Posts Tagged ‘Bone

24
Aug
11

Classic EBI #105: Getting in on the Ground Floor

With next week’s historical realignment of the DC Universe, I thought today would be an appropriate time to look back at the DCU that was and give a proper send-off to those books, characters, and creators that I’ve enjoyed in recent years that I think deserve a fond farewell.

Everything But Imaginary #412: The Old DC Farewell Party

Going back in time, though, we look at my column from March 9, 2005. This week, I talked about how hard it can be to get into long-running series, and made my recommendation for a book I thought could be the Next Big Thing. I still think it’s a great book, and it lives on as a webcomic…

Everything But Imaginary #105: Getting in on the Ground Floor

In theory, a new reader should be able to jump into a long-running, iconic series at just about any time and get into the action. This isn’t true in practice, of course, but let’s talk about the theory for a moment. In theory, Spider-Man comics should be perfectly accessible to people who just start reading because they love the movie. In theory, people who want to try Fantastic Four should be able to hop on to that title as soon as the new writer takes over. And in theory, if you’re one of the three people on Earth who doesn’t know Batman’s origin, just stick around, because it seems to get recapped every other month anyway.

The reason for this is that these characters have been around for decades and have become part of the constantly-expanding mythology of comic books. Amazing Spider-Man does not tell one complete story, it tells hundreds of stories in short installments that have been added to by hundreds of writers, pencilers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors over the years. So if you missed the beginning of the current story, or if you don’t like it, all you’ve got to do is wait around for the next one to start.

This is not true of all comics, however. In the last few decades, there has been an increasing focus on comics that tell one, extended story, usually the product of a single cartoonist or a single writer collaborating with multiple artists. A comic book series with a beginning, a middle and an end — as opposed to comics like Superman, where you know you’re in a state of perpetual middle.

Now because these single-story series can almost never involve an iconic character, and often are done by a creator who is relatively unknown as the series begins, the titles that fit into this category quite often start off small, with a handful of readers who spread the word. The book gains critical acclaim, rolls on, and eventually may be known of as a classic. But only those handful of people who were there at the beginning got the story the way it was intended. Others scrambled for the trade paperbacks or scoured the back issue bins, or sometimes just jumped in the middle. It’s impossible to predict which of these series will take off, so the speculation doesn’t really work.

Perhaps the best known example of this kind of comic is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Gaiman, at the time, was a little-known writer with a handful of credits to his name who pitched a series about the Jack Kirby incarnation of the Sandman, the one who lived in a sort of space station and monitored people’s dreams. DC liked the idea but, alas, that Sandman was already in use in the title Infinity, Inc., so they asked him to create a new character.

Fast-forward 75 issues and you have one of the most acclaimed comic book series of all time, about the King of the Dreams, his undying siblings, the power of story and imagination and everything else. It’s regarded as a classic. It’s the only comic ever to win a World Fantasy Award. And most importantly (for purposes of this discussion), it’s a book that DC let Gaiman end when his story was done.

Dave Sim’s Cerebus took this form of storytelling to the extreme, setting out to do a 300-issue series that would chronicle the entire life of his aardvark hero, and he succeeded. He riled up a lot of people, got a lot of people mad, but he told a tale that, like it or not, is unparalleled in scope in comic book history.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get in on that ground floor. A few years ago, thumbing through the Previews catalogue, I noticed a new series in the works from the Vertigo imprint about fairy tale characters living in the modern world. The premise intrigued me and the writer, Bill Willingham, was somebody I’d grown to respect for his work on various Sandman Presents projects. So I put Fables in my pull folder, reasoning I could just ditch it after the first story arc if I didn’t like it. Oh, but I liked it. It’s now my favorite comic every single month, and when I listen to people talk about how great it is and other people ask when they can start reading it, I just smile because I lucked out enough to get into it from the very beginning.

My favorite example of this kind of story, though, has to be Jeff Smith’s Bone. This was one where I was lucky enough to get in relatively early, with issue #13. I picked up the trade paperbacks of the first 12 issues and I was set to follow the Bone cousins for about the next ten years in their adventures through the valley, against the stupid, stupid rat creatures and the Lord of the Locusts and unravelling the mysteries surrounding Thorn Harvestar.

When this remarkable series finally reached its conclusion last year, I told as many people as would listen to pick the thing up, to get the trade paperbacks or the color reprints or the big mama-jama one-volume edition.

But last weekend it occurred to me, as much as promoting Bone is a good thing, perhaps it would also behoove me to try to find that next big thing, that new comic that nobody knows about yet but is rife with potential, and tell people about it while they still have time to get in on the ground floor.

That thought came to me because I was reading that next comic nobody knows about yet. And it’s Runners by Sean Wang.

Published by Serve Man Press, the first Runners miniseries, Bad Goods recently concluded its five-issue run with the promise of more to come. The basic premise of this miniseries is that a group of outer-space runners — a crew that transports cargo from one planet to another — discovers a mysterious blue woman that they suspect may have come from the vats they’re transporting, meaning someone is using them in a slave ring. Despite that kind of heavy premise, the comic is really a rip-roaring, old-fashioned sci-fi adventure, with plenty of lighthearted moments, wonderful artwork that’s just begging to be made into an animated movie, and some of the coolest alien designs I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

While I was reading those first five issues, though, I felt like there was something deeper here. It read as though Sean Wang has serious plans for this title, and he was just sort of easing us in on the lighthearted stuff before launching into the full-on space opera that this title has the potential to become. I haven’t felt that way about a comic in a long time.

Not, in fact, since those early issues of Bone where we had a goofy cow race disguising the fact that the valley was about to be plunged into war.

Yeah. I think it could be that good.

So I’ve got to thank Sean Wang for passing the first four comics into Ronée’s capable hands, I’ve gotta thank Ronée for letting me read them, and I’ve got to thank the manager of BSI Comics for going to great lengths to snag a copy of the final issue for me. Otherwise, I may never have known about this comic.

And I may never have had the chance to tell you to try it out. The first five issue miniseries is available at the www.SeanWang.com, and a trade paperback is in the works… and Wang promises that the story will continue. I can’t wait.

So how about an assignment, folks? Kind of like with my “best comics I’ve never read” columns, I want you guys to suggest some of the best new comics out there, ones you think nobody knows about yet but that you want people to try because you see real potential. A miniseries can qualify if it’s the sort of thing that’ll be a series of miniseries, or it can be an ongoing, but let’s say anything less than 12 issues into the run. Anything beyond that and it’s not really the ground floor anymore, is it?

And check out Runners: Bad Goods! It’s worth the hunt.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 2, 2005

From the ground floor to the skyscraper, last week’s favorite is kind of the opposite of what we talked about this week, the final issue of a comic that told one story from beginning to end. Although the title was hurt by a forced hiatus to deal with some legal matters, Rising Stars #24 ended J. Michael Straczynski’s epic in real style. The story is resolved, questions are answered, and things all really come full-circle. In typical Straczynski style, this final issue was really more of an epilogue than the actual finale, but it did give us something I never thought we’d get — the truth about the flash that gave the Specials their powers. And it was a simple, beautiful explanation. Now that this series is over, now that people can read the whole thing, I feel confidant that this will make its way alongside the acknowledged masterpieces of the superhero genre.

