Posts Tagged ‘Uncle Scrooge

05
Dec
13

A Very Nerdy Christmas

Next year, Erin and I will finally celebrate our first Christmas together. I couldn’t be more excited, and I know she’s already making certain plans in terms of traditions and decorations and the like.

However, over the years I’ve assembled a small but — I think — amusing collection of Christmas ornaments of my own. Many of them have been given to me as gifts, the rest have mostly been the result of Hallmark’s after-Christmas clearance sales. It never seemed sensible to spend a ton of money on decorations until I had someone to decorate with. So while I’m sure next year the two of us will bring together all her ornaments and all my ornaments and probably a bunch of new ornaments, today I thought I’d share with you guys my collection as it stands today, such as it is.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

First up is my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. While not technically an ornament, it’s one of my most prized Christmas decorations and also will serve as the model for most of the upcoming pictures. Erin gave me this tree a few years ago and I love it. I actually wound up getting a second tree to place in my classroom at school, knowing that this tree was far too precious to risk in a room full of high school students.

“Oh come on, Blake,” you’re saying. “They’re in eleventh grade. Surely they can be trusted to be in proximity to a decoration with just a single ornament without worrying about them breaking it.”

Heh. It’s cute that you think that.

Doctor Who TARDIS

Doctor Who: The TARDIS

Next up is my TARDIS decoration. You may or may not know (except if you know anything about me at all, in which case you absolutely know) that I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. This particular glass ornament was given to me by my buddy and frequent Showcase co-host, Kenny. Thanks, pal! I know that Erin will want to be certain it gets a place of honor next Christmas.

Donald Duck Wakeup Hallmark

Donald’s Wake-Up Cup

I love Disney and I love Christmas, so it’s not surprising that many of my decorations are Disney characters. Of course, as I’ve done most of my shopping in the clearance sales, my selection is particularly eclectic. I’d grab whatever looked like it was worth the money, and the deeper the discount the lower that threshold would become. For example, here’s Donald Duck, having just rolled out of bed, drinking a cup of coffee. Probably because I got it for pennies.

Mickey Mouse Ears

Mickey Mouse Ears

From the “My parents went to Disney World and all I got was this…” line. A few years ago, my parents took a trip to Disney World and brought this personalized set of mini-Mouse Ears to me. (That’s “Mini” as in “small,” not “Minnie” as in “Mickey’s girlfriend.”) They brought an identical pair of ears for Erin. Hers are currently dangling from the rear view mirror in her car.

Scrooge McDuck from "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Scrooge McDuck from “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”

Another Hallmark Keepsake ornament, this one depicts my favorite Disney Character — Scrooge McDuck — as he appeared in the classic 1983 animated feature Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Hey, speaking of A Christmas Carol, have you guys been following my Reel to Reel movie blog? All this month, leading up to Christmas I’m reviewing and analyzing different versions of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. All of your favorites are there — Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Mr. Magoo… go on, check it out.

Disney Vinylmation 2012

Disney Vinylmation 2012

My brother and sister are big fans of Disney’s Vinylmation figures — a series of toys all set in the same Mickey Mouse-shaped mold and decorated in an infinite number of ways. I’ve got a lot of them too, but I’ve been a bit more selective in my Vinylmation purchases than them. This one came out last year — it’s a regular Vinylmation figure with an ornament loop on the head. This one depicts Donald Duck trapped in a snow globe, presumably the work of a genie or his nephews or something.

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Another Vinylmation figure-slash-ornament, this one depicts a chocolate bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse. As you can tell, whoever got this bar in his stocking eats his Mickey chocolate the same way everybody eats their Easter rabbits — he bites the ears first. This figure also smells like hot chocolate. Well… the box says it’s hot chocolate. There’s a definite cocoa flavor to the aroma, but I don’t know if I’d go that far.

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb is without question, the best cartoon for kids in decades. I dare you to find anything that’s even remotely as entertaining. You need to go back to the 90s heyday of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. These kids rock.

