Posts Tagged ‘Doctor Strange

10
May
12

Everything But Imaginary #447: Avengers Assembling a New Cinematic Landscape?

It’s a day late thanks to the great CX Server Malfunction of (Early May) 2012, but it’s time for this week’s Everything But Imaginary. With The Avengers outpacing everyone’s wildest expectations, it’s time to take a step back and think about what the film may mean for the future… the future of the Avengers franchise, of Marvel Studios, of superhero movies, and of Summer blockbusters in general.

Fair warning: although this is not a review of the film, there are spoiler herein. Read at your own risk.

Everything But Imaginary #447: Avengers Assembling a New Cinematic Landscape?

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.

18
May
11

Classic EBI #92: What’s So New About It?

In this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary, I talk about the terrifying news that Seth MacFarlane has been hired to reboot The Flintstones, an in the process pick apart why some reboots work and others don’t.

Everything But Imaginary #399: Runaway Reboots

But moving back to December 8, 2004, I had a particularly pertinent discussion. As rumors swirl about massive renumbering over at DC comics, I back then I was already discussing renumbering and misleading prefixes in…

Everything But Imaginary #92: What’s So New About It?

In the land of comic books, there is one thing you can be certain of — publishers will never tire of starting a comic book over with a new issue #1 in the desperate attempt to boost sales. We’ve seen it with Captain America and Iron Man, we’ve seen it with Catwoman and, soon, She-Hulk… we’ve even seen it with stalwarts like Wolverine. Legion of Super-Heroes is about to start volume five of that title. And if you don’t mind, I’d rather not even discuss the Punisher.

This drives the people who care about such things (geeks like me) absolutely crazy, if for no other reason than that we’ve got to constantly remember which volume of a series we’re referring to while having a debate. (“It happened in Fantastic Four #12!” “Which Fantastic Four #12?” “Er…”)

If a company feels the need to relaunch a title with a new #1, I prefer them to at least make a slight alteration to the title. Give it a subtitle, for instance — instead of Doctor Strange Vol. 3, the series was Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme. That was cool. Or make a massive alteration that still keeps the feel of the book, such as when Justice League of America gave way to simply JLA.

There’s one other trick, of course, that publishers can pull out to make it seem like they’re launching another title instead of repackaging an old one, a trick that’s been used frequently of late: stick a “new” at the beginning of it. This isn’t a recent trick, it’s been happening at least as far back as the 80s, when Marv Wolfman and George Perez resurrected Teen Titans as The New Teen Titans. Marvel Comics turned Defenders into New Defenders towards the end run of that title, and even Jim Valentino turned his ShadowHawk property over to Kurt Busiek as New ShadowHawk for seven issues.

Why “new”? Well, what word has better connotations to drag in readers? “New” means it’s bold and exciting and innovative! (And even if the comic isn’t really any of those things, that “new” stamp gives it the feel that it is.) But something can only remain “new” for so long. Even if the book was still good, after a while the “New” Teen Titans weren’t all that new anymore. Eventually DC realized that and changed the title of the book again…

…to New Titans.

Okay, so maybe they kind of missed the point there. But eventually New Titans gave way to Teen Titans Vol. 2, which gave way to The Titans, which gave way to Teen Titans Vol. 3, which if nothing else proves that whoever is in charge of titles at DC Comics has learned absolutely nothing.

These days, though, it’s Marvel that’s really letting the “new” banner fly high. It started when Grant Morrison took over the adjectiveless X-Men comic book and asked that “New” be added to the title. This was done for two reasons:

1. Morrison was trying a totally new take on the superhero genre (well, kinda, except that what he actually did was wallow in the existing superhero genre even as he deconstructed it).

2. It made for a really cool logo that could be read the same upside-down as rightside-up.

When Morrison left the title changed back to just plain X-Men, but Marvel apparently liked the New X-Men moniker and applied it to another title they already had — New Mutants. Volume two.

(Brief aside here, New Mutants, New Warriors and a few other such books don’t quite fall into the category I’m talking about here because they weren’t originally repackaged versions of old titles — although each would be cancelled and spawn a second volume — but rather actual original concepts that were given the “new” label right off the bat to make them appear bold and exciting and innovative, even if they weren’t.)

So New Mutants Vol. 2 became New X-Men: Academy X. Well points to Marvel for at least giving it a subtitle. Interestingly, I think the “new” label fits this book much better than it ever did Morrison’s. While I loved that run, don’t misunderstand me, this book simply feels “new”er. Nunzio DeFilips and Christina Weir have done a great job crafting original characters who aren’t really superheroes, but students that are acutely aware that some day they may be called upon to become the next generation of X-Men whether they want to or not. It makes for one of my favorite reads every month.

This may even be one of those rare titles to not outgrow the “new” label, assuming it lasts that long. The book is about Xavier’s school, after all. It’s not that big a leap to imagine these students graduating a few at a time and a new class coming in to take their place, thereby keeping the book perpetually fresh.

And finally we come to the two big “new” titles to hit the stands in recent weeks — New Thunderbolts and New Avengers. The original Thunderbolts series, for those who don’t recall, was about a group of villains who first masqueraded as heroes in a scheme for domination, then had a change of heart and became heroes in fact. In this incarnation, a few remaining original members of the team begin it again with the hopes of recruiting other villains and giving them the same chance they had at redemption. Is it “new” though?

Well… yes and no.

About half of the characters are new to the title, and the returning characters (Mach-IV, Songbird and Atlas) are cast in decidedly different roles than when they were first on the team. The format of the book, however, seems the same as the original — lots of conspiracies, lots of questions about people’s loyalty and even a big shocker twist ending at the conclusion of the first issue. Not that any of these are a problem, mind you, but they do tone down the “new” aspect.

What about New Avengers? Well, the old Avengers disbanded after several of them died and one of them got crazy and a few of them quit, so when there was a major jailbreak at Ryker’s Island, somebody had to come in and fix things. Who’s that gonna be?

Good question.

We’re still not 100 percent sure who the final “New” Avengers lineup will be, but the safe money seems to include Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man (all of whom have been Avengers in the past), Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Daredevil (who have at least associated with the Avengers), Wolverine (who already stars in four Marvel Universe titles a month and has absolutely no business being in this book but decided to jump on board since he was barred from being on the permanent roster of New X-Men: Academy X on the grounds that he wasn’t technically a student), and Sentry (who was once a bigwig in the Marvel Universe although nobody remembers him anymore).

So “new” is kind of stretching it here.

Not to say it’s bad, mind you. For the most part I enjoyed the premiere issue and I’m anxious to see how it goes. I’m just not sure how Marvel will still be able to justify having a “new” on the title by issue #25 or so, unless they plan to argue that the original Avengers lasted for 503 issues, so this team will still be newer at least until they hit 504.

Basically what this all boils down to is sort of a note to the comic book publishers — look for new adjectives. No pun intended. Now I’ve got to get back to work on my next book — it was going to be called 14 Days of Asphalt, but now I find myself leaning towards New Other People’s Heroes.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 1, 2004

This week was easier than expected for me to choose. New Avengers was good, Monolith is always a treat and G.I. Joe continues to impress, but nothing scored as high on the ol’ fave-o-meter as Y: The Last Man #29. Yorick, the last man on Earth, is dying. Agent 355 is looking for the ring he lost on the crazy premise that it somehow may have kept him alive. Dr. Mann puts all the pieces together. Brian K. Vaughan writes a lot of comic books every month, but none of the others I’ve read even approach how good this one is.

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.




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