Posts Tagged ‘classic ebi

04
Jan
12

Classic EBI #114: What Worked on Free Comic Book Day

I gotta be honest with you guys — I’m not above feeling a little schadenfreude when I see a yellow journalist take it on the chin. Today I take a look at why certain styles of reporting not only aren’t worth it, but can be outright destructive.

Everything But Imaginary #430: Yellow Journalism With a Dash of Cyan and Magenta

But rolling back in time, let’s go to May 11, 2005. The week after Free Comic Book Day, I took the time to look into everything that worked on that happy occasion…

Everything But Imaginary #114: What Worked on Free Comic Book Day

When people get back to work or school after Christmas, they talk about their holiday. Their trip to Grandma’s house, the snowman they built with the kids, whether or not they got that Play-Box 65 with internet connectivity, a rumble pack and automatic transmission they really wanted. Well folks, the biggest holiday of the comic book fan, Free Comic Book Day, has come and gone, and I for one think it’s worth taking the time to determine its success.

Now I don’t mind telling you that my FCBD was almost derailed. As introverted as I can be, I’m also more or less a sociable person, and I hate doing stuff like this alone, so I tried to round up my buddies Chase and Mike, the two men on this planet I am most likely to have fun arguing about comic books with, and two guys I haven’t seen nearly often enough in the last few months. But alas, Chase was offshore and Mike was laying down a new floor in his home, using the indisputable logic that, no matter how great comic books are, you can’t walk on them. So finally, I called my buddy Jason, my oldest friend and often my first call when I need someone to hang out with. The reason I didn’t call him first this time was that, for one, he’s not into comics, and also his fiancé was having some sort of crisis regarding her gall bladder or something. (I am taking her word for it, as nobody on the North American continent actually knows what a gall bladder is for.) But Jason managed to get away and hit the shop with me.

I got there relatively early in the day and was quite gratified to see the size of the crowd. Parents, children, young couples, teenagers, all flocked to the shop, sifting through this year’s offerings. Because it was so crowded, the manager was limiting us to two items apiece, which made it rather difficult on me to choose, but in the end the only thing I missed that I really wanted was Mortal Coils. I would have liked to get Sean Wang’s Runners: Remastered as well, as I’m a big fan of the series, but I decided instead to leave that and talk it up to people who were trying to decide what to pick up.

FCBD has, in many respects, become something of a mini-convention. It’s the one day a year I know I’ll mingle with other comic fans outside of my usual circle, talk, gossip and exchange ideas. Saturday was one of the first times I’ve been able to have a conversation with anyone outside of a computer forum about Infinite Crisis without them looking at their watch and suddenly remembering a pressing engagement.

But it most gratifying, to me, to see all the kids that were there. Sifting through the comics, getting Betty and Veronica, Uncle Scrooge and Amelia Rules!, looking at the toys and cards, popping open boxes of HeroClix right there on the counter – now that was a great sight to see.

So I walked out of that shop satisfied – but as I said last week, Free Comic Book Day isn’t really about me. It’s about the people who don’t go into a shop every week as though it were a religious experience. It’s about getting the kids to read it, or the adults who only read casually. It’s about boosting the esteem and profile of the entire medium. Now as some of you may know, I’m kind of a message board tramp. I post all over the place. If you added my post-count on every board I’m on, I firmly believe that I could beat the Hulk in a fight. And not just comic book boards – these are boards for books, movies and anything else that interests me. So I went to several of these boards and asked chaps of my acquaintance, including new readers, casual readers and hard-core fanboys, to regale me with their thoughts on FCBD. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

The gent known as Avalonian said:

I took my kids, and I picked up the Betty and Veronica freebie for our youngest, and I bought the 6th part of the Marmalade Boy manga series because the older two saw it and wanted it.

For myself, I picked up the Flight Primer, Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai, and the Star Wars comic — all free. And I bought Origin, the graphic-novel collection of the Wolverine origin story that came out a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, and I figured, why not?

Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai was OK, and the Star Wars comic was… Star Wars. Never could get into the Star Wars comics much. Flight was really cool, though. Great art and oddball stories. I may have to check out the rest of the series.

Av also tells me he was interested in 1602 and Warren Ellis’s Orbiter, as well as the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. He also quite enjoyed Origin. Now this leads me to several conclusions:

1. Am I the only person in the universe who thought Origin was kind of bland and unimpressive?

2. You’ll notice that most of the stuff he got was off the beaten path. He steered right past Batman Strikes and Marvel Adventures. Now this in no way means that the superhero titles are unimportant or should be ignored, but hopefully it will remind those folks at the Big Two that there is a huge audience out there for non-superhero properties.

3. And yes. Flight was really cool.

HarleyQuinn19 informed me…

I grabbed an old (but still free) issue of The Adventures of Barry Ween and totally fell in love with the sick little kid! I so have to get those TPB’s!

Harley, it seems, hit a shop that still had some free copies left over from a few years ago, but hey, whatever works. Judd Winick’s Barry Ween comics helped put him on the map (not that a Pulitzer Prize nomination for Pedro and Me exactly held him back), and it further shows the diversity of the audience. On the flipside, Harley dismissed Heroic Publishing’s FCBD offering, Flare, because it “seemed like just another blonde bimbo in a skin tight outfit to me.” Honestly, I haven’t read Flare and it’s liable to have a lot going for it, but that goes to show you how negative first impressions can keep a potential audience at bay.

[2012 Note: “HarleyQuinn19” today is known better to readers of this column as “My girlfriend Erin.”]

Ubiquitousblink had the following observations:

I haven’t read all my free comics yet but I was impressed on what the indy companies provided. Marvel kind of dropped the ball IMHO. Their “kid” books are kind of wimpy and watered down. DC is superior in this aspect. I’ve always believed that DC has been able to provide a wide variety of genres for all ages and tastes. I could read all DC/Wildstorm/Vertigo books and not miss Marvel at all (except for Bendis’s Spidey).

