Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Book of Hope ... or not.

The week I read "The Book of Hope" by Tommi Musturi

Have you ever started reading or listening or looking at some work of art and immediately realized that it was something special?  This is one of those books.

As soon as I started I could feel what a work of art it was.  I could hear the whispers of the message Musturi was trying to tell me. 

Sadly I couldn't make out a single word of what he was saying.  He was like the drunk at the bar who tries to give you life changing advice before passing out.  Yeah, I got nothing.  I can tell it's a great book but I'm not sure why.  But I will attempt below the break...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ACTION COMICS #1000 -- A Review

Action Comics #1000 -- So good I had to buy two copies!  Actually, I spent a great deal of time deliberating on the cover I wanted most, knowing I could only afford two.  And these were just the "regular" decade variants, not the premium offerings.  I first gravitated towards the 1930's Steve Rude cover and the 1960's Mike Allred cover, but eventually chose the Joshua Middleton 1980's cover and the Dan Jurgen's 1990's cover.  There were minor imperfections along the edges of the Rude copies and the Allred one seemed too busy after closer inspection.  The background of the Middleton cover is gorgeous and it also shows my favorite version of Brainiac and Luthor again.  I think it is important that the "1000" number be extra bold.  In my opinion they used the wrong logo though. It's the Byrne-era one (1987), but the image is strictly pre-Crisis early 80's. The Jurgen's one represents my favorite version of Superman, focused on Lois and Clark, and it contains the Superman logo. Which one did you select?

 As we all know, "you can't judge a book by its cover" or at least you're not supposed to.  But in this case, the covers do a good job representing the quality stories inside. Let's explore after the break...

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Happy 80th Birthday to Superman (and 18th birthday to my beautiful daughter, Helen [who likely will never read this]!!!  In celebration I plan on doing two review posts this week on recent publications honoring this historic event.  First up, is the ACTION COMICS: 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN - THE DELUXE EDITION HC.

Is it wrong to judge a book by MY expectations?  How about judging it by its solicitation?  Read it for yourself below:

(CA) Jim Lee Join us for the 80th anniversary celebration of the most important comic book in American history: ACTION COMICS #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman! It's an extraordinary party as we revisit stories from across the decades, featuring the debuts of not just the Man of Tomorrow, but also Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude and more! See the work of generations of top writers and artists on the original superhero! Enjoy sparkling essays from literary wizards who have won Pulitzer Prizes and hit the bestseller lists, including Jules Feiffer, who relives his memories of when ACTION COMICS #1 first hit newsstands. Plus, a historical essay by guest editor Paul Levitz, and all one thousand ACTION COMICS covers presented on a special 30' x by 39.75' poster! And as a bonus, don't miss a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away until now! This new hardcover serves as a companion to the ACTION COMICS #1000 comic book coming in March!

My first complaint: no poster.  I mean, that was one of the things I really wanted to get this book for in the first place.  Although, I should have been suspicious when the dimensions were listed in feet, not inches!

Now, I don't blame my go-to hardcover online store, InStockTrades.  Every week the new Marvel and DC books are 50% off and if you spend at least $50, shipping is free and there is an additional 2% loyalty discount when buying consecutive weeks.  Since I was already getting the latest Avengers Marvel Masterworks (MMW), volume 18, featuring the awesome John Byrne issues with the secret origin of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (#185-187), I was going to pay the normal $4 shipping.  So, I bought this for $10.99 ($14.99-$4), instead of the listed $29.99.  At that price, I got my money's worth (and something else to write about), but there are still issues, including issues with the issues included.  More after the break.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Netflix's Lost in Space TV Series Season One (2018) -- A Review

The new Lost in Space series that premiered on Netflix 48 hours ago is PHENOMENAL!!!  I absolutely loved it and would venture to say that it is easily one of the Top 10 Sci-Fi (SyFy) TV shows of all time.  Yes, it is THAT good, especially if you like a lot of science in your science fiction.  I watched the first 9 episodes on Friday, which included viewing the first episode twice.  Saturday, I watched episode 10 and after a harrowing hour of rookie driver instruction, sat down for the 11th.  But it was already over! "Oh, the pain.  The pain!"

Speaking of pain, my wife figured out what we owe in taxes this year.  You've got until the 17th to file in case you thought it might be due today.  Thus, ends the public service announcement portion of this post.

Everything about the look of Netflix's Lost in Space is incredible.  The sets and equipment are wonderful, modern "realistic" updates of the classic series.  The Jupiter 2 is round enough to evoke the iconic saucer appearance that I love so much with the addition of vital functional features (like rocket engines).  And the chariot is still the best looking mini-van on any planet!  The costuming is top-notch from the spacesuits to the fuzzy-hoodie jackets, both of which use some of the coloring from the original show.  The special effects are on par with any blockbuster movie.  The Robot is the most different looking "machine" (Sorry, Robot), but it's super cool too.

