Posts Tagged ‘Identity Crisis


Classic EBI #99: The Makings of a Universe

For years now, I’ve maintained a steadfast and unbroken tradition of not being at San Diego Comic-Con. This is not for lack of desire. So today, I take a look at the stuff happening in San Diego this year I wish I could be a part of…

Everything But Imaginary #407: What I’ll Miss in San Diego

But moving back in time, it’s January 25, 2005 and I’m taking a look at just how tight the continuity of the DC Universe has become in the last year or two. I’ll leave you guys to decide in this counts as irony or not.

Everything But Imaginary #99: The Makings of a Universe

I believe in credit where credit is due, so you’ve really got to give Stan Lee props for really creating our current concept of a superhero “universe.” Oh, superheroes had met before. All of the top National (later DC) Comics heroes had come together as the Justice Society of America in the 40s. Superman and Batman frequently appeared together in World’s Finest Comics. Even Atlas (later Marvel) had their collections of World War II-era characters like the Invaders and the All-Winner’s Squad.

But it was Stan the Man, writing approximately umpteen billion Marvel comics every month (this record would be held until Brian Michael Bendis broke into the business) that really started to forge a world with his creations. The adventures of the JSA didn’t impact the characters in their own titles, nor did the various team-ups that had happened. What Stan did, and did so well, was begin to mix events from various comics. If the Thing lost his powers in Fantastic Four, then he’d be powerless if the team happened to appear in Avengers that month. If Spider-Man was on the run from the law (in other words, if it was a day of the week ending in “y”), Foggy Nelson may have mentioned it in Daredevil. This was nowhere more evident than when Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — villainous foes of Iron Man and the X-Men, reformed and joined the Avengers.

These days, though, Marvel has sort of lost its cohesion as a universe. Each of Spider-Man’s three titles seem to exist in their own pocket world and barely connect. Nearly two years have passed in Daredevil during Bendis’s run, while other Marvel titles have only progressed a few months. Why, Magneto took over the entire city of New York at the end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and not a single other title even made reference to it. Except for comments in various titles about the events of Avengers Disassembled and the gloriously continuity-heavy She-Hulk title, it’s hard to feel like there’s a Marvel “universe” anymore.

But man, DC is trying to make up for it.

As Marvel’s titles have grown looser and looser, DC’s are getting tighter. And I’m going to warn you right now, this column is about to get spoiler-heavy for half of the books in the DC line, so if you see a title bolded you don’t want to know about, you may wanna skip ahead.

It’s easy to point to Identity Crisis as the genesis of this transformation. Like the ending or hate it, it was a huge storyline that has had an astronomical impact on the DC Universe. Just a month after the story’s conclusion, we’ve already seen fallout everywhere: the death of Robin’s father has impacted his own series, which in turn has impacted the other Batman-family books. It’s also being dealt with in Teen Titans, and dealt with extremely well. The Titans are also dealing with Lex Luthor’s battle armor, lost during that miniseries.

The apparent death of Ronnie Raymond is the very catalyst for the new Firestorm series. As if that weren’t enough, it’s sparked a storyline in Manhunter, as DC’s newest vigilante is trying to hunt the murderous Shadow Thief.

In Flash, Wally West has to cope with the fact that his uncle, the paragon of virtue Barry Allen, was one of a subset of the Justice League that agreed to tamper with the minds of their enemies — and what’s worse, has to deal with restoring an enemy who, in turn, is threatening to turn many of his reformed colleagues like Trickster, Heat Wave and the Pied Piper back to their old dark ways. In Adventures of Superman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are struggling with the same revelation.

And that’s just the stuff directly from Identity Crisis.What other links are appearing among the many titles of the DC Universe lately?

• After the events of “War Games,” the Birds of Prey have recruited a new member and left Gotham City, impacting every Batman title, particularly Nightwing — because he’s still in love with Oracle. Plus, the cops of Gotham Central are even more hostile towards the caped crusader than ever.

• Speaking of Nightwing, Starfire has quit the Teen Titans to join his team, the Outsiders, to try to help him cope with all the trauma in his life as of late.

• Speaking of the Titans, they’ve linked up with two other titles. Green Arrow’s sidekick, the new Speedy, has joined the team. A few months ago, the young heroes got caught up in a time-travel adventure that wound up restarting the entire universe for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and writer Mark Waid has promised that he and Barry Kitson are doing the new Legion as the official future of the DCU — it’s up to the other writers to get them there.

• In Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman title, we met the all-new (yet all-classic) Supergirl, who’s about to get her own title. There’s also a rumor that she may check in with the Teen Titans herself. Plus, Loeb is currently milking DC properties as diverse as Kamandi, Cinnamon, Jonah Hex and the Freedom Fighters for the current arc in that title. He’s brought back characters that haven’t been seen in years.

• In Wonder Woman’s title, she’s gone blind after a battle with Medusa. When she guest-appeared in Adventures of Superman, not only was she still blind, but she was wearing the same blindfold. Not too hard a trick, of course, since the two books share a writer, but it’ll be more impressive in a couple of months during a promised crossover with Flash.

• Speaking of crossovers and books with the same writer, Bloodhound wound up merged with Firestorm (both books by Dan Jolley) and the Monolith lent a hand against Solomon Grundy to Hawkman and Hawkgirl (two books by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray).

“Okay, Blake,” you’re saying, “We get your point. There are a lot of crossovers. So what?” My, you can be rude sometimes, did you know that?

Here’s the point of all this.

A few months ago a group of five writers, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb, conducted an interview where they promsied that they were building the future of the DC Universe. And if you look at the books I’ve mentioned, you see their names all over the place, along with other talented writers like Devin Grayson, Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko, Bill Willingham and others I will feel bad later for leaving out.

Clearly, this is going to be a monumental task, even looking ahead to promised events such as DC Countdown and the enigmatic Crisis 2.

Those stories are going to be the framework of the DC Universe of the future.

What we’re seeing now, across the entire line, is the foundation. We’re seeing the hints, the clues, the groundwork. And knowing that this is what we’re seeing, we get to have all the fun of watching as everything is put together.

Some people, I understand, don’t like continuity that tight. I know that. But for those of us who do, watching as it is created before our eyes is something really really incredible. Something amazing.

Something I once may have even called Marvelous.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 19, 2005

While we’re on the subject of those truly remarkable books, I have to give credit again to Geoff Johns for turning out the best comic book of the week, Teen Titans #20. Since the murder of his father and the death of his girlfriend in agonizingly short succession, Robin has tried to repress his emotions in an effort to prevent from becoming more like Batman (which was nice and ironic, since repressing his emotions only made him more like Batman). This issue dances around some action, but at its core is a heartfelt examination of a son’s grief and his desperate attempt to continue forging his own future, and not let it be determined for him.

