Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Busiek


2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies Episode 36: Monster-Sized Double Feature

showcase logo smallBlake is back this week with a double monster movie review. This week he looks at Guillermo Del Toro’s new epic Pacific Rim and Pixar’s prequel Monsters University. We also double up on the picks with Astro City #2 and Quantum and Woody #1! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies #36: Monster-Sized Double Feature


2 in 1 Shot #7: Comics Kick Ass Week

showcase logo smallOur pal Adam from the Graphic Panels Podcast has declared the week before Free Comic Book Day, beginning April 29, to be Comics Kick Ass Week — a time to celebrate what we love about comics, and we here at the Showcase are going to tell you how to help spread the word. Blake talks about what’s got him excited about comics this week and tells you how to do the same. In the picks this week, it’s Batman and Robin #19. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

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Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Shot #7: Comics Kick Ass Week


Classic EBI #90: Best Comics I’ve Never Read-Wizard World Dallas Edition

This week, comics on TV have suffered a few setbacks, with one cancellation, two pre-cancellations, and of course, the end of Smallville. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. This week I look at comics that could, and should be kick-ass TV shows.

Everything But Imaginary #398: Put Heroes on the Small Screen

In the classic EBI, though, I zoom back in time to November 24, 2004 to take a look at some more of the best comics I’d never read…

Everything But Imaginary #90: Best Comics I’ve Never Read-Wizard World Dallas Edition

Never being the sort to let reptition get between me and a good column, it’s time once again to delve into some of the best comic books I’ve never read. This continuing series of columns here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters features comics that I’ve never read before but that you, my faithful readers, recommended to me. So now it’s time to give you my two cents. Comics I dig graduate to my must read list. Comics that I don’t are banished to the bottom of the long box.

However, this is an extra special edition, friends. As you remember, a couple of weeks ago I hit the Wizard World Dallas convention in search of great stuff. Even wrote a column about it. And I know you all read that column carefully because, in all the seven pages I typed, the one bit everyone remembers is the line about me dropping a t-shirt into the toilet while attempting to get dressed one morning. (No, I did not wear it. Please stop asking me.) So this special edition of the Best Comics I’ve Never Read deals with three treats I picked up right there at the con. In ascending order of enjoyment.

First up is Knights of the Dinner Table. This is a title that has been recommended to me repeatedly, mostly by my friends Chase and Jenny, who appreciate the humor involved in a bunch of geeks crowded around a kitchen table playing roleplaying games. The creators are Jolly R. Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steven Johansson, and David S. Kenzer, although to be perfectly honest I’m not sure who does what. Being such a gaming geek myself (although I don’t have as many opportunities to geek out in such a fashion as I used to) and a big fan of similar gaming-related comics like Dork Tower and PVP, I gave this a shot. I specifically found Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble Vol. 4, which reprinted issues 10-12 of the comic book. Normally I’d insist on getting in on the ground floor, but Chase assured me you can jump in anywhere with this title.

The strips are funny, and painfully similar to what I remember of my own far-off gaming days. However, I didn’t find them quite as funny as those other gaming strips I’m a fan of. And the art, I’m sorry to say, is a major drawback. It’s not to say it’s necessarily bad, but it’s horrendously repetitious. Nearly every panel is exactly the same — the characters sitting around the table. Positions don’t change, poses rarely change… a great many of the panels look like they were simply photocopied and given new word balloons. Comics are a dual medium, written and visual, and when the visual aspect is so bland it’s hard to rise above that.

Still, the writing is smart and funny, enough to solicit quite a few laughs from me during the long car ride home from Dallas. (I wasn’t driving.) So Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble Vol. 4 gets a marginal thumbs-up from me.

Moving on, the next recommendation was made by our own Reviews Queen Andrea Speed. Normally I prefer to only spotlight books available in collected form in these “Best I’ve Never Read” pieces, but the TPB of this is going to come out in the very near future, so I’ll treat it as such. Andy spent months telling me how great District X is, so despite not particularly caring for the character of Bishop (he was, in fact, the reason I stopped reading any X-Men comics in the early 90s), when I found the first five issues of this title in a dollar box on the first day of the convention, I picked them up and read them at the hotel that night.

Well, I spent the next two days wandering from dealer to dealer, desperately trying to find issue #6. Nobody had it. That should tell you something right there.

