Posts Tagged ‘Shazam

22
Jul
13

All New Showcase Episode 292: San Diego Comic-Con 2013

AllNewShowcase2This week, Blake decides it’s high time the Showcase got a new coat of paint, a slightly amended format, and a much snazzier archive page. Welcome to the first episode of the All New Showcase! In this episode, Blake explains the reasons for the change before sitting down with Kenny and Erin to talk about all the news from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International. Witchblade Vs. the Darkness, the Simpsons meeting the Griffins and the Planet Express crew, Riverdale swaming with zombies, JMS taking on the Twilight Zone, new series for Harley Quinn, the return of Nightcrawler, Avengers 2 gets a title and Man of Steel 2 gets a guest-star! This and much, much more in the first All New Showcase! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

And what’s cool this week? For Kenny, it’s Pacific Rim, for Erin it’s the works of the late Richard Matheson, and for Blake it’s The Argonauts!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

All New Showcase #292: San Diego 2013

Superman-Batman

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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
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.

16
Feb
11

Classic EBI #77: Days of Bile and Venom

It’s that time again, friends. In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I take the time to discuss a miraculous event in my classroom and how it ties into the world of comics through Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

No. Really.

Everything But Imaginary #387: For Once, the Witch Hunt Works Out

But in this week’s classic EBI, we’re going back to August 25, 2004, when I got fed up with the juvenile behavior certain fans displayed over the internet and took them to task for it. As the internet is down the pinnacle of class and civility, I was clearly successful.

Everything But Imaginary #77: Days of Bile and Venom

I try not to rant too much in this column, friends. I try to keep my comments constructive. I try to shed light on the good things about comics, because I think ultimately the way to help comic books become a more popular artform is to convince people who don’t read them of all the incredible things comic books are capable of.

But I can’t do that right now. Right now I’ve got to address one of the problems, one of the biggest problems in terms of perception, one that’s been gnawing at me for some time now and that I really can’t keep to myself anymore. I’m talking about some of the bitter, nasty, venomous attitudes a lot of comic book fans — and even a few professionals — seem to have when discussing our favorite medium.

It seems there are an awful lot of people out there — especially since the internet made it so easy to talk to people — who are simply incapable of having a civil discourse with one another. Sometimes they hate a character. Sometimes they hate an idea. Sometimes they hate a creator. Sometimes they just love another character/idea/creator so much that if someone proposes something that contradicts it, they lash out. Whatever the reasons, I don’t care. It’s got to stop.

First there’s the character issue — everybody has their own favorite characters. Everybody has characters they don’t like. That’s just fine. But discuss it in a rational way. I’m sick and tired of people saying “Captain America is so stupid. I hate him.” “Superman is too perfect. I hate him.” “Kyle Rayner is such a n00b. I wish he would die.” (You know what I hate? The “word” n00b and all derivations thereof.)

If you want to talk about what’s wrong with a character, what stories you don’t like, what aspects of that character don’t work for you — fine. But back it up. Don’t just start namecalling and then sit back and order martinis as though you’ve just given an argument that would win the Lincoln-Douglas debates and you need to relax.

The character debate is asinine anyway, since I don’t really believe there are any characters so fundamentally flawed that you can’t tell good stories with him or her if you have a good enough writer. Case in point: Speedball. A second-string Spider-Man guest star whose only power was that he could bounce. Whooptie-freakin’-doo. Then Fabian Nicieza decided to put him in New Warriors and you know what? He got a personality. He got his powers more fully developed. He got interesting. If it can be done for Speedball, it can be done for anyone.

Then there are the fans who are so obsessive about certain characters that they refuse to accept anything they deem to be critical and instead rail against someone who is trying to have a rational discussion. Magneto is a good example here. A complex character, a hotly debated character, and a good villain when used properly. And it’s okay to like him as a villain. But when people start trying to justify a character’s genocidal actions and paint him as some sort of misunderstood hero, and furthermore ignore any arguments or evidence to the contrary and stoop to denigrating the people who are supporting a different position, that’s when it has gone entirely too far.

