Saturday, August 18, 2018

Batman #53 by Tom King and Lee Weeks -- A Review

With the third chapter of their third Batman story together, Tom King and Lee Weeks have unequivocally established themselves as one of the greatest Batman creative teams.  Top 10, Top 20, Top 40?  It doesn't matter what their rank is, because that would be debatable; the fact remains that the achievement has been reached (if it hadn't been already with just the Elmer Fudd story).  I will layout my case to support this bold claim below (after the break) in my SPOILER-FILLED Review: 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

There's still time to SUPPORT The Middle Age HC Collection Kickstarter Project

I've been following Steve Conley's The Middle Age award-nominating, weekly web-comic since the beginning.  Following and backing as a monthly Patreon supporter.  This community of fans help fund Steve to find the time to produce the best series work of his career!  If he gets more supporters then he'll be able to do two strips a week, rather than just one. It takes time to create those detailed images with the lavish colors and funny/punny jokes.  Steve usually provides current status updates and bonus features for his supporters too.


Early this year, Steve launched a super successful Kickstarter button campaign. I proudly wear the King Waddlebottom one on my jean jacket (seen above), along with two ApologetiX pins. ApologetiX, the Christian parody-band just released an awesome new single (She's Got Cooties/Dumb Questions) that I've listened to over 45 times this week at work (I just didn't get tired of it).  Now, Steve is in the midst of another Kickstarter campaign to compile his first few chapters into a glorious larger-sized hardcover (for all our middle-age eyes).  There are also a ton of cool stretch goals unlocking as we speak.  For one we're going to get a Waddlebottom solo story (and if enough people pitch in, we'll get a printed copy).

So please check it out here:


Hey, and if you just want to enjoy the series for FREE you can always do that too.  Just follow Steve on Facebook.

And although Thom Zahler's Kickstarter collection for his (SHOULD have been award-nominating [I nominated it for a Ringo]) web-comic: Warning Label is over. I posted about it a few months back.  You can now order the book directly from his store.
 #warninglabelks

See after the break for Steve's inks over a Godzilla pencilled commission the late-Herb Trimpe drew for me:

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 18 -- A Review

Wow, I just finished the 18th Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks volume and in record time.  Perhaps, I consumed it a tad too fast, but I've got to ride this FF interest wave for as long as I can.  You know, before something else comes up and takes its place.  Pity my poor stacks of unread new comics; they just can't compete.  While it wasn't quite the masterpiece volume 17 was, which I posted about this past Sunday, it was still good and contains some classic moments in FF history.

This volume covers Fantastic Four issues #192 thru #203 and also includes the 12th and 13th annuals from 1977 and 1978, respectively.  A brief (maybe) recap follows (after the break):

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 17 -- A Review and Celebration

This past Wednesday, 2018 August 09, marked the 57th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 hitting the stands.  To celebrate, Marvel, after a publishing hiatus of the series, released the much anticipated Fantastic Four #1 (2018).  While I won't go into the details here (since Jim's copy probably isn't in the mail yet and it's not the focus of this post), I liked it and the ending of the first story actually left me slightly verklempt.  Plus, Scottie Young's Impossible Man one-page feature was really nice to see too (for reasons soon to be revealed).

You see, the new relaunch already had a positive effect on me since it influenced what I took to read on my second week of Summer Vacation: Marvel Masterworks (MMW) Fantastic Four Volume 17, which covers issues #176 thru #191.  And I actually had time to read the entire thing while staying at my Aunt's (formerly my Grandmother's) house in Kansas that has been in the family over 65 years.  Of all the Fantastic Four tales I could have picked, why might you ask, did I pick this collection?  Simple, it contains my first issues from 1977 and includes some stellar storytelling by Roy Thomas, the late great Len Wein and George Perez with Joe Sinnott among others.  Find out more after the break...

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Exceptionalism


And taking a sharp turn from two weeks ago's kid friendly recommendation I’m recommending two limited run books that are very adult. One is just beginning it’s run while the other has just finished.

 

Mirka Andolfo’s Unnatural, published by Image, is just starting its twelve issue run. That makes it new to readers of English, but it was originally published in Italian in 2016 and has been published in several other languages since. But I am an American and suck at other languages, so it’s new to me. Chances are it’s new to you, too.

 

Unnatural #1 Cover A Regular Mirka Andolfo Cover (Limit 1 Per Customer)

Unnatural features rather sexy anthropomorphic animals that have had some reviewers and interviewers compare it to the wonderful and explicit Omaha the Cat Dancer by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. Andolfo doesn’t think the comparison holds beyond the sexy and anthropomorphism, and so far I tend to agree.

 

Leslie is a literal pig and the lead. Where sex between species was common and inconsequential in Omaha, it’s forbidden in Unnatural. After one issue we don’t know why, but in this world there are two great sins. One is sex outside of your species. The other is same sex relationships. Both interfere with the government mandate for procreation of the many species.