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 and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.




Classic EBI #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

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

Everything But Imaginary #405: The New DCU Take Two

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

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

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

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

1. Best Superhero Title

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

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

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

2. Best Science Fiction Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Negation.

3. Best Fantasy Title

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

Honorable Mention: Bone, The Witches.

4. Best Horror Title

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

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

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

5. Best “Down to Earth” Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: 100 Bullets, The Losers.

6. Best Humor Title

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

Honorable Mention: Simpsons Comics, Lionxor, Plastic Man.

8. Best Mature Reader’s Title

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

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

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

7. Best All-Ages Title

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

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

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

9. Best Adapted Comic

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

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

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

10. Best Comic Adaptation

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

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

11. Best Miniseries or Special

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

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

12. Best New Title

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

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

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

13. Best Comic You’re Not Reading

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

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

Honorable Mention: Street Angel, District X, Invincible.

14. The New Beginning Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron Man.

15. The Happy Trails Award

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 5, 2005

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

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



Classic EBI #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

And once again, friends, it’s Wednesday. Time for an all-new Everything But Imaginary column! This week, I look at the impact of long-term storytelling, how it can work well, and what sins a writer may commit that loses his audience prematurely.

Everything But Imaginary #396: Gratification in an Instant

But getting into the Wayback machine, we’re looking at my column from November 17, 2004, a column about a topic that’s only really become significant in the last month or so… the story of how the Walt Disney company bought the defunct CrossGen Comics. It didn’t have much of an impact then, but now that Disney also owns Marvel, we’re finally seeing motion on the old CrossGen properties. Let’s see what I said about this way back then, shall we?

Everything But Imaginary #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

Well gang, as you all know unless you have been living under a rock, in a cave, or simply don’t pay attention to such things, the news that the Walt Disney Corporation and Shadow Government has acquired the properties of the former CrossGen Comics has finally caught a little fire. More so than that, Disney’s DPW productions, the arm of the company that is apparently in charge of such things, has announced that the first project under this banner will be the resurrection of CrossGen’s brilliant fantasy comic Abadazad. [2011 note: This resurrection was, sadly, short-lived.]

Now this is both good news and bad news. I’ll do the good first. Disney is one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world. Their characters are internationally famous. Even when one of their movies flops, just about everyone hears about it. (C’mon, you know you all saw the ads for Home on the Range, even though only about three of you saw it.)

Having that kind of backing behind a comic book company could be a great thing if it was utilized properly. I’d love to see the long-promised Meridian movie or see The Crossovers as a weekly TV show. Could you imagine Sojourn put on the big screen with the same production values as The Lord of the Rings or Route 666 given the same respect as The Sixth Sense? Heck, I’d even dig going to the theme park to take a plunge on “Po Po the Monkey’s Wild Ride.”

Unfortunately, just because a major media company owns a comic book company doesn’t mean it’ll get that kind of push. You know who owns DC Comics, right? Time/Warner. Now this has resulted in a few good projects — Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, and even cool stuff like Batman: The Escape and other Six Flags attractions (Six Flags being the theme park chain Time/Warner owns).

Heck, do you think if it weren’t for this sort of corporate synergy we ever would have gotten the decades-in-coming Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover?

But these things, unfortunately, are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Time/Warner as a whole treats DC Comics like a redheaded stepchild. Despite having the most recognizable comic book characters on the planet, they shunt the company aside and try to milk the characters for all they’re worth instead of treating them with respect. As a result we get crappy movies like Catwoman, Steel and certain bat-films so atrocious I dare not even speak their names. (And I can’t speak for any other park, but the Batman stunt show at Six Flags New Orleans is flat-out terrible.)

That’s the whole problem with DC movies over the past decade and a half — there’s no competition with any other studio, so there’s no incentive to make a fantastic movie or lose the license. If Spider-Man had tanked, Marvel Comics could have blamed Columbia Pictures, not renewed the license and taken it to another studio to try again. But Catwoman stays at Warner Brothers no matter how bad the movie is. The closest thing we’ve got to an escape on the horizon is the news that a potential Shazam! movie may be made by New Line Cinema instead of Warner Brothers… but New Line is still a subsidiary of — anyone wanna guess? You in the back wearing the Def Leppard t-shirt and the polka-dotted bow-tie? Thaaaaat’s right. Time/Warner.

Folks at DC have often admitted, candidly, that if Warner Brothers could trash the entire comic book operation but still keep the characters viable, they would.

Now one has to assume that Disney wouldn’t do such a thing to CrossGen, at least not any time soon, or they wouldn’t have bought the assets in the first place, but the fact is, we’ve still got to keep a clear head about this. It’s possible.

Then there’s the other question. Disney has its hands in almost every form of entertainment — movies, TV, theme parks, book, music… but can they run a comic book company? Well, the answer last time… is no.

I hear you folks yelling now. “But Blake! I see Disney comics all the time! You yourself talk about Carl Barks and Uncle Scrooge more often than normal guys talk about bikini models and football! How can you say Disney can’t run a comic book company?”

Well, because Disney doesn’t publish any of those comics.

Back in the 40s and 50s, there was a little comic book company called Dell. You may have heard of it. Dell published an awful lot of comics, and a vast number of them were licensed comics. Back then, nearly every TV show, movie and newspaper strip had a comic to go with it. Dell published Looney Tunes, Peanuts, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy and — oh yeah — Disney Comics. But Dell eventually faded away and the Disney license, along with many others, wound up at Western Publishing, which produced the comics first under the Gold Key imprint and later under the Whitman imprint. Then Gold Key went away as well and the Disney license was lost for a while until Gladstone Comics was formed in the 80s. (Gladstone was even named after Donald Duck’s lucky cousin.) Gladstone was immensely successful with rejuvenating the Disney line. So successful, in fact, that in the early 90s, Disney decided to take a crack at doing the comics themselves.

They revoked the license from Gladstone and started publishing their own comics, continuing classics like Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, and adding in titles for the hot properties of the time like Roger Rabbit, Darkwing Duck and Tailspin.

But Disney, which was so successful at everything else, didn’t seem to have the passion for comics to keep the company going. Disney’s first issue of Uncle Scrooge was #243. Their last was #280, then they gave up the ship and Gladstone took over the license again. Gladstone had a good run of a few more years, but then they closed up shop too in 1999. Then, horror of horrors, there were no Disney comics available in the U.S. until just last year, when Gemstone Comics took up the license and brought them back.

So what will be different about Disney trying to publish comics this time?

