Posts Tagged ‘Carl Barks

16
Dec
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 280: A Very MSTie Christmas

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2 in 1 Showcase Episode 280: A Very MSTie Christmas
by Blake M. Petit, Kenny Fanguy, Daniel Jacob & Mike Bellamy
As the Yuletide spirit warms the cockles of our hearts, the Showcase boys get together for their annual Christmas marathon. This year we’re peeking into two episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa Claus, along with two RiffTrax holiday treats, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny and Magic Christmas Tree. Blake sticks with the holiday picks with Donald Duck: A Christmas For Shacktown and the seasonal tale in Ghostbusters #16. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 280: A Very MSTie Christmas

13
Jul
11

Classic EBI #98: From the Archives

The DC relaunch continues to keep people talking, myself included. In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I look at one aspect of DC that isn’t — and shouldn’t — change… the Vertigo line.

Everything But Imaginary #406: What Purpose Vertigo?

And rolling back the clock, we’re going to January 19, 2005. I was thinking format this week, specifically hardcover, long-term format…

Everything But Imaginary #98: From the Archives

When Will Eisner passed away a few weeks ago, I got the urge to go back and re-read some of his classic Spirit comics, and the best way to do that is from the very beginning, with DC’s Spirit Archives Volume 1.

Although it has a different trade dress, the Spirit series is part of what I think deserves to be known as the best series of archival American comic books on the planet. And more and more these days, I’m thinking those archives are an invaluable thing.

I was stunned at how many people, how many current comic fans, knew little or nothing about Will Eisner. I felt the same way last year when Julius Schwartz died. The contributions men like this made to the comic book artform are immeasurable, but because comics aren’t quite considered “high” art, their names can be lost. Just about every high school student has to slag through at least one book by a Bronte sister, but how many of them recognize the works of Otto Binder, Joe Simon or Bill Everett? For that matter, how many of you reading this column, under the age of 25, can even tell me which characters these men created or revolutionized?

That’s what makes the DC Archives such a great project. Although I’d heard about the archives for years, I didn’t own any until a few years ago when DC re-offered the first Batman Archives at a severely reduced price ($20, as opposed to the usual $50). I figured this was worth picking up, and immediately realized how fantastic these archival series are. Quality reproductions of the classic DC comics, complete, in the order they were originally printed. That last bit is especially important — complete, in the order they were originally printed. These stories are no longer simply comic books, they are part of our heritage, and to abridge them in any way would be robbing ourselves.

Now DC is not the first company to put out an archival edition like this. I believe the Marvel Masterworks line preceeded it. But I believe the DC line is better, for several reasons. Marvel’s line has been halted and re-started again various times, whereas the DC line continues to expand. Marvel has changed its trade dress, while the DC books are all uniform (except for a few titles that aren’t technically DC Comics, but which DC is reprinting – we’ll get to those next). And most importantly, DC just has much, much more to offer. They’ve got all the characters you’d expect to see in archives, of course — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League and so on, but DC doesn’t stop there. They constantly turn out archives for lesser-known characters like Blackhawk or Starman, different lines for Golden and Silver Age versions of the characters, and even include archival series for properties that they did not originally publish, but have earned a place in comic book history such as the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, ElfQuest and, of course, The Spirit.

The books are expensive, I know that. Fifty dollars for 200 pages of comic book is a hard price to justify. But it’s worth having the material in a higher-priced format for an archival project like this. It’s like buying a leather-bound edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, knowing full well you’ll never own an original.

Plus, I’ll be honest with you guys, I have never paid full-price for a DC Archive. Unless it’s a really rare volume, you’d be sort of foolish to do so. Thanks to auction sites like eBay and various other online booksellers, you can frequently find them much, much cheaper. I think the most I’ve ever paid for a DC Archive is $32, and I own about a dozen of them, although there are dozens more that I wish to get.

Other companies, to their credit, are making an effort. Gladstone Comics spent many years on several series reprinting the work of the brilliant Carl Barks, including a Carl Barks Library series for his Uncle Scrooge comics, one for his stories from the Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories title, and even a line that just reprinted his one-page gags. The line was paperback, though, and the volumes were slim and pricey, and are now extremely difficult to find with Gladstone out of business.

Archie Comics has several archival series as well, most noteably the Archie Americana series. These trade paperbacks select the best comics from each decade and reprint them. Archie has also started doing trade paperbacks of their old superhero titles, such as the Shield, the Fly and the Mighty Crusaders.

The problem with this line, though, is that these are “best of” comics, stories carefully chrerry-picked from hundreds of comics produced. It makes for good reading, but it doesn’t make for a good archive if you leave stuff out.

