Isabel Allende. Basically, you’ve got to employ the same tactics for books as you do for DVDs – scout out their bookshelves and see what they already have. That way you’ll know exactly what not to get and, in the case of a series, exactly what they need. Ah, Christmas. ‘Tis the season for subterfuge.

So that’s all you really need to know to shop for your Geek this year. Head out to the stores, have fun, and help them load up on cool stuff. It’s easier than you think.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 30, 2005

It’s taken a long time, but the revelation of Ruin’s identity in Adventures of Superman #646 was a real mind-blower, easily winning that title my Favorite of the Week last week. It was someone I’d never suspected, but who made sense considering the character’s history, and the way writer Greg Rucka used Mr. Mxyzptlk, casting him in an entirely different light, one that was really unique. A really strong issue, a really surprising story.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at



Where have I been, you ask?

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, friends. I’ve been a bit busy lately. It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month. It’s the holidays, which meant that I spent last week in Pittsburgh with Erin and her family. And it’s near the end of the semester, which means I’m busy as a teacher.

But I definitely want to give you guys some Christmas content, especially after Halloween being dedicated entirely to the Story Structure project. So starting Thursday, December 1, I’m going to try to get back to a regular schedule, with as much Christmas stuff as I can throw at you. Thanks for your patience, and have a great yuletide season.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 247: Of Muppets and Kings

Blake and Erin spent the week in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, and this week they’ve got a trifecta of entertainment to talk about. From the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, they discuss the special exhibit Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross. Then they shift gears to discuss the new Stephen King novel 11/22/63 and the online experience surrounding the new King miniseries Bag of Bones. And to cap it off, they delve into the movie event Blake has been waiting to see for 12 years: The Muppets. In the picks, Erin talks more about the Dresden Files and Blake doubles up with Wolverine and the X-Men #2 and Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 247: Of Muppets and Kings


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 246: Marvel Implosion?

Layoffs are one thing. Cancelled comics are something else. But a snowball seems to be rolling down from Marvel Comics, and this week, Blake tries to stand against it. Apologies in advance: this gets a little ranty. But he does dig good comics, and he gives his pick this week to Avengers Academy #22 Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 246: Marvel Implosion?


What to do while I’m writing…

Okay, guys, obviously I haven’t been a postmaster… funk… daddy… I haven’t been posting here very much lately. Like I said, I’ve been hard at work on my project for this year’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s coming along nicely, by the way — I’m rocking it at about 39,000 words right now, and I’ve got way more than 11K to go, so I’m definitely going to hit the required 50K for the story to “win” the challenge. I’ve also placed Erin under strict instructions to keep nagging me, even once I hit that 50K, to keep writing until the story is finished.

But as I’m working on that, I have been kind of neglecting my web presence. So today I thought I’d direct you elsewhere for a little entertainment. Check out this webcomic, Hunter Black.

Hunter Black is a fantasy adventure about an assassin with a cursed blade, The Revenger. Although it has its advantages, if he uses it to kill someone who is innocent of betrayal, that person’s ghost becomes his constant companion… something which has already happened once. Despite that, he’s a hired killer, and he has work to do.

Although the artwork is very iconic, don’t be mistaken — this is an adventure strip. It’s action-packed, often bloody, and definitely hardcore. It’s also relatively early in the run — you can go through the whole archives and be caught up in about a half-hour.

The comic is written by Justin Peniston with art by William Orr and lettering by Jacob Bascle — whom you may remember as the graphic artist who gave us the cover artwork for my own Other People’s Heroes and The Restless Dead of Siegel City, and who (as far as I’m concerned) is the official cover artist for the OPH universe for as long as he wants the gig.


Classic EBI #112: 100 Things I Love About Comics

In today’s new Everything But Imaginary, I take a look at some surprising guests who have turned up in our favorite comic book universes over the years.

EBI #424: Guest Star Surprises

In the classic EBI, though, back in the day I compiled a list of 100 things I loved about comics at the time. It’s funny to look back at it and see which ones are still applicable…

EBI #112: 100 Things I Love About Comics

Far too often, in this column, on this board, anywhere we talk about comics, the talk trends towards the negative. To a degree, this can be a good thing. After all, how do you fix problems if you never know what they are? But on the other hand, sometimes the constant moaning and wailing starts to get depressing.

But a few days ago, I discovered something very interesting, courtesy of the great Fred Hembeck. A long time ago, as part of his Dateline:@!!?# comic strip, Hembeck made a list, a simple list, of 100 things to like about comics. And it was good. Not long ago, he put that strip online (you can read it, in fact, right here), and it’s started something of a chain reaction. Since then, numerous other columnists, bloggers, cartoonists and fans have followed suit with lists of their own.

So, to defer some of that negativity that’s all over, I thought we here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters would compile our own list. Now this is in no order except the order it came to mind, so remember that. And hopefully, reading this list will make you smile too.

1. Superman – The big red “S” is, and always has been, my favorite character. With his creation, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster literally invented a genre. There would be no superheroes without him.

2. The New DC Universe – I am in complete awe of the way DC Comics is reunifying its vast line of titles right now. Infinite Crisis and its lead-ins are playing a big part, but events in Adam Strange, Superman/Batman, Teen Titans and JSA can all have weight with one another. When’s the last time that was true? I’ve never been so excited to be a DC fan.

3. Mike S. Miller – He may not be one of the big names, yet, but the stuff Mike S. Miller is doing these days is great. Stuff like Lullaby and The Imaginaries are strong, well-told all-ages comics, and his new studio, Alias, seems intent on pushing the boundaries of comics outside of just superheroes.

4. Geoff Johns – The writers in that New DCU are what are making it work, and Geoff Johns is doing better work than anyone. With him helming JSA, Teen Titans, Flash, Green Lantern and an upcoming arc on JLA, it’s no wonder DC is becoming more unified than ever.

