Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Outta Town. 

I'll be heading out of town at a criminally early hour tomorrow morning, and won't be back till Sunday afternoon. I know you're sad. But please, put down that katana. You don't need to kill yourself.

You can, in the meantime, entertain yourself at these sites:

THE CLIQUE (Or, People I Bug Regularly):

Near Mint Heroes (Shane) - Never a dull post at this place. Shane brings together all the weirdest, oddest, most entertaining news on the internet just about every single day. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books. Check it.

Thought Balloons (Kevin) - Best Linkblogging on the Internet, bar none. Kevin's sharp as hell, and he's got his finger on the pulse of just about everything. In the absence of Journalista, Kevin has taken up the mantle of the news tracker of the comics blogosphere. Not on purpose; he's just naturally that good.

The Johnny Bacardi Show
(David) - A hallmark of the blogosphere. Johnny, Latin hedonist, does some of the best comic book reviews on the net, and he's got the habit of occasionally posting some of his art, to taunt those of us without the talent. Bastard. Johnny also shares a love of Tarot, so for that alone he's teh rock.

Eat More People
(Rick) - In the category of People Who Are Funnier Than Me, there's Rick, and then there's everybody else. He's also an apparent aspiring writer, and it shows in the wit of his entries. He's a bit less regular in his postings than the rest (needs to eat more prunes), but every post is a gem.

PEOPLE WHO ARE SMARTER THAN ME (Or, People Whose Blogs I Have No Place Commenting On)

I Am NOT the Beastmaster (Marc) - I'm just way the hell out of my league over here. There's a new, lengthy, thoughtful and thought-provoking post up here about every three or four days, and some of the comment-conversations that spring up around them are the best talk going on the internet. You absolutely cannot go wrong. (Also, Marc's apparently a flaming liberal like myself, so that doesn't hurt.)

The Intermittent (Dave) - He doesn't post in novels like most of the intellectual bloggers do, but every bit of it is food for thought. Dave's got a gift for keeping things short and sweet, and no less potent than his lengthier brethern.

JUST PLAIN FUN (Or, Places I Go Because Damn, I Enjoy Them)

Progressive Ruin (Mike) - There is always, always, always something fun or thoughtful or entertaining as hell over here. Mike's got a light touch that's nonetheless searingly insightful, and he's one of those rare good souls no one could ever say anything bad about.

Otto's Coffee Shop (Jeff) - Seamlessly blends discussion about comics, movies, and poker. Those are three great vices to have, and he writes entertainingly about all of them. Careful where you tread in that Comments section -- his friends'll beat you up for milk money. Heh heh...

Go. Visit. Enjoy. Check out every single link on my sidebar there; none will do you wrong.

See ya on Sunday.

Best Column in Comics. 

(Quote of the day: "I'm so classy I shit fine china." - Me.)

Steven Grant saw those neato Ben Templesmith Ghost Rider pictures that Templesmith posted, and he's not pleased with the trend:

This is far from the first time something like this has been done, and I don't want to come off as singling out Ben and Dan because I'm not, but...

This sort of thing is embarrassing and amateurish. It's one thing to use the Internet to try to find a publisher for an original creation, or to otherwise finance it. With so many stumbling blocks, any venue for that's a welcome one. With something someone else owns, let's face it, it's just fan fiction. I don't care if it's professionals doing it or not, until a publisher buys a project it's just fan fiction. I can understand why freelancers want to work on company-owned properties – often it's the only way to get paid (dogs and mortgage holders gotta eat, after all), and it's possible to have fun, sometimes a lot of fun, doing it – but to so blatantly and openly go begging after something, I dunno. It's also a dodge for the creators. You're always going to find someone who thinks an idea is about the greatest idea ever conceived on the face of the earth, but it's not them you have to convince, it's an editor or a publisher or whoever makes the decisions at whatever comics company, and trotting stuff out for public viewing/opinion before it's sold is just trying to stack the deck as most companies are concerned. Companies make decisions based on a lot of factors besides (but usually not to the exclusion of) the talent involved and the quality of the work. Is the Wickline/Templesmith GHOST RIDER a hot looking package? Sure is. Would it make a good book? Probably. Might it not fit Marvel's conception of or intentions for the character? It might not. And anyone who thinks Paul Levitz or Joe Quesada can be pressured by "popular demand" into changing a decision has been paying too much attention to the hype. Remember the last time you were pressured into changing your mind on something? Enjoy it much? If you really want a company to give you the keys to the city, sell a million copy comic. Every major company in the business will be beating down your door.


Yet true.

That's Steven Grant for ya.

Making a difference. 

Steve Lieber over at Mercury Studios talks about comics activism:

Those of you who are interested in activism will get a lot more bang for your buck if you put your energy into supporting small press and self published titles. Let's say that a well-organized and sustained push could raise a book's sales by five hundred or a thousand copies. That's not enough to keep a corporate publisher from cancelling a moribund series. It simply doesn't represent a big enough slice of their expenses. But that same increase on a small press book makes an unbelievable impact. It can push a book out of the red and into the black, It can significantly increase the buzz on a title, making fence-sitting retailers more likely to order that all-important first copy, and most importantly, it can keep a cartoonist working on his or her comics instead of moving off to do commercial art.

Color me chastened, in regard to the GREAT LOSERS GIVEAWAY. However, my partners-in-crime and I had already decided to shift in this direction for the next Giveaway... just keep your eye on Near Mint Heroes on, oh, May 5th?

Something might show up.

(Dun dun!)

A moment of silence. 

Hubert Selby, Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream, has died. Rick at Eat More People, a fan of the man's work, hasa eulogy.

DC Month-to-Month for March. 

Marc-Oliver Frisch with his usual fantastic analysis, plus a bit of a namedrop I have to confess I was pleased with.

I have nothing clever to add. Just go read it.


Been away from a bloggable computer for a bit, but here I am again. Off to buy comics shortly. Here's the list, because you care:

DC/Vertigo/Wildstorm Comics
BIRDS OF PREY #66 $2.50
KINETIC #2 $2.50
LOSERS #11 (MR) $2.95

Image Comics

Marvel Comics
THE PUNISHER #5 (MR) $2.99


Whew. That enough books for you? Okay, here's your assignment:

Planet of the Capes came out today, a TPB for a mere $14.95. This is a book written by Larry Young, he of Astronauts in Trouble fame. Larry is completely incapable of writing something that isn't better than 90% of the dreck the Big Two put out, so that means you're going to go buy it.

This isn't an optional thing.

See ya in the stands.

NEWS THAT IS NOT NEWS: Once again I am a moron. Planet of the Capes is $12.95, not $14.95. I swear, I am flaking lately. I blame liberals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Second Best Column In Comics. 

Graeme's at it again. I consider Steven Grant's Permanent Damage to be the best column in comics, though I'm not sure it's fair to compare these two. Grant's all about the analyses and state of the industry, Graeme's going for slice of life. And damn if it's not entertaining:

It was at that point, you see, that I realized that it’s actually kind of boring living out in the middle of nowhere alone. Sure, it starts out fun and exciting, but really, there’s only so long that you can convince yourself that the rustic life is something that you really ought to explore and experience for any length of time when you’re twenty years old and want to go to shitty nightclubs and shake your bits to the hits while having crushes on the most inappropriate of girls, you know? Especially if, like I did, you find yourself actually living much closer to a farm than you expected, and get lulled to sleep at night by the sound of cows mooing and awoken every morning by a peacock doing a stunningly good impression of a baby screaming.

The image I get in my head is of a slightly anthropomorphic peacock rearing its head back and just letting fly, howling its lungs out. It's both fucking creepy and hysterical as hell.

So why don't you kill me? 

(When I was running the GREAT LOSERS GIVEAWAY, that title was the title of about half the e-mails I received. As if I didn't hate the song enough already.)

Augie De Blieck, Jr. discusses The Losers: Ante Up over at CBR. He's pretty spot-on with his assessment:

THE LOSERS is a great action/adventure/spy piece. It rarely slows down, pushing the gas pedal to the floor and taking the reader along for a wonderful ride. The gun play gets more amped up, the explosions become more bombastic, and the chase scenes conjure up visions of Bond movies. Simply put, THE LOSERS is the perfect comic book to be translated to a major motion picture, but would sadly break the budget of any movie studio that tried to. There's just that much going on here.


Andy Diggle writes some great moments, keying off the ludicrous situations the characters find themselves in, combined with the simplified character traits they display. Take particular notice of the first issue for the series. It's a great example of how a comic book series should begin. The story is complete in the first issue. You have a great idea what the general tone and theme of the series is. And you're introduced to the characters on the fly, usually by their actions and not some clunky block of text next to their first closeup. The first issue makes you want to read more, and not out of any obligation.

Pretty much. Augie's got some harsh words for Jock, the artist, but I'd have to say that comes more from Augie's traditionally being, um, a bit of a stick in the mud traditionalist about things. Me, I think the art is fun and kinetic, and thus perfectly serves the needs of the story.

Then, and this is why I love Augie so much, he has the amazing ability to attach politics to anything:

Diggle's also obviously British. British writers, after all, specialize in writing stories with paranoid American government conspiracies. I wonder if they teach that in the textbooks over there as retaliation for losing a war almost 230 years ago?

