Posts Tagged ‘She-Hulk

08
Jul
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode #269: The Ultimate Top Ten Avengers

It’s time for another Showcase top ten! This week, Mike, Kenny and Blake count down their top ten favorite Avengers, then tabulate the votes sent in by you, the listeners, to construct the Ultimate Top Ten Avengers! We also chat briefly about Marvel Now! and the upcoming changes to the Avengers family. In the picks, Mike digs Batman #10, Kenny’s been playing Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and Blake chooses Monkeybrain’s new title Edison Rex. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 269: The Ultimate Top Ten Avengers

30
May
12

Everything But Imaginary #450: Five Superhero Movies Hollywood Needs to Make

So this whole Avengers movie… made a buttload of money, right? The thing is, it did it with superheroes that the general public, until a few years ago, had never heard of, or at most vaguely remembered in a nostalgic kind of way. So let’s look at some other superheroes from outside of the A-list and see how Hollywood could make their movies into hits.

Everything But Imaginary #450: Five Superhero Movies Hollywood Needs to Make

29
Jun
11

Classic EBI #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

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

Everything But Imaginary #405: The New DCU Take Two

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

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

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

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

1. Best Superhero Title

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

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

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

2. Best Science Fiction Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Negation.

3. Best Fantasy Title

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

Honorable Mention: Bone, The Witches.

4. Best Horror Title

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

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

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

5. Best “Down to Earth” Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: 100 Bullets, The Losers.

6. Best Humor Title

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

Honorable Mention: Simpsons Comics, Lionxor, Plastic Man.

8. Best Mature Reader’s Title

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

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

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

7. Best All-Ages Title

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

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

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

9. Best Adapted Comic

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

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

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

10. Best Comic Adaptation

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

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

11. Best Miniseries or Special

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

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

12. Best New Title

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

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

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

13. Best Comic You’re Not Reading

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

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

Honorable Mention: Street Angel, District X, Invincible.

14. The New Beginning Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron Man.

15. The Happy Trails Award

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 5, 2005

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

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

 

15
Jun
11

Classic EBI #95: The 2004 Comic Book Industry Progress Report

This week in Everything But Imaginary, I’m digging into the newest force in independent comics, Kickstarter. How does it work? How has it worked? Is it worthwhile?

Everything But Imaginary #403: Kicking Things Into Gear

But going back in time, this week’s classic EBI is the final column from 2004, my “2004 Comic Book Industry Progress Report.” A little time capsule that’s kind of pertinent, considering where comics are right now.

Everything But Imaginary #95: The 2004 Comic Book Industry Progress Report

Hello there, all, and welcome to the final Everything But Imaginary for the year 2004. It was a year of ups and downs, highs and lows, smooth and chunky, and when all was said and done, I think it wasn’t too bad a year at that. That said, there are always things that could be done better, and as such, we here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters have compiled the following progress report for the comic book industry, for the retailers, and for you, the fans. So take a look, see where you fall on this hierarchy, and do what it takes to make 2005 a better year for comics than 2004.

For the Comic Companies:

*Keep up trying to attract younger readers. I have to give credit where credit is due, Marvel and DC Comics have both made great strides this year in their effort to reach out to the pre-teen and younger crowd. The new Marvel Age line, offering a mixture of contemporary retellings of old stories and brand-new stories with Marvel’s teenage characters, is a great idea. The Johnny DC imprint, rounding up all of the DC Comics based on cartoon shows, is also a very effective way to brand which of their titles are appropriate for younger readers — plus they get major bonus points in my book for things like activity pages and a letter column (something woefully missing from other DC Comics these days). I want to see both of these lines grow and prosper this year, so fans, try out some of these comics even if you consider yourself too old for them. And if you know any kids who might like a few comics, this is the place to start.

*Conversely, remember to keep your comic book prices reasonable. I love Gemstone Comics for what they’ve done with the Walt Disney properties, but I’m still in a tiff about charging $6.95 an issue for Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. Yeah, clearly they’re gearing this to the collectors. But guys, the collectors will read the books anyway. It’s insane to have the two flagship titles of a Disney line priced too high for a child to buy them! If you must have a title for “collectors,” why not call it Walt Disney Masterpieces or something? Just make the other books affordable.

*Remember: that old adage about the only bad publicity being no publicity is nonsense in the long run. Controversy sells, true, but not for long. Sure, when people rant and rave about how bad a comic book is, other people may pick it up for an issue or two to see what all the fuss is about, then they’ll drop it and join in the ranting and raving. Soon you’ve reached everyone there is buying comics, and the sales will fall. And fast.

*Take advantage of your multi-media properties. Spider-Man 2 was one of the top-grossing films of the year. Smallville is a hit. Kids everywhere are singing that godawful Teen Titans cartoon theme song. There is no reason not to use that to your advantage. Including a mini-comic in the Punisher DVD (a comic by the regular creative team, no less) was a very nice touch. So was handing out the special edition Amazing Spider-Man where Frank made his first appearance at the movie theatres. I saw a lot of people in the theatre reading that comic book before the film started. Push the comics based directly on the films and TV shows and, more so, try to link them. Advertise the Superman: Birthright hardcover book as being the bridge to Smallville that it is. Play up that you’re going to have writers for that show on two of the comics next year (Superman and Superman/Batman). And if the Bryan Singer run on Ultimate X-Men ever finally comes out, God help you if you don’t let the non-comic readers know about it!

For the Retailers:

*Clean up, dammit. This doesn’t go for all retailers, but I’ve seen a lot of comic shops that are an absolute mess. Dusty shelves, 15-year-old posters on the wall, hastily boxed back issues in no order whatsoever and comics dating back to 2000 sitting on the new release shelf. That’s ridiculous. And it’s no way to run a business. Get out the broom, put up some new posters, alphabetize the old comics and you might just get more customers, as opposed to the people who walk by your store, squint in confusion, and then wander off to the pet shop next door, which at least has an excuse to occasionally be filthy.