5. Astro City – It may only come out sporadically, but Kurt Busiek’s tale of a city of heroes remains one of the greatest examples of the superhero genre I’ve ever read. He injects every story with real power, real emotion, real strength. I really admire that.

6. Comics Outside of Comic Shops – I love my friendly neighborhood comic shop, but it does my heart good to see Archie at the corner drugstore or the Bone color reprints at Wal-Mart. Comic shops are great, but they cater to the converted. If we’re going to get new readers, we have to look elsewhere.

7. Fables – You knew it couldn’t be long before my favorite comic made the list. This incredible revitalization of classic fairy tale characters has been a smart, often funny, always poignant and invariably entertaining comic book from the very first issue, and I still have to pat myself on the back when I think about how I picked it up from day one.

8. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck – Finally, Gemstone comics is going to put out a trade paperback of this brilliant storyline that weaves together all of Carl Barks’s tales of Scrooge into one narrative. It’s easily Don Rosa’s greatest work, and it deserves a bigger audience.

9. John Williams music – You know what I listen to when I need a great superhero theme in my head? John Williams’ score for the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Still, in my humble opinion, the greatest movie score of all time.

10. Groo – Another sporadic comic these days, whenever I come across Sergio Aragones’ brain-dead barbarian, I know I’ll be in for a laugh. It’s been too long since we were treated to another Groo story, although I hear that may be because a movie is in the works.

11. Peanuts – The creations of Charles M. Schulz are timeless. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy… they may be children with big heads and weird habits, but this comic strip, in microcosm, really casts a spectacular eye on mankind. If aliens came to Earth hoping to understand our species, I’d tell them to read The Complete Peanuts.

12. Old Cartoon Comics – As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of time lately scrounging up old comics, and one thing that I’ve really enjoyed is finding comics based on cartoons I loved as a child and, let’s be honest, love now. Flintstones, The Great Grape Ape, Looney Tunes and Donald Duck. No matter how old these comics are, I still devour every one I can find.

13. Marvel Legends – While I’d like to see them diversify which characters they use, I cannot fault the Marvel Legends action figures for quality. These figures are beautifully sculpted and relatively cheap. Probably the best Marvel Comics figures of all time. In fact, there’s only one line I prefer.

14. DC Direct – The DC Direct action figures are fantastic. Impressive work on the sculpts and designs and, most importantly, a really wide array of characters. Preacher, Planetary, Teen Titans, Kingdom Come – even Mad Magazine figures have been stamped out.

15. Justice League Unlimited – I’ve been waiting for this cartoon my entire life. You know what the only thing I didn’t like about Superfriends was when I was growing up? Not enough different characters. This show has expanded the League to enormous proportions, and those lesser characters frequently get the spotlight.

16. Kurt Busiek – Probably my favorite writer in comics. His work on Astro City is brilliant. Marvels was a masterpiece. His Avengers, JLA, Untold Tales of Spider-Man and The Liberty Project? All great examples of the superhero genre. He’s the only writer who ever got me to put Conan on my pull-list, and his original graphic novel, The Wizard’s Tale, remains one of the great underappreciated comics of all time.

17. Mini-Figures – I don’t know why, but as much as I love the cool action figures we have now, I think I love mini action figures even more. Mini-Mates, Kubricks and, to a lesser extent, DC’s Pocket Heroes, are just really cool to me. What other toy line can include Big Bird, Marty McFly, Mr. Blonde and Batman and find nothing ironic about that at all? I want a Legion of Mini-Heroes to stand guard over my office and protect me at night.

18. Mark WaidWaid’s been around for a long time, but didn’t really get my attention until he wrote Flash, a seminal run that only Johns could have followed. I’ll read almost anything he puts his keyboard to, and his Fantastic Four is the best that title has been since Byrne left. Maybe since Lee and Kirby. And speaking of which…

19. The Legion of Super-Heroes – 1,000 years into the future, a team of heroes stands vigilant, ready to fight to protect the galaxy from all threats. I love the idea of the Legion, the promise that even a millennium from now the legends of today will live on and inspire new heroes. And Mark Waid and Barry Kitson are doing some of the best work that tile has ever seen.

20. Golden Age Superheroes – You can keep your Spawns and Authorities. Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite – those are real superheroes. No matter how hard you try, some things just can’t be improved upon.

21. Digest Comics – I’ve always liked Archie digests, but now more and more comics are being printed in digest format. Hardy Boys or Scooby Doo comics, Spider-Girl and Runaways – even Vertigo comics like Death: At Death’s Door and Bite Club. It’s cheaper. It’s easier to store. And shrinking the art no longer has any discernable impact. Thank God for computers.

22. Sin City (The Movie)Spider-Man couldn’t do it. The X-Men? Batman? Nope. It took Frank Miller’s Sin City to make one of the most faithful comic-to-screen adaptations of all time, and a dazzling film it was. I can’t wait to get my hands on the DVD.

23. DC Archives – DC’s Archive Editions are a godsend. It’s possible now to read the entirety of Legion of Super-Heroes, Superman and Wonder Woman from the beginning. But there are lesser-known properties as well: Blackhawk. Challengers of the Unknown. Adam Strange. Even DC Rarities. What better way to preserve the past of the artform?

24. The Spirit – Speaking of DC Archives, one of the best things you can get in that format is Will Eisner’s groundbreaking crime series. Denny Colt, a detective presumed dead, is reborn as a masked avenger. The strip was instrumental in changing the way comics looked and were read. This is a real masterpiece.

25. Young Avengers – I’m going to go ahead and say it. This is one of the best new titles to come from Marvel in years. I had very low expectations for this book, but somehow a comic about four nobodies pretending to be heroes, written by a guy best known for working on a prime-time soap opera, has become an absolute must-read. Three issues in, I’m dying to find out what happens next.

26. Carl Barks – Even now, a few years after his death, I am in awe of the work of Carl Barks. Although he spent almost his entire career working on Disney comics – Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge mostly, he managed to create a library of adventure stories and action pieces that rival those of any other creator. Smart, funny and full if Indiana Jones-style high adventure decades before George Lucas cooked up ol’ Indy, the work of Carl Barks continues to be a watermark.