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 BlakeMPetit@gmail.comand visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

29
Jun
11

Classic EBI #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

It’s been about a month since DC’s big announcement, the restructuring of the universe, and I’ve had time to digest it all. So this week in Everything But Imaginary, I’m taking a more informed look at the future of the DC Universe…

Everything But Imaginary #405: The New DCU Take Two

But in this week’s classic EBI, we’re rewinding to January of 2005, when the readers of Everything But Imaginary voted on their favorites for the previous year. Set the Wayback Machine, friends, because it’s time for…

Everything But Imaginary #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

It’s that time again, folks, for the 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards, the only awards show voted on exclusively by the people who visit Comixtreme.com [CXPulp.com] plus a few other people that Blake begged to vote to help him break ties. So without further ado, here’s your host, Blake M. Petiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

Thanks, Blake. Man, isn’t he a swell guy? Well friends, welcome to the 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards. By popular demand, we’re doing away without the musical numbers and long, boring speeches by people you’ve never heard of. We’ve got 15 categories to get through and 30 awards to hand out, so let’s not waste time. The EBI awards are simple, there are two awards in every category. The Reader’s Choice award reflects the voting of you, the reader (hence the name). The Writer’s Choice award was selected by yours truly, because it’s my column and I get to do that sort of thing. Keep in mind, the Writer’s Choice winners were selected before voting was opened to the readers, so there are some categories where the same title won both honors. They get the coveted Double Blakie award! So without further ado, let’s roll on to the best comic books of 2004!

1. Best Superhero Title

Reader’s Choice: Invincible. Robert Kirkman’s story of a superhero coming of age really surprised me by pulling away to take this honor. This is the story of Mark Grayson, a seemingly average superhero, with the caveat that he also happens to be the son of one of the world’s biggest superheroes. Launched last year as part of Image’s recommitment to superhero comics, this book has not only become extremely popular, but one of the lynchpins of the Image Universe, such as it is. And it may not be the sole factor behind making Kirkman one of the hottest commodities in comics, but it sure as heck hasn’t hurt matters. I’ll admit to you guys right now, I have never read an issue of Invincible, but seeing the incredible support this title has, I’m determined to find that first trade paperback and see what all the fuss is about.

Writer’s Choice: JSA. Do I talk about this comic book a lot? Yep. And you know why? Because it’s one of the best comic books on the market. Geoff Johns and his solid art teams, currently including the great Don Kramer, have taken some of the greatest superheroes of all time, thrown them into a pot with their various progeny and successors, and turned out a comic book about heroes and legacies that is unsurpassed in modern comic books. The strongest things the DC Universe has going for it are its legacies – Green Lantern, the Flash, Starman and many others. This title celebrates those legacies and what makes superheroes great, and tells the best stories you can get in the process.

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Superman/Batman, Birds of Prey.

2. Best Science Fiction Title

Reader’s Choice: Y: The Last Man. It’s hard, if not impossible to argue with the selection of this as one of the most outstanding science fiction titles in all comics. Brian K. Vaughan and his artists, most frequently Pia Guerra, have created a fascinating story in the adventures of Yorick Brown, the last man alive after a plague sweeps over the Earth. This title swerves into various storytelling styles – sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s terrifying. Sometimes it’s a sharp political satire and sometimes it’s a straight-up adventure story. One thing is for sure – it’s always a great read. With amazing cliffhangers that don’t seem forced, characters that grow and develop and a mystery like none in comics, Y:The Last Man is one of the best there is.

Writer’s Choice: The Legion/Legion of Super-Heroes. It is no secret that I’m an old-school Legion fan, but it’s been a long time since this team had as good a year as they did in 2004. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning wrapped up a fabulous 5-year run with an assault on Darkseid and the reintroduction of Superboy to the heroes of DC’s future. Once they left they passed the book on to Gail Simone, who delivered a great fast-paced adventure tale, which dovetailed right into the collision with the Teen Titans, and in turn, to a reboot of epic proportions. Now I was skeptical of the need for a reboot of this title, but one issue under the pens of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson was more than enough to convince me, this is still a fantastic sci-fi title, and likely to be a strong contender again in 2005.

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Negation.

3. Best Fantasy Title

Double Blakie Award: Fables. The readers and I agree, when it came to fantasy in 2004, there was nothing that could touch the magic of Fables. Bill Willingham’s warped fairy tale follows the survivors of a bloody war in the Homelands of fairy tales as they live a new life on plain ordinary Earth. 2004 was quite a year. The Fables were attacked by the forces of the Adversary, Snow White and Bigby Wolf became parents and Prince Charming became mayor of Fabletown. Good people died, bad people thrived and through it all, the readers got to reap the rewards. Funny, exciting, beautifully illustrated (usually by the incomparable Mark Buckingham) and never patronizing or condescending to the reader, it’s no question why this has become a fan favorite. As far as I’m concerned, this book marks the high point of DC’s Vertigo line these days, and that’s saying an awful lot.

Honorable Mention: Bone, The Witches.

4. Best Horror Title

Reader’s Choice: 30 Days of Night. The vampire tale by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, among other artists, scored the most votes among horror fans in this year’s awards. The series of miniseries, including Dark Days, Return to Barrow and the current Bloodsucker Tales, is a remarkably gory, energizing horror comic. Some time ago (back in the first 30 Days miniseries), a cadre of vampires descended upon the small town of Barrow, Alaska, where darkness lasts a full month, making it a perfect smorgasbord for creatures of the night. The following series examine the lives of the survivors of that initial massacre – both human and bloodsucker alike. I just hope that when the promised movie hits the screen it does the comic book justice.

Writer’s Choice: Dead@17. Josh Howard’s tale of the undead stayed at the top of my list this year with the sequel, Blood of Saints, the current Revolutions miniseries and a Rough Cut special. Nara Kilday was killed, cut down in the prime of her life, only to return from the dead as an agent of a higher power against the forces of evil. Although Howard does sometimes tend to lean towards the cheesecake with his artwork, unlike a lot of comics, Dead@17 has a real story to back it up. With the announcement that this is going to become an ongoing series next year, replacing the series-of-miniseries format, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

Honorable Mention: Devil May Cry, The Walking Dead, Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes.

5. Best “Down to Earth” Title

Reader’s Choice: Strangers in Paradise. In a tough category to judge – one that looks to comics that don’t rely on sci-fi or the supernatural – Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise gets the prize. For years now this has been a real genre-bender, waving between soap opera to crime drama to sitcom and back to soap opera again without missing a beat. Katchoo is in love with Francine, who’s marrying Brad. David, the man who loves Katchoo, has resurfaced and is chasing her again. And try as she might, Katchoo’s past keeps catching up to her. This is an intricate, complex, layered title, one that few others can match, and for a long time now it’s been one of the best, most offbeat comics on the racks.

Writer’s Choice: Gotham Central. If you’re not reading this comic book, guys, you’re just plain missing out. Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, along with the soon-to-depart Michael Lark, have taken the world of the Batman and managed to tell a series of deep, powerful tales not about superheroes, but about the police whose job it is to keep order in a city of darkness. There are good cops and bad cops, and even those lines aren’t clearly defined. One thing is clear, though – this is one of the best crime dramas in comics, and it deserves all the accolades it can get.