Also, this was the last picture I took. I thought I was finished, I put my Charlie Brown tree in its place of honor (which is rather high up and out of reach of cats and three-year-old nieces), and when I realized I missed this one I just said the hell with it and took the picture on the table.

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Courtesy of Target, here’s Phineas and Ferb’s best pal Perry the Platypus in his other identity: Agent P of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). I like to imagine here that he’s just stumbled into an insidious yuletide trap set by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Doofinshmirtz. Don’t worry, guys, Doof isn’t really that big a threat. And he actually doesn’t hate Christmas anyway, he has a burning indifference.

Prep and Landing Hallmark

Prep and Landing: Wayne and Lanny

A few years ago Disney introduced these guys, Wayne and Lanny, members of Santa Claus’s special Prep and Landing task force. These are the elves that scout ahead of Santa Claus to make sure the house is ready, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, and not a creature is stirring. If you have a Merry Christmas morning, it’s because Wayne and Lanny did their job right so that Santa could come behind them and do his.

Muppets Kermit Target

Kermit the Very Shiny Frog

This one is a Target find rather than Hallmark. Erin picked it up for me last Thanksgiving when we were shopping. This was either a few days before or a few days after I asked her to marry me, I don’t remember which, and it doesn’t matter. It’s special anyway. And yes, that’s a reflection of me and my phone in Kermit’s face. You try hiding your reflection when taking a picture of a shiny glass amphibian. It’s not that easy.

Peanuts-Erins Snoopy

Snoopy and Woodstock go for a drive

Snoopy and Woodstock here were a gift from Erin. She found it for me at work and included it in a stocking full of candy and little gifts last year. The girl knows me all too well, doesn’t she?

Peanuts on Ice

Peanuts on Ice

This is actually four separate ornaments put together. The “Peanuts on Ice” figures from Hallmark each have a magnet in the base, allowing you to connect them. I’m not sure how many there were in the series, but I know how many I got. Four. I got four.

You’ll notice that Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, has no magnet and therefore is not connected to the rest of the Peanuts gang. I like to imagine that Linus, sick and tired of her years of sexual harassment, disabled the magnet in her base in the hopes that she would slide away and suffer a tragic mishap in the ice. Wow, that took a dark turn.

The Flash

The Flash

Another Hallmark ornament, here we have Barry Allen, the Flash. (How do I know it’s Barry Allen and not Wally West? Because Wally’s belt always came to a point in the front, only Barry wore the straight belt for his entire career in the Pre-Crisis era. Yes, I’m THAT kind of nerd.) Barry here, if I’m not mistaken, is actually the oldest ornament in my collection. I’m pretty sure I’ve had him since high school, and I don’t even remember when I got him.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan. Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814. Current leader of the Green Lantern Corps. Another Hallmark keepsake ornament. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Golden Age Superman

Golden Age Superman

I’ve got a few different Superman ornaments. Try not to be surprised.

This Hallmark ornament is actually two in one. In the front we have the Golden Age Superman, the way he first appeared in 1938. In the background is the second ornament, the cover of Action Comics #1, in which he made his first appearance. Actually, now that I look at it, the figure isn’t exactly right for that comic. His “S”-symbol, at that point, was actually just a yellow shield with the letter drawn in it, not the stylized version it would later become, and his boots hadn’t yet evolved to what we see here either. Wow, now I’m furious at the inaccuracy of my ornament. Christmas is RUINED.

Modern Superman

Modern Superman

This more modern Superman is a one-piece ornament, with the Man of Steel bursting out of the cover of a comic book. And this actually is a comic book, you can open that sucker up and read it. There aren’t any credits, but I think the short re-telling of his origin story was drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a classic DC Comics artist who contributed a lot of art for various DC merchandise over the years. I told you, I’m that kind of nerd.

Superman Luxor

Lenox China Superman

I think I’ve shown this one off before but I don’t mind doing it again. This Lenox China Superman figure has the trademarks of that elegant line of decorations — the white glass is used in his cape, and the Lenox gold lines the figure in several places. This, too, is a gift from Erin, which should be obvious because those Lenox ornaments are pretty expensive for a guy that, until now, got most of his Christmas decorations from Hallmark’s 20% off table.