27. Don RosaRosa, to a large degree, has picked up Barks’ torch with his own Disney comics. As with the brilliant Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, he often bases his own stories on Barks classics, and always adheres to the Duck Man’s characterizations. And he’s a fantastic storyteller in his own right.

28. New Comics For Old Properties – I’m talking about stuff like G.I. Joe, Looney Tunes, TransFormers and Hardy Boys. I’m talking about the fact that characters I’ve loved since I was young are still alive in the medium I love. That’s an incredible thing.

29. Kingdom Come – Even now, a decade after the incredible work by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, its fingerprints are still all over the DC Universe. This epic tale of the end of heroes and the birth of a new world is, in my mind, one of the finest comic book stories ever produced. Yeah. I like it even more than The Dark Knight Returns. Even more than Watchmen. And I’m not afraid to say it.

30. The Incredibles – Was it based on a comic book? No, not technically. But let’s face it, this is a movie that never would have been made if it didn’t have a creator – Brad Bird – who had a love for superheroes, and where did superheroes come from? Heck, I wouldn’t be the least surprised to check into Bird’s basement and find longboxes full of Fantastic Four. Oh, that reminds me…

31. The Fantastic FourStan and Jack’s greatest creation, in my opinion, is this team, this family, of four people who have been given powers by freak accident and use them to push back the boundaries of science and the imagination. There are few properties in all of comics with the sheer potential of Fantastic Four.

32. BoneJeff Smith’s epic comic book about a trio of cousins who stumble into a mystical valley started out as a comedy and turned out to be one of the most epic fantasies ever put to the page. This comic is brilliant and a great example of everything that a comic book can be.

33. Friday Afternoons – I know a lot of you out there get your comics on Wednesdays, but I get mine on Fridays nine times out of ten. I dart away from work and rush to the shop, excited as a kid at Christmas, wanting to see what’s happening to Superman or Spider-Man or Uncle Scrooge this week. And since Ronée and I started going together frequently last year, I’ve looked forward to it even more.

34. Wednesday Mornings – So if I don’t go to the shop until Friday, what’s so great about Wednesday mornings? Well, if I may be a tad self-indulgent, that’s when each new Everything But Imaginary comes out, and I’ve grown to love posting this column and hitting refresh every 15 seconds to find out what you guys think of it. It’s my little tradition, and I’m proud of it.

35. Neil GaimanGaiman’s work is some of the richest and most imaginative I’ve ever seen in a comic book. His Sandman is one of the few titles recognized even outside of comic book circles, and the fact that there are still people anxious to see the end of his Miracleman series speaks volumes.

36. Pogo – The brainchild of Walt Kelly, this is my second-favorite comic strip of all time, right after Peanuts. These tales of a bunch of swamp critters is alternately hysterical, satirical, brilliant and scalding. And they never pulled punches. Kelly was one of the greats.

37. Herobear and the Kid – This comic, by Mike Kunkel, is an absolute masterpiece of all-ages comics. It’s the story of a young boy who inherits, from his late grandfather, a broken watch and a teddy bear. The teddy bear has a secret, though – it’s alive… and it’s a superhero. This is a book of pure wonder and imagination, and I can’t believe anyone could read it and not be moved.

38. PVP – Every day, when I turn on my computer, one of the first things I do is check to see if Scott Kurtz has uploaded a new PVP comic strip. This fantastic webtoon is part sitcom, part satire and all heart. If you haven’t read it yet… well good grief, why haven’t you? It’s free. Just go to PVP Online.

39. Webcomics in General – Whether it’s PVP, Alien Loves Predator or CTRL-ALT-DELETE, comic strips on the internet really have taken over the medium in a creative sense. Most comics in newspapers play it safe, stagnate, and are afraid to tell stories. As the comic strip artform evolves, the future is most definitely on the web.

40. Dork Tower – The first webcomic I ever really followed, it’s still one of my favorites. John Kovalic’s tale of a geek in love, wrapped up in trappings any Dungeons and Dragons fan will recognize, is consistently entertaining and innovative. Plus, each comic book edition has its own long-form story, advancing the characters far beyond the strip itself. This is, very much, a good thing.

41. Batman – Not my favorite character but still one of the greats, Batman is something of a tale of human ambition wrapped up in a Greek tragedy. It shows how much a normal human can accomplish if he’s driven enough. The catch is, to be driven enough, it seems one must carry the weight of the sin of surviving his entire life. Is it really worth it?

42. Max Fleisher Cartoons – Back in the 1940s, Max Fleisher turned out the most expensive animated shorts ever made at that point. And they starred Superman. Even today these cartoons are beautiful to watch and entertaining as all get-out. I could wear out those DVDs.

43. The Thing – If The Fantastic Four is the greatest work of Lee and Kirby, than The Thing is the best of the best. Ben Grimm, more than anyone, drew the short straw in the superpower lottery, but with an affliction that would have made a lesser man a villain, he remains one of the bravest heroes of all. To me, that’s even more inspiring than Batman.

44. Dan Slott’s She-Hulk – Over 12 issues, writer Dan Slott took a second-tier Avenger with two cancelled series to her name and made one of the smartest, best-written comics Marvel has ever put out. Thank goodness they’re bringing her back for a “second season” later this year, because it would have been an absolute shame to let this title die.

45. Expanded Universes – Let’s think about it. Star Wars, The X-Files, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Thundercats, Battle of the Planets – all properties of television or the movies. All given new perspective through comic books. And while some of those comics are just okay, others are fantastic. And either way, they’re still a lot of fun.

46. Captain Marvel – And I don’t mean Genis here. I mean the real Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, just a good-hearted kid given the power of seven gods and sent out to do good. A pure, innocent soul with incredible power. It’s the dream of every child who ever picks up a superhero comic.