*Be friendly. The best comic stores — the ones that I go to on a regular basis — are the ones that treat everyone with respect, be they a first-time customer or someone who’s had a pull list for years. Talk to your customers. Help them find what they want. Don’t be patronizing or snooty — not only does it cost you a customer, but it helps perpetuate a stereotype that holds back the whole art form. As I’ve said before, if it’s something the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons would say… don’t say it.

*Take some business classes. Too many retailers are just fans who decided to open their own shops. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when the proprietor has no idea how to run a business, all the love of comics in the world won’t keep it going. First figure out how to maintain a profitable retail business. Then apply that to running a comic book store. The husks of abandoned comic shops across the country prove how vital that lesson is.

For the Fans:

*Stop buying bad comics, particularly when there are so many great ones you aren’t reading. You would think this was a given, but a lot of people simply don’t grasp the concept. Now I’m not suggesting that you should go out there right now and drop every other title from your list, I’m saying you should be more discriminating. If you’re getting 194,246.7 X-Men related comic books a month, are you doing that because you still actually like all those titles, or because you haven’t missed an issue since 1977 and don’t want a hole to appear in your collection? If it’s the latter, that means it’s time to rethink things.

*If a comic is getting critical acclaim, try to find out why. There are certain comic books that you hear us funky reviewers praising month in and month out. She-Hulk. The Monolith. Fade From Grace. But these books don’t have the gargantuan sales numbers of other books of (arguably) much lower quality. We know you’ve heard the buzz by now. Why not see what all the fuss is about? And nobody is saying you have to like any given comic book. I’m just saying that if everyone keeps talking about how great a comic is, it may be worth your time to try an issue or two and see what all the deal is.

*Be heard. In this day and age, the only thing that can build comics readership (until the companies do something to engender a major societal shift) is your word of mouth. If you have a comic you love that no one is reading, tell them about it. If you’ve got one that you think your non-comic reading cousin would like, lend them a copy. If you’re at a bookstore and see an old lady trying to pick out a comic book as a gift for her grandson, make a suggestion. And be heard by the publishers too. Chat it up on the message boards. Write them letters — even if they don’t publish letters anymore, there’s bound to be someone reading them. It’s true that the best way to vote is with your wallet — buy what you like, don’t spend money on what you don’t like — but it can’t hurt to tell the folks in charge why you like or don’t like the comics you’ve chosen to purchase or chosen to ignore.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 22, 2004

It was a good week, but not a great week in comics, and the best comes from a rather unlikely source. Space Ghost #2 continues the dark, shadowy origin of a character best known today for hosting a goofy talk show on Cartoon Network. This is the origin of the classic Space Ghost, though, and this is a great issue. Stranded on a distant world, betrayed by the peacekeeping force that he fought for, Thaddeus Bach was left for dead. But now he’s not only alive, he’s mad. It’s hard to believe that the same Joe Kelly who writes the incredibly dull Justice League Elite also writes this comic, and it’s fantastic to see the beautiful artwork of Ariel Olivetti. I’m really starting to anticipate this comic each month.

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.

 

18
May
11

Classic EBI #92: What’s So New About It?

In this week’s all-new Everything But Imaginary, I talk about the terrifying news that Seth MacFarlane has been hired to reboot The Flintstones, an in the process pick apart why some reboots work and others don’t.

Everything But Imaginary #399: Runaway Reboots

But moving back to December 8, 2004, I had a particularly pertinent discussion. As rumors swirl about massive renumbering over at DC comics, I back then I was already discussing renumbering and misleading prefixes in…

Everything But Imaginary #92: What’s So New About It?

In the land of comic books, there is one thing you can be certain of — publishers will never tire of starting a comic book over with a new issue #1 in the desperate attempt to boost sales. We’ve seen it with Captain America and Iron Man, we’ve seen it with Catwoman and, soon, She-Hulk… we’ve even seen it with stalwarts like Wolverine. Legion of Super-Heroes is about to start volume five of that title. And if you don’t mind, I’d rather not even discuss the Punisher.

This drives the people who care about such things (geeks like me) absolutely crazy, if for no other reason than that we’ve got to constantly remember which volume of a series we’re referring to while having a debate. (“It happened in Fantastic Four #12!” “Which Fantastic Four #12?” “Er…”)

If a company feels the need to relaunch a title with a new #1, I prefer them to at least make a slight alteration to the title. Give it a subtitle, for instance — instead of Doctor Strange Vol. 3, the series was Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme. That was cool. Or make a massive alteration that still keeps the feel of the book, such as when Justice League of America gave way to simply JLA.

There’s one other trick, of course, that publishers can pull out to make it seem like they’re launching another title instead of repackaging an old one, a trick that’s been used frequently of late: stick a “new” at the beginning of it. This isn’t a recent trick, it’s been happening at least as far back as the 80s, when Marv Wolfman and George Perez resurrected Teen Titans as The New Teen Titans. Marvel Comics turned Defenders into New Defenders towards the end run of that title, and even Jim Valentino turned his ShadowHawk property over to Kurt Busiek as New ShadowHawk for seven issues.

Why “new”? Well, what word has better connotations to drag in readers? “New” means it’s bold and exciting and innovative! (And even if the comic isn’t really any of those things, that “new” stamp gives it the feel that it is.) But something can only remain “new” for so long. Even if the book was still good, after a while the “New” Teen Titans weren’t all that new anymore. Eventually DC realized that and changed the title of the book again…

…to New Titans.

Okay, so maybe they kind of missed the point there. But eventually New Titans gave way to Teen Titans Vol. 2, which gave way to The Titans, which gave way to Teen Titans Vol. 3, which if nothing else proves that whoever is in charge of titles at DC Comics has learned absolutely nothing.

These days, though, it’s Marvel that’s really letting the “new” banner fly high. It started when Grant Morrison took over the adjectiveless X-Men comic book and asked that “New” be added to the title. This was done for two reasons:

1. Morrison was trying a totally new take on the superhero genre (well, kinda, except that what he actually did was wallow in the existing superhero genre even as he deconstructed it).

