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...

Shelf Expression (Part 2)

Continuing my Study Shelves Showcase...

A little cluttered, but it still works.  The large blue HCs on the right reprint the newspaper strips too.  The Marvel Omnibuses are all sitting behind the first one shown.  Looking forward to the Last Jedi projection Luke POP due in August.

The two large figures were FCBD purchases for only $5 each.  The Conspiracy of the PoTA book is excellent.  The MEGOs are reproduction.  The bust is from the complete DVD boxset.  I hope that th rocks came from Point Dume Beach in Malibu (I went there) where the Statue of Liberty scene was filmed.  The sand diorama is  simple (and no longer plays), but it super cool.  I like how the hallmark figures go well with the novelization cover.  The first PoTA mag is in the far back.

My Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators collection -- these are really hard to find.  It's also the place I keep my keys, glasses, etc.  So, I won't lose them.  And my James Bond novel collection. My brother gave me Doctor No when I was 13 and that set me off to collect the rest, mostly signet series.  I love soundtrack music and OHMSS is my favorite Bond film.

Stephen R Donaldson is one of my favorite fantasy writers.  Note the mini Firestorm collection.  More misc stuff on the bottom shelf and some film canisters that will probably never be developed.  I rescued my daughter's Spider-Girl figures from the yard sale box.

Still more to come...

Shelf Expression (Part 1)

Since we had to clean up the house for the graduation party last Sunday, I had the opportunity to finish rearranging some of my shelves in our study.  I thought I'd share some of the displays with you just for fun, highlighting some key features or items.  As much as I love to have all the HC trade dresses match, I've realized the benefit of mixing things up with a combination of books, toys, collectibles, etc.  My main problem (other than not enough shelf space) is that I like too many things, not just the quantity, but the diversity.  While some may be satisfied with collecting a single character, such as Batman or Spider-Man, I like just about everything. "Reading from top to bottom [mostly]...Lisa...Carol...Fremont."

I've had to split this up, since there is a limit of the number of pictures I can upload, apparently.

Daredevil has superseded Spider-Man as my favorite hero these days.  I like to be able to showcase some of the covers of my hardcovers.  The Marvel Netflix shows have been really good and I just finished the Punisher one (better than any comic he's ever been in).  I'm a big fan of POP figures and the different scales of minimates, POPs, Super Hero Squad, etc allows everything to be seen.

The MEGO Hulk and Iron Man (with nose) I've had since I was little.  The 1977 7-11 Slurpee cup with Herb Trimpe art was a recent FCBD purchase for only $5.  The Grey Hulk/Banner POP set came from the Marvel Collector Corps box series -- the last cool one before they went lame and then went defunct.

All my newspaper strip HCs, except for Prince Valiant, which are in the bedroom.  One more Star Wars HC to go (best Star Wars comic EVER by Archie Goodwin & Al Williamson).  On top is the Wednesday Comics series from DC.

 My son's graphic novel is on the side.  The only volume I've read completely is Howard the Duck, which still reads well today.  The figure came from Toy Biz and was packaged with a Silver Surfer for some odd reason.

More to come...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Help Make the Long Con Game a Reality -- Support Thom Zahler's Warning Label Kickstarter Campaign

Okay, I'll try to keep this brief (for once).  One of the best Web Toons of the last year was Thom Zahler's romance strip, Warning Label.  It came out weekly every Thursday beginning about a year ago and consisted of 39 chapters (plus a bonus one).  It's your classic love story: guy meets girl, girl turns out to have been cursed by her ex, and now the guy has full knowledge of all her faults going into the relationship.  Thom is a master of dialogue (and pop culture references) and you already know what I mean if you've read any of his other classics like Love and Capes, Long Distance, or Time & Vine.  The lady love interest, Danielle, works for a gaming company and during the story she pitches her own game idea at her company about putting on a successful Comic-Con, called "The Long Con".  Well, now Thom is the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to publish the series as a trade paperback.  It was funded in like less than 3 days, so now he's hitting his stretch goals, which are all incredible (pins, T-shirts, bonus stuff, etc.).  However, the best of the best is if he hits the $20,000 mark (less that $8000 away) -- then he actually creates the Long Con board game!!!  And if you're a "more than book backer", which I am, you'll get a copy (if the goal is reached, of course).  I really, really want to see this game get made!  So, that's why I'm doing my part to pitch the series.  Here are some handy links for you:

Read the entire series for FREE here.  If you don't want to take my word for it, TRY IT and then tell your friends.

Support the Kickstarter campaign here (only 12 days to go)!

Thanks and Enjoy!