Fortunately, my own local comic shop still had it in stock when I returned, so I’ve read the whole “Mr. M” storyline which will be the first District X paperback. This is hands-down the most original comic with an “X” in it I’ve ever read. Not really an X-Men book at all, only Bishop’s largely supporting role links it whatsoever. This is really about a section of New York City where like has attracted like; sort of a Chinatown or Little Italy, except populated entirely by mutants. The comic really stars Izzy Ortega, a good, decent cop trying to keep order in the middle of a strained marriage and a dirty partner. Izzy’s really a great character for what is essentially a cop drama. He’s a good man, but not infalliable. He loves his wife and children, but there’s a distance there he can’t quite overcome. That distance is literal with his wife Armena, whose mutant power cocoons her in a clear, water-filled sac whenever she falls asleep, making it impossible for Izzy to even enjoy those quiet moments at night with her.

David Hines has crafted some great characters, although personally I hope to see a closer examination of Izzy and Armena’s relationship as the series progresses (it’s really the strongest aspect of the book, I think). At any rate, this title really took me by surprise by how good it is, so you can call this a proud graduate to my must-read list.

Last but most certainly not least, I found the first trade paperback in a series that more people have recommended to me than I could possibly count without taking off my shoes and socks: Jay Faerber’s Noble Causes. This title is billed as sort of a behind-the-scenes look at a superhero family regarded as royalty by the public but torn apart internally. Very soap opera-esque in its pitch, which may be why I avoided it for so long. The first volume opens with the wedding of Race Noble, son of Doc and Gaia, to a simple, ordinary woman, a bookstore owner of all things, rather than the superheroine they all expected. His family is chagrined, many of them expecting this relationship to be a passing fancy he’ll outgrow and divorce. I was convinced he never would. I was right. The reason I was right, though, astounded me.

The first volume in this series is Noble Causes: In Sickness and in Health. After reading the whole thing in one sitting, I’m desperate to find volume two, Extended Family. This book is phenomenal. The writing drifts from funny to sad to horrifying, the art (by a variety of creators) is just wonderful, and the twist on superhero comics is something I have genuinely never read before. So Noble Causes: In Sickness and In Health, gets my highest possible recommendation.

So let’s recap. Here’s my must-read list, as presented to you:
The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius series
Astro City series (Vol 1: Life in the Big City)
Bone series (Vol 1: Out From Boneville)
The Complete Peanuts
Creature Tech
Criminal Macabre
District X: Mr. M
Dork Tower series (Vol 1: Dork Covenant)
Fables series (Vol 1: Legends in Exile)
Fantastic Four: Imaginauts
Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction
Herobear and the Kid
The Liberty Project
Noble Causes: In Sickness and in Health
Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
Sentinel: Salvage
Tommysaurus Rex
24 Hour Comics
Understanding Comics/Reinventing Comics
The Wizard’s Tale

And next, here are the comics I’ve been told to read by you fine people. Feel free to suggest more:
Batman: Thrillkiller
Black Panther: The Client
Cerebus Vol. 1
A Contract With God
The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and Witchcraft
Doom Patrol: Crawling From the Wreckage
Egg Story
The Gypsy Lounge
Hulk: Boiling Point
Invincible: Family Matters
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy in the World
Jinx and Goldfish
Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1
Red Rocket 7
Rex Mundi: Guardian of the Temple
Safe Area Goradze
Spirit Archives Vol. 1
Terminal City
Top 10
V For Vendetta
The Waiting Place
The Walking Dead

Everybody got that? Good. I want assignments.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 17, 2004

It was a slow week, friends, nothing really spectacular, so this week’s favorite is the one that probably gave me the most hope. JLA #108. This title has been floundering for a long time, ever since Mark Waid left around issue #60 or so, and it was starting to look like we’d never get a good JLA story again. Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney are fixing that, bringing back some great villains and telling a wonderful, old-school superhero tale. This issue was part two of the six-part “Syndicate Rules.” I can’t wait to see what happens in parts 3 through 6.

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 #85: Deconstruction and Glory

With tax season upon us, we’re all going to look for less expensive entertainment. In the interests of helping us all with that dilemma, I’ve taken it upon myself to sift through Amazon for a few graphic novels that — at least as I write this — can be had for under ten bucks a pop.