2. It made for a really cool logo that could be read the same upside-down as rightside-up.

When Morrison left the title changed back to just plain X-Men, but Marvel apparently liked the New X-Men moniker and applied it to another title they already had — New Mutants. Volume two.

(Brief aside here, New Mutants, New Warriors and a few other such books don’t quite fall into the category I’m talking about here because they weren’t originally repackaged versions of old titles — although each would be cancelled and spawn a second volume — but rather actual original concepts that were given the “new” label right off the bat to make them appear bold and exciting and innovative, even if they weren’t.)

So New Mutants Vol. 2 became New X-Men: Academy X. Well points to Marvel for at least giving it a subtitle. Interestingly, I think the “new” label fits this book much better than it ever did Morrison’s. While I loved that run, don’t misunderstand me, this book simply feels “new”er. Nunzio DeFilips and Christina Weir have done a great job crafting original characters who aren’t really superheroes, but students that are acutely aware that some day they may be called upon to become the next generation of X-Men whether they want to or not. It makes for one of my favorite reads every month.

This may even be one of those rare titles to not outgrow the “new” label, assuming it lasts that long. The book is about Xavier’s school, after all. It’s not that big a leap to imagine these students graduating a few at a time and a new class coming in to take their place, thereby keeping the book perpetually fresh.

And finally we come to the two big “new” titles to hit the stands in recent weeks — New Thunderbolts and New Avengers. The original Thunderbolts series, for those who don’t recall, was about a group of villains who first masqueraded as heroes in a scheme for domination, then had a change of heart and became heroes in fact. In this incarnation, a few remaining original members of the team begin it again with the hopes of recruiting other villains and giving them the same chance they had at redemption. Is it “new” though?

Well… yes and no.

About half of the characters are new to the title, and the returning characters (Mach-IV, Songbird and Atlas) are cast in decidedly different roles than when they were first on the team. The format of the book, however, seems the same as the original — lots of conspiracies, lots of questions about people’s loyalty and even a big shocker twist ending at the conclusion of the first issue. Not that any of these are a problem, mind you, but they do tone down the “new” aspect.

What about New Avengers? Well, the old Avengers disbanded after several of them died and one of them got crazy and a few of them quit, so when there was a major jailbreak at Ryker’s Island, somebody had to come in and fix things. Who’s that gonna be?

Good question.

We’re still not 100 percent sure who the final “New” Avengers lineup will be, but the safe money seems to include Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man (all of whom have been Avengers in the past), Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Daredevil (who have at least associated with the Avengers), Wolverine (who already stars in four Marvel Universe titles a month and has absolutely no business being in this book but decided to jump on board since he was barred from being on the permanent roster of New X-Men: Academy X on the grounds that he wasn’t technically a student), and Sentry (who was once a bigwig in the Marvel Universe although nobody remembers him anymore).

So “new” is kind of stretching it here.

Not to say it’s bad, mind you. For the most part I enjoyed the premiere issue and I’m anxious to see how it goes. I’m just not sure how Marvel will still be able to justify having a “new” on the title by issue #25 or so, unless they plan to argue that the original Avengers lasted for 503 issues, so this team will still be newer at least until they hit 504.

Basically what this all boils down to is sort of a note to the comic book publishers — look for new adjectives. No pun intended. Now I’ve got to get back to work on my next book — it was going to be called 14 Days of Asphalt, but now I find myself leaning towards New Other People’s Heroes.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 1, 2004

This week was easier than expected for me to choose. New Avengers was good, Monolith is always a treat and G.I. Joe continues to impress, but nothing scored as high on the ol’ fave-o-meter as Y: The Last Man #29. Yorick, the last man on Earth, is dying. Agent 355 is looking for the ring he lost on the crazy premise that it somehow may have kept him alive. Dr. Mann puts all the pieces together. Brian K. Vaughan writes a lot of comic books every month, but none of the others I’ve read even approach how good this one is.

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
Mar
11

Classic EBI #80: The World’s Greatest Detectives?

In this week’s new EBI, I continue my attempt to make sense of comics that have been started and re-started so many times that… well… they no longer make sense.

Everything But Imaginary #390: Failing Math Part 3… Um… I Mean 2…

But in this week’s classic EBI, I look back at a time when some old friends were coming to comics, and I pondered who else may follow them.

Everything But Imaginary #80: The World’s Greatest Detectives?

The World’s Greatest Detectives?

I know I told you guys that there may be no EBI this week, due to the impending Hurricane Ivan. I know I broke your hearts, left you shattered, rendered you unable to speak. I know I’m toying with your emotions now, showing up out of the blue, and giving you your regularly-scheduled Everything But Imaginary after you’d already resigned yourselves to the fact that you wouldn’t have one today. But y’know, that nasty sucker Ivan is taking his sweet time, it seems, and I’ve got just enough time to dash off my thoughts for this week before I dash for higher ground.

A few weeks ago I read some really cool news online – two old buddies of mine are making their way back to comic books, a couple of fellas named Frank and Joe, better known as the Hardy Boys. I’ve always loved to read, from the earliest age I can remember, and one of the first things I read was a huge collection of reprints of the original Hardy Boys series, going all the way back to the first book, The Tower Treasure, that was released back in 1927.

Frank and Joe Hardy lasted through several series, hundreds of novels, encounters with other stalwarts of kid’s literature like Nancy Drew and Tom Swift and once (this was my favorite book) even thwarted the theft of some rare comic book art at the San Diego Comicon, conquering a group of crooks rigged up to mimic supervillains. I remember being impressed that one man, Franklin W. Dixon, had managed to keep the series going for so long, and that Carolyn Keene had accomplished a similar feat with Nancy Drew – this was before, of course, I realized these authors were both pen names for dozens of writers that contributed to the series over the years. I can understand the urge to give the series a feeling of continuity, especially to kids, but as I grew up and started writing myself I always thought it sort of unfair that the real writers never got credit, and that I’ll probably never know who wrote some of my favorite childhood novels.