Oh, and when I wanted to commemorate my 20th wedding anniversary I commissioned Thom to do the excellent piece seen here.  He translated my idea splendidly!  I knew I could trust Thom, the king of romance, to depict this once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pomp and Circumstances

On Friday around 4 pm, my wife and I were exiting out of the local restaurant park when she gives me a high-five, "We did it!"  Did what you ask?  Well, we successfully navigated through THREE graduations in the last seven days: my daughter Charlotte from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor's of Arts in Studio Art Painting and Art History (summa cum laude), my son Eric from Howard Community College with an Associates of Arts in Music, and my daughter Helen who had just graduated from Oakland Mills High School that morning at the newly renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion (where Jackson Browne recorded "Running On Empty" back in 1977 [there's that ever important year again]).  Of course we Thank God for all these blessings and for guiding and directing us to get to these momentous milestones.  I've got to say the High School graduation always seems to get you more emotionally as a parent -- its like you really need to at least get them to this point.  Anyway, it got me thinking about my past graduations from 30 and 25 years ago.

1988 -- I've just spilled my guts on the parking lot pavement of the Virginia Science Center in Richmond.  The fresh smell of my recently ingested graduation "lunch" intermingled with the stomach acid.  I was probably the most sick I had ever been up to that point -- sheer agony.  But it wasn't from the food, it was from a broken heart.  My "girlfriend" (long story there) was moving to Michigan and I didn't have time to say goodbye, since they were rushing families out of the Arthur Ashe Center quickly for the next high school ceremony.  Needless to say, I was torn up in knots before the food arrived and the stress and anxiety just made it impossible to enjoy the day.  What should have been a time of celebration was misery instead.  After all, I couldn't possibly think things would ever get better...

1993 -- We're celebrating my graduation from Virginia Tech (Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering) at my apartment, which I share with the girl I started dating about a year before.  The girl I didn't even meet until late-1990, the girl I didn't even like as more than a friend until late-1991, the girl who became my wife in late-1992!  God is so good!  It just goes to show you that you never know what's around the corner and sometimes what you think is the milestone (like a graduation) is really just a blip of your life and the real life changing events can occur on the ordinary days.

There is a comic angle coming up and it concerns my mortar board pictured above, which features the reduced photocopied cover of Amazing Spider-Man #185, published 40 years ago on July 18, 1978. [More after the break:]

Sunday, May 20, 2018


I'm not usually one to post about something that's just getting started, but Barrier is an exception because it's not going to be collected in a trade.  The original on line creation is being published in 5 issues by Image and that's it if you want a print copy.  Coming out weekly, Barrier, by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente, is coming out weekly.  This past Wednesday was week three and the halfway point, so if you haven't gotten ahold of it, you probably still can find the first 3 issues on the stands before they get jacked up in price.
Barrier #1 (Of 5) Collector’s Edition

Barrier is a beautiful book.  It's being published oversized and with the panels sideways by the usual standards.  Martin's art is arresting, whether in perspective that focuses on a character's face or in depicting the very alien aliens who are, through issue 3, something of a mystery.
Barrier #2 (Of 5)
The story starts with the perspectives of a young father trying to make it to the US from Honduras and a young American rancher on the border and who's a widow.  It looks like it's going to be a direct address of the problems of those fleeing to American and those in America who are reluctant, at best, to absorb those immigrants.  The immigrant faces violence and Coyotes and exposure to the elements and desperate crossings.  The rancher faces smuggling and racism and intimidation and loneliness.  Then it all goes sideways for both of them when they're abducted by aliens from another planet.
Barrier #3 (Of 5)
The portions of the story told from the Honduran perspective are told in Spanish.  The American's story is told in English.  When they and the aliens come together, each continues in his or her own language, without interpretation for either.  The aliens speak in colors, representing the fact that their language is entirely without frame of reference for either human.
Barrier #4 (Of 5)
The two humans, when they interact on the alien ship, are able to make themselves understood to one another on a basic level, even without a shared language, because they have shared human cultural references.  Pointing and speaking or showing artwork that the Honduran has done or had done on his person gets a message across. Pantomime fills in blanks.

But with the aliens, there's nothing.  Through the first 3 issues neither human has any idea what the aliens want.  They're shunted from one part of the ship to another, sometimes alone and sometimes together.  For whatever reason the aliens stripped the rancher of her clothes, leading the Honduran to give her his jacket.  The ship has spaces filled with objects taken from Earth and just dumped like some treasure room in Gringotts.  When the humans try to light a fire, the aliens react swiftly, but the aliens also provided medical care for a bullet wound to the Honduran's leg.
Barrier #5 (Of 5)
This is an intriguing story, and if you're impatient you can read it on Panel Syndicate where it was originally published.  I can wait two more weeks to get the rest of the story in an excellent print edition.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Free Comic Book Day Highlights

Several Small Reviews

So, I just wrapped up my first turbulent and intriguing year of graduate school and I am still winding down from everything. I’ve spent the past semester learning more about the human skeleton than I thought was possible and managed to name my 20-page research paper from my lithics class with a comic book reference. Next week I’ll be immersed in finishing up as much of my museum work as possible before diving into an intense self-directed study of Pompeii. Only 2 ½ weeks until I leave for Italy for field work! Whew, I am exhausted. Due to this I’ll just be highlighting a few comic book encounters from the past month.

