July 30, 2008


Though it is a frequent temptation for the lazy, sometimes it is ok just to link to an Onion article.

Now go read Aaron's extremely excellent essay below.

July 29, 2008

A Darker Knight

During the course of recording Episode 6a, our review of the previous few weeks' comics movies, I said something to the effect of "Maybe we shouldn't have done this the second we got home from seeing The Dark Knight." At the time, our thinking was that we lost our Hellboy II momentum by waiting on it, and ended up incorporating that into this podcast because we never got around to doing it the way we had originally wanted to.

And from a productivity/output standpoint, it worked like a charm. Episode 6a went up, chock full of ideas and opinions and criticisms and observations. But as I stated in my reservation (at least I think I articulated this as the reason for my reservation - it's wholly possible that I did not.) my ideas and opinions and criticisms an observations were not fully formed.

Now, a week and a few days removed, I can look back on my statements of the time and recognize them as what they were; a larval critique. With the benefits of time and research and conversation on my side now, I would like to offer up a fully-formed version of whatever it was I said or was trying to say about The Dark Knight in episode 6a.

Looking back on The Dark Knight, I find instead a Darker Knight ... but a much more impressive film.

I still do have problems with many aspects of the Joker's capers existing outside the realms of believability. If he's going to plant enough explosives to destroy a massive hospital, I want to see how he does it without alerting any of the staff. If he's going to get bombs and several hundred drums of oil into the bottoms of a couple of ferryboats, I want to see how he gets away with it. If he's got cops on the take, I want to see money change hands.

This is all a byproduct of the film being so grounded in realism, and it's all subjects that I touched on in episode 6a. But what I hadn't touched on - or even realized at the time - is there's another, more allegorical byproduct of the film's insistence on realism.

Two quotes now - one from a comics writer I highly respect and whose work I enjoy thoroughly ... the other from a tooly douchebag. First, here's Caleb from the often brilliant Every Day is Like Wednesday.

4.) I reeeaaalllly wasn’t expecting to see Batman-as-the-Bush-administration in this movie, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

Regarding Caleb's thoughts - at the time we recorded episode 6a, I didn't know how I felt about that either, because I hadn't even noticed it. But you are absolutely right, it is there, and it needs to be recognized, and it goes a long way towards explaining my "why can't they just get this fucking guy!" frustration with the Joker. It is an absolute testament to the skill of Christopher Nolan, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhardt, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale that they were able to pull me into a world where I was capable of feeling such feelings. It is a testament to their brilliance that they were able to do so without me even noticing.

Here's another take, from Andrew Klavan in the Lexcorp-owned Wall Street Journal.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
There have been several points over the course of the last seven and a half years where I've seen something subtle in something bombastic - something I'm probably not supposed to see, and something that worries me greatly. Back in January of 2002, when President Bush coined the term "Axis of Evil" to describe the unholy trinity of North Korea, Iraq and Iran, I cringed. Not because it was proof that we'd get little other than cowboy diplomacy out of this man, but because of the imagery conjured by that phrase.

The first incarnation of the "Axis of Evil" fought against the Invaders and the All-Winners Squad during World War II. The team consisted of the winged "Airyan" his best friend "Reich and Roll," his beloved partner "Luftwife" and their kid sidekick "The Little Baron." They drove the Volkshammer.

The second incarnation was formed by the Red Skull and Ultron and included Whirlwind, Moonstone, and probably Egghead. They fought the Avengers on several occasions, and the Champions once.

The third Axis of Evil was Kim Jong Il from North Korea, and his pompadour of destiny - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "The unpronounceable man" and of course Saddam Hussein, who we all know was really Kang.

By using what could only be described as comic book terminology to talk about the men being described as the three greatest threats to our nation, it seemed as though we were doing ourselves a great disservice, and one that we might not even see the ramifications of for years, maybe decades. Cowboy diplomacy was to be replaced with Comic Book diplomacy. And anyone who's ever read a team-up book from the 70's knows that even superheroes can't meet without kicking the snot out of each other while incurring thousands of dollars in collateral damage and putting innocents in harm's way.

Klavan says "Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past." In the world of comic books, this is acceptable for two reasons.

