Sunday, July 29, 2007

This Outpouring Of Love Does Not Include The Atlanta Airport

Last night I flew out of San Diego at 9:15 Pacific and landed in Atlanta just before 5:00 this morning Eastern. I slept a little on the plane.

Actually, the nighttime scenery was beautiful. I was on the starboard side of the plane, so the full moon was shining in my window. It reflected off the Pacific as we made our turn back east, and as we flew over the southwest, it was a nice contrast to the sparse lights of the little towns. I almost wanted to stay up just to watch the moonlit U.S. roll by.

Then there was Atlanta, which keeps you awake with constant announcements, bitter-cold air conditioning, and (best of all!) the perpetual torture of Airport CNN. I will say this: at least it wasn't Airport FOX News. Even so, think, Atlanta-airport people: is there no "night mode?" Who gets to "enjoy" Airport CNN from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. -- the overnight skeleton crew? Certainly not us hapless passengers, whose sleep cycles are shot full of holes anyway. Oh sure, there's the Delta Connections quiet-time area, but those chairs are barely comfortable and even it gets traffic from a couple of gates. An actual lounge with couches, perhaps only accessible via boarding pass, would be appreciated a lot more.

Anyway, I had a great! time at Comic-Con. It was tiring, and oh my Lord all the people, but it was worth it. John and Michelle Parkin, Carla Hewitt, and Graeme and Kate McMillan were excellent con-mates. I met a lot of people I'd only communicated with online, and to a person they were exceptionally friendly.

Of course, I couldn't help but have fun with Bully and his best friend John. I'm up for the Silver St. Cloud-Gwen Stacy face-off if you guys are!

Here's Bully on Thursday, in his command-gold uniform:

I also had lots of fun meeting and/or talking with (deep breath) Matt Brady, Larry Young, Adam Beechen, Dean Trippe, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Alex Segura, Dwayne McDuffie, Bob Wayne, Dan DiDio, Matt Maxwell, Tom Spurgeon, Douglas Wolk, Heidi MacDonald, Tom McLean, Tim Leong, Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, Jason Rodriguez, Stuart Moore, Ryan Larder ... I'm sure I'm forgetting people, but at this point I'm just a little fried. Many of those I hadn't even "met" over the Internet, but they were gracious nonetheless.

I got a lot of cool books, most of which I plan to mention on this site or in Grumpy Old Fan in the near future. I'm particularly looking forward to reading the Jack Kirby 2001 issues I picked up (just need #s 8 and 9!), Astronauts In Trouble, and Postcards (which I was lucky enough to have signed by several contributors).

So thanks again, everybody, for a great weekend! I am a happy, weary blogger tonight.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hotel California

Off to Comic-Con! Check Grumpy Old Fan the next few days for periodic updates from the show.

Back Sunday; probably recovered from jet lag Monday.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New comics 7/18/07

We begin this week with All Flash #1 (written by Mark Waid, drawn by various artists) ... and I can only speak for myself, but it felt really right to have Wally written by Waid again. Of all the writers who have handled Wally over the years -- among them John Broome, Cary Bates, Bob Rozakis, Marv Wolfman, Mike Baron, Bill Messner-Loebs, and Geoff Johns -- Wally and Waid seemed made for each other. I see a lot of commentators saying this effectively is a coda to Bart's Fastest Man Alive, and I don't disagree; and neither do I disagree that if the continuation of The Flash vol. 2 were drawn by Karl Kerschl, it would look fantastic. (It's got Daniel Acuna instead, and while I don't dislike Acuna, boy howdy does Kerschl's work sparkle here.) Much has been made as well of Wally's ironic punishment of Inertia, which is in many ways the point of this issue. I'd feel better if it were a prelude to the character's return, and even (as some suggested) to Bart's "return."

In the end, I liked the issue. Wally's departure was justified poorly, and his return was oddly reassuring, especially as voiced by Waid. Of course I'm looking forward to the regular Flash book, because that'll be the real test of Waid's speedster chops. I doubt we'll be saying goodbye to Wally again anytime soon.

Next up, another book Mark Waid used to write, Captain America #28 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins). It's the same format as last issue -- vignettes checking in with the book's current cast, mostly with Sin and the (new?) Serpent Squad as they prepare to break Crossbones out of jail. It hit me with this issue that there's still a lot I don't know about Cap's vast array of allies and enemies. Brubaker is evidently doing his best to work a lot of them into this story, and for the most part he's doing a good job of at least indicating who's good, who's evil, and who's got a long history I could probably find on Wikipedia. Ironically, though, the character I had the most trouble placing in this issue was Professor X. Seems like there's been another bald character in the book lately (or maybe I'm just hallucinating) and they all look like Lex Luthor. Anyway, still a good read.