Also a source of frustration to me is when people pull a passive aggressive maneuver. What makes this particularly irritating is that, when done well, someone can be utterly infantile in a passive aggressive fashion, but if you try to call them on it you are the one who looks childish. Take the tendency of certain fans to insist on referring to Billy Batson, the original Captain Marvel, as Shazam (which is actually the name of the wizard who gave him his powers and use name is usually used as the title of the comic these days). When I asked one person about this, he proudly announced that Marvel Comics’ character with the same name, Genis-Vell had taken the title away from the original forever. So quite simply, this person had managed to say that a beloved character that has been around longer than he’s been alive is inferior and not worthy of the name he originated, and imply just a little that anyone who disagreed was stupid. And yet if someone tried to point this out to him, all he’d have to do is invite the person to “chill” and then the other person would suddenly look foolish.

As bad as it is when people lash out at a character they don’t like, it’s far worse when they lash out at an artist. (And by “artist” I mean anyone involved in the creative process — writer, penciler, colorist, even actor if the discussion comes to movies or TV shows.) CX Pulp, for its part, is much better about policing this sort of venomous behavior than other comic book websites I could name, but even here some attitudes go too far.

There seems to be a lot of heat right now over John Byrne’s reinterpretation of Doom Patrol. Sometimes the argument is that the dialogue is bad. Sometimes they don’t like the characters. Sometimes they don’t like that the book has rebooted the franchise, essentially nullifying previous stories from continuity. These, again, are valid points of discussion.

Other times the only argument people seem to have is that it’s not Grant Morrison and therefore, by definition, is an inferior, and that’s not a valid point. And when I tried to convince people to cool down, saying “I DO get really tired of people calling for John Byrne’s head,” I was utterly shocked by one of the responses. Someone whose posts I read frequently, someone whose opinion I usually value, replied, “He can keep his head. I just want his hands so he will stop trying to write comics.”

Oh sure. He put a little smiley face at the end. He meant it as a joke. But it’s not a funny one. Not to me. The guy who said this is better than that, and he knows it.

Then there are the personal assaults against an actor or actress when a comic book film is in the works. One person says he doesn’t like the choice for Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four movie, and someone else replies that she’s better than “that trailer trash Kirsten Dunst.” Dunst, from the Spider-Man movies, has absolutely nothing to do with this conversation, but was apparently injected into the topic just so the poster in question could make himself feel big by slamming someone who isn’t around to speak up in her defense.

Then there are those instances where someone manages to insult both a creator and a fan. On another message board that I read from time to time, I saw one fan say he liked Olivier Coipel’s artwork and was excited he will be doing an upcoming run on Uncanny X-Men. Now if you happen to disagree with this, there are a number of rational responses. “I’m not really a fan of Coipel” would be acceptable. So would “I prefer Alan Davis.” Even “his recent work on Avengers wasn’t up to speed.”

But the actual response was “I believe that all diseases, including this one, can be treated.” Very clever. In one post, this guy managed to insult Coipel’s artwork (which I, for the record, think is pretty good), and state that anyone who likes it is a sick individual. Classy, isn’t it?

And finally, we come down to the personal attacks against someone who doesn’t like a title. A few weeks ago our own Craig Reade came under fire for remarks he made about Peter David’s Fallen Angel title. Craig merely meant he was surprised that the book hadn’t been cancelled, but due to some poor wording, fans of the title took it to mean he was calling for it to be cancelled, and they swarmed on him en masse. Even David himself joined in the debate. Craig, to his credit, went out and read the first several issues of the comic, even devoted a Still on the Shelf column to it, but since his conclusion was that he just didn’t care for the title, people started screaming that he “didn’t get it.”

This infuriates me. I get this almost every month when I review Lucifer in the DC Comics advance reviews. I’m not a fan of the title, and I explain why I’m not a fan of the title – it would be an unfair review if I didn’t explain what I think the problems are. Some can accept my opinion, even if they don’t agree, and I have no quarrel with them. But others conclude that anyone who doesn’t like their favorite book just isn’t smart enough to understand it, and they don’t mind telling you as much. I get it with Lucifer. Craig gets it with Fallen Angel.