1.) these are not real lives we're dealing with. If Batman tortures random vaguely-russian-looking dockworker A for a few minutes, breaking several ribs in the process, and vaguely-russian-looking dockworker A genuinely doesn't have the information he's looking for, Batman can just toss vaguely-russian-looking dockworker A into that large stack of curiously empty crates that's always standing just a few feet away from these scenes. No harm, no foul, Bats goes on to find his next potential informant, and vaguely-russian-looking dockworker A is forgotten about forever. In the real world however, there are dozens upon dozens of "vaguely-russian-looking dockworker A"s in Guanatanamo. Except they're goat herders. Or Arab media trainees. Or college students. Or regular shiftworkers who were turned in by their neighbors for the $10,000 bounty we offered. We've been waterboarding and sleep-depriving them for years without a lick of credible evidence that any of them would have ever even been exposed to information we need. Except we can't just toss them into some crates and forget about them. These are human beings. For the most part, completely innocent human beings.

2.) We are certain that Batman will re-establish the boundaries when the danger is past, because Batman is a one-dimensional, fictional hero. Batman has nothing to gain from exploiting the moving of the boundaries, and if he did, he'd ignore it because he'd know it's the wrong thing to do. The Bush Administration and its friends, on the other hand, have all benefitted greatly through the relaxing of certain regulations, and the strict enforcement of others. Blackwater. Halliburton. "if you see something, say somethinig" and now Richard Perle. Batman can be trusted to destroy his little cell phone surveilance outfit. George W. Bush could not.

Klavan goes on.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."

That's real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Here's where the Dark Knight truly shined in hindsight - and where Klavan makes me sick to my stomach. The Dark Knight is unquestionably one of the most morally complex and murky films of the last several decades. But even with all of its moral complexities, it is an infinitely simpler and more appealing world than the reality we live in. Unfortunately for too many people including our friend Klavan here, they understand this fictional world far more than they understand their own, and desire for it to be real, because it would be so much easier (and let's face it, more fun) to live in.

Here's Slate.com's Dahlia Lithwick from this past weekend:

According to British lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show "reflects real life."

John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who produced the so-called torture memos—simultaneously redefining both the laws of torture and logic—cites Bauer in his book War by Other Means. "What if, as the popular Fox television program '24' recently portrayed, a high-level terrorist leader is caught who knows the location of a nuclear weapon?" Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking in Canada last summer, shows a gift for this casual toggling between television and the Constitution. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Scalia said. "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?"

Except on TV and in comic book movies, you know the person being ruthlessly interrogated is a bad guy. You know he either a) has the information you need or b) doesn't, but deserves the beating he's getting anyway. In real life, you end up with Canadian engineer Maher Arar, who was detained and sent to Syria where he was tortured for 374 days. Because he bought a printer cartridge with a guy who knew a guy who allegedly knew Osama Bin Laden.

The "real" Joker.

What I hadn't realized the film had done to me, was that it had taken me out of my world, where I read scores of foreign newspapers and accounts from watchdog groups to try to develop a sense of what's right and what's wrong. This film then dropped me squarely into another world, which tangentially resembled mine enough that I could get my moral bearings somewhat - but had taken out all the light grey area and replaced it with dark grey. Not a huge difference, but big enough.

For the two and a half hours I was in that theatre, I would have given up any of my rights to catch the Joker. I would have gladly submitted myself to that cell phone 3d-mappy thing. I'd allow myself to be wiretapped. I'd probably stand up and sing God Bless Gotham, even though I'm a Buddhist and I don't believe in "God" proper. I'd let them put religion back into public schools, if only to help the kids make some sense out of this awful, awful world. For the two and a half hours I spent watching this movie, I was a victim of desperation.

This film gave me a better understanding of why some desperate morons don't understand that Batman and Jack Bauer aren't real, and that their bullshit wouldn't fly here in the real world. And for that, I applaud you, The Dark Knight.

Just please stay the fuck out of Washington.

July 28, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #7

Get yer special-edition-live-from-not-San-Diego episode of the Awesomed By Comics Podcast over in the right sidebar, at iTunes or subscribe to the feed.

This episode of Awesomed By Comics is brought to you by "Two and a Half Men"--often described as a "potato on toothpicks," "Two and a Half Men" is a quiet breed, chirping rather than meowing at things it finds interesting. Aaron presents the "New Avengers #43 Brian Michael Bendis Billy Tan Crap of the Week Read-A-Long Storybook," and Evie tries to make up for not going to San Diego by recalling the first 18 years of her life spent there. It doesn't work.