Now personally, there are several Marvel books I would miss if I walked away from the publisher altogether – Young Avengers, New X-Men and Fantastic Four topping the list. But I get what UB is saying here. I’m hearing from a lot of readers that DC is taking the edge in terms of quality. They’ve also got a wider assortment of books geared at kids – Marvel’s offerings are almost entirely kiddie versions of their preexisting characters. DC has some of that, but also opens their ranks up to stuff like Looney Tunes, Powerpuff Girls and Cartoon Network Block Party. In fact, stuff like the Cartoon Network comics seem to be some of the only anthology comics that sell very much these days at all.

Comixtreme’s CXPulp‘s own Walt Kneeland made a lot of intriguing comments in his own LiveJournal, but the one that I found most interesting was…

Should have picked up Runners #1. Offhand, other than Uncle Scrooge and Ronin Hood, that was the one I’ve heard the most about/remembered the most….but maybe I’ll find a copy later if stuff gets dumped into a quarter bin or otherwise becomes available somewhere. I know last year I missed a couple FCBD issues, but wound up getting those at Origins and Gen Con.

Oh, Walt, but you should have gotten Runners. The good news is, a trade paperback of the first miniseries will be coming out in a few short months.

On the other hand, I was quite gratified to see how many older readers were compelled to sample Uncle Scrooge. I am an unabashed fan of Walt Disney comic books, particularly the works of Carl Barks, Don Rosa, William Van Horn and Pat and Shelly Block. This year’s FCBD offering was Barks’s first-ever full-length Uncle Scrooge story, “Only a Poor Old Man” from Uncle Scrooge #1, and it is considered by many to be one of the best. If you got it and read it, by all means, let me know what you thought.

And finally, I thought it would be good to get the perspective of, not just a reader, but a retailer. So I asked my good buddy SSJGOKU555, who happens to be majority owner of his local shop, to tell me how FCBD went for him.

Free Comic Book Day is one of the best days of the year for me. One I’m a comic geek and I love getting free comics. Two, all of the people who normally don’t buy comics stop in to pick a freebie and maybe one or two titles to check them out. And finally, I run a comic shop and I like making money.  

FCBD is one of the most brilliant things ever devised. It brings in new customers, brings in old readers, brings kids into comics. My shop opens at noon daily and FCBD we had a line waiting for the store to open. All the normal customers, but what I was happy to see was a lot of new faces and a lot of kids maybe 8-9 with their mother or father. From what I saw, the mothers were reluctant to buy any comics due to the fear of violence and sex while the fathers typically knew there was an entire kids rack and headed right for that. Of course this wasn’t always true though. After I showed them the kids rack, the parents took the free comic and saw familiar faces such as Scrooge McDuck, Archie, Sonic the Hedgehog, the animated version of Superman, etc. These are people that normally don’t come in and did because of FCBD. This is what needs to happen more. The comic industry needs more new, young readers to pick up a book here and there. And parents should encourage it, if for nothing else a young child can go read a comic with a cartoon character in it that they know and they can pick up a few reading skills and learn to enjoy reading.

My customers seemed to be in very good spirits, getting free stuff usually does that to a person. We had music going, games, prizes, etc. Customers got into it, had fun, won TPBs, action figures for the kids, etc. Sales were were great due to the free stuff. We gave away so much free stuff we ran out of the free comics and wound up giving out second printings of Green Lantern: Rebirth #1. It’ll remain to be seen whether or not the new customers come back, but for getting new readers into a comic shop, FCBD definitely succeeded. I can’t wait for the next one.

So there you have it folks, straight from the horse’s collective mouths. In short, is Free Comic Book Day working? Yeah, I think it is. The progress is slow and it’s an uphill battle, but I think it is bringing in new people and re-exciting old readers, and those are the two most important things that could possibly happen in the world of comic books right now.

So let’s start getting ready for next year.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: May 4, 2005
It wasn’t even a contest, folks. Not Superman, not New X-Men… not even Villains United could have wrested my “Favorite of the Week” award from The Complete Peanuts: 1955-1956. The third volume in a 25-book series, this is a concerted effort to reprint every Peanuts comic strip the legendary Charles M. Schulz ever did, in their original order, as restored as technology and archival records will allow. This volume contains such notable events as Linus’s first words, Snoopy’s first impressions and the first time Lucy pulled that darn football away from good ol’ Charlie Brown. To a Peanuts lover like me, reading these books is nirvana.

FAVORITE OF THE YEAR: Free Comic Book Day 2005
And now for a special bonus! While I wasn’t able to get every Free Comic Book Day comic this year, I managed to get a few and read a few others, and my favorite hands-down has to be Jetpack Press’s Johnny Raygun Freebie. This comic is a great lighthearted sci-fi superhero title about a teenage secret agent in a world full of mad scientists, monsters and superpowered kids. I’ve never read a Johnny Raygun comic before, but the story of his sister trying to join the esteemed Nuclear Kids left me grinning from ear to ear. I’m going to make an effort to find the first several issues of Johnny’s quarterly title, and I’m almost certainly going to add this one to my pull-list. Invincible fans take note – this is the kind of thing I bet you’d really dig.

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.

28
Dec
11

Everything But Imaginary #429: Looking Ahead to 2012

I know I haven’t posted in the last few days, friends. I’ve been very busy with assorted computer-related things while, at the same time, taking a bit of a break from bloggin’ duties while gearing up for the new year. But I do have this week’s Everything But Imaginary to share with you. Before I do that, though, let me tease you a little with this week’s 2 in 1 Showcase podcast. It’s going to be the big Year in Review Spectacular, and it will be the longest Showcase ever. I sat down last night to record it with Erin and Kenny, and we spent over three hours talking about everything that happened in comics in 2011 and making our picks of the year.

But that’s Sunday. Today I’m looking ahead. In this weeks’ Everything But Imaginary I put on my Kreskin hat, take out the ol’ Magic 8-Ball, and try to make some predictions for the world of comic books in 2012.

Everything But Imaginary #429: Looking Ahead to 2012

21
Dec
11

Classic EBI #242: What’s Santa Bringing For the Geeks?

