Posts Tagged ‘Sandman

15
Jul
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 270: San Diego Comic-Commentary

Comic-Con weekend is here, and although Blake and Erin aren’t in San Diego, that’s not going to stop them from pontificating about all the news from the con. The aftermath of Avengers Vs. X-MenNeil Gaiman returns to Sandman! A slew of new Image comics, the titles and release dates for Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase 2…” and is it possible the greatest Marvel villain of them all could be… Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz? Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!
Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

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30
Nov
11

Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

Christmas is quickly approaching, friends, and that means it’s time for one of my favorite Everything But Imaginary columns of the year. Today, I look at some of the cool stuff that’s available to buy for the geek on your list. It’s the 2011 Geek Gift Guide!

Everything But Imaginary #425: The 2011 Geek Gift Guide

Like many of my columns, though, this one has evolved over time. Let’s look back at an early one, from 2005.

Classic EBI #141: Giving the Gifts of Geekdom

It’s December already, friends! Time to deck those halls, jingle those bells, and get out those credit cards, because you’re rapidly running out of time to get your Christmas shopping done. Now as longtime readers of this column know, I love Christmas. If I’d been born in Whoville, I would have fit in perfectly.

More important, for the purposes of today’s discussion, it’s time once again for the Everything But Imaginary Guide to Shopping For Your Geek. If you’re lucky enough to be a Comic Book Geek who has a Comic Book Geek to shop for, well, this column is most definitely for you. But if you’re a Geek who just hopes to get cool stuff this year – well, clearly you’re going to have to resort to drastic measures, such as “accidentally” mailing the link to this column to everybody you know, printing it out and slipping it into your girlfriend’s magazines, taping it to the steering wheel of your mother’s car and other such time-honored holiday traditions. So take a look at what we’ve got lined up and have this column with you when you visit Santa – you don’t want him to forget either, do you?

Now the first thing to consider for that special Geek, of course, is going to come from the DVD aisle. Geeks of all stripes have always loved movies, but since the advent of DVD and their full-season boxed sets, commentaries, outtakes, behind-the-scenes documentaries and other special features, it’s been a Geek paradise. And it’s been a heck of a year for Geek DVDs. First up, there was the phenomenal motion picture Batman Begins – hands-down the best Batman movie since… well, since the invention of celluloid. You’ll want to be careful getting this movie for your Geek, though, as Warner Brothers released it in both a single-disc barebones edition and a spiffy two-disc set full of keen extras, including a mini-comic reprinting the first Batman story from Detective Comics #27, a Dennis O’Neil classic and the first issue of Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Then, of course, there is the eternal struggle between widescreen and fullscreen, but if you need me to explain to you why widescreen is infinitely superior then you, my friend, are not a true Geek.

Then there are all the other great Geek DVDs that hit this year. To coincide with the release of Batman Begins, Warner Brothers released two-disc “special editions” of the four previous Batman films, and the first two of those would sit proudly on any Geek’s DVD shelf. (Anyone who has a copy of Batman and Robin on his shelf must immediately explain that his Great-Aunt Sophie, who doesn’t know any better, is the one who gave it to him, and that the only reason he hasn’t burned it is because she’ll want to see it on the shelf when she comes over to visit.) 2005 saw the beginning of the sets featuring the classic Adventures of Superman television show starring George Reeves, two volumes of which are now available. Two more seasons of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series came out, as did DVDs featuring Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Lois and Clark, plus Smallville is up to season four on DVD. And what Geek collection would be complete without the new releases of The Greatest American Hero?

Now I should caution you, when buying DVDs for the Geek in your life, you’re going to want to be careful not to duplicate anything already in his collection. Be sure to scout out their DVD shelf and take careful inventory of what he already has and what he is missing. If you don’t live with your Geek and don’t have ready access to his collection, you may have to employ agents such as a spouse, sibling or parent to scout out the collection on your behalf. Don’t be ashamed to ask these people for assistance: they have a Geek in their lives as well, remember, so they understand. Geeks – try to make it easier on the people in your life. I know it will be difficult to resist the urge, but stop buying DVDs for yourself between now and Christmas. They’ll still be there when the after-Christmas sales begin. Keep the shelf as it is now. Except, of course, when Serenity is released on Dec. 20 – I don’t expect anyone with taste to be able to resist that.

DVDs, of course, are not the only item on your favorite Geek’s Christmas list. He or she most certainly wants a buttload of toys as well. If you have been paying attention to what your Geek is a fan of, then you should know what to look for. The DC Direct line has had dozens of new releases this year. From Green Lantern Corps and Crisis on Infinite Earths figures to extentions of their Silver Age Superman and Batman lines, there’s something for everybody.

Marvel has also upped the ante on their Marvel Select and Marvel Legends lines, including sets of figures that include parts you can put together to build Galactus or a Sentinel. They’ve also introduced their new action figure game, Super Hero Showdown, which includes some really cool figures of their classic heroes and which any Geek will enjoy. Getting a Geek any sort of game, of course, is another danger zone. If you don’t want to play the game with him yourself (although you should), make sure he has someone to play with, or else you, as the person who gave the gift, will be recruited.

The great thing about toys is that they have a lot of cross-gender appeal – the female Geeks out there dig them too. Things like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures are quite popular, as well as some of the really nice statues and dioramas that are available. My own girlfriend, Erin, has continually expressed her desire for the Harley Quinn maquette that was available all-too briefly at the Warner Brothers stores (and if anyone out there knows where I can acquire one at a price I can afford before I land my million-dollar book contract, I would be forever in your debt). It’s just a matter of knowing your Geek, knowing what they like, and making sure it winds up under that tree before the 25th.

And finally, of course, there are books. Books books books books books. Did I mention books? Novels, graphic novels, movie scripts, behind-the-scenes books. This was a golden year for Star Wars fans, with a billion books that came out to celebrate the final film in that franchise. There’s the novel of Episode III, the graphic novel adaptation, the junior novel, the “Art of” book, the “Visual Dictionary,” the “Making Of” book, the Star Wars Visionaries special and lord only knows what else I may be leaving out.

Your Geek’s tastes may vary, of course. They may be into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series or David Mack’s Kabuki. They may be looking for the hardcover collections of Superman/Batman or Ultimate Spider-Man. They may be into Stephen King, Clive Barker, Orson Scott Card or Isabel Allende. Basically, you’ve got to employ the same tactics for books as you do for DVDs – scout out their bookshelves and see what they already have. That way you’ll know exactly what not to get and, in the case of a series, exactly what they need. Ah, Christmas. ‘Tis the season for subterfuge.