Visual aids for Covers and Panels of the Week probably forthcoming.

July 27, 2008

Looped out

I know we should be doing a lot of reacting and gasping and analyzing and snarking on news and accounts coming out of San Diego, but we actually had to leave town for a family funeral this weekend, so we're just now back and trying to stay awake for the remaining daylight hours. Hopefully back in the saddle soon, but podcast may be a little delayed. Not that anyone's reading this, what with all the reacting and gasping and analyzing and snarking on news coming out of San Diego elsewhere.

July 24, 2008

Who is the Question? The X-Women, apparently.

Not being in San Diego to talk about goings on and announcements and parties and giant Pikachu balloons, I'll just sit over here and talk about comic books. If that's ok with you.

When it comes to comic book art, I'm pretty much in the camp that would be cool with stick figures as long as the story is good. I mean I guess if all my comics actually had stick figures, I'd be like "ok, I appreciate that all the monthlies are coming out on time and stuff but this is getting a little old"--but my general point is that I don't scrutinize the art the way I do the plot, dialog and characterization. Part of this is because I can't draw a straight line unless I'm trying to make it wiggly, so I'm duly impressed with anyone who's talented enough to make a living at it, whether they blow me away or not. I appreciate it when I am blown away, and I complain a little bit if the art is hard to follow, but you won't hear me saying things like "the shading on Wonder Woman's cheek was off."

So given my generally relaxed perspective vis a vis cartoonists, I'm wondering if I could get some corroborating opinions that this panel from Uncanny X-Men #500 is suckfully incompetent:

I'm sure if asked, Greg Land would mumble some bullshit about deliberate abstraction. But I'm fairly convinced that if pressed with threats and mindgames and truth serums, he might eventually say "ok, actually I really can't be arsed to, uh, draw small things. It takes a long time and makes my fingers cramp, and they don't come out so good anyway."

Another astounding example, from the same issue:

Now, obviously the script here said "turn page to breathtaking two-page spread of San Francisco skyline," right? Instead, the next page is still more conversations inside the building, with nary a Bay Bridge in sight. So either this is a joke that didn't go over so well, or Greg Land said "Uh, that sounds pretty hard. Can we just have the reader picture it in his mind instead?" And I say "his," because that's probably what Greg Land said. Given that women don't have faces and therefore no eyes for reading comic books.

Anyway, this was a fairly interesting issue with some intriguing points for going forward, but this lazy-ass art, it was quite distracting, to my incredibly tolerant eyes. Which I do have. I'm sure Marvel wanted to get this landmark 500th issue out in time for Comic Con, but there's gotta be someone who could have made this happen in a marginally quality way. I'm just sayin.

July 21, 2008

The Eat-Your-Greens Indie Review of the Week

I actually love vegetables quite a bit (except beets, so leave me the fuck alone about beets). But like a lot of convenience-obsessed Americans, I don't always go out of my way for a good veggie, especially if it means dirtying a pot or needing a fork for lunch at my desk. This weekly-ish off-the-mainstream-highway indie comics feature is what I'm doing instead of going to the Union Square farmer's market after work for perfect asparagus.

True originality is rare, and should be hunted down and properly acknowledged whenever possible. At the same time, there's a reason those of us who are into the superhero crap keep coming back to the genre's familiar formulas week after week--I can't really tell you what that reason is, but there must be one. That's why it's satisfying when someone takes a common superhero scenario and still manages to make it its own thing through the details.

Penance: Trial of the Century, a four-issue mini from Arcana Studio by Ryan Foley and Gian Fernando (credited in the book as GOOF), pulled this off in its first issue this week. The book initially caught Aaron's attention because of the "Penance" part, which of course is the current name of Thunderbolt and former New Warrior Speedball in the Marvel Universe--in the Arcana book, Penance is in fact the name of a superhero, and within the first few pages, he allegedly causes the death of another mask called Justice, which also happens to be the name of a former New Warrior--I'm not totally sure how that all works copyright-wise, but I guess they are just nouns.