Marvel’s Essential line doesn’t leave anything out, and it comes at a much more affordable price — about $15 for a phone book-sized volume of comics. It’s great for a reading copy, but again, it loses something. In this case, the artwork is reproduced in black-and-white, helping to keep the price down. That’s fine for the purpose of the book, but even though I’m no artist myself, I can tell that color artwork and black and white artwork is constructed differently. When you’re drawing something that will be colored, you use different techniques than something that stops at the inking stage, and as a result, color comics never look as good in black and white reprints as comics that were originally drawn in black and white.

Except for the DC Archives and the sporadic Marvel Masterworks, I really think that the best project currently in the works to really archive a comic is Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts. In 25 volumes, this series is intended to reprint every Peanuts comic strip ever drawn, presented in their original order. That’s remarkable. Now naturally, most of us have read several Peanuts books, probably even own several. But not like this. Previous books were always selections of strips from a certain time period, Charles Schulz’s favorites, or perhaps grouped by a theme (Christmas strips, back-to-school strips, etc.). This is the first time every strip will be reprinted in order. Some of the strips, in fact, have never been reprinted before at all.

Now archives are not a way to snare new readers. No one who hasn’t read comics before is going to think to themselves, “$50 for a Plastic Man comic book? Sign me up!” And archives won’t even really help to educate the younger readers on the great comics of the past. Hopefully books like the Essential line will help with that. And personally, I long for the days when a new comic would give a few pages in the back for a reprint of a classic story. (Marvel tried this a few years ago with their “100-Page Monster” comics, but that’s another experiment that has gone defunct.)

But for people who already love classic comic book and want to study and preserve the gems of the past, these archives are priceless.

Well, technically they have a $50 tag, so they aren’t priceless. But you get the picture. So let me ask you… what series do you want to see as an archive?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 12, 2005

Fables #33 very nearly took this spot, but only a mystery that was too easy to solve held it back, making way for a comic even better. JSA #69. The work Geoff Johns is doing with this comic is phenomenal. Several Justice Society members have been hurled into the past, charged with convincing their own mentors to become heroes again, knowing that the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This is a crazy, classic superhero formula. And it still works, because it’s smart, well-written, and most of all, fun. JSA was my choice for best superhero comic of 2004. Books like this one are the reason why.

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.

 

06
Feb
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 208: Super Bowl Sunday

The wildest dreams of Blake’s students has finally come true: our hero has lost his voice. Yet he still manages to squeeze out a quick episode for you this week. Blake talks the Super Bowl movie trailers, the new Captain America poster, Superman casting news, and gives you this week’s pick: Uncle Scrooge #400. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 208: Super Bowl Sunday

09
Jan
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 204: 2010-The Year in Review

A little later than they would have liked, but Blake and Kenny are coming at you this week with their look back at 2010 in comics and geek culture. In this mammoth episode, the guys dish on big events for the publishers, the characters, the multimedia properties, and take a look ahead into 2011. It’s the biggest Showcase of the year! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by the Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 204: 2010-The Year in Review

15
Dec
10

Classic EBI #91: How to Shop For the Geek On Your List

I this week’s new Everything But Imaginary, I take a short break from the Christmas content to talk about something kind of cool that happened this weekend — a grassroots campaign to give Lois Lane her own comic series. Could it happen?

Everything but Imaginary #378: Grassroots Comics

But going back in time, let’s go to December 1, 2004, when I first took the time to explain something very important to you all…

Everything But Imaginary #91: How to Shop For the Geek On Your List

Ah, here it is, December First. The lights are going up, the trees are getting decorated, here in Louisiana we’re thinking about rolling down our sleeves… it truly is Christmastime, isn’t it friends? That’s the important thing, after all, that there are only 25 shopping days left.

As much as I love Christmas, actual Christmas shopping is always a tremendous pain. I like giving gifts, but I never know what to get anybody. Will he like this book, does she already have that DVD, is chocolate appropriate, does any human being actually need that many drill tips? It can get maddening, and it can sometimes get even more maddening if you’ve got a comic book geek to shop for.

So for once, this week’s Everything But Imaginary isn’t necessarily aimed just at you, our regularly-scheduled mob of comic book lovers. This is for the people that want to get you a present this season, so feel free to print this out, casually leave a copy where your girlfriend can read it, forward the links, etc. And I’m not even asking for a dime of commission, I do this purely out of the goodness of my heart.

