In the wake of smarter people than I writing their reflections of the Comic Book Industry in 2008 I thought I would try to make it a bit more personal. Looking back on 2008, I can see books I enjoyed and thought were very good. I’m not sure I’d call anything "great" or label any particular comic as "The Best of The Year" but there were some stars in an otherwise black sky.
Oh don’t look at me like that children. Did you expect me to gush at the awesomeness of 2008? Get real. 2008 was a lackluster year for the most part. We’re lucky comics did not completely follow suit, though it was not for lack of trying. So without further procrastination on my part let’s talk about what I really liked or didn’t in 2008. (I mean if you wanted to just talk about what YOU liked you can go sit in front of a damn mirror. I’m working here.)
I do believe 2008 was the year of the mega-event. The Big Two, Marvel and DC, really threw their weight around the market with SECRET INVASION and FINAL CRISIS respectfully. (Heck due to poor scheduling we even get to take FINAL CRISIS with us into 2009.)
I won’t say that either Event sucked but what I will say is that I am suffering from Event-Fatigue. Seven or Eight issues of an Event means even if the books come out on time (which they NEVER DO) the balk of the year is dedicated to these things, oftentimes infecting the regular monthly books we read as a result. And though Marvel did end theirs I have a special ugly place where my heart used to be for them because they have immediately springboarded into their next big company lineup with DARK REIGN. Please someone shoot me.
Nothing makes me hate crossovers as much as the next implied one. Give me some time to breathe. Please. Ugh.
Two of my favorite sources of information – USA Today’s Pop Candy blog and National Public Radio (NPR) – have posted their picks for the best comics and graphic novels of 2008.
Pop Candy – Honestly, I’ve never heard or 75% of the comics on Pop Candy’s list, and the only one I remember hearing about and actually wanting to read is The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel. Perhaps our resident David "Best Book You Didn’t Read" Lee knows more about these titles than I do!
NPR- NPR’s list is much more mainstream and I actually read these comics. The Joker, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, and the Death of Captain America, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, are probably two of the most talked-about events in 2008.
Does anyone out there have a single issue, story arc or graphic novel that they believe was the single best thing they read in 2008?
As for me, the best comic book I read was either Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman or the Action Comics "Brainiac" storyline by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
I was very vocal about my dislike for the continuity reboot of the SPIDER-MAN line last year. Firstly for the way it was handled, where it felt more like teenage boys making a comic a la ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN, instead of genuinely trying to tell an interesting and engaging story. Strangely, it was all started by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada, who should have come in and hit a grand slam. Sure, Joe Q’s art was something to enjoy until you saw the images come together as a whole and wondered if perhaps the Clone Saga wasn’t that bad after all.
So Peter sells his marriage (and possible future daughter) to Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Devil, for the life of his Aunt May. Never mind that it goes against everything Peter Parker would have ever done but it sufficiently kills the many stories we’ve gotten since MJ and Peter got hitched. (And no, please don’t tell me that they all happened but MJ and Peter were just not married. Shut up and give me a break. You can’t have it both ways, either you rebooted or you didn’t.) And more importantly if Aunt May had ever found out what Peter did she would smack him upside his head and tell him that was not the boy she raised. It might have worked better if Mary Jane had been shot but I sincerely doubt it. At least then I could see Peter selling the marriage off to save his wife.
The forces of G.I. Joe and Cobra take their struggle for the fate of the world to a new arena – the world of Mighty Muggs! Hasbro’s G.I. Joe Mighty Muggs figures take familiar characters and turn them into stylized 6" tall figures with an edgy, urban look. Their oversized, rounded heads and their dumpy arms are posable, taking these figures into a whole new world! Figures available in this assortment are scheduled to include Duke, Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
Well, it’s Christmas Eve here on Planet Earth, and I bet you thought I was going to take a week off from this column. You probably had me benched on your Fantasy Comic Shop Writers team. It serves you right! Because now I’m going to knock one out of the park and score at least 200 points for everyone who started me this week. We’ll begin this week’s slugfest with the Punisher.
Punisher: War Zone #3
Nothing says loving like Ma Gnucci’s face… 40 times on the same cover. Is she alive? Is she dead?! All these questions are meaningless. The real question is, does it matter? Either way, dead or alive, I think it’s a safe bet that the Punisher is going to blow Ma Gnucci (and her face) to Kingdom Come by the time the story’s over.
So what exactly is this cover trying to convey? My theory: this looks like something out of a dream sequence. Frank Castle is now haunted by Ma Gnucci’s mug and he dreams about it nightly. He wakes up in a cold sweat and can’t shake that scowling image from his conscience. But like I said, none of this matters. She’ll end up back in the ground in no time.