 

Leslie has two big problems in this life. She’s fantasizing in detail, and with increasing frequency, about sex with a wolf. She’s also just turned twenty-five and is unmarried. The former she can keep to herself, though she has shared with her roommate, but the latter means the government can now pick a spouse from within her species for her. And that’s where the first issue ends.

 

The book has the always reliable hook of sex, but like Omaha, there’s a lot below that surface. It’s a story about race, sexism, homophobia, and fascism disguised as religiously sanctioned truths. In other words, perfect for our time in America. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Just ended is the five issue run of Mat Johnson’s and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro: Renaissance, published by Dark Horse under its Berger Books line. This is a prequel to their Incognegro graphic novel that saw Zane Pinchback, reporter for the The New Holland Herald, pass as white in the Jim Crow South to write about lynching.

 



 

This story takes us back to Zane as a cub reporter, broom closet for an office and all, who pushes to pursue the story of the death of an up and coming black writer at a party celebrating the publication of a once great white writer’s first book in many years, with the assistance of the now dead young writer. As you might surmise, this one is set in the Harlem Renaissance.

 

Issues of race are forefront, of course, but homophobia, sexism, police corruption, and corporate malfeasance appear as well. We learn how Zane learned to pass in the later story. We learn about the presumptions of white supremacy and white privilege. We learn how often those are willing to briefly turn a friendly face to others as long as others serve them but will abandon them, not in a pinch (heh) but as soon as it’s convenient.

 

These are two very different books, but they effectively and entertainingly delve into the never ending issues that keep America from greatness, have always kept America from greatness, and now threaten to drown America in mediocrity at best, and perennial poverty of empathy and economics more likely.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Three Great Books and Goodbye to Steve Ditko


My reading of comics is somewhat sporadic. I have a ton of new comics to read, old collections I want to re-read, regular books and various news articles. What this means is that it is often that I’m reading something which is old news in the comic book world. Still I finished three series recently that deserve mention. Doctor Star by Jeff Lemire and Max Firuma, Grass Kings by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins and Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. All were complete stories with a beginning, middle and an end. In addition to that I also don’t want my column to miss out mentioning the death of Steve Ditko. So let’s take them one at a time.

First off is Doctor Star. Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormistad have created what is an analogous version of the DCU with Black Hammer. From that series Jeff has spun off some mini-series and one was Doctor Star. Written by Jeff Lemire and brought to life by artist Max Fiumara and colorist Dave Stewart. It is a story about making choices, being heroic, being a father and being a husband. Jeff pays homage to the DC Starman series by naming Doctor Star James Robinson. It is a story that interlaces adventure and heroics with Greek tragedy.  The story is one that draws on the familiarity of knowing DC super heroes but ultimately, I believe can be read without any prior knowledge. It is more of an Easter egg type thing as it adds to the enjoyment if you know it, but you are not missing anything if you do not know it.  The choices our hero makes are done for good and altruistic reasons. As a hero and with the instinct to help others you would find it hard to blame him. Sadly, those choices cause untold pain and heartbreak to his family. The ending is both sad and wonderfully touching. If I was the type to tear up, this story would have made me do it. I’m being purposely vague about details because I want to encourage any reader to go out and buy this book or I’m sure a forthcoming trade.

Second up is Grass Kings by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. The story is about a group of people who have decided to live off the grid. Inside of this setting Matt has built a story about the loss of a child and wrapped it up in a fantastically well-done murder mystery. What is so surprising about the series is that I never even felt like it was a murder mystery the whole time because the character development was so well done that I got wrapped up in knowing the players.  You really don’t need to know anything else about the story other then it is a complete story. It does leave room for future stories about the Kingdom. Matt is at the top of his game the last few years and basically if Matt is writing it, I’m at least trying it. I’d be greatly remiss if I failed to mention the art. Tyler Jenkins painted art is gorgeous. It takes Matt’s story to a whole new level and fits the story to a “T”. I loved the work so much I purchased a page from the series (seen here). The best part about this page it is absolutely the page I wanted.

Third is Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. Now Cullen is a writer who I am beginning to enjoy more and more but only his independent work. Cullen and Tyler tell a story over 30 plus issues of a young girl who discovers she is a witch and how she handles her origins and everything about Harrow County. I loved the ending as it wrapped up everything in great fashion. Over the course of the story we meet many “Haints”, supernatural creators of all shapes and sizes. We meet Emmy, the main character, family, friends and extended family. You often wonder if she will make it out alive and in one way she ---- no, no spoilers. I will add that the skinless boy was one of my favorite characters in the series. Highly recommended, seek out the trade paperbacks and buy Volume 1, if you like that you will love the rest.
All three of these writers are gentleman who have been in the industry for a decent amount of time. All 3 have held jobs or still hold jobs at the big two, but all 3 shine the brightest with their creator owned work. For me the prospect of stories having a begging middle and an end is a major plus.  At this point in time I would say Jeff, Matt and Cullen are 3 of the top writers in comic books, with Tom King as another great story teller.