Honorable Mention: 100 Bullets, The Losers.

6. Best Humor Title

Double Blakie Award: PVP. From its origins as a webcomic at PVP Online to its days at Dork Storm and through its current run at Image Comics, Scott Kurtz turns out one of the funniest comic books out there not just every month, but every day. Set in the offices of PVP Magazine, this strip focuses on a cast of geeks, video game addicts, harried office workers, a good-hearted but stupid troll and an evil kitten based on world domination. In other words, it’s just like your office. Kurtz has an uncanny knack for taking trite, overused comedy stories and making them funny and new again, due mostly to the great characters he’s created and his own versatility. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – man, I love this comic book.

Honorable Mention: Simpsons Comics, Lionxor, Plastic Man.

8. Best Mature Reader’s Title

Reader’s Choice: Fables. Gee, have I mentioned this title before? Just like in the Fantasy category, readers have handed the win to Bill Willingham and his crew. It’s interesting to note that one of the best mature titles on the market springs from some of the most classic characters of our youth. Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Pinocchio all have important roles in this title, but Disney it ain’t. There’s blood, sex and language that you don’t want the kids to read. But that alone doesn’t make it a good comic book. In fact, it would keep it from being a good comic book if not for the fact that the stories themselves are smart, sharp, clever and intriguing. Willingham knows that the secret to telling a great mature reader’s comic isn’t just throwing gore, boobs and f-bombs at the reader, but rather crafting a story that a younger reader just isn’t ready for.

Writer’s Choice: Hellblazer. This is probably the longest-running mature reader’s series in comics, and this year in particular it has earned that distinction. The story of the man who has cheated death, cheated the devil and cheated his way out of every nasty scrape he’s ever been in. And he’s lasted over 200 issues now, and his stories are as good as ever. With the Constantine movie coming out next month, DC has some of its top talent on this comic, namely Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco. It’s a great horror comic that, relies a bit more on the gore than Fables – but hey, it’s a horror comic. You’ve got to expect that.

Honorable Mention: Y: The Last Man, Supreme Power, Sleeper Season Two.

7. Best All-Ages Title

Reader’s Choice: Teen Titans Go!. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t always care for this comic, because I didn’t care for the TV show. But the show and comic have both grown on me, and evidently, with the readers as well. I don’t mind telling you that this was the category with the most spread-out votes, so I had to ask one of my “tiebreaker” people to pick one, and this came out on top. It’s a solid, enjoyable comic, and at least one six-year-old I know has really started to get into comic books, in no small part because of this series. It’s a perfect companion to the TV show, and it helps introduce kids to the wonderful four-color world we’ve all grown to love. In the end, what more could you possibly ask for?

Writer’s Choice: Uncle Scrooge. Mixing new stories by the likes of Don Rosa and Pat and Shelly Block with classics by Carl Barks gives this book a fantastic balance. Old stories, new stories, great stories. The comics are clean and simple, starring characters your kids already love and that, chances are, you grew up loving too. The only downside to this comic is the hefty cover price, which is at least justified considering it’s 64 pages a month, but I’d still prefer they drop it down to a standard 32 pages and give it a price that kids can afford. Overall, though, the stories and great and the art is beautiful – and most importantly, it features stories that kids will love and that adults will still get a kick out of. That’s the mark of a true all-ages comic book.

Honorable Mention: New X-Men: Academy X, Cenozoic, Usagi Yojimbo, Ultimate Spider-Man.

9. Best Adapted Comic

Reader’s Choice: Star Wars: Republic. While a lot of people savage the prequel era of George Lucas’s Star Wars saga, the ire seems to have spared Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Republic. Telling the tales of the waning days of the old Republic, this is the place to go to read about the great Jedi of the past. John Ostrander is crafting the tales of the Clone Wars, bridging the events between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the upcoming Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, with the adventures of the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Quinlan Vos and Aayla Secura. This makes for some of the most exciting space opera in comics.

Writer’s Choice: G.I. Joe. Although G.I. Joe: Reloaded may be getting a bit more attention, the original title is still one of the best in comics. Brandon Jerwa and Tim Seeley’s ongoing epic about the war between G.I. Joe and Cobra has taken some serious twists this year. General Hawk is paralyzed. The Baroness is pregnant. The Joe team has been cut down to 12 members and Destro has seized control from Cobra Commander. The creators of this title are never content to let the status quo rest for very long, an incredibly refreshing way to tell a story about characters that were first created in another medium, and they’ve used that fearlessness to create a great comic book.

Honorable Mention: TransFormers: Armada, Street Fighter, Dragonlance.

10. Best Comic Adaptation

Double Blakie Award: Spider-Man 2. This ran away with it in the voting, friends, nothing else was even close. Director Sam Raimi reunited with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, and threw in Alfred Molina to make one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Peter Parker’s responsibilities as Spider-Man finally overwhelm him and he decides to throw away his costume once and for all… but has to reconsider when he finds his loved ones plagued by the mad Dr. Octopus. Great acting, great visuals and characters that are true to the comic book. This was better than the first movie, and better than almost any other superhero movie out there.

Honorable Mention: Smallville, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans.

11. Best Miniseries or Special

Double Blakie Award: Identity Crisis. Like the previous category, this is another one that left all competitors in the dust. DC Comics took their greatest heroes and gave them something even their vilest enemies couldn’t – fear. When the loved ones of a superhero become targets for a serial killer, all heroes have to be ready to fight. A lot of people balked at the conclusion to this series, and while I didn’t think it was flawless, I thought it was expertly crafted and impeccably written. Plus, with the noises we’ve heard coming from DC over the last few years, I get the impression that this is only the beginning of the shakeup of the DC Universe.

Honorable Mention: My Faith in Frankie, Powerless, Punisher: The End.

12. Best New Title

Reader’s Choice: Astonishing X-Men. With the end of Grant Morrison’s historic New X-Men run, Marvel Comics wisely decided not to try to duplicate his efforts, but instead took the team back to its superheroic roots. Written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon with beautiful art by John Cassaday, this book focuses on a team of X-Men trying to prove themselves as superheroes in a world that hates and despises them. While the “mutants dealing with bigotry” angle isn’t new at all, what is new is the stance the characters are taking: fight bigotry by purposely making themselves heroes. It’s a new take on a concept that’s been done so much that a lot of us didn’t think any more takes would even be possible. It’s a great read.

Writer’s Choice: Fade From Grace. This little-known title from Beckett Comics was literally just handed to me at the Wizard World Dallas Convention in November, and I was astonished to totally fall in love with it. Written by Gabriel Benson with haunting artwork by Jeff Amano, this is the tale of John and Grace, a young couple very much in love. Their world is turned upside down, however, when John discovers he has the ability to turn immaterial as a wraith or solid as stone. Taking the name Fade, he sets out to become a superhero. What makes this comic so unique is that the story is told through the mournful eyes of Grace, a woman in love with a hero, frightened for his life, often grieving for him as though he were already dead. This is an incredible romance totally unlike any other comic book on the racks, and well worth the read.

Honorable Mention: District X, Cable and Deadpool, Conan.