I do have to say, though, I really dig her Prince Valiant hair cut.
In the mid-1990s, Batman fans were introduced to the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, who unleashed their now-infamous Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials on an unsuspecting public. Those Specials led directly into the award-winning Long Halloween and Dark Victory series, which have since become regarded as two of the finest Batman stories ever to be told. It should be no surprise that Loeb and Sale’s Batman stories find their way into our Trade Paperback Spotlight.
BATMAN: HAUNTED KNIGHT TP
This graphic novel includes the three dark tales of horror and intrigue from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, featuring Batman facing off against his most demented and wicked foes. Taking place on the most evil of holidays, Halloween, the Dark Knight Detective confronts his deepest fears as he tries to stop the madness and horror created by Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, the Penguin, Poison Ivy and the Joker.
I heard a great interview on PRI’s The Sound of Young America the other day. It featured Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, who created the Image Comics title THE LAST CHRISTMAS, about a post-Armageddon Santa Claus picking up a semi-automatic and going to town on the bad guys.
It’s a pretty funny interview and there’s some great comics talk in there, especially considering the relatively mainstream nature of the show.
Here in the store we have a wall of Featured Comics. There’s room up there for about two dozen titles, and the wall changes on a pretty regular basis, depending on what people are reading and talking about. Whenever we do anything around the store we always try to keep the wall in mind for possible display ideas.
Anyway, to celebrate the holidays we recently filled the wall with Christmas-inspired comics! And in restocking our back issue bins after the big Year-End Sale we came across one DOOZY of a Christmas comic. Just click on the picture at right to enlarge.
There’s so much to love about this comic, the bad guy’s delivery obviously being the best part. But also, quite awesomely, the button he’s pressing simply reads: "DESTRUCT." I love it! Sometimes I wish I had a button like that. Nothing in particular for it to destroy, just sometimes I’m in the mood to press a button that says DESTRUCT.
I tried watching GHOST RIDER not too long ago. I gave up. Maybe one day I will catch it again late one night and feel the need to watch it, because I’d have gotten myself terribly drunk and have not yet thought to start the inevitable drunk texting. So there I will be, sloppy and damaged, watching a movie that fails to do anything but perhaps help me throw it all up and pass out.
Why is it that some studios want to follow almost the same formula for every comic book property? Don’t they realize all these characters are different? I guess that’s a stupid question. OF COURSE THEY DON’T. When you have studio heads at Warner Bros. say they want to explore the "dark side" of characters like Superman in the wake of The Dark Knight, you just know some people don’t get it. The only pass I give Marvel Studios is that this was all 20th Century Fox here before Marvel started self-financing.
You need to get at the heart of what makes a comic or a character work and flesh it out in a manner that does the book and character justice. Look at Wanted. Was it as good as the comic? Hell no. But they took the concept, trimmed the concept down to its core and at least it was a fun movie that touched all the important parts of the comic and did so in a way that makes it a worthy adaptation.
I’ve been reading lots of humor and superheroes lately so I decided to try something different. This week I read Snaked by Clifford Meth and Rufus Dayglo, and I was treated to a truly scary horror book.
Snaked is the story of Bill Timmons. Timmons is a low level public official who works on campaigns for various political operatives. It turns out that Timmons is a "Nechashim," or Serpentine American. He is a genetic offshoot that looks like a normal person but is part snake and has some of the characteristics of snakes. For instance, every 11 years he sheds his skin.
The story opens with Timmons in jail. A former politico is in custody, or a sanitarium, relates the events that lead to Timmons arrest. All the while, the politico is in fear that Timmons will get out of jail and hunt him down. Apparently, there was a vast conspiracy that involves the events of September 11 and Timmons was a pawn that got compromised. The first issue contains a graphic, page turning, gut wrenching prison scene that is fantastic. Needless to say, Timmons escapes. I assumed that would be the peak in the series but issue #2 managed to top it with a hospital delivery room scene that needs to be read to appreciate. Overall, the story is full of conspiracy tales and some really horrific moments.
Back by popular demand comes this latest assortment of the most popular Marvel Select figures ever to be released! Each case contains Punisher, Ultimate Iron Man, Ultimate Hulk as well as one each of the all-new Omega Flight Arachne and Skrull Three-Pack only available in this assortment! Standing from 7 to 10 inches tall, each figure features multiple points of articulation and a highly detailed display base.