Uh, right. The British (especially it's 20-something writers) are bitter about the fucking American Revolution. I wonder if he thinks young writers in Spain are still aching over the Spanish-American War?

Could be, that having someone inside the CIA be a rotten egg (important distinction Augie overlooks: it's one bad apple and his cronies inside of the CIA that's bad, not the entire government) comes from the 50+ years of history wherein the CIA propped up and shot down governments all over the world from the shadows.

Or, you know, it makes for a fun story. It is possible to tell a fun story that uses a conspiracy premise to set a certain tone, you know. No, really. Seriously, I really do love Augie, but this kind of thing makes me scratch my head.

Anyway. No reason not to buy the book. It's only $10.

Get up and ride like I was Steven McQueen. 

Do you want some music that'll maybe fuck your head a little?

Lyrics that can be sad, or funny, or dry, or a little bit beautiful?

Maybe just some angry-fun chaotic guitar rock with a howling, sarcastic vocalist?

I present to you Mondo Generator.

I've been listening to this CD (A Drug Problem That Never Existed, on which the first song is titled "Meth, I Hear You Callin'," in case you had any doubts these guys maybe did some drugs) off and on for about four weeks, and it's not gotten old yet. I won't quote lyrics at you, because I fucking hate when people do that; they always come off limp and contrived without the context of the rest of the song.

Just trust me.

(If you're going to be cheap about it and hit up some BitPass or something, look for the songs "Like You Want," "Four Corners," and "Day I Die." You can't go wrong.)

Let me count the ways. 

There's a lot going on here that's totally wrong, but really, one thing above all else is bugging me.

Why are her high-heeled mega-boots, so practical for cat thievery to begin with, open-toed?

Monday, April 26, 2004

Strikes again. 

I am told that Indy Magazine has just put up its latest edition, focusing mainly on the republication of David Mazzucchelli's adaptation of City of Glass. It's got about eleventy special features going -- the republication, I mean -- and it seems worth taking a look at.

Of interest is the interview with Mazzucchelli (easily the second-greatest surname in comics, right behind his co-adaptor Bill Kartalopoulos) with some page samples and breakdowns.

I'd say more but, uh, I'm reading the damn site.

NEWS THAT IS NOT NEWS: I am a moron. Kartalopoulos is the interviewer, not the co-adaptor. The proper credit goes to Paul Karasik as co-adaptor, along with Mazzucchelli.

You still have a pretty cool surname, Bill.

Now accepting donations. 

I'd seen an ad for these Universal Monster DVD collections, but I didn't know they were doing that mega-set for $80.

You can make your checks out to "Ken Fuckin' Lowery."

I got no idea why they decided to put in that fucking Phillip Glass score on Dracula. It reminds me of the time a friend gave me a copy of Nosferatu on DVD, as scored by a seemingly random selection of Type O Negative songs. I appreciated the sentiment (of the gift), but can't we just watch movies how they were meant to be seen?

(Link thanks to the comments over at Eat More People.)

The truly strange. 

Fantasy is the genre that is both the most promising and most stunted, unproductive genre in all of fiction.

Case in point: When I said "fantasy," what came to mind? Swords and wizards and elves? Maybe dragons? Great Horrible Undead Hordes That Must Be Vanquished By A Band Of Plucky Multi-Racial, Multi-Talented Characters With Verbs And Colors For Names?

(Before you get all pissy, the "racial" in "multi-racial" is in reference to elves, dwarves, hobbits and other such nonsense.)

That's the problem with fantasy. You say the name and everyone thinks of one very small part of it; in this case, stuff like Lord of the Rings is considered "sword and sorcery" fantasy but fills most peoples' minds as the prime example of what the genre is and can offer. That would be like saying the only kind of drama there is are cop dramas, or that slasher flicks are all that horror has to offer. J.R.R. Tolkein may be modern fantasy's greatest hero, but I believe he is also its greatest enemy.

Then something truly strange and original comes down the pike, and I remember what fantasy should be. This time around it was Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden, written by Dave Roman and drawn by John Green.

Jax (short for Jacqueline) Epoch is your average 16 year old girl, if a bit of a recluse: she prefers books to human company, and only sticks with her current boyfriend because he's pretty cute. Her frustration with the world seems to come from the realization (typical for that age and thereabouts) that the real world usually isn't as interesting as the ones you read in books by half.

It only takes 7 pages before this book starts fucking your brain. Jax has followed her boyfriend and his group of ne'er-do-wells into a lab facility, presumably to vandalize and investigate, when she finds herself chasing a runaway lab rabbit (hint, hint) and stumbling through a gateway into...

Oh, but I don't really want to tell you. Finding out what the hell is going on, page by page, is really half the fun of it; as I was reading this book, the logic centers in my brain were screaming to piece together what the hell is going on, while the rest of me was having a blast. And this realization, right on the heels of that: This is what good fantasy should be. A pleasant disorientation as new and wonderous sights are presented to you page by page, stacking up in a half-mad configuration you know should make sense, if only you had the proper reference point to go by.

Roger Ebert once said that there was more imagination and innovation filling up the corners of the Mos Eisley cantina scene in Star Wars than there was in almost every sci-fi and fantasy movie since then. I would argue the same is true for Jax Epoch. Yes, there's some winks and nods to previous fantasy greats, such as the "chasing the white rabbit" sequence, but overall the final product is something new and innovative and heading toward (if not quite at) daring.

There are so many sights, so many characters, so many new proper nouns to learn, such a wild sense of setting and character design, and little throwaway moments of sheer oddity that you'll barely have time to catch your breath before the next new weird/stunning/humorous/odd/quirky thing comes along.

No, this isn't to say this book is just page after page of Roman's and Green's ids stamping themselves on the page; there's a real story here, a real spin, a real through-line informing every twist and every turn and every new seemingly random event. The fun is in finding it.

Jax herself is well fleshed out, which is critical. So many genre stories want to give us a cipher of a main character, perhaps assign a Hallmark card philosophy or a lame "shortcoming" to give them depth, and then expect the setting to do the rest. Not here. Jax has a wholly-formed personality, and all the quirks and foibles you'd expect of someone her age. More importantly, she works her way through what's going on the way someone like her would, rather than just going with what the plot demands. Her casual kleptomania, a personality that flicks between dreamy and pragmatic with ease -- all of it matters, all of it factors in, and all of it makes sense.

Quick question: Was it intentional to make Jax resemble Scott McCloud in some of these panels, especially early on? The big round empty glasses with black frames, the plaid flannel shirt... it was a little eerie.

Anyway. I loved it. Could you tell?

Here's a bit more info. Then Buy it.

Der Chicken Checken. 

Fresh new Chick Check served up with a side of fries, this time focusing on last week's DC haul.

The Rose & Thorn thing has me confused. Not about the quality of the series, no -- I've always felt it to be pretty subpar, because I just know Simone has it in her to tell a good, serious, psychological story. This just ain't it.

What confuses me is the covers. You've got your trying-to-be-deep psychological thriller and every cover has a redhead in a green PVC Frederick's of Hollywood outfit usually involved in some sort of erotic bloodplay. It's not that I'm offended or whatever, hooray cheesecake, I'm just... well, as I said before.. I'm confused. Does not compute.

The rundown. 

Hours in a weekend, from midnight Saturday morning to midnight Sunday night: 48.

Hours I slept in said weekend: 5.

Hours I slept it off in this morning: 12.

That about evens things out, right? Later on I'll do a post about 24 Hour Comic Day in general, and what it did for me, as well as a review for Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Tropical Punch. 

So you know how there's those titles that you never heard of before, and then suddenly you see a couple blogs/message boards/whatever bring them up in passing, and then more and more people start talking about it, and the next thing you know they've cast the actor for the lead in the movie adaptation? And you still don't even have the damn scoop on what the title's about, yet?

That's Hawaiian Dick by Clay Moore, for me. I'd heard all this stuff about Johnny Knoxville (my assessment: give the man a chance) being cast as the main character, that this is a Must Read series, and so on and so forth. But shit, I have a lot of Must Read titles on my list, okay? It's hard keeping it all in order, and remembering to ask about them all when I'm at my DM store.

And gods bless it if it doesn't come up outta nowhere when I'm throwing e-mails back and forth with Larry Young (I am not yet comfortable with calling him Uncle Lar, because that is totally a John Wayne Gacy alter-ego name waiting to happen). He points me here, to his forum on Delphi, and whadya know.

Questions answered.

24 Hour Comic Day: Completion. 

It's now 8 AM, CST, Sunday morning. I'm done.

22 pages of script, not 24. I could pad it up if I wanted, but I'm pretty satisfied with the ending. It's just 22 pages of script, mind you; I've only got 12 pages of storyboards, and no "finished" art. I can't do finished art. I can't do art at all, actually.

The story's not half bad. Kind of grim, but that's what I'm into, really. If you're curious, e-mail me (link up there in the top left) and ask, and I'll send you a copy. I'd rather not just post it, because I have enough of an ego to think someone might steal the script and go off and make millions (or, perhaps, dozens) with it.