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

From The Office, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute. This ornament is actually based on the Valentine’s Day episode in which his girlfriend gave him a bobblehead doll of himself. The ornament is a working bobblehead, plus, it talks when you push that little button in the front. I briefly considered shooting a short video demonstrating these features, but then I realized that would require way more of a commitment than I was ready to put into this little article.

Elise's Ornament

Elise’s Ornament

Now we’re getting into the ornaments that have an actual emotional connection for me. This one, for example, was a gift from Erin’s niece Elise last Christmas. Hey — I guess that means she’s going to be my niece too. Cool.

For Erin's teacher

For Erin’s teacher

Another Erin find. This “For My Teacher” apple came to her at work and she brought it home to me. Go ahead: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw…”

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

And finally, probably the most meaningful ornament on the list is this little Cross. Last summer, Erin and I attended an engagement encounter at a monastery in Pittsburgh. We wanted a keepsake of the weekend, and decided on this Christmas ornament. The message, I think, was just right.

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17
Aug
11

Classic EBI #104: Closing the Want List Gap

Earlier today, a chat with a buddy of mine got me thinking — is it possible that being a fan of a character may be an obstacle to writing great stories with that character? And is that something that can hold me back?

Everything But Imaginary #411: Undue Reverence

But in this week’s Classic EBI, I take a look at books I’m missing, stories that are left unfinished… the famous comic book WANT LIST.

Everything But Imaginary #104: Closing the Want List Gap

I have many goals in my life. Write a best-selling novel. Win an Eisner Award. Correctly identify all 11 herbs or spices. But then there are days where I think it would all be complete if only I could find a copy of Uncle Scrooge #295.

I realize that has to sound kind of absurd to some of you. To those doubting Thomases, I can only say, “I know you are but what am I?” However, I’ll bet most of you understand. Those of you who have been reading comics for a long time, particularly those who started out on the newsstands before discovering the miracle of a comic shop pull folder, know similar pain. We all have those horrible, glaring gaps in our collection, and we all would give anything to close them in properly.

It’s a story we’ve all lived. We get into a title after it’s already begun and now we’ve got a desperate race to find all those issues we missed. In my case, it was a late start reading Don Rosa‘s brilliant “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.” Over the years, at comic shops and conventions, you’d find me voraciously shuffling through long boxes, asking dealers if they had any issues and scouring the quarter bins in desperate hopes. Ronée was particularly amused the first time she ever saw me take out my want list and get on my hands and knees to peruse the less-accessible long boxes. Now, years later, I only have one issue of this run left to find, and even the news that Gemstone comics is finally going to do a trade paperback collecting this run can’t stop me from looking. I consider myself a comic book reader rather than a collector, but there are some stories worth getting the collecting bug for.

The boom of the trade paperback market has made the want list gap easier on me. I never would have read all of Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman series or the entire first series of Runaways if I had been unable to get the collections. Still, chances are there will never be a point where every single comic book ever printed will be readily available in trade paperback, and that means you’ve got to learn to dig.

I’ve completed a few runs this way over the years. I managed to piece together the entire Keith Giffen/J.M. Dematteis run of Justice League Europe, and I’m only one issue away from having a complete run of their Justice League/Justice League International/Justice League America days. By hook and crook (and hunting and searching) I managed to score a complete run of the legendary Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew. And I’m only 20 issues away from having every regular issue of a Superman title published since the 1986 revamp (that’s five issues of Superman, seven of Action Comics and eight of Adventures of Superman, for those of you keeping track).

As frustrating as it can be to hunt down those single issues, it can be even worse when it’s an entire title that you discover long after the fact. For example, I was never familiar with Bill Willingham‘s work until he did a few Sandman Presents miniseries. When he started his own Fables series, I jumped on at the first issue and immediately became a fan.