In its fundamentals, Penance: Trial of the Century is pretty much Powers with one lady cop instead of the Walker-Pilgrim pair, and takes place in Atlanta instead of, uh, whatever city Powers takes place in. It kicks off with a rooftop battle between two costumed gentlemen, which is caught live on tape by a news helicopter. Penance apparently pushes Justice off the building along with Justice's civilian hostage, and both fall to their deaths--but the helicopter flies behind a gargoyle at a key moment, missing the murderous money shot. However, there's plenty of footage to haul Penance in for the tragedy, and police officer LJ McCloud is all too happy to lay it down on a vigilante who she feels undermines police work and, coincidentally, killed the wife of her best friend in this incident. The citizens are equally pissed--as a costumed criminal, Justice may have deserved what he got, but Penance equally deserves to pay for it.

Sounds fairly standard, right? Cops resent superheroes, public loses faith in superheroes as soon as they cause collateral damage, superhero commits the perfect crime for sending a message and making an example of, etc. But then a few interesting details unfold--the importance of Atlanta and the South as the setting are repeatedly reinforced; the superheroes are unionized; a relentless union leader by the name of Parasol launches a savvy campaign to support Penance and slowly gets to work on convincing McCloud that they're on the same side; there's something important about McCloud's elderly dad. The art is choppy and angular in a way that perfectly reflects the minor chaos of the plot, and the chaos adds to the realism--of all the many attempts to portray what it would be like if the "real world" (i.e. the world pretty much as we know it) had superheroes, this may be the closest I've seen. Lots of bureaucracy, media sensationalism, reactionaries, assholes.

But even more to the point, how many superhero comics take place in the urban South? There's always a hero from Kentucky who goes back to the family farm when things get rough or whatever, but the South is rarely the center of metahuman activity and attention. This seems to be a key element of the story, and mega-Northerner as I may be, I find this a rather promising change from the New York-Gotham standard. There's even a superhero called the Confederate, costumed just as you might imagine--and as long as the series doesn't take any too-obvious turns with this character, there's a lot of possibilities for nuanced tension there.

So that said, I'm giving Penance: Trial of the Century #1 a rating of "al dente," needing no more than a sprinkle of salt and maybe some Smart Balance, what with all the cigarette smoking. Definitely recommended.

July 20, 2008

ABC Podcast Episodes #6 AND #6a special movie show! Plus visual aids.

Update: Doh, hold on, technical difficulties over at the podcast hosting site--if you can't download the episodes, check back soon and I'll post here when it's working.

I think it's working now? Let me know if you still have trouble with the downloads.

Two shows for the free price of one! Podcast Episode #6 is up, along with a bonus episode about all those movies that are out now. Also, Cover(s) and Panel(s) of the Week below.

Descriptions: Episode #6 of Awesomed By Comics is brought to you by "Two and a Half Men," who have sold 80 million albums worldwide despite their infamous hard-living lifestyles. Aaron hosts "Mighty Avengers #16 Super Number One Power Quiz for Taking," and Evie gives Book of the Week to an actual book. Dirty jokes are accidentally told.

And: Awesomed By Comics presents a special bonus deluxe extra super episode discussing The Dark Knight, Hellboy II and Batman: Gotham Knight. Spoilers, natch.

Cover(s) of the Week

Aaron's pick: Moon Knight #20 by Mike Deodato

Evie's pick: Joker's Asylum Poison Ivy #1 by Guillem March

Panel(s) of the Week

Evie's pick: from Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge #1 by Geoff Johns, art by Scott Kolins

Aaron's pick: from Marvel 1985 by Mark Millar, art by Tommy Lee Edwards

July 17, 2008

Pants totally on fire

Clearly we were big fat liars about that whole "special bonus podcast episode #5a about Hellboy and Gotham Knight" that we were supposedly going to put out right after Episode #5. Don't ask why it's not out, just accept it like the weather. Now that Dark Knight comes out tomorrow (which we'll see on Saturday, as you and Facebook and the National Security Council now know), we may have to do a movie smorgasbord instead.

Also, I realize I have yet to complain here about the fact that we're not going to San Diego next week. We just didn't get our act together, can't take the time off right now, blah blah. Aaron and I went as press in 2006 (being a journalist household has a few privileges that slightly make up for being broke), but I am in a much better place to appropriately appreciate the convention now. I have a coworker with a four-day pass, and I nearly tripped him in the hallway when I passed him just now, on purpose.