Finally, a quick tribute to the man, the myth, the legend Steve Ditko who died recently, reportedly alone as that was how he lived most of the last few decades of his life. Best known for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but the litany of characters he created include The Question, Mr. A, Static, Hawk & Dove, the Creeper and many more. That doesn’t include all the villains he created. Steve was a follower of the Objectivism Philosophy of Ayn Rand, which helps explain his very black and white view of many situations. Still he was the writer and artist for perhaps one of the best comic book stories every done, Amazing Spider-Man #31-33, the original run. The two-page spread shown here are images forever locked in my memory. The life lesson I took from that book as a young child was you must do the right thing no matter the personal cost. I have tried to live up to that ideal most of my life and have fallen short, but I have also often achieved that goal. My personal philosophy has been better to die with my principals then to live with them compromised. Steve’s future work is often over looked and criticized by many.  Personally, as I read more of his writings and his later books he raises interesting questions and things worth pondering. Whether one agrees or disagrees his viewpoints are at least worth considering.  Steve Ditko was a one of kind talent whose work will live on achieving him some level of immortality.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: CatStronauts Mission Moon


written and illustrated by Drew Brockington

Story 4/5 stars

Recommended age: All ages!!! Best for reading with your kid(s) or independent readers up to middle school



As a space geek I am always attempting to show my son how the awesomeness of everything space. This means I have dragged him to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum twice in the 5 years he’s been around (we do not live near DC), taken him to a local Planetarium, made him watch Apollo 13 with me, gone with him to the Kennedy Space Center (I tear up every time I see space shuttle Atlantis), and generally geeked out on all things space. Finally, I was gratified to hear he told his teacher he wants to build rockets when he grows up – previous future jobs have included Batman, the Doctor, and Lego builder.

In all seriousness I don’t actually care what he does when he grows up as long as her sticks with the morals he’s learned from Star Trek TNG and comic books. Oh, and as long as he can generally support himself because I don’t want him living in the basement when he’s 35 or whatever. Still, I was pretty excited that he’s been on a rocket building career kick the past month or so and I found this great all ages comic book, CatStronauts, to work with his interests.



First, the good.

This book was a lot of fun. The art is appealing and accessible. My son easily followed the plot and really liked the various characters (especially Waffles, the pilot, and Blanket, the robotics expert). The book had easy to understand jokes for a young kid and was still entertaining for me to read – because it let me geek out on space stuff! My son has even quoted the story and told other people about it so I know he really enjoyed it.

The characters are cute. Waffles is always hungry leading to some mischief and Blanket is building a robot during training without permission. Major Meowser is a pretty straight forward mission commander, and Pom Pom doesn't get much of a chance to shine in this book but I hope the characters will become more developed in the other stories. 

I loved the premise of the story as well. The cats have to return to the moon to build a device that will help provide energy to the Earth so all the power doesn’t go out forever. All the mission training the CatStronauts go through was decently researched. The launch and trip to the moon (and back) were based on fairly accurate information from the Apollo missions. Basically, I was super excited to have such a fun and kid friendly way to teach Henry about the moon missions.

The story also includes problems with the mission somewhat reminiscent of the Apollo 13 mission (along with problem solving strategies). My son's favorite page is below. For whatever reason Waffles saying "prepare for lunch" cracked him up over a few days.



Now, the bad

Not a whole heck of a lot!

My only complaint is none of the astronaut characters appear to be lady cats. However, the head of mission control is a lady cat so that's cool. Also, you can only tell because the ladies have visible eyelashes so who knows, maybe I'm mistaken and Pom Pom the mission specialist is a lady cat. It's a minor quibble.

Beyond that, it’s not really a book most adults would enjoy reading more than once unless they want some very light reading. However, if you want a fun, entertaining, and even somewhat educational book to read with your kid(s) -or a book for maybe up to middle school for an independent reader – this is an exceptional choice. We will definitely be purchasing other books in this series. The next one up is about the CatStronauts going to Mars - I am super excited!

Bottom line: A+

Sunday, July 15, 2018

RIP DCEU 2013-2018 (What a Missed Opportunity)


The latest information (sparse as it is) coming from Warner Bros and industry insiders is that they have decided to forego the DC Extended Universe in lieu of the disastrous reception of the Justice League film. They will still put out singular franchise films, but are stepping away from the crossover films. This means that Aquaman will still come out the end of 2018 and will feature Jason Momoa. Wonder Woman 2, now titled WW84, is currently being filmed with the original director Patty Jenkins and actors Gal Godot and Chris Pine returning. Shazam is slated for release next year, and currently a Gotham City Sirens movie and The Batman are at various stages of development. Flash keeps being rumored to start all of the time, but at this point, I'll believe it when I see it, much like Ben Affleck's return to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. And then, there's the Joker. (More on him later.)