It wasn’t until then, however, that I learned of The Elementals. This was a much-ballyhooed series from Comico back in the 80s and 90s, written, created and occasionally drawn by Willingham, about a group of people who died, were resurrected with superpowers, and became hero/celebrities. Between three volumes of the regular title and a slew of assorted specials and miniseries, the Elementals lasted for over 75 issues. I, however, didn’t know anything about them… until a few months ago when my local comic shop had a “50-percent off the cover price” sale on a slew of old titles that had been sitting in the back room. I noticed Willingham‘s name on one of the covers and wound up getting the first 20 issues of Elementals Vol. 2 for a real bargain price. And now I’m stuck desperately hoping to find the rest of the issues somewhere, somehow, and for some price I can afford without going broke.

What’s more, once you’ve been doing this little dance for a while, you learn there are certain rules. For example:

• If you are looking for a single issue (for example, issue #295), they will have the issue immediately preceeding it (#294) and the issue immediately after (#296), but not the one you are looking for.

• When you finally find your issue, you won’t have the money to get it.

• If you have the money, it will be more than you really should spend, considering that you still haven’t eaten since Thursday and Aunt Imogene shouldn’t go much longer without her insulin.

• If you decide to spend the money anyway, you will be accompanied by a wife/girlfriend/other such individual who will either mock you mercilessly or make you wish you had never been born for spending so much money on a comic book.

• If you find the issue you need for a reasonable price and there’s no one there to stop you from purchasing it, you may as well play in traffic and buy lottery tickets, because you’re the luckiest geek alive.

It’s easier than it used to be. Online retailers and auction sites like eBay, plus fan communities like this one, have made it easier than it used to be to network with people and find that one last comic you need, that Four-Color Holy Grail, that last mass of paper, ink and staples that will suddenly make your life complete.

But no matter how easy it gets to find those suckers online, it can never really replace the thrill of sifting through those long boxes, catching the corner of the book in your eye, raising it up to display the cover of that issue you want, jumping up and squealing with delight and then finally bonking your head on the table you’re under. Because that’s how it always happens.

And for some sick reason, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 23, 2005

I know, you’ve heard me talk about Uncle Scrooge quite enough in this column already. I don’t care. Last week’s #339 featured Don Rosa’s “The Crown of the Crusader Kings,” one of the best Scrooge comics in years and easily the most exciting comic to hit the stands last week. Scrooge and his nephews find a clue that can lead them to a legendary crown left behind by the Knights Templar, and they go forth on a quest to find it. Rosa seamlessly weaves a little real history into a rip-roaring treasure hunt adventure with lots of comedy along the way. This is the epitome of what an all-ages comic should be — something you can read to the kids and still enjoy yourself. This issue gets my highest possible recommendation.

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

 

29
Jun
11

Classic EBI #97: The 2004 Everything But Imaginary Awards

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

Everything But Imaginary #405: The New DCU Take Two

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

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

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

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

1. Best Superhero Title

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

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

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

2. Best Science Fiction Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Negation.

3. Best Fantasy Title

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

Honorable Mention: Bone, The Witches.

4. Best Horror Title

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

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

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

5. Best “Down to Earth” Title

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

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

Honorable Mention: 100 Bullets, The Losers.

6. Best Humor Title

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

Honorable Mention: Simpsons Comics, Lionxor, Plastic Man.

8. Best Mature Reader’s Title

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

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

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

7. Best All-Ages Title

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

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

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

9. Best Adapted Comic

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

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

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

10. Best Comic Adaptation

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

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

11. Best Miniseries or Special

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

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

12. Best New Title

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

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

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

13. Best Comic You’re Not Reading

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

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

Honorable Mention: Street Angel, District X, Invincible.

14. The New Beginning Award

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

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

Honorable Mention: Thor, Silver Surfer, Iron Man.

15. The Happy Trails Award

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 5, 2005

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

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

 

25
May
11

Classic EBI #100: What Comics Do I Love?

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

Everything But Imaginary #400: Why Do I Read Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 10 Favorite Non-Superhero Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 10 Favorite Superhero Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 26, 2005

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

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

27
Apr
11

Classic EBI #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

And once again, friends, it’s Wednesday. Time for an all-new Everything But Imaginary column! This week, I look at the impact of long-term storytelling, how it can work well, and what sins a writer may commit that loses his audience prematurely.