Speaking of called-back characters, The Spirit #8 (by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone) presents a twist on the cover-featured "cut the right wire" scenario. This time it's Agent Satin, who unfortunately reminded me of Erin Esurance early in the book when she's parachuting into the action. Anyway, that passed pretty quickly. The issue itself is pretty loaded, putting a lot of subplots into what boils down to cut-the-right-wire ... and, like I say, even that is a clever twist. However, it never feels coy or too clever, and the Spirit is only in it as a supporting character. It's even a sequel of sorts to a previous issue, but without so much as a footnote or express flashback to clutter the narrative. If I had to show someone what Cooke's Spirit was all about, I could do worse than give them this.

Reading the latest Action Comics (#852 written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by John Livesay) made me wonder: why doesn't DC put Busiek into its Countdown rotation? If there's one thing at which Busiek excels, it's creating a sense of "movement away from the ball." Busiek is great at suggesting a larger world beyond the borders of a panel, a page, or an issue, and this story is no exception. Its focus on Jimmy connects his CD hijinx with the rest of the Superman plot. (This includes another reference to "Red Son" which pretty much spoils what has to be a big part of its ending, but in a perfect world that story would be long over anyway.) Unfortunately, I'm not clear about what's going on with the primates and the green goo (Kryptonite, I guess) because those scenes are hard to follow, and I'm still not on board with Brad Walker as a penciller. His stuff is a little too idiosyncratic to fit such a straight-laced book as Action. It worked for the quirky Secret Six, just not so much here.

The portion of the blogosphere which still reads Countdown seemed to recoil a lilttle less at this week's issue (#41 written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, drawn by Dennis Calero), and I'm in that camp too. Every scene seemed to be constructed just that much better: the Rogues on the run figure out how to survive a long fall; Harley and Holly get a vignette at the Athenian Women's Shelter; and even the one- and two-page check-ins with Mary Marvel and Donna & Jason feel more cohesive. It may be the result of accumulated backstory or the invisible hands of Keith Giffen, but whatever it is, it's working better. Dennis Calero is not an unfamiliar name, but I'm at a loss to remember something else he's drawn. His work's nice and simple, and it does what it needs to.

Two-thirds of the way through Amazons Attack (#4 written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) and not only can I not tell where it ends and Wonder Woman begins, both series seem to be going over the same ground. Every installment features some unbelievable act of Amazonian carnage (here involving Air Force One), more tension between Wonder Woman and Hippolyta and Hippolyta and the other Amazons, more Circe scheming, etc. There’s barely a sense of plot movement despite having only two issues (well, plus the Wonder Woman issues, but still) to go. Thanks to Pete Woods, the book still looks very pretty.

Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #54 (written by Tad Williams, drawn by Shawn McManus) has too much going on. Aquaman and crew fight Black Manta in Sub Diego. There’s a new revelation involving the polar explorers. We check in with a couple of characters from the Peter David days. It’s charming enough, and I like what Williams and McManus have brought to the title, but it’s a strange combination of reliance on pre-OYL stories (maybe trying to win back that crowd?) and the new, oddball spin Williams has put on Kurt Busiek’s OYL "barbarian" concept. With three issues left in the title’s run, and so much plot, it all needs to start coming together.

The same applies to The Brave and the Bold #5 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Bob Wiacek), which takes a detour into the 31st Century so that Batman can outwit the current Legion of Super-Heroes. This gives Waid and Perez the opportunity to indulge themselves: Waid makes another Adam West reference, and Perez gets to work out with the Legion (a book which, he’s fond of saying, he’s never gotten to draw). There’s more with Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Adam Strange, and it’s all very fun and of course well-rendered; but again, it doesn’t feel like there’s just one issue to go in this arc.

If Brad Meltzer were staying on Justice League of America (#11 drawn by Gene Ha) longer than one more issue, I'd be more excited about this one-off tale of Red Arrow and Vixen trapped under the Watergate Hotel's wreckage. As it is, it's not a bad single-issue story. Meltzer clearly enjoys dialogue, and that's pretty much all this issue is, with only a few physical scenes to punctuate the tension. And in fact, there is a bit of tension, which is surprising considering the relative invulnerability of these characters. Good on Meltzer and Ha for that. A semi-significant aspect of Vixen's powers is revealed here too, in case a reader might feel that the story had no lasting impact. (It still might not, actually.) Ha's work is more diffuse here than his normal precise, fine lines, but it's still good, especially the way he plays with layouts towards the end. I kinda wish this had been more of a contrast from Meltzer's talky modus operandi, though.

Man, everything this week is ending or about to end, isn't it? Gail Simone's last Birds of Prey (#108 pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) is an epilogue to the Spy Smasher story arc, as Barbara beats up on her rival something fierce. Afterwards Babs and Dinah reunite, sharing takeout with Huntress and Lady Blackhawk, and then Barbara picks up her newest official recruit. I haven't been back with this book for long, but I thought Simone had a touching farewell. I continue to be impressed with Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood -- their faces are especially expressive.

