Posts Tagged ‘Legion of Super-Heroes

21
Dec
11

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

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

Everything But Imaginary #428: Christmas Comics 2011

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

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

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

No, no. It’s for your loved ones.

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

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

BOOKS

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

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

DVDS

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

TOYS AND ASSORTED JUNK

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

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

STOCKING STUFFERS

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

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

Favorite of the Week: November 28, 2007

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

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

12
Dec
11

Things I DON’T like about Christmas

As you’ve probably heard right now, I love Christmas. I love it in a totally unironic, unapologetic way. I love it so much that I’d help coordinate Dickens’s three spirits to new misers every year. I love it so much that I know not to wish for it to be Christmas every day, because I’ve seen enough cartoons where that happens to know that would be disastrous. And in fact, I suspect most people reading this love Christmas too. Even those who claim to hate Christmas secretly love it, because it gives them an excuse to complain loudly to anybody who will listen how much they hate Christmas. They’re like hipsters that way.

But that doesn’t mean I love everything about Christmas. So for the sake of you Scrooges out there, I thought today I would point you towards a few of the things about Christmas I could do without. None of these are particularly original suggestions, but they’re mine, consarn it. Some of the things I really hate are…

Christmas Shopping

I love to give gifts. I love handing over a brightly-wrapped package to a loved one and seeing their face as they tear it open, and I love putting on my own most charming smile as I hand over the gift receipt so they can exchange it. But I hate the actual shopping process. I don’t really like crowds in the first place, so wandering an Old Navy packed with enough people to keep an NBA franchise in a small market city is horrifying to me. Because although I subscribe to the theory that people, at heart, are basically good, I also subscribe to the theory that most people immediately between myself and whatever my goal of the moment is are raging morons. I hate having to elbow my way past sixteen people to see if they’ve got the particular aroma of soap at Bath and Body Works that showed up on my sister-in-law’s Things I Want.com list. I hate those who block the aisles with huge shopping carts at awkward angles that clearly aren’t moving any time soon because they’ve just pulled out their cell phones and started a conversation about the LSU/Alabama rematch. I think people who get into the “10 Items or Less” line with 11 or more items should be shot. Out of a cannon. At a brick wall.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’ll tell you this: if I was in charge of shopping, all express lane cash registers would automatically shut down after the allotted number of items have been scanned in, and the cashiers would be instructed to tally up the items scanned thus far and tell the perpetrator to take the rest of their crap to the end of the line.

And while shopping online has helped this situation considerably, there are still pitfalls — like figuring out what to get for everybody. My father is one of the hardest people in the world to shop for. If I get him books I think he’ll like, he never has time to read them. If I get him DVDs, he never has time to watch them. I have no idea which tools he already has or needs, and I don’t even know if he needs a left-handed or right-handed triple-ground flange escalator. I am lost.

As a corrollary to the shopping situation, I also hate…

Traffic

You know how stupid people are in stores? Put them behind the wheel of a car and their IQ automatically drops another 37 points. There are special places reserved in Hell for those who cut off six cars to advance twelve feet in heavy, slowly-moving lanes of traffic. It’s catercorner to those who tailgate, next door to those who cut in-between cars just because they aren’t tailgating, and down the block from the spot for those who think turn signals are a quaint anachronism that aren’t really necessary because they’re so damn awesome everybody should just get out of their way on general principle.

I realize that none of these particular complains are specific to the Christmas season, but they are without a doubt multiplied this time of year. More people on the road translates to more stupid people on the road. The great Dave Barry once said that, in traffic, anybody who drives slower than you is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than you is a maniac. I would amend this slightly. I believe anybody who drives slower than me is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than me is a maniac.

The Christmas Shoes

You know this song. Adorable waif shows up in a store on Christmas Eve. He goes to the clerk with a pair of shoes and about eleven cents and a gum wrapper in his pocket, and asks if that’s enough to buy them for his sick mama, who’s about to go meet baby Jesus. People cry and we all learn a Very Important Lesson.

Look, I’m all for Christmas stories having a message. In fact, I think they should have a message beyond just, in the words of the immortal Animal from A Muppet Family Christmas, “Gimme Presents!” But no storyteller should resort to something so painstakingly manipulative as a chronically dying mother get his point across. The song is specifically and deliberately structured in order to make the listener feel like a pulsating burlap bag of horse crap in the hopes that they will call their mamas and tell them they love them and buy them copies of the CD.