47. Infinite Crisis Anticipation – This kinda goes with #2, but every DC Universe title I read these days, I go over with a fine-toothed comb, looking for clues, looking for links, trying to find the roadmap to Infinite Crisis. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been this excited about any comic book, let alone an entire line. That’s a great thing.

48. Writers From Other Mediums – While there are great writers who’ve never worked outside of comics, there’s a cool feeling in bringing in people who write other things as well. Greg Rucka and Brad Meltzer were novelists before they wrote comics. J. Michael Straczynski and Joss Whedon were best known for their work in television. Knowing that comics are getting attention outside of our little circles is a good feeling.

49. Comic Conventions – Man, is there anything better than a good comic book convention? Walking the aisles, browsing the dealerships, getting autographs, seeing sneak previews of the new comics? I’ve gone to two major cons in my life, but I can’t wait to go to more. I just ache for the day I’ll be on the other side of the table.

50. Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League – Be it American, European, International or Formerly, the Justice League comics by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis have produced some of the heartiest laughs I’ve ever had while reading a comic book. I’m glad to know the creative team is sticking together, even if recent events make it pretty much impossible to keep the characters as a unit.

51. Computer Coloring – While the colorists of comics past did great work with what they had, the work that’s been done since the advent of computers is nothing short of stellar. Looking at the work of guys like our own Chris Sotomayor, not to mention the likes of Laura Martin and Tanya and Richard Horie, one thing is clear – comic books have never looked so good.

52. Viper Comics – I give anyone credit for launching a comic company in the current marketplace. I give Viper double credit for doing it so well. While not confining themselves to any one genre, neither did they overextend themselves and fall apart under their own weight. Slowly, surely, they’re releasing some really clever, innovative comics, yet still establishing their own identity. Bravo.

53. Fade From Grace – The best work of Beckett Comics, specifically Gabriel Benson and Jeff Amancio, Fade From Grace is a touching, heartbreaking superhero romance that you’ve got to read to believe. There’s just one issue left, and a trade paperback is almost a certainty, so find this book if you still can.

54. WildguardTodd Nauck’s comic book about, of all things, a superhero reality show, is one of my most eagerly-anticipated titles in-between series. He’s managed to create real characters out of stale archetypes and put together a lot of mystery and comedy that blend together beautifully and make me smile. When’s the next miniseries, please?

55. Midnight NationRising Stars? Good. Amazing Spider-Man? Good. Midnight Nation? Great. J. Michael Straczynski’s most powerful comic book work is probably his least-lauded, this quiet little 12-issue horror story that broke hearts and sent the imagination soaring. This is a real masterpiece of the form, and one of my favorite horror comics ever.

56. Green Lantern: Rebirth – I didn’t want to like this comic, I really didn’t, but Geoff Johns has done a fantastic job in bringing Hal Jordan back without totally alienating Kyle Rayner fans. Finally, there’s something here to be excited about again.

57. Superman/Batman – Although the world’s finest duo shares top billing in this title, from the first issue it’s been more a book about the DC Universe as a whole and how its two greatest characters fit into it. I’m going to be very sorry when Jeph Loeb leaves this title, and I almost hope DC cancels it as opposed to handing it off to someone else. But then, that all depends on who that someone else is, doesn’t it?

58. Fred Hembeck – The man whose strip started what I now realize is going to be a mammoth of a column also happens to be one of the funniest comic book creators ever. From his spoofs of Marvel and DC covers to his masterpieces like Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, I’ve never been disappointed with so much as a page of his work. Would that his long awaited KIDZ graphic novel would someday find a publisher.

59. Noble Causes – A comic book soap opera? Good grief, why would anyone read that? Well, because it’s one of the smartest, best-written comic books on the market, that’s why. Spoofing soap operas and superheroes equally, Jay Faerber has created a really good title, a book with genuine emotion and heart. And a book where anything can — and will – happen.

60. The Kents – I was reminded about this great western when Ronée mentioned it in What a Girl Wants a few weeks ago. This 12-issue series, by John Ostrander, told the tale of Jonathan Kent’s family during the turmoil of the Civil War. We all know that Krypton gave Superman his power. To a very large degree, this series explains the family that gave him his soul.

61. New X-Men: Academy X – Another of those happy surprises, I never intended to read this comic, but happened to get the first issue during a week I, against all probability, wound up doing the Marvel Comics advance reviews. I was never happier to get tossed into a book. Clever characters, strong writing and an emphasis on emotional development frequently lacking from its sibling titles, this really is my favorite X-Men book at the moment.

62. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew – Go ahead and laugh, everyone does. But I love Captain Carrot. I loved the stories Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw! told with these funny animal superheroes. I loved the Oz/Wonderland War miniseries that sent them out in style. And I’m not going to uncross my fingers until DC finds some way to bring the heroes of Earth-C back!

63. Finding New Titles – There are few thrills, to a comic fan, that equal finding a new title and being totally surprised by it. Fables was an impulse purchase. The Monolith was a stroke of luck. The Imaginaries I bought on a hunch. You’ve got to be willing to try something new, to find something different. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

64. Smallville – It could well be the best live-action superhero show ever made, and nobody ever puts on a pair of tights. Tom Welling’s Clark Kent is a perfect interpretation of the character as a young man, and while the writing on the show sometimes strays into slightly soap opera-ish plots, the heart is there, and the heart is brilliant.

65. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? – One of the greatest Superman stories ever told and one of the best comics ever to spill from the pen of Alan Moore, this comic told the final story of the Pre-Crisis Superman and wrapped everything up beautifully. I still get gooseflesh reading it. It’s still a masterpiece.

66. J. Michael Straczynksi’s Amazing Spider-Man – Yes, I know some people didn’t like the Spider-Totem or the Gwen Stacy storyline, but I’ve found this title consistently entertaining since Straczynksi rescued it from the depths of mediocrity. For years, there was no Spider-Man I liked. The hero of my youth is back again.