There's a bit of Checkmate #16 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by Joe Bennett, inked by Jack Jadson) which I halfway expected to see in BOP, and here it feels a touch out of place, but I suppose it fits better here than there. It's the Fire and Ice reunion, of course, and it's handled pretty deftly by all parties. It's actually very sweet, adding some more nuance to Fire's character (at least how she's been portrayed in this book). The rest of the book concerns itself with Sasha and Mr. Terrific, and sets up the downfall of Amanda Waller. Bennett and Jadson look really pretty good here -- their Fire/Ice scenes use a thicker line, subtly reminiscent of Adam Hughes and Joe Rubenstein's Justice League International work, but their Sasha/Michael scenes are thinner and more delicately rendered. All around, a fine issue.

Finally, here's the last issue (see? again!) of Jeff Smith's Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil, and it's just as good as the other parts. Smith's Mr. Mind design is perfect -- menacing while still retaining the salient parts of the original. If this series isn't the tour de force of Cap villains that the original was, that's OK; as a revival/reimagining of the Captain Marvel mythology, it works very well. Now, of course, Smith has to do a sequel, so he can work Cap Jr. into the mix.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

A nice little nine-panel interlude, giving us a breather before the big finish:

I hate to go to the Engelhart/Rogers well so soon after using it for Thursday Night Thinking, but I've been scrambling this weekend getting ready for San Diego....

[From "Sign of the Joker!," Detective Comics #476, March-April 1978. Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Marshall Rogers, inked by Terry Austin.]

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Wally needs to be stealthy, so he's used his speed to stir up a big dust cloud.

The cloud's probably overkill, because you'd think he'd have the element of surprise anyway, but hey -- at this point he was only the second-fastest man alive.

Bahlactus rolls for Initiative, and wins every time!

[From "Friends And Foes Alike," The New Teen Titans #13, November 1981. Written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Romeo Tanghal.]
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

You're the World's Greatest Detective, the Most Dangerous Man On Earth, and you've just visited Bruce Wayne's towel-clad girlfriend -- but you're unsettled and frustrated. Do you

a) take a cold shower;
b) beat up some skels; or
c) start THINKING!

As always, Diamondrock has the last laugh!

[From the immortal "The Laughing Fish!", Detective Comics #475, February 1978. Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Marshall Rogers (R.I.P.), inked by Terry Austin.]
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gotta catch 'em all

It was 1993, I was in between my second and third years of law school, and I had some important decisions to make:

Which series would I devote my comics fandom to collecting, and why?

In last week's trip down memory lane, I forgot to mention the thing which drew me to comics shops: back issues. For several years I got a lot out of the local shops, completing collections of some fairly young titles. However, in 1993 I attended my first real comics convention, what I knew as the Chicago Comic-Con. (I don't think it had been taken over by Wizard at that point.) Of course I went to the panels and indulged my nerdity, but I also bought a lot of back issues. From that point, mine eyes had seen the glory that was an annual excuse to drop hundreds of dollars on 30-year-old comics. I saw an opportunity to indulge in some serious collecting, but I knew my avarice had to be tempered.

So it was, in the summer of 1993, that I resolved to collect complete runs of only a few long-running series, whether in single issues or bound books. Since I'm getting ready to return to San Diego, and the possibility of more back issues, here are those series, in no particular order 'cept alphabetical.

1. Fantastic Four. I knew the basics of the FF through those full-color pocket-sized paperbacks Marvel put out in the mid-'70s. I read a few FFs in the '70s as well. However, not until the Walt Simonson issues of 1990-91 did I really get into the Fantastic Four. I even got the first Marvel Masterworks volume. After Simonson left the book, I did too, and I wouldn't come back until the winter of 1994, following the apparent deaths of Reed and Doom.

What made me decide, in the summer of '93, to search out FF back issues and hope for future Masterworks to keep my costs down? Well, a couple of things: it was Marvel's Greatest Comics #71, a reprint of FF #89, which was the conclusion of the "killer house" story where the Mole Man blinded everyone. The subplot of FF #89 involved a mysterious alien ship coming to Earth for nothing good, and to show its progress Kirby used a photo-collage. Like the "hinge panel" from FF #50, that collage stuck with me; and the more I learned about Jack Kirby the more I knew I needed to appreciate his most influential work. From there it was a desire to see what John Byrne and others had done with the FF, and thus I committed myself. With the Masterworks finishing up the Kirby issues earlier this year, and having gotten the "44 Years" DVD-ROM, I'm slacking off a little, but who knows -- I might get a hankering for the Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz issues in San Diego.

Next ...

2. Green Lantern. I read a lot of Green Lantern in the '70s and '80s. Most of it was Denny O'Neil, but this was post-Neal Adams: Mike Grell or Alex Saviuk pencilling. Later, I read some of the Marv Wolfman/Joe Staton issues, and got the Crisis tie-ins by Steve Englehart and Staton. While I didn't stick around for the book's transformation into Green Lantern Corps, I did enjoy the Priest/M.D. Bright stories in Action Comics Weekly, and that led me into the Gerard Jones/Pat Broderick revival of (again) 1990. By 1993 GL was a full-fledged DC franchise, with a quarterly anthology and solo books for John Stewart and Guy Gardner (both of which I also bought). I had also collected the heavy-paper reprints of the O'Neil/Adams issues, so by the time I decided to amass a complete set of GL, it was just a matter of filling in the gaps. Today, I'm happy to say, the gap is between the penultimate Archives volume (I still need the latest one) and that first O'Neil/Adams issue, #76. I think I've even gotten all of the Flash backup stories, although I think there's a DC Special Series I lack.