And the worst part is that the damn song is now stuck in my head. Okay, I’m gonna have to blast “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while I write this next one just to get rid of it…

ABC Family’s Definition of “Christmas”

I respect the ABC Family network for loading December with Christmas programming, and for how heavily they promote it. I love the fact that they give us marathons of Rankin and Bass specials, original holiday movies, and so much other content.

On the other hand, certain things just don’t fit their definition. Sure, there’s a December scene in most of the movies, but Harry Potter? NOT a Christmas film. No matter how many of the movies you show in a row. The same goes for the marathons of Pixar movies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who loves The Incredibles more than me, but it’s still not what I’m going to put on if I’m in the mood for some holiday cheer.

I’m not saying that ABC Family should avoid showing these things during the month of December. Let’s face it, if we didn’t allow them to show Harry Potter movies they’d lose their entire weekend lineup twice a month. But if you’re going to do that, don’t bill it as a “Christmas” marathon.

People Afraid to Say “Christmas”

I’m not talking about the whole “Happy Holidays” thing here, guys. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me in and of itself. I recognize that there are many celebrations, both religious and secular, that take place this time of year, and I fully support everybody’s right to celebrate whatever they happen to believe in or hold traditional. What bothers me, though, is when I feel like somebody is going deliberately out of their way to avoid saying the word “Christmas” or allude to anything even remotely connected to the holiday, as though it were some horrible, verboten topic that everybody knows about but doesn’t actually want to mention, like the real reason Uncle Walter keeps ordering little sailor outfits from those Japanese websites.

To fully demonstrate my point, I’d like to point out last year’s chief offender from my primary nerddom of comic books: the DC Universe Holiday Special. Comic companies have done holiday specials for years, of course, most of them featuring several stories with multiple characters and, most of the time, showcasing various holidays. Again, that’s cool. I don’t mind a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa story, I don’t mind seeing the  Justice League ring in the New Year or the Avengers sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. But if the idea is to be inclusive, Christmas is traditionally included as well, right? That’s… that’s what “inclusive” means, it means that nobody gets left out. I know, I gave it to my 11th graders in a vocabulary quiz.

The six stories in this comic book included a winter solstice story set in caveman times, a western Hanakkah story, a Superman Thanksgiving story, a story about the Shi’a Day of Ashra and Easter (combined), a story of the Vernal Equinox, and a far-future story where all holidays have been mashed together into one generic “Holiday.” Seriously. That’s it. The word “Christmas” never appears in the book, nor “Yuletide,” or even “X-Mas.” No image of Santa Claus, not a tree, not a trace of Christmas lights, not a bloody snowman. Even the Easter mention was in passing. Christmas was so conspicuous by its absence that it couldn’t have been a more deliberate snub if they’d had Sarah Silverman urinate on a Nativity scene. It’s a damn far cry from the classic 70s story where Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes actually took a spaceship to look for the Star of Bethlehem.

(In all fairness to DC Comics, they did also publish the Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special last year, which starred an alien driven by greed who comes to Earth and suffers a horrendous and hysterical misunderstanding of Santa Claus. And speaking of Santa Claus…)

The Santa Clause

With all due respect to Tim Allen, this makes me want to crack people over the head with a yule log. I know the problem didn’t originate with his movie, but it certainly seems to have gotten worse since then, so let’s get something straight, people:

The Santa Clause is either: A) A series of Christmas films starring Tim Allen as Santa Claus or B) The specific clause featured in said series of movies that leaves someone beholden to become the new Santa Claus if they put on the suit of the previous Santa Claus should they meet with an untimely end.

That’s it.

The name of the person himself? SANTA. CLAUS. With NO “E.”

It’s the English teacher in me, guys, but it drives me bonkers. It’s a spelling error and I keep seeing it again and again and again and — argh! There’s a spot in the Special Hell for people who do this too. If Santa CLAUSE was coming to town, I’m imagining a lawyer driving in with a briefcase full of legal papers that are going to indemnify you in the case of Nicholas Vs. Guy With a Slippery Roof. If you see Mommy kissing Santa CLAUSE, that means she’s got her lips caught in a DVD case and you need to call 911 again.

Get. It. Right.