Could Warner decide to change their minds? Sure. One thing is clear: they don't have a real game plan. There is no Kevin Feige at the helm. Zack Snyder was the closest thing they had and gave him the keys to the kingdom without much oversight, and then they were surprised when the product was met with divided fans and critical backlash. I blame WB/DC more than I do Snyder. From the first film in the DCEU - Man of Steel - they have been reactionary to the market of superhero films, to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films, and to Marvel's success. Event their decisions during Justice League's notorious reshoots and subsequent replanning stink of being reactionary. The plan is to react. They react when something is good (The fans love Wonder Woman! We have to make it less grim and gritty! Fix it with reshoots!), and they react when something is bad (there are currently no plans for more Justice League, and they were originally going to use Flash's film to soft reboot the DCEU, but now it is unclear what they are doing with that film). 

I'm a little disappointed that instead of righting the ship, so to speak, they've opted for a more singular film success plan which is arguably what they should have done in the first place. MoS kinda did it, but then they immediately jumped to BvS which was like a 2 1/2 hour trailer for an expanded universe done in an incredibly juvenile way. And I say that as someone who sort of liked it. I liked many scenes in the film, but the overall narrative doesn't work and the characterizations of the main leads are often forced down the viewers throats while asking for huge leaps of logic and absolving characters for being, well, stupid. 


I'm a huge fan of DC characters, probably moreso than Marvel, and I can't help but feel like they wanted the success of Marvel without putting in the work. Even with that being the case, we're getting Aquaman (early buzz on the film is that it is good), WW84, and Shazam. I have high hopes for all. I also remember telling friends a year or more ago that, "Wouldn't it be funny if the Superman and Batman in the DCEU weren't done right but Wonder Woman and Aquaman were?" I'm afraid that after the release of Aquaman, I might realize I was a prophet. A seer. I honestly didn't want to be right after I said it. It was a joke. Why can't they all be great?

DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson (I believe she has either relinquished this position or will soon) stated recently, "there's no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe." That's a nice way of saying it doesn't all take place in the same universe like Marvel does it. Justice League seems to have killed the DCEU. (I still haven't seen it.) If it had been awesome, you can bet they would have stuck with it. This idea that the films don't need to connect was proven this past week when the Joker origin film was announced

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Erased by Kei Sanbe

This week I wanted to talk about something a little different from our normal topics.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to talk about sequential art but it's not American sequential art.  This week I read Erased volumes 1-4 by Kei Sanbe.  Why? The first reason is because the four volumes are the complete series.  I knew up front that I was going to get a story with a beginning, middle, and more importantly an ending.  Far to many series don't have any type of ending and it wears me out.  The second reason is that Yen Press collected the story in four oversized (for manga reprints) hardcovers.  I'm a sucker for deluxe collections so this was an easy buy for me.

So, was it worth it?  Yes it was!

The story revolves around Satoru, a struggling manga artist who is emotionally lost and can't seem to find anything to fill the voids in his life.   To complicate things, he periodically has "revivals" which cause him to go back in time 3-5 minutes to avert some accident.  An early incident has him reviving back 5 minutes to prevent a young boy from being hit by a car.  During one such event, he encounters the serial killer who terrorized his town as a child.  In order to prevent the killer from murdering his friends, Satoru travels back to his days in elementary school in an attempt to stop the murderous spree before it ever starts!

The story is a simple riff on "if you could do it again what would you do differently?" with the added twist of a serial killer.  The events of the past are the driving force for the two-thirds of the story.   It's a masterfully executed game of cat and mouse between our hero, now a 10 year old boy, and the unknown serial killer with periodic forays into the present to see how or if things are changing.  This part of the story quickly sucks you in and the pages fly by.  The last third is all set in the present day after our hero discovers the killers identity.  While entertaining it's not nearly as exciting as the first part and it becomes a little bit of a slog to the ending.

It's not quite fair or accurate to say the last third is a slog because, to be honest, I'm a lazy reader.  There's an aspect to the series in which Sanbe explored the emotional voids in the various characters lives.  Each of the main characters was damaged in some way and had trouble connecting with others and/or finding meaning in their own lives.  While, I really enjoyed the cat-mouse aspects of the book, I just "read" the emotionally insightful stuff.  The last third really brings the emotional conclusion to the story.  Our hero grows (bleh) and his growth makes other people better (double bleh). 

Don't get me wrong, I recognized it and realized it was being executed brilliantly but it's not my cup of tea.  So, yes, there's some interesting emotional explorations in the book that I shouldn't really comment on. 