13. Best Comic You’re Not Reading

Reader’s Choice: She-Hulk. Dan Slott’s new take on She-Hulk has turned out one of the best, most critically-acclaimed comics in the Marvel stable. Shulkie gets a job with a law firm specializing in superhumans – but they don’t want her, they want her human alter-ego, Jennifer Walters. In a day and age where most comic books seem to run and hide from continuity, this title revels in it, pulling out obscure characters and storylines and crafting new, often side-splitting stories out of them. The book is so self-referential that old Marvel Comics are often used as actual legal documents. With Paul Pelletier on the art chores and the promise of a big push to help boost sales in the coming year, this book is primed to become the mega-hit it deserves. Just for Heaven’s sake – start reading it!

Writer’s Choice: The Monolith. It may be a case of “too little, too late” since the cancellation of this title has already been announced, but DC Comics’ The Monolith is one of the finest comics out there that simply hasn’t found its audience. Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with great art by Phil Winslade, this is the story of Alice Cohen, a young woman with a messed-up life, who inherits her grandmother’s old mansion with the caveat that she get her act together. When she moves in she discovers her grandmother’s secret – the giant clay golem living in the basement. It’s a superhero story with a twist. It’s a “girl and her monster” story. It’s a totally new set of eyes through which to view the DC Universe. And it may be ending, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump on and see what’s so great about it before it goes. There’s always a chance that the Monolith can rise to fight again.

Honorable Mention: Street Angel, District X, Invincible.

14. The New Beginning Award

Reader’s Choice: Green Lantern. With the conclusion of the previous series and the beginning of Green Lantern: Rebirth, fans couldn’t be happier to see what’s happening to one of DC’s iconic properties. Hal Jordan is on his way back, and while a lot of us don’t want to see Kyle Rayner vanish either, the fact is that Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver are delivering a great story with beautiful artwork that’s not just taking the easy way out. As Johns is so good at, he’s mining the past of this property to craft his story, making a tale of redemption that actually seems to fit. It looked like a nigh-impossible task, but he’s making it happen.

Writer’s Choice: She-Hulk. I’ve already gushed about this title once, but I don’t mind doing so a bit more. She-Hulk is a character that has gone through a lot of incarnations over the years. From her savage days to her birth as a superhero with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, from the zany John Byrne series and back to being a team player, Jennifer Walters is someone who has reinvented herself every few years. Dan Slott understands that this character is at her strongest when she’s being lighthearted, but rather than copy the Byrne era, he’s found a totally new way to make her title into a comedy. I hope to get to read this book for a very, very long time.

Honorable Mention: Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron Man.

15. The Happy Trails Award

Reader’s Choice: Captain Marvel. No surprise here, seeing the uproar that followed this comic over the last several years. Peter David’s unique take on Captain Marvel lasted this long thanks to the severe dedication of the fans. It went from a fairly lighthearted satire to a much darker satire when the main character went mad, and while that storyline probably was dragged out a bit too long, there were still a lot of sad faces when the self-referential final issue hit the stands. It was a book that had a dedicated fan base, and it’s a book that many will miss.

Writer’s Choice: Bone. After over a decade Jeff Smith’s magnum opus finally came to an end. The tale of the Bone cousins, driven off to a valley full of strange and terrifying creatures, is one of the greatest fantasy tales ever put to comics. With beautiful artwork, compelling characters and an epic feel that makes Smith to comic books what Tolkien was to literature, it’s hard to believe this title only lasted 55 issues before the end. If you’ve never read Bone, now’s your chance: there’s a massive one-volume edition collecting the entire series, and Scholastic Books is about to launch a reprint paperback series that will redo this classic comic book in color, most of the issues appearing in color for the first time. I love this comic, and while I’ll follow Jeff Smith to any project he goes to in the future, I’ll never stop hoping that he comes back to the world of Bone once again.

Honorable Mention: Sentinel, Negation, H-E-R-O.

And that’s it for this year’s Everything But Imaginary Awards! Hope you had a great time, folks, and don’t forget to tip your waitress!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 5, 2005

Continuing the revitalization of one of Marvel’s icons, Captain America #2 scored the first Favorite of the Week honor for 2005. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have managed to make a healthy blend of superheroics with the spy and crime genres that Brubaker does so incredibly well. This is a book with a big ol’ mystery, lots of danger, lots of spies and lots of action. It’s been quite a while since Captain America was this good.

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

 

25
May
11

Classic EBI #100: What Comics Do I Love?

This week, my friends, I’m celebrating a milestone. It’s the big, big 400th edition of Everything But Imaginary, my weekly comic book column at CXPulp.com! I’m highly excited about it, and decided to take this opportunity to explain, once and for all, just why I read comic books. I’ll give you a hint. It’s got a lot to do with potential.

Everything But Imaginary #400: Why Do I Read Comics

And as part of the celebration, in this week’s Classic EBI, I’m stepping out of order a little bit. Column #93 was scheduled to be next, but since I’m celebrating this milestone, I thought it would be nice to go back and celebrate the column’s very first milestone, EBI #100, from February 2, 2005. Let’s go, shall we?

EBI #100 SUPER-SIZED SPECTACULAR: WHAT COMICS DO I LOVE?

It’s hard to believe, I know, but for 100 Wednesdays now comic book fans have had something more to look forward to than just this week’s crop of fresh comic books: we’ve had Everything But Imaginary. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for this long, hard to believe that I still haven’t run out of things to write about. It’s a wonderful feeling.

As comic fans, 100 is a huge number for us. It’s rare, especially these days, for something to last 100 installments, so when it happens it’s cause for celebration. How, then, do I commemorate EBI 100?

Part of my mission statement here, folks, is to talk about what makes good comics good. And that’s my favorite part of this job: turning people on to new comics, explaining why I think something is great or talking about how to make it better. So how better to handle this column than to talk about the greatest comic book properties I’ve ever read?

Then I hit another problem, because when I made my top 10 list, almost all of them were superhero properties, and comic books are so much more than that, and I didn’t want to focus just on superheroes.

Then I thought: “Duh. It’s my 100th issue, and I can make it super-sized if I want to.”

So that’s what you’re getting, friends — my 10 favorite superhero properties and my 10 favorite other comic properties. There won’t be any big surprises on this list. You’ve been reading for 100 columns now, you know what I like and I don’t like. The important thing here, the thing I hope you take away from this… is the why.

My 10 Favorite Non-Superhero Comics

10. G.I. Joe: Yeah, I’m a big kid and I know it. But that’s why this property is so great to me. Every little boy wants to play Army Man — well, G.I. Joe takes that concept to the extreme. And the greatest Joe tales ever were told in the comics — first in Larry Hama’s legendary run at Marvel, then with Josh Blaylock and Brandon Jerwa at Devil’s Due. What’s more, this is the property that jumpstarted the 80s nostalgia craze, and is one of the few survivors. Because it’s still really, really good. This property has grown and matured along with its audience. Guys my age fell in love with this comic book as kids. It’s amazing that, even as adults, it’s one of the best comics on the market.

9. PVP: Man, what’s left to say about Scott Kurtz and PVP? Birthed as a webtoon, turned into a successful comic, this title lampoons video games, office politics, pop culture, television, movies and everything else. It’s what Dilbert would be with a giant blue troll and actual punchlines. For me, to be actually funny, something has to be smart too, and PVP scores that in spades. I read it every day on PVP Online and I still geek out every time an issue arrives at the comic shop.