So that’s all you really need to know to shop for your Geek this year. Head out to the stores, have fun, and help them load up on cool stuff. It’s easier than you think.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 30, 2005

It’s taken a long time, but the revelation of Ruin’s identity in Adventures of Superman #646 was a real mind-blower, easily winning that title my Favorite of the Week last week. It was someone I’d never suspected, but who made sense considering the character’s history, and the way writer Greg Rucka used Mr. Mxyzptlk, casting him in an entirely different light, one that was really unique. A really strong issue, a really surprising story.

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.

 

24
Aug
11

Classic EBI #105: Getting in on the Ground Floor

With next week’s historical realignment of the DC Universe, I thought today would be an appropriate time to look back at the DCU that was and give a proper send-off to those books, characters, and creators that I’ve enjoyed in recent years that I think deserve a fond farewell.

Everything But Imaginary #412: The Old DC Farewell Party

Going back in time, though, we look at my column from March 9, 2005. This week, I talked about how hard it can be to get into long-running series, and made my recommendation for a book I thought could be the Next Big Thing. I still think it’s a great book, and it lives on as a webcomic…

Everything But Imaginary #105: Getting in on the Ground Floor

In theory, a new reader should be able to jump into a long-running, iconic series at just about any time and get into the action. This isn’t true in practice, of course, but let’s talk about the theory for a moment. In theory, Spider-Man comics should be perfectly accessible to people who just start reading because they love the movie. In theory, people who want to try Fantastic Four should be able to hop on to that title as soon as the new writer takes over. And in theory, if you’re one of the three people on Earth who doesn’t know Batman’s origin, just stick around, because it seems to get recapped every other month anyway.

The reason for this is that these characters have been around for decades and have become part of the constantly-expanding mythology of comic books. Amazing Spider-Man does not tell one complete story, it tells hundreds of stories in short installments that have been added to by hundreds of writers, pencilers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors over the years. So if you missed the beginning of the current story, or if you don’t like it, all you’ve got to do is wait around for the next one to start.

This is not true of all comics, however. In the last few decades, there has been an increasing focus on comics that tell one, extended story, usually the product of a single cartoonist or a single writer collaborating with multiple artists. A comic book series with a beginning, a middle and an end — as opposed to comics like Superman, where you know you’re in a state of perpetual middle.

Now because these single-story series can almost never involve an iconic character, and often are done by a creator who is relatively unknown as the series begins, the titles that fit into this category quite often start off small, with a handful of readers who spread the word. The book gains critical acclaim, rolls on, and eventually may be known of as a classic. But only those handful of people who were there at the beginning got the story the way it was intended. Others scrambled for the trade paperbacks or scoured the back issue bins, or sometimes just jumped in the middle. It’s impossible to predict which of these series will take off, so the speculation doesn’t really work.

Perhaps the best known example of this kind of comic is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Gaiman, at the time, was a little-known writer with a handful of credits to his name who pitched a series about the Jack Kirby incarnation of the Sandman, the one who lived in a sort of space station and monitored people’s dreams. DC liked the idea but, alas, that Sandman was already in use in the title Infinity, Inc., so they asked him to create a new character.

Fast-forward 75 issues and you have one of the most acclaimed comic book series of all time, about the King of the Dreams, his undying siblings, the power of story and imagination and everything else. It’s regarded as a classic. It’s the only comic ever to win a World Fantasy Award. And most importantly (for purposes of this discussion), it’s a book that DC let Gaiman end when his story was done.

Dave Sim’s Cerebus took this form of storytelling to the extreme, setting out to do a 300-issue series that would chronicle the entire life of his aardvark hero, and he succeeded. He riled up a lot of people, got a lot of people mad, but he told a tale that, like it or not, is unparalleled in scope in comic book history.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get in on that ground floor. A few years ago, thumbing through the Previews catalogue, I noticed a new series in the works from the Vertigo imprint about fairy tale characters living in the modern world. The premise intrigued me and the writer, Bill Willingham, was somebody I’d grown to respect for his work on various Sandman Presents projects. So I put Fables in my pull folder, reasoning I could just ditch it after the first story arc if I didn’t like it. Oh, but I liked it. It’s now my favorite comic every single month, and when I listen to people talk about how great it is and other people ask when they can start reading it, I just smile because I lucked out enough to get into it from the very beginning.

My favorite example of this kind of story, though, has to be Jeff Smith’s Bone. This was one where I was lucky enough to get in relatively early, with issue #13. I picked up the trade paperbacks of the first 12 issues and I was set to follow the Bone cousins for about the next ten years in their adventures through the valley, against the stupid, stupid rat creatures and the Lord of the Locusts and unravelling the mysteries surrounding Thorn Harvestar.

When this remarkable series finally reached its conclusion last year, I told as many people as would listen to pick the thing up, to get the trade paperbacks or the color reprints or the big mama-jama one-volume edition.

But last weekend it occurred to me, as much as promoting Bone is a good thing, perhaps it would also behoove me to try to find that next big thing, that new comic that nobody knows about yet but is rife with potential, and tell people about it while they still have time to get in on the ground floor.

That thought came to me because I was reading that next comic nobody knows about yet. And it’s Runners by Sean Wang.

Published by Serve Man Press, the first Runners miniseries, Bad Goods recently concluded its five-issue run with the promise of more to come. The basic premise of this miniseries is that a group of outer-space runners — a crew that transports cargo from one planet to another — discovers a mysterious blue woman that they suspect may have come from the vats they’re transporting, meaning someone is using them in a slave ring. Despite that kind of heavy premise, the comic is really a rip-roaring, old-fashioned sci-fi adventure, with plenty of lighthearted moments, wonderful artwork that’s just begging to be made into an animated movie, and some of the coolest alien designs I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

While I was reading those first five issues, though, I felt like there was something deeper here. It read as though Sean Wang has serious plans for this title, and he was just sort of easing us in on the lighthearted stuff before launching into the full-on space opera that this title has the potential to become. I haven’t felt that way about a comic in a long time.

Not, in fact, since those early issues of Bone where we had a goofy cow race disguising the fact that the valley was about to be plunged into war.

Yeah. I think it could be that good.

So I’ve got to thank Sean Wang for passing the first four comics into Ronée’s capable hands, I’ve gotta thank Ronée for letting me read them, and I’ve got to thank the manager of BSI Comics for going to great lengths to snag a copy of the final issue for me. Otherwise, I may never have known about this comic.

And I may never have had the chance to tell you to try it out. The first five issue miniseries is available at the www.SeanWang.com, and a trade paperback is in the works… and Wang promises that the story will continue. I can’t wait.