I'll probably write some neato lengthy post about the experience, yadda yadda, artsy fartsy, but now is not the time. It's 8am, I've been awake for roughly eleventy trillion decades, and I have 2 hours of sitting around ahead of me before I have to actually prepare to be anywhere.

So now's not the time for fancy extrapolation. Now is the time for some goddamn Bacon Egg N' Cheese biscuits from McD's.

Talk at ya later.

24 Hour Comic Day: 17 Hours and Counting. 

I'm still alive. I've got 19 pages done, I'm flying toward the end of this thing, and I had to take a break to play some Doom 2 or I was going to go fucking crazy and start hurting some people.

I have now been awake for almost a day, going on a low amount of (bad) sleep, taking the occasional break to read the first Skyape TPB (THE ROOMMATE bought it, since he liked Skyape: Waiting For Crime so much.)

I almost gave in. At about 3am, I truly, genuinely was ready to give it up and get some goddamn sleep. But Wil stayed online with me as my lifeline, and saw me through that bad patch. Told me to pump my veins full of caffiene and keep on trucking.

And for that I will always hate him. Thank you for encouraging me to prolong this torture, you evil son of a bitch.

More to come.

24 Hour Comic Day: Toward the End of Hour 15. 

And I'm 15 pages in, actually. Typing that out made me feel a bit better. I've found my second wind, I think -- or at least a delirium-inspired dementia that passes for creative writing. This'll just be a script, folks, and 12 pages of storyboarding.

Sorry if you're disappointed. I realize I fell asleep about 25 hours ago, the last time I went to sleep.

Been up for 20 hours now. Won't be going to sleep till probably 10pm CST tonight.


24 Hour Comic Day: Halfway There. 

I've done 12 pages.

I've given up all hope of having a finalized product, and I think I'm going to have to be satisfied with having 24 pages of (very) rough storyboard along with 12 pages of finalized script. The process I'm using is, I think, unusual: I do the storyboard first, and then write the script from that. I suppose it helps to visualize the panels and arrangements if I actually draw it out on the page.

This is probably not interesting.

And those peanut butter cookies are seriously messing with my stomach. I have a mild headache and I'm sweaty, even though the A/C's on.

Somehow, I think I caught malaria from 24 Hour Comic Day.

24 Hour Comic Day: 12 Hours In. 

Well, 15 minutes shy of 12 hours.

I'm taking a break to make cookies.

Yeah, I'm delirious.

ADDENDUM: I totally have a dozen peanut butter cookies, now. It's sweet.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

24 Hour Comic Day: End of Hour 10 

My hand is about to fall right the fuck off. Drawing hurts. Writing hurts. Typing hurts.

This is not a good sign.

Stopped yawning, though.

24 Hour Comic Day: Hours 1 - 8. 

Let's start this with how my day was going right up until I began the comic writing festival:

Got about 4 hours of sleep last night. Couldn't sleep, too anxious about miscellany, HUGE lightning storm outside with pounding thunder, and had to get up at like 7am so I could go off and do a charity thing. Help restock, reshelve, and organize a public library. Did that till about 12:30, got some lunch (no caffiene, none was available), came home. Already yawning. Not a good sign.

Sat down and started brainstorming at 1:30 CST today. I admit I already had a germ of an idea I'd been discussing with Xe (at great length) awhile ago. I find that, given those discussions, and some handy books I have on related topics, I hack out a (very rough) outline in like 10 minutes.

So far, so good.

I head downstairs, away from the infernal computing machine, to sit in relative silence (iPod, game soundtrack remixes, and Faith No More to drown out ambient noise) and start hacking it out, page by page. The basic idea is that I'm going to storyboard the comic and then actually go back and try to do GOOD drawings, which is a laff and a half, since I can't draw a convincing straight line. After I draw the "good" stuff (on boards, the kind you use to bag comics, thought it'd make a nice touch), I'd type up and print out all the dialogue and caption narration because my handwriting blows goats for quarters. Good plan.

Still yawning. Bad news: I'm low on Coca Cola. Shitty Planning 1, Ken Lowery 0.

The rest goes fairly smoothly. First page comes out in about 15 minutes. Second page has a good general idea, and 3 of 5 panels drawn. All panels with the narration. Going pretty fast; I start to think I'll actually pull this off.

Then I get to a major dialogue scene. In toto, this dialogue scene, between two characters at a diner, takes 3 pages of comic book. I suddenly gain immense respect for artists like Steve Dillon and Pia Guerra, who flawlessly and unnoticably add dynamic flow to stuff like two dudes sitting in a diner fucking talking. How do you keep that shit fresh and visually interesting for three pages?

I'm no artist, so I can't do neato three-quarters elevated angles on the conversers, so I'm stuck with profile pictures of one or both people, dead-on shots, and one panel I'm rather proud of: A fork hovers over a bite of food, as one guy asks the other, "Gonna eat that?" ...before the real meat of the conversation carries on. A nice pause.

Five hours in, I need a fucking break. I'm chewing on my pencil like crazy, sharpening it when it doesn't need sharpening, forced to a standstill at the end of this GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING DINER TALKING SCENE.

I'm yawning like crazy.

So me and the roomie head to Zeus to buy some shit. They're reducing the store size, so they're liquidating a bunch of stock, and I needed the time off to let my brain relax. We go to Zeus, we grab some Wendy's, we come back, we watch some Chapelle's Show, and I get back into it.

Except I can't. I'm stuck again. And The L Word is on Showtime, and these chicks are fucking each other about every 5 minutes. Naked. Heaving. Tongues everywhere. I could change the channel, but... sweaty naked lesbian love, man. This isn't the fake-tits-fake-tan-fake-blonde lesbian porn they make for guys. This is lesbian sex filmed for lesbians, which is so much better. Not even Mike Patton can stop me from watching that stuff.

So here I am. Updating you. And I'm about to head back into the trenches.

Start your engines. 

It's 24 Hour Comic Book writing time.

So you probably won't be hearing from me for the rest of the day unless I need a break, or something.

Wish me luck.


Couple of things:

1) We know that Marvel does not send out comp copies to online journalist types, and they have every reason in the world not to do that. Frankly, that's a large chunk of your audience you'd just be giving shit away free to, and what's to stop some jackhole from starting up a site just to score free comics (like.. say... me?)


2) Also remember that a little while ago Marvel cited Mile High Comics as their favored vendor because they move a shitload of Marvel titles. This was decried as usual by blogging types, though I felt at the time that it showed a sort of grassroots support thing. Show the DM a little love.


Witness Mile High getting a full-issue preview of Brian K. Vaughan's Ultimate X-Men.

Witness Mile High also getting a full-issue preview of Quesada's Daredevil mini.

This seems to be going above and beyond simply rewarding some DM stores. This looks like... an unhealthy brand of favoritism.

Could be jumping at shadows. Highly likely that I'm jumping at shadows.

But still.

(Thanks to THE ROOMMATE for finding that X-Men preview, and Thought Balloons for the DD one.)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Follow-up (advertising woes). 

Dave at Intermittent (the one who kicked off all this talk) responds to his responders with some interesting and absolutely true thoughts about the state of the industry, specifically that of our "journalists."

Right now, comics journalism online and off seems to consist of interviews, previews, sales charts, rampant speculation in the absence of fact, and guys talking about stupid toys. There's no one following the writers and artists, no one consistently keeping check on the various EIC's, no one looking at marketing trends and revenue. If we had competent journalists working as journalists in this field, we'd have seen this Icon thing coming 4 months ago.

At least Comics Continuum has the balls to strip away all pretense and just be what it is: A Press Release Factory.

The rest of the quasi-journalists, they take what the company gives us, thank them for that, and run back to the rest of us to fill us in on what scraps got thrown to us from the table. For a real journalist, that's not enough. The fact that most of our "news" comes from rumor mills like Lying in the Gutters says to me that publishers have erected a wall between themselves and the readers, and that we, as readers, are satisfied with that. That we'll accept that, and let them jerk us around and wait like obedient lapdogs for the next morsel to fall.

I would prefer we avoid the kind of trash journalism rampant on TV stations like E! and VH1, but at least journalism focused on the movie industry has some kind of equality with their subjects. They're respected, treated like humans, and sometimes feared by the moguls of Tinseltown, and even the most casual movie-goer can find out what movies will be released one, two, or even three years from now.

No such luck in comics journalism. The publishers, at least the large ones, have made their decision that we're not really worth the time and have kept us on a need-to-know basis. This hurts them and it hurts us. Treating the reporting half of the comics community like servants is exactly what keeps the comic book art form a "hobby" instead of, well, instead of an "art form." We cannot be perceived as big business if we are not treated as big business on all sides of the game.

Don't get me wrong: This isn't me laying the blame at the feet of the Big Two alone. No. Our news sites are pitiful and we've allowed them to be pitiful and we haven't kicked them in the ass enough to strive for more. It's gotten to the point, for me, where news sites are barely even relevant anymore -- I just go to blogs for all my news now, and end up as well-informed as anyone who lives and breathes Newsarama and CBR. The cults of personality that have popped up because of blogs have, strangely enough, yielded more results in continuous news coverage of the comics world than the relatively faceless news sites. Wonder why that is. (Not rhetorical; I really don't know.)