Everything But Imaginary #394: Eight Under Ten

In the classic EBI from this week, we go back to Oct. 20, 2004, when I look at the two extremes of the superhero genre…

Everything But Imaginary #85: Deconstruction and Glory

There are many types of comic book fans — the geeks, the fanboys, the gaming crossovers, the alts, but there are only two types of fans that really get on my nerves. First are their ones who only read superhero comics. The ones who refuse to come out of the narrow little shell and experience all of the wild, diverse realms of storytelling that comic books have to offer. Second, the ones that refuse to read superhero comics, the ones who think they’re too cool for that and anyone who enjoys a superhero comic is intellectually beneath them and that by picking up this week’s Amazing Spider-Man you are contributing to the downfall of western civilization. (You are actually doing this by picking up Action Comics.) [2011 Note: I wrote this during Chuck Austen’s run on Action Comics. I stand by this statement.]

Smart comic fans, I think, should fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. Nobody should ever read any comic they don’t like (save your money and buy something good), but it’s even more important not to close yourself off to a great story just because of the genre it is written in.

Just as comic book fans have divided themselves into these camps, however, superhero comics to a very large degree have divided themselves as well, and although there are some exceptions, almost all mainstream superhero titles these days play more to one side of the spectrum or the other — they deconstruct the heroes, or they glorify them.

“Deconstruction,” of course, is nothing new — one could argue that it goes back as far as Green Arrow’s discovery of his sidekick Speedy’s heroin addiction. There are lots of kinds of deconstructive stories — those that show the heroes has having all-too-human flaws or feet of clay, or those that simply show them failing, or achieving victory but at too high a price. The darker threats, the mass murders, the terrorist actions. These are the “deconstructive” comics.

Pretty much every title under the Marvel Knights banner fits this description — Daredevil is a great example. He was, in his early days, a brighter character, akin to Spider-Man, but as time went on he got darker and darker. Now his comic is the epitome of gritty, showing hard crime and real consequences. Matt Murdock’s world is not a nice place to live. Brian Michael Bendis, of course, is one of the tops in this realm of comics — along with guys like Grant Morrison and Bruce Jones, and perennial favorites like Frank Miller and Neal Adams. These are often the only comics the “too cool for school” crowd will touch, mainly because it’s so “grim” and “edgy” and helps to shatter the ideals of the spandex-clad warriors they sneer at the rest of the time.

Then we have the flip side of superhero comics — those that take the traditions and standards of the genre and raise them up, glorify them, and make them seem fresh and new again. Take a look at Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four for a primary example of this. While the “Unthinkable” and “Authoritative Action” storylines he told last year did get pretty dark, he stayed with what made the characters the heroes they were rather than pull them down, and he closed off that chapter of their lives in the “Afterlife” story by bringing back the Thing (killed in “Authoritative Action,”) with a little help from a certain Man Upstairs who looked an awful lot like Jack Kirby. Some readers balked at the unabashed sentimentality. I thought it was brilliant.

Geoff Johns has also proven himself quite adept at the glorification of superheroes, and he does it in a way that Waid often does too — he mines their pasts, digging into classic stories from the golden, silver and bronze ages, and uses them to craft something totally new. A lot of his Teen Titans series up to this point has been about bringing together threads left by the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the property, but updating it to fit in the new members of the team. In Flash, he keeps taking old villains and remaking them into more serious threats (as he did with the likes of Mirror Master and Captain Cold) or introducing new threats that tie into the past of the character (like Murmur and the new Zoom).

Johns may just save his best storyweaving skills for JSA, however, and it’s no wonder. This is the first superhero team in the history of comic books, and several of the oldest characters in industry are still members. What’s more, they have progeny and proteges that are carring on in their names. Johns has brought together the legacies of the Star-Spangled Kid and Starman stogether in Stargirl, restored Hawkman to a characterization that actually makes sense and even made a character with the goofy Golden Age moniker Mr. Teriffic a deep, interesting character.

But man, the stuff he’s done with Hourman is even better. The original Hourman, Rex Tyler, died fighting Extant during DC’s Zero Hour miniseries. There are two other Hourmen walking around, though, Rex’s son Rick, and an android from the future with time-travel powers. In JSA we learn that the android plucked Rex from the timestream just before his death and gave him one hour to spend with his son, who could break up that hour into increments anytime he needed to talk to his father. When Rick was almost killed fighting Black Adam, though, he and Rex switched places, with Rex back in the “regular” timestream and Rick trapped in time. Johns wrapped up that storyline in last week’s JSA #66 with an ending that showed off everything that made these characters heroes.