67. CrossGen Comics (R.I.P.) – They say that the candle that burns twice as bright burns only half as long, and that’s certainly the case here. In their short tenure on the comics scene, CrossGen did some of the best comics out there – Negation, Route 666, Sojourn, Abadazad… brilliant. It’s a shame that those stories may never be resolved. But at least Abadazad will supposedly come back next year with its new owner.

68. Marvels – The book that introduced us all to Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross is still, in my opinion, one of the finest comics Marvel has ever produced. An entire history of a superhero universe, told through the eyes of a bystander – it’s the only hardcover comic I’ve ever paid the full $50 price tag for.

69. John Cassaday – His work on Captain America was great, his work on Planetary is dazzling, his work on Astonishing X-Men is spectacular. John Cassaday is becoming one of my favorite artists in comics. Everything he does looks beautiful, and he shows no signs of losing his touch.

70. Captain America – One of the best characters in comics, the living personification of the American Dream. There’s something about a character who stands for something, and that’s what this character means. Something powerful. Something incredible. Something that can’t be broken.

71. Bargain Specials — $1 for DC Countdown? Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure? Quarter specials for G.I. Joe or 50 cents for PVP? The days of the two-dollar comic on a regular basis may be gone for good, but bargain specials may be just the thing to lure people in. Look how fast The OMAC Project sold out after Countdown got people hooked.

72. The Flash – One of my favorite concepts in comics, the Flash isn’t just one person, it’s a legacy of justice in speed, passed down from generation to generation. That’s what makes it such an interesting character. No matter how fast he runs, the current Flash cannot escape destiny – some day the torch will be passed.

73. New Avengers – While this book still doesn’t feel like the Avengers to me, Brian Michael Bendis has created a new title that’s clever and entertaining in its own right. Plus, I like Spider-Man interacting with a team. I know, that puts me in the minority.

74. JSA – The best superhero comic book currently being published. Tell anyone I said it. Classic heroes, a fantastic writer, brilliant, epic storylines and a real genuine respect for the past. This title is everything I want in a superhero comic month in and month out.

75. Thunderbolts – Old or new, this is one of Marvel’s strongest concepts of the past decade. A band of supervillains who masqueraded as heroes, went straight and now are trying to help other villains reform? It’s a great concept and the execution, steeped in continuity as it is, never fails to impress me.

76. Adam Strange – Even before his new miniseries and the upcoming Rann/Thanagar War, I was a fan of Adam. He’s kind of the opposite of Superman, a human sent to an alien world to become its greatest champion. It’s the dreams of a child brought to life.

77. Frank ChoLiberty Meadows is funny. Shanna the She-Devil is beautiful. The images that spill from this man’s pencil are classic and contemporary all at once. Nobody in comics does beautiful women, funny animals or dinosaurs and monkeys better than Frank Cho.

78. Quarter Bins – Be it at a comic convention or your neighborhood shop, is there anything better than a quarter bin? Here’s your chance to rack up on comics you missed years ago, replace ones you lost as a child, or discover something that may not be worth any money but may have great reading potential. And even if it stinks, you’re only out a quarter.

79. Arguments – I’m not a confrontational guy, but I’ve spent more happy hours debating comics on this board, with Ronée, with my friends Chase, Mike and Jenny, than ever expected. Who’d win this fight? Who’s a better writer? Why are you still buying that book? It’s crap! The more we disagree the more fun it is – and once the fight is over, we’re still friends. That’s what makes it work.

80. Matt Weldon[2011 Edit: Matt was the artist on my first comic book story, Ryan and Radar, in Futurius. He’s kinda dropped off the radar. Matt, buddy, if you’re out there, hope you’re doing well.]

81. Legacies – There have been many Flashes and Green Lanterns. We’re on our second Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Teriffic. There may be a third Blue Beetle and Spectre in the offering soon, and while we’re on our first Stargirl, she’s following five Starmen. I love watching the mantle of heroism getting passed from one generation to another.

82. Blade – I’ll be honest, I’ve never read a Blade comic book. There’s only one reason he’s on this list. Because he proved, after 30 years of failures, that it was possible to make a movie based on a Marvel Comic that didn’t suck eggs. Thank goodness.

83. Cartoon Network – You have got to give the Cartoon Network credit, they’re having a lot of fun with DC properties. Justice League Unlimited. Teen Titans. Even Krypto, for Heaven’s sake. And you know what? Most of ‘em are pretty good.

84. FoxTrot – With Peanuts in reruns and Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side gone, there’s only one real reason left to get excited about a newspaper comic page – Bill Amend’s FoxTrot. Smart, funny and, in its own way, as geeky as PVP, I look forward to reading this comic every morning.

85. Column A/Column B Names – It’s goofy, I know, but look at how many superheroes seemed to have plucked their names off a menu. Firestorm. Firehawk. Darkhawk. Darkstar. Firestar. It’s no wonder, 1,000 years from now, the Legion of Super-Heroes thinks it’s a requirement that superhero names go “Adjective-Noun.”

86. Games – Video games, card games, board games, role-playing games… I love the fact that it’s possible to jump into the head of your favorite superhero and have an adventure. I don’t care if it’s Heroclix, Vs. Cards or bopping around inside Wolverine on the Playstation 2, comic book characters have given us all hours of playtime.

87. New Horror Comics – Back in the day, EC’s horror titles ruled the industry, until they were shut down. But now the halcyon days of horror are coming back. Dead@17. Blood of the Demon. Mnemovore. It may be time to get scared again.

88. Free Comic Book Day – Expect more on this next week. This is, potentially, the single greatest tool we could have to draw in new comic book readers. If only we use it right.

89. DC Comics Advance Reviews – Yeah, I love my job. I love writing the DC reviews for this site. I love popping open that package to see which comics I get to talk about this week, and I love discovering new titles that I wouldn’t have given a second glance to, like Manhunter or Solo. And I love telling you guys all about it.