So I tried to step to his defense — I said I’d read the first several issues (six, in fact), because I am a fan of Peter David’s work, but this title simply didn’t interest me. David, to my surprise, actually replied with a challenge — read issue #14 and if I didn’t like it, I could send the issue to him and he’d refund my money. I respected that enough to get the book and give it another shot.

And you know what? I still didn’t like it.

The issue consisted mainly of the various characters in the series parading past the lead and updating her on their lives or situations, concluding with a twist. None of that changed the central problem I had with the title, though, which is that I still didn’t connect with or care about any of the characters. Although the offer was made, I don’t think I will try to send the book to David, because I don’t think he owes me anything. All a comic book creator owes any reader is the story he puts on the page, and the buyer beware. Nobody made me read the issue, I chose to. And for those of you who do enjoy the title, that’s perfectly fine with me, and I hope you get to continue to enjoy it for a long time to come.

But now that I’ve said this, I’ve no doubt that somewhere, on some message board, someone will be buzzing that I’m just not smart enough to get it, because that’s what a lot of these anonymous internet trolls do. They hide behind manufactured identities without the guts to use their real name and spit at anyone who dares disagree with them.

Are you mad yet? I kind of hope so, because if you are, that probably means you’ve been guilty of what I’m talking about at some point or another. All of us have. I know I have — I’m not exempt. But I’m riled up now, friends. I don’t want to tolerate this sort of thing anymore. When I see this nonsense I’m going to call people on it, and I hope they do the same to me if I ever cross the line.

And here’s why — I know I’ve given a lot of examples here, but I haven’t explained why it infuriates me so much, and that’s the most important part. It’s because of Comic Book Guy.

You know the character from The Simpsons, the fat, balding loser who runs the comic book store. He’s a funny character, but he perpetuates a stereotype that cripples comic books. Whenever anyone starts any of the crap I’ve mentioned in this thread, I hear Comic Book Guy’s voice in my mind intoning “Worst issue ever.” A lot of people who don’t read comic books honestly do believe that all retailers, fans and creators are like that guy. And when you start spewing nastiness, all you’re doing is reinforcing that idea.

So go ahead and talk about comics. Critique them. Debate them. And for Heaven’s sake — disagree.

But be an adult about it, because no matter how much you complain about comic books being looked down upon as a children’s medium, that is never going to change unless we all grow up.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 18 2004

This week’s favorite was a sure thing. Bill Willingham has been doing great stuff with Robin for nearly a year now, but issue #129 was possibly his best yet. Tim Drake has quit, is Robin no more, but when the mob war that’s tearing apart Gotham City comes into his high school, he’s got to remember what it meant to be a hero. This one issue does more to define Tim’s character than some writers can accomplish in years. It’s the best Batman family book on the racks right now, and if you’re skipping it due to the “War Games” crossover, you’re cheating yourself.

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.

29
Dec
10

Classic EBI #70: Where Credit is Due

It’s the end of the year, friends, and in this week’s new Everything But Imaginary, I’m casting my eyes back to the best of 2010. The best comic books, movies, TV shows, and prose novels of the year are all in my head, and I’m giving you my picks!

Everything But Imaginary #380: The Best of 2010

But let’s travel back in time now, friends, to July 7, 2004, a couple of weeks after I ticked everybody off by talking about characters that I thought were overrated. To balance the scales, this week I discussed characters that don’t get the respect they deserve…

Everything But Imaginary #70: Where Credit is Due

Where credit is due

Blake’s Universal Rules of the Universe #42: If you want to get people screaming at each other on a comic book site, say something bad about Magneto.

For those of you who came in late, a couple of weeks ago I did a column about comic book characters that, in my own humble opinion, which of course is right, get way more credit than they deserve. The hackneyed, the overused, the unjustly worshiped. I expected people to get fired up about this. I did not expect a 19-page diatribe on morality spurred by a few people trying to justify genocide by saying a killer is really a sweet, cuddly teddy bear.