Well, for starters, the press release said the new Abadazad comics will be under their Hyperion imprint, which typically publishes prose books (including children’s fantasy like Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s recent book Peter and the Starcatchers, an excellent prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan). They also said that four Abadazad books are initially planned. This would seem to indicate that they aren’t going to get into the business of trying to publish monthly comics again, but instead will most likely print books. Whether they’ll be hardcover or paperback, standard size or digest, I don’t know, but printing and marketing books is what Hyperion is good at, so that means there’s a fighting chance. The most important thing, I think, is to make sure they keep writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Ploog, who created the title and own a portion of the copyright. This book is their baby, and they did a marvelous job on the three issues that actually saw print before CrossGen closed up shop.

And the rest of the CrossGen properties?

Well… time will tell. But when Abadazad comes out, give it a read, okay? Especially if you’ve got kids. It’s the best fantasy comic you could ever give to them.

And if anyone at Disney is reading this… please… could you maybe publish the end of Negation War?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 10, 2004

This week’s favorite was actually a tighter race than you might think, folks. Ultimately, Identity Crisis #6 did win out, because the conclusion of that book still has me reeling, and any comic that still so occupies my thoughts a week later is deserving of special recognition.

But since IC gets the glory all the time anyway, I’m also going to give a shout out to Avengers Finale. While I thought the conclusion of the Avengers Disassembled storyline kind of petered out and disappointed with the revelation of the big villain of the piece, this finale was spot-on perfect. It was an excellent examination of the team, the characters, the history and the legacy of Marvel’s major supergroup. Plus it had the Beast in it a lot, and I always liked him as an Avenger. Hey, Bendis, any chance we could maybe sneak him into New Avengers instead of Wolverine?

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 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.


Classic EBI #83: Spoiler Space

The world is full of comic book nerds, especially in Hollywood… but why don’t we see a lot of original superhero characters outside of comics? Can superheroes only thrive in one medium?

Everything But Imaginary #392: Medium Defiance

And in this week’s classic EBI, let’s look back at Oct. 6, 2004, when I thought about all the spoilers that were invading the internet… and I… struck… back…

Classic EBI #83: Spoiler Space

Now that we’ve all had a chance to read Detective Comics #799, wow, what a shocker, huh? I never suspected that Robin’s father, Jack Drake, would be killed by the Joker and a hermaphroditic gerbil on PCP. Talk about a shocker!

What? Oh, you mean you guys haven’t read it yet? You mean it won’t even be available to purchase for several more hours? Oh, gosh, I feel terrible now. Wow, it’s a good thing that everything I said there was complete and total rubbish, isn’t it? But now that I’ve got your attention, this would be a good time to talk about spoilers.

A “spoiler,” of course, is any piece of information regarding the plot of a story that you didn’t know yet, in essence, “spoiling” it for you. The term “spoiler” was coined because “ruiner” sounds funky. And before we go on much further, in case you didn’t get it, I was lying in the first paragraph. Being the kind, benevolent, dashing, callipygian, modest columnist-type-person that I am, I would never actually tell you what happened in Detective Comics #799 because that would spoil it for you. Also because some of you may know where I live.

For as long as there has been fiction, there have been spoilers. If you go back to the 1500s you can find scrolls written by people talking about that startling new play wherein, at the end, SPOILERS AHEAD! Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves. But since the invention of the Internet, spoilers have become a much bigger problem because now people have the ability to opine from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world as fast as the information can be processed in their brains. Or, more frequently, their mouths, since often people on the Internet have found ways to bypass their brains altogether.

This problem, of course, is not exclusive to comic books. Websites like Ain’t It Cool News make their name by giving out juicy spoilers for movies far in advance (and conveniently forgetting about it when the spoiler turns out not to be true), but at least they have the courtesy to stamp a big warning label before the spoiler appears. This, unfortunately, will not stop idiots from e-mailing it to you or blabbing it in a chatroom, but in this day and age, that’s the price you pay for daring to get out of bed in the morning.

You can also spoil books – I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and frequently visit a message board devoted to such. When the advance review copies of the last book in that well-loved series began to circulate a month or so ago, there was a massive storm on that board between the people who were hurling spoilers around right and left and the people who didn’t want to know. One jerk actually went so far as to post the entire plot of the book in the middle of a thread where people were congratulating the administrator for pulling the plug on spoilers. Another popped into a chatroom and spouted out the ending to people who hadn’t read it yet. And this is for the end of a series that some people have been reading for 22 years. There is a word for people who do that sort of thing. However, I will not tell you what that word is since the filter would most likely block it out anyway. (HINT: it ends in “weed”.)

Now some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people are perfectly happy knowing that SPOILERS AHEAD! “Rosebud” was the name of his sled before the movie even starts. And if that’s your thing, hey, that’s fine. But there are an awful lot of us out there, myself included, who prefer not to know the ending. You’re the kids who always snuck into your parents’ closet looking for Christmas presents, whereas we’re the kids who just looked at the 18-inch box under the tree and hoped against hope that a puppy could fit in there somehow. If you want to discuss spoilers, you’ve got every right to, but you should also have the respect and courtesy to keep them amongst yourselves and not go blabbing that you find out in Amazing Spider-Man #512 that SPOILERS AHEAD! Norman Osborne is the father of Gwen Stacy’s children to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.

Just last week a thread appeared here which started with the phrase “Well, now that we’ve all read Superman/Batman #12…” and proceeded to give away the entire plot. The trouble with this thread was, not all of us had read Superman/Batman #12 yet. This appeared on Friday. The book came out Wednesday. Not everyone gets their comic books the day of release – or even the same week – and you can’t just assume that they have. If I hadn’t finished reading the book about five minutes before, I may have had to go to the guy’s house and hit him with a frozen halibut.

Even worse was an incident a few weeks ago in the forum of our own Chris Sotomayor. Soto, one of the best colorists in the biz (and I say that out of genuine admiration, not just because he hosts a forum here), was discussing his upcoming work on the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead. Fans were speculating as to who would appear in that book, since the current Avengers Disassembled storyline was resulting in many casualties. Then someone appeared in the thread and asked Soto if he could post some pictures since, by now, we all knew that SPOILERS AHEAD! Hawkeye was the character who died in the much-touted Avengers #502.

The problem with this? He posted this message nearly a week before Avengers #502 even went on sale!

Oh, I was ticked.

Now to his credit, he’d tried to do something, at least. He changed the font color to white. Unfortunately, since the background text on the site is various shades of gray, that was worse than useless and the book was seriously spoiled for me. And it didn’t help that everybody else was talking about the death like it was common knowledge soon afterwards.

The obvious question to ask here is, how long is information considered a spoiler? Technically, I’d say any time before you, personally (or to be more specific, I personally) have read the comic. But that gets a little ridiculous. I mean, just because someone has never read Avengers #4 doesn’t mean they don’t already know SPOILERS AHEAD! they found Captain America frozen alive in a block of ice, thawed him out, made him a member of the team and he served proudly for at least 500 issues.