If we’re talking about glorifying superheroes, though, one need look no further than Astro City. Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross have created a real lush, wonderful world that pays a brilliant tribute to everything that superhero comics have to offer, and they look at it from every angle. If you haven’t read this comic, you haven’t read superheroes right.

Here’s the thing — while excellent stories have been told in both the deconstruction and glorification subgenres of superheroes, not all characters are suited for both. Superman and Captain America, for instance, never really work in deconstructed stories. When you start making Superman grim or edgy, you lose what it is that makes him Superman.

This was the big problem I had with Mark Millar’s Ultimates series, and the reason I’m not getting Ultimates 2. Millar recreated regular Marvel characters and made it a point that they were not the same as the ones we were used to. However, the new characters he whipped up seemed to me to be nothing more than the original character’s worst traits magnified to the extreme. Giant-Man was nothing more than a wife-beater. Iron Man was nothing more than a drunken philanderer. Captain America was nothing more than an arrogant nationalist.

On the other hand, characters like the Punisher just don’t hold up if you try to glorify them. Even when you go lighthearted, as Garth Ennis did in the Marvel Knights incarnation of the character, it has to be dark humor, with an undertone of madness that belies the character’s situation in life.

Then there are those rare characters that work if you’re deconstructing or glorifying superheroes. I think the X-Men are probably the best example of this. During New X-Men, writer Grant Morrison dissected these characters, brought their faults to the forefront and made them face down threats — both from without and within — that tore the team apart. Much of his story was a satire of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the characters (Magneto’s tendency to get resurrected no matter what the circumstances of his death were, for instance, or the egocentric notion that the “X” in Weapon X was a letter and not a Roman numeral). He took the X-Men apart and pieced them into something new, then he put the chairs on the tables, wiped down the counter and left.

Then he leaves and what happens? Joss Whedon comes in with Astonishing X-Men and, using many of the same characters, puts them back into costumes and sends ‘em out to be superheroes. And it works, just as well. Meanwhile, Nunzio DeFillips and Christina Weir remake their New Mutants series into New X-Men: Academy X, a book about — what else? — teen superheroes. These are kids learning to one day become X-Men, and as such, the book has several elements that both glorify superheroes (the code names, the “squads”) and break them down (how Wither accidentally killed his father with his powers, for instance).

There are many, many different things that can be done with superhero comics, and a great many of them are being done right now, done very well. There’s an old saying in some parts of the country that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change. With comic books, if you don’t like one, just take a step or two further down the rack. Even if you’re looking at a rack of superheroes, you won’t have far to go to find something totally different.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 6, 2004

Welcome back, Bill Willingham, you have been too long absent from this list, but last week’s Fables #30 bolted you right back to the front of the pack. I’ve been a fan of this title since the first issue, friends, and issue #30 is possibly the best yet. This is the answer to “decompressed” storytelling here, everything happens at once. The Fables are reconstructing their home after a battle, the election for the mayor of Fabletown is going off, Snow White is in labor (and Bigby Wolf is the father) — there are three major storylines in this issue, a half-dozen (if not more) minor storylines, and there’s still room in there for a few surprises. If you haven’t tried out Fables, this may just be a great place to start.

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 #60: All the Beautiful Comic Books

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

Everything But Imaginary #362: Back to School

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


All the beautiful comic books

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

So why no talk about beautiful comic books?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he knows it was worth it.

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: April 21, 2004

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

A beautiful tale.

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

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

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


Time Travel Tuesdays: Son of the Best Comics I’ve Never Read

Well friends, with the great Comixtreme changeover finished, it’s definitely time to use Time Travel Tuesday to re-present all the lost EBIs, since there will be more of them soon. So let’s just go to the oldest column I’ve got that you haven’t seen elsewhere. This is from February 25, 2004, a column I wrote about going in and reading some comics that were recommended to me by well-meaning readers…


Back in November I sat down with you, my rabidly devoted readers, and we had a long chat about some of the best comic books out there that don’t get enough attention, as well as some of the best books I haven’t read but that you guys think are in the upper eschelon of comic book goodness. (You can check out that first column by clicking here.) This week, we’re going to take the first look at some of the books you suggested and that I’ve checked out in the interim, as well as one new book I’ve discovered that I’m adding to your reading list. And I think some of you will be surprised by my findings.

