Posts Tagged ‘Justice Society

15
Jan
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 253: On the Long Road Home

The Showcase guys had a long weekend in Florida this week, but on the way back they find a few minutes to talk about some of the comic shops they found in Pensacola, this week’s announcements regarding the New (New) 52, and why it’s a bad idea to take a road trip with Mike. In the picks, Blake jumps in with The Ray #2 and X-Men: Legacy #260.1 Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 253: On the Long Road Home

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14
Sep
11

Classic EBI #108: The New Mosaic Comics

DC Comics has been having something of a string of good fortune lately with their New 52 venture, leading to some geeks to speculate whether or not Marvel Comics should follow suit. Now I’m not saying that I think Marvel should. I’m just saying that if they did, this is a 52-title Marvel Universe I would be interested in reading…

Everything But Imaginary #415: My Marvel 52

And in this week’s classic EBI, we go back to March 2005, a time when I’d been having a particularly crappy string of luck and I needed some cool comics to cheer myself up. Fortunately, those were easy to find.

Classic EBI #108: The New Mosaic Comics

When I’m having a particularly lousy week (as those of you who follow my blog know I’ve been having in epidemic proportions lately), there are few things that are as certain to cheer me up as finding a new comic book that I really enjoy. So I lucked out Friday when I went into ol’ BSI comics and picked up a copy of Lullaby: Wisdom Seeker from Image Comics and Alias Productions.

I am, as is well known, a big fan of children’s literature. I adore the works of L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll. I think The Chronicles of Narnia are great literature, and one Saturday this summer I’m going to be waking up like a kid at Christmas ready to get the new Harry Potter book. I’m also a big fan of Mike S. Miller, who’s writing this book along with Ben Avery and creator Hector Sevilla on some beautiful artwork. So Lullaby was an easy sell to me.

Here’s the basic plot – the story starts in a version of Wonderland where Alice never made it home. In fact, she doesn’t even remember her life in the “real” world except as vague dreams and shrounded memories. She has risen through the ranks and become the right hand of the infamous Queen of Hearts. Now there is unrest in the lands of imagination, and she sets out to find the source.

Lullaby is, in essence, a patchwork of twisted versions of these classic children’s stories. In addition to this new Alice, we’re also faced with a version of Jim Hawkins (of Treasure Island) who joined up with Long John Silver’s pirate crew and a spritely Pinocchio who was turned back into a puppet and, rather than break his father’s heart, fled to the other lands in hopes of finding the Wizard of Oz to restore his lost humanity.

So no, these aren’t exactly the characters we all grew up reading about, but they aren’t too far removed either. Alice is still a little girl who longs to go home, Pinocchio still yearns to be a real boy and, although Jim isn’t explored too deeply in the first issue, you get the sense that he joined the pirate’s life out of a thirst for adventure rather than gold.

Reading the book, however, immediately brought to mind two other recent comics, both of them critical and commercial successes, that use the same idea of snatching characters from disparate sources and putting them together. Here we’re talking, of course, about Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Bill Willingham’s Fables. Comics have long taken characters from different settings and combined them, going back to the very first stories of the Justice Society of America, which took the most popular characters from the then-National Comics and put them in a book together. At the time, such a thing had never been done. Decades later, it was common for superhero universes to have sort of an “all-star” team – the Justice League of America, the Avengers and so on. What Moore did with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was transplant that idea back a century. Who were the superheroes at the end of the 1800s? Well, that would be like likes of Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde) and Mina Murray. (And go ahead and pan the movie if you must, but I thought the addition of an adult Tom Sawyer was a nice touch.) Who would the supervillains be? Clearly, the likes of Dr. Moriarity, the invading Martians from War of the Worlds and perhaps even some of the “heroes.”

Moore turned out two volumes of this critically acclaimed comic book (this isn’t that big a trick for him – Alan Moore could publish a recipe for prune-flavored flan and the comic book press would declare it a masterpiece) and supposedly a third is forthcoming. It wasn’t the first time such an idea had been attempted, but it was certainly one of the best comics ever to use the idea of stitching together such disparate characters.