8. Strangers in Paradise: Terry Moore’s labor of love was one of the first serious, non-superhero comics I ever got into. It’s basically a love story about Francine Peters and Katchoo, but sometimes it’s a triangle with David or a quadrangle with Casey or a pentagon with Freddie. Sometimes it’s a mob drama. Sometimes it’s a sitcom. Sometimes it’s a romance. This is a title that can reinvent itself not just from story to story, but within the same issue. Moore’s work is unceasingly experimental and consistently interesting, and I love that.

7. Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, Sandman was the flagship title of DC’s Vertigo line, and is still a top seller in bookstores. Using bits and pieces of DC’s existing superhero universe, Gaiman instead crafted a haunting fantasy tale about the king of the Dreaming and his Endless siblings. Sandman is the only comic book ever to win a World Fantasy Award (and is likely to remain so, because the members of the Award federation were so incensed that a lowly comic book won that they changed the rules so they are no longer eligible). It’s a truly literary work, and it’s a book with a lot of crossover appeal as well, drawing in people who ordinarily wouldn’t read comics and showing them how much potential the art form has.

6. Fables: This is by far the youngest property on either of these lists, and it is a testament to how good it is that I’m mentioning it in this column at all. The brainchild of Bill Willingham, Fables takes all those fairy tale and storybook characters we read about as a child and casts them together in a bold new epic — alternately a drama and a comedy, it’s fast, smart, clever and engaging. Five years ago I never would have believed I’d be pulling for a reconciliation between Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf or reading stories about Cinderella pulling a Mata Hari routine on Ichabod Crane, but I’m reading them now. And I run — run — every month to see if it’s in my advance pack of reviews, because if there’s anything I like more than Fables, it’s telling people how good it is.

5. Archie: That’s right. America’s Favorite Teenager is making my Top 10 list. And you know why? Because it’s sweet. And innocent. And wholesome. And it’s something that each and every one of us can relate to at some point in our lives. I’d wager that at least 75 percent of comic book fans, at some point or another, have read an Archie comic. You have the love triangles, the goofy buddies, the brainiacs, the bullies, the jocks, the nerds, and it’s all wrapped up in a package that is perfect to hand to kids and entice them into reading comic books. If I ever have kids, when the time comes for them to learn how to read, you can bet that Archie is going to be part of the curriculum.

4. Uncle Scrooge: I love Uncle Scrooge for many of the same reasons I love Archie — it’s wholesome and great for kids and something we’ve all read, but Scrooge has even more going in its favor. A great Uncle Scrooge story is never dated, never too low for adults to read, never too highbrow for kids. And while Archie is primarily suited for slapstick comedy, Scrooge does it all. Want high adventure? Let’s go on a treasure hunt. Want romance? Weave the tale of Scrooge’s lost love, Glittering Goldie. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Monsters? Pirates? Cowboys? Mythology? Politics? Corporate scandal? With Scrooge and his nephews, you can tell just about any kind of story you can imagine.

3. The Spirit: The most famous work of Will Eisner is a borderline superhero comic (he does wear a mask and fight crime, after all), but it’s more than that. It’s a crime drama at its heart, but Eisner did some fantastic things with it. He delved into fantasy, comedy and horror — as many genres as Scrooge does, in fact, but he did it for a more adult audience and revolutionized comics while he was at it. There’s still one Spirit story by its creator left unpublished, a crossover with Michael Chabon’s Escapist, and I cannot wait for that book to see print.

2. Bone: This is one of those rare comic books to crop up in the last ten to fifteen years that will almost certainly become a classic. Written and drawn by Jeff Smith, this epic fantasy followed the three Bone cousins after they were driven out of their home and into a valley filled with strange and terrifying creatures. Smith tricked us all by playing up the first dozen issues or so of the comic as a lighthearted comedy before delving straight into hardcore, full-out Tolkien levels of fantasy. (Tolkien played the same trick with The Lord of the Rings, if you look at the early lighthearted chapters of the first book.) If you like fantasy, you have to read this comic, and you’ve got plenty of options to do so. You can hunt down the nine volumes of the series. You can put out a chunk of change for the ginormous one-volume edition. Or you can even get the new digest-sized reprints that Scholastic is now printing… in full color.

1. Peanuts: If you did not see this coming, go back and reread the last 99 EBIs. Charles M. Schulz was, quite simply, the wisest man who ever lived. A genius, a philosopher, a teacher, a friend. And he did all of his great work through a round-headed kid, a crazy dog, a kid who couldn’t let go of his blanket and a loudmouthed fussbudget. People don’t give him enough credit for the brilliance of Charlie Brown — when you’re reading that strip, he is you. His face is deliberately blank and featureless that anybody can project themself into his situation. We’ve all fallen for the little red-haired girl or lost the big baseball game. We’ve all gone to friends for advice only to be mocked. We’ve all fallen. We’ve all hurt. We’ve all cried. We’ve all laughed. And we do it all through the Peanuts gang. To read his comic, it would be easy to argue that Schulz thought the secret of life was, no matter what, to never stop trying to kick that football. It would be far harder to argue that he was wrong.

And now for the moment that far too many of you probably skipped down to read when I explained how this week’s column was going to work…

My 10 Favorite Superhero Comics

10. Batman: Some of you are probably stunned that he’s so low on this list, others may be stunned he’s on here at all. But remember, this is my list and I can do it however I want. Batman is a modern-day fable, something that all of us can look to and wonder. What we have, basically, is a normal human who had everything that mattered taken away from him, but instead of falling prey to the night, he conquered it and elevated himself to the status of the gods. His prime motivator is guilt — he believes, on some subconscious level, that he can bring his parents back and atone for the sin of surviving by spending his entire life fighting criminals. He’s probably the deepest, most complex superhero there is.

9. Captain Marvel: And I mean the real Captain Marvel — not Mar-Vell, not Genis, not Monica Rambeaux. I mean Billy Batson, a poor orphaned boy who was led down a dark tunnel to a wizard who, upon saying the magic word Shazam!, transforms into the world’s mightiest mortal. As deep and complex as Batman is, Captain Marvel is the opposite — simple and innocent. He is a good-hearted child given the ability to do great things. Heck during the Underworld Unleashed storyline, when the demon Neron was questing for the purest soul in existence, everyone automatically assumed he wanted Superman. When he made his move for Cap, they were proven wrong. Is it any wonder that, in his heyday, he was the most popular superhero there was? More than Batman, Superman or Captain America, kids of the 1940s dreamed of being Captain Marvel. And there’s something beautiful about that.

8. Justice Society of America/Justice League of America/Teen Titans: Am I cheating by lumping these three properties together? I don’t think so, because I think of them as being different stages of the same thing: a legacy of heroism. The JSA was the first team of superheroes in any medium. They are the old guard. The elder statesmen. They’ve done it all and seen it all, and usually did it better than you. They are everything you want to be. The JLA is the pinnacle of the modern heroes. They are the first line of defense. The strongest, the bravest, the fastest, the truest. If your world needs saving, these are the guys you call to do it. The Teen Titans are the future. They’re the heroes-in-training. They look at the JSA and JLA and know that this is what they have to live up to, that the world will some day need them to become that. And they don’t back down from that crushing responsibility — because they’re already heroes.