But why Green Lantern? Not to be too superficial, but the costume has a lot to do with it. It's very simple, but very striking: green onesie over black tights, green boots, and white gloves. It says both "organic" and "outer space." The limitless versatility of the power ring is a big appeal, too: whatever a GL thinks of, s/he can conjure. With Superman, you have to coordinate the powers effectively. With Batman, you have to be smart. With the Flash, you have to view everything in slow motion. Being Green Lantern lets you run on instinct ... and willpower, of course.

Plus, there was a Green Lantern for every shape, color, gender, composition, whatever. Green Lanterns were bugs, crystals, chipmunks, robots, fish, you name it -- and they each wore the most powerful tool in the universe. How could I not want to get in on that?

Finally ...

3. Justice League Of America. This was the book I read most often growing up, and it was the one I gravitated towards when I saw all those back-issue boxes on the Rosemont floor. I bought the Earth-X issues, got the Earth-S issues I was missing, and dove back into the Satellite Era. For Young Tom, the Justice League represented epic superhero stories, because they had to be big enough to accommodate all those high-powered characters. Although writers such as Englehart and Gerry Conway tried to infuse the book with subplots and interpersonal friction, by and large the concept resisted such things, instead letting the cast's traditional relationships become part of the overall dynamic. These were consummate professionals at the top of their collective game; and again, how could I turn that down?

As with GL, the Archives have helped a lot, but I've actually gotten far back enough with the floppies that I'm starting to overlap the latest Archives. Therefore, I only lack a few years in the 90s-100s.

There you have it. I'm also filling in the gaps on Batman and Detective from the '70s and early '80s, but haven't decided how far back to go (O'Neil/Adams? "New Look?"). Maybe DC will pump out about two dozen more Chronicles volumes and I won't have to decide....
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New comics 6/27/07, 7/5/07, and 7/11/07

Twenty-one titles over the past three weeks, and I'm looking at twelve more tomorrow....


Amazons Attack #3 and Wonder Woman #10 have bled into each other by now. I’d have to go through each side-by-side and page-by-page to determine what takes place in which order, let alone how this event relates to Countdown. Also, Batman’s “Bees. My God.” line from AA #3 demands to be said in a Cartman voice. Still, both books look pretty; AA’s Pete Woods always delivers, but Paco Diaz does a fine Dodson/Drew Johnson impression for Wonder Woman.

My only complaint with Fantastic Four #547 is that Reed can apparently survive in space unaided, and the more I think about it the more it makes a weird comic-science sense. Otherwise it’s another solid issue from Dwayne McDuffie, Paul Pelletier, and Rick Magyar.

I wasn’t going to get Supergirl & The Legion #31, because I thought a break was needed after the Waid/Kitson era, but it wasn’t too bad. It feels like a pastiche of Waid/Kitson, which isn't entirely fair considering that Tony Bedard and Kevin Sharpe had each done some fill-in work previously, but I'm still not sure I don't need a break.

She-Hulk #19 presented a fascinating legal strategy, one which might not be too innovative in the history of superhero comics, but which was argued well nonetheless. I continue to like the Dan Slott/Rick Burchett/Cliff Rathburn team, but some combination of the inks and the colors (by Andy Troy) actually make the figures look two-dimensional – and by that I mean that I had to look twice to see if a Two-Gun Kid cardboard cutout was supposed to be sitting at the table.

I talked about Sinestro Corps already.


The 3-D effects were the best thing about Action Comics #851, and that’s actually saying something this time. This story has been a mixed bag, but this issue doesn’t have too much to do beyond getting Superman out of the Phantom Zone and showing Zod’s conquest of the Earth. I bet in four or five months, when the conclusion finally appears, I’ll have had time to form an opinion on the story so far.

Atom #13 takes Ryan and Chronos back to the land of tiny barbarians Ray Palmer visited in the Sword of the Atom books, and by and large it’s pretty fun. Gail Simone uses the same kinds of funny-talkin’ aliens that endeared us to this book’s first crop of diminutive villains, but it works here too.

Nightwing #134 flashes back to a Bat-spat, and in the present finds our hero fighting the new Vigilante. However, one of the things I liked best was Jamal Igle’s two-page, top-tier spread of a swanky restaurant. It might seem like an indulgence, but it sets the proper tone for the scene. The story’s pretty good so far, too.

Detective Comics #834 -- 700 issues ahead of Nightwing, I see – finishes up the Batman/Zatanna team-up pretty well. Zatanna gets her revenge on the villain of the piece, and she and Batman finally make up after Identity Crisis. It’s still a Batman story, but he doesn’t overshadow her, which was nice.

Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis #53 is officially a dead title walking, as of today’s DC solicitations. It’s a shame, but I can’t say I’ll miss the book too terribly much. This issue was decent; more of the Black Manta-takes-over-Sub Diego story, with well-done superhero action.