There is one simple way to shop for the comic book fan in your life, one that he or she has doubtlessly made you aware of. Almost every geek has one or two favorite characters and will gleefully accept virtually any gift bearing this character’s image. With me, for instance, it’s Superman. Everybody knows this. As a result, over many years of birthdays and Christmas presents, I’ve wound up with Superman floor mats for my car, Superman magnets, Superman lunchboxes, Superman statues… I even have a tin carousel shaped like the Daily Planet building with Superman, Supergirl, Krypto and Streaky flying around it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now the thing to be careful with when purchasing your geek paraphernalia with his favorite character is, of course, you want to make sure not to get him something he already has. Geeks themselves help you avoid this problem, because chances are he’s got an area — a room, a desk, a wall — where his prize possessions are on display. Statues, action figures, posters, hardcover books, signed comics… you will know where to find these items, catalogue his current collection and then add to it.

There are a few ways to find items specifically. Head to the nearest comic shop or toy store (he’s doubtlessly dragged you there before) and see what they have, or check out online sellers. If these don’t pan out, though, if you’re looking for something really off-the-wall… well folks, you’ve simply gotta try eBay.

The great thing about eBay is that you can find bizarre, unique things you won’t find anywhere else. Let’s say, for example, that your geek’s favorite character is Wolverine. (I know, this is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I’m making a point.) A quick eBay search, just in the “Toys and Hobbies” category, turns up 1087 items. Among them are video games (both old and new) a 12-inch Hugh Jackman doll, Mini-Mates, statues, posters, comics, pen and pencil sets, model cars, board games, a bobblehead doll, a plush doll, card games, lithographs, keychains and, for some insane reason, University of Michigan collector plates. Now if your geek’s favorite character is, say, Brother Voodoo, you’ll have a harder time finding paraphernalia. Of course, if your geek’s favorite character is Brother Voodoo, it’s time for him to reexamine his life choices.

If you do the eBay route, though, I suggest you only buy from people who accept PayPal as a payment option, and you do it soon to make sure you get it in time for Christmas.

Let’s say you don’t want to go the toy and knick-knack route, though. No problem. What about clothes? It used to be the only comic book clothes one could get were poorly printed t-shirts that were approximately three sizes too small. Not so anymore. They’ve got lots of fairly stylish shirts, hats, jackets, sweaters, neckties or even boxer shorts with small, tasteful comic book themes (emblems on breast pockets and the like). Jewelry works too: watches, cufflinks, rings… Plus, ladies, here’s your chance to dress your guy however you want and he won’t complain. (Many women I know enjoy dressing up the men in their lives regardless of the nature of their relationship. I once allowed a woman to help direct my clothing purchases and wound up with almost an entirely new wardrobe, plus the admonition that tucking in shirts is the enemy.) And there are plenty of women out there, even ones who may not read comics, who would happily wear a Superman t-shirt or pajamas.

Another shopping option, and this is more for the younger geek who is just building his or her collection, but the older folks will appreciate it too: lots of comics. When I was a kid some of the coolest Christmas presents I ever got were simply boxes full of comics from that year — Spider-Man, Avengers, Captain America, New Mutants — I got almost the complete run of the X-Men’s “Mutant Massacre” storyline this way. It was nice to know Santa had a supply line to Marvel Comics. You can either go out and buy a bunch of comics yourself (old or new, from comic shops, flea markets, yard sales, etc.), or you can again turn to the Internet for sites that offer “grab bags,” or bid on eBay. This is a way to get large lots of comics fairly cheap (unless you wind up in a bidding war), and these lots are often grouped into themes — Disney comics, Batman comics, Archie comics, etc. Now the more comics you give at once the greater the risk you run of getting them something they already have, but with sheer volume, they’ll accept this as a necessary evil and concentrate on the cool new stuff. Plus you can always go back and sell the duplicates on eBay to some other geek shopper next Christmas.

Finally, I’ve got one last piece of advice — and this is for the Geek himself, so if you’re showing this column to your girlfriend, you may want to have a “printer mishap” that obscures the next few paragraphs. The December gift-giving season is not a bad time to attempt a small “geek conversion” present. You know what I mean, guys. She’s sweet, she’s beautiful, you love her, but she just doesn’t see what the big deal is about those guys in tights that beat each other up.

But she may have some soft spots for certain comics as well. Let’s say you’ve gotten her in the habit of reading Scott Kurtz’s PVP online, and she thinks that Skull the Troll is cute. Well then, why not get her a Skull doll this Christmas? She’ll think it’s sweet, and this will help slowly indoctrinate her into your geek culture.

I do have to caution, however, that you should not attempt a geek conversion present solo, particularly for someone you are in a romantic relationship with. If all she gets for Christmas is Skull the Troll, you will most certainly not have a Merry Christmas and you can probably throw any hope of a Happy New Year out the window too. But if you’ve also got her some jewelry, a nice sweater, a Corvette, etc., then adding in a Skull doll will seem like adorable garnish to a fine meal.