But now, there will be new tales of Frank, Joe and Nancy, and the writers will get credit – NBM comics has announced its new Papercutz line, a series of titles aimed at “tween” readers. (I have to admit, I hate that term – it seems to refer to the demographic where a child is not yet a teenager but an irresponsible parent will allow her to dress and behave like Britney Spears.) Hardy Boys will be a monthly series by well-known comic stalwarts Scott Lobdell and Lea Hernandez. True to form with the classic stories, the comic will tell three-issue stories then dovetail right into the next mystery, with the arcs being collected in the digest comic size that is becoming increasingly popular again. It’s been a long time since the boys graced a comic book page – they had a four-issue run from Dell in the 50s based on the Disney TV show and another short run in the 70s, and that’s it.

Nancy Drew will be written by Stefan Petrucha with art by Sho Murase, and this will mark her first journey into our four-color world. Nancy’s adventures, though, will not be monthly – her comic will only be presented in the quarterly digest format. This took me aback at first. Why do the Hardys get the monthly treatment but Nancy doesn’t? The only explanation for this that I can think of is that the publisher thinks that boys are more geared to the monthly comic format, whereas girls will probably pass the comic by, but would be lured by the paperback-book sized graphic novel. (I ran this theory by Ronée, by the way, and she confirmed it for me.)

These graphic novels will be 84 pages for the Hardys and 96 for Nancy (a little balancing of the scales for you there, ladies) and will retail at a highly affordable $7.95, not much more than you’d pay for one of the prose books these days. I haven’t heard much about Papercutz’s marketing strategy, but I’ve got to hope they plan to try to shelve these near the other books in the children’s section of bookstores. Most stores, I suppose, will automatically shelve them next to the similarly-sized Manga titles, where they will be summarily ignored by young teenagers looking for the next Evangelion and kids flipping through them because they heard sometimes they draw boobies in those comics. I really think putting them with the other books, where they are being shown off to the built-in audience, is the best way to go.

And I sincerely hope this experiment works, because as I’ve said time and again, we’ve got to find new ways to get kids reading comic books. I actually intend to check out at least the first paperback editions of each of these two series, partly because I’m a big kid myself and partly because I want to be able to opine with authority as to whether or not this effort to lure younger readers is on the right track.

The good news is, Papercutz has great backing – NBM has published offbeat American and foreign graphic novels for 20 years now, they know how to sell their titles and if they throw themselves into this product and put quality writers and artists to them there’s no reason the titles couldn’t prosper. And if they do prosper, I’d like to see them branch out and try other popular children’s series.

Some children’s series, like “Lemony Snicket”’s Series of Unfortunate Events, would be difficult to work in as a comic book, unless they did a straight adaptation. Each novel in the series takes place in a very tight timeframe, and the books take place one after the other, leaving no downtime to inject “extra” stories. Others would leave more room – Goosebumps is a series of totally unrelated scary stories, it would be simplicity itself to write new ones (or adapt existing ones) and print them under that label. Comic mastermind Neil Gaiman has his own children’s novel, Coraline, that may be interesting to expand and adapt. There’s plenty of room to mine stuff like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game or Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books. (2011 Note: Both Ender’s Game and Artemis Fowl have found their way to comics since I wrote this column, as did Coraline, although that was more an illustrated novel than a true comic book.)

Then, of course, there is the children’s lit juggernaut, Harry Potter. Although the books have a very specific time frame, each one of them takes place over an entire school year, from September to June. Even when the novel clocks in at 800 pages, you know J.K. Rowling hasn’t chronicled every single minute of the year. While chances are she’s too busy to write comics herself, it would be interesting to see other writers – writers she would trust with her baby – come in and tell some stories that could “fill in the blanks,” so to speak. Show an unseen Quidditch match, a potions experiment gone awry. Titles like this, that fill in blanks of an established series (be it movies, novels or television) usually don’t have the luxury of making deep or lasting changes to the mythos, but as any Star Wars comic fan can tell you, it can be a great way to explore the world outside of the lives of our main characters or develop their characters a bit more through adventures we didn’t get to see.

Papercutz is definitely on the right track, and I hope that the quality of these two new series lives up to the great idea they started with. Comics aren’t just for kids anymore – that’s a crippling stereotype that the whole industry has to fight. But the reality that there are so few good comics for kids is even worse. They’re coming back. Uncle Scrooge. Courtney Crumrin. Writer J.M. DeMatteis is even fighting to get back the rights to his brilliant Abadazad series and resurrect it outside of the doomed halls of CrossGen.

This is another stepping stone. We’ve still got a long way to go.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: September 8 2004

I’m going to start sounding like a broken record, because I never stop talking about what a great comic book She-Hulk is. Do you know why I never stop talking about what a great comic book She-Hulk is? Because not enough of you are reading it yet! Issue #7, which came out last week, is the first of a new storyline in which Jennifer Walters, the spectacular She-Hulk, is offered a position as a magistrate on a cosmic level, meting out judgment as a subordinate of the incarnation of Justice, the Living Tribunal. Although there are some rumors of cancellation, writer Dan Slott has said that the book has been “picked up” at least through issue #15 (and even better, that Paul Pelletier will take over as the new regular penciller with issue #9) – that means you guys have eight issues more to figure out how great a comic it is. This is one of the funniest comics out there, consistently entertaining, and a real celebration of the rich tapestry that the Marvel universe is. And if that’s not enough for you – hot, green women in swimsuits. Oh, and Forbush Man is on the cover. There, satisfied? Go read it.

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.

27
Feb
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck

The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, X-Men: First Class… We’re entering yet another era of reboots. And as the fear of any reboot is that it’ll ruin the franchise, today the boys look back at some successful reboots to give us a little hope for the ones ahead. In this week’s picks, Blake digs Twilight Guardian #2 and Kenny goes with Power Girl #20. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck


01
Dec
10

EBI Classic #195: Is Santa Claus a Superhero?