7. Captain America: Forget politics for a moment. I don’t care who you voted for in the last election or where you live in the world or if you’re from a red state, a blue state or a marzipan state. Think about what Captain America symbolizes. A scrawny little boy who so loved his country, so loved the ideals of freedom and democracy, that he served himself up as an experiment to save the world from evil — and in doing so became the greatest soldier of all time. Someone who fights nearly 70 years later for those same ideals. Someone who is not blind to the problems of the world but who has faith in the goodness of the human spirit to rise above those faults and build something grand. You can’t tell me there’s not something awe-inspiring about that.

6. Spider-Man: Possibly Stan Lee’s greatest creation, Spider-Man is amazing (pun intended) for many of the same reasons as Captain Marvel. It’s the story of a boy given incredible power to go out and do good… but he’s given more complexity because, like Batman, he is driven by guilt. He squandered his gift, used it selfishly, and as a result lost the only father he ever knew. He was the first really relatable superhero — having problems with women, problems with school, problems with money. He’s been called the everyman superhero. That’s definitely one of the things that has made him so great.

5. Green Lantern: I don’t care which Green Lantern is your favorite. Pick one. Alan Scott. Hal Jordan. Kyle Rayner. John Stewart. Guy Gardner. Kilowog. Arisia. Ch’p. Tomar-Re. Relax, gang, I could be going this way for a long time. Green Lantern, at least to the readers, started with one man — Alan Scott. It spread out to become an intergalactic peacekeeping force like none other. Heroes across the entire universe, all brothers and sisters of the ring. When one Green Lantern falls, another takes his place. The Corps will never be gone forever. And no Green Lantern ever fights alone.

4. The Flash: First it was Jay Garrick. Then Barry Allen. Then Wally West. But it wasn’t until Mark Waid really delved into the characters in the late 80s and early 90s that the Flash became what it truly is now — the greatest legacy in comic books. He’s not just a guy with super-speed. The Flash is an ideal. A mantle. A banner that will be worn for a time and then passed down. Bart Allen is next in line after Wally. And after him, there will be more to come, an unbroken line, stretching at least to the 853rd century, for that is as far as we’ve seen. But there will be even more after that, we know. You cannot kill the Flash. You can only kill the person in that mask today.

This, as a brief aside, is the reason that Green Lantern and the Flash compliment each other so well, and why each generation of these characters have formed a true bond. One is the symbol of Justice Universal. The other is the symbol of Justice Eternal.

3. The Legion of Super-Heroes: This is one of the first superhero comics I ever read, thanks to my Uncle Todd, and it remains one of my favorite. The concept has been rebooted and revamped several times over the years, but the core remains the same: a thousand years from now, a group of teenagers bands together, in the spirit of the heroes of old, to protect the universe from evil. It’s as simple as that. It’s also got some of the most diverse, most interesting characters in comics. The group has a fantastic history and, even more, looks to its own history as inspiration. Much like the legacy of the Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes is about a promise… that even 1,000 years into the future, there will still be heroes, still be people ready to stand against the night, still be people willing to fight, to bleed, to die… to save the world.

2. Fantastic Four: I’ve tricked you by putting this here, you know. Because unlike the last eight items, the Fantastic Four aren’t really superheroes. They are superpowered beings who Reed Richards has cast as superheroes, to make them famous, to atone for his original mistake that stole their normal lives in the first place. No, the FF is much grander than a superhero. The Fantastic Four are explorers. Of what? Anything. Outer space. Inner space. Microspace. Cyberspace. The Negative Zone. The depths of the Amazon. The cold surface of the moon. The burning depths of the human heart. The Fantastic Four are a family, dedicated to plunging the boundaries of knowledge, to seeking out what’s out there beyond the realm of imagination. They are considered the first characters of the “Marvel Age” of comics, but age is not a factor for them. When the stories are written properly, the Fantastic Four is always, always about finding something new, something grand… something fantastic.

1. Superman: He was the first. He remains the greatest. Superman is an incredible tale on many levels. He’s an immigrant. He’s an orphan. He’s an endangered species. He’s an exile. And yet he still found a way to become the greatest hero in the world. I get riled when I hear people call Superman perfect, because that doesn’t sound like they really understand the character, that they’ve only seen the work of poor writers. He struggles against being alone, against his urge to use his power for his own ends, against the ability to become a conqueror and shape the world as he sees fit. His true power comes not from the distant Krypton, but from the heart of America, from Kansas. By raising the most powerful child in the world, Jonathan and Martha Kent are heroes in their own right, giving the world a protector who very easily could have become a despot. The “super” part of his name is not the important part. Far more importantly, he is a man, a man with a good heart and a gentle soul, an iron will and an endless reservoir of courage. He is the most human of us all. He is the human we all wish we could be.

So there you have it. Not just one, not just ten, but twenty of the greatest concepts ever put forth in comics. Not necessarily the most famous or the most popular, but the ones that speak to me more than any other, the ones I love even through the lean years — the Superman Red/Superman Blue fiascos, the spider-clones, the “Ninja Force” nonsense and even in the face of those Bad Writers Who Shall Not Be Named. Because even when these concepts are mishandled, there’s no writer on Earth bad enough to destroy what makes their core work. Even in the bad times, it is only a matter of time until a good writer (I’m looking at you, Gail Simone) finds that core, polishes it, returns it to the light and makes their stories great again.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 26, 2005

Two months in and Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s new Legion of Super-Heroes has twice won my “favorite of the week” honor. In issue #2 Brainiac 5 leads a team of Legionnaires to Dream Girl’s homeworld of Naltor, where the youths of the planet have lost their ability to sleep and, with that, their precognitive abilities. It’s part sci-fi mystery, part superhero romp and part political drama. It’s great. Waid has frequently won “Favorite of the Week” for his Fantastic Four work – with that ending, it looks like he’s going to keep that distinction on a regular basis here with Legion.

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

17
Apr
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 217: SCREAMing For Your E-Mails

Blake is back this week with his review of Scream 4! How does it hold up to the films in the original trilogy? Does it hold up? Can it hold-up? His spoiler-free thoughts are inside. Then, it’s on to your e-mails, where we chat about the shutdown of Tokyopop, Brightest Day, Reign of Doomsday, the Metal Men, and recommendations for all-ages comics! In the picks, Blake loved the Captain America: The Fighting Avenger one-shot. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 217: SCREAMing For Your E-Mails

03
Apr
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 216: Green Lantern Footage and More From Wondercon

Blake and Erin chat this week about the new footage from Wondercon of the Green Lantern movie! Then, Blake reviews the new movie Limitless, Erin reviews Bomb Queen Vol. 1, and they talk about the rest of the Wondercon News — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DC’s Retro-Active specials, the Artist’s Edition of Walter Simonson‘s Thor, and much more! In the picks, Blake loved the Jimmy Olsen one-shot, and Erin is enjoying the novel John Dies at the End. Plus: more information about Blake’s new eBook! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 216: Green Lantern Footage and more from Wondercon

09
Feb
11

Classic EBI #76: Comics By the Letters

Last week, an independent comic creator put out a call to arms for other creators to take a shot at their own property, and not expend all their creative energy on corporate characters. While I agree in principle, as I explain in this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I think the finger is being pointed at the wrong target…

Everything But Imaginary #386: Are Creators to Blame For Lack of Creator-Owned Comics?