Tired of it.

ADDENDUM: This, an article about the potential ramifications of Gaiman vs. MacFarlane, is the kind of journalism we should expect more often from our news sites. I know Newsarama never claims to be a "news" site... interestingly, since "news" is right there at the front of the title.. but that's still one of the finer pieces of actual journalism I've seen come out of any comic news site in awhile.

Well, that's just super. 

Johanna Draper Carlson has come to the blogosphere, which is like another nail in the coffin of my relevance. When all these fancy "qualified writers" show up with their "interesting topics" and "new ideas," I can feel my grasp on you subliterate monkeys slipping bit by bit.

Damn you, Johanna.

And welcome! The Chick Check alone is worth the price of admission.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Nice, ain't it? 

You might have noticed that there's been a slight change around here. A bit of a.. cosmetic upgrade. Something tasty.

Shane is responsible for the beautiful tableau of colors you see before you, that wonderful masthead up there, for the lovely font of my lovely blog, and for the general assembly of neatness.

Wil is responsible for the little devil bastard named Pinche Cochino. Those who know Spanish... know what that means.

These are men of vision who wasted their time to please YOUR retinas. Give them praise and visit their sites.

This is so beautiful I could splooge all over your mother.

Holy SHIT! 

From Eat More People, I find this link to Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Dark Days etc.) doing his spin on Ghost Rider.

It. Is fucking. Gorgeous.

Worth reading. 

Fanaticism is the ultimate enemy of mankind.

Incredibly enlightening. Thomas Jefferson quotes never get old.

(From the blog with the name that reminds me of that damn Fiona Apple album, Once I Realized I Was On Fire I Relaxed and Decided to Enjoy the Fall. I assure you the actual blog is not annoying at all, and that Fiona Apple should die a pauper's death.)

Pushin' up Daisies. 

Kazu Kibuishi gets himself interviewed over at Paperback Reader, about his upcoming mini Daisy Kutter: The Last Train. They also can't seem to decide how to spell his name.

Here's a segment I know will interest Jeff:

Q: When I first heard of Daisy Kutter, I was expecting a typical Western book with gunfights and bar brawls. Instead, a lot of the tension comes from an often-overlooked aspect of the Western story: the poker table. Are you an avid card player?

A: (Laughing) Oh yeah. I love playing Texas Hold 'Em, and I think it shows in this first issue. And no, before you ask, I have not watched the World Series of Poker, but I am familiar with it. In fact, it's probably the reason my friends pulled me into the game. I've been hooked on it ever since.

On the tone of the book:

Q: For the remaining issues, can readers expect to find the action and drama in more unlikely places, such as Daisy’s inner struggles, or will there be plenty of gunfights and fisticuffs?

A: I'm glad you caught that about the first issue — that there isn't a single shot fired or a punch thrown. I promise there will be plenty of action down the line, but I want the readers to feel there's something at stake when it all goes down. Man, I WANT to feel it myself when I have to write and draw all those panels!

Seriously, when I started this project, I really wanted to base everything around the emotions and not just the cool action. I would not have tackled this project if it weren't for the intense conflict going on in Daisy's head during all of this stuff. Her problems make her such an interesting character to write, and she's been the most complex one I have written thus far. And, it only gets more complex as it goes. (laughs)

Color me there.

Fun with Legos. 

No, not vengeance.


(Lego thingy link and lunch assistance from Wil.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Interblog Dialogue. 

(Hey, that rhymes!)

Dave over at The Intermittent speculates on just what it is that causes titles to sink: Is it really the lack of advertising or knowledge, or simply the preference of the fans in action?

So how can it be a failure of advertising when good comics die? How many of the hundred thousand or so regular comics readers out haven't heard that Sleeper is a good comic? Can there really be that many? This isn't snark; I'm really curious. Is the problem really, pace Steven Grant, that folks aren't finding out about good comics....or is it that the people who make up the bulk of the direct market simply have very different ideas then the comics cognoscenti as to what constitutes a "good comic?"

I suspect it might be the latter. And this is not a slam on the direct market; the market is what it is. And while I'd love it if tons of others shared my loves, I don't see divergent tastes as evidence of moral failure. Different strokes, and all that. But pinpointing why a book like WildC.A.T.S. v. 3.0 didn't sell is important, if only so its mistakes can be avoided (assuming that's possible). Maybe a lack of advertising really is to blame, at least in part. Before we accept that as recieved wisdom, though, let's make sure it's true.

The "received wisdom" part was linked to my entry regarding helping out titles while they're still alive, the one where I assigned my readers to go out and buy an issue of Lone and Runaways.

Dave's onto something, but first I want to clarify what my received wisdom was.

I agree with Steven Grant that retroactive activism is a waste of time and doesn't serve any real purpose. It's kvetching for the sake of kvetching, and lord knows us online comics fans love to bitch. I simply want them to take a more active role in the health of the titles they love.

I do believe that advertising now is greater than it probably ever has been, in the comics community. Back up: that's true, to a degree. How often do you see Fables advertised in Superman/Batman? Not very bloody often, that's what. Part of that is advertising to the demographic; part of that is a willful ghettoizing of titles. This is a reductive system: if you advertise Vertigo titles only to Vertigo readers, it stands to reason your base readership isn't really going to grow, is it?

Yes, there are the retarded segment of the fanboys that wear their aversion to anything new proudly on their sleeves. Yes, there are insufferable snobs on the other end of the spectrum, sniffing their noses at anything with a cape on the cover, foretelling the End of Comics As We Know It whenever they see another Wolverine guest appearance. These people are equally as backwards as the fanboys; their drug of choice (to the exclusion of all else) is simply different. Same shit, different pile.

Those people resist change like no other, and remain insular to the point of creative death. But they are the extreme minority, repeat EXTREME MINORITY of the comic book fanbase, the two opposing points on the spectrum. There's a fuckton of parity in between those two points, of people who read 90% superhero books and maybe a little bit of Planetary, to the guy who reads nothing but AiT/PlanetLar's booklist with a little dash of Batman for seasoning. There's something for every taste in the comics world, but not all of it is getting equal shelf space in every DM store from coast to coast.

So I don't know that the argument that "the market is what it is" is enough for me.

Let's say, as a hypothetical, public television is absolutely nothing but cop dramas. If you want a little bit of variety, maybe some law dramas and hospital dramas, you get your basic cable installed for a bit of a fee and a bit of a hassle. If you really want some variety, maybe some comedies, some horror, and so on and so forth, you have to get premium cable, for a larger fee and a greater hassle.

And if you want every possible bit of fiction and nonfiction alike, you have to get some mega-service, like 500 channels of cable or satellite TV. This costs you installation fees, absurd monthly fees, the hassle of dealing with service changes, changing rates, and a lot of extra baggage besides.

It's feasible that a person with nothing but cop dramas wants more out of his TV, but he doesn't have the time, patience, and/or available service to get more. The market is what it is, sure, but willing customers are also limited by outside factors. Have you seen the crap on the three networks lately? Does any of that speak to you? Does it speak to the majority of the people you know?

Most likely the answer is "no." But you have to deal with it, because that's what takes up the most space and gets the most exposure.

I would also say that Dave's argument is based on the assumption that every single comic book fan is tapped into the blogosphere, news sites, and Wizard magazine on a regular basis. I say this isn't so. How many regulars do you know on message boards and blogs? Maybe a thousand, in all? Two thousand? The major blogs (such as Fanboy Rampage) get about 800 unique visitors a day -- a miniscule percentage of the estimated couple hundred thousand comic book readers.

We are not all tapped into the pulse of the industry, due in part to sheer ignorance of the matter or willful avoidance. I would suggest that the online talkers, like us, are the extreme minority of fandom.

The rest just don't know about Rocket Comics. Or Oni. Or Avatar. The DM stores don't advertise them and in many cases can't afford to give them shelf space. So they're not talking about them, and their shoppers never learn. The "the market is what it is" argument presupposes that every single comic book buyer knows everything there is to know and acts on it accordingly. I do not believe this is the case. They just need exposure.

Which is where what I was talking about earlier today comes into play: comics advocacy. If you like something, spread the word. The response I got from people over the GREAT LOSERS GIVEAWAY was enough proof to me that there's comic fans and non-comic fans alike who want to see something new and different, and were almost searching for an excuse to try out a new title they knew nothing about.

People are not ignorant unless you treat them as ignorant.

Which is what, I think, most comic book companies do, unconsciously. They aren't trying to snare new fans; they're trying to keep the same fans in circulation on similar titles. There's no growth, and no organized push for growth. So, bit by bit, that's what me and my good buddies are trying to do. Create awareness. Create growth. Reach new audiences. Spread the word.

And you know what?

It works.

ADDENDUM: Rick over at Eat More People chimes in with his two cents, and it's worth taking a gander at. Us bloggers get lucid and prolific in the wee hours of the morning, don't we?

ADDENDUM, PART DEUX: Shane chimes in with his thoughts on the advertising/market debate, taking more of a center role (being that Shane is a rational person.) Interesting thoughts, and a quick analysis of what a gaming magazine's ads look like compared to the ads in a comic book. It's enlightening.