90. Chris Giarrusso – The creator of Mini-Marvels and G-Man is one of the funniest people working in comics today. Pint-sized superheroes are only good for a laugh in the hands of someone who knows what he’s doing. Giarusso knows what he’s doing. So when do we get to see G-Man #2?

91. Good Crossovers – There are stinkers out there. Genesis. Millennium. Infinity Crusade. But then there are the classics – Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars, the kinds of stories that pull together an entire line of comics. Each of the big two has a major crossover planned for this year. Let’s hope they don’t make it on the first list.

92. Movies People Don’t Know Are Based on Comics – I loved seeing movies like Road to Perdition and Ghost World getting nominated for Academy Awards, because it seems like the only time comic book films are nominated it’s in sound and special effects categories. But how many people going into those movies knew they were watching comic book movies? Not enough. It’s fun to see their faces when you tell them.

93. Complete Runs – I’ve got every issue of Superman: The Man of Steel. It took years of hunting, but I completed Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew and I’m just an issue away from owning the whole Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League. There’s a strange sense of accomplishment in getting that complete run of a comic you love.

94. The Back Issue Hunt – This goes hand-in-hand with #93, but there are few thrills like digging through long boxes at a new comic shop, accosting dealer after dealer at a convention or scouring the internet looking for that one last comic you need to fill a gap in a run. And when you find it, there’s a thrill that a non-geek just can’t understand.

95. Ridiculous But Somehow Charming Origins – “So let me get this straight, Mr. Lee… this guy is going to get caught in the blast of a radioactive bomb, and instead of turning into a smear on the desert, he’s going to become a Jekyll-and-Hyde monster with green skin and super-strength? Suuuure, pull the other one.”

96. The Marvel Bullpen – It turned out to be largely a myth, but for a long time we were given the stories of the Marvel Bullpen, that Utopian Office where all the Marvel creators got together and turned out tale after spine-tingling tale month after month. Okay, granted, a great number of those creators never showed up at the office at all, but that vision of a group of creators working in such close quarters was something magical to a kid reading Marvel at the time.

97. Diverse Genres – You know, even though superheroes dominate the medium, there are so many sci-fi tales, fantasies, horror stories, comedies, soap operas, dramas – everything you can imagine is out there in comics. You’ve just got to know where to look. And I personally enjoy helping people learn that.

98. Stretchy Characters – From Plastic Man to Mr. Fantastic, Elongated Man to Rubberduck, what other genre could have birthed characters whose one ability was to contort their body into impossible, stretchable shapes? Stretchy characters, for some bizarre reason, are inherently entertaining. I don’t quite get it. I don’t mind.

99. – It’s weird, but this little site has become kind of a home to me. This is a great community with great people, and I look forward to pontificating about comics here for a long time to come.

And finally…

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 20, 2005
100. Spectacular Spider-Man #27. When Paul Jenkins took over this book (in its prior incarnation as Peter Parker), it had suffered from years of stagnation. He brought in real character and real heart, and while he occasionally got sidetracked with typical superhero stories, whenever he returned to quiet, character stories, he turned out the best Spider-Man stories in a generation. This final story, a tale of Pete and Uncle Ben, is simply beautiful. When Jenkins was at the top of his form, so was Peter Parker.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at


With Thanksgiving approaching…

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I know how busy everyone can get. How you can be flat-out swamped. And how those of you who are on the lookout for content for your blogs and review websites may have trouble picking out things that are holiday-appropriate to fill up some column inches.

My friends. I’m here to help.

Although this year has been the time when I really began to try to make a serious push with my eBooks, it’s not the year I started. A couple of years ago I put out my first eBook, a collection of nine Christmas-themed short stories that I wrote over the years as a sort of “Christmas Card” to my friends and relations. A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas is available now, for the low, low eBook price of $2.99, for all eBook formats. But that’s for everyone else. Have you got a blog? A podcast? A review website? Do you read and review books frequently? Do you write about e-publishing? Are you just a fan of Christmas stories and want to tell your friends about them?

Here’s your chance, my friends! If you’re interested in reviewing A Long November on your website, drop me a line at and let me know what website you represent and what eBook format you prefer, and I’ll send it to ya. MOBI, EPUB, PDF, whatever you want, I got it, and all you have to do is let me know you want it.

And what the hey… why should I restrict this offer to my Christmas book just because Christmas is approaching? So if you’d like to review any of my other eBooks — Other People’s Heroes, The Beginner, or The Restless Dead of Siegel City — the same offer applies. All you’ve got to do is e-mail me and tell me what format you want.

You can do it, friends. You can help spread a little Christmas cheer to the big, wide Internet. And, y’know, help me gather a little present-buyin’ cash in the process. Join in and spread a little Feliz to everybody’s Navidad.



2 in 1 Showcase Episode 245: Les Daniels and Bil Keane

Blake is alone and hoarse this week, so he doesn’t waste time and gets right to saying a few words about two men from the world of comics who passed away this week: historian Les Daniels and cartoonist Bil Keane. In the picks, he goes with Batgirl #3. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 245: Les Daniels & Bil Keane


It’s (Almost) Time to Play the Music

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Muppets lately. In and of itself, there’s nothing unusual about this. I spend approximately 63 percent of my waking time thinking about various projects connected to Jim Henson even on an ordinary day, so being Muppet-heavy is par for the course for me. But this week I’m thinking about them for a reason… because in a little less than two weeks, they’re going to be back on the big screen for the first time in 12 years.

To say I’m excited about this movie would be something of an understatement. I was “excited” when the McRib came back again. The Muppets? I’m ecstatic to have them back in movie theaters. I, like virtually everybody reading this who was born after 1957, grew up with the Muppets as a constant presence in my life. I loved the Sesame Street Muppets, I grew into the Muppet Show Muppets, I fell in love with their feature films one at a time. I still defend their 90s TV show, Muppets Tonight, as a worthy successor to the Muppet Legacy. I was devastated when Jim Henson passed away, and I waited with terrible anticipation to find out if Kermit the Frog would find a voice again with his creator gone. (He did, although some of Jim’s other creations — and here I am specifically thinking of Rowlf the Dog — still haven’t quite made a comeback.)