In this week’s classic EBI, though, it’s time for something pretty timely. DC Comics has just announced that they’re bringing back the long-lost, lamented letter pages to their comic books. So let’s go back to August 18, 2004, when I bemoaned the loss of those pages…

Comic Books By the Letters

I want to write comic books someday. I don’t think I’m giving away any top secret information in saying that — at least 25 percent of all comic fans, at some point or another, seriously harbor an urge to pursue a career as a writer or an artist, and if anyone in the other 75 percent tried to claim they had never at least thought about it, I would call them a liar and spray them with the garden hose.

I think it’s safe to say that the next generation of comic fans (wherever they wind up coming from) will come with those same ambitions and aspirations as well. However, there is one thing I can say about being a writer that future generations may not have the chance to, given the way things are. I can say that the first time something I wrote was published in a comic book, it was in the letter page.

Although I had occasionally dashed off letters to comic companies in my earlier years, it wasn’t until the year I graduated high school that one finally saw print. That first letter appeared in New ShadowHawk #1 from Image comics, and I was commenting on the powerful final issue of the original ShadowHawk series (creator Jim Valentino will be bringing the property back for a one-shot later this year, finally) and apparently, something I said was interesting enough to justify seeing print in the first issue of the new series, written by the man who would quickly become my favorite writer in comics, Kurt Busiek.

Well, I’ve got to tell you, seeing my name and my words in print emboldened me, and for the first year or two that I was in college, I was a ubiquitous letterhack. Oh, I was no Uncle Elvis, but I became a semi-regular presense in the letter page of a new title, Kurt Busieks’s Astro City. I also got a couple of letters in the pages of Jeff Smith’s Bone, and landed missives in other titles, including Ninjak (another Busiek title at the time), Impulse, Robin and even JLA (back during the Morrison years). Heck, at one point having my address appear in those back pages actually scored me a black-and-white preview of the resurrected X-O Manowar by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn — Acclaim Comics even wound up excerpting part of my reply for that preview into an ad for the comic. (It was the first time I was ever “blurbed,” long before my days as a reviewer at CX Pulp.)

Eventually, though, school, work, life and all those other things that prevent us from reading comic books all day interfered and my output lessened, although I still tried to drop a line to Astro City whenever it came out. It wasn’t really that big a tragedy — there was no shortage of letter-writers coming up from behind me to fill the ranks.

Then, a couple of years ago, DC Comics announced it was abandoning its letters pages entirely. Marvel never made an official announcement, but their pages began to dwindle to almost nil, and on those rare occasions they appeared, it almost felt like the editors cherry-picked gushing, glowing missives instead of working in a mix of enthusiasm and criticism like letters pages of yore had done. Part of the rationale DC gave for getting rid of the format is that Internet message boards — like this one — made the letters page irrelevant. I tend to disagree. I love message boards — heck, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have written 76 of these “Everything But Imaginary” columns and nearly 400 reviews for this website — but there’s something unique about the letters page.

Look at it this way — when you see your letter appear in the back of a comic book, you know that somebody involved with the production of that comic read it. If there’s a reply, that’s even better. Even if it’s the assistant editor’s assistant stapler, it passed through the eyeballs of somebody making a comic book happen.

Unless a creator takes the time to reply to you on a message board, you don’t know that your message is ever getting to the people you intend it for. Even on “official” message boards, there’s no way to know if the writer or artist or editor you’re addressing actually reads your post. You’re just shouting into the wind, hoping your message gets carried off.

Second… let’s be honest here, guys… there’s no sense of accomplishment in posting to a message board. All you need is an e-mail address and anybody can blather to their heart’s content. With a letter page, though, there’s a limited amount of space, and you know that, so if your letter shows up on that page it means somebody judged it superior to other missives, somebody found something in that letter that was clever or funny or thought-provoking enough to want to share it with the other people who read that title.

Third… there is that sense of community. Oh, we’ve got a great community right here on Comixtreme — Doug is the mayor, Brandon is the court jester, Ronée clearly is in charge of the house of worship, Craig runs the barber shop for some reason… but as many hits as we get here, very, very few threads ever get as many views as the print run of an average comic book. And even those that do, it’s the same pool of people reading and replying over and over again. Now there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but when it comes to getting your message out to the masses, having it printed in the comic itself is still far, far superior to anything the Internet has yet accomplished.

I think it’s nice to note that a great deal of comic book creators were just as upset as the fans when the letters pages went the way of the dinosaur. A number of them got their starts as letterhacks back in the day, after all, and they know everything I’ve already told you. People with creator-owned books like Savage Dragon have kept the letters page in defiance of these oh-so-sweeping winds of change. Fables and Robin writer Bill Willingham started online “letter pages” at his own website, and although those are essentially message boards themselves, it does have more of the feel of the “real” letter pages since each thread is devoted to a single issue of a single title and because Willingham himself frequently appears and answers questions the fans ask.

But, as is so often the case, there’s hope. And oddly enough, that hope is coming from DC Comics, the same people who made the biggest stink about losing the letter pages in the first place. DC has announced that, beginning in September, it will lump all of its titles based on animated properties (it seems a bit patronizing to call them “kid’s comics”) into a new line hosted by the return of their old mascot, Johnny DC. Johnny will be bringing you Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans Go!, Looney Tunes and other such comics every month…

…and with them, Johnny will have letter pages. In fact, he’s already showing up in comics and online asking kids to send in their letters.

I don’t know why, exactly, DC has decided to backtrack here and bring back the letter pages, at least for this small family of titles, but I hope it works. I hope it’s a huge success. I hope the demand gets so great that they start putting the letters back in every comic.

After all, not everyone is as lucky as I am — when I think a comic stinks, I can just write a column about it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 11, 2004

Okay, look, I’ve given up on this one. Can we all just agree that any given week that features an issue of Identity Crisis, it’s going to win this award? Issue #3 was the best yet, featuring a spectacular fight scene with the Justice League and Deathstroke, some shocking (but utterly logical) revelations about the JLA’s past, and a last-page shocker that was as gut-wrenching as anything I’ve seen since… well… since Identity Crisis #1.

But since I feel like Brad Meltzer is being very selfish, writing a comic book so brilliant it can’t possibly lose this honor, I’m also going to point out the next-greatest book of the week… this time out it’s a one-shot graphic novel from Image, Doug TenNapel’s Tommysaurus Rex. TenNapel is most well-known for creating the video game and cartoon character Earthworm Jim, but a few years ago he put out an absolutely brilliant graphic novel called Creature Tech, which remains a favorite of mine to this day.

This time out he tells the story of a young boy who goes to spend the summer on his grandfather’s farm after his beloved dog is killed by a car… only to find, inexplicably, a living, breathing Tyrannasaurus Rex in the woods! He and the T-Rex befriend each other (this is a classic example of the “Boy and His Monster” comic I wrote about here in EBI a few weeks ago), and he quickly comes to realize that there may be even more to his new friend than he realized. This is a wonderful, touching story, the sort of thing you really can read with your kids. (Well… older kids, the scenes with the dog dying and other bits may be a bit too upsetting for younger children.) At any rate, it’s a beautiful graphic novel and gets my highest recommendation. And to make things even cooler, even before it came out last week, Universal Studios optioned the rights to make the movie. Now that rocks.