And there you have it folks! By just following these few simple suggestions, you can give your geek a Merry Christmas. Hope I’ve been helpful, friends. And if I have, you can find my wish list at Amazon.com

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 24, 2004

There were a lot of good comics last week, even a few really good comics, but there was only one I would classify as a must-read, which is sad because almost none of you, I suspect, will. Uncle Scrooge #336 took my favorite of the week spot with a reprint of Carl Barks’s classic story “A Christmas For Shacktown.” Daisy Duck is planning a Christmas party for the poorest families in Duckburg and sends Donald to beg Uncle Scrooge for the last $50 they need. Scrooge is a tightwad, but not utterly heartless, and agrees to give them half if they can raise the other half. From here, the story goes on to show what a master of story construction Barks was — events spiral totally out of control, spinning off into a dozen subplots before coming together with a wonderful happy ending that manages to get the moral across to young readers without being sappy or patronizing to adults. If you’re looking to give a box of comics to the kids on your list, this issue should be right on top.

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.

 

08
Dec
10

Classic EBI #94: The Ghosts of Christmas Comics Present

This week, it’s time for the annual EBI Geek Gift Guide! Have a geek you love? Unsure what to give them for Christmas? Here are some suggestions from yours truly:

Everything But Imaginary #377: The 2010 Geek Gift Guide

For some time now, it’s been a tradition for me to do an EBI rundown of all the Christmas comics I can find each year. Here’s the very first such rundown, from Dec. 22 2004. (And hey, stay tuned for this year’s rundown, also on Dec. 22!)

Everything But Imaginary #94: The Ghosts of Christmas Comics Present (2004 edition)

Once upon a time, on a cold winter’s night, I walked among you, my children, and shared the tale of the Ghost of Christmas Comics Past. Specifically, I did it on Dec. 24 of last year, and you can read that column by clicking right here.

This year I’m going to revist the same topic and talk about some fun Christmas comics. Unlike last year, though, I don’t have to mine the past to do it. This year I’m going to talk about some yuletide treats that are available on the stands right now, and I’m going to start with the Marvel 2004 Holiday Special.

We got three stories in this one, some better than others. First up was yet another retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, this time starring perennial boogeyman J. Jonah Jameson. In “Jonah’s Holiday Carol” (the word “Christmas” not being PC-enough for Marvel) Ol’ Jonah is being his usual curmudgeonly self, sending his staff out to work on Christmas Eve (particularly surprising in the case of Peter Parker, since he doesn’t work there anymore), cutting off funding for the Christmas party, and basically being a big humbug. Naturally, that is broken up when he’s visited by some familiar spirits. It’s an okay tale, but it kept making me think of a gag done way back in Marvel Comics Presents #18, when the ol’ Christmas ghost was supposed to pay J.J.J. a visit but, after losing his address in the wind, accidentally wound up haunting kind, sweet Willie Lumpkin instead. That was a much better story, if you can find it.

The next two stories were both by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and both were a bit better. First up, “An X-Men X-Mas.” At Xavier‘s school, Cyclops and Emma Frost are preparing for a romantic holiday getaway with the school closed for Christmas, only to have their plans shattered when they realize one of their students has nowhere to go. They become surrogate parents to Kevin Ford (alias Wither of New X-Men: Academy X), whose power to kill all organic matter keeps him isolated from human contact. The story casts the X-Men in a different light, particularly Emma, and provides a sweet ending without getting overly sappy.

Finally there was the Fantastic Four tale, “The True Meaning Of…” in which little Franklin Richards went to each member of his family and asked what Christmas meant to them. This was a nice little character study (for Sue it’s a religious holiday, for Johnny it’s a secular one, for Ben there’s no Christmas at all, but rather Hanukkah, and Reed gives a response that’s pretty surprising for the scientist he is). It’s not great, but it’s nice, and that was enough to make this a good offering.

Gemstone comics put out two excellent volumes this year worth mentioning, although only one was a full-blown Christmas package. First was Uncle Scrooge #336, which featured “A Christmas For Shacktown” by the immortal Carl Barks. In this tale, Huey, Dewey and Louie are working with Daisy Duck to prepare a Christmas celebration for the poorest section of Duckburg, but find themselves $50 short of what they need to celebrate. They send poor Donald to beg Uncle Scrooge for the money. Scrooge is a miser, but he’s not utterly heartless. On the other hand, he can’t quite see the point of spending money on frivolities like a toy train, which half of the money is earmarked for. Scrooge agrees to pony up $25 for food, but only if Donald can raise the $25 for the train himself.