Okay, that should be enough evidence that not EVERYTHING about Christmas fills me with joy and revelry. Just most of it. And if you’re missing out on any revelry yourself, here’s an inexpensive way to get a little…

My eBook, A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas, is now available in the Amazon.com Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at Smashwords.com! This eBook contains the entire short novel A Long November, PLUS eight additional short stories of the holidays, including the short story “Lonely Miracle,” set in the world of my novel Other People’s Heroes. That’s nine stories for just $2.99, friends. Check it out, tell your friends, and Merry Christmas!

29
Aug
11

Counting down to the New 52…

Three months after the announcement was made, on Wednesday, everything changes. DC Comics is relaunching its entire line with 52 new #1 issues. And while I certainly won’t be getting all of them, I will be getting a lot. And I’m actually very excited for most of them. Still, questions persist… the history of the Flash(es), the connection to DC’s multiverse, whether Booster Gold will ever learn the truth about Rip Hunter’s parentage, where the Marvel family fits in, whether Steel ever armored up after the death of Superman, if Stephanie Brown ever was Robin or Batgirl, how Barbara Gordon is walking again, how the Martian Manhunter came to join Stormwatch, if Superboy was ever a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes… I could go on and on, and if you understood even half of those questions, you probably can too.

But the important thing is, I’m anxious to find out the answers. This week, even more than usual, I can’t wait for Wednesday.

25
Jul
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 230: San Diego and Captain America

Another San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone, and this week Blake and Erin get together and talk about the big anouncements from this year’s show: crossovers between Star Trek and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Archie and KISS, the new Fables spin-off, the upcoming relaunch of the Defenders, and much more! They also give their review of Captain America: The First Avenger, do a Rampant Speculation on the upcoming Suicide Squad, and give a few picks. Erin has discovered Tim O’Brien‘s The Things They Carried, and Blake doubles up with Sergio Aragones Funnies #1 and Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 230: San Diego and Captain America

21
Jul
11

San Diego Comic-Con Day One: I’m still not there

So as I mentioned yesterday, the San Diego Comic-Con is raging like a wildfire out there in California right now. I’m not there, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch the news with a sharp eye and a wistful heart. This is the first day, but there are a few interesting tidbits already jumping out at me…

  • IDW Publishing and DC Comics are producing a six-issue crossover miniseries, Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, written by Chris Roberson with art by Philip Moy. I’m psyched, and I have a feeling my Uncle Todd will find this interesting as well.
  • Speaking of crossovers, Archie Comics has announced an upcoming storyline where Archie and the gang from Riverdale will have to battle monsters from another dimension alongside legendary rock band KISS. Yes, you heard me. Archie. Meets. KISS. Mike Bellamy may finally have to buy an Archie Comic. (Or rather, four of them, it’s a four-part story beginning in Archie #627.)
  • One of the books that was apparently getting wiped out during the New 52 DC Comics Relaunch is coming back. Nick Spencer’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will return in November with a new #1, despite the fact that the writer is under an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. Looks like he kept a loophole in there.
  • IDW is also going to be doing a sequel to this year’s Infestation crossover. G.I. Joe and the TransFormers will be back for round two, but Star Trek and Ghostbusters are being replaced with Danger Girl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The Man of Steel, director Zach Snyder’s relaunch of the Superman movie franchise, has been pushed back from a release date of December 2012 to June 2013.

There have been other things announced, of course, but these are the things that have caught my attention so far. I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to sit down with Erin this weekend while we’re in Maine and record a Showcase episode about the announcements.

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.

 

 

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.

 

22
Jun
11

Classic EBI #96: The Spirit of Will Eisner

This week there’s been some interesting news on the comics front — a rumor that Marvel is planning a series of newsstand-aimed anthologies, and the announcement that Image Comics is going to adopt DC’s ratings system. What do I think about all of it?

Everything But Imaginary #404: More Changes to Your Comic Racks

But in this week’s classic EBI, we’re going back to January of 2005, when the comics world lost one of the greats.

Everything But Imaginary #96: The Spirit of Will Eisner

This week, folks, we were supposed to hand out the 2004 EBI awards. It was supposed to be a silly, jolly time just talking about some good comics — something I personally love to do. But man, the world pulls a fast one on you sometimes. Sometimes you just get dealt a severe blow, and sometimes you need to put the frivolities aside to pay tribute to something far bigger than yourself.

I’m talking, of course, about Will Eisner.