First up, Free Comic Book Day!

My husband, son, and I checked out both of the local comic book stores in our new town and ended up going to the one that not have a line down the street. It was a nice setup and a Spiderman cosplayer gave my son a high five. The store itself was great and had additional sales to go along with FCBD. We got 4 free comics each (which was plenty) and picked up a Mouse Guard alphabet book.

Image result for mouse guard alphabet book

My son can read at this point (level 1 stuff, nothing fancy, but beyond needing an alphabet book) however, this book has neat little Mouse Guard blurbs with each letter and the art is gorgeous. My son loves Mouse Guard and since I always try to purchase something from the store hosting FCBD it was MG or the BB-8 cook book and the recipes did not look exciting (I think my son just liked the pictures). After spending some time with the alphabet book, I feel like it was a good purchase. 

Caution to other parents: Mouse Guard isn’t really made for children. It may look like a child’s book at a glance, but it contains a lot of warfare and death. My son started going through Mouse Guard at age 4 and frequently requests it, but there were quite a few story points he struggled with. He’s still upset about Conrad’s final encounter with the crabs from story arc one. Even so, if they can deal with Mufasa’s death in the Lion King it should be mostly okay.

Image result for wormwood saga fcbd

The other books we picked up that were worth noting are: The Wormwood Saga and Sparks.
The Wormwood Saga was interesting enough that I’d like to pick up further issues at some point. It is definitely all-ages as advertised but the art is oriented towards a young crowd used to animation. Don’t get me wrong, the art is appealing, just somewhat simplistic for my tastes. My son found it easy enough to follow the story though and that’s important for young people reading comics. It seems to be a fairly standard magical fantasy world adventure story (think of the Spiderwick Chronicles, Narnia, and Terebithia type genre). A young boy’s father can create paintings that are portals to another world and the boy shows this to a girl he wants to be friends with to impress her. He’s not supposed to share this with anyone so I’m sure that will go really well for him as the story progresses. Regardless of the seeming predictability, I like this type of genre and would hope the story branches out a bit more as it goes.

Image result for sparks fcbd

Sparks! was the true winner of our FCBD excursion. It hit a lot of high points for my son – cats in a dog robot trying to be heroes. The dog robot even puts out a fire by “peeing” on it. As you can imagine, my 5-year-old was cracking up while reading this book. The art is cartoony, but cute. The whole story is narrated by a sentient litter box and the villain is an alien hiding out as a human infant. This story is definitely for younger kids but it is a lot of fun with likable characters.

Thor: Ragnarok

Image result for tom hiddleston lokiI just saw this for the first time 2 days ago while decompressing from finals. I’m not a big Thor fan but I adore Tom Hiddleston as Loki so I keep watching these movies. First, I still love Loki, never stop stabbing people in the back sir. Besides that, this movie really tried to hard. It was entertaining but seemed to be trying to be sarcastic and funny in a way that works for Guardians of the Galaxy, but not for Thor. I get that the Thor movies aren’t as popular but trying to make it into something it isn’t doesn’t make anything better. Also, does anyone like Bruce Banner? Yuck. My son enjoyed Hulk’s fight with the giant wolf and the overall story was okay.

That’s about it for the past month. Most of it was class work, not much time for comics.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Spider-Man Created By Steve Ditko

I have constantly struggled with trying to define the creator credit when it comes to a collaborative art form.  As it stands right now a few creators have gotten their due. Jack Kirby (after years of court battles), Stan Lee (self-created grandstanding) , Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster (again after fighting for justice) and others except Steve Ditko.

I know many will say he has gotten credit for much of his work, but since Steve is not one to obtain lawyers and lives by a strong personal philosophy he is never going to stand up and say I created Spider-Man in court. Not counting on his many many other contributions to Marvel, DC and Charlton comics.

First let me get one thing clear, I understand that many of these characters have been enhanced and improved by the creators who came after the originators. Still for as much as people like Wally Wood and Frank Miller did to change the nature of Daredevil, you still have to give Bill Evertt and Stan Lee credit as creating Daredevil. The fact that Netflix Daredevil series has a F**KING created by Drew Goddard burns me up to no end. Credit someone as developing for TV – but creator – my ass. I know these types of credits are negotiated bullshit but over time people without knowing will think this asswipe created Daredevil.