Every Christmas, I make it a point to seek out as many Christmas comics as I can and present them to the faithful readers of Everything But Imaginary, and this year is no different. I’ve got twenty yuletide comics to share with you today, my friends, so click on the link and get to it!

Everything But Imaginary #428: Christmas Comics 2011

Going back in time, let’s look in at 2007, and what Santa was bringing to the Geeks that year…

Classic EBI #242: What’s Santa Bringing For the Geeks?

It’s T-minus 20 days and counting, friends. Christmas is rapidly approaching, the assorted poultry are growing corpulent, and the geriatric gentleman is asking for alms. And for us, the Assorted Fanboys of the Universe, we’re making out lists of toys and goodies that we’re just hoping Santa will leave under our trees. Unfortunately, for those of us who were stupid enough to buy an issue of One More Day, we’re stuck on the “naughty” list, and we’re left hoping for treats from the special people in our lives. So this week’s special “Everything But Imaginary” column is not for you, fanboys.

No, no. It’s for your loved ones.

This column is going to list some of the coolest stuff you can get for your fanboy this year. Fanboys, make sure your primary gift-giver sees it. Print out a copy and leave it in the bathroom. Casually mention how awesome Everything But Imaginary is until they have no choice but to log on. “Accidentally” CC an e-mail to them saying, “Hey, Joe, did you read this column? I hope Marcia gets me some of this stuff for Christmas.” (Also, you may want to use your own girlfriend/fiancé/wife’s name, because if it’s not “Marcia,” you’re going to have much bigger problems than Christmas presents.)

So what are some of the best gifts out there for comic geeks this year? Let’s start with…

BOOKS

Now not every geek has the same tastes, so it’s important to find something that will appeal to him or her. There are a lot of nice, hefty hardcovers available these days that will almost certainly be to someone’s liking. The Captain America Omnibus might be nice for someone who didn’t start reading the comic book until March. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus can give the DC fan some nice background on Countdown. Fans of the Disney theme parks will salivate over the collected edition of Slave Labor’s Haunted Mansion comic book. Looking for a cool comic he probably didn’t read? The Hero By Night hardcover just came out. And if your geek is digging the current Spirit series, there are over 20 hardcover archives available collecting the original run.

Books are the ultimate gift for a fanboy. We’re always looking for something else to read, because if we didn’t love reading, we wouldn’t be comic geeks in the first place. Your trick, your task if you will, will be to determine just what your fanboy likes. Hardcore fans of Serenity or The Dark Tower likely already have those issues in their collection, but that doesn’t automatically mean they wouldn’t appreciate the hardcover collections of those comics.

DVDS

If anything can rival a book in a fanboy’s heart, it’s the DVD, and there were a ton of them released this year. TV shows featuring Superman, Batman, Aquaman, the Super Friends, and a jillion more. Awesome movies like 300, TransFormers and Spi… Spider…. Um, and let’s not forget that this is the year that high-definition players really began to grow in prominence! (Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are in high-def now, right?) Find out if your geek is interested in “upgrading” his old DVDs to high-def or Blu-Ray. Once you’ve figured out if your geek likes a certain TV show or movie (here’s a test: “Hey, sweetie, what did you think of 300?”), ascertaining whether or not he already has it is the easy part. The Native North American Geek usually has a cabinet or shelf where his DVDs are proudly displayed as though they were college degrees, Olympic medals or Grandma’s ashes, providing Grandma looked as good in spandex as Jessica Alba. All you’ve got to do is look and see if the DVD you’re considering purchasing is already there.

TOYS AND ASSORTED JUNK

As always, there are a ton of toys and goodies you can get for your geek. If you’ve got the display space, there are plenty of great statues out there. My girlfriend Erin (who is not only cute, smart, funny, and basically awesome, but also a terrible enabler for my habit) got me the Fables Snow White/Bigby Wolf statue for my birthday back in August, and lemme tell ya, this is the coolest thing you could possibly get for a Fables fan. And of course, there are statues available featuring practically any denomination of fan worship – Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, the X-Men, Serenity, Star Wars, Star Trek, Archie Comics, classic Universal monsters, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Carribean – just walk into your local comic shop (you may have to ask your fanboy where it is) and see the stuff they have on the shelves.

A statue a little outside of your price range? No problem. There are plenty of action figures out there that look good enough to practically be statues – the Marvel Legends and DC Direct lines are packed with beautiful sculpts of beloved heroes. Don’t want to get your fanboy a toy? (You elitist.) How about a Betty Boop Zippo lighter? A Superman lunchbox? A Serenity-as-Reaver-Ship Christmas tree ornament? Getting “collectibles” instead of “toys” takes a little of the sting out of it, doesn’t it?

STOCKING STUFFERS

C’mon, you know you still hang your stocking up every Christmas Eve, and you know that you still wake up every Christmas Morning in the hopes of finding it full of loot. Give your fanboy that gift this year. There are plenty of things to choose from – including my favorite toy line of the year, Mini-Mates. Miniature action figures that come in packs of two – not as detailed or as displayable as some of their bigger, pricier cousins, but just as cool. And the best part is, they come in a ton of denominations as well – Marvel superheroes, DC superheroes, Battlestar Galactica, 24, Speed Racer and many more. (Um… just try to avoid the zombie ones. I had some trouble with them back on Halloween.)

So there you have it, friends – plenty of ideas to get you started. And if you come up with any gift suggestions of your own, share them here! We can use all the help we can get.

Favorite of the Week: November 28, 2007

It wasn’t a long run, but Tony Bedard and Dennis Calero’s term on Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes (which ended with last week’s #36) was a really good one. In their few issues, they helped the Legion reestablish itself in the aftermath of the Dominator War and the disappearance of one of their founders, Cosmic Boy. They reintroduced a number of fan-favorite Legionnaires and Legion concepts (the lost-missed Wildfire/ERG-1, for instance). They brought Supergirl’s story to a very satisfying close, and they gave Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul a solid foundation to begin their stint on this title. Well-done, sirs. Well done.

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.