This works rather simply — any book you guys suggest that I haven’t read (and don’t know enough about to have formed an opinion) gets put on my reading list. I’ve formed a second reading list of great graphic novels that I think you should read. When I read a book from the first list, if I like it enough, it moves up to the second list. The complete lists will be at the end of the column.

The first book I checked out from the list you guys gave me was the premiere Hellboy trade paperback, Seed of Destruction. I’ve always had a marginal interest in Hellboy, even though I’ve never read any of his comics before, because the idea of a demon working for a paranormal investigation agency seems deliciously campy to me, and with the movie coming out soon I thought it would behoove me to read this introduction to the character before I saw it.

And actually, I thought that was the best way to sum up Hellboy: Seed of Destruction: as an introduction. We meet the character and examine the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. We meet the ancillary characters, including my favorite, the weirdly entertaining Abe Sapien. We get a story about Nazis and monsters and a lot of cool fighting.

But that’s about it.

Reading this book and looking for answers about Hellboy’s past (let alone answers about Abe or the others) is a futile effort, there are none to be had. But that’s okay. This book exists to let you meet these characters and get interested in them, and as such, it succeeded. With any graphic novel series, the primary function of the first book is to interest you enough to make you want to read the second one. Well done, Mike Mignola (and a tip of the hat to scripter John Byrne as well.) Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is the first book to “graduate” from my list of books I need to read to my list of books you need to read.

Unfortunately, I don’t have such high praise for the second book I tried out based on your recommendations. Some people will be shocked to hear me say this (and others, I suspect, will be somewhat gleeful), but I was quite disappointed in The Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution.

It pains me to say it, folks, it really does. I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s run on JLA and he’s writing the first X-Men comic to really get me excited in over a decade. But The Invisibles didn’t really work for me. Before reading this book, I really knew nothing about it, other than the fact that some people claim the Wachowski brothers ripped off some of the concepts for The Matrix. Maybe that’s what hurt it for me, as I read I kept looking for the parallels and I didn’t find many. The only similarities to be found in this first volume were those of a secret organization fighting against a some sort of phantom big brother that is secretly controlling the world, and the idea of people leaving their bodies behind to travel to another reality (or another level of reality). Did Morrison use these concepts before the Wachoswkis? Certainly. But there were a lot of people using the same concepts before Morrison as well.

That wasn’t what let me down, though, it was the story that let me down. Once I put down the trade paperback I felt like I’d read a 200-page anti-establishment rant with no real soul to it. The characters let me down. When we first meet our “hero,” Jack Frost, he’s blowing up a library. As someone who considers a book to be the highest product of humankind, this did not serve to endear him to me. I was let down because when I finished reading, I didn’t feel like I understood any more than I did when I started.

Now I’m going to be fair about this — I did just read the first graphic novel in a rather lengthy series, and it’s entirely possible that many of the questions and doubts I have are addressed later in the title. In fact, I intend to read the second book in the series, The Invisibles: Apokalipstick, in the hopes that it will lay some of my fears to rest. But with Hellboy I’m reading volume two because I liked what I read in volume one and want to read more. With this title, I’m reading volume two out of a sense of frustration, in the hopes that something about the book will begin to make sense. Graphic novel format is the only thing that could have saved this book for me, because if I had tried reading it in single-issue form I would have dropped it after issue four and never looked back. So sorry, Mr. Morrison, but Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution doesn’t make the cut.

Third, I’m adding a book that I really dug that wasn’t brought up in our last discussion (it’s my column, I reserve the right to do this): Kurt Busiek and James Fry’s short-lived series from Eclipse Comics, The Liberty Project.

For those of you who have never heard of The Liberty Project (even I, crazed Busiek fan that I am, had never heard of it until About Comics announced they were releasing a collected edition last year), the concept is simple — the federal government starts a program that allows supervillains to pay their debt to society by acting as government-sponsored superheroes instead of spending time in jail. If it sounds familiar, that’s because DC comics used almost the same idea at almost the same time (1987-1988) when it relaunched its old property Suicide Squad.