Welcome To Tranquility #8 presents a medley of spotlights on the people of Tranquility, and I have to say, these little doses have done more to make me like this title than the big six-issue opening arc did. They kept the book on my radar for sure.

All-Star Superman #8 wasn’t as immediately gratifying as its predecessors, but it was still good. I’m sure I will appreciate its depth and complexities the more I revisit it ... whenever that might be. The same thing applies to JLA Classified #40 -- I can tell there’s a nature/nurture/free-will theme running through the issue, but I want to look at it in a better context before passing a more definite judgment.

I talked about some ramifications of Outsiders #49 last week. Probably not going to pick up the revamped title.


Star Wars: Rebellion #8 was fairly entertaining. The pieces of the story are starting to come together, and it's done a good job of creating Star Wars-esque characters who aren't overly familiar. I didn’t buy Vader’s high-jump-flip, though -- too prequel-y.

Green Lantern #21 was a very good follow-up to the Sinestro Corps Special, and it gives me high hopes that "SC" will be the good kind of epic “Event,” not the bloated Countdown kind.

Superman #664 did a lot to advance the “Camelot Falls” arc, even explaining the arc’s title. Tying in the Prankster fill-in from a few months ago was good too. Man, Carlos Pacheco draws a great superhero book; and Jesus Merino’s inks are meticulous -- everything pops off the page. Too bad about the book’s scheduling problems.

Superman Confidential #5 likewise does a lot to start wrapping up the “Origin Of Kryptonite,” with the most important probably being the explanation for the meteor chunk’s thought balloons. A good, plot-driven, payoff-facilitating issue.

Lastly, the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular was a highly enjoyable romp through the silliness which is post-Civil War Marvel. The sight of Penance’s cat was priceless.


Okay, so I read Countdown #s 44-42 all together to see if there’s any narrative cohesion, and the answer is ...

... maybe, a little. Countdown has dedicated itself pretty firmly to following its basic cast of characters. When those characters’ stories are interrupted, as #43's Flash funeral does, the series’ rhythms are thrown off.

However, Countdown’s problem lies in its over-reliance on its core characters to explain everything going on in the rest of DC. It seems like each scene is an interaction between characters – and if that sounds basic, I mean that each scene essentially involves conversation. The exception in these three issues is the funeral, which begins with a few narrated panels establishing Keystone City. Still, even that narration comes from Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy might well be Countdown’s central figure, but the series spends so much time on each of its characters that Jimmy contends for space with Mary Marvel, Donna Troy, et al.

Indeed, Countdown doesn’t do a whole lot to lay out its story’s scope, explain what’s at stake, or otherwise build a structure upon which to hang those scenes. Countdown has focused pretty faithfully on its characters, so much so that it seems like the plot is being left to other titles. After ten issues of a fifty-two-issue miniseries, those structural devices should start becoming apparent, and I get no sense of them. Now, it may well be that this isn’t just a fifty-two-issue miniseries -- but how much shapelessness are we readers expected to endure in an eighty- or hundred-issue Mega-Comics Event?
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

This series was originally going to be called "Sunday Sermon," because this was the first speech that came to mind:

I went with another O'Neil/Adams classic, and decided to save Ollie for a special occasion. Since we're still in the belated blogoversary zone, I think that qualifies.

[From "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!," Green Lantern vol. 2 #76, April 1970. Written by Denny O'Neil, drawn by Neal Adams.]
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Belated blogoversary

Yesterday marked three years since the start of this here blog! Where has the time gone?

I'm still having fun, and I hope you are too. There's a lot left to explore, so let's get back to it! I'll try to have a new Sunday Soliloquy up later, and there are three weeks' worth of new comics (again) in the backlog.
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Night Fights

It's Superman's birthday, but he's got a present for Mongul!

Yeah, I know, Friday Night Fights is more about punching, so I hope Bahlactus doesn't mind.

[From "For The Man Who Has Everything," Superman Annual #11, 1985. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Dave Gibbons.]
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Old Kentucky Comics Habits

Because Dick demanded it, here are my memories of a comics consumer in Lexington, Kentucky, starting in the mid-1970s. I've been down this road a bit before, but since only I was reading the blog three years ago, it's probably new to you-all.

Age-wise, I guess I fall between Dick and Johnny Bacardi. Lexington's about the size of Spartanburg, probably over a quarter-million people by now. Both Dick and Johnny can probably make better comparisons than I.

Still, it took me until high school to realize where the direct-market shops were. Until then I had been relying on the local grocery stores (Kroger, Foodtown) and the familiar Kmart 3-comics-in-a-bag deal.

My grade-school purchases were all pretty unfocused, as you'd expect. I started reading superhero comics in the mid-to-late '70s, but I was familiar with the characters through "Super Friends" and the Adam West "Batman" reruns. Probably the first superhero comic I owned was The Flash #241 (May 1976), at the tender age of six, and it was probably bought at a Kroger.