July 16, 2008

Holy internet privacy concerns, Batman

With the rumors that "Dark Knight" tickets are flying off the, er, shelves, I just pre-ordered tix for Saturday night at our local theater. Not five seconds after I hit "purchase," a little blue and white box popped up in the corner of my screen that said "This will be sent to your Facebook profile: Evie bought Dark Knight on Fandango."

Now, I don't have any Fandango application on my Facebook account, so those crafty bastards looked at my IP, said "she's logged into both Facebook and Fandango, these accounts must belong to the same person," and made their shady magic happen. Thankfully it gave me a "No Thanks" option, because while I'm certainly not keeping my Batman-seeing ways secret, I don't want to encourage such big-brotherly behavior in the name of seamlessly integrating my online entertainment experience.

If someone greets me at the door of auditorium #11 with pretzel bits and a Vitamin Water saying "your favorite, with our compliments!" I will really lose it.

July 14, 2008

Drop your horsies

Episode 5, she is up, right over to the right there. Be a non-conformist and join our new forum, and make my week by writing an iTunes review.

Description: Episode #5 of Awesomed By Comics is sponsored by "Two and a Half Men," Mondays on CBS and inhabiting oceans the world over. Aaron complains a lot about plot inertia in this week's comics, and Evie frets over Spider-Man's trytoohardyness. Much celebration of Booster Gold #1,000,000 and Alan Scott's giant "power battery".

Fall Out Boy, uh, what do you call it when bad stuff happens after some other event?

CBR reports as middleman of an argument between the band Fall Out Boy and Dabel Bros. Publishing that despite the Dabel's February announcement of a "Fall Out Boy" comic book, the band never really wanted anything to do with the project, even if it hadn't been derailed by "the Simpsons" lawyers (because they already have their own comic book about the Fall Out Boy character, for whom the band was named).

There's a lot of nonsense about what happened when and who said what during the supposed deal, but it's best summed up by drummer and comic fan Andy Hurley's statement that "If it's a comic about our band, it's the lamest thing ever."

I kind of wish I could have used this back in May, when I wrote this article for Billboard about the new crop of comics/music industry crossovers and what kinds of projects are likely to have the most traction with fans of both art forms. With the help of folks like Rantz Hoseley (editor of Tori Amos's upcoming "Comic Book Tattoo"), Joe Keatinge (of Image), Gail Simone (who adapted Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" for all the right reasons, and there actually are some), and Douglas Wolk (who is really the expert on anything related to comics and music whatsoever), I got a pretty good sense that a comic book spinoff of a real rock band running around having adventures has fairly significant limitations in the areas of audience, storytelling, artistic innovation and longevity, among others. Crossovers can definitely work, but my central conclusion was that a musician who wants to break into comics as either an artistic endeavor or branding opportunity really has to treat the project like any other new release. Reading the description of Fall Out Boy's almost non-existent involvement in the project, plus the view of Hurley, who knows more than a little about comics, it appears this project would have gone almost nowhere, even if it had been printed. And even if it had sold some copies, it likely would have been the lamest thing ever.

Hold yer horsies

Just a note that Episode #5 of the podcast will be delayed a day or so, because comics came out a day late and we were the opposite of overachievers this weekend. But to make it up to you, we're also going to produce Episode #5a, a special show on Hellboy II and Batman: Gotham Knight. Which means things might be delayed even more, but whatever.

July 12, 2008

....and Fail

Caleb points out that in the in-book advertisement re-purposing of the pretty sweet "real power of the DC universe" poster, DC chose to reconcile the poster with comic book dimensions by cutting out everyone who wasn't straight or white.

I should note that I'm sure they didn't do this on purpose, it's just an unfortunate oversight that doesn't help their current PR issues. Stay classy, DC.

Win and Awesome

We just got back from seeing Hellboy II, which was spectacular and which we'll be talking more about here and on the podcast, but I just needed to share that while we were waiting to go into the theater, I played the claw game and got both of these in one grab:

July 11, 2008

El-e-phants and kangaroosies-roosies

Jeff Sharlet, journalist and author of the new scary awesome hilarious book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, totally pimped the Awesomed By Comics Podcast today in the Revealer, a daily journal about religion and the media. How did he reconcile that obvious glaring topical mismatch, you say? Well, a)he's the editor, b)as a religion reporter who writes for Rolling Stone and other widely read cultural publications, he knows better than anyone how the mythologies of phenomena like superhero comics are deeply connected to mythologies of all kinds, and c)he totally hearts Buffy and Daredevil.