The story is an epic tale of the ducks scrambling to get the money to give Shacktown a Merry Christmas, plus giving Scrooge a dose of humble pie. What made Barks’s tale superior to so many others, though, is that he resisted the urge to hand out any sappy “moral of the story” to make Scrooge mend his ways. By the end of the tale Scrooge is the same miser he always was — but the reader knows that he’s wrong, and the characters with the open hearts (Daisy and the boys) were right all along.

Gemstone also gave us Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade #2, this time featuring a full 80 pages of Yuletide tales, but again headlined with a story by Barks. In “You Can’t Guess,” Huey, Dewey and Louie decide there’s not a single thing they need for Christmas, so they send Santa Claus a letter telling him to give their allotment of toys to needy children this year. (I swear, those Junior Woodchucks make the Boy Scouts look like a biker gang, don’t they?) Just after the letter is mailed, though, they realize they’ve made a terrible mistake — there is one toy they’ve always wanted, but never gotten: a building set.

Not wanting to go back on their word to Santa, the boys decide to ask their Uncle Donald for a building set for Christmas. Donald decides it should be more fun if they earn their present, so he makes them a deal (as demonstrated in the previous story, he gets this from the McDuck side of his heritage) — all they have to do to get what they want for Christmas is to guess what he wants. The boys compile a huge list, but don’t hit on the right gift, so they begin turning to their family and friends for help.

As seems to happen in these Barks stories, things spiral out of control and wind up with a big, over-the-top conclusion that fits perfectly.

Other stories in the volume starred Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Chip ‘n Dale and Grandma Duck. Several of them (especially the Christmas mystery starring Mickey and Goofy) are pretty good, but none are as memorable as the Barks story. While the folks at Gemstone still won’t listen to me about lowering the prices of their comics ($6.95 for Uncle Scrooge is way too much), even you casual fans ought to try to find the money for these two special issues. They’re well worth it.

For years now, Paul Dini has served up new stories of his Christmas Pixie every year, and this year is no different. Jingle Belle moves to Dark Horse Comics this year with a new miniseries, and in Jingle Belle #1 Santa’s rebellious teenage daughter, sick of the fact that no one knows who she is, makes her own TV special to spread her fame. When she brings it to the network, though, they try to homogenize it: replace the stop motion animation with CGI, make Jing a baby instead of a teenager, remove the cartoon violence that finishes the villain and – oh yeah — no mention of the “C-Word.” Man, this was a hysterical comic book. I’ve loved Dini’s tales of Jingle Belle for years, and since he works in television, you have to assume that a lot of this is based on personal experience. It cracked me up.

Finally, here comes a comic I picked up at the supermarket (they do still sell a few there) just for this occasion, Archie’s Holiday Fun Digest #9. This annual digest follows the same format as most Archie digests – one or two new stories and plenty of reprints – these just all have Christmas as the recurring theme. The headline story is “Only They Could Appreciate It” by Kathleen Webb and Tim Kennedy – a tale of Betty and Veronica braving the malls for their Christmas shopping. Other stories involve Jughead as the world’s skinniest Santa, Veronica and Cheryl Blossom fighting for the right to the best Christmas party, and a Secret Santa mix-up that sends Veronica’s romantic gift for Archie straight to Mr. Weatherbee. There’s also a good Cheryl story that does a take on It’s a Wonderful Life, with a surprisingly unique twist. They’re all funny stories, even if they aren’t comics that will stay with you through the years. But hey, it’s about 100 pages of comics for only $2.39 – Archie digests are still some of the best values in comics. (Incidentally, though, Archie execs – why do you only put credits on maybe two stories per digest? Okay, I can understand that you may not know who did some of the stories from the 50s and 60s, before they were credited, but you can’t tell me the Cheryl Blossom story or the one making fun of the Furbee craze of a few years ago were done anonymously).

Every holiday generates its own great comic book stories. As Christmas is my favorite time of year, it should come as no surprise that Christmas comics are my favorite as well. So what are some of yours?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 15, 2004

Six months later and it hasn’t left my thoughts. Identity Crisis #7 wrapped up the biggest mystery the DC Universe has faced in a very long time. It was strong, powerful, heartbreaking, and although it wasn’t a total home-run knockout like I hoped, it was more than enough to ensconce itself firmly in my mind as the comic book this week I’ll be thinking about long after all the others are in their longboxes.

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.

13
Oct
10

Classic EBI# 135: Halloween Happenings

In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I take a look at the recent announcement that DC and Marvel Comics, finally deciding they’ve got enough of my money, are going to be lowering the prices of many of their comics in the coming months. And may I say: wah-hoo.