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable series and if you're willing to analyze the emotional stuff it's even better than that!




   

Sunday, July 01, 2018

HOW COMICS WORK by Dave Gibbons and Tim Pilcher -- A Review


Sometimes writing for this blog can be like Mission Impossible.  Jim will forward an e-mail he's received inviting anyone of us to review something by somebody.  You know "your assignment, if you choose to accept it" type of thing. There is no pressure and it's totally on us as to whether we participate -- he just throws out the contact information.  I've rarely (if ever) taken the gig.  I mean, this reinvigorated blogging exercise is just for fun, an extracurricular activity to our already busy lives and National Debt sized comic book reading backlog.  It would have to be something really special for me to commit to completely reading and reviewing the product. This time, it was a no-brainer for me to accept, like a "must-have" impulse purchase (such as the $10 Space: 1999 Eagle seen in one of my recent "Shelf Expressions" posts), and I responded immediately (beating out Lee).  Boy, am I glad I did.  Not only was the experience thoroughly enjoyable, but it had an unexpected side-effect...it ENHANCED my comic book reading!!!

The press release for How Comics Work, which was nominated for (and I predict will win) a 2018 Eisner award, stated that it "is everything you need to know to get started creating great comic books."  That statement is definitely true, but it is also woefully incomplete as this book operates on multiple levels.  Do you want to make comics?  Read this book.  Do you want to learn about one of the great comic creator's thought-processes on some of the most critically acclaimed stories (like Watchmen)? Read this book.  Do you want feast your eyes on some original artwork?  Read this book.  Do you want to be turned on to other cool comics and their creators? Read this book.  Do you want to get more out of reading comics?  Read this book.  I'm not exaggerating.  This book is TERRIFIC and it bares repeated readings, whether to master a comic creating aspect or study the generous array of examples throughout (although some might need some additional magnification).

[See the rest of the review after the break]

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Lazarus

The story of a genetically engineered warrior and her growing disillusion is the anchor to the story and makes it well worth the read in and of itself.  Forever Carlyle, in the 5 years of the publication of the story so far, has grown from a tool of her Family by interactions with others also bred as warriors for their Families and her own investigations.  Though still a warrior for her Family, she knows how and what she is but has yet to determine her place in the world.

I've posted about this book previously, but the times require mentioning it again.  Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's master work, which started long prior to the regime seizing power, has proved prescient.
Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family


Lazarus: X+66 #4 (Of 6)Where Rucka and Lark have excelled is creating the world in which Forever exists.  Taking the corporate control of our world to a logical but not implausible extreme, they posit that corporations controlled by Families have taken control of the world and carved it into fiefdoms reminiscent of feudal Europe.  Governments no longer exist.  Administrative functions of government exist but are subservient to whatever family controls the territory.  Those who provide useful service to a Family are Serfs. These are "skilled" workers or police/military.  They have a modicum of economic security, though are always less than Family and in danger of losing everything they have at the whim or disastrous decision of Family.  The vast majority of the world's population is Waste.  Low skilled and simply unneeded by Family to protect and promote Family interests, they eek out an existence and hope to develop, in some way, skills that the Family might consider useful.


Like feudal Europe and life in our own regime, competence is subservient to sucking up.  Skills can get a person from Waste to Serf, but everything else is subject to someone above being stroked.  No civil service or even a lame ass human resources.  Who you know is how you go.  And that's at the better operated Family of Carlyle.  Other Families are even more capricious and wont to simply kill those of lesser value.


Lazarus: Sourcebook Collection, Vol. 1 TPRucka and Lark have grown the world of their story from a focus on Forever.  Even the earliest issues of the book contained large amounts of back matter that expanded on the world and expounded on Rucka's sources and influences in our own world in creating this world.  An entire series, X+66, was devoted to the stories of other characters in the Lazarus world, and there have been at least 3 Sourcebook books that go into detail on the workings and world of an entire Family.


In North America, the continent is controlled by 2 warring families, Carlyle and Houck.  In the beginning of the story the warring is cold, jockeying for position within the umbrella of Family influence in parts of the world, but before long there's direct combat that pits all the Families for or against one another based on alliance with either Carlyle or Houck.


Interestingly, both family heads are men who are preternaturally old.  Carlyle has extended his lifespan through genetics.  Houck has done the same through drugs.  Each has devolved his outlook to his Family so that Carlyle's warrior, or Lazarus, is a creation of genetics while Houck uses a drug fueled army as his primary means of war.  Not that Carlyle doesn't have an army.  It has a very well trained army, including an elite corps that works with its Lazarus.