So how long is a reasonable amount of time to consider something a spoiler? When do you have to stop putting information like SPOILERS AHEAD! the boat sinks and Leo drowns in those little gray text boxes we use to shield the masses? I know some fans would prefer something remain a spoiler until the trade paperback comes out – this specifically applies to those fans who wait for the trade paperback. But I don’t think that’s always necessary. If you’re writing in a thread about Identity Crisis #3, you can reasonably assume people have read Identity Crisis #2 and know that SPOILERS AHEAD! Dr. Light raped Sue Dibney already.

Rather than cruising on a set period of time, I think it’s fair and logical to assume something is a spoiler until the next issue of that title comes out, whenever that happens to be. When Birds of Prey went biweekly, by the time #74 came out it should have been acceptable to reference how, in #73, SPOILERS AHEAD! Oracle defeated Brainiac.

And if that means you’ve got to talk about NYX #5 in spoiler blocks for the next six years or so before #6 comes out, so be it.

Some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people even like ‘em. And those people have plenty of opportunity to talk about them. But if you’ve got spoiler info, make sure you present it as such for a reasonable length of time. Otherwise, you’ll be like Homer Simpson walking out of The Empire Strikes Back and saying, SPOILERS AHEAD! “Wow, who would have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father?”. This would, by extension, make the rest of us the people standing in line outside the theatre who wanted to kill him for saying it, and since very few of us have yellow skin, four fingers and an overbite, it’s not a fair analogy.

Like so many problems in the world of comics (and the rest of the world too, when you get right down to it), you can solve this one if you just apply a little common sense. Try it sometime. You might even like it.

Favorite of the Week: September 29, 2004

It’s a darn good thing that I had read Superman/Batman #12 before I read the spoiler, because this was a fantastic issue. (And considering how long it took to come out, it better have been.) Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Barda have stormed Apokalips, hoping to rescue Kara from the clutches of Darkseid… but what if she doesn’t want to be rescued? There’s plenty of action this issue, and then just when things seem to have settled down, Jeph Loeb hits you in the gut with a knockout punch, a real shocker. Granted, it’s the sort of shocker that you’re certain will be resolved in one of two ways, but it’s a shocker nonetheless. Now let’s all just hope Michael Turner manages to turn out issue #13 before Kara is old enough to have grandchildren.

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 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.


Classic EBI #76: Comics By the Letters

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

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

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

Comic Books By the Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 11, 2004

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

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

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

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


Classic EBI #72: Rockin’ Robins-The Boys (And Girl) Wonder

The big comic companies are poised to start killing off heroes again. Is it really a big deal any more? Can we almost calculate with a formula how long it will take for them to come back?

Everything But Imaginary #382: Lining Up to Die

But going back in time, let’s go to July 21, 2004. Tim Drake wasn’t about to die, but he was out as Robin and Stephanie Brown was about to take over. My, how times change, eh?

Classic EBI #72: Rockin’ Robins-The Boys (and Girl) Wonder

If there’s one thing I love about my gig here at Comixtreme CX Pulp, it’s getting to advance review comics people haven’t read yet. Sometimes, it allows me to warn people off a bad title. Sometimes it allows me to shout the accolades of a good book you may otherwise have missed. And sometimes, such as is the case with Robin #128, it makes me suddenly turn into Cartman from South Park and chant Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah, I read it and you didn’t!

Ahem. But I digress. This week’s Robin, which you may or may not have read by now, depending on how early you read this column, is a doozy. Bill Willingham has been doing a spectacular job since taking over the title, crafting a great story about Tim Drake and his apparent successor, and this issue takes a major, major twist. So, to help out those of you playing along at home, I decided this week’s “Everything But Imaginary” would be a quick refresher course on those wacky kids who have worn the Robin costume.

Now the first Robin was… anybody want to guess? Did I hear a Dick Grayson in the back? Wrongo, buddy. The first kid ever to put on the Robin costume, at least in the old continuity, was a young scrapper named Bruce Wayne. After his parents were murdered, shot by a mugger in Crime Alley, Bruce dedicated himself to becoming a crimefighter. Still a child, he desired to study at the feet of a great detective, but he knew his would-be mentor would not want to deal with him. He put together a garish constume and convinced the detective to begin teaching him… and since he was as brilliant as a “Robin Red-Breast” in the suit… well… you know.

Eventually, Bruce discovered his mentor had deduced his identity (this would become a pattern), but was impressed enough that he continued to teach him anyway. This story is probably no longer part of DC continuity, but who can really tell these days? I included it mainly to laugh at people who expected me to start with Dick Grayson.

Speaking of Dick, we all pretty much know the story of how he came under Batman’s wing. An adult Bruce, now the shadowy avenger of Gotham City, attended a performance of the traveling Haley’s Circus, where a trio called the Flying Graysons was performing. The youngest, Dick, performed a dazzling triple somersault in the air, a trick that only a handful of acrobats in the world could do. This fact was not lost on Bruce, nor on another audience member… a small boy named Tim Drake.

As the performance continued, however, disaster struck. The trapeze the elder Graysons were using broke, and Dick was forced to watch his parents plummet to their deaths. Suspecting foul play, the grieving boy listened outside of the office of the circus manager, where he heard two thugs working for crimelord Anthony Zucco extorting money, claiming that more “accidents” would happen if he didn’t pay. The boy swore venegeance, but turned to find himself face-to-face with Batman. Bruce had recognized his own fate in the boy and took him in, entrusting him with his secrets and making him his partner, Robin. Together, they caught Zucco, and Robin himself took a photograph of Zucco shoving a man off a building, sending him to the electric chair.

Bruce made Dick his ward and raised the boy until he was 19 when, on a rooftop battle like a thousand others, the Joker managed to put a bullet in Robin’s shoulder. Guilt-stricken, Batman decided he no longer wanted a partner, and an enraged Dick left him, going to the only other father-figure he had ever had since his real parents were murdered… Superman. The man of steel told the former boy wonder a Kryptonian legend of a mysterious warrior whose name, translated into English, was Nightwing. Dick adopted the identity for his own and began his own path, still estranged from his former “father” — and his anger grew when a new Robin appeared on the streets.

Batman ran across a young man named Jason Todd attempting to steal the tires from the Batmobile. His parents had been murdered, it turned out, by the criminal named Two-Face. Not wanting to condemn the basically good child to the court system, he took him to a halfway house for orphans, which Jason discovered was really a front for a teenage street gang. He helped Batman round up the crooks and, in exchange, Batman made him the new Robin. The partnership was short-lived, however. Jason was brash and unstable, and when Batman grounded him, taking him off the streets until he was ready, he left. Finding clues in his father’s belongings, Jason found out the woman who had raised him was not really his mother, and he set out across the world to find the woman who gave him birth. Batman tracked Jason to the middle east, where together they found his real mother, a doctor in a relief station. She betrayed them to the Joker, however, and after beating Jason within an inch of his life, the clown prince of crime left mother and son trapped in a hanger with a bomb.