14
Dec
11

Classic EBI #192: How Do You Buy For Your Geek

Valiant Comics is back! Again! Really this time! With their newest announcement, I go over the history of Valiant, from their first signs of trouble (:coughACCLAIMcough:) to the revelation of their Free Comic Book Day cover for 2012, and I give those working for the company a few suggestions.

Everything But Imaginary #427: Valiant Comics, You Dirty Tease

But going back in time, we’re sticking with Christmas, and another of my “buying for the geek on your list” columns, this one from 2006.

Everything But Imaginary #192: How Do You Buy For Your Geek?

The countdown has begun, friends. We’ve got less than a month left until Christmas, Kwanza, Chanukah, National Boll Weevil Appreciation Day or whatever it is you personally celebrate. No matter what, the time has come to start your shopping in earnest, because pretty soon the time will come to start handing out those gifts.

And as those of us who proudly gather under the Geek Umbrella know, this is the time of year when we both give and receive those great gifts that come with our heritage: comic books, DVDs, statues, toys, pencil boxes with the Punisher’s logo on them… in this day and age, there are more geek goodies available than ever before. So as has become something of a tradition here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, today we’re going to talk about some of the goodies currently available for the Geek out there. Now for most of you, you don’t need this list. The people in a Geek’s life are often non-Geeks, and when you do have a fellow Geek to shop for, you can pretty easily figure out what to get for them. So this guide isn’t for the regular EBI reader. No, my friends, this is a guide for your family and friends. This is a checklist of the New and the Cool out there in comic stores and retail outlets alike. Today we’re gonna talk about the swag you want for Christmas, so print out this column and conveniently leave it lying around where the clueless loved one may happen to find it. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

As a Geek, perhaps the second-greatest shared obsession (second behind comic books, of course), are DVDs. Right now, there are a lot of ‘em out there. Superman fans have entered a golden age. Just yesterday saw the release of Superman Returns in two editions (a barebones and a two-disc special edition), plus a 14-disc collector’s edition that collects it along with all four of the original Christopher Reeve movies, the director’s cut of the original Superman and the never-before seen Richard Donner cut of Superman II. I haven’t had a chance yet to view the Donner cut (which is also available separately), but several reliable sources (i.e. Mark Blicharz) are reporting that this original version, what the movie would have been had the Salkinds not fired Donner before the movie was completed, is the best superhero movie ever made. And I believe that – even the original cut was close, only the cheesy ending prevented it from reaching that peak.

If you’re not up for the greatest superhero movie ever made, how about the greatest superhero TV show? Justice League Unlimited, having been prematurely ushered from the airwaves by the knuckleheads at Cartoon Network (do I sound bitter?) has now hit the DVD shelves. Spinning off the original solid Justice League cartoon, the new series added dozens of other DC characters to the original seven Leaguers, often giving minor heroes the spotlight and making some of the most exciting moments in superhero history. This show was just plain brilliant, and even if there aren’t any new episodes in the making, I can watch the old ones again and again. And again.

If you’re not in the market for DVDs, how about home décor? Comic geek statues are becoming pretty big these days. DC Direct’s “Women of the DC Universe” line, for example, shows off the likes of Power Girl, Supergirl and Harley Quinn as designed by Adam Hughes. Graphitti Designs has statuary showing off Jeff Smith’s Bone characters, View Askew stars like Jay and Silent Bob, Bernie Hogarth’s designs for Tarzan and the stars of the classic Tales From the Crypt comics.

Speaking of those classic comics, Gemstone has begun a new line of archive collections of those old EC Comics titles, like Weird Science, Shock SuspenStores and Tales From the Crypt. Add this to already venerable archival lines such as the Dark Horse Archives, DC Comics Archives and Marvel Masterworks, and there are thousands of classic, legendary comics available for the Geek in your life.

Ah, but you don’t have anyone on your list interested in the classics of the past, you say. Your friends are looking ahead, to the new technologies. Not a problem, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which is getting rave reviews, is available for virtually every video game platform there is. If you’ve got a friend who managed to fight through the crowds and win one of the estimated twelve Playstation 3 units available in North America (or if you’re stuck in the past and still playing on a PS2), they can now suit up as Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four or any of 20 playable characters, then throw down with dozens of different villains. A good gift for the comic geek or the gamer on your list.

Similar to statuary, prop replicas are becoming a big business as well. Quantum Mechanix has begun a line of replica props from the movie Serenity, such as Alliance Money Packs and Captain Mal Reynolds’ pistol. There are tons of props available for such movies as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Batman Begins and Hellboy, and now comic book props are available as well. You can own Green Lantern’s power battery or Captain America’s mask. These last few have always kind of perplexed me, actually – how do you make a replica of something that, technically, never existed? Ah, well…

Dark Horse Comics, always a home for quality collectibles, is putting out a ton of cool stuff too. They’ve got plenty of statues and books, but also unique items like lunchboxes, playing chards, Zippo lighters, Christmas tree ornaments and Syroco-style figurines featuring classic Peanuts characters, Golden Age DC heroes and even Kellogg’s cereal mascots like Snap, Crackle and Pop and Tony the Tiger.

What about the young geeks out there? As a medium, comic books need to make an effort to lure the young, after all. The good news is, there’s stuff out there for them too. The Marvel Adventures and Justice League Unlimited digest paperbacks are solid reads, and it’ll always be fun to stuff a stocking full of Archie digests. If your kid is into Disney, you can give ‘em a gold mine, with stuff like Gemstone’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck and The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion. These books aren’t just for the young – they’re some of the best comic books ever made, bar none.

It really is a wonderful time to be a Geek, friends. There’s more stuff out there for us than ever before. So what are some of the things on your wish list this year? What neat goodies are you hoping to find under the tree? Share your wish lists with us here. And here’s hoping you get everything you need, and a few things you want.

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.

07
Dec
11

Classic EBI #143: Christmas Comics From Riverdale to Strange’s Sanctum

There’s been some buzz lately about the possibility of a sequel or prequel to the classic Watchmen series from DC Comics. And honestly, I don’t know if it’s that great an idea…

Everything But Imaginary #426: The Problem With Watchmen 2

But moving back in time, let’s look at one of my favorite columns from Christmas past. Every year, I do a column looking back at some of my favorite Christmas comics, as well as the new releases from that year. Let’s head back to 2005, and some Christmas comics from a year where they were sorely needed.