Eisner was a giant. A pioneer. A brilliant artist, an unparalleled storyteller. A man who revolutionized comics and helped them take their first steps towards becoming a true art form. It is hard to imagine any comic book creator more legendary than he.

And on Monday, Jan. 3, he passed away at the age of 87.

Eisner, the son of Jewish immigrants, got his start in comics in 1936 doing strips for WOW! What a Magazine and established a studio with his friend, Jerry Iger. In 1940 he debuted the comic book character that would make him a legend. Denny Colt was a police detective thought dead after a battle with a master criminal. Using this to his advantage, he became The Spirit, a masked crimefighter protecting the people of Central City.

That’s a very bland retelling of what was a groundbreaking comic. While his origin may not have been that different from any of a dozen other mystery men characters of the day, the way the Spirit was presented was very different. First of all, he didn’t appear in traditional comic books, but instead in a special 16-page comic that was released as a supplement to the comics section of Sunday newspapers. (Hard to imagine, I know, in this day and age where editors shrink comics down to postage stamp size and rearrange the panels at whim.) The weekly serial ran every Sunday for 12 years, with Eisner doing the writing or the writing and art for most of them (save for a three-year period when his talents were enlisted in World War II).

Then there was the writing. The Spirit, from a storytelling standpoint, was far superior to most of the comics of the day. It could be a hardboiled crime drama one week, a horror story the next, a comedy the week after and a soft sci-fi adventure to round out the month. Eisner freely flowed from genre to genre, but the character never seemed out of place.

And finally — and most importantly — there was the way this comic looked. Until Eisner, most comic book stories looked very much like their comic strip predecessors: a grid of panels, almost like still pictures lined up in a row to tell the story. Serviceable, yes, but hardly exciting. Eisner changed all that. He began to play with layout, experiment with design, with form and function of the comic book panel. He changed the stale grid to something bold and dynamic. Along with other luminaries like Jack Kirby, he turned the comic book from just being the stepchild of comic strips and magazines to being an art form in its own right, one which continues to grow and develop to this day. If you can find a successful American comic book artist who does not admit a debt — directly or indirectly — to Will Eisner, then he’s a liar.

Eisner was always out to try new things, too. He never settled on a logo for The Spirit, never gave it a traditional cover. Instead, he played with the logo of the comic every issue, often incorporating the design into the opening panel of that week’s story. These days you couldn’t do that because the marketing department would want an established brand, but at the time he not only got away with it, he created some of the most stylish, most dynamic opening pages in comics.

Eisner didn’t quit with the end of The Spirit, though. Throughout the 70s and 80s he turned out more and more comics, becoming more and more well-known. A Contract With God became known as the “first graphic novel,” coining the term for longer-form comic books that are often much more adult in tone than their magazine counterparts. While some would debate whether or not Eisner coined this phrase himself or whether Contract actually qualifies as coming “first,” few could possibly argue that his stories and the way he told them would change comic books and make the graphic novel a legitimate format for the artform.

He kept working right up until his death, turning out more graphic novels like Minor Miracles, A Life Force, The Building and Life On Another Planet. He was working even in his final days. His last graphic novel, The Plot, will be released later in 2005.

Eisner became synonymous with excellence in comic books. Even the premiere award in the entire medium bears his name — the Eisner Award is to comics what the Oscar is to film.

His thumbprint — what he did for and what he understands about the medium — remains an inspiration to comic artists to this very day. A few weeks ago, in the bustle of all the Christmas shopping I had to do, I was struggling to find a present for my sister, Heather. In a moment of epiphany, I recalled how she has recently renewed her high school interest in art and even asks me from time to time what it would take to learn to draw comics. (She has even shown a lot of interest in taking classes from the Joe Kubert school.) Then it became perfectly clear. I should give her the book almost universally recognized as the finest work ever written about comic books as an art form, what it takes to draw them, how to craft them, how to make a page exciting, how to tell a story.

That work, of course, is Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner. And I got her another of his books, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, to further her education. I knew that whatever question Heather might pose to me, Eisner was far more qualified to answer than I was.

I just never dreamed, as I watched her unwrap those books on Christmas Eve, that only two weeks later the icon who wrote them would be gone.