And the bomb went off.

It was all a gimmick by DC Comics, as it turned out. There were two versions of the last chapter of this story, one in which Jason survived and one in which he died, and readers were allowed to call a 1-900 number and vote.

As it turned out, Jason just wasn’t that popular.

Batman arrived just in time to see his partner die. He raced back to the states, where the Joker had somehow gained diplomatic immunity by allying himself with a sovereign nation that happened to have a terrorist regime in charge. Batman and Superman foiled the Joker’s scheme to kill the delegates to the United Nations, but the murderer escaped again.

With one Robin dead and the other separated from him, Batman slipped into a depression. He became more brutal on the streets, a fact that was not lost on a young boy… named Tim Drake. Even as a small child, Tim had been amazed at Dick Grayson’s feats at the circus, and one day he saw a news broadcast of Robin in action, performing the same triple somersault that Dick had. Tim deduced Robin’s identity, and from there, Batman’s as well. Seeing what Jason’s death had done to his hero, Tim tracked down Nightwing and confronted him with his knowledge, trying to get him to return to Batman’s side.

Unsure what to do, Dick brought Tim to his former mentor. Batman did not want a partner, though, and was in the middle of tracking down Two-Face. Nightwing went out to help him, but Tim, back at the Batcave, deduced they were walking into a trap. Donning Jason’s old costume, he rescued them both and Batman relented, training him for a few months before unveiling Tim Drake as the new Robin.

Life wasn’t rosy for the Bat-family after that. Tim’s mother was murdered and father maimed by the Obeah Man. Batman had his spine broken and sent a newcomer, Azrael, on the streets in his place. After Azrael went nuts and the family had to take him down, Dick took on the Batman mantle for a few months so Bruce could finish his recovery. It was not until then that the two proud men finally buried the hatchet and admitted that they loved one another as a father and son. Bruce even eventually adopted Dick Grayson legally.

Then Jack Drake found something out.

Jack discovered the truth about his son, Tim, who was leading a double life as Robin. He broke into the Batcave and held a gun on Bruce until his son came back, and father and son had a talk. Tim finally agreed, for the sake of his father, to quit, and Gotham City was again left without a Robin.

But not for long.

Tim’s girlfriend, Stephanie Brown, led a double life as well. The daughter of the villainous Cluemaster, she prowled the streets as the would-be superhero Spoiler. Batman had briefly trained her, but “fired” her after declaing her unfit. With Tim sidelined, Steph approached Batman again… and to her shock, was admitted into the family as the fourth Robin.

The question now is, why? Bruce had declared her unfit before. Did he change his mind? Did she prove herself? Or was it a ploy to try to lure Tim back? And more importantly, would the new Robin be able to survive the assassin named Scarab, who is dancing across Gotham murdering young men she suspects may be Robin?

Lots of questions. Few answers.

But that should bring you up to speed. A lot of information, to be sure, but it’s not nearly as complicated as Supergirl’s history, is it? You guys really should be reading this title — one of the best in the bat-family at the moment, after Birds of Prey, and one that Willingham has made a favorite of mine again. The whole thing twists on you again today, and you’ve got no excuse not to follow through and check it out.


I’m afraid this may become something of a redundancy with me over the next five months, but Identity Crisis #2, simply put, blew me away. We learn why Elongated Man suspects Dr. Light murdered his wife, we learn what the Justice League did all those years ago that they’re so ashamed of, and we learn something pretty horrifying right at the end. And I haven’t the slightest idea where it’s going next. And that is a great thing.

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 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.


Classic EBI #94: The Ghosts of Christmas Comics Present

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

Everything But Imaginary #377: The 2010 Geek Gift Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 15, 2004

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

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


Classic EBI #67: Stretcho and Sue-A Love Story in Four Colors

This week in EBI, I’m reading the new novel by Rick Riordan, The Lost Hero, an interesting spin-off of his popular Percy Jackson series which leaves me thinking about the few times that some comic book series have tried something similar.

Everything But Imaginary #373: Changing Course

And going back in time to 2004, it’s June 16. Identity Crisis #1 has just hit the stands. And I’m left in a state of shock…

Everything But Imaginary #67: Stretcho and Sue-A Love Story in Four Colors

Let’s talk, for a moment, about Elongated Man.

(Fooled you, didn’t I?)

Elongated Man is one of the mainstays of the DC Universe, a fun, silly character that hasn’t endured much more than minor cosmetic changes since the Silver Age of Comics. But something happened to him recently that will inarguably change the character forever, and I’m about to spoil the heck out of the first issue of Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis miniseries, so if you’re one of the three people reading this who haven’t read that issue yet but intend to do so in the near future, go read Craig Reade’s “Still on the Shelf” for this week again and come back once you’ve read the issue.

Are they gone? Good.

For some time now, DC comics has been promoting Identity Crisis as being a story that will “shake the foundations” of the DC Universe, a statement punctuated by the image of a casket on the cover of the first issue and the confirmation that somebody would die somewhere in those pages. This of course, led to rampant speculation on the Internet (because without rampant speculation the Internet would be reduced to three remaining non-porn sites). People said it would be Tim Drake because they knew he would be stepping down as Robin (and kept arguing this despite the fact that writer Bill Willingham had already said Tim would still play a major role in the title). More people argued that Kyle Rayner would be in the coffin because of the announcement that Hal Jordan will soon be Green Lantern again (and kept saying it despite assurances from DC that Kyle would not be disappearing). Still more argued for Ronnie Raymond on the grounds that we all knew someone else was becoming Firestorm, Conner Hawke on the grounds that with Oliver Queen back there was no need for two Green Arrows, and a couple of guesses of Wally West or Jay Garrick, because every time a miniseries has “crisis” in the title, it seems, something nasty happens to a Flash.

Personally, my money was on Conner, but my second most likely suspect was more on target. And frankly, I would have preferred if Conner had been the one who died, because it broke my heart when I realized the first victim of this murder mystery was going to be Sue Dibney, wife of Ralph, alias Elongated Man.

And immediately, the whining began.

People claimed that they had been led to believe it would be a major hero (as if DC would let Meltzer kill off Batman) or that Sue wasn’t important enough to suit their expectations. Besides my general belief that if you buy into the hype of a project you have no one to blame but yourself when the final product doesn’t meet your expectations, I was really kind of irritated by the implication that Sue Dibey somehow didn’t matter. If she didn’t matter to you, I thought, then you hadn’t been reading enough DC Comics.