NeilAlien also chimes in and, in his usual style, summarizes everything perfectly in like a paragraph. That bastard.

(Whew. Kind of went off on a rant there, didn't I? Don't get me wrong, Dave -- I'm not pissed at you or something, not even close. You said something provocative, and I responded. Bravo.)

The Haul. 

And what I thought, because mine is the Only Opinion That Matters:

Rich Johnston's Holed Up #1 -- In order to have successful satire, you must have a recognizable target shown, bit by bit, to be totally and completely insane. Rich Johnston skips all that tough setup stuff, took some notes from The Unfunnies while completely missing the point, and slapped on a half-assed sitcom look and feel (stolen from Natural Born Killers, I'd wager) to bring us what is supposed to be a caustic look at some of the nuttier aspects of American life. Instead, all we get is a comic book of caricatures that's just pretty lame and aimless, and leaves me asking that deadliest of questions: "What's the point?"

Rating: Won't make that mistake again.

The Walking Dead #6 -- Grim, grim, grim. We've reached that inevitable point in the Zombie Apocalypse Survivors story where the chain of survivors distintegrates link by link. This could be overwrought, but Kirkman has a knack for taking old conventions and finding something new to do with them. In the process, he gleans new truths out of old stories. The ending's a bit heavy-handed, but I'll grant Kirkman that after all the fine, fine work he's turned out on this series so far. And I will sorely miss Tony Moore when he is gone.

(Though what I've seen of Charlie Adlard's work is trés impressive, and far moodier than Moore's work.)

Rating: Zombie-rific.

Lone #6 -- Thus ends one of the quirkiest, oddest, and most interesting mini-series on the market. It's a fairly standard action ending to an action title, with some fairly standard conventions on who dies and who doesn't, but these characters are sharply drawn and its villain so easily hateable that you have no choice but to be sucked in. The whole series is highly recommended, and I'm eager to see if it'll be collected into a TPB.

Rating: Sad to see it go. We shall miss you, Lone.

Batman: Gotham Knights #52 -- Thank god for this series. Now that Azzarello's off the main title, to be replaced by Judd "Bleh" Winick, I was starting to wonder where I'd get my Dark Knight fix. Hush, in his much-lauded debut series, was nothing but a blank slate upon which an evil motive was placed; here, Lieberman fleshes him out as the smart, ambitious, and ruthless villain only hinted at previously. The Joker's rant about who the real power in Gotham is ("ME!") is a classic scene, and I like seeing how ol' Jokey operates, behind the one-liners and homicidal mania. This storyline, if it keeps its current course, is going to be one hell of a rumble in Gotham.

Rating: The bitch is BACK!

Robin #125 -- The much-vaunted issue where Tim Drake throws down the mantle of Robin, a sabbatical I predict will last approximately six issues (just enough to get a "NEW ROBIN!" TPB out of it) before things get back to normal. That being said, Bill Willingham can write him some dialogue, though his readily apparent skill at storytelling is hampered by De La Fuente's complete disregard of anatomy, angles, perspective, and consistent character design. An interesting diversion overall.

Rating: Just stick to the dialogue balloons.

Fraction #1 -- Another strong title out of the DC Focus stable. The superheroic conceit featured in this title is that classic mainstay, the powersuit. Except: not just one average joe stumbles across it, but four of them, old buddies and part-time losers all. There's a clever (if overt) usage of color to indicate how each of these four friends regard this new wildcard in their life, and I can only hope the morality at work doesn't stay so cut and dry.

Rating: Definite, definite potential. Pick it up and give it a try.

Reviews for Daredevil #59, Runaways #14, and Ultimate Spider-man #57 later on. Probably tomorrow.

In the Beating A Joke to Death department... 

Maybe your junk is getting a little uppity? Maybe a little too big? Mayhap you need some help from these guys?

Or maybe you're unclear as to what this "in the junk" business is all about. Luckily, someone has posted a step-by-step display of what it means to be Kicked in the Junk.

Like so:

(Blame Shane.)


Just how unique do you think you are?

Want to find out?

If it turns out you are... there are professionals who can help.

(Thank you for participating in Adventures in Corporate Schillhood.)

Best column in comics. 

Steven Grant talks about cancellations, along with many other topics.

Shane quotes this very same paragraph, but I believe it bears reiterating. This is why we did something like the Great Losers Giveaway, and why we'll continue to run giveaways like that in the very near future for other Titles In Trouble:

Recently the comics world was "rocked" by the sudden cancellation of Wildstorm's WILDCATS 3.0 and STORMWATCH:ACHILLES, despite a recent high-profile crossover that involved both books with on-off hit THE AUTHORITY and another tenuous but highly-regarded title, SLEEPER, and brought a sales bounce to them. Both brought new ideas and new takes to the well-trod superhero genre. WILDCATS 3.0 was a unique attempt to upgrade superbeings to a corporate environment. STORMWATCH:ACHILLES was a highly politicized series about paramilitary human response to super-action. Both were well done. Both had audiences. And only an idiot would be surprised by the cancellations.

Because, good as they were, they weren't selling.

Bitching and moaning won't do it. Lamenting it all after the fact, saying the comics industry is doomed after good titles get bounced -- that solves nothing and helps no one. Find new titles that are worth your time, and talk about them. Buy a few extra issues and give them to your comics-reading friends.

Is that so hard?

It's not, believe me.

Reaction is not enough in this business. It's a small business, small and insular, and incredibly hard to find safe ground for a relatively unknown product. This means you have no time to sit back and doomsay only after your title of choice gets the can. If that really is all you can offer, then please kindly shut your trap and let people with some initiative do the talking. You folks are like those professional mourners of ancient Egypt: Wailing and moaning and gnashing your teeth, lamenting the death of someone you never really cared about in the first place.

At the risk of coining a cheesy phrase, turn your reaction into action. Take the initiative, for once.

Your assignment: Buy Runaways #14 and Lone #6. No questions asked, just DO IT. If it intrigues you, and you want to know more, BUY THE OTHER ISSUES. If you still like them, then buy a couple more for your friends (you can spare $5 for your buddies, right?)

That is the first step to affecting change.

Move. You have your orders.

"Tonight I'm just gonna help you get rid of these bodies..." 

Johnny Dynamite: Underworld is a blast. It's the kind of book that makes me want to recite the James Ellroy "perverts, pederasts, and panty-sniffers" routine (which I know by heart, scarily enough). It makes me want to soak in some bad 50's monster movies. It makes me want to crack open some Mickey Spillane, and maybe swing a gold watch by its chain while I do it.

And, strangely, it makes me want to watch From Dusk Till Dawn. While you read the plot summary, see if you can figure out why.

Like any decent detective story, it all starts because of a dame. She's blonde (of course), she's leggy (duh), she's a soiled dove with a heart of gold (natch.) This particular blonde is an old fling of the titular private eye, now starring in movies funded by Vegas mafioso Tony Mal. Tony Mal beats her, she runs to Dynamite, Dynamite runs back to Mal, takes care of business, comes back to the girl, finds out she's dead, takes out Mal, and takes out Mal's boy what killed the blonde.

Or so we think...

In a truly twisted, truly memorable sequence, Mal's hitman (Freddie Faust) wanders the desert Dynamite dumped him in, gutshot and dying, until he stumbles upon a nightclub tableau worthy of any bar in Hollywood, circa 1955, bartended by none other than the Lord of Darkness. Faust, because it's in his goddamn name, cuts a deal with El Diablo -- near-immortality and a clean slate to work his dastardly mob magic. Faust gets the know-how to create an army of zombie mobsters to do his bidding, Tony Mal's old empire, and two caveats to all of this: Don't use supernatural muscle overtly, and be careful of the one man who can kill you.

No points for guessing who that is.

What follows is a cofidently spun tale of mobster shootouts, zombie attacks, blonde beddings, and good old-fashioned hardboiled PI narration set to the soothing lines of Terry Beatty's so-50's-you-could-choke artistry. That said, I've got to agree with Johnny Bacardi's assessment of the occasional stiffness of Beatty's work; you get the sense of mannequins posing in some panels, rather than smooth, natural human motion. For me, this is a minor problem. Except for a few semi-sloppy two-page action sequences early on, Beatty does his part in storytelling in a pretty conventional but completely mastered style. Max Allan Collins has complete control over the pacing of his story, moving along at a steady pace neither zippy nor plodding. Combine those two talents and you have a hell of a spine to build a story on.

I got a lot of joy out of this book. I rather liked the parallels between the genre clashings presented, and that every blonde bombshell in the story worked on movies that had pretty much the same material; and maybe it's just the schlock horror fan in me, but damn if the mobster-zombie elements weren't done in a pretty competent and, in this story's own rules, completely convincing manner.

It all comes back to that nightclub scene in the desert, for me. A ninety-degree turn in genre like this one has can be death for a narrative, but the sheer oddity of the tuxedoed Satan and his pitch is such an amusing (and ballsy) spectacle that you can't help but keep turning the pages, if for no other reason than to see what the hell Collins has up his sleeve next. And before you know it, you're seeing mobster zombies and nodding your head, like it makes sense or something.