As Shakespeare was to theatre, as Mozart was to music, as DaVinci was to sculpture and painting, so was Will Eisner to the comic book. He was one of the last true legends of the comic book form. We will never see his like again, but as long as new artists sharpen their pencils and crack the spines of his books to study the craft, he will never be forgotten.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 29, 2004

The last week of the year also brought with it perhaps the most exciting launch, certainly the best comic of the week, the new Legion of Super-Heroes #1. While I was admittedly skeptical about this title’s reason for being (I really didn’t think the Legion needed yet another reboot), I did have faith in the talent of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson to deliver a knockout story, and I wasn’t disappointed. This was a fantastic comic book and a great new beginning for the Legion. If you’ve never read their comic book before, don’t worry, it’s all new from here on out. This is 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 BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

 

08
Jun
11

Classic EBI #259: A Valiant Return

Last week’s DC Comics news was pretty ginormous, but this week I look into some stuff that kind of got lost in the noise — including a big announcement from Valiant Entertainment and the events of Fear Itself #3.

Everything But Imaginary #402: But That’s Not All!

In this week’s Classic EBI, we’re going back to April 9, 2008, the last time Valiant had an announcement to make. Let’s see if this one sticks…

Everything But Imaginary #259: A Valiant Return

Back in the summer of 1993, I wasn’t really mobile. I was 15 and didn’t have a car, or a driver’s license, or a friend with a car or driver’s license, or a particularly reliable pogo stick. If I wanted to go anywhere, I pretty much had to catch a ride with somebody. I did, however, have a best friend (Shane Overstreet – how ya doin’ out there, buddy?) whose stepdad frequented the dollar cinema, and so I caught a lot of cheap movies with them. Also in that same strip mall was a small comic shop, different from the one I frequented with my Uncle Joe (hey, Joe!), and always worth checking out. I don’t remember much about that shop – the name, the owner, even the layout – but I do remember the day I walked into the store to see two books I’d never heard of before: Magnus: Robot Fighter #24 and Rai and the Future Force #9.

Flipping through these two books, I quickly realized that they were not just part of the same universe, but the beginning of the same story. The Magnus issue was the end of a four-part arc, but led into Rai, and together made up the beginning of what would be known as the “Malevalent War” storyline. The books were pretty exorbitantly priced for me – a whopping $2.25 each – but they were written by John Ostrander and they had cool new sci-fi based superheroes and they actually mentioned Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and did I really need to get popcorn at the dollar cinema, since that’s where they all made their money anyway?

I bought the books.

Thus, I was introduced to the Valiant Universe.

Both books, despite their high price point, got added to my pull folder immediately. A month later on the Internet (yeah, I was already on the Internet back then, but at the time it was actually on the Prodigy service) I ranked both of the comics among my monthly favorites. This prompted an e-mail from one of the Valiant Employees who wanted my address. A few days later in the mail I got a free gold edition of Rai #9 just for making that message board post. Valiant did stuff like that back in the day.

As I was writing this column, I dug out that old gold edition just to scan in the cover. Within seconds, I was reading it all over again. (I want to stress here – in a week where my new comic book purchases included such surefire gems as Justice Society of America, Peter Tomasi on Green Lantern Corps and the new volume of The Complete Peanuts, I took time out to read a book that’s 15 years old and that I’ve read a thousand times… because it was there.) Even completely cold, I grasped this story immediately. Earth was being invaded by evil robots. Among its heroes was a man who was raised to fight robots, a new hero who had taken up the mantle of a dead one, the dead man’s wife (who was none too happy), a strange guy in a hood, an immortal warrior, a guy who turned into a robot-killing monster when he was scared, a narcissistic swashbuckler and a pair of lowbrow, gun-toting warriors. And in this one issue, we saw them all come together and become a real team. This was, I learned, the first issue of Future Force. The previous Rai had died a few issues before, and the book was being retooled. But I grasped everything instantly and loved everything just as fast.

I soon found out that this was actually the distant future of a contemporary universe populated by such books as Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Eternal Warrior, Shadowman and Solar: Man of the Atom. I couldn’t afford all of these books, but the ones I did start to pick up were fantastic. At the time, Image Comics was still relatively new and hugely popular, and most of the comic book industry was becoming heavily artist-centric as a reaction. Valiant, on the other hand, was a company focusing on story first, which is what I’m all about. This was a universe whose heroes were flawed and realistic, but still managed to tell larger, epic stories without losing any of the punch. Every book was among the best-written titles on the stands, and although critics would sometimes claim the company had a “house art style,” with artists as diverse as Barry Windsor-Smith, David Lapham, Bob Layton, Joe Quesada and Sean Chen, I simply didn’t see it.