With December upon us, the Christmas Party is in full swing. That includes both this week’s new and classic EBI columns. First off, the new — this week I dig into Santa Claus’s mailbag to find out what some of our favorite superheroes are asking for this Christmas:

Everything But Imaginary #376: What Does Superman Want From Santa?

Then, in the classic EBI, I’m going back to one of my all-time favorites. From December 20, 2006, let’s answer the eternal question…

Everything But Imaginary #195: Is Santa Claus a Superhero?

As fans of Fables know, Bill Willingham has promised that this week’s issue #56 is going to answer a long-pondered question: is Santa Claus a Fable? For those of you who aren’t reading Fables (and shame on you, if you’re one of them), here’s the basic premise of the series: characters from fairy tales and folklore such as Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf are, in fact, real, and have escaped an invasion of their homeworld to live in the “mundane” world. These Fables are powered and kept alive virtually forever by virtue of how much humans (or “mundys”) know and love their stories. So then there’s Santa Claus. Is he a Fable or not?

I’m going to leave it to the inimitable Mr. Willingham to answer that question. I’ve got a better question, one that’s really weighing on my mind.

Is Santa Claus a superhero?

To begin with, let’s define what, exactly, a superhero is. I personally like the Joe Casey definition, which (to paraphrase), is any character with a distinctive look or uniform who has great adventures battling evil. Now by this definition, “superhero” is a pretty broad term. James Bond, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter… heck, even Scrooge McDuck could all be labeled superheroes with easy justification. Squeezing Santa Claus in wouldn’t be any problem at all. So let’s look at him in terms that we comic geeks would find a bit more stringent. What’s the first question? Let’s look at this Official Handbook-style.

Powers and Abilities: The first and most obvious superhuman ability of the man we call “Santa Claus” is apparent immortality, or at the very least, extremely long life. By most accounts, Santa Claus was born under the name Nicholas in the 3rd century, eventually becoming the Bishop of Myra before faking his own death and beginning his centuries-long mission of gift-giving, making him at least 1700 years old, without having shown any signs of aging since his mid-60s. Furthermore, he is far more energetic than a man even of his apparent age. Santa also is apparently gifted with super-speed far exceeding even that of the Flash, having the ability to transport gifts from his Arctic Headquarters to families all over the world in a mere three nights every year. (See “Modus Opperandi”.) This ability to travel apparently extends to interdimensional transport, having been spotted interacting with heroes from multiple Earths including (but not limited to) Earth-1 (Superman), Earth-616 (She-Hulk), Earth-Walt (Scrooge McDuck), Earth-STAR (Gordon Shumway), Frosty the Snowman (Earth-Rankin/Bass) and Earth-Archie (Forsythe P. “Jughead” Jones). Santa is also evidently possessed of either shapeshifting or phasing abilities, or both, having the abilities to enter homes through even the narrowest of chimneys or, perhaps, no apparent entryways whatsoever. Santa also appears in various forms depending on the customs of the land he is visiting – in some countries he appears as a full-grown man, often drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola. In others he is a “right jolly old elf,” and in still others he appears in a female form and uses the name “La Befana.” (See “Secret Identity.”) Santa also has the ability to devour seemingly endless quantities of milk and cookies and the telepathic ability to keep track of who has been naughty and who has been nice.

Weapons and Paraphernalia: Santa’s most well-known paraphernalia includes his miniature sleigh and indeterminate number of reindeer. Santa Claus’s sleigh and the reindeer that pull it have the ability to fly, sharing his super-speed (perhaps the same way Flash Wally West had the ability to share his link with the Speed Force to other individuals). The number of reindeer is usually placed at eight, but on occasion a ninth reindeer identified as Rudolph is also employed for his extranormal ability to cause his nose to glow with such intensity that it serves to light Santa’s route through the night sky even in the densest fog or harshest weather conditions. Santa and his companions are also expert toymakers, with the ability to craft the highest quality toys, dolls, sporting equipment and games in quantities unheard of by any other terrestrial manufacturer. Often those toys have often been shown to be effective offensive weaponry on those instances when Christmas was threatened. (See “Feats.”) Santa has further developed an incoming mail system incomparable to any other on Earth, with the ability to receive and catalogue letters from children all over the world, even if those letters have no postage applied and, in fact, are never placed in a mailbox.

Uniform: Santa is usually depicted in North America wearing a red uniform with white fringe originally designed by painter Haddon Sundblom and first displayed to the public in a series of Coca-Cola advertisements in the 1930s. He does, however, appear in different robes of various styles and colors depending on the individual customs of the country he is visiting at the time.

Headquarters: Santa Claus makes his base of operations in a top-secret complex in the North Pole. There are varying reports as to how this base was established. According to The Autobiography of Santa Claus (as told to Jeff Guinn), the North Pole complex was designed by Leonardo DaVinci to solve the problem of having hidden toy factories across the United States and Europe. Other depictions of the story show Santa arriving there after being lost in a snowstorm and found by elves or fleeing there with the Kringle family that raised him to escape the clutches of the Bergermeister Meisterberger. The exact origin of the Arctic base remains in question, but most reliable sources agree on the general location.

Secret Identity and Modus Opperandi: The question of Santa Claus’s identity has been compromised over the years by the appearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of Santa Clauses throughout the shopping malls of North America, either greeting children, ringing bells for charity or attempting to sell electric razor blades. In truth, none of these are the true Santa Claus, and few are even associated with him. His birth name, as said before, was Nicholas of Myra, but as Nicholas decided his mission with his apparently eternal life was to deliver toys (and with them, hope) to the children of the world, he made the decision to adopt the legend of each land so as to be welcomed into as many homes as possible. As such, he is known by myriad names across the globe, including Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Sinterklauss, Befana, Kris Kringle, Nick St. Christopher (for undercover work) and countless others. In addition, Santa performs his good deeds on the date that is customary in each country as well, despite the belief of many in North America that he makes his annual rounds all in one night. In many countries, Santa makes his visits on Christmas Eve, but in others he makes his visits on the eve of St. Nicholas’s Day (December 6) and in still others he delivers his gifts on the eve of Epiphany, or “Twelfth Night” (January 6).