This week, friends, we’re going to take the opposite approach. I’m going to talk about characters who have been around for a long time, but who aren’t as respected or looked up to as they deserve to be. Now before anyone starts talking about who can beat these guys in a fight, my argument has nothing to do with that. Power levels are irrelevant. I’m talking about good, enjoyable characters that can be milked for great stories, but just aren’t held in the same regard as some of their lesser peers. I’m talking about giving some credit where credit is due.

And we’re starting with one of my personal favorites that everyone else turns up their noses at — Captain Marvel. And no, I don’t mean Genis — frankly, I found that Captain Marvel to be a fairly bland character, raised up only by some clever writing by Peter David. I’m talking about the real Cap, the big red cheese, wielder of the power of Shazam. Created in 1940 and defined by the likes of C.C. Beck and Otto Binder, this character was a young orphaned boy who was led down an abandoned subway tunnel to meet an ancient, dying wizard. The wizard gave the boy six gifts — Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’ power, Achilles’ courage and Mercury’s speed, and told him he could call upon these powers by saying the wizard’s name… Shazam! Doing so transformed young Billy Batson into the world’s Mightiest Mortal and, for a time, the world’s most popular comic book character, even outselling Superman.

In this day and age — yeah, it’s a goofy concept. It’s almost silly. But there’s something beautifully pure and innocent about the character. Even during the Underworld Unleashed miniseries, when the demon Neron wanted to possess the purest soul in existence, most heroes assumed he meant Superman, but in the end, it was Captain Marvel all along.

Besides just the purity of the character, the dichotomy of a child posing as an adult superhero is a fertile ground for great storytelling, and I love the fact that Geoff Johns is finally doing something with it in JSA, putting Billy in a teenage romance with Stargirl. It’s perfectly innocent, but it raises eyebrows among those who don’t know he’s really a teenager himself.

He’s just a great character, but a lot of readers seem to feel the need to down everyone created before 1962, and that’s just not right. Hopefully Jeff Smith’s upcoming miniseries will finally put him in the spotlight he deserves.

Since there was a member of the X-Men on the “overrated” list, it’s only fair that one makes the “underrated” list as well… I’ve always loved The Beast. Basically what you have in this character is a brilliant biologist with big ol’ arms and legs and incredible agility who accidentally turned himself blue and furry. Unlike some characters, though, he’s usually shown as being quite comfortable with his change, remaining just as smart and witty as ever.

In New X-Men (or was it X-Treme where it started? Oh, it doesn’t matter) he underwent an even further mutation, becoming more catlike, and in the current Astonishing X-Men storyline it’s starting to look like he’s not as comfortable with that change. Personally, I like it, I think it makes him more unique.

What made the Beast fun for for me is that he didn’t sulk and mope about his transformation, he enjoyed it. So he’s blue and furry, so what? You know there are women out there who like that sort of thing. Just have fun with it!

Just on sheer enjoyment, Beast is my favorite X-character, but he’s often overshadowed by the likes of Wolverine or Rogue or (ugh) Gambit. I say put him on the new Avengers team again and let him get done up right.

My next pick isn’t a single character at all, but rather an entire team that doesn’t get the notice from fandom it deserves. No… not a team, a Legion. the Legion of Super-Heroes, to be precise. In the 31st century, a band of superpowered teenagers from across the galaxy have been brought together to serve as protectors of the universe. It’s such a simple concept, but such a great one. The Legion has a vast array of characters with different powers, homeworlds, cultures and belief systems. With so many different factors to play with, the storytelling potential is virtually unlimited.

Plus, it was a groundbreaking concept when it was created in the 50s. Characters died, characters quit, emotions ran high and feelings conflicted. The Legion was doing the teen angst thing before the first X-Men got their yellow spandex back from the tailor. With so many different characters, in history, personality and power types, no matter how good a writing team is, there is always more room to mine for great stories.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning just wrapped up a fantastic five-year run with these characters, but unfortunately, they didn’t set fire to the sales charts. Fortunately, though, there’s still plenty of excitement to go around. Gail Simone is taking her crack next, followed by a crossover with the Teen Titans before the title is handed off to the highly capable hands of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. The future looks bright for the Legion, but there are so many things I’d like to see done with them… people often ask me what comic book I’d most like to write if given the chance. It’s not Superman or Batman or even Fantastic Four. This is it, baby, right here.