Everything But Imaginary #370: Another Price Point

But in this week’s Classic EBI, we’re going back to Oct. 26, 2005, a time when I (and all of the Gulf Coast) were still suffering from the recent shock of Hurricane Katrina, and we needed a little Halloween to get our minds off it. This is also the reason, by the way, that you’ll find no “favorite of the week” in this column. At the time, I had no shop from which to get my comics weekly, and thus couldn’t make regular picks…

Everything But Imaginary #135: Halloween Happenings

Well gang, here it is, October 26, just five scant days before Halloween. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that Halloween is one of my three favorite times of the year (the other two times being Thanksgiving and Christmas – January through September are basically just the months I have to slag through to get to the good stuff), and I enjoy it for many reasons: the opportunity to dress up as some outlandish character, the chance to embrace my dark side even just for a little while, and of course, the fact that you can eat enough candy to choke a camel and nobody looks at you funny.

Another major reason I like Halloween (and Thanksgiving and Christmas) is the surfeit of holiday-themed storytelling you get this time of year. In the case of Halloween, it’s scary stories, monster movies and cartoons about kids waiting up all night in a pumpkin patch hoping to see an enormous gourd that never quite materializes. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but if I brought it up I’m liable to invite a whole plethora of armchair analysis, so I think I’ll leave that alone.

As comic book geeks, of course, we don’t just look to the television or the silver screen for our holiday offerings. We look to comic books as well. In past years, we’ve had lots of comics to choose from. This year, not so many. I’ve only come across three specifically Halloween-themed comics so far this year. Would you like a rundown? Heck, I knew you would.

First and foremost, we’ve got to mention the Donald Duck Halloween Ashcan from Gemstone Comics. This was a stroke of brilliance on Gemstone Comics’ part – a comic book, a trick-or-treat giveaway, a promotional item. Sold in bundles of 25 copies for a really cheap price, this comic reprints “Hobblin’ Goblins” by the immortal Carl Barks, and is intended to be given away on Halloween night to trick-or-treaters. Personally, I want this to be a huge thing. I love Gemstone comics and getting them into the hands of their core audience – kids – is a great thing. We all trick-or-treated as kids. The point of the night, admittedly, was to get as much candy as humanly possible. But we always thought it was cool if we got one or two little trinkets that had a little more permanence – toys, trading cards or comics.

The Donald Duck ashcan, of course, isn’t the first comic ever printed as a Halloween goodie. In the late 80s, Marvel comics put out a set of ashcans reprinting issues of Captain America, Spider-Man and Heathcliff (part of their STAR Comics line for younger readers). These comics enjoyed a pretty healthy life and were circulated for several years. I, of course, got them all. Comic books make a great giveaway, although they’re far too expensive to give out in their full-sized editions. Kind of like Snickers bars. So I’m really glad to see Gemstone putting out this special. I hope some of the kids lucky enough to get it in their treat bags will look for more of their titles.

Next up is Bongo’s annual offering, Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror. This year we get issue #11, which begs the question, what’s harder to believe? That the Simpsons TV show is in its seventeenth season, or that the Simpsons comics have been around for over a decade?

Just as each year’s Treehouse of Horror TV episode is an anthology of cartoons (usually spoofing popular horror movies and the like), the Treehouse comic is an anthology of Halloween stories, typically done by the biggest name comic creators (or other celebrities) they can get. In the past, Treehouse has featured the works of Chuck Dixon, Gail Simone, Sergio Aragones, Gene Simmons and – I’m not making this up, folks – Pat Boone. This year’s crop includes a vampire story by Blade co-creators Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, a Swamp Thing parody by Len Wein and the inimitable Bernie Wrightson, and a great parody of classic EC comics written by Chris Bonahm and Steve Ringgenberg, with art by James Lloyd, Angelo Torres, John Severin and Mark Schulz. It’s definitely one of the better offerings, and a lot of fun.

The only other specific Halloween-themed comic I’ve seen this year was Action Comics #832. It’s tradition for one of the Superman comics to offer up a Christmas story every December, but a Halloween offering isn’t unheard of either, and this one (although it isn’t marked as a tie-in) links up with the Day of Vengeance miniseries. The Spectre, on a crusade to eradicate all magic from the universe, has set his sights on Metropolis, where a Machiavellian demon called Satannus has been hiding for years. And I mean years in real time – in the early-to-mid 90s he was a fairly major villain in Superman’s universe, but he sort of faded away, with his major plotline (the fact that he was disguised as Newstime magazine’s publisher, Colin Thornton), left dangling. I’m not really sure why DC (or writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) decided to bring him back at this time, new readers certainly won’t know the history there, but it’s a nice nod to some unanswered history for longtime fans.