I was okay when the Walt Disney company bought the Muppets in 2004, because this was actually something Jim had been considering himself prior to his death. And I felt secure that, under Disney, the Muppets would flourish. But sadly, I have thus far been mistaken. Although they’ve made a few efforts — the TV movie Muppet Wizard of Oz and the special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (the former was a mess, the second was good, but not great).

In truth, except for a few YouTube videos and a brilliant comic book series by Roger Langridge, there hasn’t been a lot about the Muppets for fans to get excited about. Disney’s intentions were no doubt good, but they haven’t known what to do with the characters. They still haven’t put out the last two seasons of the TV show on DVD, for Heaven’s sake. No, as is so often the case, our hope for the salvation of a brilliant cast of characters lies not with studio executives, but rather in the hearts of our own,  unabashed Muppet fans made good. The film was co-written by director Nick Stoller and actor Jason Segel, one of the stars of one of my favorite TV shows (How I Met Your Mother), who previously collaborated on the film Forgetting Sarah Marshal… which, admittedly, doesn’t make them the first choice for the Muppets. But I think Segel — himself an oversized Fozzie of a man — has the right heart for the property. Segel is star of the movie, which will feature a new Muppet named Walter (Segel’s character’s brother, in a wink-at-the-camera nod to The Great Muppet Caper) trying to find and reunite the Muppets after some time apart. The premise frankly sounds perfect for a movie intended to bring the characters back, make them stars again, and introduce them to an entire generation that hasn’t really gotten to see them enough.

“Geez, Blake,” you say. “Why are you getting so worked up over an old kids’ show?”

No, sir. No. If you dismiss the Muppets as “some old kids’ show,” you are not only demonstrably wrong, but you’ve fundamentally misunderstood one of the greatest artistic achievements of the last 50 years. And no, this is not one of those times I’m exaggerating for the sake of hyperbole. The Muppets were brilliant. Jim Henson was the second-greatest wizard of the 20th century, right behind Walt Disney himself. And those who carry his standard have a lot to live up to.

First of all, the Muppet Show Muppets (Kermit and the gang) were never intended to be characters merely for the entertainment of children. Hell, the title of the pilot episode of their show was “Sex and Violence.” You don’t do that if you want your entire audience to be in short pants. Yes, children should be able to watch the Muppets, and they should love them, but if their parents can’t sit down with them and love them just as much, then somebody, somewhere, has failed.

Henson gathered around him a cast of magnificent performers: Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Jerry Juhl, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Kevin Clash and many more that I’m embarrassed not to have mentioned by name. Each of these people was not only a puppeteer, but an actor, a comedian, a singer, a dancer, a mime, and probably a dozen other performing specialties all rolled into one. And the characters they created are every bit as clever and diverse: the exhausted Kermit the Frog, would-be diva Miss Piggy, neurotic comedian Fozzie Bear and so forth… each of them capturing a specific goal or ideal, something that speaks to something inside of us.

The Muppets were also subtly subversive, sneaking in little jokes and comments that the kids wouldn’t understand but that their parents snickered at, even going back to the aimed-at-kids Sesame Street segments. (One of the goals of Henson and show creator Joan Ganz Cooney was to create an educational show for children that wouldn’t bore the parents out of their minds.) The Muppets could teach, not only simple math, reading, and phonics on Sesame Street, but moral lessons in the likes of Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, conservation messages in Fraggle Rock, and even classic literature from projects like A Muppet Christmas Carol (which, despite the fact that Charles Dickens was played by a little blue weirdo, remains one of the most faithful adaptations of Dickens’s original novel that exists).

And by God, they’re funny. I can pop in any episode of the Muppet show at random and be laughing in seconds, because the writing was not only smart and clever, but timeless. I’ve never seen anything with Rudolf Nureyev except for his Muppet Show episode, but I never felt left out of the jokes. Still don’t.

Disney may own the Muppets, but Henson and company’s creations really belong to everybody. For every goofy guy who just wants to tell jokes, every little girl who dreams of being a show-stealer, every awkward kid who knows they have the heart of a dancer in there somewhere, and every friend who spends half his life keeping the rest of his friends from coming apart at the seams… and wouldn’t have it any other way. The Muppets aren’t just felt and foam. The Muppets mean something. The Muppets matter.

Here’s hoping, in two weeks, they prove that all over again.


Classic EBI #111: Days With Mary Jane

The world of digital comics has surprised me lately, growing and expanding in directions I didn’t expect. Today in Everything But Imaginary, I look at how the strange things going on with digital comics remind me of the distributor wars of the 90s, and (to keep you from getting nightmares) explain why I don’t think things will end up the same way.

Everything But Imaginary #423: The Shape of Digital

In today’s classic EBI, we’re going back to April 20, 2005. Spider-Man was still married to Mary Jane, although rumors were already circulating about the sad dissolution of that marriage. More importantly, though, Marvel was actually using MJ in an intelligent way… to reach out to new readers.

Classic Everything But Imaginary #111: Days With Mary Jane

Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, part of our mission statement is to find new ways to spread comic books to unconventional audiences. The existing market, let’s face it, can’t sustain itself forever, and it is vital to the continued welfare of the entire industry that we find ways to each out to untapped audiences and draw them in. Plus, this gives us an excuse to read things that otherwise might get us laughed at by our friends and family.

This is the reason that I borrowed Judith O’Brien’s novel Mary Jane from my young cousin Carly Jo. The book came out about two years ago, but as there is a sequel newly on the shelves (bearing the ingenious title Mary Jane 2), it seemed like a good time to take a look at it.

The book, if you don’t know, is yet another retelling of Spider-Man’s origin, this time from the viewpoint of Mary Jane Watson. The book’s cover claims the work is inspired by the Ultimate Spider-Man series, but in truth, the novel is a continuity completely of its own, not fitting in with any version of Spider-Man ever seen on the printed page or on the screen, but remaining entertaining nonetheless.