Moving on… Superman is definitely my all-time favorite comic book character. There’s no question about that. Does anyone want to guess who number two is? Anyone? No, not Spider-Man… not Captain America… who was that who just said NFL Superpro? Somebody hit him for me, please.

No, my second-favorite comic book character, a character who never seems to make the greatest lists, the powerhouse lists, who actually had to die last year before people started to appreciate him, is Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. If ever a character drew the short straw in the superpower lottery, it was Ben Grimm. His best buddy convinces him to steal a rocket and what happens? They get doused with cosmic rays. One can burst into flame, one can turn invisible, one can stretch… but Ben? He gets turned into a monster made out of orange rock. Unable to feel a warm touch, unable to hold the woman he loves for fear of crushing her, trapped in this monstrous state that even his best friend, the smartest man in the world, cannot cure him of.

This is the sort of thing that turns some people into villains.

Not Ben Grimm.

Oh, he blamed Reed Richards for a long time. Even hated him sometimes, for turning him into a freak. But through it all, he stayed on the side of the angels. He fought the good fight. He eventually learned to forgive and to become part of a family, and in doing so, became one of the greatest comic book characters there ever was. In the Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men miniseries, there was a scene where Rogue swiped Ben’s power and memory to take him out of the fight. The effect stunned her. According to Chris Claremont’s captions, she had expected to find herself kissing a toad, but instead touched the soul of a prince.

Ben keeps kicking. Keeps fighting. He’s the bravest character in comics.

But Wolverine gets the dozen spin-offs and the Punisher gets the miniseries and action figures. And neither one of them are fit to rub turtle wax on his big, orange hide.

Yeah, Ben anchored the old Marvel Two-in-One series for a long time, and even had his own series for a while, but these days it seems like people don’t get what makes him so great. He may be made of stone, but he is the truest diamond in the rough.

Anyway, those are the folks I think don’t get the credit they deserve. What about you guys? Who do you think gets unjustly ignored? Who should be getting more exposure? Who do you think should get the spotlight once in a while?

First person to say Magneto gets hit with a tube sock full of quarters.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: June 30-July 3, 2004

Good luck finding this week’s favorite, since it was one of the Free Comic Book Day selections and one in much shorter supply than most of the others I saw, but nothing I read last week made me smile more than Astonish Comics #1. I got the book because of the Herobear and the Kid story by Mike Kunkel. As it turned out, it was an excerpt from the comic that I’d already read, but it was still pleasant. I kept reading, though, and to my amazement, I loved everything in this issue. The Lab was wonderfully silly, Awesome Man seemed to be the sort of thing that taps into the imagination, Spooners was another hysterical strip comic transferred to comic book format, and The Dreamland Chronicles looks like the sort of thing that will appeal to the Shreck demographic. All of them were clever and the artwork was great. Astonish Comics charges each of us to “Remember your childhood… and pass it on.” It is clear that the people who made this comic book believe in that with all their hearts.

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.

 

06
Oct
10

Classic EBI #86: The Monster Mash

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

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

The Monster Mash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Happy Halloween!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: October 20, 2004

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

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

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

26
Aug
10

Everything But Imaginary #364: What If… DC Comics Merged With Archie?

Comixtreme is back! Kind of! You can find it at Comixtreme.net for the time being, while we try to sort out the .com issue. But this week’s Everything But Imaginary column is waiting for your scrutiny. This week’s column is based on what happens when my mind starts wandering. What If?-style questions get asked. And we’re looking at a big What If this time… what if DC Comics merged with Archie Comics?

Everything But Imaginary #364: What If… DC Comics Merged With Archie?

Oh, and don’t worry, Other People’s Heroes fans. This post isn’t replacing that one for today. I’ll be up a little later. I’m editing even now.




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