The research that has gone into creating this world has resulted in a fantastically detailed depiction of a technologically advanced feudal world that mirrors the ever increasing power of corporations in our own world.  The fact that we're now subject to the whims of a failed businessperson and celebrity game show host is right in keeping with how the Lazarus world is at war because old white men had to assuage their egos by creating enemies and killing them.  In many ways it's depressing to read Lazarus, but as a cautionary tale it's extremely effective.  It's always been a good time to read Lazarus, but there's no better time than now.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Collecting Original Comic Art or Why I hate Lee



This week crept up on me fast and yet I had four or five weeks between posts. I had a bunch of different ideas like a review of the Kickstarter projects I have backed and I am backing. A post I was going to call “The Reading Game”. The idea was to talk about current,versus older stuff versus prose books.  A review of Twin Earths newspaper strip (from late 50’s early 60’s) and on and on. I’m never at a lost for ideas. I’m at a lost for time to type up stuff and put together a semi-coherent post.
Jim Califore who appeared at my store

I settled on collecting original art because it is something that has become a bigger passion for me over time. When I had the comic books store but it the early nineties (crap was that over 20 years ago) I picked up a few pieces of art when an artist did an appearance at my store. Compensation for the artist and something neat to frame and put up in the store. I also picked up a coupe pieces for cheap when I went to a show in New Jersey.

The habit laid dormant for a while and then I met and becomes friends with Lee. Lee is a collector of original art and he would constantly and I mean constantly talk about his artwork. Slowly the itch to collect art started to rise to the surface again.

Lee almost forced me to buy this page
Mike Grell Nice Guy
At first it was going to a comic show with Lee at my side saying buy it, buy it. Like a parrot on my shoulder. It’s a good deal, get it, get it. It’s your price range – buy it. I would talk to the artist and often get them to sign a page. I was paying like $50 for a page here and there nothing too dramatic.

One year at Balto-Con I made the mistake of having a few hundred dollars with me and picked up about 3 pages – pricing now between $100-$200. Then I moved to Florida. Of course, with the advent of the ability to stay in touch Lee has continued to be that temptress in the dark emailing me pages and the constant refrain of buy it buy it continues to echo.

Tomas Giorello
Worse I stared to wheel and deal on my own. I contact artist directly on line and negotiation buying art from them. Often, I would buy 3 pages to get the price down on individual pages – so paying $600 for 3 pages made an odd sense as opposed to $250 per page.

Mike Ploog POTA
Then I was buying original art off Kickstarter projects. Just pay an extra $200 get the book and a page of art. I cashed in my 60th birthday present from my 4 siblings and wife by having them pay for a Mike Ploog Kickstarter to get a POTA page – a grail piece.

Of course, I have been out and purchased from various art dealers on the web. Next, I have now bid and won auctions via auction web sites and picked up a page or two off Ebay.
Tim Truman Commission 

You would think it would end there but it doesn’t. Then you start to commission art for stuff you would like to see but it doesn’t exist. You know you have gone down the rabbit hole when you purchase a complete story. About the only thing I have avoided buying is a cover page.
I have the complete story
My collection went from like maybe 6-8 pages before Lee to over 100 pages in my collection now. Most you can view here at my Comic Art Gallery


I have learned a lot about what makes pages valuable in some ways. In other ways comic book art is a collector item – meaning your next-door neighbor wouldn’t pay you a dime for a page but get the page in front of the right people and you can sometimes turn a tidy profit. My advice buy what you love and enjoy and if down the road you sell it and make a couple bucks great, but sometimes you might lose money to sell a page.

Still I must say I love having the comic art and enjoy getting some of it framed. Each page is a true original and shows you the skill and talent that goes into making the art.  The variety of styles and type of art is amazing. Plus the only way to get the parrot to shut up is to buy something occasionally.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Jokes and Riddles: A Reflection and a Review


I think I have had an interesting relationship with Batman comics over a lifetime of comic book reading. Sometimes I really love the comics and sometimes I just can’t be bothered. Perhaps this is a result of Batman being such a great, malleable character. Any creative team can come into the Batman comics and have their version of the Bat. Even with differing variations and alternate takes on the character in TV, films, and animation, comics probably vary the character the most.

Think about it. To Frank Miller, Batman is more often a terrorist or freedom fighter. He’s an uncompromising man fighting a war. Grant Morrison approached him as a man of adventure, then a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis, and finally as a man setting up crime fighting franchises around the world. Jeph Loeb’s Batman had trust issues because everyone he got close to ended up betraying him. He was marked by his failures. Scott Snyder’s New52 Batman seemed odd to me, but I think it was because at the time DC wanted to eat its cake and have it too by having a Batman with history (hello four Robins) and who was also supposed to be young enough to still make mistakes because he had been Batman for only about a decade. You get the picture. In the film The Dark Knight, Batman says he can be whatever Gotham needs him to be. I think he can be whatever the writer and artist want him to be as well.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Girl With All The Gifts - Or How Movies Change the Ending

And for something different this week... a book review.  A book WITH NO PICTURES!!! I know, I know that goes against the principles of ComicsAnd... but bear with me because it'll all make sense.