What makes this more of a Halloween story, however, is the Lois Lane subplot in this issue. As ghosts swarm Metropolis, she finds herself coming face-to-face with a very personal ghost. It’s a really strong story for her, and one that sets up a couple of good plotlines for the future as well.

Although I haven’t seen Marvel put out any specific Halloween-themed comics, they have taken advantage of the season with other projects. They’ve launched a new version of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos starring some monstrous soldiers and put out a “Horror” edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. They’ve also got a Marvel Zombies series coming up soon by Robert Kirkman – would that they could have squeezed that out in time for Halloween.

My favorite Marvel Monster project, though, are the four “Marvel Monsters” comics – a set of four one-shots spoofing the classic monster titles they put out back in the 50s and early 60s, before the superhero genre took over with Fantastic Four #1. They wisely decided not to play the genre seriously, doing a Fanastic Four spoof with Fin Fang Foom and having the Hulk tussle with Devil Dinosaur.

The only one of the specials I’ve been able to get my hands on so far is actually the one with the weakest ties to the current Marvel Universe, Where Monsters Dwell. The theme of this issue is to bring back some of those goofy monsters from the past in new stories. The prize of this issue is Bring on the Bombu, by Keith Giffen with excellent finishes by Mike Allred. This tells of Bombu’s second attempt to invade Earth (the first having taken place way back in Journey Into Mystery #60), which comes across with very comical results. Peter David and Arnold Pander supply a new Monstrollo story and Jeff Parker, Russell Braun and Jimmy Palmiotti give us a surprisingly strong tale of the monstrous Manoo. There’s also a reprint of another classic tale, I Was Trapped By Titano (not the super-ape with Kryptonite vision from DC comics), which is actually my only beef with this issue – not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I wish Marvel had provided us with credits for the story, or at least noted where it had been originally printed. (I eventually located that information in the text page that, presumably, is running in all four Monster specials.)

So you do have some choices for Halloween this year, friends, but you know what? It’s not enough! I want to see more Halloween offerings next year. I’d love to see a new Batman Halloween special (although with Jeph Loeb exclusive to Marvel now, it wouldn’t be the same). I want to see Halloween editions of Looney Tunes and Marvel Adventures. I have no idea who currently owns the reprint rights, but I want to see some nice archival editions of the old Tales From the Crypt comics in the vein of the DC Archives or Marvel Masterworks. (2010 Note: This was later achieved by copyright owner Gemstone Publishing.)

There’s lots more that could be done, folks, and the comic book industry has a whole year to get ready for it.

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.

11
Aug
10

Classic EBI #60: All the Beautiful Comic Books

This week in Everything But Imaginary, it’s back to school time. You know how I’m dealing. But how are some of our favorite students in comic book land holding up?

Everything But Imaginary #362: Back to School

And in the Classic EBI, we’re going back to April of 200

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 4/28/04

All the beautiful comic books

Think fast: What’s the most beautiful piece of music you’ve ever heard? I’ll bet you came up with something, didn’t you? How about the most beautiful painting? Sculpture? What about a movie, name a beautiful movie. I’ll bet most of us can come up with serenely beautiful examples of every art form we appreciate.

So why no talk about beautiful comic books?

They happen, after all. They happen, in fact, more frequently than many of us recognize. They don’t get recognized as much, though, because comic books have a reputation of being about action and combat. Even non-superhero comic books often have a focus on adventure, and while adventure can make for a wonderful, thrilling tale, it rarely makes for a very beautiful tale. Now I don’t mean beautiful in a visual sense, in a “Greg Land Sojourn cover” sense, I mean beautiful in a way that makes you stop, and smile, and maybe even let a tear squeeze out.

Last week, I read one of the most beautiful comic books I’ve ever read, and it prompted me to sit down and write this column. I’ll talk about that later, but before I get there, I want to remind you guys about a few other beautiful comic books that are out there. (And I will be spoiling these, so be prepared for it.)

Astro City #1/2, “The Nearness of You,” has to go down as one of the most singularly beautiful comic books I’ve ever read. This tale, crafted by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, concerns a man named Michael Tenicek whose dreams are haunted by the memory of a lost love that he never knew. After several attempts to find out who this woman is, a woman he knows he has never met but can’t forget, he is visited by the mystical Hanged Man, who weaves him a tale of a villain who nearly destroyed the universe by tampering with the timestream. The heroes of that world, in a story that would have been a 12-issue crossover epic under any other writer, defeated the villain and restored the timestream, but the restoration was imperfect. The woman Michael remembers is his wife, and because of the time-travel escapades, her grandparents never met, and she never existed. The Hanged Man cannot restore her to life, but he can take Michael’s memory of her away, if he wants. Michael refuses, though, and as the Hanged Man leaves to make the same offer to others who lost something in the timestorm, he asks him what other people choose. Do they wish to forget?