Ralph was introduced in Flash #112 in 1960 — decades after the more famous Plastic Man but a full year before that other stretchy superhero who married a Susan. Ralph got his powers — and I know this is going to sound goofy, but remember, it was the silver age — when he noticed that all the contortionists at the circus drank a soda called Gingold. Ralph discovered that it was the fruit of the gingo plant that made this soda stand out and began extracting the essense of the fruit in his home lab, eventually creating an elixir powerful enough to give him the ability to stretch his body like rubber. (It was later established that the gingo reacted to Ralph’s latent metagene, so drinking the fruit won’t give just anyone superpowers, but that’s not important right now.) A born detective, he became a superhero and soon adopted his trademark – his rubbery nose twitched whenever he got near a mystery.

Unlike most heroes, Ralph went public with his Elongated Man identity, and it was in this role he met, fell in love with and married Susan Dearborn. They were inseparable afterwards, and every year for his birthday Sue gave him what he loved the most… a mystery to solve. (He was actually one of the stars of one of the very first superhero comics I ever read, an issue of DC Blue Ribbon Digest that reprinted various team-up comics. That first mystery, where Sue recruited the Barry Allen, the Flash, to help craft a mystery was my first Elongated Man tale. Amazingly, unlike most other comics I had at that age, I still have that book, and it’s still readable, if considerably beat up.)

Since Ralph’s identity was public, Sue became known and accepted among the superhero community of the DCU, even becoming an honorary member of the Justice League, then one of the administrators of the team’s European branch, of which her hubby was a member. On one particularly memorable occasion, Sue saved the world from the villain Sonar by pretending to fall in love with him to help Ralph swipe one of those supervillain doomsday devices it seemed were available at every Radio Shack at the time.

That’s what made Sue unique in the DCU.

Here’s what made her unique to the fans.

Ralph and Sue Dibney, for most of their lives, had the best relationship — the best marriage — in comics. They were the contrast to Spider-Man’s girlfriends dying or hating him or getting abducted, to Superman spending every waking moment lying to Lois Lane about his identity, to Cyclops marrying his dead sweetheart’s clone. The Thing loved Alicia Masters but he couldn’t hold her in his arms of stone. Captain America had a thing for women who wound up getting killed in the line of duty. People hounded the Scarlet Witch for marrying a robot and hounded The Vision for marrying a mutant. Hank Pym abused his wife. The Atom got divorced. Green Lantern and Green Arrow each had a problem with skirt-chasing that kept their own relationships from solidifying. Even the Patron Saint of the DC Universe, Barry Allen, watched his wife get murdered, almost married someone else, was put on trial for murder himself and then found out his real love was alive, rushing off to the 30th century with her just long enough to get her pregnant before dying himself to save the universe.

But Ralph and Sue… they were meant for each other. They fit. Everybody could see that. No one doubted it.

For years, even if he wasn’t showing up in very many comic books, Elongated Man had one of the best love stories on the four-color page.

Sue Dibney completed him. She made him a hero.

And now, in one brutal burst of flame, Sue Dibney is dead.

One of the things that have bothered me the most is the argument that Brad Meltzer chickened out, that he didn’t have the guts to kill off somebody “important.” This is preposterous on many levels, mostly because (according to an interview he gave with Newsarama last week) it was DC Comics that approached him about crafting a mystery story around Sue’s death, an idea he initially rejected… then he came up with the story to go with it. Meltzer also very strongly implied that she’s only the first number in the body count, but that’s a separate debate.

More than that, though, this is a preposterous thing to say because Sue was important. Her death hits not only longtime readers, but virtually every significant costumed character in the DCU. The JLA, JSA, Teen Titans and Outsiders (which, when you count reserves and former members, is pretty much everyone who matters) all knew her. And liked her. And considered her one of their own. Who else can you say that about? There are the “big seven” characters, but let’s face it, you can count on them being more or less safe from death in this series. Smaller heroes? People would have been shaken up if, say, The Question had died, but most heroes in the DCU didn’t know him, or if they did, didn’t necessarily like him. Supporting characters for the A-Listers? Wonder Girl doesn’t know Lois Lane. Guy Gardner wouldn’t care about Alfred Pennyworth. Sue was the perfect candidate for this story because, unlike anyone else, Ralph’s identity was public, yet he still found room in his life for a wife.

“Found room,” listen to me. Sue was his life. One peek at the funeral scene in Identity Crisis should tell you that.

For some reason, Ralph suspects Dr. Light is the murderer, based on some mysterious case that happened years ago. The real mystery of Identity Crisis will be who the murderer is and why he killed Sue, not who died in this first issue, and this first issue was brilliant enough that I expect a great story.

Whoever did it, though, you’ve got to almost feel sorry for him when he’s caught. Elongated Man has always been a happy character… but just think of the potential of his power if he is driven to a murderous rage… how he can slide through ventilation shafts, slip through the cracks, get in almost anywhere, suffocate or strangle you before you even know he is there…

If I were Dr. Light, I wouldn’t be sleeping very well tonight.


Okay the “Favorite of the Week” trophy last week goes to Identity Crisis #1. That’s a given. So instead of going on about it even more, I’m giving this spotlight to another brilliant comic that, any other week, would have taken top honors. Fables #26 is the penultimate chapter in the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” story arc. An army of Pinnochios have assembled at the borders of Fabletown. Snow White is commanding the army of Fables. Bigby Wolf isn’t home yet. This is a fast, brutal, bloody issue, and more than one important character dies here. It’s another brilliant chapter in my favorite title in comics these days. If you aren’t reading Fables, you’re cheating yourself big-time.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the upcoming suspense novel The Beginner, and a regular column in the St. Charles Herald-Guide. Show of hands, how many people clicked on this column thinking it would be about Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman? Yeah, that’s what he thought. E-mail him at and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.


Classic EBI #86: The Monster Mash

It’s time for another Everything But Imaginary column, friends… but it seems this week’s column will be delayed a mite. It’s finished! It’s written! But when I uploaded it onto Dropbox on my computer at work… I dunno, maybe it didn’t take. Whatever, it’s not in my Dropbox now. So tomorrow I’ll e-mail it to myself or something and we’ll all enjoy it then, right?

Anyway, no reason to skip this week’s classic EBI. Let’s travel back to October 27, 2004, and an early EBI Halloween celebration…

The Monster Mash

Last year, I took a little time in Everything But Imaginary to talk about horror comics just before Halloween. (You can read that classic, brilliant, prestigious, exemplary column right here: Comics That Go Bump in the Night.) Since I love Halloween, I wanted to do something to touch on it again this year, but how do I follow-up something that magnificent?

But Halloween doesn’t necessarily have to be about something scary. It can be about something ugly too. It can be all about the crazy costumes and the gooey makeup and the rubber masks. One thing that I think makes Halloween a lot of fun are the monsters, and you can find more and better monsters in comic books than you can anywhere else.