So how about an assignment, folks? Kind of like with my “best comics I’ve never read” columns, I want you guys to suggest some of the best new comics out there, ones you think nobody knows about yet but that you want people to try because you see real potential. A miniseries can qualify if it’s the sort of thing that’ll be a series of miniseries, or it can be an ongoing, but let’s say anything less than 12 issues into the run. Anything beyond that and it’s not really the ground floor anymore, is it?

And check out Runners: Bad Goods! It’s worth the hunt.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 2, 2005

From the ground floor to the skyscraper, last week’s favorite is kind of the opposite of what we talked about this week, the final issue of a comic that told one story from beginning to end. Although the title was hurt by a forced hiatus to deal with some legal matters, Rising Stars #24 ended J. Michael Straczynski’s epic in real style. The story is resolved, questions are answered, and things all really come full-circle. In typical Straczynski style, this final issue was really more of an epilogue than the actual finale, but it did give us something I never thought we’d get — the truth about the flash that gave the Specials their powers. And it was a simple, beautiful explanation. Now that this series is over, now that people can read the whole thing, I feel confidant that this will make its way alongside the acknowledged masterpieces of the superhero genre.

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

03
Aug
11

Classic EBI #102: How to Make a Couch Potato Read a Comic Book

In today’s all-new Everything But Imaginary column, I step back and take a look at the construction of Marvel Studios’ movie universe — and what they may have to do to keep it viable past the first generation of actors.

Everything But Imaginary #409: Making a Movie Universe

Going back to the classics, though, back in February 2005 I looked at ways to snare new readers from the realm of television, by using their favorite shows to identify comics that may be to their taste…

Classic EBI #102: How to Make a Couch Potato Read a Comic Book

As much as I’d like to, I’ve discovered that it is statistically impossible to read comic books all the time. (I learned this one Thursday morning at 3:45 a.m. halfway through Sandman: A Season of Mists when I suddenly gained the ability to see the music.) So last weekend I unwound by watching the first season DVD of the television show 24. Which, of course, made me think about comic books, because my mind is preposterously circular in that regard.

Although I had heard a lot of really good things about 24, I’d never been able to catch it at the beginning of a season and therefore have never watched it, but when an online retailer recently had the first season on sale for just $15, I saw no reason not to get it. By the second episode, I was hooked, and I wound up watching the entire 24-episode season in less than a week. The way the show works, in case you don’t know, is that each season chronicles one day in the life of Counter Terrorism Agent Jack Bauer (played with aplomb by Kiefer Sutherland). Each episode takes place in realtime and covers exactly one hour in Jack’s life. What really got me about the show was the challenge of writing such a thing, telling one story in 24 installments, making each episode make sense as a portrait of one hour, and still having each installment end at a point of high suspense without making it seem necessarily forced.

Once I’d seen the whole thing, though, I realized that I got a very similar feeling reading a comic book. Specifically, from the new Captain America series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. Now a comic can’t play with time the same way that a television series can, but many of the other elements that make 24 so great are present in this series. A story is being told in installments, each installment has moments of action and downtime, and each one ends at a point of maximum suspense. (The first episode of 24, for instance, ends with Jack’s daughter being kidnapped and an airplane blowing up, whereas the first issue of Captain America ends with Cap’s old nemesis, the Red Skull taking a bullet in the chest.)

That sort of action, the spy drama, the structure is a great thing, and it make me think about how I always say that there is a comic book out there for everyone, if only they knew where to look. So while you 24 fans are trying to get your buddies to read Captain America, I’m going to suggest a few more TV/movie analogues to some great comic books.

(And I’m not just going to suggest Star Wars fans read the Star Wars comics. That’s too easy. And if they haven’t made that leap by now, they’re not gonna.)

For fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it would be easy to suggest Astonishing X-Men. The title is written by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, for one thing, and it’s got kind of the same “us against a world of evil” mentality, with a lot of drama, but a good bit of humor as well. However, I think an even better comic for Buffy fans may be Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways. The second series of this acclaimed title starts… well… today. The basic premise of the first series was that six kids discovered their parents were supervillains, part of a murderous cult that was planning to aid in the destruction of the world. The kids – some of them with inherited powers or talents, but others with nothing but their wits – set out on their own to save the world from their own parents. The second series picks up some time after the first, and I don’t yet know what angle the new version will take, but I’ve got no doubt that it will have that same feel that Buffy fans dig.

What if you like a western? Something like Unforgiven, A Fistful of Dollars, or especially a fantasy-western like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series? Then you should be giving a read to Beckett Comics’ The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty. The book takes the classic fairy tale and transplants it to the American west, but it takes up the story near the end. An entire town has fallen asleep due to some ancient curse and a young boy, the only one to escape, is in search of a man to break the spell. When the title opens we find the boy and our unlikely hero, Cole, about to dangle at the end of a hangman’s rope. Cole is your classic tortured western hero, a gunslinger with a dark past he’s trying to atone for, even though he never believes he can. This is the sort of title that shows you how sometimes you can take two very familiar stories or styles, combine them, and come up with something totally new.

If you’ve got kids who are into (or if you yourself are into) something like Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Oddparents, you might want to check out the upcoming Mike S. Miller series The Imaginaries. Beneath all the comedy and slapstick, Fairly Oddparents is a series about the power of the imagination, and The Imaginaries is going to drip with that stuff. Folks who saw the recent preview in the Two Bits anthology know the idea – what happens to an imaginary friend when the child who imagined him no longer needs him? The pain of his parents’ divorce makes a child give up his own imaginary friend, Superhero G, who finds himself lost in an entire city made up of discarded imaginary friends. I’ve used the word “imagination” about a zillion times in this paragraph, but get ready for one more – this is the kind of comic that really tests the limits of the imagination, and that’s an incredible thing.

Maybe you just want to laugh. You’re into sitcoms like Newsradio, Scrubs or classics like I Love Lucy or Laverne and Shirley? Well man, why aren’t you reading PVP? Scott Kurtz’s comic strip is your classic office comedy – a group of geeks (and one troll) working together in a video game magazine. Throw in things like a competing magazine, a passive aggressive supervillain, frequent misunderstandings, romantic subplots, harried husbands and young crushes, and you’ve got all of the elements of a situation comedy. Kurtz, in fact, will frequently take the sort of stock situation that can be used in virtually any sitcom – a child (or troll) “runs away” after an older sibling (or co-worker) says something to upset him, and the others set out to find him, not realizing he just ran away to the broom closet. But Kurtz always has a little twist, something that makes it different from just another sitcom, something that makes it pop.