We definitely need to have him on the show soon, maybe to talk about Final Crisis: Revelations. Or Buffy or Daredevil.

Anyway, we are much obliged, and will hopefully not totally alienate the unsuspecting religion scholars and such who take his recommendation.

July 10, 2008

Deerm-bom-bom. Chick. Chicka-chicka.

Aaron enjoys making fun of me for liking 80s music, even though I don't like 80s music any more than most people who grew up in the 80s--you know it's so wrong but sometimes it's just so right. Thing is it's Aaron playing every instrument in the opening and closing music of our podcast, and you know how those people are. Anyway, often he'll accuse me of loving some crap synth-heavy song, like last weekend when I was an alleged fan of that "Oh Yeah" song from the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (ok, I probably thought it was totally rad when I was nine). That made me think not of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, though, but of the other movie in which that song had prominent placement, 1987's The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox and Helen Slater (it's during the scene where they're all trying to sneak into each other's bedrooms at the mansion, totally madcap!). And of course with that comes thoughts of what a cute Supergirl Helen Slater was, and wondering what on Krypton ever happened to that fine lady.

And then via Journalista I inexplicably follow a link about the Super Mega Show in Wayne, NJ this weekend, and get the hell out of here, Helen herself is a Very Special Guest. Along with Adam West, Julie Newmar and Lee Merriwether, a confluence of campy comic book adaptation star power that makes the word balloon around the photo of Adam West exclaim "Holy fireworks!" And how, right? But THAT'S NOT ALL. Erik Estrada. Nicole Eggert. Nicole's one-time Super Mario co-star Lou Albano. Nia Peeples. A shitload of WWE folks and also, Erik Estrada. With the original CHiPs patrol car that you can take your picture with.

Now, I've always had a vague knowledge of these kinds of things occurring all over the planet, and I saw Lou Ferrigno at San Diego two years ago, I know one-time stars do the con circuit. But I don't think I'd really grasped the severity of sadness that these things can be. For a split second I thought of going, since we live half an hour away, but Aaron said he couldn't bear to see Julie Newmar in that state, as she in a Catwoman suit was the first image ever that made him feel tingly down there. Even before this one.

Oh, also, Green Lantern artist Ethan Van Sciver will be there, so I can only conclude that he's from Wayne or an adjacent township. Another fun fact about Wayne: one time we were driving through it and passed an actual fountain store with a giant sign that said "Fountains of Wayne." So now you know.

TCBY do I even try

So I had this great idea to do a Weekly Yogurt Review (or somesuch) for which I would do my Wednesday route from physical therapy to Forbidden Planet to Red Mango, read one comic book while eating a delicious, adorably Japanese cup of green tea froyo with strawberries and mochi, and then come home and write a kick-ass review. Sweet, right? Who doesn't like a frozen-treat-inspired piece of graphic lit crit? No one! So last week was Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #1, and I was all stoked about it, and then I really just up and totally forgot to do the frickin review. This week there were no comics on Wednesday due to the holiday, and I don't have physical therapy on Thursdays, so I won't be able to get out early to do the yogurt thing (also because I have a haircut). Next week is the last week that my insurance has approved PT, so I pretty much only have one Wednesday to embark on this super precious theoretically ongoing feature. Kind of takes the air out.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all a little peek into my typical process following the best-laid plans. It's a talent to be so consistently inert, and I just want credit where it's due.

July 9, 2008

Pak & Roll

Ok, so I didn't get to say all that stuff to Greg Pak, because they moved us out of the theater space pretty fast. It was more along the lines of "dude, you write awesome comic books." However, when Aaron mentioned we were upset about Amadeus Cho's puppy in Incredible Hercules being a Skrull, he said "Well... you're going to have to keep reading." So yay! Not a Skrull! Maybe!

Also, his last name is apparently pronounced "Pock," so since the Pak Rats thing wouldn't fly, I told him to start a letters column called "To: Pak". Ha, just kidding, no. Believe it or not, there is only so much unfunny I will allow myself to be in mixed company.

Top 20!

So I made a hypothetical comment below about "if I were to compile a list of my 20 favorite runs."