Kazu Kibuishi's (Harry Potter cover artist) first ever drawing
of the Lost in Space Robot from the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con)
If you've ever had to suffer through the 1998 movie version, "Have no fear", this version encompasses all the best concepts and stories from Irwin Allen's most famous creation, meaning nobody is dressed up like a carrot.  My thoughts on the first season's story and the characters continue after the break, but "WARNING! WARNING! SPOILERS, WILL ROBINSON!!!"  Seriously, if you want to be surprised, watch the show first and then see if you agree with my assessment afterwards.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Invincible, From Beginning to End

I did it. As promised I re-read the entire Invincible series from issues 1-144. None of the ancillary series that spun out of it. Just the motherland. So here’s what I think. And SPOILERS. You’ve been warned.


This epic is the work of Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cliff Rathburn, for those who don’t know. Corey Walker was the co-creator with Kirkman and preceded Ottley, but Ottley did most of the work. Published by Image, of course.Image result for image invincible covers


Invincible the book is a good look at the development of Image as a publisher. The book started as superhero derivative, attempted to ape the Big Two, and grew past that to be an independent story that broke ground and told an excellent story.


The launching conceit was that a Superman like hero called Omni-man (Nolan Grayson) has a son (Mark) with a human woman (Debbie). Mark develops the same powers by his senior year in high school and adopts the name Invincible. The series follows the growing pains of a new young hero, right down to a Teen Titans aping group called the Teen Team, juniors to the JLA knock off Guardians of the Globe.


By the end of the opening twelve issues the story takes an Alan Moore turn when it’s revealed that Nolan’s Viltrumite people aren’t benevolently protecting Earth to aid in human develop but are preparing it for conquest and incorporation into the Viltrumite Empire. The reveal is Nolan killing all his Guardians teammates and nearly killing Mark when the latter refuses to go along.


Image result for image invincible coversThe series rolls into the better forgotten time of an Image wide crossover event that centers on somewhere under 20 versions of Mark from other dimensions trying to take over the world. There are a lot of versions of Mark that are ok with world dictatorship and mass killing.  It would have been a great story if limited to Invincible and the many superhero teams Kirkman had already created in that world, but it involved all the remotely superhero characters Image published. Fortunately it didn’t involve The Walking Dead, but it was unwieldy and unsatisfying as you'd expect from a crossover event.


This is when readers learned that Atomic Eve (Samantha Eve Wilkins), love interest to Mark, is effectively immortal. With the dangers she and Mark frequently faced, it was handy that both she and Mark are near immortal. Nolan was over 1000 years old and still in his prime at this point. Mark was likely to follow.


The series runs through more alternate dimension stories and a lot of forays off Earth. Nolan is redeemed as a goodish guy. Mark winds up with a half brother, Oliver (Kid Omni-man) from Nolan’s time hiding after the big fight with Mark. Mark and Eve have a daughter, Terra.


The series is best when it’s about the characters. Mark and Eve can be a little trying with their various arguments, but they are the core and are realistic in their fears as young lovers and young parents.


Perhaps the two biggest social issues addressed during the series are abortion and rape. The former does the most benefit by considering abortion a medical decision between a woman and her physician. There’s not even a hint of a specious argument that anyone else is or should be involved.Image result for image invincible covers


The rape story is a bit more problematic. Mark is raped by another Viltrumite when she refuses to follow orders to mate with a human and thinks Mark is a better choice as a half Viltrumite. Mark’s reaction and feelings of guilt and shame are a great exploration of what it means to survive rape. The problematic is the reformation of the rapist by her eventual development of feelings of affection for a human. She’s never punished in any way for the rape. It’s quite like church sexual assault cases that get a round of applause for confession. Interestingly, this story occurred before that incident.


But forgiveness is one of the two major themes of the book. Nolan is forgiven for killing the Guardians and thousands of civillians. Mark forgives Dinosaurus. Amanda (Monster Girl) forgives Rex/Rudy (Robot). Eve forgives Rex (Rexsplode). Everyone forgives Immortal. Mark forgives Allen the Alien. Nolan forgives Thragg. Some of the forgiveness works out better than others. It’s a mixed bag on forgiveness.


The other theme is ironic with an atheist writer. There’s a real argument that the conclusion of the book is that benevolent deism is a good thing. Throughout the story characters try to rule Earth, the known universe, or both. Some are purely in it for personal gain or revenge. Others are claiming to act for the benefit of all


Image result for image invincible coversThe most significant is Robot who implements a dictatorship of his unparalleled intelligence. Mark opposes him, in fits and starts, but the end result is not only that there remains a behind the scenes dictatorship over all of Earth headed by an immortal duopoly but also Viltrumites become a similar universal force to such an extent that a federal system of planets is dissolved. Very curious conclusion.