Classic EBI: #143: Christmas Comics From Riverdale to Strange’s Sanctum

Continuing last week’s in-depth examination of this year’s crop of Christmas Comics (including a focus on Disney comics), we’re going to start this time in Marvel Comics’ New York, with two offerings that took me by surprise – one in a good way, one not so much.

First up was the Marvel Holiday Special. Marvel put out an oversized collection of Christmas comics every year for a while in the 90s and just brought the tradition back last year. I kinda wish there were more than just three stories per issue, but you take what you can get. This year’s issue, sporting a great cover by Stuart Immonen, opens up with “Mole Man’s Christmas.” In this story, written by Shaenon Garrity with art by Roger Langridge and Al Gordon, the humble Moloids have launched yet another attack on the surface world, this time kidnapping Santa Clauses right from the streets. The Fantastic Four, naturally, begin plans to launch their assault on their underground kingdom, only to discover that they’re trying to find their ruler, the missing Mole Man. As the rest of the team plans for a more direct approach, the Thing takes a different tack – trying to hunt down his old enemy using a mysterious clue. This is a fairly entertaining story – any spotlight on Ben Grimm is a good thing, and it’s rare to see a Citizen Kane parody in a Christmas comic.

This story is followed up by the unsuspected gem of the collection, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santron” by Jeff Parker with art by Reilly Brown. It’s Christmas Eve and Dr. Strange is throwing a party at his inner sanctum for the Avengers and their friends, including the Marvel Universe’s newest would-be superstar, Gravity. As the heroes enjoy celebrations of various yuletide holidays, including a particularly funny bit with Spider-Woman finding herself unable to escape the mistletoe, across the city a young woman is working on her masterpiece – a Santa Claus android, but the robot seems to have some preliminary programming that threatens our heroes.

The punchline is predictable and the story is full of plot holes, such as how the robot Santa managed to find Strange’s mystically-shielded sanctum, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. This story is much better than it has any right to be. I really enjoyed it, and I can see myself reading this story every Christmas.

Finally, Mike Carey and Mike Perkins give us “Christmas Day in Manhattan,” in which an old supervillain heads out on one last mission to give his kids a Merry Christmas – only to run afoul of some of New York’s heroes. Carey gives us the requisite Christmas poem and Perkins does the story in an intriguing style that mirrors an old woodcutting. It’s not great, but it’s good.

Another Christmas offering from Marvel didn’t score quite so highly with me – Punisher: Silent Night from Andy Diggle and Kyle Hotz. I got this because of my stated purpose of snagging every Christmas comic I could, but this really didn’t work for me. It’s basically a Punisher story with an excuse to get him in a Santa suit to set up a hit. Diggle writes a decent old-fashioned Punisher story, but as the only version of the character I’ve ever really enjoyed is Garth Ennis’s dark comedy, this isn’t a book that’s really for me.

Now Archie Comics, like Gemstone last week, gives us a whole slew of Christmas offerings, starting with their annual Archie’s Holiday Fun Digest. Like all Archie digests, this is a fun mix of new and old stories – 100 pages worth for just $2.39, making these comics still the most bang for your buck out of any comic books being published. The issue opens up with Archie in “The Job” – a simple, sweet little tale of Riverdale’s favorite redhead serving as a department store Santa Claus.

My favorite tale in this book, however, is Dilton in “Scientific Santa.” When Dilton’s cousin Dexter refuses to believe not only in Santa Claus, but in any Christmas tradition whatsoever, the boy genius and his girlfriend Danni set up a super-scientific workshop to give the kid a dose of the real holiday spirit. I’m a longtime fan of Archie Comics, and I was really happy to see this story using some favorite characters from the short-lived Dilton’s Strange Science series from the early 90s. Plus in the follow up, “Computer Chip Shot,” as Dilton and Danni try to pack up their equipment from the previous tale things go a little haywire, resulting in another fun story.

The comic is full of stories with Sabrina, Betty and Veronica, Cheryl Blossom and the whole gang, and it’s a lot of fun.

But also like Gemstone, in addition to their annual Christmas special, holiday tales bled into many of their regular titles, such as Tales From Riverdale Digest #7. While not all of the stories in this issue where Christmas tales, enough were to include it in this rundown. In “Wait Right Here,” Veronica is stunned to discover that good-natured Betty, of all people, is feeling a case of the humbugs as she is ignored by snooty store clerks who think because of her less-than glamorous appearance that she doesn’t have anything to spend. The girls star in this issue’s other major Christmas contributions as well. In “Some Things Never Change” their old friend, the fairy Sugar Plum, spice up Veronica’s dull Christmas party, then in “A Dreamy Teen Christmas,” the girls first put together a Christmas Tree for a charity auction, then plan to try to win it themselves. Finally, Sugar Plum makes a return appearance in “Veronica’s Wonderful Life,” in which the richest girl in Riverdale gets a taste of what the world would be like if she had never been born. “It’s a Wonderful Life” parodies are nothing new, but this one had a really amusing punchline that makes it stand out.

Archie had even more Christmas offerings, such as Betty and Veronica #213 – in “Keeping Up Traditions,” Veronica blows off her annual Christmas outing with Betty for a date with the new guy in town, but then her conscience starts to plague her. Sugar Plum shows up again in “Treed!” to help the girls decorate the enormous lodge mansion – but the well-meaning fairy, as she usually does, takes things too far. Finally we have “Spending Spree,” in which Veronica sees Betty scrimping for Christmas presents for everyone else while she goes out on her usual selfish shopping sprees. Suddenly, she comes up with the greatest Christmas present of all.