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

26
Jan
11

Classic EBI #74: The Recruitment Drive

A big change happened in the world of comics last week, as both DC and Archie Comics announced that they’re ending their association with the Comics Code of America. This week I look back at where the Code came from and whether or not a rating system is the way to go.

Everything But Imaginary #384: Collapsing the Code (Bring on Sex and Violence!)

And in the Classic EBI for this week, let’s go back to August 4, 2004, when I was thinking about what it takes to get new folks reading comics. Let’s talk about…

Everything But Imaginary #74: The Recruitment Drive

Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, there are two topics of conversation we never get tired of: how cool it would be to get a job applying body makeup to actresses for science fiction TV shows and movies, and how to get new readers into the comic book world. This isn’t meant as an insult to longtime fans, of course. The comic industry has been kept afloat for years by people like myself, who own every issue of Superman since 1988 and who will actually spend hours arguing over which is better, G.I. Joe or the TransFormers. (The answer, by the way, is that G.I. Joe has a better comic book, while TransFormers has a better TV show.)

But let’s face it, we aren’t getting any younger. Some of us are not getting younger at a particularly advanced rate, in fact (these are the ones who have every issue of Superman since 1968). And while successful movies and TV shows and an increased awareness in the mainstream media can only help comic books as a whole, I’ve found that nothing is as great a tool to get new readers as plain and simple word of mouth. Last week, for instance, Jeff Smith released the giant one-volume edition of his epic Bone series. 55 issues. Over 1300 pages. Probably (although I have no official documentation) the longest single-volume comic book ever produced.

And I bought two copies.

No, it’s not because I’ve got that kind of money. It’s because I wanted one, and so did my brother. As we grew up, I tried to get him to read several comics, and he did, but the one that he stuck with more than any other was Bone. So when I was picking up that giant volume for him (that reminds me, he still owes me money), I felt like I had at least accomplished a little something. I’ve also had limited success with my sister — she enjoys Liberty Meadows and occasionally looks into other titles with an artistic eye, but she’s not quite the rabid fan.

I tried to get friends, throughout high school and college, to pick up comics, and again I met with limited success. My old buddy Jarrod Friloux has, to my knowledge, a single long box that he doesn’t add to anymore, but still looks on fondly. My goombah Ben Clark collected with almost the ferocity I did for a while, then cut down to almost nothing. James Pinkard, my old roommate, still picks up the occasional trade paperback, such as the aforementioned Bone saga, and he was getting into some of CrossGen’s stuff as well, like Sojourn, before the bottom fell out of that one.

My biggest success, and I say this with as much pride as a human being can muster, is Ronée Garcia Bourgeois. After we met at the Thibodaux Playhouse about three years ago, Ronée and I became fast friends, and got even closer when we worked on a few plays together. She’d had a love of comics and cartooning at a younger age, and reading my columns and other posts on this site slowly began to draw her back. She started to accompany me on my weekly trips to the comic book store. She puts her son in Green Lantern t-shirts. She has become one of the few comic-loving women I know, and it pleases me to no end to think I had something to do with that.

And what’s even better, is that I see her passing along her love to her children. Her son, Tré isn’t quite two years old yet, so he doesn’t really grasp the significance of the Spider-Man shorts his granny made for him, but 6-year-old Tori is a kick to take to the comic store with us. Ronée usually allows her to pick out a book or two, and she’s definitely developing her own tastes. Teen Titans Go appears to be her favorite, although she’s also picked issues of Scooby Doo, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories and, to my utter surprise and delight, new reprints of old Classics Illustrated Junior comics like Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz. This is a child who’s going to grow up loving reading, and whether that’s comic books or that kind of book that doesn’t have quite as many pictures, that’s a love that not nearly enough people have in this day and age.

However, now that Ronée is not only reading, but recruiting as well, that makes things doubly dangerous for anyone who crosses our path. Just this past weekend we wrapped the Playhouse’s summer musical, The Fantasticks. During the rehearsal period, I got into a discussion with another cast member, Michael Cato, who had seen Spider-Man 2 and had really enjoyed it. He and I got to talking about comic books and I found out he used to read them, but after a series of moves and a lack of availability, he’d fallen out of the habit.

So I did what any red-blooded comic book fan would do — I directed him to the comic shop we frequent and specifically told him to pop in on July 3 — Free Comic Book Day. And he did. And he seemed to like what he found.

Poor Michael didn’t stand a chance at this point, because once he went to the comic shop and admitted to reading Ronée’s “What a Girl Wants” and my “Everything But Imaginary” columns, the two of us were relentless. She got him buzzing about her columns, she got him to try out one of her favorite titles, Regent St. Claire’s Candyappleblack, and she started to cajole him to join us on our quest to the comic shop sometime. I imagine it’s only a matter of time now.

I know other comic book readers in my life who have tried to pass on the love. My uncle Wally, a freelance artist, has taken his son Norman to FCBD. My uncle Todd reads comics with his son, Ben. My longtime comic geek group — Chase, Jenny and Mike — have spent years trying to get our buddy Jason to pick up some comics. Even when he accompanied us to Free Comic Book Day, he didn’t partake. Then this year, to everyone’s astonishment, he picked up a Joseph Michael Linsner art book. Mostly, we suspect, for the pretty paintings of scantily-clad women, but hey, it’s a start.

If you’re reading this, chances are it’s because you love comic books. And you’re right to do so. Comics have been very good to us over the years — we’ve gotten gems like Astro City, Kingdom Come, Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Even bad comics are part of a unique art form, a blending of words and pictures that can tell stories no other medium can achieve. But it’s an art form with a dwindling audience that is misunderstood by the public at large.

So it’s time to give back, folks.

You’ve all got friends and family that have never touched a comic book, or who stopped reading years ago. Lure them in. Figure out what they’d like and make suggestions. Invite them to come to the comic shop with you. Show them this website, the debate, the columns, the reviews.

Show them why comics are cool.

Remember, Uncle Sam wants you. And so does The Shield. And Captain America. And Batman. And The Flash. And…

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: July 28, 2004

No character in all of comics has had his origin revamped and revised as many times as Superman. From his very first appearance to his very first origin story, to the silver age updates, the John Byrne revamp, the movies, the television shows, even the radio show — every so often his story has been changed, modified to meet the sensibility of the day. That lastest revision concluded in last week’s Superman: Birthright #12, my favorite of the week.

Superman is on the ropes. Lex Luthor has staged a fake Kryptonian invasion of Metropolis. People don’t know if they can trust this guy or not. The whole city is about to be overrun.

Cue the John Williams score.

Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu were spot-on perfect with this series. They showed what Superman is about, why he’s important and what he really means. This is the comic to give someone who thinks big blue isn’t cool enough or is too powerful or has some perfect life. This is the book that redefines the greatest hero in comic books. This is the best origin Superman has ever had.

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

 




Blake’s Twitter Feed

May 2020
S M T W T F S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Blog Stats

  • 312,248 hits

Blake's Flickr Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.