Everything But Imaginary #396: Gratification in an Instant

But getting into the Wayback machine, we’re looking at my column from November 17, 2004, a column about a topic that’s only really become significant in the last month or so… the story of how the Walt Disney company bought the defunct CrossGen Comics. It didn’t have much of an impact then, but now that Disney also owns Marvel, we’re finally seeing motion on the old CrossGen properties. Let’s see what I said about this way back then, shall we?

Everything But Imaginary #89: Sigils at the House of Mouse

Well gang, as you all know unless you have been living under a rock, in a cave, or simply don’t pay attention to such things, the news that the Walt Disney Corporation and Shadow Government has acquired the properties of the former CrossGen Comics has finally caught a little fire. More so than that, Disney’s DPW productions, the arm of the company that is apparently in charge of such things, has announced that the first project under this banner will be the resurrection of CrossGen’s brilliant fantasy comic Abadazad. [2011 note: This resurrection was, sadly, short-lived.]

Now this is both good news and bad news. I’ll do the good first. Disney is one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world. Their characters are internationally famous. Even when one of their movies flops, just about everyone hears about it. (C’mon, you know you all saw the ads for Home on the Range, even though only about three of you saw it.)

Having that kind of backing behind a comic book company could be a great thing if it was utilized properly. I’d love to see the long-promised Meridian movie or see The Crossovers as a weekly TV show. Could you imagine Sojourn put on the big screen with the same production values as The Lord of the Rings or Route 666 given the same respect as The Sixth Sense? Heck, I’d even dig going to the theme park to take a plunge on “Po Po the Monkey’s Wild Ride.”

Unfortunately, just because a major media company owns a comic book company doesn’t mean it’ll get that kind of push. You know who owns DC Comics, right? Time/Warner. Now this has resulted in a few good projects — Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, and even cool stuff like Batman: The Escape and other Six Flags attractions (Six Flags being the theme park chain Time/Warner owns).

Heck, do you think if it weren’t for this sort of corporate synergy we ever would have gotten the decades-in-coming Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover?

But these things, unfortunately, are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Time/Warner as a whole treats DC Comics like a redheaded stepchild. Despite having the most recognizable comic book characters on the planet, they shunt the company aside and try to milk the characters for all they’re worth instead of treating them with respect. As a result we get crappy movies like Catwoman, Steel and certain bat-films so atrocious I dare not even speak their names. (And I can’t speak for any other park, but the Batman stunt show at Six Flags New Orleans is flat-out terrible.)

That’s the whole problem with DC movies over the past decade and a half — there’s no competition with any other studio, so there’s no incentive to make a fantastic movie or lose the license. If Spider-Man had tanked, Marvel Comics could have blamed Columbia Pictures, not renewed the license and taken it to another studio to try again. But Catwoman stays at Warner Brothers no matter how bad the movie is. The closest thing we’ve got to an escape on the horizon is the news that a potential Shazam! movie may be made by New Line Cinema instead of Warner Brothers… but New Line is still a subsidiary of — anyone wanna guess? You in the back wearing the Def Leppard t-shirt and the polka-dotted bow-tie? Thaaaaat’s right. Time/Warner.

Folks at DC have often admitted, candidly, that if Warner Brothers could trash the entire comic book operation but still keep the characters viable, they would.

Now one has to assume that Disney wouldn’t do such a thing to CrossGen, at least not any time soon, or they wouldn’t have bought the assets in the first place, but the fact is, we’ve still got to keep a clear head about this. It’s possible.

Then there’s the other question. Disney has its hands in almost every form of entertainment — movies, TV, theme parks, book, music… but can they run a comic book company? Well, the answer last time… is no.

I hear you folks yelling now. “But Blake! I see Disney comics all the time! You yourself talk about Carl Barks and Uncle Scrooge more often than normal guys talk about bikini models and football! How can you say Disney can’t run a comic book company?”