Cop dramas are huge right now. In fact, scientists estimate that if you were to play “Remote Control Russian Roulette” between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight (Eastern time) you stand a 97.3 percent chance of landing on a channel showing an episode of either CSI, Law and Order or one of their various spin-offs. So while you’re spinning that dial, why not spin over to the comic shop and try an issue of Gotham Central? Greg Rucka and the (sadly) soon-to-be departing Ed Brubaker have done a masterful job with this series, detailing the trials and tribulations of two groups of police officers (the day shift and the night shift) who have to keep the peace in a city with all of the regular muggings, murders, robberies and drugs of any major metropolitan area, but on top of that, are forced to deal with homicidal clowns, mad scientists, plant-women who can control your mind with just a kiss and some lunatic dressed like a giant bat trying to do their job for them. It’s a unique take on an old idea, and it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves.

Then there are the soap operas. And with them all of the lying, scheming, backstabbing, deaths, resurrections and sex you could want in any given issue of Noble Causes. Like most soap operas, this one focuses on one powerful family. The twist here is that “powerful” is meant in a literal term – these guys are superheroes. There are the parents, Doc and Gaia. There’s their oldest son, Rusty, who is trapped in a robot body and whose wife Celeste has left him and he’s now dating Cosmic Rae, whom he doesn’t know is an android. Race, their younger son, died in the first issue, but his wife Liz found another dimension where he survived and she’s moved there and everything is back to normal. Zephyr is pregnant by Draconis, the family’s oldest enemy whom Doc killed, and whose son Krennick claimed he was the father because he’s in love with her and has a tendency to hire prostitutes who pretend to be her. Then of course there’s Gaia’s other son, Frost, the product of an affair after Rusty was born, except no one knew she had the affair with a version of Doc from an alternate dimension. Oh, and Frost’s affair with Celeste is what ended her marriage to Rusty.

If you’ve watched enough soap operas to have the slightest clue what I said in that last paragraph, you should be reading Noble Causes.

The point of all this, friends, is that comics are a big, wide, diverse world. And if you look hard enough, you can find something for anyone. In fact, feel free to find some more – I’ll be interested to see what you all come up with.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 9, 2005

I had very, very low expectations for the winner of this week’s favorite award, which may be why I was so pleasantly surprised, but I thought the first issue of Young Avengers was a great read. Four teenagers with looks, powers and names that mimic Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk burst on to the scene, and J. Jonah Jameson wants the scoop. In addition to using Jameson, the book also picks up on the elder Avengers and the cast of The Pulse to investigate these kids, trying to figure out who they are and what they’re doing, all of it building up to a last page that legitimately surprised the heck out of me. Considering that Allan Heinberg has never written comics before, I think he’s off to a great 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. 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.

25
May
11

Classic EBI #100: What Comics Do I Love?

This week, my friends, I’m celebrating a milestone. It’s the big, big 400th edition of Everything But Imaginary, my weekly comic book column at CXPulp.com! I’m highly excited about it, and decided to take this opportunity to explain, once and for all, just why I read comic books. I’ll give you a hint. It’s got a lot to do with potential.

Everything But Imaginary #400: Why Do I Read Comics

And as part of the celebration, in this week’s Classic EBI, I’m stepping out of order a little bit. Column #93 was scheduled to be next, but since I’m celebrating this milestone, I thought it would be nice to go back and celebrate the column’s very first milestone, EBI #100, from February 2, 2005. Let’s go, shall we?

EBI #100 SUPER-SIZED SPECTACULAR: WHAT COMICS DO I LOVE?

It’s hard to believe, I know, but for 100 Wednesdays now comic book fans have had something more to look forward to than just this week’s crop of fresh comic books: we’ve had Everything But Imaginary. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for this long, hard to believe that I still haven’t run out of things to write about. It’s a wonderful feeling.

As comic fans, 100 is a huge number for us. It’s rare, especially these days, for something to last 100 installments, so when it happens it’s cause for celebration. How, then, do I commemorate EBI 100?

Part of my mission statement here, folks, is to talk about what makes good comics good. And that’s my favorite part of this job: turning people on to new comics, explaining why I think something is great or talking about how to make it better. So how better to handle this column than to talk about the greatest comic book properties I’ve ever read?

Then I hit another problem, because when I made my top 10 list, almost all of them were superhero properties, and comic books are so much more than that, and I didn’t want to focus just on superheroes.

Then I thought: “Duh. It’s my 100th issue, and I can make it super-sized if I want to.”

So that’s what you’re getting, friends — my 10 favorite superhero properties and my 10 favorite other comic properties. There won’t be any big surprises on this list. You’ve been reading for 100 columns now, you know what I like and I don’t like. The important thing here, the thing I hope you take away from this… is the why.

My 10 Favorite Non-Superhero Comics

10. G.I. Joe: Yeah, I’m a big kid and I know it. But that’s why this property is so great to me. Every little boy wants to play Army Man — well, G.I. Joe takes that concept to the extreme. And the greatest Joe tales ever were told in the comics — first in Larry Hama’s legendary run at Marvel, then with Josh Blaylock and Brandon Jerwa at Devil’s Due. What’s more, this is the property that jumpstarted the 80s nostalgia craze, and is one of the few survivors. Because it’s still really, really good. This property has grown and matured along with its audience. Guys my age fell in love with this comic book as kids. It’s amazing that, even as adults, it’s one of the best comics on the market.

9. PVP: Man, what’s left to say about Scott Kurtz and PVP? Birthed as a webtoon, turned into a successful comic, this title lampoons video games, office politics, pop culture, television, movies and everything else. It’s what Dilbert would be with a giant blue troll and actual punchlines. For me, to be actually funny, something has to be smart too, and PVP scores that in spades. I read it every day on PVP Online and I still geek out every time an issue arrives at the comic shop.

8. Strangers in Paradise: Terry Moore’s labor of love was one of the first serious, non-superhero comics I ever got into. It’s basically a love story about Francine Peters and Katchoo, but sometimes it’s a triangle with David or a quadrangle with Casey or a pentagon with Freddie. Sometimes it’s a mob drama. Sometimes it’s a sitcom. Sometimes it’s a romance. This is a title that can reinvent itself not just from story to story, but within the same issue. Moore’s work is unceasingly experimental and consistently interesting, and I love that.

7. Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, Sandman was the flagship title of DC’s Vertigo line, and is still a top seller in bookstores. Using bits and pieces of DC’s existing superhero universe, Gaiman instead crafted a haunting fantasy tale about the king of the Dreaming and his Endless siblings. Sandman is the only comic book ever to win a World Fantasy Award (and is likely to remain so, because the members of the Award federation were so incensed that a lowly comic book won that they changed the rules so they are no longer eligible). It’s a truly literary work, and it’s a book with a lot of crossover appeal as well, drawing in people who ordinarily wouldn’t read comics and showing them how much potential the art form has.

