Posts Tagged ‘Tommysaurus Rex

02
Mar
11

Classic EBI #79: Even More of the Best Comics I’ve Never Read

In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I do a little number crunching, hurt my brain, and discover…

Everything But Imaginary #389: Why Comic Geeks May Fail Math

But in this week’s classic EBI takes us back to September 8, 2004, I go back to take a look at comics that (at that point at least) I’d never read, but wanted to…

Even More of the Best Comics I’ve Never Read

That’s right friends, it’s that time again, time to play everybody’s favorite game “The Best Comics I’ve Never Read.” As longtime readers of this column will recall, once upon a time I asked you guys to give me a list of great comic books (preferably available in graphic novel form) that I haven’t read, so I could periodically come back and let you know what I thought of them. Rules of the game are simple — I pick up a trade paperback you guys recommend from time to time. If I like it, it moves from my reading list for myself to my reading list for you guys. If I don’t like it, it is consigned to the bowels of my comic book collection, next to early 90s issues of X-Force and any Spider-Man issues that reference a clone.

Returning to this list is Grant Morrison, a writer who did fantastic runs on JLA and New X-Men, but whose opus The Invisibles left me pretty cold. This time out it was suggested I give his run on Animal Man a try, something that was pretty easy to do since DC has recently collected the entire run in trade paperback form. Isn’t that thoughtful?

Animal Man was a cheesy character with the power to absorb the abilities of any animals in the viscinity. It was kind of a goofy power, but in the hands of a good writer even goofy powers can make for great stories, so when Morrison took his stab at the character, you at least knew you were in for something different.

Morrison gets major points in my book for inventive uses of the character’s powers and for giving him some solid characterization, something he’d never had before. He loses points, however, for lapsing into the political screeds from time to time. I don’t read comic books to get a political lecture. If that’s your thing, I imagine you’d enjoy it more, but that stuff made the book more distasteful in my eyes.

Still, there was a lot of good stuff, and I’m told that the really innovative things came towards the end of his run. (Of course, I was told how innovative The Invisibles was too…) I’m not ready to give up on Animal Man entirely, but I didn’t like the first trade paperback enough to give it a full recommendation. I’ll try to find volume two. Until then, Mr. Morrison gets an incomplete.

Next up is a book you guys may have heard me talk about frequently, since I finally read it not long after my last “Best Comics I’ve Never Read” column — Mike Kunkel’s brilliant Herobear and the Kid. I got turned onto this comic by our own Craig Reade in his Still on the Shelf column. This is the story of Tyler, a normal 10-year-old kid, who inherits a toy teddy bear and a broken pocketwatch when his beloved grandfather dies. Tyler is forced to cope with the loss of his grandpa and moving to a new town all at the same time, and just when his life couldn’t get any worse, he discovers an incredible secret. His teddy bear comes to life and turns into a 10-foot, certified cape-wearing superhero, Herobear, a character that is “100 Percent Good.”

With such a premise, it would be easy for this comic book to lapse into the sugary or the sappy, or even worse, the patronizing. There is nothing that will turn a child off of a story faster than the sensation that they are being spoken down to. This comic never does that, though. It’s sweet, but has a darker, more realistic side as well. It’s about a child with real problems and fantastic solutions. And most of all, it’s about the power that can be found in a good heart. If you’ve got children, I urge you to get this comic book and read it with them. You won’t regret it. Herobear and the Kid graduates to my recommended reading list, big-time.

Third is something that I’ve been hearing about for a long time here at CX, Sean McKeever’s Sentinel. I didn’t read any of the Tsunami comics when Marvel launched that doomed imprint, but the new Marvel Age digests are a nice (and inexpensive) way to catch up. I’m also not that familiar with McKeever — the only work of his I’m sure I’ve read before is the first Marvel Age Fantastic Four digest, which frankly didn’t wow me.