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks (I'm a really slow reader) I read The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey and then I watched the movie! Why did I finally read a book after all these years?  Well, would it help if I told you it was written by M. R. Carey?  Probably not but M.R. is actually Mike Carey of Lucifer and Unwritten fame.  Since I loved both of those series I was willing to take a chance on his prose.

The setting is standard zombie apocalypse fare with a plague having wiped out most of civilization and the survivors struggling to well... survive against hoards of zombies and other random bad types.  The story revolves around Melanie, a little girl who has a zombie metabolism and appetite but still has her ability to reason.  She, and other children like her, are kept in a prison where they are being studied in hopes that they might possess a cure for the other zombies.  In an obvious turn of events, the prison is invaded by outside forces, and Melanie and several of her keepers must travel across England to a safe haven.

The book, as expected, is well written but not without it's flaws.  The prison scenes with the zombie children was very entertaining and added new wrinkles to the genre.  Unfortunately, once outside the prison there were many events which are zombie movie cliches.  They were well executed but cliches none the less.

Luckily, the character development is solid throughout.  The first half of the book centers around Melanie while world building and supporting character development.  But the second half flips and the supporting cast becomes the main focus.  This isn't a bad thing because it helps drive home the ending.

And, it's the ending which makes this book special.  Carey leads the reader down a merry path and at the last minute executes a heck of twist that is both logical and completely satisfying.  It's something new and different enough in the zombie genre to overcome the ordinary portions of the book.

I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to watch the movie!  The movie is a low-ish budget indie style film which is fine.  It hits all the main points of the book except for the ending.  Sadly changing the ending isn't as simple as "and now everyone is happy" or something studios do to make movie palatable for mass consumption.

I'm sure there are plenty of spoilers on the web but I'm not going to do it here.  Simply put, in the book an action is taken based upon certain facts.  In the movie, the facts are changed so when the decision is made the characters motivation is completely changed.  The altruistic decision made for the better of everyone is suddenly twisted into a much more selfish thing.  The ending of the movie left me cold and slightly disgusted because the change was so drastic.  You can see the trailer HERE.

Outside of the ending, the movie was fine.  It wasn't so bad that I can't recommend it but if you have a Sunday afternoon to waste then it's perfect.  In fact, if you haven't read the book it's probably pretty darn good.  But, I can't get past the ending so it was disappointing to me.


Saturday, June 02, 2018

Recent Reads

Wow, I barely remembered this mini-review format from yesteryear.  The house is unusually quiet right now and even though a toilet beckons to be scrubbed and comics need to be bagged, I've got some time I didn't think I'd have to say a little bit more this week.  These reviews won't be very sophisticated or long-winded, but hopefully they'll be informative enough (there could be SPOILERS):

The Man of Steel #1 (2018)

Honestly, I counted the pages to see if it was a whole book or not.  It was, it just read really, really fast.  I liked it though, well enough.  I still don't care much about the main villain -- we see him trying to convince some galaxy leaders (a Guardian is there) to let him exterminate Kypton.  Another woman is caught via super-hearing, admiring Superman -- future love-interest, perhaps?  The what-happened-to-Lois mystery continues, but you do see the start of some trouble for the super family at the end in a more recent flashback.  I guess we'll learn more this week.



Black Panther #1 (or #173) (2018)

This book really surprised me.  I really, really enjoyed it.  It was a solid start to a SyFy epic.  Years ago some group of Wakandan's started an empire in space and now their enslaving people.  Somehow, T'Challa is a prisoner with no memory of who he is, but it looks like he is still thinking about Ororo, his former wife.  He partially escapes/is rescued and at the end it looks like he's becoming a space-version of the Black Musketeers.  You don't get a lot (if any) answers to the why of what is going on, but the storytelling is exciting and entertaining. Color me interested in what happens next.  It just better not turn out to be a dream or simulation...

Vampironica #2

Okay, every copy of this book was trashed -- a manufacturing flaw.  Thankfully, my LCS is ordering me a replacement copy.  I fell in love with Greg Smallwood's art when he was working on Moon Knight recently and in this title he's co-writer too.  Needless to say the book looks great.  I suppose the Archie Horror books don't all exist in the same universe -- this is more of a what if Veronica was a Blade/Buffy vampire/slayer.  It's really good and I think it is traveling under the radar a bit, so I hope fans of Archie or horror or Smallwood will check it out.  Oh, and I LOVE the Riverdale CW series.  Season 2 is now on Netflix -- check it out, it's great!


DC meets Hanna-Barbera: Flash & Speed Buggy #1


Four titles came out this week, but I've only read two so far and they've both been super fun and outstanding.  They seem to be firmly set in the current DCU (or could be), but they provide plausible reasons to encounter "realistic" Hanna-Barbera characters.  Think of the old Julie Schwartz cover-driven stories -- come up with a bizarre concept and make it work.  They have.