Well, because Disney doesn’t publish any of those comics.

Back in the 40s and 50s, there was a little comic book company called Dell. You may have heard of it. Dell published an awful lot of comics, and a vast number of them were licensed comics. Back then, nearly every TV show, movie and newspaper strip had a comic to go with it. Dell published Looney Tunes, Peanuts, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy and — oh yeah — Disney Comics. But Dell eventually faded away and the Disney license, along with many others, wound up at Western Publishing, which produced the comics first under the Gold Key imprint and later under the Whitman imprint. Then Gold Key went away as well and the Disney license was lost for a while until Gladstone Comics was formed in the 80s. (Gladstone was even named after Donald Duck’s lucky cousin.) Gladstone was immensely successful with rejuvenating the Disney line. So successful, in fact, that in the early 90s, Disney decided to take a crack at doing the comics themselves.

They revoked the license from Gladstone and started publishing their own comics, continuing classics like Mickey Mouse, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, and adding in titles for the hot properties of the time like Roger Rabbit, Darkwing Duck and Tailspin.

But Disney, which was so successful at everything else, didn’t seem to have the passion for comics to keep the company going. Disney’s first issue of Uncle Scrooge was #243. Their last was #280, then they gave up the ship and Gladstone took over the license again. Gladstone had a good run of a few more years, but then they closed up shop too in 1999. Then, horror of horrors, there were no Disney comics available in the U.S. until just last year, when Gemstone Comics took up the license and brought them back.

So what will be different about Disney trying to publish comics this time?

Well, for starters, the press release said the new Abadazad comics will be under their Hyperion imprint, which typically publishes prose books (including children’s fantasy like Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s recent book Peter and the Starcatchers, an excellent prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan). They also said that four Abadazad books are initially planned. This would seem to indicate that they aren’t going to get into the business of trying to publish monthly comics again, but instead will most likely print books. Whether they’ll be hardcover or paperback, standard size or digest, I don’t know, but printing and marketing books is what Hyperion is good at, so that means there’s a fighting chance. The most important thing, I think, is to make sure they keep writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Ploog, who created the title and own a portion of the copyright. This book is their baby, and they did a marvelous job on the three issues that actually saw print before CrossGen closed up shop.

And the rest of the CrossGen properties?

Well… time will tell. But when Abadazad comes out, give it a read, okay? Especially if you’ve got kids. It’s the best fantasy comic you could ever give to them.

And if anyone at Disney is reading this… please… could you maybe publish the end of Negation War?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: November 10, 2004

This week’s favorite was actually a tighter race than you might think, folks. Ultimately, Identity Crisis #6 did win out, because the conclusion of that book still has me reeling, and any comic that still so occupies my thoughts a week later is deserving of special recognition.

But since IC gets the glory all the time anyway, I’m also going to give a shout out to Avengers Finale. While I thought the conclusion of the Avengers Disassembled storyline kind of petered out and disappointed with the revelation of the big villain of the piece, this finale was spot-on perfect. It was an excellent examination of the team, the characters, the history and the legacy of Marvel’s major supergroup. Plus it had the Beast in it a lot, and I always liked him as an Avenger. Hey, Bendis, any chance we could maybe sneak him into New Avengers instead of Wolverine?

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.

23
Mar
11

Classic EBI #81: The Price Point

Today is the third and final installment in my EBI mini-series where I crunch a few numbers and try to determine the “real” issue count of some classic comics. Some of the answers are a little surprising…

Everything But Imaginary #391: One More Try at Crunching the Numbers

But going back to a classic EBI, on Sept. 22, 2004, I took a long took at a subject of major importance: comic book prices. Boy, it’s a good thing we never talk about that anymore, isn’t it?

Everything But Imaginary #81: The Price Point

When I started reading comics in the mid-80s, they cost 60 cents a pop. Now to some of you, I know, that makes me sound like an old fogey. You got in during the $1.50 or $1.75 days. To others, it makes me sound like a whippersnapper. Why, back in your day comics were only 50 cents, or 35, or a quarter. If there is anyone on this site who remembers picking up a 10-cent comic on a regular basis, let me know.