I would have like more time to develop that but the series felt like it rushed to the end, especially in the last issue. Up to that point the story felt like it moved as originally intended. Terra was a great six year old character with a lot of future. The last issue rushed through her future and that of many others, yet still left the stories of Debbie and Zandale (Bulletproof) unresolved.


Which brings up another point. It’s an overwhelmingly white story. Characters who aren’t white include Bulletproof, Black Samson, Dupli-Kate, Multi-Paul, Darkwing, Elephant, Scott, an unnamed but oft seen Viltrumite, and Best Tiger. Only Bulletproof is at all developed as a character, and his development abruptly halts and is never pursued or resolved. Then again, there’s exactly one not straight couple, half of which is often a petty, self-absorbed tool before suddenly being much better after finding the partner who works. Considering how much more Kirkman has developed a wide variety and wide number of characters in The Walking Dead, the same would have been nice in Invincible.  The two books have been around a similar amount of time, though fewer issues for Invincible.


Image result for image invincible coversSimilarly, in a book that doesn’t shy away from graphic violence or “language” the prurience about depictions of sex is disappointing. People fuck a lot in this book, but there’s never a realistic depiction of how that looks. It’s network TV cover and angle. Again, The Walking Dead has had realistic nudity in the appropriate situations. It’s been years seen I’ve seen any, but it has. I know Kirkman has addressed it as a ratings/availability thing that a superhero book audience has, but given the massive popularity of The Walking Dead that far exceeds Invincible, I don’t find the argument compelling.  Less so with the spot on depictions of sex in Image hit Saga.


Overall Invincible is well worth the read. Image found its footing as a great place for creator owned stories during this run and the book benefited from the company’s and its writer’s growth during that time. There are a lot of great areas for discussion amidst a story that was well told. I suspect the rushed feeling of the final issue is a window for the creators to return to it sone years on if the urge arises, but the final as it stands left quite a bit unresolved if it is a final.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Raising Kids with Comic Books

It’s no secret that I was raised in a comic book store. I attribute my strong early verbal skills to comic books as well as some of my sense of right versus wrong. All things considered, I think I turned out okay, and as a result I decided early on to share my love of comic book stories with my son. I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve observed in regards to raising a child with comic books.

First – some kid appropriate superhero stuff:

Anything Lego Superheroes – awesome! Phonics books, movies, graphic novels, step books, and actual Lego kits, video games…

Image result for lego dc superheroes

Batman and Superman Phonics books – good for after you’ve gone through a slightly more basic phonics program

Justice League animated series (Batman and Superman as well) – these are some amazing comic book stories appropriate for ALL ages. These are some of the best superhero stories I’ve experienced AND they have the best animated version of the Legion in JLU. The Supergirl/Brainiac 5 romance alone is worth it.

Image result for animate Legion of superheroes justice league unlimited
What should have been the LSH animated characters...

Legion of Superheroes Animated Series – I dislike this series. They took my favorite character (Brainiac 5) and made him a lame robot. Ugh. I just couldn’t watch it. However, my husband showed our son the series and they enjoyed it. I actually love the idea of kid appropriate LSH material, but there is not a lot out there that isn’t older material. I expect my son will read my Archives one day, but we are going to finish reading A Wrinkle in Time first. As a side note the Legion does show up in the animated shows and the Lego material here and there – we do have a cool Cosmic Boy minifigure!

DC Superhero Girls (I both like this idea and am annoyed by it, I wish the boys in the show were less lame. I’d like my son to see everyone working together equally)

The new JL movie – my son loved this. As a bonus they were fighting parademons, pretty straight up bad guys. I’ve never let him watch Dawn of Justice because I didn’t want to explain why two good guys were beating the crap out of each other (same for Civil War).

Superhero novels (mostly Step into reading books) – these bore me to tears, but my son likes them

Batmobiles and assorted superhero cars – these never get old and my son acts out pretty elaborate dramas. He actually mimics the ethical dilemmas from his other stories sometimes.

There’s more out there, but that’s a decent starting list. Here’s some of what I’ve actually tried to teach him using superheroes and comic books:

Image result for superman fighting someone
It's always okay to punch Lex Luthor in the face kids!
Teaching Right from Wrong

This has been a difficult area to work with in regards to my son only being 5. He understands the basics of good versus bad behavior but a lot of the more complex dilemmas are hard for him to grapple with at the moment. I’ve found that I run into some gray areas with stuff like Batman. We’ve had to talk about the differences between when it’s okay to fight and when it is not. We, like many other parents, started off with the blanket rule that hitting is bad. However, obviously, Batman and a majority of the other heroes hit. So, then you have to explain that they are hitting bad guys but that doesn’t really work that well. Eventually we explained that they are hitting bad guys to protect other people. The rule had been that hitting is bad unless you are protecting yourself or other people – and that we should ALWAYS try to get help first.