And within seconds of my fingers lifting off the keys, my brain kicked into gear, as the brain of a comic fan always does when presented with such an idea, and I decided to compile a list of my 20 favorite runs.

This list is not even remotely final or complete or even correct. (I probably have a few creators wrong.) But working off the top of my head at 2 in the morning last night, here's what I came up with.

New Warriors V1 Nicieza/Robinson
Avengers V2 Busiek/Perez
Ex Machina BKV/Harris
Runaways BKV/others
Y The Last Man BKV/Guerra
Daredevil Bendis/Maleev?
Ult. Spider Man Bendis/Bagley
Planetary Ellis/Cassaday
Warlock Starlin
Defenders Gerber/???
Ult FF Ellis/Immonnen, (Ellis/Kubert?)
Animal Man Morrison/???
New X-Men Morrison/Quitely
52 Morrison, etc.
Sentinel McKeever
Ultimates 1&2 Millar/Hitch
Fables Willingham/Buckingham
Ult. Galactus Trilogy - Ellis
Marvels Busiek Ross
Birds of Prey Simone

I figured I'd post the list here in its outline/barebones/incorrect form, and do a little series of posts tracking the changes until I get to my final list. Obviously there's a lot more modern stuff in here, because I've read a lot more modern stuff.

And besides. Why the hell not? I've got a comic blog. This is what comic blogs are for.

July 8, 2008

Pak Rats

That's what Greg Pak should call his fan club, and I think I'll tell him that tonight when we see him at Comic Book Club. This is a weekly roundtable that we ridiculously haven't gone to yet--our primary form of organized entertainment besides movies is small-club comedy shows in Manhattan, and this one is about comic books, with actual creators as guests. So really, what the hell has taken us so long is anyone's guess.

If I actually do get close enough to chat, I'll also attempt to give him the in-person version of this, without quite the same degree of breathless metaphor mixing, and maybe a little of this (letter #3). I'll report back on the success or failure of these missions.

July 6, 2008

ABC Podcast, Episode #4 and visual aids

Episode #4 is cleaned up all (relatively) nice, so please do it up and leave a review on the iTunes!

Description: Episode #4 of Awesomed By Comics is sponsored by Warren Ellis, so please enjoy our 14 other simultaneous podcasts including "Agent Podcast, Secret F*king Podcast" and "Knuckleberry Flynn and the Stranger Danger Bedpan of Destiny." Fables runs away with many awards and bad jokes, and Aaron presents an exclusive interview with a certain special man named Stan.

To supplement your enjoyment, I've posted the Panels and Covers of the Week (replacing Word Balloon) below.

Cover(s) of the Week

Evie's pick, from Fables #74 (cover by James Jean):

Aaron's pick, from Hellcat #1 (cover by Stuart Immonen):

Panel(s) of the Week

Aaron's pick, from Fables #74 (by Bill Willingham, art by Mark Buckingham):

Evie's pick, also from Fables #74:

July 2, 2008

Putting My Finger On It.

You want content, Evie? Here you go.

It has been 91 days since Marvel Comics published Secret Invasion #1, and 35 days since DC Comics released Final Crisis #1. It has been 91 and 35 days respectively, since I started trying to figure out why I don't care about either.

Both books have held the promise of being instrumental in the next several years of both Universes, and therefore a majority of superhero comics. Marvel and DC and general comic book punditry expressed the fact that these events will be prefixed in future comics discussion. Events will be described as Pre-Final Crisis or Post-Secret Invasion. These are major shakeups in two of the fantasylands I care probably too much about. So why am I so apatheic about both?

Event Fatigue

It seem like it's been a decade since either publisher has gone more than six months without an earth-shaking, world-defining, NWEBTSA.* Comics insiders, podcasters, bloggers and creators have been debating event fatigue for years. Will comic fans tire? Will creators tire? Will such a glut of must-get events turn off new readers, sacrificing the future for the fanboys?

Whatever the answers to these questions are, they're not the reason I'm not enjoying Final Crisis or Secret Invasion. While the never-ending stream of drama can certainly get cumbersome, I thoroughly enjoyed Annihilation: Conquest, Salvation Run, and World War Hulk. I'm not sick of events. Next.