The Hanged Man turns, a slight curl of a smile on the burlap bag over his head. “No one forgets, Michael Tenncek,” he says. “No one.”

Yeah, I cried when I read this story. Astro City #1/2 was reprinted in the Confessions trade paperback. Find it. Read it. Love it.

Next up is our requisite classic comic and our requisite Disney comic, “Only a Poor Old Man” by Carl Barks, originally presented waaaaay back in Uncle Scrooge #1, but as is the case with Disney comics, it has been reprinted frequently. This classic story by Scrooge’s creator seems fairly common enough. The notorious Beagle Boys are trying to steal Scrooge’s three cubic acres of money, so the richest duck in the world recruits his nephews to help him protect it by taking the cash out of his bin and dumping it into a remote lake. With his money submerged, though, Scrooge is denied the one great pleasure he allows himself, to dive in the cash, burrow through it like a gopher, and throw it into the air and let it hit him on the head. Against his better judgment, he dredges up enough cash to make an island in the lake where he can play in his fortune. The sight of the money island alerts the Beagle Boys to Scrooge’s plan, though, and the rest of the comic is a series of adventures with the beagles trying to steal the cash and the ducks trying to save it.

In and of itself, it’s a fairly run of the mill Scrooge story (of course with Carl Barks, even run of the mill stories were exponentially better than most of his imitators). When you get down to it, though, down into the meat of the story, you realize that the comic isn’t really about Scrooge or about the money or about greed or anything else people would like to ascribe to the character to tear him down. It’s a story about finding that one thing you love, the one thing that means something to you, and being ready to fight for it. Scrooge’s true love was his daily swim, and he was willing to risk everything for it. There’s something unbelievably sweet and innocent about that. Something that that stays with you.

Moving on, J. Michael Stracyznski and Gary Frank told one of the best horror stories ever to make it into comics with their Midnight Nation series, but in the final issue, they told one of the most beautiful as well. The story, for those of you who haven’t read the comic (and if you didn’t, you are wrong), concerns LAPD Detective David Gray, a man whose soul is somehow stolen and he falls into a strange world that exists between the cracks of his own. With the help of his guide, a woman named Laurel, he must walk from Los Angeles to New York and reclaim his soul within one year or be transformed into one of The Men, savage creatures in the employ of a dark enemy. In the last issue, David discovers he has been misled from the beginning. He can never go back to a regular life. His soul is his for the taking, but he will become one of The Men in the process. He will be in his enemy’s power, but he will be alive. Or he can give his soul to Laurel who has none of her own, and take her place in the horrible, bleak world between the cracks.

David does not hesitate. He gives her his soul and she is freed, and we know that in their year on the road together he came to love her more, even, than himself. In an epilogue sequence some years later we see David trying to get by in this new world, ignored by the “real” world, interacting only with those in-between. Then he sees her — a young girl with Laurel’s face. He says her name and for a second — just for a second — she acknowledges him.

And he knows it was worth it.

Finally, we come to the comic book that grabbed my attention and sparked this little conversation, a comic that, not coincidentally, is my…

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 21, 2004

Actually, all four issues of this miniseries were beautiful, but the final issue of Kurt Busiek (he’s good at these beautiful comics, isn’t he?) and Stuart Immonen’s Superman: Secret Identity, is the most beautiful of all. The story is of a young man in a world like our own, where Superman is a fictional character known all over the world. Born to parents in Kansas named “Kent,” they have the unfortunate sense of humor to name him “Clark.” This new Clark Kent hates the Superman jokes… until the night he wakes up with all his powers as well. This final issue wraps up Clark’s life story and explains where his powers came from, but that’s not the important thing. It’s a story of a husband, a father, a man who sees his life’s work mean something, who sees his family become something, who sees a world made better by his presence. No supervillains, little action. This is a quiet tale, a powerful tale, a happy tale.

A beautiful tale.

There have been good Superman stories. There have even been great Superman stories. But this is the most beautiful Superman story ever told.

And that’s something we don’t get enough of.

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

02
Nov
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 91: Hawkman and the Atom

They once shared a title — why not share a Showcase episode? People have often asked the guys to discuss two of DC‘s classic heroes, Hawkman and The Atom, so this week the boys tackle the legendary duo. The histories of the characters, their favorite stories, and where they are today… well, you know the drill. In the picks this week, Blake throws his support behind volume three of Gemstone‘s excellent Barks/Rosa Collection series of Disney comics, and Chase likes the zero issue of IDW‘s new G.I. Joe line! E-mail us with your comments, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 91: Hawkman and the Atom
Inside This Episode:




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