So back the matter at hand. I say that Steve Ditko is the true creator of Spider-Man and Stan Lee can maybe get a co-creator credit as his dialogue and perhaps some story ideas were a part of the success of the character. Sadly Stan Lee has taken almost all the credit for Spider-Man and almost back handed Steve saying he can be called the co-creator.

My basis for giving Ditko first billing is due to comics being a visual medium first and foremost. Also Stan has constantly lauded the “Marvel Way” which means he often with artist came up with a story idea and the artist then turned it into 20 pages of story. Stan would then dialogue the entire thing. Many, many times the credits would read written by Stan Lee and art by Steve Ditko. When you see some of the original artwork by Kirby you often see margin notes where he is giving an idea what the characters are going to say. In many of the Spider-Man books by Lee and Ditko you can see where the dialogue does not even match what is happening on the actual page.

Ditko at one time produced a drawing showing what the Kirby Spider-Man may have been versus what Ditko created. If accurate (see below) Spider-Man would have never been the popular character he become.

When you read the first 38 issues of Spider-Man and the first 2 Annuals you can see tons of new villains and characters. The actual look and feel of the book is all dictated by the art. Spider-Man’s signature moves which are still used in the books and movies, 60 years later are basically the same. Without Ditko the Amazing Spider-Man could well have become very much just another generic guy in tights.

While I want to give the lion’s share of credit to Ditko for creating Spider-Man, I would give Stan Lee credit for the dialoguing of the books by Ditko and Kirby. As much as I’m sure Stan was grating on the nerves of the artists. It was the bombastic style of his and the fact that he did not write down Marvel comics like DC did to a younger audience that  help make the books different and new.
The thing that constantly drives me crazy is hearing Stan Lee, Stan Lee, Stan Lee. Stan was the front man and was certainly a force that helped to make Marvel comics the success it was but he did it on the backs of a lot of great creators like Kirby, Ditko. Everett, Wood, Dick Ayers and many others.

Remember in today’s world the writers usually provide a full script. That means page by page with a panel by panel breakdown of what they want presented. The dialogue is even included with a full script. An artist may decide to change something here and there but still they have a roadmap of what they are producing.  The Marvel way could be a page, a paragraph or a one liner. Spider-Man faces the Green Goblin again. Now the artist must layout the entire story and only gets writing credit if Stan decided to say plot by Ditko or whomever. At the end of Ditko and Lee’s run on the book the story is Ditko came by once a month and dropped off a complete Spider-Man story and left. Stan would look it over and add words.

The creator credit is important so we can properly give credit to the right people. In a collaborative medium like comic it can be difficult to pick out who should get credit at times. Other times it is pretty clear. With Spider-Man for me it is very very clear. Ditko is the creator of the Amazing Spider-Man and Stan Lee was the plotter (sometimes) and scripter for the character. 

I could write about this stuff forever. I also think that a lot of credit for these characters go to the writers and artists who followed in the originators footsteps which keep the characters alive/ They have added new elements to the characters over time and sometimes made the character better (Daredevil).

The rich history of characters like Batman and Superman show that the characters can change and morph with each generation and with different iterations of the characters in movies and TV. Still the people who started still are deserving of the title of creator. No matter how much you may add onto or modify the character you are not the creator. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shared Universes

Author's Note: This is a bit of a ramble. I apologize for how my brain works.

This weekend Avengers: Infinity War is in full swing. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have been paying attention to the way people are responding to it. I have no doubt I’ll like it if not love it, but I don’t get to the movies as much as I wish I could anymore.  And I think I’m passed the days of seeing things on opening weekend. 

There are many Marvel characters I like, though I think I tend to be more of a DC guy.  Nevertheless, 10 years and 19 films later, you cannot deny the juggernaut (pun totally intended) that is the MCU.  They have the shared universe that movie studios desperately want, but at the moment, they are the only ones that have managed to do it successfully.

Just to reflect: Warner Bros is stumbling along with their DC Universe. Paramount is trying to reboot the Transformers with a shared universe that will include a new G.I. Joe and possibly other Hasbro properties such as MASK, Rom: Space Knight, Visionaries, and Micronauts in a string of films. Sony was toying around with combining their 21 Jump Street franchise with a Men In Black crossover/reboot, and Sony recently went into business with Valiant to develop a shared universe for their comic book properties. Universal also attempted and already failed at a shared Monster Movie Universe right out of the starting gate with Tom Cruise's lackluster The Mummy remake. These are just the major attempts at a shared universe and I am sure there are others we don't know about yet. Regardless, none have come close to replicating the formula.

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...