Then of course there’s Fables. If you don’t know what Fables is, you must not read this column much because I praise it all the time. The brainchild of Bill Willingham, Fables is a story of fairy tale characters driven out of their homeland and into our “real” world by the invading forces of a mysterious entity called the Adversary. Living among humans for hundreds of years, some have resigned themselves to their existence, while others still believe they can one day find their way home. Of all the “mosaic” comics I’m talking about this week, I think Fables has, hands-down, the most expansive cast: Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Thumbelina, Old King Cole, Little Boy Blue, Jack of the Tales, Ichabod Crane, Beauty and the Beast, Baba Yaga, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Robin Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Beauty and the Beast and Flycatcher, just to name a few, have all been a part of this story. And while so far the Fables we’ve encountered have been mostly European or North American in origin, Willingham promises that future storylines will expand to Fables of other cultures as well.

You wouldn’t think that sort of thing was really so unusual for a comic book fan. We’re used to seeing team-ups. We’re even used to seeing team-ups among really bizarre groups of characters – Alien Vs. Predator, Superman/Madman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Flaming Carrot – even Archie Andrews has met the Punisher.

And it’s not that unusual to see these characters combined in other medium, either. Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels cover over a century in which Bram Stoker’s Dracula survived and unleashed vampires across the world – but along the way Newman references real people and fictional characters freely. Jack the Ripper and Edgar Allan Poe make appearances alongside representations of James Bond, Superman, Dr. Strange, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even – in a brief Red Baron joke during World War I – Charles Schulz’s Snoopy.

So why is it stuff like Moore’s League seems so revolutionary to us?

Without sounding like a snob… I kind of think it’s because these are all characters from outside of comic books. We’re used to crossovers with comic book characters – or at the very least, characters that have a firmly-established presence in comics (like Aliens). It’s different when you’re talking about characters from other sources. A lot of the general public, if you tell them you’re reading a comic book, may turn up their nose at you. But if you tell them you’re reading a comic book where the Island of Dr. Moreau is a setting, that may elicit a gem of curiosity. If you tell them about Pinocchio and Jim Hawkins sailing off to the land of Oz, people who loved those books as children will want to know what you’re talking about. And if you mention that one of the best love stories in comics is currently between Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, they’ll have to ask you where that’s coming from.

I think one of the reasons that comics like these three are arcing up in popularity is because we comic fans realize, on some level, that this is the kind of thing that could potentially grab other readers. Someone who loves the Oz books may want to read Lullaby. Someone who was raised on Allan Quartermain will want to check out the League. Someone who studies folklore will want to see how it is being treating in Fables.

The trick, as always, is getting the word out. The League movie, unfortunately, flopped (although I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as some people say). But there’s word that a Fables film may be in the works, and Lullaby would be perfect as an animated feature. If those audiences can be grabbed and lured back to the comic books, that would be a very good thing.

Then there’s the other reason that comic fans like these three titles – the most important reason. They’re all really, really good.

Who knew? Maybe you can get something out of those books without pictures after all.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 22, 2005
It was a surprisingly good week for comics, last week, friends. Aside from the aforementioned Lullaby, there were also very strong showings from Runaways, JLA: Classified and New X-Men: Academy X, but narrowly taking the top spot for me was New Avengers #4. This team is slowly growing on me, I must admit. Brian Michael Bendis has found a logical explanation for the characters on the team now and has thrown in a good bit of mystery as well. His characterization is top-notch, and while some may think Spider-Man’s constant quips are annoying, I think they clearly indicate how nervous the character is to be counted among such an auspicious group. While the impending inclusion of Wolverine still bugs the screaming bejeezus out of me, so far, the book is really a solid read.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginnerand the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.comand visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.
31
Aug
11

Classic EBI #106: Comic Book Culture Gap

Today is the day: DC Comics relaunches their entire line with 52 new first issues. Everybody from their heaviest hitters to obscure characters with potential are being polished off and given a spotlight. But why stop there? Today, I present to you 52 OTHER properties DC owns that, with little tweak, may fit in with the New 52.

Everything But Imaginary #413: The New(er) 52

But it’s time now to step into the ol’ Wayback Machine and go to March 16, 2005, when I observed the fact that, although Manga comics definitely enjoyed a certain popularity in the United States, the same wasn’t as true for European comics. And I asked that vital question: what up with that?

Everything But Imaginary #106: Comic Book Culture Gap

If you’re looking for comics outside of a regular comic shop these days, unless you’re an Archie fan, you best bet is at one of those big chain bookstores that all the kids are talking about. You know, the sort of place that lets you get a cup of coffee, listen to CDs, select movies, buy gift cards for your mom and play around with that magnetic poetry stuff. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find some books there too.