Group Affiliation: Santa is the head of a large organization headquartered at the North Pole. According to some reports (the aforementioned Autobiography of Santa Claus) the group also includes such notaries as Leonardo DaVinci, Benjamin Franklin, St. Francis of Assisi, King Arthur and Attila the Hun. Other accounts place him as the head of a group of hard-working elves with names such as “Jingles,” or “Hermie” (who abandoned his toy-making duties to become the North Pole’s first dentist) and fairies like Sugarplum. Almost all accounts include Santa’s wife, whose name varies from one account to another but whose firm but gentle hand helps keep him in line when he reaches for more cookies. Santa is also often depicted as being part of a coalition of holiday icons such as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Cupid, the Great Pumpkin, Harry the Hanukah Goblin, Kwanzabot and Donald Trump.

Feats: Like all superheroes, the true measure of Santa Claus’s worth is in his individual feats of heroism. Aside from his yearly gifts to the children of Earth, Santa Claus’s adventures have frequently involved great danger. Among them: saving Superman from an attack by the Terrible Toyman and subsequently joining the man of steel in thwarting his enemy (DC Comics Presents #67), aiding the She-Hulk in capturing a serial killer (Sensational She-Hulk #8), transforming members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants into action figures to aid the X-Men (Marvel Holiday Special 1991), saving the planet Earth from an alien invasion (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), restoring peace between estranged friends Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble (Fruity Pebbles commercial), saving Christmas from the toy-hating Bergermeister Meisterberger (Here Comes Santa Claus), bringing peace to warring stepbrothers Heatmiser and Snowmiser and bringing a white Christmas to South Town (The Year Without a Santa Claus) and otherwise saving Christmas on 1,972 separate documented occasions throughout multiple dimensions. Santa has, on occasion, also had to summon others for help, including enlisting Gordon “Alf” Shumway to help him deliver his toys when his reindeer contracted Lyme Disease (ALF Holiday Special #1), turning to the Shadowpact when he feared a terrorist organization was taking aim at his North Pole operation (DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1), turning to the retired superhero named Lightning to help slow down the rotation of the Earth after an infestation of Soul Wraiths sapped his powers (Lonely Miracle), and requesting video store clerk Randall Graves supply his elves with much-needed video entertainment to keep their spirits up (Clerks Holiday Special #1). In addition, Santa’s associates have also been known to aid him in saving Christmas, or sometimes save it on their own, including Rudolph (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), his daughter Jingle Belle (in several Jingle Belle mini-series and specials by Paul Dini) and his wife, Layla (How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn).

Conclusion: So to wrap up, does Santa Claus meet the requirements of being a superhero? Yes, Virginia, he most certainly does. Santa is a being of incredible power who frequently has to do battle with the forces of evil to protect the innocent. Even when not actively fighting evil, he continues his good works by making toys to deliver to all of the children of the world. His associates have joined him in saving Christmas innumerable times, and he has a perfect 1,972-0 win/loss record, a feat unparalleled by any other superhero in any dimension. Santa Claus is not only a superhero, but is arguably the most effective superhero of all, maintaining not only the safety of Christmas itself, but the hopes and dreams of children and adults alike all over the world. A world without a Santa Claus may truly be the saddest world of all.

From all of us here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters – have a very Merry Christmas, and we’ll see you next week to run down some of the best and worst in comics for 2006!

Favorite of the Week:

If you’re sick of Santa Claus, go away, because I’m not done with him yet. Back in the 90s, Jeff Guinn wrote a magnificent book called The Autobiography of Santa Claus, in which he wove the factual story of Nicholas of Myra and other Santa Claus legends from around the world into a single, cohesive life story. The book became one of my favorites, and I read it again every December. Last year he followed it up with How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas, telling the story of how Layla saved Christmas from a Puritan reformation led by Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s, again mixing in historical fact with his fantasy. This year a third novel came out, The Great Santa Search, for the first time taking his story to the present day. Santa finds himself threatened when a reality TV show producer decides to make his newest show a competition to select the new “official” Santa Claus. The real Santa reluctantly decides the only way to preserve his secrecy and still prevent tragedy is to enter the competition himself – and win it. No, it’s not a comic book this week, but it was still absolutely fantastic. Go read it.

But if you really need a comic book pick, go grab Tales of the Unexpected #3. David Lapham is writing one of the best Spectre stories I’ve ever read, focusing on the character of Crispus Allen and how his mission is affecting him. This is a unique mystery, where you aren’t trying to figure out who the guilty party is (that’s known from the beginning), but Allen instead has to solve what the crime was so he can mete out just punishment. It’s an amazing series and this was a great issue.

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.

 

24
Nov
10

Classic EBI #139: Giving Thanks For Comics

Hey, friends. No new Everything But Imaginary today, as I’m giving this week to Erin, but I had enough time to post this classic EBI from Thanksgivings past. Originally presented on November 23, 2005, this was a look at what I was grateful for in the first post-Katrina Thanksgiving. Boy, things have changed — Alias Enterprises is no more, Dan Slott‘s Thing comic didn’t make it past ten issues… but hey, there’s still stuff worth being thankful for.

Everything But Imaginary #139: Giving Thanks For Comics

Tomorrow, my friends, is Thanksgiving, and as such I wound imagine most of us will not spend our day sitting in front of our computers. I know I certainly won’t. Sure, I’ll be on briefly in the morning working on my book for National Novel Writing Month (word count waits for no holiday), but the rest of the day I’m going to be with my family, enjoying their company, celebrating the fact that we’re all together and safe (especially after the nasty hurricane season we just went through), and eating gargantuan amounts of turkey, ham, various potato-based side dishes and pumpkin pie. And it will be good.