The Wally West Flash is fighting Kilg%re the techno-creature.  He encounters a scientist who has built a vehicle to travel through the Speed Force.  There are consequences to his experiment and he ends up having his consciousness infused with the dune buggy, becoming the Speed Buggy we (children of the 70s) know and love.  It turns out the girl from that cartoon is the scientist daughter and this basically serves as an origin to the show.  Also a great Mark Waid-era Flash villain shows up with some evil car counterparts.


DC meets Hanna-Barbera: Aquaman & Jabberjaw #1


This one was a lot of fun too.  I'm a big Paul Pelletier fan to begin with and he does his usual outstanding job.  It starts out with an homage to the 1975 Jaws movie, only it turns out the first monster shark encountered is ol'Jabby.  He's from a future alternate dimension of 2076 (The original show started in 1976).  There is some fun where characters from the show (I think) have similar names to Aquaman's foes/relations.  If you love Aquaman, you'll love this.  The back-up story features CAPTAIN CAVVVVEMAN!!!  The Spectre and the Wizard Shazam are talking about heroism.  The Spectre claims it is a recent trait, but Shazam says it has been around much longer.  He plucks Captain out of the timestream to the present day (he was going to die anyway -- they were too strong and not smart enough to avoid danger).  The Wizard also gives him the ability to speak today's language (sorta).  It's great and makes me want to watch both of these old cartoons.  The other titles were Black Lightning &Hong Kong Fuey and the Super Sons & Blue Falcon and Dynomut.  I'd be reading them now, but I wanted to write this for you instead.

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1 thru 6

I found volumes 1 thru 4, and 6 at a local thrift store on my birthday (and volume 5 arrived in the mail yesterday).  I picked them up, remembering Shawn's (I think) rave reviews back in the day when he, Jim and I were on the Cosmic Comix radio show together.  I figured my manga loving kids would dig this and I'd finally get to try it myself.  I LOVED IT!!!  I don't agree with some of the decisions the character's make, but boy is it engrossing to watch Scott mature from a slacker 23-year-old to fully capable of loving someone 24-year-old.  The page layouts are outstanding and the book is really funny.  The scene where he gives back someone's bass was hilarious.  The expressions are priceless.  I was totally blown away when Ramona started to travel thru subspace and then Scott started fighting her evil ex-boyfriends video game style.  To have a property this old (14 to 8 years) be discovered and enjoyed as if it were brand new was quite a surprise.  Now I want to check out the video game, the card game, and dare I say it, the movie.  I don't think it will be nearly as good -- I want to see it as a cartoon instead of live-action.

Time to make dinner for the family.  I'm due back on July 1st where I should have a review of "How Comics Work".


Friday, June 01, 2018

Shelf Expression (Part 4)

Last one...

Conan is getting obscured, but the Middle Age by Steve Conley is a great series.  Note the Kickstarter Pins.  Love the Neal Adams Tarzan covers.  Chance Operations is a really cool book by Todd Webb.


Only a smattering of my Star Trek figure collection.  Since I have so many fotonovels, I keep the new Byrne IDW ones here as well.


I had the Space 1999 Eagle as a kid - I actually dug a hole in the ground to launch it from.  But this is not my original.  I got it at the comic store for only $10.  Some had glued the pieces together so they wouldn't fall off.  Worked for me.  The plush R2-D2 still squeaks when you press his red "nose", but his arm fell off.

Well, that's all I've got to share for now, hope you enjoyed my shelf expression.

Shelf Expression (Part 3)

Continuing my study shelf showcase some more...


The Cap cars came from Walmart.  They typically have a theme for the latest movie and each one is about $1.  Love the Star Lord POPs -- they really capture his essence from each movie.   The Rogue One cast replaced the Micronauts, which kept falling down.  I need a Brody.


I bought the Action Comics cover "little" books after the disappointing 80-years HC review from last month.  I sold off some of my archives, now replaced with Omnibuses.  I wish I had gotten the Demon and OMAC Jack Kirby HCs when they were affordable. It's nice that they're on non-glossy paper.


Really happy how this one came out.  Love the Red, White, and Blue on a yellow background.  Captain America First Avenger is one of my favorite Marvel movies.  I used to love the old pocket books, but way too small for these middle-age eyes.  The Bucky Rescue Cap figure is my only Hot Toys one (I'd love to get more) and I waited a year for the Kevin Maguire sketch (totally worth it).


Michael Moorcook is my other favorite fantasy writer. The first comic that I ever got a letter printed in, Hawkmoon #3, is on the side.  I guess Doctor Strange fits in because he delves in magic??


The green notebook is my comic inventory compiled a few years ago and is where I determine my want list.  Note the Treasury editions.  It's also where I keep my church Bible.

Should be one more...