Comics soon shifted to 75 cents on me. Nobody likes seeing prices go up, but at least, I thought, this was a nice round number. I could get two comics for a buck fifty. Four for three dollars. That’s not bad.

As the years went by, of course, prices crept higher. $1. $1.25. $1.50. I cringed at $1.75. I went apoplectic at $1.95. Now, sadly, I miss those days. Flip through the prices next time you get your comics. You’ll have some $2.25s if you’re lucky. Plenty of $2.50s, no doubt. Mostly, you’ll find $2.95 and $2.99 staring you in the face.

Prices go up, I know that. But can you name any other product that has exhibited a 500 percent increase in the last 20 years? And for that matter, what about salaries? Are you (or your parents) making 500 times what you made in 1984? It’s so weird — paper products are skyrocketing in cost while technology prices, relatively, go down. Once it cost you a fortune to buy a calculator, now they give them away free in cereal boxes. Which is lucky, because you’ll need a calculator to figure out what you’re spending on comics this week.

There are plenty of reasons given for a price increase, of course. My favorite is low sales. You bump the price to fund a comic that’s not selling in bulk. Okay, on paper that makes sense, but it really irks me when the price jumps like this for a project that the publisher has done nothing to promote. One of the best comics on the racks, Fantastic Four, jumped from $2.25 to $2.99 a month ago, without even that cherished sojourn at $2.50. So I ask you, Marvel Comics, why? This title has one of the best writers in comics, one of the best art teams, some of the best stories for the last few years, some of the best characters for the last few decades, and the book hasn’t been this good since John Byrne was on it — coincidentally, back in the mid-80s, just when I started reading it. Say what you will about Spider-Man or the X-MenFantastic Four is the heart of Marvel Comics.

Yet the price jumps 74 cents with little fanfare. Not that I expect them to roll out the red carpet and say, “Hey, we’re jacking up the price!,” but it would have been nice to see them make an effort to sell the title for a while before resorting to a price increase. This is, pardon the pun, a fantastic comic book. If you can’t sell it, a pox on you, not on Mssr.s Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo. This title’s got it where it counts.

Another factor is often the format. Glossy covers, cardstock covers, glossy paper – sound and fury signifying nothing. If it keeps the price down, I’d much rather have a regular cover and regular newsprint… y’know, they way they’ve been printing comics since the 1920s without anybody freaking out over it. Frankly, I hate glossy paper. I live in Southern Louisiana, where standard humidity is approximately 972 percent for almost the entire year. (For some reason, February 3 is usually rather dry.) When it’s this humid, glossy paper sticks to your fingers and the ink smudges. It’s hard enough trying to touch the cover of a comic book, knowing it’ll have a thumbprint if I’m in contact with it for too long. Imagine that on every page.

The book that spurred me to this debate this week, to be honest, was G.I. Joe vs. the TransFormers II from Devil’s Due. I got the first crossover last year, enjoyed it — even reviewed it for this very site. And even at $2.95 an issue, I intended to pick up the sequel. But the first issue wasn’t $2.95. It was $4.95.

And I don’t care how many extra pages or “special features” you cram into a comic book, that ain’t the way to start a miniseries.

This is the main reason — in fact, the only reason, that I do not purchase any comic books from IDW Publishing. I love Steve Niles’s writing. I think he’s doing some of the best horror stories in comics. 30 Days of Night was fantastic. Dark Days was terriffic.

But a regular comic from IDW carries around that hefty $3.99 cover price. And that’s simply more than I’m going to pay. I’ll wait for the trade paperback. Which is all well and good in and of itself — I love trade paperbacks, they’re a great way to read comics. But if everyone decides to wait for the trade paperback, the series won’t sell enough copies to warrant collecting it in a trade paperback, will get canceled, and will fade into obscurity. There are a lot of real gems that could be lost this way.