And damned if it doesn't, too.

Rating: Buy it right the fuck now. This bad boy's only $13, and I'd gladly pay $20.

A Grim eulogy. 

Last communique from Graeme of Fanboy Rampage before he goes off to the wild blue yonder of the Grand Canyon. Less a single column and more just a smattering of thoughts, it's still a pretty damn good read. Observe:

What seems to be happening at Wildstorm is that DC – or that particular imprint at DC, anyway – are now starting to follow Marvel’s lead more than a little bit. Not only are they seemingly culling the lower-selling titles (with Authority being relaunched with a creative team that will make a lot of people very happy, and Sleeper surviving due to good sales in trade format), but if rumors are to be believed, Wildcats may be relaunched again as a mainstream superhero title, with the characters back in superhero costumes and going back to the simpler world of Good Versus Evil… just like Marvel are doing with their X-Men franchise. It’s an interesting route to take, if that is what’s going on; they’re definitely following the money by retracing the steps of American comics’ most successful franchise, but how much of that success is down to reader apathy and buying what they know, and how much is down to the actual content is always up for debate. And it’s not as if Wildstorm’s Gen13 revamp, which took the concept into much more old school superteam territory (and was written by X-Men Reload’s chief architect, Chris Claremont) was a big success…

(From Broken Frontier.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"Raspberry! Only one man would dare use that flavor..." 

Lifted wholesale from EW.com:

The release of ''Star Wars: Episode III'' is still more than a year away, but in five months, you can get a good idea of how baby-faced Jedi Anakin Skywalker becomes black-masked villain Darth Vader. Lucasfilm announced on Monday that the upcoming DVD set of the original ''Star Wars'' trilogy, due Sept. 21, will offer a whopping 10 hours of extras, including a preview called ''The Return of Darth Vader.'' The preview will feature George Lucas discussing Anakin's seduction by the dark side of the Force, show the new Vader costume that Hayden Christensen will wear in ''Episode III,'' and detail the preparation for the epic lightsaber battle between Christensen's Anakin and Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The DVD box will contain four discs: one disc each for ''Star Wars,'' ''The Empire Strikes Back,'' and ''The Return of the Jedi'' (complete with commentary tracks by Lucas, Carrie Fisher, and others associated with the movies), and a fourth disc of bonuses. They include a two-and-a-half-hour making-of documentary, testimonials by filmmakers influenced by ''Star Wars,'' hundreds of previously unseen production stills, and previews of two upcoming video games. That should last you until next May, no?

Excuse me while I change my pants.

A worthy cause. 

A mere $5, from the folks at T-Shirt Hell.

Buy one.

More juvenilia. 

That is some funny shit. "In the junk" is one of the greatest phrases of all time to slap on the end of a sentence. Try it!

Also good to throw onto the end of a sentence:

"In accordance with prophecy."

Usage: "I will buy a novelty-sized cookie, in accordance with prophecy."

Or, as stolen from Amazing Spider-Man #129,

"This the Jackal swears!"

Usage: "Nose hairs grow like a foot a minute, this the Jackal swears!"

(Image swiped from ChaosMonkey's Abysmal Pit, which is loads of fun to type out.)

Look, up in the sky! 

Imagine, if you will, four panels on a page, one in each corner, of equal size to the others. In the top left panel we see a distant shot of a complex of ancient Egyptian temples and monuments and gateways, and much smoke is blowing. A man dressed as a Big Bird facsimile is punching a guy in a stovepipe hat in the face.

In the top right panel, we see the entrance to a sacred temple, and a gorilla wearing shoulder armor, goggles, and a utility belt is being helped out by a woman in fox-hunting gear, who has a cybernetic arm.

Bottom left panel: A pirate has his fist reared back to punch his captor, a man dressed like a pharoah by way of the Kiss army. Both look off-panel, stunned, presumably at the gorilla and the woman with the cybernetic arm.

Bottom right panel: Close up on the gorilla and the woman. The gorilla is giving a thumbs up, because hey, why not, right?

And that, right there, is Sky Ape: Waiting For Crime. A zany and (dare I say?) madcap comic book that, at least in this installment, hits about as often as it misses. You get the impression that the writing team behind this concoction were trying just a wee bit too hard to be zany and madcap.

Let's back up: I confess I have not read the first Sky Ape collection, but this is a fairly self-contained volume, and any background information we need can be inferred or is supplied to us (such as the origin of the woman-in-riding-gear-with-cybernetic-arm, Francis.

The breakdown? Skyape is a gorilla-accountant by day, gorilla-with-jetpack by night. He can talk. He has his secret identity. He has his buddy Francis, who he secretly lusts for, and a companion (friend? ally?) and mad scientist Peyton Fenway. The problem? Rather unusual installments are showing up in ancient city structures: a spa in a pyramid, vinyl siding on the pueblos of the Anasazi, baseboard heating in the ancient cities of Peru -- someone is going back in time and installing cheap crap on ancient monuments!

I would not dream of telling you who's doing it, or why. Suffice to say the reasoning and methodology are right on par, sanity-wise, with the Kissy army pharoah.

I'm really on the fence here. A lot of the humor relies on wacky non sequitors and pop culture references, and those don't hold a lot of weight with me unless they're done really, really, really well (and sparingly). Examples:

Maintenance man: You called, sir? We're here to spray for Ted Nugent.

See? Funny. I'll be using that line for ages.

Owen Dangertooth: Sorry we're late, buddy! I was busy wiping my ass on Fred Durst!

Eh, not so much. Don't get me wrong, wiping my ass on Fred Durst is a long-held fantasy of mine, but I doubt that joke will pack any punch in three years' time. Ted Nugent, on the other hand, is immortal.

I guess the final verdict comes down to this: If I had not received this for free, I probably would not have bought it, even though it's only $6.95. Then again, perhaps this just isn't prime Sky Ape territory. My local DM store has a copy of the first TPB, so maybe I'll pick that up, see what it does for me...

A quick plug. 

Jeff over at Otto's Coffee Shop (and what's that name mean, anyway?) has some good, sharp TV reviews up. I've never heard, nor do I think I'll ever hear, a more accurate description of Al Swearengen from Deadwood's dialogue than this:

I love the way that Swearengen uses words like "fuck" and "cocksucker" the way the rest of us use "the" and "and."

I, too, hope for one day to use those words so fluently. Jeff: might I suggest that Swearengen uses the word "cunt" like we use a less-frequent but fairly common word, such as "hello"?

I'm glad they've set up Swearengen and Tolliver to have a more practical working relationship. I didn't want to see blood on the streets right away for it, because I think both saloon owners are way too smart for that. And I rather like Swearengen (bastard that he is) and would have resented some new guy coming in and just wiping him off the face of the earth five episodes in.

Best new show on television, bar none.

Just so you know. 

Someone came to this site after searching for "you're still a homo chips ponch" on Google.

Give it a try.

(Got a headlight to put into my car. After that, it's comic book blogging time.)


Taken verbatim from Rich Johnston's "Lying in the Gutters" column, so take it as you will:

Gutterati Nate Southand emails me with a "Sin City" location report from the upcoming Rodriguez/Millar movie.

"A friend of mine worked as an extra on 'Sin City' yesterday, and he had some exciting news.

"They were filming the strip club scene. Apparently, this will be the most faithful adaptation of a comic in history, because their shooting script was xeroxed copies of Sin City. They line up the camera to look like the panel, and they shoot.

"They're filming 'Sin City, That Yellow Bastard' and 'The Big Fat Kill.' The stories will be cut together 'Pulp Fiction' style. An intro starring Josh Hartnett is from 'Booze, Broads, and Bullets.'

"Mickey Rourke as Marv. They used prosthetics to make him true to the comic: square jaw, flat nose, everything.

"Nancy hasn't been cast yet. They used a stand in.

"Frank Miller is on set."

I'm not one for hyperbole (is that one right there?), but you know what? If all this is true, and if it's true that Tarantino might do a segment or two... this could be the comic book movie that finally breaks ground with the critics. Real ground. This could be The One, folks.


So I'm browsing the fancy "high-end" Marvel store, the Official One, and it's 2:30, and I notice two very funny things.

First is this, a little graphic that Reed Richards might have some complaints about:

If you're old enough to read this blog, I don't need to explain the joke.

And then there's this, described thusly:

Marvel Legends 6" Thing

Features more than 30 points of articulation and a wall-mountable display base. Stands 6” tall.

Tragically, there is no picture.

(Shut up. I cracked the hell up when I saw that stuff, and you did too.)

Monday, April 19, 2004

To Buy list. 

The Diamond list of comics shipping for Wednesday, courtesy of Johnny Bacardi (Latin hedonist!)

And what I'll be getting, because I know you're so very, very curious:

EL ZOMBO #1 (Of 3) $2.99: Full disclosure: I have no idea what this is, but that's a hell of a title.

LONE #6 $2.99: This is a mini-series, right? That's what I always thought.. if I'm incorrect in that, please let me know.

FRACTION #1 $2.50: Been bad about the Focus line. Hard Time is great, but I haven't yet touched anything else, but this one.. sounds good.

WALKING DEAD #6 (MR) $2.95: One of the best titles in comics. You have no reason for not buying this.