Betty and Veronica Spectacular underwent an interesting metamorphosis this year, adding fashion pieces and advice columns to its comics in an attempt to make it more of a “teen magazine.” I actually think this is a clever idea that, hopefully, will bring in more female readers – or at least help retain more that otherwise would have “outgrown” the comics. But with issue #72, this comic too adds some Christmas offerings. “What a Card” shows Veronica going overboard on her own attempt at a Christmas Card after Betty’s handwritten poem becomes a smash hit. (For best friends, these girls are extremely competitive.) Also, “The Nite Before X-Mas!” is a twist on the old Clement Moore poem that kind of serves as a roll call for the kids of Riverdale High School. The comic also includes a page of “Holiday Glitz” and a Holiday Trivia Quiz – fun stuff for the girls.

Last but not least, there’s Veronica #166, but don’t let the title of the comic fool you, Betty is all over this one too. In “A Dickens of a Tale,” a flurry of shopping greed from Veronica brings her a visit from three spirits that show her how she abuses her best friend, worries her parents, and how her greed will leave poor Archie torn between her and Betty for many Christmases to come. Clearly, this is Veronica’s year for spectral manifestations with amusing punchlines. She comes back in “Party Time,” in which she gets the idea to throw a big Christmas party and asks her dad to pay for it. Mr. Lodge agrees, but is put off by her frivolousness – until he arrives at the party for a big surprise. Veronica is a really schizophrenic character – one minute she’s as greedy as Ebenezer Scrooge, then a few pages later she’s got a heart as big as Tiny Tim.

At any rate, these Archie comics are a blast and well worth sharing with your kids on Christmas morning. I’d actually hoped to cover two more Christmas specials this week – the Image Comics Holiday Special and Dan Slott’s GLX-Mas, but thanks to the intricacies of December shipping, I haven’t gotten either of those yet. But I think I’ve made my point – there are a lot of great Christmas comics out there.

And I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little foray into some of the wonderful offerings we’ve got this Christmas. May you all have a wonderful, Merry holiday with your friends and family – I know I will. Don’t forget to vote in the 2005 Everything But Imaginary Awards — for a full list of rules and categories, follow this link to the Everything But Imaginary Awards Thread. And come back next week for our special year-end EBI, in which I put on my prognosticator cap and tell everyone what the comic book industry needs to do to thrive in 2006. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

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.

30
Nov
11

Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

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

Everything But Imaginary #425: The 2011 Geek Gift Guide

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

Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 30, 2005

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

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

 

16
Nov
11

Classic EBI #112: 100 Things I Love About Comics

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

EBI #424: Guest Star Surprises

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

EBI #112: 100 Things I Love About Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

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

09
Nov
11

Classic EBI #111: Days With Mary Jane

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

Everything But Imaginary #423: The Shape of Digital

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

Classic Everything But Imaginary #111: Days With Mary Jane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a tougher one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 13, 2005

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

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

02
Nov
11

Classic EBI #110: Second Stringers

In today’s new Everything But Imaginary, I think about the nature of superpowers. Sure, it’d be cool to be able to lift tanks or fly through outer space, but let’s be honest. Some minor-league powers could come in pretty handy too.

Everything But Imaginary #422: Practical Superpowers

And in today’s classic EBI, I head back to April 2005. We all know the a-list superheroes… Superman, Batman, the X-Men and so forth. But just because a hero may not be in the top tier doesn’t mean their stories aren’t worth telling. Today, we look at the second string.

Everything But Imaginary #110: Second Stringers

With the thousands of comic book characters that have been created since the artform was invented, it’s only natural that some will be more popular than others. For every Superman, there are a dozen Gladiators, for every Batman a Moon Knight, for every Richie Rich a Royal Roy. But does that mean these characters are actually bad, or does it mean that they just missed the train to stardom? The fact is, there are a ton of really good b-list characters out there, and it always puts a smile on my face to see some of them get the respect they deserve.

I’ve always believed that there are very few genuinely bad characters, that almost any character can be entertaining in the hands of a good enough writer. Fabian Nicieza proved that way back in the early 90s with the first incarnation of the New Warriors. He picked up a bunch of characters that nobody cared about in solo adventures and decided to throw them all into a book together – Nova, Namorita, Firestar, Marvel Boy and Speedball. A bunch of B-listers if ever there was one. (Actually, calling Speedball “B-list” at that period was probably being generous.)

But somehow, he mixed in a magic touch that made those characters that nobody liked… likable. And interesting. And one of the best superhero books on the market. Unfortunately, no other writer managed to bring that same magic to the book. It was cancelled 25 issues after his departure, and a relaunch a few years later only lasted 10 issues. A new miniseries is scheduled for this summer, but time will tell if Zeb Wells has what it takes to make us care about these guys again. [2011 Note: He didn’t.]

A lot of writers see these second-string characters as a challenge, as real fodder for bizarre or unusual tales that they simply wouldn’t be allowed to tell with Superman or Captain America. Look at what happened when Grant Morrison took over Animal Man. A lame character with a lame power (he could duplicate the abilities of any animal in the vicinity) and managed to tell some of the most intelligent, thought-provoking comics ever published at the time. He found new, intelligent uses for the power, and beyond that, made the comic a bizarre, metafictional hit. Writing this comic pushed Morrison on his way to becoming one of the most respected writers in comics.

Now he’s doing it again with his Seven Soldiers series. He’s taken a B-list team and reimagined it with seven B-list superheroes: Shining Knight, Guardian, Zatanna, Klarion, Frankenstein, Mr. Miracle and Bulleteer (actually, I’d consider Zatanna A-list, but clearly Morrison doesn’t) and he’s again having some fun experimenting with seven independent stories that will theoretically weave together to create a larger whole. And people, for the most part, seem to be enjoying them.

Keith Giffen also had a lot of fun with the b-list, rounding up forgotten or cast-off characters like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red and third-string Green Lantern Guy Gardner and making them the Justice League. He made clever, hysterical comics, too, so much that even now, over a decade later, people are lining up for new material from this creative team (including J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire) with these characters.

And come on, folks – you’ve all read Countdown to Infinite Crisis by now, right? Were it not for the respect and notoriety Giffen gave the characters all that time ago, the events of this book would have been meaningless. Instead, although the title somewhat dampens a great deal of what he created back then, it makes for a powerful, heartbreaking story about a true hero – the Blue Beetle, trying to put things right when the “A-team” has completely abandoned him. There’s a moment in that book where Maxwell Lord tells the Beetle “You were never second-string.” And the events of that issue, to many readers, proved that Max was right.