Kid’s comics drive me the craziest when it comes to this. It’s bad enough for adults and teenagers, who theoretically have a bit of disposable income, but pricing comics out of a child’s range is a disaster. Marvel and DC, to their credit, do price their kids’ comics in the lowest price tier — $2.25 for Marvel Age Spider-Man, Cartoon Network Block Party, Teen Titans Go! and other such titles. Archie, last I checked, was priced at a seemingly arbitrary $2.19. The point is, it’s at the lower end.

But is it low enough to get new readers?

Let’s say you’re eight years old. You get an allowance of $5 a week. You have enough money to either buy two comics books — which you will have read a half-hour after you get home — or to rent a video game, which you’ll get to play for three days before you’ve got to return it.

There’s some math I think most of us can do even without a calculator.

The worst, absolute worst offender on a regular basis is Gemstone Comics, and what makes it the worst is that they’re the best. Gemstone has the license to publish comics based on the classic Disney characters — Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and the like. Donald and Mickey each have a monthly comic with a $2.95 price point — steep for a kid, but at least in the range of normality.

But some of the best comics Gemstone publishes, classic Carl Barks stories, new Don Rosa stories, fantastic stuff by William Van Horn and Pat and Shelly Block, go into Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, two series that are published in 64-page “prestige format” collections each month, with a monolithic $6.95 price tag. That’s seven bucks for an Uncle Scrooge comic, friends. Gemstone, in fairness, is following the lead of the previous license-holder, Gladstone Comics, which began the practice of aiming these two old, cherished titles at the Disney “collector.”

You know what? Chop each of those issues in half. Put them in a regular format. Give them a price that kids can afford and you will help to spawn the next generation of comic book fans. The collectors will buy the books anyway.

And it’s not just the reader who gets hurt by high prices. It’s the retailer too. A few weeks ago two of my best friends, two guys who have read comics as long as I have, two guys who will actually argue until they run out of breath that they know more obscure comic book trivia than I do, announced to me that they were giving up comic shops and ordering their comics from an online retailer, because the comics online are cheaper.

And you know what? I can’t blame ‘em.

I have no problem with online stores. I shop them frequently, whenever I miss an issue off the rack or I’m looking for a trade paperback I can’t find anywhere. But websites can’t draw in new customers like a brick-and-mortar store can. (And brick-and-mortar stores could be doing a lot more to get new customers than they are now, but that’s another column.) And browsing the listings on a website just can’t compare to walking past the racks, hoping to spot that elusive issue of JSA from the corner of your eye.

I’m not an economist. I don’t know what can be done to lower prices. But I do know that if something isn’t done, we’re going to keep losing readers to TV, to movies, to video games, to attrition, and we won’t get the new ones to keep this art form alive. These prices are the enemy, guys. And they may be a foe not even the Fantastic Four could beat.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: September 15, 2004

Those two buddies I mentioned may lynch me for this, because I know they haven’t enjoyed Greg Rucka’s run on this title, but Adventures of Superman #632 was his best issue yet, and walks away with favorite of the week. Now the main problem my pals seem to have is that Rucka, in their viewpoint, is focusing too much on the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit and not enough on big blue himself. That’s a valid argument, and I don’t even disagree with it, I just happen to like what’s being done with the SCU. That said, this is hardly the case here. Lois Lane, embedded in the middle east, has been shot, and Superman is racing faster than a speeding bullet to save her… but sometimes even a man of steel can be too late. This is a great issue, a gut-wrenching issue. You can see the pain and agony in Superman’s face as his wife fights to survive and he, for once in his life, is rendered helpless to do anything. This is real heart, real emotion, real Clark Kent — and the current writer of Action Comics could stand to take lessons from this issue as to how Superman should be written. The last page is one of the most powerful I’ve seen in a core Superman comic for a long time. This one’s a winner.

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

06
Feb
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 208: Super Bowl Sunday

The wildest dreams of Blake’s students has finally come true: our hero has lost his voice. Yet he still manages to squeeze out a quick episode for you this week. Blake talks the Super Bowl movie trailers, the new Captain America poster, Superman casting news, and gives you this week’s pick: Uncle Scrooge #400. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 208: Super Bowl Sunday




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