STAR WARS CRIMSON EMPIRE CRUCIBLE
PREVIEWS EXCLUSIVE ACTION FIGURES
Dark Horse Comics took readers deep into the Galactic Empire in Star Wars: Crimson Empire. Now, the characters from the best-selling series can be yours in this Previews Exclusive gift set! Darth Vader, the Emperor Palpatine and four Royal Guards in training (including Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax) come with accessories, ready to rule the galaxy and destroy the Rebel Alliance!
I saw a movie last night called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It was about… well, I’m sure you can guess what it was about. Anyway, as I was watching the credits I noticed that the movie featured music by Nick Cave and WARREN ELLIS. Imagine my surprise to learn that one of comicdom’s best and most prolific writers also composes eerie ambient music for modern day Westerns!
Of course, a quick Google search revealed that there are two different notable Warren Ellis’s. One is the British author of such works as Planetary, Transmetropolitan, and about 50 titles for Avatar Press, while the other is an Australian musician. That said, I find it very peculiar that there are two successful people in the world with a name like that, almost suspicious even. So, let’s compare the two side by side to determine if these two allegedly different men going by the name Warren Ellis are in fact the same person.
Writes comic books
Ouch! If it weren’t for that last row we’d have an absolute lock for them being one and the same person! Well, we can still put the probability at around 80%, I think. Let’s leave it at that.
This is just one of those "I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!" covers. Which I totally love, because Supergirl is really pissed and that title line doesn’t stand a chance against her laser beams.
But why is Supergirl so mad, you ask? Is it because an entire city of Kryptonians has come to Earth and is causing all sorts of trouble? is it because her parents aren’t exactly the people she thought they were? No. For the real answer we need to look deeper, and this is perhaps where my background in philosophy can play a role.
Notice how aggressivly she burns her own name. It’s almost as if she’s destroying her own identity, a symbolic attempt to transcend the self-imposed boundaries of one’s own life choices. Out with the old and in with new! A fresh start! A brand new life for our little Kara!
On the back of several Marvel Comics this week is an ad for Hulk and Spidey toothbrush holders as "Holiday gifts that will make you a hero!" I think one of my very favorite things is the idea of the Incredible Hulk celebrating Christmas.
Marvel has long held to the tradition of having their heroes celebrate the holidays, and the Marvel Holiday Specials are always popular pick-ups here in the store. But while I can buy the idea of Peter Parker swinging around delivering presents (he IS your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man after all), I have a little trouble believing that the Hulk takes pause from one of his rampages to reflect on the meaning of Christmas.
"Hulk SMASH!!!! … But Hulk also believe in spirit of giving."
One of my favorite instances of this sentiment is a Hulk Christmas stocking I saw last year.
"Hulk bring you candy canes!!!!"
And you know he’s not going to come out of that stocking the traditional way (i.e. the top); he’s coming out through the middle of that sucker! So look out for a little Hulk Christmas cheer!
The only thing that could top the Hulk celebrating Christmas is perhaps the Punisher, which thankfully I don’t think has been done yet.
Welcome to the last Conversation of 2008! Our longtime listeners already know that the tone of our conversations is often set by the quality of the comics we’ve read and the overall direction of the comic book universes. You’ll hear a distinct dissatisfaction and confusion from the panel on this show. That said, our job is to mete out the bits of interest for our audience and that is what we accomplish once again!
In Final Crisis #5, the Green Lantern story moves forward. Over in Batman R.I.P., the Joker has great characterization. Supergirl’s mother is a key character in the New Krypton story. Overall, JSA Kingdom Come and the Secret Six seem to garnish the most praise. Vertigo published nearly every book in their line.
Marvel Comics, meanwhile, has Brian Michael Bendis doing a cameo as Prince Namor in Dark Reign. X-Infernus #1 is a very accessible book for any new reader. Punisher War Zone #1 and Daredevil #113 get the nod from the panel.
As for the independents, Phonogram 2 #1 stands out as a great book, but more for a specific target audience. Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1, Battlefields: Nightwitches #2, and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #4 are well liked. The show winds down with a Punisher: War Zone movie discussion, a recent Comic Book Movie on DVD list, and predictions on the upcoming The Spirit film. Have a great holiday. We’ll be back early next year.
In order to listen, all you need to do is make sure you have speakers or headphones plugged in and click the "play" button you see below or right click here to download.