When you go to these big chain bookstores, though, you’ll notice a phenomenon that, frankly, disturbs me. There will be, in most such stores, about a half-bookshelf dedicated to American graphic novels. You’ll have the requisite Spider-Man and X-Men books, and probably some Vertigo stuff like Sandman and Hellblazer. If the shop is particularly good, you may even find some Bone or Strangers in Paradise.

Then, right next to that half-shelf of American comics, you’ll find approximately sixteen shelves devoted to Manga. Entire series collected. Dozens of copies of each volume. Enough to keep the Manga fan in clover for months while the other readers cry for sustenance.

Now I want to make it clear that I don’t have anything against Manga – I’ve read some and I enjoy it. And I don’t fault the bookstores for stocking it – you’ve got to stock what sells. I’m just perturbed that the bookstore audience is so utterly skewed in this fashion, and I can’t quite figure out the reason why. Is it just because it’s the “hot thing” right now? Is it just a fad? Is it like when I was a kid and suddenly everybody in the universe was in love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Or is it because this audience is finding something in the Japanese comics that they don’t get in American comics? It’s possible, I suppose, but again, I don’t quite get what that is. From the Manga that I have read, I haven’t seen things that are substantively different from what’s produced domestically. The stories are serialized, and often involve sci-fi or fantasy elements. The social morés, I suppose, are a bit different, but not to the point where it’s difficult to understand. I don’t think it’s even a backlash against superheroes, because so much of the Japanese product – everything from Sailor Moon to Pokémon to Robotech – shares many traits of the American superhero.

Then there’s one more thing I don’t understand. (Okay, there are a lot of things I don’t understand – for example, I don’t understand why we drive on parkways and park on driveways, but there’s only one other thing I don’t understand for purposes of this conversation.) If the focus is on something different, something you don’t get in American comics, why are there ten bookshelves full of Japanese comics and maybe five inches of shelf-space given to European comics?

And I don’t mean comics written by a British author for an American audience, like Alan Moore’s Watchmen or Neil Gaiman’s Mr. Punch. Having a British writer doesn’t qualify if the comic is originally intended for Americans. I mean, why is it the only comics made for a European audience ever to show up on a shelf are the rare Asterix or TinTin volume? Not that I have anything against either of those, but they’re not all that’s out there any more than superheroes are the only comics produced in America. (Or, for that matter, any more than Yu-Gi-Oh are the only comics produced in Japan.)

American audiences have been slower to embrace European comics, save for the odd 2000 A.D. imports. NBM, of course, has long been bringing European comics to the American market, but a lot of that has been of the… um… “less mainstream” variety (in that they involve certain situations that would never be allowed on basic cable, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more) and they’ve gained a reputation as being a house that prints mostly erotica, an image that they’re now combating with their highly Manga-influenced American-produced kid’s line, Papercutz.

DC, to their credit, is trying to change this with their new deal with Humanoids publishing to reproduce their stock of graphic novels here in America. I’m not sure how much this will help though. Except for the aforementioned Manga fans, who are proving to be reluctant to try anything new anyway, most regular comic book readers have a very fixed budget for their comic book reading. It has to be a pretty special project to get them to drop a large amount of cash on it – like a new Sandman graphic novel, or the JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice hardcover. The chances of getting a regular comic book reader to pay hardcover prices for an unknown (in America) property with unknown (in America) characters by unknown (in America) creators… that’s going to be a pretty steep hill to climb in a lot of cases.

Part of it comes down to personal preference. Even more so than with the Japanese product (at least what I’ve seen of it), I find that American and European expectations of entertainment are different. (And I’m going to use comedic examples here, but this applies to other genres too.) I’m a big fan of the works of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and of course the geniuses that comprised Monty Python. But I recognize that their brands of distinctively British humor are different and frequently drier than American comedy, which all too often feels the need to bang you over the head with the jokes.

I’m rehearsing a play right now called “The Butler Did it Again,” a murder mystery comedy, and the director keeps telling the actors to punch certain words in their lines, because that’s the word that sets up the next joke. And every time he does that I want to scream, “you’re killing the humor! The audience is smart enough to get the joke, don’t beat them in the face with it!”