The one thing I found to be extremely helpful was using a lot of the Lego superhero material. Since it is geared towards kids (mostly) the messages are a bit clearer for a younger age group. Flash has to learn how to slow down and make a plan, Batman has to learn how to work well with others, the first rule of being a ninja (Ninjago) is a ninja never quits… good, easy to understand lessons for kids.
Beyond the Lego material it’s surprisingly difficult to find kid appropriate comic book material these days. The more adult-oriented material has a lot of mixed messages that are harder for a 5-year-old to understand. The older JLA and JLU animated series is great, but some of the newer animated series can get a bit dark. As far as actual comic books it’s nearly impossible to find anything that works. There’s Mouse Guard, Tellos, and other non-superhero stuff but as far as mainstream comics they all cater to adults only it seems. Which leads me to teaching reading using comic books – and also back to Lego again.

Teaching Reading with Comic Books

Given the sparseness of kid appropriate (and non-crappy) superhero comics I had to find an alternative. Luckily Lego Ninjago comes in graphic novel form! I started picking these up for my son and he fell in love with them. The reason I use these rather than a multitude of other kid appropriate graphic novels is because my son already recognizes the characters. He enjoyed Tellos, but he couldn’t figure the stories out on his own as well. The Ninjago graphic novels are side stories based off of the TV series (except the Dark Island Trilogy, which is a stand-alone storyline). My son can interpret most of the story from the pictures and it has motivated him to learn how to read. I didn’t realize how much this had improved his skills until we started a 100-day reading program.

Image result for tomb of the fangpyre

We have been using the Distar 100-day reading program and are currently on day 46. Part of the program includes picture comprehension that is based on the readings. My son caught on to this part of the program faster than I expected, and I realized it was due to reading graphic novels. He had gotten used to merging picture and word comprehension.

Image result for lego superhero phonics booksWe’ve also been using Superhero phonics books to supplement the program and give him more practice. The Batman phonics books are decent, although a little advanced for a starting reader (they’ll be fine once he’s finished the reading program). The Lego DC phonics books are just about perfect for his level, and I plan of getting the Superman phonics books somewhere down the line.

Again, he is more motivated to read when he recognizes the characters, he is able to use the pictures as context when he’s struggling to read a word, and he has picked up some of the more advanced words just because they are used fairly frequently in line with comic book lingo.

Teaching Emotions with Comic Books

This is a surprisingly easy area to build on, if nothing else to teach someone how not to handle their emotional issues. Due to the nature of superhero-ing the characters often struggle to deal with powerful emotions so when we read comic books I often ask my son to explain why someone is acting a certain way. He can tell me that Batman is sad and misses his parents, and he can tell me that Wonder Woman doesn’t like to see people get hurt so she wants to help them. It’s been a pretty good tool for early explorations of human emotion and reactions to emotional states.

And lastly, Discipline with Comic Books

Bad guys go to Arkham Asylum. Knowing this is usually enough to convince my son he doesn’t want to misbehave, haha. If things get really bad we can always introduce the Phantom Zone!

Related image
Your kids won't enjoy this time out location!

If you've made it this far, thanks!

I will now shameless plug my archaeological research in Pompeii - please share, and (if you can) donate :) Archaeologists help prevent powerful artifacts from falling into the hands of evildoers, support Archaeology!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, here is Cosmic Boy with Lego Gwen (archaeologist) and Lego Jen (chemist) exploring the Ninjago lighthouse. Because it's awesome.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Legion of Super Heroes are Jerks

What, The Legion of Super Heroes are jerks? Kitty Pryde why are you saying that? I love the Legion of Super Heroes. The Jim Shooter era to the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen era and even loved parts of almost every other incarnation of the group. They were leaders, heroes and willing to sacrifice life and limb to protect the Universe. But jerks?

Wait I think I know what happened she must have started reading the Silver Age Omnibus Volume 1 of The Legion of Super Heroes. Now that I think about it she is right, not only are they jerks, they are misogynist pigs and pretty darn mean spirited at times.

A little background before I validate my point. I have loved the Legion forever but it has been a long time since I have re-read their adventures. In fact, I have passed on my Legion archives to my daughter. One day I expect her son to maybe read some of those stories. On a whim, I picked up the Omnibus edition. It’s not my favorite format for collected editions. They are too damn thick and the binding and spine take a beating as you read them. I’m not planning on selling it later, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

I still read plenty of current stuff from Black Hammer, Grass Kings to Tom King’s Batman and more. The current stuff can be awesome. Still, I fell in love with comics as a child and still love rereading the old books. Often it is stuff I barely remember (if at all) which leads me to the Legion being jerks - and worse.