The Liberty Project was a bit different, however. First of all, Suicide Squad used established DC villains like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang, while these characters were all-new (although the similarity in skill, if certainly not in character, between Deadshot and Crackshot is curious). Second, while DC’s team stuck to the shadows and didn’t operate in the public eye, the Liberty Project members were out in the open, and actually found themselves celebrities. Third, many of the Suicide Squad members remained cruel, unrepentant creatures, whereas Busiek’s creations almost all were changed by their experience working on the right side of the law. In many ways, it’s like reading a beta test for his later work on Marvel’s Thunderbolts series (about villains masquerading as heroes and some of them realizing the prefer life on that side of the fence).

Busiek still owns the characters, so I keep hoping someday he’ll return to the world of Slick, Burnout and Cimarron. In the meantime, About Comics recently published a dandy digest-sized, black and white, inexpensive volume of the eight-issue run, along with a Total Eclipse special. If you liked Busiek on Thunderbolts, you’ll dig this book.

So let’s recap. As of last time we talked the list of books you guys think I should read are as follows:

Animal Man Vol. 1
Cerebus Vol. 1
Doom Patrol: Crawling From the Wreckage
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy in the World
Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1
Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
Record of Lodoss War: The Lady of Pharis
Safe Area Goradze
Terminal City
Top 10
V For Vendetta

Conversely, the list of books that I really dig that you should be reading is now this:

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius (Vol. 1-4)
Bone Vol. 1: Out From Boneville
Creature Tech
Daredevil: Wake Up
Dork Tower Vol 1.: Dork Covenant (then Vol.s 2-6…)
Fantastic Four: Imaginauts
Hellboy Vol. 1: Seeds of Destruction
The Liberty Project
Meridian Vol. 1: Flying Solo
Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to Texas
Road to Perdition
Understanding Comics/Reinventing Comics
The Wizard’s Tale

I’m open for suggestions to add to the first list, folks, and if you’ve read some of the books on the second list and want to comment, this is the place to do it. In the meantime, it’s back to the bookstore for me!

(By the by: If you’d like to suggest a title to add to the list, please try to suggest books that are available in graphic novel form — either original works or trade paperback collections. It’s not that single-issue runs aren’t great, but for the purposes of this project, it’s a lot easier to track down graphic novels and read those.)

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 18, 2004

Since I started the “Favorite of the Week” feature in this column, I think this was the hardest week ever to choose a winner. I was very close to selecting Fantastic Four #510 and Superman: Secret Identity #2, both titles that have won this honor before. I was close to selecting Abadazad #1 because it was such a great beginning for what promises to be CrossGen’s best comic yet. But in the end, I picked a title that was a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic storyline: Superman/Batman #6.

Jeph Loeb is the best writer either of these iconic characters have had in over a decade. He nails who they are, what they mean to the world and what they mean to each other. He caps off the story of President Lex Luthor in a way that is smart and satisfying (and also answers a question I had about Aquaman #15, which clearly takes place after this issue). It’s a fantastic comic book. You can keep your spiders and your x-people friends. This is a comic book that proves the first two superheroes are still the greatest.

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.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 112: Kurt Busiek

The boys are back with another creator spotlight, this time on writer Kurt Busiek! From his early days on Justice League of America and Power Man and Iron Fist, through his career-making work on Marvels and Astro City, right through to his current work on the weekly maxiseries Trinity, the guys break down all of his work, talk about their favorites and least-favorites, and discuss the next project he’s going to be involved with, Wednesday Comics. In the picks this week, Blake recommends Batman: Battle For the Cowl #1, Mike dug Action Comics #875, and Chase is all about Thor #600. This week’s graphic novel pick: American Flagg Vol. 2! Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at!

Episode 112: Kurt Busiek
Inside This Episode:

PLUS: It’s Week in Geek time again! This time out, Blake and Chase discuss Lost: He’s Our You. Chase gives his thoughts on the final episode of Battlestar Galactica and last week’s South Park, Blake talks about the episode of Dollhouse that rescued his interest in the show, and both boys dish on recent episodes of Smallville, Heroes, and Kings.

Week in Geek #14: Battlestar Galactica finale, Dollhouse “game-changer,” and more!

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