The day is intended, of course, to give thanks. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for everyone in my life that’s important to me, for the fact that I’ve entered quite a productive period as a writer, and for a lot of other things that people reading a comic book column don’t particularly care about. But there are things out there in the realm of comic books that I’m quite thankful for. Now normally, if I’m going to do a holiday column, I like to talk about comic book tales that took place on that holiday – Christmas and Halloween are notoriously easy for this project. Thanksgiving is more difficult. The only Thanksgiving comic I’ve read in years was JSA #54, a celebration with the Justice Society and the Justice League, and while this was a decent enough comic, it was quickly overshadowed by JSA #55, which was one of the best Christmas stories I’ve ever read in a comic book. (Geoff Johns must have been on a real holiday kick that year.)

So rather than trying to dig up some Thanksgiving stories to shine a spotlight on, I’m instead going to take this column to go over some of the things in the world of comic books that I am, at present, particularly thankful for. Great trends, great stories, great comics, great creators. It’s easy to find things to complain about – and don’t worry, I’ll no doubt get around to that around the first of the year – but today I want to go over some of the things about comic books that make me smile.

I’m thankful for the way DC Comics and a lot of the smaller publishers stepped up to help comic shops here in the Gulf South after Hurricane Katrina. DC offered shops in badly impacted areas their products free of charge for a period of time. Many other publishers and individual creators started working on benefit books or auctions to help aid the Red Cross and other relief organizations. As disappointed as I was that some of the other giants in the industry didn’t do more to help out, I was extremely proud of what DC and everyone who worked on a benefit did.

I’m thankful for Alias Enterprises. In a comic book industry that often seems too focused on drawing the dollars out of those same readers that have been around for years, Alias seems to be making a real effort to reach out not just to new readers, but to younger readers. They’re creating comics for all ages like Lullaby and The Imaginaries, bringing back great comics like Opposite Forces and Tellos that have really wide appeal, and even tapping into an often ignored Christian readership with ArmorQuest and David. Even if Alias isn’t necessarily putting out anything for you, you’ve got to appreciate its efforts to reach out.

I’m thankful that more and more classic comics are finding their way back into print. In addition to Marvel’s Masterworks and Essentials comics and DC’s Archives, this year DC began their Showcase Presents series and the Dark Horse Archives began reprints old Gold Key comics including Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom and Magnus: Robot Fighter, as well Steve Rude’s Nexus. And let’s not forget the reprints of the old Little Lulu comics, the Complete Peanuts series (which was joined this year by Complete Dennis the Menace). There are even reprints in the works for old Harvey Comics like Hot Stuff. There’s a reason classic comics become classics, and putting out old material in new editions is the best way to keep them alive. In the future, here’s hoping somebody starts doing archival editions of great stuff like Tales From the Crypt, more of the Archie superheroes like The Comet, Charlton classics like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom and old kids comics like Richie Rich or Casper.

I’m thankful for how Infinite Crisis is shaping up, again, by bringing back those elements from the past that made the DC heroes such icons in the first place. I’m thankful that the writers across the line took their time and set things up instead of just rushing into the story headfirst. I’m glad that, for once, we’re really getting a story about a universe, about an entire world of heroes that legitimately impacts each and every title, and I’m increasingly hopeful that the new DCU that emerges from the other side will be better and brighter.

I’m thankful that Fables, my favorite comic each and every month, hasn’t lost a single step even since Bill Willingham whipped out the identity of the Adversary. In fact, I’m thankful for all of my favorite comics, including (such diverse titles as) JSA, Uncle Scrooge and PVP. I’m thankful for surprises – books that weren’t even on my radar that turned out to be great, such as Young Avengers and Son of Vulcan. If there’s anything better than finding a comic you had no intention of reading and turning out to love it, I don’t know what it is.

I’m thankful that Marvel had the good sense to give She-Hulk another go. It’s by far the best comic on their roster – one that has a sense of humor about itself and the world it inhabits, and its gentle self-deprecation blends perfectly with classic superhero stories. I’m glad Marvel is recognizing the talent they’ve got in Dan Slott, giving him the fantastic GLA miniseries from earlier this year (and the upcoming GLX one-shot), and I’m really, really happy that they’ve put him at the helm of the new title for my favorite Marvel character, The Thing.

I’m thankful that the big publishers are starting to take chances on genres other than superheroes again. DC is making a big push to resurrect the western with Loveless and the excellent Jonah Hex, and Marvel is dipping their toes in that same water with The Dark Tower, although in that case they are no doubt more motivated by the appeal of having Stephen King write a comic for them. And speaking of which, I’m really grateful that somebody finally got him to dip his pen into a comic book inkwell. As I said before, though, I just hope Marvel really takes advantage of all the potential having him writing a comic book can represent.

And finally, most of all, I’m thankful for this dandy little site called Comixtreme.com CXPulp.com. I love having this outlet to talk about comics, to espouse my feelings, to think about and analyze the trends and direction of the industry, and I’m thankful that I’ve got swell folks like you out there who read along and talk it up with me. It’s the most fun you can have talking about comic books – all right here.

So have a great Thanksgiving, folks – have an extra slice of pumpkin pie for me, and be sure to come back next week when I announce the categories in the Third Annual Everything But Imaginary Awards! See you then!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 16, 2005

That’s right, it’s finally back! I’ve missed having this feature here in Everything But Imaginary every week, and I’ve finally gotten my comic source stabilized enough to start dishing on the great comics every week again. And for my money, the best comic that came out last Wednesday was the first issue of the new Thing series by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito. As I’ve often told you guys, the Thing is my favorite character in Marvel comics, and as far as I’m concerned, the best hero to ever sprout from the collected imagination of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His new first issue was a lot of fun, lighthearted but not as over-the-top as She-Hulk… it really felt like a classic superhero tale. Here’s hoping he enjoys a nice long run.

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.