I remember much of the early Legion stuff as I have read it both as a kid and in the Archives. All of those readings were years ago. Reading through the Omnibus, I found I did not recall many of the early appearances of the Legion in Superboy and elsewhere. It was a time that DC was playing with the concept. Continuity from appearance to appearance was weak, to say the least. Heck, often the Legion was referred to as being from as far in the future as the (gasp) the 21st Century. The stories I will refer to started in 1958 and go up to about 1963. It was a far different world and comics were being written for adolescent boys. As time has progressed the attitudes and feelings we have as a society have changed. Often older books (my favorite being some of the Romance comics) are unintentionally funny or dated as hell. However, what struck me with the Legion is that they truly were jerks and often misogynistic. I’m laughing as I type this as the Silver Age Legion is almost a history lesson for how the prevailing patriarchal society thought. Hopefully, having raised 2 brilliant wonderful daughters, my views are a little more progressive.

My first example of how the Legion were jerks and a tad misogynistic comes from Adventure Comics #247 in 1958, also the first appearance of the Legion. During Superboy’s initiation test he has to beat Saturn Girl in a task. Not only does Superboy lose to Saturn Girl, but he is beaten by a girl. Not too condescending Cosmic Boy.

In that same issue Cosmic Boy tells Superboy he is being rejected from the Legion. No patting Superboy on the back or offering encouragement. Instead, there is just laughter and derision. Cosmic Boy is quite the charmer.

Next, we move onto Adventure Comics #267 from 1959 and the second appearance of the Legion. Here we see Superboy complementing Saturn Girl on a job well done. Is Saturn Girl gracious and appreciative of Superboy’s polite remarks? No, no, no -Saturn Girl basically kicks his teeth in with her snide remark.

The Legion is so mean to Superboy in this issue that he starts to cry. Damn, these guys are just harsh.

Let’s jump ahead to Adventure Comics #303 from 1962. The Legion is now a series and often gets the cover. Now, these two panels are just plain disturbing on many levels. Why is Chameleon Boy acting as Cosmic Boy’s wife when the Legion at least had established multiple female members, including Triplicate Girl? It is Chameleon Boy’s request and warning to Cosmic Boy and Cosmic Boy’s huge over reaction which just lends all kinds of creepy to this scene. I can imagine this scene being written in many different ways, but points to Chameleon Boy for transforming with a purse and pearls. It may be the future but the writer’s and artist were not futuristic.

Adventure Comics #306, published in 1963, introduced The Legion of Substitute Super Heroes. Theabsurdity of this group is only outdone by the Legion of Super Pets. At this point the Legion has notreally racked up any sort of impressive list of accomplishments, so the need for a group of rejects secretly backing them up was pathetic. This scene shows poor Polar Boy being rejected because asshat Sun Boy thinks he may accidently freeze someone at a critical moment. Like Sun Boy can’t burn someone at a critical moment? Plus Bouncing Boy, Matter Eating Lad, and Triplicate Girl made the cut and ability to broadcast super cold is a loser? 

The Legion of Substitute Heroes was truly the target of epic jerk moves in Adventure Comics #311, also from 1963. In this span of 4 panels they are called blunders, stupid, and failures. No wonder they subs look a little depressed going back to their headquarters

In the same issue Sun Boy certainly shines as a class A dick, telling them to disband or the LOSH will force them to. Of course, I know that was a group of aliens pretending to be the Legion, but the fact that the subs had no clue tells you these guys could be total jerks.

Last but not least, this panel shows the Legion was pretty fatalistic and willing to write off members quickly. In Adventure Comics #313 (again from 1963), the guys were taking it pretty calmly that the girls were dying. Since they are doomed they might us well send them off world and let’s hope for a cure.

There is plenty more where that came from in these early stories, but I love the Legion and I am just having fun with stuff that hasn’t aged very well. The Shooter Era changed all of that, but he built on the foundation that was created by the writers who came before him. The Legion would struggle as a series over the course of many years and right now we have been without a series for way too long. I hope DC finds a way to do the Legion again with the right creative team. Long Live the Legion.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Comic News that Excites Me: Part Three (Sandman)

I’ve read more comics than I probably even remember reading. (Especially if they were bad.) If asked what their favorite comic book of all time was, fans will give all kinds of answers, usually based on their tastes. Books like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, All-Star Superman, Uncanny X-Men, The Amazing Spider-Man, Planetary, Bone, Strangers In Paradise, Saga, Preacher, The Walking Dead, Maus, Hellboy, Locke & Key, or a myriad of others might be mentioned. Although I’ve loved all of the mentioned titles and still do, if I had to select a favorite, it would always be Sandman.

Sandman was a long running comic and one of the first to tell a complete story. The book ran 75 issues (not including spinoffs and anniversary continuations) telling its complete narrative. The world of the Sandman is mystical and magical, spanning the world of the Dreaming, the fairy realm, Earth, Hell, and many worlds in-between. The main character, if there could be considered a main character, was the Dream King himself: Morpheus. As a comic, the Sandman told many different types of stories from a variety of different point of view characters. Morpheus would be there somewhere, sometimes taking point in the story, sometimes hiding in the peripheral. Morpheus, or Dream as he was sometimes called (he had many names), was one of the Endless. The Endless were Destiny, Dream, Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, and Destruction, and they were older than gods.