6. Fables: This is by far the youngest property on either of these lists, and it is a testament to how good it is that I’m mentioning it in this column at all. The brainchild of Bill Willingham, Fables takes all those fairy tale and storybook characters we read about as a child and casts them together in a bold new epic — alternately a drama and a comedy, it’s fast, smart, clever and engaging. Five years ago I never would have believed I’d be pulling for a reconciliation between Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf or reading stories about Cinderella pulling a Mata Hari routine on Ichabod Crane, but I’m reading them now. And I run — run — every month to see if it’s in my advance pack of reviews, because if there’s anything I like more than Fables, it’s telling people how good it is.

5. Archie: That’s right. America’s Favorite Teenager is making my Top 10 list. And you know why? Because it’s sweet. And innocent. And wholesome. And it’s something that each and every one of us can relate to at some point in our lives. I’d wager that at least 75 percent of comic book fans, at some point or another, have read an Archie comic. You have the love triangles, the goofy buddies, the brainiacs, the bullies, the jocks, the nerds, and it’s all wrapped up in a package that is perfect to hand to kids and entice them into reading comic books. If I ever have kids, when the time comes for them to learn how to read, you can bet that Archie is going to be part of the curriculum.

4. Uncle Scrooge: I love Uncle Scrooge for many of the same reasons I love Archie — it’s wholesome and great for kids and something we’ve all read, but Scrooge has even more going in its favor. A great Uncle Scrooge story is never dated, never too low for adults to read, never too highbrow for kids. And while Archie is primarily suited for slapstick comedy, Scrooge does it all. Want high adventure? Let’s go on a treasure hunt. Want romance? Weave the tale of Scrooge’s lost love, Glittering Goldie. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Monsters? Pirates? Cowboys? Mythology? Politics? Corporate scandal? With Scrooge and his nephews, you can tell just about any kind of story you can imagine.

3. The Spirit: The most famous work of Will Eisner is a borderline superhero comic (he does wear a mask and fight crime, after all), but it’s more than that. It’s a crime drama at its heart, but Eisner did some fantastic things with it. He delved into fantasy, comedy and horror — as many genres as Scrooge does, in fact, but he did it for a more adult audience and revolutionized comics while he was at it. There’s still one Spirit story by its creator left unpublished, a crossover with Michael Chabon’s Escapist, and I cannot wait for that book to see print.

2. Bone: This is one of those rare comic books to crop up in the last ten to fifteen years that will almost certainly become a classic. Written and drawn by Jeff Smith, this epic fantasy followed the three Bone cousins after they were driven out of their home and into a valley filled with strange and terrifying creatures. Smith tricked us all by playing up the first dozen issues or so of the comic as a lighthearted comedy before delving straight into hardcore, full-out Tolkien levels of fantasy. (Tolkien played the same trick with The Lord of the Rings, if you look at the early lighthearted chapters of the first book.) If you like fantasy, you have to read this comic, and you’ve got plenty of options to do so. You can hunt down the nine volumes of the series. You can put out a chunk of change for the ginormous one-volume edition. Or you can even get the new digest-sized reprints that Scholastic is now printing… in full color.

1. Peanuts: If you did not see this coming, go back and reread the last 99 EBIs. Charles M. Schulz was, quite simply, the wisest man who ever lived. A genius, a philosopher, a teacher, a friend. And he did all of his great work through a round-headed kid, a crazy dog, a kid who couldn’t let go of his blanket and a loudmouthed fussbudget. People don’t give him enough credit for the brilliance of Charlie Brown — when you’re reading that strip, he is you. His face is deliberately blank and featureless that anybody can project themself into his situation. We’ve all fallen for the little red-haired girl or lost the big baseball game. We’ve all gone to friends for advice only to be mocked. We’ve all fallen. We’ve all hurt. We’ve all cried. We’ve all laughed. And we do it all through the Peanuts gang. To read his comic, it would be easy to argue that Schulz thought the secret of life was, no matter what, to never stop trying to kick that football. It would be far harder to argue that he was wrong.

And now for the moment that far too many of you probably skipped down to read when I explained how this week’s column was going to work…

My 10 Favorite Superhero Comics

10. Batman: Some of you are probably stunned that he’s so low on this list, others may be stunned he’s on here at all. But remember, this is my list and I can do it however I want. Batman is a modern-day fable, something that all of us can look to and wonder. What we have, basically, is a normal human who had everything that mattered taken away from him, but instead of falling prey to the night, he conquered it and elevated himself to the status of the gods. His prime motivator is guilt — he believes, on some subconscious level, that he can bring his parents back and atone for the sin of surviving by spending his entire life fighting criminals. He’s probably the deepest, most complex superhero there is.

9. Captain Marvel: And I mean the real Captain Marvel — not Mar-Vell, not Genis, not Monica Rambeaux. I mean Billy Batson, a poor orphaned boy who was led down a dark tunnel to a wizard who, upon saying the magic word Shazam!, transforms into the world’s mightiest mortal. As deep and complex as Batman is, Captain Marvel is the opposite — simple and innocent. He is a good-hearted child given the ability to do great things. Heck during the Underworld Unleashed storyline, when the demon Neron was questing for the purest soul in existence, everyone automatically assumed he wanted Superman. When he made his move for Cap, they were proven wrong. Is it any wonder that, in his heyday, he was the most popular superhero there was? More than Batman, Superman or Captain America, kids of the 1940s dreamed of being Captain Marvel. And there’s something beautiful about that.

8. Justice Society of America/Justice League of America/Teen Titans: Am I cheating by lumping these three properties together? I don’t think so, because I think of them as being different stages of the same thing: a legacy of heroism. The JSA was the first team of superheroes in any medium. They are the old guard. The elder statesmen. They’ve done it all and seen it all, and usually did it better than you. They are everything you want to be. The JLA is the pinnacle of the modern heroes. They are the first line of defense. The strongest, the bravest, the fastest, the truest. If your world needs saving, these are the guys you call to do it. The Teen Titans are the future. They’re the heroes-in-training. They look at the JSA and JLA and know that this is what they have to live up to, that the world will some day need them to become that. And they don’t back down from that crushing responsibility — because they’re already heroes.

7. Captain America: Forget politics for a moment. I don’t care who you voted for in the last election or where you live in the world or if you’re from a red state, a blue state or a marzipan state. Think about what Captain America symbolizes. A scrawny little boy who so loved his country, so loved the ideals of freedom and democracy, that he served himself up as an experiment to save the world from evil — and in doing so became the greatest soldier of all time. Someone who fights nearly 70 years later for those same ideals. Someone who is not blind to the problems of the world but who has faith in the goodness of the human spirit to rise above those faults and build something grand. You can’t tell me there’s not something awe-inspiring about that.