In Sentinel: Salvage, we meet Juston Seyfert, a teenager with an absent mother, a lousy school life and a couple of bullies who have picked him as their favorite target. One of his best friends is about to snap, the girl he likes is off to meet up with her college-age boyfriend… things just aren’t going well.

Until Juston finds a Sentinel, one of those giant robots built to hunt down mutants like the X-Men, repairing itself in his father’s junkyard. Fortunately, this is the only real link to the larger Marvel Universe in the title, which is fortunate because the story doesn’t need it. It stands on its own extraordinarly well. While some of the characters can border on the edge of caricature, most are full of real emotion and strong characterization. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a comic with a teenage protagonist whose father isn’t stupid, abusive or absent. Juston’s dad, to the contrary, is as loving and supportive a character as any father in comics.

The Sentinel itself, of course, makes for a lot of great plot points, such as when Juston uses it in public to try to make himself a hero — and learns a lesson. Not in the gooey “Afterschool Special” kind of way either but in a way that evolves from the characters.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the second (and sadly, final) TPB of this series. Yeah, comic books are a business, but I find it extremely sad that Marvel is turning to the umpteenth Gambit and Rogue series to try to make money while a gem like this is left sitting on the shelf. Read this one, friends, and let Marvel know you want it back.

Finally, as is the custom, I’m going to wrap this up with a new volume that neither you (the royal you, all of you reading this) nor I have mentioned before in one of these columns: Doug TenNapel’s Tommysaurus Rex, which secured a co-”Favorite of the Week” spot when it came out. I first became aware of TenNapel, best known for his Earthworm Jim video game, a few years ago with the release of his fantastic sci-fi graphic novel Creature Tech.

In Tommysaurus, he tells the tale of a boy sent to spend the summer with his grandfather to help him cope with the death of his beloved dog. He finds something much more incredible, though — a real-live dinosaur. This is a fine graphic novel with a lot of heart to it, and it doesn’t lapse into the pseudo-religious stuff that turned some people off from Creature Tech. It’s a straight fantasy with a good lesson, one that I highly recommend.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now friends. What about you? Here is what’s on the list…

BLAKE’S READING LIST (from you)

Black Panther: The Client
Blankets
Cerebus Vol. 1
Doom Patrol: Crawling From the Wreckage
The Gypsy Lounge
Hulk: Boiling Point
Goodbye, Chunky Rice
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy in the World
Jinx and Goldfish
Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundles of Trouble
Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1
Planetary: All Around the World
Record of Lodoss War: The Lady of Pharis
Red Rocket 7
Rex Mundi: Guardian of the Temple
Safe Area Goradze
Terminal City
300
Torso
Top 10
V For Vendetta

YOUR READING LIST (From Blake)

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius series
Astro City series (Vol 1: Life in the Big City)
Bone series (Vol 1: Out From Boneville)
The Complete Peanuts
Creature Tech
Criminal Macabre
Daredevil: Wake Up
Dork Tower series (Vol 1: Dork Covenant)
Fables series (Vol 1: Legends in Exile)
Fantastic Four: Imaginauts
Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction
Herobear and the Kid
The Liberty Project
Meridian series (Vol 1: Flying Solo)
Preacher series (Vol 1: Gone to Texas)
Punisher: Welcome Back Frank
Road to Perdition
Sentinel: Salvage
Tommysaurus Rex
24 Hour Comics
Understanding Comics/Reinventing Comics
The Wizard’s Tale

Got any comics you want me to add? Want to talk about any of the ones we’ve already covered? Here’s your chance, friends. Give me an assignment. Add some books to that list! I’m always looking for a good read.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: September 1, 2004

Been a while since this title made it into a Favorite of the Week spot, but Ultimate Spider-Man #65 was one of the best single issues of that title ever. I was frustrated, even mad at how Gwen Stacy was killed a few weeks ago, and I thought the end of the Carnage storyline was lackluster, but this issue is all about aftermath. Peter, Mary Jane, Liz Allen. Flash Thompson and Kong in detention. That’s about the whole issue. And it gets so deep into character, so brilliantly revealing, this is one of the best issues of this comic yet. Once this was considered by many the best mainstream comic in America – it’s issues like this that got it that rep.