Unfortunately, like all candles that burn twice as bright, Valiant only shone for half as long as it should. Less, even. After the publisher got white-hot, the investment company that backed it sold it off to video game maker Acclaim for a reported $65 million. Acclaim was predictably more interested in mining the company for game concepts than putting out quality comics. The company flickered and they tried to reignite it with “Birthquake” – a pseudo-event that gave many of the titles new creative teams and new “beginnings,” as it were. It didn’t catch on, and the Valiant Universe died.

They then tried to resurrect the line as “Valiant Heroes,” a sort of “Earth-2” or “Ultimate” approach to the line, and there were a few solid books there, most notably Mark Waid and Sean Chen’s X-O Manowar, Kurt Busiek and Neil Vokes’s Ninjak and Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright’s Quantum and Woody. Within two years, though, that line too was dead. There was a third relaunch attempt, but the six-issue Unity 2000 miniseries vanished after just three issues, and there was no Valiant at all for a while. And the world became a sadder place.

But the fans never forgot. Websites were prolific. Costumes never vanished from conventions. Podcasts were launched. And even though the back issues no longer command the hefty price they did back in the company’s heyday, they still move.

Then, last year, something we’d been waiting to hear for seven years was announced. Valiant’s Harbinger would be getting a new hardcover collection courtesy of the company that bought Valiant from Acclaim on auction. And as if that wasn’t good enough, it would include a new story by the property’s creator, Jim Shooter. There is a highly-technical industry term for this sort of announcement: “awesome sauce.”

The resurrection was almost derailed, however, when a second company emerged claiming to hold the trademark to many of the Valiant titles, including Harbinger. The situation was kind of complex, and I already discussed it in Everything But Imaginary #227, but a few months ago a settlement was reached. Valiant Entertainment, Inc. was given the copyright and trademark to the Valiant Universe, and because of that, today I purchased the hardcover collection of the first eight issues (#0-7) of Harbinger.

And there was much rejoicing.

Now it’s a waiting game. Will Harbinger sell? What about the next hardcover, X-O Manowar, which will go on sale in a few weeks? And most importantly, will they sell enough for the new Valiant to do what it really wants to do: namely, take a chance on producing new comic books featuring the Valiant Universe?

Obviously, I hope so. The fact that there’s an audience is inarguable – the question is whether that audience can sustain the universe’s return. And which properties will return? Three of the big ones – Magnus: Robot Fighter, Solar: Man of the Atom and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter were never actually owned by Valiant, but instead licensed from defunct publisher Western. They may not be able to return. On the other hand, Solar appears in the Harbinger hardcover, so maybe something can be arranged.

Whatever, however it happens, there are a lot of old-school Valiant fans waiting for this. There were a ton of comic book universes that were born and died in the 90s, but none of them command the love and loyalty that Valiant still draws from its fans today. And maybe, just maybe, this week we’ve begun to see that loyalty pay off.

Favorite of the Week: April 2, 2008

Geoff Johns is a greedy, greedy man. Like it’s not bad enough that I feel compelled to make every issue of Booster Gold, Green Lantern and Justice Society of America my pick of the week, now he’s gone and turned Action Comics into the best Superman comic since… hell, possibly since I started reading. The Legion of Super-Heroes arc ends with this issue, and it ends in as exciting a fashion as I’ve ever seen. Superman and the Legion bring it big-time here, and Johns and Gary Frank managed to create one of those classic pages where I almost feel bad for the villain, because I can just feel the beatdown he’s about to receive. And the teaser at the end alone was almost enough – Johns and George Perez on a Legion of Three Worlds miniseries? My God, I should just engrave the “favorite of the week” plaques now.

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

 

05
Jun
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 224: The New DC

This week, DC Comics made an announcement that rocked the world of comics. This Sunday, the Showcase boys get together to talk about it. What’s the difference between a “reboot” and a “relaunch”? Will same-day digital change our reading habits? Which new books are we looking forward to, and what are some announcements we hope get made before all is said and done? In the picks, Mike likes Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade, Kenny chooses Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #1 and Blake goes with 50 Girls 50 #1. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 224: The New DC




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