6. Spider-Man: Possibly Stan Lee’s greatest creation, Spider-Man is amazing (pun intended) for many of the same reasons as Captain Marvel. It’s the story of a boy given incredible power to go out and do good… but he’s given more complexity because, like Batman, he is driven by guilt. He squandered his gift, used it selfishly, and as a result lost the only father he ever knew. He was the first really relatable superhero — having problems with women, problems with school, problems with money. He’s been called the everyman superhero. That’s definitely one of the things that has made him so great.

5. Green Lantern: I don’t care which Green Lantern is your favorite. Pick one. Alan Scott. Hal Jordan. Kyle Rayner. John Stewart. Guy Gardner. Kilowog. Arisia. Ch’p. Tomar-Re. Relax, gang, I could be going this way for a long time. Green Lantern, at least to the readers, started with one man — Alan Scott. It spread out to become an intergalactic peacekeeping force like none other. Heroes across the entire universe, all brothers and sisters of the ring. When one Green Lantern falls, another takes his place. The Corps will never be gone forever. And no Green Lantern ever fights alone.

4. The Flash: First it was Jay Garrick. Then Barry Allen. Then Wally West. But it wasn’t until Mark Waid really delved into the characters in the late 80s and early 90s that the Flash became what it truly is now — the greatest legacy in comic books. He’s not just a guy with super-speed. The Flash is an ideal. A mantle. A banner that will be worn for a time and then passed down. Bart Allen is next in line after Wally. And after him, there will be more to come, an unbroken line, stretching at least to the 853rd century, for that is as far as we’ve seen. But there will be even more after that, we know. You cannot kill the Flash. You can only kill the person in that mask today.

This, as a brief aside, is the reason that Green Lantern and the Flash compliment each other so well, and why each generation of these characters have formed a true bond. One is the symbol of Justice Universal. The other is the symbol of Justice Eternal.

3. The Legion of Super-Heroes: This is one of the first superhero comics I ever read, thanks to my Uncle Todd, and it remains one of my favorite. The concept has been rebooted and revamped several times over the years, but the core remains the same: a thousand years from now, a group of teenagers bands together, in the spirit of the heroes of old, to protect the universe from evil. It’s as simple as that. It’s also got some of the most diverse, most interesting characters in comics. The group has a fantastic history and, even more, looks to its own history as inspiration. Much like the legacy of the Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes is about a promise… that even 1,000 years into the future, there will still be heroes, still be people ready to stand against the night, still be people willing to fight, to bleed, to die… to save the world.

2. Fantastic Four: I’ve tricked you by putting this here, you know. Because unlike the last eight items, the Fantastic Four aren’t really superheroes. They are superpowered beings who Reed Richards has cast as superheroes, to make them famous, to atone for his original mistake that stole their normal lives in the first place. No, the FF is much grander than a superhero. The Fantastic Four are explorers. Of what? Anything. Outer space. Inner space. Microspace. Cyberspace. The Negative Zone. The depths of the Amazon. The cold surface of the moon. The burning depths of the human heart. The Fantastic Four are a family, dedicated to plunging the boundaries of knowledge, to seeking out what’s out there beyond the realm of imagination. They are considered the first characters of the “Marvel Age” of comics, but age is not a factor for them. When the stories are written properly, the Fantastic Four is always, always about finding something new, something grand… something fantastic.

1. Superman: He was the first. He remains the greatest. Superman is an incredible tale on many levels. He’s an immigrant. He’s an orphan. He’s an endangered species. He’s an exile. And yet he still found a way to become the greatest hero in the world. I get riled when I hear people call Superman perfect, because that doesn’t sound like they really understand the character, that they’ve only seen the work of poor writers. He struggles against being alone, against his urge to use his power for his own ends, against the ability to become a conqueror and shape the world as he sees fit. His true power comes not from the distant Krypton, but from the heart of America, from Kansas. By raising the most powerful child in the world, Jonathan and Martha Kent are heroes in their own right, giving the world a protector who very easily could have become a despot. The “super” part of his name is not the important part. Far more importantly, he is a man, a man with a good heart and a gentle soul, an iron will and an endless reservoir of courage. He is the most human of us all. He is the human we all wish we could be.

So there you have it. Not just one, not just ten, but twenty of the greatest concepts ever put forth in comics. Not necessarily the most famous or the most popular, but the ones that speak to me more than any other, the ones I love even through the lean years — the Superman Red/Superman Blue fiascos, the spider-clones, the “Ninja Force” nonsense and even in the face of those Bad Writers Who Shall Not Be Named. Because even when these concepts are mishandled, there’s no writer on Earth bad enough to destroy what makes their core work. Even in the bad times, it is only a matter of time until a good writer (I’m looking at you, Gail Simone) finds that core, polishes it, returns it to the light and makes their stories great again.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 26, 2005

Two months in and Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s new Legion of Super-Heroes has twice won my “favorite of the week” honor. In issue #2 Brainiac 5 leads a team of Legionnaires to Dream Girl’s homeworld of Naltor, where the youths of the planet have lost their ability to sleep and, with that, their precognitive abilities. It’s part sci-fi mystery, part superhero romp and part political drama. It’s great. Waid has frequently won “Favorite of the Week” for his Fantastic Four work – with that ending, it looks like he’s going to keep that distinction on a regular basis here with Legion.

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.

19
Jan
11

Classic EBI #73: A Boy and His Monster… Or Robot… Or Teddy… Or a Girl…

In this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary, I take a look at the current run of “DC Icons” covers that you no doubt have seen in the comic shops, then dive back and look at previous cover “theme months” from the big two. These things can be a lot of fun, when done right.

Everything But Imaginary #383: Cover Stock

In this week’s Classic EBI, we go back to July 28, 2004, when I took a look at an interesting trend in comics for kids… specifically those tales of a child and a big, powerful buddy that we’d all like to have around.

A Boy and His Monster… or Robot… or Teddy… or a Girl…

Whether it is as a reader or a writer, one thing that absolutely fascinates me about fiction is seeing patterns develop. Recurring themes that show up again and again throughout history — different writers, different cultures, different eras, but the same basic idea. The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, the Harry Potter books, Abadazad — what do these all have in common? They’re all about a child (or group of children) being whisked away from a normal, mundane world to a place of magic, fancy and imagination. That sort of thing is my meat.

Another such common theme, and one that has appeared in comic books time and again over the years, is the idea of “a boy and his monster.” Now technically, it doesn’t have to be a boy and it doesn’t have to be a monster for it to fit into the pattern, but the basic idea is of a person — typically young, usually innocent — gaining some sort of incredibly powerful protector, their own personal guardian angel with fangs or transistors. Brad Bird’s brilliant film The Iron Giant is one of my all-time favorite animated features just because it captures that theme so wonderfully.