During the run of the Sandman, I read stories that were horrific, fantastical, and very human, despite some of the characters involved, all mixed with a wonderful dark humor at times. There were stories about the land of the Dreaming falling into ruin, the imprisonment of Dream, the keys to Hell, a serial killer convention, Shakespeare’s contract with Dream, an immortal man, a nightmare on the loose, old debts, failed loves, sibling rivalry, the tragedies of life, and of course, the nature of stories themselves.

Comic News that Excites Me: Part Two (Image and Marvel)

There simply isn’t enough Marvel Comics news/announcements that excited me to have a separate column dedicated just for Marvel. Therefore, I’ve just included them into my second column here. These are a handful of recent announcements/news/solicitations that caught my eye. Image leads the pack because of course it does.

The first is The Magic Order, a mini-series from writer Mark Millar and artist Olivier Coipel. The premise is that five magician families come together to protect the world from magical monsters and the like. I expect there will be some interesting characterization (there always is in Millar’s work), and I expect this book to be fun. Millar’s work in recent years tends to be geared to the high concept/probable adaptation into other media. I don’t have a problem with this, and when he’s on, Millar is on. With Coipel on the art, this one might be a winner.

Stellar is a comic I am very interested in. Joseph Keatinge writes the series with art by Bret Blevins. The title character was taken as a child, transformed into an ultimate weapon, and now she travels the cosmos as a bounty hunter, looking for peace or redemption. I like the premise and the cover is gorgeous. I also think Keatinge has a unique voice as a writer. I'm curious how Blevins style has evolved. It is definite something I will check out.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Comic News that Excites Me: Part One (DC Comics)

Growing up, I was more of a DC Comics fan than a Marvel one. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like Marvel Comics though. Spider-Man was my first jam and later Daredevil helped me find the first lapsed Catholic hero I could identify with. But DC Comics held my favorite heroes: Wally West, Jack Knight, Superman, Robin (Tim Drake), Nightwing, Zatanna, Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Oracle, and many others. Not to mention the Vertigo comics and all of the lovely mature titles that taught me comics could be so much more than superheroes.

In recent years, DC course corrected their much-maligned New52 with the better-received Rebirth. Essentially, it was the publisher getting back to basics in what made the characters great to begin with. Some of the new stories were derivative, and yes, they tried to eat their cake and have it too. There are two different Wally Wests now, Wonder Woman’s origin was rebooted again, Batman is both a loner and a leader of an army of vigilantes, and so on.

If I had one complaint during this time, it is that they are merging the Watchmen characters into the DCU over-arcing story. I have feelings about this “creative” choice that run deep to the bone and leave bile creeping in the back of my throat. This is not the time or place to air those thoughts however.

Instead, I want to talk about the things on the horizon at DC Comics that excites the comic fan in me.

The first exciting news is that Brian Michael Bendis is coming to DC Comics and taking over Superman. He’ll be contributing to Action Comics #1000 and then he will write a Man of Steel mini-series that will dovetail into him writing two monthly Superman books. The very news of this has echoes of John Byrne all over it. Byrne relaunched Superman in the late 80s in much the same way, though he also provided art for one of the monthlies. Byrne’s relaunch remains my favorite version of the character. Clark was humanized more. His origins were streamlined and made modern. In many ways it was my favorite version of Clark as it was Superman.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Finding My Way Back or How I Learned To Love Comics Again

I spent most of my life reading comics.

To be clear, I’ve had a love affair with reading my whole life, but it all started when I was five with comics. My neighbor’s son, a high school boy, was getting rid of his comics (outgrew them I guess), and he gave them to me. He just handed me a huge pile over the short fence between yards, and those comics hijacked my imagination.

I don’t remember much about most of those first comics, but I do remember one specifically. It was Amazing Spider-Man #46. Spider-Man fought the Shocker, and for most of the story, poor Spidey had his arm in a web sling. I devoured those single issues and before I knew it, every single time my dad went to the local High’s store for cigarettes, I was begging him to let me come and get a new comic book to read. (They had a spinner rack full of comics in the back. It was a magical creation.)

I’ve read comics at all times in my life, even when people in my life frowned upon it or tried to make me feel bad about it. The haters were never a problem, though sometimes when it came from friends or family, that did hurt more. But I never gave them up, never walked away from the medium. I even read and collected comics when I spent 13 months in Afghanistan. So there.