CABLE DEADPOOL #2 (RES) $2.99: One last chance to impress me.

RUNAWAYS #14 $2.99: A Title In Trouble. (A-TIT! Tee hee!) BUY IT! It's good loving. Can't go wrong with Vaughan.

GEORGE ROMEROS DAWN OF THE DEAD #1 (MR) $3.99: You know why. Steep price, though.

RICH JOHNSTONS HOLED UP #1 (Of 3) (MR) $3.50: Could be tacky and good, or could be tacky and bad. I'll find out.


I got the comic today, read a bunch of it, ended up at the mall later, and bought 7, 9 & 10, was pissed they didn't have 8, have to go to the comic shop for that.

love the comic, thanks.

That was from the second place guy, the one who broke his ass and let us know about it and won himself a copy of The Losers: Ante Up.

If you haven't bought it yet, what's your excuse?

Don't that just warm your bowels right up?

What he said. 

The Man speaketh:

[L]isten carefully. I support [Rush] Limbaugh's right to be on the radio. I feel it is fully equal to [Howard] Stern's. I find it strange that so many Americans describe themselves as patriotic when their values are anti-democratic and totalitarian. We are all familiar with Voltaire's great cry: ''I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.'' Ideas like his helped form the emerging American republic. Today, the Federal Communications Commission operates under an alternative slogan: ''Since a minority that is very important to this administration disagrees with what you say, shut up.''

Very good, if brief, read. I like this part:

Unlike millions of Americans, I do not listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. One reason for that is that I am usually at the movies when he's on the air -- an alternative I urge on his listeners.


Jim Treacher's haiku-review of Kill Bill 2:

In a mobile home
Swordplay is problematic
But keep an eye out

I'd just like to say I liked Volume 2 a lot more than Volume 1. It clicked. It's not as hectic and fast-paced as the first one, but that's fine; we get lots of nice, juicy dialogue to savor, and rock-solid performances from every single member of the cast. The first movie didn't have good performances so much as it had good lines delivered confidently -- but this one is a damned masterpiece.

Jim Lee on Superman. 

Interesting interview with Jim Lee over at Broken Frontier. I've come to think Jim Lee is just a really cool guy. Anyone got anything to counter that?

Anyway, there's this:

BF: How would you compare the talents of Brian Azzarello with those of your former collaborator Jeph Loeb? What does either writer bring to the table that your artistic talents can take advantage of?

JL: Both are great writers to work with. Jeph stages things more elaborately, very cinematically. Brian has a lot of the tension come through dialogue, through silent beats. I’m drawing a lot more shots where the camera is cutting back and forth between the characters or holding still on one character while he ‘acts’ out his lines. They both have a flair for the dramatic though and I consider them both not only to be some of the top writers in the field today but also good buds.

Which, well, I can only hope Lee's being diplomatic there. I guess Loeb could be considered a "top writer" because he sells so well, and Azzarello because he writes so well... anyway.

And check out how closely BF gets to asking about the cancellations of two top Wildstorm titles, and then dances right away from it again:

BF: About WildStorm, fans are heavily discussing what the new direction of the WS universe with Coup D’Etat having wrapped up. What factors do you think led to the necessity of a new course?

JL: While the books were very well received and critically acclaimed, we felt we needed some big event to make retailers and fans take notice. We felt if they gave the line a chance, they would stick around because I happen to feel the creative teams on all the Eye Of The Storm books are top notch. I think in years going forward, these will be the superhero books fans will look most fondly back on for doing very different and cutting edge work. Getting some marketing muscle and dollars out there to open the eyes to the rest of the fans was the goal and from the numbers we got, it looks like we succeeded. Now we have to continue delivering the goods and come up with other ways to make people take notice. It’s sad that a lot of the very best comics today are on the verge of cancellation.

Which would be a perfect lead-in, right? You'd think Jim Lee is giving the BF interviewer an opening to ask about the cancellations of WildCATS and Stormwatch, right? I mean, Jim Lee wasn't personally involved in the cancellations, but Wildstorm is his baby, so it would only seem logical...

Here's the next question:

BF: Is there anything you can reveal about what will be done in the next couple of months to make WildStorm bolder and better?


NEWS THAT IS NOT NEWS: I am a moron, and my reading skills today are apparently faulty. The interview took place before the announcement of the titles' cancellations. Whoops.

Now who's the dickhead.


From EW.com:

Second place, as expected, went to ''The Punisher,'' the comic-book-based thriller starring Thomas Jane, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and John Travolta, with $14 million. That's considerably lower than the $23.2 million debut of ''Hellboy'' two weeks ago. Could audiences be tiring of these comic-book flicks? With ''Spider-Man 2'' less than three months away, don't count on it.

This annoys me. El Castigador rakes in $4 million more than was anticipated, brings in Lion's Gate Films' highest opening weekend gross ever, and they bring in this shit about people "tiring of comic book movies."

Let's get something straight here: Hellboy opened up against nothing. The other releases that week were fucking Home on the Range, Walking Tall, and The Prince and Me. It did not have to open against A QUENTIN TARANTINO MOVIE. It also had twice the marketing behind it that El Castigador did.

Anyway, according to Box Office Guru, the numbers on El Castigador were pretty damn solid:

Opening in second place was another revenge-driven action film, the Lions Gate release The Punisher with an estimated $14M. The Thomas Jane-John Travolta pic averaged a solid $5,285 from 2,649 theaters despite facing competition from Kill Bill.

Ahem. I get defensive. Sorry.

(EW link provided by Fanboy Rampage.)

A miniature mindfuck. 


(I'll get to the comics in a minute.)


Doom 3.

Not sure why they're calling it Doom 3, as it appears to be a redo of Doom 1, but I don't care. It's DOOM, baby! The first game I ever bought for the computer was Wolfenstein 3D, complete with the shareware of Doom, Episode I: Knee Deep in the Dead. I remember being genuinely scared by the sound effects of distant zombies.

The pink demons still freak me out, sometimes.

And I, somehow, managed to get a beta of Doom 2 long before anyone I knew could ever get their hands on the game... and I became the coolest kid on the block. And a badass on DWANGO (anyone remember that?)

I just hope they have something in Doom 3 that's as viscerally satisfying as the sound of the double-barreled shotgun blasting nice and loud, and klik-klaking in reload.

(Link thanks to Wil.)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

A random thought. 

I'm really glad that Nazi saboteur killed the doctor who pumped Steve Rogers full of his super soldier serum.

(Lordy, did that sound homoerotic.)

Because like, the plan was, to make a BUNCH of these guys, right? A bunch of Captain Americas, running around and kicking Nazi ass. While I have no doubt that if that plan had come to fruition, these super soldiers would be kicking Hitler's head around by suppertime, what do we do with these guys afterwards? I mean we can presume they'd all have fancy neato shields, so just popping them two in the head wouldn't work out so well.

It's not like they would all be as noble and heroic as Steve Rogers, right? Even if you just injected one platoon of guys with this serum and gave them indestructible shields, that's 29 guys whose only distinguishing characteristics is that they are between the ages of 18 and 25, male, and weren't good enough for the army to throw onto the front lines as cannon fodder. And they aren't all going to conveniently get frozen in an ice floe, mister.

Can you imagine what would happen if you injected the cast of the latest Survivor with the super soldier serum, and made them super strong, super tough, tactically brilliant and functionally immortal?

Okay, how about the New York Yankees?

The anchors and anchorettes of Fox News? Bill fucking O'Reilly?

If you tell me that doesn't send shivers of fear right down your spine and into your bowels, then you, sir, are a liar.

Saturday, April 17, 2004


(That "Avast" key fucking slays me.)

Have you ever giggled like a goddamned fool? You get the giggles so hard, so fiercely, that no matter how hard you try to stop, no matter how many people stare, you just can't quite shake them?

Like when the priest cuts a mean fart during Communion? How about when your faithful dog runs smack-dab into the glass patio door, just trot-trot-trot-kaPOW? Or like that one video that was passed around in everyone's e-mail, the one of the cat clinging to a spinning ceiling fan before it gave up the ghost and flew right into a wall? Or that time when Jeff Daniels decked Lauren Holly in the face with a snowball in Dumb and Dumber? Or when a kid totally kicks some guy in the balls, and that guy makes that pop-eyed "holy jesus!" face right before he falls over?

That's Scurvy Dogs.

This is a pirate comic, and no pirate comic is complete without a colorful crew, so let me see if I can get this straight: You got the Menudo-American guy with the pet vulture (named Pete, of course), you've got the surly Irish guy who knows the difference between sea shanties and maritime tunes, you've got the old geezer who eats everything and has a handful of origin stories for his hook, and you've got the chinese guy who doesn't talk. All these guys do indeed have a pirate ship, wear eye patches and hats with the old Jolly Roger emblazoned right on the front, but these guys operate in the real world. Or, at least, the kind of "real world" that allows for vikings from the future and the King of the Hobo Mafia (he of the bitchin' cape.)


Just about every funny B&W comic I run across, I end up comparing to The Tick, and I think that in this case the comparison has some validity (if only in form and not content.) Both comics set up their own totally insane world, and both operate flawlessly within the parameters of that world. There's a kind of energy running through these panels, a speed and a sharpness so completely mastered that Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount make all of this look effortless.