The idea appeals to children because, let’s face it, there were times in everyone’s life where you felt like the world was crashing down on you, like the bullies would never leave you alone, like the grown-ups would never understand, that you don’t have a friend in the world. These fantasies solved all of those problems — someone who loved you unconditionally, someone who knew your pains, and someone who could stand up and fight for you. That’s why kids love this story, and that’s why it works so often in comic books.

Not so long ago there was a comic that got a very devoted cult following using this very theme — Sean McKeever’s Sentinel. Juston Seyfert, our teenage protagonist, came across a massive robot in his family’s salvage yard. It was one of those giant killer robots that had tried to wipe out mutants in the X-Men titles a while back, but this one somehow became a protector for Juston. I have to admit, I never read this series, although I intend to hunt for the Marvel Age digest editions, just to see what all the fuss was about.

Juston was far from the first comic character to gain one of these protectors, of course. As far back as the Silver Age, DC fans thrilled to the exploits of Stanley and His Monster. Stanley Dover was a typical five-year-old boy, but he had no siblings and no friends to play with, until the day a big, friendly purple monster arrived in his life. Naming the creature Spot, the two of them had many adventures together, even as his parents thought the monster was just their son’s imaginary friend.

This was a fun, silly little title first introduced in 1965 as a simple humor comic, a “kiddie’ book in the true sense of the word, beginning as a back-up feature in Fox and Crow #95 and rapidly taking over the book. It was renamed with issue #109. The kid’s life wasn’t that bad, he was just lonely and he needed a friend, and that’s what he got It wasn’t until years later that the tale of Stanley popped into the real DC Universe. Spot, as it turned out, was actually a demon with no name, cast from Hell for being too nice, and Stanley’s grandfather was a serial killer hoping to gain control of the beast by repeating the ritual that had caused Morpheus, the Sandman, to be trapped on Earth for decades. Grampa’s plot was conveniently foiled by Green Arrow during Kevin Smith’s “Quiver” storyline in 2001, and since gramps was too dangerous to let simply run around, the monster ate him. If that ain’t kid-power to the extreme, I don’t know what is.

On a more lighthearted note, thanks to our own Craig Reade, I recently discovered Herobear and the Kid by Mike Kunkel. I fell in love with this book in about half an instant. The idea is simple, and fits into this pattern perfectly — Tyler’s grandfather has just died. His parents inherited the kindly old man’s huge home and they’re moving in — meaning he has to cope with the loss of his grandfather and moving to a new school, trying to make new friends, getting picked on by bullies and getting frustrated by his little sister. What’s more, the only thing he inherited from his grandfather was an old, white teddy bear and a broken pocketwatch, neither of which come in particularly handy when the schoolyard jerks are pounding him into the sandbox.

This is where the book takes its turn into pure magic — the teddy bear comes to life and turns into a ten-foot-tall polar bear with a bright red cape — Herobear. This feeds into that classic kid fantasy perfectly. A protector, a friend, and more than that, a superhero that wants to take you on adventures with him. Even more than that, Kunkel has a beautiful art style — he doesn’t erase his early pencil lines, giving the whole comic book a look that feels like you’re reading the storyboard for a movie. And if there’s nobody thinking of making a movie out of this comic yet, than there is no hope left for Hollywood.

What’s even better is the ultimate origin of Herobear, the truth about where he came from. It’s a neat little twist that is more magical than anything else.

Gail Simone tried a little twist on this theme last year with her Gus Beezer stories. In a series of four one-shots, she introduced us to a young boy who lived in the Marvel Universe and loved the Marvel superheroes. Gus faces the same challenges kids like Stanley and Tyler did, but he never had his own “monster,” strictly speaking. Instead, he encountered heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk, all of whom got a chance to fill that role. He was even made an honorary X-Man by Wolverine and got to hang out with his cousin Peter Parker. I loved these charming little books, and as good as Simone’s work on Birds of Prey and Legion is shaping up to be, I hope that once her DC exclusive contract runs out she finds time to go back to Gus.

The last book I’m going to talk about here, while strictly adhering to the basic format, is probably farthest from the others in spirit. Most “boy and his monster” stories are about the child learning and growing because of his protector’s presence, but DC Comics’ The Monolith is as much about change for the monster. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, this story is about Alice Cohen, a young woman who inherits her grandmother’s house with a few conditions — she get a job, she not sell the house, and she gets cleaned up from the drugs she’s been on. (This, clearly, is not a version of the story for children.)

In her grandmother’s home, however, Alice finds a Golem trapped in the basement. This legendary creature from Hebrew myth was created decades ago by her grandmother and others out of clay and given life with the blood of a man she had loved. The creature was supposed to be a protector, but had no sense of proportion, meting out brutal punishments for even the mildest of offenses. When Alice had to free the creature to save her life, she couldn’t get it back in, and now she finds herself trying to teach it about the world, and learning to become a hero herself in the process.

I really dig this title — it’s a new take on a classic theme, which is what most of the best fiction is these days — and because of its very nature it doesn’t flinch from ideas of faith. This is that classic “best book you’re not reading.” If you’re still smarting from Sentinel’s cancellation, you really should check this comic out.

Myth is a powerful thing, and I love to take the time to see how the same myth can be retold again and again. I’m sure there are plenty of “boy and his monster” stories out there that I’ve missed. And I’m sure you’ll let me know about them. And I’m sure you’ll yell at me because I haven’t read Sentinel yet.

But in the end, if a story can get someone talking, that’s a story that has done its job.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: July 21, 2004

As much as I enjoy the Devil’s Due Comics G.I. Joe series, it is rare for an issue to simply blow me away. Issue #32 did. With Destro in custody, Cobra Commander planned a daring raid to spring him and deliver him into his own “tender mercies.” One of the great things about the G.I. Joe comic (as opposed to the TV show) is that, once you put the superheroish action movie qualities aside, it’s pretty realistic compared to most comics. Actions have consequences. Things change. And people die suddenly, and without warning. My jaw was on the floor at the end of this issue. Well done. Brandon Jerwa. Keep writing ‘em like this.

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.

16
Jun
10

EBI Classic: Down With Da OG(N)

My original plan for Time Travel Tuesdays was to post old Think About It columns, old Everything But Imaginary columsn, and anything else I could find. That was before Comixtreme.com went through its software upgrade, making the whole forum a hell of a lot cooler and simultaneously wiping out hundreds of old EBI columns. Rather than take a full seven years to represent that lost content while mixing it in with other stuff, I decided I’m going to simply re-present the old EBI columns here on Wednesdays, since most Wednesdays at Evertime Realms don’t feature anything except a link to the current EBI column anyway.