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.

09
Feb
11

Classic EBI #76: Comics By the Letters

Last week, an independent comic creator put out a call to arms for other creators to take a shot at their own property, and not expend all their creative energy on corporate characters. While I agree in principle, as I explain in this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I think the finger is being pointed at the wrong target…

Everything But Imaginary #386: Are Creators to Blame For Lack of Creator-Owned Comics?

In this week’s classic EBI, though, it’s time for something pretty timely. DC Comics has just announced that they’re bringing back the long-lost, lamented letter pages to their comic books. So let’s go back to August 18, 2004, when I bemoaned the loss of those pages…

Comic Books By the Letters

I want to write comic books someday. I don’t think I’m giving away any top secret information in saying that — at least 25 percent of all comic fans, at some point or another, seriously harbor an urge to pursue a career as a writer or an artist, and if anyone in the other 75 percent tried to claim they had never at least thought about it, I would call them a liar and spray them with the garden hose.

I think it’s safe to say that the next generation of comic fans (wherever they wind up coming from) will come with those same ambitions and aspirations as well. However, there is one thing I can say about being a writer that future generations may not have the chance to, given the way things are. I can say that the first time something I wrote was published in a comic book, it was in the letter page.

Although I had occasionally dashed off letters to comic companies in my earlier years, it wasn’t until the year I graduated high school that one finally saw print. That first letter appeared in New ShadowHawk #1 from Image comics, and I was commenting on the powerful final issue of the original ShadowHawk series (creator Jim Valentino will be bringing the property back for a one-shot later this year, finally) and apparently, something I said was interesting enough to justify seeing print in the first issue of the new series, written by the man who would quickly become my favorite writer in comics, Kurt Busiek.

Well, I’ve got to tell you, seeing my name and my words in print emboldened me, and for the first year or two that I was in college, I was a ubiquitous letterhack. Oh, I was no Uncle Elvis, but I became a semi-regular presense in the letter page of a new title, Kurt Busieks’s Astro City. I also got a couple of letters in the pages of Jeff Smith’s Bone, and landed missives in other titles, including Ninjak (another Busiek title at the time), Impulse, Robin and even JLA (back during the Morrison years). Heck, at one point having my address appear in those back pages actually scored me a black-and-white preview of the resurrected X-O Manowar by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn — Acclaim Comics even wound up excerpting part of my reply for that preview into an ad for the comic. (It was the first time I was ever “blurbed,” long before my days as a reviewer at CX Pulp.)

Eventually, though, school, work, life and all those other things that prevent us from reading comic books all day interfered and my output lessened, although I still tried to drop a line to Astro City whenever it came out. It wasn’t really that big a tragedy — there was no shortage of letter-writers coming up from behind me to fill the ranks.

Then, a couple of years ago, DC Comics announced it was abandoning its letters pages entirely. Marvel never made an official announcement, but their pages began to dwindle to almost nil, and on those rare occasions they appeared, it almost felt like the editors cherry-picked gushing, glowing missives instead of working in a mix of enthusiasm and criticism like letters pages of yore had done. Part of the rationale DC gave for getting rid of the format is that Internet message boards — like this one — made the letters page irrelevant. I tend to disagree. I love message boards — heck, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have written 76 of these “Everything But Imaginary” columns and nearly 400 reviews for this website — but there’s something unique about the letters page.

Look at it this way — when you see your letter appear in the back of a comic book, you know that somebody involved with the production of that comic read it. If there’s a reply, that’s even better. Even if it’s the assistant editor’s assistant stapler, it passed through the eyeballs of somebody making a comic book happen.

Unless a creator takes the time to reply to you on a message board, you don’t know that your message is ever getting to the people you intend it for. Even on “official” message boards, there’s no way to know if the writer or artist or editor you’re addressing actually reads your post. You’re just shouting into the wind, hoping your message gets carried off.