I got mostly DC and a few Marvel into the early '80s. Junior high was 7th-9th grades, so I decided that would be the cutoff for my comics. An older friend, who was already in junior high, told me very seriously that no one in my new school would care about such things. Instead, junior high introduced me to the much more mature pastime of D&D.

Still, D&D got me back into comics. I switched gaming groups at the start of 10th grade, and got in the habit of picking up a couple of comics at the local Convenient on my way to our Saturday sessions. I bought DCs again, including the wedding of Donna Troy (I had been a New Teen Titans fan just before the "new maturity" set in), but the series that got me into a LCS was Mike Barr's Star Trek. It was right after Star Trek III's cliffhanger and I was jonesing for some 23rd-Century action.

The shop I started patronizing -- the only one in town, as far as I knew -- was The Comic Connection, just across the street from the University of Kentucky Medical Center. It was a couple of miles from the house, so not a bad walk; and in the winter of 1984 I started going there every Friday for almost the next ten years -- through high school, college, and law school.

It started out as a little hole-in-the-wall, almost a shotgun shack of a store. It moved into an adjacent space at least twice as big within a few years (1987, let's say). Through that store I was introduced to the Direct Market and to independent comics: all the big ones, like Cerebus, Love & Rockets, and American Flagg!. I kept up with the industry through Amazing Heroes, which featured writers like Mark Waid and Andy Mangels, and looked forward to its Preview Special, which covered dam' near every single title.

Still, I was reading DC at just the right time to be suckered in by Crisis On Infinite Earths, Dark Knight, Watchmen, and the revamps of 1986-87. Marvel was impenetrable to me: I tried reading X-Factor, having somehow missed out completely on the Claremont/Byrne X-Men, but it just wouldn't take; and as it happened I had also just missed the Byrne Fantastic Four.

During these ten years I also became aware of other comics shops in Lexington. The D&D shop I visited so often started selling comics, and there were a couple of stores in other parts of town too far away for me to haunt. I was loyal to Comic Connection, and besides, none of these others lasted too terribly long.

The thing that finally drove me away from Comic Connection was its seeming over-reliance on things: action figures, statues, and other bric-a-brac. By the early '90s it had also been sold. The owner I first knew was a much older fellow who I never saw that often. His employees were guys a few years older than me who I'd also see working at the local used-record store a half-mile up the road. They did a little more than tolerate me -- I can drone on, if you believe it -- but it's not like we exchanged Christmas cards.

Anyway, I got the feeling they knew what they were doing, business- and art-wise, and I didn't get that from the new owner. He was a few years older than me as well, but he was kind of clueless. When I got out of law school in the summer of 1994, and moved closer to another shop (Collectibles, Etc., in a strip-mall on the edge of one of the 'burbs), I took my business there.

Collectibles didn't invest as much in the trinkets, although they were pretty big in sports cards, pogs, and Beanie Babies, as each of those trends ebbed and flowed. They were consistently about the comics, and I appreciated that. They were less inclined to carry independent books, though. At the time this suited me fine, because I was spending so much on DC and a few Marvels anyway.

Therefore, Collectibles fit my needs pretty well. Towards the end of my patronage, the owner suggested that we regulars e-mail him our picks every Monday, and this effectively took the place of tthe pull-list/folder system for those who participated. Having since read Brian Hibbs' columns, I can't imagine how this helped his business planning.

Comic Connection closed a couple of years after I stopped going there. It's now the UK med-school bookstore. Another shop, Red Rock Collectibles, flourished for a while in the mid-'90s, but it's gone now too.

When I left Lexington two years ago, there were three decent shops: Collectibles, A+ Comics, and The Comic Interlude. As far as I know they're still there. Each has its charms. A+ is probably the largest and cleanest, which is not to say that the other two are dark or smell of nerd. Comic Interlude is the most focused on toys, with action figures covering one wall and two mid-sized shelves. Collectibles is the smallest, but it's bright and clean. I don't have any horror stories about any of them.

So there you go -- thirty years of comics collecting, from 1976's grocery-store spinner racks to 2005's Direct Market shops. I tried to make it interesting, and I probably got some things wrong. Dick, if you've got more questions about what I bought in particular, please let me know -- I tried to keep the nostalgia to a minimum.

If anyone from Lexington wants to chime in, feel free!
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Thursday Night Thinking

Succinct this week, Diamondrock!

And for once, I think we all agree -- we're with you, Morgan.

[From "The Guardian Fights Again!," Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #139, July 1971. Written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Vince Colletta.]
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

I've been on I-64 most of the day, so not much time to think about this week's soliloquy. Thankfully, in this respect, Chris Claremont is the blogger's best friend.

[From Star Trek: Debt of Honor, written by Mr. Claremont, pencilled by Adam Hughes, inked by Karl Story.]
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Why is this SWAT cop being punched through a wall?

Because Batman loves cats.

(Bahlactus seems like more of a dog person to me....)

[From "Black Dawn," Chapter Three of "Batman: Year One," Batman #406, April 1987. Written by Frank Miller, drawn by David Mazzuchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis.]
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

So much THINKING, it spills across the top of a two-page spread!