We’re gonna start with a column from October 15, 2003. As you can tell, even then my mastery of street slang was unsurpassed…

Down With Da OG(N)

These days, comic book storytelling is focusing more and more on the bookstore market — collected editions, graphic novels, products like that. Some people see this as an evolution of the storytelling form, with comic book tales shifting towards longer arc that are, often times, predetermined for a certain paperback collection. Others embrace bookstores as a chance to get the product out of the specialty shops and into the hands of new readers who otherwise may never have thrilled to the potential inherent in sequential art. Some may simply prefer the bookstore to the comic shop because there are more single women and a better coffee bar.

All of these are, of course, perfectly legitimate theories, and whatever the reason, paperback and hardcover editions of comics books are becoming more popular than ever before. Some of them are even produced specifically for the graphic novel form, eschewing the traditional magazine format entirely, and these original graphic novels, I think, deserve a little time in the spotlight to shine.

Sandman: Endless NightsComics legend Will Eisner is often credited with creating the graphic novel form with his book, A Contract With God. In the decades since then, we’ve reached a point where these books are actually gaining some mainstream attention, with Neil Gaiman’s recent Sandman: Endless Nights actually cracking its way onto the fabled New York Times bestseller list. What is it about this specific book that gave it this boost? I think it’s several factors. First, there is Gaiman’s seemingly invincible level of popularity, not just among comic book readers, but among readers of general fantasy as well. Second, it featured the return of a favorite creator to the property he made into a masterpiece. Look at how high the sales were when Frank Miller did The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Readers love to see this kind of match-up. Third, the book had an all-star lineup of internationally acclaimed artists, most of whom had never worked with Gaiman before, some of whom had never worked in an American comic before. Having Milo Manara illustrate the Desire story was absolutely inspired.

Original graphic novels are often thought of in terms of more offbeat, less mainstream projects like these, but superheroes can make a strong showing in the format as well. Take last year’s JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice hardcover, written by David Goyer and Geoff Johns with Carlos Pacheco on pencils. Goyer and Johns had been doing great work for some time on the regular JSA comic — well-drawn characters with classic, old-school, mega-blowout superhero action. With this title, I became convinced that the powers that be at DC Comics should hand them the reigns to the Justice League as well. The two heaviest hitting teams in comics joined forces to battle numerous threats from across the years of their respective histories. Lots of action, spot-on characterization, and beautiful artwork.

My favorite original graphic novel in recent years, however, is one I’ll bet almost none of you have read, or even heard of. It’s a great black-and-white volume put out by TopShelf Productions last year, a sci-fi fantasy religious comedy dramatic romance epic called Creature Tech. The book is created, written and drawn by Doug TenNapel, who is best known as the creator of the Earthworm Jim video game, and he brings some of the same zany sensibilities to this book while at the same time dealing with something much bigger and deeper.

Creature Tech is the story of Dr. Michael Ong, a rational young genius scientist who has abandoned his faith, much to the chagrin of his minister father. He takes a job with Research Tech, a government lab that studies extraterrestrial and supernatural artifacts, known as “Creature Tech” by the locals. Ong becomes accidentally bonded to an alien symbiote that grants him amazing power, but can’t be removed because the symbiote damages the heart of its host during the bonding process. Meanwhile, the ghost of a mad scientist steals the Shroud of Turin (yes, that Shroud of Turin) from Creature Tech as part of a crazy scheme for power and it’s up to Dr. Ong, along with a giant grasshopper and an alien mummy, to save the world.

It sounds crazy. It sounds wacky. It is. But it’s really, really good. Not only is this science fiction adventure at its finest, but TenNapel gets bonus points in my book for unapologetically making religion and faith (specifically Christianity) such an integral part of the story without stooping to cheap jokes or pot-shots against people with those beliefs. To the contrary, in a book where virtually every character could have easily fallen into the trap of becoming one stereotype or another, TenNapel fleshes each of them out, making even the goofy giant grasshopper a real character with real emotions and real courage.

It’s the kind of story that you just wouldn’t have seen from one of the big publishers.

It’s the kind of story you can really only get in an original graphic novel.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 8, 2003

H-E-R-O #9, continuing the reimagining of the classic H-dial, topped my list last week with the story of a two-bit thug in Gotham City who happens to stumble upon the dial that has been transforming people into superheroes across the country. The dial grants powers and a costume, but does nothing to change a person’s basic motivation, meaning that when a crook punches in “H-E-R-O,” he’s still a crook even when he’s got his cape and tights.

Will Pfeifer tells a story in this issue that reminds me very much of another underappreciated DC title, Gotham Central. Like that cop drama, this issue was about a character living in a city constantly under the shadow of the Batman without ever actually showing him, and Pfeifer did it particularly well.

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

29
Apr
10

Photos from Nola Comic-Con 2010

I’m in kind of a time crunch today — working on a short story that I’m having some trouble piecing together. So I thought I’d give you guys some pictures to gaze upon. These were taken last weekend at the second annual Nola Comic-Con by myself, Mike “Technodunce” Bellamy, and Mike’s girlfriend Nicole…

Blake, Daniel, and Mike displaying the sort of professionalism the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast is known for.

The Harley and the Ivy.

The Harley and the Ivy.

Cooooo-braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Mike on a Mission

Nicole meets Our Favorite Sithlord.

BSI's Monty draws him some Deadpool.

Bet you never saw THIS come out of the Tardis before...

Best quote of the convention: when I heard this dad telling his kid, "No, you can't hold a lightsaber like that! You'll lose your hand!"

Ready to join... THE FRAY? (Man, I hope someone out there is nerdy enough to get that joke.)

Want to see more? Of course you do. You can view all of the pictures from Nola Comic-Con 2010 at my Flickr Album!

07
Mar
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 161: Put This Comic on the Screen

More and more comic books are making it to the screen these days, both big and little, but no matter how many we see there are still lots of others that haven’t quite broken through. This week, the guys discuss some of the comics they haven’t quite broken through the Hollywood barrier yet. The guys bat around several ideas and share a few suggestions from you. In the picks this week, Mike was into Green Arrow #30, Kenny picks Flash: Rebirth #6 and Blake gives it up for Tiny Titans #25. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 161: Put This Comic on the Screen
Inside This Episode:

03
Feb
10

Everything But Imaginary #339: How to Make an Exit

The new season of Lost began last night… the final season of Lost. And as a longtime fan, I’m excited. But this isn’t the first time I’ve felt something like this as the end of a story approaches. In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, we look at what it means when a favorite approaches the end.

Everything But Imaginary #339: How to Make an Exit




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