23
Jun
10

EBI Classic #52: Spandex and Seltzer

In this week’s new column, Everything But Imaginary #356: Where Jonah Hex Went Wrong, I take a look at the latest comic book movie to hit theaters, and one of the biggest flops the industry has ever seen… and just why it was so bad. And here at the ‘Realms it’s time for another classic EBI column. From March 3, 2004…

Spandex and Seltzer

Although this column is about comic books in general (in particular, how to improve them), it’s undeniable that superheroes are the dominant genre in American comics. So let’s think for a moment about those traits that make a good superhero: he should fight evil. Simple enough. He should have a distinctive look — I don’t necessarily mean a “uniform” or a “costume,” but this character should have a consistent appearance and manner of dress while he’s on the job. Oh, yeah, one more thing. He should be funny. Really, really funny.

Okay, stop scratching your heads, I’m going to explain that one. Sure, there are a lot of spandex types that aren’t even remotely funny. The Vision, for instance, is a typically cold, stoic character, and as good as Supreme Power typically is, it’s not a title that will conjure up a lot of laughs.

But superheroes, as much as I love ‘em, are sort of a silly concept to begin with — people who put on tights and capes and run around beating up muggers… this is not the product of a well-balanced mind. So melding superheroes with pure comedy is something that has been tried again and again over the years, frequently with very good results.

You can find examples of comedy superheroes as far back as the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel series (reprinted as Shazam! in the DC Comics Archive collection). While early adventures of this character attempted to be a bit more serious, in line with contemporaries like Superman, within a few years the writers realized how silly a concept they really had — a small boy who could say a magic word and become a grown-up superhero — and began to have fun with it. They introduced characters like Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger, and goofy villains like Mr. Mind, an alien worm that could crawl in someone’s ear and control their brain. (Kudos to Geoff Johns for resurrecting the concept in the recent JSA/Hawkman crossover, by the way.) You had looney villains like Dr. Sivana, whose every scheme seemed to include capturing Billy Batson and preventing him from saying his magic word until the gag fell away or something, then Captain Marvel would wipe the floor with him. Basically, you had some lighthearted, fun comics that are still a joy to read today.

A contemporary of the big red cheese, of course, was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, a stretchy hero with a sense of humor when he fought crime. He paved the way for wisecrackers like Spider-Man, and currently he’s being used in his own series by Kyle Baker, who is doing the best Plastic Man since Cole himself. (Although there was a late-80s miniseries by Phil Foglio and Hilary Barta that never gets enough credit.)

Superheroes then faded, then came back, then got corny, then got “relevant,” then got gritty, and at this point it seemed like people would rip the hair from their skulls at how depressing superhero comics were. Sure, there were a few exceptions like the silver age Legion of Super-Heroes. That was a pretty cutting edge title at the time, with characters actually dying and turning bad or getting kicked off the team, stuff that you didn’t see in other superhero titles, but at the same time there was still room for fun, goofy characters like Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and the Legion of Super-Pets.

Then came the 80s and two of the best humor superhero concepts ever. First was Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League. Coupled with artists like Bart Sears and the great Kevin Maguire, these teams lasted for five years on two titles that took our classic DC icons and made them funny as all get-out. They turned second-stringers like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold into Abbott and Costello for the spandex set. They made Guy Gardner a pansy with a blow to the head. They turned the Martian Manhunter into an Oreo fiend. Their ideas got goofier and goofier and worked more and more, and thank goodness they came back last year with the Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries, because we really needed it.

The other good superhero comedy of the 80s was John Byrne’s take on the formerly “savage” She-Hulk. Originally just a carbon copy of the Hulk with a supermodel figure, Byrne saw the inherent goofiness in a seven-foot green attorney/superhero and went one better. In Byrne’s title, the She-Hulk actually knew she was in a comic book, and would frequently break the fourth wall, talking to the writer, to the reader, and using gags like “Meanwhile” captions to help her travel much faster. It was incredibly funny stuff, and after Byrne’s run on the title ended, other writers tried to copy his style but it was never quite the same. If you can find back issues of either of his two runs on the title, they’re worth picking up, though.

So what have we got these days if you want superhero humor? Aside from the aforementioned Plastic Man, not much. Sure, some books like Spider-Man still crack a lot of jokes, or maybe Mark Waid will give us a particularly funny issue of Fantastic Four, but that’s not the same as a regular humor fix. Doug Miers did a great series a while back called The Generic Comic Book, which starred a Generic Man fighting generic villains and cracking up the reader in the process, but that only lasted 13 issues (although there is the promise of a Generic Mini-Series later this year).

Occasionally you’ll get a comedy miniseries like the anxiously awaited I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League or the fantastic Gus Beezer specials Gail Simone did before she went exclusive to DC. Bongo comics still does occasional issues of Radioactive Man, taking Bart Simpson’s favorite comic book and using it to poke lighthearted fun at all eras and styles of superhero comics, but the ostensibly quarterly series seems to take longer to come out with each issue.

I want more. I want to be able to laugh more at our buddies in tights. I’d like to see the Defenders return as a comedy series (because let’s face it, with a name that generic humor is an obvious ingredient). I’d like to see a sort of “buddy movie” miniseries with famous buds Wonder Man and the Beast (kind of like Roger Stern did a few years ago in his Avengers Two miniseries, but funnier).

Blast it all, I want to see the Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew meets Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham crossover classic.

So what makes you laugh about guys in spandex? What Are some good superhero comedy titles that I missed? What’s being published right now that I should know about? You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine. And if your general practitioner is Doctor Doom, you want to stay away as long as possible.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 25, 2004

Speaking of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion #30 easily took my award for best comic last week. The conclusion of the “Foundations” storyline sees the Legion along with a time-tossed Superboy and a brainwashed teenage version of Clark Kent take on Darkseid, who has kidnapped and perverted heroes from the past in his own bid to rule the universe. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have crafted an epic to rival “The Great Darkness Saga” as one of the best Legion stories ever told, and Christ Batista’s pencils have never been better. I’m sorry to see this writing team leaving the book, and whoever is coming in after their five years of stewarding these characters has a very tough act to follow.

I still miss Matter-Eater Lad, though.

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.




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