In this version Mary Jane was a childhood classmate of Peter Parker’s who moved away shortly after the death of his parents and the disappearance of her father. She moves around for years before finally meeting up with him again at Midtown High, where he’s now the class geek and protected only by his friendship with Harry Osborn, who’s using him to do his homework. On a class trip to the Norman Osborn’s lab, the class is exposed to a new sports drink called “OZ.” Oh, and Pete gets bitten by a spider somehow.

Peter suddenly begins exhibiting incredible athletic prowess and becomes the new school heartthrob, and MJ concludes that his transformation is probably due to the OZ he’s been guzzling. As it turns out, the OZ does carry around a nasty secret, but as fans of the characters know, Peter has a different secret entirely.

What struck me as most interesting about this book, I think, is that the Spider-Man aspect is almost completely superfluous. The costumed Spider-Man only makes two brief appearances in this book while the rest focuses on MJ adjusting to a new school, new boys, domestic problems, and of course, the mystery of the OZ, which sounds more like an L. Frank Baum story than a Judith O’Brien one, but bear with me here. The point I’m making is that if you lift out the spider-bite and the costume and just attribute Peter’s new prowess to the drink, the book would be largely unchanged, which kind of raises the question of why it was written in the first place, since it bears so little resemblance to any other incarnation of the character.

Not to say that it’s a bad book. Far from it – it’s clearly aimed at pre-teen and young teenage girls, but that in mind, it’s quite an entertaining read. O’Brien does feel the need to bring in the boogeyman of anorexia, which is a major problem, but rather serves to clutter the story here and ultimately doesn’t add anything except another subplot. But it’s the sort of thing I think an average teenage girl with just a passing knowledge of the characters (maybe she saw the movie) could read and get into.

So as a teen novel, it works. Here’s the real question, though: does it work as a gateway to get readers of the book to possibly try a comic book?

That’s a tougher one.

The biggest problem, I think, is that there isn’t particularly anything present to lead a reader from the novel to a comic. Aside from the Ultimate Spider-Man logo on the cover (a tiny one at that), there’s no hint that you could follow this to a comic book. And if they did follow the novel to Ultimate Spider-Man, they would find drastically different circumstances and sets of characters. Perhaps it would be better, for any future sequels, to tie the logo in to Sean McKeever’s Mary Jane comics. I haven’t read those, but I would imagine they’re a bit more in-line with the novel than Ultimate Spider-Man is.

And what about the “mainstream” Spider-Man, the adult who is married to Mary Jane and who’s about to move into Avengers Tower? Well, if rumors of House of M are to be believed, Marvel is contemplating retroactively altering his continuity so that his marriage to MJ never took place. How will this happen? Would she still know his secret? Would she be written out of the books entirely? Is there any possible way to tell such a story without it being a slap in the face to most of the people who have supported Spider-Man comics over the past 20 years? Well, frankly, I doubt it. And in fact, if that very idea bothers you as much as it does me, do what I’m doing – write Marvel a letter (snail mail is more effective than e-mail, believe it or not) and tell them that you don’t like the idea. And in fact, include a list of all the Marvel comics you’re going to stop buying if they go through with this idea. [2011 Note: It didn’t work. Marvel went ahead and slapped us in the face anyway.]

But I digress. If the purpose of books such as this one is to cultivate new readers in unconventional audiences, it seems that taking away Mary Jane Watson-Parker just as she’s getting so much exposure from the movie and her own novels and comic books would, frankly, just be a dumb move. This book has an uphill battle to begin with when it comes to luring in new readers. Eliminating their viewpoint character would make the entire enterprise pointless.

But if it works, well… if it works, it could bring in one of the most-neglected markets in comics, at least by appearances. When I returned the book to my cousin, I had a conversation with her mother, Tammy, about this very subject, using the book as a tool to reach out to new audiences. She said that the big problem these days, for parents, is that there aren’t a lot of comics out there that kids could be allowed to read.

But the problem with that is… it’s just not true. There are dozens of great books that are perfectly acceptable for a young audience. The real problem is that nobody knows about them, outside of a few geeks like me who are ready to stand outside of comic shops with bullhorns and copies of Mike S. Miller’s The Imaginaries if that’s what it takes.

Lullaby, only one issue in, would be a great comic for young teenagers. It draws on classic characters like Pinocchio, Jim Hawkins and Alice (she of Wonderland fame) and tells an engaging fantasy tale.

How about PVP? It’s an office comedy with a big, loveable troll and lots of pop culture and video game references. And while it’s true that, on occasion, Scott Kurtz might dip into slightly bawdy material, there’s never anything in the book that would get it worse than a “PG-13” rating. Heck, it’s tamer than a lot of stuff you see on prime time television.

What about the new Nancy Drew series from Papercutz comics? Or the Hardy Boys? How about Viper’s Oddly Normal or DC’s Powerpuff Girls and Justice League Unlimited comics?

And how about the fact that almost every property I’ve mentioned there is one that’s linked to a lot of prose books, either as its source material or as a spin-off?

So if you’ve got a girl in your life that you’d like to get into comics, start her off with Mary Jane. Then get ready, because the great thing about comics is that you never know where you’ll go next.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 13, 2005

This is one of those instances where the first issue of a new comic book came totally out of the blue, grabbed me, and made me smile. Mike Miller’s new comic, The Imaginaries, turned out to be an easy win for Favorite of the Week. The comic is about Superhero G, the imaginary friend of a boy named Tanner, and what happens to him when his child grows up too much to want an imaginary friend anymore. Apparently, abandoned imaginaries are thrown to a strange city and made part of a community of cast-off characters. This book absolutely bleeds imagination, inventiveness and pure fun. If you’ve got a kid or if you used to be a kid, check this comic book out.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginnerand the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at

November 2011

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