When I was a teenager, my love of superhero comics took a slight backburner to comics like Sandman, Hellblazer, V For Vendetta, Preacher, Strangers In Paradise, Hellboy, and many other mature titles. The superhero books that interested me during this time were those that weren’t the typical fanfare. These were titles like James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman, Stormwatch (later The Authority) and Planetary under scribe Warren Ellis, and essentially anything Alan Moore was doing. It was during that time I went back and discovered Frank Miller’s Daredevil run and his The Dark Knight Returns.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Xombi - The Series You Missed

So, the answer to the quiz the other night was the little known series, Xombi, written by John Rozum, illustrated by J.J. Birch, and colors by Noelle Giddings which was one of the last books published under the Milestone Imprint from DC.  So, why did I read this?  Well, my LCS recently picked up a large collection of Milestone books and luckily he got every issue of the series.  Sometimes, you just have to take a chance on the older stuff.

This week I read the first 12 issues with issues 1-5 comprising the first arc, issues 7-11 the second, and issues 6 and 12 are the "down time" stories for additional characterization for all the characters.

These issues reminded me of the early issues of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol before it got too weird, too random, and too esoteric.  There's a level of bizarre that you don't get from your normal superhero books and it's wonderful.

For the good and the bad, see below the break.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Remembering Billy Graham and When Archie Shared the Same Message


Last week my daughter Evelyn and I had a very special father-daughter outing on her Sweet 16 birthday.  We went to the US pay our respects to Billy Graham.  It was tremendous.  Not only was the weather picture-perfect and unusually warm for February, it was very moving to see his casket inside the Capitol Rotunda. The picture below is a screenshot from the C-SPAN coverage - That's me and her on the far left.

Why did we go? Just to be part of a historic event?  Because we revered him as a church leader? No.  We went to honor a humble servant of Jesus Christ, who was inspiring because he so was faithful in his calling to proclaim the Gospel to the lost souls of the world.  The memorial card shown below sums up his ministry in his own words:

Last Sunday, right before the Oscars began, Fox broadcast an excellent documentary of his life, entitled Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey.  I can't seem to get this link to work for me right now, but I hope it does for some of you, because you really should watch it.  To hear his booming voice again (especially in his younger years) express God's love and forgiveness and quote Scripture is thrilling to me, because I know that God's Word doesn't return void (Isaiah 55:11).  I also enjoyed hearing how he desegregated his crusades in the South (and was criticized for it) and the impact his crusades in Eastern Europe had on the end of the Cold War.  The Russians even invited him to a peace conference in the early-80s with intent to use him in propaganda, but God opened a door for him to speak boldly for Jesus.  Again, I highly recommend it even if your intent is only for the history part of it.

In case you think I may have violated Jim's directive that any of our uncensored and diverse views and commentary had to be somewhat associated with comics.  "Fear Not!" I wanted to share with you one of the Spire Christian Comics Archie books from 1973.  Even Elton John was singing about "Jesus Freaks" back then.  Was all of it legitimate or were people just taking up the latest fad?  I'm sure there was a little bit of both, but this comic is the real deal!

This book as well as all the Spire books were written and drawn by Al Hartley.  According to his wiki bio, he drew a long run of Patsy Walker issues for Marvel and was drawing a "nudie-cutie" strip for a men's magazine, when he became a Born Again Christian and decided to stop.  He was able to license the use of Archie for some of his comics.

The comic consists of a series of short Archie (or his "Pals 'N Gals") focused stories with the typical Archie humor.  There is also a few pages of direct evangelistic material. I started with scanning only a few pages, but I ended up scanning most of the book, because it's better to experience it yourself.  Click on the pictures (AFTER THE BREAK) to be able to read it better.  I apologize in advance if some of the pictures or gaps between text is a little screwy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Weekend Preview - Can you Guess The Series?

This weekend I'll be talking about a series you most likely didn't read but should have! 

So, this is the double page spread of the villain in issue #5.  He's the embodiment of pollution...

"Every footstep he takes releases toxins into the air. 
His very breath chokes the air with poison.
Everything he passes dies.  Pigeons, rats, turtles, impatient lovers grappling in the bushes.  Everything."

So can you figure out the series?

And yes, that's a stove pipe coming out his asss... butt.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Matthew: Year One (1977): Origin of the Comic Collector -- First Comics

It was too serendipitous that my return to blogging for Comics And so closely coincides with my 41st anniversary of collecting comics that I had to make my first post of our reboot about my first comics.  These days my short-term memory seems to be more Swiss-cheesed than Sam Beckett of Quantum Leap. (I couldn't remember the term "sciatica" the day after I suffered from perhaps my first bout with it last week.)  I chalk it up to advanced maturity or my James Bond style sleep schedule (you'll have to dig into the Ian Fleming novels to understand that reference).  Contrast that with some childhood memories, which never disappear.  Even though they may be faded and blurry like an old Polaroid or Fotomat 110 print, at least they're still present.  Fortunately (and I use that term linguistically for style rather than a belief in luck or fortune - "Blessedly" or "Thankfully" would be more accurate, but that would get old real fast),  we have physical evidence and ultra-cool online resources to help clear things up a bit.