Second… let’s be honest here, guys… there’s no sense of accomplishment in posting to a message board. All you need is an e-mail address and anybody can blather to their heart’s content. With a letter page, though, there’s a limited amount of space, and you know that, so if your letter shows up on that page it means somebody judged it superior to other missives, somebody found something in that letter that was clever or funny or thought-provoking enough to want to share it with the other people who read that title.

Third… there is that sense of community. Oh, we’ve got a great community right here on Comixtreme — Doug is the mayor, Brandon is the court jester, Ronée clearly is in charge of the house of worship, Craig runs the barber shop for some reason… but as many hits as we get here, very, very few threads ever get as many views as the print run of an average comic book. And even those that do, it’s the same pool of people reading and replying over and over again. Now there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but when it comes to getting your message out to the masses, having it printed in the comic itself is still far, far superior to anything the Internet has yet accomplished.

I think it’s nice to note that a great deal of comic book creators were just as upset as the fans when the letters pages went the way of the dinosaur. A number of them got their starts as letterhacks back in the day, after all, and they know everything I’ve already told you. People with creator-owned books like Savage Dragon have kept the letters page in defiance of these oh-so-sweeping winds of change. Fables and Robin writer Bill Willingham started online “letter pages” at his own website, and although those are essentially message boards themselves, it does have more of the feel of the “real” letter pages since each thread is devoted to a single issue of a single title and because Willingham himself frequently appears and answers questions the fans ask.

But, as is so often the case, there’s hope. And oddly enough, that hope is coming from DC Comics, the same people who made the biggest stink about losing the letter pages in the first place. DC has announced that, beginning in September, it will lump all of its titles based on animated properties (it seems a bit patronizing to call them “kid’s comics”) into a new line hosted by the return of their old mascot, Johnny DC. Johnny will be bringing you Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans Go!, Looney Tunes and other such comics every month…

…and with them, Johnny will have letter pages. In fact, he’s already showing up in comics and online asking kids to send in their letters.

I don’t know why, exactly, DC has decided to backtrack here and bring back the letter pages, at least for this small family of titles, but I hope it works. I hope it’s a huge success. I hope the demand gets so great that they start putting the letters back in every comic.

After all, not everyone is as lucky as I am — when I think a comic stinks, I can just write a column about it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 11, 2004

Okay, look, I’ve given up on this one. Can we all just agree that any given week that features an issue of Identity Crisis, it’s going to win this award? Issue #3 was the best yet, featuring a spectacular fight scene with the Justice League and Deathstroke, some shocking (but utterly logical) revelations about the JLA’s past, and a last-page shocker that was as gut-wrenching as anything I’ve seen since… well… since Identity Crisis #1.

But since I feel like Brad Meltzer is being very selfish, writing a comic book so brilliant it can’t possibly lose this honor, I’m also going to point out the next-greatest book of the week… this time out it’s a one-shot graphic novel from Image, Doug TenNapel’s Tommysaurus Rex. TenNapel is most well-known for creating the video game and cartoon character Earthworm Jim, but a few years ago he put out an absolutely brilliant graphic novel called Creature Tech, which remains a favorite of mine to this day.

This time out he tells the story of a young boy who goes to spend the summer on his grandfather’s farm after his beloved dog is killed by a car… only to find, inexplicably, a living, breathing Tyrannasaurus Rex in the woods! He and the T-Rex befriend each other (this is a classic example of the “Boy and His Monster” comic I wrote about here in EBI a few weeks ago), and he quickly comes to realize that there may be even more to his new friend than he realized. This is a wonderful, touching story, the sort of thing you really can read with your kids. (Well… older kids, the scenes with the dog dying and other bits may be a bit too upsetting for younger children.) At any rate, it’s a beautiful graphic novel and gets my highest recommendation. And to make things even cooler, even before it came out last week, Universal Studios optioned the rights to make the movie. Now that rocks.

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.




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