Here are the large-print versions of the panels, to go a little easier on the eyes:

Diamondrock is back in Titans' Tower!

[From The New Teen Titans #1, November 1980, written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Romeo Tanghal.] Full Post

"Eight" rhymes with "late"

Rich tagged me with the Eight Rules meme last Friday. Yes, it's taken me this long to think of eight things.

Here are the rules:

- Each player starts with eight random facts about themselves.

- Those who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight facts and post these rules.

- At the end of the post, choose some people to get tagged and list their names.


1. I really enjoy "The Thomas Jefferson Hour." I had never heard it before we moved to Williamsburg, and of course it makes sense that a radio show about Jefferson would be found on a Virginia public radio station. However, it's based in ... North Dakota?!?

Each week is split between talking to "Jefferson" and the man who plays him, Clay Jenkinson. I wish I could remember David the co-host's last name, because he's great too, but the show's website is down at the moment. It comes on at 1:00 p.m. every Tuesday, so I try to catch it in the car if I'm out at lunch. There's also a podcast, but ...

2. I don't belong to iTunes. I don't have an iPod. Instead, I still burn MP3s onto CDs. When did that go out of style -- 2003?

3. I would totally buy plush toys of 'Mazing Man and/or Genius Jones (the latter as designed by Cliff Chiang, of course). Now that DC Direct will have a little more time on its hands, maybe someone can make that happen, hmmm?

4. For various reasons, I've managed to miss at least one episode of every live-action Star Trek series: "The Lights Of Zetar" (TOS), "Manhunt" (TNG), "Destiny" (DS9), several Voyager episodes from when the local independent station dropped its UPN programming, and that one Enterprise where the Xindi go to Detroit. (I think it was Detroit.) I did watch all the Animated Series episodes, though.

5. One time I broke up -- or at least postponed -- a domestic dispute. I used to live across the street from the excellent Magee's Bakery (Lexington, KY -- tell 'em Tom sent you!) and would head over Saturday mornings for donuts. (And a bran muffin for balance.) Mmmm ... donuts.

Anyway, I was waiting to cross the street when a car stopped at my red light. A woman got out of the car, yelling at the driver. He then followed her to my corner. She was yelling "leave me alone, leave me alone," and he was yelling at her to get back in the car with him. They were on either side of me, so I gave him a look and said, "Why don't you just leave her alone?" He didn't know what to make of that, so I gave him another I-mean-it look and he went back to his car.

In hindsight, the fact that he left his car running, stopped at what had become a green light, on the aptly-named Main Street, probably had something to do with his decision.

6. Speaking of donuts, Magee's are the most decadent I've ever had, and therefore much more satisfying than Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and (yes, Lexingtonians) Spalding's. The secret is the butter-creme icing.

7. My unique superstition: I think my Fantastic Four buying and reading habits somehow affect the fortunes of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team. I base this largely on buying big stacks of Byrne FFs just before 1994-95 losses to UCLA and Louisville. This means I have to finish going through that "40 Years" DVD before November.

8. I am distantly related to two U.S. Presidents (the Harrisons) and I think also to the Clooneys (George, Nick, Rosemary, etc.).

And there you have it -- can't get more random than those!

I'm copping out of tagging eight more people, because most of the blogs I visit have already done this. If you want to join in, have fun!
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Assemble freely, bear arms -- the works!"

I grew up reading Doonesbury. I didn't quite understand all the cultural and political references, but I liked its rhythms and Garry Trudeau's style.

For this year's Fourth of July, here are some strips reprinted in the Doonesbury's Greatest Hits collection. They're about Zonker's ancestor Nate Harris, a little-known figure of the American Revolution. (Apologies for the poor scan quality.)

I had thought Trudeau produced these for the Bicentennial, but these first ones actually came out in late July and August of 1975. Even as he celebrated their achievements, Trudeau poked fun at the white-male culture which produced the Declaration of Independence. Later strips, written in support of the Equal Rights Amendment campaign, had Nate's wife Amy become an apprentice silversmith under Paul Revere.

However, he returned to Nate for the strip which appeared July 4, 1976.

I love my country, and I love its potential. Let's never forget, as this day reminds us, that governments are instituted to secure our basic rights. Ultimately we're in charge, and we have the power to make even the most arrogant, spoiled plutocrat who stumbles into office do what we want.

It's not perfect, but let's resolve to keep trying. Back to less political content soon.

[Strips from July 23-25, 31, and August 1-2, 1975; and July 4, 1976.]
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I can see the destiny you sold/Turned into a shining band of gold

This one's for Ragnell. She knows why.

Probably because my comics habits overwhelmingly favor DC's superheroes, I tend to distance myself from the works of Geoff Johns. I like to think I don't have any particular bias against Mr. Johns, and I've followed his titles in the past. However, I've also dropped a number of his books, including JSA and Teen Titans, and I was very frustrated with his Flash tenure.