There’s a nice article in this week’s Washington Post Magazine about an aspiring comic book artist named Andre Campbell who happens to be legally blind. It’s a great story, mainly about this guy’s struggle to overcome his disability and become a successful artist in the field. I like that it gives you a look into how difficult it is to become successful in the comic book industry, and in fact what successful actually means. My favorite parts are about Campbell’s experience in the small press section at the Pittsburgh Comicon:
Their neighbors in the small-press section were a diverse group. Next to the Heritage table was Vell Trueheart, who in her 60s had written her first comic, about a little girl’s experience in the Underground Railroad — and then a sequel. Around the corner was Jason Yungbluth, who had re-imagined Charlie Brown after the Apocalypse, a character who now went by the moniker Weapon Brown (to avoid copyright infringement). Heavily stubbled and donning a sleeveless version of his ubiquitous yellow-and-black shirt, Weapon Brown had a mammoth, cyborg arm. He still featured the lone curl centered atop his bald, round head, but now he wanted payback against the Peanuts gang for years of ridicule. "They should have let him kick the damn ball," read the promotional poster.
I also like that the writer included a section about blind superhero Daredevil and the similarities between his life and Campbell’s:
The story of Matt Murdock has always been especially meaningful to Campbell. Both came into the world in 1964, and both were raised in the tough streets of the inner city — Campbell, in Baltimore’s East Side, and Murdock in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Both, too, came from a broken home. Campbell was raised primarily by his mother, after his father moved out, and Murdock by his father, a boxer known in the ring as "Battling Jack," after they were abandoned by Matt’s mother. Unlike Campbell, however, Murdock wasn’t born with vision problems; he became blind after saving a man from an oncoming truck that was carrying radioactive materials.
Goblin (w/ rolling wagon, lantern and two buckets),
Princess Nuala (w/ map cylinder, book and Elf King crown fragment), and
Hellboy [no coat version] (w/ cat, six-pack, and "Samaritan" pistol).
Blister card packaging.
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Experience all the excitement of the Marvel Universe with Marvel Masterpieces Set 3! 7 cards per pack, 36 packs per box!
Another week, another book I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who read. This week I read the trade paperback LUCHA LIBRE, written by Bill Frissen with art by a host of people. The trade collects issues #1-5 of the original series.
Two things drew me to this book: first, the art; and second, the masks. I will admit that I don’t watch American or Mexican wrestling so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The first story, "Luchadores Five," was written by Jerry Frissen with art by Bill. The story follows a superhero team, like the Superfriends except they’re masked wrestlers, as they try and save the world. The problem is no one knows or believes they are superheroes. Their wives and girlfriends yell at them and even the neighborhood winos laugh at them. The adventure starts when the Luchadores notice a news cast that shows Gojira destroying parts of downtown Los Angeles. It turns out the evil super genius Elveze kidnaped Gojira’s children and blackmailed him into destroying Los Angeles. The Luchadores Five superhero team rushes off to stop him. This summary sounds fairly straight forward but the story is far sillier than that. Gojira looks like a fat bodied giraffe and has the personality of an old alcoholic. There’s a werewolf biker gang that steals the Luchadores’ car so they have to hitch a ride to stop Gojira. Not to mention the car actually belong to a team member’s wife and she was not happy that he lost it. And to top it off there are some aliens running around. I really can’t do all the silliness justice but it works.
Tis the season! The season for putting a grisly vampire cover front and center on the Cosmic Comix web page that is!
30 Days of Night: 30 Days of Death #1
What I love about this cover, aside from its obvious connection to the holiday season, is the fact that the dude in the doorway is drooling an alarming amount of blood. He kind of looks like of a mindless zombie or something, unable to control himself and his blood-filled mouth.
It also reminds me of this old episode of Saturday Night Live in which Dan Aykroyd plays a guy who can’t stop drooling and so must have a cup permanently attached to his chin to catch all the drool. THAT’s what this guy needs.
One final thought: this newest series comes from David Lapham, creator of Stray Bullets, Murder Me Dead and the current Vertigo series Young Liars. That said, I expect much Christams cheer in this issue.
Fans of the character Deadpool know how funny he can be. He IS the Merc with a Mouth after all. Anyway, there’s a great Deadpool segment in the most recent issue of Weapon X: First Class, which lampoons Marvel Comics so perfectly that we just had to make a post about it.
The page on the left appears in the comic just after the Wolverine story, which acts as the main story for the book. As you can see, Deadpool is having the usual kooky conversation. Except check out the sweet zinger on how time elapses in the Marvel Universe.
(Just click on the pictures to enlarge them.)
DEADPOOL: Sorry, kids. I’m on the phone with my Assistant Editor. I’ll be with you in a minute… which in Marvel time could take about seven issues…
HA! Funny, and absolutely dead on. Exhibit A: Secret Invasion.
The conversation with the Assistant Editor finishes with Wade saying, "So let’s talk variant covers," which leads right into the very awesome next page.