And how about characters that are created, not just as second-stringers, but as nigh knock-offs of the A-list characters? Let’s look at Mr. Majestic. An alien comes to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Gee. Where have I heard this before? I was never interested in him, because I didn’t see the point in reading about a faux Superman when I could read about the real thing.

Then last year, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took that ”fake” Superman and temporarily made him the real one, when Big Blue went missing in the timestream. All of a sudden… this guy was interesting. DnA (as they are sometimes collectively called) didn’t focus on what made Majestic similar to Superman, they focused on the differences, and how those differences made it difficult for him to truly replace the man of steel. He was an alien, yes, with similar powers, but he was raised on his homeworld and came to Earth as an adult, with different ideas and values than the Kansas-raised Superman. It wasn’t then that I saw the potential – Majestic isn’t a fake Superman, he’s what Superman could have been under other circumstances. Filtered through that perception, he’s a much more intriguing character. I followed that character, then, into his own miniseries and now into his ongoing, which I am enjoying quite a bit.

The same goes for Dan Slott’s new reimagining of the Great Lakes Avengers. I’m not sure what John Byrne was thinking when he created this team in the pages of West Coast Avengers, but they were never exactly played for the jokes that they really were. They wanted to take themselves seriously. It was the readers who couldn’t. Goofy characters like Mr. Immortal, Big Bertha and Flatman just didn’t have a place alongside Captain America and the She-Hulk. So what does Slott do in the new GLA miniseries? He plays it for laughs. Dark laughs, to be sure, but laughs nonetheless, and he tells the best story these characters have ever had. And in case the original team wasn’t lame enough, he’s decided to add even more loser superheroes, like Squirrel Girl, to the team.

Even a company like Archie Comics recognizes their second-string. They’ve just launched the new Tales From Riverdale Digest, which gives a spotlight to characters other than those who headline their own books – Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica. In this digest, their writers can have a little fun playing with Dilton or Moose or even Ms. Beazley, the Riverdale High Cafeteria Lady, should they be so inclined. (Look, you can’t rule it out. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I began writing this column, it’s that every character is somebody’s favorite).

I think it’s good – even important – to have a “second string” of characters in any attempt to create a shared universe. First of all – it only makes logical sense. If you’re going to have people like Superman leaping tall buildings in your hometown, it’s natural to imagine that there will be lesser characters hoping to snag some of that glory for themselves. As goofy as many of the B-list characters are, their very existence tends to add a small degree of realism to comics. Second, it helps flesh out a universe and make it more full. There are tiers of superheroes, just as there are tiers of actors, or politics, or authors or musicians. And everyone, no doubt, has their own opinions as to who belongs on each tier.

And third, this is where future characters are going to come from. It’s virtually impossible, at this point, for a new character to burst onto the scene and become the new Superman or Batman. Any character who isn’t currently A-list, almost by definition, will be B-list when he’s introduced. But that B-list isn’t really that bad a place to be. You can pick up fans slowly, experiment, gain in popularity. And if the character and writer are good enough, that B-lister can eventually graduate to the A-team.

Just ask Ted Kord.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 6, 2005

As nervous as I was about the whole premise behind Green Lantern: Rebirth, Geoff Johns has totally turned me around. Issue #5, out last week after something of a hiatus, was a total home-run, not just for the great writing and fantastic art (of which both fully met my expectations), but because in this issue, Johns did something that needed to be done. And I’m going to spoil the issue a bit here, so if you haven’t read it, jump to the italicized bit at the end of the column.

My biggest concern about this comic was that DC, in catering to the Hal Jordan fans, would dismiss all the fans of Kyle Rayner. This issue proved to me that this isn’t the case. As a resurrected Hal faces off against Sinestro, ol’ purple-puss makes a crack about how he’s going to kill the remaining Green Lanterns, leaving Kyle for last.

Hal’s response is what sealed the deal. “Kyle held the torch when no one else would. When no one else could,” he said. “You will respect him.”

Somehow, that’s all I needed to hear. That the people writing the comic know and understand that’s how the Kyle fans feel about the whole thing. That was the last niggling bit that was bothering me about this whole project, and now that it’s been dealt with, I’m ready to sit back and enjoy the finish.

Man – and what a last page, huh?

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.

21
Sep
11

Classic EBI #109: Going Once… Going Twice…

We comic book fans have a bad habit of creating problems where none exist. What if continuity scares off new readers? What if kids won’t read superheroes? Um… what if we just let them give it a try?

Everything But Imaginary #416: Creating Our Own Problems

Going back to 2005, though, I talk about something that I actually haven’t done in quite some time… using eBay to boost my comic collection. Ah, the good old days…

Everything But Imaginary #109: Going Once… Going Twice…

As a beloved and well-respected member of the comic book press, people are constantly asking me questions. “How do you spell that?” is one. “Hey Blake, you’ve got me blocked in, can you move your car?” is another. But one question I’ve heard with much greater frequency lately is this: “Where can I get comics online?”

Now I don’t mean web comics, I mean purchasing actual comic books printed on paper through that funky little box you’re staring into right now. I think most comic fans would agree that there’s a great feeling to going down to your local comic shop, browsing the racks, arguing with other fans about who’d win in a fight between Wolverine and Batman and being utterly astonished when a female walks into the joint. That’s good times.

But the fact is, friends, sometimes your local shop won’t be enough. You can only look through the same back issue bins so many times before it dawns on you that your local shop is never going to get that copy of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 that you so desperately crave. If you’ve got other shops in the area, you can check them out, but again, you can only look there so often. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn to an alternative supplier. Sooner or later, you’ve got to go to the internet.

Now for recent back-issues, it should be relatively simple to find what you’re looking for with an online retailer like our own X-World Comics. And in fact, anytime somebody is seeking an issue less than a year or so old, that’s the first place I’m going to send them. But what if you’re looking for something older? Something from the 70s or 80s? What if you’re not looking for anything in particular, but just want to browse?