Contrast this with a comedy like Shaun of the Dead, which I contend is the funniest movie I’ve seen in the past year. Possibly all millennium (which, I admit, is still young). So much of the comedy in that movie was subtle. Dry. Gags that are happening in the background or buried in the lines that the director and actors trusted the audience to pick up on. That’s British comedy at work.

Then again, that brand of comedy doesn’t necessarily translate very well to a comic book page. Last year John Cleese – one of those aforementioned Pythons, co-wrote an original Elseworlds graphic novel, Superman: True Brit, which was a dry British comedy that showed what Superman’s life may have been like if his space capsule had landed in the British countryside instead of in America’s breadbasket. As big a Superman fan as I am, I don’t know if I would have been willing to pay hardcover price for it if not for the fact that it was written by Cleese and I was outrageously curious as to how well he would do writing a comic book.

The answer, as it turned out, is that he frankly just did okay. It was a cute story, it was a fun story, but that dry wit that works so well for him on TV and in the movies didn’t come across as well while I was reading it. I very much felt like I was reading an illustrated screenplay. If I closed my eyes and imagined the jokes being delivered in the inimitable John Cleese fashion, they were very funny, but when they were just being read… well… not so much.

What is all boils down to, folks, is that we should all be out there making an effort to try some new things, to broaden our horizons, to see what else the world of comics has to offer. And we should be trying to get people outside of that world to peek inside and see what they like. I’m no different than anyone else, I’m guilty too. Heck, if it weren’t for Swedish and Norwegian Uncle Scrooge comics that have been translated into English and reprinted here, you could count the European comic book stories I’ve read on one hand.

Part of me thinks the solution would be to break the comics down into monthly magazines like American comics, but they weren’t written for that format and it may not work. And even if it did, it doesn’t conquer the problem of people being reluctant to try something new. Another idea would be to break them into logical chapters, which may not be right for a monthly comic, and print them in a digest anthology on a regular basis. That might make it easier to sample, but anthology comics just don’t sell anymore, not to American audiences at least – unless it’s an anthology of Manga.

There’s too much great product out there to ignore any one segment of it. I don’t really know what the solution to this problem is, I just wanted to get it out there. Maybe this is one of those times we can figure it all out together.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 9, 2005
It’s continually one of my favorite comics every month, and this month’s JSA #71 clawed its way to the top of the pile. Geoff Johns’ time travel story, with the Justice Society of the present meeting the Justice Society of the early 1950s, has been a real favorite of mine. I love the classic heroes, and seeing some of the ones that didn’t have the longevity of the Green Lantern and the Flash getting their moments in the sun is really a treat for me. With just one issue to go, I stand by what I said in the 2004 EBI awards – this is the best superhero comic on the market.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginnerand the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.comand visit him on the web atEvertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.
10
Aug
11

Classic EBI #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?

Everything But Imaginary #410: Marvel’s Mickey Mouse Outfit

In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.

Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.

But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).

One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.

I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.

One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.

At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.

These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.

There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.

Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.

I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.

Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.

He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.

If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?

You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.

Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005

Damn you, Geoff Johns.

I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this 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. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

20
Jul
11

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

 

 

13
Jul
11

Classic EBI #98: From the Archives

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

Everything But Imaginary #406: What Purpose Vertigo?

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

Everything But Imaginary #98: From the Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 12, 2005

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

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

 

29
Jun
11

Classic EBI #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

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

Everything But Imaginary #405: The New DCU Take Two

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

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

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

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

1. Best Superhero Title

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

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

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

2. Best Science Fiction Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Negation.

3. Best Fantasy Title

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

Honorable Mention: Bone, The Witches.

4. Best Horror Title

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

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

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

5. Best “Down to Earth” Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: 100 Bullets, The Losers.

6. Best Humor Title

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

Honorable Mention: Simpsons Comics, Lionxor, Plastic Man.

8. Best Mature Reader’s Title

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

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

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

7. Best All-Ages Title

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

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

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

9. Best Adapted Comic

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

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

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

10. Best Comic Adaptation

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

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

11. Best Miniseries or Special

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

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

12. Best New Title

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

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

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

13. Best Comic You’re Not Reading

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

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

Honorable Mention: Street Angel, District X, Invincible.

14. The New Beginning Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron Man.

15. The Happy Trails Award

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 5, 2005

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

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

 




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