The "high tech" (scotch-taped) photo stitch below depicts my original comic collection, then only a few months old circa May 1977. More detailed comments and recollections continue after the break...

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Black Panther: A Discussion (or A Monologue, if no one comments)

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I have now seen The Black Panther twice in the last week. There’s so much about this movie that’s ripe for discussion that it could be a college course unto itself. Cultural significance. Feminism. Colonialism, past and present.  A binary view of the world. It’s a cornucopia of ideas and provocations for introspection, so much so that it should be on the Oscars list for 2018 movies, and that doesn’t even factor that it’s so big that it’s going to be a world culture touchstone. Better still, it’s highly entertaining in its milieu.


But I want to talk about two aspects of the movie. One is the question of Wakanda’s place in its fictional world. The other is the harm that damaged little boys can do as men.
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There’s been some discussion that N’Jadaka (Killmonger),and by extension W’Kabi, is correct to bring Wakanda to the world by force, overthrowing its tradition of isolation and secrecy, and installing itself as (benevolent) ruler over all. More, including director Ryan Coogler, support Nakia’s vision of Wakanda as a diplomatic, financial, and technological force for improving the lives of the downtrodden, particularly those descended from Africans taken from Africa as property.

Klaw describes Wakanda as El Dorado, hidden in Africa rather than South America, but the real world analogy to Wakanda is Switzerland. Both are small, mountainous nations formed from the joining of once warring tribes that have developed great wealth and comfort for their people by leveraging their resources and talents while maintaining neutrality and secrecy. Different sorts of secrecy, but secrecy nonetheless.


In recent decades Switzerland has been pressured to open its banking secrecy to benefit the wider world, particularly in pursuing criminal actions. No one argued that Switzerland should take over the world as a benevolent invader, though. No one even suggested that Switzerland owed the rest of the world any wealth or technology that other parts of the world might not have.
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Wakanda, operating quite similarly to Switzerland, is under a different burden that reflects the African diaspora and the fact that merely being black in America and the world is a political statement. There is no European diaspora that is the result of forcible relocation to other continents. Yes, the Irish fled in great numbers to America due to English oppression and famine, but they weren’t sold to America. On the whole the spread of Europeans around the globe is voluntary, often opportunistic at best and repressive or murderous of others at worst.


For The Black Panther, both the movie and the character, the Switzerland model is simply a non-starter for Wakanda. While that’s been the way for centuries, it can’t be the way of the future. The plight of other Africans and African descendants is not the same as the status of Europeans and European descendants. Is it fair to put that on Wakanda? The movie doesn’t ask if it’s fair. It asks if the balance between Wakandan safe borders and the health of the rest of the world should be changed and in what way.

A corollary question can be asked why those who advocate that Wakanda owes the world a more active, if not interventionist, existence don't advocate that the Jabari owe the world the same.  They're within Wakandan borders, but they're separate from both the world and the rest of Wakanda.  They're not so wealthy as the rest of Wakanda, but they're secure and prosperous.  Do they owe the world as well?


Coincidentally, a movie that started before anyone conceived of the regime now running the US is talking about the wealthiest fictional nation having an obligation to help the rest of the world without imposing its will on the world by force, while the US regime abdicates any form of help in the world that isn't granted via the recipient becoming a vassal state and exponentially expands the resources for forcing its will, albeit ineffectually implemented.  Not so coincidentally, the border force of Wakandan is as trustworthy with power as the border forces of the US.


Which brings us to damaged little boys. N’Jadaka is damaged by the loss of his father, N'Jobu, when he’s about 10 and by his subsequent childhood in Oakland. He carries that loss and the lessons of inequality that his father imparted before that loss to fixate on revenge for the slights the world has inflicted on him. But his revenge is directed to the whole world, regardless of culpability. He doesn’t seek justice for a wrong that may have been done to him or his father. He seeks revenge against everyone and cloaks it in a righteous mission to lift up the true people. He lies about Wakanda and its history.  It’s all very Trumpian.

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Trump is a damaged little boy, too. He wasn’t damaged in the impoverished streets of Oakland but in the wealthy skyscrapers of New York. He didn’t work and fight to achieve from little resources. He didn’t have the least intelligence. But he arrived on the stage of adulthood similarly self absorbed and willing to do anything to satisfy his desires for power, acceptance, and glory. He adopted a similar story of aggrieved righteousness for himself and the true people. He adopted the same martial mania.  He lies more prolifically than Gretzky scored goals. 

The result with both men is that they become destabilizing forces in the world, seeking the oppression of others to satisfy their own inadequacies.  Large scale death is just an acceptable collateral damage.  Both are willing to turn on an ally in an instant if it serves his own moment.

Much to ponder in The Black Panther.  That makes it art, politics, and entertainment of the highest quality.  That makes it worthy of honors from its industry.  But if those honors aren't forthcoming, they don't diminish The Black Panther.  They diminish the industry.