Virtually every classic monster of screen and film has graced the comic book page at some point or another — Godzilla, Dracula, King Kong and Freddy Krueger have all starred in their own comics, both miniseries and long-running ongoing titles, over the years. But they didn’t get their start in comics — and a lot of the greats did.

Classically monsters were the villains. One of the early Captain Marvel serials, in fact, pitted him against the evil machinations of the Monster Society of Evil. This storyline, which lasted from Captain Marvel #22 through #48 (proving that Brian Michael Bendis was not the first person to stretch a story out beyond all reasonable expectations of sanity), brought together all of Cap’s most dastardly nemesis — Dr. Sivana, Captain Nazi, Ibac and the like, under the leadership of the mysterious Mr. Mind. Granted, few of these characters were monsters in the traditional sense, until the end of the series when Cap finally confronted and captured Mr. Mind, only to find his arch-enemy was a tiny worm from outer space. The story became a classic, and is even inspiring Jeff Smith’s upcoming Shazam! miniseries (and if DC has a brain in their marketing department, they’ll put out a paperback collection of the original “Monster Society” serial to coincide with that comic.)

Then in the 50s, a new monster came to comics, but not a traditional one. He was a hero, a monster and even a little green man. He was the Martian Manhunter. Transported to Earth by an experiment that left him stranded, J’onn J’onzz basically looked like a bald guy at a football game covered in green paint, but despite this obstacle, he went on to be a superhero. He had it easy, though, he was a shapeshifter, and found it very easy to disguise himself as “John Jones.” (Martians are renowned throughout the universe for their ability to conjure up clever pseudonyms.) As time went on, though, you saw him in human form less and less, and even his “default” form became a bit more inhuman, particularly in the face. We got a nice surprise, years later, when we found out the J’onn we’d been reading about wasn’t his “real” form at all — the true shape of a Martian was much more alien, much more monstrous, but he took on the “default” form as a sort of compromise between his true form and a human form so he wouldn’t leave kids he saved in falling school buses wetting the bed until they were in college.

When Stan Lee revolutionized Marvel Comics in the 60s, though, he brought in two monsters that didn’t have the luxury of morphing into a steel-jawed John Wayne type and taking their girl out for a night on the town. Most well known, of course, is the Hulk. Lee famously said he created this hero to be a mixture of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein, but the end result was an icon in its own right.

Dr. Bruce Banner — a nuclear physicist, a weapons expert, and a Pisces — was working on a top-secret, highly-experimental Gamma Bomb. (The next projects included the Theta Bomb, the Lambda Bomb, and the Delta Delta Delta Bomb which, according to instructional films of the 1980s, caused women to spontaneously have pillow fights in their underwear.) Banner got exposed to the bomb when he pulled some punk kid who was joyriding on the testing range out of the way of the blast. Instead of turning Banner into a wad of Banner-related gel that could have fit inside a Silly Putty egg, the bomb turned him big and gray and strong, but only at night. Then later big and green and strong, when he got angry. Then gray and green. Then possibly plaid at one point, but it was getting confusing.

Stan Lee was trying to tell a parable about a good man trapped inside a monster, and for the longest time, that’s essentially what The Incredible Hulk tried to be. It took Peter David to take all of the Hulk’s weird permutations and make sense of the whole thing. Banner, as it turned out, had multiple personality syndrome. The “real” Banner had trained himself to be cold and stoic, so his other emotions manifested as alternate personalities that were given physical form by the gamma rays. His frightened, angry side manifested itself as the green Hulk, while his lustful, hedonistic side became the gray Hulk (or “Mr. Fixit,” as he was sometimes called, and you can insert your own joke here because I’m not touching that one).

Suddenly, what was a cool story about one monster became a cool story about a lot of monsters, all in the same guy. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the current status quo of the Hulk is (I think he’s rampaging again, but I’m not sure), but it’ll be hard for anyone to come up with something so simple, and so well thought-out, as the monster stories Peter David told with the character.

Then there’s one last great comic book monster to consider, my personal favorite. I gush about him, I know, but he’s a fantastic character, and fully deserves praise, accolades and a better makeup job than Michael Chiklis has if the promotional pictures are to be believed. You know him, you love him, let’s hear it for the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, Benjamin J. Grimm.

Stan Lee had already broken some of the rules when creating the Fantastic Four. Sure, he had the hero scientist, the girlfriend and the teen sidekick, but unlike most comics, the teenager and the girlfriend were equals to the hero, full-fledged members of the team. So how better to round it out than to bring in monster — a gruff, burly creature that hated the scientist for what he did to him? That’s how Ben Grimm started out. But like all truly iconic characters, he evolved. His hatred faded and, while still stuck with a really lousy hand, he adapted. A lot of FF stories over the years have dealt with people fleeing from the Thing’s orange hide, his inhuman visage, but his heart has truly become more human than anyone else’s. If you’re looking for a great monster hero, you need look no further. Come Friday night just put on your blue Speedos, paint orange rocks all over your body and trick-or-treat as the Thing.

So now we come to the reason I like doing these sorts of columns — I know I’ve left somebody’s favorite off the list. It’s inevitable. So who do you think are the greatest monsters in comics, heroes or villains? The Beast? Bizarro? The Monolith? Michael Jackson? It’s called a message board, folks. Tell me who you dig and what makes ‘em a great monster.

And Happy Halloween!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 20, 2004

Identity Crisis #5. There, I said it. Do I even need to qualify this? Do I need to explain what makes this so all-fired fantastic, so incredible, the best crossover of the past two decades? Do I have to tell you this comic rocks my socks and anyone who isn’t reading it is a great big doodoohead? No? Good. Let’s talk about another great comic book, then.

Fantastic Four #519, the last issue of the unfortunately named “Fourtified” story arc (vaguely an Avengers Disassembled crossover, but you can read it independent of that) features the team captured by an alien race that wants to destroy Manhattan all to wipe out the Invisible Woman because they believe she’s going to prove useful to the planet-devourer Galactus. The solution to get the team out of the situation is simple but clever, and the twist at the end is incredible. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo continue to deliver one of the best comic books in the business.

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 and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.


Classic EBI #54: Crossover Crisis

You know the drill by now, friends. First of all, let’s look at this week’s Everthing But Imaginary. Earlier this week, Devil’s Due Publishing announced that they’re cutting off ties with Diamond Distribution. Why did they do this? What does it mean? See my thoughts here:

Everything But Imaginary #358: Breaking Away or Breaking Down?