(Secret: It's not. Otherwise we'd have more books like this one.)

Enough of that high-falutin' crap. This is a goddamned funny book, and I'm still giggling like a fool. ("The priest! He farted!") And I ask, has there ever been a finer sentence put to print than this one?:

"C'mon, boys, let's show these Portugese lepers why we call them the 'pinatas of the sea.'"

I submit to you that there has not.

Rating: "Right in the middle of Communion!"

(Web page.)

If you're up by Washington way... 

...and you like gaming of every variety possible, from console to tabletop RPG, then be sure to check out the Penny Arcade Expo.

I'd pitch it, but then Gabe and Tycho have already taken care of that:

Whatever your obsession, chances are good that we will have something to interest you - it only starts with rooms for tabletop gaming, and a robust LAN rocking the newest Unreal Tournament or Battlefield games. Linked consoles for Mario Kart, Crimson Skies or Splinter Cell. Want to hear how to break into the industry? Stop by one of our many industry panels. Want to pitch your game ideas to the pros? This is also something we have.

Maybe you'd like to actually get your hands on some of the things they showed at E3. That's something we can hook up. Maybe you would like to hear rock bands perform interpretations of console hits. We have that as well. You might be wondering if there will be a full screening of the Red Vs. Blue DVD. Yes!

In short, there was an event we wanted to go to that did not yet exist. We decided to fix that.


Not bad. Not bad at all. It's kind of unfortunate that I live in Texas. Which is, you know... half a country away.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Take two. 

Saw El Castigador again, because I figure I should at least donate my $7.50. Tim Bradstreet was there, which was neat, and I got an autographed poster, which was even neater.

Anyway. The movie was much better the second time around. It still has some pacing problems, some score problems, some tone problems. But I realize the first screening was seen under pretty bad conditions: small theater, shitty sound system, guys who would whoop loudly every time a pretty girl came on screen (and with Laura Harring and Rebecca Romijn in the cast, that was pretty often), and so on and so forth. An unpleasant viewing experience for any movie.

If you're on the fence, go see it. There's some cheesiness there I could do without, but it's a viscerally satisfying flick. And Tom Jane is a perfect Frank Castle.

So I'm a bit behind. 

Second-finest column in comics. This one about the whole CrossGen/American Power mess. No finer breakdown of that situation has yet been written.

Look, it really is as simple as Graeme lays it out, folks. This isn't a political issue. And conservative pundits of the comic book world? I can't help but feel you're rushing to this book's defense for no other reason than Chuck Dixon is nominally one of you. There is no way you can defend what is so obviously a complete piece of garbage.

To neocon comic book talking heads: just because Dixon says he's one of you, that doesn't mean you have to rush to his aid. I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, but I don't feel the need to defend any and every crackpot left-of-center because other people say he has the same politics I do. I'm not a vegan, I believe in the death penalty in certain circumstances, and I am not a zombie to the party line. Neither should you be.

Chuck Dixon, much as I like some of his work, is not a conservative. He's just fucking crazy.

Did you know that today is Christmas? 

At least that's how I felt, opening up my box from AiT/PlanetLar. I thought, you know, I'd be getting like a couple issues of Demo (which I'm still very much on the fence about, as a series) and a hardcover or two.

Oh no.

What I got can only be described as "a metric fuckload." Or perhaps "shit-ton." Or maybe even "godDAMN but that is a lot of comics."

So yes, I'm here to tell you I, Ken Lowery, have sold out.

Don't worry, though. If I don't like something, I'll let you know. Freebies are cool, but these free items are not intended as a bribe, and I'm not taking them like one.

Looks like I got some weekend reading to do...

AGAIN with the City of Heroes! 

Shane has posted the first part of his multi-part overview of the City of Heroes beta. This stuff gets my dork senses tingling, man.

Who's up for creating an all-blogger mega-team when this hits the market? C'mon, don't be shy!

(Dibs on the Natural-Scrapper-Medieval Weaponry combination!)

"Isn't science fun, Mickey?" 

Rating at a glance for El Castigador -- 3 out of 5. The rest of the reviews I've seen are wildly across the board. Some loved it, some felt more could have been done with the material, others felt it fell far short of its potential. I can see validity in each argument.

(Though I think it is worth pointing out that Rolling Stone review. RS is a flaming pile of shit, but Peter Travers generally has it together.)

I'm not going to make this a fancy movie review. It's 3am, and I'm tired, and my bed is like a foot and a half away. If this review seems disjointed, and like it's hopping all over the place, then there's your reason. Back off.

The Punisher is a movie with problems, though one that nonetheless manages to entertain. We have a movie attempting to walk that fine line between gruesomeness and humor -- the one that Ennis and Dillon walk so effortlessly -- and, perhaps about half of the time, missteps and miscalculates. But when it's on... wow.

I'm not going to bother you with a story. Frank Castle's family dies, he hunts down the people responsible and in the process makes the transformation into the Punisher. All the bad people die, and Castle does not. We know this about Punisher stories. That's all window dressing. The how's and the why's -- the visceral fun of how the baddies die, and the slightly deeper implications of why Castle is doing what he's doing -- are the important parts.

It's the origin I have trouble with. This isn't me picking it apart as some kind of namby-pamby fanboy, oh no. This is me, a longtime reader (first time caller!), tapping my fingers on the armrests, watching that slow transition from the death of Castle's family to his first kill, silently chanting get on with it. It's impatience, pretty much; I know all of the details of the transformation, and I don't need to see yet another rendition. Will this stretch of screentime bore or interest non-comic book fans? I haven't the foggiest idea.

And then enters the Russian, and I could feel the audience (or was it just me, projecting?) get snapped right back into the movie in a vital way. The fight scene with Senor Russian is long, brutal, humorous, wince-inducing, and almost punch-for-stab lifted directly from the "Welcome Back, Frank" source material. After this scene, the movie picks up speed: we watch as Castle methodically sets his traps and offs his prey, one by one, dismantling an entire criminal empire in a few deft, crafty, and rather brutal strokes. From the Russian on, this movie reaches its rather bloody plateau.

And there really are some moments of sick genius. Keep an eye out for a take on Chuck Dixon's classic blowtorch interrogation scene.

The direction is uneven, as is the pacing of the story. We have brief outbursts of violence as a few would-be assassins make their move on Castle during the first half of the movie, punctuating long stretches of not much else. The brutality and violence are unglamorized (at least until, again, the Russian), especially the origin segment wherein three generations of Castle get murdered, but I suppose this is appropriate. To sex up the murder of men, women, and children would cross the line into the perverse.

I have issues with a few trappings of this movie, specifically the two designed to set the tone as a kind of 70's revenge movie or revenge western. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind those two styles of movie at all. I think we're rather lacking in them both, lately. But...

The opening title cards, I have no idea what the hell's going on there, or who thought those were a good idea. I had rather uncomfortable flashbacks to the opening titles for the Dolph Lundgren, and it's.. just.. well.. cheesy. There's no other word for it.

Second major complaint is the score. It's obtrusive. Majorly obtrusive. The movie's score is composed by Carlo Siliotto, who's an old understudy of Ennio Morricone and will not let you forget it. Once again, when we reach the Russian scene and points beyond, the loftiness of the trumpets begins to make a bit more sense -- but Jesus jumped up on a pogostick, man. You remember that old AMC slogan? Sometimes, SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

Anyway. Will you have a good time? Probably, so long as you're not expecting a brain workout. That's not me saying "it's dumb" -- though some critics will undoubtedly tell you it is -- just me saying it's a straightforward story, beginning to end.

And good god, does it get brutal. Two-word review: "Nasty fun."

Keep an eye out for Thomas Jane's upcoming Stander. If this movie doesn't make him a star, Stander will at least earn him some chops among the critics' circles.

(And, Xe, in case you needed more reasons to like Frank Castle, he manages to slip in a diss on the Skankees. Kind of funny, considering his comic book counterpart is a born and raised New Yorker.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

And now for something completely different. 

Fun post about City of Heroes on the front page of 8-Bit Theater. If you are interested in this game as much as I am, then by god, take a read.

This paragraph alone (about other cockholes, as my roommate put it, not being able to interfere in your missions) shall spawn me a new slogan for Ringwood Ragefuck:

When we're in the middle of something like roleplaying, which boils down to typing the likes of "QUERY: SO MUCH BLOOD, BUT WHERE IS HUMAN LOVE?" to make each other laugh, we don't need Vegetorz_SayenXZ storming onto the scene.

Holy jesus.

ADDENDUM: Larry Young sent me an email noting that the CITY OF HEROES comic, available soon from your local retailer through Diamond Comics, sports artwork by Brandon McKinney, he of SWITCHBLADE HONEY and PLANET OF THE CAPES. If there isn't a second volume of SH or POTC, blame the allure of that fat cash The Divine Mister B rakes in from Corporate Video Games.

I did not, repeat did not C&P that directly from an e-mail sent to me by Larry. Nosir. No way. Huh uh.

My integrity has not been compromised.

(Because I have no integrity.)

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