Lack of a Singular Bad Guy Focus

Since I have a nearly identical meh for both of these events, my next thought was to look for similarities between the two books, and where they differ from other recent events that I liked. Final Crisis has Libra, Darkseid, and perhaps the Sheeda... Secret Invasion has a whole mess of skrulls, some of whom may or may not be apparent even to the reader. WWH had Hulk. A:C had Ultron.

However, Salvation Run didn't really have any villians at all. Odd as it may be to not have a clear big baddie, this isn't it.

No Coalition of Heroes

Events do typically begin with a gathering of the forces of good against whoever the big baddie is. Without the coalition, it doesn't really feel like the event has truly begun; it feels like prologue. This occurred to me one night on the way to the supermarket, and I really thought that this was it. But by the time I had picked up my ice cream and was headed back to my car, I had decided that this couldn't possibly account for my indifference.

Lack of Encyclopedic Knowledge

I heard the guys on iFanboy discussing this one the other day, in the context of Final Crisis #2. I'm not catching all of the references. I'm not familiar with all of the backstory. But this only applies to Final Crisis. I do have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe. I do get every reference in Secret Invasion. And I don't like it any better.

Morrison and Bendis are "Writing For the Trade"

Is it possible these two stories are not intended to be read serially, and instead digested as a lump sum at the end. Except both have been rife with the 22nd page shocker. This isn't it either.

Bendis and Morrison have not taken the proper steps as writers to define the stakes.

If this is a NWEBTSA ... I need to know what's going to change. What happens if the bad guys win? How will their victories affect me, average non-powered citizen of either universe? I swore that this was it. But it's not. I know what the stakes are. Skrulls are going to take over the planet. Libra is going to kill all superheroes. I suppose I don't know exactly what Darkseid is up to, but it's not good. So what is it?

Is it the hype?

I would have no problem enjoying either of these stories if they had not been hyped as world-changing. Final Crisis is thus far a JLA story. If Final Crisis was simply called JLA, I'd be loving it. Secret Invasion is thus far an Avengers story. If Secret Invasion was simply called Avengers, I'd be loving it. I wish DC hadn't made me feel as though I needed to read a year worth of awful Countdown and Countdown-related tales to understand Final Crisis. I wish Marvel wasn't threatening to screw with decades of stories by revealing that the characters are skrulls and didn't realize they were skrulls. (See, it was all a dream!) The hype hurts, but it alone is not what's killing these stories for me.


The last several NWEBTSA's done by both companies truly did change the landscapes of both universes. Civil War has dramatically altered the Marvel Universe. Identity/Infinite Crisis did similarly at DC. Annihilation reshaped Marvel's cosmic map. Even Death of the New Gods - as poorly executed as many thought it was - changed things forever in the DCU. All of these events finished with unpredictable results.

Are the Skrulls going to take over the earth? Is Libra going to kill all the good guys? Of course not. But predictablility has never stopped me from buying a comic before.

So as Bendis might say ... "The Hell?"

Truth is, it's all of this. These books started with a few strikes against them, and through mediocre storytelling (so far) have garnered even more strikes. There are many many comics readers who are feeling a high level of apathy for both of these books, due to all of these problems.

I will not quit reading either of these books, and I have great respect for both writers. But one month into Final Crisis and three months into Secret Invasion, neither have delivered on the promise of a spectacular event.

Learn from the mistakes of these two series, Marvel and DC. Don't start events like this again.


July 1, 2008

I have a problem

Actually I have a couple of problems. The first is that whenever I think of something to write about comics, I think "oo, I should save that for the podcast." Hence a string of content-free posts about the podcast. Podcast, podcast, podcast. This is the Jan Brady of blogs, and I need to have a Very Special Post in which I explain that sometimes mommy and daddy need to have a discussion about comic books that is recorded with audio equipment, but that doesn't mean we don't love it very very much.

The second is that Aaron and I are having preposterous amounts of fun doing the show, and I really really want people to hear it. And some people are hearing it, and being very nice about it, but I want more. More more more. It's hard out here in the online comics community for a pimp. So if you have any ideas for zany promotional initiatives, please share. I want people to say "have you listened to that podcast with that funny dude and his crazy bitch wife? It's OUT OF ITS MIND."

Anyway, these are my current conundra (Blogger spell check wants me to write "conundrums," but I say go to hell red-dotted line). Maybe tomorrow I'll annotate Hellcat or something.