Next, let’s look at this week’s classic Everything But Imaginary. This week we’re going back to March 21, 2004…

Crossover Crisis

In the past, friends, we have talked about the inter-company crossover, those rare occasions where Superman and Spider-Man cross paths, or Batman puts a hurt on the Punisher, or when Aunt May trades wheatcake recipes with Martha Kent. While it’s always fun to see characters from different “universes” come into contact with each other, these crossovers are usually pretty hollow because no lasting changes can be made due to the need not to infringe on the regular titles. Even if that wasn’t an issue, there would still be the problem of referring to events that included a character you can’t legally refer to. Although it would be funny, every once in a while, to see Wildcat talking to Billy Batson and saying, “Hey, remember that time… no, wait, that was the other Captain Marvel…”

There is, however, another kind of crossover that rings much truer, where things can be changed. I’m talking about the intra-company crossover, where all of Marvel’s characters or all of DC’s characters unite to face off against some major threat or some terrible crisis. The first major company-wide crossover I am aware of came in 1984, with Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, in which the mysterious Beyonder kidnapped the most intriguing (read: best-selling) heroes and villains from the Marvel universe, dropped them on a distant planet called Battleworld, and told them to duke it out for his amusement. (Surprisingly, Brother Voodoo and Diablo got to stay home.) The story was 12 issues and wound up telling a pretty satisfying yarn, including some of the best Doctor Doom sequences ever.

The story was so popular, in fact, that before the heroes even had time to unpack their bags back on Earth, Marvel launched Secret Wars II, in which the Beyonder came to our planet. This story was not quite so well-received, but it was significant in that it helped spearhead something that would define crossovers in the future: a main story in the titular mini-series and other chapters spread out among the regular issues of all the Marvel titles. The story wasn’t contained in Secret Wars II, the Beyonder carried out parts of his agenda in many other titles, including Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four and even Dazzler.

At around the same time, DC Comics was launching the crossover that would not only define the entire genre, but give the shorthand name for such an event: Crisis on Infinite Earths. Similar in structure to what Marvel did, this event was contained in a 12-issue miniseries about time collapsing and worlds being destroyed. (This was done in an effort to “simplify” the DC Universe. Frankly, I didn’t think it was in need of simplifying — science fiction fans had no problem with the concept of alternate realities for generations, why did comic book fans? But that’s another column.)

However, across nearly every DC monthly at the time, as well as several miniseries and specials, other effects of the Crisis were felt. New heroes were introduced. Old ones were laid to rest. The whole thing was so well done that even today, 18 years later, I’m still trying to get all of the official crossovers (mostly for the prestige of being able to say I have all of the official crossovers, including Losers Special #1).

The crossover was a hit and, like any other hit in the field of entertainment, it had to be repeated. The year after Crisis, DC gave us Legends. Then Millennium. Then Invasion . Some of these were more successful than others, but they all had the same basic format — a miniseries to contain the main story and “bonus” chapters spread across other titles that readers could get or ignore as they wished. Although it bears noting that while people were willing to shell out $100 bucks for a hardcover collection of the 12 main Crisis issues, you can probably make a complete set of the Millennium miniseries and all its bonus chapters in your nearest quarter bin.

Marvel, at the same time, took a different approach, abandoning the miniseries and instead hosting crossovers in a family of titles but spreading out to affect others. When demons swarmed on New York in Inferno, Spider-Man and Cloak and Dagger mixed it up with them in their own titles, but the main battles were fought in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants and the X-Terminators miniseries.

A couple of years later came the Acts of Vengeance crossover, in which a mysterious mastermind who would turn out to be Loki, Norse god of trickery, convinced supervillains to attack each other’s enemies in order to gain the element of surprise. This resulted in unusual battles like Mandarin versus the X-Men, the Gray Gargoyle versus the Hulk and Typhoid Mary versus Power Pack. The crossover would touch everyone from the Punisher to Quasar, but the story began and ended in Avengers, Avengers West Coast and Avengers Spotlight.

Then both companies struck upon a gold mine for crossovers: the annuals. For years most comic books had an annual double-sized edition. With Evolutionary War, Marvel began the practice of running a single storyline through all of these annuals. DC followed suit with Armageddon 2001. Marvel gave us Atlantis Attacks. DC gave us Bloodlines.

Other companies got into the act. Valiant had Unity. Eclipse had Total Eclipse. Malibu had Genesis. Even Image had stuff like Shattered Image, Altered Image and, my personal favorite, Mars Attacks Image.

Then something happened. People started to get fed up with the crossovers. They felt it was a cheap ploy to get them to buy books they ordinarily wouldn’t have just to have the complete story. They felt that the stories themselves weren’t worth it (and with junk like DC’s Genesis, who can blame them?) Frankly, I think this frustrated attitude is indirectly the reason we no longer have annuals today. The last time any major company-wide crossovers were seen was in 2001, with DC’s abysmal Joker: Last Laugh and Marvel’s “Okay-but-not-good-enough-to-justify-20-crossovers” Maximum Security.

But while I sympathize, and even agree, with those who hate crossovers because of the “gotta get ‘em all” mentality, I can’t deny that there is a certain thrill in seeing lots of characters come together against one menace. Isn’t there any common ground?

You bet there is.

Just a few weeks ago we found it in Secret War (notice the lack of pluralization) by Brian Michael Bendis. Nick Fury discovers that all of the two-bit hoods in the Marvel Universe, the ones who aren’t smart enough to program a VCR but walk around with high-tech weaponry and nuclear reactors strapped to their backs, are all being supplied by a singular source, meaning they are no longer supervillains, but instead meet the definition of terrorists. It’s such a simple, brilliant idea, and future issues, which promise Fury putting together a superhero task force to fight the ultimate evil, should be great.

It’s a story that won’t have crossover “bonus chapters,” but whose implications for nearly every Marvel title are clearly evident. It’s something I can’t wait to see played out.

I’m hoping for something similar with DC’s Identity Crisis (there’s that word again) coming out this summer, a storyline about which no one seems to know anything except that someone will die and it’s somebody important enough to show Superman crying in the preview art. At CrossGen, several of their titles have come to an end with a promise of their storylines being concluded in Negation War.

Major ramifications. No cheap stunts.

The crossovers of the future, friends. Let’s hope they stay this way. (2010 note: They didn’t.)

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 10, 2004

It’s not that long ago that my two favorite comics at Marvel were Avengers and Thunderbolts. Now I don’t read either title anymore, for obvious reasons. When Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, the writers that put those titles in the upper tier for me, got together for a miniseries bringing back the latter from oblivion and the former from mediocrity, I jumped at it. The first issue of Avengers/Thunderbolts was a fine start, showing us where the Thunderbolts are since we left them at the end of Nicieza’s run and why the Avengers feel a need to stand against them. Throw in fantastic artwork by Barry Kitson and you’ve got the recipe for a great comic book.

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 and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

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