Not to sound like a commercial, but eBay has really been a boon to comic readers.

Note I say comic readers. For comic collectors, it still has its positive points, but not as many. A really collectible comic will show up there and immediately vault in price as the bidding war ensues. If it’s a comic worth having for an investment purpose, you’ve got to be quick and crafty to get your hands on it, and it will still cost you an arm, a leg, and your first born child (which I understand will soon be a “Buy it Now” option).

If you’re a reader, though, than you can really do well at a site like this. Just log in and do a search for “comics.” I just did that very thing and I found 37,920 entries. And no, that’s not a typo, that’s not a misplaced decimal point. Thirty-seven thousand.

With that many, of course, it’s tough to find something specific. And if you’re looking for something specific (say Amazing Spider-Man #400), then be more specific in your search. Type Spider-Man or Amazing Spider-Man. You could even go so far as to type the issue number, but remember that each keystroke will limit the number of potential matches and may cause you to miss exactly what you’re looking for. The majority of comics sold on eBay are sold in lots of two or more: “Lot of 10 Spider-Man Comics” or “Assorted Marvel Comics: 1990-1995” are not uncommon as a listing, and either of those could have what you’re looking for. So if you don’t find what you want in your first search, think of some different terms that might result in a hit and try again.

But again, this is when you’re looking for something specific, which I rarely do these days. Online shopping has become a godsend for me in a very different way. I’ve entered a sort of phase where I’m looking for older comics – stuff I’ve never heard of, stuff I’ve heard of but never read, or stuff I read as a child that somehow I lost along the way. So I’ll browse the stuff that has a lot of different kinds of comics that I can get for a cheap price.

As a result, I’ve picked up on some really great stuff lately: kids comics I’d forgotten about like Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost and a lot of old Archie comics. Comics based on cartoons like The Flintstones, The Great Grape Ape, New Terrytoons and Popeye the Sailor Man. And out-there, obscure stuff like Charlton’s old Judomaster comic or Ace Comics’ revival of What is… The Face? by Steve Ditko and 70s attempts to resurrect horror comics like Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery revival.

Then there are the comics I’ve never heard of, like Dark Horse’s Atlas, and oddities like a Harlem Globetrotters comic from Gold Key. I’ve even found two issues of Charlton’s Abbott and Costello comic book, which is apparently based on the little-known cartoon series from the 1960s (which featured Bud Abbott doing his own voice, but replaced Lou Costello, who died in 1959).

Now I’ve got to stress here – these are reader’s copies of the comics. Most of them are in decent condition, but none are in mint. Some are pretty bad, with ragged edges, tears, holes… it’s not unusual for a lot of 15 comics to include three with no covers at all. (These don’t go into my collection, but I do read them.) A lot of the time you’re bidding on comics that somebody found in an attic or the bottom of a box of books their kids have outgrown or stuff from their own childhood they found when cleaning out their parent’s house. These are comics with writing on them, coupons clipped, covers dangling by a staple. These are comics that have lived.

But they’re cheap. And they’re readable. And if you’re just looking to find something interesting, then that’s as winning a combination as you can get.

It’s also obvious that sometimes the person doing the listing either doesn’t know much about comics or just isn’t paying attention. For instance, one package I saw when I did that search for this column labeled as a set of 9 Marvel comic books included such notable Marvel titles as Action Comics, Magnus: Robot Fighter and Armorines (that’s a DC and two Valiant titles, if you aren’t familiar). This is the reason I always read a listing carefully before I place a bid. I never bid on any lot that doesn’t at least list some of the titles (stuff that just says “50 assorted comics” isn’t going to get my money) and doesn’t have a photograph. But sometimes just one comic in a lot will be enough to interest me. I was looking at a lot with some seemingly ordinary Sad Sack and Thor comics and may have passed it up, until my eye caught one of the aforementioned Abbott and Costello comics in the photographs. That one comic was enough to get me to place the bid, and as a result I got that lot for less than nine bucks and it turned out to have some cool oddities as well, like several issues of Gold Key’s old The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor series.

And sometimes you’ll luck out and get something that’s worth something – I once dropped a ten-spot on a lot of old Dell Disney comics (mainly because I wanted the copy of Uncle Scrooge #16 that was in there), and wound up getting an issue of The Hardy Boys in very good condition that lists for $150. Not a bad return on my investment, even if I don’t intend to sell it.

Now these rules all apply when you’re buying comics. Selling them on eBay is a different matter entirely. I’ve done that too, and frankly, unless you’ve got something phenomenally in-demand that’ll spark a bidding war, you’re not going to make a lot of money. I’ve often sold lots where I barely recouped the cover price and almost wound up going into the hole once I shipped. (This is because I charge the actual shipping price and not the sky-high fees some sellers do.)

But if you’re looking to expand your collection and you’re not too particular about how you do it, if you’re just looking for something fun, if you’re just looking for something different… this kind of stuff can be a lot of fun. Heck, now that I’ve told you all this, I’ll probably have to fight half of you guys in bidding wars. But hey – where’s the fun with no competition?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 29, 2005
Let’s get a show of hands here, friends, who thought for sure I was going to go with DC Countdown? Anybody? Yeah, me too.

Until I read Fantastic Four #524. For the final story in their run, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo tell a tale of an FF without their powers, trying to reclaim them as they bounce around New York City from person to person like cosmic superballs. And along the way, they manage to shed some real light on the members of the team, show what makes them tick, show what makes them heroes. It’s a perfect bookend, in fact, for the nine-cent issue that began their run nearly three years ago. This issue caps it for me, this is the best team ever to handle The Thing, and the best team to touch the Fantastic Four since John Byrne’s run in the 1980s. J. Michael Straczynski takes over in a couple of months (after a fill-in run by Karl Kesel), and I’m a big Straczynski fan… but man… does he have some enormous shoes to fill.

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 the2 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.

 




Blake’s Twitter Feed

June 2022
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Blog Stats

  • 316,989 hits

Blake's Flickr Photos

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