I was therefore leery of his Green Lantern revamp, mainly because his comments leading up to its release seemed to indicate that he considered most of Hal Jordan's growth as a character in and after the Denny O'Neil years to be a mistake. Hal should be resolute, steadfast, possessed of an indomitable will, I heard Johns saying. By contrast, I thought Hal's self-examination not only facilitated his own development, but also fueled a healthy skepticism about the nature of his bosses, the Guardians of the Universe. Nothing stopped Hal from finding his inner fighter jock, but at the same time that fighter jock would constantly test the limits of his ostensible superiors' authority over him. At least, that's what The Right Stuff taught me about test pilots.

Therefore, I've been pleasantly surprised these past few years to find myself more happy than not with Johns' Green Lantern. I thought Johns did a credible job of rehabilitating Hal and reviving the Green Lantern Corps, and the ongoing Green Lantern book has been pretty solid space-superhero adventure ever since.

I joked a while back about Johns writing his ultimate Green Lantern story and explaining once and for all How The Rings Work, and here we are with a Sinestro Corps, a Star Sapphire Corps, and probably four other color-coded Corps on the horizon.... Anyway, in the Rebirth miniseries, Johns cast the GL Corps in a quasi-mystical light, explaining that Parallax fed off fear and another entity fed off willpower. We've seen in the recent Star Sapphire story that the Zamarons' power gems use love, although there it seemed like the weird, candlelit-photo-shrine kind of love. Maybe I was reading too much into that. Maybe I've said too much.

Regardless, that brings us at last to the Sinestro Corps Special, which apparently kicks off the Sinestro Corps War. Opinions seem to vary as to its accessibility to the non-GL/non-DC reader, but I found it fairly efficient in its exposition. Thanks to the Internet, I kinda knew what happened in the Ion miniseries, but I didn't read the miniseries itself. Explaining why two Superman villains were in a Green Lantern book might have been helpful, as might an explanation of the Cyborg Supes' connection to the original, but maybe that's coming up later. As the first part of what looks (please, Lord) like a storyline with a definite end, the Sinestro Corps Special got things started well. Since I like to compare Green Lantern to Star Trek, this was "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1." And yes, that makes Para-Kyle Locutus, although with the space-bug controlling him he should really be Chekov.

In the old days a Sinestro Corps wouldn't have been possible. The yellow power ring -- which I take it runs on a different yellow energy than the fear-based Sinestro Corps rings -- was, if memory serves, powered by siphoning energy from Green Lantern rings and batteries. It was a unique item (there might have been two, but my memory's fuzzy) that in theory was actually more powerful than any single GL ring. It had no impurities and no 24-hour limit. When Guy Gardner acquired Sinestro's ring after being booted out of the Green Lantern Corps, it was a big deal.

The idea of a Sinestro Corps, like a Star Sapphire Corps, therefore shifts the focus of Green Lantern away from the mechanics of a power ring and towards its underlying meaning. The Green Lanterns are fueled by willpower, the Sinestros by fear, and the Sapphires by candlelit-- okay, by love. In theory this makes the Sinestros the most powerful, because if fear is dominant then it can crush willpower and love. (I suppose that love includes the fear of having it taken away, but I don't want to get too New Age-y here.) Accordingly, Johns needs to be careful not to make the Sinestros either too powerful or too easy to neuter. They can't turn into the Borg. They need to be White Martians: used sparingly and only to indicate the most dire peril. Hopefully the fact that Superboy-Prime and the Anti-Monitor are both involved speaks to this caution. After this, Johns might do well to leave these two alone for another twenty years or so.

I should probaby read Rebirth again, because I don't remember Sinestro having quite the mad on for Kyle. I do think that Kyle was handled pretty well in this issue. His utter humiliation was a bit much, bordering on the old "hurt/comfort syndrome" of fanfiction, although the overall effect showed how eevil Sinestro was, and not how easy Kyle was to defeat. In fact, the Special might have gone a little too far in the other direction, with all the "Angel of the Corps!" talk and the buildup of Kyle as the Super-Lantern.

I would also have enjoyed more John Stewart, considering that this was his first appearance in a Green Lantern book in several months. Giving him a ring-constructed rifle also seemed out of character for an architect, but that's a debate for another day. Seeing Ch'p and Arisia made up for it, though.

Overall, the Sinestro Corps Special was a fun book to read. Not "fun" in the sense that I enjoy seeing carnage, sadism, and (off-panel) death; but "fun" like the first act of a good adventure story should be. The stakes get raised, our heroes get tested, and through the application of their own gifts and talents, they pull through. The fun lies in seeing how they do it. That's why I read superhero comics, after all.
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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

First, thanks to Shane Bailey for the mention in his latest "Meanwhile" column! If anyone else out there wants to show off their comics' speechifying, please be my guest.

As for this week ... well, how about a little civil disobedience?

In the dystopian future of 2031, the United States is run by a mega-corporation called The Plex, and idealistic, pragmatic Reuben Flagg is Plexmall Chicago's newest lawman.

American Flagg! is twenty-four years old, but some sentiments never go out of style.

[From "Hard Times, Conclusion," American Flagg! #3, December 1983. Written and drawn by Howard Chaykin.]
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